Continued directly from part 5b....
"And where the fuck were *you*, man?" EJ asked -� loudly -� as soon
as he unlocked their dorm room door. Summers had missed their
English class, and a quiz, and that wasn't like him. EJ had conjured
visions of accidents or other dire emergencies until he'd gotten back
to Norton Hall only to see Summers' racing bike locked up downstairs
in its usual place.
"Don't yell, please," came a voice from the bed. The room was dark,
or at least dim, with the curtains shut tightly, and Summers lay on
his bed, on his back, a cloth over his eyes. The room stank badly,
all sweet and sharp, making EJ gag.
"God, did you *vomit*?"
"Yeah. Jesus, I'm sorry. I just . . . I'm so sick. You might want
to go somewhere else tonight."
*Shit*, EJ thought to himself. This was the fourth time Summers had
suffered one of his migraines since the year had begun, but always
before, the migraines had hit him in the late afternoon or early
evening, and had never been this bad. Shaking his head, EJ dug
through his dirty clothes for a towel. The smell told him where
Summers had dumped his breakfast near the bed's foot in front of the
little fridge; it had half-dried into the cheap brown carpet.
Getting down on his knees, he began to clean it up.
"*Don't do that*," Summers hissed from the bed. "You don't have to
"Don't have to, no," EJ said softly. "But the longer it's on the
floor, the worse the room'll smell. And you're in no shape."
"Shut the fuck up, Slim. You're sick."
He finished the job, though he gagged three times and almost emptied
his own stomach in the process. It took two towels and a bowl of
water. When he was done, he opened the windows but left the curtains
shut, then seated himself carefully on the edge of his friend's bed.
"You take anything for it?"
"Yes." Summers' face was pasty even in the low light and he was
sweating, his jaw clenched tightly from pain.
"It's bad, isn't it?" EJ asked. Summers didn't reply. "I think you
ought to go to the Tang, man. I'll drive you over there." Tang was
the student health center.
"Slim-boy �- "
"No, EJ. I've had them this bad before. It's just . . . too much
light." He was almost panting as he spoke. "It'll be better by
"Maybe so, but you got a quiz to make up. You know the prof requires
a legit excuse to let you retake a test. You need a doctor's note."
"Not for this. Migraines are on my disabilities form."
"Then at least let me call one of the student health workers.
They're just downstairs."
"No, dammit!" And he winced. "Ow." A pause to breathe. "Just go
So EJ took his books next door and tried to study in Phoebe and
Elizabeth's room, but they were perched cross-legged on their beds,
deeply involved in a discussion of which show's heroine was tougher:
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER or XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. On another
afternoon, he might have found it amusing, or even joined in, but not
today. Fed up, he returned to check in on Summers, who appeared to
be asleep. Cautiously pulling out the chair at Summers' desk, EJ
seated himself where a little late afternoon light slipped in through
the curtains and he could read. He might have retreated to the
lounge, but didn't want to go that far, in case Scott needed him.
Breathing heavy, Summers had rolled onto his side, the white cheese
cloth still over the upper half of his face. He'd said before that
wearing glasses or goggles only made it hurt worse when he got these
headaches. Too much weight on his eyes.
About an hour had passed when Summers suddenly said, "I need to go
EJ glanced over at him. "You want help?"
"Maybe to get down there, yeah."
So EJ shut his book and helped Summers to sit up very slowly, while
Scott tied the cloth over his eyes like a blindfold. Then EJ helped
him stand. He was shaking and still sweaty. "I am so sorry to bug
you with this," he said, an edge of both anger and real pain in his
"It's not a problem, man. What do you think friends are for?"
Summers didn't reply to that. He'd been taught to stand on his own
two feet, keeping pain -� either physical or emotional -� to himself.
He might be happy to give assistance, but hated to take it unless he
were utterly incapacitated. As he was now. Needing EJ's help
speared his pride. Fortunately for them both, the bathrooms were
close to their room, and nearly empty just now, but the bright light
of the hall, the necessity of movement, and the noise of conversation
or music from other rooms sawed into Summers' skull like a dull
knife. As soon as he got into the restroom, the first thing he did
was push his face up against the cool tile wall. "Hurts," he said.
EJ almost had to carry him into a stall, which got odd looks from the
few others in there.
"Bad trip?" one asked.
"It's not drugs," EJ snapped back. "He's just sick."
"Whoa," the other boy replied, holding up hands and backing out of
the toilet area. "Just asking, dude. Maybe he should go to Tang?"
But he was gone before EJ (or Scott) could reply.
"You don't have to hold me up; I can piss by myself," Summers said,
shutting the stall door in EJ's face. Shame had rendered him rude.
Taking it philosophically, EJ grabbed some paper towels from the
dispenser above the sinks, in case he needed them, only to be
interrupted by a crash behind. Summers had collapsed after all -�
fainted in fact -� and EJ had to crawl under the door to get inside
so he could stand him up and pull on his pants. But EJ's hands felt
wrapped in gauze and a belly-deep panic caused him to fumble buttons
and zippers. The stall was too narrow for two people, and the whole
situation fell to the far left of absurd, but they weren't going to
be laughing about this later. Conscious once more, if groggy,
Summers was sobbing in humiliation like a drunk, apologizing over and
over and saying he was too dizzy to stand.
"Stop it, man," EJ hissed. "Come on, stop it. You're making
yourself sicker and you'll throw up again. Relax and let me take
care of you. Trust me, okay? You gotta trust somebody."
Summers nodded and, in that moment, something subtle shifted. EJ
felt his body relax, and he leaned his forehead into EJ's shoulder.
"Okay. I trust you."
So EJ got him dressed and slipped an arm around him, walking him over
to the sinks where he could wash his face with cool water, or as much
of it as the cheese-cloth bared. Then he just picked him up and
carried him back to their room. *He ain't heavy, he's my brother*,
he thought, trying to lighten the moment because he was scared out of
After getting Summers back into bed, EJ did something he knew wasn't
kosher, but he was desperate, and one step away from calling an
ambulance. Taking Scott's cell phone off his desk, he went out into
the hall and pushed "1" on the speed dial, waiting while the phone
rang, and breathing out in relief when a woman answered, "Hello?"
"Is this Jean Grey?" he asked.
Silence. "Yes. Who is this?"
"EJ Haight -� Scott's roomy. Man, I need your help. He's really
sick and I don't know what's up but he won't let me take him to the
school health center or call a student health worker and I'd call an
ambulance but I thought I'd try you first and see what you thought I
should do, if there was anything else to do, and �- "
"*EJ!*" she interrupted on the other end. "Stop! Calm down."
He stopped and caught his breath. "Okay."
"Good. Now listen to me. You cannot take Scott to a hospital. Do
you understand? Do *not* take him to a hospital! They won't know
what to do and could wind up hurting him. I need you to answer some
questions for me. Can you do that?"
"Then tell me what, exactly, is happening."
"It's one of his headaches, but *really bad*. It must have hit right
after breakfast �cause he missed class. He threw up, too, and he
just totally flipped me out in the bathroom by fainting."
"He fainted? Tell me, how many times did he vomit?"
"Just the once."
"Does he know where he is and who he is, or is he delirious?"
"No, he's okay on that score, I think."
She sighed into the phone and he realized that she must have been
scared herself. "That's not so bad, then. Is Scott where I can talk
"I'm out in the hall. He doesn't know I called you."
"I thought maybe as much," and he could hear the amusement in her
voice. "Take the phone back into the room and give it to him. I
need to ask him some questions."
"He's going to kill me."
"Not when I get done with him. You did the right thing. He's pushed
himself too far."
So EJ took the phone back into their room and sat down on Scott's
bed. "Hey man, Jean's on the phone and wants to talk to you."
"What?" Summers muttered, rolling slowly onto his back and reaching
out blindly to feel for the phone. EJ put it in his hand. "I didn't
hear it ring."
"It didn't. I called her."
"You're in a bad way, man. I needed some advice."
*Scott*, came from the cell phone's earpiece and Scott put it to his
ear. EJ moved over to his own bed, to give them some privacy. He
couldn't hear what Jean asked, but Scott replied only with 'yes,'
'yes,' 'no,' and 'okay.'
Finally, he held out the phone to EJ, who took it back to ask, "So?"
"He'll be fine," Jean replied. "This is a bad one, yes, but he's
been through worse and there isn't much to be done beyond what you're
doing already. Just let him sleep and give him Imitrex �- his pain
meds �- if he asks for it. And he'd better ask for it. In the
morning, he owes you an explanation. I told him that. But call me
again if he should start vomiting, become delirious, or complain of a
great pressure in his head."
"EJ -� thank you. He won't say so, but thank you."
So EJ bullied Scott into taking some pain medication, then went next
door again to let him sleep, hoping Elizabeth and Phoebe were past
their Kick-Butt-Women-on-TV debate. They were, but he still got
little studying done and retired early at ten o'clock. The next
morning, Summers was up but wobbly on his feet, so EJ insisted that
he stay home from class. When EJ returned some time after two, he
found Summers sitting at his desk under the window, showered,
dressed, and wasting time surfing the Net. He turned at EJ's
"Hey! How you feeling?"
"All right, I guess. A little stupid."
"Why? It wasn't your fault."
But Summers just looked off at the far wall, no expression on his
face. Light from the window behind cut his profile clean and sharp.
Then he stood. "We need to talk, Eeej." Head tilted, he eyed his
friend. "You asked me yesterday to trust you. Okay, I'm going to."
"Why does this sound like something I may not like?"
Summers shrugged. "I don't know what you'll think. But after
yesterday, you deserve to know the whole truth. Let's go somewhere
else, though. Some of this, you need to see �- and I don't dare show
EJ's unease was metamorphosing into a low-grade alarm. "What's so
bad you can't show me here?"
"It's not bad. It's just . . . . I can't show you here. Let's go
up to that little woody area near the Big C. Come on." And he
slipped past EJ, out into the hall, then paused to glance back. EJ
still stood in their dorm room, his backpack over his shoulder.
"Look �- I'm not going to take you up there and murder you or
anything." He grinned, but it was strained and the joke fell flat.
"Let's go," he finished, and EJ tossed the backpack onto his bed and
followed him out.
They rode bikes; EJ still had his even though he'd brought back a car
after Christmas. No one drove on campus. Only mid-afternoon on a
Thursday, students were still thick on the sidewalks, so they had to
weave their way carefully, which suited Scott. He wasn't yet up to
great physical exertion. The spring temperatures were mild and trees
were blooming under a clear-quartz sky, early flowers bright in
mulched beds and crowded into artfully placed cement planters. The
ride might have been pleasant had his stomach been churning less.
They reached the rise that led up to the Big C overlooking the Bay,
but he turned off the path before they were even halfway there,
heading into the surrounding trees on foot, pushing his bike. EJ
followed, and Scott kept an eye out to be sure that no one else did,
accidentally or not.
Some way inside, there was a little clearing that Scott had found the
previous August. A fallen pine had taken down two others, creating
an odd triangle of rotten wood draped in vines and white lichen.
There, they leaned their bikes against trees and faced each other �-
edgy, unsure, suspicious -� until abruptly, Scott started laughing.
"Christ, this seems so pretentious!" Baffled, EJ said nothing, just
watched as his friend sat down on a fallen log. "Sit, Eeej. You
look like you think I have a brain tumor or something."
In fact, that very fear had flitted through EJ's head earlier, but he
couldn't imagine why Summers wouldn't have been able to tell him that
in the dorm, or what Summers had to show him that necessitated being
outdoors. "Okay," he replied cautiously, and came to sit on another
log, a few feet away. Summers noticed the distance but didn't
And now that the moment was upon him, Scott had absolutely no idea
where to start. He'd spent most of the day thinking it through and
rehearsing, but -� perhaps predictably -� everything had scattered
out of his head when the time had arrived. So he went with the short
and simple. "I'm a mutant."
EJ didn't immediately answer, then said only, "Huh?"
And Scott Summers blinked. He'd anticipated any of a good half-dozen
replies, even prepared for them, but none had included �Huh?'
Perspective thus duly returned, he laughed at himself. However much
the events in Winnipeg had preyed on his own mind for the week since
spring break, EJ had probably forgotten all about it. "I'm a
mutant," he repeated. "You remember that guy from the news when we
were down at your house? The guy up in Winnipeg who was �- "
" -� turning over cars?" EJ's bafflement had transformed into shock,
but not into alarm. "But you don't . . . you're not . . . ." EJ
stopped and stared. "You don't look like that guy did."
"No. Each mutation is unique. I have no idea who that guy was, or
even what his mutation is, other than excessive strength. I don't
get my jollies flipping SUVs, though. I usually try to avoid hurting
people. My own mutation . . . " He tapped his glasses. "It's here,
in my eyes."
"What do they look like?"
"Huh?" His turn now for monosyllabic brilliance.
"Your eyes -� what do they look like?" EJ leaned in a little. "I
figured there had to be something serious wrong with them, since you
won't ever let anyone see them."
"Actually, they don't look any different at all �- as long as they're
closed." He glanced up, to be sure no branches obscured the sky
directly overhead, then shut his eyes and pulled his glasses off.
"See? It's when they're open that we have a problem. That's why I
have to wear the glasses, and why I had to bring you out here. I
could try to explain it to you, but it's probably easier just to show
Tilting his chin up, he opened his eyes and felt the energy coil,
then explode skyward in a bright neon wash of red.
One second, two, three.
Shutting his eyes once more, he lowered his chin to put the glasses
back on. There was silence, not even the call of birds. And no
sound from EJ at all.
Safe behind ruby quartz, Scott opened his eyes to find his friend on
his feet and half way across the clearing. But he wasn't running.
Instead, he wore a stupefied expression. "Holy *shit*! *You're* the
Yes, it's a bit of a cliffhanger, and yes, I have a reason for it
besides yanking the chains of readers. :-)
If you're a fan of the images I include in html chapters, check the
website tomorrow, to see if I've been able to upload the chapter
there, with images.
Feedback is -- as always -- welcome.
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