Chapter 10: “Shivering with Anticipation”

Notes: Those of my readers who only know the X-Men movies as their source material may not have gotten a joke in Chapter 9. Jubilee is a character who appeared in X-Men comics (the so-called “616” universe) and in the first X-Men animated series. She appears as a background character in the first two movies in her trademark yellow jacket but is never given a moment to shine. Her power involves creating energy releases that sometimes resemble fireworks, hence the in-joke about Mike seeing fireworks when they first kiss. So, yeah, she's a mutant in case you missed it. In this issue, I feature many other comicverse characters, especially from the series “The New Mutants”. Just to make things more complex, I have added a character from the “X-Men:Evolution” animated series. He shows up towards the end. You'll know him when you feel him.



**GenePool welcomes thunderstuck at 4:49 a.m.
knifeinthehead89>MUTANT AND HER PARENTS BURNED OUT OF THEIR HOME IN KANSAS
knifeinthehead89>SOMANTO INC. INITIATES ROUST OF MUTANT EMPLOYEES, THREATENS TO SUE NEW EMPLOYEES FOR NON-DISCLOSURE OF MUTANT STATUS
**GenePool welcomes whatsthebuzz at 4:52 a.m.
whatsthebuzz>hi! I’m new
refleXgene>Hey! Hi.
knifeinthehead89>MUTANT TEEN FOUND HALF-STARVED, LOCKED IN PARENT’S BASEMENT FOR 6 MONTHS
whatsthebuzz>oh that’s terriblle. did the police help?
refleXgene>ignore him, buzz. He just gives the headlines. he doesn’t chat
whatsthebuzz>oh
refleXgene>how ru?
whatsthebuzz>ok. friend told me about this comm. I think I’m a mutant
thunderstuck>ASP
refleXgene>welcome. Here’s a present for u
whatsthebuzz>whats ASP ?
thunderstuck>age sex power
whatsthebuzz>omg. my desktop pic changed to a tiger!!!!!!!
refleXgene>that’s my present. cool huh?
whatsthebuzz>lol at thunderstruck. 17. female. my power. see I’m not sure…
refleXgene>I can also make new playlists on your iTunes
thunderstuck>you don’t no yr power?
whatsthebuzz>cool, reflexgene. pls don’t. my powr…... I think I’m making the horseflies in the barn fly in formation. it’s creepy
thunderstuck>moms here. g2g
***thunderstuck has left GenePool at 5:01 a.m.
refleXgene>awesome pwr!!
knifeinthehead89>FOUR MUTANT YOUTH ARRESTED IN TEXAS DENIED LEGAL REPRESENTATION






“Young man... Bobby is it?”

“Yes, Mr. Jones: Bobby Drake.”

“Which way to Hayward’s room again?”

“Take a right at the top of the stairs, sir, third door on the left. Do you need help carrying that?”

Bobby was too busy to be nervous, too excited to stop smiling. He had drunk two coffees at breakfast and was scarfing muffins from the refreshments table on the front lawn every time he passed. Now he was a buzzy, bouncing ball of bonhomie as students and their families arrived for the first day of school.

“Bobby! Ororo needs you to copy five more field trip waivers.”

“I’m on it, Scott!”

The itinerary called for arrivals between 9:00 and 11:00 followed by an assembly at 11:15. Ororo was posted at a registration desk at the base of the front steps where she signed students in, handed them their orientation packages and then passed them off to Bobby and Kitty. The two of them were in charge of showing students their rooms and conducting tours every time they had a small group together. They also found themselves answering an endless series of queries about life in the mutant school.

“Can the teachers all read minds, Bobby?”

“Not all. Terry. Just half of them.”

“I’ll never think again.”

The parents, meanwhile, were directed to the refreshments table in the garden where they sipped fresh-squeezed orange juice, nibbled at Margit’s homemade croissants and chatted amongst themselves. Scott, Professor Xavier and Hank McCoy (up for the day from Washington) moved among the parents, chatting and acting as social glue. Bobby thought Scott looked like he was not enjoying this role. The colorful chaos was further enriched by various siblings such as Peter’s sister Illyana, tagging along after their mutant family members.

Jean had left early for an airport run and was now pulling into the driveway with a fully loaded car: Sam Guthrie, making his first trip away from his rural Kentucky home, Neal Shaara who had just flown in from Calcutta and Roberto DaCosta, the powerful young mutant whom the Professor had discovered in Brazil. As she stepped out of the car with the students, Bobby thought her smile seemed a bit forced.

He focused his mind and telepathically called to her, *Rough drive?* Bobby was proud of his ability to ‘send’ to telepaths. The Professor said he had a knack for it. In fact, his problem was not broadcasting his thoughts when he didn’t want them heard. That was worrisome.

*Bad traffic and worse communication,* she sent back. *Roberto’s English only exists on paper—he can’t actually put a spoken sentence together. And Neal and Sam don’t understand a word of each other’s accents. Maybe you could come over and be really cheerful or something.*

“Hi, I’m Bobby! Welcome to Westchester!”

He was helping them with their bags and doing what he could to herd them over to Ororo when another car pulled in. Just as Bobby was wondering where Kitty was (because he sure as hell wasn’t going to greet everyone himself), her voice rang out from the front door of the mansion.

“Doug!” She came running down to greet the skinny blond 14 year old who was climbing excitedly out of the back seat, his eyes taking in everything. Bobby realized this was the math genius Kitty had adopted as an online little brother at the Professor’s urging. They started gabbing immediately and she quickly hauled him off to introduce him around and check out his room. Doug’s parents, the Ramseys were left to fend for themselves and Scott, noticing this, marched over to greet them.

Ten minutes later, Bobby’s trio of boys was up in the dorms unpacking. He promised a tour a little later, saying he had to rush off and do some paperwork for the Professor. He felt a bit bad about lying, but he was suddenly feeling a panic attack coming on. He slipped downstairs and ran out a back door into a quiet, shaded garden area behind the house where he sought out the most remote corner and leaned against an old oak tree.

‘Panic attacks’ were what Jean called them and he hated the word. It made him feel like a nervous bride in a history movie, hand on her breast, swooning. Still, here was that sweaty feeling and the tight feeling in his chest; so he focused on breathing slowly and evenly like Jean had taught him. What was he scared of, anyway? Maybe the panic was because he was supposed to stand up during the assembly and invite his fellow students to join his peer counseling group—as if he was the one who could help them with their problems. Maybe his fear was about Kitty. They hadn’t officially broken up but then they’d never officially been ‘put-together’ either. The kissing had stopped and now she always kept a bit of distance between them; but they were still friends, he was pretty sure of that. Would she be make jokes about him to the other girls? Tell them how he wasn’t… couldn’t…

Breathe. Center yourself.

Now that he was looking at it, the list of fears seemed to be growing. While he was happy to play goodwill ambassador for the day, maybe he was scared that the other students would be smarter than he was, scared that they’d be better in control of their sure-to-be cooler powers. There was something more, he realized. Almost every student there was known by their parents to be a mutant. They were loved despite the fact that they burned with the heat of the sun, screamed loud enough to shatter walls or whatever else was different about them. Bobby felt more like Roberto and Rahne—orphans who had to bear the burden themselves. But it was worse for him! His parents were alive and he could never tell them. They would never accept him the way the Ramseys accepted Doug. Even Peter Rasputin was accepted by his father—an Orthodox priest!

He heard a scratching sound off to his left and looked over to find that very same Peter Rasputin tucked behind another tree, sketching with charcoal in a large pad of paper. It was an incongruous sight: the huge young man holding the sliver of charcoal with such delicacy, creating a gentle but powerful unicorn on his pad. Peter was like that mythical creature, Bobby realized; shyer than you would guess from his strength and stature.

“Hey, Peter,” he called out, trying not to startle him.

Peter looked up and quickly closed his pad. “Hello, Bobby. I was just…” He didn’t continue.

“I know; it’s kind of overwhelming out front. Hey, is it ‘Peter’ or...? Your dad said something else.”

“Piotr,” he replied, the word sounding very alien coming from the big guy with the All-American Midwestern accent. “But ‘Peter’ is easier, you know?” He smiled for the first time.

Bobby grinned back. “Yeah, I think I’ll go with that. Listen, I wonder if you could do me a favor.” This was a trick he had learned from Andi; give the shy ones something to do that would help them open up.

Peter’s smile faltered. “Sure, if I can. I’m not really…” Again he didn’t know how to finish.

“You play football? You look like you must.” Peter nodded. “Great! See that shed over there? Get a ball from the shelf and go grab the kids who are up in their rooms. You can get a game going on the lower field until it’s time for the assembly. That would really help me out, buddy!”

Peter headed off on his task while Bobby stayed in the quiet of the garden for another minute. He felt better after the interaction. The mansion was his place and he knew what to do here. He could be a leader just as he had been in the City at the youth group. He wanted to linger more but realized that the all-seeing eye of Scott would be wondering at his absence and he took off around the house at a run.

***

As the morning progressed, Scott found himself wishing he were leaping from a burning airplane into a heavily guarded military facility where he would have to get past state-of-the-art killer robots to retrieve a bomb that would likely go off and kill him before he got it to safety. That scenario, he felt, would be more suited to his skills than shaking hands with parents and getting a group of over-excited teenagers to follow the day’s schedule.

He and the Professor, along with Hank, were trying to create an atmosphere of calm professionalism and make sure everybody—especially the parents who had donated money above and beyond tuition—were feeling like they had made the best decision of their lives in sending their children to Xavier’s.

He didn’t like the whole situation from a security point of view, either. Families had shown up with unexpected guests and he felt a burning need to keep track of everybody at all times which was clearly impossible. He was especially unhappy to see the Professor so exposed. Of course, if there were a sudden attack from assailants unknown, it would get him out of having to make the opening speech later.

“I’m just not good at public speaking, Professor,” he had whined the night before.

“Then it’s time you got used to it, Scott,” Xavier had responded. “Just organize your thoughts in advance and speak from the heart.”

He just wished the day were already over.

He was still in conversation with the Ramseys, discussing education theory with the couple (who were both teachers) when he noticed the Rasputins talking earnestly with Terry and Dani’s parents. They seemed to be getting themselves worked up about something and, as their discussion grew more agitated, he overheard the words, “...if it could happen in Pasadena, it could happen here.”

*Professor*, he called out telepathically and noticed Xavier tilt his head slightly in response without abandoning his conversation with the Jones family. *You might want to join that group before they get too rattled.* He watched Xavier smoothly disengage himself from his conversation and wheel over to comfort the troubled parents. The Joneses wandered off to explore the topiary and Scott noted the way their strangely detached son came to a halt as if hearing something odd in the wind. Scott thought Jean should test the boy for Asperger’s. More special needs? How would they cope?

He felt someone come up behind him and turned to see Roberto DaCosta, dressed in a jacket and tie, shyly approaching. Scott smiled at him. He and Ororo had gone down to meet the boy last year in Rio de Janeiro under somewhat scary circumstances. The boy had needed them and now they were lucky to have his talents at their school. Roberto was going to be one of Scott’s “sunshine boys”; students who shared his own ability to transform sunlight into powerful force. He would need to work hard with these kids before they could safely use their dangerous powers.

Scott brought his conversation with the Ramseys to a close and pointed them at the food table. As they moved off, Roberto came forward, shaking Scott’s hand formally.

“Welcome to America,” he told the handsome, dark-skinned youth.

“Thank you, Mr. Scott,” he responded awkwardly in his limited English. “It is good to being… being here. Home, yes?”

“Yes, this is your home now.” Silence descended as they both pondered how to surmount the language barrier. Scott took another security survey of the grounds, noticing that the guests were favoring the croissants over the bagels, noticing that the Professor had got the group of concerned parents smiling again, noticing the Jones kid (what was his name? Hayward?) wandering in a trance towards the basketball court. Continuing his visual reconnaissance, he noted that Rahne was still sitting shyly with Ororo who seemed to have a special affinity with the quiet orphaned girl. Behind them, he spotted Peter emerging from the house with Guthrie, Shaara and a football, followed by Kitty and Doug who were deep in animated conversation.

“Hey, Doug!” Scott called out and he and Kitty came over. “How’s your Portuguese? Roberto here is a little stuck for someone to talk to.”

Doug’s brow furrowed as if he was accessing a database. “I only know 23 words, sir,” he said with great seriousness in a voice that had still not completely dropped into its adolescent range. “But that should be enough.”

Doug turned to Roberto and stared intensely up into his face. “Bom dia, Roberto. Como está?” he asked, intoning the words without fluency, like he was tourist consulting a phrase book.

Roberto smiled back at the serious boy with amusement and replied, “Obrigado, bem.”

Doug’s head tilted slightly to the side and he blinked twice. “Diga-me sobre sua família.”

Roberto looked a little startled at the question but then began speaking slowly, saying things to Doug that were clearly more complex than basic tourist vocabulary.

Kitty’s mouth dropped open as she watched Doug nodding and then, bit by bit, interjecting single words and then whole sentences. Within a minute, he and Roberto were conversing fluently and rapidly in Portuguese. Roberto’s body language changed completely and he became visibly relaxed and excited, finally able to unload the day’s fear and excitement on someone.

Doug turned to Kitty and said, “I’m going to give him the tour you just gave me, Kitty, if that’s okay.”

“Uh, yeah, sure,” she responded and the boys moved off, chatting happily. She turned to Scott. “That was pretty impressive.”

“He’s also written three of four new computer languages,” he told her as he surveyed the grounds again. He couldn’t shake the feeling that chaos was lurking somewhere in the air.

“Yeah, I know,” Kitty replied. “It’s scary. He says we can rewrite all the systems at the mansion in ways that will make them hundreds of times faster.”

Scott noted that the football players had chosen a spot on the lawn way down near the base of the drive. Would they even hear anyone call them when it was time for the assembly? He turned back to Kitty. “We’ll all have to help Roberto learn English as soon as he can; otherwise Doug will have a full-time job as his…” Catching a movement over her shoulder, Scott stopped and said, “What is that boy doing?!”

Kitty spun around and they both watched Hayward Jones standing robotically beside the basketball court. He raised an arm straight ahead of himself, his hand in a claw shape and rotated the arm as if he were turning a doorknob. A deep, mechanical thrumming sound startled everyone (except the distant, shouting football players) into silence. The basketball court suddenly split at the center line and the gap began widening.

“Hey, stop that!” Scott shouted and started sprinting towards Jones who seemed totally focused on his task. Everyone on the lawn turned and then began moving towards the phenomenon, muttering in wonder and surprise. Kids were squeezing forward to see what the open portal would reveal just as Scott reached Jones. He grabbed his shoulders and gave him a small shake, yelling, “Hayward, stop!” Only then did the boy snap out of his trance, seeming surprised to find Scott there at all. The opening court rumbled to a halt.

He looked around at the group that had gathered and then back at Scott with an annoyed expression. “Call me ‘Jones’. I hate ‘Hayward’.”

Scott turned to find the group of kids on their hands and knees peering down into the darkness between the halves of the basketball court.

“What do you see?”

“Something shiny. Big!”

Scott looked around at the gawking crowd. He breathed in sharply through his nose and then exhaled slowly to quell his anger. Fucking civilians! He stood up tall and shouted out in crisp military fashion, “Attention. This is not a safe area. Please step back from the basketball court!”

Everybody wordlessly obeyed as if he were dressed like a field commander instead of a tweedy young professor. He marched over to a decorative rock, flipped open a secreted panel in the top and punched in a sequence on the revealed keypad. The court closed again with a deep rumble and a final ‘whump’.

Everyone automatically turned back to Scott as if awaiting further orders. He opened his mouth to speak but just then, a football flew in from overhead, startling him and scattering the crowd. Peter Rasputin bounded in after it, almost knocking over the Ramseys in his enthusiasm.

“Sorry! Sorry, Mr. Summers,” he muttered, gathering up the football and turning back to face Guthrie and Shaara who were waving from the distance.

“Peter—” Scott began, but the big guy was already running back to his compatriots, dragging the group’s attention with him. He then caused amazed gasps, shrieks and cheers as his body bloomed sheets of shiny silver metal, transforming him into something out of a Terminator movie. He drop kicked  the ball which sailed high up and over the trees that surrounded the front lawn.

Off in the distance, Sam Guthrie gave an excited ‘whoop’ and began running after it. His body started glowing brightly and, as he leaped into the air, his lower half appeared to burst into flames. He shot skyward like a cannon. The display of powers seemed to be creating a circus mood and a cheer went up as Guthrie left the ground. Perhaps that was what distracted him because a few seconds later, his trajectory took him into the treetops and he suddenly spun out of control, losing his propulsive glow and crashing to the ground beyond the trees, out of sight.

“Dammit,” Scott yelled, losing his cool. “Everybody please stay where you are and students, DO NOT USE YOUR POWERS!”



Then a wolf almost ran him down.




“Mr. Haddad, I’m very disappointed to find you here in my office at all. And especially on the first day of class.”

This was not Mike’s first visit to the principal’s office at his high school. He had spoken to the man before about organizing school activities, about being the school’s representative at the “Leaders of Tomorrow” conference; but it was the first time he had been there for an alleged violation. Along with his feelings of outrage and shame was another unexpected emotion. It was similar to the feeling he had experienced when he had walked into the building this morning with his shaggy hair hanging down his forehead, wearing black jeans that were a bit torn at the knee and a t-shirt that said ‘I’m a firecracker. Gotta match?’ Mouths had dropped in disbelief because he was known for his serious, preppy demeanor.

He looked the principal in the eye and said, “I’m not sure what you wanted to see me about, Mr. Matthews.” Let the principal accuse him; he wasn’t going to make some shameful confession.

Matthews opened Mike’s student record folder (to let him know that these things would always haunt him) and pulled out a photocopied poster. A fly was buzzing somewhere near the fluorescent bulb as he read it over. He turned it to Mike who didn’t blink or lower his gaze. Perhaps annoyed that his theatrics weren’t working, Matthews turned the flyer back around and read aloud: “‘Mutants are part of our community, too. Make them welcome at this school.’ Are you responsible for this, Michael?”

Well, Mike thought, here we go. “Yes, Mr. Matthews. I put up a few signs around the school today.”

“Are you aware that all posters, flyers and any other signage must be approved by the office for posting?”

“Yessir, I am.”

“Then why—”

“Because you would have said no, sir. I asked the guidance office about their plans in case one of our students turned out to be a mutant. They didn’t have any. Then I asked the Vice Principal if I could put something supportive into the orientation newsletter. He forbade it. I asked to speak to you about the issue and you said there was nothing to discuss.” Mike realized his adrenaline was pumping. He’d have to watch it or he’d go too far. Maybe he already had because Principal Matthews was clenching his jaw and worrying the paper in his hand.

“So, in other words, you had already received a clear answer from three members of the administration that we were not going to be setting policy on this issue but you had to go ahead on your own. You do not understand how these things work. When the school district makes a ruling on this problem, we will follow their lead.” He paused, looking again at the flyer with contempt. “Or do you think you’re smarter than us, Haddad?”

Mike knew how he wanted to answer that, but instead he simply said, “No, sir.”

“Then why did you take matters in your own hands against our wishes?”

“Because... because I thought it was the right thing to do, Mr. Matthews.”

That earned him a red-hot look of fury. “So, you think that our school would be better off with mutants wandering the halls, Michael? Do you have any idea the chaos that would...” He ground to a halt, shaking his head at the boy. “How many?!”

“Sorry, sir, how many—?”

“How many posters did you put up?!”

“About 12.”

“And was anyone else involved in this activity?”

“No, sir, just me.”

Silence fell again. Matthews looked out the window, making Mike sweat it out. He then crumpled the flyer completely and tossed it across the room into his metal garbage can where it fell with a clunk. The fly had moved to the window where it was buzzing emphatically, searching for escape.

Matthews’ tone became curt and business-like. “I want all the posters down the minute you leave this office. Mr. Haddad, you have always been an exemplary student. I hope this incident is merely a case of late-summer shenanigans and that you will be ready to be a responsible citizen of this school again beginning now. Do you think you can do that?”

Hidden behind the desk, Mike’s fists were clenched. “I’m responsible, sir. I’ll always be responsible.”

“Good. You’re dismissed. But if there is another incident like this, we will not treat it lightly.”

“Sir, if we could just discuss this—”

“DISMISSED!”

Mike controlled his fury until he got outside into the corridor. A couple of students whispered curiously as he emerged from the office, clearly distressed. He wanted to kick something, he wanted to scream. Goddamn, it wasn’t fair! He was the guy who just wanted to get through high school with good grades and go on to med school and lead a simple, successful life. Why was this happening to him? Why was he doing this to himself?

“Are you responsible for this, Michael Haddad?!” came another furious voice. Heads turned as Jubilee stormed up to him holding one of the posters. She grabbed him by the t-shirt and pulled him around the corner, half-tearing the shirt right off. She pushed him against the wall and held one of the posters up to his face. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Jubilee, Jesus Christ!” He lowered his voice and hissed at her, “I’m doing this you! For all the mutants!”

“You are causing trouble is what you’re doing! Look at this!” She pointed at the poster and, with a sinking heart, he saw the amendment made to it with a red Sharpie. A figure with horns and sharp teeth was being hanged from a gallows, spikes in its bleeding side. The word ‘welcome’ was circled in red three times.

Mike grabbed his poster and stared at it, all but foaming at the mouth. “Fuckers! This is exactly what I’m talking about! This is exactly why we need to speak up about—”

She grabbed him by his upper arms and let go an electric spark. He cried out and wrenched himself from her grasp; ready to fight, he glared at her but then, to his surprise, he saw that she was crying. Hoarsely, she whispered, “Michael, don’t! Don’t do this! I’m scared. Just... just let it go.”

He threw his arms around her and pulled her close to him. “Jubilee, I would never let anything happen to you. We have to fight or the hate will get worse!”

“It doesn’t have to be you, Mike! Let someone else do it! And not here where I have to live!”

He held her away a bit so he could look her in the eye. “But... but if everyone left it to someone else, nothing would ever get better. You must understand that.”

She shrieked and pushed him back against the wall, her tear-stained face contorted again in fury. “Fine! Do whatever you like! Get expelled for it, I don’t fucking care! But if that’s what you want, stay away from me, okay?”

“Jubilee—”

“STAY AWAY FROM ME!” She turned and stormed down the hall, pushing amazed students aside.

Mike watched her round the corner, feeling helpless, miserable. He looked up and saw Paul Greenstein smirking. “Wow, Haddad. I bet she’s really a sparkplug in bed!”






The assembly was delayed an hour so that Jean could tend to Sam’s arm. Kitty had wasted no time getting all the facts from those that had been on hand and was now relating the story to a wide-eyed group of kids on the front steps.

“He was lucky he didn’t land on the rocks, but he broke his arm anyway. Ororo flew out to find him and Neil and Peter were there a minute later. She called Jean telepathically and they just tried to make him comfortable until she got there. But then it gets good!” Everyone leaned forward a little. “Rahne comes running out of the trees in her wolf form and Peter metals up and yells, ‘Stand back! I will protect us!’” She laughed and looked out towards the gazebo where Peter was still talking to Rahne, both having been very embarrassed by the incident. Kitty suddenly felt a stab of guilt for telling tales about them.

“Well, anyway,” she continued with less enthusiasm, “they were both just trying to help. But it was pretty much a total clusterfu…” Seeing Dani’s seven year old brother in her audience, she stopped herself abruptly. “Uh, and the moral of the story is, be careful how you use your powers.”

*Or perhaps: ‘don’t judge someone to be an enemy just because they appear different from you’,* came the Professor’s distinctive telepathic voice. She blushed and wondered if she were psychically blushing, too. *Kitty, would you please bring your group to the assembly area; we are ready to begin.*

They all made their way around the side of the house where folding chairs had been set in neat rows. At the front was a mike stand holding the microphone that had been befuddling Scott earlier. Kitty got behind it, flipped a switch and gave a quick, “testing, testing.” She adjusted the treble on the mixer amp before taking her seat in the front row beside Bobby.

“Clusterfuck,” she enunciated quietly.

Bobby looked over, startled. “What?”

“Nothing. Just had to get it out of my system.” She turned around, watching everyone find their seats. She smiled and waved at new acquaintances. Then she spotted someone she had been meaning to talk to. “Hey, you’re Jones?”

“Yeah,” he answered a bit warily from two rows back, looking at her owlishly through his round glasses.

“How did you do that thing with the basketball court?”

“I can sense electrical networks,” he said, as casually as if he were explaining how he tied his shoes, “and I interpolate some of my consciousness into them.”

Kitty blinked, her mind whirled. “What about computer networks?” she asked excitedly. “Can you sense the pathways?”

“Of course,” he said, nodding. “It’s all laid out in my head like a map.”

“Wow. Okay, you and I are definitely going to talk right after the assembly.” She turned back to the front, trying to contain her excitement. “I think this is going to be the best school ever!” She looked around again as if waiting to see what other marvels would unfold. Most of the seats were now full. “Have all the students arrived?”

“Yeah, all except the Alvers family.”

“They’re totally late! Did they phone?”

“Not that I know of. The Professor didn’t seem too surprised.”

Hank and Ororo joined them in the front row while Scott and the Professor headed for the front, Scott taking his place behind the microphone.

“Could everyone please be seated?” he said, too close to the microphone, startling audience members and a tree full of sparrows.

People settled into their places, but then all heads turned as Jean came around the corner supporting Sam Guthrie who had a fresh cast on his arm and was looking distinctly stoned. They took seats at the end of the second row and Peter got up hurriedly to greet his fallen teammate.

“Does it hurt, Sam?” he asked with concern.

Sam giggled and said in an even thicker drawl than before, “Sheeit, no! I feel awesome!”

Bobby leaned over to Kitty and whispered, “Jean’s blocking his pain centers and stimulating his endorphins telepathically! Cool, huh?”

“Wow,” Kitty responded and then, with an evil grin added, “Do you think she ever, like, does that for Scott when they…?”

Bobby coughed out a loud guffaw as Scott began his speech, looking grim as a man on death row.

“Welcome to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. As most of you know, I'm Scott Summers. Some of your teachers are fine with you calling them by first names, but I prefer to be addressed as Mister Summers. We are at the beginning of an exciting year and I wish all our students the best of luck. We have high expectations for you and we expect that through hard work and discipline, you will meet them.”

Everyone shifted a bit in their seats as if sensing that the morning’s party had abruptly ended. Kitty, who had sat through and given many speeches at her old school was surprised how nervous he seemed. She couldn’t exactly tell through his red glasses, but she had the distinct impression he wasn’t looking at the audience. Sometimes his head would even swing up towards the treetops for a second as if to see if the squirrels were taking it all in.

“As we saw this morning, having extraordinary powers carries a high degree of risk and responsibility. This brings me to the first rule of the new term: no use of any energy releasing powers within 500 meters of the mansion. Um, and while I'm thinking of it, you are responsible for carrying your own dishes back to the serving area.”

Sam started giggling and couldn’t stop despite Jean shushing him several times.

Scott soldiered on. “There are areas of the mansion where you are forbidden to go without teacher accompaniment. These areas can be highly dangerous and we will deal severely with any attempts to disable the security systems.”

Parents were whispering among themselves and Kitty noticed that Xavier was looking a little annoyed. He cleared his throat and said quietly but audibly, “Scott, I believe you were going to just welcome the students. The rules are in their orientation packages.”

Scott looked a bit lost for a moment before he returned to the microphone. “Yes, right. I did want to say welcome and I hope everyone has a great year. There’s a lot to learn both academically and in terms of controlling your powers but we teachers are here for you and, um, don’t ever be shy about coming to us with your problems.” Kitty tried mightily to avoid rolling her eyes. “And now, Professor Xavier would like to say a few words.”

He adjusted the mike stand to a lower level as the Professor wheeled himself forward and looked out with a bright smile on his face. Scott retreated to the front row, scowling, his arms crossed on his chest, shrugging off Hank’s supportive pat on his shoulder.

Kitty felt herself lean into the Professor’s warm, welcoming smile. She realized that he could win a crowd over without even saying a word. Now that was a skill worth learning. She felt kind of sorry for Scott.

“This morning,” Xavier began, “is the fulfillment of so many years of dreaming that I can scarcely believe...” He paused, momentarily overcome by emotion. “...scarcely believe it is finally here. Welcome! Welcome all of you to my home. We are living in extraordinary times. When I was a young man, no one had heard of mutants or the X-gene. We now suspect that the emergence of this new human variant might have begun a hundred years ago or more, but it is the sudden flowering of a generation of mutants that has caught the attention of the world.

“And while the politicians, the newspapers and the citizens of this nation—indeed this planet—discuss the ramifications of this change, it is you, the students of this institution and their families, who are living the change.”

Xavier took a minute to gaze silently at the faces before him. Some met his eyes, others turned away or blushed.

“However, where some see fear, I see beauty, I see hope. During your years at the school, we will discover together just how much mutants can contribute. And I believe that when the world sees that we—like any in the human race—have abilities that can help liberate humankind from strife, it will stop regarding us with fear and open its arms in acceptance. It will see as I do, that you young people and your brave families offer hope in a time that desperately needs it. Welcome to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. You are my inspiration.”

Charles raised his hands and began applauding his audience and they quickly joined in. At a cynical level, Kitty wanted to dismiss it as crowd-pleasing theatrics but then why was her heart beating faster? Why did she have a tear in her eye?

The applause died down and Xavier once again spoke. “And now, it’s my pleasure to introduce one of our students who wishes to say a few words to you. Bobby?” Xavier wheeled backwards and Bobby got up and moved to the front, manhandling the mike stand up to his height with amplified rumblings.

“Uh, hi. I’m Bobby Drake. I probably met most of you already so, um, ‘Hi!’ First of all, I’d like to say that I’ve been here all summer and helped Scott... I mean Mr. Summers put together a lot of stuff around here. So if you need help finding something or figuring out how something works or where it lives, you can talk to me.

“But that’s not really what I’m going to talk about. Okay. Bit nervous here. It was only five months ago that my life changed. Up until then I thought I was just a normal screwed up kid with, um, problems at school and the usual crazy parents. Um, sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that parents are crazy. Heh. Anyway, one day, I found out I was—I was a mutant. Yeah, that was kind of surprising. And it was pretty awful because it didn’t seem like I could tell anyone. And all I was hearing about mutants on TV was how they—we—were a threat.

“So anyway, now I’m here and it’s really great to know that I am accepted and valued by the Professor and everyone at the school. But sometimes, it’s still hard. I still wake up and I think about the secrets of my life. About the way I’ve had to leave my home and my friends and how I have to hide what I am. And some days it really sucks. That’s why I suggested to the teachers that we have a drop-in discussion group a couple of times a week. Something informal where we can just talk about things that are bugging us, about our lives, about whatever we want. It’s totally voluntary and no one’s going to give you a grade or anything. It will just be students; no teachers. I’ll be leading the first few groups, but I hope that we’ll all be there for each other.

“The first group will be tomorrow night at 8 o’clock out at the rotunda, weather permitting and we’ll have another group on Saturday afternoon at four.

“Okay, um, we’re a bit behind schedule now, so Scott... um, Mister Summers is going to tell everyone where—”

Bobby’s speech was interrupted by insistent honking from the driveway. Everyone turned their heads and Scott called out, “Kitty, it’s our latecomers. Would you please go and...” He seemed to turn several verbs over in his head. “...greet them.”

Kitty got up and headed for the front lawn as Scott returned to the mike to outline the rest of the day’s schedule. As she walked over (because she was not going to run for the sake of rude guests), she felt a knot of frustration growing which she attempted to untangle and understand. Scott’s speech sucked because he didn’t know anything about making people like him. He just knew how he thought things should be and he expected people to feel the same. The Professor, on the other hand, was a genius at inspiring a group.

But Bobby! He pissed her off. He stood up like some typical high school doofus with no good plan for his speech, apologizing for everything he said. She had offered to coach him, but he said he was fine on his own. Just because they weren’t going out anymore, he had to act like he didn’t even need her. Stupid male pride. And yet everyone listened! When she’d stood up in front of school assemblies and school board meetings, she had carefully assembled a persona of confidence and authority to win their respect. Bobby didn’t seem to need that. Despite his nervousness, he hadn’t been afraid to show himself as imperfect, as scared. That was a kind of bravery she didn’t have and it made her jealous.

She came around the corner of the mansion and stopped to take in the scene. A silver BMW gleamed in the bright noon sun. By the passenger door stood an imperious woman with expensively dyed blond hair and an excess of jewelry, she was leaning heavily on the car looking annoyed and bored, tapping lacquered nails on the shiny roof. The driver’s door was open, too, but Kitty could only see the expensive shoes of the man sitting in the seat. He honked again twice.

“No one’s home,” came a loud, confident voice from the front door of the mansion. Kitty caught her breath as a guy maybe just a bit older than she strode down the steps like he owned the place. His long, striking face was made up of dark eyes, a sexy nose with a seductive bend to it and a strong jaw. His straight, dark brown hair fell into his eyes and he raised a big hand to push it back up. His baggy hip-hop fashions might have passed for ‘street’ if she hadn’t known how expensive those brands were and what kind of exclusive shops carried them.

The driver stood up. He was middle-aged and heavy-set with an even more extravagant version of the boy’s nose. In a commanding voice with a distinct foreign accent he demanded, “Well, where are they? This is the first day of school! The Alvers family is here!”

Kitty stepped out into the open and said, “Hi! Everyone’s at the assembly.” They all swung around to look at her, the man with the accent, the furiously bored wife and—oh my god—the son with those dark eyes and that dangerous smile.

“Hey there, I’m Lance. Lance Alvers.” He said, once again pushing the runaway hairs back into place.

“Kitty Pryde, hi.” She had already forgotten that his parents were there and that she should greet them personally. Lance sauntered up to her and stopped a little too close, his hands sliding into the pockets of his jeans. “Do people do the whole ‘well, hello Kitty’ thing to you?” he asked in a voice that challenged and thrilled her.

She felt the heat of his presence and was afraid she was about to do or say something stupid and hormonal. She stepped back and established a perimeter. “‘Hello Kitty?’ No, not if they want to live.” She smiled back with fake confidence.

She was awaiting his next parry or thrust in their little fencing match when Mrs. Alvers shook a jeweled arm in the air and hollered, “Hello there! You! How long are we going to be kept waiting?”

“Mom,” Lance shouted without turning to her, his eyes staying with Kitty, flirting shamelessly. “This isn’t the Plaza. We’re late and you’re making an ass of yourself.”

This made her absolutely shriek. “Do you have any idea how much your father is paying for this little adventure? The least they can do—”

“Young woman,” Mr. Alvers cut in, “Go find Professor Xavier and tell him we have arrived and wish to speak to him.

Kitty broke free of Lance’s magnetic field and put on a diplomat’s face. “The assembly is almost done and if you just hang tight a couple of minutes—”

Mrs. Alvers barreled on, “And what about Lance’s bags? Who’s going to take in—”

“ENOUGH!” Lance shouted, spinning to confront them. Taking a wide-legged stance, he hunched forward as if he were about to lift some great weight. His fists clenched and he let out a roar that startled Kitty and made his parents go white. The earth suddenly started trembling and then shaking in earnest, and Kitty grabbed hold of the railing by the stairs. His parents dove back into their car and slammed the doors. The minor earthquake came to a halt and Lance turned back to Kitty. “That should shut them up for a minute.” He smiled craftily at her but then he suddenly winced and his hands flew up to his temples. “Shit!” he said through gritted teeth and Kitty forgot her nervousness.

“Are you okay?” She moved towards him.

The driver’s window rolled down. “Lance,” came his father’s worried voice. “Is it bad?” His face was a sea of sympathy, though he didn’t step out from the safety of his vehicle.

Lance threw a hand in the air. “I’m fine,” he shouted, although he was clearly still in pain. “I just need a minute!” They all waited in silence. Kitty felt terribly awkward, not knowing how to help.

“Young lady,” Mrs. Alvers pleaded, stepping cautiously from the vehicle. “Call someone, he needs help! Tell them it’s Dominic Alvers’ son.” Kitty wondered if she should know the name.

She turned to Lance, trying to decide the right course of action, but he was straightening up, breathing easier. “No, mom, I’m okay.”

At that moment the crowd from the assembly starting coming around the corner. The Professor’s motorized wheelchair hummed as he moved along in conversation with several parents. Spotting the Alvers family he excused himself and pulled up to the driveway.

“Mr. and Mrs. Alvers. I’m so glad you could finally join us,” he said, with no audible sarcasm, though the word choice seemed loaded to Kitty. “Lance, I certainly felt your arrival a moment ago. Please keep your powers in check for now.” He looked at Lance’s face which was still pale. “Did you have another headache?”

“Yes,” Lance replied quietly, “but I’m fine now, Professor.”

“Good. You’ll feel better after you eat, I think.” He turned to smile at the Alvers parents. Dominic Alvers was still looking worriedly at his son but Mrs. Alvers had again found her imperious demeanor and was glaring at Xavier over the roof of the car. He smiled benignly in return and said, “I believe you wished to discuss some matters with me. Kitty, could you escort Mr. & Mrs. Alvers to my office in five minutes? Bobby will be here in a moment and he can show Lance to his room.” With that, the Professor turned and moved up the concrete ramp that formed part of the front stairs, joining the stream of people entering the mansion. The Alverses seemed unwilling to join the other parents yet and retreated to their car, waiting to be called.

Kitty had been watching Lance through this exchange, seeing the color return to his cheeks, seeing the respect with which he viewed the Professor. He turned to her and met her gaze. Their eyes locked with an intensity that made her want to blush and look away, but she wasn’t going to give him that satisfaction. “Do you always get headaches when you use your powers?” she asked, affecting a tone of almost clinical concern.

Not losing eye contact he took a few steps towards her. “Yeah, it’s a drag. Xavier says he has some ideas how to help, but I think he might be making it up.”

Kitty realized he was backing her into a corner by the stairs so she side-stepped and moved around him, keeping her eyes locked on his. “If X says so, he means it.” It was becoming a game and they were both smiling with a competitive gleam as they began circling each other, seeing who would blink first.

“If you say so. I’m willing to stick around give this place a chance,” he said casually, but she could feel the intensity notching up as their circle grew smaller and brought them closer together.

Her brain was looking for the next cool thing to say when she suddenly collided with another body. Startled, she grabbed hold for support and realized who it was she was clinging to. “Bobby! Hi!” She stood up and shot an arm around his waist, startling Bobby who seemed unable to find the right words for the situation. She quickly jumped in: “Lance Alvers, Bobby Drake.” She laid her head against Bobby’s chest. She didn’t know why she was doing anything she was doing.

Lance’s smile had faded and he shot up an inquisitive eyebrow, pushed his hair off his forehead and reached out a hand. “Yo, Bobby. I guess we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.”

“I think so,” Bobby responded with a smile. “We’re going to be roommates!” He reached out to take Lance’s proffered hand, some confusion ensuing before he realized that Lance was aiming for a “soul-brother” handshake, not a standard one.

Lance’s lip curled back up into the cocky smile. “So, Bobby, we’re gonna have some good times, am I right?”

“Sure,” Bobby responded. “We all are. Welcome to the school.”

Kitty inwardly winced as she barked out an utterly artificial laugh.

Six minutes later, she had just finished escorting Lance’s parents into Xavier’s office and was reviewing the memory of watching Lance’s butt climb the stairs. If only he wouldn’t keep turning and looking at her whenever she had a dirty thought about him. She was at a loss to explain the brainfart that had lead to her grabbing Bobby like that. She was making a fatal mess of her life, that much was clear.

She was going to run upstairs and join the boys, make sure Bobby didn’t say anything stupid, when she heard raised voices on the other side of the paneled walls, specifically the raised voice of Mrs. Alvers. During the short walk from the car to the Xavier’s office, the couple had continued to make it clear that they considered themselves deserving of special treatment. Kitty wanted to flatten them, especially the loudly condescending mother.

And now they were at it with the Professor. What was their problem? Didn’t they see that X wanted the best for Lance? Curiosity started to overtake her good judgment as it had too often in the past. Surely, she reasoned, X would be too involved to notice if she... She calculated where the Professor’s closet was on the other side of the wall and, looking around to make sure she was unobserved, she phased into the dark space between his jackets and coats.

“You saw what my poor darling goes through!” Mrs. Alvers was practically shouting. “He used his so-called gifts for one second and he was in unbearable pain.”

The Professor was responding in his usual calm voice, “Mrs. Alvers, we have discussed this many times. I believe that with training the boy will—”

“You believe, you believe! Have you spent hours nursing him through his headaches? Have you taken him to the best neurologists in the country?”

Mr. Alvers spoke up, “Darling, please. They were not experts on the... on the mutants like the Professor is, am I right?”

“An expert,” she responded derisively. “You listen to me, Mr. Xavier. My husband has donated enough money to your school to ensure the best of care for Lance, but if we do not see some improvement in his condition soon, I swear to you we will pull him out of here and place him in Dr. Turcott’s clinic!”

The Professor sounded more serious now. “I thought I had made my opinion on Christian Turcott’s practice quite clear, Mrs. Alvers. I have nothing but suspicion for his methodology and no reason to believe his claims of success.”

It was Mr. Alvers who responded. “That is your opinion because he is your business rival, Professor. No, don’t say it isn’t so. Dr. Turcott says he can help Lance with his pain and, if necessary, get him over his condition entirely.”

“It is not a ‘condition’, Mr. Alvers. Lance is a mutant and will be for life.”

“So you say,” Dominic Alvers continued calmly, “and we are giving you the first chance because I believe—yes, darling, I believe the Professor has made a better case. But if it doesn’t work out, I will have to bow to my wife’s desires and remove Lance from your institution.”

Kitty didn’t know how Xavier was keeping his cool. She wanted to leap from the closet and give them a piece of her mind. “Thank you for giving me that chance,” he responded diplomatically. “I believe you will see a marked improvement in the quality of Lance’s life quite quickly. Now, if you would please join me, lunch has already begun and I believe our cook has outdone herself today.” Kitty heard them get up. She prepared to phase out into the hall but then Xavier spoke again. “Actually, if you would please go ahead of me. I have a bit of school business to attend to. It’s straight down the hall and to your left at the end. You’ll hear the others. Thank you so much.” The door of his office closed.

Kitty held her breath but the darkness suddenly seemed to be illuminated by a telepathic voice she knew all too well. *Ms. Pryde, would you please step out of the closet, I wish to have a few words with you about respecting people’s privacy.*

***

“It’s not a very big room is it?” Lance asked looking around.

No, Bobby thought, watching as his new roommate filled every available surface with his own belongings. It’s not. He sighed as his private retreat became a thing of the past.

“I used to go to this boarding school in Switzerland before my powers, y’know, got all crazy and shit. Those were cool rooms. View of the mountains and everything.”

“We better hurry or there won’t be any lunch left,” Bobby prodded.

“Heh, especially once my Dad gets there!” he said, digging into one of his bags until he found a red polo shirt which he threw on the bed. “He can eat like a bull!”

“Where’s he from?” Bobby said, plopping down on his bed and watching Lance as he pulled a fancy leather toilet kit from a second bag.

“We’re Greek. Well, Dad’s side anyway. Mom’s mostly Swedish.” Bobby was going to say something when Lance suddenly pulled off his shirt and tossed it in the corner. The words caught in Bobby’s throat as he saw the 17 year-old’s muscular torso which already had some black hairs ringing the large, dark nipples. “Domenic Petros is his real name, but he changed it when he started his company back in the Sixties.” Bobby’s leg start twitching spasmodically.

“Oh. Okay,” Bobby said blankly as Lance pulled a deodorant stick out of the toilet kit and lifted his arm to apply it. Bobby found himself completely mesmerized by the way the muscles of Lance’s shoulder muscles met his chest muscles in the vortex of black, shiny hair.

Lance picked that moment to turn towards his quiet roommate. Bobby looked away a second too late. Or would it have been better not to look away at all? He blushed and a twisted smile sprung up on Lance’s face, the big jaw poking out in challenge. He pulled on the red shirt and it was the first time Bobby understood how something could be someone’s color.

“Hey, roommate,” Lance Alvers said to him in a deep, intimate voice, pushing the hair off his forehead. “Let’s go get that lunch.”

Bobby followed obediently.






DEREKtheRED>there’s one guy on the stoop opposite. actually takes out his gun and aims it when I go by
myshame>thats not funny. call the cops
sisterblue>omg be carefull
**GenePool welcomes knifeinthehead89
myshame>what do the other neibors say?
knifeinthehead89>ORANGE COUNTY MUTANT REGISTRATION PROVISION WILL APPEAR ON BALLOTS IN THE UPCOMING ELECTION
DEREKtheRED>fuck him! I’ve lived here since I was a kid. my damn block
myshame>dude im scared. don’t ask for trouble
DEREKtheRED>I want trouble. I want FUCKING NOISE!!
sisterblue>yr crazy. talk to your gf she’ll calm u down
DEREKtheRED>She’s leaving me. won’t stand up for herself.
sisterblue>Derek I’m sorry
DEREKtheRED>I wish my power was like a nuclear bomb! blow up the whole city
sisterblue>Im sorry Derek. maybe u shld go with her?
myshame>Derek! then you’d be as bad as they r.
DEREKtheRED>No! This is my home! Shit. cant even sleep without her. They take everything away. The support group, my gf. They want us dead. I won’t go down without a fight.
sisterblue>aw, guy. it’ll be ok
knifeinthehead89>TWO MUTANTS IN COLORADO, 13 AND 15, FOUND DEAD IN APPARENT SUICIDE PACT

Chapter 11

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