Ororo does not understand Scott’s obsession with the Blackbird. It’s not a new plane but Charles and Erik, and now Scott, have been modifying it for years, just as they -- Charles and Erik, not Scott -- had been working on Cerebro. The Blackbird looks like any other airplane to her, though in the shadows of the underground garage -- she’s tempted to call it Scott’s batcave -- it’s almost sinister-looking. The black paint job doesn’t help.
One of the fluorescent bulbs flickers dimly overhead. Scott is too busy working on the plane to notice, but then he can probably see in the dark. He’s removed one of the side panels and is peering into the cavity, the light from his visor casting a red glow over the mess of wires. She’s not sure what could possibly be wrong with it. They’ve only taken it on one mission, a simple flight across the state to check out a possible mutant situation, and that went smoothly, unusually enough -- their missions hardly ever did, especially with anti-mutant sentiment on the rise now that people are starting to believe mutants actually exist.
She taps Scott on the shoulder to get his attention and says, “Bad time? I could come back later.”
“No, no,” he says quickly, and drops the panel securely back into place before she can make an escape. “Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe.” He glances back at her once before disappearing into the flight deck. She’s inclined to believe him -- for the plane’s sake, if not her own -- and follows him inside.
As she buckles herself into the co-pilot’s seat, he carefully goes over the safety features and points out the differences between the Blackbird and the rented plane in which she learned to fly. There had been no question of her learning on the Blackbird; she’s somewhat surprised he suggested she learn to fly it too, after receiving her pilot’s license.
The longer Scott talks, the more relaxed and animated he becomes. “...What?” he asks, when he finally winds down and catches her studying him.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you talk this much before,” she says.
She and Scott haven’t spent a lot of time together, despite growing up in the same house. It was easier to gravitate towards Jean and Hank, both of whom are the extroverted type, while Scott was a little standoffish. Ororo never worried about what to say when she was with Jean, but she and Scott alone together tended to result in a lot of awkward silences -- much like the one that’s happening now.
Scott reddens under his visor and flips a few switches that bring the Blackbird shuddering to life. Ororo gets the garage door. Between the engines starting up and the roof retracting, it’s too noisy to hold a conversation, not that either of them are talking much, but they do need to be able to communicate during the flight. There’s no help for it, then; the earphones squash her hair, but cut down on the noise.
“Ready?” Scott says into his microphone. His too serious face slips into a momentary grin; Ororo finds it infectious and she smiles back.
They fly at night, the better to remain undetected by the neighbours, though Xavier’s property is large enough that the Blackbird can take off and land without being seen by the outside world. It is pretty up here, she admits to herself, but it would be prettier yet without the windshield in front of her eyes and the metal cabin surrounding her. She wants to feel the wind, not breathe the stale, recycled air in the plane.
There’s a little turbulence and, distracted by her thoughts, she over-corrects ever so slightly.
“Easy,” Scott says quietly, but makes no move to take over the controls himself. She doesn’t ask if he’s talking to her or the plane.
If she were outside, buoyed by the wind currents, she wouldn’t need to think about the mechanics of flying. It comes naturally to her, unlike being a pilot. She slants a quick look at Scott -- his calm expression is belied by his clenched jaw -- and ponders whether she could fly this plane using her powers rather than its engines. And if she could do it without Scott noticing.
They return to the school with no further mishaps. Ororo lets Scott do the worrying as she slowly sets the plane down, back under the bare patch of newly laid asphalt. No doubt he’s calculated all the angles and ways in which she could botch the landing -- but he’s gotten better about keeping those thoughts to himself. It takes her a little longer than usual to set the plane down: no runways for the Blackbird, with its capabilities for vertical landings, and it’s not something she’s practiced before, outside of training simulations.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Scott asks once they’re off the plane.
“I don’t know,” she says. “You were clutching the armrest the entire time.” Ororo pats down the top of her hair. It’s getting long again; she might let it grow out this time.
“Not the entire time,” he protests. “Same time tomorrow?”
Ororo yawns. “Sure. Good night, Scott.”
Ororo learns to fly the Blackbird because it’s the practical thing to do, like learning to drive a car, and because there’s a sense of accomplishment at gaining a new skill. She’s more comfortable with it now, but she’ll never love it the way Scott does.
“Do you want to fly?” She nods at the controls in front of him, ready to switch over.
Scott turns to look at her, surprised. “Oh, no. It’s your session.”
That’s a token protest if she’s ever heard one. She rolls her eyes and acts upon an idea that’s been on her mind.
The sky is dark and clear as she reaches out with her power for the wind; it comes to her instantly, curling around the aircraft like a playful thing. She can’t turn off the engines -- Scott will notice that for sure -- so she pushes on the plane instead and it banks to the left with dizzying speed. The Blackbird beeps a warning for inclement weather. Scott notices that, of course, but he can’t do anything about it anymore than he can stop the wind. She laughs because this is power, this is freedom, and it’s as close to flying as she’s come, inside of an airplane.
It’s not enough, though. She’s still in here, while the wind is out there, so she lets the energy drain away and straightens out the plane. She feels sluggish and disconnected from the earth and the sky; it’ll take a little while for her to feel balanced again, even though her recovery time has been improving lately.
“Are you sure you don’t want to fly?” she asks again.
Scott’s visor flashes red when he looks at her and his lips are set in a thin line, but all he says -- in that reserved voice of his he uses when he’s spectacularly pissed off -- is, “Well, if you insist,” and settles his hands on the control wheel.
She doesn’t realize she’s fallen asleep until she hears Scott calling her name and wakes up. She stretches; the pilot’s chair is not a comfortable place to sleep.
“I’m glad you find my company so relaxing,” he says drolly.
“It’s Jean’s fault,” she mumbles, not entirely awake yet. The humming of the plane’s engines must have lulled her to sleep, which is yet another reason she prefers flying to piloting an airplane; sleep is the last thing on her mind when she’s inside the crackling energy of a brewing storm. “We went out last night and didn’t get in until--”
“Three in the morning,” Scott says. “Believe me, I know.”
“Oh.” Ororo studies him. He doesn’t look mad or sound annoyed -- about the previous night or her little power show in the plane -- just tired. “Did we disturb you?”
“I don’t mind,” he says, holding out a hand to help her up. He probably means that, if it involves Jean.
They stumble into the mansion together until they get to the second level where the living quarters are and drift apart to find their own beds. It’s her last practice session because spring break is over -- Jean’s already gone back to med school -- and they have a mission from Xavier to get to in the morning.
Ororo stands under the shower, the water turned on as hot as she can stand it.
It had been simple enough to fly to Los Angeles to verify that a genetically engineered Deinonychus was no threat to a girl, who was likely not a mutant, though she had some ability to communicate with it. Ororo didn’t quite understand what the parents were thinking with that gift. “Dinosaurs,” she muttered. Jurassic Park should not be real life. Her day was going well until she watched the news on the flight back. Some senator was talking in favour of the Mutant Control Act and it was enough to make her blood boil.
Scott leaned over and shut it off. “I really hate that guy.”
“Yeah,” said Ororo, contemplating the breadth and intensity of her disapproval and anger.
“Um, Storm?” Scott glanced at her uneasily.
He pointed and said, almost apologetically, “If you wouldn’t mind...”
She followed his gaze out the windshield to the dark, roiling mass of clouds gathering around them. “Oh, oops,” she said and concentrated on calmer things, like dropping that...politician into a vat of goop. Surely Hank could whip up something suitably disgusting in his new laboratory.
Even now, thinking about it is undoing the soporific effects of a hot shower and she tosses and turns for a long while before finally dropping off to sleep.
Scott closes the windows and watches the trees bend and shiver from the wind. He paces restlessly as the rain pounds against roof. The storm does not help dispel his already disquiet mood. He feels a sudden impulse to be outside, to let the storm carry him where it will and let his worries wash away like the rain.
Scott’s insistent voice in her ear is like something out of a nightmare. She flails awake and demands, “What’s wrong?”
“What? Nothing,” he says, as if it’s nothing out of the ordinary for him to be in her room at -- she checks the clock -- quarter to four in the morning.
“It’s not even daylight out,” she mutters. “This better be good, Summers.”
“Come with me. Please?” he says, dangling a motorcycle jacket in front of her. She takes in the pleading in his voice and the nervous energy thrumming through him, and takes the jacket from him. He turns around politely while she finds some real pants to put on.
They race through the dark and lonely highways with nothing but the light from Scott’s motorcycle to guide them. The storm’s cleared, but the roads are still slick. Ororo wraps her arms around him, hangs on tight, and trusts he knows what he’s doing. She sees the corner of his mouth turn up as he accelerates.
The wind whips by all around them, bitterly cold and utterly thrilling. She loses track of time and how many miles they’ve gone; the road signs pass by in a blur. She looks around when he slows down. They’re at a beach -- not one that gets many visitors, judging from the look of it. He shuts off the engine, pockets the keys, and wordlessly they make their way down to the rocky shoreline to watch the sunrise.
“Can you hurry it along?” Scott shivers underneath his jacket and his breath uncurls in a thin white vapour.
“The sun?” Ororo shakes her head, but she encourages the morning fog to concentrate a little ways from them. “It’ll warm up soon. It’s always coldest just before dawn.”
They stand there without speaking for several long minutes until she says, “Do you come here often?” to break the silence.
Scott shrugs. “Not really.” He hesitates, like he’s searching for the right words. “It doesn’t matter where I go. I just like to...”
“Fly?” She has a little more appreciation for Scott’s constant fiddling with his motorcycle now.
“Something like that.”
The sky lightens almost imperceptibly, the black turning a dark, dark blue. She wonders if Scott can see it. His eyes are, as always, hidden behind heavy red lenses; she’s unsure if it’s the glasses or his mutation that causes him to see everything in shades of red.
“Do you ever think about leaving?” she asks.
“Leaving?” he echoes. He sounds uncertain and very young, not that either of them are old.
She certainly doesn’t feel old enough to devote herself to one cause for the rest of her life. It’s Xavier’s vision, not hers. “Erik left, Hank left, Jean--”
“She’ll be back.”
And maybe she will. Ororo doesn’t have the same kind of relationship with Jean that Scott does, but -- “Jean likes living on her own,” Ororo points out. And the mansion, though large and mostly empty now, is starting to feel too constraining. Do you feel it too? She wants to ask if this is why he takes his motorcycle out at night and drives recklessly fast, so unlike his usual carefulness. But Scott, attuned as he is to living with telepaths, doesn’t hear what she doesn’t say.
“You’re not very easy to talk to, you know,” she complains lightly, aware that the same could be said about her.
“What do you want me to say?” Scott shoves his hands into his jacket pockets and looks at her. She imagines he’s looking into her eyes, but she can’t be certain. All she can see are pulses of red behind his glasses. From when he blinks, she realizes.
Ororo shrugs, envious of the ease with which Jean could simply talk and spill forth with whatever was bothering her. “Tell me...” that I won’t be left behind here, that Charles’ goals are worthy and true, that you have doubts too. “Tell me,” she starts again, “what you want to be when you grow up.”
That startles a low laugh from Scott. “A rock star,” he admits, ducking his head.
“Really?” She grins. “That’s so unlike you.”
“I know,” he says, with a little more of his usual dry tone. “That’s why I don’t ever have to worry about it coming true. What about you?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet.” It’s a cop-out answer, but an honest one nonetheless.
“Well, you don’t have to decide right now.”
“Oh.” She blinks. “That’s, um, actually very helpful.”
“Okay,” he says doubtfully. Then shifts his gaze past her. “Look, the sun.”
It creeps up over the horizon, brilliantly yellow, turning both water and sky in front of them a clear deep blue. It holds no answers for her either. She’s suddenly hungry and keenly aware of not getting enough sleep three nights in a row.
“Let’s go home, Scott,” she says and holds out her hand for the keys. She wants food and a nap, maybe not in that order. He hesitates a moment before pressing the keys into her palm, but she doesn’t take it personally. If there’s anything he loves more than the Blackbird, it’s his motorcycle.
Scott wraps his arms around her and she turns the motorcycle back the way they came, racing the sun as it climbs the sky.