DISCLAIMER: The people belong to Marvel. The animals belong to me. The weird, warped sense of humour that put them together also belongs to me. I'm making no money from this at all.
The Beast knew they were in trouble when the cow flew into the window.
He didn't know it was a cow at first. All he heard was the juddering crash that seemed almost to rock the mansion, then the tinkling of broken glass, followed shortly by a thud.
He hit the intercom in the lab and shouted, "We're under attack!" and then ran as quickly as he could to the second-floor where the crash had come from. Expecting to find a hall-way full of enemies or flames or something similar, he was startled to discover nothing but a heap of shattered glass and a gaping hole in the window. Puzzled, he looked out of the window, expecting to see Magneto or someone hovering outside but there was nothing. Even as his brow wrinkled in wonderment, he was joined by Logan, wearing only his underpants and with his claws extended.
"What's up?" growled Wolverine. "Who's attacking us?"
"I don't know," replied the Beast. His eyes scanned the horizon again and then finally looked down at the ground beneath the window.
"Oh my stars and garters," he whispered and Logan leaned out of the window to see what had so startled the Beast.
For a very long moment there was a deathly silence. Finally, Logan said, very quietly, "Do you see what I see?"
"I do, indeed," replied the Beast, his voice unnaturally calm.
"It's a cow, isn't it?" asked Logan, his voice equally calm.
"It's a cow," confirmed Hank.
There was a very long pause. "It has wings, doesn't it?"
"It does, indeed, have wings," agreed Hank.
"It flew into the window and knocked itself out, didn't it?" asked Logan.
"Oh my," replied Hank. "Oh my, yes."
For a long time there was quiet, and Hank felt his eyes getting rounder and rounder as he gazed down on the rather pretty Friesian cow that was lying unconscious under the window. Or, more particularly, at the enormous, white, sail-like wings that sprouted from its shoulders and covered the ground around it.
Finally, Logan harrumphed beside him and drew the Beast's attention away from the cow. "If cows are goin' to start sproutin' wings," said Logan, sheathing his claws, "flying the Blackbird is goin' to be a bitch."
Helplessly, Hank started to laugh. It was a very, very long time before he could stop.
Hank trudged towards the hanger with a bucket of water in each hand. The cow seemed to drink an awful lot of water -- and eat an awful lot of food. Hank assumed it was because of the extra body-mass of her wings requiring more energy.
One cow, he thought. One cow with wings and Xavier's School becomes a barnyard.
It seemed that way. The Blackbird, despite Scott's protests, had been evicted from the hangar and a cosy stall built for the cow. A roster for feeding and watering had been drawn up amongst the X-Men who seemed to have suddenly become rather smellier as a group. Only Archangel, citing a never-previously-mentioned allergy to cow-hair, was not suddenly a nurse-maid to a cow. Privately, the Beast suspected Warren was too jealous to spend much time with the cow. Warren's wings had been the loveliest in existence, shimmering white angel wings -- until the cow came along. Her wings, enormous, glistening things, like the sails of an ocean-going yacht, made Warren's seem sad and positively drab in comparison.
The Beast giggled suddenly. The X-Men had seen the way the cow kept her wings clean -- the convoluted body, the enormous, rasping tongue running along each feather until they shone. The sight had led to much speculation as to how exactly Warren kept his wings clean -- most of it conducted over the breakfast table with Warren present. The comments had been hysterical and increasingly vulgar -- until, after Rogue had made a particularly ribald suggestion involving Psylocke, a shower and a piece of rubber hosing, the two being teased had united in threatening death on anyone speculating further on the subject. The remembrance of the scene was enough to make the Beast laugh even now.
His laughter cut off abruptly as a voice interrupted his train of thought.
"Excuse me," it said. "I was wondering if you knew where I could find Daisy?"
The Beast was so startled he dropped one of the buckets of water -- directly onto his toes. With a yelped oath, he began to hop, clutching at his foot whilst attempting not to spill the other bucket of water. He managed to hop in a circle, but still couldn't see where the voice had come from.
"Who are you?" he asked. "Where are you? Who's Daisy?"
There was a sigh in the voice as it said, "She's a cow. Fairly large thing. Headed in your general direction about three days ago. We're hoping she made it here unharmed."
Hank was becoming more than a little suspicious that the person wasn't showing themselves. "Why do you think we'd have a cow?" he asked.
This time it was a definite sigh, a weary "why do I have to deal with this idiot?" sigh. From behind the bushes a perfectly normal, definitely-no-extra-appendages-of-any-kind cow stepped out. It fixed its large brown eyes on Hank and said, "Because she's a mutant, of course. Why else would a cow come here?"
Hank stared for a long time -- he had become very wary of cows over the last few days. Patiently, the cow looked back at him, chewing at its cud, waiting for his answer. Slowly, Hank became aware that he was still standing on one foot. Hurriedly, he put his other foot down.
"Did -- um -- Daisy have wings?" he asked.
"Yes, Daisy had wings," replied the cow. "That's why she got away from me -- I can't keep up with a flying cow."
The Beast knew his jaw was hanging open but he couldn't seem to close it. He caught hold of the very last of his scattering wits and said, "She, um, she flew into our window and knocked herself out. We've been taking care of her -- we didn't realise she could talk."
Hank had never noticed how expressive a cow's eyes could be -- the look she was giving him was equal parts scorn and disgust. "She can't talk, you idiot," said the cow. "If she had any brains do you think she'd be flying into your windows? She only a cow, for hoof's sake."
"But you -- but you . . ." It was all suddenly too much for Hank. His fabled eloquence deserted him and he was speechless.
The cow started to speak, very slowly and exaggeratedly, as if to a not-terribly-bright child. "Daisy is a mutant. She has wings. I am a mutant. I can talk -- and think. You're a mutant. You have blue fur. One mutation each. Do you see how it works?"
Hank nodded, slowly. He was just about to comment when he heard running footsteps behind him. He turned to see Jean running across the lawn to him. "Hank, Hank," she shouted. "There's a telepath on the grounds somewhere. I can hear them in my head but Cerebro can't pick them up. Who do you think -- aaah!" Jean broke off in a shriek as she saw the cow standing there, regarding her patiently.
"Good afternoon," said the cow. "My name is Polly."
Jean's eyes went comically round. "You're the telepath," she whispered. The cow nodded.
"You're a telepath," said the Beast, rounding back on the cow. "You didn't tell me that -- I thought you were speaking to me."
Polly snorted. "I'm a cow," she said. "We don't have the right vocal equipment to speak English. Of course I'm using telepathy. Sheesh, why did we ever think humans were smarter than us?"
Hank decided to let that slide -- he hadn't exactly been at his best since the start of this conversation, so he had to concede her point. "Polly?" he asked. "And Daisy? They don't seem very fanciful names."
"How many times do I have to say this," said Polly. "We are cows. Large ungulates with complicated digestive systems, used in domestic farmyards for the production of meat or milk. Farmers don't spend a lot of time coming up with names for us, you know. Polly and Daisy. Those are our names." She rolled her eyes and chewed faster on her cud.
Jean definitely seemed to be doing better at re-gathering her wits than Hank was going. He suspected that the cow being a telepath made it easier for her -- she simply ignored that it was a cow and paid attention only to the mind. "What are you doing here?" she asked.
"We're all coming here," replied Polly. "All the mutant animals. We needed refuge and this seemed to be the best place to come."
Hank had a sudden, terrifying feeling, a cold shiver that made all his hair stand on end -- an impressive sight. "All the mutant animals?" he asked. "What -- more cows?"
"No -- all of them," replied Polly, chewing imperturbably at her cud. "What -- you didn't think humans were the only ones who mutated, did you?" Hank discovered a laughing cow was also an impressive sight.
"But why?" whispered Jean.
"You think being a mutant human is tough, you try being a mutant animal," responded Polly. "Can you imagine what Daisy's owner thought when she suddenly sprouted wings? If I hadn't been able to hide her away she's have been sent to the slaughterhouse straight away. And a cow that thinks -- do you know what a pain that is? I mean, how boring is a cow's life? Chewing cud, eating grass, being milked, chewing cud, eating grass, etc etc. See what I mean? So we've all been trying to find somewhere to go that's safe. He told us about you." Polly shook her horn, slightly.
Hank looked closely at the proffered horn. Finally, on the end of it, he could see -- a bug? "Him?" he asked. "The bug?"
The bug chittered madly, a small leg waving in the air. Hank couldn't understand a thing it said, but he could definitely tell that it was English -- only spoken very, very quickly. Hank began to feel faint.
"He said to tell you he is not just a bug," translated Polly. "He is a shieldbug and his name is Euripides. He would be very grateful if you would address him as such."
Hank felt obscurely ashamed. "Sorry, Euripides," he murmured.
The little leg waved in a mollified manner. Polly continued, "There are a few of us in nearly every species -- telepaths. All of us have been trying to find a place where we might be safe, where the mutants could gather and be free of danger. Euripides here lived under your floorboards. When his power manifested he got in touch with the rest of us and told us of your school -- and the fact that you take in mutants. Naturally, it has taken a while for us to organise the movement of all the mutants here, but they should all be arriving soon. Daisy escaped and flew ahead, and I was chosen to meet you first, but the rest should be here soon."
"Oh, by my blessed aunt," murmured the Beast. "How many of you are there?"
Before Polly could answer, Hank heard an angry shout from behind him. It was Logan, striding rapidly across the lawn, holding a cat firmly by the scruff of its neck out in front of him. "You know anything about this?" he shouted at Hank. The Beast shook his head mutely.
"Watch this," said Logan, and dropped the cat. Hank reached out a hand to catch it, but there was no need. The cat remained in mid-air. Calmly, it twisted to wash its paws and then suddenly seemed to notice it wasn't standing on anything. Spitting in panic, it ran across the air and dug its claws into Logan's face. His muffled curses spat out from behind it, until it managed to climb on top of its head and sit there shivering. "The first time it did that," Logan muttered sourly, "it peed on my head."
Hank had to bite his fist to keep from laughing. He managed to wrestle it under control and turned back to Polly. "Can't you stop it doing that?" he asked.
Polly shrugged, an interesting movement of her shoulders. "It isn't one of mine," she said. "You'll have to wait until one of the cat telepaths gets here. I can talk to humans, other telepaths and the rest of the cows, but I can't talk to one of the other species. Not if they're not a telepath. Don't worry, if Fluffy's made it, the rest will be here soon. Then you can get a cat to stop her doing it."
"Good," snarled Logan and stumped off back across the lawn. He was walking very carefully, Hank noted -- because every time he moved his head too much Fluffy dug her claws in to maintain her balance. Hank bit his lip again.
He was just about to turn back to Polly when he heard a scream that rang across quite a few octaves and more than a few decibels. He looked up just in time to see Rogue come shrieking out of her bedroom window, describing mad parabolas across the sky. All the time, her deafening screams rang out. The Beast thought he could see something behind her -- he squinted and then put on his glasses. Yes, there they were -- a line of something. He squinted harder and then Jean giggled beside him. His guffaw joined hers as he realised what it was. Rogue was being pursued by a half-dozen flying mice. Even as he laughed, she turned the wrong way and one of the winged mice got into her hair. Her shrieks rose another octave until they were quite beyond the range of human hearing and then she plummeted straight into the lake.
"This is not going to be good," said Hank, as soon as he could control himself. He turned back to continue his conversation with Polly and was startled to find himself nose to nose with a horse.
It snorted softly at him and then said, "Hello. I'm Mr Ed."
Hank groaned and sank to his knees. "Oh, please no," he said. "Not a talking horse named Mr Ed. I couldn't stand it."
"Not my fault," replied the horse, rather huffily. "Blame the human who owned me."
"Oh, Toto, we're not in Kansas any more," whispered the Beast.
"You rang?" said a happy voice in his head and Hank looked up into the bright, shiny eyes of a terrier. "And I never said we were in Kansas anyway," continued Toto, his nose wrinkling in puzzlement.
Hank didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
Overhead, the first squadron of flying chimpanzees arrived.