DVD's to my reviewers!
Kaliann—I'm up to the usual. I'm glad you love it!
Paprika90—We'll find out. Ten to one, he won't like it!
Whylime—Why, thank you! I'm glad you like it!
The next morning, Elizabeth locked herself in the Danger Room and refused to allow anyone inside with her. Also, she asked not to be disturbed: she would come out when she was ready and when she was finished with what she was doing. Worried, Logan took up a sentry's position in the watchtower, deciding to keep an eye on the quarter-pint.
There wasn't much to see. Elizabeth was down there, sitting on the floor cross-legged, with her hands resting on her knees and her eyes closed. She looked as if she were concentrating on something that only she knew about.
Logan stayed for a while, watching, but when he saw nothing happen, he began to wonder what it was that she was doing. Worried, he decided to talk to Charles about it.
"And she's just sitting in there on the floor, not doing anything. That's not normal for a kid, Chuck," he finished, after describing the situation to his friend.
Charles nodded. "I know. When you think 'teenager' the image of sustained attention is not one that comes to mind. I think she's all right, Logan. She's just working on our problem."
Logan snorted. "O'Toole?"
Charles nodded again. "It may be that Elizabeth has the only power that can counteract him. Magneto asked her to imagine a weakness that we could use against him, but I don't think that's what she has in mind. I think she's trying to find a solution that will benefit everyone."
"That kid has got to be the world's leading idealist, if that's what she's trying to do," Logan muttered, walking beside the Professor. "There's no such thing as a happy ending."
"If such a thing is true, Logan, then there's nothing to keep her from trying for it," Charles pointed out. "It is the eternal hope of the youth that everything will turn out all right in the end."
"Whatever you say, Chuck."
Elizabeth was oblivious to the hard floor underneath her, the way that the Danger Room was just a little too cold, and the way that her body was cramped from sitting in one position for far too long. No, she only saw the patterns and images in her mind as she wove and embroidered her thoughts, hoping for a final piece that was what she needed. Time and again, finding the final product to be not what she wanted, she unraveled her work and began again, always starting with the wide open empty space in her mind that she called The Canvas.
Whenever she closed her eyes, it was there. It was a canvas in truth, allowing her to imagine and create on its empty space, always inviting her to come with the paints, crayons, and pencils of her imagination. It was there that she imagined herself having countless powers, all fueled by her imagination. There were times when she wondered if the powers were her powers or if imagination was the only power she possessed. If the latter were true, she hoped to never run out of imagination, ever.
She had her images to begin with: Dr. O'Toole. Now, to make him what she wanted. She wished that he would be a kind person, every bit as kind as the Professor, a man who could be your best friend, teacher, and father all in one human being. She imagined his ambitions turned to teaching the young, not controlling them or encouraging their darker sides so he could later use them as tools in his quest to conquer. She yearned for his highest aspirations to be nothing more threatening than a healer or teacher, not a despot.
Again, like so many times before, there was something lacking when she finished the image. Frustrated and feeling ready to cry, Elizabeth banished the image and opened her eyes, catching the sting of forming tears. The Professor was counting on her, and still she had nothing to show him! Nothing to give him the slightest hope that O'Toole could be defeated! Nothing, nothing, nothing!
Oh, now she was truly crying! Tears were running down her face, and when she heard herself sob, the last of her resistance broke down and she crumpled the rest of the way to the floor, crying as if she didn't know how to stop. She was crying so hard that she didn't hear the door unlock or the whirr of approaching wheels. She didn't realize that she was no longer alone until she felt a hand on her shoulder, lending quiet support.
She looked up and met the Professor's eyes. One moment, she was on the floor, and the next, she was standing and crying on his shoulder, weeping all of her frustration into the jacket of his suit.
"It's all right, Elizabeth," the Professor said. "It's not as bad as it seems."
"Yes, it is," she whimpered, sniffling. Charles smiled and handed her a handkerchief. "Thank you."
"Not a problem. Now, why is everything so awful? You're doing a fine job!"
"I don't want Dr. O'Toole to stay a bad man!" she said, wiping her eyes. "I want him to be good, and to do as much good as you and the other teachers here do! But, whenever I try to make him into what I want for him to be, he ends up flawed! I can't make him be like you, and I can't make him into what I wish him to be!"
"So instead of trying to find a way to defeat him, you're trying to make him into someone who is not a threat at all. That's very clever, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth looked at him, still tearful. "I'm not clever. If I were clever, I would have managed it by now."
Charles patted her hands between his. "Well, try to think about this in another light: If there were something you didn't like about me, would you try to change me?"
"But I don't want to change you."
"Well, if there were?"
Elizabeth shook her head. "No, you're fine the way you are. You are the way you are because that is the way you're supposed to be. . . I think. That's a really simplified way of putting it, but we are the way we are because that's what we're supposed to be, because to be any other way would not be being who we are."
Charles blinked at the complicated and intricate concept. "And how did you arrive at this conclusion?"
"I tried to change myself, but it wouldn't take," she said, looking thoughtful. "So when it didn't work, I tried to find out why. That was when I realized that I was supposed to be a person who had an imagination that could create or give her anything she wanted. It didn't matter what I wanted then, what mattered was what I was supposed to be."
"And what or who is Dr. O'Toole supposed to be?" Charles asked, leading her to a new conclusion. "Is it possible that he's the way he is because that's what he's meant to be?"
"It's. . .possible," she conceded. "But there's a myriad of results a person can be, aren't there? People change all the time! So why can't I change Dr. O'Toole into something else he's meant to be?"
"Perhaps nothing has happened to help him to change," the Professor said, smiling once he saw understanding dawn on her face. To Charles' utter surprise, Elizabeth flew at him, hugged him breathless, left a resounding smack! of a kiss on top of his head, and all but shot out of the Danger Room, calling her thanks over her shoulder.
"Well!" Charles said, rubbing the spot she kissed in surprise. "Well!"
"I saw that, Chuck," Logan said, coming into the Danger Room. "That was good of you, to help her out like that."
Charles shrugged. "It's the prerogative of a teacher to help a student in difficulties," he said, diffidently. "Also, I couldn't stand seeing her so unhappy!"
"You're telling me," Logan said, taking out a cigar. "I ain't never seen a kid cry like that! And I thought Kitty watching one of her romances was bad!"
Charles chuckled. "A woman in tears is the one thing that can bring a man to his knees, I'm afraid."
"Too right," Logan agreed, biting off the end and getting ready to light his cigar.
That was the moment that Scott came in, looking worried. "Professor, did you give Elizabeth permission to go somewhere?"
The older men snapped to attention. "Elizabeth's gone somewhere?" Charles blurted, surprised.
"Yeah, she just flew out the door, saying she would be back later, but when I asked her what time, she said she didn't know. I thought I'd better check with you."
Logan and the Professor exchanged looks, wondering if Elizabeth had done what they were both fearing she'd done.
After imagining herself invisible and able to fly, Elizabeth soared above the clouds, staring down at the passing landscape below her. The ground looked like a child's playset, and all of the people and buildings and animals looked like toys. Below her, she could see a farm spread out, and she found herself remembering her Fischer-Price Little People Farm with fondness. She could remember all the names she'd given her Little People, and she could remember all the games she used to play! If she wanted to, she could build another farm in her head, but she could do that later. Right now, she had to get herself ready. She was going to help O'Toole change.