It is a special night for the New Mutants and the youngest X-Man, Kitty Pryde, as Amalie Hogarth, principal of Salem Center High, invited them to the High School’s spring mixer. Magik teleports the excited mutants and their teacher outside the high school, where they quickly change into their formal clothes. While they change, Dani expresses dislike at having to hide who they truly are. She’s proud of who she is. She’d like to show it. Sam agrees, but reminds her of the consequences. Doug tells both of them to stop it; they’re here to have fun.
Very quickly the mutants mingle, trying to have a good time. Some are better at mingling at others. A few local kids make fun of Sam. Witnessing this, Amara is fuming, remarking that such insults should be answered in kind or blood. They’re just words and he’s heard worse, Sam replies. Besides, he figures he has the last laugh, since their favorite rockstar, Lila Cheney, is his girlfriend. If those creeps knew that, they’d just die.
He asks Amara for a dance. She hesitates, as she never learned this in Nova Roma. He reminds her she isn’t there anymore and sweeps her off. However, as they begin, the song ends. Just his luck, Sam laughs.
Kitty Pryde, in the meantime, is in a poor mood. The boy who was dancing with her before just used her to get closer to Illyana. Sourly, Kitty thinks that she’d have a better time dating her pet dragon.
Warlock and Doug watch proceedings, both Kitty’s misery and Robero flirting with a pretty local girl. Warlock is keen on watching their social interaction. Doug steps on his foot, reminding him to act human in public.
They notice Dani in trouble as she is being accosted by a local tough guy. Warlock turns into a bigger guy and warns him off. He gets the message and quickly leaves. He never realized letting Warlock watch that Bowery Boys / Bogart / Cagney triple feature would come in so handy, Doug observes wryly. My heroes Dani jokes. Warlock asks her for a dance and she thanks him, but declines.
Magneto aka “Michael Xavier” sees Dani leaving and she explains that she feels tired and is heading home. She thanks Ms. Hogarth for inviting them before she leaves. On the empty parking lot, she muses that Magneto looks as out of place here as she feels. She wonders if taking over as their headmaster is more than he bargained for.
She moans, still suffering from the noise of the party. And she hates crowds. A natural result of growing up solitary in the mountains Also she sensed the weirdest vibration in the air, like feeling a bad storm coming. What will happen will happen, she sighs. With no one in sight, she feels safe to whistle down her flying horse Brightwind.
Before she leaves, she notices a bumper sticker on a car: X-Factor – we take care of mutants the old-fashioned way – permanently!!. “Cute,” she thinks bitterly. She saw Bumper stickers like that in Colorado. Only instead of mutants they said redskins. They fly off as she muses sadly that some things and attitudes never change.
She doesn’t know that someone did see her. A slightly nerdy looking boy marvels at her. Is she like him, he wonders as he creates a small, 3-dimensional light hologram of Dani and Brightwind, though he didn’t see her properly.
Suddenly, Ms. Hogarth calls over from the other side of the parking lot, having seen a light. Larry quickly destroys the image. Ms. Hogarth introduces Larry Bodine, a recent transfer student, to Magneto. Larry reacts sullenly.
Amelie tells him she understands but he should rejoin the party in order to make some friends. At the door, they see an equally sullen Kitty, who just wants to go home. Amelie suggests she first share a dance with Larry. Why not, Kitty shrugs and draws Larry inside. She handled that well, Magneto observes, before they start discussing the vagaries of teenage behavior.
Inside, Kitty slowly begins to warm to Larry’s geeky charm as he gets her glass of punch.
At the punch bowl, some other kids tell anti mutants jokes. One jock turns to Larry and remarks that he’s such a rat-faced, geeky, little dweeb, he’s gotta be a mutie. Larry denies it vehemently and quickly leaves to bring Kitty the punch. The jock, Rick, observes that they sure hit a nerve. He suggests threatening Bodine with those professional mutant hunters, X-Factor. One of the girls, Shirley, asks Rick to give Larry a break. He tells the girl nothing’s gonna happen except getting a few laughs at Bodine’s expense. Where’s the harm?
Sometime later, as the dance winds down, the New Mutants and Kitty decide to head over to Harry’s Hidaway to continue the party a little while longer. Clearly tipsy from the spiked punch, Kitty invites Larry, whom she has warmed up to along. Larry feels the same way. As he gathers his things, he finds a note – actually a flier of X-Factor with a handwritten message: we know who you are. We know what you do and we’re gonna tell X-FACTOR, mutie!! Kitty asks him if he’s ready. Shaken, Larry hides the note and pretends nothing is wrong.
Much later at Harry’s Kitty and Larry are still dancing. Warlock remarks that he recollects strong emotional attachment between Kitty and Doug, to which Doug explains defensively that they are friends. That’s as far as it goes.
The others are at the table and Sam also remarks that Kitty and Larry seem to have hit it off. Illyana chides him that her roomie has better taste than that, causing Rahne to defend Larry whom she considers a prefect gentleman. Amara reminds Rahne that Kitty isn’t simply a girl though. Their powers set them apart. How would Larry react if he learned what they could do? That Kitty could walk through walls? He’s so high on cloud nine, he probably wouldn’t notice or care if she did, Sam comments wryly.
Larry is indeed ecstatic and nervous as hell about what he should do. Hold Kitty, kiss Kitty, what if he does anything wrong? As they sit down, he wonders of he should make her a light sculpture. That’d impress her and her friends. Or scare them. This reminds him of the X-Factor flier. Who planted it? Who knows the truth about him? Suppose Kitty hates muties?
Earth to Larry, Kitty jokes. Is he still here? Nope, just beamed up and warped away, he replies, wondering whether he should trust her. If he has a problem, she’s willing to listen, Kitty offers. That’s the spirit, Florence Prydengale, Illyna mocks. Or is it Kitty Freud? Kitty orders her to put a sock in it.
Larry tries to change the subject and begins to tell the “How many muties does it take to screw in a lightbulb” joke. Instead of laughter, he receives icy silence. Believing he told it wrong, Larry begins another mutant joke. “A mutie walks into a bar.…” Speaking of walking, it’s past time they were on their way home, Sam announces. Larry gets that they are really angry as everybody leaves. But he doesn’t understand. He holds Kitty arm, asking if he can call her. Angrily, she states that she though he was a nice kid. Her mistake. A miserable Larry is left alone. Only Rahne shoots a pitying glance at him.
Larry doesn’t feel any better after the long, bitter, miserable walk across town, his hand constantly reflexively clenching the X-Factor. Flier. “Deal with mutants,” it says. But how? He’s reached his home. Will they take his power away? Is that possible? Or put him in jail? Kill him? What gives them the right? He has never hurt anybody! It isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair That’s what dad always says. He should know with him for a son.
He ponders on whether or not to call his parents. It’s an important trip for his folks. What does he say? Hi, I’m feeling lousy and lonely. Should he tell him what he is or clam up like usual? Angrily, he slams down the phone. He should be able to take care of himself.
He stalks to his folks’ liquor cabinet. Maybe he’d feel better drunk; he’s never done it before. He tries the brandy and spits it out, deciding it tastes awful. Walking up to his room, he berates himself for being such a wimp that he can’t even get drunk.
He enters his room where he has a light statue of a space shuttle. He tries to create a holographic image of Kitty, but can’t focus properly. His thoughts turn back to X-Factor. He feels like a criminal. He’d rather be dead than have no powers.
Outside in a tree, Wolfsbane sits, finding her suspicion proven. Larry is a mutant. She jumps down, looking forward to telling the others the next day. She knew he didn’t mean those words. But as Rahne leaves, the phone rings. “We called ‘em mutant,” comes an anonymous voice. “X-Factor’s on their way. You’re done for.”
On the following morning at Xavier’s School, the New Mutants and Kitty are clowning around while Magma uses her lava form to cook breakfast. Rahne joins them excited to share her news, but Magneto enters and interrupts her. He has an announcement to make. He has just been informed by Ms. Hogarth that Larry Bodine has committed suicide.
Later, the mutants are in a Danger Room session. Douglas and Dani in the observation booth discuss Larry. He hung himself, Doug remarks. What could be so awful to make someone do that? He doesn’t understand. Dani admits she sensed a wrongness at the dance. It must have been a valkyrie premonition of Larry’s death. She might have been able to help, but she didn’t. She’s learned painfully that she can’t save everyone.
Down in the Danger Room, Illyana evades Sunspot’s attacks via teleporting. Sunspot announces that he thinks Larry was a coward. He could not face the real world, so he ran away. Illyana clearly doesn’t care. You live, you die, it happens. His problem, not theirs.
Sunspot tries to grab here again, only for her to teleport them both to Limbo. A moment later, they return with Sunspot all trussed up thanks to Illyana’s demons. Angrily, he bursts the chains.
Warlock too muses that he’s learned that one’s lifeglow is the most precious of all things. Why would personLarry extinguish his, especially without offering energy to another to sustain him or her?
Perhaps he had no one, Amara muses as she finishes off a Sentinel. Among her people taking one’s life is no disgrace, but being among the New Mutants has taught her that there are always possibilities and that it’s the worst crime to yield to despair.
Meanwhile across town, Kitty secretly enters the Bodines’ home, finding it neat but not very lived in. She needs to know if her behavior drove Larry over the edge. She phases up to his room and is in for a surprise: a solid light hologram of Challenger. She touches it and it is destroyed, disintegrated. Acting without thought destroyed it. Like Larry. And for a time she cries, then sits silent and sad. Then cries some more.
Curled up in his armchair, she finds a note, an ad flier for X-Factor. She finds Larry’s writing on the back: They’re coming to get me! Where can I go? What can I do? What’s the point if I can’t create? Why do they hate me? What have I done? I’m alone. Nothing left. No way out. I’m sorry.
Oh, Larry, she sighs. She’s sorry too. They never knew he was a mutant. She did, Rahne states and reveals herself. She followed him home last night. Turning to her transitional form, she explains that Larry seemed so sad and hurt. What he said to them was stupid and cruel, but she sensed he had a good heart. She meant to tell the others, but everyone was in bed when she returned and she fell asleep and in the morning it was too late.
It’s not her fault, Kitty replies to Rahne. He was scared, boxed in. If anyone’s responsible, it-s the people who sent him this. Rahne saw what he could have done. All that beauty lost forever. What a waste.
Rahne smells the perpetrators’ scent on the paper and sincerely vows to bring them to justice. She howls and, outside the house, Larry’s parents have just arrived hear it. The mother wants to go away, but her husband tells her they must face this. Their son is dead.
The trail leads Rahne to the Salem Center mall. Day collapses into night and her rage grows. It wasn’t so long ago that she was hunted across the highlands of her native Scotland. She’d done no harm, yet these people whom she’d known her entire life sought her death. Because she was different and therefore to them a creature of evil. Thanks to her guardian, Moira MacTaggart, she escaped to join the New Mutants. And find the friendship and family she’d always yearned for. Larry Bodine wasn’t so lucky. Her fate could have been his. Or his fate, hers.
Rahne’s ultrakeen senses in her transitional form lead her to her quarry, the four kids sitting in the mall’s café. “Her prey,” Rahne growls. One of the boys hears her. Some dog, one of the girl replies. Who cares? It was a werewolf, the second boy deadpans. Come to rip their hearts out. Is he satisfied? No less than they deserve. Roger tells Dina not to get mental. How should they know Bodine would freak like that? Diana screams that she warned them. Peter retorts that they didn’t even know the freak. And besides he really was a mutie, so where’s the harm? That kind’s better off dead. Simone tells him he’s sick.
Rahne gets ready to attack. Is she sure she wants to go through with this? a voice asks. Kitty, Dani and Sam have found her. Rahne demands that they pay for killing Larry. Dani tells her she knows how she feels. She shares Rahne’s thoughts. That’s how they found her. But she should really listen to those kids. They’re paying, even though some of them haven’t realized it yet and they’ll continue to for the rest of their lives. Killing them would put an end to their punishment. These are just words! Rahne shouts. She needs to do something. They all do, Kitty agrees. They can’t bring Larry back, but maybe they can ensure he didn’t die for nothing.
The next day at Larry’s memorial in Salem Center High School. Behind the stage, Sam, Magneto and Dani have accompanied Kitty. “What is she going to say?” Sam asks. Kitty admits she doesn’t know. In their own way, they are as scared as Larry. They want to be accepted, lead normal lives, but how can they if they keep hiding behind masks and secret identities and the walls of their school? Dani and Sam promise her they’ll back her all the way, even if she has to tell the world who they really are. That’s the point, Kitty tells them. They have each other to lean on. Larry was alone.
Like she is now, she thinks as she steps up the podium, every student’s eye on her. She wishes she could just phase right through the podium, but she hasn’t got the right to endanger her fellow X-Men and New Mutants. She’s terrified. As she puts on her glasses for the first time, she wonders how she looks.
She begins to speak, explaining that some of them may know her, most don’t. She speaks because she knew Larry Bodine best. But that isn’t saying much. She hardly knew him at all. If she had, maybe they wouldn’t be at this memorial.
Who was he then that they gather to mourn him? Who is she? A four-eyed, flat-chested brat, chick, brain, hebe, stuck up, Xavier’s snob freak. She doesn’t like the words. She could use nicer; she’s heard worse. All of them have. They hear them so often, so casually that maybe they’ve forgotten the power they have to hurt. Nigger, spic, wop, slope, faggot, mutie. The list is so long and so cruel. They’re labels, put-downs. And they hurt. But usually they laugh them off or with back with words or fists or suffer in silence.
Trouble was when somebody labeled Larry Bodine a mutie, they hit home. Because he was. His power created beauty, that’s it. He did with light and color what Mozart did with music. And he wanted nothing more than to be accepted by his peers. And possibly even be liked. Isn’t that what any of them really want? To have friends? Not to be alone? If they are lucky they have someone to turn to. Larry didn’t. He thought if people knew the truth, they’d stop seeing him and only see the label. So he hid the truth and lived in terror of being discovered. He even joined in when others put mutants down. What matter the cost to his soul if it made his life a little better. That’s the tragedy, their shame.
She urges them to think of what they say. Imagine it being said about them. Try to be on the receiving end. If they are to learn anything from Larry’s death, it should be this. They want to know who she is? She’s Katherine Pryde. That’s the only thing that matters. The rest are just labels.