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"Primary Colors" (Special #6), 2/2, Scott

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  • Minisinoo
    Continued directly from Part 1.... ... Outside, I paused to light a cigarette. I hadn t wanted to smoke in someone s nice house, but I needed the nicotine to
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 14, 2002
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      Continued directly from Part 1....
      -----

      Outside, I paused to light a cigarette. I hadn't wanted to smoke in
      someone's nice house, but I needed the nicotine to calm me and was
      finishing it as I reached Warren's gold Boxster. I noted Jean's
      wrinkled nose, and dropped the butt on asphalt, crushing it out
      before getting into the back seat. "So where are we going?" I asked.

      "Anywhere but here," Jean said from her place at shotgun as Warren
      slipped behind the wheel. I eyed him, to judge his sobriety, but he
      seemed all right.

      "Actually," he said, starting the engine, "I want to go somewhere
      I've never been, do something I've never done."

      "What? Visit Wal-Mart?"

      Warren laughed at that. "Believe it or not, I've been to Wal-Mart.
      And an A&P, too." He turned in the seat to look at me. "You know
      how to bowl?"

      "Well . . . yeah," I replied cautiously. "You don't?"

      "Nope."

      I shook my head. The mental image of Warren in rented bowling shoes
      and a hand-made British suit was ludicrous. But I liked it. "Jean
      -- you know any bowling alleys in Westchester?"

      She scrunched up her nose in thought, like a pensive rabbit. "New
      Roc City in New Rochelle? It's not just a bowling alley, it's sort
      of an indoor boardwalk. They even have ice-skating."

      "Perfect," Warren said, and threw the car in gear.

      And it was perfect. Plebian entertainment with upper class
      pretensions and strung white lights above a brick street,
      cotton-candy-colored neon billboards, and wall-to-wall people. We
      stood out in our nice evening clothes, but not too much. There were
      Goths and Geeks, Grunge and Preps, and everything in between. Jean
      hooked her arms through Warren's and mine, and dragged us past
      arcades and restaurants and shops, directly to the neon-blacklit
      bowling alley. "Here it is."

      Warren was still looking back up the sidewalk. "Was that laser tag?
      I want to go play laser tag."

      "We can visit the fun house later," Jean said, and pushed the door
      open, hauling him inside.

      So under purple neon, I taught Warren to bowl, as he'd once taught me
      to golf -- taught them both to bowl, really. It took us a while to
      find a ball with holes small enough for Jean's slender fingers. She
      had to doff her heels to put on the shoes, and that made her sequined
      dress drag the floor, and Warren looked very silly in a dark suit and
      two-toned bowling shoes. So did I, for that matter.

      It didn't matter. We had fun. Most of Warren's balls went down the
      gutter, and too many of Jean's went backwards, flung off her fingers
      in the wrong direction by the weight. After a while, we started
      calling "Fore!" when she'd step up to take her turn. She made faces
      at us. I beat them both -- twice -- even though they played as a
      team against me. We ate generic, greasy pizza and toasted the new
      year with coke. Jean gave us both a kiss -- on the cheek only, but I
      was charmed. Later, we went down to the arcade to play laser tag,
      which was laughable in suits and Jean's evening dress. We wound up
      tangled on the floor at one point like puppies, laughing so hard we
      couldn't even sit up.

      It was the first time in a very long time that I could remember
      enjoying myself so purely, and all without chemical assistance. By
      the time we left, it was three in the morning, and Jean had an arm
      around both of our waists . . . and it was okay. I didn't mind.
      That was the birth of the Three Mutant Musketeers, as Jean dubbed us.
      I protested that I wasn't a mutant, but she just looked at me with
      half-lidded amusement. "You knock Cerebro off the scale, Scott, and
      I've seen the DNA tests Henry ran on you. You're a mutant."

      "So why haven't I manifested any �talent' then?"

      "I don't know; maybe you have and we just haven't figured out what it
      is yet."

      "Maybe he's going to be latent," Warren said.

      "Maybe," Jean agreed. "But I doubt it. We don't blow Cerebro's
      gasket, War. I've never seen anyone except Charles himself affect
      Cerebro's readouts like Scott does."

      I didn't reply, but her words troubled me deeply, in part because the
      professor had never told me this. Once, I would've attributed
      sinister motives to that concealment, but I'd learned since to trust
      -- at least to a point -- and was willing to grant Xavier the benefit
      of the doubt. Maybe he'd just been afraid to alarm me.

      And what did it mean, what she'd said? That I sent Cerebro off the
      scale? What did that make me?

      Dangerous, maybe. It put a damper on my frivolous mood. To make
      matters worse, we were caught in traffic on the way home, even at
      that early-morning hour, due to a pile-up on the highway involving a
      semi and at least three cars. Both lanes were blocked for almost
      half an hour as they brought in helicopters and emergency vehicles.
      Eventually, we were able to move forward and get past the site of the
      accident, marked off by pink flares in the dark. A morbid curiosity
      made us stare as we crawled solemnly by. One car lay upside down and
      another had the roof peeled back like the top of a sardine tin. I
      wondered what the people in those cars had been doing just before the
      impact. Had they been laughing like we had earlier? Had they been
      happy? Had they made New Year's resolutions that would go
      unfulfilled now?

      Death and life were a mystery. One year dies and a new one is born.
      An old life crumbles and a new one rises. I leaned back against the
      rear seat and thought about my own promises to myself, my
      resolutions, and the games I'd been playing about the state of my own
      health. 'Don't ask, don't tell.' Was it futile to remake yourself
      when you carried the seeds of your own destruction in your blood?
      I'd never escape my old life, not entirely, and I probably wouldn't
      see thirty.

      But I wanted to live. *"I want more life. I can't help myself, I
      do."* The words from that play, ANGELS IN AMERICA, spun around
      inside my skull. Could I make whatever time I had left be enough?
      Could I have enough life? And I was suddenly fed up with my own
      attempts to avoid what I already knew. Wasn't part of living facing
      the truth?

      When we returned, the professor was up waiting, worried, but he could
      see that we were all as sober as priests. "There was a big
      accident," Warren said, face tired as he jiggled his keys. "The cops
      shut down the highway for a while, to bring in the medical choppers.
      I know -- we should have called. Sorry. We just didn't think about
      it."

      Xavier nodded, accepting that, though he clearly wasn't happy with
      us. "You're safe. That's what matters. Go to bed, children." So
      we did, but the sun was rising on a new year by the time I laid my
      head on my pillow.

      When I rose, it was already after noon. I showered, dressed, then
      hung up the suit I'd left spread across a chair the night before.
      The jacket smelled faintly still of body odor, cigarettes and cotton
      candy, greasy pizza and Jean's perfume. Dry cleaning was in order,
      but part of me regretted the need. These were the scents of my own
      awakening. I wasn't numb anymore.

      Shutting the closet door, I went down to find the professor, or
      better yet, Hank. I figured that he'd be back from the hospital by
      now, and he was. I located him in the kitchen, eating a bowl of
      cereal and looking exhausted. No one else was in the room. Getting
      coffee, I seated myself across from him at the eat-in table. "Good
      morning," he said, but his heart wasn't in it.

      "You look dead beat."

      "I am. We had four trauma calls last night, one right after the
      other, the worst at the end. Decapitation. Seven teenagers in one
      car. Apparently, it spun out of control, crossed the median, and
      went under a semi trailer -- peeling the top right off, and six heads
      with it. The only one to survive was a girl who'd been lying down
      across laps in the backseat."

      "We saw it."

      His head jerked up. "What?"

      "Not the accident, but the cars -- yeah. On the way back from New
      Rochelle last night. The accident had traffic backed up for miles.
      By the time we got up there, the ambulances were all gone, but the
      cars weren't. There were at least two others, plus the truck."

      He nodded. "The chief car struck another, and yet a third car
      slammed into the back of the semi when the driver put on the brakes
      suddenly. There were two other fatalities, and several serious
      injuries. The truck driver walked away." He shook his head. "I was
      never made to deal with this sort of thing, Scott. Give me a problem
      to solve, but don't give me a body to patch up that is past repair."

      His big hands were shaking, and seeing the normally irrepressible
      Hank so distraught moved me. Reaching out spontaneously, I offered
      him my own hand to grip. He did so, studying my face in surprise.
      "Thank you."

      "You're welcome." And given his evening, I was reluctant to ask him
      my next question, although it was why I'd come looking for him in the
      first place. It was time to stop avoiding the issue. "Hank, I need
      to know -- am I HIV positive?"

      Sitting back, he released my hand and his face went still. "What
      brought this up?"

      "I'm tired of playing ostrich."

      His eyes held mine for a full minute, then he nodded. "Yes, you
      are."

      It was a dull blow, one I'd been prepared for, but a blow
      nonetheless. Until a fact is confirmed, there's always a fraction of
      doubt. Of hope.

      "But," Hank went on, "you're showing no signs of developing AIDS, or
      even ARC. You may never develop it. We still don't entirely
      understand the virus, Scott."

      I nodded. I knew all that. "Can you give me anything preventive for
      it?"

      "I already have been. What do you think those drug cocktails are
      that I feed you periodically?"

      And I nodded again. I suppose I'd suspected that as well, but I
      simply hadn't asked questions. "I need to know something else. Jean
      told me you've done a DNA scan on me." He eyed me, then nodded.
      "And she says I have the X-gene."

      "You do."

      "So why hasn't it manifested? Don't most mutants manifest by my
      age?"

      "Many do, yes. But it's all very new. There's a lot that we don't
      fully understand yet."

      "But I am a mutant."

      "Genetically speaking, you are a mutant."

      Standing, I pushed in my chair. "Thank you." And after pouring
      fresh coffee, I headed out.

      "Scott -- " Hank called behind me. I glanced back. "That is all you
      wanted to know?"

      "Yeah, that's all. Go get some sleep, Monkey Toes. And thanks."

      My next objective was Xavier himself, but before I found him, I
      stumbled over Jean and Warren in the den, watching football. "Hey --
      the dead walk," Warren said without turning to look at me, but he was
      grinning.

      I didn't reply, but did decide that Xavier could wait, and entered to
      join them. Jean scooted over, making room for me on the couch even
      though there were empty chairs for me to take. Even a week before,
      I'd have taken a chair. Now, I sat down beside her, Warren on her
      other side. "What are we watching?"

      "Rose Bowl," Warren answered. "Northwestern versus Southern Cal.
      Second quarter; Southern Cal is winning." Despite his thoroughly
      blue-blood background, Warren took college football seriously. I
      could've cared less myself, but I liked sitting here with them, doing
      what other Americans did on New Year's Day. The easiness we'd
      learned together the night before was still evident the morning
      after, and the restless jealousy that I'd felt for Jean ever since
      her arrival seemed to have vanished like a morning fog burned off by
      the heat of the rising sun. I'd learned to like her last night -- to
      like her a lot, in fact. Everyone else at the mansion but Jean was
      aware of what I'd been before, and I needed to know that she couldn't
      guess, that it wasn't obvious, that I wasn't branded. I could start
      over with primary colors.

      Oddly, my cell phone rang at that very moment. I'd forgotten that I
      was even carrying it, much less that I'd turned it on. Warren and
      Jean both glanced at me in curiosity and I shrugged, pulling it out
      and opening it to say, "Hello?"

      But the line hummed silent. "Fine," I said after ten breaths. "I
      didn't want to talk to you either." And shutting the phone, I turned
      it off, leaving it on the end table.

      So we all sat together to watch the Rose Bowl, and ordered pizza
      delivery from a local Domino's. Hank had no doubt gone to bed, but
      the professor joined us at halftime. I glanced at him when he
      entered -- a measuring look. He didn't respond to that immediately,
      but after the topping choices for the pizza had been settled on, he
      sent into my head, *You wished to speak with me?*

      *Yeah, I do,* I sent back. *But not now. Right now, I want . . .
      this. I want to watch football with my friends and eat pizza.*

      And I could feel his pleasure at that. *By all means, Scott. Happy
      New Year.*

      After the game was over, however, Xavier and I left while Warren and
      Jean watched endgame commentary, and Xavier took me up to his own
      bedroom suite. Once, I might have made certain assumptions, and
      panicked, but not now. It was early evening, and inside, he offered
      me a seat by the burning fireplace, in a big pine-green wing chair,
      and set about making tea on the lowboy under a window. Outside, I
      could see the reflected glow from the Christmas lights that Hank and
      I had strung early in December. Not elegant white, but bright and
      multi-hued. "White is so dull and predictable," Xavier had said,
      "and Christmas is all about brilliance."

      So we'd strung the whole mansion with old-style, large-bulb light
      sets in shades of red and blue, green and orange. "It looks like a
      Chinese whore-house," I'd told Hank later. But I liked the colors.
      Brilliance, indeed. And there was nothing about this place even
      remotely like a whore-house. I ought to know.

      When the tea was done, he brought me a cup -- ever gracious. It was
      fixed with milk and sugar the way I liked it, and one reason that I'd
      come to trust Charles Xavier was because he served me, like Jesus
      washing the feet of his disciples. I was a human being to him,
      worthy of respect, and there were days I wanted to cry for that.
      "Thank you," I said now.

      "You're quite welcome," he told me. "And feel free to smoke, Scott.
      Not in the rest of the mansion, but these are my rooms, and I don't
      always feel like going outside for a pipe."

      I smiled at that. "Maybe I should take up the pipe instead of
      cigarettes."

      "Maybe you should."

      I laughed. I'd been joking, but somehow, the idea lodged in my head.
      Shaking out a cigarette, I lit it, then held it straight up to stare
      at the burning tip. An ugly habit. Jean had never said as much last
      night, but I'd been able to read the thought clearly in her face, and
      it suddenly mattered to me. Even Warren didn't smoke much. It was
      just me. Nicotine, coffee and chocolate. My addictions.

      "There are worse things," Xavier said, obviously having followed
      that. "It's the same molecule, you know, rotated -- caffeine and
      nicotine."

      "It is?"

      "Indeed."

      Raising the cigarette to my lips, I took a drag, then crushed it out
      in the ashtray on the end table. It left a dark streak on clear
      glass. Xavier watched me.

      "What is troubling you, Scott?"

      "Jean said I send Cerebro off the scale. And Hank says I'm a mutant.
      Genetically, anyway. Why didn't you tell me all this shit?"

      "I did."

      I glanced up. "When?"

      "I've told you this since you first arrived. I never concealed the
      fact that you were a mutant. It was you who were unready to hear."

      I pondered that. He was right. From my very first day in
      Westchester, he'd said I was like them, but I hadn't believed him.
      "You didn't tell me I sent Cerebro off the scale, though."

      "Scott, consider this logically -- if you were resisting the
      knowledge that you were a mutant of any type, do you think you would
      have believed me if I'd told you that you were one of the most
      powerful mutants I've ever encountered?"

      He had a point, and I snorted, still staring at the streak of ash in
      the ashtray. "So what does that mean? Sending Cerebro off the
      scale?"

      "Not quite off the scale," he corrected lightly. "But you are a very
      high-level alpha mutant. More than that, I can't say, since we're
      not entirely sure what your mutation is. All that Hank and I can
      determine, at this point, is that it will be of the physical variety,
      instead of the psychic."

      "You mean I'm going to change. Like Hank, or Warren."

      "Perhaps; perhaps not. And how, we aren't sure. We think your
      mutation involves your ocular nerves -- your eyes. But frankly, even
      now, Henry is unable to get a clear reading of anything above your
      jaw in X-Rays, or even in CAT scans." His grin was faint. "Whatever
      your body does, Scott, our equipment doesn't seem to like it."

      "But I am a mutant."

      "You most certainly are."

      And this time, I believed. I think I wanted to believe, in fact. I
      *wanted* to be like them, these people who'd adopted me as their own.
      But I still wasn't. "What if my power *never* manifests?" I asked.
      "I mean, Warren said something about me being 'latent.' What if
      that's all it is? What if I never get any powers?"

      Would they make me leave?

      Bending forward in his chair, Xavier clasped his hands between his
      knees, and caught and held my eyes. "It doesn't matter, Scott. This
      is your home. Even if you didn't carry the genetic code, this would
      still be your home. You will always have a place here. Always."

      And that broke me. After all these years, after living tenuously in
      foster homes and surviving on the street, the word 'home' had an
      almost mythic power that was difficult to convey. *Home.* I was
      home. This was my family. I *belonged*.

      Hiding my face in my hands, I wept, and I could hear the squeak-grind
      of Xavier's chair as he moved it up next to my seat, then his hand
      fell on my head, stroking my hair. "Be my father," I choked out.
      "Please be my father." It sounded pathetic and small, but it rose
      from a grand canyon of loneliness. All I wanted was to be loved.
      "Be my father."

      I felt his arm go around my shoulders to pull me in. Eyes still
      squeezed shut, I slid off the seat to lay my head in his lap. *Not
      flesh of my flesh, not bone of my bone, but still miraculously my
      own*, he said into my mind. "I'll never have a son," he whispered
      aloud, hand still stroking my hair. "But if I could, I'd want him to
      be just like you."

      ----

      Feedback is always appreciated.

      #7 in "Special" will be "Diamonds in the Rough."

      (When will it be out? I have no idea.)



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