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"Tales of the Twilight Menshevik"

Stories in this series:

Sisters under Their Skins
Midnight Sun
A Year in the Life
October 6: A Night 2 Remember
A Day's Work
Late Summer Interlude
The Time the Twain Shall Meet
Message to a Grandchild
Ergo Bibamus 1: Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Lights in the Dark
Between the Woods and Frozen Lake
Ergo Bibamus 2: There's a Tavern Near the Town
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Someone Blue
Valentine Allsorts
The Ballad of Trish and Henry
Rogue's Fairy Tale
Magneto, My First Love
To My Dark-Haired Lady
The Raven and the Oriole
Trish -- A Rapture

Val and Ray at the Movies
March 2002
July 2002

Tales of Future Twilight
Ergo Bibamus 3: Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes
They Will Always Be Penny and Max to Me
Getting to Know You
Fourth Thursday in November
The Iceman's Tale
Pictures at an Exhibition
The Survivor Has a Different Kind of Scar

Twilight Yet to Come
Hang on to Your Ego
Strange Headfellows
Sonnet for Magnus
Between the Winds

DISCLAIMER: This is an unauthorized work of fiction using characters that are (c) & TM by Marvel Comics Group. No profit is being made on this story, so I'll invoke The Marvel Readers' Bill of Rights (for the full text see Stan's Soapbox in some of the May 1998 comics, e.g. Generation X #38):
"8. The right to practice scripting and drawing our Marvel characters for your own pleasure and amusement."
The story and the original characters in it (for a list, see the end notes) are (c) Tilman Stieve ( You can download this and copy it for your entertainment, but don't sell it for profit, or Marvel will set their lawyers on you. Please do not archive this on your website without informing me first.
The Ballad of Trish and Henry belongs to the continuing series, the Tales of the Twilight Menshevik; it interconnects with a few other stories, but should be understandable on its own. Within the series, it comes after Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Someone Blue, where Hank McCoy and Trish Tilby tied the knot, and also after their Trans-Atlantic exchange of messages in Valentine Allsorts.
WARNING: This Tale contains descriptions of sexual acts between two consenting (and married) adults. If you are too young to read them or if such descriptions bother you, I must ask you to wait until you're old enough.
You can find the other Tales archived on "Fonts of Wisdom," "Down-Home Charm," "MissyRedX: The Average Website," and "Stacy's Fan-Fiction Page."

The Ballad of Trish and Henry

For the second time this year, the bouncing Beast has come home from a stint at Moira MacTaggert's Muir Island research facility. I feel a little more optimistic than usual. While I would not be so bold as claim that we have achieved a breakthrough, the irascible Caledonian and your humble servant have undeniably made some progress and we are confident that the fresh approach we instituted with the new series of experiments is leading us onto the right track. I had intended to use a regular flight, but as Dame Fortune would have it, I was able to hitch a faster ride on the blue fur express with my former teammate Nightcrawler. Kurt volunteered to represent Excalibur at some official gatherum in Washington (which, as you may know, is our Nation's capital) as an excuse to see his new-born baby sister, Hope.

After giving Scott, the Professor and Ororo a tour d'horizon of recent events and dropping off Moira's presents for Sean and Teresa, I take my leave and proceed southward to the big city in Scott's Volvo. My destination: Rockefeller Plaza, for a rendezvous with my lady love. I get held up in the traffic, and as I arrive, her makeup is just being finished. Her face lights up, but she only has time to blow me a kiss before the opening jingle comes on. And then Trish Tilby, anchorwoman on WNBC's evening news, begins to expound the day's events to New York and the world.

I take my position hanging from the ceiling above Herb the director and watch. My spouse looks wonderful, as usual. She reads her text from a teleprompter and apart from a bigger smile there's nothing to betray her pleasure at my early arrival.

The commercial break is torment for us. What I want to do is leap down onto her desk and whisk her into my arms, and part of her would love that, but regrettably another part of her is a consummate professional, and she signals me to stay where I am. When she sees the disappointment in my mien her stern expression melts and she silently mouths 'only a few more minutes' to me. Then she has to go through her notes for the next segment as fast as she can.

They're on the air again, and she rattles out the minor news items. Do I detect a sense of urgency, my pretty one? While her colleague deals with the sports headlines and the cameras are focused on him, she looks up to me. If ever eyes could be said to smolder, it is hers right now.

The weatherman jokes with Trish (I use the word 'joke' loosely) before launching into his spiel about the short and medium term meteorological prospects. My lady catches my expression at his lame attempts at humor and she winks at me. Then the final announcements are made, the credits roll across the monitors as the jingle plays, and at last the broadcast is over.

I leap down from the ceiling, but unfortunately Herb is at Trish's side before me and starts to harry her about her final broadcast tonight, the late night news. Sensing my urgency, Trish does her best to keep this conference as short as possible, but even it takes too long for me. And then Harmonee, Herb's assistant also has some urgent (urgent to her, if not to me) matters to discuss with Trish. It really is most irksome, you'd think people would be too intimidated by someone as tall and wide and scary-looking as me to simply shoulder me aside, but there you are. The drawback of being a well-known good guy.

At last they leave Trish alone, and we can retire to someplace quiet. Since she has to go on again in a couple of hours, that leaves us no choice but her office. As we enter the room, I see she already has thoughtfully lowered the blinds before the broadcast. Well, it has been nearly two months, so can anyone blame us for being a little impatient?

My costume just consists of a pair of trunks, it was made for occasions like this. As soon as the door is locked, it comes off, as does the Hawaiian shirt I had put on to complete my 'civilian attire'. Trish does not take much longer to get drop her skirt and step out of it. She sits down on her desk and, while I delight in pulling her panties down her shapely gams, she unbuttons her shirt. Underneath she is wearing a front-fastening brassiere -- normally she dislikes the feeling of the clasp in front, but, on this occasion she wanted to be prepared. "I was a Girl Scout," she smugly points out as she unfastens the clip and lets the two halves fall apart. "Welcome back, Hank."

Patricia's bosom is most pleasant to my eyes, not remarkable for its absolute volume -- there my beloved life-partner cannot compete with most of the distaff half of my teammates -- but for its shape, which at least in the judgment of this observer comes as close to perfection as anyone has a right to expect in this imperfect world. Especially when you consider the way it is proportioned to the rest of her lithe and finely-structured body. While she falls short of the excessive 1990s American standards of mammarial pulchritude, she measures up well to a more old-fashioned ideal of beauty. The size and the roundness of apples, not of melons. Pulchra enim sunt ubera quae paululum supereminent et tument modice, nec fluentia licenter...* However, she lacks the gently rounded belly men back in the middle ages felt completed the beauty of a woman, even a virgin.

What follows is not the most sophisticated instance of love-making, neither in the history of humankind nor in the somewhat shorter story of our relationship. We had been anticipating this moment for the better part of a day, so our bodies are already geared up, the flames of passion require only a bare minimum of stoking and we proceed almost immediately to what Trish calls the 'nitty-gritty'. Which is not to say that we are finished too quickly or that I go about it crudely (I try to be a beast in name only).

After we have slaked our mutual immediate need on the desk, we recline on the carpeted floor together. Trish always is at her most beautiful after we make love, and I delight in the close-up view. Thankfully, we still have some time to cuddle.

"How I've missed you, my ravishing mistress," I begin, "the nights in the Outer Hebrides were doubly cold and clammy without you, even though they were so short and bright this time of year. And though I could see you reading the news via satellite."

"You say the sweetest things, Blue," she replies. "But my nights were awfully lonely too, even here in the middle of New York City. And watching the wedding videos all the time wasn't such a good idea. It only made me miss you more."

"I am constrained to apologize, my own Patricia. This is not the way I had visualized the first year of our marriage. But you know how it is..."

"Shush, Hank, being in love means never having to say you're sorry, if you don't mind me quoting from What's Up, Doc? -- or was it some other movie." Years before we met, my darling wife wrote romantic novels and screenplays as a sideline to her journalistic work, and occasionally she likes to make reference to examples of the genre. "I knew what I was letting myself in for when I asked you to marry me."

"Hey, I asked you!"

"Well, technically you did, but only after I dropped some heavy hints," she giggles, "Anyway, you were so optimistic on the phone about your experiments... let's just say I'm so proud of my scientific genius hubby that it'd be extremely selfish to complain about the time you spend away from me." She gives me a reassuring kiss and half-seriously adds: "And besides, if your more intensive research means you'll find a cure for the Legacy virus sooner, I can hope that means we won't have to wait as long for you to have more time for us afterwards."

Unfortunately, Trish has to go back to makeup soon as our antics have left her in a rather disheveled state. It's a good thing she wears her hair short, that does not take that long to rearrange.

We've made good use of the time we had, so we're both a lot more relaxed when Trish sits down behind the newsdesk for the final broadcast. I find a comfortable chair and sort of doze off while she reads off her items. It feels as if the wait is much, much shorter this time around.

Then it's over for tonight, Trish and Hank have left the building. The way things are in the Big Bad Apple, it takes a while until we find a place to deposit Scott's car, and when we do, it is a few blocks away from our Tribeca apartment. But it is a pleasant warm summer night, I look forward to a stroll through our neighborhood. The locals are used to strange people in general, and to seeing us in particular.

We stop for a quick bite in a diner on Canal Street where the staff and regular patrons are familiar enough with us not to stare. While I'm digging into my BLT and malted milk, she brings me up to date on some of the things that have been happening while I was away, and of her plans for the coming week.

"If you like, we can look at a couple of houses tomorrow," she says handing me a sheaf of papers.

Our plans for a joint domicile have rather fallen behind schedule because I spent most of the time since our wedding in a lab with an irascible Scot. But I see that my spouse has not been idle on that front in the meantime. I glance through the realtors' information and look at the photos.

"I think the second one in Scarsdale and the one in White Plains have possibilities," she says. "And both are handy for Salem Center and New York..."

"But I like it here, Trish," I venture, "It's handy for SoHo and the Village, and most of our neighbors actually seem to like us." Which is no more than the truth. Some of the other people in our building were quite friendly from the time I started to spend nights with Trish in what used to be just her apartment, and a few sent us flowers for our wedding.

"Well, I thought it might be nice to have a garden for our children," she says, adding the afterthought: "If we decide to start having children soon."

"Well, I hadn't thought of that, I have to admit, but still this is a bit of a surprise. I never thought of you as the suburban type before."

"I'm not, really," she says, "I thought with you being used to living in mansions ever since you became a superhero, and considering your folks live in the country, I thought you would prefer something outside the city."

"Evidently I haven't told you enough about how Warren, Bobby and I used to take every opportunity we got to escape to the scene not too many blocks uptown from here, my darling."

"Quite so," Trish smiles, "Well, scratch that, then. It just seemed like an idea with possibilities at the time Harmonee suggested it to me."

"Well, maybe we shouldn't rule it out entirely," I concede, skimming through the material, "but on the other hand this is not that bad a place to raise children after all." Only after we finish dinner, when we set off for home do I realize that this was the first time we talked about the subject of children in a serious way, as something where we will have to make decisions that affect our lives for years to come.

When I walk through the streets with my lady, even the fact that I am an Avenger in good standing (currently in reserve) does not exempt me from dirty looks. At least the leers and hateful stares are easier to bear than the cat-calls and whispers (just loud enough to be audible half a block away) which start with "blue-furred freak" and work their way up from there. Or the occasional tangible expectoration.

It is not easy for Trish either. Even though she gets approached more often for autographs (she is the more visible media personality), she also attracts a lot of invective from those who regard her as a "race-traitor" for her journalistic work and for consorting with me. The volume of hate-mail she attracts is phenomenal, and not a fortnight seems to pass without a threat to kill her or a gory description of what the writer would like to do to her. I seem to get less of those. I am certain the diligent Jarvis is not keeping them from me, so I can only assume that they simply don't expect any better from a mutant monster than to want to defile beautiful maidens, or they devoutly hope I'll be killed in a super-powered battle or from contracting Legacy without their assistance being required.

Trish -- ever the optimist -- claims to find that it is getting better, that the positive feedback she receives slowly continues to grow while the hate-mail stagnates. I hope to God she is right. By making a big media production of our wedding, we hoped to strike a blow for acceptance; maybe it is still early to tell, but it does seem to have had a beneficial effect in toto.

Not that it is entirely smooth sailing with all of my superpowered friends and acquaintances either. There was a time when some of my associates gave the love of my life the kind of simmering antipathy that certain Beatles fans reserve for Yoko. It started with the way Trish did some of her stories and may have been exacerbated by the way she stood up for them and her beliefs. They expected her to feel embarrassed because she thought it more important to stick to the truth as she saw it instead of trying to put a pro-mutant spin on everything. But when you push Patricia, she pushes right back without yielding an inch. When tempers flare as they then did, who is right and who is wrong become matters of secondary importance. The fact that Trish ultimately was right (or at least largely right) only made things worse for some of us.

But this is past. Trish is now quite close to some of the others. Certainly to my good buddy, Bobby Drake, the long-time sponsor of our union; and now his lady love, the reclusive Emma Frost, is warming up to her. Warren too looks upon my spouse more favorably, partly because of her friendship with his 'significant other', Charlotte Jones, but also because he had come to respect her from the old days, when he was the Horseman known as Death, and she stood up to him.

We reach our destination, a former warehouse, and ride the elevator up to our floor. Our abode is spacious, as if it had been built or Patricia had purchased it with someone like me in mind, with lots of foot and arm holds available on the high ceilings. By force of habit, I walk over to a window and watch the lights of the city and the trail of tail-lights of the cars driving up the Avenida de las Americas. But since I'm not the only New Yorker looking out a window tonight, we pull close the curtains. There are things we wish to do away from prying eyes -- continue where we left off in Trish's office, to be precise.

The cream in my coffee does not take long to emerge from her sartorial shell, but I, having the advantage of wearing less, beat her by several seconds.

"Like what you see?" she inquires.

"Fair one, how could I be anything but delighted utterly by your aspect?" I say, dropping to one knee before her theatrically. "From the ends of your crow-hued tresses to the tips of your delicate little toeseys, thou art a picture of perfection."

"You don't look too shabby yourself, Blue, but stand up so I can look at you properly."

I assume a selection of body-builders' poses while my lovely wife oohs and aahs. We like to show off to each other from time to time, but is it because we like to express our admiration for each other's corporeal form, because we like our vanity being tickled, or because we enjoy play-acting? Maybe a bit of all three.

It is unusual for me, at any rate, since I normally prefer more hunched, dare I say crouched, postures and at times am a bit self-conscious about the shape and color of my body has had ever since a certain day at a Brand Corporation lab. Something about which I do feel better when Trish occasionally reinvigorates my self-confidence as she does now by feeling my biceps and devouring me with her eyes.

When we felt the first stirrings of romantic feelings for each other, I went through a major change. Due to circumstances too complex to recapitulate in brief, I had reverted back to my natural shape, which happened to be quite attractive to ladies in a slightly nerdy sort of way. Unfortunately a fight with Pestilence (one of Apocalypse's minions) had put me in a state where I kept getting stronger but also more stupid the more I used my strength. And so Trish first fell in love with a handsome, not too bright, and somewhat vulnerable schnook. Then another fight, where I had to save my friend Bobby from the clutches of a super-powered temptress called Infectia, fortuitously reverted me to my previous blue-furred state and original intelligence. Which was a bit much for Trish to handle at first, and for a while she shrank away from me. She tells me it was mainly because of my more self-confident, from her point of view more aggressive personality, and basically she had to start getting to know me again from scratch. In any case, I can be more certain than most that my lady truly loves my soul, for she had to discover it twice over, beneath two very different physical shapes and surface personalities. It poses an intriguing question: How would I react if she was to undergo as dramatic a change, physically and mentally, as I did back then? If she suddenly became a statuesque blonde with a top-heavy hourglass figure and a room-temperature IQ? Or do I find her fine-limbed, dark-haired looks beautiful because that is coincidentally her shape? Obviously I am not intent on finding out experimentally. But it does help my lingering worries as to how she feels about my current form that she reassures me from time to time that she not only has come to accept it, but that she has grown to like and desire it. We both exaggerate our mutual admiration to the point of caricature, but there is also an undeniable element of truth to it.

"Oh woe is me that I have to share the stirring sight of your rippling abs and pecs with a world of other admirers! At least you keep your buns of cobalt well-encased in public, otherwise these sirens would ne'er keep their desire-filled digits off you!" Before her journalistic career took off, my darling Patricia wrote screenplays and romantic novels so she'd have a second leg to stand on, financially. Does it show, or are my own patterns of speech affecting her?

"Nay, 'tis I who must feel jealous of the world," say I, "for your eyes put bluebells to shame and your skin is as white and delicate as the petals as a lily, the hue of your lips is like unto a pert dogwood in bloom... I'faith, who could resist you?"

It really is strange how female beauty has so many males of this species thinking in horticultural terms -- a derrière like a peach, lips like cherries, skin pink as rose petals, eyes like violets... I'd better not overdo it, or Trish will become like the lady in the tale of Hasan of Basra and the Princesses of the Wak-Wak Islands: "Who dares compare me to a rose? Who is not ashamed to claim my bosom was as charming as the fruit of the pomegranate tree? Who makes such comparisons again I'll ban him from my sight; for if he finds my figure in the twigs of the Ban tree and my cheeks in roses, what needs he be with me?"

"Your breasts are like two alembics" I pick up the thread, "from which our mutual pleasure is distilled when you give me leave to touch them."

She retorts: "Uh... your... um, turgid magic wand is like, uhh, let me see, the boom microphone in the Today studio, but a lot more fun."

At that homespun simile we both break into giggling, but when our laughter subsides, we kiss -- oh, how sweetly our tongues writhe around each other in a dance as old as humanity! -- and we then commence to worship each other with deeds, not words.

Trish rubs her fingers through the hair on my back and head as I lift her up and move along her body. "Mmmm, I missed that... your lovely blue fur..."

"I'm glad to see your furry bits as well, m'dear," I can't help saying as I'm approaching the one that is not on her head.

"Hmm, maybe I should stop shaving under my arms so there's more..."

It is physically impossible for me to answer, but my activities help put her into a state where she does not feel like insisting on a response. She holds on tight to my hair to keep my head in position between her quivering haunches, a position that unfortunately somewhat impairs my hearing. But after the tempest of her ecstasy calms down, she releases me and slides down from my shoulders.

Trish looks at me meltingly and pushes me over so that I land on my back and she right on top of me. She rubs hear sweat-slick, hard-tipped breasts dry against the mat of fur on my chest, and we share another incredibly long and intense kiss.

Given my inborn talents, it is not surprising that our lovemaking sometimes verges on the athletic. Some nights -- and days -- we let our inhibitions slip and get even more rowdy than this. Once, when we had just begun to express our love physically, it got so intense that I actually drew blood. This doesn't happen nowadays, as Trish afterwards insisted that "being in love with me means that from now on you properly cut your fingernails or claws or whatever you call them before we make whoopee!"

I was of course mortified and apologized profusely, but she made light of my faux pas, reminding me that after all she herself hadn't noticed the nicks on her bosom until afterwards. She exorcised what feelings of embarrassment were left by complimenting me on my prowess in the arts of love: "Before you, I thought multiple orgasms were just a myth." And so, instead of being in a downcast mood, I grinned across both ears until dawn the next day.

Some people struck by the physical contrast between the two of us expressed concern about whether physical love might not be too big a strain for Trish's delicate frame, but luckily her constitution is tougher and more resilient than they'd expect. Similarly for the relative dimensions of our naughty bits -- extrapolating from the size of our bodies, you'd expect Trish and me having to surmount the difficulties of what the Kama Sutra calls 'the highest congress', but I am afraid that my altered physiology did not transform me into what that particular treatise calls a horse man. My lingam would be a bit of a disappointment to the size-obsessed, so at least from that aspect our 'congresses' are unproblematic. What most outside observers don't guess is some of the other problems that my naturally and biochemically enhanced body causes, and not just to my petite bride. For my most well-known feature, my dark blue fuzzy fur also extends to a large part of my membrum virile. Patricia claims she enjoys the additional friction, but I noticed I felt a tad tender when we spent a rainy day in bed during our honeymoon. At least it's not as bad as for cats, where copulation is actually a painful experience for toms.

But all in all we manage quite well, thank you very much. We hearkened Vatsyayana's words: "An ingenious person should multiply the kinds of congress after the fashion of the different kinds of beasts (!) and of birds. For these different kinds of congress, performed according to the usage of each country and the liking of each individual, generate love, friendship, and respect in the hearts of women" (and men!) And so we keep exploring new ways that allow us to make the most of this aspect of our love and which best suit the peculiarities of our physiological differences.

And so here we are floor, me spread-eagled on the kitchen floor, she sitting up on my stomach and smiling down at me happily. "That was great," she says with a husky voice, while her hand sneaks behind her back and settles on my dangling participle. "Now it's my turn. But perhaps we should adjourn to bed?"

I nod. Somewhat reluctantly, Trish slides off me and rises. "You want a little drink while we're here? Or something else you'd want to do first?"

I jump to my feet, and we saunter off to the bedroom, my gait giving new meaning to the expression 'swinging step'. "No, no," I say, "what could be better than making love with you, oh primal fountainhead of my delight?"

"Ohh, I don't know," speaks unabashed Patricia, "how about ... sex and sweets?!" And with that she reaches under the bed into my stash (which I see she has thoughtfully replenished in my absence. Lying back on the bed, she places a Twinkie between her firm breasts, which she then squeezes inward. The creamy filling flows forth and fills the tightly-pressed cleavage. "See, now you're drooling more than when you looked at dessert this evening."

"Ingenious, my love, combining my two greatest obsessions..." Voraciously I swallow the squodged Twinkie and lick up the heady mixture of the sugary sweet and the salty taste of her skin. My tongue curls around the big, hardened buds that crown the twin domes of her body's temple. Now Trish wants to try for herself: a second Twinkie is flattened and spread all over my crotch. By the time she finishes cleaning if off, I am rampantly ready and slick with her saliva. And unable to wait any longer. Trish is eager to accept me too, and with no further preliminaries, my procreative ruler bisects the wonderful angle between her legs. And we begin to move in a primeval rhythm, looking into each other's eyes and all over our bodies.

As we jointly reach the climax, Trish's melodious mezzo-soprano rises in sighs and little cries of ecstasy. A glistening film of perspiration gathers in her throat and between her mobile breasts. I follow immediately. In spite of my detumescence she won't release me -- her nether muscles hold my softening flesh firmly in their grip, her feet are linked together behind me like a hook and eye, pressing down on my buttocks so I can't withdraw. After a while we roll over once again so she is on top of me. We go on whispering endearments to each other and we fall asleep, exhausted from our exertions and, in my case, the long journey.

We must make the most of these moments -- who knows what crisis may call one of us from each other's side tomorrow. It is no easy life we lead, but it is wondrous and in its way satisfying to face it together.

* 'Yea, fair are breasts that protrude a little and swell moderately, not overflow unrestrainedly..." Thank you, Umberto Eco.

Epilogue: Un an après

We did not expect our first child to be born in Queens. We made arrangements in Roosevelt Hospital for sentimental reasons (that was where Trish and I first began to discover our feelings for each other), and considered the possibility of some kind of emergency, but Queens? Not that we dislike the place, but we hardly ever go there. Trish was visiting our friend Mary Jane Watson-Parker, who had just delivered her twins, when her waters broke. So they kept her there.

Much to my dismay I could not be there for the delivery. The X-Men's Blue Team was needed elsewhere, in Maine, to be precise. Some old acquaintances of ours, the Alliance of Evil, chose this most inopportune moment to make a comeback. The emergency started when they raided a biochemical lab in Lewiston and took some of the scientists hostage. It was not an easy operation where my presence was definitely required, first to help thinking up ways of getting inside (I had been there before), and secondly to make sure that none of the experimental samples got out into the open or to advise the others on how to avoid harm from the various chemicals stored there.

Upset? Of course I was. Trish's beeper had gone off just as we were moving into positions for our surprise attack, and I made no secret of my annoyance at being unable to get to my darling spouse's side. But that turned out to be bad news for the Alliance as well, as I'm afraid I handled Timeshadow a bit more roughly than is my wont when I got the drop on him. Which, however, was nothing compared to the pummeling my Avengers buddy (and X-Man for a year) Hercules gave to Tower while explaining to him in detail how ill-mannered it is to detain a man from being present at the birth of his child. Even Scott did not try too hard to restrain Herc. After that, the Alliance seemed relieved to be handed over to the Vault pickup crew.

After securing the place and cleaning up (or at least making a few steps in that direction), we made our way back to the Big Apple.

It is dark when we arrive at the hospital, but we phoned ahead and thankfully we're all allowed to go see Trish. They also told us that the birth went off smoothly without a hitch. That is a big relief; if there was one thing that worried me, it was that the baby might inherit my abnormal size and what problems that could cause with the size of Trish's birth canal.

I'm not the only one visiting his wife at this late hour: we run into Mary Jane's spouse Peter Parker in the corridor. We became acquainted when Peter was a Trish's colleague, a press photographer, but since then he became a full-time biophysicist at E.S.U., a colleague of mine. The dear boy's mind evidently is filled with his excitement about the two new additions to his family. He is startled from his musings to see us: "Good grief, I was so preoccupied I mistook the broom closet with MJ's room. Um, catch you later."

Absent-mindedly I promise to pay them a visit later, but, well, I'm too near my destination, the others have to hurry to keep up with me. We reach the door, I knock our special knock, I pull it open...

...and there she is, sitting up in her bed, holding the baby. Trish is exhausted, but her face lights up with a radiant smile that warms the cockles of my heart and makes my knees buckle. I feel all gooey inside. "My sweet, my tardiness leaves me inconsolable."

"Don't worry Hank, you'll be there on time the next time," she smiles. "The important thing is you're here. Say hello to Josephine."

She lifts up the little human being and hands it over to me. I draw aside the pink blanket to take a proper look at the fruit of our loins. "Oh my stars and garters, now that is unexpected. Guess you never can predict the vagaries of human mutation..."

During Patricia's pregnancy, we wondered if the child would take after her mother or her father in looks, and if she took after me, whether she would inherit my original appearance or my chemically-induced color and furriness. But the baby girl's skin is neither pink nor blue, but a yellow as bright as a ripe quince. Her limbs are finely shaped, and her hands and feet are of normal size, not like the ones I was born with. The face -- well, new-born babies' faces have a tendency to resemble squashed raisins, but I'm sure she'll grow into a beauty the moment I look at her. Of course as the father I am a bit prejudiced.

For a while I am taken up with making the kind of noises grown-ups make around little babies and then are deeply embarrassed that they actually made them. Then at last Scott, Jean, Dani and Herc get their chance to look at little Josephine and fawn over her for a while. And I can sneak off to Patricia's side.

For a moment I can't think of what to say -- that's the problem for someone who loves to use florid speech every day, when there's a really special occasion such as now, I'm not only stumped for choice, but I also worry that I sound as if I'm trying to make a joke. But our kiss and embrace communicates my feelings as well as my words could. Trish's hand goes through my hair as she holds me tight. Jean sighs when she notices what we're doing, she's whispering something to her husband, and Scott smiles.

So much for our intimate moment, but on the other hand we feel great about sharing happy moments like this with friends. There's few people with whom I've been as close for as long as Scotty and Jean. A pity Bobby and Warren aren't here too, but unfortunately they're half a world away on a mission with the Gold Team. Maybe Trish and I, and little Josephine (I still have to get familiar with the thought that I'm now part of a bona fide three-part family) will already have returned to our apartment by the time they get back.

Trish has us tell all about our adventures in Maine, and she gives us the gory details of her day. She and Jean compare notes, but that is cut short when the phone rings. It's Trish's sister, who had already called earlier but who, unlike the rest of our extended family, did not want to wait until tomorrow to extend her felicitations to me as well. Martha's already bubbling spirits rise even more when I let slip that Hercules is with us. He and Martha met during Trish's hen night, where he provided the ecdysiastical entertainment, and though they apparently don't meet all that often, they have a certain fondness for each other. So soon her friend has to retire into a corner with the telephone. Out of consideration for the mother and baby, Herc keeps his voice down, even the volume of his normally raucous laughter (which otherwise might have woken patients three floors down).

But now Josephine is laid to bed in her cot, and, half-asleep when I got here, she does not take long to fall into slumber. So as not to disturb her, we continue our conversation in a hoarse whisper.

"Well, from now on you'll have to share me with Josephine," she says, "and not just for what you like to think about." She furtively looks down to her chest.

"But oh light of my life, in years to come you too will have to share me with her."

"Careful what you say, oh gin in my Martini, I may take you up a lot on that when she needs help with her with her homework." Trish grins. Then her thoughts go back to the morning. "To think this all began because I went to see Mary Jane and her new children."

"And what do they look like?"

"Geena and Felix look quite nice, if decidedly average compared to our own child," Trish says with a deadpan expression. I chuckle happily, but then I remember my hasty promise to Peter.

"If you're going to the Parkers now, you'd better make it quick," Trish suggests.

"But what if Peter's already gone? I'd hate to wake Mary Jane or the babies."

"Don't worry Hank, I'll go with you," says Jean. "I can sense if it's okay for you to knock. And it's time we left and gave poor Trish some rest, anyway."

I reluctantly agree, but Trish insists I come back. "I'm still too wound up to sleep, and I'd really like some quality time alone with my husband," she tells the others as they tiptoe out. And when Herc rises from it, I see that Trish thoughtfully had another bed brought into her room so I could sleep over.

"See you later, darling," I say as I follow the others out. I'm still a little dazed though, as the full impact of today's happy event sinks in. My life and Trish's will never be the same now that we're parents. We're not clairvoyant, we have no way of knowing how we will change because of Josephine, and maybe the other children who might come after. But I always like to look at the bright side of things, as does Trish, so we'll approach it with a spirit of adventure.

Should you keep track of the Twilight Menshevik timeline, The Ballad of Trish and Henry is set circa May or June, 1999 (Hank mentions Hope Cooper, who was born 18 April, 1999), the epilogue a year later.

Copyright Note:
The characters are (c) & TM by Marvel Comics with the exception of Hope Cooper, Herb, Harmonee, Josephine McCoy, Felix and Geena Parker, and Martha Tilby, who are mine.

This story was first published in Tales of the Twilight Menshevik: The Second Collection, which was produced for the 150th mailing of the MZS-APA in December 2000. The MZS-APA has a website at


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