Hank and Bobby belong to Marvel. For entertainment purposes only.
The theme park is Magic Mountain in Valencia, California. That's part of SoCal for you GenX-ers, about an hour north of Disneyland. Famous for its rollercoasters.

Encounter in the Park
by Kerri

"Oh, damn it!"

The woman who said that had just tripped and fallen, losing her sunglasses. Now the crowd was just a collection of bodies whizzing by her, one stepping over her in his haste to get to the next attraction.

She narrowed her eyes in a futile attempt to locate her glasses when a heavy crunch nearby told her the glasses were long past being useful.

"Oh, dear," a deep male voice said quite close to her. "I believe I have damaged your spectacles."

A large hand wrapped around her elbow and helped her rise.

She let out a sigh of irritation. "No, it's my own fault. I actually came here today." She blinked in the bright, unrelenting sunlight.

"I'll replace them posthaste," he said, guiding her towards a nearby novelty shop. "I am sure they sell sunglasses here."

"I'm sure they do, but those were prescription."

"Then I am doubly apologetic."

"It's fine, really. If you would point the way towards a place to sit I'll wait for my family to find me."

"Is it that bad? Your vision?" He drew her towards a bench in the shade and gallantly seated her, then himself next to her.

"It's bad enough. Everything more than six inches away is a blur. I have another pair in the car."

"I suppose a theme park would be less exciting if you couldn't see the attractions."

"Oh, I don't know. With all the rollercoasters, it might an asset. I tend to close my eyes anyway."

"As do I! The Batman ride was much more exciting when I could not anticipate the turns."

She frowned. "Thank you for your help. You don't have to stay with me."

"I am responsible for your current predicament, dear lady, it is only fair that I wait with you."

"Aren't you here with your family?" She pushed her shoulder-length brown hair behind her ears, blinking at the large blur reclining beside her. She had to concentrate on his words to hear them over the crowd.

"My friend is over at the Volkswagen display preparing his entry cards for the drawing to win the red Volkswagen Bug. He mentioned something about completing at least 100 of them."

"Why would he want to win that?"

"Robert has a fascination for bright, shiny objects."

"Like a chipmunk?"

He laughed. His voice was really quite nice. "Exactly! You would not be pleased to win the car?"

"No. Win a car that is much too small for my family and in a shade of red that screams 'arrest me' to the Highway Patrol?"

"That does make a convincing argument for a mother. My friend, however, is a single man who appreciates the fleeting things in life. If you dislike waiting here, I would be happy to take you to where your family is at the present time."

"I wouldn't know where to find them. They were coming here after the last ride on Superman's Escape. I won't ride that one. I don't do anything that has me falling backwards 100 miles per hour. Please don't feel you have to stay. I'll just wait here and hug my tree."

A short silence fell between them.

The crowd noise swelled up, along with the roar of the nearest rollercoaster swooshing by.

He touched her arm lightly, startling her back away from him.

"I'm sorry for frightening you," he said soothingly.

"It's not you, it's.... This will sound very silly, but I have a problem hearing without my glasses on." She smiled, her face flushing pink in her embarrassment.

"I have heard of that phenomenon. You must see the person you're speaking with to absorb the words."

"Something like that. I think it's for the same reason many people will check their hair in a mirror before answering the telephone. Habit."

"Hey, Blueboy," another voice intruded. "All done! I put in some for you, too."

"I don't know how to thank you. If I win that car, I'll never be able to drive it. It's much too small."

"You know you'd give it to me, anyway."

"Yes, or the nearest circus for use in their clown troupe. Robert, this is... I apologize again. I failed to properly introduce myself. My name is Henry McCoy. This is Robert Drake."

"Some people call me Bobby and him Hank."

Another blur stood in front of them.

"Kerri Gruver."

"You can shake my hand, it's clean."

"Hand?" she blinked up at the blur in confusion.

"I broke her prescription glasses, Bobby, she can't see your hand."

"Oh. How did you do that? You're usually pretty quick on your feet."

"It is a long story and we are both parched. Why don't you procure us a cold beverage?"

"In other words, shut up and go away?"


With a chuckle the blur moved out of range.

"I would like to know about the reference to the tree?"

"Excuse me?"

"You said you were going to sit here and hug your tree until your family returned."

"Oh. It's a catch phrase my dad started years ago when we were kids. When he'd take us hunting, he'd tell us if we got lost to hug a tree and wait, he'd find us sooner or later. Now we say 'hug a tree' to stand for 'stay in one place.'"

"Of course. That is the first rule of survival. Wait for help; do not wander off looking for it."

"When the grandkids came along and we started bringing them to places like this we taught them to hug a tree and start yelling. We couldn't yell on the hunting trips, we would've scared the game away. I didn't realize it would work until my youngest child wandered off in Disneyland when he was 4 years old. One minute he was there, the next he was gone. We searched everywhere until we finally spotted him. He was hugging a tree, yelling for all he was worth, and he had three Disney security officers trying to get him to let go." She laughed.

"That would have frightened me."

"I was scared, until he saw me. Then he let go, gave all the security guards a dirty look, then said 'Mom! I been waitin'. Go see Goofy!' Then I laughed. Even though he's ten now, I still keep an extra eye on him."

"You were very fortunate the adventure did not have a sad ending."

"Yes I was. So, why did you and your friend come here today?"

"Bobby wanted to ride the rollercoasters. I was soft-hearted enough to come with him."

"Don't let him fool you," the other blur walked up. "He likes them just as much as I do, he's just too grown up to admit it."

A cold cup was pressed against her hand. She took it. "Thank you."

"He's the one who insisted on riding the Cyclone 3 times," Bobby-blur said.

"Well, that's a good one."

"Mom!" A small blur dashed up to her. "You shoulda come with us, it was great!"

"Glad you had a good time."

"Is there a problem?"

She squinted up at the large husband-like blur. "No problem, really. I broke my glasses and this gentleman insisted on waiting with me until you came back."

"I am the one who stepped on them," he reminded her, rising from the bench. "Now that your family is here, I feel safe in leaving you."

"Thank you for keeping me company." She held out her hand to have it enveloped in a much larger one.

"It was my pleasure. Come, Robert, I believe I want to try Superman's Escape."

She stood in line in the novelty shop, gingerly pulling wet denim away from her body, waiting for the clerk to finish ringing up her purchases. Never, ever again would she ride the Roaring Rapids -- she was soaked from head to foot. Her shoes squished when she walked.

"Hey, honey, add this to your stuff," her husband, thankfully in focus now, said, setting down a 48-oz beer stein. "What else are you buying?"

"None of your business," she told him, pushing him away. "Go watch the kids and let me finish up here."

The clerk bagged her purchases and had her sign the credit receipt. With a sigh, she put her card back in her wallet and gathered up her stuff.

Passing through the doors, the theft sensors went off, the yellow lights flashed. She looked around, hoping it was someone else, but no luck. She was the only one trying to leave. With another tug at the wet jeans, she went back through the crowd to the first register.

The store manager took her bag and her receipt. After looking it over carefully, he pulled out the items out of her bag, carrying on a conversation with the sales clerk.

"It seems to be the boxers. Let see, that's one Riddler pair, one Wonder Woman pair, and one Batman pair." He turned to her. "You did buy the boxers, didn't you Ma'am?" He held them up.

"Yeah, I did. Do you think you could say it any louder, I don't think the people on the other side of the store heard you."

The manager humphed at her, and went to remove the anti-theft devices from the clothing.

"Who did you purchase those for, your husband?" a voice asked from behind her.

She turned around. "Excuse me?"

"I see you've got your glasses now. You don't know me with them."

Now she did. "Hank." She smiled at him and his friend. The blur she'd been talking to had resolved itself into a large man with thick black hair and dark eyes. "If the truth must be known, I bought them for me. I like to lounge around in them."

"Hey, do they have any more?" Bobby said. "I want to get some Wonder Woman ones for Scott. He's too uptight to wear them, I bet."

Hank winked at her. "I think perhaps Scott would like the Catwoman boxers."

"I know Remy would like the Catwoman ones." Bobby wandered off to look at the display. "I saw a T-shirt that would be perfect for Logan. 'When technology fails, Brute Force works.'"

"Here you are, ma'am." The manager handed her back her bag.

"Thank you again for your help," she said to Hank. "Did you like Superman's Escape?"

"You were quite right about the falling backwards aspect of the ride. It will be a very long time before I do that again."

"Until you get the urge to walk on the wild side again?"


A small blond boy sidled up to her. "Mom, Dad says he's getting hungry."

She smiled down at him. "Okay. Go tell him I'll be there in a minute."

"Is that your happy wanderer?"

"Yeah. I hope you and your friend have a good time while you're here."

"I believe we are off to ride the Riddler's Revenge."

"If you decide you'd like to get back at your friend for bringing you here, I recommend the Roaring Rapids. There's nothing like coming face to face with a wall of water."

"I'll keep that in mind."


With a last smile, she left to join the small crowd at the door.

Hank nodded to himself. "Roaring Rapids, hmmm. Oh, Bobby?"


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