Pairing: Jason Street/Scott Summers
Rating: Mature Themes
Spoilers: Assumes you have seen Season 1 of FNL. The XMen are borrowed from both the comics and the Movie, but there are no specific spoilers.
Previous Chapters: Part One.
Author's note: Part two of my response to 1407graymalkin's Kiss and Cuddle challenge request. Thank you wolfenm for the speedy beta.
Legalese: FNL and Marvel Comics characters are copyright their respective owners. This is a labor of love, not lucre.
"You can go ahead and ask me, Jason."
"You're burning to ask a question -- no, I'm not reading your mind -- the way you keep glancing at me and shifting in your chair tells me."
Jason sucked in a deep breath. "Two questions, actually. One, how did ... it happen, why are you in a chair? And how did you um ... come out to your parents and friends?"
Professor X looked at Jason, his blue eyes sober, and replied, "The chair. In my youth I was ... something of a swashbuckler, you might say. Active in causes, roaming the world, searching for adventure. I took on a --" his voice tightened "very unpleasant chap, completely underestimated him, and ended up with a broken back. T6, in case you're curious. As for the other ... my parents died before I could tell them and most of my friends have found out over the years. You might say it's how I found out who my friends really were. Have you -- no, I can tell -- you haven't told your parents yet."
Jason shook his head.
"You do know they will find out some day."
Jason nodded, throat tight.
"I wish I could tell you that all will be well, but --"
"Some parents haven't handled it very well, have they?" Jason found himself liking the fact that the Professor didn't try and sugar coat things.
Heavy sigh. "No."
"And Scott and Logan, how have their families --"
"Scott and his brother Alex -- whom you will meet, he's your age -- were both orphaned as children. And Logan? Logan has had such extensive alterations to his memory --I don't know how and I don't know who -- I hesitate to enter his mind even with his permission, and has no idea if he has family at all."
Professor X smiled, his eyes warm, "But it's not all bad news, Jason. For all the tragedies, I can point to students whose parents never had a problem with the change, or students whose parents learned to accept it. Your parents and friends could very well be the former."
The first week passed in pretty much a blur for Jason. Trying to remember everybody's names. Trying to learn the layout of the mansion and massive (underground!) building complex. Screaming in pain and passing out when he accidentally touched the exam table in the med lab.
Tests. Endless rounds of tests about his powers before they would even begin his course of study. Safety reasons, you see. They had to know.
His power had no on-off. It only worked through his hands. He could detect down to moderate levels of psychic residue. Solids, specifically stone or metal, held emotions and thoughts better, but if the psychic impression was very strong, or saturated (like the exam table in the med lab or the P in the Panthers locker room) it could overwhelm him. He could tell the names (or at least how they thought of themselves) of people who had touched an item. Logan, for instance, thought of himself as "Wolvie" about 50% of the time, depending on his mood. Cloth was sufficient barrier to prevent him from "reading" an object. Jason experimented with putting socks over his hands after finding that out.
For practical intents and purposes, he was like a telepath who couldn't turn off his powers. And after Jason found out that Alex (a very gifted athlete) pitied him when he picked up a volleyball Alex had been playing with, Jason kept the socks on his hands as much as possible. (Jean ruffled his hair sympathetically. "It always hurts to find out what people think of you. And in cases like ours, we have even more chances to stumble on to it.")
To protect Jason's sanity as well as people's privacy, everything he used was his. He had his own desk. His own laptop. His own dorm room (most students had to share). His own set of dishes and utensils. And on his first day of regular classes, Professor X handed him a pair of mitts. Thin spandex with grippy rubber on the palms, and slit across the back to form a flap that closed with a velcroed tab .
"You know I might read something off these when I put them on."
"I'm very aware of that, Jason." Professor X smiled.
Jason tugged the socks off with his teeth and gingerly reached for the mitts in his lap. "Relief," Jason said, "that mine is an easily accommodated power. But I can just barely detect that." He pulled the first mitt on. Oh yeah. And that velcroed slit-tab thing across the back meant he could easily pop his hands in and out when he needed to touch something or use his hands to do things that the mitts wouldn't allow him enough freedom to do. And the other cool thing about them? They didn't automatically mark him as a mutant, after all, there were several other practical reasons that a quad like him might want to have a pair of grippy mitts on his hands.
If nothing else they made holding the escrima sticks Logan was training him to use easier. ("As if I'm ever going to be out in the field, striking a blow for mutant rights." Logan snorted at him and said, "You never know. Plan for the worst and all your surprises will be pleasant.")
It wasn't until the middle of week two that he felt homesick enough to call Tim. And it was good to hear a familiar voice, and laugh at the old in-jokes. Plus, hearing that Landry was completely bald at the moment because of a bet he'd made with Tim concerning a paper? ("Well, shit, Jay, if I didn't get an A, it was going to be my head under the clippers. You bet your ass I never worked so hard on anything in my life.") Had Jason chortling for hours after.
But at the same time, Jason couldn't really talk to Tim about what was really eating him. Which, of course, brought an ache all of its own.
"Spill it, Jason," Scott said, sitting down next to him on the grass just after Jason had finished half coaching, half refereeing a "no powers" game of volleyball.
"This is really going to sound like whining. Are you sure you want to hear it?"
"Maybe not. But your need to vent is more important."
Jason huffed and said, "I have such a retarded power."
Scott laughed. "Mine's pretty damn retarded, too, if you think about it."
"Zing. But, I mean, in my mitts, I sit here and I'm just a guy in a chair. I can't run, or fly, or turn to living steel, or lift objects just by thinking about it, or change channels with my mind, or," Jason gave Scott a meaningful look, "cause mass destruction just by lowering my shades. My power isolates me. Everybody's afraid of me, not in the same way that they're afraid of Alex or Logan, but I can tell that nobody wants to touch me, even though I can't read their minds that way, and it's not like I'm Rogue or something.
"And I'm not going to say that she doesn't have a majorly sucktacular primary power, but, Scott, if you -- if you could've seen the joy in her eyes as she jumped to make that serve and discovered she could fly now ...."
"Who knows, you might discover you can, too."
"Well, it will make transferring from the chair to the bed a hell of a lot easier, plus, when my arms get tired, I'd have another way to get around, but flying around, looking like puppet with its strings cut? Okay, doofy looking or not, yeah, I'd take it in a heartbeat.
"But, I hate sitting here, feeling like I've got this power that's got no real use, that would probably get my not very defensible quad-ass beat to a pulp if the wrong people found out --"
"Which is why Logan's going to be hard on you. People will think you're completely defenseless, which you will learn to use to your advantage."
Jason rolled his eyes and gave a rueful chortle. "God, you never stop thinking like did, back when I was QB1. 'How am I going to spin this here straw into gold?'"
Scott glanced over at him and said, "Your power's not useless, Jason. Far from it --"
"Yeah, because I'm so going to be out there, making the world safe for everybody, like this. I'm not like you, or Logan, or Alex, or even little Jubilee. I'm gimpy ass passive power man. Okay, I can snark. I'll sit on the sidelines and try and channel my friend Herc and hurl withering put-downs."
Scott drew in a deep breath, held it for a beat, then blew it out in a long rush. "Jason, shut up and listen," he said in an 'I mean business' tone. "No, you're never going to be out there, on the front lines of the good fight. But it's not always fought that way. When Professor X and Jean use their powers, it's active. It can be detected, looked for, blocked. But you? They'd have to drug you or knock you out to stop your power. They'd have to be actively scanning your mind to know that you've got a power or that you're using it when you touch something. Do you know what your power is, Jason?"
"No, it's the power of secrets. Provided it's strong enough for you to detect, there's not a way to block against your power. In a certain way, nobody can shield their mind from you. That young mutant girl who was murdered down in Mexico last week? If we found the murder weapon, or something else that the killer touched, you'd be able to tell us who it was and why they did it."
Inwardly Jason shuddered at the thought of what he might find if he ever used his gifts at a crime scene.
"But there's more," Scott continued. "Professor X and Jean and Dr. McCoy spend a lot of time in Washington D.C. lobbying for Mutant Rights. Now, imagine being able to know -- because they touched a pen or a piece of paper -- if somebody was negotiating in good faith, or if they were even who we thought they were, because there's a very powerful one of us out there and she can mimic anyone, and she sells her gifts to the highest bidder.
"And yes, as awful as it is that most people look right past you, Jason, that makes you invisible for practical intents and purposes. You can be using your gifts in public and it's going to take a very sharply peeled set of eyes to see it.
"So, don't think your gift is lame or weak, or stupid, Jason. It's probably going to do a hell of a lot more to help people than the ability to shoot laser beams out of my eyes ever will. Think on that, and we'll talk some more." Scott stood up, dusted the winter browned grass off the bottom of his jeans and walked away about as briskly as Logan was headed over.
Nobody would ever flat out tell Jason what it was with Scott and Logan. Jason knew it had something to do with the fact that Jean and Logan were seeing each other, but Jason wasn't sure he wanted to go touching doorknobs or clothes or something else to find that out. He supposed he could just ask, but who? Jason didn't know who he could trust yet. He didn't want it to get back to Scott, Jean, or Logan.
Logan flopped down on the grass next to him, all plaid flannel shirt and sheepskin jean jacket, and said, "So what did Captain Killjoy have to say?"
Jason smiled enigmatically and replied, "What I needed to hear."
"Huh," Logan grunted.
"So, I spot you, yes, and you speak to me English, and I improve." Piotr said as he crouched down on the bench next to Jason.
Jason smiled not unkindly at the big Russian Fine Arts major and said, "Well, seeing as how this is a bowflex? It's not like I strictly need a spotter, but what I do need is a lifting buddy."
"Yeah, somebody to help push me to do those last five reps when my arms are screaming tired."
Piotr grinned. "That I can do. But you must do for me, too, yes?"
"We've got a deal." He held out his mitt covered hand.
There was only the briefest hesitation before Piotr took it. "I have very much strength. Your hands are your power. I do not want to give hurt to them."
"You're an artist. You should be more worried about people gripping them too hard." Jason tightened his grip a little to make the point
Piotr glanced down at him. "I am not much worried about people giving to me a hurt hand."
Jason started when he realized that Piotr's hand had turned metallic.
Piotr smiled "I am living steel. Is useful sometimes."
A short sharp knock at the door caused Jason to look up from the diet and exercise worksheets he was laboriously filling out. Having to learn how to write all over again? Sucked majorly, and his new handwriting looked, at best, like a fourth grader's. "What?"
"It's Kitty and Paige. Can we come in?"
Jason sighed and ran his hands through his hair.
Kitty Pryde and Paige Guthrie ... he couldn't make heads or tails of them. Scott had said it was a relief to finally have the teenaged girls start crushing after somebody else. But Jason didn't think they were crushing after him. He really wasn't quite sure what they wanted, since they talked about other boys about as much as they teased and flirted and giggled with him, and, well, Paige was 14 and Kitty was 16, and even though Jason was only a few calendar years older than them? It felt more like six or seven sometimes. They might have crushed on Scott, but Jason figured they saw him more like a big brother.
"Come on in girls," he called out.
Kitty phased Paige and herself through the door. As often as Jason saw her do it, it never ceased to amaze him to the point of smiling. He had met Kitty a few days after he arrived. Her bed was right above his and she had phased in her sleep. Jason went to roll himself over in the middle of the night and discovered Kitty draped across his legs.
"Jason, can you ... do a reading for me?" Kitty held out a small envelope.
"You know I'm not supposed to," he said hesitantly. "What is it?"
"Kitty's got herself a beau," Paige said in her thick Appalachian accent, "only he's a secret admirer."
Jason thought about it for a few moments. He knew that Kitty had a mad crush on Bobby, but ... if it wasn't Bobby? What then? Or even worse, what if it was Bobby flashing hot and cold between her and Rogue? "Alright," he sighed, "but no guarantees. It might be somebody you can't stand. It might even be a joke." He held out his hand and started laughing a split second later. "No go, Kitty. All I can feel is you and Paige all excited and giggly. Paper doesn't hold thoughts or emotions that well, I mean, it can, but you pretty much wiped out just about everything else, except ... I think this guy thinks you're graceful."
"Yeah," Jason said, flipping the card over in his hands. "It's kind of strange how impersonal this is. No handwriting, nothing unique. He's too shy to tell you to his face and you'd probably recognize his handwriting so he's very secretive about this."
"So, it's a mystery, then." Kitty frowned.
"Yeah." Yeah, it is ... and if I'm going to learn to use my powers to investigate and uncover secrets, why not start here? "I'll, uh, try and keep my hands peeled, okay?"
They laughed at that.
Scott found him in the gym, idly wheeling around in his quad rugby chair, banging it against the walls or the doorjamb from time to time.
"I, uh, heard," he said softly.
Jason gave heavy, hitching, sigh and hated it. He was one step away from tears and he was not going to cry in front of Scott. He buried his head in his hands and said, "It's just one more thing that's been taken away from me, is all. My body from the pits down, football, toilet training, pretty much my whole sex life, and now quad-rugby."
"But you have to understand --"
"Yes!" Jason shouted, "I understand why! I completely understand why! I can say that I'm psychometric until I'm blue in the face and there's no way to prove that that's what I really am, that I'm not manipulating the game somehow with some gift I'm not telling them about. USOC rules, no mutants allowed! Yes, Scott, I know that, and it doesn't help.
"I loved football, Scott. Being out there, on the field, with the team, knowing how to use their strengths and weaknesses, outsmarting the other team, sometimes just plain outgunning them, knowing that I could nail the 18 option pass -- that's something that not every Division I college QB can do -- and I could ...." Jason's breath came out in a broken rush.
In a tiny voice he continued, "Quad-Rugby, it was like getting football back, and now it's gone, too."
Scott slid his glasses off and rubbed idly at the bridge of his nose. Jason noticed that he kept his eyes screwed tightly shut, as if he somehow feared that just closing the lids weren't enough. He replaced his glasses and said, "I wish I had some glib bit of advice to say to you. It's different for each of us, but we've all had something that we loved or really wanted taken away from us because of ... how we are."
His sincerity moved Jason. He cleared his throat and said, "Look, Scott, I'll get over this. I will. I have to. It's just that I'm going to be a cranky bitch about it for the next few days."
"Well, that may be so," Logan called from the doorway, "but your cranky bitch ass has a date with a speedbag." He sauntered in.
"Captain Couth, as ever," Scott remarked under his breath.
"What the hell kind of chair is that?" Logan asked, seeing Jason's quad-rugby rig.
"It's a quad-rugby chair ... but I guess I'll be selling it, because I won't be playing quad-rugby anymore."
Logan's eyebrows raised and then his forehead furrowed in thought. "I say keep it ... it's pretty badass looking. I think I may have an idea forming in the back of my head."
"That'll be a first," Scott said.
Jason goggled as razor-sharp slightly curved blade extended from Logan's fist, right above the middle finger. "Sit and spin, Scott."
Scott rolled his eyes at Logan, then crouched down and said to Jason, "Look, Jason, the door's always open if you need to talk."
"So, um ... what are your abilities?" Jason asked to break the silence as he and Logan headed towards the gym.
"Sharper than average sight, taste, and hearing, much sharper than average sense of smell -- which believe you me, makes even our little locker room a nightmare sometimes -- my claws of course, but the big things are that my bones were enhanced with adamantium and I've got super healing." He held out his hand for Jason to see. "Look, healed already."
"So. Like ... you cut your hands open every time your knife things --?"
"Doesn't it hurt?"
"Well, duh!" Logan laughed at him. "But it heals almost instantly so it's not really a problem, is it?"
"Like ... how much do you heal?"
"A lot. But it's not like I go looking for things I think might be able to kill me, not any more. Much. Enough talk. You ever work a speedbag before?"
"Okay, it's not about hitting it hard. It's about building a rhythm, it's about finesse, endurance."
"Because I'm so going to climb into the ring."
Logan crouched down and fixed him with a steely glare. "Boy, you are already in the ring. You've been in the ring the moment you went active."
Jason wheeled into Professor X's office. "You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Are you planning to go home for Spring Break, Jason?"
Jason frowned in thought. "I hadn't really thought about that, sir. Do I have to?"
"No. A lot of our students stay on, but some go home, and several of the staff or the older students take trips to the gulf-coast or other places. I thought you might want to see your family and your friends. I know that you call them often."
"Yeah, well ...."
"Your parents are going to find out some time."
Jason groaned and said, "Look, yes. I know that they will. But ... can't it just wait until after I turn 18? That's going to happen in July."
"You need to face your fears, Jason."
"Do you know what I'm really afraid of right now? I mean, yeah, I'm afraid they'll disown me --"
"And if that happens, you'll have a place here. You know that, Jason," Professor X chided softly.
"But I'm just as afraid that they'll ... stop me from coming back. That I'll be sent to one of those dumb ass camps where they sedate you heavily and try to pray the mutie away, or worse yet, I'll get sent to some quack who'll tell them he can 'cure' me. I'm their kid. I'm seventeen. They can do that to me. And the thought of that is even scarier because, I really can't do much to bust out, can I? I mean, I know this is a horrible thing to think about your parents," Jason's voice went all shuddery, "but there it is."
Professor X steepled his fingers in thought. "I hadn't really thought about that, not really being able to escape. Funny, given that I've been in this chair longer than your parents have been alive."
"Yeah, but you also have a power that lets you attack people. Me? Not so much."
"What do you plan to tell your parents?"
"That I have a really big project that I want to work on and that I'll be happy to come home and visit at the end of July. Hell, I'll even celebrate birthday number 18 at home, but only if you promise to come looking for me if I don't come back when I'm supposed to."