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AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE: "And All the King's Men" (S/J + ensemble) 16a

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  • Minisinoo
    AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE: And All the King s Men Minisinoo http://www.themedicinewheel.net/accidental/aiof16.html Thoughts, dreams, scatterings of
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 30, 2003
      And All the King's Men

      Thoughts, dreams, scatterings of nightmares, all blew against her and
      clung, like old, wet newspapers, imprinting her with the perceptions
      of others. Mostly, she wrapped herself in women's reveries. Men's
      minds alarmed her, too aggressive, too sexual, too seductive in their
      alienness. But she tried on the minds of women like a little girl
      let loose in her grandmother's attic, decked out in the antique lace
      of others' memories.

      She didn't want to come down, to end playtime, and resisted being
      called. *Jean. Come back, Jean.* But she fled into mental corners
      and hid. Sometimes, when he found her, she resisted, kicking out and
      rattling everything in the room with her telekinetic rage, like a
      cosseted poltergeist. But other times . . . other times she
      responded like a succubus. *I'll be anyone you want -- Amelia, Moira
      . . . Erik.* She whispered into his mind. *I'll dress up in your
      memories of them. Only love me, love me, love me best of all.* She
      was an actress with an audience of one, a telepathic chameleon,
      adopting the verbal patterns, mannerisms, and body language of his
      ghosts. *Who would know?* she asked, tempting him. *It would be our

      *I would know.* Those temptations were easy to resist. However
      perfect her Mynah mimicry, she wasn't Amelia or Moira or Erik, and
      her imitation was mildly revolting, like a reflection in oily bilge
      water. He left her when she resorted to those tricks, and she,
      desperate, reached deeper, dug to the bottom of his mental attic
      chests and unfolded what he'd concealed even from himself. Then she
      came to him not as others, but as Jean-Grey-who-had-been. The
      innocent, barely pubescent girl with the burning fire in her mind
      who'd called to him twenty years ago, the trapped Rapunzel in her
      doorless tower, seeking her rescuer. *Teach me. Tutor me. Save
      me.* She laid herself bare to him like a whore on her back with her
      legs spread.

      And sweating, he fled. She laughed, delighted with her power,
      flexing the fire wings of it, burning him.

      It saved her from facing herself.

      Only EJ and Lee were there to see Scott off when he finally climbed
      into the Ryder truck to leave California on a Wednesday morning,
      three weeks after Valentine's Day, and three and a half years after
      his initial arrival. Everyone else had class, or work. They'd said
      their goodbyes to Scott the night before, and now it was down to EJ
      and Lee to help him load his belongings into the truck and tie them
      down. It took them until mid-morning.

      EJ kept silent about his reservations. Lee didn't. Neither made a
      dint in Scott's resolution. "Summers," Lee told him finally, "you
      make me want to pink-belly you to death."

      Laughing, he hugged her, lifting her off the ground to spin her
      around. "You keep an eye on EJ for me, okay?"

      "Yeah, like he listens to me."

      Scott let her go and turned to face EJ -- and here at the end, found
      nothing to say. In all his years, he'd never had a friend like this
      man and there really wasn't anything that could express either his
      gratitude for the friendship, or the depth of his affection. They
      embraced, fierce like a contest, mute with emotion. "I'm gonna miss
      you, man," EJ said finally. Mute, Scott nodded, glad his eyes were
      open and the beams blew away his tears. He needed to get back to New
      York, but that didn't make this leave-taking easier.

      Pushing away, he said, "I've gotta go, or I'm not going to get
      anywhere today." And he climbed into the truck to start the engine,
      rolling down the window so he could wave as he put the truck in gear
      and pulled away. EJ chased along beside it a little way until the
      truck hit the street, then EJ slapped the side as Scott drove away.
      Scott watched in the rearview mirror for as long he could see the
      figures of EJ and Lee, still waving.

      Choosing a route had been a gamble in early March when snows tended
      to come heavy and temperatures could go from mild to blizzard
      conditions overnight. He could make better time taking I-80 due
      east, but if he hit bad snow in the Rockies between Salt Lake City
      and Cheyenne, he could be stranded for days. Listening to the
      weather the night before, the casters predicted a stretch of mild
      days, so he'd decided to try the northern route. If he swung south,
      he'd add as much as a day to a trip that would already take at least
      four and a half. The first night, he got as far as Winnemucca in
      central Nevada and checked into a Super 8 Motel. There, he sat by
      the window of his second story guestroom and stared out at the desert
      night sky, black above black. He held his cell phone in his hand,
      but didn't use it. It wasn't even on. No one in New York knew he
      was on the way. He'd learned years ago that it was easier to get
      forgiveness than permission.

      Sometimes the cold, rational part of his mind asserted itself to ask
      why he'd just thrown away his graduate career. He had no illusions
      that withdrawing from Berkeley and abandoning an assistantship
      mid-semester would net him recommendation letters later for a school
      transfer. Jean was not sister, wife, nor even girlfriend, and her
      situation wasn't terminal. Most damning of all -- there was nothing
      he could do for her. Yet he'd abandoned all his commitments without
      a second thought.

      Weren't there times, though, when common sense had to be chucked in
      favor of integrity? Had he just committed the most irresponsible act
      of his life, or the most steadfast? He supposed it depended on one's
      perspective, but even if there were nothing he could do, he couldn't
      bear living forever with the knowledge that he hadn't gone to be with
      her. Maybe that was love, or maybe it was just obsession, but it
      drove him.

      It drove him for four more days and almost three thousand miles. One
      dream lay discarded behind, but his whole life lay ahead. He pursued
      it with cyclopean vision.

      She was a shadow of herself, gray like wolves slipping in and out of
      trees, fragmented into a pack. This wolf was the lead hunter, that
      too shy. This wolf challenged for dominance, that fought to keep it.
      She was the alpha female and the cub, whichever she needed to be,
      and she hid among the trunks of others' personalities, refusing to be
      driven from her wood.

      He called; she fled. He pursued; she turned to attack, vicious in
      her desperation, driving him off so she could fade away again into
      the forest of others' individuality. It was safe here, living
      others' dreams instead of her own. Had she ever had a dream of her
      own, or had they always been someone else's? Would she even know
      herself in the mirror?

      Scott's return to Westchester was quiet. He'd made a final push of
      fifteen and a half hours in one day and arrived after eleven in the
      evening, stupid with exhaustion. The mansion was mostly dark and he
      left the Ryder truck parked on the driveway before grabbing his
      suitcase and his guitar and heading upstairs to the room that had
      used to be his, and would be again if the professor let him stay.
      One of his realizations on the long drive back was that there might
      be no welcome for him at the end of it. He wasn't Xavier's real son;
      there was no reason that the professor had to take him in again.

      And what would he do then, he wondered? At the root of it, and
      despite his clashes with his father, he was not a boy much given to
      rebellion; it upset him to let others down and as tired as he was, he
      found it hard to get to sleep. The limbo of the road was over, and
      in the morning, he would face the consequences of his choices.

      Morning came sooner than he might have wished, although he didn't
      wake until nearly noon. He showered and dressed in a wrinkled
      t-shirt and dirty jeans, and made his way downstairs. He was sure
      that someone had noticed the moving truck by now.

      Ororo was the first person he ran into. She stopped dead in the main
      hall as she spotted him coming down the stairs. Her hands were on
      her hips, her head tipped curiously. "Frank said the truck was
      yours." Scott didn't reply, merely made his way down to the landing.
      "The professor is in the sub-basement," she said. "He could not
      wait all morning for you to wake."

      "How's Jean?"

      "The same, so far as I know."

      "Is Xavier going to let me stay?"

      Ororo's expression was startled. "Why wouldn't he?"

      "He told me not to come back. I did anyway."

      "I think that he is angry with you, yes, but Scott, why would he not
      permit you to stay?"

      Scott shrugged and looked off, his expression drawn with misery.
      "Everything I have is due to him, but I defied him."

      Walking over, Ororo slipped her arm through his and drew him towards
      the kitchen. "Why *did* you come back?"

      Helplessly, he shrugged. "I had to."

      "You will need a better reason than that. If you can defend yourself
      as a man, Scott, then the professor will treat you as one. If you
      act only as a boy, then that is how he will treat you."

      It was perfectly reasonable, but he still wasn't sure how to explain
      himself. Maybe his reasons were those of a boy, personal and
      selfish. "I felt like I should be here," he said finally. "I wasn't
      going to stay in Berkeley, not after this past year . . . ." He
      sighed. "I decided I should come back and help." He wasn't sure
      what he had to offer, but he'd do what he could. "Where are the

      "Probably with Henry in the arboretum; he has taken over the teaching
      for the past week."

      They'd reached the kitchen and Scott helped himself to a mug of
      coffee. It had been stewing for hours and smelled ripe and wretched,
      but he needed the caffeine. "You and Frank want to help me unload
      that truck so I can get it back to a rental place? It's not very
      full. The only reason I rented a truck instead of a trailer is that
      I didn't have a car."

      So Ororo, Frank and Scott unloaded thirty-four boxes (half of them
      books), a papazan chair, his bass equipment, a bike, a filing
      cabinet, a computer desk, and his stereo. He'd left the rest of his
      furniture behind. Coming back to Westchester, he didn't need it. He
      then went with Ororo to return the truck and she drove him back to
      the mansion. It was nearly suppertime by then, classes were over for
      the day, and the professor had emerged from the sub-basement. He
      came motoring out of his office to meet Scott in the main hall and
      everyone else fled for cover, or was hastily shepherded away.

      If Xavier appreciated the unexpected privacy, he found disturbing the
      obvious perception that what was to come between himself and Scott
      qualified as a clash of ground troops. He found even more dismaying
      the apprehension in Scott's own mind regarding his welcome at the
      mansion. Charles would have thought Scott realized by now that he
      rated higher in Xavier's affections. Wounded by that doubt, Xavier
      indicated the open office door behind him and spoke more sharply than
      he might have otherwise. "I gather you are unpacked and caught up on

      Entering the professor's sanctum, Scott shifted nervously and
      replied, "Yes, sir. Or rather, the boxes are unloaded off the truck.
      I put most of them in the room I had and some in the room next door
      until I can get them unpacked. If that's okay, I mean."

      Letting out his breath in frustration, Xavier almost slammed his
      office door. "*'Okay?'* Hardly, Scott. None of this is 'okay.'"

      And panic flashed all through the boy, as strong as iodine and
      bruised in color. "Please, don't make me leave until I know she'll
      be all right." It was desperate like a child's pleading, and Xavier
      turned his chair away in anger, motoring towards the long window in
      his office to stare out at the shriveled, brown grass of early March.
      Was this truly the edge of spring?

      "I have no intension of making you leave. But if you think that I
      can approve of this rash course of action, you are sadly mistaken. I
      gather -- as you have returned to New York with all your belongings
      -- that you have withdrawn from the university and left your roommate
      in the lurch?"

      And it was this alchemy of accusation that altered Scott's inner mood
      from fear to anger. "No, I didn't leave him in the lurch. I used my
      part of our band earnings to cover rent and utilities until the lease
      ran out, and the rest to rent the truck. I knew you wouldn't approve
      of me coming back, so I didn't use your money, sir."

      Xavier turned the chair so fast, its motor protested with a whine.
      "*How many times do I have to tell you it is not about the money?*"
      he thundered both aloud and telepathically. Scott put a hand to his
      head and winced, but his jaw was set in a way Xavier recognized as
      pure Summers stubbornness. And -- in all honesty -- he had to admit
      that a part of him was pleased Scott had taken fiscal responsibility
      for his own choices, even while he was irritated at the waste of
      Scott's savings for what was, by Xavier's own reckoning, a pittance.

      "Scott, sit down," he said finally. The boy obeyed, his expression a
      cross between obstinate and uncertain. "It seems that somewhere in
      the past five years, a few crucial matters have escaped your
      attention. Listen closely because I do not intend to repeat this."
      Charles sat up straighter in his chair and -- because personal
      revelations made him even more uncomfortable than they made Scott --
      focused on a point above Scott's shoulder. "Short of a profound
      personality change that would lead you to commit atrocities of which
      I know you're otherwise incapable," his voice was dry, "nothing will
      ever cause me to reject you. As long as I am living, you will have a
      place in my house. As I have said before, I do not have a son, I
      will never have a son" -- his gaze shifted for a moment to catch
      Scott's eyes behind the glasses -- "*you* are my son."

      He felt that strike the boy like a sucker punch, hard and low,
      knocking the breath out of him. Painful gratitude bloomed in Scott's
      chest. "Sir -- "

      Xavier held up a hand. "I am not finished." Scott subsided. "I am
      angry with you because you made a rash and unconsidered decision, and
      did it based on sentiment." Scott started to speak again, but Xavier
      simply held up the same hand. "I am well aware that you were
      planning to transfer from Berkeley at the end of the semester, nor
      would I debate your reasons for doing so. But that was not why you
      left; it simply made your departure easier to excuse to yourself."
      The sudden flush in Scott's cheeks told Charles that he'd struck a
      nerve. "What purpose, I ask, do you think your presence here will

      There was a long silence, then Scott replied quietly, "Ororo said
      you've been spending most of each day with Jean, and Hank's taken
      over the teaching. I do have an education degree. That's what I
      originally went to Berkeley *for*. I could substitute in a pinch,
      help Hank out with math."

      It was, Xavier thought, rather good for a cobbled-together excuse.
      It was even a reasonable suggestion. "I'll see to it that Henry is
      notified of your offer. I'm quite sure he�ll be delighted to turn
      over some responsibility to you for the duration. But that is not
      anything you knew when you left California. So I ask again -- what
      purpose do you think your presence can serve?"

      Scott was well aware that a person's motives were transparent to
      Xavier, and not only because he was a telepath. Yet Scott remembered
      Ororo's advice not to seem like a boy, so he mulled over what answer
      to give that might convince the professor he hadn't acted like a
      flighty child. The silence stretched. Xavier broke it to prod,
      "Surely, Mr. Summers, you had *something* in mind?"

      Scott sighed, and unable to produce anything especially clever, he
      settled on something honest. "I'd like to see her. I want her know
      someone's out here waiting for her."

      "I told you once already, that's impossible; she can't filter out the
      thoughts of an unshielded mind."

      "I know, sir. But I'm not just *any* mind." He swallowed, then put
      forth the idea he'd been mulling since about Des Moines. "She's got
      to learn to shield, right? And she'll have to start with someone who
      can't do it for her, like you, but who she knows and trusts. She
      told me once that I was like a Redwood to her. Steady." He
      shrugged. It was artless. "So I volunteer."

      Charles Xavier was stunned. Not because Scott apparently had no idea
      of the depth of Jean's mental dissolution; that, he would have
      expected. He was stunned by Scott's offer. "Do you have any idea
      what you're suggesting?" he asked. "She cannot filter out thoughts,
      Scott. She would know *everything* about you"

      But the boy only nodded once, decisively. He'd worked that out for
      himself. "I know."

      "You'd still volunteer?"

      "Yes, sir. I have nothing to hide from her. Well, nothing beyond
      stupid stuff."

      Far more deeply private, Xavier shook his head in mute wonder. "When
      it comes time for that . . . perhaps. But we are some way yet from
      such a stage." He narrowed his eyes thoughtfully and steepled his
      hands, but decided Scott deserved to know the full extent of the
      situation. "Jean is still fragmented within her own mind, son. She
      cannot work on shielding until there is a 'Jean' again to shield."

      Surprised, Scott sat back a little. "But I thought you'd isolated
      her in the Danger Room? She can't hear other minds down there, can

      "No, she can't. But she heard quite enough of them before we could
      get her there. Imagine being opened to hundreds of thoughts,
      memories, sensations -- like the floodgates of heaven -- until you no
      longer know which are yours and which are borrowed? Working with her
      is rather like a papyrologist who must sift through thousands of
      mixed up scroll fragments to find only those belonging to one scroll
      called 'Jean.' That is, I think, a metaphor the archaeologist in you
      can appreciate."

      Scott's jaw had dropped. "But that could take -- "

      "Months, quite likely." He deliberately refrained from 'years' -- he
      wasn't (yet) so pessimistic as that. But he had no illusions that
      this would be quick or easy.

      Scott had looked away. He was only now beginning to grasp the
      enormity of what Jean had suffered. What he understood less was why
      Xavier hadn't suffered similarly, all those years ago. "How did you
      manage? When you were a boy, I mean? How did you get through it?"

      "My telepathy is different." Xavier picked up a globe from his desk,
      a copy of the earth done in lapis and malachite with gold wire to
      mark the boundaries of countries. "Yes, Jean and I are both
      telepaths, but how that expresses itself isn't the same. For
      whatever reason, I have stronger natural shields." In fact, Xavier
      had a very good idea why that was the case, but he didn't intend to
      share it with Scott. "When I first realized that I could 'read' the
      minds of others, even influence them, the scope of my reach was
      actually rather limited. Now, of course, I can read multiple minds
      at once, but I had to learn to overcome my own shields. Jean has the
      opposite problem. She cannot block *out* other minds, nor sort them.
      The end result is that she has been drowned by other's thoughts."
      He shook his head. "Unfortunately, she doesn't seem terribly
      interested in finding her way back to us, either."

      "What do you mean?"

      "I mean that, up to this point, she's largely resisted my attempts to
      reach her. I could reassemble her mind without her assistance -- I
      did so once before -- but it takes far longer, and she has many more
      memories now than when she was a child."

      Scott chewed on that. "Why's she resisting?" he asked softly, more
      to himself than the professor, but Xavier answered anyway.

      "I think that she -- like any of us -- needs a reason to continue.
      Unfortunately, since it's stress that caused this collapse, it's also
      stress that makes escape that much more appealing."

      "So basically you're saying she needs a reason to come back?"

      "Correct. If she wished to return, the process would be far easier
      -- and far faster."

      Mental gears turned and clicked, and Scott tilted his head to the
      side. "I can make her come back, sir. You say she can't keep out
      somebody's else's thoughts, so put me in there with her. I know her.
      She's my best friend. I can make her come back."

      It was, Xavier thought, quite astonishingly arrogant -- and utterly
      innocent in that.

      It was also quite possibly correct.

      Early necessity had taught Charles to work alone. He rarely
      accepted, or even considered, assistance from others, and he knew
      Jean far better than Scott did, in any case -- but she knew his dark
      sides, too, and could exploit them. He could *not* allow passion to
      act as his lure. He had to remain detached, pedagogical.

      Scott had no dark sides that she could exploit in the same way, and
      he would willingly bare all, use his passion to bring her back. He
      had that luxury. In short, Scott Summers was exactly the bait that
      Xavier needed. He was Percival, the Fisher King who guarded the
      grail stone that would allow the phoenix to rise from her ashes.

      It just might work. Or it might drive her further into her borrowed
      memories and drive Scott around the bend in the process. But that
      was the nature of 'calculated risk,' and frankly, Xavier found the
      latter far less likely than the former. Scott's psyche had never
      been weak. Nonetheless, fairness required him to say, "You do
      realize there is some risk to yourself? She could push all those
      memories onto *you*. Even if she did not, you would still be . . .
      wading . . . through them." Scott merely shrugged with one shoulder.
      "It isn't something to make light of," Xavier warned.

      "I'm not making light of it. But I'm not afraid." He gave the
      professor a small smile. "You know I'm the best chance she has to
      come out of this quickly or you wouldn't even be telling me the
      risks." He stood up, hands clasped behind his back. "I'm ready
      when you are."

      At that, Xavier snorted. "Well, *I* won't be ready again until
      tomorrow morning. I've had a very long day and very little lunch. I
      need both food and sleep. I suggest that you avail yourself of the

      Scott might have protested but he was both pragmatic and reasonable
      by temperament. Now that he knew he'd get what he wanted -- to see
      Jean -- he could bide his time and bow to common sense. Supper and
      sleep it would be.

      Continued directly in Part 16b....

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