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"Till We Have Faces" (1/1) Powerswap Challenge, Scott POV

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  • Minisinoo
    TILL WE HAVE FACES Minisinoo http://www.themedicinewheel.net/shorts/cypher.html SUMMARY: How can we meet the gods face to face till we have faces? (C. S.
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 18, 2003
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      TILL WE HAVE FACES
      Minisinoo
      http://www.themedicinewheel.net/shorts/cypher.html


      SUMMARY: "How can we meet the gods face to face till we have faces?"
      (C. S. Lewis) AU, Powerswap challenge. This can be understood to
      have taken place before what would have been the events of X1.

      WARNING/NOTES: A few risqu� allusions and a couple bad words, but
      otherwise safe. And enormous thanks to Bren Kuebler, for reading
      over this and offering her perspective as a professional translator.
      All errors are my own.

      POWERSWAP PAGE:
      http://www.themedicinewheel.net/shorts/powerswap_challenge.html

      -----------------

      >> Blu-bell: So, can you meet me tonight? <<

      The message pops up right in the middle of my computer screen and I
      frown. I hate it when I'm interrupted, and she knows it, but she
      also knows she can get away with it.

      >> Cypher77: I WAS working.<<
      >> Blu-bell: You're always working. You work too much,
      *doctor*. <<

      And I have to smile at that. She has me. But it's only in the
      virtual world that I ever feel truly free, unimpeded by my handicap.
      I love my work. She knows that, too.

      >> Cypher77: What are you up to, that you're blinging me in the
      middle of a Tuesday afternoon? <<
      >> Blu-bell: Ah, ah! That would be telling. But can you meet
      me? Or are you too busy? <<
      >> Cypher77: For you? Never too busy. Name the time and place,
      and I'll be there. <<
      >> Blu-bell: Or be square? Which you are, you know. Terribly,
      terribly square. <<
      >> Cypher77: You like me that way. Admit it. <<
      >> Blu-bell: I do. I like you from the top of your badly-parted
      hair to the toes of your penny loafers. Usual place, and, ah --
      one o'clock? Is that too late? <<

      I sigh, afraid to ask her what she's up to, that it has to be so
      late. And I have to be up by six tomorrow to walk to the station and
      catch the Metro to downtown. But there's still no question about my
      answer.

      >> Cypher77: See you then.<<

      There's a pause that stretches, then abruptly a, "This user has
      disconnected," sign pops up. She comes and goes, stealing in and out
      of my life, but she's never gone long. She told me once that I was
      the flame and she was the moth and loving me was going to get her
      killed. It was in one of her more bitter moments. I doubt it will
      get her killed, but it might get her caught and arrested. She's more
      likely to get killed doing the other things she never confesses to
      but I read about after the fact sometimes in the newspaper. And
      there are days I do think about turning her in, just to keep her
      safe, but I never have, and I won't so long as I don't have anything
      concrete to accuse her of, and she knows all that, as well. So far,
      she's never told me anything I couldn't honorably keep to myself, and
      I haven't gone looking for anything I�d have to report, but I worry
      that a day may come when I'll have to. And what would I do then?

      Now, I return to my current job, which involves a new educational
      program on African cultures for the Smithsonian's interactive
      computer displays. I'm translating traditional Zulu, Yoruba and
      Swaheli fables and folktales into English, French and Spanish. It's
      fun, struggling to get not just the meaning, but the tone, rhythm and
      nuances, too. There's a lovely dry humor to many of these stories
      that gets lost in most translations I've seen, becoming just flat,
      not funny. But the Trickster Spider is *funny*, and I want museum
      visitors to *get* that.

      I work out of a borrowed mop closet that pretends to be an office, or
      an office that pretends to be a mop closet, I haven't decided which
      yet. In truth, I don't have to be on museum property at all to do
      this, but I like being here. It would be far too easy for me to hole
      up in my apartment and hide from the aural world behind a computer
      monitor. Choosing to work on-grounds keeps me connected, plus it
      allows me to people watch during my breaks -- a favorite pastime.
      Have computer, will travel. Especially if it's to a museum.

      I consult all over the city, including for the government, but I
      prefer to work for museums. It's not as if Washington, D.C. doesn't
      have a museum or three (or fifty), and I know my way around almost
      every one. The long-time staff at several knows me, too.

      Just now, I sit up as someone appears in the doorway. I keep my door
      partly open because I can't hear anyone knocking. It's a young girl,
      probably summer help. I don't recognize her and she seems hesitant.
      "Dr. Summers?" she says, as if she doubts the young guy sitting in a
      closet with a laptop propped on his knees can really be the
      linguistic whiz who knows twenty-seven languages in five language
      families -- and those are just the ones he admits to on his vitae.

      Amused by her doubt, I nod and smile.

      She blushes and -- frustratingly -- looks *down*, at her feet. "I
      hate to bother you, but, um . . ." I have to lean forward and twist
      my head so I can still watch her mouth, and noticing, she jerks her
      chin up. "Sorry. My boss asked me to come ask you if, uh, you might
      know, um, Arabic?" It�s clear from her expression that she has her
      doubts.

      Grinning, I grab my pad and stand, making a 'Lead on,' gesture.
      "Wow, you do?" she says, but doesn't wait for my nod before trotting
      off. I follow her out towards the central rotunda of the
      Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History. I think she might be trying
      to talk to me along the way, but she keeps walking ahead or turning
      away while speaking so I catch no more than snatches of whatever
      she's saying. She's not trying to be rude, she's just not thinking.
      Most people don't. I'm used to it.

      She takes me to the gift shop where a pair of middle-aged women in
      full Muslim burkas are standing near the register. One is gripping
      the hand of a squirmy boy, and a harried looking employee is trying
      to wait on other customers who insist on stopping to gawk at the
      women. The shop manager, Becky, approaches me as I enter. This
      isn't the first time she's asked for my help, though translating the
      occasional odd language for gift shop staff isn't part of my job
      description. I don't mind. In fact, I enjoy it. Normally. This
      situation looks a bit tenser than usual, especially as it involves
      Muslims in a post-9/11 world, but the hurdles of language barriers
      often create tension anyway and that's precisely why I don't mind
      doing this kind of thing. I like watching comprehension uncloud
      faces, displacing the nervous doubt that springs from a failure to
      communicate.

      Just now, Becky launches into an explanation, making sure that she's
      facing me the whole time. "Their boy accidentally knocked a
      porcelain statue off a display case and broke it, and now they're
      refusing to pay for it. They keep acting like they can't understand,
      but surely they understand that if they broke something, they're
      responsible for it! They're just trying to get out of paying."

      Well, they might have been trying to get out of paying, but that
      didn�t mean they were pretending not to understand on purpose.
      Nonetheless, we had a problem of a different sort. Propping my pad
      on my hip, I scribble: *Can't read lips behind a veil.*

      She stares at the pad a moment, then puts her own hand over her mouth
      . . . which effectively cuts off whatever she's saying. Realizing
      what she's done, she drops the hand. "Sorry. Can't you just explain
      to them that you have to read their lips?"

      *In what language?* I write.

      "Oh." She understands now. "I'm not sure. Arabic?"

      Sighing explosively, I resist rolling my eyes. Even if wearing a
      full burka narrows down the probabilities, there are still a good
      dozen different languages or dialects that they might speak. Yet I
      can't explain to them that I can't read their lips if they don't move
      the veil, because I have no idea what language they *do* speak, and I
      can't figure out that language until they move the damn veil.

      "How about the kid?" Becky asks.

      *Good thought,* I write.

      As soon as the two of us approach, the women begin chattering
      hopefully, but won't look me in the face. I'm a strange man. All I
      can read from their body language is what I'd expect -- they know
      they're in trouble and they're scared. I look down at the boy and
      smile. He smiles back, but doesn't say anything. He's probably too
      young to be able to read and write. Kneeling in front of him, I
      point to my chest. "Scott." I know my voice sounds odd, but I can
      usually make myself understood clearly for a few words. I haven't
      always been deaf, yet the accident that took my hearing happened when
      I was still young -- twenty years ago -- and if one can't hear his
      own voice, after a while, he forgets how to form words correctly. I
      don't speak much, either, to practice. I'm too self-conscious. Yet
      I figure the boy can understand a name at least.

      "I'm Ihsan," he replies. "Are you gonna help my mommy and grandma?"

      It's *Luri*, for God's sake. He's speaking Bairanvand Luri, and they
      must have been from Iran. I hope one of the women can read Farsi --
      Persian -- since my Luri is rather weak. I only recognize it at all
      because it is a dialect of Farsi. But surely, since most of the
      nomadic Lurs -- Muslim gypsies -- are poor, any family able to travel
      to America must be wealthy enough for a good education. Standing, I
      smile at the boy again and point to my ears, miming a 'closed'
      gesture, then point to my pad. Turning, I lay it on the register and
      begin to write in the language of ancient Fars: *Begging your
      pardon, but I am deaf. I hate to ask, but I must read your lips to
      understand you, and the veil is in the way.*

      I offer the pad to the elder with a small bow and don't make any
      attempt to meet the gaze of either woman. The elder glances at the
      pad, black eyes narrow behind wrinkles, then passes it to her
      daughter and pulls the grandson closer to her dark-clad body.
      Apparently the younger woman can read it, and in the face of
      necessity, lifts the bottom of her veil enough to explain the
      situation. I watch only her mouth, careful to avoid her eyes and
      further insult.

      As it turns out, they weren't trying to get away without paying.
      They simply aren't carrying cash or credit cards. Their menfolk,
      however, are, and all three of them (grandfather, father and uncle)
      arrive from somewhere else in the museum even while we�re talking.
      Or rather, talking and writing. They ignore Becky to eye me with
      skepticism and a little hostility. Yet as the men speak English
      perfectly well, I leave Becky to sort out the situation and turn to
      exit the gift shop. I must pass through a small crowd that�s
      gathered to watch. I suppose it's not everyday one sees a deaf
      translator.

      As I pass a nondescript young woman with curly dark hair, she smiles
      at me and her brown eyes flash a vivid, cat-reflective green for just
      an instant.

      Shocked, my mouth falls open.

      It lasts only a second, and sticking the pad under my arm, I grab her
      by the elbow to propel her out the door. Beyond, by the big elephant
      display occupying the entry area, I stop us both, then sign, *What
      are you doing here now? I thought we were meeting later?*

      *I had to see you,* she signs back.

      *It's not safe. What if --*

      *-- someone saw us? Someone who? And what would they see? You
      talking to some dark-haired girl.*

      Sighing out in a gust, I look back in the direction of the hall
      leading to my closet office. *You didn't come here just because you
      couldn't wait ten hours to see me.*

      Her eyes are shrewd and she smiles a little, handing me a paper.
      It's a memo from someone on Capitol Hill. I don't ask how she got
      it. Reading it through, I feel my blood go cold and I whisper
      soundlessly, "Mutant registration?"

      She signs, *Let's go to the coffee shop.*

      I nod and we weave our way around tired parents and hoards of
      children, up through the dinosaur displays to the coffee shop tucked
      away in a corner. My employee badge nets us a small discount, but
      they still charge a ridiculous fee for a cup of coffee. Normally, I
      bring my own in a thermos. Jean insists on paying. "You're a
      starving, too-honest academic," she says, which makes me grin. She
      has no more money than I do. Neither of us does what we do for the
      paycheck. The place is crowded with only one table left near a
      window in the hot, glaring sun of a summer mid-afternoon. Beneath
      the table's polyurethane top is a display describing fossilized
      flowers. Someone, I think idly, should add a translation or two, at
      least in Spanish and French.

      I ought to be back in my office, working, but that's my own sense of
      duty speaking. In truth, my job allows a lot of latitude and Jean
      sits down across from me, shaking back her wavy hair. "Remind me to
      pick a form with a bob-cut next time," she mutters.

      It makes me smile. "I like long hair." For her, I speak aloud. She
      rolls her eyes but I can tell she's amused.

      "Should I try Lady Godiva?"

      "Only if she's blue. And naked."

      If we didn't have a table (and coffee) between us, I think she might
      hit me. She settles for kicking me -- hard -- underneath. "Ow," I
      mouth. But she's one of the few people before whom I'll vocalize.
      She's never laughed at the way I sound, and never would. She told me
      once that she likes my voice, so I whisper poetry to her in bed in
      every beautiful language I can think of: Portuguese, Arabic, Bantu,
      French, Iroquois. She eats it up. Then makes me translate. Then
      fucks my brains out. It's a pretty good arrangement, in my opinion.

      "So," she says, and her eyes drop to the memo lying on the table
      between us, but she makes sure her mouth is still where I can see it.
      Jean remembers things like that. She doesn't forget and turn away
      when speaking, and she avoids driving me down roads in the dark. At
      least, not actual roads. The emotional road we've been traveling for
      three years is a different matter. Neither of us can see an end to
      it -- not one we like -- but we can't seem to stop the car, either.

      "This bill has backing, Scott. It'll go to the floor of the House,
      and the Senate. It may even pass. I think it will pass." She
      raises her eyes again, a stranger's eyes, but Jean behind them. For
      just a moment, they phase viridescent. I love her eyes -- her *real*
      eyes. She says she loves mine, though I think they're a rather
      boring blue. Nothing exotic like hers. "When are you going to stop
      believing in Charles' dream and wise up?" she asks. "When they come
      to brand you and take you away? They *know* about you. If this
      mutant registration becomes law, you'll have to register, or they'll
      arrest you."

      I glance out the window. "I know. But what else can I do? They'll
      keep fearing us as long as they don't know what we're like. And they
      can't know what we're like if they never *see* us, meet us, talk to
      us, eat dinner with us. Hearts aren't changed by rhetoric, Jean, or
      ideology. They're changed by knowing people, understanding them --
      speaking their language." I turn back to watch her and the high
      track lights wink on the gold hoops in her ears. Jean's a
      perfectionist in her forms. She thinks of everything from jewelry to
      pantyhose to watches and rings. I wish I could put a ring on her
      finger that was real. "Skulking around in shadows isn't going to
      help."

      Her smile is wise and wry. "And what would be the result, do you
      think, if I walked out into the museum lobby today as *myself*? The
      children would run screaming."

      I can't resist smiling. "And the men would stop and stare."

      "Chauvinist." She frowns. "They wouldn't, you know. I have
      scales."

      "You're beautiful."

      "No, I'm not. Men want me because I can be anyone they fantasize."

      "Not me."

      "You're weird." But it's said fondly.

      And that's why we're sitting here, together, despite everything. I
      don't want whatever face she's wearing today. I want the Jean behind
      it, the girl who was home-schooled so the other children wouldn't
      throw rocks at her. She'd been born scaled and blue, and the doctors
      had thought her the victim of some strange disease. The first days
      of her life had been spent isolated in a neonatal unit, hooked up to
      so many machines, she'd looked like an infant cyborg. The years
      after hadn't been much better, and to this day, Jean hates hospitals.
      She learned first aid so she didn't have to visit them, and I've
      seen her stitch up her own flesh or reset a broken finger just to
      avoid a doctor's office. (Never mind that going to a doctor might
      mean she'd have to tell them how she'd gotten cut, or shot, or her
      fingers broken.)

      In any case, her childhood experiences had been before 'mutant'
      became a distinct category, and her family had money. They'd been
      able to keep reporters away and have certain records deep-sixed.
      Later, Jean herself had seen to it that those same records were
      outright altered or destroyed, so there *was* no concrete proof of a
      little blue girl born in Annadale-on-Hudson, even if the hospital
      employees could vouch for it. No records meant that she -- unlike me
      -- could escape a dragnet registration, which was ironic because in
      our natural forms, I was the passer. She didn't even look human,
      though the heart that beat under her skin was no different than mine,
      and dear to me.

      In any case, like Rapunzel, she'd grown up in a private tower,
      protected to death by her parents until early adolescence, when the
      *true* nature of her peculiar form had manifested -- more or less by
      accident. Then Rapunzel had escaped her old tower by locking herself
      in a new one -- a form that wasn't hers. She'd needed so desperately
      to be loved and accepted, and her parents had been delighted with her
      emerging metamorph skills, moving downstate where her father took a
      new professorial position with less pay just so Jean could start over
      -- have a normal life. She'd gone to public school, become the
      popular girl, the class valedictorian. Intelligence was her
      birthright, and with her mutation, she could look like anyone she
      wanted, as well. So she had. A tall, stately girl with auburn hair
      and a perfect, heart-shaped face. That's her habitual form, the one
      I associate with her almost as much as the one that's her own -- blue
      scales, green eyes and fiery hair -- because it's the form she
      employed for almost a year after meeting me.

      Yet the blue child behind the perfect mask had learned the meaning of
      irony, and hated the ones who loved her illusions even while clinging
      to those illusions. She knew her parents had sacrificed much for
      her, yet they also wanted her to conform, be normal, lead a
      respectable life because she could. She'd needed to love herself for
      herself. And as much as I understood her parents' concern for her
      happiness, it angered me. She was who she was now, I believed,
      because they'd made her that way. Even at family gatherings, she
      tells me they want her to morph. Why? It's not as if they don't all
      know what she really looks like.

      In recent years, she's discovered how many children were rejected
      altogether, and has softened her opinion. It's hard to realize one's
      parents are human, and can err, but that's a knowledge she's come to
      as she's aged. When younger, she was self-righteous in her
      resentment. And in her sophomore year of college, she met a poli-sci
      professor who saw through her disguise, and didn't flinch at her real
      face. He�d called her beautiful and took her under his wing, taught
      her what 'mutant' meant, and convinced her that she shouldn't have to
      hide, should be proud of her gifts. Yet he�d also reinforced her
      fear that if anyone 'normal' saw her real face, they'd hate her, call
      her a monster, and the unique combination of her brilliance and her
      metamorph abilities was irresistible to him. He�d trained her in how
      to use them to further his own cause, shaping her into his private
      spy, and her life now is just as much one of shadows and secrets and
      seemings as it would have been if she'd followed her parents' advice.
      But a lot less safe.

      His name was Erik Lehnsherr. And I hate him for what he did to her.

      My own story is simpler. I fell out of a plane and woke up deaf and
      alone, but with a new ability to unravel any pattern. What's that
      old truism? 'The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." I could
      understand anyone, but had no one left, and a world that should have
      presented me with no barriers was forever walled in silence. I
      became a special-needs warden of the state. Special-needs children
      are more expensive to foster as we require equipment other kids
      don't, and few foster families want us. My apartment now is modified
      with devices that allow me to live independently -- a doorbell rigged
      to make the lights blink, a knock sensor, TDD service and a strobe
      for the phone, a closed-caption decoder on the TV, and a 'sonic-boom'
      alarm clock. Jean thinks that last one's funny. I don't have
      hearing aids, though. There's not much point. My ears work
      perfectly, for all the good it does me. The problem lies in damage
      to the auditory portions of my *brain*. I have no hearing at all --
      'stone deaf.'

      Yet I soon learned that my ability to recognize patterns went in a
      very particular direction -- I had a mutant gift for language. ANY
      kind of language, from linguistics to computers to simple body
      language. It made learning ASL easy, and I branched out from there.
      Being able to understand people led me down a different road than
      Jean. She'd been forced to hide to be accepted, learned obfuscation
      as a survival tactic and mimicry instead of understanding. Me, I
      can't *avoid* understanding others, it seems. I've lived my life as
      a cypher, explaining people to one another, and sometimes I wonder
      who I am, or if there is a me beyond my function as a walking Babel
      Fish.

      But Jean's interested in me. Her own self-focus drove her to uncover
      mine. She first noticed me on the Metro. Trained to observe
      everything, she'd gotten curious about the young man who bought six
      foreign language newspapers a day and speed-read them all on the way
      to work, and she'd begun following me -- apparently for weeks, though
      I hadn't realized it was the same person because she'd kept shifting
      forms. Finally, one night almost three years ago, she'd followed me
      back to my Georgetown apartment and, inside the building, approached
      me in the hallway to ask, "Do you know what you are?"

      Her form that evening had been her most common public face, the one
      on her driver's license, the one the world knew as 'Jean Grey,' and
      the tall, intense-eyed woman had daunted me a little. I'd looked her
      up and down and raised my eyebrows.

      "Oh, I know *who* you are," she'd said. "You're Dr. Scott Summers.
      Twenty-six years old, holds two Ph.Ds from Johns Hopkins in
      linguistics and computer programming, hired sometimes by the U.S.
      Government for translation and cultural advice but prefers to work
      for academic and public service institutions. Unmarried, parents
      deceased, no known living relatives. You like cats, Sweet Tarts and
      wear a size 42 suit jacket because your shoulders are wide, but you
      have to hem the sleeves."

      She'd scared the shit out of me, frankly. I'd thought I had a very
      odd (if pretty) stalker. *Who are you and how do you know these
      things?*, I'd written on the pad I kept handy and passed it to her.
      And that had stopped her cold, staring at my words. Somewhere in all
      her research into who I was, she'd failed to put two and two together
      and realize I was *deaf*. Now, years later, we laugh about how she'd
      committed such an enormous oversight when she'd gone to the trouble
      of finding out my shoe size.

      Then, however, she'd been hugely embarrassed, but hadn't pitied me.
      There's a difference, and I can tell. Believe me, I can tell. She'd
      said, "I've been watching you and I know who you are. But do *you*
      know *what* you are? You're a mutant."

      I'd written, *I know.*

      "So am I," she'd said.

      *I know,* I'd written back.

      "How?"

      *Elementary, My Dear Watson,* I scribbled (taking longer), *I figured
      either you�re a mutant, too, or you're morally opposed to mutants,
      but since you aren't spouting scripture or pseudo-science at me yet,
      it must be the former.*

      And she'd laughed. Taking my pen, she'd scribbled her email address
      on my pad and given it back to me. "I'd write my phone number on
      your hand, but I don't think it'd do much good."

      And *I'd* laughed. The fact she could make a joke about my deafness
      without either apology or self-consciousness is the reason I saved
      that address and wrote to her. She wrote me back, and email became
      our primary mode of communication. It still is. *Most* of my
      interaction is virtual, in fact, because my handicap isn't obvious
      there. I can write to almost anyone, anywhere. The world is my
      oyster . . . as long as it reaches me over a LAN line.

      I didn't see her again for five months, but we talked everyday, and
      sometimes more often than that. Perhaps because she'd failed to note
      the obvious, she became very nosey about everything in my life. I
      was her own private puzzle to solve. We argued politics, discussed
      literature and science, and bemoaned the state of Washington-area
      roads. She told me about growing up in New York (though at the time,
      she left out a few things). I told her about growing up in Nebraska.
      She asked me, with honest curiosity, what it was like to live deaf.
      So I told her. Once, she asked me if I missed music. I didn't write
      back for three days. She filled up my inbox and transcription
      service with apologies, but I wasn't angry. Music was just the one
      thing I really regretted losing and I found it hard to talk about
      that. Yet whenever I asked to see her again, she always said, "No."

      The 'no's persisted for five months, then I got an unexpected 'yes,'
      and we made plans to meet on the Washington Mall outside the Air and
      Space Museum. She was wearing red and the same face she'd worn the
      first time, though I didn't realize then that it wasn't her real one,
      and she smiled when I walked up to her. Then she spoke to me.

      In *my* language.

      Sign language.

      She'd spent those five months taking a class in ASL and learning
      about my world. Only one other person had ever reached out to me
      that way, and it had been easy for him. The rest of the time, I'd
      lived my life interpreting for others, reaching into their worlds,
      their words, their perceptions.

      Jean had reached back into mine.

      I fell head over heels in love with her right then (though really, I
      think I already was), yet it took her another two months to show me
      her real face, and it took me another three to let her hear my
      speaking voice. And I'm not sure how long it was before we realized
      we were living on opposites sides of a big, *big* fence.

      Montague and Capulet.

      X-Man and Brotherhood.

      You see, the *first* person who'd reached out to me had been Charles
      Xavier. I'd been in college, too. At fifteen. The brilliant,
      silent, small boy who sat at the back of the class and never took
      notes because he had an eidetic memory. It goes along with my
      pattern recognition. I don't remember everything. No one remembers
      everything; that's a myth. Instead, we remember in certain ways.
      For me, it's in words and patterns. But don't ask me to remember a
      painting unless I'm told the name of the painting and painter, then I
      remember the name and painter, not the painting itself -- or not any
      better than the average person. Jean, though, she recalls *images*.
      If she sees it, she can pull it out of her memory. That's the nature
      of *her* mutation. We're like two halves of one coin, but facing in
      opposite directions.

      In any case, just as Jean had been approached by Erik Lehnsherr, so
      Charles Xavier had approached me, told me what I was, and assured me
      that I wasn't a freak. I was gifted. Of course, I'd been called
      "gifted" all my life -- right along with "hearing impaired" -- so
      that wasn't new. But he'd meant it in a new way, and he'd given me
      self-understanding, and a dream. I could use my talents as a bridge
      between humans and mutants -- a translator, an ambassador. That
      dream freed me finally to live in a world of no walls, and invite
      others to live there as well, leaving behind the fences of language
      and miscommunication -- of fear.

      I like to think that Jean is drawn to me because I invite her into
      that world with me. No masks. No faces that aren't her own. I love
      her real face and want her to wear it. All the time. I think she's
      beautiful just as nature made her, but I see her real face too
      rarely.

      "They'll lock you up, Scott," she says now, fear in her borrowed eyes
      and voice.

      "Maybe," I tell her, then drop into sign language. I'm not above
      using a little subterfuge myself and I don't want this conversation
      to be overheard. *They're just afraid. They don't understand us.
      And they aren't going to understand unless we let them try, but we
      can't do that if we hide.*

      Snorting delicately, she leans back in her seat. "You're a dreamer."

      *Maybe I am. But someone has to be.* Frowning, I look out the
      window that opens on the Mall. The sun is in my eyes, but I can make
      out taxis passing on the road below and lots of pedestrians. I can't
      see the Capitol from the window at this angle, but I know it's there
      at one end of the green. *This bill won't pass without a lot of
      discussion. Maybe I'll ask if I can address the Senate.*

      Her mouth falls open and she signs, almost roughly, *Are you crazy?*

      *Not at all.*

      Her snort isn't delicate this time; it's explosive with her doubt.
      *A deaf man will speak for mutant rights?* It's deliberately cruel,
      because she's afraid for me. I understand her so well; rage drives
      her, and a desire for justice, and a fear no less real than that of
      the humans who hate us. Fear builds walls. *What makes you think
      they'll let you up on the bema in the first place, or will listen if
      they do?*

      "Oh," I say aloud. "If Dr. Scott Summers, special consultant in
      linguistics for the White House applies the right lobby pressure and
      requests to speak, I think they'll let me up there."

      I am the Cypher. There are no walls for me. I'm the bridge that
      spans them. *Believe in me, Jean.*

      There are tears in her eyes. "I've always believed in you. It's the
      rest of them I don't believe in." She blinks to rid herself of the
      tears she thinks of as a weakness, and her hands rise, signing fast.
      *But YOU believe this, Dr. Summers -- if that damn bill passes, I'm
      not letting them take you. I won't let them come in the night and
      take you away. Words might be your domain, but getting out of traps
      is mine. You do what you need to do, and I'll do what I must.*

      I know she'll try. And I'll resist because, like Socrates, I believe
      in the democracy. *If I speak, will you come listen?*

      "You know I will." She rises. She's done with her coffee, and I
      need to get back to my office anyway. Her fingers cross mine, a
      subtle caress. We've learned to be subtle in this affair that should
      never have been. "Later?" she asks.

      "Wouldn't miss it, Bluebell," I whisper soundlessly. It's not her
      code name. It's my name for her.

      We'll meet in another place and she'll wear another face. And maybe,
      if I'm lucky, I'll be able to talk her into renting a motel room
      where we can lock the door and she can wear her own face while I make
      love to her. We won't talk about politics there, or our different
      philosophies, or the threat of the future. We probably won't talk at
      all. Words aren't always necessary, to communicate.

      I ought to know.

      ------

      Feedback is always welcome

      Afternotes: Scott, of course, has Doug Ramsey's power, and Jean has
      Raven Darkholme's (Mystique), although I couldn't resist changing her
      eye color to its classic comic green. It's not entirely clarified,
      but Erik Lehnsherr has Jean's powers -- mild telepathy and
      telekinesis -- while Xavier has his own, and even if she didn't
      appear in the final version, Ororo has Erik's powers and would bear
      the name Polaris.

      A comment on Scott as Cypher. Doug's powers are similar to Scott's
      own, in terms of a gift for patterns, but as they work themselves out
      in language, not geometry, I thought that would have an enormous
      impact on Scott's personality, making his strategic gifts *social*
      rather than spacial. Hence he's not a military strategist here, but
      a budding diplomat. Also, while I realize the comic Doug could
      understand any language within moments of hearing it, I've made
      Scott's gift a little more reasonable. Scott can learn any language
      extremely rapidly, and has the mutant ability to learn it fluently,
      if he puts in a bit of effort. But it's not instantaneous. He's not
      a Star Trek Universal Translator. :-D

      As for Jean, the fact that her parents didn't reject her would soften
      her temperament, I think, yet I was reminded of what Raven had said
      in the first movie about going to school, and no matter how much
      support Jean got at home, the fact she's only accepted when she's not
      herself would, I believe, alter her fundamental personality,
      especially for a girl who needs to be loved, making her far more
      cynical.




      =====
      --Min
      The Medicine Wheel: X-Men Fanfic
      http://www.themedicinewheel.net/

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