Brian and the professor worked over the next three days doing all they could to find out what it was that gave Brian all these powers. During the search, there were times when Storm or Cyclops would drag him away to help him practice some of his powers. At the moment, Brian and Storm were standing on an open field half a mile from the Institute. Storm wanted him to attempt flight.
"Storm, I don't know..."
"Brian, just try it. I want to find out if you can do it."
"But I hate heights!"
"You won't be going up very high at first," she promised. "Just a few feet off the ground, then a little more. Come on, try it."
Brian sighed. "Only a few feet."
Storm nodded. “That’s all.”
Brian closed his eyes and concentrated and thought of himself flying. The wind slowly picked up and brushed his hair. After a few moments, he heard Storm calling him, but it sounded different, like she had moved. Being careful not to break his concentration, he opened his eyes and gasped. He was the one that had moved! He had risen six feet above the ground.
"Okay, that's high enough for me!" Brian announced, and then slowly lowered to the ground.
"Brian, that was great!"
"Thanks." Brian smiled all of a sudden. "Storm?"
Storm raised her eyebrows in interest at the tone of Brian's voice. "Yes?"
Brian smirked, and then lightly shoved her on the shoulder. "Tag. You're it."
He took off at a run, leaving a slightly confused Ororo Munroe to stare after him. "Now why are you running when you just learned how to fly?" she wondered as she, too, started running.
After a few feet, she took off in flight as she got closer to Brian. She was about to land and tag him when he jumped in the air. The wind picked him up and he soared away from her, laughing gleefully. Storm chased after him for several miles making sure that they stayed away from the populated areas. Suddenly she noticed that Brian was beginning to lower to the ground. Her eyes widened when she realized that he was going down too fast.
"Brian, you're going too fast!" she called, hoping that he could hear her.
His reply was hard to hear. “I’m losing… can’t…”
Oh no! Brian couldn't keep control of this power for much longer. Storm quickened her speed, but it wasn't enough. She could see Brian falling and tried to summon the wind to break his fall, but she was too slow. Storm heard his cry of pain as he landed hard on the hill. From the look of it, he had tried to use his arm to break his fall. She landed by his side as he sat up whimpering.
"Are you all right?" she asked, kneeling beside him.
"No," Brian whimpered. "My arm hurts. I think it's broken."
"Let me see it." Storm reached out and touched Brian's arm. Brian cried out and turned his head away.
"That's broken all right, Brian."
"Well, how are we going to get back?" Brian asked. "I can't fly, and I don't think it's safe for you to carry me."
Storm shook her head. "No, you're right. And we’re too far away from headquarters. I’ll have to call Cyclops; maybe he can bring his car." She stood and pressed the communicator on her uniform.
"Cyclops, this is Storm. Brian is injured and I can't carry him back. We’re too far away from you.”
"Where are you?" Cyclops asked.
Storm looked around and gave him the location. Cyclops told them he'd be there in a few minutes.
"I wonder how the professor's doing on the research," Brian said as Storm knelt beside him.
"I'm sure he's doing fine, Brian. Don't you worry," she comforted. "In the meantime, let me look at this."
"I think my ego's bruised, too," Brian muttered.
Storm laughed. Brian smiled; he loved the sound of her laughter.
"Is there anything that doesn't hurt?" she asked.
“My left hand,” Brian remarked. “I didn’t use that one to break my fall.”
Storm smiled and held his hand, then surprised him by kissing his palm. He swallowed hard.
“Uh…” Brian tried to make his tongue work to tell her, but he couldn’t. His pulse was already beginning to race from that kiss on his palm.
He must have somehow communicated what he wanted because Storm began to smile. When she began to lean forward, Brian raised his good hand to the back of her neck and pulled her closer into a kiss that deepened in intensity. Ororo brought a hand to his shoulder and pushed him to the ground, never breaking the kiss as she followed and Brian slid his hand down her back.
Suddenly, they heard an engine growing louder. It was Cyclops. Storm and Brian sat up, but remained together. They heard two car doors open and close.
It was Jean. She had come with Scott to help.
“We were flying,” Brian explained. “I lost control and fell. I used my arm to break my fall and ended up breaking my arm.”
“You were flying?” Cyclops asked.
“It’s the newest power I have that we’ve discovered.”
“My word,” Jean murmured as she bent down to examine Brian’s arm. “Well, that’s definitely broken. We’ll have to get that wrapped up before taking you back to the Institute. We have a hospital wing there and I can do better for you there.”
When Brian nodded, Storm and Cyclops helped Brian to his feet. He let them lead him to the back seat of the car. Storm slid in beside him and followed Jean’s instructions for a makeshift cast that would have to do until they got back to the Institute. Ororo kept Brian in conversation to keep his mind off the pain in his arm.
"You know what?" Scott said to Jean. "I've known Ororo for a long time, and that's the happiest I've seen her."
"Me, too. She deserves this kind of happiness. So does Brian.”
When they returned, Storm led Brian to the hospital wing where Jean reset the bone and wrapped it in a real cast. She told Brian to get some rest to help it heal, so he headed back to his room with Storm right at his heels.
"I hope everything works out, Brian," Storm said as she helped Brian under the covers.
"Works out?" Brian repeated.
"With your search with Charles for the reason why you have all these powers. I'm sure your friend would love to have you back with him." Storm sat down beside him. "That's not all, though."
"Somehow, I didn't think so," Brian replied as they looked into each other's eyes.
"I hope it works out," Storm continued as she leaned in close to him, "with us, too."
She leaned forward and captured his mouth in a kiss full of love much like their first one three days ago. They held each other after they pulled out of the kiss.
"When I go back, will you come and visit me?"
"As often as I can," she promised.
^ ^ ^ ^
Xavier gazed at the people that sat before him. “How do you think he will take this news?”
“Not very well, I’m afraid. But we have to tell him. We can’t keep it to ourselves anymore.”
Xavier sighed. “Very well. Follow me, and I’ll show you to his room.”
Brian looked up from his pictures when he heard a knock on his bedroom door. Sensing that it was Charles, he telekinetically opened the door. He became aware that the professor was unnerved about something.
"Is something wrong, professor?"
“I was able to discover why you have so many different mutant powers, Brian." Xavier's tone was not joyful.
Brian’s forehead creased. "Why?"
He glanced at the open door as two more people entered. A smile appeared as he recognized his parents.
"Mom, Dad! What are you doing here?”
His parents exchanged a glance and shifted slightly. Brian’s smile faded slowly as he looked between his parents and Xavier. They carried unpleasant news and feared telling him. After a moment's hesitation, Jackie sat down next to him on the bed, while his father took a chair in front of him.
“Brian,” Harold began, “this is something we should have told you long ago. I’m sorry.”
When the story was over, Brian stared at the two people he knew and loved as his parents, his heart full of pain. These two people had lied to him his entire life. Tears coursing down his cheeks, he stood and walked to the window. Placing his good arm on the windowsill, he stared out at the view.
"You lied to me," he whispered. "I was just the product of an experiment and you never told me?”
"We never meant to hurt you, Brian," Jackie tried to console him, going so far as to stand beside him with her hand on his waist. Brian pulled away from her grasp and did not look at her. His heart had just been shredded into a million pieces; all of which he was certain could not be sewn back together again.
"If it makes a difference, and this is the truth, Harold and I were glad to be the ones chosen to raise you. We were so grateful when you were given to us. We had feared that we would never be able to have children again after Harry."
"Given to you," Brian repeated. "You make it sound like I wasn't even born yours."
"You were, honey. That much is truth. Your brother was so happy to see you in my arms that we couldn't bare to tell him."
Brian finally met her gaze. "What?"
"He doesn't know," Harold explained.
Brian gazed back at Harold—after what he had been told he couldn't call the man "Dad" right now. "He never knew?”
"I do now."
Four heads turned to the open doorway to see Harry watching them with a look of shock on his face. When the brothers made eye contact, so many things were said between them without using words. Finally, Brian broke the gaze and turned back to the window.
"Can I be alone, please?"
"Brian..." Jackie tried to protest.
"Please," Brian pleaded quietly. "I want to be alone."
Harold, Harry and Professor Xavier waited at the door for Jackie. She tried one more time to talk to Brian, but he made no response. When she put her hand on Brian’s arm, he stiffened but refused to look at her. Finally, Jackie turned and headed to the door. Xavier left first, followed by Harry. Harold was about to leave with Jackie when he paused. He turned back to Brian and spoke.
"I'm sorry, Brian."
"So am I, baby duck." Seeing no response from Brian, they left together.
As soon as he heard the door shut, Brian turned around and raised his good arm. Using his telekinesis, he locked the door, opened the closet, and pulled out his clothes and duffel bag. He couldn't stay here. Not anymore. Not in this place where it would soon become common knowledge what he was.
"An experiment!" he spat, throwing his clothes into the duffel.
He heard a knock on the door. Brian ‘looked’ and found that it was Jubilee. With a sigh, Brian ‘reached’ and unlocked the door. From the look on Jubilee's face when she entered, Brian knew that she had heard every word.
"I'm sorry, Brian."
"There's nothing I can do about it, Jubilee," Brian replied as he sat down on the bed.
"What are you doing?" Jubilee asked, seeing the duffel bag.
"I'm packing," Brian replied. "I can't stay here. Once the others know what I am, I don't think they'll have much appreciation for me."
"Brian, you're still one of us," Jubilee consoled.
"Yes, but all of you received your powers naturally, relatively speaking. I’m… I’m nothing but an experiment."
"Why don't you wait a while?" Jubilee asked. "Let's see if it'll really happen."
"Oh, it will. I'm sure of it. They might get jealous."
"Who?" she asked. "Not Storm or Cyclops or Wolverine-"
"No, none of them. At least, I don't think so. But the other younger, newer ones. They might get jealous."
"I'm not jealous," Jubilee pointed out.
Brian met her eyes. "I know."
They smiled. "Wait a while, Brian."
Brian sighed, then nodded. "All right. I'll wait a while."
By mid-afternoon, news had spread fast of the thing that Brian was and had been his entire life. An experiment, a probe boy. Some of them had joked around and started calling him "Probe," saying that it would be his new name if he joined the X-Men. Brian admitted to Jubilee being right, then told her and a few others that he had to leave and go back to Florida. They didn't want him to go, but once he told them about what he had promised Nick, they understood and wished him luck.
At present, he was in a cab returning to his apartment. Ever since Kevin had announced his engagement to his girlfriend Kristin, Brian had felt the necessity to let Kevin have his space, and moved into his own apartment in the same complex.
"All right, here we are," the cab driver announced.
Brian pulled out his wallet and paid the driver. "Thanks a lot."
He grabbed his duffel bag and climbed out. As the cab pulled away, Brian spotted his motorcycle and walked over to it. Red and chrome beneath the blue cover it was wearing, it had been one of Brian's dreams for as long as he could remember. He had been overjoyed when it had appeared in front of the apartment complex two years ago on his birthday. The guys had gotten together and bought it for him brand new. After another minute, he hurried inside and up two flights of stairs to his apartment. He looked left and saw that all the doors were closed, then he bent down and lifted the welcome mat. There sat the spare key that he'd had made soon after moving into the apartment. He picked it up and unlocked the door. Stepping inside, Brian surveyed his home.
It looked like someone had been in to clean. The magazine that he’d been reading was now closed, with a bookmark, on the table in front of the couch. The coffeepot in the kitchen had been emptied and cleaned. The carpet had been vacuumed… It must have been Kevin’s doing. He was the only one that lived close enough and knew Brian’s pattern of life as well as he did. He suddenly realized that he desperately needed a shower. He headed into his bedroom and picked out a fresh outfit, then headed to the bathroom. As he undressed and waited for the water to heat to the right temperature, he decided to see if he could find Kevin with his telepathy. In a flash, Kevin was found in his apartment two buildings down talking on the phone, probably to Kristin. Brian wondered how Kevin would feel when they met.
The second the water hit Brian's skin, he felt so much better. After a while he felt the water begin to chill and turned off the shower. As he was dressing, he found himself humming some of their songs. In just a few minutes, he was ready to go. The front door was locked and the motorcycle cover inside the apartment. Brian slipped his helmet on, stuck the key in the ignition, and turned it on. After revving the engine a couple of times, he smiled and took off to Nick's house. He reached the house in ten minutes tops. His nerves started to get the better of him as he climbed off of the motorcycle.
"You're already here, don't chicken out. You're already here, don't chicken out."
Brian took a deep breath, then walked up to the porch and rang the doorbell. After a few moments, the door opened and Nick's new girlfriend Tanya appeared in the doorway. She gasped and was about to speak when Brian put a finger to his lips to hush her.
"Is Nick here?" he asked.
Tanya nodded. "Yeah, he's here. Come on in, he's in the studio again. He's painting this time. Beautiful work, but full of so much pain.”
Tanya led Brian down the hall to the studio. They passed a painting and Brian halted, staring at it with wide eyes.
"What's this?" he whispered.
Tanya came to stand beside him and examine the painting. "That was the first one he painted after coming home from the hospital. He locked himself in there for hours and when he unlocked it and rolled out, he seemed... relieved... like he had gotten something off of his chest. I asked if I could see what he had done, and he allowed me to see it. When I set eyes on this painting, I could feel the emotions he put into it. Can you feel them, Brian?"
"Suffering," Brian said. "I feel suffering. And despair. This must have been done because of both the pain of being paraplegic and… me."
Tanya smiled. "You're more in tune with him than I am."
More than you think, Tanya. Brian turned to her. "How many paintings has he done like that?"
Tanya shook her head and sighed. "Too many, that's all I'll say. You'll see what I mean when you see the rest of them."
Brian then noticed the music coming from the studio. He turned to Tanya. She answered before he could even ask.
"He's been playing that a lot lately. He claims it agrees with how he feels in his heart."
Brian closed his eyes. More sadness. But not anymore, Brian thought as he opened his eyes. He looked at the door of the studio, and then gently pushed it open. Nick was sitting in his wheelchair busily painting an amazing portrait. Brian's eyes widened as he saw that Nick was painting a portrait of the two of them together: Frick and Frack, as happy as could be. Brian quietly moved up behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
Nick stopped painting and looked over his shoulder. His once bright blue eyes had become dark and empty with loneliness and pain. A sparkle of happiness appeared in them and a smile spread on his lips.
“Brian!” He set down the paintbrush and took his best friend's hands in his. Brian knelt in front of him.
"You came back," Nick said softly, tears in his eyes.
Brian nodded, blinking away his own tears. "I came back."
"Just like you promised."
Brian smiled. It was then that he realized that it had been a new power that he had discovered. The ability to communicate through dreams.
Nick leaned forward and wrapped his arms tightly around Brian as his friend did the same for him. "I missed you so much, Brian."
"I missed you too, buddy."
Kevin pressed the button on his key ring to unlock the car. For some reason, he'd been feeling depressed and his call to Kristin hadn't really lifted his spirits much. He looked down the street to his cousin's apartment building, expecting to see it just the same as it had been every day for two weeks. His eyes widened.
Brian's bike is gone. That could only mean one thing; Brian had come back. Hope swelled within him as he climbed in his car and started it. If he had come back, there could only be one place that Brian had gone, and that was to see Nick.
"What was it like, Brian?"
Brian shook his head with a smile on his face. "It still amazes me. All those people with different powers."
"How did they take to you being one of them?"
"Well, it was a shock to a lot of the younger ones, being fans, to see me there. But we got to know each other pretty well and now we're close."
"Who was the first one you met?" Nick inquired.
Brian smiled. "Storm. Ororo."
Nick cocked an eyebrow. "I see that look on your face, friend. Can B-Rok possibly be in love?"
Brian blushed. "Possibly. Anyway, she introduced me to Professor Xavier. Then I met Wolverine, who introduced me to Gambit, and those two introduced Cyclops, Rogue, Beast, and Jubilee..." He broke off and looked toward the studio door.
Nick followed his gaze. "What is it?"
"Kevin's here," Brian replied. "He's talking to Tanya. AJ and Howie just pulled into the driveway."
"Man, that's creepy," Nick remarked. "You can tell who's here."
"Yep. I can tell how they feel, too. AJ and Howie have no clue, they think this is just a get-together. They have no idea that I'm here. Kevin, on the other hand, is certain of it."
"Brian, everything will be okay."
Brian turned back to Nick. "I hope you're right."
The studio door flew open, drawing their attention back to it. Kevin stood in the doorway, eyes wide.
Nick released Brian's hands, and Brian straightened. After a brief hesitation, Brian flew into his cousin's open arms as Kevin met him halfway.
"I thought you weren't coming back," Kevin said through his tears.
"I made a promise, Kevin.”
Suddenly, he pulled back and looked beyond Kevin with wide eyes. He had felt the entry of two people and soon after, the anger. Kevin turned around and saw AJ and Howie standing in the doorway.
"So you decided to come back."
Brian nodded. "Yes. I promised Nick and Kevin that I would come back."
"You've got a lot of nerve," AJ growled, stepping closer.
Howie put a hand on his shoulder. "AJ, relax. He made a promise."
“After what he did to Nick?” AJ shouted. “He’s got no right to even show his face!”
The four men turned to Nick, surprised at his outburst. Nick wheeled closer to them, anger and sadness in his eyes.
"I wanted Brian to come back. Without him here, I didn't have anyone to confide in. He was the only one I could seriously talk to, who'd listen to me. When I got home from the hospital and found out that he was gone, I felt empty, and only found refuge in my paintings. You've seen how they turned out. Not even Tanya could help, even though she tried, and I'm grateful for what she's done."
"Nick, how can you even want that freak here?" AJ demanded, stepping toward Nick. "After what he did, how can you even-“
"How do you know it was him?" Nick demanded. "Just because of what happened doesn't necessarily mean that was him!"
"There's no other explanation that makes sense, Nick."
"It may have just been a freak accident, AJ," Nick pushed. "A coincidence."
AJ was about to make a comeback when he saw the look Kevin was giving him. He took a deep breath and let it out.
"If that's what you want to think. You have your opinion, I have mine."