Warning & Notes: There will be a total of seven parts/chapters that will retell X1. BE AWARE . . . this is an alternate universe (AU), based on a challenge I issued in early December to swap powers among the X-Men, yet avoid obvious power switches (Scott getting Jean's telepathy, etc.). For the curious, the details of the challenge can be found on my website under the Short Fiction, bottom of that page: "PowerSwap Challenge." There have been over 50 stories submitted plus some amazing manipulated artwork, and they're still coming in, some are AU serials -- several stories set in the same universe.

Enormous thanks to Bren Kuebler, for reading over this and offering her perspective as a professional translator. All errors are my own.

Blu-bell: So, can you meet me tonight?

The message pops up right in the middle of my computer screen and I frown. I hate it when I'm interrupted, and she knows it, but she also knows she can get away with it.

Cypher77: I WAS working.
Blu-bell: You're always working. You work too much, *doctor*.

And I have to smile at that. She has me. But it's only in the virtual world that I ever feel truly free, unimpeded by my handicap. I love my work. She knows that, too.

Cypher77: What are you up to, that you're blinging me in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon?
Blu-bell: Ah, ah! That would be telling. But can you meet me? Or are you too busy?
Cypher77: For you? Never too busy. Name the time and place, and I'll be there.
Blu-bell: Or be square? Which you are, you know. Terribly, terribly square.
Cypher77: You like me that way. Admit it.
Blu-bell: I do. I like you from the top of your badly-parted hair to the toes of your penny loafers. Usual place, and, ah -- one o'clock? Is that too late?

I sigh, afraid to ask her what she's up to, that it has to be so late. And I have to be up by six tomorrow to walk to the station and catch the Metro to downtown. But there's still no question about my answer.

Cypher77: See you then.

There's a pause that stretches, then abruptly a, "This user has disconnected," sign pops up. She comes and goes, stealing in and out of my life, but she's never gone long. She told me once that I was the flame and she was the moth and loving me was going to get her killed. It was in one of her more bitter moments. I doubt it will get her killed, but it might get her caught and arrested. She's more likely to get killed doing the other things she never confesses to but I read about after the fact sometimes in the newspaper. And there are days I do think about turning her in, just to keep her safe, but I never have, and I won't so long as I don't have anything concrete to accuse her of, and she knows all that, as well. So far, she's never told me anything I couldn't honorably keep to myself, and I haven't gone looking for anything I'd have to report, but I worry that a day may come when I'll have to. And what would I do then?

Now, I return to my current job, which involves a new educational program on African cultures for the Smithsonian's interactive computer displays. I'm translating traditional Zulu, Yoruba and Swaheli fables and folktales into English, French and Spanish. It's fun, struggling to get not just the meaning, but the tone, rhythm and nuances, too. There's a lovely dry humor to many of these stories that gets lost in most translations I've seen, becoming just flat, not funny. But the Trickster Spider is funny, and I want museum visitors to get that.

I work out of a borrowed mop closet that pretends to be an office, or an office that pretends to be a mop closet, I haven't decided which yet. In truth, I don't have to be on museum property at all to do this, but I like being here. It would be far too easy for me to hole up in my apartment and hide from the aural world behind a computer monitor. Choosing to work on-grounds keeps me connected, plus it allows me to people watch during my breaks -- a favorite pastime. Have computer, will travel. Especially if it's to a museum.

I consult all over the city, including for the government, but I prefer to work for museums. It's not as if Washington, D.C. doesn't have a museum or three (or fifty), and I know my way around almost every one. The long-time staff at several knows me, too.

Just now, I sit up as someone appears in the doorway. I keep my door partly open because I can't hear anyone knocking. It's a young girl, probably summer help. I don't recognize her and she seems hesitant. "Dr. Summers?" she says, as if she doubts the young guy sitting in a closet with a laptop propped on his knees can really be the linguistic whiz who knows twenty-seven languages in five language families -- and those are just the ones he admits to on his vitae.

Amused by her doubt, I nod and smile.

She blushes and -- frustratingly -- looks down, at her feet. "I hate to bother you, but, um . . ." I have to lean forward and twist my head so I can still watch her mouth, and noticing, she jerks her chin up. "Sorry. My boss asked me to come ask you if, uh, you might know, um, Arabic?" It's clear from her expression that she has her doubts.

Grinning, I grab my pad and stand, making a 'Lead on,' gesture. "Wow, you do?" she says, but doesn't wait for my nod before trotting off. I follow her out towards the central rotunda of the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History. I think she might be trying to talk to me along the way, but she keeps walking ahead or turning away while speaking so I catch no more than snatches of whatever she's saying. She's not trying to be rude, she's just not thinking. Most people don't. I'm used to it.

She takes me to the gift shop where a pair of middle-aged women in full Muslim burkas are standing near the register. One is gripping the hand of a squirmy boy, and a harried looking employee is trying to wait on other customers who insist on stopping to gawk at the women. The shop manager, Becky, approaches me as I enter. This isn't the first time she's asked for my help, though translating the occasional odd language for gift shop staff isn't part of my job description. I don't mind. In fact, I enjoy it. Normally. This situation looks a bit tenser than usual, especially as it involves Muslims in a post-9/11 world, but the hurdles of language barriers often create tension anyway and that's precisely why I don't mind doing this kind of thing. I like watching comprehension uncloud faces, displacing the nervous doubt that springs from a failure to communicate.

Just now, Becky launches into an explanation, making sure that she's facing me the whole time. "Their boy accidentally knocked a porcelain statue off a display case and broke it, and now they're refusing to pay for it. They keep acting like they can't understand, but surely they understand that if they broke something, they're responsible for it! They're just trying to get out of paying."

Well, they might have been trying to get out of paying, but that didn't mean they were pretending not to understand on purpose. Nonetheless, we had a problem of a different sort. Propping my pad on my hip, I scribble: Can't read lips behind a veil.

She stares at the pad a moment, then puts her own hand over her mouth . . . which effectively cuts off whatever she's saying. Realizing what she's done, she drops the hand. "Sorry. Can't you just explain to them that you have to read their lips?"

In what language? I write.

"Oh." She understands now. "I'm not sure. Arabic?"

Sighing explosively, I resist rolling my eyes. Even if wearing a full burka narrows down the probabilities, there are still a good dozen different languages or dialects that they might speak. Yet I can't explain to them that I can't read their lips if they don't move the veil, because I have no idea what language they do speak, and I can't figure out that language until they move the damn veil.

"How about the kid?" Becky asks.

Good thought, I write.

As soon as the two of us approach, the women begin chattering hopefully, but won't look me in the face. I'm a strange man. All I can read from their body language is what I'd expect -- they know they're in trouble and they're scared. I look down at the boy and smile. He smiles back, but doesn't say anything. He's probably too young to be able to read and write. Kneeling in front of him, I point to my chest. "Scott." I know my voice sounds odd, but I can usually make myself understood clearly for a few words. I haven't always been deaf, yet the accident that took my hearing happened when I was still young -- twenty years ago -- and if one can't hear his own voice, after a while, he forgets how to form words correctly. I don't speak much, either, to practice. I'm too self-conscious. Yet I figure the boy can understand a name at least.

"I'm Ihsan," he replies. "Are you gonna help my mommy and grandma?"

It's Luri, for God's sake. He's speaking Bairanvand Luri, and they must have been from Iran. I hope one of the women can read Farsi -- Persian -- since my Luri is rather weak. I only recognize it at all because it is a dialect of Farsi. But surely, since most of the nomadic Lurs -- Muslim gypsies -- are poor, any family able to travel to America must be wealthy enough for a good education. Standing, I smile at the boy again and point to my ears, miming a 'closed' gesture, then point to my pad. Turning, I lay it on the register and begin to write in the language of ancient Fars: Begging your pardon, but I am deaf. I hate to ask, but I must read your lips to understand you, and the veil is in the way.

I offer the pad to the elder with a small bow and don't make any attempt to meet the gaze of either woman. The elder glances at the pad, black eyes narrow behind wrinkles, then passes it to her daughter and pulls the grandson closer to her dark-clad body. Apparently the younger woman can read it, and in the face of necessity, lifts the bottom of her veil enough to explain the situation. I watch only her mouth, careful to avoid her eyes and further insult.

As it turns out, they weren't trying to get away without paying. They simply aren't carrying cash or credit cards. Their menfolk, however, are, and all three of them (grandfather, father and uncle) arrive from somewhere else in the museum even while we're talking. Or rather, talking and writing. They ignore Becky to eye me with skepticism and a little hostility. Yet as the men speak English perfectly well, I leave Becky to sort out the situation and turn to exit the gift shop. I must pass through a small crowd that's gathered to watch. I suppose it's not everyday one sees a deaf translator.

As I pass a nondescript young woman with curly dark hair, she smiles at me and her brown eyes flash a vivid, cat-reflective green for just an instant.

Shocked, my mouth falls open.

It lasts only a second, and sticking the pad under my arm, I grab her by the elbow to propel her out the door. Beyond, by the big elephant display occupying the entry area, I stop us both, then sign, What are you doing here now? I thought we were meeting later?

I had to see you, she signs back.

It's not safe. What if --

-- someone saw us? Someone who? And what would they see? You talking to some dark-haired girl.

Sighing out in a gust, I look back in the direction of the hall leading to my closet office. You didn't come here just because you couldn't wait ten hours to see me.

Her eyes are shrewd and she smiles a little, handing me a paper. It's a memo from someone on Capitol Hill. I don't ask how she got it. Reading it through, I feel my blood go cold and I whisper soundlessly, "Mutant registration?"

She signs, Let's go to the coffee shop.

I nod and we weave our way around tired parents and hoards of children, up through the dinosaur displays to the coffee shop tucked away in a corner. My employee badge nets us a small discount, but they still charge a ridiculous fee for a cup of coffee. Normally, I bring my own in a thermos. Jean insists on paying. "You're a starving, too-honest academic," she says, which makes me grin. She has no more money than I do. Neither of us does what we do for the paycheck. The place is crowded with only one table left near a window in the hot, glaring sun of a summer mid-afternoon. Beneath the table's polyurethane top is a display describing fossilized flowers. Someone, I think idly, should add a translation or two, at least in Spanish and French.

I ought to be back in my office, working, but that's my own sense of duty speaking. In truth, my job allows a lot of latitude and Jean sits down across from me, shaking back her wavy hair. "Remind me to pick a form with a bob-cut next time," she mutters.

It makes me smile. "I like long hair." For her, I speak aloud. She rolls her eyes but I can tell she's amused.

"Should I try Lady Godiva?"

"Only if she's blue. And naked."

If we didn't have a table (and coffee) between us, I think she might hit me. She settles for kicking me -- hard -- underneath. "Ow," I mouth. But she's one of the few people before whom I'll vocalize. She's never laughed at the way I sound, and never would. She told me once that she likes my voice, so I whisper poetry to her in bed in every beautiful language I can think of: Portuguese, Arabic, Bantu, French, Iroquois. She eats it up. Then makes me translate. Then fucks my brains out. It's a pretty good arrangement, in my opinion.

"So," she says, and her eyes drop to the memo lying on the table between us, but she makes sure her mouth is still where I can see it. Jean remembers things like that. She doesn't forget and turn away when speaking, and she avoids driving me down roads in the dark. At least, not actual roads. The emotional road we've been traveling for three years is a different matter. Neither of us can see an end to it -- not one we like -- but we can't seem to stop the car, either.

"This bill has backing, Scott. It'll go to the floor of the House, and the Senate. It may even pass. I think it will pass." She raises her eyes again, a stranger's eyes, but Jean behind them. For just a moment, they phase viridescent. I love her eyes -- her real eyes. She says she loves mine, though I think they're a rather boring blue. Nothing exotic like hers. "When are you going to stop believing in Charles' dream and wise up?" she asks. "When they come to brand you and take you away? They know about you. If this mutant registration becomes law, you'll have to register, or they'll arrest you."

I glance out the window. "I know. But what else can I do? They'll keep fearing us as long as they don't know what we're like. And they can't know what we're like if they never see us, meet us, talk to us, eat dinner with us. Hearts aren't changed by rhetoric, Jean, or ideology. They're changed by knowing people, understanding them -- speaking their language." I turn back to watch her and the high track lights wink on the gold hoops in her ears. Jean's a perfectionist in her forms. She thinks of everything from jewelry to pantyhose to watches and rings. I wish I could put a ring on her finger that was real. "Skulking around in shadows isn't going to help."

Her smile is wise and wry. "And what would be the result, do you think, if I walked out into the museum lobby today as myself? The children would run screaming."

I can't resist smiling. "And the men would stop and stare."

"Chauvinist." She frowns. "They wouldn't, you know. I have scales."

"You're beautiful."

"No, I'm not. Men want me because I can be anyone they fantasize."

"Not me."

"You're weird." But it's said fondly.

And that's why we're sitting here, together, despite everything. I don't want whatever face she's wearing today. I want the Jean behind it, the girl who was home-schooled so the other children wouldn't throw rocks at her. She'd been born scaled and blue, and the doctors had thought her the victim of some strange disease. The first days of her life had been spent isolated in a neonatal unit, hooked up to so many machines, she'd looked like an infant cyborg. The years after hadn't been much better, and to this day, Jean hates hospitals. She learned first aid so she didn't have to visit them, and I've seen her stitch up her own flesh or reset a broken finger just to avoid a doctor's office. (Never mind that going to a doctor might mean she'd have to tell them how she'd gotten cut, or shot, or her fingers broken.)

In any case, her childhood experiences had been before 'mutant' became a distinct category, and her family had money. They'd been able to keep reporters away and have certain records deep-sixed. Later, Jean herself had seen to it that those same records were outright altered or destroyed, so there was no concrete proof of a little blue girl born in Annadale-on-Hudson, even if the hospital employees could vouch for it. No records meant that she -- unlike me -- could escape a dragnet registration, which was ironic because in our natural forms, I was the passer. She didn't even look human, though the heart that beat under her skin was no different than mine, and dear to me.

In any case, like Rapunzel, she'd grown up in a private tower, protected to death by her parents until early adolescence, when the true nature of her peculiar form had manifested -- more or less by accident. Then Rapunzel had escaped her old tower by locking herself in a new one -- a form that wasn't hers. She'd needed so desperately to be loved and accepted, and her parents had been delighted with her emerging metamorph skills, moving downstate where her father took a new professorial position with less pay just so Jean could start over -- have a normal life. She'd gone to public school, become the popular girl, the class valedictorian. Intelligence was her birthright, and with her mutation, she could look like anyone she wanted, as well. So she had. A tall, stately girl with auburn hair and a perfect, heart-shaped face. That's her habitual form, the one I associate with her almost as much as the one that's her own -- blue scales, green eyes and fiery hair -- because it's the form she employed for almost a year after meeting me.

Yet the blue child behind the perfect mask had learned the meaning of irony, and hated the ones who loved her illusions even while clinging to those illusions. She knew her parents had sacrificed much for her, yet they also wanted her to conform, be normal, lead a respectable life because she could. She'd needed to love herself for herself. And as much as I understood her parents' concern for her happiness, it angered me. She was who she was now, I believed, because they'd made her that way. Even at family gatherings, she tells me they want her to morph. Why? It's not as if they don't all know what she really looks like.

In recent years, she's discovered how many children were rejected altogether, and has softened her opinion. It's hard to realize one's parents are human, and can err, but that's a knowledge she's come to as she's aged. When younger, she was self-righteous in her resentment. And in her sophomore year of college, she met a poli-sci professor who saw through her disguise, and didn't flinch at her real face. He'd called her beautiful and took her under his wing, taught her what 'mutant' meant, and convinced her that she shouldn't have to hide, should be proud of her gifts. Yet he'd also reinforced her fear that if anyone 'normal' saw her real face, they'd hate her, call her a monster, and the unique combination of her brilliance and her metamorph abilities was irresistible to him. He'd trained her in how to use them to further his own cause, shaping her into his private spy, and her life now is just as much one of shadows and secrets and seemings as it would have been if she'd followed her parents' advice. But a lot less safe.

His name was Erik Lehnsherr. And I hate him for what he did to her.

My own story is simpler. I fell out of a plane and woke up deaf and alone, but with a new ability to unravel any pattern. What's that old truism? 'The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." I could understand anyone, but had no one left, and a world that should have presented me with no barriers was forever walled in silence. I became a special-needs warden of the state. Special-needs children are more expensive to foster as we require equipment other kids don't, and few foster families want us. My apartment now is modified with devices that allow me to live independently -- a doorbell rigged to make the lights blink, a knock sensor, TDD service and a strobe for the phone (though my new phone with text-messaging made TDD obsolete), and a 'sonic-boom' alarm clock. Jean thinks that last one's funny. I don't have hearing aids, though. There's not much point. My ears work perfectly, for all the good it does me. The problem lies in damage to the auditory portions of my brain. I have no hearing at all -- 'stone deaf.'

Yet I soon learned that my ability to recognize patterns went in a very particular direction -- I had a mutant gift for language. ANY kind of language, from linguistics to computers to simple body language. It made learning ASL easy, and I branched out from there. Being able to understand people led me down a different road than Jean. She'd been forced to hide to be accepted, learned obfuscation as a survival tactic and mimicry instead of understanding. Me, I can't avoid understanding others, it seems. I've lived my life as a cypher, explaining people to one another, and sometimes I wonder who I am, or if there is a me beyond my function as a walking Babel Fish.

But Jean's interested in me. Her own self-focus drove her to uncover mine. She first noticed me on the Metro. Trained to observe everything, she'd gotten curious about the young man who bought six foreign language newspapers a day and speed-read them all on the way to work, and she'd begun following me -- apparently for weeks, though I hadn't realized it was the same person because she'd kept shifting forms. Finally, one night almost three years ago, she'd followed me back to my Georgetown apartment and, inside the building, approached me in the hallway to ask, "Do you know what you are?"

Her form that evening had been her most common public face, the one on her driver's license, the one the world knew as 'Jean Grey,' and the tall, intense-eyed woman had daunted me a little. I'd looked her up and down and raised my eyebrows.

"Oh, I know who you are," she'd said. "You're Dr. Scott Summers. Twenty-six years old, holds two Ph.Ds from Johns Hopkins in linguistics and computer programming, hired sometimes by the U.S. Government for translation and cultural advice but prefers to work for academic and public service institutions. Unmarried, parents deceased, no known living relatives. You like cats, Sweet Tarts and wear a size 42 suit jacket because your shoulders are wide, but you have to hem the sleeves."

She'd scared the shit out of me, frankly. I'd thought I had a very odd (if pretty) stalker. Who are you and how do you know these things?, I'd written on the pad I kept handy and passed it to her. And that had stopped her cold, staring at my words. Somewhere in all her research into who I was, she'd failed to put two and two together and realize I was deaf. Now, years later, we laugh about how she'd committed such an enormous oversight when she'd gone to the trouble of finding out my shoe size.

Then, however, she'd been hugely embarrassed, but hadn't pitied me. There's a difference, and I can tell. Believe me, I can tell. She'd said, "I've been watching you and I know who you are. But do you know what you are? You're a mutant."

I'd written, I know.

"So am I," she'd said.

I know, I'd written back.


Elementary, My Dear Watson, I scribbled (taking longer), I figured either you're a mutant, too, or you're morally opposed to mutants, but since you aren't spouting scripture or pseudo-science at me yet, it must be the former.

And she'd laughed. Taking my pen, she'd scribbled her email address on my pad and given it back to me. "I'd write my phone number on your hand, but I don't think it'd do much good."

And I'd laughed. The fact she could make a joke about my deafness without either apology or self-consciousness is the reason I saved that address and wrote to her. She wrote me back, and email became our primary mode of communication. It still is. Most of my interaction is virtual, in fact, because my handicap isn't obvious there. I can write to almost anyone, anywhere. The world is my oyster . . . as long as it reaches me over a LAN line.

I didn't see her again for five months, but we talked everyday, and sometimes more often than that. Perhaps because she'd failed to note the obvious, she became very nosey about everything in my life. I was her own private puzzle to solve. We argued politics, discussed literature and science, and bemoaned the state of Washington-area roads. She told me about growing up in New York (though at the time, she left out a few things). I told her about growing up in Nebraska. She asked me, with honest curiosity, what it was like to live deaf. So I told her. Once, she asked me if I missed music. I didn't write back for three days. She filled up my inbox and transcription service with apologies, but I wasn't angry. Music was just the one thing I really regretted losing and I found it hard to talk about that. Yet whenever I asked to see her again, she always said, "No."

The 'no's persisted for five months, then I got an unexpected 'yes,' and we made plans to meet on the Washington Mall outside the Air and Space Museum. She was wearing red and the same face she'd worn the first time, though I didn't realize then that it wasn't her real one, and she smiled when I walked up to her. Then she spoke to me.

In my language.

Sign language.

She'd spent those five months taking a class in ASL and learning about my world. Only one other person had ever reached out to me that way, and it had been easy for him. The rest of the time, I'd lived my life interpreting for others, reaching into their worlds, their words, their perceptions.

Jean had reached back into mine.

I fell head over heels in love with her right then (though really, I think I already was), yet it took her another two months to show me her real face, and it took me another three to let her hear my speaking voice. And I'm not sure how long it was before we realized we were living on opposites sides of a big, big fence.

Montague and Capulet.

X-Man and Brotherhood.

You see, the first person who'd reached out to me had been Charles Xavier. I'd been in college, too. At fifteen. The brilliant, silent, small boy who sat at the back of the class and never took notes because he had an eidetic memory. It goes along with my pattern recognition. I don't remember everything. No one remembers everything; that's a myth. Instead, we remember in certain ways. For me, it's in words and patterns. But don't ask me to remember a painting unless I'm told the name of the painting and painter, then I remember the name and painter, not the painting itself -- or not any better than the average person. Jean, though, she recalls images. If she sees it, she can pull it out of her memory. That's the nature of her mutation. We're like two halves of one coin, but facing in opposite directions.

In any case, just as Jean had been approached by Erik Lehnsherr, so Charles Xavier had approached me, told me what I was, and assured me that I wasn't a freak. I was gifted. Of course, I'd been called "gifted" all my life -- right along with "hearing impaired" -- so that wasn't new. But he'd meant it in a new way, and he'd given me self-understanding, and a dream. I could use my talents as a bridge between humans and mutants -- a translator, an ambassador. That dream freed me finally to live in a world of no walls, and invite others to live there as well, leaving behind the fences of language and miscommunication -- of fear.

I like to think that Jean is drawn to me because I invite her into that world with me. No masks. No faces that aren't her own. I love her real face and want her to wear it. All the time. I think she's beautiful just as nature made her, but I see her real face too rarely.

"They'll lock you up, Scott," she says now, fear in her borrowed eyes and voice.

"Maybe," I tell her, then drop into sign language. I'm not above using a little subterfuge myself and I don't want this conversation to be overheard. They're just afraid. They don't understand us. And they aren't going to understand unless we let them try, but we can't do that if we hide.

Snorting delicately, she leans back in her seat. "You're a dreamer."

Maybe I am. But someone has to be. Frowning, I look out the window that opens on the Mall. The sun is in my eyes, but I can make out taxis passing on the road below and lots of pedestrians. I can't see the Capitol from the window at this angle, but I know it's there at one end of the green. This bill won't pass without a lot of discussion. Maybe I'll ask if I can address the Senate.

Her mouth falls open and she signs, almost roughly, Are you crazy?

Not at all.

Her snort isn't delicate this time; it's explosive with her doubt. A deaf man will speak for mutant rights? It's deliberately cruel, because she's afraid for me. I understand her so well; rage drives her, and a desire for justice, and a fear no less real than that of the humans who hate us. Fear builds walls. What makes you think they'll let you up on the bema in the first place, or will listen if they do?

"Oh," I say aloud. "If Dr. Scott Summers, special consultant in linguistics for the White House applies the right lobby pressure and requests to speak, I think they'll let me up there."

I am the Cypher. There are no walls for me. I'm the bridge that spans them. Believe in me, Jean.

There are tears in her eyes. "I've always believed in you. It's the rest of them I don't believe in." She blinks to rid herself of the tears she thinks of as a weakness, and her hands rise, signing fast. But you believe this, Dr. Summers -- if that damn bill passes, I'm not letting them take you. I won't let them come in the night and take you away. Words might be your domain, but getting out of traps is mine. You do what you need to do, and I'll do what I must.

I know she'll try. And I'll resist because, like Socrates, I believe in the democracy. If I speak, will you come listen?

"You know I will." She rises. She's done with her coffee, and I need to get back to my office anyway. Her fingers cross mine, a subtle caress. We've learned to be subtle in this affair that should never have been. "Later?" she asks.

"Wouldn't miss it, Bluebell," I whisper soundlessly. It's not her code name. It's my name for her.

We'll meet in another place and she'll wear another face. And maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll be able to talk her into renting a motel room where we can lock the door and she can wear her own face while I make love to her. We won't talk about politics there, or our different philosophies, or the threat of the future. We probably won't talk at all. Words aren't always necessary, to communicate.

I ought to know.

Afternotes: Scott, of course, has Doug Ramsey's power, and Jean has Raven Darkholme's (Mystique), although I couldn't resist changing her eye color to its classic comic green. It's not entirely clarified, but Erik Lehnsherr has Jean's powers -- mild telepathy and telekinesis -- while Xavier has his own, and even if she didn't appear in the final version, Ororo has Erik's powers and would bear the name Polaris.

A comment on Scott as Cypher. Doug's powers are similar to Scott's own, in terms of a gift for patterns, but as they work themselves out in language, not geometry, I thought that would have an enormous impact on Scott's personality, making his strategic gifts social rather than spacial. Hence he's not a military strategist here, but a budding diplomat. Also, while I realize the comic Doug could understand any language within moments of hearing it, I've made Scott's gift a little more reasonable. Scott can learn any language extremely rapidly, and has the mutant ability to learn it fluently, if he puts in a bit of effort. But it's not instantaneous. He's not a Star Trek Universal Translator. :-D

As for Jean, the fact that her parents didn't reject her would soften her temperament, I think, yet I was reminded of what Raven had said in the first movie about going to school, and no matter how much support Jean got at home, the fact she's only accepted when she's not herself would, I believe, alter her fundamental personality, especially for a girl who needs to be loved, making her far more cynical.

Feedback always welcome (of course).