INT. — AERIAL SHOT— ORDINARY SUMMER CAMP — MORNING
A blue sky stretches out across a beautiful pine forest, sun glinting off small square roofs between the trees. We pan across the scene, settling on a wide grassy field at the center of the camp: a flagpole rises proudly in the center, rings of campers of all ages surrounding it as the notes of the national anthem fill the air. At the top of the pole fly two flags: the stars and stripes, and below it, a bold golden X on a background of radiant blue.
Zooming in, we begin to notice things out of place among the campers. Eyes glitter in unnatural colours, skin shimmers and segments almost like— could it be scales? The woman standing beside the flagpole’s hair drifts in a nonexistent breeze. A young girl, standing in the front row, twiddles what appears to be a length of ribbon between her fingers… but as we watch, the ribbon lengthens and twists freely around her hand, glowing in a pastel rainbow of light.
One of the older boys in the back reaches out to poke another girl, but his hand goes right through her shoulder. He blinks in surprise, and the grass at his feet frosts over and crunches under his boots. The dark-haired young woman beside him elbows him in the side with a smirk, eyes flashing pink.
The camera pans up to the sign above the dining hall, which proclaims proudly:
They’d been driving about nine hours, and Kitty was getting antsy. The year away from camp had been rougher than usual: beyond the ordinary schoolwork and strained social life, there’d been a whole rash of anti-mutant campaigns in her town, and just a few weeks ago, she’d found one of their pamphlets laying on her mom’s bedside table. Camp had always been an oasis for Kitty, but this time, it was an escape in more ways than one.
“We’re almost there,” said her dad, glancing away from the road. “You excited?”
More than you know, she thought but didn’t say. “‘Course.”
“Mom and I’ll miss you,” he said, and Kitty almost believed him.
They drove in silence for the next few minutes, trees rolling away on both sides of the highway: Kitty fixed her gaze on the horizon, leaning forwards and tapping her fingers absentmindedly on the dashboard. A sign whizzed by on their right: Camp Xavier, 5mi.
“Should be there in ten minutes or so,” muttered her dad to himself. Kitty ignored him and tried not to read between the lines. Should be rid of her in ten minutes or so.
They pulled into the camp parking lot around three, and Kitty wordlessly went for the door, but her dad reached for her arm. “Kit.”
“Katherine,” he said, looking at her sadly. “You know I love you.”
I wish I was easier to love.
“You’re my little girl, and you’ll always be that, no matter what. No matter what, you hear me?”
Kitty closed her eyes. “I love you too, Dad.”
“I’ve never cared who or what you are,” he murmured. “Because I know you’re my daughter, and that’s all that matters. And look, Kit, I don’t know anything about what’s going on with your mother, but I want to make sure you know that there is nothing I wouldn’t do for you.”
Don’t cry. Don’t cry.
She felt her dad reach out to take her into a hug, and she let him hold her for a moment before pulling away— but he just held her tighter, so she bit her lip and phased through his arms before she started bawling.
Her dad half-smiled. “Have a good summer, sweetheart. Do you need help with your bags?”
“I’m good,” she said, trying to swallow the lump in her throat.
“Okay,” he replied. “Okay.”
Kitty reached for the door handle again and stepped out onto the hard-packed dirt, taking a deep breath of the cool air. Okay.
“YOU KNOW,” Bobby shouted, “WHEN YOU SAID YOU COULD GIVE ME A RIDE TO CAMP, THIS WASN’T EXACTLY WHAT I’D IMAGINED!”
“WHAT?” shouted Warren, tilting left to avoid a goose.
“I ASSUMED YOU HAD A CAR,” yelled Bobby louder. “YOU’RE RICH! RICH PEOPLE HAVE CARS!”
“THIS WAY’S GOT NO TRAFFIC JAMS,” Warren bellowed.
“THIS WAY’S GOING TO END WITH ME IMPALED ON A TREE AFTER YOU DROP ME!”
“DID YOU JUST ASK ME TO DROP YOU?”
“COOL,” said Warren, and let go of Bobby’s wrists.
Bobby stuck his hands out in a valiant attempt to catch himself before he hit the lake, but all he managed was a brief icy cloud and a tremendous splash. “FUCK!”
It only took a couple seconds to freeze over a chunk of the water so he could climb onto the ice, but it was more than enough time for his dignity to shrivel up and die. Bobby rolled out of the lake like a beached whale, flopping onto his back in the middle of the ice.
Warren landed lightly beside him. “Sorry, Bobby. I thought you said—”
Bobby froze up a snowball and hurled it at his friend’s face.
The two women sitting across the aisle of the train kept sneaking sideways glances at Kurt, then looking away just as fast every time he noticed. He hated that— if they were going to stare, then let them stare, but the pretense that they weren’t pissed him off.
“Take a photo,” snapped Rogue from beside him. “It’ll last longer.”
“It’s fine,” Kurt said. “Forget it.”
Rogue checked her watch. “We’ll be there in a couple minutes anyways.” She hefted her backpack on one shoulder.
The train pulled in on schedule, and Kurt and Rogue filed out into the bright sun with their bags, shielding their eyes from the sudden bright light. The women who’d been staring at Kurt marched off towards the bus stop, very pointedly not looking. He liked that even less.
“Kurt!” came a happy shout, and all of a sudden someone ran up and was hugging him: a mass of curly red hair obscured his vision. Head counselor Jean Grey smiled widely as she held him out at arm’s length. “I missed you! How’ve you been?”
“Just fine,” said Kurt. “Life goes on, and such.”
“God, you look so different! Did you cut your hair?”
Rogue waved half-heartedly. “Hi, Jean.”
“Oh my gosh,” Jean said, abandoning Kurt and holding her arms out for Rogue. “I swear you’ve grown since last year. I remember when you were just a little junior…”
“Careful,” warned Rogue as Jean hugged her.
“I’ll be fine,” Jean laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous. Ah, I’m so excited you’re here! Xavier’s had me and Scott helping Logan with maintenance for the past three days, and… Well, you know I love Logan, but Scott’s a different story.”
Kurt snickered. “I can imagine.”
“So are we the first ones to show up?” Rogue asked, changing the subject.
Jean nodded. “You two are the only ones coming on the train. Kitty’s getting driven, Jubilee’s hitching a ride with Laura and her aunt, Bobby and Warren are— well, knowing Bobby, he’s probably half-conscious and making bad jokes in a ditch somewhere, but they’ll turn up at some point. All the juniors are coming up tomorrow, and there’s two new seniors we’re going to pick up on the way.”
“Fresh blood? What’re they like?”
Jean shrugged. “Illyana and Peter— the girl’s a teleporter, and the boy can turn himself into metal, or something. We’re going to keep him away from Camp Brotherhood.”
Kurt looked up, interested. “Another teleporter?”
“That’s what Xavier tells me,” said Jean. “But don’t worry. You’ll always be special.”
Scott poked his head up from behind the bunks. “What?”
Logan stood in the cabin doorway, gesturing to the floor. “Mud! You’re getting mud on my floors, Slim. My floors.”
“It’s barely a speck,” protested Scott. “Here—” he brushed the dirt away. “All better.”
The stocky groundskeeper huffed. “Just take your boots off next time. Takes five seconds.”
“You didn’t seen to care when Jean tracked crud all over the girls’ cabins yesterday!”
Logan rolled his eyes. “Clean it up, Summers.”
Scott spread his arms incredulously. “I did! Look, you can’t even see it!”
“I can see it.”
“No, you can’t.”
“Do you really want to argue with me?” Logan growled.
Scott pushed his red sunglasses further up on his nose. “No, sir.”
Jubilee bounced up and down excitedly as they pulled up the drive to camp. In the front seat, Laura’s aunt glanced in the rearview mirror. “You all right back there?”
“She’s fine,” said Laura, then to her friend: “I think you should try and calm down.”
“I can’t,” Jubilee giggled. “We’re going home!”
Laura glanced out the window. “Yeah.”
Jubilee sensed something was off. “What’s wrong, Laura?”
“Nothing. It’s just… this is your home more than mine, you know?” She waved her hands halfheartedly. “You’ve been going there so long, and I…”
“Come on,” Jubilee replied. “You’ll get to see Logan! You can’t tell me you aren’t looking forwards to that a little.”
Laura sighed. “He’s more your dad than he is mine.”
“L, I know this is a radical statement, but guess what? People can have deep, meaningful bonds with multiple others. Logan loves you.”
“I guess it will be nice to see everyone again,” Laura conceded. “I wonder how Jean’s doing.”
“See? That’s the attitude!”
“Boys, girls, and everyone in between,” said Xavier, voice surprisingly loud across the the length of the dining hall, “it is my honor to welcome you all to another summer at camp.” He looked around the room, seeming to make eye contact with everyone at once: Kitty smiled. She’d always loved his opening speeches.
“Over the next few months, each of you will be challenged. You will learn to rely on yourselves and on each other, hone your skills and abilities, and push yourselves to reach goals beyond what you ever thought possible. Camp is a place to learn who you are and what you are capable of— and this one more so than most.”
Laura glanced up to where Logan stood by the door. He gave her a little wave and an even smaller grin, and something warm glowed to life in her chest.
“All of you are truly exceptional in more ways than one,” Xavier continued. “In the years since I founded this camp, I have seen dozens of young mutants grow up here, each of them flourishing into incredible, unique individuals. You all have potential. You all have power. You are capable of great things.”
Kurt watched Xavier intently, hanging onto every word. His tail twitched ever so slightly.
The elderly man took a deep breath, eyes crinkling at the corners. “And this summer, you will do them.”
Rogue adjusted her gloves, the ghost of a smile on her face.
At the back of the room, Scott elbowed Jean gently. “He’s still got it.”
“He’ll always have it,” whispered Jean. “He’s Charles Xavier.”
“Now,” said Xavier pleasantly, “it’s my pleasure to introduce our groundskeeper Logan, who will be going over some basic camp rules. I’m aware this is review for a great many of you, but we have several newcomers this year, and I believe even some of our camp veterans could do with a reminder.” He looked pointedly at a pink-haired boy in the front row. “Quentin.”
The boy appeared delighted to have been singled out. “I’m going to burn down this camp and everything it stands for,” he declared, quite matter-of-factly.
“Thank you, Quentin,” Xavier said. “Logan?”
Logan stepped up to the front of the dining hall. “All right. So it’s a new year, you’re full of potential, blah blah blah. Rule number one: no gum at camp. I don’t want to spend my days scraping it off furniture. I’ve got better things to do.”
There was a quiet pop and everyone looked at Jubilee, whose innocent expression was clearly at odds with the pink bubblegum stuck to her face.
“Rule two: Anyone who vandalizes anything is getting dangled headfirst down an outhouse hole.”
“Uh, we can’t do that,” said Scott from the back of the room. “Health and safety regulations.”
Logan glared at him. “Slim, do I look like I give a damn about health and safety regulations?”
Scott looked pleadingly at Jean, but she pretended not to notice.
“Rule number three. Bedtime is bedtime. Anyone out of bed after lights-out is on kitchen duty for a week, assuming you survive. This is a weird camp, so I wouldn’t bet on it. Rule four is the last one, and it’s simple: I’m God. Respect me. I know this place better than anyone and nothing goes on here without me knowing about it.”
Bobby elbowed Jubilee. “Jubes, you don’t think he knows about—”
“I think he probably does,” replied Jubilee.
Bobby glanced up to the front with newfound terror in his eyes.
“So that’s about it,” finished Logan. “Let’s go have a summer, and all that.”
Cheers went up around the room, and in her seat in the front corner, Kitty felt a wave of peace and happiness. She was home.