STC: SHAVING THE BARBER

"Don't give me that crap, Doug! I am not, I repeat, not over-reacting! That young man kills dozens of people every day."

"I don't want to hear you calling him a nice kid."

"Yes, I know he's damned polite. Quiet. Soft-spoken, if you like. Good table manners. Trained like a lab-rat if you ask me."

"Yes, goddamnit. I was trained like a lab-rat. I know all about it. Sit up straight, Elizabeth. Aren't we forgetting our manners, Elizabeth? Don't talk with your mouth full, Elizabeth. Don't fucking this and don't fucking that."

"I don't want to swear at you. I never want to swear at you."

"He is Section, you know. Their Systems man. They'll never let him go. They'll never let Caroline go either, if she gets involved."

"She would. She loves like that, recklessly and passionately. Yes, she's jealous, too. And she has a problem with authorities. I don't know how long she'd last in there. Weeks?"

"I wouldn't underestimate her. She is good in the field. She's better with computers than she knows...anyone is bound to feel inferior beside you,love. But there is more to survival in the Section than being good at things. And when she sees what he is...He's frighteningly competent at what he does."

"Workaholic? Yes, I think so. Socially underdeveloped, certainly. Not a good match for someone as underfunctioning as Caroline."

"I am speaking as a objective psychiatrist. He's unconsciously compensating for the social part by acting cute."

"No."

"No, I said I don't find him attractive, I'm not in the habit of robbing cradles."

"Well, one cradle. But that was for a special purpose and I have never regretted it."

"Mhmm. And I you. I suppose it's an improvement after Harvey, although I'm not sure. With Harvey, I always had the feeling that she was trying it out. She looked at us sideways to see how we'd react when they did this and that. Now, it's different. This could be the real thing."

"Yes, I've seen that. The same way Pete looks at Kitty. The way you look at me too, my love."

"I just wish he wasn't Section. You know what they put their people through. Even if he doesn't get killed, Section will cancel him. Eventually."

"The probability that any of us will get run over by a bus tomorrow is quite negligible, since we're still at Muir. Falling off a cliff, maybe. Were you thinking of arranging anything? Anything credible, I hope."

"I...don't think he'll leave Section while he's still alive. Unless Pete has something more to bargain. I'm not even sure he wants to. He was brought up there. If he's sane, that's no less than a miracle."

"Not Piotr-crazy. Did I say that? Just the kind of genius kid who sees things others don't. People get scared, and leave him alone. After a while he stops trying to connect, because the things in his heads are much more interesting."

"Fear. They've governed him so far by fear. That's what keeps him focused. That's what keeps him on the edge. If not, he might well go off into five-space to talk to his own voices."

"I know, Doug. I know. There are places in your mind that I can't touch. And yes, I'm jealous of Kitty sometimes, because she can go where I can't."

"I'm not sure how Pete feels about it. If he didn't like it, though, I think he'd have let you know. Maybe he feels as I do."

"Sad, mostly."

"Oh, love. Never apologize to me for being who you are."

"Damnit, Doug, you can turn a phrase like a knife. Did you hear me say he should?"

"Well, I didn't mean it. Or maybe I did. Maybe I think he should apologize for something."

"How about...for taking Caroline away from us and getting her into the mess that is Section One? Which, coming to think of it was probably the same thing your parents thought when Professor Xavier showed up at their door to recruit you. Or when I did, to marry you."

"They have always been very kind to me. But they were never quite comfortable with the situation, for which I can't blame them. There was the age difference..."

"Let me finish, darling. They wondered what a woman in her mid-thirties would want with a young man in his early twenties. They worried that I had seduced you into marriage and that I would leave you when your puppy love ceased to amuse me."

"I'm not smirking. Wouldn't dream of it."

"Ow! I surrender! You are a mean, lean tickling-machine and I won't mention you and puppy love in the same breath ever again. But there was the issue about grandchildren, too."

"Fertility, Doug. My not-so-good fertility. Also, don't interrupt me, the lives we led at the time, running around the universe looking for trouble. They had no way of understanding how we lived, what was important to us, why we did the things we did, and we never took the time to explain. I'm not sure we could have, if we had tried. Not even you. And now I find that time has passed me by and _I'm_ the parent who doesn't understand. I didn't think I had it in me, but I do."

"Well, not from my parents. They were too eccentric and self-absorbed to pass judgment on anyone else. They expected mutant powers and bizarre behaviour, and their attention span was very short, so so we got away with a lot. Too much, maybe. I keep thinking about Jamie and how things might have been if he had received some good psychiatric care in time. But to them, his madness was nothing out of the ordinary. Same thing with Brian's drinking."

"No, I don't blame them for any of that. It was the reality-warping that drove Jamie crazy and Brian's alcoholism was at least partly due to the Captain Britain stuff and not being able to live up to it."

"Me? I was never good enough. Not to myself, not to them. I spent half my life trying to prove myself. Being blinded didn't stop me."

"You. You did, and Warlock. When you freed me from Mojo, there was a moment when I saw myself. I saw my need for recognition and praise, my vanity and pride. I saw that I cared less about saving the world than about outshining Brian while I did it. But it was too late then. I was a superhero. The things I could do were needed. Are still needed, sometimes. I can't deny that part of me. I only wish I had gone into the business for some other reason."

"Caroline's reasons are closed to me. I can only guess. But since I made the same choice myself, forty years ago, I can't very well say it's the wrong thing to do, can I?"

"No, it's her time. I can't keep her back. All I can do is smile and wish her good luck. Him, too. Because they'll need it."

FIN