X-Men fan fiction
part 1: Gifted Students
Chapter 1: Homecoming
Chapter 2: Recharge
Chapter 3: Regenerate
Chapter4: Xavier's Decision
Chapter 5: X-Men in Training
Chapter6: Mission Fatigue
Chapter 7: New and Improved
Chapter 8: Fear Itself
Chapter 9: Through the Glass
Chapter 10: Mourning Glories
Chapter 11: Ghost Stories
Chapter 12: The Devil and Despair
Chapter 13: Spuytin Dyvil Falls
Chapter 14: Evil Spirits
Chapter 15: Heart Stone
Chapter 16: The Rubble O'r Our Sins
Chapter 17: Shadow Boxing
Chapter 18: House Rules
part 1: Gifted Students
After Jean and then Xavier left the dining room, Scott followed Hank downstairs to the Science and Mechanical Lab. Normally Scott enjoyed helping Hank with mechanical projects, but tonight there wasn’t much work for Scott to do. At the moment Hank was busy analyzing rock and soil samples. Scott’s mind was elsewhere anyway, still puzzling over what had happened earlier in the dining room. Why would an old ghost story bring Jean to tears? He didn’t get it. He and Jean argued all the time – usually in a good way – they pushed each other to consider the other side of the argument, challenging each other point for counterpoint. What had he missed this time? What had upset her?
Hank looked up from his work, noting Scott’s distraction.
Hank repeated his request.
“Oh, right. Sorry.” Scott retrieved the next batch of samples.
Hank chuckled. Scott had always seemed older than his years: a curious mix of looking like a shy, awkward kid and acting like an independent, responsible adult. It was odd to see him reacting like a teenage boy confounded over a teenage girl.
Hank set the samples aside. “Here,” he offered a change of subject, “I think I have something you’ll be more interested in.” Hank stood and retrieved a shoe box from his work bench. “They’re not done yet, but take a look.”
“New uniform gloves?” Scott picked one up, it felt heavier than a normal glove.
Hank was grinning happily at Scott’s obvious confusion.
“What do they do?”
“At the moment, not much,” Hank admitted, “but after I install this sensor and calibrate it to send the proper signal to your visor, then you can use them to fire optic blasts relying on simple hand pressure.”
Scott nodded intently. “So I don’t have to always keep one hand on the visor’s control dial.”
“This will give you a hands-free option, so to speak.”
“Very good thinking, Hank.”
“Just a touch of deja vu. I was remembering when I first started work on the visor. You sat here, watching, asking me questions.”
“Worrying if it wouldn’t be safer to just stick with the glasses and not bother about the visor,” Scott remembered.
Hank nodded. “How times have changed.” From the very first time Scott had used the visor, he’d much preferred it to his glasses.
“I was scared then, of losing control over the blasts again. But you, and the professor, kept insisting that I was meant to use my mutation, not simply contain it.”
“Life is full of risks. No matter what they are, it never gets any easier to take them.”
“But without taking risks we’d never know what we’re capable of.”
“And we would miss out on so many wonderful rewards,” Hank agreed.
A short distance away Warren was flying. Night flights were a little more demanding and less rewarding than their daytime counterparts, but he could also afford to be a little less careful when the world was dark. If anyone saw him, they’d likely chalk it up to some over-sized owl. And who would believe a fish story about an owl the size of a man?
Regardless, night or day, it was always good to get out and stretch his wings. He felt a pull to the sky unlike anything he could explain. The life he tried to live on the ground– sometimes it felt like a series of false starts and crippling screw ups. He belonged in the sky, he was made for this, and he was free here. The only person he’d ever met who even remotely understood that pull was Ororo. Her mutation bonded her to the Earth in a living, breathing way, much as his bonded him to the air. They were both creatures of instinct. And since that last session in the Danger Room neither of them had felt... right.
Warren shuddered. It had only lasted for a short time, but he could still feel the steel tentacles trapping him, curling around him like a metal coffin, before finally pulling him through the wall. Only, what he thought was a wall felt like cold, molten metal; pure instinctive terror told him he was going to drown in it.
As discomforting as that experience had been, his mind had flashed back to another: New York City, two years ago. He had touched down in an alleyway to help a man who was screaming that he had been robbed, only there was no robber. Another man shoved a bag over Warren’s head, then a needle into his arm; when he next woke, it was in police custody.
When Warren closed his eyes at night he could still feel the rough cloth hood over his head, still remember brash, vivid threats to clip his wings. But they hadn’t. That bag and grab ambush – they’d called it a sting operation – had turned him over to Fred Duncan, and Duncan had then taken him to Charles Xavier. Warren still felt lingering resentment toward the FBI (and Duncan, by extension) for that: for their methods, and for the price the FBI had placed on his head in order to catch him. Maybe there was even a little lingering resentment toward Xavier for his tolerance of their actions. Maybe that was a part of why he’d lost his temper in Xavier’s office.
But what had happened in the Danger Room, that had been more than old fear or paranoia causing him to imagine the worst. Warren had learned over the years to trust his instincts, implicitly. Anytime the wind shifted too suddenly, you’d best be paying close attention to your surroundings. And the wind was swirling around him right now, swirling around all of them, like there was a bad storm brewing. It had been this way since that last Danger Room session. Warren knew it in his gut; something was about to happen.
Do you remember how it is you came to be in Cairo....
Ororo was dreaming. In her dream she was still a little girl, standing beside her mother, N’Dare, looking up at a wondrous display meant to celebrate the grand return of an international treasure to the Cairo museum. The ruby shimmered, a thing of infinite beauty, even locked away behind thick walls of protective glass. For a moment Ororo’s gaze focused on the display case surrounding the stone. The glass was engraved with an intricate design of gold and silver interlocking rings, forming the symbol of infinity.
N’Dare was telling her daughter legends of the sacred stone, native to Kenya... “once guarded by priestesses of our tribe for many generations.”
“But, look, Mama.” To each side of the display case was written a history of the stone. One side followed the stone in ancient times, through tales of myth and legend. The other side focused on more modern times, largely a history of repeated loss to theft and its subsequent recoveries.
“There are two sides to every story, man’s and nature’s. Who do you think truly owns such a beautiful thing?”
Ororo frowned. “No one should own it, it should own itself. But at least here, everyone can see its brilliance.”
N’Dare smiled. “True enough, child, and spoken like your father’s daughter.”
Ororo smiled proudly. The stone’s history had been captured by David Monroe, photojournalist, and correspondent for The New York Times.
Do you remember how it is you came to be in Cairo....
It had been her father’s reporting on that rare gem, long ago stolen away from its rightful home, that had brought him to Kenya. And his investigative efforts were credited for bringing about the stone’s eventual return to the Cairo museum. He was to be one of the guests of honor at the grand opening, and his family had been given a special advance tour of the museum. That event had brought the entire family from Harlem, New York City to Cairo, Egypt.
Ororo remembered the sound of shattering glass and a frightened cry.
“Goddess, be merciful!” N’Dare tried to shield her daughter as the display case in front of them shattered.
“Mama!” The entire room shook. Everything was collapsing around them. Storm closed her eyes tight. When she opened them again she was in Kenya, waking from an exhausted sleep. She had traveled for months to reach her mother’s homeland. She could hear her great aunts talking to one another in the next room, speculating over Ororo’s telling of events in Cairo. They doubted that N’Dare had succumb to any freak storm.
“Thunder and lightening enough to shake the Earth and cause a building to collapse!”
“There are evil forces at work.”
“We must watch this child closely.”
That bit of overheard conversation planted a seed of doubt that had clouded Ororo’s understanding of herself ever since. What had happened that day in Cairo? Had she somehow caused the collapse at the museum? Could she have been responsible for actions she had not yet know herself capable of?
“Out! Out! You are a blight upon us. Bringing punishment from the gods.” The women elders were screaming their accusations, led by Ororo’s great aunts, while the warriors moved forward, forcing Ororo away from the village at the point of their spears.
Ororo’s hand tightened instinctively around the sacred ruby. It was hers, her heritage and her prize. She would not give it up, even at the point of a spear!
She awoke suddenly, gasping for breath, but safe in her bed at the Xavier Institute. It was only a dream. After a taking a moment to collect herself Ororo sat up in bed, then padded out into the greenhouse to throw open the doors onto the roof. The warm night air felt cool against her skin as she stood looking out over moonlit grounds below.
When she returned inside some time later she ignored her bed and went instead to her closet where she retrieved a small cloth bag. She opened the bag to gaze upon the only possession she still held from either of her previous lives. It was her only physical link to her mother’s people, and it was her badge of honor as a Cairo thief. It gave Ororo great comfort simply to gaze upon the bright red gem and feel closer to lost homes, her first and second families.
Nomads, thieves, and marauders....
Hank set his tools aside and picked up the glove, newly outfitted with its targeting sensor, inspecting the connections carefully. Scott’s visor was resting on the table beside him. Hank had already made the necessary adjustments to it so that glove and visor were now linked. As he’d told Scott earlier, Hank had been remembering the past, remembering when he had first started work on the visor years ago.
The truth was, this felt– very different, somehow. With the glasses, his efforts had been geared toward helping Scott to live a normal life. With the visor, the challenge had been allowing Scott to utilize his mutation as nature had intended for him before his injury in the plane crash. A different blend of power and precision was required this time, and Hank felt a strange sense of unease that he hadn’t felt while developing the visor.
Why did it feel like they had crossed some unseen threshold? Something about the fist clinched in combat... the imagery felt more aggressive than a simple hand on the dial. Hank didn’t know why the delivery mechanism should bother him; it was still Scott behind the visor. No matter the activation point, it was all controlled by Scott’s mind, heart, conscience – and no one was more careful, more controlled, in the use of their mutant abilities than Scott was.
Hank shook his head, trying to shake off the worry. It was late, and he hadn’t been sleeping well. That was why he’d come back down to the lab in the first place, preferring to work through his insomnia. Every time he closed his eyes now his heart started to race. He remembered being captured in the Danger Room: the terror of being dragged into a dark place, blinded, in fear for his life. Hank shuddered and refocused himself on his work.
Scott was younger than Hank had been when he’d stepped off that plane in Moscow. But Hank had been more immature, perhaps. Certainly more naive. Fresh out of college and still wet behind the ears, drunk on his own potential to do great things. Then he’d landed in Moscow to meet a man named Mikhail: a fellow scientist, a mutant, a cosmonaut who had become something of a national hero in the Soviet Union. Except his country thought him dead. Mikhail, the ordinary cosmonaut, had died a hero’s death. But Mikhail, the mutant, had survived a shuttle explosion that should have killed him. Thereafter, he had become a prominent figure in mutant research within the Soviet Union. He had become aware of Hank’s research into mutation, and the two had been in correspondence for several years prior to Hank’s visit.
Hank had stepped off that plane looking forward to a summer of exciting and fascinating research collaboration. He had allowed himself to daydream about scientific discoveries monumental enough to end the Cold War and bring about a new era of world peace. Instead they grabbed him – Hank had assumed they were KGB agents – practically the moment he got off the plane. He was interrogated at length – a process that felt more like torture – before he was finally remanded over to Mikhail. But it turned out Mikhail was not the man he was there to see at all. Mikhail was only a pawn in a larger, more sinister, scheme. Hank picked up the second glove and began installing its targeting sensor. His mind wandered in spite of himself as he worked.
“I know you’ve been through a horrific ordeal.” It was Charles Xavier’s voice that Hank remembered. “But I could still use your help, Hank.” It was their second meeting. He hadn’t been ready to join Xavier’s cause then.
Hank shook his head warily. “I’ll tell Fred Duncan everything I know, but after that– I want to go home. I want to live a normal life.”
Xavier nodded. “I understand.”
“What will you do?” Hank asked, a little suspicious.
“I’m going to start by finding Erik, hopefully, before he can make this any worse. But if you need a place to stay, rest, regroup–” Xavier produced a business card and wrote an address on the back. “It’s my family’s home in upstate New York. It hasn’t been lived in for years. No one will look for you there except Fred.”
Hank nodded gratefully. “Thank you, Charles.”
“Keep in touch.”
Xavier had been true to his word. Hank had stayed at the Xavier Estate for a couple of months before he’d gone back to school in the city (finally deciding to pursue the first of several post-graduate degrees at Columbia University). He’d explored the house and grounds at great length, with particular interest in Brian Xavier’s basement labs, and no one had disturbed him save Duncan, who came by about once a week to bring food and talk to him about his experiences in Moscow.
Hank knew, technically, it was an FBI debriefing, but it felt more like therapy. He was able to put all his pain, worries, frustrations, betrayals into words, but with the added hope that Duncan would be able to do something to make it right. Maybe that hope had been naive as well, but it had helped. Hank told himself he was doing something to make things better... even when deep down he knew, what he was doing wasn’t enough. Much more would be needed to truly make a difference.
That wasn’t the last offer Xavier would make to Hank, nor even the last one Hank would decline. Hank had lost faith, in his instincts, in the good of humanity, in the purity of science. The bedrock of his life had crumbled. Before he had stepped off that plane in Moscow the world had been cut and dry, it had been logical and sterile. There were no monsters in the closets, only hard facts: problems always had solutions. Moscow had stripped away all of his illusions and taught him that monsters did exist, monsters more terrible, more ruthless, more inhuman than the ones that inhabited any child’s nightmare. It was all the more disturbing that they walked like normal men.
Hank shuddered and sat back in his chair, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
“Surely you didn’t think you were the only one of our kind in the world....”
Hank remembered a different meeting, years earlier. He had been a fresh faced and ebullient fifteen-year-old, over the moon simply at the prospect of there being other mutants in the world that he could converse with. Hank had had so many questions, he hadn’t let Charles Xavier leave without promising correspondence. Xavier had agreed, repeatedly, as he followed his companions out.
Hank’s mother had walked them outside alone, but Hank watched curiously through the living room window as she spoke to their visitors on the front porch. He distinctly remembered his mother’s worried look as she handed something to Xavier. Edna McCoy was not one to frighten easily, but in this instance she looked frightened.
“This was the oddest man I’ve ever met, with the most discomforting presence.”
A look passed between Charles and Erik as Charles handed the card back to her.
“He is a very dangerous man,” Erik stated pointedly.
“We don’t mean to alarm you, madam.”
“Speak for yourself, Charles.”
“I can assure you, I am already alarmed. What I would like from you now is honesty.”
Charles smiled a grim smile, concession, along with admiration for her directness. “He is dangerous, Mrs. McCoy, and it is very important that we learn his whereabouts.”
“You must contact one of us, immediately, if you or young Henry hear from this man again.”
“I will,” Edna promised.
Hank had not seen the man in question (Edna had turned him away shortly before Charles and Erik had arrived) but he remembered the name, seen emblazoned in red letters on a blue calling card. Hank had looked into the name and found that the man had been an internationally renowned researcher, until he had resigned his post at Oxford University in the early 1960’s. Some said his sudden departure was due to public defamation, and claimed stubborn remnants of the McCarthy scare were responsible. Hank had recognized the man immediately in Moscow.
Mikhail was smiling proudly as he made the introductions.
“Henry McCoy, might I introduce, the great, Sir Robert Windsor.”
“Your work is very promising, Mr. McCoy,” Windsor assured him. “That is precisely why I had Mikhail reach out to you and, eventually, bring you to me.”
Hank gathered that the effort expended on his behalf was supposed to be reassuring, or at least complementary to him. Hank rather found it threatening, manipulative, and just plain creepy.
“I’d like to make you an offer you cannot refuse. You will now be joining us in our work here – either as a researcher or as a test subject.” Windsor smiled a self-satisfied smile. “I would prefer the former, but you will be given ample time to consider each option.”
Scott checked his watch again, frowning, as he walked through the lower levels. He’d been set to meet with Professor Xavier in Tactical for an early morning debriefing, and it wasn’t like the professor to be late, much less miss an appointment. Then Scott heard a muffled cry.
That sounded like it came from Hank’s lab! Without thought, Scott ran in that direction.
In the Institute’s lower levels, Hank McCoy had fallen asleep at his work station. That was not such an unusual occurrence of late, nor, unfortunately, was the fact that he was having a nightmare.
In the nightmare Hank was looking out of a cell block – he was locked in a makeshift dungeon for mutants located in the catacomb of sewers running deep beneath the city of Moscow. A man ran by his cell. Hank rushed the bars in desperation which rapidly turned to hope. He knew that man!
“Wait– wait, I know you! You’re Erik. I’m Hank– Henry McCoy. We met, years ago, at my parents’ house in Dundee, Ill–”
The man had come to a stop. “I remember you, Hank.”
“Erik! Get me out of here.”
He nodded solemnly, but made no other motion. “Where is he?”
“He has a lab, it’s down that corridor.”
Hank became acutely aware that the mutant with the power to control metal had thus far done nothing to free him from his metal confines.
“Get me out of here! Free me, and I’ll show you. I’ll help you!”
“I must do this first, for us all. I’ll come back for you, if I can, my brother.”
“No– No, wait– Don’t leave me in here.” It was too late. Erik had already gone.
Hank didn’t know how much time passed before two more men came down the tunnel.
“Charles! Charles Xavier!”
“Hank McCoy. Duncan, open this cell at once!”
“We haven’t got much time, Charles,” Duncan warned, but he was already digging into a sack of tools, carried slung over his back.
“I know. I won’t leave him.”
“He was going to leave me here– Erik.”
“He was here already?” Duncan demanded, looking panicked.
“You’ll have to forgive Erik for his lack of compassion. He’s– I’m afraid he hasn’t been himself recently, not for some time now.”
Duncan repressed a snort. “We’ve been trying to avoid another international incident before he regains his senses.”
Duncan got a report on his radio, from his men on the perimeter outside. “He knows we’re here. Mikhail is flooding the sewers with river water. Covering his tracks.”
“Destroying his work.”
“Tracks? Work! Have you all gone insane?!” Hank demanded. “Those are people.” He lowered his voice. “Mutants. Some of them children!”
“To him, they are no more than failed experiments, and I’m afraid we can do nothing more to save them.”
“We must try!” Hank insisted.
“You don’t understand, son,” Duncan told him. “It’s too late.”
“They are already under water,” Charles whispered.
“And if we don’t hurry we’ll be joining them!” Duncan cracked the lock using some sort of pressure-heated crowbar, just as water began rushing into the tunnel. In an instant it had covered the floor and had begun rapidly rising along the walls. “Run!”
Hank forced the door open, kicked off his shoes and socks, and was running along the ceiling as fast as his feet would carry him. A few minutes earlier Hank wouldn’t have thought himself capable of such swift motion. The length of his imprisonment had been relatively brief – measured in weeks rather than in months – but the effects had been intense. He’d thought himself dead– or worse, many times over. Instead, he ran for his life, watching as the water swept up Duncan and Xavier, then finally himself as well.
All they could do was struggle to keep their heads above water, and pray that the catacombs would spit them out while they still had air to breathe. Luckily they did, it did, and a spill chamber deposited them into an empty reservoir rather than into the Moskva River.
In a few minutes’ time all three were on dry concrete, looking up at blue sky above them. The sky was so bright it was causing Hank to wince. He looked at it all the same, soaking in the sight of life and freedom until his eyes watered... and he tried not to think about those poor souls trapped inside. Hank had so nearly been one of them. They would never see the light of day again. Hot tears rushed down his face.
“Hank. You’re dreaming. Wake up.”
Someone was lightly shaking his shoulder.
Hank recognized the voice but for a moment he was too sleep-disoriented to process the words, or to know exactly when he was. He remembered a tense scene from two years ago.
Hank was standing in the infirmary. Xavier had just commented on Hank’s worry for Scott’s condition with his typical blend of stiff-upper-lip admiration and grim resolve, taking notice of the bravery with which Scott handled himself rather than Scott’s actual condition.
Scott had been Hank’s patient then, still blind and in enormous pain. In short, Hank saw a scared, hurting teenager who was employing a defiant mixture of hopelessness and determination in order to guard himself. Guarding himself emotionally, guarding the rest of them physically. Keeping everyone at a distance, just in case. It was the “just in case” that scared Scott more than anything else. And Hank was still at a frustrating loss for finding a solution to that problem: how to allow Scott to open his eyes and see without unleashing his optic blasts on the world around him?
On top of all that, Xavier’s cool, calculating response hit Hank like a sock in the gut, and Hank told him so. Xavier, however, only offered a look of mild surprise followed by a sad smile when Hank questioned his unfeeling objectivity and seeming lack of compassion.
“Perhaps my bedside manner needs work,” Xavier conceded. “I hope you never have the unpleasant experience of having to triage the dying from the close to death. You find they all are too young to suffer bravely and die bravely.... Well, let’s just say ‘war is hell’ and leave it at that.”
“I’m sorry, Charles. I will admit, I spoke out of turn, and without giving proper thought to how this experience might affect you emotionally.”
“Nor should you have,” Charles offered agreeably. “Concentrate on helping Scott – because we can help him, even if he doesn’t think so right now. We can’t necessarily make this easy for him; we can’t make it painless, and we certainly can’t undo what has already been done to him. But we can give him a future. That’s more than I could do for most of them– the others.”
Hank shuddered, his thoughts wandering briefly. “It must be a harrowing experience, he mused, “to share the last moments of the dying.”
“I’d say that definition depends greatly upon your perspective. Not pleasant for the living, certainly, to be reminded of our own impending mortality. But they deserved to be heard. Their need is the same, and their thoughts are very much the same. Pain and anguish. Bitter fear and desperate hope. Memories of those loved and those hated. Dreams and regrets, and the utter helplessness to change either. At the end, when nothing more can be done, we are all very much the same. No one wants to die alone and far from home.”
Xavier placed a hand to Hank’s arm as he rolled past. “But Scott is far from at the end, though he may think otherwise.” Xavier smiled. “He is only at the beginning.”
Hank opened his eyes, slowly blinking away the last of his sleepy disorientation.
“Hey.” Scott stepped back. “You all right?”
Hank studied him for a moment, really taking into account how much Scott had grown up in the last two years. Charles had been right about Scott then. They had been able to give him a future, and Scott had moved forward admirably. Hank wasn’t so certain about the past. It certainly couldn’t be undone, but could it remain buried? Should it? Hank again felt the unexpected conflict to be completely honest, or at least to say more rather than less. This time the impulse was also joined by fear.
Objectively, Hank knew his emotions were still affected by that nightmare, bringing his own fears close to the surface. But it was more than that too. What if Charles was right and the truth was a disservice to Scott? What if Scott was badly altered by the revelation? Hank knew what that was like. After Moscow, Hank had gone through a period of severe disillusionment. Thoroughly disheartened and, for a time, truly afraid. Afraid simply to exist. It had taken a lot of time before he was willing to rejoin the world and contribute to it fully.... Hank hoped and trusted that Charles would be right again now.
“I must have fallen asleep on the job.” Hank rubbed a hand over his face, then checked his watch. “Gracious, it’s nearly morning. I suppose you came by to see how the new gloves were shaping up.”
“No– I just– actually I–” Scott stammered over an explanation for his presence, all the while resisting the urge to stare at his feet or shift his weight nervously. Hank was his teammate, he was his friend. Scott planted his feet and drew himself up to full height. “I just wanted to make sure you were all right.”
It was more and more rarely that Hank still saw the teenage boy, overly aware that he didn’t seem to fit in his own skin, easily drowned out by insecurity and anxiety. Like the rest of them, Hank had become more accustomed to Cyclops’ persistent focus on business over emotion. Even now, Hank saw a mix of the two. Cyclops gave Scott a means to put himself aside and focus on the bigger picture. Personal feelings – in this case, normal, everyday, teenage insecurities – didn’t have to matter so much.
Hank smiled. “I’m fine, thank you, save for a little sleep deprivation and some unpleasant dreams. Nothing a fresh pot of coffee won’t cure.”
Scott nodded curtly, not really knowing what to do with himself now that it seemed everything was normal.
As Hank studied the curious contradiction that was teenage Cyclops, he freshly understood Xavier’s reluctance from earlier this summer. Hank still wasn’t sure it was right, but he understood it. Hank and Xavier had gone through the same journey. Charles had seen the worst of what man could do to man. Hank had seen the worst of what mutant could do to mutant. That was the journey that had brought Hank to the Xavier Institute, eventually. Neither man wanted Scott to have to face what they had faced. Like any worthy guardians, they wanted better for those in their charge than the hardships they had experienced for themselves.
Scott frowned, noting Hank’s continued distraction. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Yes.” Hank was seeing Cyclops again, doggedly pursuing something that didn’t look right to him... but there were clearly personal feeling there too. Sure, Scott considered Hank a friend, but it was also his responsibility to make sure all was right with his teammate. Hank forced a smile. He considered Scott a friend as well, be it as Scott Summers – the mutant teenager – or as Cyclops – Fearless Leader of the X-Men.
“It was just a nightmare.” The rest was... far more real. Hank paused a moment before deciding to share. “This is something I don’t often talk about, Scott: Charles Xavier saved my life. I was young, and through my own hubris and naivety, I had gotten in way over my head with some very dangerous people. Charles rescued me from an ugly fate.
“I’ve never forgotten the debt I owe him, nor, unfortunately, have I ever completely forgotten the circumstances of that experience. It haunts me to this day. Not only what I went through then, but what I went through for years afterward: I was quite close to losing hope after all that. I certainly didn’t want to risk myself again, but Charles didn’t give up on me – more importantly, he didn’t let me give up on my own potential for good.
“And, at the appropriate time, he reminded me that sometimes a leap of faith is required. We have to trust ourselves. And we have to trust in others as well, if we are to one day live up to our full potentials. His faith in me changed me, changed my direction, changed my life for the better.”
Scott nodded. He understood that completely.
“I know he did the same for you,” Hank acknowledged.
“As did you, Hank. That first summer– Scott’s gaze nervously studied the gloves still sitting out on Hank’s workbench. “There aren’t words enough to thank you for what you did for me then.”
Hank smiled. “I feel I’ve benefited just as much from you.”
Hank chuckled softly at the surprise in Scott’s tone, and Hank took that opportunity to hand over one of the finished gloves for Scott to inspect.
“There’s a control pad set into the palm of each hand, reactive to pressure, and it will activate only with your touch. The sensor is calibrated to recognize your fingerprint, as a safety precaution. Your right hand will control the intensity of the blasts, your left hand will control the scope of the beam. Both can be manipulated incrementally by varying how much pressure you apply.”
Scott held one of the gloves, studying the switch. He ran a finger over it lightly, trying to gauge the sensitivity.
“It will probably take some practice to master it,” Hank conceded.
“The visor did,” Scott agreed.
“The gloves won’t be as responsive or provide as nuanced a result as the visor. The dial on your visor is still your best option if you need a precision blast. But...” he trailed off.
“This will do if I need to get myself out of a pinch,” Scott agreed.
Hank nodded, feeling proud of the conclusion Scott had come to. “It’s not what our mutations can do, but what we choose to do with them which will define the course of our lives as mutants.” Charles told me that, but I most often see it reflected and put into action through you, and Ororo, and Jean. I’ve learned volumes from you all. From Charles I learned the power of hope and purpose. Warren has taught me the value of independent thinking, Ororo of compassionate action, and Jean of dedication. You, Scott, have taught me the importance of leadership and perseverance.”
Scott stared back at him for a moment, clearly surprised. He shook his head to protest, but Hank insisted.
“You do that, Scott.”
“You give me too much credit, Hank. Professor Xavier–”
“Charles once compared your roles to that of head coach and quarterback. I find that to be an incredibly apt comparison. Certainly, Charles is a gift to us all – a visionary – he’s given us all a door to walk through where there was none before him. But Scott– you have your own gifts, aside from the obvious. You’ve brought us all together in a way even Charles couldn’t, in a way I’m not sure anyone else could have.”
Scott shook his head again. “It doesn’t feel anything like that for me. I’m just trying to figure it out for myself, and I think I’m falling short at least as often as I succeed. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have all of you here to help pull me through.”
Hank chuckled. “All great feats of science or medicine, progress or change, art or literature, look like monumental achievements from the outside. Only from the inside does the architect of the creation see the plodding, excruciating journey that leads to achievement. But that is precisely why we need you to lead us, Scott.
“One of my greatest inspirations, Albert Einstein, once said, ‘I know quite certainly that I, myself, have no special talent. Curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas.’ Most great thinkers share that sense of tenacity, objectivity, and a determination to keep pushing forward, even when they know the world will push back against them.
“You have a very special clarity about you, Scott. You see the whole, you see the individual parts, and then you see how it all fits together – how they work together – to make one another stronger, better. You have that unique vision, and also the objectivity to see both sides of a problem. Not blinded by your own potential nor buckling under the fear of it, but working constantly to prove yourself, consistently to better yourself. You’re able to keep everything in perspective, accept what you can’t change, push forward to improve everything else.
“I know Charles is very proud of you, Scott: proud of the good man and the strong leader you’re becoming, though it may be difficult for him to say so. I can tell you I am proud of you as well, as a student and as a friend.”
Scott thanked Hank, again finding himself speechless but also thoughtful with consideration.
“I just wanted to tell you that before my brain fogged over completely. And now, it’s time for coffee!”
Scott laughed quietly as Hank headed off toward the office in his lab, where Scott knew he had an “emergency” coffee maker stashed. Scott packed up the new gloves and his visor, tucking the box under one arm while he closed down the Science and Mechanical Lab behind them, triple-checking the security codes before finally closing the door on his way out. Hank always called the extra measures being “protective” of his work. Scott had always known it was more than that, but tonight he understood Hank’s caution and redundancy a little better.
Plus, it wasn’t just science or research that Hank was protecting. These were his precious treasures and his sacred trusts. Like Jean, Hank had his own set of goals which reached far beyond the Institute, set aside from the X-Men. But unlike Jean, or Ororo, or Scott, Hank’s future was very much concentrated within these walls. Like a proud parent, his efforts would quietly enable all of them to fulfill their potentials in the outside world. As his beneficiaries, Jean, Ororo, and Scott would carry his work and his wisdom with them out into the world.
Scott paused a little further down the hall, looking up at that Danger sign newly posted over the training room doors. He wanted to try out the new gloves, but part of him still wanted nothing to do with going back inside that room– and especially not to relearn how to use his visor in a combat situation.
He sighed in frustration, leaning against the door, fist first. So much for all Hank’s kind words about his objectivity and fearlessness. His own hesitation made Scott angry, and the fear called him out as a hypocrite. Hadn’t he just made a big production out of telling Jean she had to face up to her fears about using her powers? The truth was, that last go in the Danger Room had shaken all of them up pretty badly. He had to put emotion aside and be smart about how they handled that. The only way to get past the fear was to work through it, and it was equally important that they do that together, as a team. That meant not going in there alone now, just to prove something to himself.
Instead, Scott put the new gloves away in the team equipment room before walking past that Danger sign one more time on his way back to Tactical. There was still no sign of Professor Xavier there. Maybe Scott had enough time to go through the training footage once more before he headed upstairs to see if the others were awake yet.
So Let it Be Written Publishing © 2004