5434"The Player on the Other Side" (WIP, CH.1) Scott [PG-13] X1 and X2
- Nov 13, 2003CH. 1 con't
"Did you sleep well?" Charles asked. He reached up and locked his
arms around Scott's neck. Scott straightened, lifting Charles off the
bed. He pivoted and gently placed the older man in his wheelchair.
Charles released his grip and settled back. He accepted the baggy
sweatshirt Scott handed him and pulled it over his head.
"I guess." Scott draped a jacket over Charles' shoulders, in the
apparent belief that the fleece shirt and sweatpants could not
be relied upon to stave off pneumonia during the perilous trek through
the air-conditioned hallways to the school gym. "Think I was more
tired when I woke up than when I went to sleep. I was having this
dream about rock-climbing in Colorado."
"Maybe it was Nevada."
Scott shot him a quizzical look. "Maybe. My old man was stationed at
Nellis when I was eight." He turned away and began to strip down
Charles motored from his bedroom through an enlarged doorway into the
adjoining bathroom specially modified for wheelchair usage. He was
rinsing out a mouthful of toothpaste when Scott walked in with a
bundle of Charles' linens and pajamas, which he dumped it into the
laundry hamper. In the other hand he carried the plastic urinal
Charles used as necessary in the night. He emptied it into the
toilet, rinsed it in the utility sink, set it to one side, and washed
Charles observed him in the mirror over the sink. He said nothing.
Every now and then he said something. Every week or so he would say
mildly, "We really should hire another orderly," and Scott would
assume his most forbidding expression, the one he reserved for
genocidal maniacs and Logan.
Charles asked abruptly, "Did you want to go back for a visit?"
"What?" Scott was now rummaging inside the linen closet.
Charles rubbed a damp washcloth over his face. "Colorado. Nevada.
Alaska. The places where you grew up." He hung up the washcloth on
the rack next to the sink.
Scott leaned backwards with an armful of fresh sheets. "Yeah, right."
Charles could positively hear the eyes rolling under the red
shades. "Yeah, I should go to my tenth high school reunion in San
Diego. Wouldn't even have to pay for a hotel. The D.A. said there'd
always be a cell for me."
"Scott. . . ." Charles hesitated. Did he really want an answer? "What
would you have done with your life if I hadn't interfered?"
Scott stopped short. "Interfered? Is that what you think you did?" He
looked astonished. "You didn't interfere. You gave me my life back."
"I gave you *a* life. Is it one you wanted?"
Scott tucked the fresh sheets under one arm and shut the door of the
linen closet. He turned around and planted his back against the door
as he considered the question.
He said, finally, "It's not what I planned on, no. I didn't plan on
turning into a human ray gun, either. Plans change." He paused. "I
always knew I didn't want a job. I wanted a mission." He paused
again. "Yeah. This is the life I wanted all along."
It was exactly the answer Charles wanted to hear. He shifted
uneasily. Excepting Jean, the X-Men would be surprised to meet the
Scott he knew -- overly eager-to-please, too suggestible, too easily
manipulated by those who professed to love him. Erik had very nearly
managed to exploit Scott's fatal flaw, and Charles had found the
strength to send Erik away. Was he, Charles, no better a father?
"There are number of other ways in which you could make a
difference," he said. "Think of Warren and Hank. You don't have to a
teacher. You don't have to take over the school." Charles
hesitated. "You don't have to be involved with the X-Men."
"Charles, it's what I want to do with my life." Anger crept into
Scott's voice. "I'm not here because I can't think of anything better
He stalked out of the bathroom.
Charles prudently dawdled a bit before motoring back into the
bedroom. He glanced in passing at the training schedule posted on the
door of the linen closet. Even at a distance he would have no
difficulty reading Erik's -- no, Scott's -- copperplate. An upper-
body workout with free-weights, today. On other days, Scott would
lift him out of his wheelchair and move him among several different
Cybex or Nautilaus machines for a series of exercises designed to
strengthen his abdominal and lateral and back muscles. Twice a day,
before getting Charles out of bed in the morning and after putting
him to bed in the evening, Scott would move Charles' legs through
range-of-joint-motion exercises designed to prevent muscle
contractures. Charles sighed. It was obvious to him and to every
other resident of the mansion that Scott could not tend to a
paraplegic in addition to his other duties. But Mystique's
assassination attempt had added a few million miles to Scott's guilt
trip. And Charles could not bring himself to shoo Scott off until
Scott was ready to stop clinging.
Ever the altruist, Charles, the memory of Erik sneered. Nothing in it
for you, I'm sure.
Be quiet, Erik, he thought tiredly, and motored into the bedroom of
"I wasn't suggesting that," he said, as though there had been no
break in their discussion.
Scott nodded stiffly. Silently and clearly he communicated his wish
to discontinue this particular conversation. Charles communicated
Scott turned back to the task of making Charles' bed. The tightly
tucked sheets and sharp hospital corners would have brought tears of
joy to the eyes of any drill sergeant. Not so the bed's maker.
Scott's face was stubbled, his hair was rumpled, his Xavier Institute
jersey and gym shorts were too threadbare for the rag bag. Charles
could scarcely believe Scott's gym shorts had yet to actually
disintegrate, but he suspected the day was rapidly approaching, and
that Jubilee would manage to be a witness.
"Thanks for the image," Scott muttered. He raised his head, tried to
scowl, and wound up reluctantly smiling back. Somewhat self-
consciously he scraped the knuckles of one hand along his jaw.
Charles remembered when Scott used to fake it with a razor to impress
Jean. And as happened often and unpredictably these days, tears stung
Charles' eyes when he thought of Jean, or more specifically, Jean and
Scott, and he quickly maneuvered his chair around toward the window,
as though to await the sunrise.
He knew he was a party, however unwittingly, to the disintegration of
the relationship between two people he loved dearly. Apparently he'd
become so superannuated he'd honestly perceived Logan as just another
stray child. And so he had invited another alpha male into Scott's
territory, with results that anyone could have predicted -- anyone,
it seemed, but a licensed psychiatrist.
Logan had demonstrated on Liberty Island that he would make a
valuable addition to the X-Men, but that had become rather beside the
point. Scott's happiness was the point -- had always been the point
of Charles's endeavors, all the activities he supposedly undertook
for the good of mutantkind. It shamed him, at times, to think how
truly parochial his motives were. Logan had helped to save the world,
and Charles found now he simply wanted the man gone.
But Logan was not going to oblige until Charles furnished, as
promised, a solid lead to his missing past. And as Charles had
discovered, Logan had taken advantage of an old man's irritatingly
slow convalescence to pursue Jean ever more openly. Silly, vain girl -
- could she not understand that Logan viewed her simply as another of
Scott's possessions to acquire?
Charles firmly resolved that by the end of the week -- no later -- he
would unearth sufficient information to satisfy Logan and send him on
his way. And he'd think of an excuse to send Scott and Jean to some
romantic spot to mend fences. He didn't want to think what would
happen if their relationship dissolved. He didn't want to think what
would happen if Scott were a free agent. A man could only practice
self-restraint for so long.
The grandfather clock chimed six times. Hurriedly Charles wheeled his
chair about and motored through his bedroom toward the door to the
hallway. He knew, without looking, that Scott would follow.
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