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HEYOKA: The Advent of Grace (3b/10) (ensemble)

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  • Minisinoo
    Continuing direction from part 3a/10.... ... There were more examinations, experiments. Gracie was starting to feel like Jean Grey s personal pincushion. At
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 14, 2001
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      Continuing direction from part 3a/10....

      ------

      There were more examinations, experiments. Gracie was starting to
      feel like Jean Grey's personal pincushion. At least Rogue suffered
      through it with her this time. It was never easy touching the girl,
      but each time, it grew easier, the moment of adjustment faster.

      "I'm still not sure *how* she does it," Grey confessed Sunday
      afternoon when they'd all gathered in the underground med lab for
      consultation, all the adults anyway: Xavier, Grey, Summers, Grace,
      Ororo -- and Rogue and Bobby Drake, too. As this concerned Rogue, she
      was present, and it seemed that wherever Rogue went, Bobby was soon
      to follow. "But I can say that what she does is to take Rogue's gift
      and neutralize it, like a base to an acid."

      "But nobody else can do it," Rogue said, voice whipped. Beside her,
      Bobby took her gloved hand, squeezed.

      "No, I'm sorry." Grey looked down at their joined hands. "It's
      non-transferrable."

      "Like a discount plane ticket," Gracie said. "I'm sorry, Little
      Sister."

      There was more discussion, but the essential point had been made at
      the outset. Gracie alone could touch Rogue, no one else, even if
      Gracie was there as a dampener. Later that afternoon while she was
      sitting out by the ball court smoking and watching the boys shoot
      hoops, Scott joined her on the bench, offered her two cookies from
      the stack of four in his hand. Homemade chocolate chip.

      She shook her head. "Can't. Sorry." She stubbed out her cigarette in
      a streak of black on white concrete, then buried it in the earth.
      Tobacco for the spirits. He watched. She knew he wished she wouldn't
      smoke in front of the students, but had never said anything to her
      about it. She persisted not from callousness, but because it seemed
      hypocritical not to. They all knew she smoked. If they asked her
      about it, she'd tell them the truth. Health issues aside, the
      sacredness of tobacco aside, it was a stupid, expensive, addictive
      habit that ruined the voice, left her clothes smelling stale, and
      made some white jackass in Carolina rich. Better they hear that from
      her. They might listen better.

      Now, he said only, "Why no cookies? Diet?"

      "No, diabetic. Or as close as makes no difference. The great Indian
      genetic curse, along with alcoholism."

      "Oh. Sorry, I forgot."

      He sounded so guilty, she smiled and nudged his side. "Cookie Monster
      gets all the cookies for himself."

      He shoved a whole cookie in his mouth and grinned at her around it.
      How the hell did he do that? After a minute and a large swallow, he
      asked, "Do you miss them? Cookies?"

      "Nah. I miss ice cream."

      "Not in this weather."

      A chill day in October, frost had edged the grass and window panes at
      dawn. "Not in this weather," she agreed. After a minute, she asked,
      "You miss colors?" She knew he did, but wanted to hear him say it.

      He didn't answer immediately, ate two more cookies. "Sometimes."

      "Only sometimes?"

      "If you don't have them, you don't miss them. Not as much. I see
      fine. Some things I see better, like movement. I can track movement
      better now. I just don't see colors. I guess I've gotten used to it."

      "Like no cookies."

      "Like no cookies."

      They had a habit of profound conversations made up of sentences with
      six words or less.

      "I miss green the most," he said after a minute.

      "Your favorite?"

      "Yeah. The grass looks funny in fuchsia." She laughed. He changed the
      subject. "It was kind, what you did for Rogue."

      "Not kind enough."

      He shook his head, toyed with the last cookie, turning it in his
      fingers. Around and around. Out on the court, the boys continued to
      play, oblivious. Drumbeat of a ball on asphalt. Breathy shouts of
      encouragement, protest. "The blond is good," she said.

      "That's Warren -- your Gabriel. And yeah, he is, even without wings."
      He was looking at her but she could see only herself, reflected in
      red. "You're not a miracle worker," he told her.

      "I'm just a mutant -- and not a very strong one, at that."

      "Strong enough to do what no one else can."

      "Unfortunately, I am not at the top of Rogue's touch list. I'm the
      wrong gender and my name ain't Bobby."

      "Don't, Gracie. You're beating yourself up for no reason. As far as
      Marie is concerned, you hung the stars."

      "Bobby Drake hung the stars. I just shined them a bit."

      He smiled, ate the last cookie and said nothing else until he rose to
      go. "Marie told me that you were the one who caught up on our
      filing." At her blank look, he elaborated, "In the office."

      "Oh, yeah. Stuff was laying out everywhere where anybody could get at
      it. I hope you don't mind."

      "*Mind?*" He laughed. "I should throw you a party!"

      "Jean would not like that."

      He just looked off. The wind tossed his hair and ruffled his shirt a
      little. It was flannel, but not like men wore on a res. This was
      expensive combed cotton, soft to the touch, stripes in brown on deep
      heather blue. Very L. L. Bean. "I wish you two would quit the cat
      fight," he said. "It's getting old."

      "I don't like her; she don't like me. It is not something to quit. It
      just is."

      "Goddammit." He stalked off.




      Monday morning, Gracie was at the office bright and early with beads
      and loom spread on the desk. She answered the phone, made coffee,
      beaded, and stopped counting the heads that swivelled to stare as
      people walked by. Ororo wandered in at one point to plop down in a
      maroon-upholstered chair across from the big oak desk and gesture at
      the beading loom. "Watcha making?" On certain phrases, one couldn't
      hear her accent at all.

      "Bead strips for my jingle dress. I do the beadwork by loom, then sew
      it on fabric later."

      "What is a jingle dress?"

      "It's a dress for a particular type of Indian dance. I'd show you
      mine, but the actual dress is back in my closet on the res." Silence
      a moment. "I guess I should send for it."

      What hung unspoken was that she was beginning to think she might be
      around long enough to want it.

      After a tense pause, Ororo just asked bluntly, "Did you appoint
      yourself as our secretary or did the professor ask you?" Then she
      hastened to add, "Not that I mind. It saves me running for the phone.
      I was just curious."

      "I'm no secretary. Can't type worth crap. And I don't do dictation or
      faxes, or windows either, while we're at it. I make coffee if you
      like it strong, answer the phone, and run copies if someone will show
      me how to tame that alien entity in the back room pretending to be a
      copy machine."

      Ororo's lips curled up. "I'll have Scott show you how to operate it.
      He is the only one who knows the bells and whistles because he is the
      only one inclined to read the manual."

      "Techno-geek boys and their toys. Rogue says he is the school's
      garage mechanic, too. It must be connected to the Y chromosome."

      Still smiling, Ororo rose. "I am glad you are here, Grace. I don't
      know if anyone else has told you that yet, but someone should."

      Gracie looked up from her loom, smiled back. "Thanks, Ro."

      The next day, when she arrived in the office, she found a wooden name
      plate sitting on the desk:

      Grace Kills-his-Horse
      administrative assistant

      Ororo. Avoiding 'secretary.' Laughing, Gracie ran a finger over the
      top. Around eleven, Scott showed up to teach her the basics of the
      copy machine and explain his rather peculiar filing system, then
      handed over the keys to the wooden cabinets that were never locked
      anyway. "All yours. Have fun."

      When he was gone, she surveyed her posh domain with its oak desk and
      all-matching accessories, dull abstract art mounted behind. She'd
      have to fix that. Maroon leather chairs bookended a low table with a
      big spider plant and a seventy-gallon fish tank mounted in the wall
      above and behind. Empty tank, missing both water or fish. There was
      never anyone here to feed them.

      "I need some fish," she said to the air.




      In a school full of teenagers, it was perhaps inevitable that at some
      point, someone would get hurt. The accident occurred in the kitchen.
      A pair of boys horsing around when they were supposed to be helping
      Valeria. One spilled boiling hot water on the other's sleeved arm.
      Gracie was in the office when she heard the first shout, more
      startled than pained. Someone yelled for Dr. Grey. Then the pain. An
      arrow of red-white pain. Burn pain.

      She was out of her seat and running down the hall before she knew
      what she was doing. A second wave of pain, far worse, knocked her to
      her knees and a wild shriek from the dining hall echoed it. "You
      pulled his skin off! You pulled his skin off!" Repeated over and
      over, high and frightened.

      She pushed the pain back, scrambled to her feet and ran again. Grey
      got there a little before her, shot in door, Ororo behind. Where was
      Scott? Gracie barely had time to wonder. She propelled herself
      through the door on Ororo's heels.

      In the kitchen, chaos. Kids screaming. Valeria wringing her hands and
      shouting in Italian. The focus of the cyclone was a young boy, curly
      hair, thin face, glasses, and just now, bare-chested. He shrieked in
      pain, held up an arm that looked as if he'd been flayed from
      mid-bicep down to his forearm. Another boy -- face a study in shock
      -- gripped a rugby shirt, half inside out, bloody skin fused to one
      sleeve. Kitty Pryde was throwing up in a corner, along with two boys
      whose names Gracie didn't know. John Proudstar physically held down
      the curly-haired boy, yelling, "Don't flail, Jake!"

      Grey had gone to her knees beside the wounded boy, was issuing
      orders. Cool, professional. Her very presence calmed them all and
      Gracie had to admit herself impressed as she dropped beside Grey. The
      doctor glanced at her. In Gracie's head, she heard, *Hot liquid
      melted his skin to the shirt; when they ripped it off they took the
      skin with it.*

      Gracie gagged, very aware of the sweet smell of vomit. Barely
      held-off pain had already made her stomach weak but she kept the
      nausea down. With one hand she reached out, halted above the writhing
      boy. If she thought she felt his pain now . . . .

      "Storm," Grey said, "Can you get down to my lab and bring up my
      emergency kit?"

      "Already here." Scott's voice. Gracie glanced around. They thought
      fast, this team.

      He tossed it to Grey, who caught it and delved inside; she spoke to
      Grace but with a glance that took in John, too. "I need Jake's other
      arm to be still. Absolutely still. Sit on it if you must." She had a
      syringe, filling it with a clear liquid that was probably anesthesia
      of some sort.

      Proudstar tightened his embrace, strength like a mountain lion
      pinning Jake's unwounded arm for Grey's needle. Gracie took a breath.
      What was pain? She was a Sioux woman. She let her hand fall to Jake's
      wounded wrist.

      She may have cried out, wasn't sure. Jake's agony took away thought,
      memory, consciousness. She clung stubbornly to the last; it would do
      him no good if she passed out. Reach, reach -- past the pain. Wakan
      Tanka take the pain . . . . This was her Sundance. Close off the
      nerves, sooth them, rebuild the veins, the skin. At least there had
      been no muscle damage. But all that skin. She gasped, felt herself
      falling. Then someone was holding her up. "Use me if you can."

      Gracie was no Rogue, but she knew how to do that. Borrowed strength
      seeped off like a trickling stream. Blue-brown-purple-pink mesa
      cliffs. *Inyan.* Xavier's rock. Scott. Another touch on her arm. *And
      me.* Jean Grey. Shadows in black and white and coyote grey, brilliant
      flash of silver like a trout leaping upstream against the current.

      The pain was lessening, freeing her to concentrate on what she was
      doing. She could feel the skin reknitting itself over raw muscle and
      fat. Indrawn breath all around them. She opened her eyes on startled
      faces. But they weren't looking at her. She followed their gaze. The
      last of the healing process was smoothing a final layer of epidermis
      on the boy's arm, regenerating his pores and light body hair.

      "Not even a scar," John Proudstar whispered, then looked up at her.
      "*Holy woman.*"

      The boy named Jake was gaping at his arm, marred now only by slick
      blood and a vivid memory of tendons beneath. Gracie let his wrist go.
      That was the last thing she remembered.

      ----------

      End of Chapter 3, Go on to Chapter 4

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