Continuing direction from part 7a/12....
By the time Logan and Ororo had taken the body back to the mansion
and secured it in the lab's own icebox, then returned to the
hospital, Summers had been in surgery for five hours. The professor
was still waiting outside when they reported their mission a success.
"How is he?" was Ro's first question.
"Alive still and the dangerous bleeding has been halted," Xavier
replied. "Victor brought out Grace about an hour ago �- unconscious,
of course, and I was frankly surprised that Victor could walk
himself. She drained them both.
"Like in the medicine wheel?" Logan asked.
"Not quite, but similar. Due to the intertwined nature of Grace and
Victor's gifts, and the empathic-telepathic bonds that they share,
she can draw on his strength almost as completely as she can draw on
her own. In the medicine wheel that she created, she could draw
only a portion of each person's strength. In any case, it would have
been very unwise for her to heal Scott completely here. One could
hardly explain a miracle of that magnitude." He smiled, but it
didn't reach much past his mouth.
"Yeah, I know," Logan said. He'd worked out as much for himself.
"Jean had her close the wounds in his liver, since they presented the
primary danger, and also heal the lung enough that they could
re-expand it from the collapse. But they will still have to place a
drain in his chest, and the intestines had to be sewn closed. The
wounds from the surgery itself are extensive. To open his chest
cavity, they had to cut through the sternum and break his ribs to
bend them back. That will leave an ugly scar."
Logan touched his own chest, remembering vague flashes of being
opened up in much the same way to secure the adamantium inside him.
The pain had been . . . just mind numbing. His body had been a world
of pain in a sky of agony, and he blanked his mind almost
automatically. Some memories, he was happy to lose. But now, he had
not a spot on his skin to show for any of it. "He won't have a scar
at all when Grace is through with him," he muttered.
Xavier tilted his head, then nodded. "Yes, of course. I forget.
But she dare not do more here than small healings -� enough for Scott
to go home, where we can take care of the rest. The main concern now
is to get him through the night. The next twenty-four hours are
critical, Hank tells me. Grace has done all that she can, and would
not be available in an emergency. If he begins to bleed again, we
could lose him."
"But he'll probably be all right?" Ro asked, more as a denial than as
a real question.
"His odds are very good now."
"Do the children know?"
"I sent to EJ, when Grace and Victor emerged."
Remembering the suppressed fear that he'd seen on Haight's face
earlier, Logan was glad Xavier had thought to inform him.
"How much longer he gonna be in there?" Logan asked.
"I am unsure. They have only just begun to close."
Logan nodded. "I'll head out to baby-sit with Haight." At least out
in the waiting room, it felt less like a hospital.
After such an extensive operation, closing took a long time, and the
sun was rising before Summers was out of OR and into recovery. Jean
had gone to watch over him, and Grace and Victor were still sleeping
in one of the residents' on-call rooms, which had been appropriated
for the purpose. A weary Hank McCoy arrived in the waiting room
along with the professor to inform the gathered that Summers was
critical but stable, and out of immediate danger. He would be in the
hospital with a chest tube for a week. There was no way to speed
that up without it looking too suspicious. As soon as they could
reasonably remove him, they'd transfer him back to the mansion and
Grace could work as much magic as the limits of her gift permitted.
Logan listened with half an ear while he watched the kids' faces.
Pure relief across the board. Most had come to the mansion from
unstable environments �- often the street �- and as much as they
might bitch and moan about the Boy Scout and his rules and regs, he
nonetheless represented stability in their lives. They trusted him,
they looked up to him for guidance, and they appreciated the clear
and visible boundaries that he set �- appreciated them far more than
they would admit. He was the leader of the X-Men, the de-facto
headmaster of the institute, and the bedrock of "Mutant High." Logan
had no doubt that, if push came to shove, the school could survive
his death. It'd have to survive anyone's, even Xavier's, but it
wouldn't be easy.
With the status report on Summers' condition given, tension broke and
various groups of students mulled over what they were going to do
next. Most arranged transportation back to Westchester, but a few
appeared inclined to stay -� mostly the remaining X-Men trainees and
their friends. Dani Elk River had been accepted right into that
crowd under pressure of crisis bonding. Haight alone still seemed
decidedly grim despite the good news. At least he'd finally washed
some of the blood off his face. Logan approached him and said
softly, "Now that he's out of danger, I suppose I'm allowed to bitch.
What possessed that idiot to take off the kevlar?"
"Trust," Haight replied without looking at him. His eyes flicked all
around the room, from blue-padded chairs to end tables stacked with
dog-eared magazines to the low-key abstract art on the wall. Logan
was unsure if he were looking for something specific, or just seeking
absolution "The kid -� Derrick -� he was scared shitless and not
inclined to trust our offer about the school. He said, 'You got
bullet-proof vests. I got nothing.' So Scott took his off." Logan
watched Haight's jaw work while he struggled for control. "Kid
figured that if Scott was willing to risk his own neck, he must be on
the level. Now that kid's dead and Scott damn near died. And me? I
don't got a scratch. They weren't fucking firing at *me*, were
"Of course they weren't firing at you." It was said, with no little
heat, by St. John Allerdyce.
Haight turned to study him. "What d'you mean, 'of course' they
weren't firing at me?"
"You're a norm," Allerdyce told him. Straightforward and blunt.
Haight met the boy's eyes and nodded slowly. "Yeah, I am. You got a
problem with that?" It wasn't hostile . . . quite, but it was a
challenge and Logan was reminded that Haight dealt with street kids
all the time. Haight knew he couldn't let Allerdyce win this one or
he'd never get his authority back. The other students had stopped to
watch; they seemed to sense that this was a critical moment. Drake
had opened his mouth to intervene but Logan gripped his wrist and
squeezed, hard enough to hurt but not enough to bruise the bone.
Haight had to do this on his own; he wouldn't appreciate being
'rescued.' Drake subsided.
Allerdyce had shifted his posture back slightly, but without giving
ground yet. He'd slung the cloak of a studied indifference about
himself. The opposite of liking wasn't hate, it was apathy, and
Haight wasn't inclined to let him get away with it. More forcefully
now, Haight asked again, "You got a problem with the fact I'm not a
"No," Allerdyce said finally, low and soft, almost a warning.
"Unless you got a problem with the fact I am one."
Abruptly Haight grinned �- that startling, take-everyone-by-surprise
smile that granted him his electric charisma. "I got no problems
with that, man, long as you don't burn my pants." The kids laughed,
more from relief than in amusement, but Haight had grown serious
again. He dropped the confrontational posture to motion Allerdyce
closer �- and the other kids, too. "Now, level with me. You all
don't seem surprised by what happened to Scott. How often this be
happening, man? Police harass you regularly?"
"Depends," Allerdyce replied, "on how much like a mutant we look. I
pass." He gestured to Drake, "So does Bobby, and Jubes and Kitty.
Rogue gets weird looks for the gloves, but if she dresses goth, she
can pass, too. Mr. Summers, though . . . it's the glasses. They're
not noticeable most of the time, in New York. But up in Westchester,
especially if people look close . . . . It's not like most people
his age put *blinders* on their sunglasses. So yeah, we've seen
people move away from him. Clarice has the same problem, with her
eyes and skin, and there are others at the school like that. Little
things give them away and they have trouble. Dr. McCoy can barely go
out any more. I mean, he *does* -� he just ignores it -� but people
spit at him behind his back. Or they stare."
"When they stare at you," Kitty added, "you don't know if they're
just curious, or if they're going to follow you off somewhere and do
worse things than spit." She was, Logan noticed, fingering the Star
of David that she always wore.
Frowning, Haight shook his head. Logan was sure the basic tale was
an old tune to him, if not necessarily with mutants as the targets.
"It didn't used to be like this, man, not when we was in college."
Neal Sharra shrugged. "How long ago was that? It's been getting
worse since Kelly started his mutant registration campaign. It's not
like this in New Delhi, either. Or it wasn't. No telling, these
days. I haven't been home in over a year."
"Scott knew when he went in there that he was taking a chance," Drake
"Then why the *hell* did he take off his vest?" Haight nearly yelled.
"And I let him do it."
That, Logan thought, was the heart of it. Haight was blaming
himself. Survivor's guilt. Xavier turned from his conversation with
McCoy. "It was a matter of trust, EJ -� as you yourself pointed out
to Logan. Scott did what he had to do."
"And nearly got himself freakin' killed!" He was still angry, at
Summers, at himself, and at a fearful society that had demonized his
friend for an accident of birth.
"It is the chance that we take," McCoy said quietly.
Jaw tight, Haight met his eyes. "It ain't right."
"No," Xavier told him. "But little in the world is 'right.' We do
what we can to change it."
"Damn," Haight whispered. And in that moment, Logan saw precisely
why he and Summers were friends. A pair of crusaders, the both of
them, out tilting at windmills in defense of how the world ought to
be. There was a pause like an in-drawn breath, and something shifted
in Haight's face. "Yeah. We do what we can," he echoed. And in
that moment, Logan knew the man's final decision about joining the
team had been made. Maybe there had never been any real question.
The X-Men had just increased their number by one.
Nearly everyone in the waiting room jumped, both at the unexpected
voice and at the unusual address. Turning towards the doorway, they
found a dignified man with black hair, graying at the crown. He
wasn't particularly tall, but his posture conveyed that impression
all the same. Military ramrod, just like Summers.
The cheekbones, the mouth, the firm jaw -� all like Summers'. At his
elbow stood a woman with faded blonde hair and striking, long cat
eyes in blue. Italian eyes.
"I'm Charles Xavier," the professor said, turning his chair to face
them. "Lieutenant Colonel Summers, Mrs. Summers, welcome to New
York. I wish your first visit here had been under better
end Chapter 7, go on to Chapter 8....
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