An Accidental Interception of Fate: Fallout
Note: All these 'Berkeley chapters' owe a great deal to Judy Hsu.
Thanks to Lelia and Naomi for information about the extent of
Cyclops' blasting power, and Sequoia for Jean trivia. Tarch, bless
his heart, gave me lovely, thorough descriptions of preparing cells
for cataloguing DNA, and Dee offered stormish advice. Yes, Hulk
fans, I've played a bit with Banner's history; it's closer to the
Ultimates than to the core books. Someone could have fun keeping
track of all the Marvel characters who are going to get cameos in
"Whoa. Back up. *How* much force?"
"At full power, about ten kilotons of TNT. I could pretty much level
a city block. Maybe a couple of city blocks, if I left my eyes open
"Holy shit." But it was said almost perfunctorily, and EJ wasn't
watching him. He was staring out over the dark bay water where the
wind made little white caps and passing motorboats stirred up wakes.
They'd left the clearing some time ago and now sat on the hill above
the Big C, overlooking the Berkeley campus on one side and the San
Francisco Bay on the other. After Scott's demonstration, EJ had
wisely suggested that they move elsewhere, in case anyone came
looking for the source of the red light. So they'd pushed their
bikes all the way to the top and sat down to talk, a little off the
beaten track. The Big C was a bright splash below, a letter of
poured concrete branded flat onto the hillside and painted yellow.
To the west, the Golden Gate Bridge was just visible in the hazy
distance, its outline indistinct and gray. Scott had told EJ
everything he knew about his own mutation, and a little about the
professor's school. Through it all, EJ had remained remarkably -�
almost inhumanly �- calm, listening, asking questions, absorbing.
"The beams don't normally strike with that much force," Scott
explained now. "I actually have to push harder with them. I don't
know how I do that; I mean, how do you piss harder? Your body just
learns to do it. It's kinda the same with this."
"So you *can* control it?"
"To a limited degree. I just can't shut it off. The professor
thinks I'll get better at controlling it as time goes on, maybe even
learn to stop the beams entirely. They're still not sure why I
*can't*, and my brain is so different now, Hank can't tell much from
MRIs or CAT-scans, and X-Rays just come up blank from all the energy
in my head. But who've they got to compare me to? Most mutations
are pretty new at this point."
"I thought you said they been around a while. Your professor is,
what, in his 60s?"
"Yeah, but there were very, very few mutants back then. He might've
been one of the first. But if Jean's calculations are right, it's
hitting some kind of critical mass �- exponentially more mutants born
in each generation." Scott frowned down at the dirt between his
knees. "Our existence isn't really a secret, but it's been
specialized knowledge within the medical community. Now though . . .
you saw that news report on TV down at your parents' house. If
enough things like that happen, and people find out about us because
of weirdoes turning over cars on highways, people will wind up scared
"And that's why you didn't tell me?"
"Yeah. Kinda. I didn't know what you'd think. At least you're not
going postal on me."
For a while, EJ didn't respond, then he said only, "I've got some
Scott's stomach twisted. "So you are scared?"
"No, not scared. That's the least of it. You don't scare me, Slim."
He fell silent again. He'd picked a few blades of grass and now
shredded them in his fingers. It kept his hands busy.
"So what is it?"
EJ shook his head. "For six months you been giving me this crap
about being 'light sensitive.'" He threw away the bits of grass. A
breeze blew them back in his face. He was frowning. "And yeah, I do
kinda see where you're coming from but . . . I wish you'd told me
from the beginning."
"How was I supposed to know you weren't going to freak out and run
off to the administration building, saying, 'My roomie's a mutant!
Get me a new roomie!'"
"So what if I had, man? Would you've wanted to room with someone who
didn't want you? How was I to know, when I first saw you, that you
weren't going to run to admin and say, 'Whoa, my roomie's a nigger!
Get me a new roomie!'"
"Like they'd have listened to that anyway, even if it had mattered?"
"Well, no, but you think I want to live with someone who wouldn't
want to live with me because of my skin color? No way. I'd rather
know upfront if it's going to be an issue. And so what if I *had*
run to admin to say you were a mutant? Why you trying to hide it? I
thought you said mutants weren't no secret."
"We're not, exactly, but I might not have been allowed to stay
enrolled if they knew."
"Man, this is *Berkeley*! Did you fucking forget that? They'd
probably invent a new minority scholarship for you, so they could
claim you! But I still don't buy that as a good reason. Lot of
black men couldn't even get into colleges because they was black.
They had to fight for the right to an education. I wouldn't *be*
here if they hadn't fought, and I'm not going to spit in their eye by
pretending to be something I'm not. I'm black. I'm proud of that.
Some of us can't pass, and I don't have a lot of sympathy for those
who try. *If* the administration were to kick you out -� big, damn
if -� why not stand up and *fight*, man? They'd have no reason to
expel you just because you're a mutant. You meet the entrance
requirements, you got an academic scholarship, you got the drive to
make it -� so you got weird DNA, too. So the fuck what? Who cares?"
"But you heard how the newscaster talked about mutants. And your own
"Well, yeah! Because that was all we knew! You just said yourself
you was afraid people'd fear you because of guys like the one up in
Winnipeg. But of course they will unless they know better. What if
we'd known *you* were a mutant yourself? We'd have seen the whole
thing differently. You gotta *tell* people, man. They gotta get to
know you, so they know what mutants are like."
Abruptly, he rose up to dust grass off his legs and behind. His
expression was still hard, but determined, as if he'd finally reached
some internal conclusion. "No, I'm not scared of you, man. I'm mad
at you. I'm pissed as hell. I thought you were my friend, but you
lied to me. Come talk to me again when you feel like being real with
the rest of us." And he walked away to get his bike from where he'd
left it leaning against a pine tree.
Angry now in his own turn, Scott stood up to shout, "I *am* trying to
be real with you!"
EJ just raised a hand and made a dismissive gesture as he got on his
bike -� but he glanced back before he rode off. "With me? Okay,
yeah. After six months, you're finally leveling with me. How about
with everyone else? Get out of the damn closet, Summers."
After EJ left, Scott sat and brooded for a long while. Late
afternoon light fell warm on his shoulders and hair, and slanted
shadows with fuzzy edges over the clearing �- like his moral
quandaries. Had he been wrong, he wondered? Or was EJ being
unreasonable? Or, just maybe, they were both wrong and both right.
Pulling out his cell phone, he started to place a call �- almost on
instinct -� but stopped and laid the phone on the ground between his
knees to stare at it. Overhead, a crow made a caw-caw-caw sound,
like laughter, and he finally picked up the phone again to dial the
number of the person he most needed advice from, and not Jean.
When the man on the other end answered, he said, "Professor? Do you
have a few minutes?" Xavier said that he did and Scott told him
everything, ending with, "What should I do?"
"It seems to me that you need to tell him the whole truth."
For three beats, Scott didn't reply, because he didn't understand.
"Huh?" he said finally. "I did tell him the truth -� well, most of
it. I didn't tell him about Cerebro, or Hank's new toy, but I didn't
think you'd want me to."
"Scott, you are missing my point. And you did not tell him the
truth. You gave him an excuse. This isn't about why you did not
tell him at first, I think. EJ might have preferred that you had,
though I believe he understands why you did not -� "
"But he gave me all that shit about minorities and not being able to
"Mmmm. But was that why he was angry with you? It seems to me that
EJ was trying to sort out his own feelings. We may know what we
feel, Scott, but not always why we feel it. In the end, what reason
did he give you for being angry?"
Scott thought about it, then frowned and poked holes in the sandy
California dirt with his forefinger. Shame ate at him. "Because I
lied to him for so long."
"Yes. He thought you were his friend, yet you kept this from him for
months until he doubts now that you feel as close to him as he had
believed �- as close as he feels to you. And people rarely like to
be vulnerable that way, do we? That very vulnerability is what kept
you from telling him the full truth: that the reason you had
difficulty trusting him in the first place was because you feared to
lose his friendship."
Scott laughed and rubbed at his eyes under his glasses. "You're not
even here where you can read my mind. How do you know all these
things anyway, professor?"
"I don't always need telepathy to tell me what people are thinking or
feeling," Xavier replied, and Scott could hear the humor in his
voice. "Sometimes simple common sense and a little life experience
serve just as well. Besides, I know you. I am certain that you were
very academic in your explanations. You gave him all the information
he could possibly want, and then some -� but did you give him your
fears and insecurities?"
Scott lay back on the ground and stared up at the sky through the
tree branches. "I really hate it when you do that to me."
"Tell me what I did wrong, and you're right."
The professor's soft laugh came out of the phone. "Scott, your
friend has shared his anger with you, and the reason for it. But you
shared with him only your generic fears. Why not meet his courage
halfway and be fully honest? You weren't afraid that he might go to
the administration -- you feared that he wouldn't like you anymore if
he knew the truth. And you wanted him to like you. But EJ had a
point, you know. How could he be the friend you wanted him to be if
he didn't know the full truth about you?"
Scott sighed. "Yeah." Then, "Thank you, sir."
"Of course, Scott. You may call me any time, you know."
Closing the receiver, Scott lay on his back for a while, arms above
his head, phone in one. The sun fell on his body, dappling him in
late afternoon light. He could feel where it kissed his skin and
where it left him wanting. Fickle lover. The air smelled of pinesap
and salt air, and some crawling insect tickled his empty palm as it
crossed. He didn't twitch.
Despite his conversation with the professor, he wasn't ready yet to
return to the dorm. He needed to ponder how to approach this second
discussion with EJ. Then he laughed aloud at that. *Think, think,
think.* He always had to *think*. He used how much he knew as a
shield against how much he felt. His father had taught him that, had
taught him to keep his feelings to himself. It was easier to live
amputated at the neck than to risk the dizzying vertigo of looking
down into that well of his private terrors and needs and jealousies.
He was tender inside because he'd never learned how to take an
emotional sucker-punch, so he protected his feelings like a boy
learned to protect his crotch.
EJ didn't have that particular problem, and it had drawn Scott to EJ
from the start. Feelings didn't scare EJ Haight, and Scott Summers
wanted to learn that kind of fearlessness.
*Get off your back, Summers, and do something on instinct for once,*
he told himself, pushing up to his feet and brushing crisp, dry
leaves and pine needles out of his hair. They fell to the ground
like the binding ropes of his inhibitions. Mounting his bike, he
guided it back down the narrow pathway and returned to his dorm. It
was too much to hope that EJ would be unoccupied in their room.
Instead, he was down the hall, visiting the only other black student
on their floor. Idly, Scott wondered if that were mere chance or if
EJ had sought out some sort of racial reassurance.
Their voices drifted out into the hallway through the open door, EJ's
raised to make some point. One could usually find Elijah Jerome by
following the lilting-emphatic timbre of his conversation. Now,
Scott stopped just beyond the doorway and took a breath, making
himself acknowledge the pounding of his heart. He'd been less
nervous asking out pretty girls. But never had so much lay on the
line. Here, he risked rejection by a man whose good opinion mattered
to him. It was the same fear that had kept him silent for so long,
and that hadn't proven to be a wise choice.
So he knocked.
Both boys looked up, and in EJ's face, Scott read a rapid succession
from surprise to wariness to something that looked as if it might be
hope. "Hey," Scott said, forcing the sound from his throat with a
tearing like birth. Something new entered into the space between
them. "You, um . . . Can I see you for a minute?"
EJ glanced at Dominic. "See you 'round." And he pushed himself up
out of the chair, following Scott into the hall, but no further.
"What?" The wariness was back and his arms were crossed.
"I can't talk here."
"Why? Still trying to hide, Slim?"
The question brought an abrupt stop to his thoughts, like a slap --
guilt and shame and anger burning in the back of his throat -- and
how did he reply? Honesty, honesty. It wasn't exposure of his
mutancy that he feared. "Maybe," he said very softly, "I just don't
feel like parading my feelings in front of all our dorm mates."
Like a tripped switch, EJ's whole demeanor softened and his arms
uncrossed, though Scott didn't realize that the change owed as much
to the plain pain on his face as to the words he'd said. That pain
had cut the Gordian knot of anger that coiled in EJ's gut, a knot
that all of Scott's elaborate explanations and rationales had failed
to loose. "Okay," EJ said. "Fair enough."
So they returned to the room they'd shared for over half a year, both
of them stiff and anxious with the risk of taking a chance on the
other, and sat down cross-legged on their beds. The necessity of
looking for EJ had drained some of Scott's resolve, and EJ himself
felt too resentful still to help. So they sat silent. Outside, the
sun was setting, and with their window facing north and no lights on
in the room, it was dim and close, furniture ill-revealed and sinking
into shadows near the floor. Normally, suspense would have made EJ
speak; he'd never been one to sit still or stay quiet for long. Now,
though, it was Scott who was driven to speak first.
"I didn't tell you earlier because I was afraid you wouldn't want to
be my friend, if you knew what I was." Shifting slightly in a soft
chaff of sheets, he went on, "I won't apologize for not telling you
the first day. Or even the first month. Maybe that makes me a
coward, but I didn't know you, and I've learned to hedge my bets.
When the power first came on me, only a few people were willing to
talk to me after. To most, I was just a freak show, and they'd known
me for years. I haven't been back to San Diego since I left with the
professor, and if I never go back, it'll be too soon."
"You didn't tell me that, earlier," EJ said.
Scott merely shrugged by way of answer. "I should have told you
about the blasts after I got to know you. But it would've been
easier if I hadn't liked you so well. I wanted you to keep liking
"What made you think I wouldn't?" EJ asked, his voice dough soft with
disillusionment. Scott just shrugged again, and EJ pressed, "I'd
like to think I didn't give you a reason to think I'd be prejudiced,
"Not prejudiced on the basis of race, or gender -- no. But genetics?
You're a preacher's son. I didn't know if you'd see me as some kind
of freak, too, like the others did, or an abomination in the eyes of
"I don't *judge* people like that, man! I thought you knew that by
now. How many conversations we had, *in this very room,* about
tolerance? Even if I don't agree with something, it ain't *right* to
persecute people. Ain't no way Jesus of Nazareth ever taught that!"
Scott looked out the window, which glowed faintly in the room's dark,
like an invitation to escape. "But when it's your own ass on the
line, it's not just philosophical anymore. I didn't want to be
tolerated, Eeej. I wanted you to like me."
"Ah shit." Abruptly EJ rose up from the bed and paced across to the
door and back, stopping in front of Scott. "Look, Summers, you're my
friend. I care about you, man. That's not tolerance. I *tolerate*
the way you eat, which is so unhealthy it's fucking crazy. I
*tolerate* the fact that you leave your clothes all over your half of
the goddamn room. But I don't tolerate you. I like you. You're the
best friend I've had in a long time, maybe the best friend I've ever
had. That's why I got so damn pissed. I took you home to my
*family*, but you was hiding all this?"
"I was afraid �- "
"I know you was afraid! But even if I'd had some religious objection
to your mutancy -- which I don't -- it wouldn't change the fact that
I like you, and that's a lot bigger than any of the differences
between us, y'know?"
Scott just nodded, because he couldn't get sound out. Finally, he
managed, "You're the only person I've ever told about this" -� he
tapped his glasses �- "who I didn't have to, or who wasn't a mutant.
You're the first person I trusted that much. It may not seem like
it, considering how long I took to tell you, but you're the only one
I've ever trusted that much."
"Come here," EJ answered, pulling him up off the bed to hug him. It
was awkward for Scott, who found such displays of affection difficult
under most circumstances and all the more so between men, but EJ
didn't let him go. "God, you're like a freakin' store mannequin,
Summers. Learn to take a hug, man. It don't mean I'm coming onto
you. Your boobs ain't big enough."
And that made Scott laugh until he finally relaxed, accepting the
embrace. "It wasn't that," he said, squeezing EJ tightly once before
letting him go. "It's just . . . hard for me."
"I know. Sometimes I think you're the tin man, Slim. You and
Lee-Lee got a thing or two in common on that score, but you gotta
open up more. You might be surprised. People like you, or they want
to . . . but they ain't always sure if you like them. Give �em a
Summers snorted. "What? You think I should tell everybody?"
"Maybe not everybody. But yeah �- you oughta tell more than just
"Right. So I can get called a freak here, too?"
EJ shook his head. "This ain't San Diego, man. People are gonna
find you more interesting than scary. Phoebe's spent this entire
goddamn semester trying to figure out the Berkeley UFO. Imagine her
face when she finds out she been living right next door to it!"
"She'll probably run screaming for the hills."
"That ain't true and you know it." EJ rested both his hands on
Scott's shoulders. "Trust me on this, Slim. Trust me, to trust
Scott tilted his head slightly, but then nodded. "Okay. But if it
backfires -� "
"I'll stand by you. I told you -- you're my friend. Anybody call
you a freak, they gotta answer to *me*, too. We clear on that?"
"Then do the right thing."
Scott just nodded.
Continued directly in part 6b.....
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