Epic X-Men #3: Tortured Mind
*at the northern duchess hospital*
A crowd had formed as SHIELD surrounded the hospital, just as Xavier feared. The whole commotion from Jean’s powers must have brought word to SHIELD officials. With threats like MODOK running around, they assuredly had come prepared with psi-dampeners. Charles can feel the static as the voices from the thoughts of the crowd are fainter than expected for a telepath like him. Still, though there is a notable effect, these dampeners were made for an amateur psychic like MODOK, not one of the most powerful telepaths to currently exist. It would just take a little more effort. One absolute positive in all this drama, there seemed to be no sign of Erik.
With a slight nudge to the crowds perception and SHIELD officials, Xavier appeared as if he were a patient himself with his nurse, who did not exist, wheeling him inside. With a breath of relief, he lowers the illusionary screen, for now that he was inside, there were no observers to catch sight of him. Not one’s who could do a thing about it with his powers watching his surroundings for him. Even that didn’t seem entirely necessary since all eyes were on SHIELD Agents going from room to room, talking to staff, and so on. Now, he needed to find Jean.
Reaching out, Charles started filing away minds until he heard the one’s most recognizable. John’s mind told of incredible stress, but he stayed out together for his crying wife, Elaine. Sara was by Jean, still unconscious from earlier. It appeared that word had not reached them about SHIELD’s arrival. If Charles were to make it before SHIELD though, he would need to keep an eye on their progress constantly and plan for the worst.
Heading to the elevator, Xavier kept constant watch on SHIELD’s progress, controlling their perceptions to believe any tricks Charles wanted them to see or hear. From running footsteps that weren’t there to shadows disappearing around corners. Granted, they were merely doing their jobs, but SHIELD wasn’t built to handle arising mutant powers. They were there to protect the public from threats and detain super-powered villains. Jean was not such an individual. She was teenage girl who had lost her best friend and whose powers would more than SHIELD could handle. Charles Xavier truly was the best chance Jean had of not only learning to control her powers, but possibly having a much more normal existence if she so chose.
”John”, Charles greets as he enters Jean’s room.
“Xavier?”, John says. Charles did need to be psychic to see that his presence brought a mixture of emotions as John wore his emotions on his sleeve. Those emotions morphed from relief to confusion to anger, and it appeared John did not know which to latch on to....at first. “Xavier, where were you?! I have been trying to get a hold of you the entire time, but when someone finally picks up, they had said you already left your home. Do you not have enough money to own a damn cellphone?!”
”John, I know the situation is stressful, but I think its imperative that I get to Jean and see what her state of mind is, before things could get worse”, Charles explains. Unfortunately, his explanation would gain an unnecessary example as the first scream coming from Sara would show.
”Dad, Jean’s floating!”, Sara utters as Jean does exactly what she described. As it does, Xavier could feel his wheel start shake as Jean’s tk starts to increase in radius. Heavier objects like chairs and desks seem to only shake for the moment, but smaller objects like pens, papers, and medical equipment would fly across not just Jean’s room, but outside of it as well. Charles could hear the panic in his head as the screams rang outside in chaotic confusion. And from the looks of how much more violently the shaking of his chair was becoming, the tk energy would only increase in power if Charles didn’t get into Jean’s mind quick enough.
”I promise I will explain what I can, but after we help Jean now”, Charles says as he then reaches out with his mind into that of Jean’s own mind.
”I killed her. I’m a murderer! I murdered my best friend!”
Of course, she would be here. At the sight where Annie was hit by the car in front of Jean.
When Xavier reached into Jean’s head, he was hit with so many memories, ones of Jean’s powers arising when she was ten. She had answered thoughts that her mother had not stated aloud before a headache would proceed to a telekinetic storm. She was lucky that her parents cared enough to realize she was but a little girl, who had no idea that she was causing the ruckus in her mother’s kitchen. John had called Xavier after the incident. Seeing that Jean was too young to deal with telepathic power like hers, from his own experience as a lad dealing with his telepathy at age 13, he put barriers in her mind so that she could focus on her telekinesis. She made tremendous progress, too, when he went over with her how to control her powers. She was an amazing young girl and the experience Charles had teaching her, watching her grow brought him back to when he helped Erik learn to control his own powers through means not stemming from pure anger over the loss of his mother. It was at that moment where he saw Jean floating in her room with her toy blocks spelling out her name that he was most proud and found that he wished to be a teacher.
She was so happy, back then. Her mind used to be filled with the imaginations of what a little girl should. Castles, princesses, dragons, Aliens, superheroes, you name it. Jean wanted to be a normal girl, but she readily accepted, and even loved, her new powers......
Now, things seemed to have changed. Now, she was a teenager. Still as beautiful as she was when she was a little girl, boys started to notice her at school, but she didn’t seem to want to notice them. She was withdrawn from the ridicule of jealous girls who wanted those boys attention. Jean told Xavier as much, but feeling Jean’s pain in her head from those memories showed Charles that the days of her optimism were fading. The fact that she still held dreams of being normal and happy were ones Xavier would keep and hopefully build for her if it meant Jean wouldn’t change to become like this pessimistic world.
But this place was not where Jean had been. No, the place where Charles was now, the darkest represses from a guilty conscience was where she had been. A new monster far worse than the monster under the bed that Uncle Charlie would protect her from. This monster would not be one Uncle Charlie could protect for her. She would have to realize with her own conclusion how it wasn’t her fault. The least he could do was guide her to that conclusion, the right way. Otherwise, she would be damaged in a way no person young or old should go through.
“I’m sorry, Annie. I’m so sorry”, Jean cried.
”You should be”, a gravelled voice sounding eerily similar to Annie spoke.
Looking at the corpse Charles saw it come to life. Jean’s new monster, her guilt, was growing stronger. The mind sometimes just had to be annoyingly literal in this case, didn’t it?
”Annie? I-I tried to save you. I did”, Jean said to the now walking nightmare.
”But did you? Am I the living embodiment of human health? Do I look as pretty as you said I did when we left for school today?”, Annie said to Jean as the ground started to crack under everyone’s feat. The more this went on, the more unstable Jean was becoming. Who knows what kind of affect this would have on Jean’s already near uncontrollable telekinesis currently.
”Jean”, Charles spoke, being careful not to frighten Jean in this state. If Jean perceived him as a threat to her well-being, she may cast him out instinctually and he would have to dig through instinctive barrier‘s in attempt to keep out the danger, when the real danger would be contained within the walls.
Turning to him, Jean recognized him for who he truly was and ran up to him with an open hug.
“Uncle Charles! Something’s wrong! I can’t get out, no matter how hard I tried. Th-then I saw Annie lying there and I-I-“ Jean stuttered. “What’s doing this? How is Annie walking? How are you walking? Is it in my head? Is someone doing this to me? Maybe some bad guys like Mysterio? Or Modok?”
“Oh, if only it were so simple, Jeannie. This is all your fault! You are the reason I am dead! You brought me so much pain and now, it’s time you feel the exact pain I felt, over and OVER!!!!”, Annie shrieked at the two psychics as she morphed into a hideous monster.
“Jean, you must listen. None of this is real. What happened to Annie wasn’t your fault. You have to let go, Jean”, Charles said to Jean.
”You don’t understand. I threw the frisbee! My telekinesis was what made it go too far! I’m the reason why she ran into the street!”, Jean said as the monster gained way towards them.
”So right, Jeannie! You never bothered to tell anyone that your telekinesis has been having problems. All of this could have been avoided. I would still be alive, instead of here, with the person I hate more than anyone!”, the beast said as it towered over them.
”Do you honestly believe Annie would say that to you? Remember when Annie’s crush came to you and she thought you would say yes? What did she say to you when you told her that you told him no, Jean? What did Annie say when she found out that you lost her favorite pendant after the graduation party you two shared? Do you think Annie would blame you for her running into the street after your mother said not to?”, Charles argued back.
Thinking back on those moments when Annie clearly could have held a grudge and ended their friendship, Jean saw the pattern that Charles was pointing to. Talks between them to clear up misunderstandings, Annie admitting how silly it would be that Jean would purposely hurt her, and Annie comforting a crying Jean after seeing her admit to the crime of the favorite pendant her grandmother gave Annie. This thing standing in front of her wasn’t Annie.
“You’re....you’re my thoughts? Aren’t you? We are in my head, like we were all those other times, right?”, Jean asks Xavier, not taking her eyes off the beast, that seemed to had halted in its path.
”Yes, Jean. We are, which means from this point forward, you dictate what happens. You are in charge of how you will honor Annie’s memory. To move forward, you have to forgive yourself. Easier said them done, granted, but that is your new goal, Jean”, Xavier tells her.
With some contemplation over his words, Charles notices the setting that was Jean’s mind begin to come back together to form what was Jean’s memory of Annadale on Hudson.
“He’s right, Annie. I can’t stay here, I can only keep living. I wish it were with you, but you’re gone. But....I promise to never forget you, Annie”, Jean says to the large beast.
”How touching and empty your words are! You think I am gonna just let you go so easily?”, Annie tells Jean.
”You’re not, my Annie. You are just how I feel about it all. You won’t be going away any time soon, but you will one day. I am tired of this place. I just want to go home, now”, Jean utters as the ground beneath the monster crumbles, allowing a figment of gravity to pull it down to the deepest recesses of Jean’s mind. Xavier made note to come back to that problem at a later time, but for now, Jean needed to awaken.
“You did well, child. You make me more and more proud every day. Now, come, it’s time that we take you back to your parents”, Xavier says with Jean in hand.
*Jean’s hospital room*
Her older sister ran over to the bed where Jean has just awoken after the telekinetics slowed to a complete halt, dropping everything that was floating in its energies.
”Jean, oh thank heavens!”, Elaine exclaimed as she joined her daughters in their embrace.
Tired from the mental exertion, Charles let’s out a breath before turning to John.
”Charles, I....thank you”, John said, at a loss for the miracle that Xavier has once more done for him. Giving his daughter back, seemingly no worse than when she fell into her sleep.
”It is no problem, John, but is a problem is what’s going on outside this room”, Charles said, thinking about how he will see to getting Jean out.
”Yes, you need not worry about it. I will handle any damages and all. She is my daughter after all”, John says, thinking Charles meant the objects that had been flying around outside.
”I don’t mean that, John. SHIELD is here”, Xavier says.
”What? But...she’s just a teenage girl, not a criminal”, John exclaims.
”I know, John, as well as you do. Sadly, though, they do not know and if it’s all the same to them, they merely wish to protect the public safety. As admirable as that intent is, it would do no good for Jean to be locked away without knowing how to control her growing powers. I doubt that they even have the technology available to detain a mutant as powerful as Jean. We must get her out”, Xavier declares to the entire family.
”How do you propose we do that, Xavier? These people have dealt with super-villains! Just last week, they assisted Iron Man in dealing with Hulk! Now, they are coming after our little girl? John, what are we-“, Elaine says in her panicked worry. But John interrupts that train of thought with words of assurance.
”ELAINE! Please.....we need to trust that Charles knows what he is doing”, John tells his wife while putting his forehead to hers. Turning to Xavier, he sees all the trust in his friend, trust that Charles would not break in such dire circumstance, or any circumstance, “We are with you, Charles. Every one of us.”
”Thank you, John. They have set up psi-dampeners, so they know that they are looking for a psychic similar to that of MODOK. Considering that I have not seen Jean’s image in the minds of the agents, I believe they don’t know as to her identity just yet. So, we will take advantage of such. I need you to take Jean and go to the exit on east wing. I am downloading the route to you from doctors who know this hospital into your head. Take Jean home and wait for me. When I get there, we shall discuss further on what to do from then on”, Xavier utters.
Nodding in affirmation, John takes Jean into his arms and with Elaine and Sara close behind, they take off quickly down the route Charles directed them towards. As they do, they freeze at the sight of the SHIELD agents. But when they see the agents run an entirely different direction after looking directly at them, they take that as a cue to take the opportunity to continue ahead on the initial route.
Meanwhile, Charles takes his own route to the elevators, monitoring the Grey’s to their escape. Whenever they find their way blocked, Charles would possess a doctor or nurse to direct them to an alternate path. The strain after constant use of his powers was incredible, but he would not allow this family and a girl with so much ahead of her to be taken by humanity’s fear and mistrust. Once Charles was assured that the Grey’s have made it out of the hospitals vicinity, he made sure to get himself out and headed straight to the Grey’s house.
As Jean had been carried by her father, who was a lot stronger than she had previously thought, she felt the pain of multiple hospital patients.
”It’s alright, Jean”, she heard Charles in her head. “Just screen the thoughts out. Imagine you are in your room and the thoughts are outside, where you can’t hear them.”
Doing as he said, it sort of worked. The thoughts were much quieter, but not completely silent. It would do though until they got home. Feeling her father’s exhaustion on the way to the car, she subtly used her tk to support his arms a bit until they got to the car. She may have been a fifteen year-old girl, but being carried by her dad was quite comforting, as if he would take on all the figurative problems and carry her out to safety, which is what he was doing for her literal problems.
At home though, the panic did not stop. With the government guys, called SHIELD, still looking for her, her parents argued over where to go until all this blew over. Perhaps they’d move for good, have a fresh start somewhere else. The SHIELD guys didn’t know who Jean was just yet, maybe they wouldn’t find them all once they were truly gone?
“John, my mother would be glad to have us! We should be with family during this troubling time!”, Elaine told John.
”Elaine, I get it. I love them, too, but let’s face it. If we came walking up to them for help, they would hold over our heads how they got us out of trouble”, John argues back. “When I married you, your mother and father didn’t think I was good enough for you. They thought you would run back to them after seeing how much of a deadbeat I supposedly was to them!”
”This isn’t about your pride, John! This is about Jean and her safety!”, Elaine rebuttals.
”You don’t think I know that?! I’m sorry, Elaine, but you’re parents are not the most understanding people you think they are!”, John said.
”Nonsense! Absolute nonsense! They care deeply about Jean, almost as much as we do”, Elaine threw back.
“No, they love their normal teenage granddaughter! I hear your fathers remarks all the time when we visit! How do you think they will react when they find out she is a mutant?!”, John yells back.
”And your family has been the picture perfect example of open acceptance?!”, Elaine asks rhetorically.
”Of course not! Why do you think I cut off contact five years ago?! Nothing is more important to me than Jean’s safety!!”, John says before sitting on the couch in frustrated exhaustion.
Seeing him hurting, Elaine walks to him and hugs him.
“I know you do. I can see it. And I know Jean sees it everytime she looks at you. You’ve done the best you could and I love you for it”, Elaine says tenderly to her husband.
”Elaine....what are we gonna do?”, John ask his wife, which she gave no solution.
“That’s quite enough of that. I know you are old enough to understand what’s going on, Jean, but that doesn’t mean you should have to worry. Do not distress though, Jean. I will take care of this”, speaks a voice Jean had heard so often in her head. Walking over to the window, she sees the figure of Xavier, wheeling on the walkway to her front door. “Jean, could you please- thank you.”
Knowing Xavier had trouble getting up the steps and seeing that her dad forgot to install the ramp he swore he’d build for Charles, but obviously forgot, Jean lifted the man’s chair with her telekinesis up the steps and opened her front door with her telekinesis.
“John. Elaine”, Xavier greeted.
”Charles”, John uttered before getting up to shake his hand gratefully. “Thank you. Thank you so much for always being there for Jean from the bottom of mine and my wife’s heart.”
”John, it really is no trouble. I love Jean as much as any relative would. She is a bright, young woman now and I think it’s time we not think of where you all will go, but where Jean will go”, Xavier begins.
”What do you mean?”, John asks confused.
”John, I’ve told you of a school I was planning to build not long after Jean started returning to school all those years ago? Well, I has just opened it recently and have gained a single student and plan to invite more in the future. I know this will be a hard decision, but I think it would be for the best if Jean were to live with me from now on at the school. Not only would it be an environment that would welcome her kind, but she could openly use her powers and learn to control them in a contained environment that would be better prepared for powers such as hers, with someone who knows her better than anyone else in this world”, Xavier explains further to the couple.
”John. We can’t just send Jean off! Think about the adjustments she’s have to make and without us there to help her. She had just lost her best friend, as well! How could we-“
”Mrs. Grey, I understand your worries perfectly. And trust me when I say that I would do everything in my power to ensure Jean would grow up to be the upstanding young woman you know she will be. I will not force your decision, and you know I could if I wanted, but this is your family. It is just a suggestion given the circumstances”, Xavier says.
”What is the full circumstance, Charles?”, John asks. “Do they know who we are?”
“Not yet, John. But they will soon. Worse yet, I fear for Jean’s safety further about a possible threat that has long loomed over us all ever since Jean’s powers first arose”, Xavier says more to himself than to the Grey’s.
”What are you talking about, Charles?”, John asks.
”John, do you remember a man named Erik Lenshurr?”, Xavier asks.
”Your old friend? Yes, I do. He was there for one of our projects when we were researching further on the X-Gene years before Jean was born. What about him?”, John asks.
“After cutting ties, he had recently visited me again. He plans to build an army of mutants of his own to war against humanity”, Xavier explain, causing Elaine to gasp at the realization of what that meant.
”You think he is after Jean, now?”, John asks as he tries to hold it together.
Without yet answering, Charles turns on the tv, where it is on a channel talking about the incident of a mutant that had attacked the very street the Grey’s House is located. No video had been taken since Jean’s power hit the minds of the street themself, anyone in view of the chaos would have been hit with a psychic pain they would not have known to deal with.
”I don’t think he knows who Jean is yet, but he will be looking to find out who she is. He would have no interest in you all until he learns of Jean’s actual identity. If he so does, you all could be in danger and used by Erik to gain Jean’s allegiance. But if Jean comes with me, she will be only noted as one of a group of mutants. And I will do everything I can to ensure she is safe, trust that I will, dear friend“, Xavier says earnestly to John.
“John....”, Elaine looks to her husband as he debated in his head each option. Should he take his whole family away? Or let Jean go with someone else, out of his sight and into someone else’s hand? Neither option sounded good at all.
“Dad?”, Jean suddenly appears in the entry to the living area.
“Honey? What are you doing here? You should be resting in bed”, John said with no heat, but all the worry over Jean’s condition. He walked to her and saw a look of determination, as if she had made her choice on something.
”Dad, I want to go with Uncle Charles. We both know it’s what’s best”, Jean says seriously to him.
Looking at her, he knew she was right. She had grown so much, too fast for his liking. Things had changed though, Jean’s life was at stake. He gave her hug with tears rolling down both their faces before turning to his wife with a look telling his decision.
*The next day*
The Uber has arrived. The time had come. Jean had hugged all of them many times that day, but damn it, she had to hug them one last time before she left. She promised to visit on holidays, to text often, and all the promises that would eventually be forgotten. Not because she didn’t care, but that was how life was. It occupied your attention and Jean’s life would from that point take a different direction away from her family and she knew it. With their good-byes said, Jean entered the care and headed to the Institute that would start the biggest change in her life.