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L. Burke



Crucibles 

DISCLAIMER: The characters belong to Marvel, and are
used without permission for entertainment purposes only.


Jean once accused me of being incapable of being completely open with anyone.  She's right.  I am incapable of being completely open with anyone even her.  It's not that I don't love her.  I do.  It's just I'm not capable of giving her the one thing she wants, me to open up to her completely and give her everything.  I can't do it.  Maybe I'm scared of what she might really see.  Maybe I'm frightened that she wouldn't understand the crucibles that shaped and forged me.

            My earliest memories are of waking up in the hospital after my head injury a complete blank slate.  No one understands the true horror of looking in to a mirror and seeing a stranger's face until it happens to you.  I just can't describe it to you.  I didn't even know my own name.  I remembered how to dress myself and tie my shoes but I couldnít remember my parents' faces.  I didn't even remember or recognize my own brother.  Later when I was reintroduced to Alex at the orphanage, it was like meeting a stranger for the first time.  I still remember the look on his face when he realized I didn't know him.  Part of me to this day wonders if thatís the reason he hates and resents me so much.

It took me close to a year to just get 'normal' again.  If you never have suffered a serious head injury let me explain something to you.  Head injuries bring the worst out in anyone.  For a while you're on the emotional ride of a lifetime.  As your brain adjust and compensates for the injuries, you go through mood swings.  It's like a roller coaster, or being manic-depressive, when you're up your up and when you're down your down. When you're angry you lash out.  You break down to tears for no reason. You have very little emotional control. 

Let's just say it took very little convincing to convince me emotions were evil.  I had been suffering the worst of them for close to a year.  Mr. Mulberry the head of the orphanage where I grew up, aka Mr. Sinister started teaching me to repress my emotions.   Emotional displays were a useless waste of energy.    Emotions took away ones ability to think clearly.  Logic and intellect were the only things you could count on.  Knowledge was what you should strive for.   Sinister didn't really need to try very hard to convince me.  I was a very eager student.

 I can't say everything he taught me was bad.  Through Mr. Mulberry I discovered books.  They were my only friends in the orphanage.  I could escape through them.  When I picked up a book I could be anyone or anything I wanted to be.  No topic was off bounds for my hungry mind.  I'm still like that today.  I scan the ban books list.  If it's been banned and I haven't read it yet I make it a point to read it.  Hank and me are a lot alike that way.  We were taught early people let you down again and again, books didnít.

When the foster family that had filed the paper to adopt me died suddenly in a horrible plane crash, the first chance I had I took off.  It just was the last straw for me I just couldn't take the place anymore.  I thought that anywhere was better than the orphanage.  I was wrong.  The streets were worse.  I realize now I made a mistake running away.  You couldn't have convinced me otherwise back then.  Maybe I knew that I was running away to save the last little bit of humanity I had left.  The streets are a very hot crucible it burns away every illusion you may have had about yourself and leaves the truth.  Most times that truth can be a very ugly thing.

On the streets I quickly learned that there are just two types of people, victims and victimizers.  Don't count on anyone but yourself.  Don't let anyone to close.  It was a lesson I learned fast to survive out there.  I've done things I not very proud of.  I've scammed a single mother for a week's pay that she was taking home to feed her babies with.  I've picked pockets, scammed pool, and striped cars and those are the things I'll admit too.  Like I said, I've been both victim and victimizer.

Jean once asked me who my first real love was. I know I hurt Jean when I wouldn't tell her.  Some memories are just too painful.  You lock them away and open them up to look at them sometimes but it's nothing you would share with another human being.   The love Jean wanted to know about was one that opened the door from childhood to adulthood.  It's that first peek in to the door of adulthood before puberty and life kicks your ass the rest of the way through it.   It's that first love that shatters you and you're never the same person afterwards.  It's most times that first real crush and most times it's one sided.  Jean knows that mine wasn't her.  I wasnít hers either.

 Her name was Lisa.  She was the one that took me in under wing when I first landed on the streets.  She showed me the ropes and taught me how to survive.  Lisa was a waitress during the day and hooked on the streets at night.  Like most kids that end up on the streets Lisa had been a runaway.    She ran away from a very abusive stepfather and was trying to save enough money to get her younger sister away from him.

She was street smart, tough and capable of taking care of herself.  She loved a good joke and had a razor sharp wit. Lisa pulled my butt out of trouble more than once.  She was also about ten years older than my thirteen.  All the feelings were one sided on my part.  Lisa always treated me like the little brother she never had.   It never went any further than that.  Lisa had also been black.  Sometimes I wonder how Jean would take me telling her about Lisa.  I'm pretty sure that the black part wouldn't bother her.  The hooker part probably would.  Just goes to show you how Jean and I were raised worlds apart sometimes. 

As the years drift by Lisa's face is slowly drifting away from me.  All I can remember clearly thinking of her now are her lovely brown eyes. Even as I watched the rest of her fade away from AIDS, her eyes never changed. They always sparkled with the humor of a situation.  They always carried a life that even the streets couldn't eat away.  Lisa taught me a lot about handling bigotry and ignorance.   She taught me to choose your battles.  That you can't win all the time; you have to learn to pick and choose which ones are worth winning and which battles arenít.   She also taught me you couldn't take it personally when you lose.  No one is capable of changing everyone's mind.   It's a lesson I've carried close to my heart in her memory for a very long time.   

Lisa's death set me drifting again.  That's how I met up with that mob that tried to kill me.  That's also how I met up with Jack Diamond.  Jack was the first mutant I ever met.  From Jack I learned the true meaning of victim.  I stuck with him partly out of gratitude because he saved my life.  I stuck with him partly because I was angry at the world and a scared shitless kid.  Jack knew it too.  He had no problem using those things against me.   He used them well too.   When I blew him apart with Xavier's machine to this day I don't know what my tears were for.  I hated the man.  Was it grief over the death of another human being?  Was it relief that he was finally dead and the whole nightmare was over?  Was it joy because Jack finally got what he deserved?  To this day I've asked myself those same questions thousands of times.  I've looked inside of the deepest recesses of my mind and soul.  I've never found the answers.

After Jack, Xavier took me in.  I can't say Charles Xavier is the warmest person far from it.  Charles always kept it a secret but I know I wasn't a planned student.  All you have to do is look at his other four students; all two-parent homes and not a criminal record between the four of them.  His friend in the FBI thought I was salvageable and convinced Charles to take a chance on me.   The thing that blows me away even today was that Charles did take that chance.  I wouldn't have done it.  A runaway with a criminal record isn't exactly ideal recruiting material when you're trying to convince parentsí send their children to your new untested school.  Charles took me in anyway.  It's something I will always be grateful for.

I was no bargain either.  I was a fifteen-year-old runaway, with a chip on his shoulder, no respect for authority, and a walking bad attitude to boot.   Like I said I was no bargain.  It took us about eight months get to get to the point of being civil to each other.  Charles gave orders and expected them to be followed with out question.  I didn't take orders very well and I never followed them with out questioning them.  After about eight months of some very bitter clashes, Charles and I came to an understanding and a healthy respect started flowing.  To this day I don't know who bent first.  Charles swore it wasn't me.  In fact Charles told me once after dealing with me in those early months, he had a perfect map on how to handle Logan years later. 

I'm not saying that Charles was the perfect parent, far from it.  He can be cold, prickly, moody, doesn't compromise well, and he has the ego the size of Mt. Everest sometimes.  Add the fact when I came to live with him; he had been living alone for years and didn't play well with others.  I give him credit for trying through.  Years later when I discovered the role models he had as parents.  I appreciate the effort he put out even more. Our relationship started changing for the better when Charles finally discovered that he wasn't going to be able to change me and just started to channel me instead.

Charles once told me that even worst traits channeled in the right directions are not necessarily bad traits.  I have no idea what the hell he's talking about.  I am the stubbornness person on earth.  I like to look at a situation from every angle before I jump in.  I like to be in charge.  I hate the words 'no win'.  I hate to lose.  I hate stupidity, and I have little tolerance for it.  I hate waste. I'm moody.  I'm prickly.   I don't connect with people well.  I don't play well with them either.  In fact I hold fast to the belief that the best way to deal with people is keep them at a nice safe distance.  I don't express emotions very well.   I hold tight to my right to be a dysfunctional human being.   Screw the self-help books.   And these are only the traits I can think of off the top of my head.  Somewhere along the line through Charles managed to channel all that and make Cyclops.

Cyclops has been a mixed blessing through the years.  He's my place to hide when Scott Summers really doesn't have a clue.  Cyclops always knows what to do and the only person that has the nerve to question him is Scott Summers.  No one questions the fact that Cyclops keeps people at a distance.  Where Scott Summers gets called a dysfunctional ice king.  Scott Summers find the sickest things funny.  Cyclops never runs away.  Scott Summers has the horrible habit of running as far as he can whenever things just get to damn personal.  Cyclops finally got Scott Summers to buy in to the dream.  Cyclops was the one that broke Scott Summers unspoken rule.  He let people get close.  Damn that Boy Scout, apple-polishing, do-gooder.

There are times I really envy Logan.  He's very open with who he is for the most part.  He can afford to be.  Logan is really all bark. An irritating, cigar smelling bark, but all bark nonetheless.  Logan tries with all his might to chase someone off at first.  He shows people the ugly side of him first.  When Logan realizes that he won't chase you off.  That's when he starts letting the softer side of him show.  He's great with kids, he likes Japanese poetry, and at his core he's a very honest and loyal person.  Like I said at times I really envy him.  

Someone once called me the soul of the X-men.  How wrong they were.  At my core I'm a very ugly person.  People like Hank McCoy, Bobby Drake, and Kurt Wagner are the soul of what the X-men are all about.  Bobby Drake looked in to the eyes of a mob that was going to lynch him.  What baffles and amazes me to this day, Bobby still believe that at their core human beings are good even after that.  Hank and Kurt are the same way.  They see the worst of human beings everyday.  People shy away from them, pretend not to see them and at their worst throw rude and hateful comments their way.  Hell, they have to worry about walking down the streets these days.   Yet, they still believe that humanity is still worth fighting for.  They make me feel humble and very jaded.

 Bobby and Hank were the first ones that Cyclops let past the walls.   Warren slipped past later for very different reasons.  Let's just say I do admire someone who's more jaded than I am.   Then Jean came along.  I was in trouble the first time I met her.  I knew it too.  Scott Summers ran as far and as fast as he could in the other direction. In Scott Summers' mind love was a very bad thing.  Cyclops had very different ideas.  Did I mention?  I hate that do-gooder sometimes.

How much do I love Jean?  I love everything she is, the good the bad and the ugly.  I love the leather clad, bad girl, biker chick Jean secretly wants to be.  I love the fact she is always tempted to go get a tattoo to scandalize her very conservative middle class parents.  I love the fact that she wants to throw Charles Xavier down the set of granite steps when the role of 'den mother' just becomes too much for her.   What can I say?   I got a secret thrill as seeing her as the Black Queen.  The sides of Jean that horrify Cyclops tend to turn Scott Summers on.  Cyclops every once in a while whispers in the back of my mind that I'm a very sick man.  I tend to agree with him.

Jean doesn't believe me when I tell her I love all of her.  I think she tends to believe that I can't deal with that dark side of hers.  She's wrong.  Hell, I was married to it for a few years.  Life with Maddie was a constant state of warfare.  I loved every minute of it.  Maddie and I really could sharpen the knives and start hacking at each other.  It was one of those 'I love you' then 'I hate you' kind of relationships.   I got a secret thrill when Maddie cared enough to hunt me down and try to kill me.  Cyclops was sickened by how things ended up.  Scott Summers secretly felt like he won because Maddie tried to kill him first.  What can I say?   I'm a very sick man.

I got Nate out of the whole mess though.  I know I was never the father that Nate wanted.  In fact I think I was a huge disappointment for most of Nate's young life.  Nate wanted a hero more like Cyclops for a father back then.  He got Slym Dayspring instead.   Slym Dayspring was a cripple and couldn't walk across the room with out either a brace or a cane.  Slym humbly took the beating that the gate guards gave him with out complaint.  Slym had to keep his distance because he couldn't let Nate too far in to his head. I'm good, but not good enough to keep a budding young telepath out of my head twenty-four seven.  I had to keep my distance most times and trust Jean to raise him the best she could.  I know Slym was not the ideal father but he tried. 

Slym Dayspring worked in the field until his fingers bled to make sure that Nate never wanted for anything.  Slym gave him everything he could, even if it wasnít what Nate really wanted.  That was for me to let my guards down and let him see all of me. I couldn't do it.   Too much was at stake.  Even if I could have let Nate see all the way in to my head; I wouldn't.  There are just something's a boy shouldn't know about his father.  There was no way in HELL I was going to show him Slym Dayspring rebel leader. 

Slym Dayspring rebel leader often had to wash other people's blood off before he went home.  Slym didn't want Nate to ever know how ugly combat was.  Slym Dayspring rebel leader, trapped two hundred of Apocalypses best soldiers in a gorge and ordered his men to open fire with out a second thought.  That day I handed Apocalypse the worst defeat that anyone had given him in over two hundred years.  I'm still not very proud of it.

  I still remember that day.  I still remember the men's screams.  Nate's evil twin and I shared a moment on that hillside that day.  When I gave the order to fire.  Stryfe looked at me with such awe from across the gorge.  Like I was some God among men.  Like he was taking in everything and committing it to memory.  It was a look that Nate never gave me growing up.  Stryfe had more of his father in him than I will ever admit.   I'll never tell Nate the maneuver that Stryfe used against him and killed his wife with was the one that I used that day.  I taught Stryfe that maneuver and he learned it well.  Like I said there are something's a boy should never learn about his father.

What amuses me today?  When Nate and I met up again.  Cyclops didn't impress him.  In fact Nate disliked Cyclops from the very beginning.  It was essentially hate at first site.  Cyclops didn't hold up to Slym in Nate's mind.  Nate resented the fact that Cyclops was trying to claim the title of father.  Slym was his father and Cyclops wasn't.  Maybe thatís maturity and wisdom speaking on Nate's part?  Who knows?  Someday, I am going to have Nate explain that to me.  Someday, I'm going to get the guts up to ask Nate what he really thinks about Scott Summers.  It might be with my dying breath.   But someday, I am going to get the guts up to ask him, someday but not today.

I once remember Logan giving Kitty a lecture about how swords are forged.  The iron is melted and forged over and over again as the elements come together to make that blade. The stronger the blade the more it's been forged.   A blacksmith never knows what type of blade is forged until the very end though.  The blacksmith won't know if that sword will hold a sharp killing edge for years to come, or shatter with the first good swing.  If any of the elements were mixed wrong the blade will be brittle and shatter.  Sometimes, I think about the different elements and crucibles that forged me.   I compare my self to an untested blade.  Guess what?  Either of the two possibilities scares me.   


 

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