It was springtime in Antarctica, yet the wind blew bitter cold. And far below those barren wastes, Quicksilver was very hungry.
"Spookylandia," Mastermind intoned. "Sugar planet."
"Sugar," Blob concurred dreamily, enraptured by the illusion that had been conjured up around them: great mountains of licorice jellybeans; red apples bobbing in a rich golden caramel sea.
"Planet?" Pietro arched a doubting eyebrow, even as he discreetly wiped the drool from his chin.
Mastermind dispelled the phantom bounty with an aggrieved flick of his bony wrist. "Country. Whatever. My point, dear Pietro, is this: Spookylandia produces over 98% of the world's Hallowe'en candy. And within the fortnight, that candy will be ours!"
"Bwahaha," Toad appended helpfully.
"Fine. I'm listening."
"All right. Step one--"
"I love Hallowe'en," said Jamie Madrox.
"Shut up," Monet said. "I'm reading fanfic."
"--and by the time they realize white mice don't have anything close to that level of abstract reasoning, we'll be rolling in Tootsie Pops back here in lair sweet lair."
Toad and Blob applauded politely. Wanda looked ill.
Pietro turned to Magneto, who was lounging disconsolately on the only intact settee left in this frozen metal dump, nursing a pint glass of something amber and antiseptic. "Father, would you care to weigh in on this monumentally idiotic plot?" he asked.
Magneto sighed heavily and downed his drink. "I think with a little shtreamlining it could all work out very well for everyone. Now be a good minion and fetch Daddy more Bourbon before he gutsh you like a bony little fish."
"There you have it, kid," Mastermind smirked as Pietro topped off the old man's glass with hooch he'd scrounged superquick from the deepest recesses of the lair's echoingly empty supply vaults. "Lord Daddy's decree. Shall we proceed?"
Quicksilver sighed. "I suppose we shall."
Wanda cleared her throat nervously. "If you'll all excuse me for a moment, I've got to go, uh--make an appointment with my hairstylist?"
Meanwhile, back at their
lair headquarters, X-Factor were planning the party of the year. In the normal course of events, said shindig would have been hosted by Doctor Strange, but the man had recently come down with a bad case of teleportitis, and all his affairs were on hold while he attempted to track down a tengu to eat. "All right, people," Monet was saying. "This thing is gonna be a big deal, so we're gonna need a big room. Big, and, given the guest list, hopefully fireproof."
"Xavier's?" Siryn suggested.
"Good thought, but I think it's destroyed at the moment."
Strong Guy scratched his skull. "Tony's?" he said.
Monet shook her head. "You know we're not welcome there after the incident."
"Right, right. Ah well. Worth it. I still say that unquenchable hell-vortex brings a certain exotic flair to his rooftop gardens that had been previously lacking."
"Wow, Guido, explain to us again how you didn't deserve to be flunked out of interior decorating school." Monet massaged her temples. "Come on, people, work with me. Give me some practical suggestions--"
"Peter Parker's basement?"
Monet threw up her hands in frustration. "My god. Were you all born this useless or did it take years of dedication to your craft?"
"Oh, definitely the second one," Shatterstar said. Longshot nodded in agreement.
Luckily, before Monet could punch either of them through a wall, the telephone rang. She snatched it up gratefully. "X-Factor Investigations. How may your soapy supernatural sufferings serve to distract us from our own?" She listened thoughtfully. "Spookylandia, huh? Yeah, sure, I've heard of it. Got a little summer home there, as a matter of fact." Monet looked exquisitely bored as the voice on the other end of the line responded. "Fine, fine. See you there." She hung up.
Jamie looked up curiously from the sewing machine manual he'd been poring over. "Who was--"
"Let's just say I've managed to kill two birds with one stone," Monet interrupted smugly.
"Poor birds," said Shatterstar, glancing around the room curiously in search of the corpses. "Are we going to eat them?" He turned to Rictor. "Is this one of those bird-sacrificing holidays?"
"Shut up and pack," said Monet.
And that was how they all ended up going to Spookylandia.
Wanda sighed. "Come on, Daddy, be reasonable." Quicksilver snorted.
Magneto scowled. "If Magneto cannot go as Slutty Namor, then Magneto shall not go at all."
"Fine," Quicksilver said. "Let him be the Fish-King, pre-appended slutty not required. It's not like 'Lord Magneto' will be much help anyway."
Toad, the Blob, and Mastermind all quickly looked away at that comment, becoming engrossed in either their own costumes or, in Mastermind's case, the blueprints of Spookylandia's candy fortress he had scrawled on a napkin. Magneto huffed.
Back in slightly less dingy environs, Jamie was staring fixedly at a very large, very flat-screened television.
"This movie sucks," said Monet, as she slid on fake-blood-covered grey-green arm sleeves.
"The Seven Samurai is a classic," Jamie said, putting the finishing touches on the handle of a sword that perfectly mirrored the one up on the screen. He raised it for inspection, gazing at it like a proud father.
"Where did you manage to get such authentic katanas?" asked Shatterstar.
"You know that guy?" Jamie said. He looked back and forth, apparently worried that speaking his name out loud would surely conjure said individual from the obnoxious depths of hell. "You know. The one in red. The red one?"
"No. You know. Never shuts up? Like, never?"
Shatterstar paused. "...Spider-Man?"
"He wields katanas? Katanas that look like these ones?" Jamie pressed. "And also he's not Spider-Man?"
"Yeah. He let me borrow a few. Well, seven. Quid pro quo, he said, something like that, I don't speak Latin, but I don't think he does either. So, yeah," said Jamie, bringing the katana in his hand down upon the very expensive coffee table in front of him, easily cleaving it in twain. "How do you like my costume...s?"
"Dot dot dot ess?" asked Strong Guy.
"Ahem," came a chorus of voices from across the beautifully appointed living room.
"My coffee table!" screamed Monet. "You bastard!" She turned to the dupes. "Dot dot dot ess!"
Shatterstar turned to admire the full regiment of incredibly accurate samurai, all sporting similar expressions of glee and similar deadly katanas. "That looks like it must have been a lot of work," he said.
"Oh, it was. Especially since I gotta watch these guys like a hawk. Layla said she'd help out with the sewing but only if I agreed to come as seven slutty samurai. And, well," he said, "a man's gotta draw the line somewhere."
It had taken some time, and a bit of bloodshed, but finally the Brotherhood stood all arrayed in their Hallowe'en finery, prepared to begin Operation: Sugar Jack.
Mastermind, costumed via illusion as Some Dude Way Cooler Than Mastermind, cleared his throat. "Okay, now, make a wormhole."
Magneto scowled at him with bleary disdain. "I beg your pardon?"
"You know." Mastermind made some wholly unexplanatory hand gestures. "Bend the spacetime continuum to its breaking point."
Magneto grabbed him by the throat. "I'll not hear such talk in front of the children."
Quicksilver gritted his teeth. "Oh for the love of--Wanda? A little help?"
Wanda, dressed as Various Mismatched Items Or Whatever, nodded and stepped forward, wiggling her fingers. A pink-edged portal appeared, through which they could see the forbidding shores of Spookylandia. "After you," she said to Mastermind, as Magneto projected him violently through the unnatural aperture. Toad, lovely pink princess outfit sparkling with every movement, followed close behind.
Quicksilver was next, grabbing Magneto's cape and pulling him after.
Wanda looked expectantly at Blob. "I don't think I can fit," he said.
"Of course you can," she said, grabbing one glowing edge of the portal and pulling it further open by way of demonstration.
Blob stood his ground and looked at her levelly. "I'm gonna level with you, Wanda: I know damn well you don't have a hairstylist, because no hairstylist on God's green earth would ever condone that."
Wanda touched her sparkly red head-adornment self-consciously. "Daddy says it looks cool. But listen, let me ex--"
"No, you listen: you let me opt out of this fiasco on account of not being able to fit through the hexhole, and I keep my mouth shut, and also, you're listening to fashion advice from your father? The man wears his underpants on the outside for god's sake--"
"I'll bring you back some mini Mars Bars," Wanda called over her shoulder as she dove into the collapsing portal.
"--and don't even get me started on the cape..."
"Longshot. Put on your damn costume."
Longshot looked down as though half expecting to find himself accidentally naked. "I'm wearing my damn costume," he replied after confirming his fully-clothed status.
"Point taken, alien airhead. Monet, you want to help us out here?"
"Not in the least. But fine." Monet tapped her finger to her lips thoughtfully. "Longshot, tonight you are expected to dress up as something other than yourself. Perhaps even something make believe. Like see how I'm a zombie nurse?"
Longshot continued to look nonplussed. "Zombie nurses aren't make believe. I've fought them. More than once."
"Ah, but were they slutty zombie nurses?"
Longshot thought for a moment. "No."
"So there you have it. Formulated. Put on a costume. Other than your own. But make it slutty. Anyquestionsdidn'tthinksolet'sgetmoving."
And that was how Longshot ended up going as Slutty Quicksilver.
Captain America came as a ghost. Jamie genuinely feared that Monet, the good hostess, might sprain something in her face as she smiled at the man and searched for something nice to say about his white poly-cotton sheet with lopsided eyeholes. "Charmingly simple," she settled upon at length.
"He is, isn't he?" Iron Man said, stepping into the foyer. He was dressed as Pepper. Pepper was dressed as Salt. Monet grimaced politely again.
Across the room, Spider-Man was appealing to reason. "It's ironic," he said. "Because I don't like him. Get it?"
"Who the hell are you supposed to be?" Wolverine asked for the third time that evening.
Wolverine let out a long, low whistle. "That's stupider than salt and pepper over there," he said, jabbing over his shoulder in Tony and Pepper's direction. "And that's a hell of a feat."
"That's big talk for a man in such a little tutu."
In a far secluded corner of the ballroom, Samurai Two and Samurai Four were sucking face. Jamie would have had more time to be horrified at them if he wasn't so busy being horrified at Samurai Three. He watched in dismay as Samurai Three hacked pumpkins savagely with his katana, a mad grin on his pulp-spattered visage and seeds in his teeth. Three definitely seemed the most dangerous of the lot, but still Jamie was deeply reluctant to reabsorb him after all the hard work he'd put into these costumes.
As for the rest of them: a terrified Samurai Five was being pressed up against wall by Layla, who had come as a Japanese schoolgirl. Samurai Six was busy chugging the punchbowl. And Samurai Seven was currently hitting on Monet in her zombie nurse getup. Jamie hoped he wouldn't end up being required to mercy-absorb poor old Seven.
In a slightly closer, slightly less secluded corner stood Rictor, uncostumed, sullenly gnawing a candy skull. He alone amongst them had flat out refused to dress up, even when threatened by Monet, declaring that his people's holiday ("Mardi Gras," suggested Guido) was way better.
Shatterstar had shrugged and agreed to join Siryn in her two-part kelpie costume, but about ten minutes into the party she had bailed on him. "Couldn't breathe in that thing," she declared. "I'm, uh, I'm a Banshee now."
"You're dressed up as your father?" Jamie raised an eyebrow. "No offense but that's utterly creepy."
"A banshee. You know what a banshee is, don't you?"
"Of course. It's, um...your father?"
"You're an idiot, Madrox."
"Actually at the moment I'm seven idiots."
Rictor frowned at Shatterstar. "Aren't you going to take that thing off? You look like a horse's ass."
"Kelpie's ass," Shatterstar corrected him.
Strong Guy was dressed as a bunny. Possibly slutty. Certainly disconcerting. He grinned at Monet. "So I heard you like bunnies."
Monet fixed him with a level gaze. "You heard wrong."
Strong Guy pouted.
Suddenly Monet espied Cyclops glowering at Arcade (who had come as Slutty Dr. Doom) "How dare he show his face here--"
"'Scuse me a moment." She brushed Samurai Seven aside as she swooped in quickly to grab Cyclops firmly by the arm and pull him away from the encroaching confrontation. "No fists in shown faces tonight," she told him firmly. "A good hostess must strictly enforce worldwide truce for a soiree of this magnitude."
Cyclops attempted to shrug her off. "A party is no excuse for shirking one's duties to--"
Samurai Seven rolled his eyes. "What a surprise--Cyclops appears to have come as Captain Stick-Up-His-Ass."
Longshot looked at Monet. "I thought you said we weren't supposed to dress up as ourselves."
Cyclops scowled. "Give me a break. I'm obviously Julius Caesar."
"Ooh, spooky," said Monet.
Jamie's watch alarm sounded. The informant had said that the Brotherhood would be penetrating Vault 666 at the stroke of midnight. Well technically she had said "twenty-four hundred hours", but who does something at twenty-four hundred hours on Hallowe'en? "It's time," Jamie shouted. "Front and centre, samurai!"
Three and Seven jogged cheerfully over, and saluted him only mostly sarcastically. Two and Four never stopped making out, but both did manage to free up a hand just long enough to flip him the bird. Six was unconscious under the buffet table, wearing the empty punchbowl like a hat. And Five was nowhere to be seen. Nor was Layla.
"Well that's just great," said Jamie. "Three samurai."
"Isn't it?" giggled Samurai Three. "I can't wait to kill them all."
"Change of plans," said Jamie. "Three, you stay here, help Monet guard the place." He turned to Monet. "Indmay the emainingray upesday," he hissed. "Especially Eethray." Then he turned to address the rest of the room. "Siryn, Strong Guy, Rictor, Shatterstar, Longshot. With me."
Mastermind stepped triumphantly over the threshold of Vault 666, and then fell to his knees, a look of absolute horror on his face. "There's nothing here!"
"No duh, Mastermind--you scheduled your great candy heist for the midnight after Hallowe'en," Jamie said, stepping into frame behind the gathered Brotherhood. "Hey, Quickie, long time no oh my god what are you wearing?"
"My Hallowe'en costume," Pietro said defensively, wrapping the red cape tighter around himself.
"Which just happens to be your sister's non-Hallowe'en costume, dear lord, my poor sweet innocent eyes?"
"Yes, well, somebody'd squandered every last dime of the Brotherhood's emergency cash on divesting himself of his last shreds of dignity," Pietro said, side-eyeing Magneto.
"Oh, yes, that twelve dollars really could have gotten you a much classier costume," Mastermind said.
"We couldn't even get the return deposit on it," Wanda said sadly. "He just threw every last bottle at portraiture."
"How can a bunch of yo-yos in simultaneous possession of no morals whatsoever and a guy who can open bank vaults with his mind be so freaking poor all the time?" Strong Guy asked.
By way of response Pietro gestured at the dishevelled figure at his feet who was drawing little hearts in the candy-dust with CX+EL in them and then crossing them out angrily. "Dear Leader isn't the best at keeping track of our expenses."
Siryn leaned forward to inspect the artist of those creepy little hate hearts, then reeled back. "Oh and who's this little trick-or-treater? Let's see. Equal parts arrogant and slovenly? Less murderous, more directionless? Ah, of course. Drunken Magneto. A damned impressive one."
"I'm Slutty Namor, you imbecile!" Magneto said, wobbling to his feet. He pointed a finger about two inches to the left of where Siryn was standing. "And don't you... mishtake it."
"Oh, the costume. Right. I was going to get to that."
Wanda giggled. Toad and Mastermind ducked and covered. Quicksilver sighed.
Jamie cleared his throat, thinking uneasily about Three's cold, crazy eyes and sharp sword. "All right, introductions and insults, check. Shall we fight?"
"No," said Wanda.
"Eh," said Quicksilver.
"Sic 'em!" shouted Mastermind, shoving Magneto forward.
Magneto threw up on Samurai Seven's samurai shoes before passing out. Toad and Mastermind vanished in the manner of startled cats.
Jamie sighed, reabsorbing the dupe in preference to cleaning his shoes . "You know, I was really looking forward to wiping the floor with you guys and then laughing at Cyclops about it for the next few years, but this is just embarrassing for everyone."
"We're usually way cooler than this," Quicksilver said, without much conviction.
"Well, I guess we'd better get back to the party. You guys coming?"
Wanda glanced questioningly at Quicksilver. Quicksilver snorted disdainfully.
The party had, unsurprisingly, turned violent by the time the six of them (and the twins, dragging their father's limp body behind them) returned. Really the only twist was that Three had apparently not instigated it. Rather the universal consensus was that some fool in a toga and some idiot in a bedsheet had both gone for the last baby carrot on the vegetable platter, whereupon all hell had broken loose.
They were just coming up the front drive when the explosion occurred.
Two and Four, though grievously wounded, were still making out as Jamie reabsorbed them.
"Sorry about your house, Monet," he said.
"Don't be. I'm going to miss paying outrageous Spookylandian property taxes on that eyesore, but hopefully the massive insurance settlement will help ease my pain," Monet said, flicking a stray bit of flaming ember off her shoulder. She raised a hand to catch a passing high-five.
"Great party, Monet!" said Tony, a sentiment echoed by others who had dragged themselves out of the rubble. Quicksilver watched the last remains of the candy's burning wrappers rain from the sky and sighed.
The hiss of the beer cans pop tab echoed through the living room before being subsumed by gunshots. Unlike usual, the gunshots were coming from a very small, very tube television and not any other room in the
"This movie is so much better," Jamie said, his voice full of wonder.
"I agree completely," said Longshot as, on the screen, Coburn whipped his knife into his sore-losing challengers chest.
While the man on screen collapsed in a cowboy-booted heap, Jamie grabbed a handful of popcorn from the bowl that Rictor had encircled in his arms, gleefully munching it as the movie played on. Layla leaned over Strong Guy to reach for some of the ever-untouched candy kisses. The half-finished pizza box was balanced neatly on Siryn's knee.
"I thought you said this holiday was supposed to be much more enjoyable," Shatterstar said, looking at Rictor.
Rictor looked at him and shrugged. "Isn't it?"
"Well," Shatterstar said, settling closer into the couch. "Yes."
Monet was definitely looking forward to not celebrating Christmas.