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AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE 4c (S/J, prefilm)

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  • Minisinoo
    Continued directly from part 4b.... ... Scott! Scott! We re over here! Scott looked around, trying (somewhat vainly) to see over the heads of people
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 28, 2002
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      Continued directly from part 4b....

      ----

      "Scott! Scott! We're over here!"

      Scott looked around, trying (somewhat vainly) to see over the heads
      of people exiting his gate at JFK International Airport. It was a
      week before Christmas and crowds were predictably thick, people
      dressed in heavy coats against the New York weather and toting bags
      of presents that bumped along awkwardly in their wake. Finally, he
      spotted Jean jumping up and down and waving frantically, Warren
      beside her. Warren's gold hair shone under the lights, and he was
      wearing sunglasses in the crowd; Summers was unsure if that were an
      attempt to hide his identity, or to make Summers feel less the odd
      man out. In any case, he pushed through towards them both, dragging
      his carry-on after him, and -� to his astonishment -� Jean engulfed
      him in a full-body hug as soon as he reached them. Platonic though
      the hug might have been, he was delighted, and buried his face in her
      hair. Then Warren moved in to hug him, too, and Scott was mindful of
      the honor. There were few people alive whom Warren Worthinton III
      trusted enough to let them hug him, and that had nothing to do with
      the tell-tale bulge of a leather rack that pinned his wings beneath
      his jacket.

      "Your plane was *so* late," Jean was saying," we were starting to
      wonder if you' d get here at all today, or be stuck overnight in
      Chicago."

      "Sorry," Summers said, releasing Warren.

      "Don't apologize, silly." Jean whacked him on the arm. "It's not
      your fault!"

      "Mr. Responsible always takes the blame," Warren said, knuckling him
      on the head. "How was the flight? You could've let me come get you,
      y'know."

      "I know. But it was cheaper to take a regular flight, and I didn't
      want to put anybody out �- "

      "Would you *quit* with that already?" Warren thwacked him hard,
      right in the chest. "It's getting on my nerves. I don't suppose it
      occurred to you that I might've *liked* to fly out there?" And that
      only made Scott feel all the more guilty, as it was true; Warren did
      like to fly, either under his own power or in the pilot seat.
      "Speaking of planes, though," Warren was saying, grabbing Scott's
      backpack without being asked �- for someone used to servants,
      Worthington had an uncanny sense of how and when to help -� "You
      won't believe the new baby the professor laid hands on for Hank to
      soup up."

      "What is it?"

      "My lips are sealed. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but you're
      gonna spaz, Gamma-gaze. I know you." And that made Scott laugh.
      He'd pestered Warren for the last six months to teach him to fly,
      enough that Warren had finally given in and signed up for a Flight
      Instructor course.

      With the heavy traffic, it took them two and a half hours to get back
      to the mansion. White lights sparkled on bushes, along the gables,
      and around the windows, and there was a small herd of white-light
      frame deer poised on the lawn. One had a red nose. That struck
      Scott as especially funny for no good reason, and he sank down
      giggling in the back seat. Or maybe he was just that glad to be
      home. Glancing around from the front passenger side, Jean grinned at
      him. "You like my deer? There are thirteen of them."

      "'You know Dasher and Dancer, and Prancer and Vixen,'" Scott sang in
      his best Sinatra imitation, "'Comet and Cupid, and Donner and
      Blitzen. But do you recall, the most famous reindeer of all . . .
      ?'" Jean was laughing. "So where's Santa?" Scott asked then in a
      normal voice.

      "It's not Christmas yet. Santa doesn't come until Christmas."

      Sitting up to lean over the seat between them, Scott spoke to Warren.
      "The professor isn't really going to let her put a Santa Claus on
      the front lawn, is he?"

      "The professor would probably let her put a nude Elvis on the front
      lawn if she asked him nicely."

      "I'd be careful, Warren," Jean said. "Or you might find a nude Elvis
      in your bed some morning."

      "I'd rather have a nude Jean."

      She laughed and swatted him, but Scott didn't find it so funny.
      Slumping back on Mercedes Benz leather, he crossed his arms and
      frowned out a back window, feeling possessive and absurd for it at
      the same time. While he doubted he would ever have the good fortune
      to wake up to a nude Jean, he'd supposed -� foolishly perhaps -� that
      such fantasies belonged to him alone, and he resented the idea that
      any other man might dare to undress her in his mind's eye. No other
      man would ever worship her the way Scott Summers did.

      By the time they'd parked the car and carried Scott's bags upstairs,
      it was approaching midnight. Hank had fallen asleep on the den sofa
      under the blinking lights of a Christmas tree, a book spread spine-up
      over his belly and his mouth open. Frank and Ororo were still awake,
      and bounded up to ambush Scott with a simultaneous hug right in the
      den doorway. All the noise woke Hank, who struggled to sit and find
      his glasses. Then all six of them went down the hall to the kitchen,
      circling about the little table, drinking hot chocolate or cider, and
      eating the Christmas cookies Frank's mother had made. Everyone was
      talking at once, six mutant siblings, each trying to out-shout the
      other in their excitement to say everything at once. There was a
      cinnamon candle burning warm on the green tablecloth, and someone �-
      probably Jean -� had strung white mini-lights above the pantry.
      Ororo wore a halo of silver tinsel on her silver hair, and Hank
      helped Warren out of his wing rack, freeing white feathers to sweep
      up and out like the incarnation of a holiday card. Charles Xavier
      entered in the midst of the commotion, but sat in his chair in the
      doorway for a long moment, watching. They were all too busy catching
      up to notice him, and to the end of his days, he would count that
      evening as among his more precious memories. His children were all
      home, and they were safe, and they were happy. However many more
      might pass through his halls, these were the first, and dear to his
      heart. They would embody his dream.

      "Are there any cookies left for me?" he asked finally, and wheeled
      into the room.





      "So, what do you think?" Hank asked as the door to the hangar bay
      swished open to reveal the mansion's newest prize: sleek, black, and
      capable of mach four. Warren was with them, leaning up against the
      opposite wall, wings flat behind him, arms crossed, grinning at
      Summers' slack-jawed shock.

      "Holy *fuck*!" Summers muttered, moving into the bay like a
      sleepwalker, eyes on the new jet. "Where *in hell* did you get a
      Blackbird?" If the USAF had any idea that one of their most prized
      planes was sitting in the basement of a mansion in Westchester,
      Summers didn't want to think about the pinecones the high brass would
      shitting.

      "The professor has his connections," Hank replied.

      "In other words, you're not going to tell the air force brat."

      "Mmm" -� Hank was frowning, hunch-shouldered and slightly
      uncomfortable -� "Charles thought it might be best if you didn't
      know."

      "Christ, Hank. You think I'd tell my father what you've got here?"
      He turned around to look at the other two. "The professor might have
      connections, but this plane is freakin' *illegal* for a private
      citizen to possess." He pointed back at the black silhouette. "That
      cost thirty-four-million dollars of tax money! It belongs to the US
      government!"

      Hank and Warren exchanged a glance. Neither of them had counted on
      an angry Scott. An excited Scott, a delirious Scott, a
      nagging-for-the-next-three-weeks Scott . . . but not an angry Scott.

      But Summers had just begun. "Where do you think you're going to get
      JP-7 fuel to fly her? Or the highly specialized components to
      replace anything that breaks down? The local Ace Hardware? Or how
      about a flight suit! You can't hit 80,000 feet in shorts and an
      Izod! Good God! That is the fastest plane the air force ever built.
      Do either of you think you can actually *fly* it? The men who fly
      that plane go through months and months of specialized training!
      There are thirty-two of these in existence, or thirty-two that were
      built. That's *it*. The molds were broken. Twelve are lost. How
      dare you take one of the twenty left, to be some . . . toy!" Summers
      was literally shaking with fury.

      "Scott, calm down." Henry approached to put big hands on Scott's
      shoulders, and Warren was inching back out the door, inclined to bolt
      for cover. Scott's eyes were bright red behind his glasses. "We
      don't consider it a toy," Hank went on. "And trust me, the
      government has been compensated. Plus, of those twenty left, how
      many are sitting in museums, or decommissioned in hangars?"

      "Hank -� it's not just the compensation! That's a highly specialized
      aircraft of which there isn't an endless supply! If the country has
      to go to war again, we might need it. It belongs to the people of
      the United States. It doesn't belong to us." His shoulders sagged,
      and Henry could tell he was seriously distraught. Whatever the
      tension between he and his father, scratch the boy and he was still
      air force. Jean �- who'd been working downstairs in the lab �- had
      come running when she'd heard their raised voices. Now, Henry
      glanced around at her, unsure what to do, and she approached
      carefully, as one might with a spooked horse.

      "Scott," she said, "would it help if you knew this isn't a plane that
      anyone thinks still exists? Nobody on a base is going to wander into
      a hangar and find his plane missing."

      He stared at her. She could feel the weight of it, even if she
      couldn't see his eyes. And for the first time, she really, really
      regretted not being able to see his eyes. They still glowed behind
      ruby quartz, but not so brightly. "Where did you get it? I have to
      know, Jean."

      "It came off the floor of the ocean. Hank had to put one of the
      wings back on it."

      "All the instruments are new," Hank added, "or will be, when I finish
      with it. The whole cockpit is being redesigned. It wasn't usable,
      Scott. It was a salt-water-logged shell."

      He looked back at it. "You mean it's one of the lost ones." It was
      a statement rather than a question.

      "Yes."

      And that was the moment of change. Turning, he walked over to it,
      reaching up to run a hand over the black titanium hull, like he might
      caress a cat, or a lover. "So somebody found you, Pretty Girl?
      Imagine that. You're still in one piece." Then, calling over his
      shoulder, "Getting our hands on JP-7 fuel isn't going to be easy,
      y'know!"

      "The engines were -� and still are -� a mess. We have to rebuild
      them entirely. I'm going to see if we might be able to use a
      different fuel."

      "Not and hit much over mach two. They had to design the Habu's fuel
      special so it could be hydraulic fluid, too."

      Hank rolled his eyes, but he also exchanged a glance with Jean, and
      blew out in relief. It would be okay.





      Scott lay dozing on a bench in the arboretum, right in a shaft of
      sunlight. If his body had needed to adjust to the different quantity
      of sunlight in California, coming back here felt a bit like
      withdrawal and Ororo had compared him to a cat, always looking for a
      few rays to sleep in. Just now, though, he was here because Ro had
      asked him to keep her company while she worked in the garden. She'd
      appropriated the abandoned arboretum within a month of her arrival
      last summer and Scott was amazed at the change in just that short
      time; some people were born with a green thumb. Now, she made her
      way from bed to bed, babying her plants, while he dozed on a bench.
      'Company' for Ro meant his presence, not necessarily endless chatter,
      and she came to him when she wanted relief from Frank's incessant
      need to impress her. 'I love him the way he is,' she'd told Scott
      just a few days before. 'I wish he would not try so hard.'

      'He just wants to be the best he can for you,' Scott had explained.
      He understood all too well Frank's behavior with Ororo; he felt the
      same around Jean.

      But Ororo had replied, matter-of-factly, 'He already is the best. He
      does not need to prove himself to me,' and Scott had been touched at
      the same time he'd been deeply jealous, wondering if he ever would be
      lucky enough to hear a woman say that about him.

      Now, getting bored with his nap and thinking again about his
      conversation with Lee, and with EJ, he hauled himself up to wander
      over to where Ro was kneeling beside a bed of winter-dormant
      begonias, doing something incomprehensible with a long stretch of
      what looked like black tape. At his approach, her head tilted
      sideways slightly, but she didn't look around at him. "Did you ever
      think about being a guy?" he asked her.

      At that, she did look around at him, her brown eyes amused. "Is that
      idle curiosity, or did you have a reason you wanted to know?"

      Feeling funny looming over her, he squatted down and clasped his
      hands together in front, for balance. "I have a reason. But answer
      me first, before I tell you."

      "Then you must clarify. Have I wondered what men think �- or *if*
      men think?" She gave him a wicked smile. "Or have I wondered what a
      male body would feel like from inside? Or have I wanted to be a
      man?"

      Pursing his lips, he frowned. That was all a good deal more specific
      than he'd considered. "I don't know. All of the above."

      "Then your answer is yes, yes, and no."

      "So you've never wanted to be a man?"

      "No. Why would I?"

      He plopped back on the tile sidewalk, and told her about his
      conversation with Lee Forrester. Ro listened patiently, and Scott
      wondered why he was telling her all this, instead of Jean, or Hank,
      or even Warren or Frank. But Hank would try to analyze it, Frank
      would probably feel guilty about it, Warren would find it curious but
      not important, and Jean. . . . He wasn't sure what Jean would
      think, or say. But Ororo would give him a straight answer.

      "It is not a kind world, for women, sometimes," she said now. "Some
      think they must compete with other women for a man's attention, and
      are incomplete without it. Others think they must become honorary
      men, to be worth anything." She tilted her head and was silent for
      almost a full minute. Finally, she said simply, "I think that is
      sad." And she turned back to her garden. He waited, but she didn't
      elaborate, and finally, he stood up to walk away.





      "Hey, I was looking for you."

      Glancing around, Scott watched Jean approach through blowing snow,
      picking her way amid the dead plants of the back garden plaza. "I
      guess you found me," he said.

      "What are you doing out here? It's snowing, Scott."

      "I noticed." His voice was dry. "And I'm thinking."

      "About?" She stopped in front of him, her hands shoved in the
      pockets of her heavy jacket and white flakes starring her dark auburn
      hair.

      "You promise you won't laugh?" he asked.

      "I promise I'll try. Now come on -� spill, boy-o."

      "Did you ever think about being a guy? I mean, did you ever want to
      be a guy?"

      Eyebrows climbing at that, Jean turned and seated herself on the cold
      bench beside him, huddling down against his side. "I don't have to
      think, Scott. There was a time when I couldn't stay in my own head.
      Or rather, I couldn't keep others out of it."

      That hadn't occurred to him. "So you mean you know both sides?"

      "More or less, yes."

      "Well, would you want to be a guy?"

      Smiling, she shook her head. "No. I want to be Jean." She eyed him
      sidewise, still smiling. "It's not 'male' or 'female,' you know.
      There are some differences, and they're real enough. They shape us.
      But in the end, we're all a bit more than an X or Y chromosome. My
      name is Jean, and *that's* who I am, just as Scott is more than his
      gender. People are too inclined to see the obvious differences and
      miss the important ones, I think." She stood abruptly and snagged
      his hand. "Come on, I want to show you something. Let's get out of
      the snow."

      And with her holding his hand, he wasn't inclined to object to being
      led back inside, and up to her room. Her bags were packed, he saw,
      and he realized that she must have come out to tell him goodbye
      before heading north to join her family for Christmas. Hank had left
      for Illinois the day before, and Warren was leaving tomorrow,
      Christmas Eve.

      Jean had gone to her bookshelf to pull down a book, flipping through
      it to one of several dog-eared pages. "The professor gave me this as
      a graduation present when I told him I wanted to study mutant
      genetics. He said I might find inspiration in it, but he also told
      me never to forget that we're *all* human. Here, read what I
      marked." Scott accepted the book and checked the title �- a
      collection of works by MLK -� and then looked down the page to the
      highlighted section.

      ** "The system of slavery and segregation caused many Negros to feel
      that perhaps they were inferior. This is the ultimate tragedy of
      segregation. It not only harms one physically, but it injures one
      spiritually. But through the forces of history, something happened
      to the Negro. He came to feel that he was somebody. He came to feel
      that the important thing about a man is not the color of his skin or
      the texture of his hair, but the texture and quality of his soul." **

      "What he says there" -� she pointed with a finger -� "could apply to
      all the surface differences that we divide ourselves by. Are they
      that important? Black or white, male or female, mutant or non-mutant
      . . . in the end, I think it's the texture and quality of our soul
      that matters, don't you? The rest of it shapes us -� it's important
      -� but it doesn't *define* us. We're each unique. And special."

      Scott thought about Lee, and EJ, and closed the book to look up at
      her. "Can I borrow this?"

      "Sure."

      He glanced at her packed luggage. "You have to go home, don't you?"

      "Yeah. My family's expecting me. You knew that."

      "I'll miss you. I got you a Christmas present. Do you want it
      before you go?"

      She smiled; it was wistful, and sweet. "I'm driving back down here
      on Christmas night; it's only a few hours. I'll get it then." And
      she stepped in, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and pulling him
      close to kiss his cheek. "I have a present for you, too. But you'll
      have to wait."

      He didn't need a present, he thought as he helped her carry her bags
      down to her car. If she came back on Christmas, he'd have everything
      he wanted.

      ----

      Afternotes: Regarding Lee Forrester . . . Accidental was actually my
      first intended appearance of Lee. But when Josh first asked for a
      Lee story, I doubted this was quite what he had in mind, and it got
      me thinking of other possibilities. So I imported Lee into the
      Ultimate Universe as a major character, instead of a secondary
      player. As it turned out, EROS ON TRIAL was finished and posted
      first. The actress whose image I've used here for Lee is Brit Leda
      Headey. Originally, I did think of her as blonde, but when Pugui
      produced the lovely picture of Marsden and Heady together, and put
      glasses on him, I changed my mind. Heady does have the "tomboyish"
      look I had in mind, if with brown hair.

      Regarding Scott's male/female question . . . that's based on a
      real-life college experience, and here's 'the rest of the story,' to
      quote Paul Harvey. Once upon a time, in grad school, being at a bar
      in a crowd of about 10 people -- 7-8 women, and 2 guys -- the whole
      issue of transvestitism came up. One of the women asked the rest of
      us if we could be the opposite sex for one 24 hour period, then
      return to our regular gender with no repercussions but could recall
      the experience, would we do it? All the women said 'Yes.' Both the
      guys said, 'No way.' We razzed the guys about it (and no, they
      weren't the uber-macho type, either), but it made us curious, and
      some of us started informal polls -- rather like Scott -- asking
      around. The pattern stayed the same. Some guys said yes, but most
      said no. Some women said no, but most said yes. Very odd. About
      ten years later, when I was teaching in college, I had the chance to
      run the polls again anonymously, across a couple of classes, to get
      statistically meaningful samples. And lo and behold ... as soon as
      it was anonymous, the stats changed, at least for the guys. A little
      over half now admitted to being curious, and would accept the offer
      -- but several qualified it with, "as long as it's not that time of
      the month," which I found amusing. The percentages for the women
      staged about the same (roughly 80% said yes, 20% said no). I ran the
      polls again the next semester and posed the same question, but
      modified it to specify that the men's "female"experience would
      include either menstruation or pregnancy (and they could pick). All
      of a sudden, the numbers dropped down again for the men, although not
      as low as in the verbal poll. And when the men did agree to the
      switch, almost across the board, they chose pregnancy as the option.
      (A few even admitted to great curiosity, as to what pregnancy was
      like.) The bulk of those polled were under 22.

      Now, as noted, about 10 years separated the two polls, from the
      mid-80s to the mid-90s. But I'm not sure how much difference that
      made. And it's all very interesting, no?





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