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Chapter 17

see disclaimer chapter 1


"My god, Tank, it really is you!" she shouted, taking a step off the chair.  But her feet never got the chance to hit the ground.  Hank scooped her up in his arms in a huge bear hug and swung her around and around.  Both of them were laughing joyously and Sonja wrapped her arms around his neck, returning his hug with as much force as she could.  There were shouts and whistles from the children that had been watching, but neither Sonja nor Hank had heard any of them.  He held on to her tightly as he leaned back and looked into her eyes.

"Do you know how long its been since someone called me Tank?" he said, happiness gleaming in his eyes.  Sonja laughed at him, swiping away the dampness in her own eyes.

"Well, it still fits you to a tee!" she said playfully.  She swatted at the arms that still held her up in the air.  "Now put me down before you break my ribs."

He dropped her carefully to the floor and put his hands on her shoulders, adoringly gazing at her like she was a gem being examined.

"It's been so long and you've changed so much!" Sonja blushed at his intense gaze, but Hank had always been that way.

"I'm not the only one," she said, running her hand over his arm and grasping the blue hair between her fingers.  He pulled his arms away from her and ran his hands over his biceps ashamedly, disgust evident in his face.

"Yeah, you could say that again.  It's sort of a long story," he said, a tinge of sadness ringing in his voice.  But he quickly dismissed it and looked down at her again, throwing his arm over her shoulders and pulling her to his side.  Sonja wrapped her arm across his waist and gazed up at him, still unable to really grasp that it truly was her friend before her.

She positively couldn't believe it!  It had to be...what, eight years since she had last seen him?  Hank had been the best and longest-lasting friend she had ever had and now, at the very time that she felt like her life was crumbling, he fell right back into her hands.  Her elation at seeing her old friend pushed aside all the other feelings of unhappiness she had been swimming in the last few days.

"I glanced upon your picture in the papers, but I didn't recognize you as my old companion, Samantha!" Hank exclaimed, his eyes still glowing with joy.

"Ah, ahem," Scott said, clearing his throat loudly.  Sonja and Hank laughed heartily at the astonished look on everyones faces.

"Shall we clue them in?" Hank said as he pulled Sonja's chair back up to the table and offered it to her.  Sonja nodded her head, still unable to speak from the mirth that was pouring out of her.  Hank sat down next to her and proceeded to explain their relationship to Jean, Scott, and Storm, who had stopped eating and listened intently.  Sonja glanced over at the Professor who seemed completely undisturbed by the commotion.  Sonja wasn't sure she could even do it right, but she concentrated and sent what she hoped was a loud, telepathic message.

You knew about us, didnt you? She thought as she gazed at the older man on the opposite side of the table.  Xavier looked up at her and smiled, then simply nodded his head.  Sonja arched her eyebrow, shook her head at him then let out a little laugh.  Did the surprises in this place never stop?  She looked back over at Hank just before he started to speak again.

"This," he said, gesturing to Sonja, "is not who you think she is, her name is Samantha Car..."  His words were cut short as Sonja elbowed him harshly in the side.  She had put all her strength into it but Hank had just barely noticed her jab.

"It's Sonja now, Tank, Sonja Cadlyst," she said, her tone implying that he should refer to her that way.  Hank stared back at her with shock and surprise evident in his countenance.

"Why, I am at a loss for words!  My dear skittish friend isn't hinting that she has engaged in the holy sanctity of marriage, thereby changing her last name? Missus Don't-fence-me-in, I'd-rather-die-than-be-tied-down, give-me-liberty-or..." again his words were cut off when she glared at him mock angrily.

"It's just different now, that's all," Sonja said, halting her friend's words.  Hank had always tended to go on, and judging from the way the others laughed at his verbosity, it was a well-known fact that talking was one of Hank's strong suits.  He smiled at her again then turned to continue with the story.

"To proceed with this explanation, Sonja and I were best friends all through high school and college," Hank said.  Jean and Scott just nodded.  The normally calm Hank had never acted so affectionately so quickly towards anyone before and it was a surprise to see him getting all excited over this woman.

"You mean Sonja went to Harvard?" Jean asked with a hint of incredulity in her voice, but Sonja was too happy to notice it.

"Most certainly she did!  Graduated quite early from high school, if memory serves me.  And valedictorian, no less, efficiently procuring a full ride scholarship to that Ivy League gem.  I, too, went for academics, lovely school it was, but I also went there to engage in that ever popular sport of football, at least until the Professor found me," Hank said, coughing a bit after his last statement and giving Sonja a worried look.

That's when the end of their friendship floated into Sonja's memory.  She felt indignation creep over her heart and old pains popping up again as she remembered the rest of the story.  For seemingly no reason, Hank had up and left school one day, telling her nothing about where he was going or if they would ever see each other again.  She looked up at him, hating the feeling of bitterness that was replacing all the joy she felt at their reunion.  He reached down and patted her arm, sadness brimming in his eyes.

"I'll explain all of it later, I promise," he whispered, his eyes beseeching her to forgive him for the moment.

Sonja nodded her head understandingly, now that she was at this school it was much clearer to her why Hank would have left under such a cloak of secrecy.  He smiled when he saw her face lighten again.

"How did you two meet?" Scott asked.  Just as she remembered, Hank always tended to babble forever if she let him, but he had food in his mouth and Sonja was finally able to speak up again.

"Hank was a football player at our high school, and I was a student athletic trainer."

"What's an athletic trainer?" Scott asked.  Sonja was perplexed for a moment, it had been so long since she had even said those words much less had to explain what it was.

"Well, any high school that has organized sports has something called an athletic trainer, basically a specially trained practitioner to look after any student that gets hurt," Sonja waited for a couple of nods before moving on.  "A student trainer is usually a kid from the school that just wants to help out.  It can be someone just interested in an after-school activity, but most likely its a student that wants to go into medicine, like I did."

"Yeah, and they're usually very pushy individuals that keep one from practicing," Hank said, a teasing tone in his voice.  Sonja rolled her eyes at him and quickly spoke again to keep Hank from starting a long dissertation on athletic trainers and their relationships with athletes.

"Hank had been messing around in the hallway and slipped.  He knocked himself out cold and had a nasty concussion.  He insisted he was fine even though he couldn't walk a straight line and I wasn't about to let him play football in that condition."  Jean and Scott laughed at the image while Hank chuckled a few times before picking up the conversation.

"She was the only brave soul on the entirety of the training staff who had enough courage and brazenness to try and force me not to go out on the field.  She even threatened to phone my mother!" he said, roaring with laughter at the memory. Jean and Scott erupted again.

"You should have seen us then.  She was this skinny slip of a thing I could easily have eluded.  But there she was, pushing me around like a little general besieged with power," he said around the laughter.

"You weren't at all afraid of him, were you?" Jean said, a few giggles still spilling out of her.

"She wasn't afraid of anything!" Hank quickly said, a smile still on his face.  "She was the only person in the school, or in the town for that matter, willing to stand up to me, toe-to-toe. We instantly became friends."  Sonja nodded her head in agreement.

"That was what, fifteen years ago?  My, how time seems to speed along," Hank said wistfully.  Jean glanced down at her watch.

"Oh my, speaking of time speeding along...Scott, don't you have an engineering class to teach?  And I need to get back to the lab."  Jean stood up and Scott also looked down at his watch, quickly grabbing his napkin off his lap and dropping it on the table as he stood.

"Yeah, you're right.  I better get going or I'll be late," he said as he scooped up his plate and Jean's.  The two walked out of the cafeteria, held hands for a brief second, and then parted ways down the hallway.

The remaining adults returned to finishing their food, Hank and Sonja reminiscing over all the events they had gone through as Storm and the Professor listened with amused fascination.  All of them laughed heartily at the remembrance of childhood antics, with Sonja occasionally filling Hank in on what had become of certain people.  They were right in the middle of laughing over how Hank had gotten Sonja trapped on the roof of their school when Sonja felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up and the nerves along her spine began to tingle.

As much as she wanted to fight any reaction she had to Logan, she could never completely convince her body that the feral and mysteriously sexual man should be ignored.  Before he even moved into her field of vision she knew that he would sit in the chair right next to her and cursed herself for not having sat between Hank and the Professor.

Hank had sat down across from Sonja so that conversation would be easier and he instantly saw Sonja's face morph from happy to a subtle, yet very uncomfortable and anxious look.  Even after eight years apart, he knew that look and was only partly surprised to see that a man like Logan could instigate it in his old friend.

"What was all that commotion?" Logan asked casually as he seated himself next to Sonja.

"It seems that Sonja and Hank are old school chums," the Professor said when the two in question had hesitated one second too long.  Logan just grunted and seemed to not give them another thought as he dived into the mound of food on the plate.

Shes coming in here and it doesn't even take her a second to have everybody wrapped around her finger! Logan thought angrily.  He tried his best to just forget about her, but no matter how much he focused on his meal, he couldn't stop feeling a sort of shivering sensation emanating from the woman next to him.

It was an awkward few seconds; the air seemed to get choked with tension before Hank smoothly rose from his seat and grabbed up his plate. Sonja jumped a bit when he moved but than quickly played it off as she looked beseechingly to Hank.

"Sammy...I mean, dear miss Sonja, are you willing to accompany me to the laboratory?" Hank asked, wiggling his eyebrows at her in an oh-so-subtle gesture. With a grateful sigh and in efforts that moved much too quick, Sonja jumped up, gathered her dishes and moved away from the table.

"Absolutely, let's go now." She said as she instantly began weaving her way to drop off the dirty dishes.

"I'll meet with you this afternoon to see what kinds of conclusions you and Dr. McCoy have drawn, is that alright Sonja?" the Professor added hastily as to catch her before she ran off completely.

"Sure thing Professor," Sonja semi-hollered back just before she disappeared out the doors.  Hank hung back for a second.  With laughter in his eyes he shrugged and waved goodbye before following the woman.

Logan knew the innocent act would never work with the Professor so he met the older man's benevolent gaze with a steely one.  The Professor waited calmly, knowing that Logan would have something to say about it.

"Like I said," Logan started jauntily, "ain't my job to make her comfortable."

The Professor just stared at him levelly. "It is also not your place to make her uncomfortable."

Logan leaned back in his chair and brushed a few crumbs out of his beard.  "I can't help it if she has a thing for me, just the way women are, nothing I can do about it," he said with a cheeky smile just before he bent back over his plate.  The Professor just shook his head as he backed away from the table.

"Be that as it may, would you do me one favor today Logan?  Would you stay away from the lab?" he asked.  Logan knew it wasn't a question, but a command.

"Sure thing Chuck," he said before throwing all his attention back to his meal.

(to be continued)


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