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FIC: Fortunate Voyager 4/4 (PG-13, Enterprise crossover)

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  • Mara Greengrass
    TITLE: Fortunate Voyager AUTHOR: Mara Greengrass Other headings and disclaimers in part 1 * * * * * The ship seemed to take a breath and then red lights
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2004
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      TITLE: Fortunate Voyager
      AUTHOR: Mara Greengrass

      Other headings and disclaimers in part 1

      * * * * *

      The ship seemed to take a breath and then red lights flashed and a
      blaring siren wailed, feeling like nails piercing his skull. "Not
      again!" Scott growled as he jumped out of the way of running crewmen.

      Turning once in a circle, Scott found his direction and took off for the
      armory, pausing only for a moment to step aside and replace his glasses
      with the visor he'd taken to carrying. He had to hope that the other
      three would think to go there as well.

      A dive left through closing elevator doors caused him to nearly run into
      two marines, who fortunately chose not to say anything about his
      presence, simply nodding as one hit the emergency setting that overrode
      the normal speed limitations and made it a very express elevator.

      Scott swallowed sharply and held onto the wall as they dove downward to
      the armory level. The doors opened and they jumped out, nearly mowing
      down Bobby jogging down the hall.

      The marines disappeared toward heavy weaponry as Bobby sighed in relief.
      "Mr. Summers!"

      "Good thinking to come here," Scott said. "Let's go--"

      The whining sound of alien gunfire erupted and Scott shoved Bobby behind
      him, swiveling, hand to his visor.

      "Go!" Scott yelled.

      "But I--"

      A Xindi marched around the corner, bold and unafraid. Scott shot him
      square in the chest, amused at his look of surprise as he flew back to
      slam against the wall.

      Two more leaned out, more cautious than their teammate and as Scott
      blasted one's arm, he saw the other pinned by ice. "Get to the armory. Now!"

      Finally hearing Bobby run, Scott put as much of himself behind a strut
      as he could and shot anything that didn't look like Enterprise crew.
      Shots whined over his head and skinned so close to his arm he felt their
      passage.

      Scott heard the elevator door open and he turned, in time to see the end
      of a gun slam into his head.

      Everything went pale, then black.

      * * * * *

      Scott drifted back to consciousness, dragged the last few yards by a
      pounding headache. He tried to rub his forehead, but found his arms
      bound to the hard surface he lay on. Not a good sign.

      Eyes still closed, he strained for some clue to his whereabouts. It
      neither sounded nor smelled like the Enterprise's sickbay.

      My god. What if he'd somehow shifted himself again? What if he'd left
      the others behind with no way to get home?

      Scott tried to breathe deeply and calm his racing heart. Time enough to
      panic when he knew the situation.

      Voices. Definitely voices approaching.

      "...bring me one?" A harsh voice growled.

      "The others evaded us. We only caught this one because he was protecting
      one of the young humans."

      Scott let out a slow breath. So, same universe and the others were safe.
      That was certainly good news. Of course, that left *him* in the clutches
      of what were presumably reptilian Xindi. Not so good.

      Nearby, there was a clanking sound that reminded Scott of bad prison
      movies. He weighed mental odds before opening his eyes to see two Xindi
      staring down at him, one tall and angry-looking, the other shorter and
      carrying some kind of weapon. They were both the ugliest things he'd
      ever seen, their faces looking more like a bad case of leprosy than
      anything else.

      "Human," the taller one said. It sounded like a curse.

      "Yes, I am," Scott said, finding a speck of amusement in the irony.

      The Xindi began to prowl while the other stood by the door. "What
      happens if I take off your eyepieces?"

      "Your ship develops a nasty leakage problem."

      More pacing. "Fascinating."

      Scott studied what he could of his prison. It looked pretty effective,
      especially with no hands free. No control over his optic blasts left
      very few options. Besides, even if he got out of the room, where was he
      going to go?

      "What is the source of your power?"

      Scott recited the Pledge of Allegiance, "The Road Not Taken," and was
      starting in on "Stairway to Heaven" when the Xindi slammed a fist into
      his stomach. "Tell me!"

      Choking and gasping for breath, Scott's body tried to curl into a
      protective ball, but was prevented by his bonds. "No," he choked out
      after a few moments.

      "You will tell us. Then you will describe the human plan to attack the
      Xindi homeworld."

      "I don't know any plans," Scott said. "Even if I *wanted* to tell you, I
      couldn't." No chance he'd be believed, of course, but one had to try.

      "You lie. Just like all humans lie." The Xindi grabbed his chin, forcing
      Scott to look at him. "You are alone here. And you *will* tell what we
      need to know."

      Behind his glasses, Scott closed his eyes.

      * * * * *

      Logan's pacing was starting to make Jon nervous--the man looked more
      dangerous every minute.

      "Sit *down*," Jon said, emulating the tone Summers had taken in Sickbay.

      Logan stopped in his tracks and turned to look at him, face twisted in
      the beginning of a snarl. The rest of the room's occupants held their
      breath, except Malcolm, whose hand was on a phase pistol.

      Logan held his eyes for a long moment, but finally his face relaxed and
      he sat down next to Bobby around the conference table. Jon took a moment
      to mentally thank the Vulcans for all those hours spent in diplomatic
      staring matches.

      "Now that I've heard your damage reports, what are our options?"

      "Leave Mr. Summers where he is," T'Pol said.

      All three visitors started to shout, but stopped when Jon held up a
      hand. "Is that the option you plan to recommend, Sub-commander?"

      "Unlikely, Captain. But it *is* an option."

      "Thank you. Next?"

      * * * * *

      Scott opened and closed his jaws a few times, relieved to find nothing
      broken, just sore. Actually, he was hard-pressed to find a part of
      himself that didn't ache.

      The Xindi doctor/scientist/chief torturer looked pleased with himself,
      which Scott assumed was bad.

      "I believe I begin to understand."

      "Explain," the Xindi captain said.

      "This one's genome is different than the other humans we've examined. It
      appears to be some kind of genetic manipulation. If we had the others, I
      could get a better idea which differences are important."

      The doctor put down the electronic notepad he'd been studying and picked
      up another piece of equipment.

      It was involuntary--Scott winced. He'd become rather more intimate with
      the tissue sampler than he'd have preferred. He suspected it was
      intended to be used with an anesthetic.

      The Xindi jammed it into his thigh and Scott threw his head back,
      gritting his teeth at the pain, like someone scraping out his insides
      with a dull spoon.

      Blood oozed out when the sampler was removed, trickling down to join one
      of several puddles on the table.

      Scott took three slow breaths before he could unclench his jaw.
      Struggling not to pant, he opened his eyes again.

      "I must take this back to my lab for further testing." Picking up his
      samples, the doctor turned. "Oh, Captain? Don't kill him yet. It's so
      much harder to extract data from dying cells."

      "Don't worry, I'm not done with him."

      As the door swished shut behind the doctor, the captain squeezed Scott's
      leg where the sampler had been. Scott gasped as the pain rocketed up his
      leg.

      "I don't know anything about Enterprise's plans," he managed to croak
      out. "It doesn't matter how much you hurt me, I still won't know."

      "Why don't I believe you?"

      "Because you're a stubborn fool at war with humans even though we've
      done nothing to harm you."

      The captain's hand felt like a brick as it slammed his face to the right
      and Scott felt more blood flow down his cheek.

      "Where is your ship going?"

      "I don't know."

      "What weaponry does it carry?"

      "Whatever they shot at you with, I'd imagine."

      "Why do you want to destroy our homeworld?"

      "We don't! Earth had never even heard of you before you attacked."

      This time, the blow plunged Scott into blissful oblivion.

      * * * * *

      Vibration drew Scott from his unconscious state. For a moment, he
      thought it was some new torture technique, until he realized the entire
      room was shaking like a tilt-a-whirl.

      He tried to develop a plan to use this to his advantage, but was
      distracted by jostling, each movement drawing painfully on another
      wound. Besides, almost any *good* escape plan required at least the use
      of one hand. He'd prefer not blowing a hole in the vessel that was
      providing his oxygen supply, although...

      The table dropped out from under him, making his stomach roll. A hard
      twist to the left stretched abused muscles and Scott groaned, his vision
      whiting out. He could feel blood trickling from reopened wounds, warm
      and sticky on his skin.

      Eyes closed, he tried to focus through the pain. When the door to his
      cell opened, he cursed under his breath.

      "Bloody hell," a familiar British voice said softly.

      Scott opened his eyes to see Captain Archer and Lt. Reed cutting away
      his bonds. Speechless for a second, he finally managed to say, "What
      took you so long?" as the captain helped him sit up.

      "You know how it is," Archer said, smiling broadly, "places to go,
      things to do."

      "Mmm." Scott grinned, but choked when he tried to put pressure on his
      left leg. "Down to one leg."

      Archer sobered. "Okay." He threw Scott's arm over his shoulder. "We'll
      do it the hard way, then. Malcolm, let's go."

      They staggered out the door, where they found Logan and one of the
      Marines. Hayes, Scott vaguely remembered the man's name was. Logan
      looked relieved to see him, which gave Scott a moment of amusement
      before he realized he was the man's ticket home. Oh well.

      "Don't wander off again, Cyclops," Logan said, pacing alongside them as
      they staggered down the lurching hallway. "I can't track you in space."

      "I'll try to stay put." He bit back a curse as a sudden movement made
      him lean on the injured left leg. "What did you do to this ship?"

      Reed didn't turn, but in profile, Scott could see him looking smug.
      "It's a little trick I've been saving up for such an occasion,
      exploiting a flaw in the Xindi ship design. They're going to be busy
      fixing their engine for a few hours yet."

      "Nice."

      "Thank you."

      Hayes glared at all of them, and they shut up as he leaned around a
      corner then motioned them forward. Scott found it required all his
      energy to stay upright and he hoped fervently he wouldn't have to defend
      himself in any way.

      They staggered down another corridor and questions started to occur to
      Scott. "You didn't dock with this ship, did you?" he whispered.

      "Of course not." Reed looked offended at the very suggestion.

      "Then how are we getting out?"

      "You ever been through a matter transmitter?" Archer asked as he and
      Scott limped up the step onto a platform.

      "What?" Scott raised his head. Then everything dissolved into sparkles.
      He had a vague memory of voices and he collapsed.

      * * * * *

      Scott decided he was incredibly tired of coming back to consciousness in
      bizarre circumstances. Really, the novelty had completely worn off and
      his life could go back to normal any day now. Whatever normal was. Never
      mind.

      A quick physical evaluation showed vast improvement over what he last
      remembered and the smells were right this time, so he opened his eyes,
      relieved.

      "Mr. Summers!" Bobby looked up from a screen and grinned at him.

      Phlox bustled over before Scott could marshal enough brainpower to
      respond. "Ah, Mr. Summers, good to see you awake."

      "Mmm. Good to be awake. Do I get a frequent visitor's card now?"

      "Absolutely. But I really would prefer to see less of you, you know."

      Bobby was busy at the communications system and Scott kept an eye on
      him, amused by the teen's competence with the technology. "Everybody's
      on their way," Bobby said as he came over to the bed. "We were worried
      about you."

      "Sorry, Bobby. Believe me, it wasn't my choice. You know, I don't
      normally make such a habit of this," Scott said to Phlox. "Usually I'm
      angry with someone else for getting hurt."

      The frosted Sickbay door opened and Captain Archer strode in, followed
      by Kitty and Logan. Kitty grinned with relief and Scott smiled at her.

      "Good to have you back," the captain said.

      "Thank you for coming to my rescue."

      Kitty bounced up and down impatiently. "They wouldn't let us help!"

      "We argued," Bobby said, "but Logan agreed with them."

      "Glad to hear it." Scott looked at Logan, who inclined his head. He
      might be a loose cannon about most things, but at least he could be
      trusted to do his best to take care of the kids. That was oddly comforting.

      "Somehow I was sure you'd approve." Archer grinned at the two kids, who
      grinned back despite themselves.

      Archer sobered as he turned back to Scott, who nodded in understanding.
      "Kitty, Bobby, now that you've seen I'm safe, you can get back to what
      you were doing. We'll talk later. This time I'm promise I'm not going
      anywhere."

      He didn't fool either of them and they looked mildly mutinous at being
      dismissed, but obediently filed out the door.

      Archer sighed. "Phlox tells me that beside the obvious signs of
      interrogation, the Xindi also seem to have studied you. Possibly
      experimented."

      Behind the captain, Logan's entire body tensed, as if ready to spring.

      "They took a great many samples of bone and blood, but you arrived
      before they got past that." Scott took a moment to catch his breath.
      "I'm not sure what they'll learn from that, but I doubt it'll be good."

      Phlox spoke up. "I wouldn't worry, Mr. Summers. I suspect that whatever
      they learn about humans from studying you will simply confuse them."

      Logan smirked. "Confusion to our enemies."

      "I'm inclined to agree with the doctor," Archer said. "I don't think you
      need to concern yourself with that."

      "I hope you're right. In any case, I'm grateful I didn't find out what
      they had planned next."

      Archer's expression darkened, eyebrows drawing together. "Agreed. Look
      if you want to talk about--"

      "I'm fine." Scott evaded Logan's gaze, unready to deal with what he
      might see there, and he willed the man to stay quiet.

      "If you're sure..."

      "I am."

      Archer looked unconvinced. "Well, if you change your mind, you know
      where to find me."

      "Thank you, Captain."

      Archer strode out of the room and Logan turned to follow. Pausing, he
      looked back. "Cyclops," he said, his shoulders tense.

      "Wolverine." Scott nodded once, acknowledging him.

      The other man relaxed and paced out, leaving behind an amused Scott.
      That was almost an emotional display. Or something.

      "And now I think it's time you get some rest," Phlox said.

      Obediently, Scott closed his eyes, drifting off into half-sleep, where
      shadowy figures made incomprehensible pronouncements about his fate. Not
      quite a nightmare, but not bucolic dreams either. In the odd way of
      dreams, Scott eventually decided he'd rather be awake and found his eyes
      open and staring at the Sickbay ceiling.

      He blinked a few times, then heard the faint rustling of someone sitting
      nearby. Probably one of the kids, he thought, looking for reassurance
      about his continued presence. But when he glanced to his left, to his
      surprise, he found Lt. Reed seated in a chair with an electronic
      notebook which he was studying.

      Astounded, Scott tried to figure out why he might be under guard. The
      captain certainly hadn't mentioned that earlier.

      Reed glanced up, nodding when he met Scott's eyes. "Good morning," he said.

      "Is it morning?"

      "By the standards of alpha shift, yes."

      "Well, good morning, then." Scott searched for a marginally subtle way
      of asking 'Am I under arrest...again?'

      "How are you feeling?"

      The question seemed sincere. "Your doctor works wonders."

      Reed nodded.

      "Thank you for the rescue."

      "You're welcome." Reed's eyebrows rose. "The least we could do for a
      shipmate, even one who is temporary."

      Shipmate? Scott relaxed, since that didn't sound like he was under arrest.

      One corner of Reed's mouth twitched and Scott suspected the other man
      knew exactly what he had been thinking. Bastard, he thought, the word
      tinged with affection.

      Scott closed his eyes again, savoring the lack of any real pain.
      Excellent drugs in this century, that was certain.

      Reed seemed content to sit quietly. When Scott looked at him again, he
      was relaxed, but appeared to be waiting.

      Looking at the faded bruises on his hands, Scott shrugged internally. It
      was his ship. If he wanted to sit and watch one of the mutants recover
      from...recover, the chief of security was welcome to do so. Presumably,
      he had Phlox's permission, since Scott strongly doubted that *anything*
      went on in this space unapproved by the mild-seeming doctor.

      Scott tried to go back to sleep, but vague memories of his dreams,
      combined with curiosity gnawed at his brain, keeping him awake. In his
      imagination, Jean laughed. 'Never could resist a puzzle, could you?'

      "Can I help you, Lieutenant?"

      For the first time since they'd arrived on the ship, Scott saw Reed's
      face split into a smile. "Blunt," he said. "But I think the question is
      rather, can I help *you*?"

      "In what way?"

      Reed paused, looking uncertain--also unusual. "I thought, well, I and my
      staff have specific training to deal with situations...such as you've
      encountered."

      "Being stranded in an alternate universe in the middle of a nearly
      incomprehensible war?"

      Frowning, Reed leaned forward. "No need to be flippant."

      "I'm sorry." Scott stared at the ceiling. "Yes, I know what you mean.
      And I appreciate your coming here."

      "But?"

      If you stare at a plain metal ceiling long enough, you start to see
      patterns, swirls, tiny flaws in the surface. Scott traced a line from
      the far corner of the room, watched it dip and twirl, ending up directly
      over his bed. "But this is not my first experience of this nature.
      Perhaps a bit more blood, but not unique."

      "And how did you deal with the aftermath of those previous incidents?"

      Jean's hand caressing his forehead, soothing his mind. A cool peppermint
      smell from her favorite hand lotion. "Repress and deny. It's worked
      fairly well so far." Reed didn't respond and Scott listened to the
      scuffling and hissing of Dr. Phlox's menagerie, studying the ceiling
      once again. Giving in, he looked at Reed. "Yes?"

      "Have you thought about discussing your experiences with someone?"

      "Not really."

      Reed continued to wait, patient and silent, looking as if he was
      prepared to wait forever. Maybe he was right. Talking to someone who
      understood wasn't a bad idea.

      "Losing control is the worst," he said, swallowing a knot in his throat.

      Reed nodded. "Agreed."

      Some time later, Phlox came to feed the animals, but he didn't interrupt
      their low-voiced conversation, just smiled and went about his business.

      * * * * *

      The summons to sickbay two days after Phlox released him wasn't a great
      shock for Scott. He'd been in and out while Phlox and T'Pol, ran various
      tests. And if someone was hurt, they'd have said so--like the previous
      week when Bobby broke his wrist doing hand-to-hand with Lt. Reed.

      Scott ran into the captain coming down the wide hallway to sickbay. He
      nodded. "Afternoon, Captain."

      "Is it?" He looked surprised. "I forgot to eat lunch again."

      "Don't tell Phlox."

      Archer hit the button to open the door, grinning wryly. "No, I won't."

      T'Pol and Phlox were waiting, both looking serious, and Scott glanced at
      the other man as he realized they'd both been summoned.

      "Captain, Mr. Summers, the doctor and I have made significant progress,
      but it requires some consultation before we proceed further."

      "Consultation?" Archer asked.

      Phlox looked at Scott. "The Sub-commander believes she may be able to
      help you reverse the events that brought you here. And I believe I can
      repair the portion of your brain that controls your mutation."

      Scott could only stare, utterly unable to form a coherent thought in
      response to those two statements. He had lived with his broken mind for
      so long it had not occurred to him in many years that someone might fix
      it. A funny feeling in his chest and head reminded him that breathing
      was probably a good idea.

      His gasp was buried under the captain's words. "Good job."

      But neither Phlox nor T'Pol was looking at the captain. "There is a
      caveat," T'Pol said. "If we repair the damage, there is a chance you
      might not be able to return home."

      Phlox added, "And there is always the risk that I might damage your
      vision further."

      Scott swayed in place and the captain grabbed his arm, brow furrowed and
      a question on his lips. For a moment, Scott didn't see T'Pol's calm
      face, rather he saw Jean's somber one explaining that she and Hank would
      keep looking for answers, but his glasses were probably permanent.

      "As long as I can look at you," he'd said, smiling gently, "I'll survive."

      Scott relaxed his clenched jaw when realized the Enterprise crew were
      waiting for his response. "Are you sure?"

      "No," Phlox said. "There is no way to be certain of either outcome."

      Archer's face looked drawn, sad, understanding. Scott wondered how many
      hard choices he'd had to make.

      "I need to think about this," he said. "It's all very sudden."

      "Certainly," Archer said, "take your time."

      * * * * *

      His feet started moving of their own accord, taking him down endless
      gray corridors. Nodding politely to passing crew, he found himself at
      the entrance to a place the ship's pilot had shown him.

      Travis had grinned, his white teeth gleaming in the most infectious
      smile. "How do you do in zero g?"

      "I love it, why?"

      "Then you're gonna love this." Travis launched himself into the room in
      a leap, floating gently to the other side.

      Scott's eyes went wide and he took a careful step, floating as his
      stomach did two flip-flops and settled down. After some lessons on
      moving in weightless conditions, Travis left him to enjoy the area
      called 'the sweet spot.'

      It had quickly become Scott's favorite place on the Enterprise and today
      he rolled his way to the very top corner to hover and think about the
      bombshells that were dropped on him before his capture by the Xindi.

      It was mind-boggling, terrifying, and altogether almost impossible to
      consider: the ability to control his mutation. What would it be like to
      open his eyes and not be afraid of killing people? He vaguely remembered
      the feeling.

      It wouldn't happen overnight, certainly. There would be a period of
      learning how to control it, during which the glasses would stay, but...

      Curling in a ball and allowing his body to gently turn in circles, Scott
      closed his eyes behind the glasses, concentrating solely on the mild
      vertigo for a few moments. It sounded like he'd made up his mind, but
      how could he do that without consulting the others? Their lives and
      futures were at stake as well and what if they wanted to go home?

      The silence was broken by a voice below him. Or was that above him?

      "There you are," Trip said.

      "Here I am," Scott agreed.

      For a long moment, Scott floated, his mind locked in a cycle of
      confusion. With a practiced grace, Trip bounced off the ceiling and came
      to rest a few feet away, hands behind his head and a concerned
      expression on his face.

      "So," Trip said hesitantly, "T'Pol tells me you've got a bad decision to
      make. Well," he paused, looking rueful, "she used a lot more words, but
      that was the gist of it."

      "Oh, the captain didn't send a shipwide memo?" His stomach churned,
      thinking of everyone feeling sorry for him.

      "Of course not. It's just T'Pol figured you might need somebody to talk
      to. She's learned a heck of a lot about humans in the past few years.
      And lemme tell you, when a *Vulcan* thinks you need to talk about your
      feelings, that's a pretty sure sign. So, did you want to talk about it
      or should I go to hell?"

      Scott sighed, his mind still racing.

      Trip did a lazy roll in place. "Maybe I'm not the best person, I don't
      know why T'Pol came to me. Should I get Logan or the Cap'n?"

      "No," Scott said. "No, I don't think I'm ready to talk to either of them."

      Trip came to rest against the opposite wall and slowly pushed himself
      back up, silent and patient.

      They floated for a while, letting their own small movements push them
      around the space.

      "So, you and the Sub-commander think you can get us home."

      "Yeah, I think we might be able to do it."

      "And Dr. Phlox thinks he can repair my eyes, so I can see normally and
      control my blasts."

      Trip jerked in place, propelling himself into a wall with a thud. "Whoa!
      But if he starts doing surgery then--"

      "Who knows what effect it will have on my ability to warp space and time."

      "Man, that's..." Trip trailed off, apparently at a loss for words.

      "Mm-hmm."

      Silence fell again as the two men contemplated the dilemma.

      "A part of me," Scott said, "believes I deserve to have my vision fixed.
      The universe took away Jean, so it owes me something. Except that I know
      the universe doesn't work that way."

      "No, I guess it doesn't."

      "I miss her." His voice cracked on the last word.

      "I can't imagine what it must be like," Trip said quietly.

      "She was...she was my whole life, the reason I did this." Scott closed
      his eyes, Jean's smiling face behind his eyelids, a ghost of her mental
      touch in his mind. "I believed in Professor Xavier's dream, but Jean was
      there for me and that's what kept me going."

      "Believed?"

      Scott opened his eyes and frowned. "I did use past tense, didn't I? I
      guess since she died, it's been hard to stay on track."

      "I know what you mean," Trip said, his voice low. Scott looked at him,
      seeing the other man staring at his hands. "Since the Xindi probe hit
      the Earth, I've had trouble focusing on anything but destroying the
      Xindi, obliterating them for what they did to my sister. Well, everybody
      wanted to do it, but..."

      "It's hard not to hate when you've been hurt."

      "Yeah." Trip's jaw twitched. "How've you done it?"

      "By hating Stryker," Scott said, feeling the familiar rage well up.
      "Hating the man who was in charge. My one consolation is that Stryker
      died in the same flood that killed Jean." He took a gasping breath,
      surprised at the venom in his voice.

      Trip looked surprised as well. "Uh, did you..."

      "Logan. Logan found Stryker where Magneto had tied him to the dam and he
      left him there."

      "Wow."

      Whispering. "I wish it had been me."

      "I know. Believe me, I know."

      "Jean wouldn't want me to hate this much. I know that. She'd want me to
      forgive, move on, but how can I?"

      Trip was silent for a moment before heaving a sigh. "I think I'm going
      to recommend more psychology coursework for officer candidates at the
      academy when we get back."

      That surprised a laugh out of Scott. "Good idea."

      Silence fell again as Scott turned the options over in his mind for the
      thousandth time. Slowly a picture formed in his mind, of the day Hank
      and the professor figured out how to stop his eyes from destroying
      everything in their path. Opening them to a disorienting wash of red
      that gradually turned into shapes.

      Jean's face against the backdrop of trees and wood paneling; Jean's
      smile in the sunlight showing him around brick and stone and cement
      pathways; her hair that he knew was red even without red glasses, lying
      against an embroidered chair back.

      Charles smiling, joy at his regained sight tempered by the knowledge it
      was a halfway victory; Hank's uproarious laughter; Warren shaking his
      hand so formally while Scott tried not to stare at the angelic wings
      he'd only felt before.

      Years passed in his memory.

      Every inch of the mansion was familiar to him, every resident known,
      every defense carefully designed. The kids--his responsibility--already
      mourning Jean's loss. He hadn't been much help to them.

      "I can't do the surgery, can I?" The words were heavy, difficult to form.

      "I can't make that decision for you."

      Scott closed his eyes and felt the room spin slowly around him. "But we
      don't belong here. And I can't take the chance that fixing my eyes will
      strand us here."

      "It does sound like you've got unfinished business at home."

      "Jean wouldn't have wanted me to give up on the dream." He opened his
      eyes. "I know that as well as I know my own name."

      Trip's smile was strained. "Lizzie wouldn't want to see me, see any of
      us, acting like we have been. But I don't know what choice we have."

      "Well, at least if you keep your eyes open for some chance to make
      contact..."

      "What do we say? 'Hi, we're not here to blow you up. Really. Scout's
      honor.' Yeah, that'll work."

      "Of course it's not that simple, but what's your other option? Destroy
      their homeworld?"

      "We'll destroy the weapon." Trip crossed his arms, momentum pushing him
      back against the wall.

      "They'll build another one."

      "And we'll destroy that."

      "How many ships and planets and people have they got? Eventually they'll
      win and you know it."

      Trip glared at him, then looked away.

      Sighing, Scott scrubbed at his face. "Sorry."

      Trip stared at a bulkhead. "They killed millions of people. They're not
      going to stop until every single human being is dead. How the hell can
      you expect us to talk to them?"

      "It takes some faith, I'll admit. But sometimes just a few influential
      contacts can make all the difference." Scott found he wanted so
      desperately to convince this man that it wasn't entirely hopeless.

      Trip shook his head and when he turned back, his face was set. "We've
      got no choice but to follow this mission to the end. Talking isn't going
      to help."

      Scott felt a sick feeling in his stomach. "You could find a way. This
      crew is smart and dedicated."

      There was no answer as Trip floated back against the bulkhead, bracing
      himself with one hand.

      They floated a while longer, Scott thinking with longing of normal eyes.
      He was jerked out of his daydream by a sudden movement from Trip, who
      was focused on the bulkhead he was touching, a look of concentration on
      his face. "Something wrong?"

      Trip put up a hand, so Scott stopped, watching the other man tilt his
      head and listen to something. "Huh," Trip finally said. "Just a funny
      sound from the engines. I think that last warp core purge must've
      knocked something off-kilter."

      "Is that serious?"

      "Nah. But I'd better go make sure my team's already on it."

      Scott nodded. "Duty calls. But thank you for helping me see my decision."

      "No problem. Glad I could help. I just wish, well, I wish we hadn't made
      you decide between these two things. For all our fancy technology,
      sometimes it seems like we only make things worse."

      Scott nodded. "I feel the same way about mutations. Some people hate us,
      others envy us, and it feels like maybe we really are nothing trouble.
      I'm just a glorified blasting machine. Hell, the government made Logan
      into the perfect weapon."

      "But you choose what to do with your mutations, just like we do with our
      tech. Sometimes we make the wrong decision, but we're only human. All of
      us." Trip kicked off the wall he'd been resting against. "Now I'd better
      get to my engines before Hess snags all the fun work."

      "Thank you," Scott called.

      Trip paused in the entryway, looking over his shoulder. "I'll think
      about what you said. Maybe both of us can find a little peace."

      "I hope so."

      * * * * *

      Jon was in his ready room, glaring at the latest batch of reports when
      his door buzzed. Closing his eyes, he bade whoever it was enter, praying
      for no more reports.

      He smiled, relieved, when Summers entered. "Good, I was afraid you were
      T'Pol with more work."

      "No, but for a moment you reminded me of Professor Xavier." At Jon's
      wave, Summers dropped into the seat.

      "Me?"

      Summers chuckled. "He gets that same look on his face when I bring him
      more work, more problems, more bad news. Oh, he tries to hide it, but
      he's an astoundingly bad liar."

      "I wonder if it's harder for a telepath to lie," Jon said, thinking of
      T'Pol and Vulcan culture. "Does it seem more unnatural?"

      "Hmm." Summers frowned. "I hadn't thought of it quite that way. I know
      that," his jaw twitched, "Jean was considered unusually blunt and
      outspoken among her fellow med students. With her students, she was
      quieter, but she tended to avoid even white lies."

      Jon watched Summers as he talked, trying to imagine what it had been
      like to see his fiancée die. "I still look for my father," he said.

      Head lifting, Summers waited.

      "On the ship," Jon went on. "It was his design, his legacy and I still
      expect him to come around a corner and demand to know what I'm doing to
      his engines." It was an old sorrow, but not painless by any means.

      Summers nodded slowly. "It's hard to be in surroundings that remind you.
      But..."

      "I had to do it. I had to be here. For me as much as for him."

      "Yes." Summers turned his head toward the stars streaming by and Jon
      wondered what he saw. Finally, the corners of his mouth lifted. "The pep
      talk was wasted, though, since I'd already decided to make the attempt
      to go home."

      "Ah." Jon grinned. "Needed to be said, though."

      "I suppose so. Trip and I had a long talk. He was quite helpful."

      "I suspect," Jon hesitated, "you helped him just as much. He's had a
      hard time bouncing back and I didn't want to push."

      "I think he'll recover. Eventually."

      "Will you?" Out of sight behind the desk, Jon's hand clenched into a
      fist. He hadn't meant to ask that.

      Summers sighed and looked away. "You won't push Trip but you'll push me?"

      "I've known Trip too long, I think." Jon shrugged. "I wrestled with that
      before I brought him onboard. But the ship's nearly as much his
      accomplishment as my father's."

      "Well, to answer your question, yes, I think I'll recover as well.
      Wherever...wherever Jean is, I think she'd be unhappy if I didn't."

      "It certainly seems like you have a lot of work waiting for you at home.
      And we'll do our best to get you there."

      "Thank you, Captain."

      "I'm sure that if you meet with Phlox, he'd be happy to pass on his
      notes. I'm not certain you'll be able to use it..."

      "But my doctor will be happy to have the information." Summers rose.
      "I'd better go talk to the others. Let them know we're going home."

      "You've a great deal of faith in my crew."

      "Justified so far. It's an impressive team."

      Faces ran through his mind and Jon found himself smiling. "They are damn
      impressive, aren't they? They do me proud every day."

      Summers paused. "If anyone can accomplish your impossible mission, it
      will be the Enterprise. And believe me, I know something about the
      impossible."

      For a moment, Jon couldn't swallow or breathe. "Thank you."

      Even through the red glasses, Summers held his gaze. "Thank *you*." He
      left without saying anything else.

      As the door swished shut behind Summers, Jon leaned back in his chair,
      reports temporarily forgotten. No question, he was going to miss their
      visitors. Besides their formidable abilities, they'd been a badly-needed
      breath of fresh air for the whole crew, perspective on their situation.

      They'd be missed. Jon just hoped their friends back on Earth appreciated
      them.

      * * * * *

      It took several days for engineering and science to agree that they were
      ready, but finally everyone convened in engineering, where the four
      visitors were bundled into a small chamber festooned with wires and things.

      Summers turned just in front of the door and looked at Jon. "It's
      been...educational."

      "On both sides." Jon studied him. "Good luck in your own mission. I wish
      there was something we could do to help *you*."

      "You have, Captain. Believe me, you have."

      Jon hovered behind Trip, peering at the screens showing the chamber.
      Vaguely comprehensible readings washed over him, but he concentrated on
      his crew and the visitors. T'Pol was her usual unruffled self, which
      didn't mean much, but Trip looked pleased, which had to be a good thing.

      Between one blink and the next, Summers, Logan, Kitty, and Bobby
      disappeared. Jon stared, and the crew around him cheered.

      "Did it work?" he asked Trip.

      Trip sobered, looking back at the empty chamber. "There's no way to be
      certain, Cap'n. But yeah, I think so. I gotta have faith in something,
      right?" He grinned at Jon.

      "Right." Jon chuckled.

      In a career that included long-lost colonies, slime monsters, and more
      alien prisons than he could shake a stick at...the past few weeks still
      qualified as monumentally strange.

      Shaking his head, he left the crew to their celebration and left for the
      bridge, feeling more hopeful than he had in months.

      * * * * *

      The walls of engineering faded abruptly, rather like what Scott
      remembered of the matter transmitter. But this time *he* was powering
      the transmission.

      Vision graying, Scott thought fiercely of home, of Earth, of every loved
      and hated feature of the place. It was there, not far, he reached his
      hand out, feeling his companions at his back.

      Earth retreated and Scott shouted in fury, throwing every erg he could
      spare into the effort. They inched closer, but he knew it wouldn't be
      enough. There was a tiny glowing coal within himself, everything that
      was left of him, and Scott prepared to use it.

      But he was surrounded by light (red-gold), warmth (a roaring fire on a
      snowy day), emotion (love), power (unimaginable)...

      And then it was gone. But he knew they'd made it home. And the
      light...he put it aside to think about later.

      Scott felt like he'd been run over by a truck, muscles trembling, vision
      blurry, but he felt sun on the back of his neck, the warmth seeping in
      like water onto parched soil. Each tendril felt healing, and it was only
      a moment before he stood more or less upright.

      "Looks like you did it, Cyke," Logan said.

      Scott blinked away the sparkles in his vision. "Glad to hear it." He
      cleared his throat. "Situation?"

      "Everybody's gone, the kid, the Brotherhood."

      His vision cleared. Kitty and Bobby were on alert, back-to-back scanning
      the area, while Logan prowled the periphery. It was familiar--the same
      deserted field where they'd arranged to meet their new student.

      Logan sniffed. "They *were* here, though. You brought us back after all
      the excitement."

      "How long?" Scott could see a scar in the earth where his beams had
      missed a target and gouged out the grass. It looked fairly fresh.

      "A day. Two, maybe." Logan sniffed again. "I think two. Whatever
      happened, it's done now."

      "Let's check in with the Professor."

      "If we've been gone two days," Bobby began.

      Kitty finished his sentence. "Everybody's probably pretty worried."

      Scott nodded. "Let's see if the car is where we left it, and we can call
      in."

      * * * * *

      Kitty had underestimated. In fact, the entire school was *frantic* at
      their two-day disappearance, and the four of them were welcomed back as
      returning heroes.
      The kids threw an impromptu party in the rec room, raiding the kitchen
      for goodies and turning up the music. As a particularly insistent
      backbeat made a window shake, Scott smiled and let Jubilee hand him a
      soda. Normally, he'd sternly insist on quieter music, but just now they
      deserved...no, they needed this. Ororo hugged him and shouted something
      in his ear and he nodded absently.

      After circulating through the crowd for a while, Scott slipped out the
      door, partially to save his ears, but also so he could think. He felt
      disconnected, wandering the halls, touching things to be certain he
      wasn't dreaming, looking for people who weren't there.

      "Let's talk," Charles said, rolling down the hall behind him, with that
      look that meant he was only refraining from reading your mind by sheer
      force of will.

      Nodding, Scott followed him to his office, the warm wood strange as he
      closed the door behind them. Charles watched Scott with a sympathetic
      smile as he leaned against the window frame, staring at the familiar
      landscape. Dead leaves stirred on the ground in a stray breeze and Scott
      tried to imagine the golds, oranges, and browns he knew were there.

      "Logan gave an...abbreviated report, and I overheard Kitty's explanation
      to Rogue and Jubilee," Charles finally said. "It sounds amazing."

      "It was." A squirrel ran up a tree with something in its mouth,
      disappearing into the interior of the trunk.

      "You've been to outer space, Scott. What did you find?"

      Scott turned, a small smile twitching at his lips and the memory of
      red-gold light warming his heart. "Peace. In the midst of a war, I found
      peace."

      --end--
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