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AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE: "All the King's Horses" 15c (S/J + ensemble)

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  • Minisinoo
    Continued directly from 15b...... ... Over the next several days, Charles made arrangements. It was what he excelled at -- making arrangements, covering
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 15 9:48 PM
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      Continued directly from 15b......
      --------------

      Over the next several days, Charles made arrangements. It was what
      he excelled at -- making arrangements, covering tracks, explaining
      the peculiar. A few phone calls, a little finessing, a gentle
      reminder of the Family Medical Leave Act, and Jean wasn't immediately
      booted from her residency program. Ororo was sent to the hospital to
      collect Jean's overnight bag and personal effects, while back at the
      mansion, temporary quarters were set up for her in the danger room.
      Xavier might have preferred to put her in the better-shielded
      Cerebro, but he was concerned for her sanity and didn't trust her
      alone in a big room with a narrow tongue of flooring stretching out
      into a large space of nothing. So she was housed in the danger room,
      which at least had moderate telepathic shields.

      Hank had arrived from Scotland, still blue, still angry, still
      depressed, but coming to terms with the permanence of his condition.
      He ran extensive tests on Jean and tried not to weep for the cracked
      state of her mind.

      "There have been definite alterations to her DNA," he reported later
      to the professor. "Just as there have been to mine, and just like --
      I'm sure if we had a sample -- to Bruce Banner's."

      "So you're saying that Dr. Banner's machine mutated all three of
      you."

      "Correct."

      Xavier pondered that. "You've argued that Bruce was a latent mutant,
      and that your mutation never completed itself at puberty, but how do
      you explain Jean, Henry?"

      Sighing, Hank removed his glasses and plopped down in the reinforced
      chair at his old desk in the sub-basement labs. He weighed close to
      three hundred pounds now, a bit more than most office furniture was
      designed to support. "I don't know," he answered. "I can't explain
      it. The machine wasn't supposed to affect either normal humans or
      fully manifested mutants, but I'm not sure Bruce got as far as
      testing it on full-mutant DNA. All the test results that I saw had
      been from experiments run on non-X controls and unexpressed X-gene
      samples. The best I can tell you is that it didn't affect the DNA of
      anyone *without* an X-gene."

      "Why weren't DNA tests run on Jean last summer?" Xavier snapped,
      growing angry.

      "I thought they were! At the time, I was a little distracted,
      Charles."

      And Xavier backed down, nodding.

      "I assumed," Hand said, "that Jean would automatically run them on
      herself, but if she did, there's no record of it. Maybe she thought
      that with no obvious changes, it hadn't affected her."

      "Or maybe she didn't want to know if it had."

      "That, too." Leaning forward, Hank picked up a stack of printouts
      from his overburdened desk and passed them to the professor. "Right
      now, that's all I've got." He paused, then asked, "Have you told
      Scott yet?"

      "No."

      "When are you going to tell him?"

      "I'm unsure. There is nothing he can do -- "

      "He has a right to know. It's been four days. You know he'll be
      furious if you wait much longer."

      Charles did know that. In fact, Scott would be furious that Xavier
      had waited as long as he had, but some premonition warned him that
      informing the boy would lead to a chain reaction Xavier might be
      loathe to face. Working with Jean -- *reassembling* Jean from the
      fragmented personalities in her head -- was taking all his focus. He
      had no wish to compound the situation by adding an anxious
      twenty-two-year-old to the mix.

      "Perhaps you should call him, Henry."

      But Hank McCoy just tilted his head down and raised both brows. "It
      needs to come from you. I'm surprised he hasn't called out here
      already."





      In fact, there was a simple reason why Scott Summers hadn't called
      yet. Doubt.

      He'd tipped his hand in his final chat with Jean, and she'd fled. He
      still wasn't convinced that her emergency had been real instead of a
      manufactured convenience, and the more time that passed with no word
      from New York, the more anxious he grew, certain he'd made a fatal
      error. His concentration failed in the midst of midterms and his
      mood skidded from distracted right into depressed.

      "Man, just *call*," EJ advised, tossing Scott's cell phone into
      Scott's lap where he sat on the couch. Scott stared at the phone,
      then picked it up and dialed, but all he received was a message that
      Jean's cell was off.

      Early the next morning their apartment phone rang. EJ had already
      gone to class and Scott dragged himself out of bed to answer. "'Lo?"

      "Scott? This is Professor Xavier."

      And that woke him up. Why would the professor be calling him at this
      hour of the morning? Swinging his legs over the side of his bed and
      feeling for his glasses instead of his goggles, he replied, "Yes,
      sir?"

      It came out slightly slurred, and Xavier asked, "Did I catch you at a
      bad time?"

      "What? No, no. I just got up, that's all. Sorry. What's
      happened?" The anxiety was back in his belly and he ran a nervous
      hand through his greasy hair.

      "There's been a certain development. But let me preface this by
      saying that, at the moment, there is nothing you can do about it.
      I'm simply informing you so that you're aware of the situation."

      The hair on Scott's arms and the back of his neck rose straight up.
      "What's happened?" he asked again.

      "Jean's telepathy has remanifested."

      And that wasn't at all what Scott had feared or steeled himself for.
      "What does that mean?"

      "The blocks I had placed in her mind some years ago have broken at
      last, and her telepathy is back. She's here at the mansion --
      perfectly fine physically, but a bit disoriented, as you can imagine.
      Henry is here, too, and we're both working with her."

      "Can I talk to her?"

      "She's not in a condition to talk on the phone, Scott."

      And the pinpricks of fear returned. "Maybe I should come out there?"

      "I see no reason for it. Don't you have a week's worth of class left
      before spring break, and other plans made for your vacation?"

      "Yeah, sure, but I could change them, it wouldn't --"

      "Scott. There is nothing that you can do here, even if you came."

      "I could keep her company, talk to her --"

      "No, you could not. Jean has been isolated in the danger room. It's
      necessary until she can learn proper shielding. At this point, she
      is unable to filter out the thoughts of any unshielded mind."

      "I should be there!" Scott protested, "at least for when she gets out
      of isolation."

      "Be here for how many *months*, son? No one can guess how long it
      will take her to build up her own mental shields. And repeating
      myself once again, there is nothing that you -- *a non-telepath* --
      can contribute."

      In short, he'd just be in the way. "*Then why call me?*" But it was
      more distraught than scolding.

      "I thought that you would want to know. Jean will be all right, but
      it will take time. You simply must be patient."

      Rage and fear replaced initial shock, and in a pique, he slammed the
      phone down, cutting off the professor. Then he bolted out of bed,
      showered and dressed . . . and stopped dead. What did he think he
      was doing? Reason had returned, and he knew that the professor was
      right, as far as it went. There was nothing for him to do, and it
      galled him. He needed more information.

      Grabbing his cell phone, he called New York again, but not the
      professor. Unfortunately, the person he sought didn't answer. He
      got Ororo instead. "Where's Frank?" Scott demanded.

      There was a little catch in her breath, then she replied, "He is at
      the library."

      "*Fuck.* Ro, what the hell is going on out there?"

      "What do you mean?"

      "Don't play fucking coy with me! What's happened to Jean?"

      There was a moment of silence before her tight reply. "I am not
      playing 'coy.' You asked a rather unspecific question. As for what
      has happened to Jean, I am neither a doctor nor a geneticist, but my
      understanding from what Henry has told us is that Bruce's machine
      altered her DNA as well as theirs; it simply took longer to manifest.
      And since her mutation is psionic, not physical, it was not readily
      apparent. Her telepathic capacity has burst its previous bounds."

      Scott sucked in breath. That alone was more information than Xavier
      had told him, and damn the professor for couching everything in
      platitudes. "You mean what happened to Hank and Bruce Banner
      happened to her?" His voice had squeaked up like a teenager's.

      "Scott, do not panic. This is serious, yes, but if anyone is
      equipped to help Jean, it is the professor."

      "He doesn't want me to come out there."

      "Well, there really is no reason for you to. She is isolated in the
      danger room and none of us has seen her since she arrived."

      "Not at all?"

      "No."

      "How did this happen anyway?"

      And so Ororo told him what she knew of events at the hospital. The
      more he heard, the more alarmed he grew. "She's lost it, hasn't
      she?" he finally interrupted to ask.

      "What do you mean?"

      "I mean . . . Christ, I don't know what I mean. But last time this
      happened to her, when she was a kid, she told me she was catatonic .
      . . Fuck, fuck, fuck. She was *catatonic*, Ro, for almost two
      fucking *years*. She was catatonic. So they put her in a mental
      ward, and even after she woke up, she was out of her mind for two
      years more." He sank down on his knees and tried to keep from
      shaking. "Please tell me she's not crazy."

      And on the other end of the phone line, Ororo had to wipe her eyes.
      "Oh, Scott. I am so sorry. I refuse to lie to you. She is not
      catatonic, no, but I do not think she is sane, either."

      Scott bent his head and sobbed.

      "Shhh," Ororo said in his ear. "Scott, remember -- she is not a
      child any longer. And she has the professor. I do not think it will
      take her so long this time."

      "Thanks," he whispered and shut off the phone, then knelt there, bent
      over, arms wrapped around himself. And out in New York, Ororo sat on
      the bed she shared with Francesco, staring at the phone. If it were
      Frank, how would she feel?

      When Frank returned to the mansion a few hours later, she hugged his
      neck tightly. "What's wrong?" he asked her in French. They were
      alone in the den.

      "I've talked to Scott."

      "Ah," he hugged her back. "He's on his way home, then?"

      Ororo pulled away to look at him. "He said nothing of the kind,
      actually. He asked the professor if he could, and was told not to."
      Her head tilted. "But he *will come*, won't he? He'll come back
      here." Frank gave a little shrug of one shoulder. "Francesco!"
      Ororo's eyes narrowed as her mind clicked through the bits and pieces
      of remembered conversations. "How long have you known this would
      happen to Jean? That's why you let the lab accident occur last
      summer, isn't it? Because you knew this would happen -- and Scott
      would come back for her."

      "He has to come back," was all Frank answered. "He has to come back
      and stay."

      Ororo thought of the broken woman in the basement and the man crying
      for her a continent away. "Sometimes," she said coldly, "I hate
      you."





      **"It's mind-boggling, to realize how tall they are, and how old."**

      **"Yeah."**

      **Jean and Scott had been lying on the forest floor in Redwood
      National Park on the Friday of her vacation. It had felt a bit odd,
      to take her to a place he'd once come with Clarice, but it had also
      felt right. He'd known she would appreciate the trees, and she had,
      so he'd shown her his trick of lying on his back, face to the sky so
      that the trees soared up and up all around, the living buttresses to
      great green cathedrals. If there was a god, this was his
      sanctuary.**

      **"I think I know why you like them," she'd said.**

      **"Why's that?"**

      **"Because you're a Redwood yourself."**

      **"Huh?" And he'd laughed. "I'm a tree?"**

      **"You're proud, straight, solid, patient, always there. I turn to
      you when I need to know the world isn't falling apart. I can lean on
      you. I don't know what it is, but you make me feel safe."**

      **He'd laughed. "*Stop!* You're going to give me a swelled head."**

      **And she'd rolled up on an elbow to grin at him. "Your head's
      already swelled, Summers," and she'd swatted him with his hat.
      Later, she'd taken pictures of him there in the forest of sequoias.**





      Scott got up off his knees and wiped his eyes beneath his glasses,
      and all the frustration of the past five months broke like a swell on
      the beach of decision. Even if he couldn't do anything specific for
      Jean, 'doing' was overrated. He needed to be there, like the trees.
      He'd planned to leave Berkeley at the end of this semester anyway.
      What difference did a few months make?

      Thus decided, he pushed himself to his feet and stumbled back into
      his bedroom to take stock. He'd need moving boxes -- rather more
      than he might have guessed; he'd acquired quite a lot of
      paraphernalia in his three and a half years here -- and he could rent
      a small U-Haul as he didn't have a car. Checking his watch, he saw
      that it was early yet, barely ten o'clock. If he hurried, he could
      pick up boxes, reserve a truck, and be back to pack in order to leave
      tomorrow. He'd stay up past midnight if he had to.

      Much later that afternoon, EJ returned to find Scott buried in his
      bedroom with his personals in sorted piles, a dozen already-full
      boxes stacked in a corner of the living room. "What the fuck are you
      *doing*?" EJ asked.

      "I have to go back to New York. Jean needs me. I'm leaving
      tomorrow."

      Mouth agape, EJ dropped down on the stripped bed. "You mean leaving
      as in *moving*? Have you lost your *mind*, Slim? It's the middle of
      the fucking semester!"

      Scott looked around without straightening up. "I know." Then he
      went back to taping a box shut. "She's sick, Eeej. The telepathy
      came back and Jean's really sick. She needs me." And he related the
      rest of the story to his friend while he worked. EJ sat, trying to
      take in this sudden upheaval, and bit his tongue because he'd known
      Scott long enough to know when there was no reasoning with him.
      Summers was going to do this, regardless of what anyone else said.
      Scott ended with, "Don't worry about my part of the rent for the last
      months of the lease. I already settled that with Mrs. Gale, and I've
      left you some cash for utilities and stuff."

      "Man, I ain't worried about that. But I think you're jumping out a
      window before anyone's yelled fire."

      Frowning, Scott twisted around sharply. "She needs me."

      *No*, EJ thought to himself, *you need her*, and that was rather a
      different thing, but the end result was the same. EJ decided to try
      one last sally. "You talked to your profs yet? They letting you
      take incompletes for this semester?"

      "Incompletes?" Scott laughed. "Fuck incompletes. I withdrew, Eeej.
      I withdrew from the university. I'm going home."

      ------

      End of Chapter 15. Feedback is adored (as always).




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