"Bethlehem" (2/3) Scott, Warren; movie/comic (Special #5) ADULT
- Continued DIRECTLY from part 2/3
"To beginner's luck!" Warren said, and toasted me with the martini he
was legally too young to buy but had ended up with anyway.
"Whatever," I muttered, embarrassed, and raised my own drink that I
had even less business consuming. "Beginner's luck."
We were in the lounge of his country club, and I felt as out of place
as mud on a lace hem. It was the first time we'd taken our golf
lessons outside the mansion. Previously we'd worked on a hitting mat
in Xavier's solar, where he'd shown me how to hold a club, how to
swing, and how to putt. Today, two days after Christmas, while the
weather was unseasonably warm, Warren had deemed me ready to try the
covered driving range at his country club. No one had expected me to
do well, least of all him, yet I'd shown some kind of knack for it.
"Beginner's luck!" he'd dubbed it, genuinely pleased, then taken me
into the clubhouse for a drink. I'd expected a coke, not a cocktail.
We weren't there long before Warren spotted some old guy he had to
give regards to. "Sorry," he told me. "I'll be back as soon as I
can. Cameron!" he called to one of the young men standing not far
away. The guy turned. He was smaller than Warren, with fine bones
and neat hands. Warren drew him over with an arm across his
shoulders. "Scott, this if Cameron Hodge; originally his family's
from Boston, but his father relocated to Manhattan and has worked for
my father. We practically shared the same crib and bottle. Cam,
this is Scott Summers, of Westchester. Please keep him company for a
bit; I need to pay my respects to Max Southern. Scott's new here,
but he's my friend." And he grinned at me. I remembered what he'd
said, that he'd never had any real friends, just people who wanted to
use or abuse him. Until me.
Jesus �- I had a *friend*, one besides Mariana. Two friends,
actually, counting Hank. And they didn't even want to fuck me.
Warren then disappeared into the crowd. It still amazed me how he
could strap down his wings, don a jacket, and blend right in. I
didn't have any mutation and I still didn't blend. The other fellow
�- Hodge -� could smell it. Smiling, he leaned against one of the
artfully rough lodge-style columns in the clubhouse lounge, studying
me over the rim of his own drink. He couldn't be much older than
Warren. Didn't the authorities care about underage drinking here, or
did the law only apply to mere mortals? "How long have you known
Warren?" Hodge asked me.
"About a month," I replied -� stretching the truth, though any answer
beyond 'forever' would've marked me. The mere fact I was a new face
Hodge was still smiling. It had a nasty edge. I'd seen that smile
on the faces of johns who'd liked to make me guess. But then he
smothered the smile and played at nonchalance. "Where are you from?
. . . . which told me right there he knew I wasn't from Westchester,
whatever Warren had said. And how did I answer? I'd been an orphan
shuffled around foster homes, and before that, a military brat. I'd
lived everywhere from Alaska to Germany to Florida. I settled on the
last place. "Nebraska -� Omaha."
"Ah. Are you related to the Dodges?"
I just blinked. The Dodges? Who the hell were the Dodges? Then I
remembered -� the main road through Omaha was Dodge street, and
slowly the history pounded into me at Boy's Town came back. They'd
been a military family who'd established themselves in Omaha in the
"No," I replied. "I'm related to the Summerses."
That took him a minute, then he grinned. "Touch�." And he sipped
his martini. "What's a Midwestern boy like you doing in New York?"
"Going to school." And that was the truth �- it just wasn't why I'd
come here to begin with.
His eyebrows rose. "School in Westchester? Scholarship?"
Oh, yes, he'd nailed me as a poor relation, all right. He'd probably
done that inside sixty seconds. And I wasn't sure how to answer the
question -� decided to go for the literal. "No." And said nothing
else. The less information given, the less they had to crucify you
He nodded and seemed to run out of things to say, and I'd never been
good at small talk, so we stood there, all awkward. He was studying
me. After an uncomfortably long stretch, he said, "I see War hasn't
lost his taste for blue eyes."
"What?" I should have seen it coming. I should have known. But
safety had lulled me, dulled my wits.
Hodge's thin lips tipped upward, and he dropped his eyes to his
cocktail glass. "Oh, everyone knows how much Warren likes boys with
baby blues. He must have been hot for you from the minute he set
eyes on you. He's got the seduction down to an art." The eyes
finally rose. Blue like mine. "Has he given you a wing feather
He knew about Warren's wings?
"It's usually nonstop attention," he added, "parties, dinners, a
feather . . . sex."
Being shot must feel like this �- a hard punch that ripped through
without immediate pain, followed by the sharp burn that made one
gasp. Or maybe that was just the effect of half a martini finished
in a single swallow. I set the glass down on a dark wood end table
and walked out.
I didn't think, just walked. Fortunately, the clubhouse wasn't far
from the country club entrance, and this was New York, urban
wonderland. Passing through the gates, I exited the private
privilege of greenery into the real world. Noisy and concrete dun,
loud splashes of color, signs and cars and too many people. I
crossed the four-lane road to a large convenience store whose name
didn't even register and ducked inside, glanced around for a men's
room, then made a bee-line for it down the store aisle. Opening the
door, I was met by a heady perfume of old piss and fresh
disinfectant. There was no one in there, thank God, and I let the
door fall closed behind me, then just stood there, arms wrapped about
myself. The fluorescent light illuminated all the dirty corners, and
brown paper towels had been dropped in the bottom of one of the
urinals, plugging it up. It stank. There was a used Band-Aid on the
floor, a button, and a movie ticket stub. The place was cleaner than
I was used to, but still recognizable in its plebeian efficiency. No
dark wood paneling and elegant lamps on lemon-oiled lowboys with
scented soap at the washbasin. This was a john, plain and simple.
Nondescript and common, like me.
I started to shake and barely made it into one of the stalls before I
threw up in the toilet. The former contents of my stomach left an
orange mess in the bowl, and the smell was metallic-sweet, making me
Push it all out. Rid my body of it. Hope had no place in my life.
I'd been deluding myself, shamming. I was a lie right down to the
blue Shetland wool sweater and the button down shirt on my back.
Pulling the sweater over my head, I wiped my mouth with it, then
dropped it on the dirty bathroom floor. Flushing the toilet, I went
out again but wasn't ready to face the world, so I went into another
stall -� the handicapped stall with more space and aluminum railings
�- shut and locked the door, then collapsed on the cold tile, knees
drawn up and arms around them.
I don't know how long I sat there. A few guys came to use the
urinals, but no one needed a stall, and no one noticed me. After a
while, I quit shaking and my mind cleared a bit. I pulled out my
wallet to see how much money I had, and how far it would take me. It
didn't occur to me to return to the mansion. Even after living there
since September, I couldn't fathom Xavier's generosity towards me.
It made no sense in my world. People didn't just do things for you,
and I'd kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Now, it had. The
professor belonged to the same social class as Warren �- and I was
just a whore. I might look better, dolled up in pretty clothes and
trained to play golf, but I had no illusions about where I fell in
the larger scheme of things. Xavier might not have wanted me for
himself, and Hank's proclivities didn't run in that direction, but I
didn't doubt the professor would overlook Warren's pursuit of me if
that's what it took to keep a real student at his school.
How funny. Four months ago, I'd have been grateful for such an
arrangement. Now, the prospect of it set me on edge to flee. Had I
changed so much?
I had only fifty-seven dollars and some odd change. It didn't seem
like much, and I realized how spoiled I'd become. But I still
remembered how to make it last. First, I'd have to ditch these
clothes. Nice slacks and a button-down gave all the wrong signals.
That meant a visit to a coin laundry to steal a few things. Where
I'd go after that, I had no idea, but I couldn't stay in the city.
Even if I could have eluded Xavier, I doubted I could elude Jack
Winters for long. Or rather, the places I could hide from Xavier
were the same places where Jack had found me in the first place. I
wondered, briefly, if Mariana were still in town. Maybe we could
leave together -� start a new life. She could work in a supermarket
checkout and I'd bag groceries. At least I had a valid picture ID
now, thanks to Xavier, and I was sixteen. I didn't have to be in
school if I didn't want to be.
My mind was racing over all these things as I was checking the money
in my wallet, and I almost didn't notice the slip of paper that
fluttered to the floor. Instinct made me snag it and glance at the
writing. A phone number I remembered Hank giving to me. His cell
phone. Almost, I crumpled it up and threw it in the toilet, but some
scrap of that horse sense I prized stopped me.
Hank wasn't Xavier. And he sure as hell wasn't Warren. He was a
farmboy from Illinois with big feet and a bigger brain. And he'd
never shafted me. Never. He'd never lied to me, either, that I knew
*Don't*, some part of me whispered. *You can't trust anyone.*
But I'd just been thinking about trusting Mariana. I looked down at
the number again, fingered the paper. I had a cell phone of my own,
but it was in Warren's car. I did have a little change, and there
was usually a pay phone around places like this. I left the john to
go look for it, found it outside where the noise of traffic made it
hard to hear.
*Why are you doing this?* I asked myself as I dropped in the coins
and placed the call. Hank would try to talk me out of running, I was
sure. Was that what I wanted? But I had only fifty-seven dollars,
and traveling cost money. I couldn't stay in the city with a pissed
pimp looking for me. Hank might at least give me some cash. I
didn't have to take his advice along with it.
The phone rang several times. I'd almost decided to hang up when he
answered. "Henry McCoy."
"Hank, it's Scott. I -� "
"Scott! Where are you! My God, man, you have Warren and the
professor so panicked they've called the police!"
Oh, shit. Just great. How long had it been since I'd left Warren at
the clubhouse anyway? A couple hours? It couldn't be more than a
"Scott? Are you there?"
"*Where* are you? And what happened?"
He sounded so genuinely worried, it threw me. "I don't . . . . I
need some money, Hank. I need to split town. Can you give me some
money and not tell Xavier?"
Dead silence for three beats, then he said, "Why are you running
"I've just decided to leave."
"I am not a fool, Scott Summers. Neither are you. Talk to me."
"I thought you were on-call? Don't you have patients?" That
diversion tactic begged the question of why I'd called him in the
first place, of course.
"Yes, I'm on-call, but nothing's critical in the ER right at the
moment, and this is important." A beat. "You're my friend. Talk to
And what did I say? Leaning up against the half-opaque side of the
phone booth, I twisted and untwisted the phone cord around my wrist.
I needed a cigarette. "I have to go. There's no place for me in
their world, except doing what I did before. Maybe I don't want to
do that anymore."
I could hear him breathe a minute, then he said, "Did something
happen with Warren, Scott? Did he try to touch you �- ?"
"He didn't do a damn thing! I just got my eyes opened, that's all!
Now are you going to help me or not? I've got to get out of town."
"Of course, I'll help. But I want you to come to the hospital,
"I don't �- "
"You come here, and I'll help. You said you wanted money, anyway.
How did you expect me to get it to you? Carrier pigeon?"
That made me laugh for no good reason. "All right." I'd trusted him
enough to call him, so I'd trust him enough to see him in person.
"You're not going to phone the cops or Xavier and have them waiting
"No," he said. "I give you my word. You come here and let's talk.
No cops. No professor." I twisted and untwisted the cord a few more
times and thought about it. "Scott �- ?"
"I'm still here. Okay. Fine. I'll come to the hospital to see you.
But you betray me and I'll gut you, Monkey Toes."
"I'd never do that to you, Scott. Not ever. I'll see you soon."
It took me less than forty-five minutes to reach Columbia, but it
took me almost two hours to get up the nerve to go inside. I watched
the ER doors for a while, like I was casing the joint, then walked
all around the building. Finally, I went in through the front doors,
not the ER entrance, in order to approach from an unexpected
direction. I'd see if he'd kept his word.
Apparently he had. I didn't see Xavier anywhere near the ER, and I
looked in all the waiting rooms and even the johns. And there were
no cop-types beyond the usual security guard. I finally made my
presence known to one of the nurses and was pointed in Hank's
direction. I've never seen anyone look so relieved as he did.
"Thank God!" he said, gripping both my shoulders and shaking me a
little. "I was afraid you'd changed your mind!"
He'd really been worried. That blew my mind. Hank was no actor, or
if he was, he'd been acting since the day we'd met and that defied
even my paranoid reasoning. His relief had to be genuine. "I'm here
now," I said simply, because I didn't want to let myself care about
the fact that he'd been worried.
He was looking around. "Daphne isn't here �- she's the resident in
charge. I'm still on duty but just finished with a patient, and it's
time for my break. Your timing was fortunate. Come on," and still
gripping my shoulder as if he feared I'd disappear into thin air, he
steered me out of the ER, back into the hospital proper and down to a
bank of vending machines. Seeing them, my stomach growled loudly. I
was starving and hadn't even thought about it.
He heard, and eyed me. "When was the last time you ate?"
"Breakfast?" But I'd thrown up most of that in the convenience store
bathroom, and it was now late afternoon.
"Let's go to the canteen," he said. "Whatever you decide, you should
do it on a full stomach."
I couldn't help but wonder if he'd get into deep shit for this,
taking off while he was on duty, but I wouldn't turn down dinner. My
stomach seconded the notion by growling again, and he shook his head.
"Let's go, Scott."
After we'd gotten food and he'd paid, he took me to a table over in a
corner of the big room. So far, he'd kept his word. No cops, no
Xavier -� and I'd kept my eyes open, too, just in case. Thus, when
he asked, "Now what happened?" I decided to risk trusting him a
little further. I told him everything, from my first conversation
with Warren in the stable to the illuminating chat with Cameron Hodge
in the clubhouse. "I've been an idiot, Hank," I concluded. "How
could I have missed it?" It really did seem as plain as the nose on
my face now. I'd been a hustler for a year and a half, but I'd
overlooked a guy putting the moves on me?
Then again, as a hustler, the only moves made had been an exchange of
cash. I wasn't used to being wined and dined, so to speak.
Hank had frowned his way through my entire tale. When I was done, he
sighed and pushed away his now-empty salad plate. "This sounds . . .
very odd, Scott. I barely know Warren, but I do know the professor.
If he'd thought Warren might attempt to coerce you sexually, he'd
have put an instant stop to it."
"Hank, they're from the same social class �- "
"No, listen to me." He raised a hand. "Listen to me. You've had
very little cause in your life to trust anyone, but please. Trust me
on this. Charles Xavier is a man of his word, an ethical human
being. He'd sooner slit his own throat than see you abused under his
roof. Perhaps he had no idea what Warren had in mind, but I find
that hard to believe."
So did I. Xavier was a telepath.
"I can only conclude," Hank said, "that Charles believes Warren to be
harmless. The true snake in the grass seems to me to be this Cameron
fellow. What makes you think he wasn't lying to you?"
It was a good question. But I'd known he wasn't. Well, not about
most of it. Hustler instinct �- the same that had kept me alive on
the streets. Yet I wasn't sure how to explain that to Hank so I just
shook my head and shrugged with one shoulder. "I just know." I
looked off, studied the people coming and going -� visitors, nurses,
doctors, indefinable others. "He had blue eyes, too."
"And this proves . . . ?"
"I think he was involved with Warren. He knew about the wings."
"And if he was? Scott, did *jealousy* as a motivating factor never
occur to you?"
Of course it had occurred to me. I had no doubt that jealousy had
been Hodge's motivation, but -� "That doesn't make what he said not
Sighing, Hank removed his little glasses to rub at his eyes.
"Something can be true and still be twisted. Whatever this fellow
said, I can tell you this much. When Warren discovered that you had
left, he ran out immediately to track you down, but couldn't. You're
adept at disappearing; you've had to be, I suppose, but I doubt
Warren had any idea of how or where to look. He drove all around the
neighborhood for over an hour, Scott. Then he parked the car and
flew. In broad daylight when he could be �- and no doubt was -�
seen. Not finding you, he flew all the way back to Westchester,
because it was faster, then he and the professor called the police.
There was not, of course, anything the police could do beyond take
information. Nonetheless, it demonstrates the depth of their
concern. I cannot say what Warren's *intentions* are, towards you,
but I can say that his panic struck me -� and more importantly,
struck the professor �- as most genuine."
I didn't know what to think about that, just sat back and chewed on
it for a while.
"Scott, will you at least talk to Xavier? He means you no harm. And
should I be wrong about that, unlikely though I find it, I will help
protect you from him myself. I give you my word."
I studied his face and mulled over his offer. No one would really
call Hank a handsome man, but he had an aura of honesty that made him
attractive. Betrayal wasn't a skill he'd ever learned, smart as he
was. "Okay. I'll talk to him. But I'm not going back to the
"Fine -� you can stay here at the hospital. Let me call him; I'm
sure he'd be willing to come here."
"Tell him not to bring Warren."
So it was arranged. Hank called Xavier and then took me back to the
ER floor, showing me where I could wait in a private family room. He
didn't lock the door, but I checked, to be sure, then went over to
stretch out on the couch. I was all shaky again, like I needed
nicotine, but I didn't think they'd let me smoke in here. My world
was spinning out of control and I didn't know what to do or who to
When the door opened at last to admit Hank and the professor, I
almost jumped out of my skin, then stood up fast. I'd been stupid to
agree to this. Xavier was in the doorway. I couldn't get past him
to flee. I was caught.
"Thank you, Henry," Xavier said, and motored in until he was well
away from the door. It shut behind Hank. "Scott, the path to the
door is clear. You could get out before I could reach you. But
won't you sit back down on the couch instead, so we can talk?"
"Okay." And I sat down. He motored closer, but not too close. I
knew he was reading my fear right out of my head, but since it meant
he was keeping his distance, I didn't complain.
"Hank has told me some of what happened, and I talked with Warren
before I came. Talked quite frankly with him, Scott." He leaned
forward in his chair and studied me. "Warren knows nothing of your
past. Nor have I told him. He has no idea why you reacted as you
did today -� he fears that you hate him now, that he disgusts you."
And how could I answer that? I couldn't say the idea of sex with
Warren didn't disgust me. Then again, the idea of sex with anyone
made me a bit sick to my stomach. "All I wanted was a friend," I
said. "I just wanted a goddamn *friend*." My voice sounded small
and pathetic even to my own ears.
Xavier sighed and spoke almost sadly, "I know, Scott �- I know. Do
you recall your very first day at my house, when I said that if
anyone made unwanted sexual advances to you, you should come to me
and I would deal with it?" Reluctantly, I nodded. "That hasn't
"Then why didn't you do something about Warren! He wants in my
"Has he made any advances to you?"
"No. But you can read his mind! You know what he wants!"
"I usually try to avoid invading my students' mental privacy. Yet I
am well aware that Warren feels sexual attraction to you. We cannot,
however, control what we *feel*. We can control how we *act*. Has
he acted in a way that has made you uncomfortable?"
Angry, but constrained to be honest, I said, "No, he hasn't done
Xavier nodded. "So I'd thought, but needed to be sure. What is
intended and how it is perceived is not, always, the same, and I
wanted to ascertain that he hadn't acted in a way that made you
uncomfortable, however unintentionally."
I nodded, cautiously. "Okay."
"That means your flight this afternoon was entirely a result of what
Cameron Hodge said?"
When put that way, it sounded harsh. "But Hodge was right �- you
admitted as much yourself!"
"You are confusing two different things, Scott -� genuine affection
that includes sexual interest, and pure lust. If I understand what
Hank told me -� and feel free to correct me if I do not -� this
Cameron Hodge implied that Warren intended merely to seduce you. A
notch on his bedpost."
He didn't go further, just stopped to let me chew on that. "And
you're saying that's not true?" I asked. "But Warren gave me a
feather, just like Hodge said!"
Xavier smiled faintly. "Oh, Warren may have his bag of tricks. I
don't doubt that. But no, what Hodge implied is not true. Warren
*likes* you very much. Anything else is in addition to that." He
caught my eyes and held them. "As difficult as it may be for you to
believe, someone can be attracted to you sexually and still care
about you as a person, like you, enjoy your company, even want to be
your friend. Should you not give him a chance to explain his own
feelings instead of accepting the assessment of a boy driven by
Feeling cornered, I didn't reply, just turned my face to the wall.
Xavier's eyes slipped half-closed, then he said, "You doubt that you
could trust anything Warren says, and wonder if you can trust
anything I say. You fear being used. You fear that you matter only
for your body. Deep down, you feel worthless, inadequate, isolated.
All true. All too terrifyingly accurate. I felt myself move back,
almost unconsciously, pressing against the rear of the couch �-
putting space between us. "I thought you respected your students'
mental privacy?" I spat.
His eyes opened again. "I do, under normal circumstances. These are
hardly normal. First, you are so upset, Scott, you are broadcasting
loudly. I could hardly help but hear you." He bent his chin down
and regarded me thoughtfully a moment. "Second, I want to understand
�- but not to influence. Your thoughts and decision are entirely
your own. Since your arrival at my home, have you ever had cause to
believe it otherwise?"
In fact, I hadn't. "Okay. But don't tell me what I feel. It pisses
"Fine -� then you tell me. When you refuse to talk, how can I
"I don't always know what the hell to say!"
A sharp nod. "Fair enough. And I'm sorry. If you don't know what
to say, then can we at least agree that you'll tell me as much?
Perhaps, together, we can figure out how to express what you feel. I
would far prefer it if you could tell me, not have me tell you."
An odd pact, but I nodded. "That sounds okay."
"Good. Now, back to Warren and your doubts regarding his motives.
Has he told you yet about the 'Avenging Angel'?"
"No." But I remembered Xavier making a reference to that the morning
we'd rescued him. Now, the professor was pulling several newspaper
clippings out of a little pocket on the side of his wheelchair to
hold them out. Clearly, he was going to let me approach him instead
of the reverse. Still cautious, I rose to do so, taking the
clippings and retreating to the couch to unfold them, look them over.
Four articles, all about a mysterious winged figure effecting
rescues up in New Hampshire -� everything from scaring off a black
bear from attacking hunters, to foiling a minor robbery. 'He told me
he's an avenging angel,' one of those rescued explained to the paper.
I almost laughed. "Who does he think he is? *Batman?*"
Xavier grinned faintly. "Bats don't have white wings, last I
I waved one clipping. "Is this why you wanted us to rescue him in
the first place?"
"No. I wanted us to rescue him for the same reasons he helped those
people -� because he could. Because we could."
I folded up the news articles again and gave them back to Xavier.
"Do you think Cameron Hodge would have done what Warren did," Xavier
asked me as he took them, "if it meant potential exposure? Or if
there was nothing in it for him?"
That was easy. "No." But this new revelation about Warren left me
more confused than ever. It did sound like the Warren I'd come to
know � and to like. But the fact he was attracted to me still bugged
the hell out of me. "I'm not . . . like that," I said finally,
because I didn't know how else to explain. "I don't like guys. I
don't like *any*body. I just -� " I stopped and took a breath.
"That part of me is dead, professor. I don't think I can feel that
way. I don't even *want* to." I hadn't masturbated in well over a
year and the only way I had an orgasm anymore was unwillingly, in my
sleep. I wished I were a store mannequin, smooth and featureless
down there. No ugly, funny, demanding penis; no hormones; no sex
drive. Just blank.
His eyes were sad. "I'm certainly not suggesting that you should
feel for Warren what he feels for you, Scott. But wounds do heal,
and I hope a day comes when you find that part of you is not dead.
Yet even if you were 'like that,' you wouldn't be ready for a
relationship right now. Unfortunately, Warren has no way of knowing
that -� much less of knowing why."
I blinked at him dumbly for a moment before my brain caught up with
what he was suggesting. "You think I should tell him what I was?
*No fucking way!*"
He waved a hand. "Whether you tell him all of it is up to you. But
Warren deserves to know something. You could tell him that you're
simply not ready for a relationship of any kind, with anyone. He
respects you, and likes you as a person. He said to me before I left
that all he wants is your friendship. I don't believe he actually
expected anything else, Scott, even if he might have hoped for it."
He paused, then asked, "Will you talk to him?"
I thought about it. "He's going to stay at the school?"
"I'm not going to ask him to leave, no."
I sighed. "Then I guess I'll have to." It wasn't like I had
anywhere else to go myself.
Continued DIRECTLY in part 3/3.....
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