Disclaimer before the disclaimer: I started this story five years ago, after I saw both X-Men movies in the space of two days. This story completely ignores the events of X3. This is longest story I've ever written. The next story I write that is this long, I hope I get paid for it. *G*
Because this story is so massive, I am going to post in three chunks. The Prolouge and Chapters 1-8 first, then Chapters 9-16, then Chapters 17-25 last. Each posting will be four days apart so that you'll have plenty of time to digest the story. *BG*
Please send any and all comments, chocolate, cute mutants, Fedcakes in Kevlar, job offers, etc. to:
Disclaimer: All I can say is "Curse you, Julie! Like I needed another fandom." I like Scott and Jean and I like the idea of a school for mutants so that's what got me going on this story. I was a teacher for 5 years, (9th Grade - it's hormones on parade) so, this story is written from the point of view of a teacher. I don't own any of these characters, although if James Marsden has a brother I wouldn't mind meeting him. :-) (Yes, I am well aware that Mr. Marsden is an actor not a character. Although I'm sure his wife would beg to differ on that opinion sometimes)
The New Teacher
An X-men story (movieverse)
By Amy M. Denton
'Seeking : Certified teacher in Composite Social Studies for Grades 6 - 12 to fill a position at The Xavier School for the Gifted, located in Westchester County, New York.
Requirements: Resumé, teacher certificate and three letters of recommendation. Must possess mutant abilities or have an open mind toward mutants.'
Gordon Collins read the want-ad twice before reading the note attached to it.
We are looking for another teacher to join us at The Xavier School as we are bursting at the seams. If you know of anyone who would qualify, please give them this ad and our phone number.
A smile crossed Gordon's lips at the image presented, 'bursting at the seams' indeed. He folded the letter and slid it into the pocket of his suit coat. Professor Xavier's request would require some serious thought. He couldn't send just any teacher. If he did, they would probably run screaming from the building.
"Mr. Collins?" His secretary's voice buzzed on the intercom.
"Yes, Belinda?" He said.
"Your Board of Trustee's meeting is at 3 p.m. You'll be late if you don't leave now."
"Thank you, Belinda. I'm on my way." Gordon said. He looked at his briefcase and it floated to him. He bid Belinda good-night and left his office.
Gordon thought that this Board of Trustees meeting for The Crestwell School, a tony private school near Chappaqua, NY, would be close to the same as all the others he attended. Dry as dust and about as exciting as watching paint peel. He kept attending the meetings though because it garnered so much goodwill with his well-heeled clientele.
Gordon was wrong.
Apparently, the start of the school year really brought out the complaints. A half-hour into the meeting, right between the treasurer's report and club announcements, a bomb was dropped that no one saw coming.
"I don't care! She's not getting paid to state her opinions, she's getting paid to teach!"
All heads turned toward the end of the table, where Clifford Wells, a relatively new member of the board sat, glaring at Claire Satterfield, an older member of the board, older meaning she'd served on The Crestwell School's board for over ten years.
"Honestly, Cliff, you act as if she's advocating pagan worship. She's only encouraging the children to think for themselves." Claire replied, calmly. Tall and thin with a model's build and complexion, Claire could have passed for one of the younger teachers at The Crestwell School, instead of one of its trustees.
"That's not what my son told me." Cliff replied, fairly trembling with righteous indignation. "Dylan told me that she was encouraging the other students to accept mutants as normal members of society. She told all of her students that she was against The Mutant Registration Act and then proceeded to use it and the Civil Rights Act as examples of what happens when the government tries to set the norms for society."
Gordon's ears perked up. If this teacher, whoever she was, had Cliff Wells in such a dither, she would be perfect.
"Dylan told you all that, did he?" Claire asked.
"Yes, he did. What are you implying, that my son is stupid?" Cliff demanded of Claire. Cliff was the 180˚ opposite of Claire and, as the saying goes, the apple, Dylan, didn't fall far from the tree, Cliff.
"Of course not," Claire soothed. "I just never knew that Dylan has such amazing powers of recall." She frowned at Cliff and added "I bet your family was against the Civil Rights Act, weren't they?"
Cliff scowled and said "If you've got something to say, why don't you come out and say it?"
"All right. I am saying, quite firmly, that you need to calm down. It's people like you that made the Civil Rights Act a necessity. Just what do you think the mutants are going to do? Rise up and overthrow their masters like the slaves did? Did it ever occur to you that if they wanted to take over society they already would have? You are an intelligent man, Cliff, I am appalled that you would buy into such drivel and nonsense."
At least the meeting wasn't dull any more. Gordon silently cheered Claire on. She had a knack for getting to the heart of a matter. She was also the most diplomatic person on the Board of Trustees.
Cliff's mouth opened then closed, then opened again. Before he could reply, though, he was interrupted by Brandon Ware, the chairman of the board. From his position at the head of the table, he glared at both Cliff and Claire.
Cliff, wisely, shut his mouth.
"Don't look quite so annoyed, Cliff." Brandon said. "We'll come back to this when we discuss teacher evaluations. We just haven't gotten there yet."
Gordon raised his hand and got Brandon's attention.
"Who is this teacher and what does she teach?" Gordon asked.
Brandon looked down the table at Cliff, who said nothing.
"Oh, honestly, Cliff, you complain about her but you won't tell anyone her name?" Claire said. "You're acting like some weird dog in the manger."
A ripple of laughter spread through the trustees.
"Look, I just want to see if she has horns growing out of her head. If she's as bad as you say, she should be easy to spot, name or no. After listening to you, I'd think you'd welcome the chance to get rid of her."
"Why do you care, Gordon? What are you doing to do, give her a job?" Cliff replied.
"If she has to put up with you and your child on a daily basis, I'll give her a medal." Gordon replied.
Another ripple of laughter drifted through the trustees.
"Her name is Kate Renard." Claire supplied. "She teaches U.S. History."
"Folks," Brandon said "we've got a lot to cover and I, for one, would like to get home before it turns dark. So, if you don't mind..."
The meeting settled back into its normal rhythm of reports and votes and other minutiae but Gordon noticed very little of it. He had just found a new teacher for The Xavier School for Gifted Children and nothing else mattered.
The next afternoon, Gordon stood outside Kate Renard's classroom and listened to her skillfully lead a discussion comparing and contrasting the Civil Rights Act and the current mutant 'problem'. No wonder Cliff Wells was having such a fit. Kate Renard actually thought and boy, Cliff couldn't have people like that around his son. Dylan might start to think for himself too. Oh, the horror.
The transom at the top of the door was cracked open just enough so that bits of conversation drifted out.
"What are you? Some kind of mutant freak?" a young male voice from inside the classroom grabbed Gordon's attention.
"Take that back!" another young male voice said.
"Make me!" the first voice shouted.
"Your mama's a mutant!" the second voice shouted back.
Gordon winced. Memories of school before The Xavier School bubbled to the surface of his mind.
"Gentlemen," a decidingly female voice, mostly like Kate Renard's, interrupted the two young men. "this is a debate, not a name-calling session." Her voice rose not one decibel but her meaning was crystal clear. *Knock it off.*
He had to smile.
"Both of your mama's would be shocked by your behavior." Kate continued.
"Brandon's mom wouldn't." a helpful third voice said.
"Christopher..." Kate began, then addressed the two arguing students. "The whole point of this exercise is to show how and why prejudices get started. And you two have just proven my point."
Gordon nodded in agreement. Ignorance and fear of different people was a learned behavior.
"Back in the '60's, one of the 'things' you might call someone was 'nigger lover'. We, as a society, have moved beyond that. But how far? Have we merely replaced one prejudice with another?" Kate asked her students. "Why is it so bad to be called a mutant? Did you know that some of them can move things just by thinking about that thing? Pretty cool, if you ask me."
Gordon smiled again. Kate would be perfect fit for The Xavier School. He had better act quickly though, with Cliff Wells gunning for her, Kate's tenure at The Crestwell School was bound to be short.
And it was. It was so short, she never saw the end coming. Why would she? She worked hard and kept controversy to a minimum in her classroom. Occasionally, she used something controversial like The Mutant Registration Act as an example of the persecution of a specific group of people but it was only as a teaching aid. It wasn't as if she was advocating on behalf of mutants everywhere. She didn't even know any mutants. At least, she didn't *think* she knew any mutants.
Privately, she thought that nobody, mutant or not, should be singled out and made to feel inferior or suffer for something they had no control over. Publicly, she had no opinion one way or the other. Mutants simply did not exist in her world. She heard them mentioned on the news or read about them in paper but that was the extent of her involvement with them.
Until she was fired from her job because of them.
"Fired?" Kate said, staring at the headmaster in disbelief.
"In a nutshell, yes." Headmaster Stevens replied. He steepled his fingers and tried to project an air of power. He failed miserably owing to the fact that he was not much older than Kate herself.
"May I ask whose child I offended this time?" Kate demanded, not letting her temper go. It would do no good to antagonize Headmaster Stevens. She might need him for a recommendation.
"Now, Kate, you've been warned and warned and warned about advocating for mutant rights. We just don't discuss things like that here." He replied evenly.
"What?!" Kate's bewilderment burned away to a white hot anger; forget the recommendation. "My students wrote one essay, ONE, on whether or not The Mutant Registration Act was necessary and that was TWO MONTHS AGO! I don't even know any mutants so how could I advocate for them ?!"
Headmaster Stevens cleared his throat and pulled out a manilla folder with her name on it. He opened the folder and proceeded to read from a list of all the times that Kate so much as said the word 'mutant' in class, much less give an assignment on them.
For the second time in ten minutes, Kate was speechless. Just what had she done to deserve this?
He closed the folder and put it on the desk in front of him. Steepling his fingers again, he said "While The Crestwell School does pride itself on being progressive, we have to draw the line somewhere. In the '60's, it was desegregation. Today, it's mutant rights. I hate doing this to you, you're an excellent teacher but I am beholden to the parents and they have spoken. Perhaps in another ten or twenty years, mutants will be as accepted as minorities are today. Until then...You have until the end of the day to clean out your classroom and turn in your room keys. Payroll will cut your last paycheck at that time."
Kate stood and left Headmaster Stevens office. She was too stunned to do much else. Out in the hallway, she tried to comprehend what had just happened.
Fired! The word rang in Kate's head. She had never had been fired before from any job she had ever had. She was a hard worker and did what she was told. Hard workers who did what they were told weren't fired.
She made it back to her classroom on autopilot. When the door didn't open, she remembered that she had locked it before getting fired. She fumbled in her pocket for the room keys but dropped them twice before giving up, sitting down on the floor and sobbing. Never before had she ever been this low. A month before Christmas and she had no job, meager savings and a mountain of debt. What was she supposed to do now?
Gordon heard the sobs all the way down at the other end of the hallway. It didn't take a genius to figure out who the sobs belonged to. He picked up the pace of his steps. It just wouldn't be right to have anyone watch Kate Renard's nervous breakdown in the hallway.
He turned the corner and there she was, on the floor outside the classroom, sobbing as if her heart would break. Maybe it already had.
Damn. It was a very good thing that there was nothing movable in the hallway. He had a tendency to toss things when he was mad, which he was at that moment. Very, very mad.
He hastened down the hallway and came to a stop in front of Kate. The door was locked, the light off and a set of keys was on the floor next to her. Her head buried in her hands, she didn't see Gordon standing there. He picked up the keys, unlocked the room and flipped on the lights. Dropping the keys in his coat pocket, he squatted down next to Kate and coaxed her into a standing position, before maneuvering her into the classroom and finding the closest available seat. He sat down and took Kate in his arms, her sobs now muffled by him.
The longer she cried, the madder he got. What was wrong The Crestwell School? Was the headmaster that scared of the board? Didn't he realize what a great teacher he was tossing out? He had half a mind to go and have a little 'discussion' with Headmaster Stevens about Kate.
He resisted the urge. Nothing done in anger had a good outcome and while the image of Headmaster Stevens going out a window, along with Cliff Wells, had great merit, it would solve nothing. Jean would applaud his restraint. Either that or she would come and help.
Kate's sobs tapered off slowly until they stopped all together. She pulled away from Gordon and looked at him. Chestnut hair, boyish face, muscular build. He was a sharp dresser too, complete with a tie that matched his apple green eyes. She had never seen this man before and she had just made a mess out of his shirt.
"I'm sorry. I don't want to be rude but who are you?" she asked.
"You're not being rude. My name is Gordon Chambers." Gordon replied. He took a handkerchief from the breast pocket of his coat and handed it to her.
"Thank you." Kate said, dabbing at her eyes. "You'll have to excuse me, I...I just got some really bad news." She realized then that they were in her classroom but she did not remember opening the door.
The look on her face must have been enough of a cue for Gordon. He took the keys from his coat pocket and handed them to her. "The floor is such an uncomfortable place to sit." he said. "Besides, did you want the school to see that they got to you?"
She shook her head and pocketed her keys. "Nice shirt, sorry I got it wet. You wouldn't happen to be in the market for a teacher, would you? I just got fired." she said.
Gordon smiled. In spite of everything else, Kate, was determined to keep her sense of humor, tears not withstanding.
"Well, I'm not hiring but I do know of someone who is." he said. He pulled a folded piece of paper from his inside coat pocket and handed it to Kate.
She unfolded the paper and read once, twice, three times. Her mouth dropped open but no sound came out. When she had asked about hiring a teacher, she had been kidding. Never in a thousand years did she expect him to pull a job offer out of his coat pocket. Job offers didn't just fall out of the sky. Apparently, they came from a man named Gordon Chambers. Such a rapid change in fortune was enough to make a person lightheaded, especially if that person hadn't eaten since 10 o'clock that morning.
"Are you all right?" Gordon asked, watching the color drain from her face.
"I'm fine." Kate replied. "This is just a lot to take in all at once."
He nodded, knowingly. So, while Kate absorbed the job offer, Gordon got up from the desk he'd been sitting on and amused himself by looking around her classroom. Maps, drawings and pictures covered the walls. In fact, there was so much on the walls, Gordon didn't know where to start. Ororo Munroe, the social studies teacher at The Xavier School, would have a field day in Kate's classroom.
"Isn't this high a concentration of paper in such a small room, a BIG violation of the fire code?" he asked, looking at a picture of the McDonald's in Red Square.
"The Fire Marshall's son is, was, in my class. Good kid, quiet. I haven't heard two words come out of his mouth the entire semester." She said, smiling at the memory.
She cleared her throat and he turned from a map of the world marked with the dates and places of the last 100 years of summer and winter Olympics.
"Did one of your students do this?" Gordon asked.
"Yes." Kate replied. "The last time the Olympics came around, I had them find all the Olympic locations. I gave that," she pointed at the map "as extra credit. No, it doesn't have a whole lot to do with U.S. History but what are they going to do, fire me? Oh, wait, they already did."
Gordon nodded. Ororo and Kate would definitely have a lot to talk about.
Kate looked down at the piece of paper in her hand, then back at Gordon.
"Tell me about this school. Why does the ad say 'must possess mutant abilities or be open to the idea of mutants'?" she asked.
"Why don't I help you pack up your room?" he replied. "And while I help, I'll explain."
Kate looked around her room, then at Gordon. Breaking down her classroom always took forever and it was such a pain. And now, on top of everything else, she had only the remains of that day to do it in.
"You got yourself a deal." she said.
Two hours later, with the room only half-packed, Kate called a time-out for a water break and Gordon was only too happy to stop. It might have been close to freezing outside but in Kate's classroom, it was mighty close to boiling, due, in part, to their exertions.
"Here you go." Kate said, returning from the teacher's lounge with two bottles of water. "You can sit down now."
"Yes, ma'am." Gordon replied, perching himself on the edge of a desk. "What do your students call you? Ms. Renard? Mrs. Renard?"
"You want the repeatable names? Usually my students remembered my name but sometimes it's Miss or Ma'am. I had one who called me 'Miss Lady', which was fine, at least he didn't call me something unrepeatable."
Gordon grinned in response.
Kate sat for a few moments, drank some water, then went back to work. Gordon moved to join her but she shooed him back to his seat. "Oh, sit." she said. "I'm used to being on the move. I sit still and I think I'm doing something wrong.
"You've yet to tell me" she continued "why I would want to work at a school for mutants. I've just been fired for simply talking about them." She climbed up a wobbly stepladder leaning against a bookshelf.
"Fair enough. If you take the job, you'll get paid to teach them and you can talk about them all you want." He replied.
She stretched her entire frame and reached for the last box on top of the bookshelf. "You don't know anything about me. I could be some strange anti-mutant weirdo. How do you know that I'm not?"
"I've heard you teach, you're not."
"Thank you for the compliment. Let me think on the job offer."
"All right. Are you sure that ladder is stable enough?"
"You're sure you don't need any help?" He asked, listening to the ladder creak.
"Nope, I got it. If I fall, I can always sue the school for workman's comp." Kate replied, her back to Gordon. Her fingers brushed the edge of the box and Gordon offered up a silent prayer that the ladder would hold. "Tell me how you know about The Xavier School. From what you've told me, it sounds like it's completely off the radar screen of the modern world."
Her weight shifted when she spoke, the stepladder creaked again, then exploded into a thousand pieces, launching Kate into the air. She closed her eyes and braced for the landing, a landing that did not happen as it should have.
Something was holding her, tilting her upright and setting her on her feet. When she landed, she spun around and looked at Gordon, eyes wide.
"I was a student at The Xavier School." Gordon said. "What I just did is called telekinesis. You can move things just by thinking about them. Your reaction is, actually, one of the more calm ones. I've had people shriek and run the other way."
Kate snorted and said "That's just plain silly. What did they think you would do? Give it to them?"
"You would be surprised." Gordon said, with a shrug.
"I guess I would." She replied. "Thank you for keeping me from landing flat on my face."
"You're welcome. I told you that ladder wasn't stable enough."
She looked at the remains of the ladder, then looked back at Gordon and asked "Would I be completely out of line and totally rude if I asked you to move that last box for me?"
He thought for a moment, then levitated the box off the top of the bookshelf and placed it in front of Kate.
"Normally, yes. Telekinesis is not a parlor trick but considering that you nearly killed yourself just now trying to get that box, I'll make an exception.
"You need to understand something before we talk any more. I'm a mutant and proud of it. But at the same time, it's not something that I'll shout from the mountain tops. It's just that my life is easier if people think otherwise, at least until, the world is ready to accept mutants."
He picked up the box in front of Kate and turned towards the door. Before he left, he said, over his shoulder "You realize that by you knowing what I am, I'm completely at your mercy. I'm putting my complete trust and faith in you and the fact that you won't tell anyone else about me."
He left Kate standing there with more questions than answers.
One question Kate never had a chance to ask Gordon was 'How?' or 'Why?' or 'When?' as in 'When did you find out?' 'How do you keep others from finding out?' 'Why you?' Kate wasn't trying to be rude or unfeeling, she was simply curious. She just wanted to know *more* about him. However, Gordon, well versed in keeping his ability secret from non-mutants, carefully steered any and all conversations any from such prying questions. Perhaps after he got to know Kate better, much better, he would tell her what she wanted to know.
Instead, Gordon told Kate all she had ever wanted to know about The Xavier School, even to the point of driving her out to the gates of the school after the appointment for the interview was made, just so Kate would know where she was going.
She appreciated all he had done for her and enjoyed the limited time they spent together. Gordon was funny and bright and a true gentleman but he held her at arm's length and would not bring her any closer to him or his world than necessary. It frustrated Kate beyond all measure, even if she did understand his reluctance.
The day of her interview dawned cold but sunny with no snow. That was Kate's first surprise of the morning. Her second surprise came in the form of a phone call from Gordon.
"I just wanted to call and wish you good luck on your interview. I know you're the best person for the job."
"Thank you, that's very sweet of you." Kate replied. "Listen, now that my interview is almost here, would you like to go out to dinner to celebrate with me? I should be back before dark."
Silence was Kate's answer.
"Gordon?" He was still there, Kate could hear papers rustling on his desk.
"I'm here." Gordon replied, finally. "I don't know. I have a lot of work to do. Call me when you get back and I'll see if I'm free. Good luck."
Kate stared at the phone for a moment before hanging up. *You'd think I'd ask him to eat snails.*
She shook her head. No time to stand around and wonder. She had an interview in front of her and she needed to concentrate on that, not Gordon.
Seventy-five miles to the west, Gordon wished he had a new job. A new job in another part of the country, no, make that another part of the world. A part of the world that did not have network servers that could fry themselves just by sitting there.
It was only 10 a.m. and already the main server that connected the City of Croton-on-the-Hudson to the County of Westchester had gone down not once but twice. That crash started a domino effect and now, not only was the connection between the city and the county gone but also the connection between the city and the state, along with the connections of two other municipalities and it did not help that the Mayor of Croton-on-the-Hudson called every hour on the half/hour to receive an update, even if Gordon had nothing new to tell him. There were days when he truly hated his job and this was one of them.
On top of all that, he'd missed his morning coffee and had frozen on the phone, again.
A sigh escaped him. What was it about certain women that left him tongue-tied?
He could hold forth at any board meeting filled with women. He had no problem negotiating contracts with female-owned companies. He talked to his secretary, not to mention his maid, every single day without a single trip of the lip.
He got on the phone with a woman he liked and his brain stopped working. This fear of his, if that's what it truly was, had plagued him since high school. Now, at the age of 33, he'd learned the hard way and simply didn't socialize with women. It wasn't that hard. He didn't know that many women to start off with.
But then, he'd met Kate and all his intentions went right out the window and his tongue was permanently glued to the roof of his mouth, at least around her. As usual, he had not an idea of what to do to correct the problem. His social life was nil as it was. Why couldn't he just relax and trust that Kate wouldn't run away screaming? She hadn't yet.
Without warning, the coffee pot on the other side of the room levitated, poured itself into a waiting mug and returned to its warming station. The sugar bowl came next, depositing two scoops of sugar into the mug, before the mug lifted off the table, floated across the room and landed on his desk. Gordon stared at the coffee mug in front of him, having no recollection of getting any coffee.
Lord, he was slipping. He never used his powers at the office, too much risk of being found out. He sipped the coffee, ignoring the taste and wondered what to do about Kate. She was one of a handful of people, his parents included, who could rob him of speech and leave him feeling like the Bumble sans teeth from the old TV show chestnut Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. If he had any sense about him, any scrap of self-preservation, he would stay far, far away from Kate Renard and save the both of them a lot of heartache. He was not marriage material, he would only break her heart. But, apparently, he didn't have any self-preservation at all, because all he could think of was Kate and how pleasant it was to be around her.
He looked back down at the computer screen and felt his eyes starting to cross. Time for a break. He stood, stretched and left everything where it was and pulled on his outside coat. He left a message for his secretary as to his whereabouts and went out the front door. A walk in the frigid air would clear his mind and, hopefully, present a solution to the crashed server. A walk might also put Kate out of his mind as well. The more he thought about her, the less inclined he was to concentrate on his job.
He set off from his office building and headed for a small park a quarter of a mile away. He would put Kate from his mind until the server was fixed. He would, really. And perhaps if he told himself that often enough, he might actually believe it.
Two car wrecks, one missed turn and an hour and a half later, Kate turned her Dodge Durango into the driveway of The Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, giving silent thanks to whoever was responsible for clearing the driveway. She also gave silent thanks to Gordon for showing her the way to the school. Without his instructions, she would still be wandering around greater Westchester County.
The main house came into view during her ruminations and, seeing no parking spaces, stopped just beyond the main house. A quick check of her hair, outfit and makeup showed no major problems, so, she collected her briefcase, hopped out of her SUV and locked the door.
The frigid air was a welcome contrast from the over warm air of the Durango and she inhaled greedily. She loved winter in New York, even if it did seem to last forever. She took another breath, oriented herself and headed for the mansion just off to her right. Directly across from the Gothic mansion, lay a large field covered in snow. At the far end of the field, Kate could swear she saw bleachers. Whatever the original purpose of the field was, that day, it was being used as a snowball factory. She saw six or seven children of various ages running and tossing snowballs at each other and, quite possibly, the hairiest man she had ever seen. At least, Kate hoped the hulking figure was a man.
She shook her head, immediately squashing any comparisons between the huge figure and The Pointy Haired Boss from Dilbert. "That's right, Kate." she said to herself. "Offend early and often. Get fired before you get hired." She turned from the field and the snowball fight and headed up the stairs.
She made it up to the front steps without slipping, rang the bell and waited. The massive oaken door opened soundlessly, a moment later. Behind the door, stood a small boy, staring owlishly at Kate through his glasses when she walked in. He blinked and the door swung shut. She stifled the urge to jump and remembered that she was in a school for mutants and that this child was considered normal.
"Good morning." Kate said to the boy. "I have an appointment with Professor Xavier. Could you show me where his office is?"
The boy pointed to the left, down a long hallway and said "All the way down at the end of the hall. You can't miss it." He turned and walked away before Kate could say so much as 'thank you'.
She set off in the direction the boy pointed and tried not to think about Gordon or if she had lipstick on her teeth or any one of a thousand little annoyances that flitted in her head. Two/thirds of the way down the hall, she passed a beautiful, tall, dark-skinned woman with silver hair. As they passed each other, Kate heard her mutter "When I find him..."
Kate stopped and said "Excuse me, are you looking for a big guy, muscular, lots of hair?"
The other woman stopped, turned and nodded.
"Front lawn. He's in the middle of a snowball fight." Kate said.
The other woman's lips twitched before she said "Thank you."
Kate nodded and watched her continue down the hall. Whoever that guy was, he was in BIG trouble now. At the end of the hallway, just as the boy had said was door labeled simply 'office'. She took a deep breath, whispered a short prayer and knocked on the closed door.
"Come in." a male voice, tinged with a British accent, said.
Kate opened the door and walked into an oversized room furnished in the same style as the hallway she had just walked down. Big, heavy, oaken and expensive. Massive oak bookcases ran the lengths of the walls on either side of her. Directly opposite her, sat a chalkboard and a large set of floor to ceiling French doors. Large, leather chairs were gathered in a semicircle, leaving deep impressions in the Aubuson rug. A globe stood to one side of the room.
In the midst of all this luxury sat a large oak desk, covered with books, papers and pens. Behind the desk sat an older man, bald as a billiard ball, dressed in the finest suit Kate had ever seen. He looked up when Kate came in and smiled at her. He came from out behind the desk, in a wheelchair no less, and introduced himself.
"I'm Charles Xavier." he said, holding out his hand. "Welcome to my school."
Kate smiled in return and shook hands with Professor Xavier. He had kind eyes, Kate decided and a firm grip. But what kind of interviewer would he be?
"Thank you for having me." Kate said. "Gordon has told me a lot about the school and what you do here."
Professor Xavier nodded and said "Gordon was a very bright student. He has been very successful since graduating. Please, have a seat. May I get you something to drink? Coffee? Water? Tea?"
When Kate shook her head, he moved back around his desk and the interview began. Kate pulled her resumé, teacher certification and the three recommendation letters from her briefcase and handed them to the Professor. He flipped through the sheaf of papers, then set them on his desk. He folded his hands and turned his full attention on Kate. Under that penetrating gaze, she felt like an errant child summoned to the principal's office and squirmed slightly.
"I would be remiss if I did not say that I was reluctant to even consider interviewing a non-mutant for this position. The children at this school have enough problems with the outside world without having those problems brought here." Professor Xavier said.
"However, after debating the issue with the other teachers, who you will meet today, we decided that the right non-mutant would be a good exposure to the outside world."
A bellow from outside the French doors followed by a string of profanity interrupted the interview. Kate jumped and stared at the doors. Professor Xavier didn't so much as turn his head. Obviously, this was a normal occurrence.
"Your credentials appear to be in order and from what Gordon has told me, you are fairly open-minded. But what I want to know is: Are you capable of treating the students here as if they were non-mutants?" Professor Xavier asked.
"When you say treat them as if they were non-mutants, do you mean will I run shrieking from the room if books start moving on their own?"
Professor Xavier nodded.
"No, I won't. Mutant or not, they are still teenagers and sometimes, things happen." Kate replied. "That said, I will not allow them to use their abilities as a crutch. They're different but that doesn't give them a pass. Frankly, they can be dipped in blue, hang from the ceiling by a tail and speak German for all I care as long as they come to class, participate and do what they're told."
At that, the Professor's lips curled into a genuine smile and he seemed amused but Kate was afraid to ask why.
A knock on the office's door brought the second interruption of the interview. Professor Xavier looked at Kate, who nodded her assent, before responding to the knock.
The door opened and in walked the reason for the professor's amusement; a man with curly, dark hair, blue skin and tail stood just behind Kate.
Oh, of course. Kate thought.
"Guten morgen, herr professor." the man said.
Natch. If I had mentioned a ten foot tall polka dot covered man who spoke Swahili, he'd probably have walked in too.
"Good morning, Kurt. What can I help you with?" Professor Xavier asked.
Kurt opened his mouth, saw Kate, closed his mouth, then opened it again and said "Oh, excuse me. I didn't know you were busy."
"That's quite all right." Professor Xavier said to him.
Kate twisted around in her seat to get a good look at Kurt. Except for the blue skin and the tattoos that covered him from head to foot, he was quite handsome. What would his children look like?
"Kurt," the professor continued "this is Kate Renard. She is interviewing for our teaching position." To Kate, he said "Kurt teaches German."
"Ah, wunderbar! I am Kurt Wagner but in Munich, I was known as The Incredible Nightcrawler." Kurt said, a broad smile on his face.
Incredible was not the word Kate would have used but he seemed pleasant enough.
"Now, Kurt, did you need something?" Professor Xavier asked him again.
Kurt shook his head and said "I will come back when you are not as busy. Good luck." He said to Kate, then vanished in a puff of smoke before Kate's eyes.
She jumped and looked at Professor Xavier, eyes wide. "Does that happen often?" she asked.
"Would it pose a problem if I said yes?" Professor Xavier asked.
"What do you mean?" Kate replied.
"Kurt is representative of our student body. We have students that can move things with their minds, control other people's minds, walk through walls, create a wall by thinking about it, control the weather, turn themselves into balls of ice or balls of fire, manipulate the elements and take the life from someone just by touching that person. Classroom management and discipline must be viewed in a completely different light. Are you capable of doing that?"
"I stand by my earlier statement. As long as the students don't use their abilities as a crutch or an excuse, we will get along just fine." Kate said.
"All right. Do you have any other questions to ask?" Professor Xavier said. "I thought I would have one of the other teachers show you around before we all get together and give everyone a chance to meet you."
Kate was surprised to say the least. In her world, meeting the other teachers normally happened after a teacher was hired, not before. Usually all the school was interested in was the fact that prospective teacher was not a child molester, could speak English and was properly certified. Even The Crestwell School hadn't required much more than a common background check. Meeting the other faculty was thrown in as an after thought.
"I know that this interview is probably more in depth than you are used to but we want to make sure that you're comfortable with us and that we're comfortable with you." Professor Xavier continued.
Kate nodded and asked "After the interview is done, when will I know if I've gotten the job?"
"Within twenty-four hours." Professor Xavier said.
"Wonderful. I can't wait to see the rest of this gorgeous mansion."
The rest of the morning and a large part of the afternoon passed by in a blur for Kate but some parts of her interview stood out in her mind more than others. The scrutiny she was under was one such example. When Professor Xavier said he wanted the other teachers to be comfortable with her and her with them, he wasn't kidding. As for herself, Kate was glad for the scrutiny, it allowed her to be just as inquisitive as the other teachers were. As desperate as she was for a job, she was not about to work in a place that gave her the creeps.
Happily, that was not the case for either Kate or the teachers she met. The first one being the strikingly beautiful dark-skinned woman Kate had seen in the hallway on the way to Professor Xavier's office. They met in the hallway outside his office.
"Welcome." The woman said with just a trace of an accent "I'm Ororo Munroe but everyone here calls me Storm. I teach Social Studies."
Kate shook hands with Storm and, instantly liked her. She was intrigued by Ororo's nickname but wasn't brave enough to ask where it had come from.
"I can control the weather." Storm said, answering the unasked question.
"Cool. Can you get to stop snowing in time for me to get home?" The moment the words left Kate's mouth, she wanted them back. Gordon would kill her if she mucked this interview up!
"I am so sorry. That was incredibly rude of me. I was raised properly, really, I was. I just have this tendency to stuff my foot in my mouth when I'm nervous." Kate said, wishing the floor would open up and swallow her.
Storm regarded Kate with an unfathomable look before saying "At least you have the wherewithal to acknowledge what you said was wrong. A lot of non-mutants wouldn't. Shall we?"
Kate nodded and followed Storm down the hallway away from Professor Xavier's office.
"Yes, I could stop the snow." Storm said, looking at Kate. "But why? Being a mutant is a gift and our powers should be used, not abused. That is something we drill into the children." She stopped at a door leading to a solarium. "We'll start with my classroom."
After her initial blunder, Kate's day went much smoother. She saw the rest of the grounds and met the two other teachers at the school, Dr. Jean Grey and Scott Summers. She also saw Kurt again. He waved in her direction before shooing a few stragglers into a library turned classroom but the hairy guy from that morning was nowhere to be seen.
Kate was about to ask who and where he was when Storm said "I see you've met Kurt."
Kate frowned for a moment before replying "Oh, yes. He came into Professor Xavier's office while we were talking. He's a pleasant soul. What do the students think of him?"
"They're not quite sure what to think. Kurt is unique even among mutants." Storm replied.
They stopped in the teacher's lounge for a break and Kate was never so happy as to sit down as she was at that moment. Storm saw the relief on Kate's face and smiled.
"Am I wearing you out?" she asked.
Kate shook her head and said "I'm using to walking around a lot. This place is just a lot to take in all at once, kinda like Time's Square when you first see it."
Storm laughed and said "I'll take that as a compliment. Any questions so far?"
"How many teachers does this school have?" Kate asked.
Storm thought for a moment, then said " Five, sometimes six."
No wonder Professor Xavier is looking for more teachers. Kate thought.
"Anything else?" Storm asked.
"Is there really a great, big, hairy guy that works here or was I seeing things this morning?" Kate asked, feeling incredibly foolish.
"Yes,there is. That would be Logan. He is why I said, 'Sometimes six.' Sometimes he's here, sometimes not. He does... a lot of different things. The children adore him." A smile touched Storm's features.
Kate noticed that no specific teaching field was mentioned but decided it wasn't any of her business to ask.
"We're almost done. There is tea waiting for us in Professor Xavier's office when we finish."
"Excellent. Let's go."
True to her word, the last stop on Kate's whirlwind interview/tour was Professor Xavier's office where a real and true English tea was being set up. Kate's Anglophile mother would have been in heaven. Kate tried to remember the details so she could tell her. She took a plate of food and a cup of tea and sat down on a small couch near Professor Xavier's desk . As interviews went, this one had definitely been the most unusual and she would definitely have many, many stories to tell.
Dr. Grey, Jean, as she had told Kate to call her, sat down next to Kate on the couch. A gorgeous red head, she had the brains to match her looks, teaching the sciences at the school along with being a fully licensed, practicing M.D. On top of all that, she was married to the math/ auto shop teacher, Scott Summers, who was no slouch in the looks department himself. He joined Jean on the couch and offered a quick smile to Kate.
A pang of envy stabbed at Kate as she watched Jean and Scott. The love the two shared was blindingly obvious to anyone who watched and Kate could only hope she would be that lucky in the love department someday.
Storm and Professor Xavier came over to join the rest of the group and there was a definite switch in the mood of the room. Kate felt a pair of eyes on her and looked over into the ruby red glasses of Scott Summers. Funny, she couldn't see his eyes yet, she felt pinned to her seat by his gaze.
I wonder how often he makes his students feel like this? Kate thought.
"Can I answer any questions for you?" Kate asked Scott.
"Why do you want to work here?" Scott replied.
"I like to teach and there's a teaching job here." Kate said. "Shop Rite likes their groceries to be paid for."
Jean snickered and she was rewarded with another brief smile from Scott.
"How long have you been teaching?" he asked.
"Seven years." Kate said. Scott was obviously the 'leader' of the teachers and the one who viewed her with the most reservations, even if he was polite to her. That was all right, he just hadn't gotten to know her and when he did, he would, hopefully, warm up to her.
"What's your teaching field?"
"English, Reading, U.S. History, Civics, Geography, World History, New York History and Virginia History. I'm certified and certifiable. I've taught high school."
This time, it was Storm who laughed, almost choking on her tea.
"Are you all right?" Kate asked her.
Storm nodded and brushed the tears from her eyes.
"What makes you think you can be a successful teacher here. You're not a mutant." Scott continued on as if nothing had happened.
"And? I've been the oddball before. What you are or where you're from or the color of your skin doesn't matter to me and I let my students know that the first day of school. All I am interested in is the students ability to the work asked of them without excuses."
"How do you intend to keep discipline in the classroom?" Scott asked.
"The same as I have for the past seven years. I lay down the law on the first day and enforce it when necessary. I've found that by starting early, I don't have a whole lot of problems. I can also be quite creative in terms of punishments. I'm not above having the student or students write specific statements 100 or 200 or 300 times. Sentence writing is fairly effective. The hand cramps once and the brain thinks twice."
"Nice to see that the old methods are still being used." Professor Xavier said.
"So, you expect us to trust you." Scott asked.
"Yes, you can trust me in the same way I can trust you not to do whatever it is you do if you think I've done something stupid. Let me make myself clear. I would never do anything to hurt these or any other children. I teach because I love children and want them to succeed no matter what."
Much to her surprise, Scott nodded in agreement and fell silent.
Her mouth dry from such a long answer, Kate sipped at her now-cold tea. She noticed, belatedly, how quiet the room had become. Her face flushed and she felt the heat climb into her cheeks.
"Why did you chose teaching?" Jean asked. "Lots of people love being around children but not all of them are cut out to be teachers."
"I had some wonderful teachers. They had a love of learning that was infectious. You wanted to learn in their class. That love of learning is what I try to pass on to my students." Kate said.
"What would you do if one of the students uses their mutation to disrupt class?" Jean asked. Unlike her husband, Kate could see into Jean's blue eyes. She saw a kindness that was rare in most people, mutant or not but there was a hint of wariness too.
"Unless there was structural damage, I would wait for whoever it was to finish and then remind the students that any material not covered due to disruptions would be assigned as homework." Kate replied.
"What about fights in the classroom?" Jean asked.
"It's been my experience that if a teacher is foolish enough to try and break up a fight boys are easier to separate. You don't get between two girls fighting. That said, I hope I don't have any fights but if I did, I would stay out of the way and send for help. 'Help' in my last school was the assistant principal or the security officer. Who would the 'help' be here?"
"We don't have a specific person." Scott said. "Although, it's usually me."
A clock on Professor Xavier's desk began tolling out the hour and Kate realized it was already four o'clock. If she wanted to avoid the worst traffic, she would have to leave soon.
Professor Xavier noticed her reaction to the time and said "On that note, we shall end. Does anyone have any other questions for Ms. Renard? I believe that she wants to be on her way before it turns dark."
Again, Kate nodded. It was like he could read her mind.
Hearing no questions, Professor Xavier escorted Kate to the front door and opened it for her by using a handicap touch pad next to the door.
"Thank you for coming, Ms. Renard. We do appreciate it. You will be informed of our decision within the next twenty-four hours." Professor Xavier said.
"Thank you for having me. I would truly like to work here." Kate replied, shaking hands with the professor.
She stepped out into the late afternoon and a brisk wind. She pulled her coat around her tightly and picked her way down the steps to her car. She climbed into the Durango and cranked up the heater as far she could stand it. It must have dropped a good five, maybe ten degrees in the time she'd been inside. She put the Durango in gear and pulled away from the mansion, her head spinning with all she had seen and heard.
I'm applying for a job in The Twilight Zone. Kate thought, pulling out onto the main road.
Kate's first surprise of the evening came in the form of almost no traffic on her way home. I must lead a charmed life. she thought, pulling into her parking space at the apartment complex. A light snow was falling as she climbed from her car, virtually guaranteeing that Kate, along with everyone else, would be shoveling their walkways by morning. She picked her way to her mailbox, collected her mail and walked back to her townhouse. She paused in the doorway and appreciated the scene before her. She loved the time of twilight during the winter. The sun set earlier, fewer people were out, all was quiet, save for the occasional car driving past. There was a great peace in watching the day roll into night.
There was also a great chill as evidenced by the tingling in Kate's fingers as she unlocked the door to her apartment, the warmth of her apartment heavenly after the cold outside. While she liked to watch the snow fall, she loved being inside, where it was warm, even more.
Bounding down the hallway to greet her was Midge, her six-year old pug. She snuffled and sniffed and inspected Kate as she tried to put away her coat and gloves. When the inspection was complete, Midge went over to the front door and whined.
"All right, all right. You've got to go out, I know, I know. I should've remember before taking off my coat." Kate said to Midge. "It's a good thing that you've got a fur coat. I wish I did." She shrugged back into her outside coat, snapped Midge's leash on and off they went. Two trips up and down the apartment's sidewalks later, Midge was happy and they were headed for home.
"Kate?" A female voice called out to her as she walked up the sidewalk to her townhouse.
Kate turned and saw her friend of fifteen years, Brenda Schnook, coming across the parking lot toward her. Brenda was a few inches taller than Kate, had short blond hair in contrast to Kate's brown pageboy and dressed like the lawyer she was, conservative but fashionable. She worked for the County Attorney's Office of Westchester County and the stories she could tell, even though she wasn't supposed to.
"I've been waiting for you to show up. How did the interview go?" Brenda said.
"Come on inside and we'll talk." Kate said. "Midge is cold and so am I. Have you had dinner yet?"
Brenda shook her head. "I just got in myself about a half an hour ago and you would not believe what happened today."
Inside, the two women shed their coats and Brenda made herself comfortable while Kate fed Midge.
"Should I wait for you to change or just pounce on you now?" Brenda asked, comfortable on the couch.
"Do you want to be fed or put out the door?" Kate replied, heading toward her bedroom to change. She reemerged a few minutes later dressed in sweatpants, slippers and a long-sleeve t-shirt. "I love this time of year, I get to dress like this." she said.
"Lazy bum." Brenda said.
"You got it." Kate replied. "You want some dinner? I can find something to eat here or I can call out."
"What do you think?" Brenda asked Midge, who had curled up at Brenda's feet. Midge's wagging stump of a tail was her only response. "Midge votes for pizza."
"And you call me lazy." Kate replied.
"Hurry up and order, then tell me what happened today." Brenda said.
"You first." Kate replied.
Two hours later, the pizza having been consumed along with a very nice bottle of white wine, and Brenda's day analyzed to within an inch of its life, the conversation turned to Kate and her job interview. Brenda was full of questions, which Kate did her best to answer.
"The longest interview I've ever been through." Kate told her. "I got to see the grounds, the classrooms and some of the students. The interview was very through. You would have thought I was applying for a job in the U.S. Secret Service."
"Aren't you being a little over dramatic?" Brenda asked, quirking an eyebrow.
Kate thought of all she had seen and all she couldn't tell Brenda. Kurt, the blue-skinned German teacher, the exotic looking Storm, children that could move things just by looking at them.
"No. I'm not. Have I told you how FINE the math teacher is? Words fail me."
Brenda's eyebrows went up.
"He's already spoken for, darn" Kate said.
"What about the guy you told you about this job in the first place? Is he spoken for?" Brenda asked.
"Gordon? I don't know. He's nice enough and he's cute but he's a bit...I don't know, stand-offish?" Kate replied.
"He's cute and doesn't know it. That's a rarity. Grab him while you can."
A knock on Kate's front door, prevented her from responding. The two women exchanged puzzled glances but got up to see who was there. Kate peered through the peephole and felt her stomach flip over.
"Who is it?" Brenda asked Kate.
Kate pulled open the front door without answering and said "Gordon? What are you doing out here? It's nine o'clock at night. My neighbors are going to think you're some kind of weirdo stalker."
"They won't if you let me in." Gordon replied.
Brenda peered over her shoulder and caught sight of Gordon looking as if he had stepped off the pages of GQ wearing a camel's hair overcoat, tailored suit and shoes shined to a high sheen. He even had a flower in the button hole of his coat. There was a light dusting of snow on his shoulders.
"That's Gordon?" Brenda said in Kate's ear. Her answer was a nasty look.
"Do I look like a weirdo stalker?" Gordon asked Brenda.
"Uh...." Brenda stammered. "I'm staying out of this. I'll talk to you later, Kate." She slipped past Kate and Gordon and disappeared into the darkness and snow.
Midge ambled over to the front door and sniffed Gordon's shoe.
"Your dog doesn't seem to mind me." Gordon said.
"Midge has never been the best judge of character." Kate said. She stood at the door, the 20˚ temperature forgotten. My if Gordon didn't look absolutely magnificent tonight. Her mouth went dry and the butterflies joined her flip-flop stomach.
"I was in the neighborhood and I wanted to know how the interview went. We could talk over a drink." Gordon said.
Kate chewed the inside of her cheek. She wouldn't mind going out with Gordon. But if she went out and her brain froze up, as it tended to do on dates, he would realize what an idiot she was and that would be a bad thing.
Gordon took her silence to mean 'no' and said "Another time, then?" He turned and walked down the sidewalk.
"Gordon!" Kate called after him. "I'd love to go for a drink. Come on in. Let me get changed."
"You sure? I'm not in the habit of forcing myself on women, you know." he said.
"Like you would have to." Kate muttered. "Yes, I'm sure." What the hell? she thought, standing to one side to let Gordon in. You only live once.
Being that Croton-on-the-Hudson was a typical small town, the sidewalks rolled up after 8 p.m. and only one restaurant was still opened when Gordon drove into town. He pulled up in front of The Croton Diner, turned off the engine and went around to the passenger side to open the door for Kate.
She beat him to it.
"Sorry, I'm used to opening the door for myself." she said.
He smiled and lead the way to the front door of the diner. He held the door open for her and followed her in.
"Have you ever been in here?" he asked.
"I might have been in here when I first came to the area but not since then." Kate replied.
The hostess came up to them, picked up two menus and asked them to follow her. She seated them towards the back of the dinning room, tucked into a corner and near a roaring fire in the rustic fireplace.
"Your server will be by shortly." the hostess said and left.
Kate took a good look at the dining room and whistled.
"What's the matter, haven't you ever seen a dining room decorated in early Eddie Bauer?" Gordon asked teasingly.
"Not recently." Kate replied.
A companionable silence fell, giving Kate time to assess her situation. From the moment, Gordon had appeared on her doorstep, her stomach had not quit its gymnastics routine. If she didn't know better, she would have thought she was coming down with the flu.
But it wasn't the flu, it was nerves, brought on by a handsome man asking her out for drinks. Lord, she hadn't been this nervous since stepping in front of her first class as a new teacher.
"In the grand tradition of small talk, are you from New York State?" Gordon asked her, only glancing at the menu.
"No, I'm from Washington, D.C. My father has several major contracts with the federal government. What about you? Are you from around here?"
Gordon gave a half-shrug in response. "Kinda sorta. My dad's from the Piedmont area and my mom's from Fire Island. Answer a question for me?"
"If I can."
The waitress appeared at that moment and forestalled any further conversation until their drink order was placed and the waitress left.
"You had a question?" Kate asked.
"Why is it that some people from Washington, D.C. pronounce it 'War-shing-ton D.C.? There's no 'r' in the word."
"Why do people in Boston pronounce words like 'car' as 'cah'? Regional dialects. Kinda like mutants and non-mutants, hmm?"
Gordon looked around the restaurant but it was nearly empty so no one had heard Kate. "Next time you mention mutants, keep your voice down."
Kate blinked, then Gordon's reasoning caught up with her. "Oh, sorry. Can I ask you a question about being a mutant?"
"Depends on the question."
The waitress came back then with their drinks, interrupting the conversation again. She set two mugs of hot chocolate down in front of them and asked if they would like something to eat. At the shake of their heads, she left.
They drank, the hot chocolate just the ticket after the cold, cold outdoors. Kate wrapped her hands around her mug and concentrated on the heat coming from it. Gordon watched Kate drink and wondered what it would be like to have someone like her to come home to. Someone who accepted him for what he was and was genuinely curious about mutants and what they could do.
Give it a rest, Chambers. If she likes you that much, she'll let you know. a little voice whispered in his ear. He shook his head and drained the last of the hot chocolate from his mug. He waited for Kate to set her mug down before speaking.
"What did you want to know about mutants?" he asked.
If Kate was startled by his directness, she didn't show it. "Not so much about mutants in general. I'm more interested in when you discovered you were and how you wound up at The Xavier School."
"It's a long, long story. Are you sure you want to listen to the whole thing?"
"Charles Xavier had a psychiatric practice before starting The Xavier School and my mother was one of his patients. When my mutation came out, I became one of his patients."
Kate sipped at her hot chocolate, listened and accepted what Gordon said, which was completely out of character for her. Normally a cautious person, she accepted Gordon at his word, although she didn't know why.
"He's a good man, Kate. He won't steer you the wrong way. He believes in what he's doing. He kept me on the straight and narrow." Gordon said.
Kate smiled at the image of a teenage Gordon, then said "Somehow I have a hard time imagining you having to be kept on the straight and narrow. You don't seem to be that kind of person."
"You would be surprised." Gordon said. He reached across the table and covered her hand with his. Instantly, a jolt of electricity shot up Kate's arm and her mouth went dry. She started to take a drink from her mug but it slipped from her fingers and bounced on the table, splattering the remains of the hot chocolate everywhere.
Gordon leaped up and out of the way of the growing puddle, breaking the connection and snapping Kate back to reality. Gordon waved down their waitress and explained. She nodded and went to get a rag to clean up.
"If you didn't want me to touch you, all you had to do was say so." He grinned down at her and Kate wanted to smack him.
"Don't flatter yourself." she returned.
Another grin. "Too late. Sorry, didn't mean to startle you."
The waitress returned and mopped up the spilt drink and asked if Kate wanted another hot chocolate. Kate shook her head.
"C'mon. It's time to be heading home. I've got to get up extra early tomorrow." Gordon dropped some money on the table to pay for the drinks, without waiting for the bill and waved Kate toward the door. The drive back to Kate's townhouse was uneventful and silent. Gordon concentrated on the road and Kate concentrated on the memory of Gordon's hand on hers and her reaction to his touch.
Electric was the only way to describe it. All he had done was cover her hand with his and yet, she wanted him to do that again. She snuck a look at Gordon. She couldn't even really see him but her stomach flipped over again and a tingling sensation started at the base of her spine and worked its way up the longer she looked at him.
She looked back at the road but the tingling didn't subside. She wasn't a novice in the romance department but she wasn't 'experienced' either. She had had her share of blind dates, boyfriends and more blind dates. She had seen some of what the world had to offer, manwise but not a single one of those men had ever provoked any feeling in her the way Gordon did with a single touch.
She had long believed that if, and when, she met her future husband, it would be when she was at her absolute worst. Losing her job and sobbing in the arms of a total stranger would certainly qualify.
Gordon pulled his car into the townhouse complexes parking lot, pulled to a stop in front of Kate's townhouse and cut the engine. "You know, I still haven't found out how the interview went."
"It went fine. I liked all the people I met and all the students too. And, then there was a blue skinned guy with a tail who speaks German....Listen, it's cold out here, how about you come in and continue?" she asked.
"As much I would like to, I'll have to take a rain check." He got out of the car and came around to open the door for her. When she got out, he said "Kate, The Xavier School is, and I'm not understating this, a good place to work. No, let me correct that, it's a great place to work but it can get a bit hairy at times. If you need someone to talk to about what you see or hear and don't want to talk to the people there, call me. Anytime, day or night. I want you to be comfortable there and to feel safe. If you don't, you let me know." He took a business card from the inside pocket of his suit coat and handed it to her.
Kate took the card, looked at it for a moment, then looked up at Gordon. In the full light of the parking lot, he resembled an avenging angel crossed with Bill Gates, of all people.
"Thanks. I'll make sure I don't disappoint you. You won't regret recommending me."
"Of that, I am sure." With a smile and a wave, he was on his way home and Kate went inside with a lot to think about.
The next day, the flashing light on Kate's answering machine greeted her when she came inside after taking out the garbage. She punched the play button as she divested herself of her outer garments. She thought it might be Gordon but it wasn't, it was Charles Xavier.
Kate sat down and started to pray.
"Ms. Renard, this is Charles Xavier at The Xavier School. After discussing your application with the other faculty, I am calling to offer a teaching position to you. Please return my call as soon as possible so that we may discuss a starting date, salary and other considerations. Thank you."
The tape clicked off. It was a good thing that she was sitting down or else she would have been on the floor. Not trusting her ears, she stood and pressed the play button twice more just to be sure she had heard right. She wasn't hearing things! She had a job!
Kate stood up, then sat down again, almost missing the chair. A job. A reason to get up in the morning and in plenty of time for Christmas! Who to call first? After Professor Xavier, of course. Her mother? Brenda? Gordon, who was the reason she knew about the job in the first place? She grinned. Thanks to Gordon, she now had a job! She hopped up, grabbed the phone and dialed Professor Xavier's phone number.
Two days passed from the time Kate received Professor Xavier's phone call to the day she started her new job. In that time, Gordon had taken her out to dinner and an art gallery opening, a favorite past time of Kate's, even though he hadn't known that until Kate told him. Her smile made it all the butterflies he had suffered worth it. He genuinely liked Kate and enjoyed the time spent with her. It had been a very long time since he had enjoyed the company of woman who liked and understood the same things he liked. He wasn't to the stage of meeting her parents or her meeting his. They were far from it but maybe,in the far distant future, they would and wouldn't that be interesting?
Kate's parents surprised her as well, by taking her out to dinner the night before her job began. How nice, Kate had originally thought but it wasn't just her company her parents were after. Kate's mother was after answers and she was going to get them. She hadn't even finished her salad when her mother started in.
"Kate, honey, tell me about this young man who told you about the job. What's his name?" Gloria Renard asked her daughter. A tall, willowy woman, she did not look old enough to have a daughter Kate's age. It was something she took great pride in from her carefully styled hair to her fashionable clothes.
Kate bit back the sarcastic comment that leapt to her lips and said, instead "His name is Gordon Chambers. He owns the server that the City of Croton on the Hudson uses for communications, e-mails and their website."
"Interesting." Mrs. Renard murmured. "Where did he go to college?"
Kate finished her salad, set her fork down and looked to father for help. Tall and deceptively young looking, like his wife, Christopher Renard wasn't about to get between wife and daughter. He hadn't built a Fortune 500 company by being stupid. He simply shrugged his shoulders as if to say "You know how your mother can be."
She rolled her eyes. Kate loved her parents dearly but honestly...
She should have known that something was up the moment her mother offered to take her dinner, then added that her father would join them. He never did that. He didn't like getting dressed up to go eat. He had enough of that in his business life.
"Kate?" her mother asked again. "Where did Gordon go to college?"
"Renseller Polytechnic Institute in Troy. He graduated with a degree in computer engineering."
Mrs. Renard nodded. The main entree was served before she could ask any further questions.
"So, tell us about this school you're going to work for." Mr. Renard asked Kate, midway through the main course.
"It's called The Xavier School for the Gifted. It's very small, there are only, maybe 30, 35 students in the whole school." Kate replied, happy to have a question that did not revolve around her social life.
"I looked up The Xavier School on the Web. There's not much out there about it. The founder is said to be a bit of a recluse." her father continued.
"Dad, he teaches two courses in philosophy,one in sociology and one in psychology. He can't be that much of a recluse and still teach. I know, I watched."
"He has ties to the anti-mutant registration group." her father added.
"So? As long as he pays me and lets me be, I don't really care." Kate replied.
"Oh, Kate, we just don't want you get involved with something ugly like mutant registration." Kate's mother said, then added. "We're your parents, we get to worry about you. What is this Charles Xavier like? He's not some revolutionary, is he?"
Kate about choked on her wine. A revolutionary was the farest thing from her mind when she thought of Professor Xavier. She dabbed her eyes and shook her head no.
When she could breathe again, she said "No, Mother, Charles Xavier is not a revolutionary. At least not the way you think."
At her parent's look, Kate clarified "He has a lot of money and has chosen to spend it on educating children. The Xavier School meets all of New York State standards for education, even though, as a private school, it doesn't have to. Professor Xavier can't be all that bad, he drinks tea. I had tea with him and the faculty the day of my interview. You would have been so happy, Mother. It was a real high tea."
Mrs. Renard brightened at the mention of Professor Xavier drinking tea. Anyone who not only drank tea but could also serve high tea was all right in her book.
Mercifully, dinner ended before her parents could go back to interrogating her about Gordon. She kept them off the subject by telling them all about The Xavier School, what it did, how it did it and what the place looked like.
She parted company with parents at the door of the restaurant. They both hugged her and her mother said "Honey, please don't be too offended by our questions. We just want the best for you. If The Xavier School is just that, then, wonderful, I know you'll be successful. You are at any thing you put your mind to." Kate's mother kissed her on the cheek, then walked off with Kate's father.
Kate stood there, watching her parents make their way across the icy parking lot. She understood their concern. Understood it but didn't like it. She wondered idly, as she walked to her car, what her parents would think of Gordon. She knew they would like him. Would their opinion change if they were to learn, later on, that he was a mutant? She liked to think they would accept him with open arms but she wasn't sure that her parents were that open minded.
The next morning dawned clear and bright, with a light dusting of snow on the cars in the parking lot, courtesy of a snowstorm the night before. So, after feeding Midge an extra helping of dog food and dressing in her professional best, Kate cleaned her car and managed not to get any snow on herself. A good omen.
Her good luck continued on her drive to the school. There was very little ice on the road and almost no traffic. She reached The Xavier School with plenty of time to spare. She parked as far as she could off the main driveway so as not to block anyone, collected her bag, locked the SUV's doors and walked up the stairs to her new job with just a touch of trepidation.
Storm opened the door when Kate knocked and said "Good morning. No problems getting here?"
Kate shook her head and replied "Ask me that same question in mid-January. Is it all right if I leave my car in the front drive? I didn't know where else to park."
"That's fine. Before you leave today, we'll show you where you can park. Classes haven't started yet. We're all in the dinning room still." Storm said. She lead the way down the hall to the dinning room, chatting the whole way. "The children are quite curious as to who the 'new teacher' is. It's been interesting to watch." She stopped at the door to the dinning room and opened it, allowing Kate to walk in ahead of her.
Kate stepped into the dinning room and stopped dead. The room was large but not overly so. Large mulloined windows at the back of the room added to the spaciousness. A warming table was set up along the left hand side of the room. There were seven tables full of students and adults. As she stepped fully into the room, thirty-five pairs of teenage eyes focused on her and she had the sudden image of a bug under a microscope pop into her head. When Storm had said 'We're in the dinning room.' Kate had assumed, wrongly, that 'they' were the adults, not the children.
See what happens when you assume? a little voice whispered in Kate's ear.
"Good morning, Ms. Renard." Professor Xavier said, from the other side of the room at the head of the adults table. Next to him sat, Jean and next to her sat Scott. Kurt sat on the other side of Professor Xavier and an empty seat, obviously Storm's, was next to him. Kate couldn't keep the image of King Arthur's court from popping into her head.
"Good morning, Professor Xavier, Dr. Grey, Mr. Summers, Herr Wagner." Kate said. Kurt grinned and waved. Jean and Scott nodded a greeting to her.
"Follow me." Storm said, walking toward the adult table. Kate followed and so did the feeling. It was almost like those painting where the eyes seem to follow you no matter where you went, except the eyes following Kate were real.
"May we offer you breakfast?" Professor Xavier said, when she reached the table.
Kate shook her head and said "I ate before coming."
"All right. If you ever do want breakfast, it's served at 7:00 a.m." Professor Xavier said, before turning his attention to the children in front of them. "Children, I would like to introduce Ms. Kate Renard, our new English teacher."
As if on cue, 35 voices said "Good morning, Ms. Renard."
Kate quirked an eyebrow but no else seemed surprised so she remained silent.
"Ms. Renard will be taking English Composition from Mr. Summers." Professor Xavier continued.
A smattering of applause broke out in the dinning room.
"I heard that. Don't think I don't know which ones of you were clapping." Scott said.
Giggles that time.
"Now, children, I know there will be no problems with Ms. Renard. If there are, I will be discussing them with you." Professor Xavier said.
Utter silence was the students response.
"All right, you are dismissed." Professor Xavier said to the children. "Classes start in 15 minutes. Nobody should be late."
There was a scrape of chairs being pushed back and a clatter of dishes and silverware as the children put their dirty dishes in a tray and left the room.
"Now, Kate, have a seat and we'll discuss your schedule. I wouldn't want you to be late for your first class." Professor Xavier said, with a smile.
Kate quickly discovered, after being shown her schedule, how flexible her teaching style truly was. She had three classes a day for an hour and a half each. Two classes were in the morning, then lunch, then the final class in the early afternoon, leaving her the rest of the afternoon to prepare for the next day and be able to get home before dark.
The mixture of students resembled the one-room school house of old. Groups of different grade levels, abilities and ages all together in the same room. The 7th and 8th grade came first, followed by the 9th and 10th grade and ending with the 11th and 12th grade. The only problem inherent in teaching different grades at the same time was everything had to be done twice. Every test, worksheet and board assignment had to be rewritten for each grade. Kate looked at the list of students in her hand and knew she'd be using a lot of chalk. She caught a break in the area of lesson plans in the fact that Scott had already planned out the whole year. She accepted the plans gratefully and thanked God for small favors.
Since she was taking over Scott's classes, he showed her the classroom, a converted library, gave a quick 'behave or else' speech, then left to attend to his other students. Kate found herself standing in the front of the classroom with six boys and four girls looking at her, waiting. She took a deep breath and began.
"Good morning, children. Thank you for welcoming me this morning, that was very nice. Now, you know my name but I don't any of yours." Kate said. She walked to the desk behind her and pulled a sheet of paper from her bag. "Please write down your name on this sheet. If you don't put down the right name, I'm calling you 'hey you'."
Giggles came from the students.
Kate handed the sheet to a boy with dark hair and glasses seated in the front row and continued "Mr. Summers has told me where you are and where you should be by the end of the semester. We're going to jump right in, in just a moment. But, first, any questions about me that you are just dying to ask?"
A hand came up from a girl with blond hair seated in the 3rd seat, 1st row. Kate nodded at her.
"What can you do?" the girl asked.
"I can teach." Kate replied. She'd have to tell them she wasn't a mutant but not just yet.
"What's your mutation?" asked a boy seated behind the girl.
"I actually want to spend my day in a room with teenagers. Pretty frightening if you ask me." Kate replied.
Snickers spread through the room.
"You'll find out sooner or later so, I'll tell you now. I'm not a mutant. I can't DO anything. But if any of you think that means that I can't discipline you for misbehaving, let me disabuse you of that notion right now. I can and I will. Try me and see what happens." Kate said, looking down her nose at the students.
The students had the good grace and intelligence not to challenge her assertion, yet.
"All right, anything else?" Kate asked.
"Good. Let's get to work, then. Open your textbooks to page 93 and do the first exercise as a warm-up. Then we'll get into the hard stuff."
And so, the school day began, with the shuffling of textbooks and the rustle of paper. She could only hope the rest of the day was as peaceful.
Kate almost got a peaceful first day but not quite. When her final class, the 11th and 12th graders, trooped in, her peaceful day went out. Midway through the class, as the students worked on an outline for an upcoming term paper, her grade book came to life. It lifted off the desk and landed on the floor with a slap, a smattering of giggles following it.
Kate looked up from a stack of 7th grade papers she was grading and said "Kindly return my grade book to my desk."
Her grade book did not move. Instead, her Teacher's Edition of English Composition for the 12th grade, lifted off her desk and landed next to the grade book with a deafening crash. Kate fixed the class, all 12 of them, with a stare.
Ah, the first challenge to her authority. This should be interesting. Her classroom was right next door to Scott's. He had to have heard the noise. He'd be by , she counted '5,4,3,2,1'. On the count of 'one', the classroom door opened and Scott walked in. He took in the grade book and the textbook on the floor and Kate's neutral expression before looking at the students.
"This behavior is unacceptable. Return Ms. Renard's things to her desk, now." He said, his voice never rising an octave. Magically, the grade book and textbook floated back to Kate's desk and Kate had to bite her cheek to keep from smiling.
"This is something I'd expect from the younger kids, not you guys. You're supposed to set a good example for the younger ones, not be poster children for bad behavior. If I have to come back in here again, you will not like the what happens. Got it?"
12 heads nodded in unison.
"If you have any other problems, Ms. Renard, I'm right next door." Scott said.
Kate nodded and Scott returned to his students but left Kate's classroom door open.
She sized up the students before speaking to them. 7 boys and 5 girls including a girl, named Marie, who had a streak of white mixed in with her chestnut brown hair. She seemed to be a leader of sorts and right at that moment, Marie was eyeing a boy sitting in the back, who appeared to be squirming in his seat.
"That was seriously dumb." Kate said to the class in general, the boy in particular. "If you're going to try something on me, you need to make less noise. Professor Xavier probably heard you all the way down in his office. I'd expect to see more originality from the upper grades."
Her grade book started to move again but Kate slapped her hand down on top of it. "Understand one thing, there is only one adult in this room and that's me. I am the teacher, you are the students, you do what I ask you to do. Do not think for a moment that simply because I'm not a mutant, that I don't have my ways because I do and not all of them are pleasant. Look at it this way, you can either deal with me or whoever I find in the hall first, who would you rather deal with?"
Kate lifted her hand and the grade book did not move. However, a box of Kleenex slid from one side of her desk to the other. More giggles.
Kate rolled her eyes. She looked down at the seating chart, then up at the students and called out three names, including the boy who had been squirming earlier.
"Brandon, Justin and Zachary, front and center."
The three boys eyed each other nervously but got to their feet and walked up to Kate's desk.
"All right, gentleman, stand right next to my desk and don't move." she told them. Kate knew she had telekentics in her class but didn't who, so she simply picked names at random and hoped she got the guilty party.
"You three are going to be the scapegoats for whichever wise guy it is in here who keeps moving my stuff. You will stand there and not move until the end of class. That's 45 minutes, by the way." Kate said to the boys before turning her attention to the class. "Now, before I ask these three gentlemen to rat on a friend in front of everyone in return for the privilege of being allowed to sit down, does anyone have anything to say?"
Kate shook her head and turned back to the three boys. She looked at each one in turn and said "How about it? You can go sit back down, if you tell me who's goofing around."
The boys said nothing but Kate was not surprised. She turned her attention back to the class and said "This is just the beginning. I will be here every single day until the end of school. You make my life hard, I'll make your life harder. The decision is yours." Kate cast a glance at the three boys. "Brandon, both feet on the floor, no moving of any kind."
Brandon did as he was told.
"Now, moving on. Someone tell me what their term paper topic is." Kate asked.
Marie, seated in the front, raised her hand.
"Yes?" Kate said.
"My topic is fear. Why are people so afraid of what they don't know." Marie said.
"Good. I like that one." Kate replied. "Next? Bobby, what's yours?" she said to the young man seated on Marie's left.
"Respect. Why do some people think that others are not worthy of being treated properly." he said.
"Excellent." Kate replied. "Next?"
Class moved along as the students discussed their topics and Kate was pleased to see that the students were actually thinking and coming up with good, meaty topics to write on. All too soon, for both the students and Kate, the bell rang and class was over. The students gathered up their belongings but didn't leave as quickly as they might have otherwise. They wanted to see what was in store for Brandon, Justin and Zachary.
"School is over, children." Kate said to the students still in the classroom. When no one moved, she added "Go." and they did, reluctantly. She shooed them into the hall, shut the classroom door and turned back to the three boys still standing by her desk.
"Gentlemen, I never expected you to tell on whoever was moving the books around but you can tell him or her that I am very creative in my punishments. Oh, and tell him or her that I will catch them, count on it. You're free to go." Kate said. She watched them collect their bags and books and then watched them leave.
Mutant or not, they're typical teenagers. she thought. She turned back to her desk and saw a folded piece of paper that hadn't been there 5 minutes before. Cautiously, she picked it up and unfolded it.
The message written on the paper read: "I know who was acting up in class today. I'll talk to him and get him to stop." The note was unsigned.
Curiouser and curiouser. Kate put the note in the drawer of her desk and turned to erase the blackboard. Different crop of kids, same kind of problems. After erasing the blackboard, she turned to the stack of papers to grade and the lesson plans for the rest of the week. Scott had truly blessed her with meticulous lessons and, in only a half hour, Kate was done with both. All that was left to do was to make copies of a stack of worksheets for her 6th and 7th grade students. Time to find the copy machine and see if it was running.
She needn't have worried, just like everything else at The Xavier School, the copy machine was state of the art and in perfect running condition. She was so surprised, she just stood there in the doorway and stared. Working copy machines, for the teachers, were a rare beast in public education. Even tony schools like The Crestwell School were not immune from temperamental copy machines, their money only bought a speedier response time from the repairman.
Scott noticed Kate's reaction and cocked an eyebrow.
"Tell me you've seen a copy machine before." he said to Kate.
"A copy machine? Sure. A working copy machine? Not too often." Kate replied. She walked into the room and put her copy books down on the small table Scott sat at.
"Where do you get supplies?" Kate asked.
Scott pointed to the cabinets lining the walls around them.
She went over to the closest set of cabinets and started opening doors. Pens, pencils, lined paper, unlined paper, graph paper, colored pencils in a rainbow of shades, notebooks, binders, folders, art pads, markers, crayons and copy paper greeted her with each new door she opened. All new, all just waiting to be used.
Her mouth hung open in shock.
Oh, my. Kate felt like a kid in the candy store, the crowning moment coming when she discovered just what kind of copy paper the school used.
"Hammermill Bond. I don't believe it." Kate said, unaware that she had spoken out loud.
"Of course. That's the best kind to use. It's heavy enough so it won't jam in the machine." Scott said, bemused by Kate's reaction to the supplies, especially the copier paper.
"You don't understand." Kate said, running her hands over the paper. "Schools never buy paper this expensive. Not even the very rich private schools."
"Really?" Scott asked.
"Really." Kate replied.
Scott knew from speaking to other teachers in the teacher's union just how well off he was in terms of funding but that fact had never really sank in until he watched Kate drool over the supplies.
"If you think the paper's something, ask to go on a field trip." Scott said.
"Do tell." Kate said, coming back to the table.
"No permission slips needed, we have three people certified to drive a bus, myself included, we have a doctor and best of all, we have Professor Xavier." Scott said.
For the second time in ten minutes, Kate was all but drooling over the paths opened to her by Professor Xavier's money when the machine beeped and interrupted Scott. He stood and retrieved his copies.
"Anything you want or need. Just ask." he said. He collected his other stack of papers along with his copies and left.
Kate didn't know what to do first. Make copies or do cartwheels out of sheer joy. Making copies won out only because she would have felt incredibly silly if someone had walked in on her. Little by little it was sinking in that working at The Xavier School would be a unique, once in a lifetime opportunity. Here, at this school, she could make a real difference without all the political and economic hurdles a teacher normally had to face. An opportunity she would have never had if she had never met Gordon.
She smiled as she started the copy machine. Yes, she would definitely be placing a call to Gordon this evening. After walking Midge, of course. She stood there in front of the copy machine, with a smile on her face, lost in thought until Storm came in.
"Kate? How was your first day?" Storm asked.
Kate started at Storm's voice and yelped in surprise.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you." Storm said.
"That's all right." Kate said, turning her head to look at Storm. "My mind was elsewhere."
Storm smiled and asked her question again "How was your first day?"
"Good. No furniture thrown, always a plus." Kate replied.
Storm's smile grew and she chuckled before saying "Be careful what you say, the furniture may start moving after all."
"Too late, my gradebook beat the furniture to it." Kate said, telling Storm the story of the floating gradebook.
"I am so disappointed in their behavior. They know better." Storm said when Kate finished, a frown marring her lovely face.
"Of course they know better, they're just testing me. They're teenagers, this is what they do." Kate replied.
Storm shook her head and said "That does not matter. They are the oldest students here. They should be setting the example, not creating a scene. Their behavior is unacceptable."
The machine beeped and Kate turned back to it to collect her copies. "I agree with you totally. And, apparently, so does one of the students. There was a note on my desk, unsigned of course, stating that 'they' knew who was acting up and 'they' would speak with that person."
"Interesting. I wonder who 'they' is?"
"I have a feeling that, come tomorrow, the problem will correct itself. Once the children realize they can't chase me off, things will settle down, I'm sure." Kate replied. She gathered her copy books and copies together, a grin crossing her face. "Of course, it doesn't hurt that all the other teachers can do what they can. Feel free to pop in, any time."
"I shall." Storm murmured, more to herself than Kate.
"Thanks for asking. I am very happy to be here." Kate said, looking down at her watch. "Oy, my dog is probably chewing on my drapes in protest of me not being there to worship her. I need to go. See you tomorrow." She waved at Storm and walked out of the room.
Storm watched Kate leave before beginning her own round of copies. With non-mutants like Kate Renard in the world, maybe humanity wasn't doomed after all.
The mystery of the floating grade book was not resolved by the next day but there was not a repeat performance, either. When the 11th/12th grade class came in, Kate hardly recognized them. Gone was the laughing and joking of the day before. The children came in, sat down and were absolutely quiet. Kate was duly impressed. Who ever had gotten to the children had done a bang-up job. She looked at her students and tried not to smile. They would learn.
Before she began class that day, she received the first of two visits from Scott. He knocked on the door frame and waited.
"Yes, Mr. Summers?" she said, looking over at the door.
"You should have no problems this period. If you do, kindly send them next door." he said.
"Certainly." Kate said, feeling genuinely sorry for her students, if only for an instant.
Scott nodded and left.
"Don't say I didn't warn you." Kate said to the students. "Perhaps next time, you'll listen to me."
Class moved along fairly quickly after that, even with visits from Storm and Logan and a second visit from Scott half-way through class with a new student in tow. She had been warned about the suddenness of children appearing in class and here one was. The student's name was Danny and he looked mad as hell. While Kate found a seat and a book for Danny, Scott spoke to the class.
"Everyone, we have a new student joining us. This is Danny Murphy. He's telekinetic. We picked him up in Detroit last night, so, he's had a long night. Be nice."
Scott waited for Danny to be seated, then left. The other students looked at Danny with a mixture of curiosity and compassion, the majority of them being 'retrievals' like him. A retrieval Kate was told before school that morning, was a mutant found or 'retrieved' and brought to the school. But unlike public schools she had worked at, the child was introduced to the class as a whole, not just dumped and left. A much better system to her way of thinking. Still, there was always a potential for trouble but as she looked Danny over, she prayed he wouldn't do any major damage before class finished.
Ten minutes before the end of class, Kate brought the all the work to a halt. She raised her hands and waited for silence before saying "Starting today, every Tuesday at the end of class, we'll have an 'Ask the Teacher' segment. You can ask me whatever you want but I reserve the right not to answer. So, who's got a question?"
Hands shot into the air and Kate took her time selecting just the right student.
"Yes, Jon. Your question?" Kate asked, a slim boy with dark hair and dark eyes.
"Why are you here?" Jon asked, the tone in his voice challenging her.
"This is a teaching job. I'm a teacher. Seemed like a good fit to me. Also, I like to eat and I have bills to pay. Visa and Mastercard like getting their money on time." Kate replied, honestly.
"You could work anywhere." Jon said, before Kate could pick someone else. "Why here?"
"I like being around kids and it's never mattered to me where they're from or what they can do."
"Aren't you afraid?" Jon said, pressing Kate for an answer she apparently hadn't given yet.
"Jon! C'mon man, let someone else ask a question." Bobby said, from his seat at the front of the room. Jon glowered at him in reply.
"All right, Bobby. No need to be rude." Kate said, gently reprimanding him. "Am I afraid?" she said, repeating Jon's question. "Of what? Mutant teenagers? Mutant teenagers with haywire hormones? Not really. Of being physically hurt? No more so then when I first started teaching. That's not to say that I'm fearless because I'm not. I am afraid of not getting through to you or boring you or, God Forbid, offending one of you without meaning to. So, yes, I guess I am afraid, of some things. Next?"
More hands in the air. This time, Kate picked a young Oriental girl seated on the far side of the classroom.
"Do you have any mutant friends?"
Kate smiled and thought of Gordon before answering 'yes'. For the rest of the class period, Kate answered a myriad of questions, ranging from "Are you married?" to "How old are you?" to "What do you think about mutants?"
She answered each one as truthfully as she could. "Yes, to my work."; "Old enough to know the difference but young enough not to care." ; "As long as mutants don't break any laws, I don't have any problems with them."
All too soon, the bell rang and, a first for Kate, the students groaned in unison for they had enjoyed the brief peak into their teacher's life.
"There's always next week." Kate said, herding them out the door. She watched them disperse down the hallway, then turned and came back into her classroom, her wonderfully quiet and empty classroom.
Except the classroom wasn't completely empty. Danny was still seated where Kate had told him to when he'd appeared at the door of her classroom. He didn't seem inclined to move either.
"Danny? School's out. You can go now." Kate said to him.
He glared at her in return and it occurred to Kate that being alone in a classroom with an angry telekinetic was probably not a good idea.
"Danny? I've got to go but I don't think you should stay by yourself. Why don't you come with me and we'll find a nice place for you to hole up in?" Kate asked.
Danny's response was to toss his notebook at Kate without touching it. She stepped out of the way, grabbed her purse off her desk and headed for the door, hoping that Danny wouldn't slam the door and trap her in the classroom.
"You don't have to tell me twice. I can take a hint." Kate said, stepping out into the hallway.
Danny must have found her statement funny for he laughed, then slammed the classroom door behind her. She looked at the door and tried not to think of the mess Danny was now creating in her classroom, especially the stacks of ungraded papers. All she could do now was find someone to calm Danny down.
After running through the short list of teachers at the school, Kate headed for Jean's room. While Scott's room was closer, he wasn't there, besides Jean was a doctor. God forbid Danny hurt himself, Jean could put him back together.
"Jean?" Kate asked, knocking on the door frame of Jean's classroom. "I've got a problem with one of my students."
"Physical or mutant?" Jean replied, standing and picking up her doctor's bag off the floor.
"Mutant." Kate replied.
"You can tell me on the way." Jean said.
Kate laid out the whole story to Jean, finishing with "I hope I didn't do anything to set him off. I wasn't trying to."
Jean shook her head and said "A lot of the kids are angry when they get here and they're looking for an outlet. Hopefully, once Danny calms down, he'll see we're not the enemy."
The sound of cracking wood and furniture being dropped could be heard all the way down the hallway and had brought out the entire staff of The Xavier School. Scott was trying the doorknob when Kate and Jean walked up.
"Don't open the door. That's all that's keeping him from tossing the furniture into the hall." Jean said to Scott.
He looked at her for a moment then looked at Kate and said "I'm glad to see you're out here and not in there."
"You're not the only one." Kate replied.
"What happened?" Professor Xavier asked her.
Again, Kate related the events leading up to her departure from the classroom.
Professor Xavier nodded but said nothing.
Scott turned to Kate and said "You might want to leave this could be...unpleasant to watch."
Kate's eyes popped open and she said "What do you mean 'unpleasant'? What are you thinking of doing?"
"Getting your classroom back." Scott said, evenly. "You would be safer if you left."
Once again, Kate felt like an outcast. If she was a mutant, this would not have happened. but she nodded and said "I'd like to see the classroom when you're finished, I've got some papers to grade. If it's all right with you, I'll just wait in the teacher's lounge."
Scott nodded and Kate walked away from the group.
But she did not go to the teacher's lounge, she went only as far as around the corner from her room, her curiosity nagging at her. Something more than just calming an upset child was going on and she wanted to know what. She peered around the corner and her mouth hung open in surprise. The door to her room was open and she caught sight of Scott somersaulting into the room, commando style. Jean and Storm were nowhere to be seen while Kurt and the Professor remained in the hall. Several long minutes passed but eventually, Jean emerged with Danny in tow. Scott and Storm followed them. No one looked happy.
"Now, Danny, when you see Ms. Renard, you will apologize." Kate heard Jean say to the boy.
Danny nodded, his eyes never leaving the floor.
"Now go back in there and clean up the mess you made." Jean told him.
Defeated, Danny walked back into the classroom.
"With your hands." Jean called after him.
Professor Xavier looked at Jean with a half-smile on his face, then said "Send Danny down to me when he is finished."
Jean nodded. She looked at Scott and asked "Could you go and get Kate?"
At the sound of her name, Kate beat a path to the teacher's lounge but not before hearing Scott's reply.
"Sure but what make's you think she actually went?"
Kate was waiting for Scott in the teacher's lounge and followed him back to her classroom. Danny stopped long enough to apologize before returning to his cleanup job. For the second time in as many minutes, Kate's mouth hung open. Her classroom looked a tornado had hit it. Nothing was where it should be, broken furniture, including her desk, was strewn across the classroom and her carefully stacked papers littered floor like so much confetti.
"Maybe it would be better if you just went home and came back tomorrow." Storm said, seeing the look on Kate's face.
Kate looked at her and simply nodded. She left the room shaking her head.
Storm waited until Danny was finished and on his way to Professor Xavier's office with Kurt as his escort, before asking Jean "Do you think he can control the elements as well?""I think it's a distinct possibility, one that needs to be tested." Jean replied. The two women left the classroom, Jean turning off the lights and shutting the door telekinetically.
"How do you think Kate handle this? Have we scared her off?" Storm asked.
Jean shook her head and said "I don't think so. She was quite calm when she came to my classroom. The way I'm looking at is, if someone like Danny doesn't scare her off, nothing will."
"Gordon Chambers." Gordon answered the phone while trying to turn off the computer, put on his coat and leave the office. This was his one day of the week when he could leave work early and not feel guilty.
"Gordon? It's Kate Renard. I'm not interrupting anything, am I?" Kate asked. She unsnapped Midge's leash and let her run down the hallway toward the kitchen.
"No, not at all. I was just leaving work. What can I do for you?" He went out the back door of the office building and breathed a sigh of relief.
"I feel quite silly calling and bothering you but I just had to talk to someone outside of the school who knows about the school." She shrugged off her coat and hung it up. She had waited until the end of Midge's walk to call and was now wondering why she bothered. She was going to sound like a complete twit.
"Kate, I told you to call me anytime you need to talk and I meant it. Listen, if you don't mind, we could have dinner together and you can tell me every little detail. How about that? I can be by your place in half-an-hour." He reached his car, opened the door and dropped his briefcase onto the passenger seat before climbing in and shutting the door.
Kate eyed Midge, staring at her food bowl and her stomach growled.
"What did you have mind? Early Eddie Bauer again?"
"O, ye of little faith. What do you say?"
"Sure, why not? I'll be waiting."
"Excellent." Gordon hung up and started the engine. If leaving the office early meant sharing the company of a beautiful woman like Kate, he'd have to leave the office early more often.
Kate hung up her phone, filled Midge's food dish and sat down to wait. What on Earth was she thinking? Going out to dinner with a man she hardly knew. What would her mother say?
'Make sure he picks up the check.' That's what her mother would say.
Kate shook her head. Did she have time for a relationship right now?
Midge came over to her and whined.
"I don't think so, pooch. You're going to be as broad as you are long if you keep eating like there's no tomorrow. You've had dinner."
Midge sat down and looked at her.
"Hey, it's not my fault you can't talk. I tell you all my problems anyway. Right now, I want another human being to talk to and it can't be Brenda." She bent down and picked up Midge. "Lord, what have I gotten myself into?" she asked the dog.
Midge responded by licking her face.
"All right. I'll keep the encouragement in mind."
There was a knock on her front door then, so, she put Midge down, collected her coat and went to greet Gordon. It would be nice to have dinner with someone other than her parents or Brenda. It had been a very long time since that had happened.
On the way to the restaurant, Gordon listened to Kate's tale of flying grade books and floating furniture with some concern. When he suggested that Kate apply for the job, it never occurred to him that she might be in actual physical danger. Oh, sure, some of the kids at the school had control problems with their powers but they also never tried to hit the teacher with a notebook either. Of course, the other teachers had better protection than Kate but her non-mutantcy shouldn't have been that big of an issue.
"Part of me feels bad for Danny. His entire world, such as it was, was completely upended without any warning and he lashed out. But another part of me is saying 'What are you doing here? You're going to get yourself hurt or killed! What are you trying to prove?'" Kate said, fiddling with the table setting in front of her.
"You have nothing to prove to me or anyone else, yourself included. If you feel you're in physical danger, you are completely within your rights to quit. Professor Xavier would understand completely. So would the other teachers." Gordon told her. He wanted to reach across and take her hand in his but considering her reaction the last time he tried, he decided not to press his luck and kept his hands to himself.
"That's just it. I know everyone would understand but what about my students? Hmm? What kind of example would I be setting? Throw a couple of books at the non-mutant and she runs away? What happens when they're out in the real world and they try the same thing? At best, they would be arrested for assault I think."
Gordon did not reply. She had a point, so what could he add? That the survival of non-mutants hinged on people of like minds such as Kate? Oh, yes, that would be good dinner conversation. It would be better if he just kept his mouth shut and listened. Later, if he had any real concerns, he'd call the school and talk with Professor Xavier. He would know what to do, he always did.
"I'm not going to quit. The thought never even crossed my mind. I just needed someone to talk to. Someone who has a clue as to what it's like to be able to move things with their mind."
Gordon smiled, pulled into the restaurant's parking lot and said "Any time. That's why I gave you my card. Now, are you ready to eat? I don't know about you, but I'm starved."
The next day, Kate's classroom looked as if nothing had happened. A new teacher's desk and new student desks were in place. The posters and maps she had hung were back were she had put them. Any scuffs or dents in the floor were gone and, best of all, all of the her student's work from all of her classes were graded and stacked neatly on her desk.
It was becoming habit for Kate's mouth to hang open whenever something incredible happened to her at work. She simply stared around the room in amazement. She had already made up in her mind alternative lesson plans that would fit where ever she would be teaching that day. It never occurred to her that her classroom would be serviceable less than 24 hours after the incident. It should have.
"Not that I'm complaining, but who graded my papers?" Kate asked Scott before the start of classes.
"We did. Jean, Storm, Kurt, the Professor and myself. We split them up and it didn't take us long." At Kate's look of surprise, he added "It's not the first time we've done that. Besides, it was the least we could do after Danny's tantrum."
"Tell me, is there a storeroom, here in the mansion, with replacement furniture so every time a student looses control, the broken furniture can be replaced immediately?" Her question was only half serious.
Scott chuckled and said "No, there isn't. But in a place this big with this many kids...We have our ways."
"I'm sure you do." Kate murmured. "Thank you, anyway."
"One thing? Danny is being moved from the 11th grade to the 10th grade. So, you'll get to see him before lunch now."
"Physically, he's an 11th Grader. Mentally, he's a 9th, maybe a 10th Grader. He should've been in the 10th Grade to start with."
She nodded, half-anticipating, half-dreading seeing Danny again. He had apologized to her but what if he was still mad? What if his anger was now directed at her because she had gotten him in trouble? What would he throw at her this time?
She needn't have worried. When Danny came to class, he apologized to her again, then took his seat and was as quiet as a church mouse. When class was over, he let the rest of the class leave before he headed for the door.
"Danny?" Kate asked.
"Yes, Ms. Renard?" He stopped in the doorway and turned to look at her.
"I may not know what it's like to be a mutant or what your life has been like up to this point but I do know what it's like to be the new kid. And I do remember the anger I felt when I was stuck in a situation I couldn't control. If you ever want someone who will just shut up and listen, I'm here. As long as you promise not to throw anything at me."
She almost got a smile from him.
"Sure, whatever." he said, leaving the classroom.
Scott saw Danny go past and poked his head into Kate's classroom.
She simply nodded.
The Fall Semester of The Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters ended on December 22, three days before Christmas. Chaos ensued on that day, at least as far as Professor Xavier allowed it to, for the final day of classes involved no classes whatsoever. Half of the students went back to their respective homes and the other half stayed at the school. Kate felt sad for the ones left at the school but, as it was pointed out to her by one of the other adults, the school *was* their home. They had nowhere else to go, but Kate would have been lying to herself if she had ignored the wistful looks some of the students directed to the other students heading home.
Kate told Storm as much as they stood near the front door of the school and watched the passing parade of students, parents, teachers and other assorted adults up and down the newly de-iced front steps courtesy of Storm.
Storm smiled and said "Don't look at it that way, the students don't. They're accepted here. They have nothing to fear here. No one's coming to 'get' them, so to speak. For a lot of these kids, this is the only place that's ever *been* home. Besides, you've never seen Christmas at The Xavier School. Professor Xavier is very much into Christmas, if you hadn't guessed already." Storm waved a hand at the myriad of decorations swaddling the main hall. "Are you coming to the Christmas Party tonight?"
Kate nodded and said "It's been a long time since I've been to formal Christmas Party. I actually had to go out and buy a new party dress. Who else is coming?"
"It's going to be the staff, some invitees, like yourself and the alumni, at least the ones who can make it." Storm said, casting an eye to rapidly graying sky above them. "The weather shouldn't be a problem."
Kate had to swallow a chuckle on that one, the parents of one of her best students walked past looking for their child and Kate didn't know if they knew the truth behind The Xavier School.
She looked around, making sure no one would overhear, then asked "How many alumni are there?"
"There aren't too many of us." Storm replied.
A snowball came flying through the air at the two women before disintegrating into a puddle of water at their feet. Storm quickly locating the perpetrator, Danny. She motioned for him to come over to where she was.
He did but he didn't look happy about it. Of course. Kate thought, looking at him. He looks a lot more happy than he did a month ago.
"Danny," Storm said to the boy, in a low tone, "don't use your powers around the parents, all right? If you're going to throw snowballs, use your hands. And no snowballs at the mansion."
Danny nodded and ran back to his carefully made stack of snowballs.
Storm shook her head and said "Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don't."
"He did." Kate replied. "For the moment, anyway." They both watched as Danny carefully scooped up another snowball and tossed it at the nearest moving target, a senior boy, who promptly returned the favor.
Kate looked down at the now frozen puddle of water at her feet and stepped on it to break it up. "No sense in having anyone slip." she said.
"Gordon Chambers will be here. At least, he said he would." Storm said, her comment catching Kate totally off guard.
"Really?" Kate replied.
Storm nodded and said "He enjoys the Christmas Party and this year, he might even talk to some of the people at it." She looked at Kate. "People like you."
Kate caught under the, not unkind, gaze of Storm did her best not to blush. She didn't succeed.
Storm grinned in response and made Kate blush even more,
"I didn't mean to embarrass you. It's just that Gordon is not a, what's the word, a party animal."
"In years past, he's left well before 10 and the party doesn't start until 8. With you there, he might actually stay a little later."
"What makes you think I could make him stay?"
"I've seen the look on his face whenever he sees you. That look speaks volumes." Storm replied. Her words stayed with Kate the rest of the day and well into the night.
'Schedule for the day: Let the dog in, let the dog out, let the dog in, let the dog out.' The snarky comment Kate had seen on a t-shirt once popped into her head as she walked Midge down the sidewalk. Midge had looked ready to explode when Kate had come in that evening but now that she was outside, she didn't do anything, except sniff at every bush and plant she saw.
"C'mon, pooch. Hurry up. I've got other things to do besides walking your furry tuckus around." Kate said to Midge, only slightly annoyed. She had left herself plenty of time to get dressed and drive back to The Xavier School but only if Midge would hurry up.
Midge responded by 'doing her business' on a nearby tree.
"About time." Kate said. She picked up Midge and headed back to her townhouse.
She did not see the older man lurking near her SUV nor did she see the interest he showed in her SUV. He watched Kate disappear into her townhouse before quickly walking away to his car.
Kate didn't recognize the woman who stared back at her from the mirror. It couldn't be her, she had never looked that good in her entire life. The woman in the mirror was too shapely and too beautiful to be her but there she was. All those months of getting up early and walking an extra 15 minutes with Midge and all those times when she'd restrained herself and hadn't eaten that second piece of pie were finally starting to pay off. A project she had started before coming to work at The Xavier School was finally completed and she couldn't have been happier with the results.
The rich, dark burgundy velvet complemented her color quite nicely and showed all the right curves in the all the right places, stopping just above her ankles. A bolero-style jacket in the same burgundy velvet completed the outfit and would keep her arms warm during the party. A gold necklace and amber earrings set topped off her ensemble by showing off her deep blue eyes and accentuate her neckline. She was dressed to kill and wanted the whole world to know it.
"I'll tell you, it's been a very long time since I've had a reason to dress up." she said to Midge, who was sprawled in the front hallway.
Midge did not respond. She was asleep.
"Oh, thanks, that's a big help." Kate said to the dog, bending down to scratch Midge's head. "I'll be home late, so don't party too much."
Midge's only response was a low snore.
Kate shook her head, put on her coat, picked up her purse and left.
Why me, Lord? Gordon thought. He stood in front of the mirror in his bedroom, fiddling with his cuff links and trying to think of a decent excuse for not attending the annual Christmas party at The Xavier School. Unfortunately, the adults and some of the students knew him too well and would see right through any excuse he might come up with. He fiddled with his bow-tie next. Truth be told, it wasn't the party that scared him, he went every year. It was the people at the party that scared him. Or rather, one person that scared him
She would be there, he knew. She would look absolutely stunning, his mouth went dry at the very thought. And what would he do? He hadn't the faintest idea. Hopefully, he wouldn't stuff his foot in his mouth like he had on countless other occasions.
Gordon looked out his bedroom window at the steady stream of snowflakes drifting down past the window. Maybe he could use the weather as an excuse not to come but he quickly discarded that idea with a snort. Oh, yeah, sure. Mr. Gordon Chambers with the 4 wheel drive Range Rover couldn't come because of the snow. Storm would never let him hear the end of it if tried to use the weather as an excuse.
No, he would just have to suck it up, go to the party and humiliate himself in front of the women he really liked.
Out in the front hallway, his maid stopped him and checked to make sure he was presentable. She took his coat from the closet and handed it to him with the warning "Be careful, Mr. Chambers. The weatherman says we're supposed to get another 3 inches of snow tonight."
"Thank you, Adele, I will be. You be careful, too." Gordon replied.
She nodded and brushed some specks of lint from his coat.
"How do I look?" he asked.
"Very nice. Whoever she is, she must be special. I've never seen you this tied up in knots before." Adele replied, leaving Gordon to stare after her when she walked out of the room.
Kate knew that Professor Xavier enjoyed decorating for the Christmas Season, she had been walking past the decorations for weeks now but it wasn't until she came around the last bend and started up the road to the mansion that that knowledge took a giant leap forward. With all of its lights on and Christmas decorations on full display, the mansion simply glowed. A gentle dusting of snowflakes only added to the beauty, making the mansion look like a snowglobe.
After parking and picking up her coat, she stepped from her. She paused for a moment, despite the freezing temperature, to stop and admire. She also cast a wary look at the sky and the continual swirl of snowflakes. As pretty as snow was to look at, it was a royal pain to drive in and she hoped that the snow would be done by the time the party was over. Inside, Kate handed her coat over to a young man running a coat check, then headed in the direction he pointed. The solarium seemed an odd room choice for the Christmas party but the moment she walked through the open door, she knew why it had be chosen. It was as if she had stepped into another world.
Tasteful greenery swags with tiny lights twinkling from them encircled the room and giant Christmas tree decorated to an inch of its life sat in the far corner of the room. Tables set for dinner were scattered about the room and each table held a miniature Christmas tree and a light dusting of what looked like confectioner's sugar. The overhead lights had been dimmed so that the decorations could take center stage and above all else, when it stopped snowing, the moon could shine down on the party.
She scanned the room, looking for familiar faces. Storm appeared out of the crowd of students and greeted her.
"Kate, you made it. You look wonderful!" Storm said.
Kate smiled and replied "I can't hold a candle to you. You make me jealous."
Storm's dress, a glittering sheath, set off her figure and her color perfectly with shoes and jewelry to match. She smiled in response, then said in a lowered voice "Just to let you know, this is the first time a lot of the students have ever worn anything more than t-shirts and jeans. So, a lot of them are a more than little nervous. The boys more so than the girls but then girls like to dress up, right?"
"Just keep that mind."
"Absolutely. I don't envy you having to get all of them dressed this evening."
"Jean and I had the easy job. We didn't have to convince teenage boys that, yes, they did want to look nice."
Kate chuckled and said "Well, Scott and the Professor seemed to have succeeded. I don't see a pair of jeans in the crowd." Her eyes roamed over the growing crowd of teachers, alumni, benefactors and children looking for one person in particular. A person who had not yet made his presence known.
"Gordon doesn't normally show up until half-way through the party. You've got about an hour." Storm said in Kate's ear, reading her thoughts perfectly. Kate flushed at being caught so neatly and hoped the dimmed lights covered her embarrassment. Storm grinned but did not say anything further.
The majority of Kate's male students were dressed in coats and ties and did not look happy about it. One or two older boys bravely wore tuxedos and looked absolutely smashing.
"Good evening, Ms. Renard. You look very nice tonight." a young voice said at Kate's elbow. She turned and saw Bobby Drake in a tux. He smiled at her reaction.
"Bobby! I almost didn't recognize you. You look so grown-up and handsome. Has Marie seen you yet?" Kate asked.
Bobby nodded and said "She's seen me. She's over there with some other girls. She looks really pretty."
"Don't let me get in your way then. I know you want to do something more than standing here talking to your English teacher." Kate said, with another smile.
Bobby was only too happy to oblige and melted back into the crowd.
The hour flew past in a blur of conversations and drinks and laughter and before Kate knew it, her eyes were once again on the doorway leading from the hall into the solarium. And try as she might to keep up her end of the conversation with Jean, resplendent in forest green, she simply couldn't. Jean finally had to tap her on the arm to get Kate's attention.
"I'm sorry." Kate said. "My mind just wandered off on me."
"He's parking his car right now. Traffic was a bear, it's starting to snow harder and he's in a fine mood." Jean replied.
Kate almost gaped at Jean before remembering that not only could Jean move things with her mind, she could also read people's minds. The blush from earlier returned to Kate's cheeks and she mumbled. "Is it that obvious?"
Jean looked across the room at Scott, her husband, looking very dashing in a tuxedo and said "When you've been there,yeah, it's that obvious."
"How well do you know Gordon?" Kate asked.
"About as well as I know some of my doctor friends." Jean replied. At Kate's frown, she added "I do know that he is incredibly shy around people he likes and it takes him a very long time to warm up."
Terrific. Kate thought. I finally find someone I could really get interested in and he's Mr. Bashful.
Simultaneously, Gordon appeared in the doorway and Scott appeared at Jean's elbow.
"Good luck." Jean whispered to Kate before walking away with Scott.
Thanks, I'll need it. Kate thought. Especially after seeing Gordon for the first time in a tuxedo, her mind freezing at the sight. What was she supposed to do now? Smile? Wave? Both? She wasn't given much of a chance to do anything for when he finally spied her and smiled, she melted. Her feet were rooted to the floor and all she could see was Gordon looking absolutely irresistible in his tuxedo.
The oddest feeling climbed up Gordon's neck and he could not put a finger on what it was. All he knew was that once he saw Kate looking stunning in her evening gown, his mouth went dry, his hands went numb and his bad mood from the drive over vanished.
Odd that, he saw Kate as friend and nothing more. But if he saw her as nothing more than a friend, then, why did panic invaded his mind for a moment, urging him to turn and run?
Oh, honestly. Don't be silly. He scolded himself. What? Because you haven't been on a date in who knows how long, you've forgotten how beautiful women can be?
He shook his head and made his way over to her, saying "You look absolutely wonderful tonight." And indeed she did, her burgundy dress accenting all the right places
"And you look very handsome." Kate replied, when her brain started working again.
They were saved from the pain of small talk by Professor Xavier's announcement of dinner. "If everyone would please find your seat, dinner will be served as quickly as possible."
Gordon and Kate were seated at the same table with Jean and Scott and two supporters of the school and two of Kate's students. Everyone exchanged greetings and the dinner began. After dinner, Professor Xavier had secured the services of a string quartet to provide music for dancing. Jean and Scott were the first on the dance floor with Storm and Kurt following. Surprise number two for Kate coming when she saw how well Kurt could dance. Her heart ached with a longing she didn't know she had as she watched Jean and Scott dance. Idylly, Kate wondered if she could ever have a love like that with someone. Surprise number three was when Gordon stood and offered his hand to Kate. Tonight was a night for surprises, apparently.
"Would you do me the honor of dancing with me?" he asked.
Kate's eyes widened and her mouth went dry. Her mind froze.
"I promise not to step on your feet." he added.
Kate swallowed and said "You promise not to laugh at me? I haven't danced in forever."
Gordon's smile widened. "As long you promise not to laugh at me, the last time I danced was at my brother's wedding, six years ago."
Kate took his hand and they walked onto the dance floor. The music changed to a slow waltz and Kate looked into Gordon's eyes for reassurance. She was rewarded with a smile.
She smiled in return and the two went around the room oblivious to everyone else.
Taking a break from the dancing, Jean and Storm watched with great approval as Kate and Gordon moved around the dance floor.
"Mother's Day." Jean said to Storm.
Storm shook her head. "He's not that slow. Easter."
"They could surprise everyone and make it St. Patrick's Day." Storm said.
"I don't know. Gordon has never moved that fast in the time I've known him."
"What's the saying? 'Still waters run deep.'?" Storm asked.
Jean grinned in response. "You are a wicked, wicked woman."
Their respective dates, Scott and Kurt, confused as to what the women were talking about, stared at them.
"We're just guessing when Gordon is going to ask Kate out on a date." Jean said to both men. "He's perfect for her and she's perfect for him but neither realizes it. Once one of them does..."
"...the possibilities are endless." Storm finished.
At the end of the song, Gordon escorted Kate from the dance floor, looking for a quiet place just big enough for the two of them to talk. Kate, butterflies doing the samba in her stomach, swallowed her fear and followed after Gordon. Away from the music and just out of the solarium, Gordon found his spot, a little niche tucked into the wall, with a couple of chairs.
Kate sat and Gordon sat and silence followed.
"I wanted to thank you for coming. I really enjoy your company." Gordon said, his heart pounding with each word. Oh, boy, if he didn't feel like a teenager on his first date.
"I am glad I came. It's not very often that I get a chance to dress up." Kate replied.
"You look absolutely wonderful." Gordon said.
"Thank you. You look very handsome."
Silence descended again but this time, there was no dinner announcement to save them. Gordon looked at Kate, Kate looked at Gordon and that was as far as it went until Gordon bridged the space between the two of them and gently kissed her, his lips warm and soft on hers.
Startled, Kate's eyes widened for a moment before she calmed herself and started to enjoy the kiss, but it was far too quick for her, being over almost as soon as it started. Gordon pulled back and studied Kate's face, looking for any sign of reaction.
"I'm sorry." he stammered out. "I...I shouldn't have done that."
"Why not? You're a good kisser." she said, smiling.
He sat there, not knowing what to say next or what to do. It had been a very long time since he had kissed anyone beyond family members. Had he been too forward? Not forward enough? Did Kate want him to kiss her again?
Kate reached over and put her hand on his knee. "It's okay, Gordon. I'm not going to bite."
"But I might..." He muttered to himself. He stood and said "Kate, you're going to hate me I'm sure but...I have to go...I'm sorry if I've offended you in anyway." He turned and all but ran down the hallway back towards the front door.
Kate watched in utter bewilderment. What was going on? Was it something she said? Or didn't say? Should she have kept from putting her hand on his knee? Was it a bad thing that she said she'd enjoyed his kiss?
Lord. She looked up at the ceiling. What did I do wrong THIS time?