Five Pounds Five Pounds

Summary: Scott brings Jean an unexpected present for Valentine's Day. Scott POV. Valentine's sap, but not Valentine's 'ship. 'Cuteness' alert

Notes: In most of my fiction, I've used a particular backstory for Scott which is based on the film novelization, and includes (among other things) that he gained his powers at his school prom and his parents are both alive. In this particular story, however, I've tossed that backstory out the window. Here, he has the traditional comic backstory that makes him an orphan. It's still movieverse, but I'm pretending the book didn't exist. Poetic license. ;>

This was written with very late inspiration on Valentine's Day, and I wanted to get it up that same evening so that it would be at least marginally timely. Please excuse any detail errors regarding adoption (although feel free to correct me).

Archiving: Please ask before taking any of my stories. Thank you.

Normally, a guy brings his woman flowers or jewelry or five pounds of chocolate for Valentine's Day.

I brought Jean five pounds of baby.

Actually, four pounds and thirteen ounces.

"You're Mr. Summers? Of Xavier's Institute?"

"Yes, I'm Scott Summers." I could tell the nurse had been expecting someone older. Even if I put on a suit and tie, women over forty still react to me like I'm nineteen. It's annoying. Turning a little, I indicated the tall girl with me. "This is Kitty Pryde. She's a senior student, and will be helping with the baby." I would've offered a hand to the nurse but her hands were full already. The bundle that filled them made no sound; she rocked it automatically. A big diaper bag sat on the couch behind her. She'd arranged to meet us in a family room on the obstetrics floor. A lamp glowed soft in the corner; a box of handy Kleenex beneath it. There were institution-blue couches along two walls and one chair. This was the room where doctors gave families the bad news. "How's the baby?" I asked.

She smiled, a little sadly, and opened the blanket so Kitty and I could see. I'd expected something ugly and had steeled myself not to react. For one thing, newborns are usually ugly. I hadn't seen many, but I knew better than to expect the Gerber Baby. Second, if the child was already so obviously a mutant that his parents were throwing him away, I assumed he must be startling.

He was startling. But he wasn't ugly. Fair as a ghost, or an albino, he had downy silver hair like Storm's, and skin paler than Jean's red-head complexion in winter. I could see blue veins under it. He didn't seem pink enough for a baby not-quite twenty four hours old, and if I hadn't seen his chest rise and fall, I might have thought him dead. But he breathed easily as he dozed. His ears were pointed and flared back slightly like an animal. He had a little pug nose all scrunched up and tiny starfish hands were curled against his chest. Five fingers on each the same as mine. But the nails weren't thin shells. They were sharp, and I could see them move in and out a little as he made fists. Retractable. But, "He's beautiful," Kitty whispered, "like a little doll." And he was. Oddities aside, paleness aside, he was a remarkably pretty infant. When he got older, he probably would be the Gerber baby. A mutant Gerber baby. Kitty reached out to touch his cheek and he turned his head to latch onto her finger and suck. She laughed. "He's hungry."

"That's a normal reaction in infants, honey," the nurse explained. "It's one of our few inborn instincts."

It didn't escape me that she'd said 'our' instincts. Not everyone is willing to include mutants in the human race. Then again, if she wasn't, she wouldn't be standing here in the first place.

"He just ate," she went on now, "so he has a full belly and he's sleepy. He'll be hungry again in about two hours. Babies this small have very tiny stomachs; they need to eat frequently. But right now, he just wants to suck on your finger. Babies suckle even when they're not hungry. It's calming. This one likes his thumb. But I worry about the claws. You might want to get him a pacifier."

God. If only everybody could be that blase about mutations.

Like AIDS and Crack babies, the majority of obviously-mutant neonates are abandoned at birth. Fortunately, there are many fewer of them. In fact, there aren't a lot of mutants period. We still make up a minuscule percentage of the total world population -­ especially considering the amount of hoopla the press and politicians stir up concerning 'the mutant problem.' Fewer than one in 10,000 is a mutant at this point in time. Statistically-speaking, Xavier's has more mutants than the entire city of Chicago. And about 95% of mutants don't manifest until puberty anyway, so mutant babies are very, very rare. The professor has tried to let it be known throughout the Northeast that he's willing to take any who have been abandoned, and place them ­- legally -­ through adoption or fosterage. It wasn't easy to acquire the necessary authorization to act as a private adoption agency, but Xavier has friends. And these aren't blue-eyed, blond white kids we're taking. They're the kids nobody wants. We find them homes. Four infants so far, all placed. This will be the fifth.

Yet it's always been the professor and Storm who went to fetch them. Not me. Way too much 'personal baggage' -- to use the proper psychobabble -- for the professor to send me. Unfortunately, Xavier was in Paris when we got the call this morning, and I had to do it. I'm acting Trustee of the estate in his absence. I have to sign the requisite papers. So here I am on the night before Valentine's, four hundred miles away from Westchester at a hospital in Nazareth, Pennsylvania (at least it's not "Bethlehem"), home to Martin Guitars and pretty mutant babies. Storm would have come with me, except it's the depths of winter and she has a cold. "She's not getting near a premature infant, with a cold," Jean had said. So Kitty Pryde -­ 'babysitter extraordinare,' as she'd laughingly called herself -­ had volunteered to take Storm's place while Jean and Hank were back at the mansion, rigging a temporary incubator and stocking the infirmary for any possible emergency. The baby is only eight months and under five pounds, but in good health, so they were willing to release him to us. We'd told the hospital we were flying in from New York to pick him up this evening. They had the transfer all ready.

"Can I hold him?" Kitty asked now. The nurse smiled and passed him over. Kitty obviously had practice with babies, even very small ones. She held him easily and let him continue to suck on her finger. I couldn't believe he was that small. He looked more like a toy than a child. I found myself afraid to touch him, afraid I might break him.

The nurse indicated the bag, spoke to me. "There are some preemie diapers in there, since you said you weren't prepared for a preemie. They'll get you through a day or two. There are some extra clothes, as well. Just a few; it's all we could spare. And some special formula prepared, with sterilized bottles."

"Thanks," I told her. "We've taken infants before, but this is the first one born too soon."

"He's early, but he's healthy." It was the same thing we'd been told on the phone when we'd first been notified. "He just -­ " She gestured in place of words.

The baby's eyes had opened finally. They weren't albino pink, as I'd half-expected, or even that infant muddy-blue. They were gold, like a lion's, the irises large in the way of an animal's so that they filled the entire visible eye. And the pupil was rectangular. Like a goat.

Startling. But not ugly.

"His mother called him a demon," the nurse said sadly.

Kitty jerked her head up and I felt my jaw tighten. "What papers do I need to sign," I asked her, "so we can take our 'demon child' out of here?"

Her smile was bitter and faint. "If you'll come with me? I'll show you."

"You'll be okay?" I asked Kitty.

"I'll be fine, Mr. Summers."

I followed the nurse out, was introduced to the social worker on the case, a Ms. Spielvogel. Suitably Pennsylvania Dutch. There were a lot of forms. I'd never done this before. The woman explained them and I signed where she told me to. This part, I just wanted to get away from.

She noticed. "Is there a problem, Mr. Summers?"

"No. I'm just not usually the one who does this. I'm not overly fond of paperwork." I didn't look at her. Instead, I signed another paper after glancing it over.

"I don't think it's the paperwork," she said.

She was good ­- perceptive. I didn't reply for a full minute. Then I said, tersely, "I was an orphan. My parents were killed when I was eight."

"So you were an adoptee yourself?"

"No." I didn't feel like having my psyche picked apart by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Social Services. I'd been taciturn, and small for my age. And more to the point, I'd had medical problems -­ mild brain damage, to be exact. A result of the plane crash that had stolen my parents from me. It didn't interfere with my intelligence, but all the social workers had needed to say was 'brain damage' and no one had asked further about me. I'd been twelve before I'd even been placed in a foster home. By contrast, my little brother -­ four, blond, cute, and healthy ­- had been adopted within months. He'd screamed his head off as they'd torn him out of my arms and took him away. I haven't seen him since.

I hate social services. It's not fair, I know. Most of them are just underpaid, overworked state employees who do their best. But I still can't deal with them. I'll never forgive them for taking my brother. That's why the professor doesn't send me on these little assignments.

None of that was Spielvogel's business, though, and she seemed to sense I wasn't open to an impromptu counseling session, so she didn't press. Wise woman. I finished her paperwork in silence.

When I was done, I said, "What are you able to tell me about his parents?"

"Well the records are sealed, of course, except for critical medical information. All I can tell you is that they're a young couple from the area. Very young. The baby was conceived out of wedlock but they married before the birth. They just weren't able to accept a mutant. They're somewhat religiously conservative."

I recalled what the nurse had said. His mother had called him a demon. "Let me guess. They thought a mutant infant was a punishment for their sin?"

Spielvogel sighed and looked off. Florescent light fell on her limp, dishwater-blonde hair. Her face was tired. Overworked and underpaid, indeed. "Something like that. I'm sorry."

Standing, I tossed the pen on the table. "I hope they rot in hell."

Jean or the professor would have scolded at me for that, but I wasn't feeling charitable.

"Mr. Summers, please understand -­ "

"Don't make excuses for them, Ms. Spielvogel. I'm not in the mood. Can we take the baby now?"

"Yes." She stood, too, offered me a hand. "I hope you find a good home for him."

I took the hand. I wasn't angry at her. "We'll do our best. We've managed to place the others."

"How many?"

"Only four. But there are a few good people out there who understand that babies are gifts, not curses."

She smiled. "I know there are. Good-bye, Mr. Summers. And good luck."

The flight back was longer than the flight in. We'd taken the Blackbird, though of course, we hadn't explained that to the hospital. Jean had instructed me to keep the altitude low and the speed down, to go easy on a newborn's inner ear. Kitty had changed the baby's diaper before we left, and given him another bottle. But he started screaming almost as soon as I got in the air. I was sure he could feel the altitude change, and maybe he had gas on his tummy. Kitty hadn't had any luck burping him. I dropped even lower than I'd planned, but it didn't help. Kitty couldn't get up and walk him much -­ the Bird isn't that big -­ so she was reduced to bouncing him in her arms, singing to him, doing anything she could think of. He just continued to scream. For over an hour.

There's nothing like the scream of an infant. Adults are hot-wired to respond, and if there's nothing you can do to end it, it grates on the nerves to an unendurable degree. By the time we reached Westchester, he was exhausted, I was frazzled, and Kitty was traumatized. I'd been talking to Jean by radio for the last half hour, so she knew exactly what was going on and was waiting on the flight deck for us. With a vacuum cleaner. "It works," she'd said. "It's the white noise."

As soon as we were down, I unstrapped myself and took the baby from a nearly catatonic Kitty. It was the first time I'd held him, first time I'd held a baby this young at all. I'd occasionally helped out in the orphanage nursery -­ years ago ­- but never with the newborns. He was so small, his whole body fit in my two hands, and I felt awkward. He was still waving fists and howling hoarse indignation. "Hey little guy," I said. "We're out of the sky. You're down safe and sound. See? I didn't let you get hurt. I won't let you get hurt, I promise."

And I remembered a trick I'd seen one of the nurses at the orphanage do. I turned him face down, tummy on my outspread hand, the other supporting his head. He burped immediately.

And shut up.

"You have the magic touch, Mr. Summers," Kitty said, managing a smile.

I tucked the infant back in my arm, stared down at him nestled there. He turned his head in towards my chest, one fist coming up to rest on black leather. The other went in his mouth.

I can't explain what that does to you, when you pick up a baby and he stops crying because you're holding him. It's the best feeling in the world. I was sure I was grinning like an idiot.

So I carried him off the plane, Kitty following behind with the donated supplies and the suit-bags with our changes of clothes.

I could tell Jean was startled to see the baby -­ now quiet -­ in my arms instead of Kitty's. I glanced at my watch as I approached her. It was twelve-oh-three, EST.

Valentine's Day.

I handed him over, kissed Jean on the cheek. "Happy Valentine's Day, hon."

"I thought the usual present was a dozen roses?" But she was smiling. "Let's get him down to the infirmary and take a look at what we have."

It turned out that what we had was ­- as the hospital had told us -­ a perfectly healthy, very vociferous, if slightly underweight, preemie. That he also happened to possess light-sensitive skin, lion eyes, animal ears, probably-superior olfactory senses, retractable claws, and a prehensile tail, was just icing on the cake. He'd been born for nocturnal hunting. He was also cute as a bug's ear.

That first night, he spent in the infirmary in the incubator under observation. Jean, Hank and I rotated feeding. But the second night, he spent in Jean and my room. He had to be fed every few hours, and it was easier to move the incubator upstairs and get a little shut-eye in a bed instead of on an exam table in the lab. Jean and I took turns feeding him, holding him tight against our bodies so he could feel our warmth. "Babies need touch," Jean told me. "It's very important." So when I was done feeding him, I unbuttoned my shirt and let him lay on my bare chest. I was starting to smell like sour milk all the time, and he had a tendency to tug on my chest hair. Which hurt. At least he wasn't up to yanking my glasses off yet. But I got pretty good with a bottle, and after the first few times, I stopped being afraid that I'd break him when I changed his diaper.

By the third night, we were calling him Karl because 'the baby' sounded stupid and he was so fair, he looked like a Viking. Gold eyes not withstanding. The morning after the sixth night, Jean and Ororo went shopping for preemie clothes and brought back far more than were needed for a 'temporary' arrangement. By the tenth night, we both had that deer-in-the-headlights exhaustion look that all new parents get. And when the last of the umbilical cord fell off on the twelfth, leaving him with his very own bellybutton, we made way too much of it. I think we realized then that we were keeping him. The next day, we went down to the professor's office and asked him to start adoption procedures. Someday, Jean and I will have a child of our bodies. I'd like that. But our first child is the child of our hearts. We chose him, and he chose us. I don't believe in fate, quite, but I do believe in serendipity. Serendipity had put the professor out of the country on the night that Karl had been born, and so I'd been the one who'd had to go get him.

Today I remember all that as I pick up my son from playschool. It's a normal school where they do normal things. He has a day-report like all the other children, a slip of yellow paper that tells me what he did, when he took his nap, how much of his lunch he ate, when he went to the potty, and whether he actually went or just sat there glaring, as stubborn as I was at that age.

Even though we share not a single gene, he still seems entirely too much like me. Karl's made me a firm believer in nurture over nature.

Before I walk around the classroom divider to let him know I'm there, I pull his things out of his cubby: his blankie and whatever stuffed animal Jean let him bring for naptime this morning -­ the killer whale apparently -­ plus a decorated shoebox full of valentines. Tigger and Barbie, Buzz Lightyear and Rugrats, those flimsy, cheap things children exchange by the boatload on this day every year. It's a racket for card companies and Disney. I'm sure he could care less about the cards. He just wants the candy attached to most of them. As if he doesn't have enough left-over birthday cake at home from his party yesterday. He has my sweet-tooth, too.

I peek around the edge of the divider. He's sitting on the 'rainbow carpet' (a colorful rag rug) along with other children still waiting to be collected by parents at day's end. His girlfriend Molly is sitting beside him. They hold hands sometimes and race around the room at full tilt. It's funny. She's the color of ripe blackberries. He's as pale as the snow on the ground outside. "Karl," I say.

He jerks about with child swiftness and leaps up, comes running. "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" And he throws himself into my arms.

"Karl, Karl, Karl," I reply as I catch him.

It's unspeakably wonderful, to have someone who's always so happy to see you.

"Ready to go home?" I ask.

"No . . . ." He has that annoying three-year-old whine. But then he perks up and gives me his patented Karl Grin. Kids' moods are amazingly mercurial. "Karl go get Punkin Muffies!"

At a little coffee shop nearby. It's Karl-Daddy time some afternoons. But, "Not today." I have tests to grade. He sighs, but doesn't argue further. I put his jacket on him, the mittens he must wear on his hands and slip his face mask over his head. It covers most of his skin. The sun is shining outside today. Then I pick him up, collect his blankie, the stuffed whale, the box of cheap valentines, and mutter, "God, you're heavy."

"Karl a big boy!" he agrees.

"Yeah, you are. Let's go home."

"Go see Mommy! Go see Aunt Ro!"

On our way out, we meet Dawn, the preschool director, on the way in from the main church hallway. She holds the door for us. "Bye, bye Karl. See you tomorrow."

"Bye, bye, Miz Dawn."

"Have a good evening," I tell her, and take my mutant son out to our car to put him in his car-seat like a dozen other fathers. No one looks at us twice. They see us every day. This is how we'll change the world. Not with legislation or medical argument. Not with appearances on TV news shows or public lectures. We'll change it because my mutant son plays with normal children in a normal school. It took us a long time to find the right one, but we persevered. A small program at the local Episcopalian church. Jean's nominally Episcopalian. They're good to him. And none of the other parents have complained about the toddler with the sun-sensitive skin, the pointed ears and the sharp incisors. Not to mention the eyes and tail. Instead they tell me what a pretty boy he is with his insanely long white eyelashes and even features, and I think they really mean it. He's a girl-magnet already at three.

So my "demon child" goes to a church school and I've yet to see him shy from the shadow of a cross. He even knows all the words to "Jesus Loves Me." I'm not sure what I think of that. But he knows all the words to "Wheels On the Bus," "Little Bunny Foo-Foo," and "Itsy Bitsy Spider," too. And he makes me sing them with him. We play 'animals' at bedtime (that is, he tells me an animal and I have to imitate it), and we read The Very Quiet Cricket or The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. Occasionally Fox in Socks, if I feel up to tongue twisters.

Where we'll send him when it's time for kindergarten, I'm not sure. St. James' is a different environment from public school, and kids can be as viciously cruel as they are accepting. Children learn what they live and Karl exists right now in a world which regards his difference with complete nonchalance, or friendly envy. His girlfriend Molly wants a tail just like his. Badly. I promised him once that I wouldn't let him get hurt, and while I know I can't protect him from everything, I'll damn sure try. I want to give him the confidence I never had. I want him to know he's adored just like he is. Tail, eyes, ears, sensitive skin, and all.

In any case, we have two years before we must decide where to send him for kindergarten. Right now, we have more pressing things. Dinnertime at the mansion. Karl barely lets me get his jacket and face mask off before dashes up from the garage, leaves me to cart in his assorted 'stuff' for him. He's forgotten about the candy for the moment. Thank god. Not that I'm under any illusions he'll eat anything healthy for supper. He'll probably demand pancakes and Goldfish (yes, together). And Ororo will give them to him. The child hasn't eaten a green vegetable in months, but I refuse to do Food Wars. And Ororo would fetch him the moon if he asked nicely.

I can hear pounding feet and Karl's voice all the way down the hall even before I reach the dining room. "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!"

"Karl, Karl, Karl!"

He's in her arms giving her a big hug by the time I arrive in the doorway. She accepts my kiss, says, "Happy Valentine's Day."

"Happy Valentine's Day, hon."

"You brought me a kid again instead of roses and chocolate."

"Which would you rather have?"

"Which do you think?" She winks at me and carries our son in to dinner.

Five pounds now weighs twenty-seven.

Remember, I am a shameless feedback slut. Tell me you love me if you want me to write more; it's the only pay I get.

Private email

For more fanfic by Minisinoo, visit The Medicine Wheel