AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE
7: Slippery, Bright and Stupid
Warning: There are some adult (sexual) matters dealt with in this,
but nothing too graphic.
Notes: This is, admittedly, a different genesis for the X-men.
Xavier's views are based on how he was presented in the film, which
struck me as more peaceable than comic-Xavier. Thanks to Matt Nute
for the correct name of the WAVEs, to Domenika for the order of
classes in Scott's math degree, to David for checking Scott's
reaction, and to Judy, who fixes all Berkeley errors.
Later the same morning that Frank had entered Cerebro with nightmares
and exited with a prophecy, Scott Summers faced Charles Xavier across
the big oak desk in the professor's study. It was the first of many
such meetings, although Scott had no inkling of that yet and the
professor but the most general notion based on what Frank had
permitted him to see. As always, their Nostradamus had kept much to
himself, relating only necessities, and one of those necessities from
Francesco's perspective was the pivotal role of the boy in the big,
maroon leather chair across from Xavier. Yet Frank had advised
against telling that to Scott. "He will lead them," Frank had
promised, "but only if he makes that decision himself. If told to do
it, he'll rebel." Xavier, who knew Scott as well or better than
Frank, was inclined to agree. So now, he had asked Scott into his
office to consult him not as the future commander of a mutant
peacekeeping force, but as the son of a military officer who had some
insight into combat preparation training, however by-proxy it might
be. None of the rest of them had even that much experience. Xavier
had meant only to create a school and sanctuary here -- a defensive
proposition -- so he was at a loss as to where to begin.
"We need some kind of basic training, like what police go through, or
military cadets," Scott said now, "but I don't think any of us is
anywhere near ready for it. Well, I might be, and Ro, but Frank's
physical shape . . . " Scott paused prudently.
"Frank is in very poor physical condition. You must be honest about
these matters, Scott."
"He needs to eat better and seriously cut back on the smoking, and
I'm not just saying that because I don't like it. His wind is
terrible. Warren is okay, but he needs to exercise more; he could
probably manage BMT now, but he'd be better off if he started a
regular exercise program. Most recruiters advise that sort of thing
when you enlist. Jean spends all her time in the lab. I doubt she
could even lift her own weight or run half a mile. Hank's harder to
judge, since his mutation is physical and he's naturally more adept
and stronger than the rest of us, but he could be in a lot better
shape than he is. All of us could be, and we're going to have to be.
We're going to have to learn to use our powers offensively, too,
plus learn how to handle standard weapons." He stopped, eying
Xavier. "We can't be non-aggressive. Sir. Non-violent maybe, but
not non-aggressive -- not to do what Frank said we'll have to do."
He explained this because he knew well Xavier's own feelings about
violence. Despite the professor's upper-class New England
background, his mother had been a Quaker, and she had instilled those
beliefs in her son: mediation, non-violent resolution of conflict,
and toleration -- even celebration -- of difference. Scott Summers
honored those beliefs, admired them, but he was also a pragmatist.
There were people in the world who understood only force. If he had
issues of his own with �the military complex,' as he thought of it,
he wasn't, and never had been, a pacifist. It was less a
disagreement of ideology than of praxis, and injustice infuriated
him, especially when backed up by force of arms. If he could protect
someone weaker than he was by planting himself in front of a bully,
he'd gladly do it.
"We will not use lethal force," the professor said now.
"I agree. But one of the reasons you train is so you don't have to,
and we may wind up giving some bruises. A cop doesn't let a suspect
deck him so the guy can run off and mug someone else. You stop him,
whatever it takes. My dad taught me a long time ago that a soldier
carries a gun hoping he'll never have to use it, but he'd better be
willing to, and he'd better be a good shot. It's a weapon, not a toy
or a prop. I could shoot a gun and hit a target by the time I was
nine, and clean the gun afterwards. I've never killed anything in my
life, not even a squirrel, but if I had to shoot at someone, I'm good
enough to hit what I'm aiming at -- and it wouldn't have to be in the
torso, like shooting at the broad side of a barn. I could take
someone down by hitting his thigh. People who don't know how to
handle a gun are more likely to kill you by accident."
Leaning back in his wheelchair, Xavier listened to his first student
become, ironically, the teacher. If he had been raised with Quaker
values and doubted that he himself could ever kill another -- even to
save his own life -- he did believe that there were times when force
was called for. Moreover, he had seen in Frank's own mind that if
they did not create this peacekeeping team, thousands, maybe
millions, would die. Listening now to Scott, he understood, too, why
Frank's visions had made Scott pivotal. He would lead this team as
Xavier couldn't -- and not just for the obvious physical reasons.
Scott Summers believed such a team was necessary, but without
glorifying it or seeing it as an end in itself. He would be a
soldier when he needed to be, but when the war was over, he'd happily
return to a peaceable life. And if Xavier might, in his heart, have
sincere doubts that violence would ever truly end violence, he also
realized that he wasn't prepared to sacrifice thousands of lives for
the sake of his own ideology. He was not that detached, especially
not when he knew his own �children' would be among the first to die.
So if he couldn't pull the trigger, he could buy the best gun and be
sure it was kept in shape.
Now, turning his chair slightly so that he could reach the blackboard
to his right, Xavier picked up chalk. "All right. What do you think
we need to do first?"
"Make everybody use the gym, do some basic exercise, get enrolled in
self-defense classes like karate or something. We should practice
more with our powers, too -- not just to control them, but how to
really use them." Scott wrinkled his nose. "But unless we go at
this full time and sacrifice everything else, it's going to take a
More prophetic words could not have come from Frank himself.
"You're kidding us." Warren.
"No, I'm not." Gathered on squeaky leather couches around the coffee
table in the den, Scott Summers faced his fellow students. Late
afternoon sunlight streamed through the big arched windows behind
them, overlaying dark wood with a glitter-golden sheen. Being in the
hot seat left Summers uncomfortable, even backed up as he was by both
Xavier's authority and Frank's quiet, �Listen to what he says.' But
he pressed on.
"Each of us spends half an hour in a gym every day. We eat more
vegetables and less crap, and drink more water instead of coke or
coffee. I'm as bad as anyone about that, I know. And we all enroll
in a martial arts or self-defense class. I don't care what -- pick
something. Some style of karate, judo . . . whatever."
"Scott, I don't have *time* -- "
"Make time." Scott glared at Jean. Feeling irritable already in
general, and spurned by her in particular, he lashed out with, "Look,
people, if we're going to do this, we *all* have to take it
seriously. You can't use your research as an excuse, Jean."
"Just wait a minute here! I never asked to join your little mutant
police force! There's more than one way to fight, and I'm not the
soldier-type, Scott. I don't see any reason for all of us to
participate. Let the ones who want to, do so, and the rest of us can
do what we do best: research and educate."
Further irritated because she had a point, but also angry now at
having his advice challenged, Scott rose from the couch and stalked
off, speaking as he went: "Fine. Don't listen to me. I'm not your
drill sergeant. The professor just wanted me to share my opinion.
Obviously, in your great age and wisdom, you know more about it than
I do, so suit yourself." And he was out the door, leaving an
uncomfortable silence in his wake.
"Who died and appointed him God?" Jean asked, needing to justify
herself. No one replied.
After five beats, Ororo stood and headed out, almost casually, after
Scott. "I think I shall go to the gym. Would any of you wish to
keep me company?" Frank followed, and Warren, leaving Jean with
Henry in the den.
Decidedly not looking after them, Jean reached for the recent issue
of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC on the coffee table. "And just why, all of a
sudden, am I Jean the Ogre?" she asked the air.
Sighing, caught between vexation and fondness and a certain pained
empathy for Summers, Henry said, "You know what he's really irked
about -- and it has nothing to do with research versus exercise. You
need to talk to him about Ted."
"Jesus, Hank!" She slapped the magazine back down on cherry wood.
"That's why I haven't said anything to him yet! He's going to react
like a four-year-old!"
"Maybe. Maybe, not. But you dodging the issue for -- how many weeks
now? -- isn't making it easier. The longer you wait, the more likely
he is to react badly."
"I don't want to hurt him."
"You're hurting him worse by not talking to him."
"But isn't that a bit arrogant? To just walk up and say, 'Look,
Scott, I know you have this crush on me and . . .'?"
"It's not exactly a government secret. There's not a person in this
mansion who doesn't know how badly he's got it for you."
"But he's never actually *said* anything to me directly about how he
feels, and it's kind of rude of me to just assume it before he does
"Maybe, under normal circumstances. But there's a big pink elephant
in the room and it's shitting on the carpet." Jean laughed; she
couldn't help it. For all his massive intelligence, and unlike the
rather esoteric Dr. Richards, Hank had no problem with colloquial
conversation. "I think it's worse to avoid the matter and hope it
goes away. His crush has lasted a year now -- that's not a fleeting
thing. He may be too young for you, but he does feel something
"Oh, Hank -- mostly he just idolizes me! Or really, he has two
�Jeans' in his head: there's the �Jean-of-his-fantasies' and then
there's me, who he talks to on the phone once a week. Or did."
"Maybe they're not as separate as you think."
"But sometimes he acts like I hung the moon and stars! I'm not that
Hank smacked her shoulder -- lightly. "Quit that. I thought you
were finally getting past that. It's your unreasonable expectations
for yourself talking. You are special. You're smart, you're pretty,
and you're . . ." he paused, thinking, then shrugged and said,
"You're nice. That's not very flowery, maybe, but �nice' is a good
thing to be."
Jean was blushing. She'd never learned how to take compliments that
weren't concerned with her intellect. "Thanks."
"There's plenty about you for someone to like without assuming he's
inventing fantasies in his head. You've got -- " Hank paused, unsure
if he should go on, unsure if it might reveal too much about his own
feelings that he'd rather she didn't know, but she was watching him
expectantly, and Jean had a desperate need to be loved, even while
she had difficulty believing that she was lovable. Hank laid the
problem squarely at the feet of that horrible virago she called a
mother. As the adored only child of Edna McCoy, Hank found Elaine
Grey a caricature of what a mother should be. So perhaps Jean needed
to hear what he had to say, and she had always viewed him as her
trusted elder brother -- safe. "You've got a kind of . . . warmth,
coupled with this air of vulnerability. It attracts people. Or at
least, it attracts men. Add to that an understated but very classy
beauty. Then -- " he went on, overriding her protest " -- people get
to know you and find there's an imp behind the classy face, and a
sharp brain that doesn't miss much. You're full of surprises, Jean,
and you're not a hard person to care about."
She was blushing harder, a hand over her mouth as if she just didn't
know what to do or say, and he wondered if any of the other men who
adored her had any idea how fragile her ego really was.
"Now," he said, "why don't you go talk to Scott before he gets really
impossible to live with?"
"So you're really not coming back this summer?"
Warren and Scott were sitting on a wooden bench beside the basketball
court, a ball between them but relaxed for the moment. It wasn't an
especially warm day for April, but Scott had forgotten how muggy New
York could be. He'd been sweating heavily and smelled like a horse
run full-out. Head back and eyes shut, he tried to soak up enough
sun to counteract feelings of withdrawal. He said, "Nope, I've
decided to take classes. I'll get my degree faster if I go through
the summers, too. The way things are looking, that might matter."
Warren thought that what really mattered was Scott trying to avoid
Jean, but he prudently didn't point that out. "So when am I supposed
to give you piloting lessons?"
"I guess I'll sign up for them out there. Or something."
Warren didn't reply, just fanned his wings in frustration. "Hey,"
Scott said, still with eyes shut, "keep doing that; it feels good.
I'm hot." Warren snorted, but complied, and thus it was that Jean
found them lounging on the bench, Scott's hair fluttering a little in
the breeze of Warren's wings.
When the wingfan stopped abruptly, Scott opened his eyes to see Jean
standing in front of him -- expression uneasy -- and he sat up,
blinking a bit from the bright light and glad for once that he had
shades to conceal it. She smiled at them both, or grimaced might
have been closer, then glanced at Warren. "War, can I talk to Scott
for a bit?"
The request knocked Scott's stomach down somewhere to the vicinity of
his ankles. Given her expression, there was no way this would be
either happy or pleasant, and the only consolation he took was that
she appeared none too pleased about it herself.
Vacating the bench with a half-pitying backwards glance, Warren
headed off for the mansion, his wings sagging behind him. Jean took
his place and snagged the abandoned basketball, turning it over and
over in her hands. They were pragmatic hands with short nails, lean
and strong. Scott watched her, waiting for her to begin. Finally,
she flung the ball out at the court. It went further than Scott
might have credited, halfway across black asphalt to bounce a few
times off into a hedge of boxwood. "I really have absolutely no idea
how to broach this," she said, "in a way that doesn't sound either
stupid or presumptuous."
Between the flung ball and her words, much of Scott's anger flowed
away, leaving him hollow and tired. "How about if I make it easier?
You have a boyfriend."
"Maybe. I'm really not sure. I've never had a boyfriend before --
well, not like this."
Her admission surprised him, and he found it easier to focus on the
small instead of the big. "You've never had a boyfriend?"
"No, I haven't. Well, as I said, not like this. I wasn't allowed to
date in high school. I told you that."
"Yeah, but -- "
"And at college, down at Vandy, I went to a lot of parties, but the
guys I met there weren't exactly *boyfriends*. Just your average
jerk with a penis who wanted to get his rocks off."
And Summers blinked, because he'd never, ever heard Jean talk that
"Then, when I went to Columbia, school was ALL and grades were my
god. I had no time to date, and medical school's no better. So
believe it or not, I'm twenty-seven years old and I think I may have
my first real boyfriend."
"But you're not sure."
"No, I'm not."
Squinting up at the pellucid blue April sky, Scott considered. He
had two options. He could throw a fit because she was dating someone
else, or he could face the fact that he'd never honestly expected her
to date him, and do what friends did: offer a sympathetic ear. A
combination of the humid heat, his physical exhaustion, and her
confidences made him settle on the latter. After all, and if he were
fair, he did ponder the possibilities of Clarice Haight on occasion,
and he just didn't have the energy to be angry anymore. Hurt was a
slower thing, like a bruise; it wouldn't show dark and ugly until
later. In the meantime, he used the dim shock of having his
suspicions confirmed to allow him to react in a detached manner.
"Has he asked you out?"
"What?" Jean must not have expected him to quiz her.
"Has he asked you out? I mean, if he's asked you out more than once,
especially if it's been three or four times -- and he's not asking
out anybody else -- then yeah, I'd say he's your boyfriend, or thinks
of himself that way. I would, if it were me." And then he winced,
because that had come out more personally than he'd actually meant
But she was looking at him with real surprise, and like aloe, it
soothed the burn a bit. "I'm not sure if he's asked me out or not.
I mean, I guess he has. We've gone to dinner and things. But
mostly, we just . . . find things to do, after we're done in the
"But you hang out together a lot? And he's not hanging out with
other girls that way?"
"Then Jean, I think you have a boyfriend." He tried to smile at her.
"But he hasn't even kissed me yet!"
And she winced, as she had not meant to blurt out *that*, not to him.
But he took it with surprising grace, and shrugged. "That doesn't
necessarily mean anything. If you want him to kiss you, then you
have to let him know."
"How?" She couldn't help but ask, though this was not a conversation
she'd ever have dreamed she'd have with him.
He shrugged. "I don't know. Play it by ear. I mean, it's not like
we really know for sure if a girl wants to be kissed. For all we
know, she might slap us silly. You gotta help a little, the first
time, at least." He peered at her, intently. "You know, he might
not be any more sure about it all than you are. He probably isn't.
How long has this 'hanging out' been going on?"
And Jean was sure that, if she could have seen Scott's eyes, he'd be
rolling them. Aloud, he said only, "Christ. This is molasses here."
And it struck her -- more forcefully than ever before -- that she
might have the extra years, but he was the one with all the
experience, and she felt strangely *young*. He'd sat up even
straighter and half turned towards her on the bench, his voice almost
didactic. "Look, this guy probably doesn't have a clue if you're
interested, if he's been hanging out with you for three weeks and he
still hasn't made a move. I mean, there's slow and casual, and then
there's glacial. I never took three weeks to kiss a girl." And Jean
was amused by that because she was sure it was true, and she was
equally sure that he had no idea how arrogant that sounded. "My
advice is this -- you kiss him."
"I'm serious here. I thought these were the '90s? You know --
women's lib is pass� and real women Just Do It and all that shit.
Bitten by embarrassment as much as amusement, she almost laughed out
loud but suppressed it into a spurt of giggles. "It's okay, Scott.
You really don't always have to watch your language with me."
And that made him blush. "Well, I guess. But you always seem so . .
"And you're giving �take the bull by the horns' kissing advice to a
lady? I thought ladies were demure."
And she could tell that he had absolutely no idea how to respond to
that. "It's okay," she said. "I'm just teasing. But I'm flattered,
kind sir, that you think I'm a lady." And standing, she dropped him
a little curtsy.
"Jean, you *are*," he mumbled, still embarrassed. "I mean, you
Touched by this simple pronouncement more than by anything Hank had
said earlier, she reached out to cup his cheek. "If I'm a lady, then
you're equally a gentleman, Mr. Summers." He could have made this
difficult; instead, he'd given her dating advice. He could have
resented her for not choosing him; instead, he'd called her a lady
and meant it with painful honesty. "But you're still allowed to say
�shit' in my hearing. I promise, I've said far worse when I've
broken a test tube or three."
She hadn't thought he could possibly get any redder, but he was
almost fluorescent. He was also smiling. Hand still on his cheek,
she said, very softly, "Thank you, Scott. For *being* a gentleman."
Continued directly in part 7b....
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