Chelsea, New York City, where a young blond man sits in a booth of a trendy café. A hot drink on the table in front of him, he holds his mobile phone in one hand, and rests his head against his other hand. He looks unhappy, but turns and looks up as someone walks towards his booth - then past it and goes to a woman sitting at another table. The young man leans back in the booth and types into his phone: VIC, WHERE R U? UR 45 MINS LATE, BUDDY. THIS IS NOT BEST FIRST DATE BEHAVIOR. LOL. ??????????? The young man then puts his head against the table. He gets up and looks around the café, sighs and leaves.
But nearby in the café is Victor Borkowski a.k.a. Anole, the green-skinned mutant, who is miserable beyond hope and reason. ‘Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid’ Victor mutters to himself, while some people in the café look at him, shocked by his appearance. Sitting on a sofa across the café is Regan Wyngarde a.k.a. Lady Mastermind. ‘There you are… I sensed one of your lot around here. Oh, and perfectly ripe, too… let’s have some fun’ she smiles.
Meanwhile, at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning in Westchester, New York, Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner smiles as he enters one of the rooms. He is more or less used to being alive again. ‘Forgive me, Jean-Paul… I was under the impression that this was meant to be French class’ Kurt remarks as Jean-Paul “Northstar” is lying on a table receiving a massage. ‘Ah, but it is!’ Jean-Paul announces in French. Kurt goes over to Jean-Paul, and asks him if he can have a word away from the masseuses. ‘I suppose I could -’ Jean-Paul begins. ‘Excellent’ Kurt declares, as he teleports himself and Jean-Paul onto one of the floating spheres that hover above the Jean Grey School.
‘Oh, sweet love of - you need to tell someone when you’re going to do that! These pants are going to reek of sulfur for days’ Jean-Paul exclaims, before asking Kurt what it is he even wants. Hanging upside down, Kurt grins and announces that he has been going over the details, and is afraid to say that the school sits somewhere on a razor’s edge between a lunatic asylum, and one of the rowdier pits of hell. ‘I thought I might help smooth over some… inefficiencies’ he explains. ‘So you’re here to ruin all of our fun’ Northstar complains. ‘Precisely, mein freund!’ Kurt replies, before stating that he understands Northstar gave Victor Borkowski a pass to leave the campus yesterday afternoon. ‘One of his friends from before his powers awakened attends the new school. I believe he saw a movie with her last night’ Northstar explains. ‘Ah, yes. That is what the note said’ Kurt remarks, before informing Northstar that Victor has not returned to campus.
Kurt continues and tells Jean-Paul that he needs to understand that it is their job to take care of these children, and now Victor is alone without support or supervision in the largest city in the country. ‘A teenager decided to sneak off on his own? My God, Kurt. We need to inform the papers!’ Northstar exclaims sarcastically. Kurt reminds Northstar that there are rules about unsupervised trips to New York, and that Victor has taken action publicly before, so he is a known entity and a target with a highly visible mutation. ‘Which is not something I feel you comprehend. You don’t know how cruel people can be...’ Kurt begins. ‘Excuse me? Did you really just -’ Northstar begins, frowning, before he takes flight, calling out that he is done with this discussion. Jean-Paul suggests to Kurt that if he have any more suggestions, he knows where he can put them. ‘It’s somewhere dark, blue and furry. I’m sure you’ll figure it out’.
Back in Chelsea, people stop and stare at Anole as he walks down a street, speaking on his mobile phone to Santo Vaccaroo a.k.a. Rockslide, who asks ‘How did it go? Did he sweep you off your feet? Are you getting married? You’re eloping, aren’t you? I knew it!’ Anole closes his eyes and tells Santo to shut up. ‘Oh. Don’t tell me…’ Rockslide begins. ‘I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t just…’ Anole’s voice trails off, before remarking ‘He’s never seen a picture of me, man! He didn’t know what he was walking into…’ But Rockslide reminds Anole that they have been talking every night for six weeks. ‘He knows you’re a mutant’ Rockslide adds. ‘Yeah, but he thinks I’m one of the pretty mutants…’ Anole mutters. Rockslide is on his laptop in his room, and tells Anole that if he is fishing for him to call him pretty, he is going to need to some better bait than that. ‘I like petunias’ Rockslide jokes.
‘Santo, you couldn’t pick a petunia out of a line-up’ Anole replies, to which Rockslide looks on his laptop and announces that he has just Instagrammed the mopiest picture of a tree he has ever seen. ‘You’re doomed’ he adds. ‘This sucks. This sucks so much’ Anole complains. Rockslide suggests to Anole that he gets back to the school. ‘Mr Beaubier was doing his best Ms Frost this afternoon…’ Rockslide begins, as Northstar opens the door to Rockslide’s room and declares’ You should see me before I’ve had my espresso. I say things that would make Emma’s skin crawl’ he declares. ‘Diamond form or otherwise’ he adds, before snatching the phone out of Rockslide’s hands, he puts it to his ear and informs Victor that his absence is unacceptable. ‘What’s going on?’ Jean-Paul asks. ‘I can explain…’ Anole begins, as he hears Rockslide exclaim ‘He had a hot date!’ ‘Or I guess Santo can explain for me’ Anole mutters. ‘Look, I…’ he begins, when suddenly, he sees dozens of copies of the young man he was supposed to meet striding towards him.
‘Wait… what’s…Noam?’ Anole calls out, wide-eyed. ‘How is this happening?’ Anole shouts, pulling the phone away from his ear, one of the Noams bumps into Anole and declares ‘Victor? Oh, God, you’re disgusting…’. ‘You said you wanted to kiss me’ another exclaims. ‘You think somebody like me would ever want to kiss something like you?’ a third asks as they surround the confused Victor. ‘How can you say -’ Anole begins, reaching out to one of the Noams, who looks horrified and pulls away: ‘Oh, God, don’t touch me…is that what your skin feels like’ he asks. ‘Victor? Victor? What’s wrong?’ Northstar calls out over the phone, which Anole has dropped. ‘Help me…help me!’ Anole pleads, dropping to the ground.
At the Jean Grey School, Nightcrawler is standing in front of Doop and asks ‘So… can you explain to me what it is you do here, precisely?’ Doop hovers above Nightcrawler and waves his hands about, while muttering something in Doopspeak, as Nightcrawler notices someone exit the front door to the school. It’s Northstar who has changed into his costume. Nightcrawler teleports over to Jean-Paul and asks him if he is going somewhere. ‘Anole is in trouble. I’m going to help him. If I fly at top speed…’ Northstar begins, striding past Nightcrawler, who asks ‘How fast can you fly with a passenger?’ ‘No. Absolutely not’ Jean-Paul declares. Kurt smirks and tells Jean-Paul that if he tries to stop him, he will simply teleport in Jean-Paul’s path over and over until his entire costume “reeks of sulfur” as he so kindly put it. ‘Fine. Just hurry’ Northstar replies, handing his head. ‘Ah, but wait. I will need my swords’ Nightcrawler announces. ‘Oh, come on, not ag-’ Jean-Paul complains, as Kurt teleports them both away.
Anole is on the ground, hands over his head, as the many Noams stand over him, they all declare ‘Can you imagine if you had just been a little luckier at the genetic lottery, this could have worked out’. A boy with brown hair wearing Anole’s clothes steps into the group, and one of the Noams tells Anole that he could have been normal, he could have been beautiful. ‘You could have had anything you ever wanted…’ the brunette boy declares, as he takes one of the Noams, pulling him closer, and they kiss. Another of the Noams then lunges towards Anole, who is crying, and leaps to his feet, ‘No…no no no NO!’ he screams, as he runs away.
An instand later, there is a burst of brimstone and Kurt and Jean-Paul arrive, and Northstar speeds into the pursuing Noam and knocks him aside. ‘This is very strange…even for Chelsea’ Nightcrawler remarks, observing the strangely bright and distorted surroundings. Under the moonlight, Lady Mastermind stands on a rooftop and smirks. ‘There you are…’ she declares as she raises her hands, and Northstar and Nightcrawler look up and see the one-time X-Man.
Suddenly, Nightcrawler is a young mutant with an angry mob rushing towards him, holding their pitchforks, one of them shouts ‘It’s a demon! A monster!’ as another exclaims ‘Kill it before it kills us!’ They surround him, and the young Kurt calls out ‘Brothers, sisters…I’m not here to hurt you!’ But one of the angry mob shouts ‘Rip out its tongue! Don’t listen to its lies!’ ‘No!’ the young Kurt pleads. ‘I am a man! I am just a man!’ he exclaims. ‘Are you so certain?’ a voice asks - it’s Azazel, Kurt’s father. Kurt teleports - but finds himself with another mob approaching him. ‘What in the world…?’ he wonders, appearing in his current form. Lady Mastermind steps through the mob, ‘No…I lost you for a second. You can’t escape that easily again’ she snarls, pointing a finger at Nightcrawler, the second mob lunge towards him. Kurt stands his ground and holds his swords ready, smiling, he declares that he knew they could come in handy.
‘Hello? Can you hear me? Why won’t you look at me?’ Northstar calls out to several figures who have their packs turned to him. ‘Oh, God. Just leave me alone…’ declares Northstar’s husband, Kyle, when Northstar puts his hand on Kyle’s shoulder. ‘Kyle…’ Northstar utters. ‘Don’t you understand why he’s going on all of those trips? He’s already sick of you. We all are’ Aurora, Northstar’s sister, exclaims as she turns to Kyle. ‘We pretend to put up with you, but the truth is, you’re unbearable’ Iceman announces, as Northstar looks around, perplexed. Nightcrawler then steps towards Northstar, ‘And even if I did like you, which I never have, I can barely look at you. Your life disgusts me, it always has disgusted me. And now you inflict it on children, like Vic-’ he begins, when, suddenly, the real Nightcrawler appears, and cuts the head off of his illusionary counterpart. ‘Well, that’s quite enough of that nonsense!’ Kurt exclaims.
The strange lights that had been surrounding the area vanish, and Jean-Paul asks ‘What’s happening? Why are there two…?’, to which Kurt announces that it is one of the Mastermind daughters, Regan Wyngarde, he believes, adding that she has seemed to have picked up a few new tricks. Kurt explains that that the illusions seem to be fueled by emotion, creating an echo chamber, difficult to escape, as they are built out of what one most fears. ‘Jean-Paul…do you really think so little of me?’ Kurt asks his teammate. ‘We…we were never close’ Jean-Paul reminds Nightcrawler, who points out that Jean-Paul always kept his distance, and he respected it. ‘And the church…’ Jean-Paul begins. ‘Jean-Paul, listen to me. I have been to Heaven. I remember you there, fighting beside me. That is all that matters’ Kurt declares, as Jean-Paul listens.
Both X-Men then turn their attention to the group of Noams, who are once again surrounding Anole. Nightcrawler leaps into the fray, using his sword he slices away at the copies of Noam, while Northstar speeds about, knocking3 the duplicates over. ‘None of this is real, Victor! Your fears are being given form. You have all the power here…’ Northstar calls out to Anole, before asking him what this is all about, and whether he is still afraid of waning to date a young man. ‘I’ve been there!’ Northstar reminds him. ‘I know what you’re going though. I can help! I know how it an eat at your -’ Northstar begins, but an angry Anole should ‘You think you know? YOU THINK YOU HAVE ANY IDEA?’ At this, Lady Mastermind smiles.
‘LOOK AT ME, JEAN-PAUL! I’M A MONSTER!’ Anole screams, declaring that people look at him and wonder if he feels slimy to the touch, or if they rub his scales the wrong way whether it scratches them like sandpaper. ‘You look like a freaking movie star!’ he tells Jean-Paul as the various Noams suddenly transform into many copies of Anole. The Anoles rush towards Northstar and Nightcrawler, and he exclaims that he wants someone to want to hold him, he wants someone to want to kiss him, that he falls for people every day and he can see it in their eyes - he can see what they think of him. ‘I’m nobody’s ideal! People talk about what’s under the skin, but at the end of the day they all just want to find somebody who feels normal. Who feels safe. That will never be me’. Anole tells Northstar not to dare tell him he understands. ‘You can’t understand. You never will’ Anole points out.
Suddenly, Nightcrawler teleports behind Anole, ‘And what about me, Victor?’ he asks. ‘Do you think I might know a thing or two about feeling like a monster?’ Anole turns to Nightcrawler, who walks over to the young mutant and puts his hands on Anole’s shoulders, telling him that it is difficult, it will always be difficult, and that he is sorry, but that is simply the truth. Kurt reveals that he remembers when he first fell in love, that he could barely bring himself to speak - as he looked like a demon and his hands were strange, his touch always alien. ‘How…how did you deal with it?’ Anole asks as the many Anole copies switch back to copies of Noam. Kurt smiles and tells Anole that one day he had an important realization, and remembered that he is quite simply amazing. ‘There is no one in the world like me, no one with my experiences, no one with my own particular opinions. My troubles…they simply make me stronger. They’ve given me other tools to work with’.
Nightcrawler continues, ‘I am fully, entirely me. And I am quite fond of that me. I wouldn’t want to be anyone else. Not for a moment’ he declares. ‘But…did you get the girl?’ Anole asks. ‘Oh, yes’ Kurt replies. ‘How?’ Anole enquires as Kurt starts to walk away from him. ‘Ah, you see, mein freund…when you look like you or me…you just need to be devilishly charming’. Nightcrawler then picks up one of the Noams in his arms, ‘Isn’t that right, Ms Wyngarde?’ he asks. Energy suddenly crackles around Noam, and the illusion fades - revealing Lady Mastermind in his place. ‘Get off of me!’ Regan snaps. She leaps out of Kurt’s arms, but Jean-Paul appears behind her and warns her that it would take him seconds to fly her up to ten thousand feet, and that he could let her fall for two minutes before he would have to catch her. ‘If I felt so inclined’ Jean-Paul adds.
Kurt asks Regan what it is she hopes to gain here, and Regan declares that her idiot sister has barely tapped the surface of what they could do, but she has been studying with telepaths around the world, pushing herself to the extremes, creating mind traps that people could never escape. ‘Perhaps you should have trained a bit longer’ Jean-Paul suggests. Kurt tells Regan that she must feel very proud, abusing a distraught teenage boy just to lure them out, trying to show off, and forcing the boy to face his insecurities despite not being able to face her own. ‘I don’ care about that boy’ Regan replies. ‘Yeah? Well, the feeling’s mutual’ Anole exclaims as he rushes up to Regan and punches her in the face, knocking her out. ‘Nice work’ Jean-Paul tells Victor, adding that they will get SHIELD to pick her up right away, before asking Victor if he is ready to go back to the school. But Anole announces that there is something he wants - needs - to do. ‘It’s a school night. There are rules…’ Jean-Paul begins, to which Nightcrawler exclaims that after a day like today, they can bend a rule or two.
Washington Square Park, sometime later, where a forlorn Noam sits on a park bench. ‘Uh, hey’ a voice calls out. ‘What the -’ Noam exclaims, looking up. ‘No, no, no…don’t freak out. I just want to say this before you see me’ the voice calls out from the tree. ‘My friends said I should be charming. I don’t know if I’m charming. I kinda talk a lot about a buncha different things, and I have no idea if any of them are interesting or not, but maybe they are?’ the voice continues, ‘I like you. I liked you since we first started chatting online. I know you know I’m a mutant, but I never showed you what I look like. So, uh…brace yourself’. Suddenly, Anole steps out of the tree: ‘Hey, Noam, I’m Victor. You’re cute. Want to ate me a little bit maybe?’ Noam stares back in silence, before pointing in another direction: ‘There…’ he declares.
‘You…you want me to go?’ Anole asks, hanging his head. Noam smiles: ‘What? No. There’s a coffee shop, like, right there. It’s not as good as the one I was going to take you to, but it has certain proximity benefits at the moment. Want to overdose on caffeine for a little bit?’ Noam asks, smiling. ‘Absolutely’ Victor smiles back. Then, as the sun shines through the trees and they walk towards the coffee shop, the boys hold hands.