“Sure.” Jean opened the door to her office. The two of them went in and sat down on the couch. “What’s up?”
Now that she actually had the chance to speak, RoseAnn wasn’t so sure she wanted to. She hesitated a minute and then said, “I don’t want to bother you.”
“It’s no bother.”
“Mr. Summers said I could talk to you about anything that was on my mind. While he’s gone. Since he isn’t here for me to talk to, you know. Because he’s my advisor.” She took a deep breath. “But I don’t know if I would talk to him about this, anyway. Probably not. It might be too embarrassing and maybe it’s easier to talk to a woman or maybe it’s harder and maybe it’s not worth talking about at all and I just shouldn’t say anything and should just go back to my dorm...” She twirled a lock of hair nervously around her finger.
“Why don’t you just tell me what’s on your mind, RoseAnn?”
“Do you know Jamie?”
“Sure. He’s been with us for a few years now.”
“He asked me out.”
“Do you want to go out with him?”
“I don’t know! It would be like some sort of high school date thing,” she added, scorn in her voice. “A movie – some new superhero action flick. At Palisades Park mall. And dinner at Chili’s.”
RoseAnn nodded. “Does it sound totally pathetic?”
“Not at all. It sounds like fun. I know there’s a mall trip tomorrow, but I didn’t see your name on the list of kids going, I don’t think.” A piece of paper from her desk rose into the air and floated over to Jean’s waiting hand. She put on her glasses and looked at it. “Yes, Jamie’s name is on here, but not yours.” She looked up. “Some sort of high school date thing?” she repeated, imitating RoseAnn’s scornful tone of voice. “Why pathetic?”
“I don’t know. It’s like Gidget Goes to Mutant High or something.”
Jean laughed. “How do you know about Gidget?”
“I like old movies.” RoseAnn shrugged. “Even stupid ones. But don’t you see? I’d feel like such a phony. You know what kind of dates I’m used to.”
“No, I don’t. I think you haven’t dated at all. You’ve been here for a while and you’re settling in well. You’ve taken your time since you got here, haven’t jumped into the dating part of the school social scene. I think that was a wise choice. And now a nice guy has asked you out. If you like him, go to the movies with him.”
“But before I was here...”
“He doesn’t know what happened to you before you were here. And you know what? You don’t know what happened to him before he was here. If you get to be friends you might talk about past times at some point – good ones and bad. This is just a movie and dinner. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Do you like him, RoseAnn?”
“I barely know him! But yeah, I guess I like him. He’s nice, he’s funny. He’s smart. He’s cute.” She blushed at the last part.
“What did you say to him?”
“I said I didn’t know if I could go. Because I was late on some assignments – that I might not be allowed to go on off-campus trips. Hey, it’s all I could think of! I needed to talk to somebody first.”
“I’m glad to be that somebody.” Jean smiled at her. “So are you caught up on your assignments now?” RoseAnn nodded. “Then I guess I can add you to the list.”
A beautiful silver pen on Jean’s desk rose a few inches. “No, let me,” RoseAnn said. The pen fell back on the desk. RoseAnn raised her right hand high. She had a look of intense concentration on her face. The pen rose again, wobbled and fell back down. Paper clips in a cup on Jean’s desk spilled across the surface of the desk. Change in Jean’s purse jangled a bit.
RoseAnn shifted position slightly, spread the fingers on the raised hand, and tried again. The pen wobbled again as it rose, but this time it flew to her waiting hand. She closed her fist around it and then raised it way up in the air, saying “Yes!” as she did.
RoseAnn handed the pen to Jean. Taking it, she added “RoseAnn Mendez” to the bottom of the list she was holding.
Scott Summers was seated on the couch in Charles Xavier’s sumptuous room at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel. The professor sat in his wheelchair across from him. Scott sat there thinking how different Charles’s appearance was from what it had been for all the time they had known each other. The chair had always seemed to Scott like a prop, or maybe an article of clothing. Just something he associated with Charles, not indication of a handicap.
Scott knew, of course, that Charles couldn’t walk, but his disability had never seemed to slow him down at all. His commanding presence, his deft management of the team, the school, and the Foundation; his wise counsel – that’s what Scott thought of when he thought of Charles Xavier. Not his physical limitations. Not until recently. Now, sitting there with grayish skin and eyes full of fatigue, Charles Xavier looked like an invalid to Scott in a way he never had before.
Too late, Scott worried he might be broadcasting his musings. Charles seemed about to say something. They were interrupted by a knock on the door. “I’ll get it,” Scott said and he stood up to let the room service waiter in. After the tea service had been set out, the two men resumed the conversation they’d been engaged in, with no mention of Charles’s illness or Scott’s worry.
“How did it go with Magneto?” Scott asked.
“I have the information we need, I believe,” Charles responded, pouring himself some tea. His hand shook a little. Scott thought of offering to pour for him, then thought better of it. “We’ll discuss it more later, at Anjuli’s.”
Scott’s eyebrows rose. “Do you want to tell me telepathically?” his mind asked Charles.
“I’m not particularly worried about eavesdroppers,” he thought back, “although that is always at least a slight concern.” Switching to speech, he added, “Beyond security concerns, I have to show you what needs to be done. I have diagrams that Erik drew for me. I’ll review them with you later. I’m a little... tired now.”
“That’s fine. No need to get them out right now.”
“Plus, it will be more efficient to go over all this with you and Northstar at the same time.”
”Oh are you enlisting him for this mission?” Charles nodded. “So where is he now?”
“I don’t know. I assumed he was with you at Anjuli’s. I thought we’d review the mission together there later today. He’s not there?”
“Not when I got in last night, anyway. Adam said Jean-Paul is off on a mission but they thought he’d be back today. They expected him to make the meeting. We can go over the plans for Cerebro then.” He thought a minute. “You didn’t send Jean-Paul somewhere?”
“No, it must be some assignment of Mac’s.”
“Strange. Adam thought it was an X-Men mission.”
“I’m sure it’s hard to keep track. We seem to be vying for Jean-Paul’s time lately.”
“Have you considered asking him to join the X-Men full time?”
Charles nodded. “What do you think?”
“I think he’d be a fine addition to the team. I’m not sure how Adam would feel about moving to Westchester, though.”
“I dare say commuting by super speed from Washington is a feasible solution if he doesn’t want to move. And if he does – well it will be nice to have a baby around the house. I’ll discuss it with them both.”
“I wonder if Jean-Paul could teach, too.”
“We can bring that up when we catch up with him later.” Charles took another sip of his tea. Scott noticed the tea cup shaking again as Charles raised it. “I want to talk to all of them at once, anyway, on another topic: new trustees for the Foundation.”
“Yes, we really must replace Hank. It’s getting pretty unworkable with you and me as the only trustees. We shouldn’t have let it go two years.” He thought about it a minute. “Who do you have in mind? And why do you need to discuss it with the Georgetown crowd?”
“I do feel I should offer Anjuli the chance to take Hank’s position as trustee. I don’t think she’ll want to do it, but it seems right to ask her.” Scott nodded in agreement. “I’m thinking Warren would make a fine trustee. Would that be okay with you?”
“More than okay. He’s underutilized now, anyway, since he won’t have anything to do with the school. He can take over the financial side of the Foundation work, which has been driving me half-crazy. Let him use that MBA for something.”
“I think we should expand the number of trustees, though. I’d also like to get someone with a different background as a trustee. Someone to help on the programmatic side. We could use some new ideas. Someone not affiliated with the X-Men; someone not a mutant; someone with relevant professional experience.”
“Sounds like you have someone particular in mind.”
Scott laughed. “Adam’s mother? I see why you want to discuss it with the whole group at Anjuli’s. I wonder what Adam will think.”
“Why do you laugh?”
“Well, she’s just quite a character. And I always feel like she’s going to pat me on the head or something.”
“Quite a feat – you must be at least a foot taller than her.”
“Trusteeship meetings would have quite a different feel to them with Miriam around.” He smiled. “Maybe that’s good. Liven things up a bit. And, as you say, you and I are running out of ideas.”
“She’s a retired social worker, with time on her hands and looking for a way to be useful. And she’s become interested in mutant issues through her association with Jean-Paul. Miriam was very involved in anti-war efforts during the War on Mutants, and now that it’s over she’d like to be helpful to our cause in other ways. She approached me to ask what she could do. She’s particularly interested in projects related to displaced mutant youth.”
Scott laughed again. “You should try introducing her to Warren’s mother. That’s her pet project. I’d love to see that and watch the sparks fly – Marxist Jewish Mother meets Society Matron.”
The professor smiled. “Somehow, in spite of all that, I think the two of them would get along. So, what do you think? Should I ask her?”
“I think it’s a fine idea. Assuming Adam doesn’t freak out, that is.” Scott’s amused smile vanished. “Charles, are you only looking to expand?”
The professor sighed. “For a non-telepath, you are awfully good at knowing what I’m thinking.” Neither of them said anything. The silence seemed like a living thing, sitting there between them. Finally, Charles said, “I have to think about succession.”
“No. You don’t. Add Miriam to the trustees. It’s a great idea. But she’s an additional trustee, Charles. She is *not* your replacement.”
“No, of course she isn’t.” He didn’t say anything for a minute. “You are my replacement. My heir, both legally and spiritually.”
Scott shook his head. “You’re going to beat this,” he said, forcefully. Xavier didn’t answer. “You’re not going to die, Charles. I’m not going to let you die.”
Charles Xavier smiled sadly. “We’re all going to die.”
“Not yet. Not for a long time.”
“It’s not up to you. Would that it were, Scott. I know, you’re my Field Leader. You are the best one I could hope for. Cyclops, who always brings them back alive.”
“Except Hank.” There was a catch in his voice.
“Except Hank. And now me. Neither is your fault. Not everything is within your control.”
“This is within yours. Or it could be. It might be. You have to at least try Anjuli’s treatment.”
“I don’t think it could make any difference. It might even make things worse.”
“It might, but come on, Charles. What do you have to lose at this point? Look, she’s got something better than HFC now. More potent, faster acting. We’ll know quickly if it’s working or not, if it’s making it better or worse. If it’s worse, you stop.”
“I feel... comfortable with where I am now. I don’t feel able to try something new.”
“I get that, really. You’re resigned to it and it’s hard to even try to hope again.” Xavier nodded and looked away for a minute. Scott thought there might even be tears in his eyes. “I’m not going to let you give up. I know it’s hard, but you’ve got to try. I’ll help you; I’ll support you. Do not go gentle, Charles.”
“You want me to rage, rage against the dying of the light?” A sardonic smile came back to the Professor’s lips.
“I’m insisting on it. If you love me at all, Charles, try this.” He swallowed hard, trying to get the waver out of his voice. “Don’t leave me if you don’t have to.”
“Well, I tried.” Jamie’s drooping wings matched his frown. He and Warren were sitting next to each other at a table in the school library. “I asked her out, like you said I should. Fat lot of good that did me.”
“She turned you down?” Warren whispered back. “It happens. There’ll be other girls, other chances.”
“But this is the girl I want.” He looked so miserable saying that, Warren thought. Jamie continued. “Not to... well, you know. I just want to get to know her better.”
“So try again another time. Maybe she’s just playing hard to get. Maybe she already had a date. What did she say, anyway? Was it a flat out ‘no’?”
Jamie shook his head. “She didn’t say ‘no’ exactly. She said she didn’t think she could go on an off-campus trip. She said she thinks she’s on probation because she didn’t turn in her Othello paper on time.” He shook his head ruefully. “But that was just an excuse. Better than ‘I have to wash my hair,’ I guess.”
“How do you know it isn’t the truth?”
“She turned in the paper. I even saw it – Mr. Summers showed it to me before he left for Washington. He’s not going to take away her privileges because it was late. He doesn’t do things like that. And he’s not even here, anyway. Nah, it was just the first thing she could think of to get out of going to a movie with me. She doesn’t want anything to do with me. She’ll probably run the other way any time she sees me.” Jamie pushed his book aside and put his head down on the library table.
“I think you’re wrong there,” Warren replied, watching a tawny-haired girl enter the library and head their way.