Past Interlude #10
Warren strode into the library with his offering on a refurbished dinner trolley. He rarely saw the kitchen outside of the occasional impress-the-date meal but after a few semesters at Yale, he could dial a mean take-out. All the better to help his fellow freaks remember that there was a world outside of Xavier's.
Even after two years, however, Scott Summers still proved to be a hard nut to crack. Nineteen going on ninety, he was bent over the sunniest table in the room as usual, neatly stacked papers and textbooks surrounding his work area. Warren was willing to bet that each stack stood for one subject with each subject stacked in order of due date. The kid just had no concept of the phrase "take it easy."
"Knock-knock, Gamma Gaze." Warren had wanted to startle him but Scott was already looking up before the first word left his mouth. "How do you do that?" he asked. "I can never sneak up on you."
"Genetics," he said, tapping his glasses. "We all have good peripheral vision. Who's that for?" He sniffed appreciatively.
With a smooth flourish, Warren snapped the take-out cartons open. "Mostly for you but I ordered extra cannelloni because I really couldn't resist. You've been holed up in here all week. The others sent me in to see if you were still alive."
The corners of Scott's lips tipped up. "Thanks. I'll be finished this in a second and I'll come out to eat."
"To heck with that." Warren cleared space on the table with one wing. "I'm going to force-feed you. I mean it when I said we're all worried. What are you studying for? I thought your finals were over last week."
"They are but Alex and Adam's aren't until mid-June." He tapped a pen on the stack directly in front of him. "Adam's doing his first big book report and Alex is having trouble with history of all things. The kid can do solve logarithmic equations in his head but dates are beyond him." He circled a word. "As is simple spelling, apparently. In what universe is 'congress' spelled with an 'i' and two 'r's?"
Grinning, Warren swiped the pen from his hand. "Your brothers can go for one night without you checking their homework. How are you supposed to get this to them on time anyway?"
"They fax it to me every night," said Scott. "Is that okay? The professor said it was all right to use the school fax line but I know you're in the middle of a merger so if it's tying up the phones, I can go to the mall and use the--"
"I'm not worried about the fax machine," said Warren. "I'm worried about your sanity. Do you go out at all?"
His face reddened. "On weekends. Sometimes. I swim."
"As part of your PE mark." Warren slid one of the take-out boxes to his side of the desk. "Take a load off, Scott. Come down to Harry's with us. On a school night. That'll be doubly rebellious."
"They have to get good grades," said Scott around a mouthful of fettuccini, artichoke hearts, and sweet peas. "Remy graduated by the grace of God alone and Alex won't be able to keep his golf scholarship if he fails a class."
"Will Adam's life end if he doesn't get perfect on his fourth grade book report?" Warren asked lightly. He peered at the title. "NASCAR Racing? Why wasn't I assigned books like this in school?"
Scott smile grew a little wider. "Adam's read it seventeen times. He's been planning to do a book report on it ever since he found out that the fourth grade did book reports."
"May I see?" Warren held his hand out. Hesitantly, Scott gave him the glossy sheets of paper then pretended inordinate obsession with his fettuccini. "This is pretty good," he said after a little while.
The younger man's cheeks reddened even more. "You think so?"
"Definitely. Are you sure he wrote this? This is at least sixth grade vocabulary."
"Every word," said Scott. "I'm just checking for typos."
"Your brother's pretty talented." Warren returned the homework. "Someone's raising them right. And from what I've heard, that someone is mainly you. Garlic bread?"
"Uh. Thanks. They're probably just using stuff we had before; recycling homework. Good for the environment." Scott fumbled with his glasses then the fork then again with the glasses.
Warren rolled his eyes. "Shut it. You're a paragon and you know it. Every time I call, the professor's talking about something or another that you've managed to excel at. I keep expecting him to announce that you've discovered cold fusion or the cure for cancer or something."
"That's Jean's job. The cancer. And Dr. McCoy does cold fusion I think ever though he might be concentrating more on biology nowadays." Scott managed not to squeak that rejoinder out even though he was as red as his shades.
Warren laughed. "As a humble mortal, it's my duty to corrupt you. It's Wednesday Hump Day. We should be painting the town red."
Seeing Scott's indecision, Warren moved in for the kill shot. "Jean's coming. Bruce the Braindead just dumped her and we were going to celebrate her freedom. It wouldn't be half as fun at Harry's without you there to hustle the frosh."
Scott grinned. "You're not half bad yourself. The bewildered aristocrat act always gets them going."
"Yeah, but your fumbling nerd act is the best. You better stop working out or it'll ruin your perfectly scrawny physique."
Scott shoved him away, snarling in fake indignation to which Warren replied by swatting him easily with his left wing.
"So it's a deal? You're coming to Harry's with us."
"Fine, fine," said Scott. "But not too late. I've got to fax this stuff back over to LA in time for the kids to do their rewrites."
But Scott stayed at Harry's until well past closing as was the habit of any Xaviers' students when they managed to get together. Since there were an unprecedented four alumni present, there was extra cause of celebration. Scott never knew if Warren had deliberately put him and Jean in the same cab back to campus but he got his first kiss from her that same night. And when Scott fairly floated downstairs with a grin that threatened to split his face in half, it was Warren who winked and patted him on the back.
"I knew you had it in you, Gamma Gaze."
Scott fumbled with his pickets. "Warren, I don't think she feels like that about--"
The older man stuffed Scott's protestations with a bran muffin. "Eat breakfast. Tell Jean there's a paleoanthropology exhibit downtown. I've got tickets for you and reservations for lunch afterwards."
Helplessly, Scott tried again. "But Warren, I'm only twenty. She still thinks I'm the kid she tutored in chemistry."
"You're in love with her, right?"
Scott gagged on the bran muffin and hoped he would die so that he wouldn't have to hear the rest of this conversation. Maybe he could expire of acute mortification.
Warren smiled. Tabloids and legitimate press alike vied to capture that smile. "Go for it, Summers. Jean deserves the best and far as I can tell, you're it."
Scott shook his head disbelievingly. "Nuh-uh, man. You're the one who can buy a small tropical island with your pocket change. Besides, you're closer in age."
"But I'd only break her heart," said Warren lightly, his face hidden in his coffee. "You never will. Go for it before I change my mind, Summers."
"Warren." Scott swallowed a few times but the bran muffin was a lump in his throat. "I... you... I can't ever..." He gulped the muffin lump down. "If I do this, there's a custom bike with your name on it."
"That was all I ever wanted."