To make a long story short: I own only Carly and Adam. Everything else...belongs to people who aren't me (and what lucky people they all are...you gotta love them for giving us toys to play with).

A Little Less Sensitivity

"So. They tell me that neither of you have slept in a week," Psyche Out said.

Pietro and Carly just looked back at him.

"Would you two like to say anything?"

Pietro shook his head, but Carly opened her mouth. "Can't sleep, clowns will eat me." It was spoken so softly it was barely audible.

"Yes, well...It's going to take some time, but I'm sure we can help you deal with your respective traumas and get past them," Psyche Out said delicately, looking at the two teens; both of whom looked as though they were about to bolt. "I can't promise you that it will be easy and that it won't be a little painful. But if you both work really hard and give it some time, you will both be fine; you will both survive your phobia. What do you say to that?"

The two remained silent. The psychiatrist resisted the urge to sigh and shake his head. This wasn't going to be easy.

"Nothing? Carly, why don't you start? How did you first come to be afraid of clowns?"

"A clown tried to kill me."

"I'm sure that's not true," he replied. "Clowns aren't homicidal."

"I'm telling the truth. A clown tried to strangle me! He almost succeeded until Adam came in and helped me!" the feral cried hysterically. "I was almost a goner!"

"A clown almost killed you?" Pietro asked. "Clowns are evil. Everyone's talking about the Mutant Menace, but what about the Floppy Shoed Menace?"

"I know! Clowns are out there killing people every day but no one crawls over them about it!"

"Alright, alright. I believe you," Psyche Out placated. "A clown tried to strangle you. Why don't you tell me more about this incident?"

"Adam and I were living with this one foster family...I can't remember where. I've tried my best to block it out, but not all of it will remain blocked," Carly explained. "It was Christmas and we opened our presents. They gave me this huge clown rag doll." She paused. "I'm serious, that thing was huge! It was almost as big as I was and had long, floppy limbs. I liked it. I didn't know any better."

"What happened then?"

"That night I had it in bed with me. I mean, all kids sleep with stuffed animals don't they?"

"And some teens and adults," Pietro added.

"Right. All was fine until I woke up in the middle of the night. I was having trouble breathing and I felt these long strips of fabric around my neck, pressing on my windpipe. It was the clown's arms! They were wrapped around my neck; cutting off my breathing...it was horrible! If Adam hadn't been there and heard me banging on the wall between our rooms, the clown would've succeeded! I'd be dead right now!"

"So you were almost suffocated by a stuffed clown doll?" The shrink had to take a moment to suppress his laughter. "Alright. And Pietro, I've been told about what happened to you to cause your coulrophobia. Is there anything you'd like to add?"

"I'll never forget the sight of those 37 clowns trying to dig me out with those tiny shovels," the white-haired teen replied. "It was horrible...them coming at me with those pointed spades. They just keep coming and they take so long...I couldn't move, all I could do was stay there. Clowns are evil!"

"Right, well, I think I have enough to create a strategy to help you two cope with your fears. Why don't you both come back here tomorrow at the same time and we'll begin?"

The two teens nodded and he walked them out, where they were met by Beach Head.

"How'd it go?" he asked.

"I think I have enough now to get started on their recovery, but it's going to take a little time," Psyche Out answered after it appeared the two patients weren't going to reply.

"I hope it won't take too long. I'm not sure how much longer I can listen to Alice Cooper's 'Can't Sleep, Clowns Will Eat Me' without going insane," the Ranger groaned.

"Does it seem to help Carly at all?"

"I don't know, but it sure is driving me up the wall."

"I've told the two to come back tomorrow at the same time and we'll get into the meat of the matter."

"I'll make sure they get here," Beach Head assured him. He wanted this flare-up over with as quickly as possible.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Meanwhile, across the Pit at Misfit Manor, the rest of the team was gathered in Todd's room discussing their friends' "problem."

"I've read all about it," Fred stated excitedly. "It's called systematic desensitization therapy. It's all about exposing the subject to items and situations that make them uncomfortable."

"What does that have to do with us again?" Lance asked.

"We can help Pietro and Carly get better," the larger teen replied. "They'll get better much faster if we assist Psyche Out with their therapy. We can work on them when they're not with him by showing them pictures and clown pare...para...paraphe...stuff. Then they'll see the clowns aren't bad!"

"That doesn't exactly sound like a bad idea," Todd said after the team had thought about it for a few minutes. "It would be nice to be able to walk into a room without a strung-out Pietro screaming like a girl."

"He does kind of sound like a girl when he screams, doesn't he?" Wanda asked, looking around.

"I thought we were talking about the clown situation, not the sissy screams," Xi said. "If we had a tape of him screaming, everyone would think he was a girl, though."

"We could always do a little test and make people listen to a tape of lots of different screams and ask them which gender they think the screamer is," Adam suggested. "That way we can get a wider opinion on whether or not Pietro does scream like a girl. I think he does."

"I don't think Psyche Out would want us interfering with his therapy," Lance broke in, switching the conversation back to its original topic.

"Lance is right," Althea agreed. "But what if a situation with Cobra or the Acolytes pops up before either of them are better? It wouldn't be a good idea to deal with it when those two could snap at any moment and go hide in a tree."

"Exactly," Fred said. "We need to help them. They're our friends. Isn't that what friends do, help each other?"

"It is," Todd agreed. "So what are we going to do? Help them or let Psyche Out handle it all on his own?"

"I say we help them," Althea decided.

"I'm in," Adam nodded. "They're driving me nuts. Have you ever spent five minutes with two people who keep chanting 'can't sleep, clowns will eat me'? It's torture!"

"Whatever," Lance shrugged. "This will all blow up in our faces, but maybe this will be the one time everything goes according to plan."

"There's optimism for you," Wanda quipped. "I vote yes."

"We need to help," Xi voiced his opinion.

"Then it's all agreed? We're taking the evil out of the clowns?" Todd said making sure that that was their decision.

"Good. It's settle then," Fred smiled. "Althea, should we ask your sisters to help?"

Althea looked at him like he was insane. "Are you kidding? Those three nuts would make the situation worse!"

"I suppose you're right. Let's get started on Operation: A Little Less Sensitivity."

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

The next day, Carly opened the drawer of her desk and saw a folded sheet of paper that hadn't been there before and she took it out. Unfolding it she looked at it. In the center of the sheet there was a very tiny drawing. She turned on her feral vision as she studied it then dropped with a scream. "CLOWN!"

Meanwhile, across the Pit, Pietro was primping in front of the mirror. Just because he was stressed out and hadn't slept in a week since the nightmare at the circus didn't mean he couldn't look his best. He opened the medicine cabinet to get his hair gel when he noticed the bright red clown nose sitting on the shelf. He screamed and ran away. "The clowns are coming back to finish me off!"

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

"There are absolutely now clowns in the Pit," Psyche Out told Pietro in a calm voice. "They didn't leave a calling card. Someone was probably just playing a trick on you. Don't worry; I'll get to the bottom of this. Now will you please come out from under the house?"

"No, there are clowns out there. I'm safe down here," the terrified teen replied, pouting. "They'll never find me here."

The psychiatrist opened his mouth to speak when Low Light walked up to him. "We've found Carly."

"Where is she?" The entire base had been searching for the two teens and Pietro had been found first.

"She's up a tree and refuses to come down," he answered. "Beach Head is trying to coax her down. He still under the house?"

"I'm not coming out!" Pietro called to him, answering the question.

"Psyche, did you ever get the feeling that we live in an insane asylum?"

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

A week later, the situation wasn't getting any better. Every day there were new items of clown paraphernalia mysteriously appeared around the base when everyone, Pietro and Carly especially, least expected it.

"Do you think the Misfits are, in some strange way, trying to help those two?" Cover Girl asked the assembled group of guardians as they sat around one of the Mess Hall tables.

"I don't think they'd be that insensitive about this," Shipwreck replied.

"I know they all like to pick on each other, but I'm not sure they'd go this far," Roadblock shook his head.

"They might," Psyche Out said as he walked up to the table and sat down. "I just noticed that some of my books on Systematic Desensitization are missing."

"Let me guess, Fred has them?" Beach Head groaned.

"It's possible they could be trying to help Carly and Pietro," the shrink replied.

"Some help," Low Light grumbled. "Those two are bigger basket cases than ever."

"We'll have to have a talk with them," Cover Girl said. "This can't go on much longer. None of us can take it."

"At least we know they're trying to help and no one is torturing anyone else on purpose," Roadblock pointed out with a shrug of his shoulders.

"Are you guys seeing what I'm seeing?" Psyche Out asked as he looked out the window. The others turned to see what he was looking at.

Outside, they saw Fred dressed up as a clown, slowly walking toward where coulrophobes were sitting, keeping their eyes out for the next clown attack. After Fred reached his two friends, he pulled them into a bear hug, startling them. Almost in unison, the two turned their heads and saw the clown makeup and began screaming hysterically. Their screams startled Fred and he dropped them as he began screaming himself.

With one last ear-piercing scream, Pietro and Carly both ran off to hide in their respective rooms. The adults groaned and watched them scurry away.

"Remind me to kill those kids," Beach Head sighed.

"I wonder if there are any medications for this," Psyche Out mused out loud. "Or do you think we could talk Xavier into wiping their memories?"

The End

Coming up next: A multi-chapter fic which includes: the answer to the question of whether blood is thicker than water, the arrival of Spyder, Arcade, and the two Angels into this Misfits AU, Todd gets an admirer (and Althea some competition), and Jean makes a brand new friend, and more! Insert evil laugh here. Please stay tuned and, if there's anything you'd like to see me write involving the Misfits, please send those ideas to me. I'm always up for making their lives a little more crazy than usual!