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  • Minisinoo
    N.B. I m headed out of town for a few days, so I may be slower than usual at responding to feedback. ... AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE: FIRE AND ICE
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 17, 2002
      N.B. I'm headed out of town for a few days, so I may be slower than
      usual at responding to feedback.


      Warning: Slightly allusive description of sex.

      Notes: Dedicated with love and fondness to my friend Jamie who took a
      degree in electrical engineering back when girls weren't supposed to
      do that kind of thing, especially if they were black. David provided
      martial arts expertise.


      It was early in September when Ororo found Dr. Reed Richards in her
      arboretum, circling the floor like a beagle on the scent, pausing
      occasionally to bang with his foot on dirt or concrete flooring. She
      chalked it up to the random weirdness that Xavier's students had come
      to expect from the man. He also chased pigeons and wrote on walls
      because, he said, there were no chalkboards big enough for his
      equations. He inhabited an intellectual sphere so far beyond the
      rest of them that he lived in a different dimension.

      "And I had thought that Hank was odd, hanging from the ceiling to
      read his medical journals," Ororo had told Frank and Warren. "At
      least he is able to conduct a normal human conversation."

      "Hank says there are two kinds of researchers," Warren had explained.
      "Pragmatists and theorists. He's the former but this Richards guy
      is the latter."

      "And Dr. Richards is not a mutant?"

      "Just ���of the normal variety,' as the professor put it. He's some
      kind of Einstein -- started college at fourteen and had two different
      Ph.Ds by twenty-two . . . from Harvard, no less . . . and about
      twenty-five patents already. But his ideas are so weird, most of the
      people he works with think he's a kook."

      "What does he do, in any case?" Ororo had asked. "He is in and out
      of here without much rhyme or reason. And how does he know the

      "Research for NASA, down in Huntsville. And I don't know how he
      knows the professor. Xavier just seems to *know* people. I think
      it's his hidden mutant ability." Warren had grinned. "There are
      corporate presidents and prime ministers of small countries with
      fewer contacts than Professor Xavier."

      They'd laughed, because it was true. And Reed Richards continued to
      appear and disappear at the mansion at odd times that fall, doing
      inexplicable things. They became accustomed to him, like the family
      pet who occupies a sofa but flees the room when the noisy children
      arrive. Ororo could count on one hand the number of times that he'd
      spoken to her.

      The California sun at midday pinned down shadows sharp at the edges
      and compressed them squat like a checkerboard of people on a
      summer-brown lawn. Music drifted from a CD player, Robert Johnson's
      rough vocals of stripped-down delta blues, turned low to avoid
      drawing the neighbors' ire until the sound was just swallowed in the
      open air. Voices pierced louder, the white noise of twelve people at
      conversation, or twelve now that EJ had returned from the apartment
      above. "PAR-TY!" he bellowed at the top of his lungs as he gallumped
      down the side steps carrying a red and white plastic cooler stocked
      with Coke and beer, the latter contributed by their guitar-player
      Rick Chabon (along with the Robert Johnson) and by Warren, who had
      flown in from New York with Frank and Ororo. There was homemade mead
      as well, from Lee, of all the unlikely suspects. Following EJ was
      Clarice and her friend Diane, bearing bags of chips, buns,
      condiments, and the hamburger meat to grill. Scott had been assigned
      grill duty, with Warren to keep him company.

      "Where is this landlady?" Warren asked as Scott took the meat from
      Diane and laid down the first set of burgers on the small grid; only
      six fit at once. "And wouldn't she have conniptions if she knew you
      guys were doing this?"

      "Maybe. But she's off to visit her daughter in San Jose, so this was
      the ideal weekend. We're hardly going to trash the place, but she
      doesn't know that, and we didn't feel like having her peer out a
      window every fifteen minutes to check up on us. She's nice but . . .
      a little nosey." And he wrinkled his own nose at that. "There's
      also the obvious advantage . . . " By way of conclusion, he gestured
      with the spatula to Warren's great white wings, unveiled in full
      view. Mrs. Gale's small backyard ran lengthwise from the rear of her
      house alongside the garage, tree-shaded and set with flower beds,
      bright now with fall aster, and the whole of it was screened from
      neighbors by high hedges and tropical trees with wide leaves. Thus,
      the first thing that Warren had done upon arriving was shuck his
      jacket and the wing rack beneath it, stretching out all sixteen feet
      to the delight of the other guests. They'd surrounded him with oohs
      and awws and requests to pet him. He'd been happy to oblige, making
      Scott, Frank and Ororo exchange a glance and break up laughing. "He
      is a whore," Frank had said, which had only made Scott and Ororo
      laugh harder.

      Yet this, Scott thought now to himself, was how the world ought to
      be: black and brown and white, mutant and non-mutant, and no one gave
      a damn, or not in a negative way. Six months ago, he'd still been
      hiding his gift. Today, he had on his visor and was demonstrating
      his beam control by popping the caps off beer bottles as a party
      trick, the same as others might tie cherry stems with their tongues.
      (He'd only broken one bottle.)

      Warren gestured towards someone behind Scott's back. "Who's the
      Asian chick who keeps eyeing you?"

      "That's Phoebe," he said.

      "She got a crush?"

      "Not exactly, not anymore. It's . . . complicated."

      "In other words, none of my damn business."

      Frowning, Scott turned over the burgers and added cheese to half of
      them. Dripping fat hissed on the charcoal. "Something like that."
      If his guilt had faded soft like old calico in the past month, he
      still couldn't quite look Phoebe in the eye. At least she was
      speaking to him again, but when circumstances threw them together in
      a group, they usually maintained a wary distance. EJ knew something
      had happened, but for once, had been circumspect in his inquiries,
      accepting Scott's quiet, "There was a little blow up at the end of
      the summer," without pushing further. If he'd spoken to Phoebe about
      it, Scott didn't know. Now, EJ was off playing host, chatting up
      both Phoebe and Liz and introducing them to Frank and Ororo, but that
      meant he couldn't keep an eye on who was sitting alone in a corner.
      That was Warren's peculiar gift.

      "Speaking of chicks watching -- who's the one sitting it out on the

      Scott glanced up to check, then said, "That's Diane, EJ's sister's
      roommate." And he looked around for Clarice, but didn't spot her.
      Normally, Diane was Clarice's taller, darker shadow. "I don't know
      where Clarie went."

      "Back upstairs, I think. Can you handle the grill alone without
      burning anything? I'll go talk to her friend."

      Scott snorted. "If I remember right, the last and only time *you*
      ever tried grilling anything, you couldn't even get the goddamn
      charcoal lit. It's too *plebian* for you, Blue Blood." But he
      kicked in friendly fashion at Warren's foot, to take out the sting,
      then added, more softly, "Listen, before you go -- Deedee can't walk
      too well. That's why she spends most of her time sitting down. She
      was in a bad fire as a kid, and has braces on her legs. She's a
      little shy."

      Blond brows lowered, Warren said only, "Ah. Maybe we could compare
      living with hidden metal racks." Scott didn't answer and Warren
      ambled off, taking a circuitous route so she wouldn't think he'd come
      to babysit, then turned on the Worthington Charm, but at low wattage,
      his intent being to warm, not dazzle; she responded like a morning
      glory, opening slowly to brilliance. Scott smiled and, the first set
      of burgers done, loaded them onto a paper plate, calling out the news
      as people left off chatting, drawn by the lure of food.

      Clarice had returned as well, and seeing Diane suitably occupied,
      took the opportunity to join Scott. He'd wondered how long until she
      showed up orbiting him. That had been the pattern of things between
      them since the semester had begun. Each might go off on their own
      for a while, but soon enough, gravity pulled one or the other back
      like a comet to a sun -- and it wasn't always Clarice to him. Now,
      she said without preamble, "You're looking out for Diane."

      He grinned. "Not me, actually. Warren noticed all by himself. He
      sees more than people give him credit for -- sees more than most
      people period."

      She studied Warren thoughtfully for a moment, then asked -- or mused,
      really -- "Do you think he'd take me flying?"

      Her words stirred a complicated jealousy in Scott's gut, and he
      jerked up his head, jaw clenching until the muscles jumped slightly.
      "I guess he's got the more romantic mutation."

      She glanced back at him in surprise. "What bit your ass?"

      Embarrassed, he gave a little shrug -- "Nothing" -- and damned a
      complexion that flushed beet red at the least provocation. He kept
      his eyes on the grill, so when she moved a bit closer to slip a hand
      up his back, rubbing his muscles, he started. But he liked it. At
      least until he noticed Phoebe watching them.

      "Hey," he said softly, and shifted away from her hand. "These are
      done; move back. I don't want to accidentally burn you."

      And so it went throughout lunch. With Phoebe around, he restrained
      his interaction with Clarice, yet even so, they sat together to eat,
      and she stole potato chips off his plate while his leg brushed hers.
      Around mid-afternoon, Phoebe and Elizabeth took their leave of the
      party -- to Scott's ashamed relief -- but it let him relax as they
      cleaned up debris. At one point, he followed Clarice upstairs,
      bearing unused plates and napkins. The place was empty, no one even
      in the bathroom; a few shouts of laughter drifted up from below, and
      traffic buzzed past on the main road, but here it was quiet, the
      afternoon sunlight streaming in wide windows and glowing a bit on
      blond-wood floors. They moved around each other in the kitchen,
      bodies sometimes brushing, and she began to chatter nervously while
      he stayed silent, a growing agitation pinching his throat closed. He
      watched her mouth, wondering what she tasted like. It seemed to him
      as if everything in the past few weeks had been hurtling downhill
      towards this moment alone together, and finally, frustrated, he made
      her put away the Tupperware of cooked hamburger meat, then steered
      her out of the kitchen, backing her up against the sofa near one
      window. She stared at him. He stared back. Then bending, he kissed
      her silly as yellow light spilled over them both. She ran her tongue
      along his and sucked at his lips until the tension broke and they
      laughed in each other's mouths. Then they went back downstairs
      again, holding hands. The fall afternoon light glittered, he

      "How was the party?" Jean asked Ororo on Sunday evening after the
      younger three students had returned from California. Neither she nor
      Hank had been invited. They hadn't been told *not* to come, but they
      hadn't been invited, and Hank's exclusion had been largely a cover
      for excluding her. Scott's wording to Warren on the phone had been,
      'I'm sure Hank and Jean are too busy in the lab . . .'

      She was hurt by that, and a bit jealous, but mostly, she'd come to
      realize that she missed him, and beyond hurt or jealousy, she wanted
      to know how he was. But he wasn't telling her, so she sought out
      Ororo instead. She might have turned to Frank, or Warren, but she
      suspected that Ororo noticed more. "Is his new apartment nice?"

      Ororo had been making tea for herself in the kitchen, and now paused
      to consider how she ought to reply. After a year at the mansion,
      she'd come to appreciate better the deep conflict in Jean between
      scientific curiosity and a refined, society upbringing, between
      instinctive compassion and an ingrained, polite diffidence. Jean was
      trying to be nosey without being nosey, and doing it badly. Licking
      honey off her spoon, Ororo turned back to her tea mug. "The
      apartment is old but adequate for two men, and cleaner than I had
      expected. Not, apparently, thanks to Scott."

      Jean grinned at that, remembering that the boy might have kept his
      shirts tucked in, but his dirty clothes had always remained wherever
      they landed, until laundry day.

      "The party," Ororo went on, "was nice, and quiet -- until the band
      decided to play. He sings very well."

      Jean was smiling. "Did they get in trouble with their neighbors for
      the music?"

      "No. At least, not that I am aware."

      Jean reached for the sponge sitting behind the faucet and began to
      wipe up the counter. Nervous energy. "Did he seem . . . okay?

      Sipping tea and wandering over to the rear kitchen door overlooking
      the herb garden, Ororo stared out the screen into the dusk, unsure
      what Jean was driving towards. She was well aware that Scott and
      Jean weren't talking as much as they had -- if not aware that they
      weren't talking at all -- but Scott hadn't shared the details even
      with Frank, who was perhaps his closest confidant at the mansion.
      Well, his closest male confidant. Finally, she turned back to where
      Jean was still cleaning up the kitchen counter. Taking a wild shot
      in the dark and hoping that intuition would find the bull's-eye, she
      said, "You did know that he has a girlfriend? Her name is Clarice."

      Jean's hand paused, only momentarily, then she continued cleaning.
      "No. I didn't know."

      Ah, Ororo thought, and decided not to explain that the relationship
      had apparently bloomed in full only that very weekend. "She is his
      roommate's sister."

      And Jean started to laugh. Dropping the sponge in the sink, she
      leaned back against the counter and giggled. "Oh, Scott! First, he
      gets a crush on me. Now, he's dating his roommate's sister? The boy
      doesn't have a sensible bone in his body!"

      "Actually," Ororo said, "They appeared quite comfortable with one

      "And what does *EJ* think about it?" Jean asked.

      "I did not inquire, but he did not seem put out."

      Jean sighed. "Well, that's good. I mean, I'm glad that it doesn't
      seem to be causing a problem with EJ."

      "And you do not mind that he is seeing her?"

      Jean's expression told the story: simple surprise. "No, of course
      not." She wasn't an actress, not when caught off-guard, and Ororo
      was inclined to believe her. "He needs this, Ro -- a girl his own
      age. I might've hoped that he'd pick one who's less likely to cause
      tension, but I'm very glad that he has one. From everything I've
      heard about EJ, I like him. And if his sister is half as nice,
      she'll suit Scott."

      Pushing away from the counter, Jean walked to the table near the back
      door and slid into a seat, then put her face in her hands. Quite
      suddenly, she felt like crying, and she heard the chair beside hers
      scrape out, then a squeak as Ororo seated herself. "What is wrong?"
      Ororo asked, moved by the open sorrow of this woman who so rarely
      seemed to lose control.

      "I miss him," Jean whispered. "I didn't realize, until he stopped
      writing to me, how much I talked to him." Then she raised her face
      and wiped away smeared mascara. Automatic attention to the social
      mask. "Isn't that funny? He's not a med student, or a geneticist --
      didn't even understand half of what I do. But he *listened* to me.
      He really listened to me. I'd thought that whatever else he felt, a
      part of him could like plain Jean Grey. But it was just a crush
      after all, wasn't it? And now he's gotten past it. He has a new
      girl, and all his friends are out there. I'm glad but, God, I'm
      jealous. Can you believe it? I'm *jealous*."

      Reaching over, Ororo gripped Jean's forearm. "I think that you do
      underestimate him." She genuinely hadn't realized how attached Jean
      was to Scott. "He has friends there, it is true. But he has friends
      here, as well, and he has not forgotten us. He did ask about you."

      "He did?"

      "Yes, he did."

      Ororo was lying through her teeth, but she would see to it that Scott
      Summers resumed some kind of contact with Jean Grey.


      Continued directly in part 8b ....

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    • Minisinoo
      My sincere apologies. I am ... UTTERLY confused ... as to why this has suddenly appeared (again!) *months* later. Yahoo regurgitation weirdness, I fear.
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 16, 2002
        My sincere apologies. I am ... UTTERLY confused ... as to why this
        has suddenly appeared (again!) *months* later. Yahoo regurgitation
        weirdness, I fear.


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