musamea: (Xavier Academy)
[personal profile] musamea
I come bearing fic!

Title: Natural Selection
Warnings: None
Disclaimer: As much as I might wish otherwise, the X-Men belong to Fox, Marvel, and affiliates.
Summary: It's not always a gift. Character sketches during the museum trip in X2.
A/N: Thanks, as always, to Naomi for the beta.


She stops in front of a display on cloud formations, runs her fingers along words that explain in scientific terms what she instinctively understands. She can just barely make out her reflection in the glossy boards. Dark skin, full lips, the hair she refuses to dye. Her last outward sign of rebellion against the white man whose English she speaks and whose history she teaches.

She traces the shape of a cumulus cloud with one polished fingernail. Weather Goddess. Witch Woman. For her tribe, it had always been a toss-up between burning her and worshipping her, and sometimes she'd thought they might do both at once.

Is she supposed to feel grateful to be here?

A small breath of wind whispers through the room.


Superstrings; Planck's constant; quantum mechanics--scientific explanations for why she can do what she can do. It's little wonder that physics is her favorite subject. She touches the glass of the display case, lets her fingers sink in just a little. Slippery atoms, not as tightly packed as in her wooden bookshelves or the stonework on the school's exterior. Dense enough to prick, just a little. She pulls her hand back.

She still holds her breath and closes her eyes whenever she phases through an object. She's never quite sure if this will be the time her various quarks and neutrinos don't line up correctly and she ends up with a concussion. She's done the math (she likes math as well, wishes that she could be as elegant as a streamlined equation), knows how much the odds of doing this even once are stacked against her.

She runs at walls anyway.


He sits in front of one of the exhibits, sketching a white wolf. How many of the people walking by him think this is funny -- this huge kid whose stub of a pencil is nearly lost in his blue-collar hands?

He rubs his thumb over the wolf's snout, smudging the lines beneath its eyes into shadows. Suddenly its gaze is wary and uncertain. He thinks that this is the wrong animal for him to be drawing. Something big and dumb would be more suitable: a black bear, or, better yet, a lumbering moose. Then again, he doesn't know much about moose -- mooses? -- maybe they're smarter than they look.

He's been drawing portraits of the staff and students at the mansion. At first he worked from pictures: old Polaroids in Dr. Grey's scrapbooks, holiday albums, snapshots from a myriad of disposable cameras tossed into backpacks and duffel bags over years of school outings. After awhile, he bought himself a fresh notebook and wrote a different name on each page. They're used to seeing him on the sidelines at school events now, always with pencil and paper in hand.

He draws them with their powers: Kitty's face emerging from a wall; Ms. Munroe's hair a halo of static electricity; Artie's tongue peaking out of the corner of his mouth. They're beautiful to him like that, but he's not sure if they'll think the same. So he closes his sketchpad whenever someone comes near. Besides John making the occasional crack about 'Petey's porno,' they don't ask what he's working on anymore.

There's only one page in his collection that's completely blank. It's labeled Piotr, Colossus.

He doesn't know how to make himself beautiful.


He glances over his shoulder once, twice, a third time when Rogue slips a gloved hand into his and tugs him away from the other students to chase after John. Which is less responsible -- leaving without informing any of the adults or letting his pyromaniac roommate out of sight to wreak God-only-knows-what kind of havoc?

And that's him: Mr. Responsible, Cyclops on training wheels, future Fearless Leader, Iceman. The names crowd into his mind like ice crystals frosting across a cold windowpane. He wonders if they give him these duties because he's fit for it or because he's a last resort in a school of teenagers bent on being teenagers. He wonders if these cost-benefit analyses he runs for himself are anything like Mr. Summers's famous tactics and strategies or if he's just scared of getting into trouble.

Oh hell, he thinks, they've got the world's most powerful telepath anyhow, and he takes off in his girlfriend's wake.

He wonders if he always cleans up John's messes because he's looking out for his friend or because tagging along is the closest he'll ever allow himself to thawing.


They find a table in the food court and sit. She thinks that John is trying to convince himself he's too old for the "kiddie shit" on display elsewhere in the museum. Bobby's here because she is, and she's here...

Because it's safe. There are clearly demarcated lines and territories here, each table its own island. No chance of an accidental brush of skin against skin if someone leans past her to examine a display. No fear of the crush of human bodies crowded in too-tight spaces and careless people who just don't know any better. How could they? It's not like she's got your run-of-the-mill mutation, and how many people leave their homes in the morning worrying about getting the life sucked out of them later in the day?

It's safer here, where her companions know better than to touch her and everyone else allows her to blend into anonymity.

She wonders if she will be characterized by lack for the rest of her life.

The gloves chafe against her palms.


Two college-age boys are staring at her, and she tries not to wonder if they do so because they think she's pretty or because they can tell that she's a mutant. It's impossible not to care. It's like when people call her exotic; she knows that most of the time exotic is just a nicer word for different. Call her 'yellow' to her face and don't shit around.

It bothers her more than she'd dare let on.

An exhibit on mutants. Human or not? it asks. It's an ancient question, just with a different face these days. She's read her history books: 'Dogs and Asians Keep Out.' "Give me your poor, your weary, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" is a great slogan until the Golden Door of Opportunity is slammed shut in your face.

A small crackle. Blue electricity fizzling from her palms. She curls her fingers inward.

Hell yeah, the Chinese invented fireworks.


Click. Whoosh. Click. Whoosh.

The lighter is comfortable in his palm -- all smooth lines and cool metal and pleasing weight. His fingers know this rhythm; he has woken on some nights to find his right thumb flicking an imaginary flame into existence, while his Zippo sits safe on the bedside table (shark's grin facing out, of course).

A security guard glances over at him. She's middle-aged, with a dour face, and he decides that the most dangerous thing about her is probably bad breath and a nonexistent sense of humor. He allows himself a defiant smirk before snapping the lighter shut and making a show of slipping it into his pocket. He holds up both hands, laughs beneath his breath, and backs away. Lets her think he concedes the field.

Later, he sits in the food court with Bobby and Rogue, the closest he's ever going to get his roommate, the Boy Scout in Training, to play hooky. Too bad it's not just him and Rogue; he bets she knows a thing or two about having fun. He grins at her. She rolls her eyes at him, but the corners of her mouth twitch.

He's got the Zippo out again. Click. Whoosh. Two boys approach their table. He keeps himself from sitting up straighter; he knows how to wait. Click. Whoosh. He flicks the lighter open, closed, open, closed, over and over, the small bloom of orange flame like a talisman against old demons or nighttime fears.

Let there be light.


He's watching a cartoon about dinosaurs, one of many "educational programs" displayed on the set of small monitors. He's not part of the generation raised on Jurassic Park, but he memorized all the long Latin and Greek names as a child anyhow. Pterodactyls and jets had been his two obsessions--a flyboy through and through.

He glances back at Jean; her hair -- freshly cut and dyed -- blazes out to him like a beacon, and his breath catches in his throat when she smiles at him that way. It's so satisfyingly normal, like they could be any other couple, like theirs could be any other school and this visit to the museum a run-of-the-mill fieldtrip.

It's been three months since Liberty Island and he's finally losing that "lump in the throat, can't breathe" feeling about stepping off the mansion grounds with the students. He went over and over the logistics of this trip with Storm and planned for every contingency, but now -- looking around at his kids, who are reading the exhibits as if they haven't a care in the world -- he laughs at himself for being so prepared. Tunnel vision, Cyclops?

He turns back to the TV, and for once it doesn't even matter that he can only see in shades of red. He allows himself to think that everything is going to be all right.

The screen fizzes.


She's just as surprised as Ro and Scott when she hears herself tell them that there's a disturbance in the food court. Storm tilts her head slightly to the side and gives her a look that promises a conversation about this before turning on her heel and hurrying away. Scott's got a furrow in his brow, but he's not about to start questioning her again, not so soon after his declaration.

I would never let anything happen to you.

For a moment she's not sure if the words are an echo from her mind or his or just a stray phrase from one of the many around her. It's like the early days of learning how to rein in her telepathy all over again -- all these crowded thoughts and no certainty of what is or isn't her own. Except that sometimes, now, it feels less like trying to keep other people out than like trying to keep herself in.


There's a moment right before he freezes the entire food court when he's tempted to just let the scene play itself out. John needs to learn control. And yet-- he wants to excuse his student, to believe a stern reprimand delivered in a sarcastic tone will be enough.
He knows it won't be. He knows John has no intention of apologizing, and it frightens him a little how quickly the urge to just wipe this audience's collective memory comes to him. Erik had always accused him of playing at righteousness, but it's only recently that he has begun to wonder if there's any truth to those words.

And then-- news of a mutant attack on the White House cuts into the television program. He feels almost unbearably old, and unsure of which direction he should direct his weary rage. Toward the humans, for not understanding? Or toward mutants like John and this unknown assailant, who thought hurt in exchange for hurt could solve every wrong? Toward himself and his own stubborn (or is it cowardly?) refusal to step out of his role as a diplomat?

The promise of Cerebro and the machine's full potential tantalizes his mind. It would be so easy to change everything. He could create a sure future for his children. He could--

But he won't.

Nevertheless, there's a moment right before he releases the web of minds that he's holding when he's tempted to refrain from letting go.

Date: 2006-11-20 04:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, God.

You have no idea how much I needed to read something like this today. This whole thing was aching and raw and just very real. Beautiful work, gorgeous language, and perfect characterization. I really liked Kitty's a whole lot.

This was perfect!

Date: 2006-11-20 05:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! I'm thrilled you liked it.

And yeah, it's all very doomed isn't it? Sad thing is... they're probably still pretty happy, beneath all the kvetching. And things are about to go straight to hell. *pets them*

Date: 2006-11-20 06:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is lovely. The characters are real and the last lines of each section hit you like punches. The whole thing just has a great rhythm. (I probably liked Jubilee's the best, and Peter's made me want to pet him.)

Date: 2006-11-20 06:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! I'm especially pleased that you liked the way each section ended... I definitely wanted the individual pieces to leave an impression.

And there are a myriad of reasons to want to pet Peter. *G*

Date: 2006-11-20 06:07 pm (UTC)
garden_hoe21: (Default)
From: [personal profile] garden_hoe21
Wow. You are *good*. Very, very good. This is an excellent piece, and it probably didn't even need the names in bold for the characterizations to come through.

Date: 2006-11-20 06:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hmm, that's an idea that I hadn't even considered -- posting without naming the characters. It'd make for interesting reading and I'm glad you think their personalities would still come through.

Thanks for the feedback!

Date: 2006-11-20 06:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is elegant and well-observed. I'm especially grateful for the bits of Jubillee and Peter. You have also increased my growing fascination with Storm.

Thank you.

Date: 2006-11-21 12:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You have also increased my growing fascination with Storm.

Wow, that's great. Thank you! I have to admit that I'm pretty fascinated by her, too. She's the one I can't seem to pin down. And Jubilee and Piotr definitely get short shrift in the movies, so I wanted to give them their

Date: 2006-11-20 08:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wow! I really liked the Kitty and John one's...this was really good!

I really liked how you wrote everyone's...This is really excellent.

Great job!

Date: 2006-11-21 12:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yay! I'm glad you liked it.

Date: 2006-11-20 10:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
These are wonderful. I like Charles' best. It's so frightening when you think about what he could do if he wanted to.

Date: 2006-11-21 12:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's so frightening when you think about what he could do if he wanted to.

Hee, I've been insisting on a morally ambiguous movieverse Charles for years, and it took X3 to prove me right. *facepalm* And yeah, I'd be more frightened of Charles Xavier than of Magneto, any day.

Glad you liked it!

Date: 2006-11-21 02:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
ooo. these are all so good.

Love Rogue's, of course. And Piotr's made me go "awww."

Date: 2006-11-21 02:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Piotr's a woobie, isn't he? *G* Rogue's is very much in line with her characterization in "A Heap of Broken Images." I can't seem to get away from that fic.

Glad you liked it!

Date: 2006-11-21 05:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That was brilliant. I think my favorites were Piotre's, Kitty's, and Jubilee's. And the en d of John's. But I loved them all.

Date: 2006-11-21 04:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks! It really intrigues me to hear which ones were people's favorites.

Date: 2006-11-21 07:06 am (UTC)
ext_8719: (Jean High Priestess)
From: [identity profile]
This is so amazing! Such beautiful little gems, so well paced.

I loved Piotr - he is no moose! And Scott, full of foreboding. And physics!Kitty. And sparky Jubes, ready to fight. Wow.

Date: 2006-11-21 04:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
so well paced

I'm glad you think so! I wrote it all out of order and then spent the longest time trying to come up with a sequence. It was like one of those nightmare logic problems: "If I want to end on Charles, keep Kitty's and Piotr's next to each other's... can't have Jean's before Scott's..." :)

Piotr needs to give himself more credit. (And movie!Kitty needs to give Piotr more credit *G*)

Oh Scott. All he wants is to be happy and have a little more screentime.

Date: 2006-11-21 01:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I really enjoyed all of these revealing ittle moments, especially Ororo, Piotr and Charles. The contrast between their images (or self-images) and their actions are so vast that the cracks are bound to open wider. Bobby is possibly the most self-aware here, even if he's not doing anything about it - he knows what he is, and what he might be, and how to change it. It was a lovely segue from Piotr's drawings - mutants and their powers as things of beauty - to Bobby and Rogue, emotionally and physically defined by their powers.

Date: 2006-11-21 04:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, Bobby's always struck me as the one who knows what's going on. He's like Scott in that way, except that Scott fully embraces his leadership qualities and Bobby doesn't, at least not until X3. But he's dutiful and will allow them to groom him to be their leader, because he knows it's necessary.

And morally ambiguous Charles for the win! *g*

Glad you liked it.

Date: 2006-11-28 04:53 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Completely amazing, you captured EVERY character PERFECTLY.

Date: 2007-05-25 07:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Read this on another website--and I *loved* it. Excellent characterization . . .

Date: 2007-05-25 08:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks! I'm glad you liked it and am really grateful you took a second to comment. :) *is pleased*
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