Unfortunately, my site has been down since yesterday evening, so I
can't upload this yet as an HTML file. That means all the neato,
cool nifty images will have to wait. I'll post an announcement when
the HTML version goes up. --Min
AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE:
Warning: The description of the fire might bother a few.
Notes: Yes, for those unaware, Bobby's mutation is one of the more
powerful in the X-Men, but he's rarely pushed himself to his full
potential. Again, this is a modification of Bobby's origin-story in
the comics and will almost surely be contradicted by X2. The
Allentown neighborhood is real enough (thanks fitzrose), but
obviously not the church. Re: Scott and Jean's relative heights;
I've used the actors themselves, not the comic. Janssen is 5'11" and
Marsden is 5'10.5" Thanks to Nina, Tzezuko and SF for reasons they
know (you guys can laugh when you get to that part), and Bren K gave
me French advice. The Danger Room is based on set descriptions when
it was to have been part of X2, math info comes from the Berkeley
catalogue and Domenika, and BBWS is not a real Berkeley student
organization but the statistic that Jan quotes comes from a
publication of the National Children's Defense Fund. The paper
announcing the discovery of element #118 at Berkeley has since been
retracted, but it would have been important news in 1999.
At twelve, Bobby Drake had only begun to consider the direction his
life might take, and whether he could escape the dead-end
accountant's job that his father had held with Pennsylvania Power and
Light for almost fifteen years. He was a bright boy, but
academically lazy because the things he valued most -- friendship and
enjoyment of life -- didn't combine to produce ambition. Thus, he
was thought slightly below average intellectually, when in truth, he
scored a little above. Had he been spared the X-gene, he would have
become popular in high school for his good-natured humor and good
looks, and a very real kindness of spirit. In college, he'd have
joined a fraternity and took a degree in business, then have married
a nice girl and moved to a town a little bigger than the one in which
he'd grown up, saved for a house in the suburbs, an SUV, and a dog.
He'd have brought his wife roses on Valentine's Day, played ball with
his son, and grilled out on Saturdays, laughing with friends over a
few beers and a ballgame. And he would have been content with that
pedestrian destiny because watching his parents close themselves off
in bitter disappointment at having less than their neighbors had
convinced him that ambition was a demon that ate the heart from the
inside out. Perhaps that made him wiser than most.
But fate had rewarded him with an alpha level cryogenic mutation as
powerful as Scott Summers' optic blasts. When he eventually learned
to master his power, he was able to produce near absolute zero
temperatures, freeze-dry any matter containing moisture, and
crystalize the water in his own body to create an ice form. But at
the outset, all he could do was freeze vaporized water in the air
around him. Nonetheless, the extent of his transformational reach
was stunning, as the frozen church lawn had demonstrated.
That kind of power was the last thing he would have wanted.
The professor and his weary students didn't make it back to
Westchester until the wee hours of Christmas morning, bringing a
haunted, bewildered Bobby Drake with them. For the entire trip, he'd
sat stone-faced in the plane cabin, staring at nothing. "He is in
the shock," Frank had said, sitting beside the boy and chafing his
cold, trembling hands. None of them had realized then that cold
hands were normal for Bobby.
The professor had been equally dazed after exhausting himself in
obscuring the memories of an entire city suburb, a task made doubly
difficult by the presence of live-action camera crews. Fortunately,
most of the damning events had occurred before the cameras had
arrived, and only Warren's descent had needed concealing. Although
the cameras may not have had minds to control, the cameramen wielding
them had, and they'd been convinced that the tree in their focus was
the miraculous angel they were supposed to be filming. Such
manipulations were costly, however, both physically and ethically,
and Xavier had disliked performing them. Yet something had been
necessary. Even Scott's prom manifestation incident hadn't had so
high a profile.
When they got back, the students put the professor to bed, then kept
watch over a traumatized Bobby. The boy was docile, but refused food
and even water. The only thing he would say was, "It's my fault."
Curling up in a fetal position on a spare bed, and smearing soot on
the sheets, he fell asleep. Hank got back to the mansion around
noon, and took up guard, releasing Ororo, but it wasn't until early
afternoon that Xavier himself woke and could relate to the rest of
them what had occurred at the church before their arrival,
information gleaned from Bobby's own memories. The conflagration had
not, in fact, been Bobby's fault, but he'd been involved in the
incident that had begun it, and three people had died. It was a
terrible thing for a twelve-year-old to bear.
As in many protestant churches across the nation, a Christmas Eve
Candlelight hymn-sing had been a yearly tradition at Salisbury
Trinity Presbyterian, with services beginning at seven in the evening
and concluding just after eight with the lighting of small, white,
hand-held candles as the congregation warbled "Silent Night." Still
singing, they'd exit the sanctuary to ring the great, lighted cedar
on the front lawn. Sentimental and picturesque, the service's
popularity had outweighed its inherent danger. Fire extinguishers
were always kept on hand and the usual warnings given, but Reverend
Ricky Douglas had worried for years about the hazard of putting
burning candles into the hands of young children, elderly adults, and
rowdy teenaged boys.
That Christmas Eve, the worst that could happen did happen.
The adolescent members of the church youth group typically took up
the first two lefthand pews, directly before the pulpit. Prominence
had made them feel special, and also (usually) had made them behave.
But that night, sitting in front had also meant they were among the
last to file out, and Reverend Douglas had already been on the lawn.
Freed from the watchful supervision of parents or pastor, two of the
boys had leaned over the pew in front to wave their candles
menacingly near the hair of Marissa Johnston, a pretty but timid
seventh grader, and Bobby Drake's new girlfriend. The boys were
sophomores in high school and cocky with that; they had called Drake
a nancy-boy where Rev. Douglas couldn't hear, and teased Marissa
mercilessly. The night of the fire, Drake had finally lost his
patience and fought back, shoving away the arm of one boy so that the
candle swiped too close to the hair of the boy's own girlfriend,
Jenny Schmidt. She'd spent half an hour before service, curling and
re-curling her hair, and teasing bangs until they stood three inches
straight up -- then spraying it all within an inch of its life.
Fire and hairspray had made a deadly combination, and her hair had
caught like a torch. Slapping at her head and screaming, she'd
plowed past the legs of the girl beside her to escape out into the
center aisle . . . away from the fire extinguishers and into the line
of others bearing candles, knocking them into each other, or causing
them to drop candles on the carpet. One man, thinking to put out the
fire on Jenny's head, had yanked down a Christmas banner.
Unfortunately, it was made of brightly-dyed rayon, and had gone up in
a brilliant flame, causing the would-be rescuer to drop it on a pew
and set the padding ablaze while Jenny had blundered away, screaming
and waving her arms as fire had traveled down her body, cooking her
flesh. Though several people had grabbed fire extinguishers by that
point, the crush of frightened parishioners had kept the
self-appointed fire fighters from getting to the girl -- or the
flames -- before they were out of control.
Bobby Drake had been no less frightened than the rest, and had fled
the church sanctuary hand in hand with Marissa. His whole body had
gone cold, despite the heat -- cold with terror. Outside, he'd stood
shaking amid the crowd as they'd all watched their church burn, and
neighbors had come running with impossibly small buckets of water and
garden hoses. The sound of fire engines and police had pealed down
the streets of Allentown, covering cries from inside the church.
Poor Jenny Schmidt had already died, but Mrs. Olivia Hunter had not.
Eighty-three-years-old and confined to a walker, she'd been left
behind when the rest had evacuated, only her eldest daughter
remaining with her in a desperate attempt to pull her to safety
despite the handicap of arthritis. It wasn't until the sirens had
stopped that the people outside could hear the cries of Olivia's
daughter Ruth. Then a few brave souls had attempted a rescue, but
impossible heat had driven them back until firemen in their
flame-resistant gear and had run up to take their place.
Hearing the shouts of the women, and overcome by the horror of having
witnessed Jenny's death, Bobby's shaking had grown worse until he'd
felt a yanking twist inside, and had closed his eyes. Shouts of
surprise had made him open them again almost immediately. The
firemen were sliding and falling on an ice-covered sidewalk. Like
everyone else, he'd stared around in confusion while the firemen had
made it onto the grass, still covered by patches of old snow -- but
no ice. Yet the few moments of delay had cost them, and they
couldn't get far enough into the building to save the women. The
church's 1960s-chic wooden architecture had offered too much fuel,
and flames had roared heavenward despite jets of pressurized water
from the fire hoses. Even a hundred feet away behind yellow police
tape, Bobby had felt the heat on his skin. But it hadn't warmed him.
Instead, the icy cold had lodged in his very bones until he'd
stopped shaking. Frozen stiff. When Marissa had touched him, she'd
gasped in shock. "You're an icicle!"
That was when he'd troubled to glance down, and had noticed that the
iced sidewalk had stopped at his own feet. Reflected flame had
danced in it, hypnotizing him. Ice, ice . . . fire and ice. Primal
opposites. He'd closed his eyes and thought about ice. Thought
about fire killed by ice.
But his power was new and he couldn't bend it to his will; instead,
it had traveled the path of least resistance out towards the December
lawn behind him, not the inferno before him. Ice had crept across
grass, trees, and the parking lot with its cars while the crowd of
watchers had drawn back in shock. Only Bobby, and Marissa with him,
had remained at the center. "Stop it, stop it, stop it!" Marissa had
screamed, even as the crowd recovered itself, coming awake like a
wild beast, frightened and angry, to fling curses and whatever had
come to hand -- half-burnt candles and shoes, mostly. The police
hadn't helped much. Having no idea how to contain Drake, they'd
focused on containing the crowd instead. But if not for the timely
arrival of Scott and Warren, Bobby would have been stoned like
Stephen in Jerusalem.
After the professor had finished relating the story, he and Hank went
to check on the new boy while the other students drifted off to cope,
in their own ways, with what they'd heard. None had suffered an easy
manifestation experience, and Bobby's had brought back unpleasant
memories. Scott Summers had additional matters to ponder, and as he
always did his best thinking when his hands were busy, he took
himself up to a third-floor closet in search of Jean's Christmas
deer. He'd meant to set them up yesterday, but had never gotten
around to it. Finding the boxes in a corner, he made four trips,
carrying them down and out onto the lawn where she'd had them last
year. He meant them as a peace offering, and hoped she'd understand
the message. He'd been thinking about what Frank had told him on the
flight back: that he'd hurt her feelings. But it would have been
worse, he thought, to have seen her again before he was ready. Now,
he was ready, and he did want their friendship back. He had things
he wanted to discuss with her -- what had happened at the frat house,
and what had happened at the rescue of the new boy -- and she'd
always given him good advice. He'd also pondered Frank's assertion
that she might be willing to tell him about whatever was wrong in her
current relationship. It was time for them to get past the taboo
topics of Ted and Clarice.
Jean was expected to return "sometime before dark," and he hoped he
could get all the deer in place before she showed up. Fortunately,
it wasn't rocket science, or even complex variables, though the cold
numbed his fingers so that he kept fumbling the assembly. He
alternately swore at the frame deer and sang Christmas carols to
himself, his breath white in the frigid air. There was a little snow
on the lawn, and more came down in a light dusting as he worked,
making lacy doilies on the dirt of the drive.
Here at the dead of winter, the sun was already sitting on the
horizon before he was done and plugging in the lights. Behind him,
he heard a car rumbling down the drive. "In the nick of time," he
muttered, raising to watch Jean's Honda approach up the lane, and --
suddenly struck by inspiration -- he jogged forward to meet her.
Seeing him, she slowed, and grinning to himself as he reached the
side of her car, he pretended to trip, slapping the left front fender
as if he'd hit it, then fell down moaning on the grass beside the
road. As she had a year and a half earlier, she slammed on the
breaks and leapt out, yelling, "Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Are you
Laughing, he sat up. "Gotcha!"
She pulled off her little white-knit beret to beat him about the head
with it, yelling, "You bastard!" which only made him laugh harder,
even while trying to shield himself from her fury. Jean Grey
possessed an amazing temper, though she rarely permitted it to show.
Nice girls didn't get angry. But if startled into expressing
herself, she did so with remarkable pugilism. She'd given him
bruises before. Now, he just lay back in the faint print of new snow
beside the road and fended her off, giggling until she gave up on her
anger and laughed with him.
Finally, she helped him up, then pointed to the deer. "Thanks," was
all she said.
And standing close to her, he noticed two things. First, there was
no belly-drop sensation in his gut, and no flustered scattery of his
thoughts. She didn't make his blood rush any more. It was a relief.
Second, he could look her in the eye now. Always before, he'd had
to look up slightly, but he must have grown a final inch without
realizing it, and dressed in heavy hiking boots while she wore simple
laced shoes, they were the same height.
"I heard there was some excitement last night," she said.
She tapped her head. "Charles contacted me."
If her telepathy had been walled off to protect her, it was still a
part of her and the professor could bespeak her more easily than the
rest of them, and at greater distances. "Did he tell you the whole
story?" he asked.
"He told me what he saw, but he caught only the tail end of the
rescue." She grinned abruptly. "Angels on Christmas Eve! Warren
"That was my idea, actually." He'd blurted it out before he realized
that it might sound arrogant, and waved a hand. "I didn't mean -- "
"It's okay," she said. "That was your idea?" He nodded. "I'm
"Yeah, well, I didn't think about the TV cameras."
"The professor took care of that."
"I know, but I should've thought of it."
She sighed, almost grandly. "In the middle of a crisis, you came up
with a really clever way of getting a boy out of danger, and you kick
yourself because you didn't think of *everything*?"
Shoving hands in his pockets, he didn't answer immediately, just
stared out over the grounds. Except for an occasional spot of deep
green from a pine, all the hedges and trees looked dry and prickly,
and a winter-white jackrabbit bounded across the lawn in the dimming
light. Snow had begun to come down harder. Her car door was still
open, and white flakes landed on the seat, melting rapidly from the
blast of the car's heater. "You need to shut your door," he said.
She glanced around and kicked it closed with her foot, then turned
back to him. She wasn't going to let him change the subject,
He sighed. "Okay, yeah, it was a crisis, and maybe most people panic
so they can't think. But I didn't, Jean. I wasn't nervous at all.
It was weird. It was like, all of a sudden, I could think more
clearly, not less. I just didn't think to look for the TV cameras,
and I should have." Then he gestured to the car again. "Go turn off
the engine. I have something I want to talk about." So she did, and
they perched on the warm hood of her Honda as he told her about the
incident at the frat house, and the rest of what had happened at the
rescue of Bobby. He ended with, "I've never really been in that kind
of situation before, a real fight like that. Schoolyard stuff, sure.
But never a real fight. I just . . . "
"Didn't expect to be good at it?" she asked, slightly amused.
Jean thought about what he'd told her, and decided that she wasn't
surprised. Despite his youth, Scott had always struck her as
remarkably solid, and perhaps that was what drew her to him. Jean's
world was cerebral. She could drift through a day so preoccupied
with a theory or idea or impression that she took little notice of
her actual surroundings, and might run into the corners of tables or
strike the edges of doors as she exited them, as if she hadn't quite
seen them. Sometimes she forgot to eat, or would become so engrossed
in what she was reading or doing, that she put off going to the
bathroom until she had to run there or she'd have wet her pants. Her
body was the inconvenience that trammeled her mind, like jesses on a
But Scott lived in his body, observing his surroundings in a way she
didn't. He never got lost, and had an appreciation for physical
sensation that he rarely admitted to. She'd caught him
surreptitiously fingering chenille throws or stroking the soft
leather couch in the den. But beyond the aesthetic, that body-sense
also made him grounded, and common sensical. His brain worked in
terms of problems and solutions. If Jean adored science, it was the
theories and possibilities that appealed to her. She sought the
uncharted frontier, the excitement of what lay over the next
hypothetical horizon. But Scott liked his road map from AAA with
warnings of construction ahead and rest areas clearly marked. What a
funny pair of friends they made. And yet it was his engineer's brain
that appealed to her, just as she thought he enjoyed hearing about
her theories, even while he was trying to poke friendly holes in her
So now, the revelation that Scott-on-adrenaline had produced a
dispassionate strategist didn't particularly surprise her. "You have
the right kind of disposition, to be calm in a crisis," she told him.
"Even normally, when you're faced with a problem, you break it down
into component parts and deal with each individually, instead of
being overwhelmed by it. You're good at patterns."
"Hnh," he grunted. "Like a math problem."
"Yeah, exactly. Add to that the fact that you don't tend to panic,
and you're not too shy to take charge if you need to, and it makes
you the imperturbable type." He laughed at that, and she took off
her cap to shake the snow from it. The warmth of the engine beneath
them had cooled long ago, and the sun was set now, the day's light
all but gone. "It's too cold out here. Let's go in."
Sliding off her hood, he offered a hand to steady her as she got
down. It was done easily, not like a boy half in awe of her, and she
grinned. It was good to have her friend back.
If Professor Xavier had managed to keep images of Warren off network
television, and had calmed the crowd by subtly altering memories of
what had occurred, erasing the entire incident hadn't been possible
-- nor perhaps even desirable. As a result, there was a fresh mutant
story in the news during the days after Christmas, made especially
appealing by eye-witness accounts that the ice boy had tried to save
his burning church, then been carted off by an angel. Although it
made a very different tale from the Winnipeg Marauder, reactions
weren't all positive, and a few older stories of bat-eared boys and a
child who could leap like a toad were resurrected in its wake,
stories previously relegated to the tabloids for their apparent
absurdity. Now serious newscasters asked if they might have a grain
of truth. And one of those older stories trotted out afresh was
Scott Summers' manifestation experience. "Laser-eyed boy disrupts
senior prom, injures seven." The news program showed images of the
structural damage to the gym caused by Scott's power.
"They're not *lasers*," Clarice snarled at the television from where
she sat on the living room floor of her family home in Los Angeles.
"They're *force blasts*. And he wouldn't hurt a fly."
"Not intentionally, anyway," EJ agreed. He was leaning up against
the wall, arms crossed. The whole family had come in at the mention
of "mutants." It was personal to them, now. "But you gotta admit,
he'd be scary if we didn't know him."
"As 1999 approaches," the newscaster continued, "and the end of the
millennium is just around the corner, some fear that the appearance
of these mutated human beings is a symptom of environmental damage
caused by factors ranging from Global Warming to radioactive
pollution. But some religious leaders have another explanation . .
"It's obviously not natural," said a neatly dressed man on the
screen; he wore suit and tie and the cotton-candy hair-style popular
among some preachers. "It's a sign of God's displeasure -- "
"Oh, give me a break!" said the Reverend Jeremiah Haight, clicking
off the TV and dropping the remote on his chair as he stood to stalk
off upstairs to his den. His children watched him go, knowing that
look and wondering just what he was going to put in his sermon on
Sunday, and Violet steeled herself for the damage control she would
inevitably need to orchestrate when her husband brought up the
controversial, even though she was proud of the fact that she had to
do it. Just like his prophetic namesake, Jeremiah had never been a
passive man, but she hoped nobody dropped him down any wells,
metaphorically speaking. They still had a mortgage on the house.
EJ was grinning. "Go, Dad," he said. "Something tells me I've gotta
make a tape for Slimboy."
Like father, like son, Violet thought.
Later that night, she found time to speak to her eldest daughter.
She'd been talking to EJ, and to her husband as well, and had
observations of her own about Clarice and Scott Summers, and if
neither of the men were brave enough to confront Clarice, Violet
Haight was made of sterner stuff. "You two are going to face not
just one hurdle, but two," she told her daughter.
Clarice had been sitting at the kitchen table, organizing notes for a
paper, and now glanced up at her mother, who was drying a colander
that couldn't go in the dishwasher. "*Mama*," she began in the voice
of all long-suffering children when their parents broached difficult
topics. Then she threw up her hands. "God! You, EJ, Diane, MeShell
. . . You're all making such a big *deal* out of it! I think Scott
and I are the only ones not worried!"
"And maybe that's why the rest of us are, honey. Relationships don't
exist in a vacuum. I didn't just marry your father; I married a
future Baptist minister. I got his whole church along with him. I
just want to know that you and Scott aren't *ignoring* parts of this
relationship. Scott's one of the nicest young men I've ever met . .
"But he's *white*! And that suddenly *matters*!" Clarice was near
"Well, yes, he's white. But that wasn't what I was going to say,
actually. He's a mutant, and it's starting to look like that'll
matter more. People've been fighting for black civil rights for
thirty years, and you're not the first black girl to fall for a white
boy. But mutants? That's something new, and the battle's just
"Then maybe I can fight it with him."
Amused, Violet shook her head. Like father, like son. And like
father, like daughter, too, apparently, but Violet couldn't say that
she regretted having helped Jeremiah to raise a litter of crusaders.
"Maybe you can. But I want to be sure you're picking the battle
*you* want to fight, not giving up your dreams for his. If you do
that, you'll just wind up resenting him someday."
Continued directly in part 9b...
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