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Speaker For The Dead

Ah don't own any of the X-Folks!  They belong to Marvel Comics.  This is a fanfic written strictly
for entertainment purposes and not intended to infringe on copyrights held by Marvel Comics or any
others!  So don't sue moi!  *eeeppp*  If'n ya'll do Logan is gonna be really pissed!  <VBEG>

Rated PG-13 for some naughty language!  Otherwise no sex, no drugs, and no Rock and Rock:(:(
Consarn it!

The concept of a Speaker For The Dead, Ah have borrowed without permission from Orson Scott
Card's excellent "Ender's Game" and it rightly belongs to him!

The fic was  first written as a contest entry for the monthly writing
contest on Matchstickdudes Site!  For more info, go to:
http://www.angelfire.com/rant/welcome/contest.html  Check it out:):)

The Speaker For The Dead showed up today.

I gotta say, I wasn't much impressed.  I mean, for a Shi'ar, she ain't too impressive.  Now Chuck's frail Lilandra, she's somethin', bub.  Tall and stately, kinda like a gothic cathedral or some damned thing.  Beautiful and imposin' all at the same time.  Made my teeth ache, first time I ever saw her. Most of the Shi'ar I've seen are pretty fine lookin'.  All those colorful feathers are real easy on the eye.  But, even the Cajun wouldn't flirt with this one.  She was down right drab lookin'.  Hell, she even dressed frumpy, fer Christ's sake.  No flowin' robes nor any such for *her*.  Nope.  Just a plain white jumpsuit, pristine and simple.  Found out that white is the Shi'ar color o' mourning, so I guess it was a professional thing.

From Day One she had everybody overlookin' her, not paying the least bit o' attention to anything she did.  Yer eyes just kinda naturally slid right passed her without noticing.  Most of the X-Men hardly spoke to her unless she asked them a direct question in that soft, cautious voice o' hers.  Like she didn't wanna bother anybody or make a fuss.  She goes to a hellova lot of trouble not to be noticed.  Seen that before.  She'd have made a great ninja, that way. She hardly said two words to anybody.  Not "Boo!"  But she sure as shootin' got everybody to talk to *her*; and that's a fact. People couldn't shut up around her, I'm tellin' ya.  Christ Almighty, even Rogue couldn't shut her yap around the bitch, and that was like pullin' teeth, bet yer derrière on *that*.

She may not have been obvious about it ... not obvious at all ... but she was learnin'.  Learnin' fast.

About Scotty.

And about *us*.

She didn't fool me for a second though.  Not with all her quiet ways; not even with all her apologetic smiles.  It's the eyes that give her away.  They always do.  She don't miss a thing.  Nothin'.  She watches people.  And what's worse, she understands what she sees.

"You don't like me, do you Logan?" she asked me once when we were alone.

"Not much," I said.

I don't know what the hell we need with a Speaker For The Dead anyway. Sure, I know it's a Shi'ar religious thing.  Lillandra sent her here to try and help Chuck deal with what happened.  Cyke is still dead.  Ain't nothing gonna change that.

Blown to Hell and back by the bomb that bastard Bastion planted inside his chest.  Damned lucky it didn't take the rest o' us with him.  Fact is, it might've if Cyke hadn't *made* everybody get away just in time for the festivities and Jeannie hadn't shielded us with her teke.

So, she watched and listened and she learned.  Trouble was, none o' us had any idea just how *much* she learned ...

Not until it was too late.

Until she started carving on us like a damn surgeon with her flamin' words.  Much too late then.  All we could do by that time was stand there and bleed.  Hell, I almost felt bad fer Chuck.  And that right there oughta tell ya how bad it was.  Real bad.  Not that the sorry bastid didn't deserve it, mind ya.  Christ.  Jeannie still ain't hardly talkin'; and she got the best of it, actually.  All the Speaker did for her was bring back some memories she'd rather not live with.

God ... Jeannie ... I wish ... I wish ...

Well, never ya mind about *that*.  Ancient history, now.

Yeah.  Ancient history, all right.  Like the sack o' Rome, or maybe the fall o' Constantinople.

She called us all together when she was done.  In the Danger Room. Kinda appropriate, I guess. Hell, the Shi'ar *did* provide the tech for the place; just like they provided her.  Lil is good that way.  Lucky us.  And ya'd better believe she made good use o' all those high-tech gizmo's and hologenerators.  Oh, yeah.  Half the fun was all the images she conjured up, just fer us.

Everybody was sad and kinda nervous to begin with.  Bobby was tryin' to make a few feeble jokes to take our minds off things.  Didn't work for spit.  Warren kept flexing his wings and pacing.  Hank just looked real tired. Chuck, o' course, only sat there in his hoverchair, looking a mite too calm, hands buried in that blanket in his lap.  Maybe to stop the shakin'? Or, at least hide it.  God bless Shi'ar technology.

The Speaker stepped up to the dais she'd created with the hologenerators and launched right into the heart o' the thing.  Didn't waste a damned second.

"Scott Summers may no longer Speak for himself," she reminded us in that patient, infernally professional voice o' hers.  Like any of us were likely to forget that. "And so I must Speak for him."

Ya coulda heard a muckin' pin drop.  I don't think anyone was even breathing.  Satisfied that she had our undivided attention, she continued.  "He hid behind many masks. Not just the one he wore as Cyclops. To each of you he was someone different.  Someone ... unique."

Like laser-fire her gaze strafed each o' us in turn.  Bobby's pretty pale at the best o' times; would have sworn he couldn't get any whiter if he tried.  I was wrong.  The only one who wasn't affected was the Prof.  Jeannie started cryin' right then and she never really stopped.  I had to sit on myself to keep from rushin' to her side.  Damn fool thing to do.

When the Speaker's eyes lit on me, they paused, and I set my teeth, stifling a growl.  Let her do her worst.  C'mon bitch.  Hit me.  But best duck when ya do.  I heal *real* quick.

"Some of you called him sanctimonious fool ... rival, even  ... "  I didn't let myself wince, but everybody there knew who she was talking about, right enough.  They all turned to me when they heard her words.

"But you learned to respect him, didn't you?"  The pause was very dramatic.  Yeah, she was good. Damned good.  "Or *did* you?  Was it really respect or did you simply learn to adapt?  You're very good at that, it must be said.  You've learned to adapt to a great many things in your long life.  Why not this?  Easy enough to do, after all."

All right.  I screwed up.  I admit it.  My claws popped and I bared my teeth at her.  She ignored me and went back to muckin' us over.  But be damned if I was gonna let her know she'd drawn blood. I decided that I'd die first.

Or *she* would.

I sheathed my claws and stood quietly for the rest.

"But even if you came to respect him, you still envied him, resented him, didn't you?  He had something you wanted very badly.  Something he was keeping from you; and you weren't used to that."  From the corner of my eye I saw Jeannie stuff her fist in her mouth.  To keep from screaming, maybe.  The Speaker never even blinked.

"And yet ... How many times did he save your life?  And vice versa?  You came to accept him as a teammate; someone you could count on to watch your back, to be there for you when you needed him.  Someone you were willing to follow.  You don't do that easily, I'd say.  What was it, I wonder, that finally convinced you, Logan?"  It was like, maybe, hearing my name broke her spell or somethin', set everyone there free.  We all seemed to breath just a bit easier.  The Speaker's eyes drifted to rest on Jeannie for just a second and her nicitating membranes flashed to cover them for a moment.  Never did figure out why.  But ... songbirds do that just before they sing, I know *that*.

"Perhaps you decided that if he were worthy of ... someone else's love ... if he deserved *her* loyalty and passion, then there must be more to him than you knew.  It pleases you to feign ignorance, to play the roughneck.  'Canucklehead' you label yourself. But you have not lived this long by being a fool, nor by placing your trust in the wrong people. And in the end your trust in him was well warranted, wasn't it?  He proved that.  With his life."

And we got a real birds eye view of some of those times thanks to the Shi'ar holographics in the Danger Room.  Cyke pullin' my bacon outta the fire, time after time. Me, returnin' the favor.  Me, followin' his orders like some tin-plated soldier boy.  And doin' it with a smile.  Son of a gun. 'Magine that.  I wanted to look away real bad. But I couldn't.  She was right.  And I owed Scotty that much, at least.

Kinda ashamed to admit it, but I didn't really hear what she had to say to Warren or the popsicle.  I ... had a lot to think about, okay?  It was kind o' liberatin' in a strange sort o' way.  Don't ask me why.  Couldn't explain it if my flamin' life depended on it.  But when it was over I felt better.  Better about Scotty.  And about myself, too, far as that goes.

"So long Scotty," I thought.  "Say howdy to Mariko for me, huh?  Tell her I love her."

Like I said, I wasn't exactly payin' too much attention while she was talkin' to Warren and Bobby. But when I looked up again the flyboy had flown the coop and Bobby ... Bobby was cryin'.  Frozen teardrops fell from his blue eyes like rain from the sky, makin' a kinda funny tinklin' sound when they hit the metal floor.

*plink plink plink*

But when she laid those too damned knowing eyes on my Jeannie, ya better believe I snapped to.

"Some of you called him lover.  Husband.  You knew him better than anyone.  You saw sides of him he never allowed others to see.  To you he was much more than just the Field Leader of the X-Men.  For you there was a part of him that would always be 'Slim' Summers, the shy, uncertain boy you met when you came to Xavier's School that first time.  But he couldn't hide from you behind that ruby quartz prison, could he?  You wouldn't let him.  Even then, with your telepathic abilities blocked for your own good by your mentor, you sensed the real Scott Summers.  Before anyone else, you knew the brave, dedicated man huddling beneath all that quiet and reserve.  Sensed the loyalty and passion of which he was capable. To hear him cry, 'Good girl, Jean!' was like a benediction.  And you fell in love."

She was still weepin' but Jeannie almost smiled then.

"And you were the one to help him release it; to share it with the world.  To open himself up.  To free himself to be himself.  You knew his thoughts and feelings.  The feel of his body laying next to you in your bed.  The scent of his hair; the joy of his touch.  When the bomb implanted in his chest exploded his last thoughts were of you and you heard them.  Did you remember that as you wiped the blood and small bits of his flesh from off your body? When you screamed was it his name?  You showered for hours trying to get yourself clean; trying to forget the sight and the smell of his blood. Did it work?  It's almost impossible to tell if someone is crying in a shower, you know.  The others were so worried. They feared you might do yourself an injury.  Finally, it was your mentor, Charles Xavier, who pulled you from the shower and held you as you mourned from the heart.  Wet and sobbing, you clung to him until he dressed you in warm nightclothes and put you to bed.  Did you dream of Scott, I wonder?"

Jeannie's face dissolved like wet kleenex and I started to get pretty muckin' angry again.  Damn her! If the Shi'ar have a Hell, I'd gladly have seen her burning in it, long 'bout then.

The random holoimages changed again.  Scott playing with Nathan Christopher.  Scott and Jeannie laughing and kissing.  Scott smiling and wearing a funny hat for Nathan's first birthday.  Christmas under the mistletoe.

"He is gone, now. And yet, he will never truly be gone.  He will always be with you; in your thoughts and in your heart.  There is a culture here on your Earth very like we Shi'ar in some ways.  They call themselves the Dineh:  the People.  Others, less sanguine, call them the Navajo.  They have a saying, these Navajo.  They say that no one ever truly dies as long as there is one who person remembers them."  I swear, The Speaker's eyes softened and her voice lowered with compassion and hope.

"Thanks to you Scott Summers will never die," she said.

And then, like flamin' magnets, her eyes were drawn to Chuck.  I think he figured what was comin'. He ain't a telepath fer nothin'.  The holoimages had a lot o' Danger Room stuff, then, and some few fragments of a very young and skinny Scott.  No wonder they called him 'Slim'.  Boy needed some meat on his bones real bad back in them days.  He'da likely been embarrassed as all Hell by the whole thing, like a man lookin' at his baby pictures, or somethin'.  Kid muscled up right nice, though.

"Some of you called him student ... and son."

Charlie settled back in his chair like he was real tired or somethin', his face empty of all expression, like a cup waitin' ta be filled.  But he never said a word.  Not one single word.  That ain't good folks.  Seen guys like that before.  Quiet.  Not sayin' jack to anybody at all.  Broodin'.  Sufferin' in silence like a star burnin' itself out in airless space.  All tied up in knots in their guts.  Like that star, sooner or later they explode.  Usually sooner.  And they usually take several other guys down with them when they go.

Been there.

Done that.

"He came to you when he was only fifteen; lost and alone, frightened and unsure.  He did not know what he was, save that he was different, a *freak*.  You took him into your home and your life.  He was the first of your X-Men.  Slowly, you taught him, helped draw him out from his shielding shell. He was your Avatar, was he not?  I wonder ... if you'd still had the use of your legs, Charles Xavier, *would* he have been as important to you?  Crippled as you are, you could not lead you X-Men into battle.  Although, you wished to, didn't you?  But since that was not possible you settled for making Scott Summers your 'Field Leader'; your surrogate.  Why else did you monitor him so closely, during those first tentative missions?  Oh, you told yourself it was to see to his safety.  His safety and the safety of the others.  But was it really?  Or was it simply so that you might experience vicariously, once more, through him, the excitement, the thrill of battle?  In your younger days you were quite the adventurer, were you not?  Did you miss it?  Did you try to recapture it using Scott Summers as your unwitting pawn?"

Xavier blanched and looked like he'd swallowed something pretty damned vile.  But the Speaker still wasn't done with him.  She cut him no slack as Consort to the Majestrix, gotta hand her that.  She must've been savin' the best up for last is all I can think.

"And you, such an ethical man!  But ... did you ever concern yourself with the ethics of taking a teenager, a young man like Scott ... like all your first X-Men ... and training them to be members of your own personal militia?  Of speeding them pell mell into a life of constant danger and conflict? They were children.  You made them soldiers in your private little war. Did you even give them a choice?  Did you ever ask Scott Summers what *he* wanted from his life? Did you?"

Her lips thinned.  "Too late, now, isn't it?"

Chuck never even bothered to answer the question.  Wasn't necessary.  He didn't have to.  Answer was pretty damned obvious.  The crest of feathers along the Speaker's head and neck rose majestically.  Again, I ain't real sure exactly what the Hell that means for the Shi'ar.

But birds do it after they've won a damned hard fight.

She surprised everyone, then, by looking away, like she was retreating from some battlefield or another.  Pretty sure ol' Chuck consoled himself with the idea that *she* blinked first.

"But you were the one who first saw his strength.  Knew it and nurtured it.  Glimpsed the man he could become and set him on the path of fulfilling that destiny. Significant that the two people who knew and loved him best were both telepaths; who could see for themselves all that he was, all that he sometimes hid from others. Even before Jean Grey you knew his heart. And he trusted you with it.  Trusted you with his life.  Most important to him, he trusted you with  the lives of the only friends he ever knew, the life of the woman he loved.  He would have died for you.  He *did* die for you."

Her gaze raced 'round the room embracing us all.

"He died for all of you."

"You made him the hero he was.  The man he was.  Molded him, shaped him, as a good sculptor frees the image inside the marble with which they work.  Lovingly polished and burnished him as fine, precious, malleable gold is fashioned into something even more breathtaking and lovely.  It was you who first gave his sad life purpose and direction.  You gave him a home; someplace to belong, friends, a family.  Something *worth* dying for.  So that when the time came ... he died gladly if it meant the rest of you were safe.  You were his teacher, his mentor in all things.  Your Dream became his Dream."

Xavier closed his eyes.

"And *you* became a father, Charles Xavier."

The man opened his eyes and released all the pain living there.  Can't say if he cried or not.  He hide his face behind his sheltering hands, so it was pretty hard to tell. But his shoulders shook kind o' like he was trying real bad *not* to cry.  Jeannie stumbled to his side and knelt down by his floating chair.  Her trembling hands reached out and gathered him in like a child.  He did cry, then.  I saw it. Like a river dyke bursting its floodwaters, his eyes misted and he began to weep.  Great racking sobs like he wasn't, maybe, ever gonna stop.  He and Jeannie just held each other, hanging on tight, crying together, taking comfort in one another until eventually all the tears were done.

Xavier wiped his eyes with his handkerchief, then handed it to Jeannie to do the same.  Beautiful face like that doesn't need makeup so she didn't smudge her mascara or nothin'. She held Xavier's hand when she handed him back his handkerchief.

"Thank you," she whispered.

Xavier squeezed her hand lightly.  "No," he said quietly, "thank *you* ... "

He seemed a lot easier livin' inside his skin, now, somehow.  I knew the feelin'.  Truth is, we all seemed to be livin' with ourselves and with Scotty's ghost a little better just about now.  I glanced at the Speaker with new eyes.  New respect.  Suddenly this Speaking For The Dead crap began to make a little more sense.

The Speaker lowered her feathered head and spoke softly.

"In the end, it can be said, simply, that he was a man.  That he loved and was loved in return."

Like a slow tide making its way out to sea, the Speaker made her way down from the dais.  She moved, untouched and unrestrained, through the murmuring ranks of X-Men kind o' like Moses partin' the Red Sea.  No one stopped her.  No one spoke to her.  I guess there was nothin' left to say, really.

She left the next day.  I was the only one there to see her off. Figured she'd already said her goodbye's to Chuck.  She actually bowed to me.

"Logan," she said, nodding her head in my direction.

"Speaker," I nodded in turn.  Hell, I even took off my hat.  For a moment I just stood there feelin' like a proper fool, holding the damned thing like some kind o' magic talisman fer protection or somethin'.  What was I here for, anyway?  What did I have to say that hadn't already been said? And better said than *I* could ever say it, that's fer sure.

And then it hit me.  I remembered the relief, the catharsis she gave us; me and the others, too, and I knew just what to say, after all.

"Ya did good, babe.  Ya did good."

In a twinkle of fading, softly cascading colored lights she vanished, transported aboard the cloaked Shi'ar starship waiting in low Earth orbit to take her home.

But not before I saw her smile.

The End

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Speaker For The Dead

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