Author: likeadeuce, aka Karabair
Summary: Stuck in the Australian Outback with a ragtag X-Men team, Alex Summers takes a novel approach to preserving his sanity.
Fandom: X-Men comics
Spoilers and/or Warnings: Spoilery for 20-year-old comics only.
Author's Notes: The original fic gives a good overview of the relevant canon (roughly issues 226-251 of Uncanny X-Men). In addition to the story I'm officially remixing, I was inspired by bossymarmalade's brilliant Homicide fic, The Pillow Book of Tim Bayliss, which in turn draws on The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon.
Thanks to: harmonyangel, my awesome beta.
Title, Author and URL of original story: My Time in Australia, By Alex Summers by bossymarmalade
1) Names People Have Called Me, Not Counting Alex
-Alexander. Only my mom, only when I was annoying her. Back when I was still a kid, and I still had a mom.
-Havok. Larry Trask, mad scientist, when he gave me what I thought was a superhero costume and promised to help me control my power. He turned out to be a villain trying to use me for his own ends. Not the last one of those I'd ever meet. The X-Men saved me and I kept the name. It seemed to fit my life, and I couldn't think of a better one.
-Goblin Prince. Yeah, let's not get into that.
-Boy, or Kid. Wolverine, all the time, when he's trying to get me riled up. Logan's OK, mostly, but he likes to pick fights with the other men he teams up with. Piotr's too level-headed, and Longshot doesn't notice, so that leaves me.
-Dad calls me "kid" sometimes, too. Or he called me that. I never know what verb tense to use with Dad. He's not dead (like I thought he was for a long time, like Mom really is). He's just off in space, being a pirate or possibly a freedom fighter. I don't think there's a tense that covers that.
-My brother Scott never calls me "boy" or "kid". Even though he could, because he's older. But I haven't talked to Scott since the Inferno. I don't know what he'd call me now. Maybe I need a different verb tense for him, too.
-People call me "Summers" sometimes, which makes sense, because it's my name. But last month when the two of us were in Mexico, Logan called me "Summers" and then from the look on his face, I knew he was thinking of somebody else. I could tell he knew I knew it, too.
2) Places I Have Been That Are Punishingly Hot
-Hawaii, with my foster family, after the accident -- but that heat always felt like the beach, and I could go swimming or surfing just about any time I wanted.
-New Mexico, at the research station where I lived with Lorna -- but we could stay inside during the worst part of the day and drink lemonade, watch soap operas and "improve" the plots by pretending all the characters were secretly mutants.
-Egypt, under a pyramid, held captive by a supervillain -- but I had too much on my mind, then, to worry about the heat.
-The Australian Outback, where I am now, living in this goddamn dead ghost town that used to be a base for Reavers, where you have to be careful even to duck into the shade because something might be hiding there that wants to kill you. The only good thing to be said is that we're all miserable together. Well, except Ororo, who likes the heat, and Longshot, who's oblivious. And, well, Logan might be miserable, but I don't think it's because of the temperature.
3) I Got The Idea to Write this Book from Logan
I got the idea to write this book from Logan.
I saw him sitting in the shade of a rock, writing, which wasn't typical for him. I'd just been running, and sweat was flowing down my face. I needed to rest a little before I went inside, so I tried to talk to Logan. "Is that a list you have there? You don't seem like the bullet point type."
"It's not a list."
I moved closer and said, "It looks like a list."
He grabbed it and held it against his chest, and looked about as mad as I ever saw him look when he wasn't stabbing somebody. "God damn, Summers, we ain't boyfriends!"
This was just after Mexico.
He looked at me and I looked at him, and I felt the same thing I'd felt when he called me "Summers" like that on our trip, like he was talking to someone who wasn't there, and I wondered if that was how Scott made Maddy feel, about not being Jean.
I went and took a shower.
When I came outside later, Logan was still holding the papers. He said, "Look, kid, are you really that bored?" It was as close as I've ever heard him come to apologizing for anything, and I think the question he meant to ask was Are you really that lonely? Right then, I just about was.
So he showed me the paper, which he called a pillow book. It was sort of a list, but also sort of a poem, and he wasn't writing one. He was translating something that his girl Mariko wrote (I think she's still his girl? Though he always seems to be kissing Ororo, or Jean, and I'm not even getting into what happened in Mexico). It was sort of like a list and sort of like a poem, and when I thought about it, it seemed like something I could try. I've never been big on keeping journals; even when I was supposed to, for fieldwork or missions, Lorna or Scott ended up doing it for me. But I'm giving this a shot. Logan's right, I am pretty bored, and cutting the world up into bullet points might not be such a bad idea. Maybe I can use this book later, in case I ever decide to write about what it was like down here.
Assuming we ever get out of here.
4) Different Ways of Speaking
-When Ororo addresses the group of us, she talks like she's royalty, making a state proclamation. It doesn't really go with her look, the wild hair and the punky short skirts. I'm not gonna get on her case about it, though. I'm not suicidal.
-Logan actually calls Ororo "boss", and not in an insubordinate way, like he used to do with Scott. I think maybe he prefers taking orders from a woman. He calls everyone else "bub" (when he's not calling me "boy"). He drawls, too, and he drops his "g"s. ("Nothin', punkin', darlin'"). I tell him I know other people from Canada and they don't talk like that. He points his claws at me.
-Rogue calls everyone "sugah," or "bunkie". I don't know if that's her real accent or not, but I'm not going to tease her. She's about the only one here in this hellhole who knows how to have any fun.
-Dazzler speaks in a haughty voice, not regal like Ororo. A voice that wants us to know she's too good for this place, that wants us to forget she has nowhere else to go.
-Betsy talks with a sweet English accent, light like music (better music than Dazzler's singing, if you ask me). Sometimes she pronounces words oddly, if you're used to American English, and the rest of us laugh. Then she gets angry because she says it was her language first. But after a while she laughs, too.
-Piotr's English is meticulously correct. Sometimes that's the only way you'd know he's foreign -- well, that and the Russian swear words (I think they're swear words?) he yells sometimes when he's excited. He doesn't talk about Russia much, not the way he used to.
-Longshot states the obvious a lot. "That bad man wants to hurt us!" What was your first clue, the gun? His luck powers do come in handy, though. And, to be fair, we don't always notice the obvious.
5) Things I Should Have Noticed When They Might Have Made a Difference
-Lorna didn't want me to leave her in New Mexico. She was worried by my dreams, afraid something bad would happen while we were apart. I was too wrapped up in my own worries to listen.
-Maddy talked to herself, or I thought it was to herself. When she took me dancing, she didn't seem to care I was her husband's brother, that my brother had left her. When I tried to bring up a difficult subject she would kiss me. I was too wrapped up in her kisses to think. I was too wrapped up in being a better boyfriend than my brother.
6) Things that Happened Because I Didn't Notice the Things I Should Have Noticed
-Lorna was possessed by the spirit of Malice. I've met her twice since then, and she taunted me into trying to kill her. Both times I gave in and tried. Both times I failed.
-Maddy wasn't talking to herself. She was talking to goblins. As the Goblin Queen, she ripped my clothes, made me into her body servant, convinced me to fight on her side against my brother and my teammates.
-Maddy is dead. Scott is angry at me. I am angry at Scott. I am angry at Maddy, even though she is dead, and I am angry at myself even though I thought I was doing the best I could at the time.
7) When I Make Myself Imagine
-When I make myself imagine what it is like not to be a mutant, not to be scared of my body and the earthshattering forces it can release if I let my guard down for even a moment, I am filled with regret.
8) I Remember That This Power is a Gift
-I remember that this power is a gift, that it is rooted deep in every cell of my body. It is as inseparable from who I am as the color of my hair, the pitch of my voice, or the endorphin rush that comes over me to push me through the end of a long run. I remember that this, that all of it, is a gift. This is what my brother said to me once, and I want to believe it. I'm not sure if he believes it himself, or was only trying to comfort me. That was a long time ago.
9) Annoying Things
-The way people around here are always kissing each other, and I don't seem to get any of it.
-The way people are always trying to kill us.
-The way the people trying to kill us call themselves things like "the Cosmic Cutie Commandos". Scott used to complain about having to fight the "Brotherhood of Evil Mutants," but C-Cubed makes them sound respectable.
-The way Dazzler keeps reminding us that she's used to a swanker lifestyle, that she doesn't fit in here.
-The way none of us fit in here.
10) What Everybody Sang At Karaoke Last Night
-Dazzler rigged our surveillance equipment into a mike and a stereo, the way she always does, and sang one of her own hits, which I didn't recognize. (My brother would).
-Rogue liberated the microphone (which pissed Dazzler off) and sang "Video Killed the Radio Star". Then she cued up Guns N' Roses, and belted out "Sweet Child O'Mine," like she was born to sing it -- she didn't change any pronouns, either! That streak in her crazy hair moving like lightning as she danced.
-Longshot sang backing vocals on the Guns n' Roses song ("Where do we go now, where do we go-o-o-o?"), and that made Dazzler mad, too, because she doesn't like it when he gets close to Rogue (though I don't know what she thinks is going to happen, considering). Then he went straight into "Take Me Down to the Paradise City," and he pulled Dazz on stage with him. He got her to dance, and by the end they were trading choruses, and you can tell she doesn't know how to stay mad at him, he means so well. Or maybe he's just really good in bed. I probably shouldn't pursue that thought too much.
-"Panama" by Van Halen. Sung by yours truly. Because I like Axl and all, but there's only one true hair metal band in my heart. I have to say, I rocked a little.
-Betsy turned out to be closet Toni Basil fan, and the girls (minus Ororo because, yeah, can you imagine?) worked out a cheerleader routine to "Hey Mickey" in about a minute and a half. I think Longshot would have joined them but Logan did everybody a favor by sending him on a short but "important" errand before he got any ideas.
-Ororo doesn't sing. Or maybe she takes music too seriously to sing in front of us.
-Logan thinks he's Johnny Cash. The less said about that, the better.
-Piotr usually doesn't get involved with our crazy rock and roll hijinks. But I guess he picked up an acoustic guitar, in Sydney or somewhere. Last night he took it out and was strumming it slowly and with real concentration. It must have taken all that concentration, too, for him to keep from turning to metal for that long; it gets harder and harder for him to stay "normal", it seems like.
Piotr was just quietly tuning the guitar, until everybody got tired of dancing and making fools of ourselves, and then Longshot asked him to play something. Piotr grinned and said "Vyzotsky?" (I may not be spelling that right?) Logan made a face, like he knew what that meant (he told me later, "Every damn Russian wants you to listen to Vyzotsky"), but he just rolled his eyes and Piotr played and the music sounded sort of ragged, and far away, and foreign. But I guess all of us are foreign here, and everyone got very very quiet as Pete sang in Russian. When he was done, Rogue asked what the song mean. Piotr thought and said, "The best English would be 'Song of the Free Archers.'" He explained it was a ballad about Robin Hood and his men sleeping in the woods, under the stars, on the night before a battle. He tried to say some of the words, he said a lot of it got lost in the translation, but I guess I wrote a few of them down anyway:
" each sighs of being parted
From his home and piece of land,
Just before the battle started,
Strokes a bow, his loyal friend."
After that, there wasn't much to say, and we all went to bed.
11) Lovely Things
-Betsy's purple hair, Maddy's red hair, Lorna's green hair. All these things that aren't quite the color it seems they should be, like you're seeing them with different, better eyes. When you look at those women, you feel like God has gotten away with something.
-The rock formations in the Outback. We're not close to any of the famous ones, like Wave Rock or Uluru, but even in this dingy out of the way ghost town that no one's bothered to put on a map, I'll be running at dusk and I'll take a different turn and see a shape in the red rocks that no human has probably ever noticed before, that looks exactly like the curve in a particular woman's back when she turns her head just so. Gateway would probably tell me -- if he bothered to tell anyone anything -- that the rocks are there because some totemic ancestor dreamed them into being. I could remember my fancy master's degree and explain how the rock was shaped by subsurface chemical weathering and fluvial erosion, but I'm not sure I'd be any closer to the truth.
-Dazzler's voice when she thinks no one's listening. I heard her this morning, getting breakfast alone with her headphones on, and for once she didn't have that edge in her singing that said, "Here, everyone, come here and listen to me!" It was just a pure clear note as she sang along with. . . U2, I think. "The promises we made, from the cradle to the grave, and all I want is you."
12) People Who Have Changed as Much as if they had been Reborn
-Rogue is more nervous, less certain with her power, in the months since Inferno. The abilities and memories she absorbed from Carol Danvers don't stay buried inside like they used to. Sometimes she is Carol for days at a time.
-Logan used to be the insubordinate smartass. He used to be the one who reminded Professor Xavier that the X-Men might be his team but they didn't work for him. I heard he and Nightcrawler used to hunt each other for fun, and the loser bought the winner beer. I heard Nightcrawler bought a lot of beer. Now Logan spends a lot of time giving orders, then suddenly deciding he can do everything himself, that he has a path too dangerous for the rest of us to follow, and then sulking off to God knows where. It's hard to remember he used to be a fun guy. (I'm not counting Mexico here. Mexico was different).
-Ororo's changed more than any of us. It's not just her hair or her clothes, or the way she gives orders with such confidence. I don't know what it is, exactly, though. I don't know if anyone does. Maybe she would confide in Jean, but Jean isn't here.
-Jean has been reborn. Maddy hasn't. Lorna will be, one day. I will make that happen.
-I don't think that I have changed at all.
13) Things I Could Do If I Left Here Tomorrow
-Find Lorna, wherever she is in the world. Grab her and fight with her until the terrible force that is possessing her would give up and let me have her back. Or until she killed me.
-Go to New York, where my brother is. Ask him why he let those things happen to Maddy. Apologize for what I let happen to Maddy. Fight him. Ask him for a place on his team.
-Discover a way into space. Find my father. Join his crew in fighting for freedom. Join his crew as a pirate.
-Return to New Mexico, with its rust-colored land and empty spaces. Pick up where I left off with my research. Work on something I know and understand and can do well. Live alone, where my power may wake me up at night, but will never hurt anyone.
14) Reasons I Will Not Leave Tomorrow and Go to Those Places or Do Those Things
-Malice will kill me before she lets me have Lorna. I'm not ready to die yet, not even for love.
-If I fight with Scott, we'll both say things that we can't take back.
-I do not know if Dad will want me.
-I'd rather be lonely and part of a team than all by myself. I'm not happy here, in this deadly waste of desert, but I'm no damn good at being alone.
15) I Enjoy Watching the Sun Set Over the Desert.
I enjoy watching the sun set over the desert. I go running into the dusk and keep running in the moonlight. It's the best time, when the sun isn't overwhelming. I'm not scared anymore of anything that could be out there. My own body is a weapon.
I see the rock formations, I see subsurface chemical weathering and fluvial erosion, and the dreams of ancient totemic ancestors echo in my ears. I wish Lorna were here to talk it over with me, but if Lorna were here she would already understand. If Lorna were here, I wouldn't have to be writing this.
If Lorna could be here, I wouldn't have to be here at all.