The New Mutants

Written by Darkstorm5000

Disclaimer: The X-Men and related characters in their various incarnations are the property of Marvel Comics and Marvel Enterprises.

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Story 26- The Rogue and The Russian

Outside of their nightclub escapades, where Rogue and Gambit had managed to put their own unique stamp on the term 'bump n grind', the X-Men's student deputy leader had also found another, 'less suggestive' means with which to express herself physically.

And that was what had brought Rogue down to the mansion's sub-levels on this late summer afternoon, as she now stood right outside of the enormous blast doors of the Danger Room, the X-Men's state-of-the-art training facility that had been constructed nearly a mile beneath the school. Rogue was dressed in her hooded, black and green-trimmed leather team uniform, and was carrying with her a Katana sword that had been given as a gift to her by Remy. As the immense, foot-thick steel doors in front of her began to slide open, Rogue pulled her sword from the sheath strapped diagonally around her upper torso in great anticipation of logging her training session for the day, which was something required of all active X-Men at the mansion.

Rogue was surprised, however, when she saw that someone else had already come down there with much the same idea.

"Oh. Since the warnin' light wasn't on, Ah didn't figure anyone else was down here. Ah can come back later on." Rogue said, as she saw a tall, muscular, and relatively imposing figure just inside of the Danger Room, and then started to turn back around to head back towards the staircase located in the small corridor's opposite direction.

"It is alright, I was just about to start my training session when you walked in. You are more than welcome to join me, if you wish?" Peter Rasputin politely replied, as he stood in the center of the Danger Room and extended his offer to her, wearing his own sleeveless black and red-trimmed leather uniform that showed off his massively huge arms.

"Okay…sure. Why not?" Rogue thought for a second before accepting his offer, as she now turned back towards him and proceeded on into the Danger Room with her sword in hand, "So, what sim were you gonna run anyways?"

"I hadn't selected one yet. And since I did extend an invitation for you to join me, I think it only proper to allow a lady's preference to decide the matter." Peter smiled and replied, as Rogue walked over towards him.

"Now, that's downright gentlemanly of you." Rogue playfully stated to Peter, doing so in a tone that was slightly higher than her usual talking voice, "Who says that chivalry's dead?"

Then, Rogue looked upwards to the Danger Room's computer booth above and spoke directly to it:

"Computer, cue up training module a-147, addendum modification sequence, 'Never-ending Nights'."

With the command given, Rogue took the sword that she had with her and tightly wrapped both of her hands around its intricately decorated, gold-and-black colored handle. She then steadied her entire body into a more traditional and disciplined fighting stance, as she prepared for the exercise to begin.

Meanwhile, Peter's posture also appeared to become more rigid and serious, as he stood next to Rogue and waited for the simulation to start. Then, in the blink of an eye, Peter's form underwent an amazing transformation. No longer was this young man a being of mere flesh-and-blood. Now, his was a body composed entirely of living organic-steel, turning him into the armored-powerhouse code-named Colossus.

"Well, since we're already out here on the floor and Ah've picked us a song, shall we dance?" Rogue mused to Colossus, an instant before robotic constructs, which had been holographically disguised to look like ninjas garbed in black uniforms, began to rain down on them from the Danger Room's domed-ceiling up above.

Both Rogue and Colossus reacted with lightning quickness, their reflexes honed to the point that they could easily match and counter the ninjas' ensuing attack. This was all in spite of the fact that the ninjas' were wielding an assortment of weapons, including swords, spears, chains, and throwing stars.

And as the ninjas' numbers quickly swelled to more than a dozen, Rogue and Colossus fought on unabated, with Rogue slashing her way through the hostile swarm with her vanadium-reinforced blade. Meanwhile Colossus threw his solid, five-hundred pound frame behind his fists, and following Rogue's strategic suggestion, plowed a path through the ninjas that were encircling them. Colossus even grabbed one of the robotic ninja's by its head, easily palming its entire metallic skull in his hand before proceeding to use the ninja's body as a sort of billy-club, swinging it around him to violently bludgeon and damage more of its masked number.

"Are these ninjas' similar to the ones that you, Logan, and Remy faced in Japan?" Colossus now looked to his right and asked Rogue, as he held up in his hand what still remained of the ninja that he had just turned into an impromptu weapon, with most of its circuitry and wiring now exposed along with chunks of its arms, legs, and a torso that had now been shattered into a thousand pieces across the Danger Room's floor around them.

"Nah, those Hand creeps we ran into over there gave us a pretty good run for our money. They were actually a might bit tougher than these old boys here, and they were a lot more talkative too." Rogue whimsically replied, as one of the black-robed ninja's then managed to grab her from behind, an instant before Rogue used her marital arts know-how to counter its move and flipped the ninja over her shoulder and right overhead.

The ninja landed over on the steel-tiled floor hard, landing just as Rogue hurried over to it and astutely put her steel blade straight through its mechanical chest, before she moved onto the next of her ninja opponents and greeted it with a swift roundhouse kick to its synthetic face.

Rogue and Colossus' training session went on much the same for roughly the next hour, with them laying an incredible level of devastation against their foes. Soon, the barrage of ninja soldiers falling down upon them had come to an end, with over fifty of the X-Men's robotic opponents laying mangled and broken all around them in the Danger Room.

"Well, that was fun." Rogue said, as she flashed Colossus a satisfied smile and held her Katana sword in her right hand down by her side, while using her other gloved hand to wipe a small bead of sweat from her brow.

"You certainly seemed to enjoy it." Colossus replied to her, as he looked over at Rogue standing close to him and spoke, with his voice maintaining a slightly metallic-twang to it as long as he remained in his armored state, "Your fighting style is so aggressive, I could have sworn that it was Logan that I was fighting alongside. Except for the fact that you seem to lack his habitual grunting and growling when engaged in a combat situation."

"Ah usually try to at least keep the grunting to a minimum." Rogue jokingly responded to Colossus' comment, as she stood facing towards him, "But, it is nice to be able to come down here and blow off some steam, even if it meant Ah went a little 'Matrix' there for a while."

"At any rate, I am quite impressed with how formidable your hand-to-hand combat skills have progressed over this last year, along with your even more outstanding leadership ability." Colossus complimented her, as he now finally converted back into his human state, his features losing their steel-gray hue as they were now replaced with eyes of a deep blue-color and hair of a jet-black shade.

"Is it that you're impressed, or that you're just surprised to see a female pullin' it off?" Rogue posed to Peter, as she verbally instructed the Danger Room's computer to raise up one of the four-foot by four-foot floor tiles close by her, coming up just enough to allow her to take a seat on it and rest for a moment.

"Come now Comrade, you should know me better than that by now." Peter immediately responded, as he folded his huge arms over in front of him.

"I didn't mean it as an insult towards you. It's just that Ah know what it's like to grow up in a small town where some folks still wanna cling to their old ways of thinking about certain things, particularly about what 'a woman's place' should be, and Ah know how that can unintentionally rub off on a person." Rogue explained to Peter.

"I understand what you are saying now. But, I have been here at this school long enough that, even if I were to have held such foolish notions, that they would have long been disproven by women such as Dr. Munroe and Dr. Grey." Peter responded, as a slight smirk came to his face, "Besides, if Katya were to so much as suspect that I had even an inkling of an attitude like that towards women in positions of authority, she would kill me. Literally."

"And we couldn't have her doin' that, now could we?" Rogue laughed a little, as something suddenly occurred to her, "But, with your powers, Ah doubt anyone could do you much harm anyways. What Ah wouldn't give to have a mutant power that was useful like super-strength, instead of havin' one that depends on the kindness of strangers and that Ah'm always really scared'll just end up hurtin' other people."

"And what, you think that I am not also afraid of hurting others with my powers?" Peter now posed to Rogue, which caused her to stop and pause for a moment.

"Well, Ah guess Ah never really thought much about it, since you always seemed to be so at ease with usin' 'em." Rogue answered, as she sat on the raised metallic tile, taking the sword down by her side and placing it up into the sheath on her back.

"It may seem that way, but in the back of my mind I am always self-conscious about accidentally hurting someone while in my armored state. I don't think that I could live with myself if an innocent was injured, or worse, as a result." Peter revealed to Rogue.

"Hmm, it feels like you just read my mind." Rogue said to Peter, as she had felt much the same way about her own powers, and with good reason.

"I assure you, a telepath I am not." Peter smiled and humorously responded to her.

"Well, telepath or not, Ah can definitely understand where you're comin' from. When my powers first emerged, Ah accidentally put a boy who was really close to me in coma for nearly a month. The doctors' all thought he was gonna die, and Ah can tell you Ah know first-hand that guilt you were just talkin' about." Rogue told Peter, as she reminisced a little about Cody, and about that fateful day up in her bedroom back in Caldecott County, Mississippi.

"Luckily he did wake up, but life sure didn't go back to normal after that. As a matter fact, things just went from bad to worse in those weeks afterwards, and all of my friends started avoidin' me like Ah was the plague. When me and my Mom would go shoppin' in town, folks we had known our entire lives would leave, hell sometimes sprint, just to get away Mrs. D'Acanto and her really weird daughter. Ah could even see it in my parents' reactions that they were embarrassed because of it, and worst of all, that they were ashamed of me because of what Ah was. They even started to treat me like an outcast in my own house, and everything came to a head one night when Ah overheard 'em talkin' about me, and about what they were goin' to do with me. They said that things couldn't go on the way they had been, and that they were thinkin' of sendin' me away, like Ah had intentionally gone and done somethin' wrong. That's when Ah knew it was time for me to leave, so Ah just up 'n took off and hitch-hiked north, and made it all the way up to Canada. Ah got as far as a place called Laughlin City, and that's…well, you know the rest." Rogue now finished.

"Da. The rest, as they say, is history." Peter happily added.

Peter and most of the other students had heard a general re-telling of the events surrounding Rogue's decision to leave home, but this was the first time that Peter had been privy to some of those more precise details. It was probably due to the fact that anytime that period of Rogue's life had been brought up in those first few months after her arrival at the school, it was usually accompanied with a few teasing comments from her classmates about her spending her free time picking up older guys in bars.

"Ah don't even know why Ah'm borin' you with any of this, Ah'm sure you've already got a good idea what it's like to have folks freakin' out over you bein' a mutant." Rogue said to Peter, as he now had the computer raise another one of the square tiles on the floor up a couple of feet, and then rested one of his huge black boots on top of it.

"Actually, when my powers emerged, it came at a moment of miraculous desperation." Peter replied, as he now began a short tale of his own, "One day my little sister Illyana was sitting out and playing in one of the wheat fields, when suddenly a harvesting tractor that had been parked and left running nearby slipped into gear and began speeding towards her. I took off running without thinking, without hesitation, to save her even if it meant sacrificing myself in the process. But, by the time I had reached her, the harvester was already upon us."

Then, Peter let out a small sigh, as he thought about that day, which seemed almost as though it were yesterday.

"So, I did the only thing that I could. I grabbed onto Illyana and held her close to me, so that we would at least leave this world together. The next thing that I heard was the sound of metal rending and tearing, and I merely assumed that it was mind's way of compensating with the pain of us being sliced to pieces by the thresher's sharp reaping-blades. It wasn't until I heard Illyana speak to me again that I opened my eyes, only to see that we had both actually survived and had been given a new lease on life. And in my case, a new and vastly different life at that." Peter continued explaining, as Rogue sat on the raised tile underneath her and listened intensely to him, "When I saw that my entire body was covered in steel, I knew that my world had changed forever. In the weeks following that, I went off on my own to practice and try to learn to control this newfound ability that I did not entirely understand. Thankfully for me, neither my parents nor the local people of my village shunned me because of what I had become, of what I now was. Many of them had more of a deep curiosity about my powers than anything, and some of the local children would follow Illyana home, just to try and catch a glimpse of this 'shiny brother' that she now claimed to have."

"You're really lucky that folks around you were so accepting about it." Rogue told Peter, as she sat there and momentarily let her auburn and white-highlighted hair out of the single ponytail that she had pulled back in, so that she could readjust and retie it again.

"True, but it was still good that the Professor came and told me about his school, and about how he could better teach me to control my gift." Peter responded, "The Professor later informed me, some time after we had come back here, that he had heard unsubstantiated stories of a super-powered program in my country dating back to its Cold War days. And rumors that remnants of this now rogue program, no pun intended, might still be in existence today. Which could have put my home village and those close to me in tremendous danger, had I chosen to remain there."

"Well hopefully all it is, is just a rumor. Ah'd hate to think that there's another Colonel Stryker or Weapon X-type outfit in operation out there somewhere." Rogue replied, as she now stood up from her tile seat, "But, speakin' of families, Ah'm gonna go hit the showers so Ah can head back upstairs. Ah wanna find out the latest on how Caldecott fared in the hurricane, and try again to get through to Remy headin' down to New Orleans, and see what he's found out about his family down there."

"Of course. I think I will remain here for a while longer, since Kitty and Jones are most likely still working on their project together. Hopefully, she hasn't managed to electrocute him with that peculiar-looking device that she had hooked him up to." Peter laughed a little, as he replied while pulling his foot back down from the tile-step that it had been perched up on, preparing himself to run yet another session in the Danger Room.

Peter closed his eyes and stood in the center of the training facility, as he was about to undergo his organic-steel conversion, but paused when he heard Rogue speak to him again.

"Say Peter." Rogue now said, as she stood over by the Danger Room's entranceway that she had just opened.

"Yes?" Peter opened his eyes and attentively responded, as he looked over at Rogue.

"It was kinda nice hangin' out and talkin' with you like this. We're gonna have to do it again sometime, 'Big Boy'." Rogue smiled and told him.

"Anytime, Marie." Peter gladly replied, as he was one of the few people at the school outside of the Professor, Logan and occasionally Remy that ever actually called her by her given name. Rogue then turned and continued on her way out of the Danger Room's exit, just as Peter went ahead and converted into Colossus, right before his new training exercise began.

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And now, onto…

Story 27- …A Gala Event!

You are cordially invited to attend

The Massachusetts Academy's Fall Formal Gala, at The

Hellfire Club, New York Branch

#7 West 33rd Street

New York, New York

RSVP

Beginning at Eight o'clock in the evening

Saturday, Octob…

"Um Professor, I think I speak for everyone when I say, you better abso-freakin'-lutely believe we wanna accept the totally primo invite!" Jubilee cheerfully exclaimed, as she interrupted Professor Xavier's reading of this invitation in his study, which had been sent to him through a personal courier from the Massachusetts Acadmy's Headmistress Emma Frost herself, "The Hellfire Club is only, like, one of the ritziest spots in the whole country."

"I understand your enthusiasm in wanting to attend this function." Professor Xavier replied, as he sat behind the wide oak-desk in his study and laid the invitation down in front of him, "But, my reason for gathering all of you in here first, before informing the rest of the students about this invitation, is so that we can discuss the possible risks that may be associated with such a decision to accept it."

Professor Xavier then looked around the room at his older students and X-Men, whom he had requested to come in and join him.

"What kind of risks are you talking about?" Bobby Drake asked first, as he and the rest of the senior squad had taken seats and other standing positions in various spots around the Professor's study.

"Well, one is the apparent involvement of Magneto with the Massachusetts Academy, as evidenced by John Allerdyce's enrollment there." Scott Summers, who was standing near the Professor's desk, replied, "While the Brotherhood was instrumental in helping us to defeat the Sentinels, we shouldn't count on that temporary partnership as a guarantee of any future alliances."

"So, you think we'll be walkin' right into some kinda trap then, if we go?" Rogue now inquired, as she stood over by one of the large bookcases in there.

"Not necessarily. When I last spoke with Miss Frost a few months ago, her desire to establish amicable ties between our two schools and their respective student bodies did seem genuine enough." Professor Xavier told them.

"With Emma Frost, I can also tell you that everything is not always as it may appear." Ororo Munroe stated, as she sat in another chair not very far from the Professor's desk in the room, and voiced her own trepidation regarding this event.

"And I can vouch from my own experiences that the same goes for a few of the other people there, the ones who're involved behind the scenes at the Hellfire Club." Alison Blaire added, as she stood in the study leaning up very closely against Scott's arm and shoulder, with all of the students' having noticed over the last few weeks just how close and serious things between their teachers' had obviously gotten.

"It is for all of these reasons that I did want to make you aware of the possibility of there being ulterior motives at work." Professor Xavier now said, as he turned his attention towards his students in the room, "With that said, I will give my approval for all of you to attend this function if you wish, but I ask that all of you remain vigilant while there."

"Don't worry, we'll keep an eye or two open the entire night." Kitty Pryde now happily chimed in, as she and Peter stood in there together close to Rogue.

"In addition, Scott and Ororo have volunteered to escort all of you there as chaperones for the evening, and to also provide some additional low-key surveillance while there." Professor Xavier now announced to his students gathered in there with him.

"You up for a night of dancing?" Scott now smiled, as he looked over right beside him and invited Alison to join them.

"Sorry, but I think I'm gonna sit this one out." Alison replied, giving Scott an answer that he hadn't been anticipating, "This Emma Frost may be legit and all, but there's no way I'm gonna let those other guys in the Hellfire Club that tried to have me killed before get another shot at me."

"Don't fret, you will still have me here to keep you company for the evening, Ms. Blaire." Kurt smiled and playfully said to Alison, doing so from his seat that was over by the window.

Then, Professor Xavier turned his attention back towards Ororo and spoke.

"Given what you have told me about your own past encounter with Emma Frost, I will understand it if you would also rather not attend." Professor Xavier now told her.

"No, I will be fine." Ororo replied, as she felt that this was a reunion that had been a long time coming, "I am actually looking forward to attending, and it will also allow me to keep watch over the students' as well."

"Just like you needed someone to keep watch over you, when Forge flew in from Dallas last week and took you out on that date." Jubilee now quippingly remarked to Ororo.

"We merely had dinner together. And Forge was a perfect gentleman, if you must know, Jubilation." Ororo replied, as she smiled and propped her face against the palm of her right hand.

"Yep, I must know. C'mon, I've been waitin' all week here just to get the juicy details." Jubilee remarked.

"And you will continue waiting, I'm afraid." Ororo laughed in response, as Kurt then spoke again.

"Well, Herr Professor, I assure you that Alison and myself will not have need of a chaperone here." Kurt jokingly added.

"With a natural-born flirt like you, I think I'll reserve judgment on that." Alison humorously replied to Kurt's statement.

"At any rate, I will remain here at the school with you. Not as a chaperone for our older residents, but to maintain constant telepathic awareness with the rest of you, in the event that there is any trouble." Professor Xavier told everyone gathered in there.

With that, the X-Men's briefing was concluded. They all then stood up and began to slowly file out the Professor's study, with the senior-students among them filled with excitement at the prospect of their big night out.

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As the next few weeks seemed to fly by, summer soon officially became autumn. And as the night of the Gala drew closer and closer, many of the students at Xavier's School for the Gifted spent much of that interim time consumed with dress fittings or picking out tuxedos and suits, along with endlessly obsessing over which hair style would look just absolutely perfect with their outfit (with the second item pertaining mainly to the female residents of the school, although a few of their male counterparts managed to match them in that department.) But, it seemed as though most of the students at the school were, at the very least, fairly enthusiastic about the subject of their attire and appearance for this special evening in New York City.

Save for one of them, who actually acted as though she could care less about the fancy soirée taking place this evening, and about all of the hoopla that had been surrounding it.

"Have you seen my other earring? I've been looking absolutely everywhere for it." Amara Aquilla now questioned her roommate, as she came into their bedroom dressed in her aqua and white house robe, now on a desperate search for the other earring that matched the one currently in her hand, so that she could finalize her wardrobe for the evening and finish getting dressed.

"You dropped it on the floor earlier. It's up on top of your dresser." Carmella Unuscione replied, as she lay on top of her bed in the room with a copy of Gregory Maguire's Wicked: (The Life and Times of The Wicked Witch of The West), resting upon her sternum and firmly in her hands.

"Thanks, you are most certainly a life-saver." Amara said, as she went over to her dresser in one corner of the room, briefly stopping to once again check out her brownish-blonde hair in a large oval mirror that sat on top of it, before grabbing the elusive earring laying there.

Then, Amara finally noticed that Carmella was lying on top of her bed, and had by now gone back to reading her book again. Amara was struck by her roommate's obvious lack of preparation for tonight's social event, as she saw that Carmella was stretched out on her bed wearing a simple gray ribbed-tank, black sweats, and a pair of plain white socks.

"Don't you think that you should start getting dressed, everyone else will be ready to depart shortly?" Amara asked her, as she stood over by her dresser.

"For what? It's not like I was actually planning on goin'." Carmella replied, speaking as she continued staring at the opened pages in front of her.

"Why not? Everyone is going, except for Professor Xavier, Mr. Wagner, Miss Blaire, and Artie." Amara told her.

"Then that means Carmella makes five." Carmella responded, as she now sat up on her bed and laid her book down beside her, pulling her lengthy chocolate-brown hair back into place, "The last thing I need to have is for my force-field to start actin' crazy out in public again, and for the police to show up just like when Storm came and had to bring me back here. Plus, I wouldn't have anything to wear, even if I wanted to go to this stupid dance."

"Since the Professor has been working with you, you have gotten a lot better at controlling your powers. You haven't even had an episode like that in a while, not since the first week after you arrived. And besides, you can't spend the whole night up here all by yourself." Amara told Carmella, as she went and sat down on her own bed, which was on the opposite side of their room, "I even believe that I have a few dresses, which I am certain will fit you."

Without waiting for any further protests from Carmella, Amara got up and hurried over to her closet to sift through the various dresses that she had in there. In there, it seemed as though Amara had a dress or outfit for every occasion, and that they were all ready to wear at a moment's notice. It was a habit that Amara had developed over the years, having grown up as the daughter of one of her country's most powerful and popular politicians, where she was sometimes required to attend state dinners and other social gatherings as a result.

"Here, I think that this one will do nicely." Amara said, as she picked out a sleeveless powder-blue dress set, which had a small row of sequin-beads running around the collar.

"That looks pretty expensive. You sure you want me wearin' your stuff like this?" Carmella asked, as Amara had brought the dress over and laid it out on her bed.

"I would not have offered, if I did not want you to. Besides, I have more than enough to spare." Was Amara's reply, as she smiled and stood next to Carmella's bed, "Now, you'd better hurry up if you do not want us to be late."

Amara then turned and walked back over towards the bedroom's door, so that she could head back down hallway to another room in the girls' wing of the dorm shared between Dani, Terry, and Rahne. Which was where the low-cut, spaghetti-strapped black and white evening gown that Amara planned to wear for the evening had been left. But, just as Amara was about to go out of the room, she heard Carmella speak to her again.

"Amara…" Carmella said to her, as she stood up and her dark-brown eyes now trained upon the dress that she was holding in her hands.

"Would you prefer that I select a different one for you?" Amara responded.

"No, the dress's fine. I…" Carmella paused for a moment, before finishing her sentence, "I just wanted to say thanks. For, well…you know."

"You're very welcome. After all, I believe that is what roommates, and what friends, are for." Amara smiled once again and replied, as she now exited their bedroom and turned down the hallway.

Meanwhile, Carmella stood there and took a moment to admire the dress that had just been loaned to her, before going to try it on. Having never seen any article of clothing up close that was so exquisitely made as this dress currently in her hands, Carmella felt deeply appreciative of the generous sentiment from her roommate to give it to her to wear for the night.

…………………………………………………..

Following a reasonably tranquil and uneventful ride into New York City in two stretch limousines, which had been sent courtesy of their host to shuttle its honored guests to this evening's event, the students' and two faculty members' from Xavier's found themselves disembarking from their wheeled chariots in front of the expansive edifice that was The Hellfire Club. And, as everyone from Westchester walked into the Club's main entrance, they passed right underneath its unmistakable emblem, which consisted of a solid-black pitchfork centered within an encompassing ring of fire. The group then proceeded further into the Club's esteemed walls, perceiving it to be an experience that had unquestionably managed to live up to its top-notch billing.

Originally established in the late 1700's, in what was then the colony of New York, the Hellfire Club has stood as the premier symbol of wealth and power ever since. One look at The Hellfire Club's still classically architectural design, and at the valuable collection of antique furniture utilized within to make up its authentically elegant décor revealed that in some respects very little had changed in that time. Which was one of its well-intended features, as the Club and its exclusive membership pool have prided themselves on upholding their long-standing traditions. These were traditions that had been developed over numerous decades since the Hellfire Club's original inception, all the while watching as the world outside underwent a multitude of radical and dramatic changes during that time.

But, for this one night the strict adherence to those established formalities had been loosened in just one of the Club's ballrooms, allowing this next generation in attendance to fully enjoy themselves in their luxurious surroundings.

"Now I know John's here, 'cause he's already started adding his own personal touch to the DJ's playlist. Gawd, I haven't heard The Raveonettes since he was livin' with us back at the mansion." Jubilee said, as she came in wearing a gold-colored, low-cut dress that had a matching sheer shawl. Jubilee was the first of the group to enter the opulently furbished ballroom, where music was being loudly pumped through huge speakers that had been setup by the DJ's table. And Jubilee had come in escorted by a special guest of her own, whomt she had invited to join them this evening and was himself dressed in a rented black tuxedo.

"John? Isn't he that the guy you introduced me to a few months ago?" Doug now reminded Jubilee of their previous meeting, which also happened to be at the same concert where Alison was revealed to the entire world to be a mutant.

"That's…um, him alright." Jubilee somewhat uneasily answered.

While Jubilee had introduced her boyfriend to John, who was a one-time student at Xavier's, she had still yet to fully reveal to Doug the true circumstances surrounding John's departure back at Alkali Lake. And it was only one facet of the numerous secrets that she had been keeping from boyfriend, secrets that also included the other covert activities taking place behind the scenes at Xavier's, and now apparently also at The Massachusetts Academy.

"Anyways, let's see if Missy's right and we can get the music to make you lose control too." Jubilee now said changing the subject, as she took Doug by the hand.

"I don't see that happening, at least not tonight." Doug replied, as he couldn't help but be yanked out onto the dance floor behind Jubilee.

"Speakin' of losin' control, you been awful quiet all night, Sugah. Ah figured a self-proclaimed party-animal like yourself'd perk up once we got in here. What's the matter?" Rogue asked Remy, as she came in beside him dressed in a beautiful burgundy semi-formal dress, which had long sleeves, skirt, and gloves that matched.

"Guess I'm just not much in a partyin' mood. I can't help but t'ink 'bout all de t'ing's still goin' on back home in New Orleans." Remy replied, as he strode in beside Rogue wearing an understated, at least when compared to his usual attire, medium-blue dinner jacket, white tuxedo shirt with matching bowtie, and black pleated trousers, "De only reason I came back from there so soon, besides me missin' yo' lovely face of course, was Henri, Tante Mattie, and my father all said they had t'ing's under control. They also hinted dat it be best if I didn't 'stay 'round long enough for word t'get out t'de Assassins 'bout me slippin' in there through de back door."

"Well, Ah can understand that. But, maybe a night out'll get your mind off things, for a little while at least." Rogue said, as she put both of her arms around his right arm and gave it a supportive squeeze.

"Maybe, Cheré. And who knows, I might even have a slow dance or two in me, just for you." Remy replied with a small smile, as he went and put his right arm around Rogue's waist, and the couple continued on over to one of the many tables that surrounded the ballroom's dance floor on all sides.

………………………………………

Meanwhile, as the rest of the arriving party from Xavier's now also came into the ballroom behind Rogue and Remy, their entrance had been well-noticed by two individuals in particular that were observing them from up above. These two onlookers were standing together on a small interior balcony that ran around upper-edge of the ballroom, which further led to other areas of the Club that had been marked as off-limits to the young revelers this evening.

"Guess who just showed up?" Lance Alvers snidely commented, as he looked down into the crowd of arriving students and immediately picked out Bobby Drake from among them, who had come in while talking to his classmates Roberto Da Costa, Samuel Guthrie, JE Richter and James Proudstar, "Looks like your loser best-friend's here now, just to keep you company."

"The only 'loser' I see is standin' right here next to me." John Allerdyce challengingly replied, as he turned to face Lance, both of them leaning forward against the upper-balcony's intricately carved wooden-railing, which allowed them to overlook the entire ballroom.

"Well, I sure as hell can't help but look like a loser, 'brah'. Especially, with these dumbass suits Frosty made us put on." Lance disparagingly said, as he referred to the black tuxedos that he, John, and most of the other guys from both schools at the Gala were all wearing.

"Miss Frost just wanted us to try and show a little class, or at least do the best job we could in your case." John sarcastically responded to Lance.

"I got your class right here." Lance said to John, as he threw him what most would consider to be a fairly obscene gesture, before abruptly changing subjects when he noticed Attack of the Ghost-Riders playing on in the background, "Man, who the hell picked out some of the music the DJ's been playin'?"

"Why?' John defensively responded, as he and a couple of other students at the Massachusetts Academy had worked on a list of songs that they wanted played this evening, and had submitted that list to their Headmistress.

"Because, I think it sounds like total--" Lance was saying, when John interrupted him

"Let me guess. It's because you think it sounds like total shit." John finished for him, although he was in stark disagreement over Lance's opinion of the song's artistic merit, "Anyways, if you can quit your bitchin' about the tux and tonight's music for a minute, I think it's time we went down and mingled a little."

As John and Lance proceeded to make their way over to a cascading staircase close by, the last of the junior students' from Xavier's made their way into the ballroom, with one of them loudly announcing his arrival.

"Yeaahh, Baybee! Kid Mojo's in the house!" Jamie Madrox yelled, as he came into the ballroom broadcasting his entry with his best Austin Power's impression, obviously not concerned about the Club's rules of conduct in regards to acceptable behavior.

"I can't believe how immature some of the guys are, ye'd think they never went anywhere." Theresa Cassidy, who was dressed in a pink chiffon dress said, as she folded her arms over in front of her and shook her head a little, commenting to some of the other girls with her as Jamie, and then Jones Davidson came running by them into the spacious ballroom.

"It's not like they're all that much more mature the rest of the time, so I don't know why you'd expect them to start acting like it now." Danielle Moonstar commented, as she came in next, dressed in formal wear that had a deliberately Native American influence to it.

"Still, ye'd think they'd at least try 'n put forth an effort, and nae'run around like a couple'a bleetin' mad-cows!" Rahne Sinclair added next, dressed in a conservatively discreet charcoal gray-colored dress, which managed to cover up even more of herself than what Rogue was wearing for the night.

Then, as the girls were talking not too far from the ballroom's entrance another attendee came over to greet them, an individual who definitely carried an air of maturity about himself.

"Bienvenidos! My name is Manuel Alfonso Rodrigo de la Rocha, and with one look I recognized that such a stunning beauty could only be Amara Aquilla. I knew that I had to come over to you and properly introduce myself." Manuel de la Rocha now cordially said, as he came over to Amara to bid her a very personal welcome to the Gala, taking her hand into his and raising it up a bit, proceeding to lightly and sensually kiss it in the process, "It is both an honor and a pleasure to meet the daughter of Nova Roma's most-esteemed Senator."

"It is…nice to meet you as well." Amara smiled and somewhat awkwardly replied, as she slowly drew her hand back from his and was surprised that this young man, whom she had never met before, apparently seemed to know her all too well.

"There are some other matters that currently require my immediate attention, but I hope that we will have the opportunity to talk again this evening. And perhaps even share a dance a little later?" Manuel now politely turned and said to Theresa, Rahne, Carmella and Dani after releasing Amara's hand, as he shot the girls' what appeared to be a smiling, but slightly suspicious expression on his face, before he turned around to head to another section of the ballroom, "Until then, Ladies."

"Wow, ye've certainly gotten his attention." Terry was the first in the group to remark, as she turned to face Amara.

"I imagine that I have." Amara replied, who couldn't help but blush just a little, thanks to her newfound admirer.

"Well, I think he's kinda creepy, if you ask me." Dani was the next to comment, as something about the vibe that Manuel was throwing off just didn't feel right to her.

"I'm with you. Romeo over there's definitely got more than just bein' pleasant on his mind." Carmella said in agreement with Dani, as the five girls then went on into the ballroom to find their table.

…………………………………..

In the meantime, Scott had come into the ballroom, making his way over to a lavish refreshment area set up on the far side of the ballroom within. While standing at the bar and talking to one of the Club's staff members, who had been assigned to tend to the bar's duties for the evening, Scott was unexpectedly approached by an unfamiliar acquaintance who now made her own introductions to him.

"I'm very glad that you could all make it." The Massachusetts Academy's Headmistress Emma Frost came up and said to Scott, as she walked up to him dressed in a white one-of-a-kind sequined evening-gown outfit, which had been exquisitely and expensively fashioned for her by Chanel, "Is Charles on his way in?"

"No, I'm sorry but he was unable to attend." Scott replied, as he sat the small drink in his hand down on the counter of the bar beside him.

"How unfortunate, I hope that he's not feeling ill?" Emma inquired, as she came and poisedly took a seat on one of the cushioned stools next to Scott.

"No, it's nothing like that." Scott smiled and amicably replied, as he also went to sit down beside her.

"That's good to hear. Although, he did end up sending a more than suitable proxy in his stead." Emma told Scott, as he now felt the unmistakable sensation of Emma's foot being slowly run up and down the lower area of his tuxedo's pant-leg.

"I don't know if 'suitable' is the word I'd use." Scott unnervingly replied, as Emma's sudden and straight-forward advances caused him to jump a little, spilling some of his drink on the bar's counter.

"I could easily find a number of other ways to describe such a noticeably captivating individual as yourself." Emma coyly said, as she continued her game of flirtatiously mincing her words with Scott.

"And, one could also come across more than a few terms to accurately describe a harpy such as yourself." Ororo came up and abruptly said to Emma, as she came over to them wearing a rum-pink dress made from fine French-satin material, "Scott, would you mind going over and keeping an eye on Jamie and Jones for me? I've had to remind the two of them once already to remain on their best behavior tonight."

"Sure, no problem." Scott said, as he stood up and then turned to speak to Emma, "It was nice meeting you."

"The pleasure was all mine." Emma smiled and graciously replied, as she looked up into Scott's ruby-lensed glasses, before he turned to walk off and find the two aforementioned students.

Emma then stood up from her seat at the bar, so that she could now address the other teacher from Xavier's who was in attendance at tonight's social function, "I see that you still have that 'unpleasant personality', which I remember so fondly."

"Only in your case." Ororo replied, in a tone that was extremely and unusually impolite for her, "And, it is a temperament in which you played a rather significant role in helping to develop."

"Don't tell me that you're still upset about what happened between me and Warren? We were all little more than teenagers then, and that one night with him certainly wasn't worth you holding a grudge over, or me even bothering to brag about for that matter." Emma smirked and told Ororo.

"I will have to undoubtedly defer to your more 'expert' opinion on the subject, particularly when it comes to wanton acts of carnal lust." Ororo said, as she angrily hurled an insult at Emma that was very much intentional in its purpose, "It took some time, but I was able to eventually move past all of that. However, I have never forgotten about what happened, and I surely haven't forgotten what kind of person that you truly are, one who seemingly takes such malicious pleasure in hurting others."

"Just like an elephant, I see. And, how ironically appropriate in your case." Emma curtly responded, as the bartender brought her a glass of the Club's finest champagne.

"Part of the reason that I came here is to deliver a message to you in no uncertain terms: I don't know what games that you and your new 'associate' are intending on playing with the lives of these children, but if you do anything to hurt those that have become as close to me as my family, you will have to contend with me." Ororo sternly warned Emma, "And I can guarantee that you won't be dealing with that same young girl, whom when you last saw her, was running out of that hotel room crying all of those years ago as a direct result of your manipulations."

"Am I to take that as a threat from you then?" Emma grinned and questioned her, as she sat back down next to the bar and continued to stare Ororo down, her elbow now sitting on the bar's counter with her face resting against the palm of her gloved-hand.

"You can most assuredly take it as a promise." Ororo staunchly and fore-warningly clarified for Emma, as the faintest sound of thunder booming could be heard off in the distance, despite a weather forecast that had stated this night would remain mostly clear.

"Then, here's to promises kept." Emma replied with a slight snicker, as she raised her champagne glass up from the bar's surface in a defiant self-toast.

As Emma's smile soon faded, it quickly became apparent that neither woman was in the least bit intimidated by the other. Both Emma and Ororo then eyed one another intensely, with neither one desiring to back down from their visual confrontation either. But, once it was understood that Ororo was indeed very serious about her vow to protect those around her, their impromptu stare-off came to an end. Ororo then departed first, so that she could go check on her other students, while Emma sat at the bar for a short while to finish her drink, before eventually getting up to do the same.

…………………………………………….

While a few of the couples and some of the other students from both schools were now out on the dance floor, most everyone else was at the very least taking this opportunity to commingle with each other in various surrounding parts of the ballroom.

Except for Bobby Drake, who was finding it hard to get into the spirit of the night.

Not wanting to feel like the proverbial third or fifth-wheel around Kitty and Peter, Jubilee and Doug, and especially not around Rogue and Remy, Bobby had gone and taken a seat at one of the tables near the ballroom, choosing to sit all by himself at one of its expensively-decorated roundtables that seated eight people apiece. Having now gotten all dressed up just so that he could spend the majority of his night counting the ruffles on the table's napkin decorations, Bobby was now starting to wonder if maybe Alison and Kurt had had the right idea after all by staying home?

That is, until Bobby's self-imposed isolation was fortuitously interrupted by another kindred soul in attendance this evening.

"Um, hi. I don't know if you remember me at all, but we met a few months ago when you came to visit our school." Bobby heard a voice come up from behind and speak to him, a voice that he immediately recognized and detected was very much feminine in nature.

Bobby turned around in his seat to see a girl standing there behind him, who had long and red flowing hair and who was wearing a pretty amber-colored dress with a skirt that was slightly more than ¾ in length.

"Yeah, of course I remember you Angelica." Bobby said, as he stood up from his chair to greet Angelica Jones, recalling the girl who had given him and Kitty an exclusive tour of the Massachusetts Academy back during the spring, and who Bobby had also talked at great length with during their time there. Bobby then briefly took Angelica's hand in his, leading her over to a seat that he genteelly pulled out for her.

"You looked kinda lonely sitting over here, all by yourself." Angelica now told Bobby, as she sat down in the chair, while he went to take his seat right next to hers.

"So tell me, how does a lonely person really look?" Bobby smiled and playfully inquired of her.

"I…don't know." Angelica laughed a little and honestly said to Bobby, "I guess the real reason I came over here was because I was sitting by myself too, and I hoped you could use some company. I'm not very good when it comes to being at parties or dances, especially real glitzy ones like this."

"I don't know why, you look like you're doing just a fine job of taking care of us lonely-types over here." Bobby reassuringly told Angelica, as she had revealed to him just how inept she felt when it came to being in most social settings, it having taken all of the courage that Angelica could muster up just for her to come over and even speak to Bobby.

"You know, I think the real reason is because I've felt like a fish completely out of water ever since I came to Snow Valley. See, my family doesn't have a lot of money, and until tonight I never imagined that places as beautiful as the Hellfire Club really even existed, let alone that I'd ever get to see them from the inside anyways." Angelica further told him, as she for some unexplainable reason felt very relaxed and comfortable talking to Bobby about some of the things that she had carrying around inside of her for a while now, "When Miss Frost came and offered me a scholarship to such a fancy and expensive school, it was like a miracle. I mean, I've been working and trying so hard, but sometimes I feel like I'm letting her and my Dad down."

"Sounds like what you've been doing is putting way too much pressure on yourself. Take it from personal experience, you can't live your life according to what your parents, or what anyone else for that matter thinks you should be. That's something you're going to have to decide on your own." Bobby now told Angelica.

"I guess that's true. But when you really think about it, it seems like most of the time we don't even get much of a choice about what we end up--" Angelica was saying to Bobby, the two of them now happily engaged in what was turning out to be a fairly deep and meaningful conversation, when she was very rudely interrupted.

"Well, if it isn't the 'little red-haired girl'? I see you came over here and found your own 'block-head' to hang with?" Lance said, as he now appeared right next to Bobby and Angelica's table, with John chuckling a little at Lance's teasing comment as he stood right beside him. While it was pretty much Lance's stock and trade to pick on and make fun of those around him, his harassing comments were something that Angelica absolutely detested to have to be subjected to.

"You know, that's real funny. But from where I'm sitting, it looks like a couple of assholes just came over to us." Bobby immediately shot back at Lance, as he stood up from his chair to face the slightly taller and more muscular student from the Massachusetts Academy.

"The hell'd you just say!" Lance shouted, as the ruffian inside of him was just dying to make an appearance tonight. Lance then balled his right-hand up into a fist, and prepared to take a swing at Bobby.

"Why don't you just go somewhere, and leave us alone?" Angelica now stood up and, surprisingly, began yelling back at Lance, as the anger that she felt inside when others made fun of her had now channeled itself into an uncontrollable rage within.

"Pipe down 'Wall-flower', or I'll make sure you get some of this ass-whippin' I'm about to lay down on Charlie Brown here!" Lance now turned and warned Angelica, his fist still tightly-clenched.

Meanwhile, Lance, Bobby and Angelica's verbal exchange had become just loud enough to be heard by a few of the attendees close to them, which was fairly difficult in the first place thanks to the enormously thumping beat of Kanye West's Gold Digger now being spun by the DJ.

"C'mon 'lanche, we didn't come over here to pick a fight." John now said, as he stepped in front of Lance and now faced Bobby to speak to him, "The main reason I came down here was to invite one of my best-buds to join us, but you can keep on hangin' out here in the 'loser's circle' for all I give a damn."

With that, as John and Lance stepped back and were about leave Bobby and Angelica at their table, John stopped to make one last remark to the one individual with whom he had been the closest to during his time in Westchester.

"And by the way, when I see her I'll make sure to go give Rogue and her NEW boyfriend my best." John said, as he left one final, parting shot with Bobby, before turning with Lance to go and try to locate some their other classmates.

"That's some temper you've got there. Remind me not to do anything to really get you upset." Bobby now joked with Angelica, as both of them were now starting to calm down after their confrontation, and went to sit back down at their table.

"Yeah, I know. Normally, I can ignore that idiot's comments, but it felt like something inside of me just…exploded right now." Angelica told Bobby, as she was slightly confused about her momentary loss of control over her emotions.

Although in reality, Angelica was very perceptive to be suspect of what had just taken place.

Sitting only a few tables away from Bobby, Angelica, Lance, and John during their confrontation was one Manuel de la Rocha. And while it had been so subtle that neither they, nor Haroun al-Rashid or Matthieu Everard who were seated at that other table with Manuel felt it, a mischievously satisfied grin across Empath's face was the only tell-tale sign that his emotion-altering and amplifying abilities had played more than a small part in the altercation that had just taken place.

It also relayed the fact that both Manuel, and his Headmistress at the Massachusetts Academy, apparently drew perverse and substantial pleasure in toying with the emotions and with the lives of those around them, and seemed to do so for no other reason than they were simply able to.

As John and Lance made their way over to the other side of this enormous chamber, which despite its size was actually only one of The Hellfire Club's auxiliary ballrooms, the two soon split up and went in different directions. While John told Lance that he was going to see if he could find out where Tabitha was, another young lady wearing a fairly tight dark-blue floral print dress managed to catch Lance's attention. As she walked by in the distance, she soon disappeared through a doorway that led to an outdoor balcony, which managed to give a pretty spectacular view of New York's skyline, especially at night.

………………………………………………

"…haven't really talked to my parents since." Lance was now saying, as he and none-other than Kitty Pryde herself had become engaged in deep conversation out on the balcony for roughly the last five or ten minutes after Lance followed her out there. Lance had then proceeded to briefly inform Kitty about what had happened to him, after he and his Mom left Deerfield all of those years ago, "But enough of my sob-shit, since when did you start datin' the 'Brawny-Guy' anyways?"

"Don't make fun, Peter is such an awesomely sweet guy." Kitty smiled and replied, as she faced Lance. Meanwhile, the cooler nighttime air had now caused Kitty to tightly wrap herself up in the sheer printed-shawl that she had on, which matched her dress, "But to answer your question, we've been going out for a few months now."

"Who's makin' fun of him? Have you taken a look at your boyfriend, that dude is freakin' hu-normous." Lance jokingly responded.

"Hu-normous? That's not even a word." Kitty told Lance, as she now started to giggle a little.

"Yeah it is, straight outta the 'Lance Alvers' dictionary of words 'n shit'." Lance brazenly said to her, which caused Kitty to shake her head and let out another small laugh at his remark, "But if you don't believe me, just take a look at the guy's shoe-size. That should give you an idea of what I'm talkin' about right there."

"C'mon, stop." Kitty said, as she now came over on the balcony and playfully slapped Lance on his shoulder in slight admonishment.

"You know, you're sure not that same little girl I remember from next door back in Deerfield." Lance said to her, his tone becoming far more serious than before, looking Kitty up and down as she now stood very close to him, "The same little girl, who I ended up gettin' into a fight because of when those other kids took that stupid Barbie of yours."

"Yeah, I guess I'm not." Kitty said, as she stood there on moonlit night and looked up into Lance's big, brown eyes.

The two Illinois natives then stood together in silence for moment, with Kitty pensively reflecting on just how much she really had matured both mentally and emotionally in that time. Although, what Lance had been referring had more to do with those more 'physical' aspects of Kitty's growth than anything.

"I brought this for you." Peter now said, as he came through the entryway onto the balcony with a small glass for Kitty in his hand, unknowingly interrupting this quiet interlude out on the balcony between her and Lance, as he very quickly came to notice that his Katya was not out there alone.

"Oh, hi Peter. Me and Lance were out here talking about when we were kids, back home in Deerfield. You remember Lance, don't you?" Kitty now asked him, as she saw a stone-faced expression instantly wash over Peter's face.

"Yes. I remember him quite well." Peter solemnly replied to Kitty's inquiry, as he stared at Lance over on the balcony right next to her.

Peter also managed to recall wanting to very much knock Lance completely unconscious when the two first met in New Mexico following the defeat of the Sentinels, and that he had only deferred then at Kitty's request.

But, far from feeling afraid of this massive mountain of a human being in front of him, Lance walked right over to Peter and intensely stared right back into the Russian's eyes for a short while, before deciding to make his move.

"There. That's all better now, Petey-boy." Lance smirkingly said, as he had gone over and reached up to tauntingly straighten the bow-tie and lapels on Peter's tuxedo jacket for him. Then, Lance turned back around to speak to Kitty again.

"I'll talk to you later, Pryde." Lance told her, before turning and going back through the balcony's doorway, with Peter's eyes piercingly fixed upon him the entire time, until he was out of his sight.

Lance had now intended on heading back inside to the ballroom, so that he could go find John and the others. But, he was surprised when he ran into yet another individual, who seemed to have also taken a profound interest in him.

"Funny runnin' into you in here, Roulette." Lance said, as Jennifer Stavros was standing there to meet him in a small inter-connecting area that lay in between the balcony and the ballroom, "I figured you'd be busy inside, chasing behind that rich, stuck-up boyfriend of yours."

"For the last time Manuel's not my boyfriend! And besides, I don't chase behind any guy, I don't care how much money he's got." Jennifer replied, as she stood leaning up against a wall in the area.

Jen had come in there only after John found her and Tabitha, and then had mentioned to them that he had last seen Lance heading out towards the balcony area.

"Well, when was the last time you had a guy chase after you?" Lance inquired, as he managed to catch Jennifer off-guard with his question.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Jennifer asked him in response, as she ran her left hand through her long blonde hair and then pulled downward at the bottom of the tight, black leather dress that she had on. Jen had put on such a provocative choice of attire to wear to the Gala on a dare from Tabitha, a dare which had wound up winning Jen twenty dollars from Tab in the process.

"It's not a trick question." Lance told her, as he then came over to Jennifer and propped his arm up against the wall right next to her, leaving just a few inches of space between them, "You think I haven't seen you checking me out all the time?"

"I don't know what you're talkin' about." Jennifer replied, as the normally cool and collected teen looked down at the ground, and felt her pulse race just a little at the realization that Lance had figured out her crush on him, and that he had noticed her more than casual observations of him over the last few months.

"I think you know exactly what I'm talkin' about. But, you still didn't answer my question." Lance said, as he further surprised Jennifer byleaning forward and now whispering every word into her ear.

"What, you sayin' you're ready to become a pursuer? You don't much seem like the type to me." Jennifer now smiled, as she regained her composure and stood back a little before speaking to Lance.

"When you get down to it, I think we're both a lot more alike than you wanna admit. But to answer your question, I only chase after somethin' if it's worth bein' caught." Lance smoothly replied with his brown eyes now locked onto Jennifer's bright-green ones.

"And what if I said I'm not interested in being caught?" Jennifer asked him, as she proceeded to flash Lance a restrained, but curious smile in response to his remark.

"Then, I'd say a poker-faced bluff might actually live up to your nickname, if I didn't already know better." Lance smiled, as he slowly ran his hand through her blond locks.

"Well then, why don't we go find out if you're right, and see who really has the better poker-face?" Jennifer smirked and rather bluntly insinuated to Lance, as she was certainly not one to back down from anyone or anything.

Lance then took Jennifer by the hand, as the two of them nonchalantly walked back into the ballroom together. Although, the ballroom certainly wouldn't be their final destination for this evening.

………………………………………..

As Lance and Jennifer came in and managed to slip up the stairs to one of the Hellfire Club's private suites' unnoticed, the rest of their classmates continued enjoying the festivities down in there in the ballroom. In particular Bobby and Angelica, whom Bobby had asked to dance with him following their emotional episode with John and Lance, were out on the dance floor together as the songs had slowed down significantly now that the hour was much later in the evening.

"Where are you going?" Bobby asked Angelica, as the song that was playing while they had been dancing together had just now come to an end.

"Well, the song's over." Angelica pointed out, as she had started to walk off of the dance floor, but had turned back around to face Bobby when he spoke to her.

"That's why they hired a DJ, another one'll be on in just a sec." Bobby replied, as he had reached out to gently take hold of her arm.

"You mean, still wanna dance with me?" Angelica inquired, as she had believed that Bobby's asking her out there in the first place was nothing more than him just trying to be nice to her.

"Sure. That is, unless you don't feel like it." Bobby told her.

"No, Ifeellikeit, Ifeellikeit!" Angelica excitedly said to him, as Bobby now took her by the hand and they went head back out onto the dance floor. They were now joined by Rogue and Remy, John and Tabitha, Doug and Jubilee, Amara and Manuel, Dani and James, Joanna and Harlan, & Kitty and Peter, who themselves had just returned from the balcony outside.

While the rest of their classmates sat and looked on, the couples began to dance as an acoustically somber version of D.H.T.'s Listen to your Heart began to play, and Bobby went to put his arms back around Angelica's waist. Meanwhile, Angelica placed her arms back up around Bobby's shoulders and gently clasped her hands together behind his neck.

For Angelica, moments like this in her life had been few and far in between. And to have been asked out, well sort of, to dance at the ball by the guy with whom she had been thinking about ever since their first meeting all of those weeks ago, and whom she had also developed a considerable crush towards, was as about as close to a Cinderella story that Angelica felt that she would ever get to experience. So, the girl from West Morris closed her eyes and placed her head against Bobby's chest, as she simply savored every moment of being there with him, all the while their bodies slowly moving to the music together.

As one song flowed into another, Bobby and Angelica ended up spending the entire rest of the evening dancing together. Which the Massachusetts Academy's Headmistress certainly took notice of, as she sat at a table off to the side of the dance floor. Emma Frost now believed that her plans were progressing along perfectly, just as she had fully hoped and intended that they would.

But, given the best-laid of plans, there are times when even well thought-out designs can backfire, and ultimately end up working just a little too well…

………………………………………

Epilogue, part I-

Within the aged walls of The Hellfire Club there lay a great many secrets, which only a select few among the Club's membership were to ever be made privy to. One such secret was the fact that there existed a sophisticated camera surveillance network, which ran throughout the Club and gave those elite members unfettered access to, often showing some of the more tantalizing activities that took place there.

And as the Hellfire Club's President Sebastian Shaw could attest to, it did at times provide for some very interesting voyeuristic instances. One such example would be what he was seeing at the moment, as the man who also held the secret title of Black King within the Club's elite Inner Circle and was dressed the part in his eighteenth-century styled black suit, sat back in an armchair with a very tall back to it and viewed the monitor sitting on the desk in his private office within the Hellfire Club. In one of the private suites', he saw two individuals in there who had managed to pick the lock on the room's door and that had proceeded to let themselves in, while unwittingly setting off the room's silent alarm.

Recognizing the trespassers as Lance Alvers and Jennifer Stavros, two of Emma Frost's students, Sebastian was at first tempted to have word sent down to the White Queen in the ballroom about her young charges' activities. But, as the pair sat in there and began to trade shots with one another from a bottle of Jose Cuervo Gold that they had procured on their way in, Sebastian watched Lance and Jennifer imbibe a substantial amount of alcohol in a very short amount of time. The result was a quick loosening of whatever inhibitions that they may have had left, as Lance and Jennifer let their more prurient desires completely takeover. Lance and Jennifer started off with heavy kissing and groping of one another on the spacious king-sized bed inside of the room, before they rapidly moved onto acts of much greater intimacy.

All the Black King could do was smile, thinking to himself that these two at least embodied the true spirit of why The Hellfire Club had been originally founded. Sebastian then turned his attention away from what was going on in that particular suite, and went back to looking at the short analysis report given to him by Emma earlier, which had been delivered to him inside of an unmarked file folder that he had just opened up on top of his desk:

Sebastian,

Here is a rundown of those students of Xavier's, whom I had briefly mentioned in our last conversation. I believe these to be the most likely to accept an offer to join us, given the proper and ideal circumstances.

Emma-

Aquilla, Amara- The Inner Circle has a vested interest in Brazil's Maderia region, which surrounds Amara's homeland of Nova Roma. With our operations already underway within Nova Roma's government, it may be possible to use her step-mother Selene Aquilla to help us in recruiting the girl, when the time is right.

Da Costa, Roberto- Father is Emmanuel Da Costa, who had displayed a decided interest in joining both The Hellfire Club and our Inner Circle when I spoke to him in Rio, after my departure from Nova Roma. Were we to admit him, I presume that he would naturally bring his son into the fold as well.

Pryde, Katherine (Kitty)- In addition to having an understated, but extremely useful mutant power, this girl also possesses an advanced IQ level which may possibly place her among the nation's top percentile bracket. The only difficulty, drawback really, that we may encounter here are in regards to her father Carmen Pryde. A banker by profession, through a few reliable contacts within the Hellfire Club I have learned that the elder Pryde has unwittingly become entangled within a number of other underworld networks organizations, including laundering and reinvesting proceeds for Chicago's organized crime families, as well as incongruously implicating himself and the bank that he runs in other criminal ventures internationally. Despite the girl's obvious value and the leverage we may be able to employ in regards to her father, she may prove in the end to be more trouble than even she is worth, and it would serve Xavier right if we were to leave this little ticking time-bomb square in his lap for him to deal with.

Lebeau, Remy- My how the apple has fallen so very far from the tree. While technically not a student, he has become a part of Xavier's little mutant police force. Both Erik and myself were surprised by his unexpected shift in allegiance from his family's life of crime. See the attached dossier for further details regarding both his, and the Thieves' Guilds, domestic and international activities, which I am certain that you already have a glancing familiarity with.

Unuscione, Carmella- A very recent arrival to Xavier's, I was only made aware of her enrollment when her name appeared on the guest list for the Massachusetts Academy's Fall Gala. I believe that I may have solid evidence of a familial link between her and one of Erik's former associates, and will keep you apprised once this has been confirmed.

Drake, Robert (Bobby)- A former local resident of suburban Boston, both he and John Allerdyce have maintained close ties to one another, who may be able to provide some influence in Robert's recruitment. Were he to defect just as Pyro did, it may open the flood-gates to drain Westchester dry. One of my students, Angelica Jones, also seems to have an impetuously amorous affinity for him, which may also provide additional incentive in helping to convince Drake to champion a new cause.

As Sebastian now laid the file down on his desk and switched the surveillance monitor to the feed from within the auxiliary ballroom, he watched as the Gala taking place tonight moved into its final hours. While Emma's machinations for bringing some of these other young mutants into the service of the Inner Circle seemed like a sound one, Sebastian had been around far too long to rely solely on such a scheme as a means of securing power.

No, Sebastian Shaw had various 'other' means at his disposal with which to deal with Xavier and his X-Men, should they ever decide to become an obstacle in his way…

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Epilogue, part II-

Fall was now definitely in the air, in just these few weeks after the Massachusetts Academy's Gala in New York. Things at Xavier's School for the Gifted had pretty much gone back to their usual routines, with one of those routines being the daily mail call.

"Say Cheré, looks like I got a letter here just for you." Remy said, as he came into the room that Rogue and Jubilee shared and stood just inside of the doorway.

"A letter?" Was Rogue's response, as she sat up and put the textbook that she had been reading down on the bed beside her.

"Oui." Remy said, as he took the beautifully-decorated envelope in his hand, which had was addressed to Marie D'Acanto in care of the school and that Sam had picked up from the floor near the mail drop in the foyer, before handing it to Remy to deliver to his girlfriend.

"This is some pretty fancy–lookin' junkmail, that's for sure." Rogue jokingly said, as she now held the envelope in her hand and examined the gold-printed writing on its outside.

"You ain't got some other guy on de side, one dat you neglected t'tell me about?" Remy playfully inquired of her, although he was just as curious as she was as to who the sender of the letter was.

"Uh-huh. It's this whole other fella Ah've been runnin' around with, considerin' all the spare time Ah have on my hands around here." Rogue looked up from her bed and sarcastically replied to Remy, and then went back to visually inspecting the front and back of the envelope, but not seeing a return address anywhere on it.

"You gon' open it, or make me stand here all day waitin'?" Remy now crossed his arms and asked her.

"My, aren't you impatient?" Rogue laughed, as she now intentionally took her time in opening the envelope, just to make Remy sweat a little.

As Rogue slowly pulled what looked like a card from inside of the envelope, Remy watched as she slowly read its contents, and observed that a noticeable smile came across her face, right before,

"Whoo-hooo!" Rogue began excitedly shouting, her eyes still trained on the card in her hand, "This is so incredible!"

"What, you win de lottery or somethin'?" Remy humorously asked her.

"Better than that, this is from Logan." Rogue told Remy, as she placed the now closed card down against the top of the thigh area of the sweats she had on.

"Sounds like he's doin' pretty good over in Japan, neh?" Remy surmised.

"Oh, Ah'd say he's doin' a whole better than good. Here, take a look at this." Rogue told Remy, as she finally handed him the card that had been ornately-embossed on the front.

"Alright, you're the one always givin' me grief about keepin' up noise while you're tryin' to study. So, when I decide to go 'n get lost for a while out of the kindness of my heart, I end up hearin' you hollerin' all the way down the hallway in Kitty's room. Just what's got you yellin' like you're some sorta desperate housewife or somethi--" Jubilee was saying to Rogue as she came into their room, when she unexpectedly saw Remy standing in there with her, "Never mind. Next time you two decide to start actin' out one of your kinky sex-chat fantasies, just make sure you close the door first."

"Ain't nothin' like dat, Jubilé. Rogue's just happy 'cause we just got dis in de mail from Logan and Mariko." Remy said, as he now handed the envelope to Jubilee for her to read, with the interior of the card inside of it having been addressed to everyone on Greymalkin Lane.

The pleasure of your company

Is honorably requested for

The wedding of

Lady Mariko Yashida

To

John Logan

At the Ancestral Compound of

The Clan Yashida

Northern Prefecture of Agarashima

R.S.V.P.

-P.S.- Rogue-darlin', make sure you tell the whole gang that they're all invited, we're gonna celebrate things right, and maybe keep Tokyo up all night!

(And tell Kurt that now'd be a good time for him to fess up the couple cases of brew he still owes me, since they'd come in handy about now too!)

"I'm puttin' everyone on notice here and now, anyone jumps in front of me and the bouquet being tossed out, and you'll seriously be pullin' petals out from where the sun don't shine for the next week." Jubilee and happily announced to Rogue and Remy, who just like her, were all smiles after reading the news of their friend and mentor's wedding announcement in the invitation, which had come complete with a five-by-five picture of the bride and groom to-be.

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To Be Continued, in two new Mini-fics…

In Coldfire, Iceman and Firestar are in for the fight of their lives, as they face-off against the Brotherhood in the ultimate showdown on the streets of the Big Apple, and end up receiving some unexpected, but welcome help from a certain friendly neighborhood web-slinger!

And in Land of The Silver Sun, Part II, the rest of the gang head off to Japan for Logan and Mariko's impending nuptials. But, the happy couple might not even make it to the altar, especially if Viper and her splinter faction of the covert terrorist-organization known as H.Y.D.R.A. have their way, and as an X-Man will be changed forever in the erupting conflict…

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A/N: Special thanks to those that reviewed the last chapter-

Doza- The Kitty story was basically like you said, just some origin-stuff to flesh out a few of her movie-verse differences from her comic-counterpart. And the action is definitely on its way now!

Independent Fire- Glad you liked the all of the backgroundey stuff last chapter, and I think you're really going to get a kick out of the stories coming up next.

El Varon- 'The Incredibles', huh? Well, I'm just flat-out honored to be compared to such a fine piece of animated cinematography (I'm not trying to be sarcastic, I really did like that movie and can't wait for the sequel!) And if you liked Lawrence the jerk, then I think you'll just absolutely love what happens when Viper turns the deadly Lady Hydra loose on the X-Men…