AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE
The day after Jean's awakening, Elaine Grey descended on Xavier's
Institute like the wrath of Demeter upon Persephone's capture. She
and her husband John arrived at noon, and Bobby Drake had the
misfortune to be the one who opened the front door. "Where's
Charles?" she demanded at once, slipping past the boy with a small
woman's grace, then looking about, her chin tilted and dark eyes
narrow. She reminded Bobby of nothing so much as a mink, edgy and
inclined to bite if approached. Her husband, a big-boned man with
silver hair, followed her inside, giving a nod and half-smile to
Bobby, his shoulders slumped as if making an apology in advance.
Bobby, of course, didn't know them, and asked, "Charles who?" because
none of the new students was named 'Charles' and the pair in the
foyer were obviously parents.
"Dr. *Xavier*," Elaine replied with a snap, turning to glare, her
lips pursed slightly and one eyebrow raised. "We're here to see
"The professor is busy right now." All three turned at the new voice
and approaching footsteps. Scott Summers stopped in front of the
stairs, hands on hips. "Can I help you?"
"Elaine, why don't we go somewhere and wait until Charles is free,"
John tried to suggest, but his wife cut him off, speaking to Scott.
"Charles called us this morning. I can't imagine that he's so busy
he wasn't expecting us." The words mixed humorous disdain with faint
reproach. "You can help best by going to fetch him, thank you."
Her tone was one usually reserved for servants and Scott's shoulders
went back, spine snapping straight with the instinctive antipathy of
the working class for the country club set. "Can I tell him who you
are?" he asked bluntly, as Bobby -- no longer the focus -- slunk
"We're the Greys," John interjected, setting one hand on his wife's
shoulder and leaning past her to offer Scott his other. "Jean's
parents. Let me guess; you must be Scott Summers. Jean's talked a
lot about you."
"That's right, I'm Scott." And if he weren't so rude as to refuse
the hand, he wasn't wholly reconciled and wondered what they were
doing there, apparently having driven up that very morning without
advance warning. Had Jean suffered a relapse in the night that he
hadn't been told of?
Or maybe *they* hadn't been told. The professor tended to play his
cards close to his chest, and indeed, Scott's suspicions were
confirmed when he went down to the Danger Room to inform the
professor of the Greys' arrival. "Oh, God, my mother," Jean said,
wrapping her arms about herself like a fence; Scott could *feel* the
anxiety radiating off of her. "Did you have to tell her, professor?"
"Well, I couldn't have put it off much longer, Jean."
"She's going to want to see me."
"Do you want to see her, is the question?" Scott said, walking over.
She still appeared haunted and a little blurred about the eyes.
"No," she replied instantly.
"Then you don't have to."
"Scott, she's my mother, she --"
"You don't have to," he reiterated.
"Scott is correct," the professor told her. "In fact, in your
current condition, I wouldn't advise it, and that's what I intend to
tell her." Turning his chair, Xavier headed for the exit.
Jean looked at Scott in a mix of guilt and hope. "You stay here,"
Scott told her. "I'll go listen." And with a quick squeeze of her
arm, he trotted after Xavier, attaching himself to the professor like
a squire to his knight. If Jean's mother wished to treat him like a
servant, then he'd assume a servant's invisibility.
It worked. No one sent him out of the professor's office, and he
took up a position next to the door as Elaine got right to the point
and Xavier (ever the proper host) made tea. "You told us this
wouldn't happen! You said her telepathy was locked away
"No, Elaine. I *said* her telepathy had been locked away until she
was mature enough to manage it."
"And is she?" John Grey asked.
"Yes," Xavier said. "I think she is." He turned to look at the
couple seated in front of his wide oak desk. "Jean's telepathy is as
much a part of her as her telekinesis. It manifested before she was
ready, but she is no longer a ten-year-old girl. Even had the
telepathy not remanifested, I would have removed the blocks soon.
The only reason I've permitted her to keep them this long is because
she was otherwise occupied with her education."
"Is she going to be all right?" Elaine asked while lighting a
cigarette with nervous fingers. And if Scott would never learn to
like the woman, her question and the obvious worry behind it
mitigated somewhat his disgust.
"Eventually? Certainly," Xavier replied. "By tomorrow afternoon?
No. Would you like sugar or milk in your tea?"
"Neither," John replied, and his wife said, "sugar only." She blew
smoke, then asked, "What about her residency? If this goes on too
long, she'll have wasted all those years. Jean's put too much of
herself into these degrees, Charles."
"Provisions have been made for Jean's residency," Xavier said. The
statement was vague, but the Greys let it go. "For now, we need to
concentrate on stabilizing her."
"I want to see her," Elaine said.
Xavier gestured for Scott's assistance, handing him the teacups to
deliver. Servant indeed, but he'd set himself up for it. Meekly, he
took the tea to the Greys as Xavier said, "At the present time,
that's unadvised. Just as before, Elaine, Jean needs to remain
isolated until she's stabilized."
"I'm her mother."
"You're not a telepath. You have no shielding ability."
"I'm her *mother*."
"Elaine -- "
"Charles, this is my *baby*!"
"Elaine, please." Xavier stared her down until finally she glanced
away, contravened but not cowed. "As soon as Jean is ready for
visitors, you'll be notified." And that was that.
And if Scott were relieved to see the shrew sent packing, a part of
him still felt empathic disquiet. Just two days ago, that had been
*him* begging admittance, and the fact he'd won it owed more to his
usefulness than to any sympathy on Xavier's part. Xavier did what he
thought best for Jean -- not for Elaine, nor for Scott himself. When
Scott had come back to the mansion, he'd come out of his own
neediness, but in this situation, Jean's needs mattered most. And
that, Scott thought, was the difference between maturity and
childishness, the ability to think beyond one's own self.
But Xavier hadn't, originally, believed Scott had anything to offer,
and if Scott hadn't argued his case, he'd never have been admitted
and Jean might still be lost in a swamp of others' impressions.
Scott had been so accustomed to thinking of the professor as the man
with all the answers, all the contacts, and all the experience, he'd
forgotten Xavier was still a *man*. Like anyone else, he made
decisions based on opinions; and however wise he might be, he wasn't
infallible. There was a difference between trusting and following
blindly; understanding that, too, was maturity.
"He's going to be a *teacher*?"
A verbal pinprick, whispered rapidly and barely caught, as Scott
paced down the hall towards the new classroom-cum-arboretum to face
eleven students spread across the equivalent of five different
mathematical classes. And how, he wondered, was he to teach
something like *that*? He was reminded of one-room schoolhouses in
the Old West, and hadn't one of his ancestors been a marshal? But
his own preparation had been geared towards modern classes of
apathetic teenagers bored by the mere idea of inequalities and
absolute value, and since -- by his senior year -- he'd elected to
enter graduate school in something else, he'd never taken a teaching
practicum. In short, his only real experience in a classroom had
been as a student, and a one-and-a-half semester's stint as a
glorified paper grader.
"Good afternoon," he said now as he entered. Eleven sets of eyes
swiveled towards him, glinting with skepticism, amusement, and
perhaps a bit of derision. Who was he trying to fool?
Unsettled by their doubtful expressions, he turned to the mobile
chalkboard and began dividing it up into five sections to scribble
down assignments, then stopped. This was just untenable. With a
sigh, he glanced back at the room. Three were in the equivalent of
Algebra I, which the State of New York called "Integrated Math I" --
just to be complicated -- another four were in "Integrated Math II"
(Algebra II and basic geometry), and two more were ready for
trigonometry. Of the remaining students, one (Jubilee) was in
algebra prep and another (Skids) was in remedial math, still learning
the basics of multiplication and division.
Xavier had told him they were used to splitting up, so he sent
Jubilee and Skids to the library where they could work in peace until
he could tutor them one-on-one. Then he moved around the room
between the other three groups, explaining something, giving them
practice equations, and going on to the next group. But if he were
working with one set, he wasn�t available to answer questions from
another, and between the three larger groups, he couldn�t find time
to break away to answer questions for the two in the library. When
he finally did get down there, he found his final two students
doodling on notebooks in boredom. Apologizing, he sat down at
Jubilee's table. Eying him, she popped her pink bubble gum and
sagely offered, "The professor manages, and he's in a wheelchair."
"Well, I'm not the professor.".
Triumphant, she grinned. "Yeah, I know."
Unsure how to respond to that, he said only, "Get rid of the chewing
gum in the library." And they went to work.
By supper, he was exhausted and depressed, and didn't want to visit
Jean in such a dark mood. Frank found him brooding on a couch in the
den. "So," the Italian began, seating himself in an armchair across
from Scott, who was sprawled inelegantly on the sofa seat.
"So -- I suck as a teacher."
Frank's expression was dubious. "What is the problem?"
"I can�t be in five place places at once?"
"Ah -- so be in five places at different times."
The initial answer was a snort. "Very funny."
"I was serious."
"That's what I *tried*. I divided up the class just like Xavier
said, but they get bored waiting, or can't do the work because they
have a question and I'm not available to answer."
Frank waved a hand. "No, no. I don't mean five in one session; I
mean to teach maths not just in the afternoons. The school, it has
gone from five to eleven this very year. I believe that even the
professor is becoming strained, and the numbers will only increase.
It is time to think anew, no?"
Scott scratched his chin. One didn�t have to be Nostradamus to
predict that the school would just get bigger, compounding the
problem. "You mean it�s time to divide up by age?"
"Or at least into older and younger. There are three of you now, to
teach -- you, Hank and the professor. So have Hank take the youngers
in the mornings for the English and humanities, and you take the
elders for the maths and sciences. Then reverse after lunch. The
professor can teach them the ethics last, when he is completed with
Jean for the day."
�How did a guy who's two years younger than me get to be smarter than
Frank just smiled. "You are the maths one. What is it they say
Then they were silent a while until Scott said, "The other problem is
that they don't take me seriously."
Frank just raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, come on -- look at me, Frank! I'm not much older than them!
Bobby still calls me �Scott� in class."
"And you would rather him to call you 'Mr. Summers"?" Frank seemed
"I�m not comfortable with that, either," Scott allowed, then looked
down at himself. He was wearing nice jeans and a polo shirt. It
wasn�t, he thought, very professional. "I look like a college
student. I need some new clothes."
"The clothes make the man?"
"Well, they damn sure don't hurt." Yet he couldn't go clothes
shopping alone. EJ had helped him in the past, but EJ was in
California and Scott just looked at Frank, too proud to ask directly
for assistance with something as simple as telling green from blue.
Fortunately, Frank had known him a long time, and now rolled his
eyes. "*Basta chiesta, cafone impertinente*!" Just ask, idiot.
"Can you go to the mall with me?"
"Of course." And grinning, he stood. "We should take the Aston
Martin. Shall I drive?"
"When hell freezes over," Scott replied. "But yeah, lets take the
It had been a long time since the two of them had gone somewhere
together, and their friendship had grown stretched and transparent
across a continental divide. Now they remembered it over fast cars,
limp food-court fare, and a running commentary in Italian about the
charms of the women they passed in the mall. "It is the whole
shape," Frank said, illustrating with his hands. "Americans look too
much at the *parts*. Only in America would you find a restaurant
called 'Hooters.' Philistines. All of you."
"Only in Italy," Scott returned, "would newscasters bend over to show
their cleavage to the camera. Don't try to tell me Italians don't
sell stuff on sex, Francesco!"
"I never said that. But it is all about taste, no? Fast food, bad
beer, and infomercials. That is America! Oh, and sieges." He eyed
Scott with humor and made one of his grand Italian gestures. "You
*court* a woman, *mi amico*. You do not lay siege to her."
"So you've said." Had said it several times, in fact, when Scott had
first told him about his determination to win Jean Grey.
"There is a bet on, you know."
Incredulous, Scott glanced over. "A *bet*? About what?"
"What do you think? How soon she will say 'yes,' of course! And I
do not mean to the date." His grin was impish. "The date is a
"Where the hell do they get off, making bets on my love life?" Scott
asked aloud, but was secretly pleased by the apparent confidence of
the others in his eventual success.
"Well," Frank replied, "you were rather vocal about it in the dining
hall yourself, no?"
It took him a moment, before he remembered: the fight with Warren,
to which almost everyone in the mansion had been a witness. At the
time, he'd been too distraught to be properly embarrassed, but now he
felt the blood scald his neck and ears. "So we're gossip fodder,
"*Oh, s�, altro che!*" Absolutely.
Sometime later, in the men's section of Nordstrom's, Scott admitted,
"Man, it's been too long since we just hung out. I don't even know
what you're planning to do after you graduate."
"International law," Frank replied, checking a shirt against a pair
of slacks that Scott had already bought. Summers was a deliberate
shopper rather than an adventuresome one, Frank had discovered, with
a mental list of what he wanted that he stuck to, much to the
exasperation of his more spontaneous Italian companion.
"No," Scott said now -- to the shirt, not the career choice. "Too
Frank just eyed him and put the shirt back. "Since when is
Fa�onnable too loud? It is *color*. Everything you have is *no
"I've got stuff like that, Frank. I want clothes that are a little
more . . . staid."
"Why international law?"
Frank shrugged and let Summers change the subject. "It will be
And there he went, Scott thought, shifting from fashion-conscious
young Italian to far-seeing Apollo in the blink of an eye. "That
vision you had was a long time ago, Frank."
Francesco only nodded. Most people, he had learned, had a short
attention span. In some ways, that made it easier for him. For two
years, Francesco Placido had been working quietly towards the
fruition of the only bulwark he'd foreseen that could halt
Armageddon. But perhaps, he thought, it was time to remind them.
"Nothing has changed," he said softly under high, bright ceiling
lights amid shelves crowded with shirts and trousers and ties like
Summers shook his head. "I haven't found that people much care. For
my last two years at Berkeley, pretty much everybody I knew, knew I
was a mutant, including some of my professors. Okay, sure, a couple
were nervous at first, but they got over it."
"That was Berkeley. And they knew *you*."
"Fair enough. Still."
Frank considered a moment, then turned to a rack of patched wool
shirts. "Something will change. I cannot say what, or why. This
country is like an open camp now, at ease, confident -- but in five
years, it will not be. Threats real and imagined will create
Frowning, Summers came up beside Placido and set a hand on his
shoulder, turning him until they were face-to-face. "What's going to
"I do not know. Something. Something big. The sky will be black
for days and your country will learn fear. Europe will be safer for
mutants than America, land of the free."
"Is there some way to stop it?"
"I think . . . no. But only time will tell." His smile was wry, but
he didn't look Scott in the face. "Even the smallest change might
avert the avalanche, but for now? No. It bears down on us."
"I do not know. But soon. It will change everything, and they will
fear us. You and the rest can teach them not to fear. Maybe. It is
the only answer that I have seen."
Scott had forgotten how disconcerting Francesco could be, and
swallowed. He also didn't miss the fact that Frank hadn't included
himself in 'the rest.' "So what can we do?"
"The same thing you set out to do two years ago -- be ready."
"You make it sound like I'm the lynchpin or something."
Frank glanced up at him finally. "You are. You will lead them."
Scott snorted and turned away. But he didn't stop thinking about
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