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