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
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,
"I thought they were! At the time, I was a little distracted,
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
"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
In fact, there was a simple reason why Scott Summers hadn't called
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,
It came out slightly slurred, and Xavier asked, "Did I catch you at a
"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
"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* --
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
"*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?"
"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
Ororo thought of the broken woman in the basement and the man crying
for her a continent away. "Sometimes," she said coldly, "I hate
**"It's mind-boggling, to realize how tall they are, and how old."**
**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
**"I think I know why you like them," she'd said.**
**"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
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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