Continuing direction from part 11a/12....
Once back in his room, she turned up the heat, got his shirt off and
tucked him into bed, then crawled in after to complete the final the
healing. Inside five minutes, the scar was completely gone. But as
before, the healing generated an erotic burn between them, which they
let flow in predictable directions. With the uncertain edge of first
times rubbed off, they were easier with each other, their sex almost
playful, and she kept her empathy in check. The climax might not
have been as piercing, but it didn't need to be. A steady diet of
sex like the night before would exhaust them both. Shared enjoyment,
shared warmth, shared humor �- those things were just as precious.
When they were done, she lay half-draped on him, running her fingers
over his now unblemished chest. "I hope," he muttered, "that this
isn't your usual bedside approach. I'm not inclined to share."
Smiling, she bit his shoulder. "Smart ass. And I did promise EJ
that I would sit on you, to keep you still."
He chuckled at that, and she could feel the gold-bright bursts of joy
in him. He was happy. Of course, he had reason to be. He'd gotten
his way on two counts: she was in his bed, and EJ was in the
kitchen. Of course, being in his bed was her choice, and EJ wouldn't
be in the kitchen if he didn't wish to be. But Scott still had what
he wanted, and he wasn't above preening a little, if unconsciously.
In anyone else, it would have been annoying.
They were silent a while as he stroked her hair and she stroked skin,
then he said, "I feel a little guilty making Ro go get Frank at the
"Why? You were in no shape to go."
"They don't have an easy history."
"I know that. But it is something she must get past. And he must
"That's just it. They don't want to get past it."
"What they have . . . it's one of those weird things. They've loved
each other from the minute they met �- more than Jean and me. It
took me a while to convince Jean to date me, but they just . . .
clicked, from the beginning. I've never seen anything like it.
Circumstances now make their relationship impossible, so he keeps his
mistresses and she has her flings, and neither one will settle down.
They won't, either, until either he comes back here, or she follows
him to Rome."
Grace considered Ororo's interest in her brother, and wondered. Time
would tell if there was more to that than simple attraction, and
Victor was perfectly capable of choosing his own lovers, so she said
nothing. They were silent again. She could hear the clock buzz on
his night stand. It read four-thirty-six. They should get up and
dress; dinner would begin soon. But it was pleasant to lie next to
him, until he said, "Tell me about Seth." Then she went cold, though
she'd known this topic had to be broached.
"I should have told you before," she admitted after a minute.
"Yes." It wasn't, quite, angry.
"I didn't want it to sound like a soap opera."
He rolled sideways until he could look at her from behind ruby
quartz. "Your baby died, your husband was murdered and your brother
went to prison for killing his killer. I'd say that goes a little
beyond a soap opera into the surreal."
"When you put it that way, it sounds way more dramatic than it was.
Well, Jean dying . . . . " She stopped. She couldn't complete that
thought. His hand came up to cup her cheek and he pressed his brow
to hers; his goggles bumped the bridge of her nose.
"Tell me about Seth," he said again after a minute.
She rolled out of his grasp onto her back so she didn't have to look
at him as she spoke; she could stare at the ceiling instead. "He was
Victor's best friend from the time we were small. They were both
born in the reservation clinic on the same day. Hal Mad Dog said
their futures were all wrapped up together. I tagged behind them
everywhere, and they didn't mind. Mostly. When Seth and I got old
enough, it just seemed . . . fate . . . that we'd wind up together.
We never even went out with anyone else. After I got pregnant, we
"That's one thing I don't get. If you can do . . . whatever it is
you do to me -� how'd you wind up pregnant by accident? I assume it
was an accident."
Grinning, she turned her head to eye him. "It was an accident,
though Indians look at those things a little differently. But I
didn't have my powers then. They didn't come on me until I was about
five months along -� the same as happened with Dani. Hormonal
changes, maybe; we'll see what being pregnant does to Jean, ain't
She could sense his tangerine surprise. It had never occurred to him
that being pregnant might affect a mutant's powers.
"Anyway," she went on, "after the baby died, things fell apart. We
were too young to deal with it, though I wonder if you're ever old
enough to deal with something like that? For three months, I was too
depressed to get out of bed, and Seth started drinking, though he
never had before. Hal told me that he wanted to self-destruct. Vic
tried to keep him out of trouble, but Vic wasn't much better. He
blamed himself for not getting to a phone in time, but even if we'd
had one there in the house, the doctors said it wouldn't have made
any difference. She'd been dead when I'd found her in her bed, and
there wasn't anything Seth or I could have done.
She stopped again, just remembering, and wishing she didn't have to.
He waited, patient, his hand stroking her upper arm. Then she went
on, "Seth and Vic were in Custer one night, at a bar. They got in a
fight with some local ranchers, and got thrown out. The rancher boys
went after them and they fought in the parking lot. Seth got knifed
in the ribs and the boys ran off. One of them turned up dead later
that night, and the police arrested Vic for it. In white man court,
he never had a chance. All the evidence was circumstantial, but he
didn't have a good enough alibi." The same slow burn licked at her
that she always felt whenever she thought about those months. "The
other boys who killed Seth were released on convenient
'technicalities,' because Gary Jasc had been the one who held the
knife and Gary Jasc was dead, never mind that his friends had held
Seth down and knocked Victor out."
"Christ," Scott muttered. "Doesn't 'accessory to murder' count as a
"In South Dakota, justice for the red man is a rare thing. Indians
are murdered on Pine Ridge all the time and there's barely a peep.
But when a white boy gets killed, it makes the papers as far away as
Kansas City." She stopped and just breathed, leashing her rage. She
would never forgive the courts for sending her brother to prison.
Raising himself on an elbow beside her, Scott studied her face. "I'm
sorry," he said simply.
"Thank you." And she rolled towards him, buried her nose in his
chest, let him hold her. "You're not in competition with Seth," she
added after a moment, because she knew he was worried about that.
"What I had with him was built on being the same. We were so much
alike, we had nothing to say to each other, in the end, nothing to
teach, nothing to learn. What I have with you . . . . " She looked
up, stared through ruby quartz into the light of his eyes. "You're
not the man I expected to fall in love with, Scott Summers. It just
That got a grin out of him. "Jean and I were like you and Seth I
think. Maybe we were good for each other once, but what we had was
built on being the same: too much and not enough alike. I was
comfortable with her �- still am �- but you . . . . " He trailed off
and shrugged. "You make me think. You make me better."
"What we have crosses borders and walks between worlds, and creatures
of two worlds have special power."
"Maybe that's it," he said, still smiling faintly, but not with mere
tolerance for her native superstitions. He smiled as if he might
really believe it.
The prospect of having two Summers around for a while, not just one,
had thrown the student body into a melodramatic paroxysm of paranoia.
But Grace thought Colonel Summers was more likely to drive the X-Men
to distraction than their students. Now that Scott was completely
out of danger, the elder Summers had spent most of the day cloistered
down below with Xavier, pouring over procedure, security and details,
and he looked non too happy when he arrived at supper.
"I know that expression," Scott muttered to Grace, and Jean, too,
where she sat in her usual place across from him at the teacher's
table. "It does *not* bode well."
But further comment was arrested by the arrival of Valeria's son,
Francesco Placido. Grace's awareness of his physical appearance was
completely drowned out beneath the impact of his soul. This man was
as complicated as Xavier, with as many levels. He had an old soul in
a young body, like Nanahboozho of the Anishinaabe, son of the West
Wind. A power being incarnate. He saw the past, present and future,
and was visible to her eyes not as one, two or even three shades, but
as many. "Frank!" Scott called out, hopping off his seat to go
embrace his friend, kiss him on either cheek in Italian fashion, and
Grace tried to pull herself back from the Overworld, to see with
human eyes. In the flesh, Francesco was far less imposing: a tall,
thin man with a long face, prominent nose and sad, black eyes.
She exchanged a glance with her brother, who had raised an eyebrow.
He seemed less than happy about the arrival of Frank, but she knew it
was motivated by jealousy. Ororo stood very close to the Italian,
not touching, but she didn't need to. As with Scott and Jean when
Grace had first arrived, Ororo and Frank conveyed oneness without any
need for overt signs.
But they weren't alone. There was a third person with them. Frank's
presence had initially eclipsed everything, including the fear and
uncertainty radiating off the cloaked figure behind him. Now, he
released Scott, called out something in Italian to his mother, who
yelled something back, and then he was pulling Scott out of the
dining hall, into the hallway beyond. Without even thinking, Grace
went after them, and so did Xavier. Frank had pulled Scott across
the hall into one of the little classrooms. "Charles," he said when
Xavier arrived, and bent to hug the man. It was, Grace thought, the
first time she'd heard one of the professor's former students call
him by name without hesitation.
"You're excited about something," Xavier said, and glanced past him
to the cloaked figure. Then he said something in another language
that Grace didn't recognize.
The cloaked figure responded in the same tongue, hesitated, and then
dropped his hood, almost defiantly. He was full of apprehension and
hope in equal measure.
He was young. And he was blue, with a thin face, pointed ears, black
hair, and yellow sulfur eyes. Xavier, of course, didn't react, nor
Frank, who'd brought the boy and seen him before; but Grace, Scott
and Ororo were astonished. A few students at the school had an
altered appearance, but none were this altered, Hank excepted, and
Grace understood that Hank had brought his changes on himself.
"Well?" The boy asked, in tolerable English. "Does the demon child
Scott recovered first and offered him a smile. "A little," he
replied, honestly. "Did the New York traffic shock you?"
That clearly wasn't the reply the boy had expected and he blinked,
more noticeable for the disappearing yellow glow. "The traffic?" he
"It takes some getting used to," Scott explained. "You learn a few
new swear words, but then you take it in stride."
Two blinks this time, and -� quite abruptly -� the boy's face split
in a wide grin. He had fangs. "I guess it does," he said, and
Grace noticed Frank and Xavier exchange a look. Frank had relaxed.
He hadn't been afraid that the boy would be rejected, but he hadn't
been sure how easily this first encounter would go.
"You are quite welcome here," Ororo added, smiling and holding out
her hand. "May I take your cloak? You will not be needing it
inside." The boy thought about that, then decided to trust her and
unfastened it, handed it over. The strobe of fear had disappeared
almost entirely. Frank had seated himself in one of the desk chairs
and patted the chair beside him, said something to the boy in his
native tongue, and in a burst of awful stench and a strange sucking
sound, the boy was suddenly gone from the place he had been standing,
only to reappear on the chair beside Frank, perched more like a
human-sized monkey than a person. He had a long tail, too, Grace
noticed now. He'd wrapped it around the chair-back for balance.
"Cool!" Scott said, laughing, but also swiping at the air in front of
his face. "Why the smell, though?"
The boy shrugged and Frank looked at Xavier. "We have absolutely no
idea. We are hoping that Jeannie may be able to tell us." Grace,
Ororo and Scott pulled up other chairs around Xavier and the two
new-comers. "You met Ro at the airport," Frank said, "and the
professor I told you about. This is Scott �- Mr. Summers -� but . .
. . " he paused to raise his eyebrows at Grace. "I have seen your
face in my dreams, but I do not know your name, *signorina*."
"Ah. The 'secretary.' And healer." Then he put a hand on the boy's
back and grinned warmly at him. "This, my friends, is Kurt Wagner.
You have seen his power. We call it 'teleporting.' Kurt was born
and raised among the Romany Rai in Bavaria, to the entertainers'
caste." Perhaps in response to Grace's baffled look, he added,
"Bavaria is in Germany."
Well, she'd known *that*. "Who are the Romany Rai?" she asked.
"Gypsies," Kurt answered her. "That is what you call us. We are the
Rom who own no land and know no master. My family worked the circus
as trapeze artists. I was their star performer. You might say that
I was born for it." Wry humor.
"I'd say so," Grace replied, considering his easy, animal perch on
the chair and noticing, too, his peculiar . . . feet. Two long toes
in front and one opposing on the heel, the better to grip with.
"In the circus, to be different is not so bad a thing," he said. "It
was worse to be 'a stinking, thieving gypsy.'" And he snorted. Grace
didn't know much about gypsies in Europe, but she did know they
weren't much more welcome than Indians in the west.
"But," Kurt said now, " in the past few years, there are more . . .
paranoias? Yes, paranoias about mutants. And more hostilities to
gypsies. Last year, there was an accident, and one of the trapeze
bars broke, during the practice. We check them, but such things do
happen. There were two of us on it. I reacted with the instinct,
and teleported us back to the platform, the both of us." His face
grew bitter. "No one but my own family had seen me teleport before,
and the others who had been watching began to shout that I was no
human man at all, but a demon. The smell did not help," he admitted,
then shrugged with one shoulder. "I fled, before they could run out
my people. I traveled around for the winter, covered up, but in the
summer, it is more noticed. I wound up in Italy, in Turin, doing
tricks and playing music, as a masked performer." He nodded to
Frank. "*Signore* Placido heard of me and came to investigate. He
explained to me what I am. I have been staying with him in Rome for
these months. I agreed to come here and meet you."
Xavier offered him a smile. "We are glad that you did, Mr. Wagner.
Would you like to come back into the dining room and meet the other
The boy's expression transformed from cautious relaxation back to a
strobe of anxiety. "I don't know . . . . "
"There is no need to fear. We are all like you," Ororo said, laying
one of her hands over his.
"Perhaps," Xavier said with a speculatively look, "we should start
small. And I know just the person to show you around the mansion,
Kurt." No doubt, like Grace, he could sense the depth of the boy's
anxiety, and they all overheard his telepathic request, *Clarice,
would you please come to classroom D? As quickly as possible.*
Almost before the rest of them had a chance to register the
cleverness of that choice, she was there, blinked right into their
midst, a half-eaten bread roll still in one slender lavender hand.
The new boy's mouth had dropped to the vicinity of his drawn up
knees. "You can do it, too!" he shouted in shock.
She turned to study him from pupilless green eyes. "Hi," she said.
"You must be new. I'm Clarice, but everyone just calls me Blink."
The adults were grinning. "See, Kurt?" Scott asked. "We get used to
a lot of things around here. The New York traffic. Ms. Munroe
kicking up a snowstorm in July. Dr. Grey floating her coffee mug
down the hallway. And blue boys and purple girls. You haven't met
Hank yet, either. Dr. McCoy hangs from the ceiling to read the
latest issue of the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE. I think you'll
like it here."
That night, Scott explained to Grace that Frank had come for more
reasons than simply to pick up his mother and surprise them all with
an interesting new student. He also wanted to use Cerebro.
"Something's bugging him," Scott confided in the quiet dark of his
room. They had agreed by unspoken consensus that his bed was for
sleeping in. Now that she was back, it was too likely that students
might climb the trellis to her window and find them in a compromising
position. It probably wouldn't be too long before the student body
figured it out �- keeping a secret was nigh impossible in this place
-� but they weren't in a hurry to make their new sleeping
arrangements public knowledge. Scott was still sensitive to Jean's
feelings, and while Grace wasn't inclined to hide the truth, she also
didn't think her intimacies with Scott were student business. So
they slept in Scott's room, because he remembered to lock his door,
and the kids were less likely to drop by unannounced. Now, he went
on, "There's something he can't see a way around, he says.
Something's coming, and it's big. He'll tell us more tomorrow."
She yawned. "So go to sleep and you'll find out in the morning." It
was past eleven o'clock. What insanity had possessed her to fall in
love with a night owl? Most men she knew wanted to sleep after sex.
Scott just wanted to have a chat. She rolled over and put her back
"Hey," he said, tapping her shoulder blade. "Since when does the
woman fall asleep on the guy?"
"Since the woman likes to get up at a reasonable hour. Read a book,
white man. Let me sleep. We can talk in the morning; the problem
ain't going nowhere. And you are still not well. You need to rest."
But the last she remembered, he was still awake, reading A FIRE UPON
It took most of the next day before Hank and Scott had Cerebro
modified to suit Frank's gift, and Frank spent the last hour before
they were done outside in Ro's garden, chain-smoking and arguing with
her. Ororo had previously explained to Grace that Frank hated to use
Cerebro. "It makes him ill."
When the machine was ready, Scott went out to get him and Grace sat
with Ororo while they waited. Jean joined them. "He won't be in
there long," Jean said to Grace.
"But he does not like me to see him, immediately after," Ro
And true enough, inside half an hour the professor had called them
all down to the Situation Room for a conference. Scott, Logan, and
Hank were already there, seated about the central table with Xavier
and Frank. EJ was there as well, and rather to Grace's surprise,
Christopher Summers. Frank still looked a bit green about the gills,
but he was sitting up. Walking over, Grace laid her hand on the side
of his head to restore his equilibrium. It was a small thing, but he
smiled at her despite the deep indigo of grief and fear that had
shadowed all his colors. "*Grazie, bella.*"
"You wish I could solve the rest of it so easy, ain't it?"
He just closed his eyes. She went to sit by Scott.
"What did you see?" Xavier asked.
"Death, the same as before. I have had these dreams now for months,
but no sense of a time or a place. I saw the many graves. Some of
them wore the names of some of you. But then, in other dreams, you
would be alive. And never a sense of time. Now . . . . " He
stopped and took a deep breath. "It is on us, friends. I saw the
face of a boy like the angel of death, like Judas' kiss. He will
come to you. If you save him, you will die. If you kill him, you
will die. There is a road between, but I am unsure what it is."
"Do you know him?" Xavier asked.
"No. It is a face I have never seen before. Dark hair, dark eyes,
dark skin. He might be Hispanic."
"What kind of 'death' do you mean?" Colonel Summers asked. "Can you
be a little more *specific*?"
Frank shook his head. "No. I see graves, I see people dying in the
halls of hospitals because there is no more room in beds. I see it
spread all around the globe. And I see this boy's face. That is
"It sounds like a plague," Hank remarked. "Maybe the boy is a
"Could also be chemical warfare," the colonel suggested. "Remember
the anthrax scare a few years ago after Nine-Eleven? Real biological
warfare isn't that easy to conduct, but chemical warfare can be done
on a low budget if people have access to the right basic resources.
Xavier was talking to me earlier about this group out in Nebraska,
but a threat of that type could conceivably come from anywhere.
Scott returned his attention to Frank. "You say you don't recognize
who he is now, but I assume you'd recognize him if you saw him?"
"Oh -� *si, si.* He has been my nightmare for five months. I will
End of Chapter 11, go on to Chapter 12....
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