Chapter Two: Message in a Bottle
Scott Summers was in a decisively bad mood today. He stomped up and down the mansion all day long, leaving a trail of loud, funny noises in his wake.
Logan watched the kid in amusement. "What's up kid? What's havin' ya so upset today?"
Scott was halfway through his sandwich at lunch. He mumbled something incoherent.
Scott had come to the institute over a year ago. It was a chilly winter's night, and it was by chance that Charles Xavier chanced upon Scott Summers via his Cerebro probing sessions. Wandering blind, Scott had run away from the orphanage in Nebraska, and ended up in a small town. Begging and stealing had survived him for the past few months prior to when Xavier had found him. On that fateful night, an old lady pressed a ten dollar note into Scott's palm. That act of kindness landed him into trouble with some street thugs, who sought nothing more than to pick on the weak.
"Well lookit here, the little blind boy landed himself some real cash." One of the thugs snatched the dollar note from Scott's grasp.
"Give it back!" Scott groped futilely, grabbing nothing but handfuls of the cold night air.
"Finder's keepers." The thug dangled the note in front of Scott's nose. Scott sniffed the air, and immediately reached out. The thug held the note at arm's length.
"Give it back!" Scott was bordering on pleading. He was really hungry and wanted nothing more but warm bread and shelter right now.
"Whatcha gonna do? Throw something at me?" Another taunted him.
"I could if I wanted to!" Scott was fighting to keep his anger back. If only they knew what he was really capable of.
"Come on kid! Gimme your best shot!" The first thug sneered. He positioned himself into a fighter's stance, and held his fists up.
Scott reached up to his blindfold, but the second thug grabbed him from behind. The first thug landed a hard punch into Scott's ribs. Scott buckled and winced in pain. He landed a second blow to Scott's nose. The second thug threw him face-first forcefully onto the snow-covered ground. The impact had sent Scott's blindfold flying.
"That'll teach you to mess with us!" The second thug held Scott's head up by the hair and spat into his face. But the next thing the thug knew, a mysterious force sent him crashing into some trash bins a good twenty feet or so away. Scott immediately closed his eyes, and covered them with his palms.
"What the f*** did you just do to him?" The first thug was quivering. It showed through his voice.
Scott just smirked and wiped at his bloody, broken nose.
"Freak!" The first thug retreated slowly. The second picked himself up and ran in the direction of the first. They disappeared into an alley.
Scott reached forward and felt for his precious note, when suddenly he felt the cold air whip up and around him, followed by the peculiar sound of a jet landing in a distance. His father had been an air force pilot, and Scott had learned to recognise the sound of a SR-71; a blackbird.
He crouched and huddled into a protective ball, hands wrapped around himself to shield most of his body from the bitter wind. People approached him. The first had light footsteps, followed by another with heavier footsteps. The wind died down.
Scott felt a hand on his shoulder, and he flinched instinctively.
"Relax kid, 'Ro ain't gonna hurt ya," it was a man who spoke.
"We're here to help." The lady named "Ro" spoke.
"You're not another of those social workers are you? I don't wanna go back to the orphanage!" Scott backed away and snapped.
"We ain't from some orphanage kid," the man spoke again.
"We know all about you. We are here to help." Her voice was reassuring.
"How do you know about me? You're from the FBI or somethin' right?" Scott's voice was bordering on a snicker.
"You've been watching too many X-Files kid."
"Fine, go ahead and make fun of the blind kid. What do you want with me?"
"We want to offer you a home Scott." "Ro" spoke gently.
"I don't have a home. Nobody wants to adopt a freak like me."
"But we do know of an elderly gentleman who does."
It took nearly an hour of coaxing before Scott agreed to be flown off to meet this elderly gentleman in Bayville.
"Here," "Ro" handed him a blanket to Scott who was huddled in his seat by the window. She sat down beside him.
"I'm Ororo. Logan's the one piloting." Scott ignored her, eyes still squeezed shut. He was still shivering.
"Are you still cold? Do you want more blankets?"
"I don't need your pity," Scott stated curtly.
"This ain't pity kid. We take care of our own kind." "Logan" responded.
"So all of you are freaks, just like me."
"We are just like you Scott, but we are not freaks. We are just...different."
The rest of the journey was continued in silence. Scott was lulled into slumber by the monotonous hum of the jet.
The next morning, Scott awoke in a nice warm bed. He stretched. The bed was huge. Absently, his fingers found their way to his face. At least they had bothered to replace his blindfold. He did not want to risk destroying other people's property.
"Good morning Mr Summers. I take it that you had a good night's rest?"
"Who are you? Where am I?"
"Scott," the familiar feminine voice spoke again. "This is the elderly gentleman I told you about. His name is Charles Xavier."
Scott sat up. His sides were bandaged, and his nose plastered.
"You are in my school for the gifted." Charles Xavier spoke.
Scott snickered. "A school for freaks."
"I tend to think of my students as talented individuals. You, Scott, have been blessed with one."
"So tell me, what is it that I do?"
"Your mutation, is the ability to fire red concussive beams, force beams, from your eyes. But due to the nature of the injury you suffered in an accident as a child, you are not able to fully control the extent of your powers. You can't turn it 'off', so to speak."
"Sounds more like a curse to me. So that's what we freaks are called -- mutants."
Charles Xavier decided he needed time before he could break through the shell of the frightened child. "Ororo, see to it that Scott gets a good breakfast." With that, he wheeled out of the room.
"Breakfast is downstairs in the kitchen." Ororo spoke as she laid a fresh change of clothing on the bed. "I'll leave you to shower, then come and get you in ten minutes. The bathroom is on your right, ten feet from the bed. There's soap on the counter by the sink, and the bathtub behind it. Call if you need anything. I'll be waiting outside." Ororo closed the door quietly behind her.
It had been ages since Scott last took a decent shower. He scrubbed himself vigorously from head to toe in the steaming shower, until his skin was nearly raw. After a good fifteen minutes, he finally stepped out and dried himself.
"Scott, is everything alright?" Ororo knocked on the door. She said ten minutes, but Scott knew he took longer than that.
"I'm fine," he answered. "I need a little more time."
"Take as long as you need. I'll just wait right here."
When Scott stepped out of his room, it was almost thirty minutes. Ororo led him by the hand down to the kitchen. She sat him at the table, and went to get his breakfast.
"Logan, you will not smoke that thing in here," Ororo's voice was raised slightly.
"See ya around kid," Logan got up and headed out the back door to smoke his cigar outside.
"Here," Ororo lay Scott's breakfast in front of him. "Eggs, bacon, sausages and potatoes. And milk."
Scott mumbled a "thanks" and dug in.
"Slow down or you'll choke yourself."
But Scott had not tasted food this good for as long as he could remember. He got three helpings of breakfast that morning.
It pained Ororo to see how starved and malnutritioned Scott actually was. He was literally a bag of bones, and his lanky frame earned him the nickname "Slim".
"So, ya heard of the new student arriving today?"
"Yeah. And it's a girl." Scott sulked and returned to his sandwich.
"So that's what it's all about, Slim's afraid of a little girl." Logan laughed.
"Am not!" Scott retaliated. "Girls are no fun at all. Why can't the new student be a guy?"
"Well. 'Ro's a girl."
"Ororo's different. Besides, she's an adult. She's my teacher and I respect that."
"So what makes her any different from 'Ro?"
"This one's going to be trouble. I can feel it." Scott shrugged. He had suddenly lost his appetite and put his sandwich down on its plate.
"Ya ain't psychic, how ya supposed to know?"
"I just know." An annoying little thing called intuition told him so. "I'm going to take a walk around, enjoy the peace while I still can." Scott stalked out.
Logan sat at the table and shook his head.
It was around four in the afternoon that the new student had finally arrived. Scott hid in the shadows of the hallway of the second floor, overlooking the foyer.
Ororo and Xavier greeted the visitors -- a little redheaded girl, and a tall man in a suit, most probably her father. "Ah, welcome to my Institute for the Gifted, Mr Grey. I think Jean will find her stay quite enjoyable here."
"Wow! This place is huge!" The petite girl was dressed in what seemed to be her best Sunday dress, complete with a hat to match. Scott merely rolled his eyes behind his shades at the sight of that. Great. Their new student was a little spoiled rich kid. Unknowingly, Scott projected that thought.
Jean picked it up, and so did Xavier. Her glance flickered to the second floor, and caught sight of Scott's shades, which oddly seemed to glow.
Scott, come and meet our new student. Don't be rude.
Not right now sir, I just want to be alone.
Scott, I insist. Xavier demanded. With that, Scott trudged down the stairs, a huge frown on his face.
"I would like you to meet my first student, Scott Summers. Scott, this is Jean Grey."
"Hi." The redhead beamed, and offered her right hand.
Scott stared at her hand as if it was going to attack him. He barely managed a "hi".
"Scott's usually a little shy around strangers. Scott, would you be so kind as to assist Ms Munroe with Jean's luggage?"
Scott obliged and grabbed the nearest suitcase, hauling it up the stairs, following Ororo to Jean's room.
"Thank you Scott. Now, if you will come with me, Mr Grey, Jean."
Scott stopped short of Jean's door and left her luggage outside.
"Scott, why aren't you coming in?" Ororo stepped out and brought the suitcase into the room.
Scott peered in. "It's a girl's room. I don't want to have anything to do with it, or her."
"Come now Scott, let's not be hostile here. We're here to make friends, and to help one another."
"So what's her mutation?"
"Jean's telepathic and telekinetic."
"Like the professor?"
"In a way, though her telepathy is a slight variation. Don't ask me how, they're all the same to me."
Scott looked on as Ororo arranged Jean's luggage in a neat row by the window. He looked across the hallway. His room was at the other end of the long corridor.
"This here is the common study area, and beyond that, the library." Xavier led John and Jean through the mansion's corridors and up the elevator to the second floor, where the dormitories were.
"Regarding the sleeping arrangements..."
"The dormitories are divided into the boy's wing, and the girl's wing. Rest assured Mr Grey, there are strict rules."
Ororo approached them. "Jean's room is ready Charles."
"Thank you Ororo. Jean, please follow Ms Munroe to your room. Mr Grey and I have some legal matters to settle."
Ororo got Jean settled in as Scott wandered the corridors. He found Logan in the garage working on his motorcycle.
"How ya holding up kid?"
"She's a redhead." Scott plopped on a workbench and sighed.
"So?" Logan looked up and wiped his hands on a rag.
"Redheads are definitely trouble." Scott groaned.
"All kids are trouble." Logan grinned and made his way over to Scott.
"Have ya tried getting to know her? People aren't what ya think they are, most of the time."
"I still think she's trouble."
"Suit yerself kid. I'm going for a ride."
Scott was left sulking and wandering once more. He finally wound up in the library, curled in a corner, reading till the bell sounded for dinner.
Finally. Scott thought this day was never going to end.
This time round, dinner was served in the dining room. Scott took a seat at the far end of the table, avoiding the rest.
"Scott, why don't you come sit with us?" Ororo patted the table beside her. Reluctantly, Scott rose and sat down beside Ororo. He lifted his head, and found himself sitting across the table from Jean. He groaned, and nearly dropped his face into his food. Why me? Scott wondered.
Jean was giggling from across the table.
"Jean, don't be rude." John reprimanded.
"Sorry daddy, but he had that funny look on his face."
Slightly embarrassed, Scott rose and headed for the kitchen. To no one in particular, he announced, "I'm going to eat in the kitchen." To Jean, he stuck his tongue out.
Scott was still playing with his food by the time Ororo entered, with a pile of dishes.
"Scott, what's wrong? Has Jean offended you in any way?"
"She laughed at me." Scott sulked.
"She just thought you funny. There's nothing wrong with that."
Scott pushed his plate away. "I'm going up to my room."
"Scott?" Ororo rapped twice on Scott's door.
Scott was lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling.
"Scott?" At Ororo's insistent knocking, Scott finally got up to open the door.
"What do you want?" He saw Ororo standing in the doorway, with Jean. Still angry, he almost slammed the door on them both.
"Jean just wanted to apologise for dinner." Ororo nudged Jean.
"I really sorry about dinner." Jean held out her hand. "Friends?"
Scott stood with his hands in his pockets. "Whatever. Goodnight." He closed the door.
"Apology accepted?" Jean turned to ask Ororo.
"I guess." Ororo shrugged. Tomorrow, she was going to have a talk with Scott.
Scott arrived late for breakfast, the next morning, hoping to miss the redhead. It was a Sunday.
Picking up Scott's still foul mood, Ororo remained silent as Scott sat down beside her.
"She's having a session with the professor."
"Good." Scott picked at his breakfast.
"Scott, why are you being so..."
"Aloof? I don't trust her."
Ah, it was the issue of trust. "What about the professor, Logan and I?"
"You guys saved my life. It's different. Look, every friend I've ever made back at the orphanage turned their back on me when they discovered I was a...mutant. They shunned me, and called me a freak. I just...just find it hard to trust people again."
"She is a mutant, just like you Scott. She'll understand what you are going through, and how you feel about this."
"She's a rich kid. She doesn't understand what's it like to fight for every breath, helpless and alone. She has parents who care for her." He looked away. They were touching on sensitive topics. "She's a regular Ms Perfect, I bet." Plus, she's a telepath.
"How different does that make her from you?"
"A lot of difference."
"Scott, you have to look past appearances. Jean's really nice once you get to know her."
"She's a redhead. They're known for their notorious temper."
"See, there it is again. 'No man is an island' Scott. Human beings are sociable creatures; we need friends in our lives. Sometimes you just have to let go, and trust that we will catch you when you fall. You can't expect to receive in return for nothing. Think about it."
Ororo left Scott in the kitchen as she went to tend to her rose bushes.
Scott pondered her words over his now cold breakfast. The message in a bottle washed ashore on his deserted island.