CHILDREN of the MIDDLE WATERS 10
Notes: Scott's account of his near-death experience was not pulled
out of a hat. Also, in the comics, Alex did graduate work in
geophysics, and I kept that. On Indian looks � as I've said before,
James Marsden does look to me to have a little Indian blood. He is
from Oklahoma, and has the cheekbones, and the teeth. He very well
might not, but I wouldn't be the least surprised if he did. It made
life convenient. The connection between the Summers family and Black
Kettle is comic canon. Thanks to Lelia and Josh for the info on
Danny Summers; be aware the dates used are from Claremont's
back-history before "The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix."
"Hey! What the fuck are you still doing here? I thought you'd be
back in San Jose?" Summers raised the hospital bed a bit so he could
see better, and pointed to a chair in a corner. "Have a seat, man.
Fill me in. I've been out of the damn loop for five days."
"You've been on *drugs* for five days." EJ lowered himself into the
chair and stretched out his legs, crossing his ankles. "You don't
even remember that you saw me already. Three times. And I didn't
think they were moving you out of ICU for another day? It took me
almost half an hour to track you down."
"They needed beds. I was doing 'remarkably well' so they kicked me
out. I'm not complaining. I was bored out of my freakin' skull,
when I wasn't spaced out of it. Here, at least, I can regulate the
pain meds somewhat," he said, pointing to the IV pole with its drip.
"I'd rather hurt a little than be high as a kite." Well in truth, he
hurt a lot, felt as if a whole company of medieval knights had done a
tapdance on his chest, but he knew how to handle pain, up to a point.
Even he had limits. "And yeah, I remember seeing you. But I
figured you'd be gone by now."
EJ shook his head. "Nope. Kinda missed my plane."
Though it hurt, Summers shifted up a little in the bed so he could
see better. "You didn't have to do that, man."
"Yeah I did, Slimboy. You have no idea how close you came to taking
the long walk. I wasn't about to leave till I saw you back on your
feet. Or at least out of here."
Scott looked off, out the window. He did know how close he'd come.
He'd died. He hadn't stayed dead, but he'd died.
"What you thinking?" EJ asked.
"About what happened." EJ didn't reply to that, just waited for him
to go on. "You remember, when we were in college, and used to talk
about all that philosophical-theological crap?"
"Usually over a couple pitchers, yeah. So what about it?"
"Remember I said I didn't believe in a soul? Or that anything
happened after we died except that we made worm food?"
"Yeah. We disagreed over a lot of things, but that was the biggest."
"I've changed my mind. We have a soul. Or something."
EJ sat up straight. "Spill it."
Frowning at hospital-generic-tan walls, Summers struggled to put into
words what he'd experienced. "No long tunnel and bright light, none
of that crap. I was someplace warm, and I was comfortable. I didn't
hurt. But I was me. I wasn't alive, but I was still *me*. I just
kinda hung out there. I was having a dream �- or that's what I was
thinking at the time -� about being alive. Anyway I remember being
*yanked* back. I wasn't real happy about that. I didn't want to
come, like the mornings you don't want to wake up, but the alarm's
going off and you can't stay asleep? It sounds crazy, but it was
like I had to finish something here, so I couldn't stay there." He
turned his head back to look at EJ. "I'm not scared of death any
more. Dying �- okay, sure. It can hurt like hell. But not death.
I don't know what would've happened, if I'd stayed dead, but I wasn't
afraid. And I was still me. We have a soul, EJ." He grinned. "Mr.
Prove It has finally had it proved. We have a soul. I still don't
believe in your God, but I believe we have a soul. There's more to
life than this world."
EJ had looked away himself, tears tracking down his face. Scott
wasn't sure how to respond to that. They'd been friends so long, EJ
was one of the few people he could talk to about the Big Stuff. But
he couldn't easily express his deep-down feelings to anyone, even EJ.
He wasn't sure he'd had anything so defined as a 'religious
experience,' but he'd certainly had something. In any case, and
deciding they'd been serious long enough, he said, "So, tell me
what's been going on, man � aside from you still hanging around. And
what'll that do to your job?"
EJ collected himself, took a breath and said, "Depends on which job
you're talking about."
Summers raised his brows. "What do you mean which job?"
"The one I had or the one I have?"
"You want to be a *little* less fucking cryptic for me?"
"Looks like your school has itself a new dietician."
"Whoa! What?" Scott sat all the way up before he remembered, and
yelped in pain, slammed the pillow against his chest. "Damn!"
EJ was out of his chair like a shot, helping him to lie back down.
"Just relax, okay? You're going to start bleeding again or rip out
your drains and Jeannie'll have my hide for a nice, black rug. You
can listen to me on your back."
"So spill." It did feel better to lie flat.
EJ was puttering, tucking in blankets and straightening IV lines.
"The Sheraton didn't think a best friend on the edge of death
qualified for a 'family emergency.' My grandmother, who I ain't seen
in seven years, okay -� but not my best friend. Everything's by the
damn book. They were going to fire me, so I said, 'fuck you,' and
quit first." He sat back down. "Besides �- this whole thing . . . .
They shot you on purpose, Scott. Five bullets in you -� that
wasn't no fucking 'accidental miss.' I've been talking to people
since � the kids, Xavier, even Logan. I been giving it some serious
thought. I don't like how things are polarizing, over the mutant
issue. It didn't used to be this way. So I'm picking a side."
For a long minute, Summers just lay there and breathed, too full to
speak. Finally, he managed, "Thanks," though the word seemed
hopelessly inadequate. Maybe EJ understood, a little, what that
decision meant to Scott -� a decision that he knew would cost EJ.
Once, he'd stood up to a cop for EJ's sake, because EJ was black and
he was white. Now, EJ was standing up for him, because he was a
mutant and EJ wasn't.
Another long minute passed as Summers studied the ceiling and
listened to the beeping of the monitor, and to EJ's breath. Then he
said, "I take it the boy died?"
"Yeah. Sharp-shooters don't miss. It was the regular cops who got
you. 'By accident' -� so they say."
"What else has happened? I was serious about filling me in."
"Not a lot, really. Police are doing an internal investigation, but
it's a formality. They ain't gonna find one of their own at fault.
Xavier ain't pushing it."
Summers could tell EJ wasn't happy about that. "The school can't
risk the publicity, Eeej. I knew what I was risking when I went in
"Maybe. So what else? Grace and my parents are here, and that's
about all I know."
"That's about all there is. Some of your students are driving
Grace's car back, since they couldn't exactly load it on the plane.
They stopped in Omaha to talk to some other kid along the way. Last
I heard, they was still there, but that about covers the news. Oh �-
Alex is here, too."
"Yeah, I know -� he came in to see me yesterday. We didn't have much
to say to each other. Mom and Dad still seem to think we'll
eventually be friends if they just slap us together often enough."
He raised his head enough to see EJ. "You met Grace?"
"Man! Is that one tough red bitch! She gonna keep your white ass
*in line*, brother."
Summers grinned, recognizing high praise from EJ when he heard it.
"She's great, isn't she?"
"You should've heard her yesterday. Aide did something she didn't
like. You was sleeping and your mom was trying to be all nice and
polite. Gracie climbed down that aide's throat. Didn't even raise
her voice, just reamed her out clean and tore her a new one."
"Poor nothing. She was all �I don't want to clean up the mutant's
room.'" EJ sat back and laced his hands together behind his head.
"Most of the staff been good, though -� just a few who got a problem.
Gracie set that one straight." He grinned again. "Definitely worth
the price of admission. Your dad likes her."
"My mom likes her, too, I think. She said Grace was 'honest.'"
"That she is."
"And what do you think?"
"I think she only *seems* nice and sweet and calm. Piss her off and
I'd run for cover, boy. *Fast*."
"So she's not my Madonna then, like Jean?"
EJ grinned. "From what I seen and heard, she'd blister Mother Mary's
ears. Jeannie's got a temper, but Gracie's got a cause. The
latter's a hell of a lot more dangerous." He leaned back in his
chair and put his feet up on the edge of Summers' bed. "You got
yourself a red Joan of Ark, white boy. Think you can handle her?"
Summers grinned. "I don't know, but I'm willing to try."
The only thing that saved Summers from complete boredom was the fact
that someone always seemed to be hanging around his room. The nurses
had dubbed him "Mr. Popular," and even that morning after he'd been
moved, he had a small crowd visiting, consisting of his father,
mother, Grace, Ororo, and EJ. Jean had been in earlier, but was gone
now. At one point, Grace headed out to fetch something, even as
Scott's brother was on the way in. Alex was supposed to leave late
that afternoon. It was still the middle of the semester for him and
Ro was taking him to JFK, which was why she was there. Alex had his
bags in hand, and had shifted back against the doorjamb to let Grace
slip past. As sometimes happened, she brushed against him in the
process. Skin to skin. Scott didn't even notice or realize what had
happened until she let out a startled, "Oh!" Conversation faltered
and everyone turned to stare as she stared at Alex -� who looked like
a deer caught in the proverbial headlights.
"You're a *mutant*," she said. Someone passing in the hall beyond
actually paused to gape, and then hurried on. Alex had gone beet
red, and for five breaths, no one could wrap minds around Grace's
words to respond. Then a tumult exploded: Alex's protests, Chris
Summers' demand for an explanation, Ororo asking Grace if she were
Only Scott couldn't think of a word to say. He lay in his bed and
stared at his brother, and Alex, feeling his gaze, turned his head to
meet his eyes.
He'd known. Scott was sure of it. Whatever he was saying now, he'd
known for some time, and just hadn't wanted to face it.
Ororo was asking Alex for permission for the school to run tests, but
he refused on the grounds that he had to make his flight. "But you
could be dangerous," she told him. "If your mutation manifests
unexpectedly �- "
"He already knows how to control it," Scott interrupted.
Everyone looked at him. "But he just said �- " their mother began.
"He knows." He kept his eyes locked with Alex's. "You can't lie to
Grace, Alex. She can tell."
Alex tore his eyes away to look at Grace, and so did Scott. She just
nodded once, to confirm what Scott had said.
"Why didn't you ever tell us?" their mother asked.
"Why do you *think*?" he spat, and stepped into the hospital room,
pulling the door shut behind. "I want a *normal* life -� a degree, a
job. I don't want to be some freak in a circus sideshow, or stuck in
the boondocks teaching freak kids. I didn't ask for this to happen!"
"You think I did?" Scott snarled back.
Ro stepped between Alex and Scott. "If you have a mutant gift �- and
it is a gift, Alexander -� then it is imperative that you learn to
control it before you do harm to someone."
"I can control it. As much as I need to, which is mostly to avoid
"What, exactly, can you *do*?" their father asked.
Alex gestured at Scott. "What he does. Sorta." And he raised both
hands, palms facing inward, and concentrated. A bright yellow light
arced between, brief, and then was gone. "It doesn't hurt me," he
said. "But if I hit something else with it, I knock a big, smoking
hole in whatever I hit."
Scott watched his brother with a sour jealousy. Alex *could* control
it, but didn't want it. Scott wanted it, but couldn't control it.
"Can you regulate the force of it? The amount of force you direct?"
"I haven't exactly tried," Alex replied, exasperated. "I don't
*want* it, or didn't you get that part? It's not like I'm practicing
how to use it in my apartment living room! As long as I can keep it
from . . . bursting out . . . I'm happy."
Scott didn't answer that, just watched him, but now, Alex wouldn't
meet his brother's eyes.
"You may think you can control it," Scott said finally, "but it's not
that easy. I know. If you get angry enough, or if something
surprises you, scares you -� it'll manifest. And you need to release
the energy daily, or it'll give you headaches. At least I do. You
can't just suppress it and hope it goes away."
"Fuck you." Alex glared. "Don't lecture me. It's my life. I
didn't ask for this, I don't want it. I don't get your damn
headaches, and I'm not going to use it. Just leave me alone!" and he
jerked open the door to storm out.
Summers sighed, heavy, and stared down at the blanket covering his
legs. "Jesus, Mary and Joseph," he muttered. If it wasn't one
thing, it was another.
That little bombshell reverberated for the rest of the morning. A
little before noon, Grace returned to seat herself on the side of
Scott's bed. "Well, I got this much out of him. He won't agree to
go back to the mansion and let Jean test him �- he says he has to be
back in California before tomorrow -� but he's agreed to let me probe
him *my* way, and he said he'd think about coming out to Westchester
this summer, to let Jean run her tests then."
"Okay." Summers frowned, unsure why she was reporting back to him.
Alex could go drown himself in the harbor for all Scott cared.
"Y'know, he told me he's been to the Badlands -� work's up in
Montana. He likes it there, likes to camp out." Scott wasn't sure
whether or not he should jealous. "He's not so bad, when you let him
talk about his rocks. He understands the power of the rock people."
"I don't need you to play mediator for my brother and me, Grace."
"God, you're a stubborn SOB."
"So I've been told."
"Well, I need you both for this. Think you can be marginally civil
to him for fifteen minutes?"
He glared at her. "Why do you need me?"
"Remember when I told you, a while back, that I thought there was
something . . . off . . . about your gift?"
"There is nothing wrong with Alex's. I can feel the difference: no
buzz. But his is like yours, in the same way that mine is like Vic's
-� similar but not exactly the same. So I want see if I can figure
out what is wrong with yours." She leaned in a little to give him
that grin he couldn't refuse. "So �- will you be a good boy?"
"Do I have a choice?"
Shrugging, she leaned back. "You could say no, then we'd never find
out . . . . "
"Okay, fine. Let's just get on with it."
She started to leave, but he grabbed her by the wrist and she glanced
back at him. "I'm glad you're home." Aside from the few moments
when he'd first woken up, they hadn't had any time alone together
until now, and here they were, arguing about Alex. She was back,
she'd saved his life, but mundane matters had just steam-rolled right
over their reunion. He hadn't even kissed her yet. Life shouldn't
be that anticlimactic. Sliding his hand down into hers, he tugged
her back to the bed. She came, but he could still feel her
irritation with him. "Bend down," he said.
Irritation slid into amusement and she did as he asked until they
were nose to nose, her black hair falling loose on either side of his
face. "This good enough?"
Reaching up, he gripped the back of her head and pulled her down
further until their lips met. So soft. Her mouth was always so
soft, and Christ, he'd flat forgotten what she did to him. One
minute, he was content and relaxed in her company, and the next,
every nerve was screaming for more touch. He held her firmer against
his mouth and pushed her lips open with his tongue, exploring inside
along the slick enamel of her teeth and the strong push of her own
tongue, riding on a backwash of excitement from her. If he'd thought
kissing a telepath was enlightening, kissing an empath took feeling
to a whole new level.
It would have been very easy for him to forget they were in a
hospital room that seemed to be the X-Mansion South these days, with
equivalent traffic, or to forget that he had a sewn-up sternum and
abdomen that was a long way from healed yet. Right now, doubled
passion was making it hard to think at all, and he just wanted to get
his hands under her sweater and on her breasts. This was exactly how
things had gotten so out of hand in the hall outside her door after
the Christmas party. It was a level of sensation beyond anything he
was used to handling. But this time, his own pain got in the way,
seeping past the pleasure until she gasped and pulled back.
"Enough." She stood up to straighten her top. "Be back in a minute
with your brother.
"Thrills. I can hardly wait."
"All right, so, what do we do?" Alex asked. Grace had him seated in
a chair by his brother's hospital bed, and she'd drawn up a second
chair to place herself between them. Both their parents looked on
anxiously, and Xavier had come, too, as soon as he'd heard the news.
If he hadn't wasted breath trying to convince Alex to stay, he was
certainly interested in what Grace's probing would reveal. The boy
with powers like Scott's had died, and their chance to understand
Scott better with him. Now, they had a second chance from an
"I want you both to relax," Grace said. "I don't expect this will
take long, and you won't feel much, maybe a tickle inside your skin,
but no more. I want to begin with Scott, because I already know the
feel of his power, and then I'll touch Alex. *Tunkashila*," she said
to the professor, "would you like to observe? You know . . . . " she
tapped her temple. Smiling, Xavier nodded.
She set a hand on Scott's wrist. True to her word, he didn't feel
much, barely even the tickle she'd warned of. For a long time,
nothing else happened. She sat very still, as did the professor.
Scott waited, and traded a look with his mother, then with Alex.
After several minutes had ticked by, Grace laid her other hand on
Alex's wrist. For a minute, he wore no expression, then his eyes
went wide. "Whoa! That's a weird feeling!" Scott still couldn't
feel much himself and wondered if his pain medication were dulling
the sensations, or if her touch were simply that familiar to him. In
any case, another few minutes passed before Grace opened her eyes,
blinked twice, and let them both go. Xavier opened his eyes as well.
Sighing deeply, the professor spoke to Alex. "I fear that, however
much you might wish to ignore your mutant gifts, Alex, it will grow
increasingly difficult for you to do so. Like your brother, you are
an alpha class mutant. In fact, for short durations, your power may
be stronger even than Scott's -� and he is one of the most powerful
alpha mutants on the planet."
Scott gaped. Alex gaped even more.
"You need to undergo some kind of training, if not immediately, then
very soon. The scope of your power will quickly exceed your ability
to suppress it. The . . . waves . . . that you emit are very
difficult to control, are they not?"
Cautiously, Alex nodded.
"It will get harder, I fear."
"But I don't want it!" Alex practically yelled, and jerked to his
feet. "I don't want it!"
Xavier shook his head. "I am afraid that rejecting your power isn't
an option. You *are* a mutant, Alexander Summers. It is something
that, like your brother, you can learn to live with and manage, or it
will manage you."
"Goddamn!" he muttered and stalked out.
Scott's father started to rise to go after him but Xavier held up a
hand. "Give him a while. There is always a period of adjustment.
He is not yet ready to be reasoned with."
Scott's father sat back down and silence prevailed for a moment as no
one quite looked at anyone else, then Scott cleared his throat. "And
me? Did you learn anything about me?"
"We shall know more when Jean is able to run a full-scale CAT scan on
Alex," Xavier said, "but I think . . . . " He trailed off and nodded
"I told you before that something was wrong with your power. There
is damage to your brain, to the part that controls your power. That
is why you cannot manage the optic blasts. That part of your brain
is . . . broken."
"Can you fix it?" But he knew already, from the expression on her
"No. The damage is too old, and too-long-healed in a bad way. The
brain is a funny thing. It don't heal like other parts of the body.
Once, I might have been able to do something, or if I were a stronger
healer, but not as things are. I'm sorry."
He hadn't hoped for it, counted on it, or even known that there was
something wrong to fix. But the finality of her words knocked the
breath out of him. Alex could control his power, and Scott couldn't,
ever, and nothing would change that. It lay heavy in his gut, a
weight of stone, ossified.
"When did it happen?" he asked. "I don't even -� I can't remember
anything that would have given me *brain* damage . . . . "
"When he fell out of that tree," his mother said, looking up at his
father. "You remember? The summer we moved to Nebraska. That big
old maple in the backyard. He climbed up in it and fell out, knocked
himself silly on the trunk."
"I barely remember," Scott said.
"You passed out and we took you to the hospital -� Methodist
Children's Hospital, I remember -� but they didn't find anything
permanently wrong. A moderate concussion, that was all. You were
dizzy and disoriented for a several days, but back to normal in a
"Back to normal until my power showed up." And nothing anyone could
do now. Probably nothing they could have done then, either. It was
just one of those things.
Reaching out, Grace slid her hand into his. "So you'll get by," she
said. "You've been getting by for ten years now."
"Yeah, I guess I'd better get used to it. It's not like anything's
*Except knowledge,* the professor sent into his head. *Until now, we
haven't known why your power was uncontrollable, and we could hope.
Learning that you must live out your life with a handicap is never
easy to hear, even if nothing essential changes.* Scott lifted his
eyes and met Xavier's. If anyone understood, Xavier did.
Continued DIRECTLY in part 10b/12....
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