Fandom: X-Men Movieverse (first movie), in the broadest sense. A lot has happened since the movie. I borrow concepts and characters from the comics, but pick and choose. I feel bound only by the movie as canon and what I’ve written before as prologue. Since this series deals with the early days of the X-Men it should be pretty accessible to those who have not read the previous stories.
Characters: The usual X-Men suspects and some original characters I’ve introduced in prior series.
Disclaimer: The X-Men and Alpha Flight belong to Marvel. The movie belongs to Fox. Adam, Anjuli, Wendy, Sasha and Jamie are the products of my fevered imagination.
Rating: Are we still doing this or has the MPAA scared us off? There’s no actual sex in this one, but there are sexual references and some disturbing themes.
Summary: A bunch of X-Men and assorted hangers on reflect upon the old days.
Sequel/Scenario: This series takes place a few months after the end of Unexpected Occurrences. It’s a short series, about 12,000 words in five stories.
Old Acquaintance (Reminiscences 1/5)
Charles Xavier and Scott Summers were in the enclosed garden, looking at the sky. The Professor was shielding his eyes from the noon sun with his hand. Scott had no such need, but he was the one scowling as he looked up. Professor Xavier was smiling broadly, his face a beacon of joy.
“How long have I been watching this? More than 15 years, anyway, and I still can’t get over seeing him like that. The beauty, the grace. And now with Jamie flying, too. What a sight!”
“Should they be flying?” Scott asked. “In broad daylight? Half the town could see them. Warren should know better. And he shouldn’t be encouraging Jamie to be so... blatant.”
“The whole town knows there are mutants here. It was never much of a secret, but since the war it has become common knowledge.”
“That’s my point exactly. We were in a war up until a few months ago. The situation here is still plenty tense. Here we are heading off to Washington to testify before the Select Committee. We don’t know whether the last war-related restrictions on mutants are going to be lifted or not. Is this really the time to be flaunting our mutant powers?”
“We have to live our lives, Scott. This is our home – Warren’s and Jamie’s as much as yours and mine. I’m not even sure what flaunting would be in this context, but I am quite certain it ought not be interpreted to include outdoor recreation on our own grounds.” They continued to watch in silence until Warren and Jamie disappeared behind the apple grove. “We need to be comfortable with ourselves if we’re ever to convince others to be comfortable with us,” Charles added. “Remember that when we’re in Washington tomorrow.” He wheeled off towards the mansion. Scott stayed a little longer.
“What a perfect day for flying!” Warren stretched his wings as he gracefully landed on the south lawn. “A good cardiovascular workout and great weather for it. Plus it’s such beautiful countryside, from the air. It’s easy to forget how beautiful when you’re on the ground, looking at all the Starbucks and SUVs.”
“Are you sure it’s okay? We won’t get into trouble?” Reluctant at first, Jamie had totally given into the joy of flight once Warren had persuaded him. Now that they’d landed, though, his anxiety was back in full force.
“It’s fine. What did the Professor say at dinner last night? The war is over and we can’t keep living like it’s still going on. We’re not cowering in a bunker anymore. Normal life, right? He even said it’s our *duty* to go back to our normal activities.”
“Flying isn’t normal.”
“It is for us.” Warren’s smile disappeared, replaced by an angry scowl. “I spent a lot of time trying to be what they think is normal. Well, trying to pass for that kind of normal, anyway. I messed myself up – physically and psychically – trying to pass. I’m not doing that anymore. I wish I never did it. If you’re smart, you won’t start.”
“He’s a piece of work, alright.” Logan was shaking his head, but the smile on his face and his tone of voice suggested he meant it admiringly. The tousled condition of the hotel bed was testament to what they’d done after meeting with the Senate Select Committee. Lust satiated for the moment, Logan was thinking back to Xavier’s performance at the meeting.
“Unflappable,” Scott agreed, remembering as well how Charles had handled the senators. He threw an arm across Logan’s chest and stretched his long limbs. “In combat, in political negotiations, dealing with outrageous adolescent behavior... It doesn’t matter. Nothing flusters Charles.” Scott smiled. “Most of the time I really admire that quality in him. I try to emulate it, even. But once in a while it drives me a little crazy.”
“I know what you mean. I’d pay good money to see him at a loss.”
Neither said anything for a minute. Scott said, finally, “I did once. See him at a loss, that is.”
“Uh huh. Professor Charles Xavier was totally nonplussed. Sputtering, incoherent. I would have paid more attention at the time if I’d known then how rare an event it is.” Logan watched as the red glow behind Scott’s glasses faded, realizing Scott was closing his eyes as he remembered. “Well, actually I didn’t *see* him flustered. I couldn’t see anything. I heard it, though.”
“You didn’t have your glasses on?”
“Didn’t have them at all. I was blind. It was when I first came to Westchester.”
“He came to get you in the City, eh?”
“Yeah. Sent me a telepathic message to meet him at Grand Central. When I got there he told me he’d bring me back to his home and give me a whole new life.”
“You thought he was just another john, right?”
Scott shook his head. “I thought he was a john, yes. I never thought he was just another one. I thought he was my savior. I would have done anything for him.”
“I don’t think we should ask him,” Sasha said, emphatically. “I’m sorry, Jean,” he added. “I know you’d want him to be the one. I think we should ask your father.”
“Dad will understand. I don’t think he’d even expect to give me away. He’s not going to be hurt if Charles does it. He pretty much ceded the paternal role to Charles when I was 16. And he’s never looked back. Don’t worry.”
“I’m not worried about your father. I’m worried about Charles. It puts him in an awkward position if you ask and he doesn’t want to do it.”
“Why wouldn’t he want to?”
“Because he doesn’t want to see me marry you.”
“Where ever have you gotten that idea?”
“It’s obvious. I’m surprised you can’t see it. Haven’t you noticed how he talks to me? How he talks to you when I’m around?”
“That’s just Charles. He’s reserved.”
“I’ve tried so hard to earn his respect, to convince him that I love you and will be good for you, but he doesn’t believe it, I’m sure of it. I feel that it will never happen, Jean. He will never accept me. Not fully.”
“No, love. That’s not true. He thinks very highly of you.”
“Perhaps. But not for you.”
“He’s protective of me. He always has been. Ever since I was a kid. I was such a mess when I came here.”
“Maybe he thinks you and Scott should still be together.”
She shook her head. “No, it’s the other way around. He thought we never should have been together, and he didn’t tell either of us. So now he feels bad about that.”
Adam hung up the phone and sighed. “He’s not coming home yet?” Anjuli asked.
“No. The mission is going on longer than he thought it would.”
“He doesn’t know. Sometimes I wish he’d just go back to Alpha Flight. Jean-Paul seems to spend more time working for Charles Xavier now in his supposed retirement than he did for the Hudsons when he was a full time Alpha Flight operative.”
“Telling Professor Xavier he was available for ‘occasional missions’ with the X-Men was a mistake. Professor X doesn’t know the meaning of ‘occasional.’ You tell him you’re available and you’re working. All the time. Hank was working for Charles Xavier until the day he died, for all that he had supposedly moved on from the X-Men.” She shook her head. “Well, I guess it was only a mistake to tell the Professor he’s available if Jean-Paul didn’t want to be working this much.”
“Yeah, well that’s the big question. Jean-Paul knows enough about the X-Men to figure out what the result of that kind of offer would be. He’s worked with them before – on loan from Alpha Flight. So, maybe telling Xavier he’s available means he’d rather be a full-time superhero again.” Adam mused on that. “I can’t fault him for wanting to work. I couldn’t hack being home full-time myself. Why should I begrudge Jean-Paul the work? It’s important, he’s good at it, they need him. I guess I just wish it were more defined, more predictable. Although, as you say, when you’re working for Professor X, more work is a good prediction.”
“It was great training for Hank, I’ll give him that. I’ve never met a more dedicated researcher. It was the first thing that impressed me about him. He was so disciplined, such a hard worker. As I got to know him better, I found out where he got it from.”
“Cyclops is like that, too. I guess they all are, all those original X-Men. Anything to please the Professor.”
“Not Warren. Hank was surprised he came back to the X-Men. He said Warren left first chance he got. And Hank was quite convinced he left to get away from Charles Xavier.”
Wendy was on her knees, repairing the pipes under the kitchen sink in the main house at the Outpost, when she felt a tap on her shoulder. “Back already, darling?” she said. “That was quick. I’ll be with you in a minute,” she added. “I’m almost done.”
She stood up a minute later to find Jean-Paul Beaubier standing there, a big smile on his face. “Oh!” she said. “I thought you were Arthur.”
“I assumed so,” he replied with a chuckle. “I could see no other reason that I would be upgraded to ‘darling.’ Well,” he added, “Since I have been, don’t I even get a hug?”
“What brings you here?” she asked, after complying with the request. “Do you want a cup of tea?” she added, putting the kettle on the stove in response to his nod.
“A mission. I’m just here for the day. One of many stops.”
“Alpha Flight or X-Men?”
“X-Men. Charles Xavier seems to be the one in need of freelance superheroes these days.”
“How’s that going?”
“It’s fine. I need to do *something.*”
“And what better something than getting beaten up by bad guys on a regular basis?”
Jean-Paul laughed at that. “I do my share of beating up, I’ll have you know.”
“Believe me, I know it. Well, I’m glad you’re happy. I certainly would have been content to see you and Adam settle down here long term, but I realize it wasn’t going to work for you two.”
Jean-Paul nodded in agreement. “For Adam even more than me. He needs to be where he can work. That’s DC, not rural Saskatchewan. And I need to work, too, at least some of the time. I’d go crazy sitting at home.” He scowled and repeated the last word. “Home. It doesn’t feel like home.”
“Not going well at Anjuli’s?”
“Depends who you ask. As far as I’m concerned, we’re long term houseguests in Anjuli’s apartment, but she and Adam seem to think it’s a workable situation.”
He shook his head. “I don’t even want to be in that country. Bien sur, I don’t want to be in a ménage a trois.” At her raised eyebrows he continued, “I meant it literally, not in the sexual sense. Come on, you know me. And Adam. We’re not the types for that kind of thing.”
“I doubt Anjuli is, either.”
“I’m sure you’re right. Anyway, we need a place of our own. Or I do, if I’m ever to feel settled. And in the meantime, I’m glad to have something to do to keep me occupied. I can’t handle being idle.”
“Charles Xavier is never one to leave someone idle, if he can help it.” The kettle whistled and she started making tea and getting out sugar and milk.
“Don’t I know it. When I came here to build the Outpost was not my first time under his direction. I’ve been on a number of joint missions over the years. Also, a few times I was seconded to the X-Men and under the Professor’s command. You know you’re working when you’re working for Professor X. Thanks,” he said, taking the mug Wendy handed him. “Of course you don’t necessarily know that you’ll stay alive long enough for the next assignment. The first time I was on loan I had my doubts.”
“Really? What happened?” She looked at the clock on the wall. “Arthur and April won’t be home from Prince Albert for another hour. Sit down and tell me all about it.”
Things Past (Reminiscences 2/5)
“When you were working at Worthington? That’s when you were trying to be normal? Or seem normal, anyway?” Jamie was lying prone on the south lawn, large white wings stretched out to either side of him, flapping lazily in the warm sun.
Warren, sitting up, wings folded loosely on his back, nodded his head. “Yes, well before that, too, some of the time. At Worthington I definitely overdid it. Hiding them all day, every work day. I was working crazy hours, too – 70, 80 hours a week. I’d untie them when everyone else had left, or sometimes I’d close my office door and just stretch them a bit, but it was just too much. It messed up my back and neck. You don’t want to know how much physical therapy I’ve been through to get back to normal.” He and Jamie both smiled at the last word. “Or how hard it was to find a physical therapist who was not only willing to work with a winged mutant but knew enough about mutant anatomy to help me.” Warren flexed his wings and continued. “When I was here – as a student I mean – we felt pretty free on the grounds, but we used to try to pass when we went into town. Or anywhere off of the campus. Scott – Mr. Summers - had a white-tipped cane. He did a great impression of a blind guy. I’d tie my wings up. Easier in cold weather. With layers of clothes they didn’t show so much. ”
“You never went out with your wings out?”
“Oh, I did on missions. It was kind of a weird way to live. Some of the time I was Angel – glorying in my mutant power, out fighting the bad guys, part of the X-Men combat team. Some of the time I was just a high school kid in a private boarding school, like any other prep school teen. Except our school was only four kids and one teacher and we were all mutants. And some of the time I was still pretending to be just like everybody else. It was a strange, sort of fragmented existence. At least, looking back I can see it was. At the time it felt normal.” He laughed. “There’s that word again. It’s not the right one, really. It didn’t feel normal. I didn’t know what normal felt like. But it sure felt great, particularly after what I’d been through.”
“It was bad at home, before you came here?”
“You can’t imagine.” Seeing Jamie’s expression, he added, “No of course you can. I forgot who I’m talking to. And no, it wasn’t as bad as what you went through. But bad enough. Enough that it felt like a huge relief to be here, that I didn’t mind at all risking my life to do whatever Charles Xavier sent me out to do. It blows my mind to think about it now. I look at you, at the other kids here and think what I was doing at your age. On a fighting force, in mortal combat at least weekly. I was badly injured more times than I can count. We all were. We didn’t even get real medical attention much of the time, since we were trying to keep how we got the injuries under wraps. I think Jean and Hank went to med school in large part because they got into it from spending so much time patching each other – and the rest of us – up, that they found out they had a talent for it.” He sighed. “I look back on that and I think Charles was utterly insane. We were a bunch of kids playing at being superheroes and not even realizing we were playing for keeps. It’s only plain dumb luck that none of us got killed. But at the time – well, it seemed like absolutely the best life had to offer.”
“So why did you leave?”
“I got mad at the Professor.”
Logan’s tone was disdainful, but Scott didn’t seem to mind. “Scoff if you must,” he said, sitting up and leaning against the headboard. He pulled his legs up, wrapped his arms around them. Head on his knees, he thought back to the time they’d been discussing. “That’s what it felt like. I don’t know if I can adequately explain it. I couldn’t believe my luck when Charles showed up. I’d been living hand-to-mouth for well over a year.”
“Cock-to-mouth, more like it.”
“That, too. But you know what I mean? No visible means of support. And no vision. A bad combo. So whatever gets me through the night. And the next day. I wasn’t thinking any further than that, not for a long time. Not since Simon, really. And you know how that turned out. I felt like I just couldn’t think any further than a day at a time. And then Charles shows up and I start thinking I might have a future. He told me he’d give me a home. An education. A job. A place in the world.” He shook his head again. “It felt too good to be true. And I felt like it had to be true, like I had to do whatever I could to make it true. It was everything I wanted. So all I wanted to do was please him, any way I could. I was so scared of doing or saying the wrong thing and screwing it up. It left me completely tongue-tied, unable to respond.”
“It sounds like you were the one who was flustered, not the Professor.”
Scott nodded. “Yeah, I was at first. Charles, well he was all Charles. He ignored me sputtering and being incoherent, just acted as if it weren’t happening and kept talking to me. He was totally charming. Well, you know how he is. He was just putting me at my ease in that seemingly effortless way he has, speaking to me like I was someone real, someone important. Telling me things he thought I’d be interested in. Asking my opinion on all sorts of things, acting like he thought I was someone whose opinion mattered. Not some fucked-up blind hustler kid who’d do anything for ten bucks. I was crying my eyes out, really embarrassed, trying hard to stop. I hadn’t cried in over a year, not since before I’d come into my powers. I think it was a year’s worth of tears coming out then, if that makes any sense. All that pent up emotion I hadn’t let myself express, that I mostly hadn’t even let myself feel. And I just couldn’t stop. Running nose, tear stains. I was worried that the crying was ruining my looks, making me unappealing, you know? I just couldn’t look bad. Because that’s what it was all about. All it had been about for a long time. And here I was bawling, and worried that he wouldn’t want me because of that. But he handed me a handkerchief, reassured me, helped me to calm down, without letting on that that was what he was doing. Then he asked me to push his chair.”
“Why the fuck does he do that? The damn thing’s motorized.”
Scott laughed. “Did he do that with you, too, when you first came to the school? He does it all the time. It’s a good strategy. It gives you something to do with your hands, let’s you feel useful. It also makes people more comfortable with his disability, I think. You know, once they’ve touched the chair, they aren’t kind of staring at it sidelong... And for me, blind, well it was something else, too. A way to lead me, really, without me having to feel like I was being led. He told me where to go. Plus I didn’t even know he was in a wheelchair until he asked me to push it. So, it cleared up some of the confusion.”
“How come you didn’t know he was in the chair? Oh, you mean ‘cause you couldn’t see?”
“Yeah. I knew something was strange. His voice was too low – not low timbre, low position. It had been like he was sitting down, but he was moving. I didn’t know what to make of that. So, he told me to push it and take him on the train and then I knew why. And I felt like I was doing something to help him, so that felt good. It didn’t occur to me until later that he’d come there by himself, so he obviously didn’t need someone to push it.” Logan laughed at that. “At the time I was just thinking that his legs don’t work and my eyes don’t work and that felt good, sort of equalizing. It made me less self-conscious about my eyes, I think.” Scott paused again, remembering. “And the whole way to Salem Center he was working on helping me relax, just reassuring me that I was going to be safe now. He told me all about the estate. It wasn’t a school then, just a huge, mostly empty mansion. He had staff, some of them live-in, but he was the only real resident. Until me. He told me he’d gotten a room ready for me. Said he’d furnished it with things he thought I’d like, but I could choose out what I wanted after I was settled, that he wanted me to realize it was my room. He said he wanted me to understand that I could do whatever I wanted with it.”
“Charles knew Scott was gay? When you and Scott were together?” Sasha sounded surprised.
“Yes, I think so. Well, sort of. He knew most of Scott’s sexual experience had been with men. Well, I knew that, too. Or I guessed it, anyway. Well, not until later, but I did figure it out. But that was...different. I didn’t think it meant anything about who Scott is, you know? It was what he needed to do, not what he wanted to do.”
Sasha looked perplexed. “What do you mean?”
“Well, don’t tell anyone, love. Please. When Scott was a teenager, he was homeless for over a year. I don’t even know how it happened, really. He doesn’t talk about it. I assume his parents couldn’t handle it when he came into his powers. He has no contact with them, hasn’t since before I knew him.”
“He’s completely estranged from his family?”
She nodded. “Just like so many of the kids we get here. I think it helps him relate to them in a way I never could, with my privileged upbringing. And well, when he was on his own – that’s how he got by. Sex trade. He was one of those hustler kids you see in Washington Square Park. So yeah, he was having sex with men, but it wasn’t because he wanted to. He hated doing that. Hardly anybody knows, so I mean it. Don’t say anything. Don’t even let on to Scott that I told you.”
“I will keep your confidence.”
“I know that. I just feel like I should say it.”
“I find this information... hard to reconcile with the Scott Summers I know.”
“Yeah, me too. I wonder if it would have affected my impression of him if I’d known at the time. Scott was so much the All American Boy or something when we were kids. Hard worker – at school, on the team. He did everything right. It was no surprise to any of us when Charles named him Field Leader. He’d been our de facto leader already.”
“Would you have been less willing to follow him if you’d known he’d been a prostitute before he came here?”
“Maybe. It would have shook up our view of him, I think. I mean, we were just kids. We weren’t great on nuances. We had a certain picture of Scott and it made it comfortable to be under his command. We might have thought twice about following him into battle if we’d known about his past. I bet I would have thought twice about dating him, too.”
“Warren seems to be on perfectly good terms with the Professor,” Adam protested. “I’ve seen them together – totally congenial, as far as I can tell.”
“I know,” Anjuli agreed. “Me, too. I didn’t meet Warren until after Hank’s death. By that point he certainly seemed to have made up with Professor Xavier. Well, I guess before that. As I said, Hank was shocked when Warren came back to the X-Men. He couldn’t get over it. He kept saying that Scott Summers had to be the most persuasive man alive to get Warren back. He spent a lot of time speculating about what Cyclops could have offered Warren to entice him to rejoin.”
They both stopped talking, listening to a sound from the other room. “Yours or mine?” Adam asked, and then shrugged and said, “Doesn’t matter, I guess. Whichever baby it was, he seems to have gone back to sleep. Anyway, I don’t really know Warren, but from what I’ve seen – and from what I’ve heard from Jean-Paul – he seems quite happy to be an X-Man again. He’s not at all interested in working with the school, though. I spoke there at Career Day a few years in a row. And each time there would be major drama over Warren Worthington refusing to be part of that and Scott getting all up in arms about it. So, I don’t know how persuasive Scott is or if he’s the one that got Warren back, but if he did – well, there are limits to his powers of persuasion.”
“My first battle on loan to the X-Men? Not that much to tell,” Jean-Paul said, slowly. “Or, at least, I was too confused at the time to be able to tell you much now. I couldn’t tell what was going on half the time. Combat can be like that.
“We were fighting Magneto. He had I don’t know how many of his Brotherhood with him. A lot more than us, anyway. We were outmanned, outmaneuvered, outmutant-powered, too. I remember being shocked at some of their powers, thinking we’d be lucky to get out alive, much less accomplish the mission. Several of us were badly injured within minutes. If it had been an Alpha Flight mission, well Mac would have aborted and brought us home long before it was over. Casualties were too high and the odds were too long. I kept expecting the mission to be called off. I kept expecting that at least one of us would die, too.” He shook his head. “But there’s no saying no to Charles Xavier. It was do or die.”
“So, did you accomplish the mission? Did you all get out okay?”
Jean-Paul cocked his head to the side. “For some values of okay. Bien sur, we accomplished the mission. Retrieved the stolen uranium we’d been sent for. Everyone got out and back to Westchester. Ah, but we were definitely the walking wounded. Those of us who could walk. Esti! Every last one of us injured, and not superficially. I was hors de combat for a couple of months and I wasn’t the worst. I told Mac never to send me to those crazy Americans again!”
Temps Perdu (Reminiscences, 3/5)
Jamie found Warren in the Danger Room. Jean and Ororo were with him, working on a complicated simulated battle. “Can I watch?” Jamie asked.
“Sure. Just stay out of the way. We’ll be done in a few minutes,” Storm replied.
“Or we’ll give up in a few minutes, more likely,” Warren chimed in.
“Please, Warren. How are we to succeed if you take that attitude?”
“Sorry, ‘Ro.” Facing her he rose about ten feet into the air. Continuing to flap his wings Warren spun around three times and landed, facing her again. He saluted, smiling sardonically. “Okay, I’m over it. X-Man Angel, reporting for duty, Field Leader Storm. With a whole new attitude.”
Jamie watched from the sidelines for the next hour. It was fascinating to see. He found himself rooting for the team to vanquish their robotic adversaries, and disappointed each time they were defeated. Eventually, Storm called off the exercise. “We’ll try it again when the rest are back from Washington,” she said.
“Is it even possible?” Jamie asked Warren, after Ororo and Jean had left.
Warren grinned. “Not as far as I can see. Still, Cyclops will work it out. You’ll see – come watch again once he’s back.”
“Who comes up with these exercises?”
“Professor X. And you’d be surprised how many of them turn out to be... predictions or something. It happens over and over again. We nearly kill ourselves working out ways to solve these. And then we find ourselves in a real battle and it’s just like the simulation. If we hadn’t had the practice of being ‘killed’ in the Danger Room a gazillion times over we’d be killed for real.” He shook his head. “I don’t know how he does it, but most of what Magneto or any of those other evil geniuses come up with – well, Professor Xavier thought of it first. And Cyclops figured out how to get us out of it alive.” He smiled again, ear to ear this time. “Does it sound like a crazy way to live?”
“Yeah. But it also sounds like you love it.”
“I do. I didn’t know how much I missed it until Scott talked me into re-upping.”
“What happened between you and the Professor to make you leave? Did you get mad at him for making you fight his battles when you were still a kid?”
“Nah. Not at all. Like I told you, looking back I kind of shake my head over that. But at the time it never occurred to me to think it was wrong. Or strange even. Still, I’m sure glad they don’t have kids on the team now. You should at least have a reasonable chance of living to adulthood, you know?”
“I don’t think any of the parents would allow it, kids being X-Men. Those students here that have parents, anyway.” Jamie thought about that for a minute. “Did your parents know you were on a combat team?”
Warren shook his head. “They didn’t know a thing. They thought I was learning to live with my ‘condition’. Yeah, that’s what they called this,” he added, rising until he touched the ceiling and then swooping down again. “What jerks! They thought they were sending me to a special school where I’d learn how to function in society in spite of it. Like a school for the handicapped or something. The Professor being disabled himself probably underscored that impression. And he wasn’t letting on what he was really up to with us. He talked the parents into letting him take their kids and help them with their ‘problem’. And then he taught us to glory in being mutants, told us we were homo superior, the next stage in evolution. It was a great scam, worth risking your life for. That’s how we all felt at the time,” he concluded, laughing. Clapping Jamie on the shoulder, Warren changed the subject. “Do you have a class now?”
“No, I’m done for the day. Well, I’ve got homework. I guess I should get to it.”
“Do it after dinner. Come flying with me. I want to show you something.”
Logan snorted. “He said you could redecorate if you wanted? I bet you didn’t care what the room looked like.”
“Not at all. Having a bed, a place to stay – that’s what counted. And besides, I couldn’t see what it looked like anyway. That’s the part I told him. I didn’t want him to realize how desperate I was, but I did say that I didn’t have any need to choose my own furnishings, since I couldn’t see them.”
“What did he say to that?”
“I remember exactly. ‘We’ll take care of that,’ he said, with that characteristic confidence. ‘I’m going to find a way for you to see again.’ I wasn’t sure what he knew and what he didn’t so I told him that I *could* see, but bad stuff happened if I opened my eyes. It was as close as I could come to the truth. He said, ‘I know’ and then ‘We’ll take care of that’ again. And then he told me that he had a lot of Braille books and a Brailler and he’d teach me Braille so I could keep up with my studies until we worked out the vision problem.”
“Yeah, I wasn’t sure how much he knew about what I’d been doing at that point. So, I told him I hadn’t been in school for over a year, and asked him if he was planning on me going to school in Westchester. He said I wouldn’t be going to school, that he would teach me privately. He told me that a regular school wasn’t suitable for someone like me, someone ‘gifted.’ That was the first time I heard him use that word. It was... shocking to hear, but in a good way. I’d thought of being a mutant as something defective about me. Here he was saying there was another way of looking at it, that we were people with special gifts.” Scott sighed. “And that was all new, too – the ‘we’ part. I’d never met another mutant, not that I knew anyway. He kept saying things like ‘we mutants’ and ‘our people’ and ‘our gifts’. I was just blown away by the ‘we-ness’ of it, if that makes any sense, by the sense of belonging and community.”
“It makes sense. How did it feel?”
“Great. And scary, too.”
“It was everything I wanted. Even what I hadn’t known I wanted. And it was within my grasp, almost. I could practically taste it. So I was scared of losing my chance. What if I couldn’t make him happy? What if he decided I wasn’t worth the trouble after all? I did *not* want to go back on the streets. I was scared I wouldn’t please him and he’d throw me away.” Scott didn’t say anything for a minute, then added, “I’d been thrown away before.”
Logan pulled Scott towards him, muttering “Fucking Simon” under his breath. “Please him sexually, you mean?”
Scott nodded. “Yeah, that’s all I knew. There was nothing in what he said to suggest that he was looking for a rent boy, but I just assumed that was what he wanted me for. He’s talking about me studying, working hard, catching up on what I missed, all that kind of stuff. But all I’m thinking is how can I give him a good time. A good enough time that he’ll want to keep me. And I was totally at a loss on what to do with him.”
“ ’Cause of the chair, you mean?
“Yeah. I’d never had a paraplegic before. I had no idea what he could and couldn’t do. Didn’t know what he’d want me to do. And I’m thinking maybe I only have one chance here and I don’t want to blow it. So, I figured when all else fails – tell the truth.”
Logan laughed. “What did you say?”
“I told him that I’d been hustling for a little over a year. I told him I’d had all kinds of guys, but never anyone like him. ‘I’m real good,’ I told him, ‘Ask anybody. And I’ll do anything. You can use me any way you want. I don’t know anything about your condition, but I’ll do whatever you tell me to. If there’s any way you can get off, I can make it happen. And make it something you’ll remember.’ That’s when the sputtering started.”
“I’ll bet. He didn’t have any idea that’s what you thought he wanted?”
“I guess not. I mean, I know I was broadcasting lots of stuff – fear, worry, hope. But maybe nothing that specific. He certainly wasn’t prepared for it. He clearly had no idea I’d figured he was going to keep me for sex.”
“So you didn’t know about Scott’s past when you started dating? You had no reason to suspect he was gay?”
“No. He never said anything about it. I had no idea then he’d ever had sex with men. We were both virgins. Well, I was. He was, sort of. Well, I thought he was. He’d never been with a woman, that much I knew. I didn’t know there was anything else to know.”
“It gets complicated, doesn’t it?”
“Yes. More complicated than my seventeen-year-old self would have known how to handle, I’m sure. But I didn’t have a clue.”
“Even with telepathy?”
“My telepathy was mostly dormant then. I really just saw myself as a telekinetic. But yes, even later, when Scott and I had a constant telepathic link, I had no idea.”
“How can that be?”
She shrugged. “Self-control? He’s very disciplined, Scott. Body and mind. I think he just didn’t think about men. He was so determined to be heterosexual. I had no idea he was anything but. And his hustler period? I think he did his best to forget it, didn’t even think about it. So, if he wasn’t thinking about it, there weren’t any thoughts for me to pick up. I had no idea. Later on I figured it out.”
Anjuli and Adam were attracting quite a bit of attention, walking to the park. Two babies in a double stroller, very much the same size yet so completely different in coloring tended to be noticed anyway. And today Hank and Ezra were conversing loudly in baby talk, pointing and chattering as if they were really carrying on a conversation, much to the amusement of onlookers, judging by their expressions.
“Does it bother you?” Anjuli asked.
“That people think we’re a couple, a family.”
“Well...” Adam hesitated. “That’s hard to answer.”
“I’m not taking it personally,” she laughed.
“It bothers me that people think I’m straight. If not for that I’d be honored for them to think I’m with you, and that the babies are both ours.”
She laughed again. “How gallant of you!” And then added, “Why do you care if total strangers think you’re straight?”
He shrugged. “Coming out’s hard. And I just hate that I’m never done with it, that there are all these assumptions. Not just assumptions of heterosexuality.”
“What other kinds of assumptions?”
Adam shrugged. “Look, what do people say to you when you’re out alone with the babies?”
“I don’t know. All sorts of things. They ask if they’re twins, if they’re both mine. How old are they? That kind of thing.” She paused and thought. “What do they say to you?”
“I can’t go out anywhere without some woman saying ‘your wife is so lucky.’ I swear I want to deck anyone who does. Think of all the assumptions inherent in that. I mean, I know they mean it to be a nice thing to say. But not only do they assume that all men are straight, or at least all parents, but that men aren’t *really* parents, you know? Like I’m just helping out my ‘wife’, like a father who acts like a parent is such a hugely remarkable thing that his wife is lucky.”
“They’re probably speaking from their own experience.”
“Yeah, I know. Bugs me anyway. And you know what else bugs me? I hate thinking that all those fond smiles are only because they don’t know who I really am. That if it were Jean-Paul and me walking to the park with the babies instead of you and me some of those same people would be glaring at us. Or looking away.”
“I know what you mean. I see people ooh-ing and ah-ing over Hank and I think about what would it be like if his father had lived. If Hank and I were walking along holding hands, carrying our baby, would people be smiling at the baby or staring at his father? Will they stop smiling if he starts looking more like Hank and less like me?”
“And you never know which ones they are. Some of them wouldn’t care – about mutant parents or gay ones. But here we are unwittingly impersonating a non-mutant heterosexual couple and some of those smiling faces are on people who’d hate us if they knew what our families really are.” He shook his head. “Sometimes it seems easier not to go out in public at all.”
“You could always go back to Saskatchewan.”
“I was teasing. Anyway, I like having you guys around.”
“I like being around. I’m just crabby, sorry. I wish Jean-Paul were here. Sometimes I think we should just move in at Xavier’s with all the time he’s spending with the X-Men.” They reached the park and started unbuckling children. “Hey, you never told me,” Adam added. “What happened between Charles and Warren to make Warren leave the X-Men?”
“I don’t know the whole story. Hank told me what he knew, but he wasn’t around when it happened and Warren and Charles weren’t talking. He pieced some of it together, though, afterwards.”
“How did you come out of that alive? And manage to all get back, injured like that?”
“Cyclops. He’s amazing, Wendy. If all you know is Scott Summers the English teacher, you don’t know half of what he’s like. Ferocious in battle and a born leader. He always knows where everybody is, what they need, and he’s always there to give it, no matter how badly he’s injured himself.”
“He never considered giving up?”
“No way. Pas possible. Charles Xavier told him to come back with the uranium, and he wasn’t leaving that battle scene without it. Not alive, anyway.”
“With his shield or on it?”
“Exactly.” He stopped a minute, remembering. “But I’ll tell you, Wendy, if anyone was getting carried back on his shield, it was going to be Cyclops. He would have died so the rest of us could live. He wasn’t coming back without the mission accomplished, but he wasn’t letting anyone else die out there, vraiment. That’s what the X-Men were like back then. That was the whole of their command structure: Charles Xavier sent you out to die and Scott Summers made sure you didn’t.”
Time’s Winged Chariot (Reminiscences 4/5)
Jamie and Warren had been flying for about twenty minutes, into country Jamie had never flown through before. They’d switched directions a few times and Jamie was not quite sure where they were in relation to Salem Center. The view below had been beautiful, over lakes and hills and horse farms. As time stretched on, Jamie wondered where they were going, and when they’d arrive. He couldn’t manage to get close enough to speak to Warren without worrying about knocking wings, though. Finally, as a large low building appeared in the distance, Warren swooped down and back up, signaling Jamie that they were about to land.
As they approached land, the complex they were approaching became clearer. The main building was three stories at the center, with long two-story wings on either side. Several additional smaller buildings surrounded it. A large lake with a sandy beach was situated behind it, with an elegant-looking boathouse at the point nearest the main building. To the left of the lake were tennis courts; stables and corrals to the right. A large swimming pool in a glass enclosure was attached to the main building. A golf course was in the distance, Jamie saw. He followed Warren and landed in a sculpture garden, right next to a copy (was it a copy?) of Rodin’s Thinker. “Is it a resort?” he asked.
Warren shook his head. “It’s where I grew up, my family home.” Jamie whistled. Warren laughed in response. “What’s the big deal? You’ve been living in a mansion for two years.”
“That’s different. It’s a school. And, anyway, even if it still was the Xavier family home, it isn’t like this. Looking at this place, I feel like the Xaviers were the poor relatives or something.”
Warren laughed again. He stopped and greeted the man approaching them, walking briskly from the main house to the garden. “Stevens,” he said. “How are you? We just dropped in.”
“So nice to see you, Mr. Worthington,” Stevens replied. Jamie noticed that he seemed unperturbed by the two mutants flexing and stretching their wings after the long flight.
“Stevens, this is my friend James Moore.” Jamie didn’t know whether to shake hands or not. He just kind of nodded at Stevens. “Is my mother around?” Warren asked.
“No, she won’t be back until quite late, I’m afraid. A Junior League project is taking up a lot of Mrs. Worthington’s time, lately.”
“Homeless mutant teens?” Stevens nodded. “Well, whatever keeps her off the streets. Of course, I guess it doesn’t, really,” Warren added, smiling. Stevens appeared to be suppressing a grin.
“Is there anything I can get you, sir?”
Warren turned to Jamie. “Iced tea?” He nodded. “Yes, some iced tea. Oh, and does Mrs. Holland have any of those cookies of hers? You know the ones I like. We’ll have them out here,” he added, leading Jamie over to a table and chairs in the middle of the sculpture garden. “Oh, and Stevens?” he added. “Bring me the photo album in my top desk drawer. Thanks.”
Jamie looked at the retreating figure of Stevens, and whistled again. “It’s like something out of a book,” he said. “He’s like something out of a book. Or a movie.” Warren just shrugged, wings fluttering a bit in the breeze.
“What was it like, growing up here?” Jamie asked a few minutes later, sipping iced tea and eating a cookie.
“I don’t know. I didn’t know any other way to grow up.” He scowled. “Really all I knew. I almost never got to go anywhere, not after these got big enough that they were hard to hide,” flapping his wings to show what he meant. “They didn’t want anyone seeing me.” Warren took a sip of his tea. “Did you ever read _Jane Eyre_?” he asked.
“Yeah, last year in Mr. Summers’s class on the novel. Why?”
“I read it when I was your age. I identified with the first Mrs. Rochester.”
Jamie thought about that one for a minute. “Stevens seems fine about the wings. He didn’t bat an eye at us.”
“He always has been. He risked his job a few times just to help me.”
“Help you how?”
“Letting me be what I am and not what they wanted me to. When they weren’t looking, anyway. My parents didn’t have them removed like yours did,” he said, gesturing towards Jamie’s left wing with his iced tea glass. “But it doesn’t mean they were any more resigned to them. I think they would have if they hadn’t worried that they’d be exposed as parents of a mutant when they went doctor-shopping. It’s not like you can find out which doctors are willing to mutilate mutant kids by looking in the Yellow Pages. Anyway, they did what they could.” He took out the photo album and thumbed through it, stopping when he found the page he was looking for. “See?”
“Wow!” Jamie was speechless for a moment. “It’s like... like... a straightjacket.”
“Exactly. Only it confined my wings instead of arms. They thought it would make the wings shrivel, or stop them from growing or something. I was getting bigger and they were getting bigger with me. My father realized it was going to get harder and harder to hide them. So, he came up with this contraption. Hey, put those engineering skills to some use other than making money,” he added bitterly.
“Did you have to wear it all the time?”
“Only when my parents were looking. I couldn’t reach the fasteners – on purpose. That’s how he designed it. But Stevens took it off of me as soon as they weren’t around. And they weren’t around much. I was thankful for that. Thankful for him. He taught me to fly, too.”
“Well, encouraged me. Told me I could, told me I ought to use them, got me to keep trying.” He thought some more. “I wonder if I could have flown earlier if they hadn’t been confined so much. You’re flying, after all, and you’re two years younger than I was.” He shrugged. “Oh well. I guess I’ll never know. There aren’t enough of us winged types to have a sense of when they usually start working.”
“I’m just glad mine work at all. I wasn’t sure they would.” Jamie remembered back to when he’d asked Warren to help him find out if he could fly. “And now your mother does volunteer work with homeless mutants?”
“Yeah. Surprised the hell out of me, how she turned around. Still, Scott always said that’s what would happen. When I was at Xavier’s, he used to come home with me sometimes on vacations. He doesn’t have any family of his own.”
Warren flipped through the album and found a picture of a much younger Scott Summers and Warren Worthington, posing with their arms around each other’s shoulders in the same sculpture garden. Warren’s wings weren’t visible and in the bright sun, Scott’s dark glasses were unremarkable. “Don’t we look normal?” Jamie nodded and smiled. “Anyway, Scott always said it was all him, that my mother was just cowed. They had a lousy marriage. They always seemed on the verge of divorcing. ‘With him out of the picture, she’d get over it’ Scott would tell me. And I guess he was right. It took my father’s death to get him out of the picture, though.”
“Were you sorry when he died?”
Warren took another bite of cookie before he answered. “Only sorry I didn’t do it myself.”
“The professor knew what you’d been doing, didn’t he?”
“Absolutely. He knew just what I was, how I’d been living. He’d been watching me with Cerebro for a while.”
Logan considered that for a moment. “Does that creep you out at all? Him watching you like that, and you not knowing he was doing it?”
“Not until this very moment.” Logan laughed at that. Scott continued, “Seriously, I don’t think that much about it. It doesn’t bother me. I’ve seen him do it when he’s looking for mutants. He’s not voyeuristic about it. He finds out what he needs to know.” Scott thought a little more. “Sometimes it bothered me not knowing just what he did know. He’s very discreet, and mostly I like that. We live in such close quarters here. A bit of a goldfish bowl. Cerebro – well, it just meant I was in the bowl before I knew it. I’ve been taken aback a few times when I find out he knows more about me than I thought he did.”
“But this time he was the one taken aback. If he knew you were a rent boy, how come he was so thrown by what you said to him?
“That’s how he is. He knew what I’d been doing, but he just didn’t apply it to himself. He’d never dream of using a kid that way. It never occurred to him that I’d think he would.”
“For a smart guy, he’s really dumb sometimes.”
Scott laughed. “That’s Charles all over – brilliant, insightful, but at the same time unbelievably naïve or opaque on certain subjects. I think he was just not able to conceive of anyone thinking that of him. He couldn’t draw the obvious conclusion: you pick up this hustler kid. Nobody ever wants him for anything but to get off cheap. Why would he think you wanted anything different?”
“So what happened after he stopped sputtering?”
“He said, ‘There’ll be none of that.’ Cracks me up now to think of it. One minute he’s just incoherently stammering, doesn’t know what to do with this ever-so-earnest kid in front of him saying he’s willing to do anything to bring him off. The next minute he’s, well, he’s Professor Charles Xavier. With all that entails. I don’t think I’d ever heard anyone talk like that – he said it in his sternest, most professorial voice.” Scott laughed to himself. “I immediately responded with ‘Yes, sir!’ which I don’t think I’d ever said in my life. Then I thought about it and said, ‘I mean no, sir!’ and then I thought about it some more and wasn’t sure that was right either, and didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t say much of anything for the rest of the trip.
“He kept talking, though – just things he thought I’d be interested in. He was telling me about the house, the town, ideas he had for dealing with the optic blasts. He was really hoping there was a way for me to control them with my brain – he wanted to work with me telepathically on that. But he was already thinking of what could block them, too, figuring that could be a stopgap solution. He listed a few possibilities to experiment with, and ruby quartz was on the list.”
“How does he do that?”
“I don’t know. Is he smarter than the rest of us?” Scott answered his own question. “No, I don’t think so. If you talk sheer brain power, I think Hank always had him beat. But Charles is more creative or something. He can generate more ideas for any problem than anyone I’ve ever met. One of them always works. So, the telepathic techniques that might have taught me to control it never materialized, more’s the pity. But the ruby quartz temporary fix worked, and ultimately it became the permanent fix. Anyway, I didn’t know that’s what would happen, but I was already impressed by all the ideas he had. It made my head spin to listen to him.”
“Did you feel better, knowing he wasn’t just looking for a cheap lay?”
“No! If anything it made me more anxious. I mean, at first I was thinking if I could give him a good time, well then I’m home free. I was worried about whether I could, but I knew what the goal was. And it seemed at least possible that I could achieve it. After not doing anything else for so long, well I kind of thought that sex was all I was good at. I didn’t know what else I could do – in general, and specifically for him. So here I thought if I can only find out how to bring him off, I’m okay. Then I find out that’s not going to do it. But I didn’t know what he *did* want from me, you know? I was feeling kind of at sea. And scared to say anything that might screw up what looked like such a good thing. So, I just didn’t say anything.
“We got to Salem Center and there was a car to meet us. He introduced me to the chauffeur as ‘Mr. Scott Summers, who has come to stay with us.’ I didn’t even know that he knew my whole name until then. That got me mulling over how he knew what he knew.
“We drove to the mansion in silence. He took me to my room. He seemed like he really knew how to deal with blind people, explained where everything was and how to use it. There were clothes in the drawers, just for me. Everything fit, which was how I first realized he must already know a lot about me. There were Braille books, like he’d said, and a Brailler. He put my hands on it, had me feel all around it, told me he’d teach me how to use it. And there were audio books, too. And real hardcover ones, which he showed me by putting my hands on the shelf. ‘You’ll be reading these soon’ he said, and at that moment I believed him. I thought he could do anything.”
“How did you know about Scott’s past?”
“Well, you know it was just the four of us here when we were kids, right?” Sasha nodded. “We were the X-Men and we were the school – there wasn’t a distinction. Charles was the only teacher. But then once we grew up we wanted it to be more of a real school. So after college we became teachers and not just X-Men. It was the four of us that wanted to do that, make it into a real school. ‘Ro had joined us by then, and Warren was gone, so still four. It was Scott’s idea, and the rest of us were all for it. Scott brought it to Charles, and he was totally on board and we started growing a school – developing a curriculum, converting rooms here into classrooms and dorms.
“Charles started finding us students, mostly with Cerebro. As the school grew, so many of the kids we took in had been living on the streets. So, that became something I knew a little bit about, thought about. It wasn’t out of the question anymore, you know? And Scott seemed to have a special affinity for the kids who had been homeless before they came here. He understood them, could relate to them, when the rest of us couldn’t. Kids would open up to him. They felt like he really understood them when they’d thought no adult could. Well, that makes sense, he’d been through what they had. I mean, I always knew that part. I knew he’d been on his own for over a year from when he came into his powers until Charles went and got him. And I knew he didn’t like to talk about that time. But he and I had been together for years before it occurred to me to really think about that, to consider how a fifteen-year-old blind boy would manage to live for a year in New York City without parents or a home. A really attractive fifteen-year-old blind boy. So, I just kind of put it together.”
“Did you talk to him about it?”
“No, not until years later. Not until after we’d broken up. I mean, obviously he didn’t want me to know or he would have told me. Well, that’s what I thought at the time. Now I wonder if I should have said something then. Maybe he was afraid for me to know. Maybe he wanted to talk about it but was too scared. Anyway, I knew – or guessed, really – that that’s what had gone on, but I didn’t think it meant anything about his core sexuality.”
“Was there anything in...anything in how...” Sasha hesitated. “Could you tell from how he made love with you? In retrospect, even? Would you know that he wasn’t really into women?”
“No, I don’t think so. We had a good sex life. I don’t think I’m kidding myself on that. We had a telepathic link, after all. I can confidently say that we were both enjoying it. Maybe not so intense as it might have been – well, for either of us, really. Or as inventive. But he was my first. I didn’t have a basis of comparison. Now, I do,” she added with a smile.
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“You should.” She kissed him, then continued. “I was shocked when Scott came out. I wasn’t sure he *was* gay, even after he told me he’d been having an affair with a man. I thought maybe he just had to get that out of his system or something, that it was an aftereffect of that time he was on his own.” She laughed a little. “I was incredibly naïve, I think. When I talk about myself then, I sound like some unworldly teenager, not a woman in her thirties.”
“I don’t think you sound naïve. It was a shock. You think you know someone...”
She nodded. “Charles maybe knew more, maybe wasn’t so shocked. He told me later that he felt he’d let us both down, that he ought to have spoken both to Scott and me about his concerns about us. He’s very discreet. He tries not to interfere.”
Adam and Anjuli stopped their conversation while Adam soothed a crying Ezra, upset that the puppy he had been enthusiastically watching had left with its owner. “So what happened between Warren and Charles Xavier?” he asked, resuming the conversation he and Anjuli had been engaged in.
“Well, like I said, Hank never knew the whole story. It was over Christmas vacation, when he was in college. Hank was with his parents, Jean was at her mother’s place. Scott and Warren were at the Worthington estate, and Jean and Hank were going to join them there by New Year’s. Warren had some huge fight with his father, and left. He followed it up with a huge fight with Charles Xavier. Whatever happened, he was hopping mad. He packed up and left, moved out of Westchester and into dorms. I guess he patched things up with his father. He went on to get his MBA and then worked at Worthington for years. With his father until he died, and then continuing on there afterwards.”
“He resigned when it became public he was a mutant, right?”
She nodded. “Yeah. Leaked to the press, apparently, by the guy who succeeded him as CEO.”
“Worthington Industries has always had a reputation for being a cut-throat kind of place.”
“Which makes you wonder what made it preferable to being an X-Man.”
“Why is he like that?” Wendy was shaking her head in amazement.
“Cyclops? I don’t know.” Jean-Paul took another sip of his tea and thought about it a little more. “Well, some of it I can see. I am not unfamiliar with overachieving closet cases.” She laughed at that. “But there was more to it with him than that. Still is. Scott will do anything to avoid disappointing Charles Xavier.”
See next post for final story.