X-Men fan fiction
Chapter 1: Mayday
Chapter 2: Sunset Home
Chapter 3: Sunset Home, part II: Exam
Chapter4: Sleeping Rough
Chapter 5: The Bogarts
Chapter6: The Bogarts, part II: Glasses
Chapter 7: Xavier
Chapter 8: New Students
Chapter 9: Eve of Grey
Chapter 10: Grey Christmas
Chapter 11: Dilemma
Chapter 12: Confrontation
Chapter 13: Jack O'Diamonds
Chapter 14: Escape
One and a Half Years Later
Charles Xavier positioned himself at his desk and, with a series of keystrokes, a state-of-the-art communications console revolved into view where a moment ago there had only been flat desktop. A couple of seconds later the screen came to life, taken up entirely by an FBI logo. Xavier pressed another series of keys, then addressed the man whose image appeared on the screen facing him.
Fred Duncan was an FBI agent with whom Xavier had developed a friendly relationship over the past decade or so. Duncan had originally sought Charles out for his expertise on a case that had thoroughly stumped Duncan’s agents. Following that successful collaboration, Charles had consulted on several more unusual cases for Fred over the years. The arrangement was a mutually beneficial one. Duncan was able to close out some of the most puzzling cases to cross his desk without having to bring their more controversial aspects to light. Together, the two of them protected the public from harm while Xavier was able to help maintain the protective veil of anonymity which shielded mutants and their unusual powers from public knowledge.
“Charles, it’s been too long. It’s good to see you again.”
“It has been a while, nearly two years since you’ve had a case for me.”
Duncan nodded. “How is young Mr. Summers? I trust you were able help him with his vision problem.”
“It’s amazing what corrective lenses can do for a person,” Xavier responded. His reply was light-hearted and understated, though he was undoubtably pleased with the outcome of the case in question. “But I trust you bring more pressing concerns than the request for an update on Scott.”
“Yes, I’m afraid so, but some details of Scott’s case were recently brought to mind.... You know my office has a certain reputation for attracting ‘unusual’ cases. I recently had one forwarded to me concerning a man who’s been smashing through glass with his bare hands in connection with a number of recent thefts. The earliest of these thefts coincided with a break in at a nuclear reaction facility where a small amount of radioactive material was stolen – but all the safety equipment at the facility associated with the transport of hazardous materials was accounted for.”
“Our thief likely didn’t know what it was he was stealing, or that it could be dangerous to him.”
“My thought exactly. At the most recent of these break ins, we were able to get an image of the man. A police cross-check identified him as Jack Winters, though these days he’s calling himself Jack O’Diamonds. It would appear that the radiation exposure to his hands has imparted his skin with diamond-like properties, impervious to glass – and we have reason to suspect he intends to hit the nuclear facility again.”
“He wants to make himself even more powerful,” Charles breathed.
Duncan nodded. “I hoped you might be able to help us settle this quietly.”
Professor Xavier nodded. “I’ll do what I can, Fred.”
Fred Duncan nodded in return. “As always, my resources are at your disposal, Charles.”
This would be unlike any case Charles had taken on in the past. Jack Winters was not the run-of-the-mill mutant, struggling to keep the manifestation of his powers hidden. He was a career criminal hoping to use his newfound mutation as a weapon, and if his plan was successful he could make himself all but invincible. He was a threat that would have to be confronted and somehow defeated.
“This time I may need to lean on those resources a bit,” Xavier acknowledged heavily. “But first, I have a few things to discuss with my colleagues.”
About an hour later Professor Xavier had addressed the problem at hand with Hank and Warren. They both sat uneasily in his office, studying the professor from across his desk. No telepathy was necessary to gather that both of them were hesitant to take the step Xavier was proposing. It was Warren who first put that reluctance into words.
“Charles, when we first crossed paths, you made the convincing argument that my attempted heroics and vigilantism were putting me and other mutants in danger. You told me that potential cost was higher than the reward for the people I was able to help. That was a really hard truth for me to accept at the time, but eventually I agreed, and I agreed to redirect my resources and energies into helping you build this school. Now you’re proposing going down that same path, but in a much larger way.”
Hank concurred. “I find myself in agreement with Warren, Charles. This action would expose not only us, but also those we seek to shelter within these walls to the very loss of anonymity and incursion of hostilities that we seek to protect them from. Absorbing such a grave risk would appear to go against everything that you have sought to build here.”
Charles Xavier sighed in concession. “I have ardently hoped that we could avoid conflict as we realized my goals for this school and moved toward the eventual establishment of open and peaceful relations between mutants and the rest of society. But I no longer believe that an entirely passive approach will be possible, not when faced with circumstances such as this one.
“We have the unique ability to confront and to thwart the plans of mutants like Jack Winters before they can become public knowledge, and I believe that we have a responsibility to do so. The alternative is witnessing the exposure of mutant-kind’s existence to humanity in a horribly disastrous manner. Once the public perception of mutants becomes linked to crime and danger, they will begin to see us as a threat to humanity, and we all enter into a truly dark and uncertain future.”
Warren and Hank reluctantly agreed with that argument, but Charles didn’t relax his guard. They had only heard the first half of his plan of action.
“I also believe that Scott, Ororo, and Jean should be given a choice in this.”
Warren got to his feet and paced a few steps, his wings rustling restlessly with the sudden motion. “This is not their fight, Charles. They’re here to be educated and protected.”
“They’re young adults, old enough to go out into the world on their own, and old enough to make the decisions that will affect their lives.”
“The three of them should be considering their own futures,” he persisted. “They have college ahead of them, and after that their opportunities can be unlimited.” Warren came to a standstill but he still shook his head in disagreement. He wasn’t sure they were ready for so much independence, or to shoulder such heavy responsibility so soon. He glanced toward Hank. “They can assimilate into society and live normal lives in ways that we simply can’t. They’ve worked too hard to get where they are now, and we shouldn’t ask them to give that up.”
“It’s also worthy of careful consideration that, in terms of their mutant abilities, the three of them are just beginning learn what they are capable of,” Hank offered thoughtfully. “Are you certain it’s entirely wise to ask them to use their skills in this way?”
“As you rightly noted, Hank, our actions will have consequences for them,” Charles stated calmly. “Given that fact, I believe they deserve to have a choice in the matter. And I believe that they are all capable of meeting this type of a challenge, if they chose to do so.”
“And Scott?” Hank questioned cautiously.
“Especially Scott,” Charles answered quietly.
Warren shook his head again. “I’m not even gonna ask if his emotions run hot or cold for this Winters character. Either way, it makes this personal for him. And that’s dangerous.”
“Warren, I understand your concerns. In fact, under different circumstances, I think I would make the same arguments,” Xavier countered honestly. “But the truth is, if we are going to succeed in this – and we must succeed – it will take all of us, working together.”
“Tell me there’s a line you’re not willing to cross here, Charles,” Warren insisted warily. “I need you to tell me you’re not willing to risk their lives for this mission of yours.”
“For as long as Scott, Ororo, and Jean are my students, their well-being is my greatest concern. I’ll do everything in my power to keep them safe and protected. That includes taking the steps we’re discussing now,” Xavier added, his voice heavy with quiet determination. “This mission will determine the course of all of our futures, and possibly our very survival.”
“You really think that one small-time criminal can jeopardize all of us?” Warren questioned.
“When that one, small-time criminal is a mutant, yes,” Xavier answered.
Warren nodded, and he took a deep breath. “Then you can count on me.”
“You shall have my assistance, also,” Hank agreed.
“Good. Thank you both. Now, let us consult Scott, Ororo, and Jean.”
It was an absolutely beautiful day, too nice a day to waste inside and almost too nice a day to spend lost in the pages of a good book, even if you were sitting outside to read. That was exactly what Scott had been attempting for the past hour or so, but he was having a hard time focusing his attention on the pages.
The school term had come to an end just a few days earlier. Final exams were done, and a small ceremony had been held at the mansion to honor the achievements of three new high school graduates and proud future college students. With a long summer break looming ahead of them, Scott and Ororo planned to devote extra time to honing their mutant powers, something that all three students had routinely made time for throughout their stay at the mansion – much like an extracurricular activity. And this summer Jean had also elected to stay on at the mansion. She had convinced her parents that she wanted to use this summer to get a head start in studying for the fall’s pre-med classes, with Hank’s assistance. John and Elaine Grey didn’t doubt that that was her intention, but they also knew that Jean wanted to stay with her friends this summer.
In her fifteen years before coming to the Institute, Jean Grey had mostly led a normal life. She had been close to her parents and her older sister, and she had been surrounded by friends, even to the point of being called popular... but in some ways that reality had never felt real to her, not the way her friendships with Scott and Ororo felt real, and not the way her future looking forward from here felt real. From the moment she had first come into her powers, life had taken a surreal turn for Jean – like she was hovering somewhere between dream and nightmare realities. Jean had never felt ready or prepared, and never in control. Given those discomforts and uncertainties, she had spent a great deal of time cultivating the appearance of normalcy and denying the underlying abnormality... all the while fearing what would happen to her “normal” life if the truth about her was exposed. But here she didn’t have to hide her gifts, or even her uncertainties about them. Here she was accepted and supported by friends and mentors who liked her for who she truly was, and she felt the same way about each of them.
Scott tilted his gaze upward to watch the fluffy gray and white clouds passing overhead. They seemed to bounce joyfully against the deep blue sky without ever obscuring the bright summer sunshine. Ororo was happily perched in the branches of a nearby tree, with no more pressing concern than enjoying the sway of the breeze and the song of the birds. Scott smiled. He didn’t think he would ever possess that degree of serenity, but then he also lacked Jean’s single-minded discipline. She sat on a bench under another tree, also reading. But she was currently engrossed in a pile of textbooks that Hank had loaned her to help her prepare for classes in the fall.
Scott couldn’t interest himself in studying just for the sake of it. With no classes to study for, there was no challenge to it, no way to gauge your success, and nothing concrete to be achieved by your efforts.... But he caught himself watching Jean, and not for the first time this afternoon. Her mouth turned in a slight smile, mortifying Scott with the knowledge that she knew he was watching her. And he quickly clamped down on his feelings before he could compound the situation with ridiculous, self-conscious embarrassment.
When the three of them were together, there was unmatched comradery between them. From the very beginning Scott, Ororo, and Jean had been good friends, and those bonds of friendship had greatly deepened over the past two years, strengthened by countless hours spent in each other’s company, and a great deal of shared life experience. They understood each other, the challenges and the difficulties in being different from the rest of the world, the accompanying feelings of isolation, and the constant struggle of trying to peacefully reconcile those differences into the rest of their lives. It was a balance they all struggled to achieve, but despite those difficulties they remained fierce and unwavering in their friendship and support for one another....
Scott couldn’t imagine having two better friends than Ororo and Jean. But when Scott and Jean found themselves alone in each other’s presence, that was something entirely different. Neither quite knew how to react to the other. It didn’t make a lot of sense. Scott, for the life of him, couldn’t understand how she could be his best friend, the person he could say anything to without fear... yet she also had the ability to render him completely speechless with no more than a smile. She could pass him in the hallway, say “hi,”and leave him with no idea if he had been coming or going.
That train of thought was interrupted when Jean sat up straight and closed her book, the sudden motion drawing both Scott’s and Ororo’s attentions.
“It’s the professor,” she explained a second later, “he wants to see us.”
“Ah, thank you all for coming.”
Scott, Ororo, and Jean filed into Professor Xavier’s office. Hank and Warren each stood nearby. They also smiled encouragingly at their charges, but everyone in the room was aware of an unexplained source of tension.
“I have recently been made aware of some troubling events,” the professor started once the three of them had been seated. “I have a contact at the Federal Bureau of Investigations, a friend, really. His name is Fred Duncan, and from time to time he will share information with me when cases involving mutants come to his attention. Usually these matters are unfortunate misunderstandings and can be settled fairly easily, but I’m afraid this time the circumstances are more complex, and my course of action is not as clear.
“The person at the center of this controversy turns out to be someone you’ve had past dealings with, Scott, a man named Jack Winters.”
Scott felt an unpleasant jolt of shock and dread when Professor Xavier said the name. It wasn’t a name he had ever expected to hear again, part of a life he would have preferred to leave buried in the past.
Jean glanced in his direction. His face showed little more than surprise, but she sensed the brief, unpleasant jolt in his emotions before Scott brought them back under control. That was unusual for Scott. He was generally easygoing, but controlled and restrained, to a fault, so much that he very rarely gave away what he was feeling under that calm surface. At times Jean played at shaking him from his game face, enjoyed taking him off his guard, but now was not one of those times. Even though his cool-headed and doggedly logical focus sometimes annoyed her, it also made him rock-steady and reliable as a friend, someone who could always be counted on to be calm and dependable in a crisis. Jean had come to rely on those qualities in him, and she didn’t like seeing Scott unnerved.
“As best we can tell from the FBI reports,” Professor Xavier continued, “Winters took a job stealing sensitive material from a nuclear plant. He was likely never told what this material was or that it could pose a serious danger to him. Some time later he began seeing a mutation that caused the skin on his hands and arms to harden into a diamond-like consistency. Since then he has been using the mutation to his advantage. He’s believed to be responsible for pulling off a string of smash-and-grab heists, calling himself Jack O’Diamonds.”
“But that’s not enough,” Scott breathed when the professor fell silent.
Professor Xavier nodded grimly. “Greed is a consistent character trait for Winters, so it would seem. The FBI now believes he plans to break back into the nuclear facility and expose himself again to the same radiation, presumably in a large enough dose this time to make the mutation cover the whole of his body.”
“What will that much radiation do to him?” Jean asked.
“It’s hard to say,” Hank answered. “If it only affects him at skin level, there may be no effect other than the mutation he desires to induce. If the mutation permeates his bones and vital organs, such a reaction could kill him... but if he were to survive that, such a mutation would render him highly resistant to injury and capable of great feats of strength.”
“All but invincible,” Scott said under his breath.
“My contact at the FBI has asked for help. Like me, he believes it imperative that Winters be stopped before this plan of his can come to fruition. But he also knows that if the proper authorities apprehend Winters, his capture will raise a lot of uncomfortable questions.
They all listened carefully to the professor’s explanation and his unspoken proposal. Then Scott got to his feet.
“Professor, you told me from the beginning that part of the reason we were here was to learn to use our powers for the benefit of society. The way I see it, this is an opportunity to do that. We can combat this kind of threat in a way that the rest of society can’t. We can stop this criminal from launching an unstoppable crime spree and protect the innocent people who would get in his way.”
It made perfect sense to Scott. This was an answer to the restlessness he had been feeling, almost from the start of his time here. It wasn’t enough to live in comfort, be educated on the professor’s dime, and work on his power like it was a hobby that he was trying to master in his spare time. This was something more. This was the sort of meaning and purpose he’d been hungering for. This was the decision he would later look back on as the moment when Scott Summers became Cyclops.
There was a brief silence before Ororo spoke up. “I agree with Scott. We can do this. We should do it,” she stated simply. And, likewise, Ororo Munroe would become Storm.
Jean was the last to speak. “If Scott and Ororo are going to do this, I’m with them,” she finally decided. She was uncertain over what they were doing and the ramifications that would come with it... but her first loyalty was to her friends, and regardless of the consequences she would cast her lot with theirs.
The professor nodded, clearly proud of their decision. “Very well. I will contact Fred and get more information. Hank, Warren, we’ll meet back here later tonight to discuss strategy. Then the six of us will meet tomorrow and go over our plan of action.”
With that dismissal, the meeting broke up. Scott was first to head for the door, and he looked agitated.
Jean was worried. “Scott–” she called after him.
“Let him go, Jean,” the professor urged gently. “He’s all right; he just needs a little time and space to clear his head.”
“What about this man, Jack Winters?” Ororo asked. “How does Scott know him?”
Xavier hesitated. “I appreciate your concern for your friend,” he told them each, “and I think that Scott will need your continued friendship in what is likely to be a difficult time for him. But those specific questions, you’ll have to ask of Scott. And right now I think Scott needs a little time to sort all of this out for himself.”
Ororo nodded worriedly. Jean sighed, clearly unhappy, but she also was willing to concede. Ororo followed her out of the professor’s office and they walked together in silence through the quiet halls of the mansion.
Ororo would have been blind not to see what the two of them were deliberately missing. Jean and Scott’s reactions to one another went far beyond friendship.... Jean was generally bubbly and outgoing, except where Scott was concerned. Scott was always by her side... but never too close. Both of them played at keeping more serious feelings under wraps from the rest of the world, from each other, and maybe even from themselves, but they clearly cared for one another as more than friends. The attraction between them was always in play, but understated, so as not to upset the balance of the friendship.
Scott heard Jean call after him but he kept walking. He hoped his friends would understand that he needed to be alone for a little while. He made his way to the game room. That was his favorite haunt when he needed to think or simply to clear his mind of thought. But the late afternoon quietly passed into night, and Scott had yet to find any relief from his restless thoughts. He had come here thinking to clear his head... but he ended up soul-searching over the night he had met Jack Winters, asking himself why he’d made the choices he made then.
He had always known that Jack was using him. But at the time he’d had no idea the extent of the damage, the way so many years of subtle abuse and neglect had chipped away at him until Scott had had no real understanding or appreciation of his own value. As a result he had been content to let himself be used. That was something that had started at the Home, but it had really solidified with Jack... and to disastrous results.
Scott remembered the way the Bogarts had been so foreign to him in their kindness. Simple things, like making sure he had enough to eat and got plenty of sleep, being proud of his schoolwork and encouraging him in his studies... and complex things too. When Scott had been in pain, it had hurt them to see it. When he had been in trouble, they had been willing to risk themselves to help him. Except for the short time Robyn Hanover had befriended him at the Home, he couldn’t remember anyone ever showing him that kind of interest or kindness. Their loss had crushed him, body and soul, plunging him into a truly hopeless despair that had been appropriately characterized by his blindness and utter helplessness... but they had been a powerful force in his life. Learning to accept their unselfish concern for him had enabled Scott to accept Professor Xavier’s help when he had most needed it.
He wished he could thank them for caring about him, wished he could tell them how much that one week had changed his life, changed him... but for all that they had done for him, now they were dead. Jack had done that. Objectively, Scott knew that Jack had murdered them, and for no reason Scott could imagine other than they had gotten in his way. But, deep down, Scott blamed himself too. It was his fault for lingering at the Bogarts’ that night when he should have already been gone. It was his fault that Jack had ever come into their lives, or his, in the first place. And Scott still struggled to understand why that had happened....
Jean and Ororo eventually tracked Scott down some hours later. That part wasn’t too hard. Jean was well-aware that Scott had been in the game room ever since their meeting with the professor. The two girls stood by for a few minutes, watching Scott play pool. His play was flawless in its skill and precision, but it was obvious he was only going through the motions. This was something he normally loved to do, but tonight it was only a source of distraction for him; there was no joy in it.
Scott completed the shot he was lining up then paused to stand up straight. “I guess you want to hear the story, how I got myself mixed up with this low-life, Winters,” he offered without looking in their direction.
Jean winced, telling Ororo all she needed to know about Scott’s emotional state at the moment.
“Actually, we wanted to see how you were doing,” Ororo offered mildly.
Scott stopped in the middle of setting up another shot and took a deep breath. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to lash out at the two of you.”
“We know,” Ororo reassured him.
“We just want to help, Scott,” Jean added, “so even if it’s just hanging out for a while, we’re here.”
Scott swallowed hard and nodded. “I guess this has just brought up a lot of memories, stuff I haven’t had to deal with since I came here, and I don’t much like looking back. There are a lot of things I’ve done that I’m not proud of,” he added quietly.
“Jack Winters was nothing more than a ruthless thief, a low-life criminal, and I was loyal to him. I learned from him, I let him use me in his crimes. I was no better than he was, and I regret that now. But regret doesn’t matter; the damage is done and it can’t be undone. There’s nothing I can do to change the mistakes I made then.”
“Scott,” Ororo argued gently, “you did what you had to. Part of being on the streets is doing things you wouldn’t ordinarily do, because you have to, to survive.”
“No,” he argued in return, “and that’s part of what’s eating at me.”
Scott had known from the day he met her that Ororo came from the same places he did. She knew what it meant to have to fight and scrape just to get by. She also knew how it felt to want something different, to long for a way out and a better future.... But the Charles Xaviers of the world were few and far between. Men like Jack Winters ruled the streets, and they knew perfectly how to take advantage those circumstances. Ororo got all that, but the difference between the two of them was that Ororo saw things as they were and made the best of the situation without getting bogged down over details.
Scott could do whatever was necessary, but he would do it by skill or finesse before he would result to trickery or violence. He was uncomfortable skirting the law, and if anyone got hurt by his actions, Scott would take that personally. Ororo knew stealing was stealing, but understood that it was also feeding yourself and others who were hungry. She refused to apologize for that; she was a realist. Scott had a harder time separating the way things were from the way they should have been. The day they met, Ororo had pegged him as a charmer; she had since learned that he was also an idealist.
“I could have made it without him,” Scott argued more quietly. “I was doing okay on my own, just hustling pool, and nobody had to get hurt. But I wanted–” he trailed off. Scott leaned against the pool table with both hands, his head bowed.
Jean put her arm around him. “Nobody wants go it alone, Scott,” she whispered.
He shook his head, then took a deep, focusing breath. “I regret, everything, after that,” he breathed through clinched teeth, “from the moment I agreed to help him until the professor finally found me. I wish I had been stronger– hadn’t needed– anybody,” he finally whispered.
Ororo stood at his other side, her hand on his shoulder. “Everybody needs help, Scott. You just put your faith in the wrong person. It’s an easy mistake to make.”
Scott nodded, more out of appreciation than in agreement. It was in his nature to take the fault and blame on himself, but he couldn’t deny that their support and friendship lightened the load. And for a long moment it was hard for him to speak.
“I’m glad the three of us are in this together,” he finally confessed. “I really don’t know how I’d face him again, on my own.”
Jean felt a chill, and she had the distinct feeling that there was more to this than he was telling them.
“We’ll be there,” Ororo promised.
“He’ll have to face all three of us,” Jean agreed.
Scott smiled. There was no need to say anything else. It felt like there was nothing the three of them couldn’t handle together, and they would have Professor Xavier, Hank, and Warren there to help them. Regardless of his mutant abilities, Jack Winters would be no match for all of them. And he would find out that Scott wasn’t the same hapless kid he had been when they met four years ago. This time Scott would be able to protect himself, and his friends.
Jean and Ororo stayed with Scott until well after midnight before finally suggesting they were all gonna need a good night’s sleep before meeting with the professor tomorrow. Scott agreed, but insisted that he just wanted to get in one more game.
“You go ahead though. I won’t be long,” he offered.
So they said their goodnights and reluctantly left. Jean, especially, had a hard time leaving him.
“He’ll be alright,” Ororo reassured her as they walked back toward their rooms.
“I know, it’s just– frustrating,” she admitted.
Ororo smiled. “You know what the professor says. ‘Just because we can, doesn’t always mean that we should.’ He’s willing to give Scott space,” she added a moment later, “maybe you should do the same.”
Jean sighed in frustration. “But I know I could help him if he’d let me.”
“Sometimes asking for help is the important part. Even though your intentions are honorable, you know Scott wouldn’t appreciate your prying into his thoughts without permission.”
Jean held her silence.
“He has to decide how much of this he wants us to know,” Ororo persisted.
“Then it’s not just me,” Jean said softly. “You think there’s more to this than Scott lets on.”
“I think he was honest with us,” Ororo decided carefully. “I also think there are some details that he might prefer us not to know.”
“Like what?” Jean asked reflexively.
“I don’t know anything for certain, but life on the streets is not generally pleasant or easy. I doubt a man like Winters took Scott in as an act of charity, but strictly for profit. And when the profit didn’t match his greed...” Ororo’s voice trailed away as her eyes flashed with anger.
“You think he hurt Scott.”
“Yes. I think that he did.”
Jean scowled. The thought of anything hurting him angered her beyond reason.
So Let it Be Written Publishing © 2004