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
It was early Saturday morning. Scott Summers rolled out of bed and gingerly stretched his sore muscles. He had gotten used to the sore muscles, along with bumps, bruises, scrapes, and a wide variety of minor injuries. The team had been training together against the room every day for the past week, and their sessions kept getting tougher. In addition to the increasing difficulty of the sessions, every day it seemed the room’s settings and surroundings became more complex and more realistic: less like a training room and more like a training environment. Hank was quickly outdoing himself in that capacity.
Scott. Good morning. I’m glad you’re awake. Professor Xavier’s voice greeted Scott telepathically.
Good morning, Professor, Scott replied.
Hank and Warren are already in the training room. Can you meet them there? Hank has something rather unique in store for today.
Sure. Let me get Ororo and Jean, and we’ll be there, Scott responded.
Sitting down on the edge of the bed, Scott closed his eyes to carefully remove the wrap-around goggles he wore at night and swap them for his regular glasses. Oh well, so much for taking Saturday off, he thought as he pulled on a fresh pair of jeans and a clean t-shirt, then headed outside. It didn’t take him very long to find Ororo in the orchards. He sent her ahead to the training room before setting out after Jean. About ten minutes later he found Jean, sitting alone in a deserted corner of the grounds, reading.
Scott couldn’t help holding his breath as he approached. She looked beautiful in the early morning sunshine. The light streamed down through the trees as if it, too, was searching for her.... But Scott knew she wasn’t going to be as happy to see him.
“Jean?” he called cautiously as he approached.
“Oh, come on!” she instantly objected when she heard his voice. “Can we at least get one day off?”
“Not my call,” Scott replied, “Professor’s orders.”
With difficulty, Jean repressed the urge to say something smart about him and following orders. She had to remind herself she didn’t want to fight with him.
“He told you where to find me?”
“He didn’t have to,” Scott admitted as he came to a standstill beside her.
Jean closed her book with a tired sigh. Leave it to Scott to know where she would be when she didn’t want to be found. He could have let Xavier summon her mentally, instead Scott had chosen to come all the way out here to talk to her in person.
He sat down on the bench beside her. “Not half as sorry as I am, Jean.” He hesitated, trying to find the right words. “If you hate this so much–”
She shook her head and forced a smile. “I’m just mad at having to give up my Saturday morning.”
Scott watched her for a moment. He wasn’t buying that explanation, but he didn’t know how to call her on it either. Instead, he motioned toward the book she had been reading.
“Surprises me to see you reading anything other than a medical text.”
She nodded, fighting off a more genuine smile. “Guess the professor thought so too. He loaned me this novel, said it was his favorite.” Jean turned the cover so Scott could see the title, The Once and Future King.
“You’re allowed to change your mind, you know?” he offered.
She looked down at the book in her hands then shook her head, knowing she couldn’t do that.
“No. I want to be there with the team; you need me there.”
She absently touched her fingers to the side of her head as she brushed her hair back- with just a slight flicker of her fingertips. Scott recognized the tell. She made that same flickering motion when she purposefully let her mental shielding slip, and there was always an instant when she fought to control how much information was flooding into her mind before she could regulate it into something manageable. The thought alone was enough to cause her stress.
“Maybe a break would help,” he suggested.
“No. I agreed,” she countered. “You know I won’t back out on my word.”
Scott grinned at her stubbornness. It would be better to let her take a day to recuperate, but there wasn’t any way she was going for that. He decided to take another approach.
“Promise me something.” She nodded, lifting her head to gaze at him. Something in that gaze still gave him butterflies... and he had to remind himself to focus. “If it’s too much, if you really don’t want to do this anymore, promise you’ll tell me– before the pressure gets to you.”
She gave a crooked smile. “Scott or Cyclops?”
She snorted derisively. “If you tell me the two are inseparable–” Jean threatened.
“As your friend and as your teammate, I want you to come to me before you hit a breaking point. Promise?”
She nodded. “I promise.” Jean sat there in silence for a little while longer, slowly realizing that he was waiting for her to say something more. Her confession came pouring out despite more stoic intentions. “Sometimes I just feel so trapped, Scott, like all the things I can’t control are taking over my life.” She absently flipped the book’s pages. “I just want to be normal for a little while,” she insisted, “go off to college in the fall, study toward med school. I want a chance to concentrate on the things I actually want for myself for a change. You understand?” she asked him hesitantly, almost pleadingly. The possibility that he might not understand – that he might just think her selfish, petty, and immature – was a possibility she didn’t want to consider.
Scott nodded. He did understand. More than any of the rest of them, Jean’s future wasn’t tied to this place; she wanted more than this. The thing truly tying her here was her dedication to the relationships she had here, and especially the enormous strength of her friendship for Scott and Ororo. At times she tried to deny that, she wanted to pretend that the dream meant as much to her as it did to the rest of them, but deep down that just wasn’t the case. Xavier’s dream was important to her, yes, and she would fight for it; but Jean had her own dreams, and she would fight equally hard for them. Jean saw the school as an essential part of her journey. But, for the rest of them, it was a part of their destinations.
“There’s going to be time for those things,” he reassured her, “time to push that reality to the forefront. We’ll all be going off to college soon, better ourselves, pursue our dreams, get an education. We can pass for normal, go out into the world and find our place there– but none of that changes the fact that we’re mutants,” he reminded her quietly.
She nodded in absent agreement. Scott was blunt with the truth, but she knew he didn’t say it to shame her or even to sway her priorities, simply because it was true. Scott centered himself around that truth. His thoughts and motivations always traced back to the same starting point. That single-minded focus shaped him and all of his priorities. He would never turn his back on this place, never forget.
“If it hadn’t been for the professor, and what he’s done here, we wouldn’t have that reality to look forward to, wouldn’t be able to function in the world, much less pass for normal. Nothing we can do on our own changes any of that, or does anything to change the fact that there are more people like us out there, kids who need this place the same way we did.”
“And the others are out there too,” she finished softly.
“Yes. They’re out there too,” he confirmed, “the ones we have to be on guard against.”
She took a deep breath, acceptance, but not without that persistent hitch of hesitation.
“Do you think we can have it both ways?” she asked cautiously. “This place and the outside world, be one thing here and another there?”
“I don’t know, Jean,” he replied cautiously. “Not because I don’t think that you can– I think you can do anything that you want to do,” he told her, certain of that. “But I don’t know what the future holds for any of us.”
“But you believe as the professor does, that we have the chance to shape the future.” He nodded, and she could see that sense of urgency that both challenged and drove Scott as he considered his answer.
“I think we have to. We have to make this work the way he hopes it can, work toward a world where regular humans and mutants can openly coexist. The alternative is too disastrous to consider.”
She shuddered, understanding exactly what he meant. Human history painted a bleak continuity of fear, violence, and oppression in the face of life-altering societal changes. From Socrates, to Christ, to Galileo, to King Jr. (a philosopher, a God, a man of science, and a man of peace) the powers that be in the world never reacted positively to forces of truth which sought to alter the balance of power and challenge the social status quo.
“I just hope we have enough time...” Scott finished.
Jean nodded. “And speaking of time,” she prompted him with a dry smile.
“Yeah. We’d better get moving,” he agreed, smiling back.
Scott and Jean soon joined the rest of the team in a room (the size of a small conference room) located just off the training room. It had recently been allocated for use as a tactical room. Once they were all accounted for, Professor Xavier began.
“Thanks to you all for being here so early on a Saturday. This is a bit of a special occasion. Today I am pleased to announce that, as a result of Hank’s hard work and innovation, we have been able to achieve a fully realistic, completely controlled, virtual reality training environment.”
Once the initial barrage of praise, congratulations, and questions died down, Professor Xavier continued. “I thought it only fitting that we christen this achievement with a fully realistic mission simulation.”
An excited murmur spread through the room. Scott was practically bouncing on the balls of his feet, waiting for Xavier to continue.
“X-Men, your mission is to locate and safely retrieve several young mutants that have recently been detected. We don’t know if they are currently in danger, either from themselves or from others, so you must be cautious; assume nothing. Get in, make contact with the children, and get them to safety. This is exactly the kind of thing we will need to do out in the real world. We will need to carry out these missions without alarming the mutants themselves and without alerting the surrounding community, either to our presence or to the existence of mutants. Understood?”
All around there were nods, and a “yes, sir” from Scott. A short time later the team was prepped and making its way to the training room while Xavier assumed his usual post in the Control and Observation Booth overlooking them. But there was a new energy about the group and the training that made today different. Even if it was only a mission simulation, Xavier had given them their first mission.
Scott stood taller, spoke with greater authority, as he had increasingly done since first taking on the responsibility of team leadership... but this was their first real test. Cyclops was going to make sure they were up for the challenge.
“All right, X-Men–”
“Codenames,” he barked. As far as Scott was concerned, the mission was set in motion the moment they left the strategy session. From here on out, Cyclops was all business.
“Storm. Angel.” They each nodded. “Hank?”
“You may call me, Beast,” Hank replied.
“Jean, you in?”
Scott noted that Jean was currently frowning at Hank, but she redirected her attention to sigh at him in exasperation.
“Why don’t you just call me, Madam Marvel?”
Cyclops shot her a look that said: You cannot be serious. He guessed she was still taking issue with the group moniker, X-Men.
“Mighty Marvel Girl?” She grinned at Scott, knowing that under that cool exterior she was annoying the hell out of him. She thought it served him right; he was taking all this just a tad too seriously. It was only a training exercise, after all.
“I am not going to call you that,” Cyclops responded curtly.
Jean shrugged. “Suit yourself. Jean, it is.”
“Fine,” he temporarily tabled that discussion. “Ready, X-Men?” Cyclops quickly scanned the ready faces of his teammates, then he turned and pressed a finger to the panel that would open the double doors.
They stood on the threshold, looking into the same training room they had visited every day for the past week. Only at the moment it looked like they were in the middle of nowhere. The only structure visible for miles was a small farmhouse covered by at least two feet of snow. It was surrounded almost entirely by barbed wire fences, topped with the occasional gun turret.
Cyclops made his initial evaluation, then started issuing orders. “Alright, team, this is a search and rescue mission. We know that our objective is to extract one or more mutants from that enemy encampment on the south ridge,” he motioned toward the farmhouse. “We’re going to start by taking out their defenses and surrounding the encampment. Once that’s accomplished, we find a way to breach the building and get our targets safely out. Understood?”
The four faces of his teammates nodded back at him.
“Good. Angel, Beast, your best approach is from the high ground on the west end. Storm, you’ll approach from the east end; the lake and forest there should give you cover. Jean and I will take the frontal approach from north side. Let’s make taking out those gun turrets our first order of business. Alright,” he nodded. “Good luck.”
Cyclops watched them go until just he and Jean were left standing on the sidelines. Angel, Beast, and Storm each made quick work of the defensive positions in their paths and continued on toward the target location without incident.
“Excellent. That leaves just the three in our path.”
Jean nodded readily. “Then let’s take them out.”
“Wait. Give it another minute.”
Jean looked back at him curiously.
“If they’re gonna see anybody coming, it’ll be us. Best to let the others get to cover before we move into sight. She didn’t question his conclusion or ask him how they were going to determine when they should make their move. It was scary how good Scott was at judging those kinds of things. The more variables he had to take into account with any given calculation, the more accurate his analysis tended to be.
Once Cyclops was satisfied with the timing, he gave Jean a nod and the two of them stepped inside the training room. As soon as they crossed the room’s threshold the temperature around them instantly dropped. Snow crunched under their feet as they made their way forward. Jean made a mental note to complement Hank’s work, not only on the room, but also on their uniforms. Even though he’d insisted these uniforms were just an early prototype, their effectiveness was amazing. Aside from her exposed face and hands, Jean hardly felt the room’s biting cold.
“I’ve got clear shots on those towers hilltop,” Cyclops reported.
Jean nodded. “I’ll take the closer one.”
“After they’re down, we’ll rush the hill and take cover against that bank.”
Jean nodded in agreement and took a deep, steadying breath, silently marshaling her concentration.
“You’re up – Jeannie,” Scott tacked on his own codename with a satisfied smirk.
“Jeannie!” She glared at him incredulously. “You really think I’m gonna pop out of a bottle and start granting wishes?”
“Obviously not mine,” he snapped back, “or you’d have taken out that turret by now.” She glared back at him for a couple of seconds, but Scott’s earlier annoyance had shifted to amusement now that the shoe was on the other foot.
Jean shifted all her focus onto her target, and the wooden turret splintered and crumbled under her telekinetic assault, crushed by vicious but invisible force.
“Turret’s down, Cyclops,” she bit back at him.
“Good work. Now let’s move.” A second later Cyclops was advancing on the encampment at a run; he didn’t even pause to sight his targets. His optic blasts easily took out the remaining two turrets in running stride.
“Show off,” Jean muttered.
He didn’t have time to get in a retort. Gunshots rang out, sending both of them diving into the snowy bank for cover.
“Jean? Those shots– from the west side?”
Her eyes were tightly closed in concentration. “Someone spotted Angel; he thinks the shot came from the second floor. He and Beast are pinned down, but they’re alright.”
Cyclops cursed under his breath. He guessed it was hard to be discrete when you were six foot tall and sporting a sixteen foot wingspan, but Warren could stand to try a little harder. He was too showy, too flashy; he still had a vigilante’s flair about him. Scott had hoped pairing him with Hank would help him tone things down a bit. Apparently not enough.
“Jean, I’m gonna need exact locations on the shooters and their captives. Can you do that?” he asked. He didn’t know if it was even possible. Did virtual simulations have minds to read in the first place?
She didn’t answer. Jean was trying hard, whether it was possible or not.
“I’m getting nothing. Wait–” she gritted her teeth, her face pinched in concentration. “The professor says there are at least two people, armed. They’re still inside the farmhouse, both of them toward the west end.”
Toward Beast and Angel. Cyclops stifled a curse as he considered using an optic blast to try and create a diversion. He was about to ask Jean for a location on the others, the captives inside the house, when a thunderclap rocked the air. Apparently Storm had taken it upon herself to create the distraction. The force of the vibration caused a snowslide in back of the house, neatly blocking a rear exit.
“Nice work, Storm!” Cyclops breathed.
Jean reached out, again trying to pinpoint signs of life inside the farmhouse. She cursed viciously enough to make Scott wince. She was getting something, but it was impossible to interpret it as thought or emotion. Nothing useful! And when she tried harder– She got Ororo’s worry over Warren’s and Hank’s welfare. Warren was still furious at himself for getting spotted, and Hank didn’t know if he could keep Warren from doing something foolish in at attempt to compensate for his previous mistake. Finally it was Professor Xavier’s thoughts that she heard with crystal clarity.
Jean opened her eyes. “They’re retreating into the center of the farmhouse now, first floor. That’s where they’re holding the mutants,” she reported. Her voice trailed off and she placed her hand against her head as though she was shielding her eyes.
“They’re preparing for a siege,” Cyclops stated, getting to his feet. “We need to move quickly.”
“Your approach is clear; you’ll be safe if you go now,” Jean insisted.
Scott immediately heard her omission. Jean knew she was in no condition to walk into a possible combat situation. The psychic overexertion had weakened her so severely she was physically shaking. Scott could see it, and Jean felt his hesitation. He didn’t want to leave her behind, and yet there was no time to wait for her to recover. Cyclops had to move now or he’d put the team and their entire mission at risk.
He dropped down to one knee. “You sure you’re alright here?” he asked.
“You’ve got to go. Go, Scott,” she told him. That didn’t make him move. She spared him a smile in reassurance. “I’m alright. And I’ll be right behind you, I promise.”
He nodded. Scott still didn’t like leaving her behind, but he trusted her to tell him the truth. So after one last moment of indecision, he was gone. Jean took a couple of moments to work on her mental shielding, which had become so porous it felt near collapse. But, aside from her maddeningly continued inability to pick up any mental activity inside the farmhouse, her current porousness had its advantages. She could easily track Scott’s advance from the other’s viewpoints.
Cyclops indicated to the team that they should take positions and ready themselves to enter the enemy encampment. On his mark they did so, storming their way inside from four separate entry points to converge on the center of the farmhouse.
Angel was the first to meet resistance. He disarmed one man at the top of the stairs. Beast burst into the room a moment later from a door at the bottom of the stairs. He quickly grabbed hold of the rifle that was now aimed at Angel and lifted it up toward the ceiling.
“No–” Jean breathed, realizing too late the truth of the situation. Scott– Stop! she called to him mentally as she scrambled up out of the snow and ran toward the farmhouse.
Cyclops and Storm burst into opposite sides of the room, almost simultaneously, to find Angel restraining one man while Beast held a rifle aloft, stunned to find a boy no more than twelve trying to wrest the weapon back from him. That was when Cyclops reacted to Jean’s warning cry.
“Hold!” Cyclops yelled. The order was meant for his own team.
In one corner, a woman was huddled protectively over two small children, all three of them crying and looking utterly terrified.
They had burst into the farmhouse, not into a hostage situation, but to find a mother protecting her children, along with a father and an older brother bearing arms in their defense. Scott wanted to tell them not to be afraid, but he was so stunned he couldn’t manage to speak.
They all stood there without a clue what to do next until the holographic forms finally faded from existence, leaving the team alone in the familiar confines of their training room.
“This session is over,” Professor Xavier declared over the intercom. “Return to the Command and Observation Booth for debriefing, X-Men.”
Hank and Warren left the room slowly, and Ororo followed them out (after having gained a nod of encouragement from Jean). Scott stood in the spot where he had come to a stop minutes earlier, still frozen in place. Jean wasn’t sure if he remained there because he couldn’t forget what he had seen, or because he wanted to commit to memory the vivid intensity of that now-faded scene.
“Dammit.” Scott cursed under his breath when the door closed behind his teammates.
Jean, standing behind him, placed a hand to his shoulder as Scott stood looking at the place where the woman and her children had cowered minutes earlier. She didn’t need any telepathy for this.
“Did you see the looks on those kids’ faces?” he asked. “They were terrified.”
“Don’t,” she said softly but insistently. “Don’t start blaming yourself.”
He shook his head helplessly. “What if this had been for real, Jean?”
“It wasn’t,” she reminded him.
“I thought I knew what I was doing here.” Scott shook his head, still at a loss to describe what had just happened. “From the moment the professor gave us the assignment, said we were going after these kids, I just assumed they were being held– It never crossed my mind that there was a family in here trying to protect them. I’m such an idiot!”
“Scott, you’re a lot of things. For example, ‘annoying as hell’ often comes to mind,” Jean teased him, and she was glad to see him stifle a laugh in response. “But you are no idiot,” she told him firmly.
“Then what the hell was I thinking? Sure, I’m good at strategy, but I know nothing about–”
“People?” Jean filled in the blank when his voice abruptly cut away.
He nodded. “I’ve never been good at dealing with people.”
“I don’t know... Ororo tells me you don’t survive for long as a con artist without having a good understanding of people.”
“That’s manipulation, not understanding,” Scott concluded bitterly.
“Ororo calls it charming them– but still.” Jean persisted, “Maybe you’re not as good at interacting, but you are good at seeing people as they are, and at understanding what motivates them.”
“Maybe so,” he conceded. “I just don’t know if that’s going to be good enough–” Scott turned to face her, and Jean looked as though she was barely holding it together. “Are you okay?” he asked, concerned.
“Not really.” She conceded with a tired shake of her head. She knew she wasn’t the only one suffering from minor injury and overexertion, but at the moment Jean was sore and weary, and she was trying desperately not to give in to a fit of bad temper. “But we’re all doing the best we can, right?” she asked, looking down to avoid his gaze.
“Hey–” Scott whispered. He wanted to tell her... he knew how hard this was on her; he could see how hard she was trying, how hard she was fighting. Even when the effort was pushing her past her limits, and she was scared, uncertain, exhausted– she kept fighting. He wanted to tell her... she was amazing. She’d been focused and in control; she’d done everything they’d needed her to. But the words just wouldn’t come, and Jean didn’t give him time to–
“We’d better go,” she prompted. “The team’s waiting on us for the debriefing.” She didn’t look up at him. She hated shutting him down like that, but she simply didn’t have the energy right now to sift through whatever Scott was struggling to get out. It was hard enough just to keep a grip on her own emotions right now without getting completely swamped.
“Yeah. Thanks, Jean.”
The tone of his voice told her that he was still troubled, but their talk had made him feel more optimistic.
“Scott–” Xavier addressed him immediately when Scott and Jean walked through the door. “What went wrong in there? How could it have been prevented?”
“We shouldn’t have stormed the compound. I should have gotten everyone into position then sent in a scout to find out what was really going on inside, make friendly contact if that was possible. If things really were bad inside, knowing we were coming in would have kept them safer. In this case, it would have kept us from scaring the hell out of them for no good reason.”
Xavier nodded. “I agree. It also would have kept one of you from being ten seconds away from a point blank gunshot fired by a fourteen-year-old boy charged with the protection his mother and siblings.” Xavier’s voice lowered. “That would have happened if the simulation had continued to run. He was hiding in a cupboard off the kitchen.”
Scott swallowed hard and lowered his head. Jean could feel the turmoil ripple though his emotions. She instinctively took a step closer to him in silent show of support, but she was also angry.
“Can anyone tell me what the sole purpose of this exercise was?” Xavier asked them all.
His question was met only with uncomfortable silence.
“No matter how clear-cut you think the mission is, no matter how well you believe your efforts will be received – and it makes no difference if you’re fighting against a dangerous mutant, trying to help those in need, or making contact with a young mutant just coming into his or her abilities – you can never make assumptions upon other people’s perceptions of you.
“We must always prove ourselves and our intentions to the rest of the world. The moment we lose the perception that we’re there to help, and that we’re fighting the good fight, then the mission is already lost. That’s why I stopped the exercise when I did. Before we can do any good, we must present ourselves as the good guys.”
After making that point, and taking a few more minutes to debrief the specifics of the mission, Xavier dismissed them– except for Scott and Jean.
“Scott, Jean, the two of you worked well together today. I was impressed with the way you cooperated to direct the team’s offensive.” Scott and Jean smiled at one another. “I think we should continue coordinating our efforts in this manner.”
“It was helpful” Jean admitted, “being able to verbally communicate to Scott what I was getting mentally, but–” Before Jean could say anything about her inability to get a read on the training room simulations, Xavier interrupted.
“Yes, we will need to find a way to allow you greater mental insight into the simulation so that you can use your abilities more effectively. Today I attempted to use a low level psychic projection to create the illusion of real minds.”
Jean glanced at Scott, who was also reacting with stunned speechless.
Xavier smiled at their expressions. “Well, it would seem today’s projection was too low level for Jean to pick up on. Ideally, we may find ways to have our virtual projections ‘think’ for themselves in accordance with their programed behavior... but that sort of advance is still a long way off. In the future I will try incrementally increasing the input. But, in the meantime, we should continue to build on the complementary nature of your own abilities.
“As we learned today, Scott, Jean can use her telepathy to keep you aware of the team’s progress. This should help you to adjust your strategy as necessary to meet changing conditions in the field, which brings me to my next point. “Scott, I observed one very serious flaw in your leadership today: a failure to follow through ‘past the first skirmish,’ so to speak. Assuming that the team will be able to accomplish their tasks as ordered is not sufficient leadership on your part.”
Scott took a deep breath, nodding. He hadn’t considered that, and in retrospect he saw the glaring omission.
“You’re not the first commander to fall into such a trap, or to have that particular blind spot. I would advise you to study military history, and to begin with Moltke the Elder.
“Moltke was a German Field Marshal, regarded as one of the greatest military strategists of his time. He popularized a theory espousing military strategy as a series of options, because, as he famously explained: the best laid plans of any battle never survive past the first skirmish. Therefore, Moltke thought it the primary task of military command to exhaustively prepare, and to consider every possible outcome in their preparations.”
Scott nodded thoughtfully. “Then preparation is key, but so is flexibility, the ability to improvise as conditions change.”
“Precisely,” Xavier agreed. “And I would further remind you that effective leadership is about far more than matters of strategy and command. Anyone can give commands. Many can do it well, are good in command, but the ones who are great are great because they set an example. They push hard for results, but they also inspire confidence and loyalty in those they lead.
“Command is a matter of style as well as substance (an art, as much as a science), and you will need to find your own style.”
Scott looked skeptical.
Xavier smiled. “Style is important in the same way that communication, image, and self-awareness all are important. You need to prove to your team that they can follow you. Only then will the team gel as a single entity, and that is absolutely essential. But even once you have the team behind you, you will need to continually prove yourself to everyone with whom you interact as Cyclops.”
With that, Xavier dismissed Scott. He stood to go, and Jean winced when she caught some of Scott’s reaction to the dismissal. It was mostly emotional: intense blame and self-doubt. Scott was beating himself up over his shortcomings, and her anger over that knowledge got the better of Jean.
“Scott asked me, ‘What if this mission had been for real?’ The problem is, this wasn’t for real. If it was real, the fault would have been mine for not being able to tell him what was going on in there. Instead, all I was getting was what you wanted me to know. If this was for real, Professor, you would be the one telling us what to expect from a situation like this.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m not responsible for my own mistakes, Jean,” Scott countered firmly.
Jean didn’t say any more. She was still getting way too much input, and she really hated that she couldn’t manage to filter out her friends’ private thoughts and emotions. They didn’t know how much she was getting from them, and if they did they’d probably hate her for the invasion of their privacy even more than she hated herself for it.
“I wasn’t trying to interfere, Scott,” she whispered, and that time she felt him very deliberately clear his mind, like wiping a blackboard clean, before he turned and came back to her side.
“I didn’t mean to snap at you, Jean,” he offered with a shy smile. “Look,” he knelt down beside her chair and waited until she looked up at him. “You did really good in there today.”
Jean nodded, fighting off a smile at his complement. She knew Scott meant what he said, but he was still worried. They were all worried.... She thanked him, and listened to the sound of his footsteps as Scott left the room. After the door closed behind Scott, she locked eyes on Xavier.
“I don’t understand why you assigned this to me,” she challenged Xavier, though the challenge now sounded more tired than angry. “You said it would be easier and more effective for you to monitor the whole team, then communicate your thoughts through me. But both of us know that kind of one-on-one communication wouldn’t be impossible, or even difficult,” Jean’s voice lowered, “not for you.”
Xavier nodded. “I also told you that operating this way would be best for the team’s cohesion, and for the overall safety of its members. I stand by that statement.”
Charles Xavier was well aware of the strain Jean was experiencing, but he remained certain that Jean Grey was capable. He had hoped she would feel comfortable enough to take the initiative, but they no longer had time as ally. Her education had to move forward. It was critical that she learn to be the telepathic contact point for the team in the field, helping them to communicate among themselves, providing vital team unity, as well as useful insight into enemies and into general circumstances surrounding them. It was perhaps more critical for Jean than it was for the team.
Jean shook her head, remembering her earlier anger over Scott’s distress. “What good is suffering through these exercises if you aren’t going to give me any information that I can use? I’m no good to the team that way!” Or was this just Professor Xavier trying to throw them a curve ball, trying to get them to think in different terms? Or are you just throwing me in, sink or swim, for the hell of it?
“Jean,” he calmly addressed her concerns, there’s a valid reason I assigned you to this task – beyond simply throwing you in, sink or swim fashion.” Jean flushed but held his gaze determinedly. “But that assessment is true also,” he acknowledged. “This way, you’re forced to act; I know you will act.”
“Or someone could get hurt or killed if I don’t,” she countered.
“I have faith in your abilities to keep it from coming to that.”
“I thought you said there was another reason,” she cut him off from that unpleasant subject, and he allowed her the redirection.
“Jean, Scott also has great innate talents for the task I’ve given to him, but I think we’ve all seen so far that caution is not always a factor when it comes to his decision-making. He needs you to balance his hand in that way.”
She smiled a grim smile. “You’re telling me my indecision will be helpful to him.”
Xavier smiled back. “I’m telling you Scott needs to learn to consider every angle, including the ones he most easily overlooks: the human ones. He needs help learning to do emotionally what he already does tactically, and I think after today he realizes that weakness. Scott has great abilities to objectively analyze a situation, but he also has great difficultly expressing emotion. In some cases, that will be a help to him, and sometimes not. If that blind spot persists unchecked, it can just as easily become a danger to him.
“As I know you are well aware, Scott’s objectivity and his extraordinary selflessness allows him the ability to act quite fearlessly.”
Jean repressed a snort. “Yes. I’ve met Cyclops, the Fearless Leader.”
Xavier suppressed his own smile to continue. “But he can’t afford to discount the dangers he faces any more than you can afford to dwell on them. By having each of you share a measure of responsibility for the mission and the team, I’m hoping you’ll help each other to develop a more balanced approach.”
Jean nodded. “I understand.”
“And Jean– I know you don’t always appreciate Cyclops, but do try to be patient with him. Scott is still figuring out who Cyclops needs to be.”
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