1963-09-13 - Chapter One: On The Surface
Summary: Jean, Moira, and Johnny happen upon a field trip in the middle of Central Park. A young boy is troubled; Jean, Johnny and Moira intend to help.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
akiva johnny jean moira 



Central Park is always bustling around noon; people gather around to either go on walks or jog their lives away in order to stay with the latest trend of being fit. Men gather upon benches for their lunch hour, leg crossed over the other, snatching out the newspaper so that it could create the desired bend in which the way it was folded for easier reading.

Women push carriages or walk their dogs, and there are the sullen few who linger there upon the bench to stare into space to think about their latest prospects. Should they decorate their house in silver or blue? Did the latest swatch come in yet? How can Sally get Hal to marry her, even though their rooming with each other against her mothers wishes.

Every day life in New York.

A gathering of children, no older than ten could be heard in the middle of central park, off the walkway that most of them take to get to their destinations, blankets spread out as well as lunches, the teachers speaking amongst themselves and laughing at the latest lesson plan that they're coming up with.

Fun is the new way to learning, right?

"Alright children!" Mrs. Peine calls out, clapping her hands to gain their attention. "Who was Andrew Jackson Downing?"
One child raises her hand, eager as she quickly chews down her grape.
'He's the gentleman who declared that New York City needed a park for people like us!'
'You mean kids!'
'No I mean people! We're people!'
'Nuh uh! Humans!'

There was a collective laughter amongst the children, and while Mrs. Peine continues to speak and give lessons on the history of the park itself, Jean rolls by in attendance with Dr. Moira MacTaggart, her own lunch upon her lap.

"I gave up on finding Logan." She finally says, stopping near the children to listen to the lesson as well. Even though she could pluck the thoughts from the teachers mind, she decided against it. "I think if he wants to come home, he will. Soon er or later.." She murmurs. "Life must go on, right?" She sounds.. almost bitter.

'And soon, class, we're going to have a -very- special guest! So eat up!' Mrs. Peine calls through the park. Thankfully her voice does not echo."


Akiva sits quietly doing a crossword puzzle. He does it leisurely and in pen, a mark of ultimate confidence. But, then, Akiva has never been lacking for confidence.

He overhears the children and speaks up sharply, not caring if the teacher overhears, "The park is not just for humans. It is for everyone," he says. "The birds and the squirrels, the ants and the horses," he says. "And any other who needs a moment of respite. Unless there is someone you consider inferior. Is that the case?"

He rises slowly and sets down his puzzle, adjusting his spectacles, "If so, who? Mutants? Blacks? Jews? Perhaps you should post signs, if that is the case. So that we might know."


The lithe, willowy scientist walks in her carefully limping cadance at Jean's side. A year after the injury, she's become so accustomed to using her crutch that it's barely noticable as a limp. It's just how she functions these days. Though, she is a bit more sore from an incident a few days back and there is still a healing bruise at her temple, just winging the edge of her eye. That's making her more slow than anything.

Hearing Jean's words, She reaches her free hand up to gently rest against Jean's shoulder at the comment about Logan. "…He *will* come home, Jean. He's just… I suspect it scares him, how much he cares. He's scared to feel tied somewhere. But he does care. He'll come back…" The teacher seems confident in those words, her fingertips following it with a gentle squeeze. Her words, however, fall quiet as she hears the commentary to their side. She frowns a bit more, almost wincing, but looks content to carry on and ignore it.

Until Akiva isn't. Then she pauses, trying to gently draw Jean up short of the walking. There is a touch of fear in Moira's motions, not wanting to get too close to the scene which might now turn into an incident. But she's been more gunshy since gaining those bruises.


It's difficult to miss the streak of fire that carves a path through the clouds far above the park. It is surely no natural phenomena — it moves in a very predictable pattern, almost reminiscent of a police helicopter. Motion, hover. Motion, hover. Motion, hover. All in a wide circuit around the park.

It doesn't last. The flame shifts into a gradual arc that brings it over the park itself, growing larger as it approaches the group of students and teachers — right up until the flames abruptly flicker out of existance, leaving a somewhat harried-looking young Korean man standing in the grass a few dozen yards out.

Even wearing jeans and a t-shirt instead of his uniform, Johnny Storm is hard to mistake for anybody else. And the expression on his face as he waves a hand towards the teachers is uncharacteristically tight.

"Uh. Heyyyyy, guys. Sorry if I'm — am I late?" Johnny asks awkwardly.


"I know.." Jean leans forward within her wheelchair (STORY ON THAT LATER MOIRA) to put the brakes into place. As the metal digs slightly into the rubber, she stops and watches the man rise from the bench. Moira's careful hand is met with her own, squeezing in possible reassurance.. or maybe something else was there..

"Excuse me Sir.." Mrs. Peine interrupts, drawing her hand up towards the children to stay their words, even though they continue to speak amongst themselves. "These are just children who are only here to learn about Central Park, which is our lesson plan.."

One of the other teachers decidedly takes a seat with the children, drawing their attention to focus upon their lunch instead of the man and his questionable words. While the instructors there are not biased against any, they are expected to hold a certain decorum when questioned.

At least until Johnny approaches, which has the ring-leader (Mrs. Peine), turning upon her heels with a grand smile, her hands soon clasped together against her chest. Surely, that was a flirtatious notion, but when met with New York's own celebrity, how could she not?

"Oh, you've come at a great time, Mr. Storm!" Mrs. Peine crosses the way away from Akiva to greet him, her hand outstretched with a lean in, purposefully ignoring his distressed state. "We may need protection from that guy over there.." Her words were mumbled slightly, her head tossed towards Akiva. "..riling the children and all of that.."

Though, while the children seem at peace, there was one that was a proverbial standalone. He remained by himself, off to the side on his own little blanket, food laid out in proper order which was meticulously placed and eaten. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Two pieces of celery. A few gum-drops all in a row. And a juice box, apple, off to the side to be savored for later. No one really seems to pay him any mind, and while it was clear he was apart of the class, he himself felt like he didn't belong. And with everyones arrival focused on the Human Torch (judging by the ooo's and the yay's of the other children), he sits alone.

And quiet.


Akiva nods softly, "There is nothing wrong with learning history. But history is rife with the failure to educate. I was younger than these when I was sent to the camps," he says. He reaches down and slowly rolls up his left sleeve, revealing the number tattooed on his inner arm, showing it to the teacher.

"When I hear someone say this is a place for humans, I worry. Because I remember a time when I was not considered human. And that consideration allowed me to be treated as vermin," he says. "I speak only because I have sworn that I would always speak."

He smiles, an actually charming smile, one that seems to light up his face, "I am a doctor and have done my share of teaching over the years. I meant no disrespect. I am merely aware of the precision of language - and how deep it can cut, when misused," he says.


While Moira isn't the BEST person to push a wheelchair, having her own assistive device, she's there to give Jean a gentle help over any particularly hard bumps, around corners, or the like. She's been in Jean's position and now she somehow hovers even more protectively than she did before. The motherly motions of the slightly older woman to the redhead are all too clear, especially as she stays too-close with Akiva and the teachers' tension slightly growing.

His follow up words let Moira breathe just a bit easier, though there is still a wariness behind her eyes. Johnny Storm's arrival draws a slight arch of her brow, especially as the students respond quite so happily. She murmurs beneath her breath, "…It's all in the damn publicity. Mutants are hated, but get powers any other way and you're a hero. I… I just wish I could figure a way to get everyone to respond like that to… well, to all kinds of gifted individuals." Moira actually sounds on the edge of angry, which, for the often gentle woman, simply means her voice is just a touch more sharp than the norm.


Despite his distraught state, Johnny still meets Mrs. Peine halfway and accepts the extended hand for a warm shake, his brow furrowing in concern at the murmured note. He leans to one side to peer in Akiva's direction and blinks slowly. "…really don't think he's a troublemaker, ma'am," he says as kindly as he can, offering a reassuring smile. "In fact, he could probably be a much more educational guest than I could."

His eyes drift first over the collected school children, lingering on the boy who is off by himself, before they move towards Jean and Moira. Whether he heard her comment is up for debate, but his brow does furrow, like he's trying to place something. Tip of his tongue.


The boy.

Where ever Jean's attention seems to sit, it falls upon the boy. But it was soon discarded as her attention falls upon Akiva and his words..

But the boy seems unmoved. Its almost as if there were nothing there. The boy, not so ghastly white but close enough seems almost mechanical in his motions. Napkin spread out upon his lap. Four cornered section of his sandwich taken. Bitten into. Chewed precisely ten times, and an extra ten to be sure. Swallowed, and bitten again.

While the children discard their food at the prospect of the Human Torch, rising to the occasion, a small group of boys branch off to slowly approach the lone child from behind..

All the while, Mrs. Peine looks nearly petrified. "It's.. it's not that.. I mean.." She stammers, cheeks flushed. "I'm sure he… he is a wonderful…"

While Mrs. Peine decidedly stammers through her words, another teacher approaches Akiva, a warm smile plastered upon her cheeks. Ms. Lawton was a kinder woman than Mrs. Peine, for she was in the ranks and ripe for marriage. "I'm sorry Sir." She starts out, her eyes glancing down towards his arm and then up again. "Especially that all that you have been through. I trust you, the children mean no harm to anyone, or anything, other wise." She tilts her head in a gracious manner. "If you wouldn't mind joining us in meeting the illustrious Human Torch? Perhaps you both could join together and teach us about your history, and his as well."

Jean hears Moira, and actually feels that small, budding anger grow. And soon she pats her hand quietly to still the storm that brews beneath. "I don't understand it either.." Jean finally murmurs quietly. "..but maybe this is something that the public can understand because they've seen it with their own eyes. Where as we.. we're born with this. And there are some who actually terrified them.." She shakes her head. "I.. maybe if some of us do come public with the promise to do good, to save the world, everything would be better?"


Akiva smiles and nods, "I would be pleased to do so, although, if there is to be media, I would prefer not to be photographed. I work at the United Nations, in a…discrete capacity. I was just enjoying the park for a quiet moment to do my puzzle," he says.

His observant eyes do land upon the boy who's separated himself from the others, watching the other children sneak up on him. He frowns softly, but doesn't intervene immediately. He doesn't like bullying, but he does recognize that he, perhaps, overstepped his authority. But, then, do we not all have a responsibility to one another in such matters?

He would much rather discuss this subject over coffee and sandwiches than be forced to ponder it while considering a little boy who might be about to get jumped.


The offer of the kinder teacher for both Akiva and the Human Torch to speak comes, Moira releases a slight breath of relief. It seems any tension that may have been brewing is mostly blowing over. She gives a little nod towards a bench not too far away, but out of the direct line of sight/fire of the paranoid teachers. Still, her pale eyes flicker to the pale boy, some sort of recognition there. The pattern of his skin's pallor, the mechanical motions of his hands. Moira frowns deeper, concern lining her eyes as she watches him even as they move for the bench. "…and she is hurting children who may be different, also…" Moira gives the slightest tilt of her head in the boy's direction.

"…They need good examples. But… we've tried to do that already. There are protests every time we try. People… don't seem quite willing to listen right now. I don't have good answers. I just… try to keep teaching. Promoting understanding. That's all we *can* do, right now." Moira is trying to be ever so careful to keep her voice down as she speaks these words, not daring risking anyone else over hearing. She's just loud enough for Jean to hear and, unless someone has super hearing, that's it. Hopefully.


The older man may be concerned about overstepping, but Johnny's only just arrived. He's got miles of runway left. Once he sees Moira moving towards a bench, he looks back towards the children, and his mouth twists to one side. He was a little boy once. He knows how this story goes.

"'scuze me," Johnny asides quickly to Mrs. Peine, and then he's hurriedly brushing past (with a few good kids' hair being ruffled on his way by, for good measure) on his way to… intervene? Make sure there's nothing to intervene in? Something.

"Not nice to sneak up on somebody," Johnny brightly calls after the small group of boys, much like a pot calling a kettle black.


'Hey, Jack-ass..' One bigger boy says.
'Yeah, Jack assss!' Another smaller one croons out.
'Oh look at poor dead Jackson, eating all by himself!' The last calls out.
'Big baby..' The larger one teases.

The boy, Jackson, continues to eat his food slowly, his dark eyes staring forward, his bottom lip trembling ever so slightly to break in his hard resolve. Or.. at least he thought so.

'He's going to cry, ain't he!'
'Cause he's a sucker!'

The teachers weren't paying too much attention. One focused upon Akiva as she gives a merry laugh and a shake of her head. "Oh no no. No cameras. It's something we can't rightly afford just yet. Well.. myself.. If only I had a husband to remedy that fact.." She laughs, then reaches out to place a hand upon Akiva's arm. "I'm just joshing. Jesting.."

Johnny's words towards the boys has one already turning, his fists curled tight. He was ready to knock Jackson upon the back of the head but thankfully, he was caught just in time.

'We ain't sneaking up on anyone, Mister Torch!' The bigger kid cries out.
The other two children remain silent, taking one step to shield the boy from Johnny's viewing, and unleashing a simple back-kick to Jackson's spine which sends his square of sandwich flying…

Jean rolls with Moira, glancing back towards the lone surrounded boy. She had never witness bullying in such a calibur, and while it was a slight sad thing to watch.. it was also interesting. People come to the one anothers aid, no matter the age or creed. It made her smile.. then frown. "The teacher is?" Jean asks Moira. She wasn't sure.

But she could feel it. Something wasn't right with the boy. In fact, she allows herself to feel the wrongness of the situation, and came back with a pain that causes her eyes to water. This stills her breath, right up until she reaches the bench, fussing and fumbling with herself so that she could turn and watch the display of the children, the celebrity, and the man and teachers.

The lump within her throat was swallowed, her hand reaching up to rub at her neck as she gives a slight shake of her head.

"We need to do more.." She murmurs sadly towards the Doctor. "Start small.. and.. love.."


Akiva snatches the flying fragment of sandwich from the air with reflexes that likely startle, his hands moving faster than human hands should move. He holds it carefully and walks slowly back to return the sandwich to his owner. He is angered at himself for not trying to do something sooner. Johnny had the right idea, in that regard, although both were too late.

To Jean's statement, he nods softly, "Love, yes. Love is a powerful thing," he says, offering the piece of sandwich. "So is pain," he says, allowing his eyes to go cold as he looks over the other two boys.


The mingling of bodies around the poor kid makes it a bit difficult for Moira to see what is going on, but there is a touch of relief on her features as Johnny Storm actually takes times out of his day to give the poor, different child a conversation. Still, the slight sound of foot against flesh behind the people makes her wince. Her jaw grits, something in her body jerking forward, instinctively just wanting to *go* to the child, but she was not his teacher and it was not her place. She lets out a slow, controlling breath.

"…We do need to do more. Community projects, maybe… Building gardens, working at a foodbank… Doing what we can to support the place around our homes, showing people that… that being different isn't bad. But, you know, every time we do there will be protests. It doesn't mean we should stop. We… we just need to be the better people. Keep trying." Moira admits softly, a shakey breath escaping her lips a heartbeat later. Subconsciously, her fingertips reach up to brush against the edge of that bruise on her temple, memories of the last protest. The one right outside her very office for the sheer audacity of teaching genetics at Columbia. Now the most hated professor, just for preaching understanding and knowledge.


Hopefully none of the teachers speak Korean, or the sharp "Aish!" of admonishment that leaves Johnny's mouth at the boys might get him into trouble. He points sternly at the troublemaking boys, including the one trying to hide from his view, with eyes narrowed. "You. Mrs. Peine. Now."

Whether they get going or not, Johnny moves to step around them, offering Akiva a quick look of gratitude as he comes up next to him to regard the target of the other boys' attention. Without a thought, he drops down into a crouch and offers him a small smile. "Are you okay?"


The sandwich flies from Jackson's finger as he was kicked, his hands immediately snatching to his back as he arches with a look of pain upon his features. It was then that his palish skin turns a bit red, his eyes already stung with the thought of tears blinking back the pain as they do fall. Thankfully his back was turned and the kids couldn't see it.

"Stop.. PICKING ON ME!" Jackson snaps out, shuffling a little bit forward upon his knees as one small hand touches the ground in a shaky manner.

Jean winces and turns away, fighting back her own need to protect the boy, and within that fight her head begins to hurt but she keeps it under wraps.

While one boy cuts out running towards Ms. Lawton, the other two wince at the Human Torch's verbal admonishment, both of their heads hanging low as they stomp off with muttered words towards Mrs. Peine. The woman looks on, her arms folded about her chest, her head shaking as her own hand snatches out to grip the larger boy (the ringleader) by the ear to frog march him off towards the statue to issue a verbal lashing as well as a threat to call his father.

The gathered children watch on, some girls whispering, others sniggering quietly and pointing at the boy..

'He's gonna get a whoopin' from his pop-pop!'
'He sure is!'
'Ew, there's a bug on your shoulder.'

Even still, the two teachers keep their eye upon Jackson, watching as the men interact with the boy, their tiny little faith they had in humanity, kinda restored to a slightly new height.

As the sandwich was offered towards Jackson, he gives a shake of his head, the dark brown mop upon his head a little messy as he draws himself up to his feet. "No thank you Sir.." He mumbles out now, his lunch ruined. The entire array he set out for himself, ruined! Mother would be so mad..

But then Johnny does the unthinkable. He actually -asks- if Jackson was okay.

"N.. no one's ever asked me that before, Sir…" He says, bottom lip trembling, big blue eyes soon widening as the whites of those baby blues turn a slight hint of red. "I.. I.. I'm just so tired!" He blurts out, a near screech, thankfully the view that the other kids had gotten was the backs of Akiva and Johnny together. For there were a sea of tears that flows from the boys cheeks, his entire thin body shaking with an untapped rage, sorrow and anger as he finally lets it go through racking sobs. "Everyone is -SO- mean to me!"

Jean could say nothing as she watches, listens.. feels the boys pain as well as Moira. Perhaps it was a little too much, for the quiet lunch she once had planned was left within her lap as she herself breaks down into tears. But, good for her, for she tries to continue on with the conversation with Moira.. quiet as her voice had gotten.

"We should do all of those things.." Jean declares. "I want to help. As soon as I'm out of this chair, I swear to god I'll help." She sniffles quietly. And.. the promise itself was shocking.. even to Jean. "And no one will ever hurt you again, not like that, Dr. Moira." Cause, she's mom!

Jean's eyes slowly rest upon the little boy, there was a quiet little connection established even if he didn't know it just yet. "I want to start with him.. somethings wrong.." But, that was quiet. Moreso to herself than anyone else. "We have to help him."


Akiva watches the happenings, realizing that something greater than himself may be happening. Which is interesting, certainly. But he also senses that, perhaps, this isn't his fight. They need a hero, at the moment, these people.

And Akiva Ben Avraham was an honorable man and a wise man and a very, very dangerous man. But he was not a hero. He could no longer afford that.

So he steps back a bit and, quietly, approaches and hands the boy back his sandwich.

"Your sandwich, young sir," he says, then stepping back.


The whole scene with the child is beyond heartbreaking. It takes every last bit of strength Moira has to hold herself back from interfering, but it was so entirely not her place and there were so many others crowding around the young Jackson. But god, it hurt to watch. Horribly so. She hasn't even bothered to pull her own lunch out of her purse, no appetite left now. She just reaches one hand back up to Jean's shoulder to give another squeeze.

"…Jean, we… we will do all those things. And you can do it in a chair, if you want. You can talk to people. There is no… shame in being in the chair. Truly." Moira means that too. but as she hears the sniffle behind Jean's voice, she just shifts off the bench and leans in to give the redhead a tight hug. "I am fine, everything is fine, truly. This is the life we have all chosen and it's worth it." Moira has been back to work every day since. She's not scared away.

Then Jean's determination to help the boy comes and Moira sighs, looking back, "He's got two other outsiders with him, two teachers, and a bunch of students. We are more likely to help him if you can figure out who the most sympathetic teacher is… Then maybe I can speak to her about contacting his parents. figuring out what is wrong and getting him the proper help."


Johnny looks a touch surprised when Akiva steps back, his brow furrowing — but he is, it would seem, committed. Oh boy. He takes a breath and turns his focus back to the boy when he bursts into tears, wincing in sympathey. "Hey, hey, it's going to be okay," he says quickly. "I'm sorry they're so mean to you."

Johnny casts a quick look around before he leans closer to the boy, dropping his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "A lot of kids? Are jerks. I got picked on a lot, too. Kind of still do," he admits with a slight frown. He shrugs it off. "What's your name, bud?" he asks, offering the boy one of his hands. "I'm Joon. Er. Johnny."


Jackson takes the sandwich, even if he doesn't want it. While he cries, he slowly lowers himself towards the ground, sniffling, breath catching as he tries to calm himself down. "Thank you Sir.." He says to Akiva. His appetite, even if he didn't have one, was spoiled. His hand rubs at his back again, then he focuses on putting away his things. Just as he had set the out, he puts them back in that order.

Jean wipes away at her face, her head slightly nodding. She knew that she didn't have too long to be in the chair, but there was a slow and silent fear. Fear creeping upon her that didn't come from herself, but the boy. "I know I can but.. I've been so used to just, being.. me before all of this." And as Moira gives her a hug, Jean reaches up to latch her fingers against Moira's arm, hanging on for dear life. And yet, Moira's observations were correct. The boy was surrounded by so many people, people who could have helped but didn't. "I.. I could just pluck the information from their minds.." She offers quietly.

The boy was content to fade away into the background after his cries, but Johnny's assistance actually causes his heart to race. It was thrilling.. no. It was enchanting for someone to actually care for the boy, and that makes him weep quietly all the more. "It's okay. I should be used to it by now." He quietly murmurs.

But as Johnny tells him the whisper, he smiles a little, a ghost of one along with the sadness. "No one should pick on the Human Torch. You're.. you're kind of awesome. And my hero.." He slowly rises to his feet as he reaches out to take Johnny's hand. "I'm Jackson. Jackson Palmer.." It was the meek way in which he said it, the limped way in which he shook Johnny's hand. And for such a warm day; his long sleeved shirt raises just a touch to show a tiny bit of a purple bruise upon his wrist.


Where was the line — did they just get the information, a technical violation, or open themselves up to being pushed back and out, not being able to help the kid, and causing a scene. Moira sighs softly, still hanging onto Jean, that hug lasting a moment or two longer than might be comfortable for many, but she doesn't care. Jean is still her student and needs as much help as the kid, sometimes. So, Moira holds on tight, "You aren't alone and you are going to be fine." She murmurs into Jean's hair, words that might mean just as much to the kid, but she feels like Jean needs to be reminded of too.

Finally, she sits back, though she doesn't let her hand drop. She just sighs, "…If you can get something from the surface, something that will let us follow up… do it. But no digging. It's… it's not right. If we can't figuring it out, we'll have to ask someone. We… we have to draw lines, you know. Limits. Or, if we don't, people have the right to be scared. We have to be the better people. Always."


Johnny's hand is, perhaps unsurprisingly, very warm too the touch. Not enough to burn or be uncomfortable to hold, but it is definitely not the 98.6 degrees it should be. His eyes flick down to their joined hands for a moment, lingering on the glimpse of bruise, before they return to the boy's face.

"…Jackson. It's very nice to meet you," Johnny says quietly. He's quiet for a long moment, his brow slightly furrowed, before he twists in place to cast a quick look around as if searching for someone. "Would it be okay if I introduced you to somebody, Jackson? One of Mr. Fantastic's friends?"


"Just the surface.." Jean promises. Leaning into that hug one more time as she fully disengages from Moira. She didn't want to, but she was afraid of the potential feedback that she may send to the woman, just all because of that need to share.

She leans a little to the side as he elbow props up upon the arm of the wheelchair, her fingers lightly caressing her temple, attempting to stave away the headache that dulls in order to focus upon the minds of the teachers present.

Her fingers lax, eyes close…

The inner flames of their beings soon drawn into her subconscious. They were like little lights, and she imagines a hand drawing over the flame for a little singe of the skin, and -that- particular singe was the very thoughts that were upon the surface.

Mrs. Peine: A series of thoughts directed at home. Her oldest was sick. Sick in the way that the girl loved to wear pants and throw the ball with the boys down the street.
Ms. Lawton: Her mind drifted to a desert, in which Akiva, wearing a headwrap to beat the sun from his forehead rescues her with a machete after bandits kidnap her and plan to eat her. He pulls her close, and kisses her after producing a ring. His muscles were three sizes larger than normal.

Akiva: There was a block. A memory that tries to rise but slowly falls and fades away to blackness. And the corners of his bedsheets are tucked and smoothed to precision. Neat. Organized.

Johnny: WWSD? WWSD? I should fix this WWSD?
The Boy: I don't want to go home.. I don't want to go home..

Jean pulls away, her head twisting to create that physical manifestation of her snapping off her powers, just as she raises her hand to move something with her mind. She hisses a little, both hands rubbing at her temples as she gives a shake of her head towards Moira.. then murmurs quietly. "The boy doesn't want to go home.."

Jackson quickly draws his hand away from Johnny's, whilst the other one tugs down upon his shirt to cover his wrist. He looks oddly uncomfortable, moreso at the change of tone in Johnny's voice than the attention that he was getting, but he does manage a quiet nod with a glance back towards the rest of the class, who were busy embroied in a lesson. "Oh-kay.." He says quietly.


The news about the boy makes Moira frown even deeper. "…Doesn't want to go home. We… we need to figure out where his home is… and why. Jackson was his name, right? I wonder if we can get a last name. We… can't stalk him home today, but we can work on this. Help in the future." Moira murmurs softly, worry heavy behind her voice, but also the careful, measured steps of someone who is always used to planning, to looking three steps ahead, and who knows that the real world is a very dangerous place and they could make things worse by making them better. "Just…just stay here a minute…"

Moira stands, putting on her full stern, 'I'm a doctor' guise and her professional eyes. She knows how to command a room when she must. The fact that she's still in her lab coat from work probably helps, the small Columbia University logo giving her some credence. She limps up in the direction of Mrs. Peine, giving a slightly warmer smile, "…Ma'am… I cannot help but wonder if… if the young man there is getting help for whatever… well, what he might be going through. I work at Columbia, in medicine…" Not…exactly a lie. "If… if I could leave my number for him, or his family, to reach out to… or if you could let me know his family's name, so I could get in touch with them.. I think we could really help him. Clearly, he's a very special boy…"


When Jackson draws his hand away, Johnny gives him a sheepish look. "Sorry, Jackson. I didn't… mmh. Here, want a hand with your stuff?" he offers, nodding towards his packed lunch before he straightens back up to his full height. He offers him a hand, though whether it's for one of Jackson's hands or to carry his stuff is left up to the boy himself, and he casts a look back towards the bench where… Moira no longer is. His expression falls. Aish.


Jean nods quietly. She was getting drained little by little. The boy was putting out powerful feelings that she herself couldn't ignore. But it seems like they have something to work for, aim towards. This was good. "Okay." Is all that Jean could muster up, resigning herself to sitting alone.. finally taking out her sandwich to take a few little bites to quell her empty stomach.

As Mrs. Peine packs her own things, her field trip a success in her mind, she slowly turns as the good doctor limps towards her, and looks down at the game leg that Moira has. "Oh.." Mrs. Peine was taken aback a little, her gaze flitting towards Johnny and Jackson, then back towards Moira with a slight.. awkward smile.

"Yes. I.. do believe he is. And trust me, the boy is.. not as special as you think he is." She clears her throat, then quickly looks around, almost a little bit nervous. "I do.. suggest.." She was picking and choosing her words carefully, there -were- children about, and she wasn't kindly upon giving up information to strangers that approach. But if the labcoat that Moira wears was proof, she takes it as it was.

"I don't think contacting the boys parents right away is absolutely necessary." And she says this with a careful tone, one that would nudge to something 'other' than what was presented. "Perhaps you would like to visit the school so that we could have a proper and private chat about this .. issue..?"

Jackson, on the other hand remained quiet, gathering his things and offering the blanket to Johnny so that he could carry it. The lunch bag was an easy thing to hold, but he found carrying his linen around quite a nuisance. "Are you looking for that lady over there with Mrs. Peine?" He points out.


"That would be lovely, Ma'am… which school district? I didn't get your name. But I'd be happy to come by in the next few days and then we can speak in… a more proper setting. Here…" Moira reaches into her pocket, offering her card in the woman's direction, just lending double legitmacy to who she is, "This is how to find me…"

Once Moira gets the woman's name, she turns back to go herself, moving back for Jean's side, now fully intending on getting her own student back to safety and comfort. Somewhere Jean can relax and recover, the heat can get to all of them. It's not hard to miss her on her way back, if Johnny still wanted to see her.


The blanket is accepted with a quiet 'thank you,' and then Johnny turns to look where Jackson is pointing. Aha! "As a matter of fact, I am. You, sir, just saved the day." He shoots the boy a lopsided smile and starts walking to meet Moira back near the bench, slowly so that he can ensure Jackson is following along and having no trouble keeping up.

Once they're a bit closer, Johnny lifts his free hand to wave towards Moira, as well as the redhead with her. "D… um. Moira?" he calls, thinking better of calling 'doctor' where Jackson can hear him. Hopefully she won't mind the whole 'first name' thing. He'll blame Reed.


"Pine Bush Central.." Mrs. Peine quickly speaks out, her tone growing a bit lower. "I'm Rachel Peine… pleasure." She reaches out to take the card, then gives a slight nod as she reads it over. "I'll be giving you a call soon." As Moira moves away, Mrs. Peine calls out: "Alright children! Time to pack up! The bus will be here in fifteen minutes!"

While the children bustle and move, Jackson and Johnny were closing in upon the bench, where Jean promptly ceases her feast of her sandwich, which was soon quickly placed away. She didn't say much as the two approach, but she does offer up a little smile that causes Jackson to burst into giggles.

"You got something in your teeth, Miss.."
"Do I?" Jean asks, quickly covering her mouth to create a few clicking sounds, then draws her hand down to grin big. "Dish-dlit dawng?"

Jackson laughs at the redhead, a little blush touching his cheeks.

"Oh.. oh he laughed. It sounds like music!" Jean teases, reaching out to give a quick little tickle to the boys ribcage.


The information and name are accepted, and Moira gives the teacher a warm nod, but she's now interested in getting home. Or, well, it seems, talking to Johnny and the boy, as the two approach the bench. Moira blinks, a bit surprised, but then she gives a bit more of a smile as she realizes Reed probably is who brought her name at all up to Johnny, "Indeed, Mr. Storm. It's good to properly meet you… and who is your young friend? I'll have to tell Mr. Fantastic that he says hullo the next I see him." Moira is definitely quick on the draw, realizing that her white coat could be terrifying if she doesn't establish why she's an ally.


Oh, that is a relief to hear, isn't it? Johnny flashes Jean a downright radiant smile, mouthing a silent 'thank you' to her before he turns towards Moira. Oh, thank goodness, no offense taken. He's quick to offer her a hand. "Just Johnny, please. And this is my very good friend Jackson Palmer," he says with a lopsided smile, gesturing to the boy. "I was just telling him that a lot of kids are jerks. I figured maybe he could use an introduction to a couple people that might make better friends."



It was a rare show of happiness for Jackson Palmer. He didn't know that people were kind without being paid for it, and it seems that he finds this kindness in droves when it comes to the Human Torch, the Dr. Moira MacTaggart, Jean Grey, and Akiva. So for once, he was all smiles, letting the giggles fly and the toothiness show, all the while Jean gives a knowing nod towards Johnny and her own smiles continuing.

"Hey kid! I'm Jean Grey. I hear you're Jackson Palmer."

"Yup! And it's nice to meet you Jean Grey!"

"Let's let the grownups talk, okay? How about you show me what you have in your bag. I think I saw a gum drop I'd like to buy from you!"

"No way lady! You can have it for free!"

And while Jackson and Jean make friends, a glance was exchanged between the Human Torch and Moira, a little nod given as Jean rolls just a few paces away as the two compare lunches. While all may seem bright within the world, Jackson's prospects of becoming big and strong, Moira's determination at helping the young boy, Mrs. Peine's fear of what just may come to pass.. and the ignorance of all the children as they gather and wait for the bus..

Something seems to loom in the back of all of their minds, those now involved that is..

That something is terribly wrong with Jackson Palmer.

CHAPTER ONE: On The Surface

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