An Accidental Interception of Fate
Prologue: The House
See separate intro post for notes. This prologue has been posted on
my site for some time, but not previously posted to lists
Let us begin with the house.
Finished in 1789, upcountry of a slowly expanding New York, it became
the retreat of a sour, die-hard Tory after the victory of the
Colonies against Mother England. Five subsequent generations of
Xaviers have lived there, and ivy has crept all the way to the third
story and over the eaves in places. The entryway stones are
dangerously slick in wet weather due to buffing from the passage of
many feet, and the main banister is sanded smooth from the slide of
countless hands. Lead-glass panes in older windows have settled from
the pull of gravity across two hundred years, the stables were built
as an add-on to the main house in an age when no one dreamed of the
automobile, and the current garage was once the carriage house.
Aside from the main residence, there are servants' quarters, a
gatekeeper's shack, and a boathouse.
The last Xavier to occupy the house -- the last Xavier who ever would
-- had a British accent and British education that would have made
his five-times-removed ancestor proud. But the plebian uses to which
he put his venerable family mansion would have set the poor man
spinning in his grave.
It was one more private school in a county full of them: boarding
schools where the offspring of upper-class American families received
(or perhaps suffered) the same sort of education offered in similar
boarding schools in Merry Ol' England. Literature, math, Latin,
French, history, a little dance, a little music, riding lessons, and
-- most of all -- training in the fine art of social snobbery and
But this particular school was not of that stripe. Beyond the iron
gate and nondescript sign, up the gravel lane, past the trimmed
hedges and carefully cleaned reflecting pool, lay a school for a very
particular kind of student. "Gifted Youngsters" the sign advertised,
and the neighbors took that for mere flattery: select parents with
the right number of digits in their bank account could have a
"gifted" child if they paid the yearly tuition. And the headmaster,
the last Xavier, was content to let them think so.
But his students were gifted. A quirk of DNA had bestowed upon them
abilities that respected neither bank account nor the purity of a
WASP parentage. They were few in number, but that -- the headmaster
hoped -- would change. Initially, only five young people lived
there, and two of those were enrolled at nearby universities, coming
to the house only on weekends. Of the younger three, the eldest
could have graced any of the other local boarding schools without
raising an eyebrow. He had the fine profile, sandy hair, narrow nose
and height of his British cousins in the House of Lords across the
great Atlantic lake, and a private jet that could fly him there in
ten hours or less. His surname said old money, American royalty like
the Vanderbilts, Carnegies and Roosevelts, and there were Roman
numerals after it -- Warren Worthington, III. His family owned a
penthouse overlooking Central Park, and a private residence larger
than Xavier's out on Long Island. That he also possessed a pair of
perfectly functional feathered white wings -- spanning sixteen feet
at full extension -- and the proportional strength and fine eyesight
of a bird of prey was an ill-kept secret that made him popular at the
right kind of society parties among his bored and jaded
contemporaries. Wealth excused, even encouraged, a multitude of
Of the elder two students, one was also a member of New York society,
if from a few rungs down the class ladder. Her shoes were imported
leather from Italy and her dresses had designer names on the label,
but she bought them at Bergdorf Goodman; they weren't tailor-made.
Nonetheless, her mother held membership in the Annandale-on-Hudson
chapter of DAR, and her pedigree had names that boasted a noble title
in front, as well as a British spelling: Grey. The dark auburn hair,
however, came from a Scottish girl, one Mary Jane Duncan, collateral
descendant of Shakespeare's king in MacBeth -- albeit a good deal
more historical than the bard's play. It was that ancestor's son
whom this young woman admired most, and in fact, whose profession she
had chosen to pursue: the healing arts. Dr. Nathaniel Grey would
have been pleased, if perhaps somewhat startled to see his
granddaughter reading a copy of Cecil's Essentials suspended in
midair, while she took notes with her right hand and held a sandwich
in the left. For the hopeful Doctor-to-be Jean Grey, the power of
mind over matter meant more than willing herself to stay awake for an
all-night study session.
The other three students at Xavier's school were hopelessly middle or
working class. The second of the elder two was the son of a nuclear
physicist who'd fallen head-over-heels for a tree-hugging
environmentalist and given up his research to run an organic farm
outside Deerfield, Illinois. Too much radiation, perhaps, had
altered the father's genes, producing a child with a bestial physique
but a brilliant mind. Henry McCoy could be found climbing the
mansion walls at odd hours while muttering select quotes of Donne or
Hawking, depending on his mood. One of the younger boys wasn't
American at all, but an island Italian whose father had moved to
Genoa to work the docks, and died there in an "industrial accident."
The child had gone insane as a result of foreseeing the event -- and
not being able to stop it. He'd been graced (or cursed) to see past,
present, and future in infinite variation, like a modern-day
Nostradamus. It might have earned him a Special Study assignment
from the Vatican, had Xavier not found him first. But Francesco
Placido wasn't a prophet. He was a mutant.
All of them were mutants, including the headmaster himself. Charles
Francis Xavier had been born with the ability to pick up the thoughts
of those around him, even to control them. He was, arguably, the
most powerful mutant on the planet.
But this isn't a tale about Charles Xavier. It's a tale about the
third of those middle-class students -- the one who had been enrolled
first of all. Son of an Air Force pilot and a second-generation
Irish-Italian immigrant, he had, at seventeen, blasted a hole through
the bathroom wall of his gym on prom night, and thus blasted his way
into national attention and a blurb on the cover of THE NATIONAL
ENQUIRER, right next to "Don Juan-Son: making love keeps me young
says Nash Bridges hunk." Thankfully, he never saw that copy.
But Charles Xavier saw it. It was carried into him by his maid on
his breakfast tray, right along with his morning grapefruit, toast,
tea, and THE NEW YORK TIMES. Twelve hours later, Xavier was knocking
on the front door to a little ranch-style house in the San Diego
burbs, 1569 Maple Lane. Thus, it was chance, yellow journalism, and
a bored maid in the grocery checkout line that made Scott Summers the
first student at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.
Jean Grey first spoke more than three words to the future Cyclops
when he hit her car.
With his racing bike.
Of the pedal-variety.
He was coming down the hill towards the mansion after his morning
five-mile-ride, while Jean was headed out to Columbia's teaching
hospital to do more lab research for her dissertation. It was an
overcast Wednesday morning, not raining yet but looking to start
soon, the air moist and heavy with a fine mist that had covered the
windshield. Jean glanced down to hit the wiper blades once, to clear
the glass. She looked at the wrong time. And he wasn't looking
where he was going, and going far faster than he'd needed, caught up
in the thrill of wind and speed. He saw her car too late.
He tried to stop but the momentum was too much, and it had rained all
the previous day. Thin racing wheels slid in black New York mud. At
least he had the presence of mind to get his feet out of the pedal
clips and leap off before the bike smashed into the front of Jean's
car. Thus, he didn't smash into the front of Jean's car with the
bike. Instead, he landed on the hood and rolled over the top to
smash into the ground on one side. The impact knocked his visor off.
Jean Grey leapt out of the car to kneel in the gravel and mud beside
him, shouting, "Oh, my God!" over and over, even as he said, "Christ,
I'm so sorry! I didn't even see you! Are you all right?" He winced
in evident pain, but kept his eyes shut.
Jean was fine but her car's front end wasn't. And neither was Scott.
His arm was bent at an angle that could only indicate it was broken,
there were scratches all over him, and the tell-tale dribble of
impact blood, forced out of nose and ears and even tear ducts. She
could actually see his eyes as his visor was lying about five feet
away, covered in muck. He tried to feel around for it with the arm
that wasn't broken.
She grabbed it and said, "Don't move!," checked him to see if
anything else had broken (his back, for instance). Nothing had. She
forgot and asked him to open his eyes so she could check the pupils
for concussion. Even lying on the muddy ground, hurt and suffering,
he managed to laugh. "I don't really think you want me to do that."
She smiled, then remembered he couldn't see it with his eyes screwed
up tighter than an old maid's disapproving mouth. "I think you're
right," she said. "Here's your visor. Well, maybe you don't want it.
It's kind of a mess."
He took it anyway, but didn't put it on. She helped him to sit up.
She knew who he was, just had never talked to him at length before.
But it would be hard to live at Xavier's new-born institute for
'gifted youngsters' (did she still qualify as a 'youngster' at almost
twenty-six?) and not know Scott Summers, even if she'd only been
there two months. It was even harder not to notice him -- especially
now, with a bare face.
It should be illegal for a boy to be that pretty.
Down, Jean, she told herself. He's a kid. And the closest thing the
professor would ever have to a son. Definitely off limits.
So Jean Grey bundled Scott Summers into her car, and his mangled bike
into her trunk, then pointed the vehicle's dented nose back towards
the mansion and the infirmary in the basement. She and Hank McCoy
set the arm and cleaned him up while he apologized (profusely) all
over again for wrecking her car and making her late. Once they got
past the apologies and the setting of the arm, they laughed about the
whole thing. There was a certain irony, Scott said, in managing to
get into the first car wreck of his life (on a bike no less) by
hitting a medical doctor, even if only one in training. At least
he'd had instant first aid.
Jean never did make it to the hospital that day.
And almost five years later, Scott Summers would hit her car again --
but that time on purpose, from behind, on a bike of a different
variety, and without leaving a human-sized dent in it. In both
cases, he got her attention.
Jean Grey referred to their love affair as an accidental interception
Chapter One: Phantoms in Westchester to be posted tomorrow (Monday).
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