Looking at my site counter, this may be redundant. <g>
But since I know some folks wait to read fiction by
email...(and apologies to the others). My apologies
for the delay, but I had several deadlines today.
CLIMB THE WIND 6
Disclaimer and such in introductory part.
WARNING: Recall, this is dark stuff, and parts of this
chapter may be especially disturbing. ADULT THEMES.
Incidental Notes: The length of time spent in Cerebro
is a guess based on the film; neither the professor
nor Jean actually seemed to be in the machine for more
than a few minutes. As for the world events related
here, some have obviously not occurred and I sincerely
hope they don't. This story takes place somewhere
five to ten years from the present. Regarding THE
SECRET HISTORY, Donna Tartt took her title from the
well known work of Procopius, dating around the
mid-500s AD �- a kind of National Enquirer expos� of
the Byzantine court of Justinian and Theodora.
Scott's words to the professor in the final scene are
based on a few things said in interviews or official
literature about the relationship between Jean Grey
and Xavier, and I freely admit to being influenced by
Kat's very dark (but very interesting) "Seventeen."
Please recall, grief is hard and anger is a natural
part of the grieving process.
I rested a hand on one oakwood panel of my bedroom
door. It felt grainy and cool beneath my finger pads.
The air was sharp with spring night chill, glass
shards splintering my breath in my throat. Lamps
along the hall reflected pale, not quite white -� a
new color in my spectrum. I was getting used to
lights that weren't pink, and had come up here only
when the sun had set because I liked living in a world
without those damn glasses. I was in no hurry to have
my power back, to be condemned to dim red and careful
movement and always, always, *always* being on my
guard lest the glasses slip even half an inch and let
out enough power to rip a hole in a wall or a ceiling,
or a person. My power hadn't saved Jean, or myself.
What the hell good was it?
My hand dropped to the knob. The lock had been cut,
courtesy of an impatient Logan. I'd have to take the
whole damn door off the hinges and replace the lock
Not that it really mattered. I doubted anyone at the
mansion wanted behind this door except me. I pushed
it open. Logan had been in here. Ororo and Bobby,
too. I wasn't sure what I felt about that, but I'd
been violated so often in the past few weeks, in so
many different ways, that having people break into my
bedroom to fetch things for me, even without asking
first, was trivial. I'd spent too much of life
worrying over the trivial. I had perspective now.
Switching on a light by our bed, I found the room
exactly like we'd left it down to the unmade sheets
she'd dragged me out of to shower and get ready to go
that morning. A Saturday morning, normally my day to
sleep in. I'd been grumpy. Jean had left her clothes
on my desk chair, which annoys me. I'd left my
pyjamas on the floor by my side of the bed, which
Annoyed her. God, when do you stop using present
tense? At least I didn't do it aloud. Much.
Now, picking up her black sweater off my chair, I
collapsed backward onto the bed and laid it over my
face, crushed it to my skin. The scent of her made me
dizzy, made my whole body ache, my groin most of all,
a sudden hot focus for pain. I crawled further up the
sheets and wrapped myself around her pillow, refused
to give in to the physical need, refused to hump the
goddamn bed like a sixteen-year-old. Control,
control. I'd forgotten my body could flex itself for
reasons beyond the prevention of morning bedwetting.
Maybe I shouldn't be surprised �- I was young, I was
nominally healthy again, I was in my own room
surrounded by the scent of Jean, and I hadn't had sex
in too long. Rape didn't count as sex.
I shouldn't be feeling this, even if I was thinking of
her. She was dead. I'd never hold her again. I'd
never make her gasp and hiss my name. I'd never feel
her buck against me convulsively when she came. I
shouldn't *want* like this; she was *dead* and what
was wrong with me that I could *want* like this?
Obscene, obscene. I was sick. They'd hurt me, they'd
*fucked* me, and I was sick, messed up in the head.
Messed up in my soul.
I found I was humping the bed anyway, slow like I was
fighting myself. I slipped a hand under the waistband
of my sweatpants, down between my legs to grip myself,
press into my palm, brought myself right up to that
edge which drops off beyond thought and breath � but I
didn't let myself go over, took my hand away and
waited for the body rush to cool. Then I did it
again, and again, until my pelvis ached, my body
strained, and my penis was hard and numb. Punishment
for desire, rough and no release. Maybe my body would
be pushed past saturation, give up and be as dead as
the rest of me.
It failed. I got up finally and went into the
bathroom, turned the shower knob to cold, peeled off
my shoes and clothes and got in to stand under the
water until everything was shriveled and I shook, my
skin livid pale and the only heat coming from tears,
washed away as soon as my eyes released them, washed
away like all trace of her. Nothing left.
God, nothing left. I sank down until I was kneeling
on the floor of the shower, freezing water pouring
over me, running too-long hair into my face and
tickling my cheeks. I needed a haircut.
What a goddamn stupid thing to think right now.
Everything that had been done to me . . . . I could
have survived it if I'd just had Jean. But if I
didn't, why bother? And for whom? The students?
Xavier? The Dream?
Fuck the dream.
Whatever Bobby Drake had said, the school didn't need
me. No one depended on me like Marie depended on
Logan. I didn't begrudge him that; I was glad. She
gave him something to live for. I had no children, no
family. My own family had cut me off and Jean's had
never accepted me; they'd put up with me as their
daughter's unfortunate fascination. Xavier was the
closest thing I had to family.
But I wasn't going to think about Xavier, or his
insane explanation for what had been done to Logan and
me, and Jean. It had all sounded like something out
of a bad space opera crossed with Robert Ludlum. Most
of my current life sounded like that. How many normal
people put on black leather to go fight a guy calling
himself Magneto? Of course, how many normal people
could blast a hole through a mountain if he opened his
unprotected eyes, either?
Correction: could have blasted.
Cyclops was as past tense as Jean. I'd spent ten
years struggling with my power, learning to control it
like a man learns to handle a wheelchair. I'd even
come to take pride in what I could do. But I'd still
hated the *goddamn motherfucking glasses*. I hated
being stared at. I hated never being able to take
them off. I hated living in fear of what would happen
if I lost control, even for a second. If I could be
rid of the glasses �-
I'd always been more than a little nocturnal, and now
I had the night vision to go with it. Maybe I could
spend the rest of my days like a character in an Anne
Rice novel, coming out when the sun went down.
I shut off the water finally, but stayed on the floor
of the shower. I hadn't wrapped my burned arm this
time and the bandages were soaked, heavy and sagging.
I ripped them off and flung them in the trash, stared
down at the ugly round circles left by cigarettes.
They'd never go away, lifelong souvenirs. None of
this was going to go away, go back to what life had
been three weeks ago. My future was as scarred as my
arm, burned full of holes.
Getting out of the tub finally, I dried myself off and
studied my reflection in the glass above the sink. I
still glanced twice every time I passed a reflective
surface. My eyes were blistered from crying but at
least the bruising on my skin had faded or was
half-concealed by beard. I wasn't sure what I thought
of having a beard. I looked like a folk band refugee.
Certainly, I didn't look like myself. But then, I
didn't feel like myself, so perhaps that was fitting.
I dropped my eyes to the scattery on the counter. It
made me smile for some reason; what a mess we'd been
sometimes. Jean's jewelry had been tossed in a
haphazard pile near the back edge; she must have
dumped it out looking for something, and I opened her
little blue pillbox where she kept earrings, to put it
back. Stopped dead.
Inside was a small collection of her hair.
It was a good thing I'd been leaning against the
counter or I might have simply fallen to my knees. As
it was, my sight tunneled and I had to grip the
counter edge. The blue porcelain lid dropped out of
my fingers onto the sink edge and clattered down to
the bottom of the bowl. One corner chipped a little.
Putting out a hand, I let my fingers touch the hair.
Her hair. Exquisite fragility in red-brown like a
wash of autumn folliage -� auburn was a shade I could
actually see now. Who'd done this? Ro? Not likely.
Logan. It must have been Logan.
Picking up the threads of hair, I laid them in my
palm. Jean's hair. I closed my fingers around it.
All I had. All I would ever have. Very, very
carefully, I put it back in the pillbox, every strand.
There was a little more on the counter; I picked that
up and added it, put the chipped lid back on. The box
would do for now, though I'd have to find somewhere
safer to keep it.
I left the bathroom, left my dirty clothes on the
floor and went back into the bedroom to dress. I'd
lost a good deal of weight, so my pants didn't fit,
but for the first time, I put on real jeans, not
sweatpants. I suppose I could have climbed into
pyjamas and just gone to bed, but I couldn't sleep in
this room. Everything in me was screaming to get out
of here before I lost it completely. The shower had
been bad enough. But I had one thing I needed to do
first, what I'd come to do. Opening my sock drawer, I
pulled out a small jewelry case tucked into the left
corner, opened it.
Our rings. Jean's had matched her engagement ring,
molded to fit around it -� the ring that had been lost
with her. I touched the half that was left,
incomplete, like me. She should have died with this.
It should have been on her finger. Instead, it lay in
the coffin of a black jewelry box.
The other ring was mine. Plain gold band, not too
narrow, not too wide. That's all I'd wanted. A
simple symbol to mark me taken, to say that I belonged
to someone. I still did, even if that someone no
longer lived. I was a widower in fact, if not in
legalities. What the hell difference did two months
make? I could still feel her near me, almost a
physical presence, as if she stood at my side in death
as she had in life. I'd never believed in ghosts,
wasn't even sure that I believed in life after death,
though I knew Jean had. But now I found myself
unsure. Maybe it was just wishful thinking -� my own
inability to let her go, to admit that "Jean" had
stopped with her breath and her mind. I needed to
feel her, wanted to feel her, so I did. I stood here
now with the box containing our wedding bands and it
was like she had her arms around my chest from behind,
holding me up. Tangible. I could feel the weight of
her head on my shoulder, the strength in her arms, the
press of her wrist against my sternum and her pelvis
against my buttocks. So damn physical. I had a
hard-on again, and leaned into the counter, closed my
eyes. "Don't," I whispered to the air. She wasn't
really here. I was just talking to myself now. After
a moment, the feeling receded.
I looked back at the ring, remembered the day she'd
bought it for me. We'd tried it on to be sure it fit
and I'd made her slide it on my hand because I can be
stupid and superstitious that way. "When you put it
on for real," I'd said, "I'll never take it off."
She'd smiled and kissed my cheek and whispered, "You
can be a romantic sop, y'know?"
"I'm *serious*," I'd replied, a little offended.
Laughing at me, she'd slipped off the ring and set it
on the counter to be boxed by the jeweler. "That's
why I love you, Scott Summers. You say stuff like
that and you're completely serious."
Now I lifted out the ring. She wasn't here to put it
on me, except in my imagination. So I put it on
myself, flexed the fingers. It felt right. "I'm
yours, Jean. I always was. I always will be."
Closing the box, I put it way, shut the drawer and
left the room. Outside, it was storming. I could
hear the rattle of rain against glass panes, the
occasional scratch of branches. Lightning flashed,
the thunder right on top of it. Close. Ororo or
Back downstairs, on the way to the lab and Jean's
office where I slept now, I passed the Danger Room,
saw the in-use light on. Curious, I keyed in my code.
The exterior door slid aside and I took the stairs
beside the inner door, up to the observation deck
above the arena.
Storm, fighting alone. Angry, I flipped the program
off and the intercom on. She jumped, looked up at the
window. Speaking into the mic, I said, "You know damn
well you're supposed to have a second somewhere, if
you're running a full simulation. Where's Frank? Or
Warren? Or even Logan?"
"I hear the pot calling the kettle black,
thundermouth." Her breath came hard; I wondered how
long she'd been at it. "Who broke his arm in here
while he was practicing -� alone?"
That had been almost three years ago. "Why do you
think I instituted the rule?"
She smiled at that, didn't reply.
"Is the storm outside yours, too?" I asked. Looking
off, she nodded absently. I'd embarrassed her. Ororo
doesn't usually lose control and affect the weather.
As she'd explained to me once, altering weather
patterns in one place at the whim of moods can have
dangerous consequences in other places. That's why
she practices calm. "What's wrong?" I asked.
"You asked where Frank is. Frank is in Cerebro."
She studied me through the glass. "Wait a minute. I
will come up." She ducked out the inner door and I
heard her feet on the stairs. Entering the
observation deck, she flipped on the light. I'd been
standing in the dark. "The professor scared him this
afternoon," she said. "He did not know anything of
this conspiracy. And you know how he hates to be
taken by surprise."
"He really believes there is one?"
"Well, someone had you. Someone with access to
government files, government level security, testing
equipment, a lot of firepower, and FBI jackets. Not
to mention that the media admitted it was a government
installation that you blew up."
Uncomfortable, I ran my fingers along the simulation
machine, played with dials. "That's not the same
thing as little green men in UFOs. What the professor
told us sounded like a Fox television special or an
issue of THE STAR. I'm inclined to agree with
Warren's assessment of 'claptrap.'"
"What? I may faint. You and Warren agreeing on
something?" That won a rueful grin out of me. She
grew serious. "As Frank said, it is not important if
it is true. It is important that they believe it to
be true. The professor's contact believed in this
consortium, and the professor would know if he were
being lied to."
I sighed. "Fair enough. But it's too fantastic for
anyone sane to take seriously."
"This from a man who devours science fiction."
My breath went out, explosively, and I set my hands on
the machine, glared down at the controls. "It's not
the idea of aliens. I'm like Hank �- theoretically, I
think the idea of life out there" �- I gestured
vaguely at the roof �- "is not just possible, but
likely. But that's not what we're talking about.
We're talking about a shadow organization whose sole
purpose is to keep the public in the dark about alien
visitors, an organization who captured us, killed
Jean, held us prisoner and tortured us, all supposedly
as part of an elaborate plan to defeat the Evil Alien
Visitors. That's not just paranoid, it's ridiculous."
"Then how would you explain it?" Her voice was quiet.
"Christ, I don't know. What do you think I've been
asking myself for three goddamn weeks?" I yanked out
a chair and lowered myself into it. It no longer hurt
to sit down, as long as I did so carefully. I leaned
back in the chair.
She'd put a hand over her face, now whispered, "I'm
I shook my head. "No, it was a fair question. I just
wish I had an answer. It's -� What the professor
said -- It's too *big*, Ro. It's too big to
Her hand dropped. "That is what makes it frightening,
no? This is not a single enemy to defeat in an
"We'd have to keep fighting them over and over." I
nodded. "Be on guard all the time. We'd never know
if or when they were going to try again. Christ," I
said once more and leaned over to rest my elbows on my
knees because a sudden panic-flash of fear made me
weak. She squatted down beside the chair, took my
hand and gripped it. I realized that I'd flipped
suddenly from skepticism into belief and I wasn't
quite sure why. Maybe just because Storm was right.
We'd been taken by people with too much information
and too many resources. It beggared simple
explanations or wishful thinking of isolated, mad
experimentation. This *was* big. Their rationale
didn't matter. What mattered was that we weren't
facing a single enemy. We were facing a black ops
unit of the �the government' with all the personnel
and resources that could be brought to bear by such a
group. "Christ," I said a third time.
"Now you know why Frank wishes to use Cerebro." She
was still rubbing her thumb over my fingers. "He
needs to learn what we are up against, if he can. He
is angry, that he did not see it before. He blames
himself that Jean died, and that you were so badly
And the fact that he did blame himself allowed me to
stop blaming him. "He's not our early warning
"I know that. He does not. He is too much like you;
he takes on too much responsibility."
I recognized her covert warning and her rebuke both,
got to my feet. "I'll go wait on him."
She nodded. "I will stay here." Frank didn't like
for Ro to see him, when he first came out of Cerebro.
I moved to the stairs, said on my way out, "Don't run
the sim alone, Ro."
I stopped. "That wasn't an order. I'm not your field
leader any more. Cyclops is dead. It was a request
from Scott to a friend."
"It sounded like an order to me." But the tone was
light, not accusing. "You are my field leader, Scott.
By whatever name you want to call yourself."
I turned my back and got out of there.
Go directly to part 6b
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