N.B. I'm headed out of town for a few days, so I may be slower than
usual at responding to feedback.
AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE:
FIRE AND ICE
Warning: Slightly allusive description of sex.
Notes: Dedicated with love and fondness to my friend Jamie who took a
degree in electrical engineering back when girls weren't supposed to
do that kind of thing, especially if they were black. David provided
martial arts expertise.
It was early in September when Ororo found Dr. Reed Richards in her
arboretum, circling the floor like a beagle on the scent, pausing
occasionally to bang with his foot on dirt or concrete flooring. She
chalked it up to the random weirdness that Xavier's students had come
to expect from the man. He also chased pigeons and wrote on walls
because, he said, there were no chalkboards big enough for his
equations. He inhabited an intellectual sphere so far beyond the
rest of them that he lived in a different dimension.
"And I had thought that Hank was odd, hanging from the ceiling to
read his medical journals," Ororo had told Frank and Warren. "At
least he is able to conduct a normal human conversation."
"Hank says there are two kinds of researchers," Warren had explained.
"Pragmatists and theorists. He's the former but this Richards guy
is the latter."
"And Dr. Richards is not a mutant?"
"Just ���of the normal variety,' as the professor put it. He's some
kind of Einstein -- started college at fourteen and had two different
Ph.Ds by twenty-two . . . from Harvard, no less . . . and about
twenty-five patents already. But his ideas are so weird, most of the
people he works with think he's a kook."
"What does he do, in any case?" Ororo had asked. "He is in and out
of here without much rhyme or reason. And how does he know the
"Research for NASA, down in Huntsville. And I don't know how he
knows the professor. Xavier just seems to *know* people. I think
it's his hidden mutant ability." Warren had grinned. "There are
corporate presidents and prime ministers of small countries with
fewer contacts than Professor Xavier."
They'd laughed, because it was true. And Reed Richards continued to
appear and disappear at the mansion at odd times that fall, doing
inexplicable things. They became accustomed to him, like the family
pet who occupies a sofa but flees the room when the noisy children
arrive. Ororo could count on one hand the number of times that he'd
spoken to her.
The California sun at midday pinned down shadows sharp at the edges
and compressed them squat like a checkerboard of people on a
summer-brown lawn. Music drifted from a CD player, Robert Johnson's
rough vocals of stripped-down delta blues, turned low to avoid
drawing the neighbors' ire until the sound was just swallowed in the
open air. Voices pierced louder, the white noise of twelve people at
conversation, or twelve now that EJ had returned from the apartment
above. "PAR-TY!" he bellowed at the top of his lungs as he gallumped
down the side steps carrying a red and white plastic cooler stocked
with Coke and beer, the latter contributed by their guitar-player
Rick Chabon (along with the Robert Johnson) and by Warren, who had
flown in from New York with Frank and Ororo. There was homemade mead
as well, from Lee, of all the unlikely suspects. Following EJ was
Clarice and her friend Diane, bearing bags of chips, buns,
condiments, and the hamburger meat to grill. Scott had been assigned
grill duty, with Warren to keep him company.
"Where is this landlady?" Warren asked as Scott took the meat from
Diane and laid down the first set of burgers on the small grid; only
six fit at once. "And wouldn't she have conniptions if she knew you
guys were doing this?"
"Maybe. But she's off to visit her daughter in San Jose, so this was
the ideal weekend. We're hardly going to trash the place, but she
doesn't know that, and we didn't feel like having her peer out a
window every fifteen minutes to check up on us. She's nice but . . .
a little nosey." And he wrinkled his own nose at that. "There's
also the obvious advantage . . . " By way of conclusion, he gestured
with the spatula to Warren's great white wings, unveiled in full
view. Mrs. Gale's small backyard ran lengthwise from the rear of her
house alongside the garage, tree-shaded and set with flower beds,
bright now with fall aster, and the whole of it was screened from
neighbors by high hedges and tropical trees with wide leaves. Thus,
the first thing that Warren had done upon arriving was shuck his
jacket and the wing rack beneath it, stretching out all sixteen feet
to the delight of the other guests. They'd surrounded him with oohs
and awws and requests to pet him. He'd been happy to oblige, making
Scott, Frank and Ororo exchange a glance and break up laughing. "He
is a whore," Frank had said, which had only made Scott and Ororo
Yet this, Scott thought now to himself, was how the world ought to
be: black and brown and white, mutant and non-mutant, and no one gave
a damn, or not in a negative way. Six months ago, he'd still been
hiding his gift. Today, he had on his visor and was demonstrating
his beam control by popping the caps off beer bottles as a party
trick, the same as others might tie cherry stems with their tongues.
(He'd only broken one bottle.)
Warren gestured towards someone behind Scott's back. "Who's the
Asian chick who keeps eyeing you?"
"That's Phoebe," he said.
"She got a crush?"
"Not exactly, not anymore. It's . . . complicated."
"In other words, none of my damn business."
Frowning, Scott turned over the burgers and added cheese to half of
them. Dripping fat hissed on the charcoal. "Something like that."
If his guilt had faded soft like old calico in the past month, he
still couldn't quite look Phoebe in the eye. At least she was
speaking to him again, but when circumstances threw them together in
a group, they usually maintained a wary distance. EJ knew something
had happened, but for once, had been circumspect in his inquiries,
accepting Scott's quiet, "There was a little blow up at the end of
the summer," without pushing further. If he'd spoken to Phoebe about
it, Scott didn't know. Now, EJ was off playing host, chatting up
both Phoebe and Liz and introducing them to Frank and Ororo, but that
meant he couldn't keep an eye on who was sitting alone in a corner.
That was Warren's peculiar gift.
"Speaking of chicks watching -- who's the one sitting it out on the
Scott glanced up to check, then said, "That's Diane, EJ's sister's
roommate." And he looked around for Clarice, but didn't spot her.
Normally, Diane was Clarice's taller, darker shadow. "I don't know
where Clarie went."
"Back upstairs, I think. Can you handle the grill alone without
burning anything? I'll go talk to her friend."
Scott snorted. "If I remember right, the last and only time *you*
ever tried grilling anything, you couldn't even get the goddamn
charcoal lit. It's too *plebian* for you, Blue Blood." But he
kicked in friendly fashion at Warren's foot, to take out the sting,
then added, more softly, "Listen, before you go -- Deedee can't walk
too well. That's why she spends most of her time sitting down. She
was in a bad fire as a kid, and has braces on her legs. She's a
Blond brows lowered, Warren said only, "Ah. Maybe we could compare
living with hidden metal racks." Scott didn't answer and Warren
ambled off, taking a circuitous route so she wouldn't think he'd come
to babysit, then turned on the Worthington Charm, but at low wattage,
his intent being to warm, not dazzle; she responded like a morning
glory, opening slowly to brilliance. Scott smiled and, the first set
of burgers done, loaded them onto a paper plate, calling out the news
as people left off chatting, drawn by the lure of food.
Clarice had returned as well, and seeing Diane suitably occupied,
took the opportunity to join Scott. He'd wondered how long until she
showed up orbiting him. That had been the pattern of things between
them since the semester had begun. Each might go off on their own
for a while, but soon enough, gravity pulled one or the other back
like a comet to a sun -- and it wasn't always Clarice to him. Now,
she said without preamble, "You're looking out for Diane."
He grinned. "Not me, actually. Warren noticed all by himself. He
sees more than people give him credit for -- sees more than most
She studied Warren thoughtfully for a moment, then asked -- or mused,
really -- "Do you think he'd take me flying?"
Her words stirred a complicated jealousy in Scott's gut, and he
jerked up his head, jaw clenching until the muscles jumped slightly.
"I guess he's got the more romantic mutation."
She glanced back at him in surprise. "What bit your ass?"
Embarrassed, he gave a little shrug -- "Nothing" -- and damned a
complexion that flushed beet red at the least provocation. He kept
his eyes on the grill, so when she moved a bit closer to slip a hand
up his back, rubbing his muscles, he started. But he liked it. At
least until he noticed Phoebe watching them.
"Hey," he said softly, and shifted away from her hand. "These are
done; move back. I don't want to accidentally burn you."
And so it went throughout lunch. With Phoebe around, he restrained
his interaction with Clarice, yet even so, they sat together to eat,
and she stole potato chips off his plate while his leg brushed hers.
Around mid-afternoon, Phoebe and Elizabeth took their leave of the
party -- to Scott's ashamed relief -- but it let him relax as they
cleaned up debris. At one point, he followed Clarice upstairs,
bearing unused plates and napkins. The place was empty, no one even
in the bathroom; a few shouts of laughter drifted up from below, and
traffic buzzed past on the main road, but here it was quiet, the
afternoon sunlight streaming in wide windows and glowing a bit on
blond-wood floors. They moved around each other in the kitchen,
bodies sometimes brushing, and she began to chatter nervously while
he stayed silent, a growing agitation pinching his throat closed. He
watched her mouth, wondering what she tasted like. It seemed to him
as if everything in the past few weeks had been hurtling downhill
towards this moment alone together, and finally, frustrated, he made
her put away the Tupperware of cooked hamburger meat, then steered
her out of the kitchen, backing her up against the sofa near one
window. She stared at him. He stared back. Then bending, he kissed
her silly as yellow light spilled over them both. She ran her tongue
along his and sucked at his lips until the tension broke and they
laughed in each other's mouths. Then they went back downstairs
again, holding hands. The fall afternoon light glittered, he
"How was the party?" Jean asked Ororo on Sunday evening after the
younger three students had returned from California. Neither she nor
Hank had been invited. They hadn't been told *not* to come, but they
hadn't been invited, and Hank's exclusion had been largely a cover
for excluding her. Scott's wording to Warren on the phone had been,
'I'm sure Hank and Jean are too busy in the lab . . .'
She was hurt by that, and a bit jealous, but mostly, she'd come to
realize that she missed him, and beyond hurt or jealousy, she wanted
to know how he was. But he wasn't telling her, so she sought out
Ororo instead. She might have turned to Frank, or Warren, but she
suspected that Ororo noticed more. "Is his new apartment nice?"
Ororo had been making tea for herself in the kitchen, and now paused
to consider how she ought to reply. After a year at the mansion,
she'd come to appreciate better the deep conflict in Jean between
scientific curiosity and a refined, society upbringing, between
instinctive compassion and an ingrained, polite diffidence. Jean was
trying to be nosey without being nosey, and doing it badly. Licking
honey off her spoon, Ororo turned back to her tea mug. "The
apartment is old but adequate for two men, and cleaner than I had
expected. Not, apparently, thanks to Scott."
Jean grinned at that, remembering that the boy might have kept his
shirts tucked in, but his dirty clothes had always remained wherever
they landed, until laundry day.
"The party," Ororo went on, "was nice, and quiet -- until the band
decided to play. He sings very well."
Jean was smiling. "Did they get in trouble with their neighbors for
"No. At least, not that I am aware."
Jean reached for the sponge sitting behind the faucet and began to
wipe up the counter. Nervous energy. "Did he seem . . . okay?
Sipping tea and wandering over to the rear kitchen door overlooking
the herb garden, Ororo stared out the screen into the dusk, unsure
what Jean was driving towards. She was well aware that Scott and
Jean weren't talking as much as they had -- if not aware that they
weren't talking at all -- but Scott hadn't shared the details even
with Frank, who was perhaps his closest confidant at the mansion.
Well, his closest male confidant. Finally, she turned back to where
Jean was still cleaning up the kitchen counter. Taking a wild shot
in the dark and hoping that intuition would find the bull's-eye, she
said, "You did know that he has a girlfriend? Her name is Clarice."
Jean's hand paused, only momentarily, then she continued cleaning.
"No. I didn't know."
Ah, Ororo thought, and decided not to explain that the relationship
had apparently bloomed in full only that very weekend. "She is his
And Jean started to laugh. Dropping the sponge in the sink, she
leaned back against the counter and giggled. "Oh, Scott! First, he
gets a crush on me. Now, he's dating his roommate's sister? The boy
doesn't have a sensible bone in his body!"
"Actually," Ororo said, "They appeared quite comfortable with one
"And what does *EJ* think about it?" Jean asked.
"I did not inquire, but he did not seem put out."
Jean sighed. "Well, that's good. I mean, I'm glad that it doesn't
seem to be causing a problem with EJ."
"And you do not mind that he is seeing her?"
Jean's expression told the story: simple surprise. "No, of course
not." She wasn't an actress, not when caught off-guard, and Ororo
was inclined to believe her. "He needs this, Ro -- a girl his own
age. I might've hoped that he'd pick one who's less likely to cause
tension, but I'm very glad that he has one. From everything I've
heard about EJ, I like him. And if his sister is half as nice,
she'll suit Scott."
Pushing away from the counter, Jean walked to the table near the back
door and slid into a seat, then put her face in her hands. Quite
suddenly, she felt like crying, and she heard the chair beside hers
scrape out, then a squeak as Ororo seated herself. "What is wrong?"
Ororo asked, moved by the open sorrow of this woman who so rarely
seemed to lose control.
"I miss him," Jean whispered. "I didn't realize, until he stopped
writing to me, how much I talked to him." Then she raised her face
and wiped away smeared mascara. Automatic attention to the social
mask. "Isn't that funny? He's not a med student, or a geneticist --
didn't even understand half of what I do. But he *listened* to me.
He really listened to me. I'd thought that whatever else he felt, a
part of him could like plain Jean Grey. But it was just a crush
after all, wasn't it? And now he's gotten past it. He has a new
girl, and all his friends are out there. I'm glad but, God, I'm
jealous. Can you believe it? I'm *jealous*."
Reaching over, Ororo gripped Jean's forearm. "I think that you do
underestimate him." She genuinely hadn't realized how attached Jean
was to Scott. "He has friends there, it is true. But he has friends
here, as well, and he has not forgotten us. He did ask about you."
"Yes, he did."
Ororo was lying through her teeth, but she would see to it that Scott
Summers resumed some kind of contact with Jean Grey.
Continued directly in part 8b ....
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