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  • Minisinoo
    AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE BIG GREEN Minisinoo http://www.themedicinewheel.net/accidental/aiof11.html Notes: See end. For nitpickers, I did fudge the
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 10 5:21 PM
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      Notes: See end. For nitpickers, I did fudge the application
      deadline for Berkeley�s anthropology department in order to place it
      after New Year�s. Thanks to Domenika for Columbia graduation
      information, and Andraste for a read-through of Xavier; errors are my


      "Four, three, two, ONE -- *whoo-hoo!* Happy New Year! *Happy New

      On the TV screen, the new Times Square Waterford crystal ball had
      descended seventy-seven feet to set off the flashing "2000" light
      display at the flagpole bottom. Balloons, streamers and confetti
      erupted skyward right along with fireworks and cheers from tens of
      thousands of throats packed into the square for this special -- and
      frigid -- New Year�s Eve. In the mansion den, which was considerably
      warmer with a fire going, there were also cheers and noisemakers and
      balloons, but no confetti. No one wanted to vacuum up the carpet in
      the morning.

      Fortunately, the celebration wasn�t marred by any sudden loss of
      power or other dire disaster. "So much for Y2K!" Warren shouted.
      Scott had been saying the same thing for months, but doubt had
      remained in the minds of the rest of his adoptive-family.

      Now, the professor raised his goblet in the midst of noisemakers and
      laughter. "Happy New Year, children. Let�s hope for as much peace
      and quiet to come as we�ve enjoyed this last year."

      "Amen!" Hank agreed, and they all raised their glasses in answer --
      Xavier, Hank, Jean, Warren, Ororo, Frank, Scott, and even young Bobby
      (who�d been allowed a little champagne). "To peace," Jean echoed,
      and they drank. Scott thought that Frank�s expression appeared a bit
      troubled, but he said nothing aloud.

      "Wow! This is like, so cool!" Bobby was saying. "It�s, like, a
      whole new millennium!"

      "Actually," Hank corrected, "the new millennium began either three or
      four years ago, depending on what argument one follows regarding the
      shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. Thus, if one wishes
      to count back to the Year One -- as there was no year zero -- 2000 is
      actually 2003, or thereabouts. And even if that were not the case,
      the new millennium would begin next year -- with 2001. 2000 would be
      the final year of the old millennium."

      And the rest of them just broke up laughing. "What?" Hank asked. "I
      wasn�t trying to be funny."

      Jean, who stood beside him, set down her flute to slip both arms
      around his sizable bicep and hug tightly. "Hank, dear, we�re
      laughing because you would know all that, but . . . we really don�t
      care!" Yet it was said fondly, and she grinned up at him. "Happy
      New Year, old friend!" and she stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek,
      then let him go to move over to Scott, saying softly, "Happy New Year
      to you, too." And she clinked her retrieved flute against his.

      "Happy New Year," he replied, hugging her fiercely with his free arm.
      "I�ve missed you."

      "I�ve missed you, too, boy-O. I�m glad we had tonight."

      "Ditto." And he was indeed grateful for whatever bribe had secured
      her freedom on this most special of New Year�s Eves. He�d talked to
      her more in the past six hours than he had in the last six months,
      and he chalked up the closeness of their hug now to simple pleasure
      in a renewed camaraderie. Finally, she released him to move on
      around the room, and he did the same. When he got to Xavier and bent
      to embrace the professor, Xavier sent, *You have something to tell
      me, Scott?* It was a question that wasn�t a question. *You�ve been
      avoiding it, haven�t you?*

      Surprised -- though he shouldn�t have been -- Scott pulled back.
      "Yes," he said softly. "But it can wait."

      "It can wait, but not forever. Come see me sometime tomorrow."

      Scott tensed, and reading that as clearly and easily as a flare,
      Xavier added, "I�m not angry, son But we need to talk about your
      future." And then he turned away to exchange well wishes with Bobby.

      Troubled, Scott moved back, and if he smiled at the others, he didn�t
      feel so celebratory now; after half an hour, he found an excuse to
      retire to his bedroom. There, he tossed and turned for a while,
      twisting the sheets in an echo of his own confused thoughts.
      Finally, he slept.

      The next morning, feeling both sluggish and nervous, he fetched a
      letter from his luggage and made his way downstairs. *I�m in the
      conservatory,* the professor sent. *I�ve been waiting for you to
      wake. Please join me.*

      The mental message almost made Scott jump out of his skin, but he
      took a deep breath and headed in that direction. Memories floated up
      to the surface of his mind of another letter shown to another father
      four years ago. Both letters had involved a wish to follow a dream,
      yet the first had been perceived as a defiance, a betrayal, and that
      was the last impression he wanted to give this time.

      Scott found Xavier sitting in a patch of sun, a blanket thrown over
      his useless legs. He was dressed casually, or more casually than
      Scott usually saw him, in a loose, dark sweater over a light
      turtleneck. His face was sad, but not disappointed, or angry, and he
      gestured to the bench near his chair. Feeling lightheaded and a
      little weak, Scott took it. His stomach, which had been roiling
      since he�d woken, now issued a nervous belch. It embarrassed him,
      and he flushed, but Xavier merely held out a hand for the letter and
      Scott turned it over to him.

      Educational Testing Service read the upper left-hand corner return
      address, with its distinctive oak leaf symbol. Slipping out the
      form, Xavier read the scores that ought to have been a cause for
      celebration, not Scott�s shamefaced hesitation. "Verbal," he said
      aloud, "630, quantitative, 760, and analytical, 780." He glanced up
      and waved the paper. "You do realize these GREs will likely ensure
      you a graduate assistantship at all but the most competitive

      Scott shrugged with one shoulder. That hadn�t been quite the
      response that he�d expected. "That�s what Fred said -- Dr. Hand, in
      the anthropology department at Berkeley."

      Xavier nodded. "So I take it that you�ve applied for the graduate

      Leaning over, elbows braced on his knees, Scott sighed. "Not yet. I
      just took the tests to see what my scores might be. Everybody in
      anthro is telling me I should apply, though. Well, not everybody,
      but you know." Xavier did know. Any graduate program would be happy
      to acquire a student of Scott�s caliber.

      "Are you going to apply, then?"

      The boy looked away. "I don�t know."

      And he didn�t. He still hadn�t entirely made up his mind. It would
      mean abandoning his previous plans and he�d never considered himself
      flighty by nature, but was it flighty to recognize that the goals one
      had at eighteen might not be relevant at twenty-one? And yet, and
      yet, and yet . . . he felt that he owed Charles Xavier. The
      professor had put him through college, and pride made Scott view that
      kindness as a scholarship, not a charity -- an education in return
      for service. Now, he was considering going back on the implied
      promise of service and his conscience pricked him. Moreover, common
      sense required him to ask how he�d pay for graduate school. Even if
      he were able to secure a graduate assistantship that waived his
      tuition, he�d have to work in addition to the assistantship, just to
      survive the cost of living in California.

      "If I do apply," Scott said now, "I�ll pay you back for putting me
      through school."

      "You will not. I told you before �- "

      "That was when I was planning to come back here and teach!"

      And his exclamation stopped them both -- a moment of honesty brought
      out by guilt.

      "And now you don�t plan that," Xavier finished softly.

      Rubbing his eyes beneath his glasses, Scott said, "I don�t know."
      The tone was pained, and half-choked, and despite the chill of
      midwinter, Scott felt suddenly hot all under the skin.

      Charles leaned forward. "Tell me what you do want, son. Not what
      you think you ought to do."

      Something in the timbre of the question unlocked the dungeon inside
      Scott, and words spilled out of his mouth. "I always thought I
      wanted to be an engineer and design planes. Then I thought I wanted
      to teach math. But now I find I�m more curious about how people
      learned to do things -- why some things developed in one place, but
      not in others. I think plain engineering would bore me now."
      Abruptly he grinned. "Pun not intended, but appropriate. I like
      asking 'why,' y�know? Not just the what and how. Maybe Jean and her
      theorizing is rubbing off on me, but I read stuff, and I keep
      thinking, 'Okay, yeah, but *why*?' I never really thought I�d be
      interested in a bunch of dead people, but I am. I want to find out
      how they did things, and why." Abruptly, he looked away again.
      "It�s not very practical."

      Xavier smiled. "No, it�s not. But if all we ever did was the
      'practical,' would life be much fun?"

      "Well, no -- but I�m not talking about taking up a hobby. Can I make
      a career out something so esoteric? *Should* I? Is saying, 'Because
      I like it,' good enough? Or is that just selfish?"

      Xavier shook his head. "You�ve asked a very hard question. Not
      everyone has the luxury of pursuing their interests. And not
      everyone has the *ability* to consider graduate school -- and I do
      not mean simply in terms of their intellect. Graduate school
      requires both perseverance and an ability to self-start -- to choose
      a research topic and pursue it for reasons of interest, not external
      pressure. You have both of those -- as well as the intellectual
      capacity." And the professor waved the printout with Scott�s
      exceptional test scores.

      "So you think I should do it?" Scott was amazed.

      "I think you should consider it."

      �But, I don�t -- �

      Xavier held up a hand to stop the flood of questions. "Right now, I
      want you to consider only two things -- is this what you *want*, and
      do you want it badly enough to invest what will be the next six to
      eight years of your life in it, assuming you go for a full Ph.D.? If
      you answer 'yes' to both of those, then we shall consider other
      questions . . . such as the cost, which I know concerns you."

      Too stunned to speak for a moment, Scott leaned back. Finally, he
      said, "I can already answer those questions you asked. Yes, to both
      of them."

      Xavier nodded. He wasn�t surprised; he�d felt this moment coming for
      months. "Then you must follow where your heart leads, Scott. You
      must live your own dreams, not what you think are mine because you
      have a misplaced sense of obligation." And he winked. "Why don�t
      you go get some breakfast? We�ll discuss the details later, and
      prepare your application package before you miss the deadline."

      "And that was it?" EJ asked Scott when both returned to Berkeley for
      the spring semester.

      "Well, there were still details, but that was pretty much it," Scott
      replied, still astonished himself that his graduate school fancies
      had been received with calm understanding, even encouragement,
      although intellectually, he knew that the professor wasn�t like his
      father. He�d still been prepared for the worst. Chris Summers might
      deny being a hothead, but in some matters, he had a trigger-temper.
      And -- if he were honest with himself -- Scott knew that he did as
      well. Stereotypically, Scott and Chris were too much alike in all
      the wrong ways.

      Scott�s application did make the deadline, if barely, and then began
      the wait to see if he�d be accepted for the next fall, and be
      accepted with a graduate assistantship. In the final call, that had
      been the compromise on which he and Xavier had settled. The
      professor would�ve been willing to pay the cost of his graduate
      education as well as his undergraduate, but Scott had refused, pride
      unable to accept that much generosity. Xavier had realized as much,
      so they�d agreed that the determining factor would be a graduate
      assistantship. If Scott received one, he�d go on to graduate school.
      If he didn�t, he�d return to the mansion to teach. Xavier himself
      had little doubt that Scott would receive one, but being under the
      pressure gun, Scott wasn�t so sure.

      That spring, Scott lived somewhere between anticipation, sadness, and
      an increasing disconnection, but disconnection from whom he couldn�t
      say -- his friends in Berkeley, or his family back at the mansion?
      The summer�s end would bring his college career to a conclusion, and
      graduate school, if he were accepted, would be different, more
      serious. If he were not accepted, then this would be his final
      semester at Berkeley, summer being merely a coda. Placed thus
      between a rosy past and an uncertain future, life took on shades of
      pastel nostalgia and fey shadows. He spent more effort on his
      schoolwork, but also played harder, dating heavily if never seriously
      and performing with an exaggerated showmanship for Soapbox, who now
      gigged as far away as San Francisco and San Jose. The band, too, was
      reaching the end of an era. Even if Scott did make it into graduate
      school, Rick would finish at the end of this spring and leave town.
      They�d be looking for a new guitar player.

      Scott heard less from New York as well, increasing his dissociation.
      Warren was busy in the city, Frank was now in college himself
      locally, and despite their reconnection at New Year�s, Jean had sunk
      back into the final months of her clinical rotations and preparation
      for her second set of medical boards, disappearing from Scott�s life
      once more. She became a ghost from his past, the muse of his youth,
      traveling her road now while his diverged. What had they really had
      in common anyway? An X-gene? A brief belief that they could save
      the world? In retrospect, it all seemed rather silly -- a prophecy
      of a dark future, a secret sub-basement, and a mutant power training
      room like something out of a science-fiction movie. He read that
      stuff; he didn�t live it. RAIDER OF THE LOST ARK was closer to what
      he had in mind for his future.

      Scott remained in Berkeley for Spring Break that year to work on a
      paper, instead of going home with EJ as he had for the two previous
      years. If he and Clarice had finally grown easy again in one
      another�s presence, he wasn�t prepared for the Haight Family Pressure
      Cooker, and EJ didn�t press. So he spent his time working in the
      library, and watching over a friend�s newt. His paper faired well
      enough, the newt did not. It took him a few days to realize it was
      dead, not simply hibernating (or the amphibious equivalent), but a
      rotting-fish stink finally alerted him to the truth and with a
      wrinkled nose, he cleaned the tank after wrapping the newt�s body in
      cellophane and storing it in the freezer -- then forgot to tell EJ,
      who found six cans of Coke, three bottles of Michelob, one dead newt,
      and three boxes of Toni�s frozen pizza in the entire fridge, when he
      returned from LA.

      "I am never leaving you alone for a whole week again, Slimboy.
      You�re fucking dangerous on your own, to newts and your digestion
      both. Don�t tell me you ate like this last summer, too."

      "Okay, I won�t tell you."

      EJ rolled his eyes. "That�s what I was afraid of. And ain�t you
      ever heard of flushing dead stuff down the damn toilet? That�s what
      I did with my goldfish, man."

      "I thought Jerrod might want it back."

      "It�s freakin *dead*."

      "Yeah, well -- whatever."

      When Saint Patrick�s Day rolled around a week after spring break and
      Soapbox wasn�t scheduled to gig, EJ and Scott set out about
      four-thirty in the afternoon on a bar tour of Telegraph Avenue. As
      EJ was now twenty-one, it was even legal for a change, and in the
      course of the evening, Scott discovered just how well his mutated
      metabolism could process alcohol. He�d been aware for some time that
      he grew tipsy quicker and crashed sooner, and that a bag of Oreos
      shot his sugar levels high enough to qualify him for a temporary
      attention deficit disorder. But he�d had no idea just how ill he
      could make himself. They plowed through five bars and five pitchers
      of green beer in six hours that night, but first they had dinner in a
      nice restaurant with red-and-white checkered tablecloths and antique
      farming implements on the walls.

      "So what *did* you think of me when you first met me?" EJ asked while
      wolfing down a decidedly un-Irish double-portion of pasta with
      marinara sauce. They�d been reminiscing about their first year in a
      pre-emptive attack of Glory Days.

      "I thought you were something out of the hood." Scott�s own meal was
      the more traditional corned beef.

      EJ glanced up at him. "It�s *in* the hood, white boy." But it was
      said with humor, then he added, "I thought you were some spoiled rich
      Hollywood wannabe."

      Scott spit beer out his nose. "You�re fucking kidding."

      "Nope. It was the shades and the Gap wardrobe. Why�d you assume I
      was in the hood? Just my skin color?"

      "Christ, no. It was the clothes and the hair -- or lack of it."

      "Well, fuck -- I was *moving*, not going to a job interview. What�d
      you expect me to dress like?"

      Scott shrugged. "So we both made assumptions."

      "Yeah, okay, true." They ate in silence a while, then EJ said, "I�ve
      learned a lot, living with you. I wouldn�t trade it."

      "Me, either."

      "If you get into grad school, you gonna go into the grad dorms?"

      Surprised, Scott glanced up. "I hadn�t especially planned on it."
      Then a thought occurred to him. "Why? You want somebody else to
      move in?" He couldn�t help but grin.

      "What�s that supposed to mean?"

      Scott leaned back in his booth to lace hands together behind his
      head. He was still grinning. "Oh, nothing."


      "I was thinking of someone, you know, with the XX chromosome."

      EJ�s fork clattered to the stoneware pasta plate. People in booths
      around them glanced over and he bent across the table to say, more
      softly, "Whathefuck? Like *who*?"

      Scott�s grin deepened. "I�ll give you three guesses and the first
      two don�t freakin� count."

      "You�re full of shit." EJ went back to eating.

      "How many nights of the week is she over at our place?"

      "Fuck you."

      "I�m just pointing out a fact, Eeej. I thought maybe she could save
      time going back and forth if she just moved right in."

      "*Fuck you.*"

      Scott laughed and drank his beer. "Come on, admit it. You have it
      bad for her."

      "Yeah? And if I do?"

      "Good for you."

      EJ glanced up at him. "I�m serious," Scott said. "You two are good
      together. In fact" -- he leaned across the table in an echo of EJ�s
      previous gesture -- "I think you�ve never gotten serious about anyone
      else in the three years I�ve known you because you�ve been in love
      with Diane Hernandez the whole damn time and just weren�t ready to
      admit it to yourself."

      EJ�s mouth dropped open, giving Scott a clear view of half-chewed
      pasta. Then he swallowed and went back to his meal. After a minute,
      he said, "I haven�t even asked her out, man."

      "Well, maybe you ought to, lugwit."

      "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Maybe I will."

      Grinning, Scott toasted EJ with his beer.

      As things turned out, supper wasn�t the last meal they shared that
      night, though the second was five pitchers later and far less
      pleasant. EJ hadn�t realized that he needed to watch Scott�s alcohol
      intake, and Scott hadn�t realized that he needed to watch himself,
      and the drunker Scott became, the less he could judge how drunk he
      was. By a little after midnight, EJ had to half-carry him out of
      their fifth and final bar, though EJ himself wasn�t sober. "You�re
      trashed, man. I�m about three sheets to the wind, but fuck -- you�re
      *five*. Let�s get some food into you, and coffee." And he hauled
      Scott down to Blondie�s, the Berkeley branch of a San Francisco pizza
      parlor that served pie by the slice in an atmosphere balanced between
      McDonalds and an Italian highway trattoria, with decor in bold
      primary colors. The food was good, but greasy, and when one figured
      in burnt, bad coffee and too much alcohol in his bloodstream already,
      Scott�s stomach simply rebelled less than halfway into the meal and
      he spewed the counter with green-tinted barely digested bits of
      pizza. "Shit!" EJ yelled, embarrassed and appalled at once as watery
      vomit dripped off Formica onto the floor. Scott had it all over his
      front, as well as on the counter, the stool, and even on EJ�s jeans.
      Grabbing Scott, EJ hauled him through the restaurant and into the
      bathroom, after leaving a generous tip on the counter. Scott was
      reeling still and emptied the rest of his stomach into a toilet, then
      knelt shaking on the bathroom tile. Worry began to replace EJ�s
      disgust. "Man, this is serious bad news. You been drinking longer
      than me, Slim. Don�t you know when to quit?"

      "Never drank that much," Scott whispered. The room stank of
      disinfectant and piss, in addition to vomit, all of which only
      twisted his stomach more, but at least his head had cleared a bit,
      along with his field of vision. Objects didn�t swim in and out of
      it. And while he�d always hated the sensation of vomiting, at the
      moment, it was the best thing for him so he stuck a finger down his
      throat to make himself vomit again, but succeeded only in triggering
      his gag reflex and coughing. He was sweating and dizzy and unsure if
      he could get to his feet. "I am dog sick," he whispered.

      "No shit, Sherlock. Ever heard of alcohol poisoning?"

      "I didn�t drink any more, any faster than you did."

      EJ thought about that. It was true. "So maybe in the future you go
      light on the beer, just like on the sugar? Your body obviously don�t
      process food the same way mine does."

      Scott just nodded. This, he thought, was the downside of his
      mutation. And then he started to giggle. Here he was, trying to get
      into grad school, and he didn�t even have sense enough to know when
      to quit drinking. There was something ironic in that.

      Continued directly in Part 11b

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