X-Men fan fiction
Chapter 1: Mayday
Chapter 2: Sunset Home
Chapter 3: Sunset Home, part II: Exam
Chapter4: Sleeping Rough
Chapter 5: The Bogarts
Chapter6: The Bogarts, part II: Glasses
Chapter 7: Xavier
Chapter 8: New Students
Chapter 9: Eve of Grey
Chapter 10: Grey Christmas
Chapter 11: Dilemma
Chapter 12: Confrontation
Chapter 13: Jack O'Diamonds
Chapter 14: Escape
A short time later all the gifts had been opened and everyone went up to bed, pausing in the hall to say final thanks along with their goodnights.
“Wait–” Jean hugged them each. “Merry Christmas.” Already past midnight, technically it was Christmas Day now.
“Merry Christmas, Jean,” Scott whispered when she hugged him. She could feel him lean back almost as soon as she put her arms around him. She didn’t take that personally. She knew he was trying to keep as much distance as he could between her and his glasses.
“Merry Christmas,” Ororo echoed, returning Jean’s exuberant hug before she bid the others goodnight and they all retired to their rooms. Sometimes it was hard to believe that she had only been here for four short months. It certainly seemed to Ororo Monroe that she had known Scott and Jean for much longer.
Ororo crossed the room and opened a window to let in the clean, cold scent of the world at rest outside. It was a far cry from the wide open spaces of her homeland, but she had learned to love this land as well. The stars shone bright and crisp in the night sky, and a gentle breeze ruffled through the trees. She didn’t know if she would ever really enjoy being indoors, separated from nature, but time had changed her perspective and she was able to think differently on that now. Whenever she started to feel like the walls were closing in, she focused on fond thoughts of her friends, her new family, all gathered under one shared roof. And she remembered that this land also provided for her, different, but the same.
Life, like nature, could unleash great fury, but it also provided in abundance for those willing to work for its spoils. That lesson she had learned in Kenya. There she had seen the spoils and the fury alike. Before that she had seen too much of the fury and too little of the spoils; it had been that way in Cario, before she had gone to Africa. As a child, her life had been very much like Scott’s had been. And in the winter of her life, when life had been at its bleakest, she had been angry and bitter at the world. She had felt isolated and alone even when she was surrounded by others. That was when she had begun learning the lesson that Scott was just now struggling to learn: while lost family could never be replaced, new family could be created anyplace where people genuinely cared for one another.
Sometimes accepting that truth was the hardest part. She knew that feeling too. There came a point when life had knocked you down often enough that you simply stopped expecting to be helped back up... and when someone did offer you a hand, your first instinct was to wonder why they should bother, what was the benefit for them.... If she had come here, or to the Institute, fresh off the streets of Cairo, she would have reacted to her circumstances exactly as Scott did.
And, in her own way, Jean was trying to control her circumstances just as much as Scott was. In some ways Ororo was the most mature of the three of them. Chronically, Ororo was one year older than Scott and Jean. But more important than her number of years, Ororo had already learned some of the lessons that Scott and Jean were still learning. In Africa she had learned to see the wider picture; there she had relearned everything. She had not just seen but felt the ebb and flow of nature’s pull on the land, the unending cycle of life in all its beauty... the essence of life in the water, the air, the soil, the creatures of the ground and the sky... and how all of them were intertwined, interdependent. It had changed her completely. No longer was her finite human struggle at the center of her limited sight. She understood that nature provided.
Nature provided because that was what it did – not easily, not without toil or risk – but neither with favor nor motive. And Ororo saw circumstance very much as an extension of nature. When good things came to you, you needed only to accept them with gratitude, neither expecting favor nor seeking motive. By doing so you acknowledged and accepted your small place in the order of things. Conversely, when life, like nature, did unleash its fury, that fury could not be reasoned with, contained, or controlled.... In her mind, the most important lesson to be learned was simply to enjoy what was now without worry to the future or thought to the past. Life was fleeting, like the seasons. Lament the loss of one, worry over the coming of another, and you would miss the exquisite beauty of the present.
“I’m glad you talked me into that, it was fun. And I’m really glad you brought Scott and Ororo with you,” Sarah added.
“Me too,” Jean admitted. “I was a little worried about how they’d fit in, but I couldn’t leave them back at the Institute. It’s nice there, but it’s just not the same as spending the holidays with family... and I don’t think either of them have ever really had that experience.”
“I got that impression too. I mean, Ororo just kind of goes with the flow, but Scott....”
Jean sighed. “You’re right. They both went through some really rough times before coming to the Institute, but Scott just internalizes things more than Ororo does... the stuff in his past, and his– mutation.”
Sarah fell silent. She wasn’t sure she remembered ever hearing Jean use the word before.
“He can’t control it, except for wearing his glasses?”
“That must make it hard for him. You and Ororo are learning how to use your talents and he–”
“Oh, it’s not that he doesn’t have special skills,” Jean interrupted. “I mean, you should see him shoot pool.”
“Pool?” Sarah asked skeptically.
Jean’s grin widened. “He can sink the table in under ten shots... less if he doesn’t use a pool cue.”
Sarah shook her head, grinning. “I really have to see that sometime.”
“So it’s not that he’s falling behind or anything,” Jean continued, “that’s not what bothers him. It’s the way he feels like he has to be on guard all the time, otherwise he could really hurt someone, in a split second, completely by accident... and Scott– he’d never hurt anybody,” she finished quietly.
Jean settled into bed while Sarah cut some music on and left it playing softly. The two of them were awake, with only the music and their own thoughts for a while before Sarah spoke.
“Remember I told you Paul has friends in Manchester? He said we could go over this summer to visit them and see some shows. Sort of a musical pilgrimage, see where it all began. But don’t say anything to Mom and Dad. They would flip out.”
Jean couldn’t decide which part shocked her more: the trip, the reason for it, or the company.
“I know it sounds crazy,” Sarah correctly guessed the reason for her sister’s momentary silence.
Jean finally responded by asking if the pilgrimage would include picking flowers, jokingly reminding Sarah of their mother’s comments from a month ago. Elaine had pointed out that the guitarist looked like James Dean and the singer looked like a cross between Buddy Holly and Elvis – except neither of them ever went on stage with a bouquet of gladioli in his back pocket.
Sarah laughed, as intended. “Maybe we will,” she jokingly conceded, “but it’s about so much more than that,” she gushed.
Jean knew that was why Sarah had gotten angry over Elaine’s comments in the first place. Sarah firmly believed their mother set too much stock in appearances, and maybe she did. But contrary to Sarah’s belief, Jean didn’t see where there was anything wrong with simply trying to fit in. “Normal” didn’t have to be a dirty word.
“It’s rebellion in plain sight, so much so that if you’re not really paying attention you’ll miss it. But if you are paying attention, it reminds you that there’s no neat box anyone can put you into... there’s nothing wrong with pointing out hypocrisy, refusing to color within the lines, and simply feeling whatever it is that you feel... even if no one else wants you to say it out loud. That’s why I love it. No matter if it’s dark and lonely, or funny and irreverent– it’s just what you feel, and that’s okay. Paul really gets that side of me,” she added quietly. The note of affection in her voice was unmistakable.
Jean smiled. “You are serious about him.”
Sarah shrugged shyly. “He’s not like anybody I’ve ever met. He gets what’s really important, you know, not just the superficial stuff.” She paused. “Can you keep a secret?”
“If you tell anybody I said this, I’ll deny it, but– I know he’s the one. I’m gonna marry Paul.”
“Well, I don’t mean tomorrow,” she continued hurriedly, “but, someday, when we’re both out of school and– I don’t know–”
“Grown up?” Jean teased.
Sarah tossed a pillow at her sister.
Jean laughed as she deflected the harmless projectile.
“Sarah... can I ask you something?” she followed up a moment later.
Sarah nodded. “Sure.”
“When did you know, about Paul, I mean? Was it the moment you first saw him?”
“Love at first sight?” Sarah exclaimed with a tone of skeptical disbelief. “Jean Grey, you’ve read too many love stories.”
“You just told me you’re going to marry this guy, Sarah. You’ve known him for four months. I’m asking when you knew this.”
“Okay,” Sarah conceded. “It wasn’t love at first sight. It wasn’t any one moment. It was just– everything. The more I got to know him, the more I wanted to know him. He’s more like a best friend than a boyfriend, and that still surprises me. Honestly, the roommate thing, it’s more about that than it is about the boyfriend-girlfriend stuff. We have so much in common and have so much fun with each other– I love being with him. One day I realized I didn’t just love being with him, I loved him.”
Jean fell silent.
“Why?” Sarah asked her.
“If you tell anybody I said this, I’ll deny it,” Jean prefaced her answer.
“Okay,” Sarah prompted.
“The first time I saw Scott, I felt something that– I still can’t describe.”
“Try,” Sarah insisted.
“A little scary, a little overwhelming. But mostly I felt– like I already knew him. I couldn’t have told you his name or where he came from, but I knew who he was.”
“Could it have been, you know, your telepathy, picking up on his thoughts?”
Sarah winced at her reaction.
“No, it wasn’t like that.”
“Is it still bad?” Sarah asked hesitantly.
Jean shook her head. “Most of the time it’s not so bad. The Professor uses his telepathy a lot, just to talk to us, and we’ve all gotten used to that. He can focus down to just the message he wants to convey and make it not so overwhelming. But anything more than that... I can’t control it enough to keep from getting swamped,” Jean finished. “My telekinesis is improving though,” she added almost hopefully, but not quite proudly.
“Then being there is helping you,” Sarah surmised.
“Yeah, it is,” Jean agreed.
“And Scott?” Sarah asked after a few moments. “Four months later, do you still know who he is?”
Jean smiled. “Scott, he keeps a lot inside and he’s not an easy person to know.... But yes,” she whispered, “sometimes even better than he knows himself.”
“How?” Sarah asked, genuinely curious.
Jean shook her head, like there was too much to say and she didn’t know where to begin, but after that she launched into her explanation with ready enthusiasm and an ease that Sarah recognized; it was the same ease with which Sarah spoke of Paul.
“He puts too much pressure on himself. He’s lost too much and he’s been hurt too much, but he doesn’t want any of that to show through. It took months of Ororo and me just chipping away at him little by little before we broke past that calm, steady surface of his, before he finally stopped taking us at face value and really started to accept that our friendship went deeper than that, and it came with no strings attached.
“He doesn’t let anyone get close to him easily. At first I thought he was trying to protect himself, but I think he’s trying even harder to protect the people around him.... Before the professor found him, when his powers started to emerge and he couldn’t stop the blasts... Scott refused to open his eyes. That was his solution, living blind.”
“I can’t imagine... how awful a choice that would be,” Sarah whispered.
Jean hesitated. “But even with his eyes closed the blasts don’t stop. Hank told me once that keeping his eyes closed all the time meant Scott was in constant pain. Even with the glasses, he still gets headaches; there’s not much Hank can do to stop them. We can all tell he’s in pain.” Jean repressed a shudder. “And you can just tell that these aren’t normal, everyday headaches. But Scott, he’ll just say it’s not bad. He means that.” Jean shrugged. “It’s not in him to feel sorry for himself. But... if the professor hadn’t found Scott when he did... Scott would have lived the rest of his life like that – without ever opening his eyes – before he would have let himself hurt anyone. Just himself,” Jean added the clarification quietly, “he doesn’t count himself.
“But there’s another side of him too,” Jean continued on, her earlier exuberance returning. “He’s smart and he’s determined. Once he started really buying into it – Ororo and me, the whole Institute, and his place in it – his dedication and his loyalty, he’s absolutely unshakable. If I needed help, I know there’s nothing Scott wouldn’t do to help me... and I feel the same way about him.”
Scott didn’t really know how long he stood there, aimlessly looking out the window, just thinking about the day. He’d been fine earlier, sitting outside with Ororo and Jean, just talking. It had been very much like being at the Institute. It occurred to him how much had changed in the last few months, for him to feel as comfortable as he did with Ororo and Jean, and Sarah too, even though he didn’t really know her. But Sarah had seemed nice, and Jean obviously adored her older sister....
It still didn’t feel entirely right to him, just being here, and he didn’t understand why that was. He was usually good at reading people. He could make quick judgements about them and about their expectations of him. After that it was reflex for him to fit himself into those expectations. That way he attracted little attention, positive or negative. He’d spent enough time acting as a chameleon to thoroughly lose sight of himself.... It was hard to be himself.
Now, not only was he was learning to be himself... Scott was still learning who he was. Given his own confusion on those points, having others accept him threw him even further off balance. He’d had a particularly hard time trying to reconcile himself to Jean’s parents. Like tonight, with the gifts, he’d felt so uncomfortable.... As long as he could keep busy he didn’t feel so out of place. But when there was nothing for him to do, just him... he hadn’t figured out how to deal with that yet.
He could hear music playing softly next door in Sarah’s room as he let the curtain fall back into place. Scott switched his glasses for a set of goggles that strapped around his head, then carefully laid his regular glasses on the night stand beside the bed before he settled under the covers. He knew he wasn’t gong to sleep well, just one of too many habits that died hard. So he lay awake listening to the music, watching the moonlight peak through the curtains.
It was late before he was finally able to figure out what was bothering him, at least enough for him to pin a concrete cause onto the more abstract worry. This was the first time he’d been a guest in someone’s home, a part of someone’s family, since the Bogarts.... And since he had come to the Institute, he’d been trying very hard not to think about what had happened to them.
It took a long time for Scott to finally fall asleep, and even then he didn’t sleep soundly.
“Scott, you’re up early; I hope you slept well,” Elaine added, pausing to study him appraisingly.
“I’m a pretty light sleeper, actually,” he offered with a shrug. He always had slept light when he was in a new place. Chalk it up to a combination of unfamiliar surroundings and force of habit, but the excuse was more polite (and less personal) than admitting he hadn’t slept well. “Since I’m up anyway, I thought I’d find out if you needed anything.”
“I thought we went through this yesterday,” she told him, facing him with hands on hips. But the sternness in her reprimand was muted by the accompanying smile. “Scott, I appreciate your help, but it’s not necessary.”
Scott was a sweet and charming young man... but despite his easy, cheerful manner, there was a raw edge underlying his persistent efforts to make himself useful. He’d never been part of a family, at least not since he’d been a small child, and Scott was still trying to figure out the rules here. He’d had too many rough breaks to expect that anything good would happen simply or easily. Nor did he expect to be given anything for no reason. So, on some level, Scott was still trying to earn his keep. Elaine saw that as a challenge. While Scott was with them she was going to make it her mission to show him that family didn’t work that way... after all, while he was here, he was part of her family.
“I know,” he persisted, smiling, “but I’d still like to help out if I can.”
Elaine shook her head. She got the feeling he would be as stubborn as she was when she dug her heels in. Normally, strong-willed was a trait that she valued, but she didn’t have time for a battle of wills today. “Fine, but not in my kitchen,” she dismissed him, playfully swatting him out of the way as she crossed the room and threw open the pantry door. “I have a lot of cooking that has to get done before tonight,” she continued, without really noticing the way he’d moved just a little too quickly to avoid her swipe at him. “Go help John instead. He says he’s cleaning out the garage, which really means he’s out there working on that bike of his.” She paused and glanced back to see Scott still standing there. “Well, go on. Shoo.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Scott answered her with a lopsided grin before he did as she instructed.
Elaine shook her head. She still had her misgivings about sending Jean to live at Xavier’s school, but she couldn’t help taking a liking to Scott and Ororo. The two of them were endearing youngsters who deserved a hell of a lot better than the tough breaks life had dealt for them thus far. She just hoped that Jean wasn’t getting too entrenched there... and she couldn’t help feeling that Jean was just a little too taken with Scott. The combination worried her. But there wasn’t time to worry over it now. She put her concerns over the Institute aside, and she decided that John could begin sorting out the rest of those concerns. Despite her favorable opinion of Scott, there was something about a father with a garage full of tools at his disposal that set a nice tone for discussions with teenage boys about teenage girls.
John Grey quickly looked in his direction when Scott opened the door leading out to the garage.
Scott nodded cautiously, and tried not to grin. From the surprise in his expression, Scott guessed that John had been expecting Elaine, come to check up on him.
“Elaine chase you out of her kitchen?”
Scott nodded. That assessment did make him grin.
“Yeah, me too.” John returned his attention to the motorcycle he was working on. “Don’t let her fool you though,” he continued conversationally, “she loves cooking for these big family dinners. She’s in her element now. If she wasn’t, she wouldn’t put up with me messing around out here.” He paused to grin at Scott before adding, “Come give me a hand.”
Scott came a little closer. John was seated on the garage floor, half hidden from view behind the bike, surrounded by a collection of tools.
“I can try,” Scott offered, “but I don’t know how much help I’ll be. I dropped shop class.”
John laughed softly. “Did you really?”
Scott shrugged. “Building bird houses didn’t interest me.”
“Shop was my favorite class in high school, except for when they let us dissect frogs in biology class. After that I wanted to study medicine.”
John Grey was a professor at nearby Bard University, where he taught classes on infectious disease and global medicine, in addition to doing his own research on emerging diseases. And twice a year he took volunteer student groups to developing countries to deliver basic medical care and donated supplies.
“I still find auto mechanics satisfying, even if it’s something I only pursue as a hobby.” John smiled and patted the bike. “There’s something rewarding about working with your hands and being able to see and hear the results when this thing runs like it should.” He glanced at Scott. “You don’t have to love it,” he decided, his voice uncompromising, “but vehicle maintenance is something that should interest you. Before Sarah ever got behind the wheel, she knew how to check fluids, change oil, tune an engine, and change a flat tire. Jean learned too,” he added.
Scott nodded thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t mind learning that kind of stuff.”
“Good,” John declared. “Pull up a seat.”
John had always known Charles Xavier to be a good judge of character. He found that fact no less impressive now that he better understood what his old friend was capable of... but John was impressed by what Charles had had to say about Scott. Xavier had shown a great deal of confidence in the boy, and seemed to genuinely like him as well. John had no reason to doubt any of that, but the father in him also insisted that Scott was spending way too much time with Jean for him not to get to know the boy better.
“You turned sixteen this fall, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, in September, about a month and a half before Jean did.
“You get your learner’s permit too?”
“Charles let you drive yet?”
“Hank’s been helping us with driver’s ed. I’ve never met anyone more patient than he is.”
John smiled. “That’s what Jean says about him too.”
“So how can I help?” Scott asked.
“Anything here look familiar to you?” John questioned.
Scott grinned as he shook his head. All he saw was a motorcycle that looked like about a third of the parts that belonged inside were now lying on the garage floor, surrounded by a collection of equally unfamiliar-looking tools.
John Grey didn’t seem bothered by that response in the least. “Then let’s start with a crash course in tools and auto parts.”
Scott spent the remainder of the morning working alongside John on his bike (which Scott learned was a 1954 model Harley Davidson that John had begun working on when he’d bought it second hand as a college student). There was a quiet lunch, after which Elaine handed out marching orders and everyone chipped in to get the house in order before the extended family began arriving that evening for Christmas dinner.
Once family did begin arriving, John was there to meet them, along with Sarah and Jean. Scott stayed close to John for the most part, taking note of the new arrivals as John greeted them. John had two older sisters and one younger brother, while Elaine had three younger brothers and one younger sister. And almost all of them had children of their own. For a while Scott was keeping track of the cousins too, but eventually the rush of kids became confusing and chaotic.
Scott made his way through the living room, where Ororo and Sarah were helping entertain the cousins while Jean was chatting with relatives and refilling drinks. He caught sight of Elaine bringing out a platter of appetizers and rushed to help her.
“Thank you, Scott.”
He returned to the kitchen in her wake. “Can I do anything else?”
“I can take it from here. I just have a few more things to chop up for the salads. Why don’t you go join the family; they’re not so bad once you get to know them,” she kidded.
“Everyone’s been nice, it’s just....”
“A lot to take in,” she finished for him when he trailed off.
Scott nodded gratefully. He hadn’t wanted to offend her by saying so, but he didn’t like being surrounded by so many people he didn’t know. Even though they were family to John, Elaine, Sarah, and Jean, they were strangers to him. And Scott had a hard time getting to know people, even on a superficial level. There were just too many land mines for him to avoid.
“Let me tell you about them then,” Elaine offered cheerfully.
She spoke about her family holidays growing up, then her first time at John’s family’s for the holidays, and finally she explained how they had begun sharing in hosting the family dinners after the grandparents had passed away. Scott leaned against the kitchen counter and relaxed, just listening to her stories while Elaine chopped vegetables, until a timer on the opposite side of the room dinged. Then Elaine extracted another plate of delicious looking and smelling appetizers from the stove and arranged them onto a serving platter.
“Here, take these out with you,” she instructed.
“Yes, ma’am,” he answered.
She noticed his uncharacteristic lack of enthusiasm, but didn’t give it much thought. At least she didn’t have to shoo him out like she had this morning.
When Scott crossed back into the living room Ororo was holding court with vivid stories of Cairo and Kenya. Scott hoped no one would notice him as he refreshed the appetizer tray and wondered how long he needed to stay out here for politeness sake.
“So where do you hail from, Scott?”
“Nebraska,” he answered, and quickly picked up some empty plates and glasses to return them to the kitchen.
Sarah scowled and muttered something about him being a guest not a busboy. Before she returned her attention to the cousins, she shot Jean a look that said, Aren’t you going to do something about that?
Jean and Ororo exchanged their own looks before Ororo resumed the previous conversation. Both of them knew Scott would rather have teeth pulled than answer questions about himself.
Elaine hardly glanced in his direction when Scott returned.
“You sure I can’t do anything else?” he finally asked, but this wasn’t his normal, hopeful, offering of help. This sounded more like he was looking for an excuse to stay.
She frowned at him. “Why?”
Scott looked down and shifted his weight uncomfortably. “I know they’re just trying to make conversation, but they’ll ask questions I don’t have good answers for.”
Elaine smiled. “What do you mean, good answers? It’s not a test, Scott,” she kidded him. “They only want to get to know you and Ororo.”
Just then, the light sound of amused laughter emerged from the living room. Scott looked in that direction and smiled knowingly, as though the frivolity out there only helped further his point.
“Ororo has stories people like to hear, about beautiful and exotic far-off places. I don’t have any stories like that. I woke up from a coma, in an orphanage, after my parents died. Then I was on the streets until Professor Xavier found me.” He tried to shrug nonchalantly. “No one wants to hear about that.”
“And I’d guess you don’t want to talk about it either,” Elaine said, reading between the lines.
He shook his head before answering honestly, “No, I don’t.”
“Why don’t you help me chop the carrots,” she suggested.
“Yes, ma’am,” he agreed gratefully.
Scott didn’t know why he’d told her all that, but he wasn’t at all surprised by Elaine’s reaction. No pity, just straightforward acceptance and a practical solution to his problem.
Jean and Ororo seated themselves beside Scott at dinner and handled most of the conversation (Sarah was in the other room manning the kids’ table). Scott knew they were trying to help and he appreciated their efforts. He still found the chaos a bit overwhelming.
After everyone had finished their salads, Scott and Jean helped to clear the table and bring out serving dishes for the diner. This time Elaine had been grateful for the help.
“Thank you, dear,” she said as she handed Jean a basket of rolls and a gravy boat. “That should be everything,” she said proudly as Jean headed back to the dining room.
Then, treating him no differently than she would her brother or one of her nephews, Elaine gave Scott a quick hug followed by a couple of light pats to his cheek. Scott had gotten comfortable enough with her demonstrative nature to expect the hug, but when she unexpectedly touched his face he jumped back like the light touch had scalded him.
Elaine was staring at him with an oddly puzzled expression on her face. Clearly he’d surprised her as much as she had surprised him. It seemed to Scott like he should say something to try to put her at ease, try to diffuse the situation, but he couldn’t calm himself enough to speak; he couldn’t ignore the way his instincts were still screaming danger.
Scott swallowed hard, two sides warring within him as he remembered the way Elaine was always hugging him in greeting or in thanks– like she had just now.... He should never have let her do that. For some reason he was reminded of Trisha Bogart and the way she’d held his face in her hands the night before she had died... trying to tell him not to lose hope. And he looked back at Elaine in a mixture of confusion, hesitation, and indecision, knowing that he had to be more careful than this. He had let his guard down too far. Trisha and Richard had tried to help him, and they had paid far too high a price for their kindness toward him for him to forget that lesson.
Scott and Elaine stood staring at each other for what felt like a very long time. He didn’t question her or try to explain himself. It seemed enough for him that she made no further movements toward him. Beyond that, neither of them knew what to say to each other. After a tense couple of seconds, Elaine offered a weak smile then continued on like nothing unusual had happened. Scott fled the room as soon as she turned away from him... and Elaine paused to take a deep breath.
Elaine knew he was sensitive about his glasses. In retrospect, she was certain that touching his face without warning was something she should not have done... but even that didn’t quite explain the intensity of his reaction. She didn’t understand what had just happened... or why it left her feeling so unsettled.
Scott hadn’t set foot back in her kitchen again after that until she’d asked him to. By the end of the night Elaine had realized that was no accident; Scott was keeping his distance from her, and she knew that she had to talk to him in private if she was going to try to undo her earlier mistake, at least enough to make peace with him and restore things to the way they’d been before that....
“Scott, please sit down for a minute.”
He did, and even then he kept as much distance between them as he possibly could.
“I owe you an apology,” she began. “Both John and Jean will tell you that I can be a bull in a china shop when it comes to the way I treat people. Lord knows Sarah will say even worse... and maybe they’re right. Scott, I don’t always think through my words and actions before they come out, and sometimes that means I speak too harshly or act too suddenly. I won’t apologize for that; it’s just the way I am. But when I do or say something that I shouldn’t, I won’t hesitate to say that I was wrong.
“I’m sorry, Scott. I know you’re cautious about your glasses, and I’ll be more careful to remember that in the future.”
Scott didn’t say anything. He just nodded in acceptance.
Elaine understood that to mean nothing further needed to be said; she’d intended to let it go at that. But somehow his acceptance of her apology didn’t seem enough.
“Come here,” she insisted, smiling. “Let me look at you.”
Scott stood and obediently took a couple of steps forward, but he did so slowly; he looked worried.
She crossed the room to stand in front of him. “I’ll be careful,” she warned him. Then she cupped his chin in her hands for just a couple of seconds. “But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to touch you from time to time, or hug you quite regularly.”
She gave him a hug in her quick, familiar way. Elaine’s hugs were over almost before they had begun, and that suited Scott fine. But he smiled at her persistence. After his reaction earlier, he really hadn’t expected her to try anymore... and he was surprised to realize that it would have been a disappointment to him if she had stopped trying... he would have missed her demonstrative and unapologetic shows of affection.
“Are we alright now?” she asked him when she stepped back.
“Yes, ma’am,” Scott answered. His cautious smile reassured her that he meant it.
Elaine turned to see Jean enter the kitchen, followed closely by Sarah.
“Everything alright in here?” Jean asked cautiously.
“Just fine,” Elaine confirmed. “I’ve drafted Scott into helping me with the dishes.”
Sarah frowned. “You shouldn’t take advantage of Scott’s good nature.”
“It’s not an imposition,” Scott replied. “I told your mother I wanted to help.”
“I’m sure he’d much rather spend his time with Jean and Ororo; he’s just too polite to say so.”
Elaine sighed tiredly. “Sarah’s right. Why don’t you run along with the others, Scott.”
He nodded reassuringly to Jean and Sarah. “I’ll be right there.”
Sarah scowled. “I just came to tell you that Uncle William and Aunt Margaret say they have to leave soon.”
“Yes,” Elaine agreed absently, “they have the longest drive. Tell them I’ll be right out with the coffee, dear. They can take it with them if they like.”
Sarah gritted her teeth and abruptly turned to leave, presumably before she could say something she’d later regret. Scott had already started washing dishes.
“You wash, I’ll dry,” Jean offered.
Scott smiled to find her standing at his shoulder. “What’s Ororo up to?” he asked as he handed her the first of the clean plates.
Jean grinned. “Entertaining the cousins with fairy tails from Africa.”
Scott shook his head, smiling agreeably. It seemed there was no circumstance that Ororo couldn’t seamlessly and graciously fit into.
They worked in silence after that, and when they were done Elaine offered them each a slice of pie and a choice between coffee or milk before she went out to serve coffee to the others.
“Don’t tell Sarah I actually did something nice,” she quipped, “she’d probably just think I poisoned the coffee.”
Jean gave her mother a hurt look as Scott took a sip of his coffee.
“Forget I said that. Just enjoy your desert, dear,” she said, smoothing Jean’s hair affectionately.
“Tastes fine,” Scott said with just the perfect hint of surprise and suspicion, causing both of them to laugh. Jean smiled at him appreciatively.
“It truly is a joy having you and Ororo here, Scott. I hope you’ll bring Jean home more often.”
Jean’s smile transformed into a wince. Elaine just couldn’t help adding the mixed complement. It wasn’t long before Sarah had rejoined them. She was avoiding Elaine.
“You shouldn’t let her work you like that,” she told Jean.
“It was just the dishes, Sarah. Not every battle is worth starting a war over,” Jean teased her sister before she stood and excused herself. “I’d better say goodnight to Aunt William and Uncle Margaret before they go.”
Sarah studied Scott suspiciously. “What was Mom really up to before we came in?”
Scott smiled. “Nothing nefarious, I promise.”
“I know my mother. If you give her an inch, she’ll take a mile and a half, then start trying to guilt you into giving her another mile.”
“She cares,” Scott told Sarah bluntly. “Even if it’s messy and you don’t like the way she goes about it, she still cares. And you’re lucky to have that,” he finished quietly, returning his attention to his coffee.
Sarah winced as she sat down in the chair Jean had just vacated. “You must think I’m being petty and juvenile, picking fights with her over every little thing. But the way I see it, all those little fights are just smaller battles in one very important war. All I really want is for her to accept me as I am, because if she can’t accept me then she can’t accept Jean either. I can take it if I lose the battle for her letting me live my life on my own terms, but for Jean the stakes are too high. For Jean it’s not just the normal teenage stuff, learning who you are and figuring out what you want to do with your life. There are things that Jean can’t change, and if she can’t learn to control it–”
“Then her powers become a danger to those around her,” Scott finished warily. “I understand how serious that is.”
“Not just to those around her,” Sarah amended, “to Jean too. We were lucky to get her back the first time.” Scott frowned, but Sarah continued on before he had a chance to ask. “Mom doesn’t understand that risk; she refuses to see it. In her mind, Jean is normal and she should be doing the normal things other kids her age do, not living at a boarding school for mutants. But she just ignores any inconvenient contradiction to the reality in her head because my Mom has our lives planned out to a tee, for both of us.
To me, it’s just annoying as hell that she thinks she can orchestrate my life. But for Jean, it’s dangerous. Jean belongs at the Institute, where she has friends and teachers who can help her understand her powers. But most importantly, she needs to accept herself as she is. That’s the only way Jean’s going to get a chance at living the life she wants. And that’s the only battle that’s really worth winning.”
Scott nodded. “I respect that you want to fight for Jean, protect her. I just don’t think your mother is as big a danger to Jean as you seem to think she is. Believe me, Jean is strong-willed, she’s grounded, she’s smart, and she can be incredibly stubborn when she wants to be. No one is going to push her into something she doesn’t want.”
Sarah smiled at his description and the affection obviously underlying it. “Maybe you’re right. I guess there is a part of me who still sees her as a ten year old girl in pigtails who needs her big sister there to protect her.
Scott smiled at that description.
“You think a lot of my sister.”
Scott nodded. “Jean and Ororo have become like sisters to me. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them. I also really appreciate the way you and your parents, and Jean, have treated me like a part of your family. Not many people would do that.”
“What about Xavier? Isn’t that what he’s done?”
“The professor’s been incredibly generous, but in a slightly different way. There’s a trade off there, like he’s made an investment in us. He expects us to make use of his generosity and the opportunities he can provide us with so that we can better our own lives, and also help him make his school a reality for others like us. His generosity has transformed every aspect of my life for the better. The debt I owe him for that is something I can never possibly repay. But the goals that he’s set for us and for the school are goals that we all want to work together to achieve.
“All of that is very different from opening your home to people you hardly know on Christmas Eve and including them in your holiday celebrations like they were your own family.” Scott smiled. “I can see where Jean gets her generous nature. And I think both of you are very lucky,” he added.
Sarah smiled. “Funny,” she said under her breath, “I think Jean’s the one who’s very lucky. Thank you, Scott.”
He frowned, puzzled. “For what?”
Sarah shrugged. “I’ve been worrying over my little sister for a long time. Talking to you makes me feel like maybe I don’t have to worry so hard anymore.”
Scott nodded. “Then you’re welcome.”
So Let it Be Written Publishing © 2004