DISCLAIMER: This is an unauthorized
work of fiction using characters that are (c) & TM by
Marvel Comics Group and DC Comics. No profit is being made
on this story, which is (c) Tilman Stieve (Menshevik@aol.com).
You can download this and copy it for your entertainment,
but don't sell it for profit, or Marvel and Warner will set
their lawyers on you. Please do not archive this on your website
without informing me first.
According to some people's rules this story might be labeled
The following story is yet another one of my continuing series,
the Tales of the Twilight Menshevik. The first two
of these, "Sisters
Under Their Skins" and "A
Year in the Life" originally appeared in Valentine's
Day-themed February mailings of the MZS-APA, so it is perhaps
appropriate that I now do a collage that is actually set on
The immediately preceding Tale is "Something
Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Someone Blue".
You can find it and the others archived on "Fonts
of Wisdom," on "Down-Home
Charm," on "Queen
of Hearts," and on "X-Men
This story is for Lori Sammy.
By Tilman Stieve,
aka the Menshevik
*Good morning, my love, happy Valentine's Day*
Mmrarglfrzzrst... Em? [Image of Robert Drake's room in X-Mansion
seen from his bed. By the evidence it is few days since he
last cleaned up]
*None other. Saw your little tribute in Central Park.
Whuwhats the time? [The field of vision contracts and focuses
on the alarm clock on the bedside table. Both of Bart Simpson's
hands are pointing to the right of the 6.] Uhhhh... 6:30 a.m.???
Are you insane, woman? [Feeling of desperately trying to stifle
*Why, aren't you glad to 'hear' me? I thought that was
what your sculpture was about?* *[the sense of Emma's
lips smiling ironically, but affectionally]*
I didn't expect them to have the news that early on the news
in Massachusetts... or that you'd be up so early to watch
them. [Image of the ceiling of Bobby's room. Evidently he
is lying back in bed]
*Well, after last year I was expecting you'd do something
like that, so I rather behaved like a child on Christmas morning.*
*[Image of Emma's hand on the TV remote control, pressing
the on button]* *Your ice sculptures are very good. Have
you ever thought of doing more sculptures in your free time?*
No... [it's no use -- feeling of mouth opening as far as
possible, of air rushing in, at the same time field of vision
goes black and sound of YAAAAWWWNNN fills ears] well, you
know my father did not exactly encourage any activities that
could not be used in a 9-to-5 job. [Image of Willie Drake
looking down dismissively on the sandcastles his six-year-old
son Bobby is proudly showing him] yeah that's right drake,
blame your father as if it wasn't your own fault that you
never developed that side sufficiently is it any wonder that
everyone thinks of you as the prankster first and the accountant
*Now, now, don't sell yourself short all the time. You
know there's more to you than that and that your friends know
it. That I know it.* [A wave of confidence] *Besides,
you're showing quite a talent for not really having developed
it, I'd say it is far from too late for you to start developing
No, I guess it's not, Em. Well, at any rate I'm glad you
liked the Cupid. Happy Valentine's Day. Too bad you're in
Snow Valley and that would even be the same if we ever did
marry but it's nice to know that she got up that early waiting
for my valentine present oh man this relationship is a bit
complicated at times still i can live with it quite well although
i wish emma wasn't so obsessed with keeping her status secret
even if it is different for telepaths sorry Emma didn't mean
my mind to wander off on that tangent with you listening in
but you know how it is. [Audible sigh]
*No problem, Robert. I love you and I cherish your patience
with the discomfort I cause you because I am not yet ready
to come out into the open with our relationship. But there
will come a day...*
But when? [eyes screwed up] Oh, never mind, we usually are
a great couple whenever we're together. It's just been so
long since our last meeting and now I'm stuck here and you're
in Snow Valley...
*Uh... as a matter of fact...* *[Image of the corridor
in the X-Men's tract from Emma's point of view. The door of
Bobby's room comes nearer]* *...I thought I'd spend the
day with my favorite X-Man...*
[Rapidly moving image of the inside of Bobby's room as he
leaps from his bed] [feeling of left foot entangled in the
blanket] [Image of carpeted floor rapidly approaching] ...ouch
[image of door opening and Emma stepping inside. She is carrying
a big picknick hamper of food. A smile breaks out on her face]
*[Image of Bobby getting to his feet, grinning, and walking
nearer, opening his arms to embrace Emma. Darkness, as her
eyes close]* *[feeling of a long and intense loving kiss]*
Subject: Happy Valentine's Day
Date: 14.02.1999 03:02:07 p.m. GMT
thank you so much for your wonderful V's Day surprise (I hope
my card got to you on time). Even if it made me feel more
acutely the geographical distance between us :(. But don't
worry, I'm a big girl, and big girls, in the word of the song,
don't cry. Things are fairly quiet at the job, so I can't
complain on that front.
Best regards to Moira, and a thousand and seven kisses to
your adoring spouse,
Earth-600A: "Oh dear, sounds like there's been
a bit of a bother," Alfred Pennyworth muttered, slowly
raising his left eyebrow at the state of the Batmobile shown
on the monitors connected to the surveillance cameras at the
mouth of the Batcave. "I'd better get the paint and airbrushes
ready. No doubt he'll want it repainted in its pristine black
immediately. Well, let's hope that parcel from Miss Andrea
contains something to cheer up Master Bruce."
Subject: Re: Happy Valentine's Day
Date: 02/14/1999 12:33:23 p.m. EST
My darling Patricia,
muchas gracias for your eMail. Your card arrived on thursday,
you need not have worried -- Her Majesty's Mail serves Muir
Island quite satisfactorily. I like your selection of music
on the the minidisc you enclosed. I listen to most of them
at work (except for 'Patricia the Stripper', of course. That
brings back too vivid and distracting memories, so I'm saving
that for tonight. I'm glad you liked my little surprise and
that you are doing well. I hope that it won't take much longer
until we meet again in the flesh (easy, Henry McCoy, easy!)
and ... catch up.
I remain, my lady, your worshipping servant,
J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of the Daily Bugle and honored
citizen of New York, sat in his hotel room, discontentedly
watching the television news. Not so long ago, this would
have been absolute torment for him unless he had got on the
phone halfway through to give Robbie instructions about what
story would receive the top headline or to dictate an op-ed
column for tomorrow's Bugle. Now, he could just about endure
watching a report about Spider-Man's latest 'exploit' without
hitting the ceiling.
The urge to see to it that the so-called journalist (too
gullible to see through the weasely web-spinner's bogus heroics)
was shown up almost surprisingly was not irresistible. The
matter could wait until his return to New York, then he would
unsheathe the sword of truth to put the wall-crawling menace
into his place. Until then, let him bask in his false sense
No, what bothered him most was that he had to sit and wait
for Marla to return from the slopes. It had seemed such a
good idea to go on a three-week vacation with his wife. Lord
knew she had earned it by her patience. Back in New York he
was in his Bugle offices perhaps a shade too often. Even though
he had handed over the editorial reins to Joe Robertson years
ago, he still felt it necessary to keep an eye on the everyday
running of the paper. This meant that Marla normally received
a little less than her due attention, and Jonah Jameson had
hoped this ski holiday would go a little way of making up
for lost time.
Marla enjoyed skiing and had suggested this Rocky Mountains
resort. It had been their intention that he would take a crash
coursse so they could go onto some of the easier slopes together
during the second half of the trip. But after spraining his
ankle on the very first day he had decided that after living
for seventy-seven years without knowing how to ski downhill,
that this was a 'pleasure' that he could do without for the
remainder of his days. So now the only outdoor activities
where he and his wife joined together would be some gentle
walks in the surroundings, and he would avail himself of Copper
Mountain's various amenities during the time when Marla schussed
down the piste, or whatever they called it in their fancy
Or he would sit down to put a few notes for that editorial
to paper, for the editorial that would expose Spider-Man once
and for all as the fraud he was. Let's hope that young Phil
Urich will have dug up something useful during his absence,
Jameson thought. But now he had to put those thoughts aside.
Through the window he could see Marla returning to the hotel.
In five minutes she would be in this room, so he systematically
and unhurriedly put his notes out of sight and switched the
TV from CNN to the Valentine's Day special on one of the other
Valentine's Day. Well, Marla liked the present he had given
her this morning, and that pleased him, not just because he
liked the feeling of getting good value for his money (if
he would have had to spend several times the amount to bring
such a smile to his wife's face, it would have been the same
to him). And tonight they would be going to the movies together,
to see the new Woody Allen film. He was actually looking forward
to it -- he'd be going with Marla, it would be set in his
city, New York, and one of the supporting roles was played
by an actress they knew quite well. (In fact, he had paid
for her wedding reception less than six years ago). A pity
her husband had turned out to be a quitter. Parker could have
become a darn good photojournalist, instead he decided to
become a full-time scientist. Trust Marla to take his side,
Jameson thought with a self-ironic grin. Hmm, actresses in
Allen's films tended to do well in the Oscars. He wondered
how Mary Jane Watson-Parker would be doing a year from now.
He felt tempted to ask her about what she thought her prospects
were the next time he met her, but then he recalled that actors
were scared spitless of discussing that sort of thing for
fear of bad luck. Actors! What a superstitious and cowardly
Still, it was strange that he should be looking forward to
watching a Woody Allen movie -- after all, the man was basically
unsound. But maybe it was because his screen personality was
such an antithesis to glory-grabbers like Spider-Man. Jameson
tried to imagine what a Woody Allen movie about Spider-Man
would be like, and chuckled. Then he went to the door to welcome
It had been a quiet Sunday morning for Ororo. No dire emergency
required the X-Men's intervention, just a Danger Room session
in the morning for those who could not get enough (Bobby got
a dispensation at the last moment). When she returned to her
loft from lunch with Paige in the kitchen, she saw the light
on the telephone's answering machine flashing. She pressed
the button. "You have -- one -- messages."
She pressed again. A familiar voice spoke: "Hujambo,
mpandaji upepo? Nakupenda, na nitakupenda sikuzote. Kwa heri
ya kuonana, Ororo!" [How are you, wind-rider? I love
you and I will always love you. Good bye and see you soon,
Storm smiled. Those words she had once uttered certainly
had a way of coming back to haunt her... Humming a cheerful
tune, she set about watering the plants in her loft. Then
she took flight again, feeling so glad to be alive that she
just had to go for a flight all over the grounds.
Subject: St. Valentine
Date: 02/14/1999 01:47:56 p.m. EST
From: email@example.com (Moira MacTaggert)
To: SCassidy@Xaviers.edu (Sean Cassidy)
A Sheáin, a chara,
normally i regard valentine's day as part of the florists',
stationers' and confectioners' worldwide conspiracy, but for
you i'll make an exception. My heartfelt thanks for the flowers
and the book -- and please excuse your old lady's grumpiness,
but it isn't easy to run a lab with the admittedly briliant,
but extremely chaotic dr. McCoy in attendance. The fact that
we are both pining for our respective loved ones (that means
you, boyo!) and that a mass spectrometer has been acting up
all day does not ease our frictions, but at least we manage
to cooperate most of the time.
Here's looking at ye,
Not for the first time did Katherine Pryde wonder if there
might be some germ of truth to the stories about the dreariness
of English Sundays put about by George Mikes and others. But
on reflection, she decided it might have something to do with
the makeup of the team. Off-duty, most of Excalibur's members
had long settled into pretty stable relationships, and the
weekend was the time when they preferred to be among themselves.
Kurt and Amanda in their bohemian domestic bliss with Errol,
and Meggan and Brian now awaiting the second Excali-baby.
Rahne and Sam were now officially an item (and the official
'cute couple' of the team), but on Sunday mornings they went
to chapel together, and whatever they did on the afternoons
tended to be on the quiet side and away from the others. Kitty
herself and Pete Wisdom, had also long smoothed the rough
edges that had caused quite a few frictions three years ago,
in the beginning of their relationship. So now Rachel currently
was the only romantically unattached person among them. And
probably bored stiff on weekends, Kitty mused, as she still
did not have that much of a life outside her small circle
Kitty usually spent a lot of her Sundays catching up on her
reading or working on some computer problem. Or she did what
she was doing right now (under Lockheed's watchful gaze):
practice her ballet moves in the gym. And maybe that was one
of the reasons she felt so glum today, for she knew that she
was not getting any better, that she had in fact been a better
dancer, back in the days when she started out in the X-Men
and Stevie Hunter was her instructor. She simply had trouble
finding or making the time to practice. One busy month for
Excalibur, like this January,and she fell way behind in her
training and her skills and expressiveness slipped. Now she
had to work up a sweat just to get to where she had been in
December. After joining the X-Men she had become a superheroine
and a mutant-rights activist with all her heart, but there
were times when she could not help regret having to sacrifice
her teenage dream of becoming a professional ballet-dancer
because of her disruptive time-schedule. She was determined
to keep a foot in it, but instead of regular training sessions
with Stevie she now was reduced to attending occasional workshops
in Liverpool or Manchester.
After she had finished, showered and dressed, Kitty walked
to the kitchen, where she found Rachel and Pete sitting at
the table and chatting over coffee and cocoa. Rachel's head
turned to greet her: "Hullo, Kit. Glowing with health
after the workout, I see." Kitty patted both of them
on the shoulder as she walked past them to get started on
her own cup of cocoa.
"Yeah, makes you look 'orrible," interjected Pete
with a deadpan expression.
Kitty winked at Rachel: Peter had a reputation as someone
who detested all sports and outdoors activities, and he worked
hard to maintain it. "Wouldn't hurt you to join me, Wisdom."
"That I'd love to see," snickered Rachel, "Pete
finally putting on a leotard after all these years! Or will
you do ballet lessons in your trenchcoat?"
"'Ere, no gangin' up on me!" protested the former
secret agent with a grin.
Kitty soothed him, running her fingers through his hair and
kissing him full on the lips. "Poor darling," she
said with exaggerated concern.
"Well, I'll leave you two lovebirds to yourselves,"
Rachel smiled, getting up, "no doubt you have something
incredibly romantic planned for Valentine's Day. Come along,
"Today's Valentine's Day???" Kitty and Pete said
Rachel looked at them quizzically: "You actually forgot?
I thought you had to be married to be allowed to do that."
Her two friends smiled sheepishly. Then Peter's Wisdom became
thoughtful. "Married? Now there's a thought..."
Kitty looked him in shock, but immediately you could see the
little cogs and wheels in her mind getting into gear. Suddenly,
she was taking this thought serious.
"Ooops, be careful what you say Peter," said Rachel
with a smirk, "especially when there are witnesses around."
Damn paperwork, thought Rogue. This is definitely the downside
to leading a team. The other Meddlers get to go out and have
fun all Sunday, and she has to stay in her study and write
press releases. You'd think that someone as good at using
words as Rémy would be ideal for that particular job, but
when she had suggested that to him, his accent had suddenly
become twice as pronounced, his grammar conformed even less
to textbook rules and he claimed he would be "too embarrassing"
to be let loose on the unsuspecting media audience. Ha!
Writing press releases had not been a big part of superheroing
when Rogue had started out with the X-Men. Even the Fantastic
Four and the Avengers had not given press conferences all
that often. Cyclops and Storm had rarely bothered to try and
explain to the public why it had once again been necessary
to level a city block or two. You expected the press to be
against you, and after some time this became a self-fulfilling
prophecy. But that changed over the years, after we finally
noticed it was stupid and dangerous to leave the image field
to the mutiphobes without a fight while there were uncommitted
people whose opinions could still be swayed.
For the other teams it's easier, though, they have the Prof,
Hank, Val and Kitty at their disposal. They have a real knack
for public statements and debates, and they're not burdened
with a criminal past. Although being in the employ of the
Federal government is just as bad in the yes of some people,
she thought, reflecting on the treatment Val Cooper got from
Rush Limbaugh and his ilk. So far, she herself had avoided
open press-conferences and interviews. She conducted most
of her PR business by sending her efforts at non-fiction prose
to selected open-minded journalists or sometimes posting them
on newsgroups like talk.mutant.rights. Magnus helped her with
putting her messages on the internet in various untraceable
ways. He also displayed quite an enthusiasm for online activities
when he tracked down a particularly malignant hoaxer who had
been posting false messages under the Meddlers' name. Once
his computer had been magnetically transformed into a large
paperweight, the imposter quickly learned the error of his
ways. Rogue allowed herself a slight snigger at the memory.
But now the statement about the fracas on Attu island was
finished, she just had to give it a final read-through. And
then Magneto would take charge of the "delivery"
and they'd have the afternoon off. As a matter of fact, they
would have the entire base to themselves, as the others had
stayed behind in Portland (the first major city they had spotted
after crossing the coastline on the way back) to have a little
fun. Located as it was in a lonely part of the West Virginia
Alleghenies, the base could become a mite conducive to cabin
fever at times, no matter how many modern conveniences Magnus
had installed in it.
Rogue also was glad that the others were taking that weekend
opportunity in Portland, because she hoped it would be a pleasant
way for their new recruit to get acquainted with American
ways. Since Chen Li had spent most of her life in a steel
town in Manchuria, she was not as knowledgeable about the
capitalist West as she would have been had she lived in Beijing
or the more cosmopolitan Shanghai. Now she could talk the
language fluently (thanks to the X-Men's patented Linguapath
method, the same way that Rogue had been taught Japanese by
Professor Xavier, she recalled), but Li still had to decide
for herself what she would take at face value, what she would
question, what she would admire and what she would dislike
about American culture and society. Rogue liked the plucky
Chinese rookie -- she refused to let herself be overawed by
her now milieu. She also liked Li's quiet sense of humor,
such as when Gambit told her about his youth in the Thieves'
Guild in the Big Easy, and she simply gave him an understanding
smile and said: "Ah, you belonged to a long-nose tong?"
When Rogue entered Magneto's communications room,she found
him busy at his keyboard. He had only fairly recently started
to spend time on the internet, but he took to it in a big
way, leaving messages all over the place under screen names
like Mem Press and Fuchsia-600 (when asked about this last
'handle', he replied: that's the colors of my old costume,
and the number of times people asked me about it). Rogue herself
mostly went by the name RiverRat, because for some unfathomable
reason there seemed to be literally dozens of people who had
a screenname with 'rogue' in it.
She looked over him and saw that Magnus was putting the finishing
touches on his reply to a hate posting on alt.fan.graydon-creed.
She sighed and put a hand on his shoulder. "Magnus, ah
just don't get why ya keep returnin' to that group. You know
they get their kicks from makin' ya mad. They've made up their
minds not to listen to reason, no matter how well ya frame
"Blame it on my stubborn streak," he said with
a slight touch of melancholy. "I simply would have burst
had I not written a reply to that posting. And anyway, I had
to kill time until you were finished with your bulletin."
After doublechecking his cybermessage, he saved it on his
harddrive to have it ready should he actually decide to send
this particular message. Now he visibly relaxed and leaned
back in his chair against the woman he loved.
"Well, in that case ah'm glad ya got that off your chest,"
she said, cradling his head against hers and beginning to
stroke his hair. "So long as ya don't fell sorry for
the time you spend on this." She kissed him on the top
of his head. "Now that ah've finished mah duties as the
Meddlers' spokeswoman, ah can think of a lot more fun things
to do with your time..."
Earth-600: The young woman surveyed her mail. Quite
a few Valentine's Day cards this year, though only one or
two of them were adressed to Linda Danvers. But scores of
men and about a dozen women (if the names were a reliable
indicator of gender) had sent cards to Supergirl care of the
Leesburg Tribune, quite a few more had placed personal ads
in the Trib or had messages read out on local radio stations.
And she was really only famous (and, as Mattie would hasten
to point out, controversial) in a relatively small area. Supergirl
tried to imagine the kind of mail, messages etc. Clark must
be getting, and probably not just on Valentine's Day. Wonder
if Lois is more annoyed at the mass adulation and infatuation
her husband kept inspiring, or whether it made her feel more
proud of 'netting' this desirable catch. Even though she now
had been living among humans for years, and even though her
existence was now linked to that of Linda Danvers, some possible
aspects of human emotions still were a mystery to the former
As were her own emotions.
There was one person who had sent cards to both of her aspects,
one whose station was very much comparable to her own, another
person who was two, another Earth-born angel. Comet had sent
a card to Supergirl, and Andy Jones one to Linda. And as Supergirl/Linda
had asked Andy/Comet to be content with being just friends,
Andy had ended her greeting with a tongue-in-cheek "You
can't blame a girl for trying!"
No, Supergirl couldn't. Not really.
She sighed. Wouldn't it be nice if things could be clear-cut
between us. She knew she felt attracted to her more when she
was in the male shape of Comet, but his was an androgynous
appeal. And it could well have been that it was just reinforced
more by Andy's superpower than the less pronounced attraction
she felt for Andy in her female form. There was no way to
tell if her own feelings for Andy/Comet were genuine. (On
the other hand, considering Lex Luthor and Buzz, the men with
whom Supergirl and Linda had become infatuated following their
own instincts, maybe it was those that really should be distrusted).
Andy was cursed with the reverse of this dilemma, but somehow
it did not seem to bother her that she always had to doubt
whether another person's romantic feelings for her were real
or induced by her powers. Supergirl envied Andy that strange
mixture of serenity, spontaneity and carelessness, that readiness
to go with her instincts immediately. She, on the other hand,
feared that she would always be prevented from 'going with
the flow' by her nagging doubts. If only there was a way to
get rid of them one way or the other!
Salem Center, 14 Feb. 1999
Dear Mom and Dad,
Thought I'd write you my much-delayed letter now, because
my 'maternity leave' ends next month, and who knows how much
time I'll have then? Well, the weather is holding up and things
are going smoothly at the Boathouse (surprisingly so, some
might say). Your youngest granddaughter (six monts old in
a matter of days) is making continuous progress and is looked
after well by Scott and me, with a little help from the other
residents of the Mansion. I'm enclosing the latest set of
photographs of Abby, also a few extra ones from the Xmas and
New Year's celebrations. As you can see, Abby is very attached
to the cuddly duck you gave her for Christmas.
You ask about the state of our marriage. Well, normally I'm
not a big fan of Fred Nietzsche, but in this case it was true:
what didn't kill our love made it stronger. When we made up
our minds to make a fresh start (a little over a year ago
now), we decided to let what we did before that day be bygones,
not to let our earlier mistakes ruin our future. So far we
are succeeding. Not that we are unaware of what we did --
how could we be, with tangible evidence in the adorable shape
of little Abigail before us every day. Forgiven, not forgotten
-- we have safely made it to the safe shore beyond recrimination.
I like to think that our s has become a more mature kind of
love. Though we have lost the illusions about each other that
we had cherished in spite of the telepathic link, we love
each other more knowing who we really are. Our sex life certainly
has improved now that Scott no longer subconsciously puts
me on a pedestal. He's no longer holding back with me -- if
it didn't sound so cynical, I'd say that now that I too had
an affair he at last seems to see me as his peer. But enough
pop psychology, suffice it to say that there's a new quality
Whoa, thought Jean Grey,this was way, way too much more than
Mom and Dad would want to know about her sex life. She sighed
and silently rejoiced at her choice to write to her parents,
not send her message telepathically. Better get started on
the revised version now. Or at any rate as soon as Abigail
was fed. Look at Ororo enjoying herself, flying loopings and
generally having a great time outside.
"Hello, Ororo Monroe is not available at the moment,
but you can leave a message after the tone. May the Goddess
watch over you. -- BEEEEEP!! -- Hi, Ororo, it's Kitty.
Guess what? Pete popped the question today, and I've accepted.
Would you be my maid of honor? It won't be a big wedding,
you know why mom 'n' dad can't come... we'll just do it in
a registry office, but of course if anyone else from the team
wants to attend, they're all invited, but I'll be writing
you when It's gonna be soon as we settled the date what would
suit you best? .... Uh, that's pretty much it for now, I think.
Er, Peter sends his love. Seeya!"
Rogue and Magneto had been on their trek through a wood near
the base for the better part of the afternoon. They had been
talking about anything that came to their mind ("about
God and the world," as Magnus put it using a German idiom),
but not all the continuously. From time to time it seemed
to be more appropriate to walk in silence side by side, just
taking in the wintry beauty of the hills and forests.
It was a pleasure they did not get to indulge often these
days, and one that some of their teammates had trouble understanding.
But Magneto had been friends with solitude for most of his
life, and Rogue too sometimes enjoyed being away from company
(something she had accidentally discovered during her wanderings
in the Savage Land after she returned from the Siege Perilous).
Even the snow had become less of a problem for the Deep-South
superheroine; after living in Washington and New York for
years, she had somehow gotten used to it When they resolved
to be a couple, they found they now could be alone in nature
with each other, although there still were hours when Magnus
needed to retire all by himself. But today was not such a
time, and the two had happily walked along snow-covered paths,
sometimes even holding hands as if they were still courting.
...And once again, the biggest Valentine came courtesy of
the X-Man and former Champion and Defender known as Iceman.
You may remember the 17-ton double heart made of ice he did
on Boston Common last year, well this year New Yorkers were
able to see an even bigger Cupid firing an arrow into a heart
in the Strawberry Fields section of Central Park. It is becoming
a favorite pastime to guess who the mysterious person is,
to whom this massive Valentine sculpture is dedicated in the
words 'To my love, will you be my Valentine?'. Some followers
of superhero romance both here and overseas are even placing
bets. Ladbrooke's the English bookkeepers are giving odds
of 10 to 1 on British mutant Psylocke, 15 to 1 on rookie Avenger
Ultra Girl, 50 to 1 on Canadian superhero Northstar, and 120
to 1 on First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. More on today's
Valentine news coverage after these messages...
"Way to go, Bobby!" Rogue whooped, and Magneto
too had to laugh in his quiet fashion.
Rogue had switched on the radio to listen to the news as they
cleared the table after their dinner. Rogue liked to prepare
a big meal herself occasionally, but they had known beforehand
that they would have worked up a ravenous appetite by the
time they returned from their afternoon's hike, and so they
had taken advantage of Magneto's robotic kitchen and programmed
it to prepare their meal and have it ready at their return.
As they went to their bedroom, Rogue asked: "You want
to watch something on TV, or...?"
"Let's proceed to the enjoyable part immediately,"
he replied, and began to unbutton her shirt with his magnetic
Funny idea, to serve radishes on salt befor the first course,
but at least it makes a change from breadsticks. I have mixed
feelings about this dinner date. A year ago, when Hank told
us of his engagement, Natasha and I made a pact to go out
together on the Valentine's Day after his wedding if we both
were still unattached.
I had been unsure about my own romantic prospects -- there
still are days when I think I'll never get over Bobbi's death
-- but back then it had seemed likely that 'Tasha would be
getting back together with Daredevil. That prospect evaporated,
and apart from a short-lived affair during one of her secret
mission, 1998 passed by without any romantic entanglements
for her. So here we are, looking at each other across the
hors d'oeuvres in a fancy-shmancy restaurant above Central
Park and making small conversation.
The Black Widow.
The first great love of my life.
Some say that you never get over your first love, and when
I gawp at her face, it feels that way for me. When I first
met her, I was immediately smitten. Unfortunately, she then
was a Soviet spy and exploited my puppy-like devotion to turn
me into her pawn. But after I cleaned up my act and became
an Avenger, so did she, with a slight delay. She found she
really loved me after all. Too bad it didn't last.
The onion soup is alive with cheese, but acceptable.
We grew apart, felt attracted to others. 'Tasha for a time
became all but married to Daredevil, later she had a less
successful thing with Hercules, followed by a series of short
flings during her many adventures. (Although unlike James
Bond or Modesty Blaise, Natasha did not feel obliged to sleep
with every guy she met on her missions). In my cynical moods,
I suspect that the common denominator of her later bedmates
is their youth and sexual stamina. Seems to me that none of
her more recent relationships ever came within spitting distance
of what she had with me, or DD, or with her first love, Alexey
Shostakov, her late husband.
I myself carried a torch for the Scarlet Witch for the longest
time (I wasn't the only Avenger who did that) and later I
thought I had found my Ms. Right in the shape of Bobbi Morse,
Mockingbird. We had a tempestuous marriage, full of ups and
downs, but there was no denying the genuine love we felt for
each other right until she was killed.
They're bringing on the main course, we continue our inconsequential
conversation. From my side it is conducted pretty much automatically.
No, I did not get over my first love easily. Sitting with
her now is eerie. I can't help recalled how much I learned
from 'Tasha or because of her. That a woman does not have
to conform to the standards of my fantasies to hold my attention
or my commitment. With her ballerina's bod, she's flat-chested
compared to the models I've ogled in men's magazines since
my late teens, but that did not make me think I was missing
something. Same with Bobbi (who actually was a bit more curvy
than the Widow); it was enough to occasionally look at a centerfold,
even if Bobbi did not seem fully satisfied when I told her
that my Playboy collection did not mean I loved her with a
less than total commitment.
Tasha also taught me that it is possible to forgive, that
it even can be easy, as it surprisingly was for me after she
had betrayed my love. We both tried to learn how to change
from lovers to friends, but at least I did not succeed completely,
and I sometimes find myself wishing that she too would like
us to become more than friends once again.
Strange, how we changed over the years. When we first met,
I was still a boy, at least emotionally. I grew to manhood
during our romance, and although neither of us would go so
far as say that she made me a man, the process of my maturation
and my love for her were inextricably entwined and she helped
me along as it happened. She then was the experienced older
woman and I the neophyte whom she helped find his way in the
minefield of male-female relations. Now, thanks to our different
rates of aging, we look as if our positions have been reversed.
I'm beginning to find the first gray hairs on my temples,
and I'm hard of hearing (OK, that's not actually an effect
of old age, but a result of the adventure that joined Bobbi
and me), so I seem to be well on my way to creaky old age.
Tasha, on the other hand, is blessed by having been injected
with a variant of the Infinity Formula that has been keeping
Nick Fury in such great shape over the years, and so she is
now biologically younger than me.
The meal is finished. I have trouble recalling what we just
talked about. We have a short debate about who gets to pay,
then we decide to go Dutch. As I bring her down to her Rolls-Royce
and deliver her to faithful Ivan, she kisses me goodbye. Something
about the way she kisses me, about how she touches my jaw
when she does it, about the way she moves returns me to the
hundreds of little wordless signals I had learned to detect
when we were lovers. I think I recognize a familiar message
from the old days -- "why yes, making love sounds like
a great idea" -- but I'm not sure if that isn't just
In any case, I suspect it would not be a great idea. While
I'm not actually decrepit, my performance is unlikely to compare
well to the young studs she's had these past few years. Or
someone like Daredevil, whose enhanced senses must have uses
for sex as well. Better leave that alone and stick to the
memories of the old days. Let's not ruin our friendship.
Sunday, 2/14/1999, cold & sunny. At home all day! When
was the last time we could do that? So much time for Raven
& me to play with Irene & to celebrate our love. So
little paperwork to catch up on. Bliss! Irene enjoyed being
pulled around the back garden in a sled by her parents (video).
In the afternoon it was Aunt Emma's handpuppets she wanted
us to play with, especially the witch, the policeman and the
princess. And in the evening it was so nice to watch Raven
read the bedtime-story picturebooks together with her. Now
that I'm in my seventh month, I can say that I am enjoying
my second pregnancy even more than the 1st one. I now have
a better idea what to expect, there is less to worry about.
I feel I'm bursting with life, sometimes my amazement at the
little human being growing inside me is overwhelming. My breasts
are proud & heavy, and my bulging belly is like a third,
outsize one, especially with its protruding navel in the center
like my third nipple (less floridly speaking, seen from the
side I look like a big letter B). I often catch myself gazing
at myself in the mirror when I get out of the bath. R. is
amused by my preening & says that she'd accuse me of vanity
if she did not enjoy so much to see me pregnant & nude.
If I feel more desirable and desired in my present state,
it is a feeling that is more pronounced thanks to her. Looking
back over the past weeks, J UIJOL XF BDUVBMMZ NBLF MPWF NPSF
(PS BU BOZ SBUF MPOHFS) UIBO CFGPSF UIF QSFHOBOZ -- BOE XF
XFSF USZJOH UP DPODFJWF PVS CBCZ UIFO!
"Can't your diary wait until tomorrow, Val?" Raven
complained from the bedroom.
"Hang on, I'm almost finished!" Valerie Cooper
closed the little book and laid it aside. Then she got up
and went next door. While it probably would have been an exaggeration
to speak of a waddle, her gait lacked a certain elegance,
she noted self-critically.
Her mate already lay in bed, reclining on her side and looking
most alluring in her wisp of a negligee.
Val leaned against the doorframe, taking in the view. "Raven,
my love," she finally said with a big smile, "if
this day ends as I think it will, I rather fear I wouldn't
muster up the energy to write down this entry until Wednesday!"
She took off her bathrobe and hung it on the clothes tree.
The nightgown followed and fell to form a crumpled pancake
on the rug by her side of the bed.
"So, my lady," said Raven with a wide grin, "an
expecting mother's cravings must be indulged. How shall I
attempt to satisfy your desires? Do you want me as a man or
as a woman tonight?"
"Can't I have both?"
"Val, you're incorrigible!"
"I get that from my life-partner."
Earth-600A: In a hothouse built in an abandoned chemical
plant, two women were watching television. One was a redhead
in a skintight green costume. Most would have called her attractive,
had it not been for the unnatural tone of her skin. Her eyes
and worldly-wise smile gave her the appearance of a woman
of experience. The woman beside her seemed much younger, but
only at first glance. The blond pigtails stuck out from above
her ears like the horns of a jester's belled cap, the pink
T-shirt with the teddy-bear design, and her somewhat squeaky
voice made her look like a high school student, not the academic
graduate she in fact was. The mischievous twinkle in her eyes
showed that she was far from innocent. And what normal schoolgirl
would be absent-mindedly scratching a laughing hyena behind
the ears while watching the evening news?
"And to round up the news, even Gotham City's best-known
protector entered the Valentine spirit. The Batman's car was
covered in heart-shaped stickers and spray-painted pink designs.
We apologize for the inferior quality of the picture on this
WGBS exclusive. It is from an amateur video -- no professional
news-crew was on hand to film the Batmobile this morning.
Here's our own Summer Gleeson to talk about it. She has of
course covered many of Batman's exploits. Summer?"
"Well, Frank, everybody has been wondering about the
graffiti on the Batmobile. Are the letters H I just a colloquial
greeting, or could they be the initials of the Darknight Detective's
"Aw, red," sighed Harley Quinn, "you shouldn't
have!" She wiped a single tear from her eye. "That
reminds me of some of the things I used to do for Mistah J..."
Poison Ivy rolled up her eyes at the sentimental mention
of her partner's former object of infatuation. But when Harley
placed a big wet kiss on her cheek and declared taht this
was her best Valentine's Day present ever, her frown melted
away and she decided that the caper had been worth the risk
Preparing for bed rather early, the Black Widow sat, frowning.
That date had not gone as she had expected. Outwardly, it
had been a meeting of old friends, filled with banter and
reminiscences. But she had known Clint for nearly fifteen
years and could tell he was a bit mechanical in his conversation,
a sure sign that his mind was preoccupied. And from the way
he had looked at her intently throughout the the meal it was
easy to divine with whom.
She herself, she had to admit, had enjoyed his company and
found herself fondly remembering the days when the Black Widow
and Hawkeye had been a great professional and romantic partnership.
But at the end of the evening, after that great kiss, he had
just turned around and left. What had suddenly changed his
She reached for the telephone, wanting to get an answer,
but stopped still after picking up the receiver. Her mind
went back to the goodbyes. Few people knew her as well as
Clint. Maybe just Matt and Ivan. She was reasonably certain
that not even Alyosha had known her as well as these three.
Had she appeared to eager when she kissed him on the mouth
instead of the cheeks just know, she wondered self-critically.
Was that the reason for Clint's super-ego to overrule his
instincts and insist that their relationship should not again
proceed beyond the Platonic stage? Was it the unfamiliarity
of the situation where she appeared to be the sexual aggressor,
where she did not bother to let him take the more active romantic
part, at least in appearance?
She had to admit to herself that this was an unusual situation
for her. Normally she felt content to let herself be pursued,
either accepting or rejecting the advances of the men in her
life. Occasionally she arranged things so that a man would
pursue her, but if she wanted to rekindle her romance with
Clint that would probably not be feasible. So she had to enter
uncharted territory, and what was more, she might have to
admit openly that she found her current situation unsatisfactory.
And her pride rebelled against such an admission.
Half an hour later, she still sat by the phone, her hand
on the receiver, her face mirroring her indecision.
Charles Xavier switched off his computer terminal and leaned
back. He felt quite satisfied with the the progress he had
made on the lecture he was going to deliver at the UN hearings
on mutant affairs next month. Outside, it was turning dark.
He decided to call it a day and make himself a mug of hot
cocoa. Maybe one of his students was game for a chat with
the Professor, or maybe (he hoped against hope) there was
something on TV worth watching. He drove his hoverchair from
his study, through the automatically opening doors. Although
it was quite late, and a sunday to boot, he found Paige Guthrie
sitting at the desk, intently reading a leather-bound volume
and taking notes in her laptop. Xavier had to smile. He had
not seen as intense a student at the mansion since the days
when a young Kitty Pryde had worked her posterior off to regain
her place with the X-Men after he had decreed that she should
join the New Mutants. Again he felt reminded of himself in
his teens. The nineteen-year-old Kentuckyan looked up somewhat
embarrassed when she heard the hum of the hoverchair approach.
"Good evening, Paige, still busy, I see."
"Uh, hi Professor. Ah kinda lost track o' the time."
"I know the feeling," Charles Xavier went on. "I
was going to make some hot cocoa. Do you want me to bring
you a mug as well?"
"Yes please. No wait," she said, remembering the
manners she had been taught by her mother, "I'll do it.
If you want, you can go back to your office if you want to.
I'll bring you your cocoa."
The Professor smiled. "Let's go together," he suggested,
"We can talk on the way. And I'm neither too old nor
too infirm to handle the making of hot beverages."
Paige winced. Poor girl, the Professor thought, she's trying
too hard. Now she's wondering if I'm annoyed at her. Nevertheless,
the conversation overcame its awkward start, gathering momentum
and livelyness as the two progressed through the gallery and
the sitting room. When they turned to enter the kitchen, Charles
Xavier noticed that at the end of the corridor, the parlor
room fireplace was ablaze. A sofa had been moved close in
front of it, and in the flickering light he recognized Emma
Frost sitting on Bobby Drake's lap. The two were contentedly
holding each other tight and looking into the fight, silently.
Possibly communicating telepathically, but Charles did not
want to pry. Since the two lovers seemed oblivious of the
world around them, he did not hail them, but quickly entered
the kitchen with Paige. He noticed that the girl's expression
had mellowed, that she wryly smiled at the sight of her old
headmistress and her boyfriend.
When the Professor raised an inquisitive eyebrow, she said:
"Ah was just thinkin' of my first years with Ms. Frost.
Sometimes we found it hard t' b'lieve that she's a real human
being. And she kinda worked on that image herself. Back in
those days she would have done anything to avoid bein' seen
like that. She sure is happy with Bobby."
Charles Xavier nodded, and they set about making their cocoa.
Paige continued: "Sure is nice that they're together
on Valentine's day." Her heartfelt sigh was a wordless
comment on the contrast between the situation of the couple
before the fireplace and her own. And his own, Charles reflected.
Later that night, before going to bed, Charles Xavier looked
out his bedroom window. Beneath him lay the empty and covered
up swimming pool, beyond that he could see the dark shapes
of the trees of the estate against the snow-covered ground,
and further to the right he could barely discern the top of
the boathouse's roof just above the horizon. And above everything
a glorious clear starry sky. The Moon was only a thin wisp
of a crescent, and so the stars seemed brighter. He knew that
his power reserves had still not returned to their full strength,
that he surely be regretting this next morning. But it was
something he had to do. Leaning back in his chair, Earth's
greatest telepath closed his eyes and reached across the emptyness
of intergalactic space to contact the woman he loved.
*Can you hear me, Lilandra?*
This story is dedicated to Lori Sammy, a very talented artist
and great supporter of the Tales of the Twilight Menshevik.
Do check out her illustrations for the series and her other
artwork at her site "Glockgal's
Fab Fan-Art," at "Speculum
Mundi," and at "Down-Home
The Avengers, Banshee (Sean Cassidy),
Beast (Henry P. McCoy), Black Widow (Natasha Romanova), Cannonball
(Sam Guthrie), Captain Britain (Brian Braddock), The Champions,
Valerie Cooper, Cyclops (Scott Summers), The Daily Bugle,
The Defenders, Willie Drake, Excalibur, The Fantastic Four,
Nick Fury, Gambit (Rémy LeBeau), Elaine, Jean & John Grey,
Hawkeye (Clint Barton), Hercules (Marvel version), Stevie
Hunter, Husk (Paige Guthrie), Iceman (Bobby Drake), Infinity
Formula, J. Jonah Jameson, Marla Madison Jameson, Lockheed
the Dragon, Moira MacTaggert, Magneto (Magnus), Meggan, Mockingbird
(Bobbi Morse Barton), Mystique (Raven Darkhölme), Lilandra
Neramani, Northstar (Jean-Paul Beaubier), Peter Parker (Spider-Man),
Ivan Petrovich, Phoenix (Rachel Summers), Professor X (Charles
Xavier), Psylocke (Elizabeth Braddock), Red Guardian (Alexey
Shostakov), Joe Robertson, Rogue, Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff),
Shadowcat (Katherine Pryde), Siege Perilous, Storm (Ororo
Munroe), Trish Tilby, Ultra Girl, Phil Urich, Mary Jane Watson-Parker,
White Queen (Emma Frost), Peter Wisdom, Wolfsbane (Rahne Sinclair),
Xavier Mansion, and the X-Men are TM and copyright Marvel
Batcave, Batman (Bruce Wayne), Batmobile, Andrea Beaumont,
Buzz, Comet (Andy Jones), Summer Gleeson, Gotham City, Mattie
Harcourt, Harley Quinn (Harleen Quinzel) and her hyenas, the
Joker, Leesburg, Leesburg Tribune, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor,
Alfred Pennyworth, Poison Ivy (Pamela Isley), Supergirl (Linda
Danvers/Matrix), Superman (Kal-El/Clark Kent), and WGBS are
TM and copyright DC Comics 1999.
Chen Li, Irene and Hope Cooper, The Meddlers (name and concept),
Abigail Summers, and Errol Wagner are copyright Tilman Stieve.
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