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AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE: Pomp and Circumstance (13a) ensemble, prefilm

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  • Minisinoo
    AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE: Pomp and Circumstance Minisinoo http://www.themedicinewheel.net/accidental/accidental.html RECAP: It s been a couple
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 9, 2003
      Pomp and Circumstance

      RECAP: It's been a couple months since I posted a chapter to this.
      Therefore, I'll do what I don't usually do -- give a little recap.
      In the two previous chapters, 11 and 12, Jean, Hank and Bruce Banner
      were all caught in an unexpected lab explosion, resulting in the
      further mutation of Hank into his blue form, and the mutation of
      Bruce into a "big, green thing." Scott is called back from Berkeley
      and the fledgling X-Men face their first real "mission" -- rescuing
      the Hulk. They fail. Frank is wounded and the Hulk flees, only to
      be shot multiple times by the NYPD, falling into the waters of the

      NOTES: The description of the car accident that killed Annie might
      trouble some, although if you've gotten this far, I doubt it.
      Information on investigating explosions came from my friend the
      ex-cop Randy, and info on Berkeley's graduation came from Mack.

      NEW READERS ... if you're completely new to the group and want to
      catch up, all previous chapters are available at the link above.


      Exhausted in body and heart, all three of Xavier's wards were asleep
      in the back of the Bentley by the time he reached Westchester. He
      hated to wake them, but it was necessary. *Children*, he sent into
      their minds. *We are home. You should go to your rooms and sleep.*

      Ororo was the first awake, a bit startled. "Frank -- "

      "Is fine. Warren returned him safely home, and while Henry is
      wounded, he is not incapacitated. He set Francesco's leg, gave him
      some pain-killers, and ordered him to rest. You should join him."

      Nodding, Ororo got out, followed by Scott and Jean, stupid with lack
      of sleep, though Scott retained enough presence of mind to fetch
      Xavier's wheelchair for him. Xavier thanked him, then shooed him
      off. As tired as Charles was himself, he had age on his side. He
      never slept more than five hours on any given night, and was
      perfectly comfortable with that. His first order of business was to
      discover what was known, what wasn't known, and what would be
      necessary to do, in order to protect his children.

      Upstairs, Jean barely pulled off her shoes before collapsing on her
      bed. Yet she dozed and woke, dozed and woke, fitful in the heat and
      clammy with sweat, until finally, in the late-afternoon, she woke a
      final time and left her room. Pushing open a door catty-corner down
      the hall, she entered. Scott's room without knocking. Why she'd
      come there, she couldn't have explained, but at some primal level,
      Scott represented comfort to her. The westering sun fell in the
      window, making stark blocks of butter yellow on the mahogany
      furniture and the carpets. Scott lay sprawled on his stomach, on top
      of the sheets. He'd taken off his shirt but that was all, and he
      looked to be as warm as she, his face all flushed and his hair damp.
      His duffle bag lay in a chair where he'd dropped it before they'd
      left, but otherwise, the room had an appearance of hibernation,
      decorated by the generic and what had been left behind. Scott no
      longer lived here. It struck her like blow beneath the breastbone.

      She crawled up onto the bed anyway, and he woke a little, peering at
      her through his goggles. She could see the faint light of his open
      eyes. "Jean?" His voice was throaty with sleep.

      "Bad dreams," she replied and snuggled down beside him without
      asking, her back to his front. His arm snaked around her to pull her
      closer, like a plush toy, as chaste as siblings. She cried a little.
      "I've missed you." He didn't reply, just stirred her hair with his
      breath and his fingers. After a while, she slept. So did he.

      They woke again after the sun had gone down, their internal time
      clocks all disjointed. She turned to face him in the dimness of the
      bedroom and they lay nose to nose. His breath was sour with sleep.
      "Have you ever seen someone die?" he asked, blunt with his shock.

      "Yes," she replied, almost without thinking.

      He blinked -- she could see the light behind his goggles disappear
      and reappear -- then he said, "Yeah, I guess so. Dumb question.
      You're a doctor."

      But that hadn't, actually, been what she'd meant. "No," she said
      now. "I mean, yes, sure, as a doctor. But once before, too." She
      stopped; he waited. She'd never before told him about Annie. It was
      her private nightmare, and he'd been young, a boy; she'd
      automatically protected him. But here, now, that fell away. She no
      longer saw him like a little brother, sometimes annoying, but dear.
      He was a man -- young, but a man -- and last night, she'd bowed to
      his command of the situation without even thinking about it. He was
      her equal, her leader sometimes, her confidant. Her friend.

      "Annie," she said now, as if that one name were ripe with the
      explanation of her whole self, and in a way, it was. "Annie
      Richardson. She lived across the street from me. Her parents taught
      at Bard, too. We lived in the �faculty ghetto,' but
      Annandale-on-Hudson isn't big and I think most of the town is
      involved with the college in some way."

      "Like an air force base."

      "A little. Annie was my best friend." Jean smiled. "I liked being
      in her house, I liked her parents. It was an escape for me. Her mom
      was the antithesis of mine -- utterly 1960's Flower Child. Kate and
      Larry -- her parents -- had met in San Francisco in some kind of
      co-op, then had Annie. Her real name wasn't even Annie, but
      'Anahita' after some Persian goddess."

      "I don't blame her for going by Annie."

      "I don't think she minded, really. She liked being different, but
      the fact that her parents had never formally married was a bigger
      scandal in our sleepy, little New England town. They were the kind
      of people you couldn't help but like, if you got to know them, but
      most people still talked about them behind their backs. "

      "You liked the exotic." It wasn't a question.

      She didn't give it a direct answer. "Over at Annie's house, I was
      allowed to do things my mother wouldn't even consider -- bounce on
      the bed, run around outside with no shoes, eat spaghetti with my
      fingers, and play with tarot cards." She fell silent then, lost in
      speculative memory of what her life might have been, if not for an
      errant Frisbee and a speeding car.

      When some time had passed, Scott finally prompted, "What happened?"
      The question was soft and gentle in the room's twilight.

      "I felt her die."

      "You *felt* her die?"

      Jean touched her forehead, as if somehow her fingertips could brush
      away the telepathic gift that had driven her mad. "I was ten; she'd
      just turned eleven. It was the summer before we went to middle
      school. We were playing outside. It was twilight -- that time when
      it's too dark too see clearly but it's not really night yet. My
      mother had called me twice for dinner and I'd been ignoring her; we
      were playing Frisbee and listening to the radio. I can remember just
      what was playing, too. REO Speedwagon, 'Keep on Loving You.' I
      still can't listen to that goddamn song."

      She closed her eyes. He didn't push her, just waited while she
      circled this, tested the boundaries of old pain. He kept an arm
      around her, draped over her shoulder, and patted her back.

      "I threw the Frisbee a little too hard, and it was too dark to see
      well, so Annie missed it and went running after it. Our houses were
      right across from each other, one house in from the corner. Down
      the block lived this boy -- Terry Watson. He was a senior, and had
      this ugly old brown Impala, and he always used to come tearing around
      our corner with it like a bat out of hell."

      And even though Scott had never heard this story before, he could
      guess what was coming. He held her a little closer.

      "He hit her." It was simple. Three words, delivered flat. Scott
      moved his hand up to run fingers through her thin hair. In the
      background, he could hear the hum of the fan, stirring limpid air.

      "I'm sorry," he said finally, words pulled out by the weight of
      Jean's silence.

      "The left front fender. It knocked her back into our yard. I ran
      over to her and Terry had stopped the car. He was yelling at us, at
      her, but he was scared more than angry. He wanted to blame her for
      being in the road, instead of himself for driving too fast, because
      he knew this wasn't a little thing. It wasn't a speeding ticket.

      "And I *knew* that, Scott. I didn't guess it; I wasn't told that
      later. I knew it, felt it, saw it in his mind. I yelled back at him
      to go call an ambulance. By that time, people were coming out of
      their houses, and Annie's mother was screaming. I knew what all of
      them were thinking -- the shock, the fear, even the sick interest.

      "Annie was bleeding everywhere, or that's what it seemed like to me
      then. You see it in accident victims a lot -- a little blood forced
      out of the nose, mouth, ears, and eyes by the impact. It breaks the
      tiny capillaries in thin membranes. It scared me, and I could *feel*
      her hurting. I'd pulled her up into my lap and held on. Now, I'd
      know better than to do that, but I don't think it would have made a
      difference. One whole side of her ribcage had been broken and the
      bones had punctured her right lung. She drowned on her own blood,
      but that took about five or ten minutes. Her mother was just
      hysterical, so I held her instead. She couldn't talk because she
      didn't have any air, and she was so frightened. There's no fear like
      not being able to breathe, and she didn't really know what was
      happening; it hurt too much for her to think, but she was pretty sure
      she was dying and she didn't want to die. So she was clutching at
      me" -- Jean demonstrated unconsciously by gripping Scott's upper arms
      -- "and then the blood stared coming out of her mouth . . . a lot
      more than had at first." Jean touched her chin, then began to cry.

      "Shhh," Scott said, pulling her head against his shoulder because he
      really had no idea what else to do. What was he supposed to say to
      this? EJ would know., but Scott felt inadequate.

      After some time had passed, Jean quieted, and said, "It was dark,
      where she went, but not scary. You hear people talk about white
      lights and all that, but I never saw any lights. We just kind of . .
      . sank down. Like we were at the bottom of a well -- sitting
      cross-legged at the bottom of a well. And it didn't hurt there. It
      felt good. We were holding hands, just like friends do, but I knew
      she had to go. She didn't say anything to me -- there wasn't any, 'I
      must go, but you must stay!' sermon. It was just . . . like at the
      end of the day, when I knew I'd have to go in soon, and I didn't want
      to. I'd rather have stayed with Annie, but it just wasn't an option.
      I felt her slip away finally. Her fingers left mine and she went .
      . . somewhere else. Maybe she saw the white light there, I don't

      "Anyway, where I was, it was warm and dark and it didn't hurt and I
      just wasn't too interested in waking up.

      "So I didn't. Not for a long time. Sixteen months." She felt his
      arms tense. "When Annie died I was ten. When I woke up again, I was
      twelve, and there were other people in my head. I thought I'd died
      after all, and gone straight to hell. I couldn't even tell what was
      me, and what wasn't. Forget sixteen personalities. I had hundreds.
      Whoever came near -- nurses, patients, doctors. They put me in a
      sanitarium because they thought I was psychotic. 'Dissociative
      disorder with aspects of bipolar I' was my diagnosis. So I was out
      of my mind, my parents consulted half the psychiatrists in the State
      of New York, and Sara -- my older sister -- was left pretty much to
      fend for herself. It's probably no great surprise that there isn't
      much love lost between Sara and me now. It's not easy to be the
      sibling of a chronically ill child."

      Abruptly, Jean sat up, sliding out of his arms to push her hair back
      from her face. "So now you know the story of Crazy Jean."

      "You're not crazy," Scott said from the bed. "You survived."

      "Barely. Dad heard about the professor through a mutual friend, and
      called him in desperation for a fourteenth opinion . . . forget
      second or third. Of course the professor knew exactly what was wrong
      with me. He shut down the telepathy entirely, like catching a roach
      under a Tupperware bowl."

      Scott didn't miss the comparison of her gift to a parasite.

      "*Then*, of course, the TK exploded. I was out of the hospital by
      then, and the professor had explained to my parents what I was. It's
      a good thing the telepathy and telekinesis didn't happen at once, or
      the doctors would've decided I was *possessed*, not just nuttier than
      a fruitcake. Can you imagine?"

      "How old were you then?"


      "You mean you made up all that school you lost in two years before
      college?" Scott was astonished.

      Her smile was wry. "Three, actually. I went to college a year late,
      like you. But it's not that surprising. It wasn't like I had
      anything *else* to do with my time, like oh, say, dates or football
      games or school dances. I never went to high school, Scott; I had
      private tutors. And I was able to do a little school in the psych
      ward. Plus, telepathy gives you a certain advantage. I picked up
      all kinds of odd things right out of people's heads. But I wonder if
      maybe what happened with Annie isn't why I went into medicine. I
      never want to be *helpless* like that again, dammit."

      Quite possibly. Scott had heard of other people who became doctors
      for similar reason. In any case, and despite her disparaging
      comments, he was still astonished by how quickly she'd made up her
      educational void. He'd known she was smart, but it had never before
      come home to him quite so concretely.

      Reaching out, he gripped one of her long hands again and rubbed the
      top of it with his thumb. "I think you're amazing." Frank, Ororo,
      now Jean . . . it made his own previous life seem blissfully easy,
      and the guilt of good fortune wrapped bands around his chest and
      squeezed until she lay back down beside him and stroked his cheek.

      "Don't knock being normal, Scott. It's something about you that I've
      always liked -- you're this perfectly normal guy. It's . . . nice .
      . . to have a friend like that."

      Her hand was soft and he was suddenly very conscious of the fact that
      she was lying in his bed, touching his face. It struck right out of
      his mind any question of how she'd known he was feeling guilty.
      Three years ago, this would have been a fantasy come true. Now . . .
      he wasn't sure what he felt. She continued to stroke his cheek and
      he caressed her in turn, her shoulder, her arm, her hair. Their legs
      were intertwined. There was more in it than mere sibling attachment,
      but paramount was their need for human connection in the face of
      death, a reminder that their own hearts still beat. After a while,
      comfortable and still tired, first Scott, then Jean, fell asleep.

      When they woke again, it was the middle of the night. As he'd fallen
      asleep first, Scott also woke first and tried to get out of bed
      without disturbing her, intending to shower, but she woke anyway and
      raised her head to look around in the moonlit room. "Unh?"

      "Hey, sleepyhead."

      "Scott?" Then she remembered and pushed herself up, slightly
      embarrassed. "Oh. Uh, sorry about barging in on you last night."

      He'd turned to smile at her. "Hey, I don't mind. What are friends

      And she smiled back. They'd edged a little past the usual boundaries
      for friends the evening before, but if he was content not to go
      there, so was she. Exhaustion both physical and emotional had left
      her vulnerable, and while she didn't regret for a minute telling him
      about Annie, the sensual session that had followed had left her
      confused. However much she cared for him -- and she always seemed to
      be brought back around by circumstance to how deeply that caring went
      -- she'd never returned his infatuation. At least, not consciously.
      Her adolescence in a psych ward had schooled her well in how to shut
      away thoughts that weren't socially acceptable, and so she liked to
      forget that her first reaction to him, lying on his back in the mud
      after she'd hit him with her car, had been purely visceral. He'd
      been a pretty boy, and he'd become a prettier man, and the chemistry
      of attraction was neither predictable nor inclined to respect social
      boundaries. She'd never allowed herself to consider acting on it,
      though, nor had even allowed herself to recognize precisely what she
      felt. The chasm of age and life experience had been as real as the
      attraction, so sublimation had become the name of the game, yet it
      was harder to sublimate when he wasn't a boy any more.

      "I'm going to go shower," he said now.

      "I should, too. I'll head back to my room. Meet me in the staff
      kitchen for a little breakfast at midnight?"

      "You bet."

      So she left him to himself, and whatever his easy responses, his own
      feelings upon waking beside her had been just as confused as hers.
      He'd thought himself over her, at least in any romantic sense. After
      all, his feelings for Clarice had been real and profound -- his first
      true love. Jean had been just a crush, however powerful. And he'd
      dated women since Clarice, if none with any seriousness. But Jean .
      . . .

      Inside his room's little private bath, he leaned a fist against the
      door and just breathed. "Get a grip," he muttered to himself. It
      would be beyond foolish for him to fall back into that hopeless
      pursuit. Jean was almost thirty and he was barely legal. She'd have
      no more interest in him now than she'd had three and a half years
      ago. The problem was -- it wasn't a little crush any more. And if
      he were honest with himself, it hadn't been a little crush for some
      time. Perhaps his fey melancholia over the past year hadn't been due
      only to his breakup with Clarice, or his impending graduation, but to
      his lapsed contact with Jean.

      "You are a complete and total *idiot*," he told himself, leaning back
      against the door and banging his skull lightly against the wood.
      Against all good sense, yes, indeed, he'd fallen for Jean Grey all
      over again, but not the angelic vision he'd considered her when he'd
      been eighteen. Her tragedy drew him, but so did her strength. She
      was everything he'd ever wanted. And too old for him.

      Doffing his 'mission' clothing, he climbed into the shower, rinsing
      away sweat and frustrated lust, then got out to dress before heading
      downstairs. He wasn't, it seemed, the only one awake, though Jean
      wasn't yet there. He found Ororo at the stove in the kitchen, making
      food for Francesco. He eyed it skeptically, though it was only soup.
      "Is that going to be edible?"

      "Up yours," she said pleasantly, and finished her task while he
      grabbed a box of microwavable pancakes out of the freezer and popped
      four in the toaster oven. Frank sat at the eat-in table, his eyes
      focused on the far wall. He spoke neither to Scott nor Ororo, and
      Scott was jolted back into reality and what had happened less than
      twenty-four hours ago.

      When his pancakes were done, he took butter, syrup and pancakes to
      the table and sat by his friend. "Hey," he said. "How's the leg?"

      "Broken," Frank replied with rare (for him) wit. He turned to focus
      those Italian-black eyes on Scott. "What happened at Fort Tryon
      should not have happened."

      Scott thought about that. "You told me once that futures can be
      predicted, but never 'the future.'"

      "True. But there are the more probable and the less probable."

      Scott chewed on that along with a bite of his pancakes. "I screwed
      up, didn't I? When I shot him." Guilt struck like the impact of a
      brown Impala.

      But Frank shook his head. "Not you only." It wasn't precisely
      polite, but when a Seeing took Frank, he forgot to be polite. "It
      should not have ended as it ended. He should have stopped when I did
      not move. He should have *stopped*."

      "That's why you didn't obey my order to get out of the way?"

      And the term 'order' surprised Scott. He hadn't been in charge; how
      could it have been an order? Yet Frank didn't object, said only,
      "Yes, exactly. You should not have shot him. Fighting him brought
      the guard. But then the next branching point was whether or not we
      let him escape. In the *probable* futures, he did not hit me. He
      stopped. We stopped him."

      Though Scott had known Frank for years, in many ways, he still didn't
      fully understand Frank's gift, and Frank spoke now as if he were a
      god, knowing what might have happened and what should have happened
      as well as what had happened. Their Italian Apollo.

      Which thought brought him to a sudden and painful question. With a
      glance towards the door -- Jean still hadn't arrived, but Ororo was
      finished with the soup and had brought it over -- he asked, "How much
      did you *see*, Frank?"

      Frank studied Scott a beat, then bent to blow on his soup and tried a
      sip. "I saw variations on the outcome of our trip to the park."

      "That's all? You didn't . . . You didn't see the explosion?" As
      Frank was constantly reminding them all, he did not see everything.

      But now, he didn't answer and Ororo's glance at Scott was sharp with
      reproof. Suddenly alarmed, Scott reached over to grab Frank's wrist.
      "Fuck it, Frank. *Tell* me you didn't know about the explosion.
      Please tell me."

      "I knew," Frank said.

      And Scott released him to sit back, too shocked, too angry, and too .
      . . what? *Afraid.* Too afraid to reply immediately. "Why?" he
      asked when he got his voice back.

      Frank didn't look at him but concentrated on his soup while Ororo
      continued to glare with that unique protectiveness she reserved only
      for Francesco. "There are crossroads," Frank began. "Pivotal
      events. This was one such." His voice was harsh. "So -- did I save
      those I knew? Or did I prevent a war? Which would you have chosen?"

      "Wasn't there a third option?"

      Frank looked up. "No." It was unequivocal.

      Scott looked down at his pancakes, then pushed the plate away. He
      was no longer hungry. Rising, he left the staff kitchen to wander.

      He hadn't known Bruce Banner, and he'd certainly not held much
      affection for Ted Roberts. But they were dead. And Hank was blue.
      And Frank had known but hadn't stopped it.

      He heard the tap-tap of feet behind him and turned, half expecting
      Jean. It was Ororo. She stopped a few feet away. "It is not your
      place to judge!" Her voice was harsher than he'd ever heard it.
      "This choice has nearly broken his heart!"

      "I'm not judging." And he wasn't. Not like she meant. "But doesn't
      it make you wonder? He'd sacrifice us all, wouldn't he?"

      "To prevent the death of thousands? Yes! Would you wish it to be
      otherwise? Do you think he could choose otherwise? This is what
      makes him Francesco." *This is what makes me love him.* She didn't
      say it, but the addendum was obvious. And from Ororo, queen of
      emotional independence, the depth of her attachment to this one man
      was striking.

      "I . . . " He trailed off. She came nearer until they stood face to
      face. Jean might be older than him, but he doubted she'd ever
      confront him quite this way. It was what he admired about Ororo
      Munroe. When she believed something, she granted no quarter. They'd
      never have made a couple, even if she hadn't had Francesco. Yet
      sometimes he wondered. If matters had fallen out differently, might
      he have fallen in love with her? She was magnificent. But not for
      him. Now, he finished, "I don't think I'd want it to be otherwise,
      no. But that kind of power . . . doesn't it scare you?"

      "In anyone else, yes. In Frank, no. Do you fear Professor Xavier's

      "No." And he didn't.

      She nodded once, decisively, then turned on her heel and went back to
      the kitchen. He watched the sway of her hair, unbound, rippling like
      their choices. Still not hungry, he went on to his own room and
      spent some time thinking as he packed to return to Berkeley. He
      sincerely hoped that neither Hank nor Jean ever learned the truth.
      It wouldn't be so philosophical to them. Scott was also fairly sure
      that there was more to it all than Frank was admitting.

      Nor was he alone in his suspicions. Some hours later, when Ororo
      found herself finally outside with Frank, she asked him, "How will
      what happened the night before last prevent a war?" She could
      imagine only that it would make things more tense, not less.

      It was dawn, and she was working in her garden while Francesco sat on
      a bench, smoking, his leg elevated beside him. "Without this team
      we're building," he said, "there will be a war between mutant and
      non-mutant. Yet if Scott doesn't return, there will be no team.
      Without the night before last, he wouldn't have returned."

      "Couldn't one of the rest of us create it?" She didn't think of
      herself as a leader, but if it came to war or peace, she'd certainly

      Frank watched her as she bent over the dahlias, thinning them. She
      might, indeed, lead them one day. She had the strength. But she was
      not the one to build them; she was the one to nurture them, as much
      as it might surprise her to hear that. "We need Scott," he said.

      "Why do you think this accident with Dr. Banner will make him return?
      No one that he knew has died, and the 'mission'" -- her voice was
      sour -- "was a spectacular failure."

      "He will return," Frank said with the certainty of a pronouncement.

      Ororo eyed him. "I hate it when you do that."

      Continued directly in part 13b.....

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