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
Eve of Grey
Four Months Later
It was a mild December morning, Christmas Eve, when John Grey parked outside the Xavier Institute and Jean Grey ran out to meet him.
“It’s good to see you, Jeanie,” he exclaimed, greeting his daughter with a big hug.
“Mom home cooking?” she asked, smiling.
“Since yesterday,” he answered.
“Coming in this afternoon.” He felt Jean take a deep breath. “Don’t worry. Your mom just wants to have both her girls under the same roof for Christmas.” Jean leaned back enough to give her father a skeptical look. “Well, between the two of us, maybe we can keep it that way,” he admitted, pulling her closer with a broad smile.
Jean laughed and hugged him in return. “I missed you, Dad.”
The two of them turned to see Scott and Ororo coming down the front steps.
“Thank you for inviting us to your home, Dr. Grey,” Ororo stated.
“Please, call me John,” he reminded her as he began loading the bags into the trunk, along with Scott’s help. “And it’s our pleasure,” he added, cutting off Scott’s thanks and placing a hand on his shoulder, “we’re glad to have you.”
Scott nodded. “Thank you, sir.” Jean’s dad was kind in extending the invitation, but Scott and Ororo had no doubt that his invitation came at Jean’s insistence.
The ninety minute drive north from Westchester to Annandale-on-Hudson passed quickly with Jean carrying most of the conversation, telling her father about the Institute and their classes, with Scott and Ororo only answering the occasional question addressed to them.
Once they reached the house, Jean’s mother met them each with a hug as soon as they walked through the door. Scott still managed to be caught off guard by her exuberant welcome, even after he had seen Elaine’s greetings for Jean and Ororo, but his slightly immobile surprise didn’t seem to bother her. After giving him a quick hug she returned her attention to Jean.
“I know Sarah’s halfway across the country, but we don’t see nearly enough of you, Jean.”
“I was just here for Thanksgiving,” Jean patiently reminded her mother.
“Well, it’s still true,” Elaine insisted anyway. “You’re welcome anytime, all of you are.”
“We do have to stay at the Institute some, Mom, you know with classes and studying.”
“If you say so,” Elaine replied, unconvinced. She turned toward the dining room. “Jean,” she called over her shoulder, “come help me in the kitchen so I can talk to you.”
Jean gave her friends a helpless shrug as she followed.
“We’ll just get settled in,” Ororo offered agreeably.
“That’s a good idea,” John encouraged. “I have to get to the airport to pick up Sarah, but please, make yourselves at home.”
Getting settled in only took a couple of minutes for Scott. He didn’t bother unpacking anything more than he would need tonight. He didn’t like clutter, and he was glad that it seemed Elaine didn’t either. The guest room where he was staying was small (there was little more than a suit of bedroom furniture) but it was comfortable. A set of towels that had been set aside for his use rested in a chair beside the room’s only window. The towels, like the bed linens and the drapes, were done in light shades (he didn’t normally try to discern shades too much beyond light and dark; his interpretation of the color spectrum was skewed by his glasses), and the combination of light colors and the bright sunshine outside gave the room a warm, inviting feel.
Scott tucked his duffle bag into the closet then walked down the short hall toward the other bedrooms. As for the rest of the sleeping arrangements, he knew that Jean and Sarah were sharing a room so Ororo could have a room to herself. He knocked on that door, even though Ororo had left it open, and he walked into Jean’s room. He didn’t have to ask; it was obvious to him.
There were the same light shades here as in the guest room. A vase on the dresser held flowers; those were easy to identify as pink and white roses. But more subtly, Jean’s touch was on the room. Green and gold (the colors of the only piece of jewelry he had ever seen her wear: a gold and emerald bracelet that had once belonged to her grandmother) provided contrast to the neutral shades. After that, school honors, athletic trophies, and stacks of books filled nearly every nook and cranny, along with family photos (most of them featuring Jean and Sarah).
“How much do you know about Sarah,” Scott asked Ororo curiously.
“About as much as you do. She and Jean were close as children, I gather that the emergence of Jean’s powers strained things within the family somewhat.... However, Sarah and Jean still remain close.”
“But,” Scott prompted, sensing her hesitation.
“Jean did seem nervous earlier.”
“Like she was trying not to talk about Sarah on the trip here?” Scott offered the possibility.
“Perhaps so. Perhaps she’s just worried.”
“About having us here?” he asked.
“No. I don’t think it’s that. You remember Jean mentioned that the Thanksgiving dinner was somewhat stressful.”
“She said that Sarah and her mother argued.”
“I suspect Jean is hoping to avoid similar hostilities this time.”
Scott picked up a photo of the two girls, their arms around each other’s shoulders, each smiling widely. Jean was probably seven or eight years old. They looked happy and carefree. He sighed as he put it back in its place. Too little of life was happy and carefree.
Ororo leaned against his shoulder. “Shame we have to grow up, isn’t it.”
“Yes,” Scott agreed.
“Well, come along with me,” she decided a moment later. “I saw a lovely oak tree in the backyard that I really must become better acquainted with.”
Scott grinned as he followed her from the room. “Though some of us never entirely do,” he concluded wryly.
She smiled at him over her shoulder. “I should certainly hope not. If I were to live a hundred years, I would intend to be just as bright and alive at one hundred as the trees of the forest are at such a young age.”
At the airport, John greeted his oldest daughter with a hug and relieved her of her carry on bag.
“Is this all the luggage you’ve brought? You must not be planning on staying long.”
“I didn’t think there would be much use in planning a long trip,” Sarah admitted.
“And would that have anything to do with the company you’re keeping out west?”
Sarah shook her head. “Dad–” she warned.
“So when do I get to meet this boy you’re seeing.”
Sarah blushed. “He’s more than just someone I’m seeing, Dad, and his name is Paul.”
“Okay. So when do I get to meet Paul?”
“You, or you and Mom?” she framed the avoidance pointedly. “Because Mom made her opinion clear over Thanksgiving.”
“What were you expecting, Sarah?” John asked.
“I know,” Sarah admitted, “but it doesn’t change anything. The dorm situation wasn’t working out and Paul’s roommate was graduating in December....”
John glanced at her curiously as they walked toward the car.
“Why not take the extra room at his apartment?”
“That’s not exactly the impression you gave your mother at Thanksgiving.”
She smiled sheepishly at her father.
“So were you pressing her buttons on purpose then, or are you trying to placate me now?”
“Pressing her buttons a little,” she admitted, “but I wouldn’t lie to you, Daddy. It’s more than just roommates, but it is separate rooms, and I’ll be paying my own share of the rent.”
John only nodded. Neither of them said anything more until they got started on the drive home.
“You don’t approve either, do you?” she asked quietly.
He forced a smile. “Things were a little different when your mother and I were your age. There were lines that people didn’t cross if they wanted to keep each other respectable, and this was one of them. In that way, I guess I agree with your mother. I’d rather you stay in the dorm... but I also know that times change, and you have to make your own choices.”
“So you’re not going to pull me out of school and bring me back home?”
“No. That was just your mom overreacting a bit.”
“You were trying to push her buttons too, remember?”
“Alright, a bit. But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t really do it,” Sarah grumbled.
“You need a good education.”
“Or a rich husband,” she countered, rolling her eyes.
“Your mom and I will pay for your education: tuition, books, dorm fees, meal plan. That stuff’s on us, but the money you spend off campus you’re responsible for.”
Sarah nodded. “That’s fair.”
“She wants what’s best for you,” John added quietly.
“She wouldn’t object so much if Paul were pre-med instead of an aspiring filmmaker.”
“She’d still mind,” John countered certainly, “and you can’t fault her for favoring a proven course.” He grinned sheepishly. “Marrying a doctor worked out alright for her.”
“But that’s just it,” Sarah protested. “I don’t want her right way, I have to find my own way.”
“You will,” John smiled reassuringly. “I know that. You and your sister are smart, strong, capable young women, and you make good decisions. I know you’ll make the ones that are right for you. But I still want to meet Paul,” he insisted.
Sarah smiled at her father’s persistence. “He went home for Christmas, to his dad’s family.”
Sarah nodded. It didn’t surprise her that her father remembered the details. Paul’s parents had separated when he was young. He’d grown up with his mother and two older brothers in Maryland, but he’d spent most of his vacations with his family in London.
“But he’s been talking about a ski trip with the guys over New Year’s; maybe I could get him to stop here on the way up, especially if there’s a home-cooked meal in it for them.... But I’m warning you now, if things get ugly I might end up crashing the ski trip.”
John nodded. “Given that warning, I think your mother will be a little more careful with her opinions.”
“She’ll probably see it as a threat rather than a warning,” Sarah grinned.
John laughed too. “Sarah, I know your mother has her own set of expectations, but from where I stand, it’s pretty simple. The most important thing to me is that he appreciates how special my daughter is, and he treats you that way. Don’t you compromise yourself for anything or anyone.”
Sarah smiled. “You first told me that in the seventh grade, before I went on my first date with Bryan Roger from down the street... and we skated around the roller rink in circles until I finally let him hold my hand.”
John laughed quietly. “The advice still stands.”
Sarah nodded. “I’ll still take it,” she answered. And they drove toward home for a while, just enjoying the comfortable silence and listening to the occasional Christmas carol on the radio.
“Is Jean home already?”
“I picked her up from the Institute this morning.”
“We hardly had any time to talk when I was here before.”
John raised his eyebrows as he glanced in her direction.
“I know,” Sarah conceded dryly, “I guess that’s my fault; I fired the opening shots. But how is she? You know– how is she really?”
“Jean’s been happy staying at Xavier’s Institute. Of course your mom and I miss her like crazy. We really weren’t ready to send both of you away to school this fall. But Jean seems really– comfortable,” he decided on the word.
Sarah nodded thoughtfully; she understood that. Since the powers had emerged, Jean had never seemed comfortable in her own skin, or within her own mind.
“It must be reassuring,” John considered, “being surrounded by others who can help, and by friends who understand.”
“Then that’s all that should matter,” Sarah insisted stubbornly.
“What’s good in the short term is not always good in the long term,” John warned. “It worries your mother that being there takes Jean away from other opportunities.”
“It worries her that Jean’s not being what she wants her to be,” Sarah bit back, “and she disapproves, just like she disapproves of me doing what I want to do.”
John sighed. It always came back to this. “She loves you, Sarah. What you see as controlling behavior, Elaine sees as protective – sometimes over-protective, I’ll grant you that – but it’s done out of love.”
Sarah shook her head. “I don’t know who she loves. Because she doesn’t have a clue who I am– and she doesn’t want to know. She doesn’t want to see either of us for who we really are, just who she wants us to be.”
“Truce,” she conceded, and a brief silence fell after that. “I can take it, but I won’t stand by and let her come down on Jean the way she has on me. Jean’s been through enough.”
John swallowed hard. “I know how you feel, but Jean doesn’t need you to fight her battles, especially with your mother.”
Sarah shook off her own anger and his worry. “You haven’t told me anything about Ororo and Scott. Jean hardly stops talking about them, especially Scott,” she grinned.
“Really,” John responded with measured curiosity. “I was a little afraid of that.”
“Have you ever seen, you know, what they can do?”
“No, and I think we should let them keep it that way.”
Sarah fought back a laugh. “Well I wasn’t going to ask for a demonstration, but I can’t help being curious.... Is it true Scott can’t take off his glasses– not ever.”
“Yes, that’s what Charles has told us. And Scott is, understandably, guarded about letting people get too near to him, so don’t take it personally if he’d rather shake your hand than give you a hug.”
Sarah did laugh at that. “And you mean Mom hasn’t broken him of that yet?”
John laughed too. “I’m sure she’s working on it.”
“Without realizing there was ever another way.”
John’s smile widened, choosing to ignore the underlying exasperation in his daughter’s tone. “Exactly.”
Elaine and Jean met them at the door when Sarah and John arrived home.
Elaine held Sarah at arm’s length, studying her daughter for a moment. “Well, you made it here after all. That wasn’t so hard, was it?” she offered, smiling behind the slight reproof.
“I could still go back, if you’d prefer it,” Sarah countered.
“Don’t be silly, dear,” Elaine responded, hugging her tightly for a couple of seconds. “We’re thrilled to have you home.”
Then Jean hugged her sister, and a moment later Jean had diffused the situation by pulling Sarah away. “Come outside with me. I want to introduce you to Scott and Ororo.”
“Sorry,” Sarah said once they were safely out of earshot, “I know you hate it when we bicker.”
“I just don’t see why you take her so seriously.”
“Maybe because you don’t take her seriously enough.”
Jean sighed. Elaine had very specific expectations for her daughters. Where Jean had always been willing to embrace Elaine’s expectations, Sarah fought them tooth and nail. They clashed over all the things that mothers and teenage daughters tended to fight over: boys, clothes, make up, music, friends. But when it came to Jean, the battle lines were drawn much deeper. Sarah saw herself as Jeans advocate, her protector, and she deeply resented Elaine’s desire for Jean to be “normal.” In her mind, her sister already was perfectly normal.
“But don’t worry, I promise not to embarrass you in front of your friends.”
“That’s not what worries me,” Jean countered with a shake of her head. “I don’t have to impress Scott or Ororo. I just don’t want the two of you fighting all the time, and especially not over me.”
“You and Dad comparing notes now?”
“He say the same thing?”
Sarah shrugged agreeably. “Pretty much. But come on, I can’t wait to meet Scott and Ororo.”
The remainder of the afternoon passed agreeably, with Jean, Scott, Ororo, and Sarah sitting outside, enjoying the mild December sunshine until Elaine called them in for dinner. Dinner was a bit more tense. As long as Jean or John led the conversation, things went smoothly, but anytime Sarah or Elaine spoke about anything the other one was sure to disagree with what was said.
By the end of the meal the tension between them was getting uncomfortable. Finally Elaine began clearing the table. Scott and Ororo each went to help her, leaving John alone at the table with Sarah and Jean.
“Sarah, I know you two may never see eye to eye on many things, but you can try to get along in spite of it.”
Sarah shook her head, biting back a sharp response. Her dad always tried to walk the middle line. He sympathized with her, but in the end he would always defend his wife’s good intentions and try to play the peacemaker between them.... Sarah didn’t enjoy putting him in the middle.
“Mom tries to do what she thinks is best, just like the rest of us do,” Jean agreed softly.
“Fine.” Sarah conceded tiredly. “I can’t fight the both of you... but that doesn’t mean I won’t fight when somebody should fight.”
Jean looked away uncomfortably.
“Sarah,” John said softly, just the slightest hint of reprimand in his voice, “I know you’re still angry, but you’re angry over things that happened a long time ago. At some point you have to forgive and leave the past behind– for your peace of mind as well as the peace in this house.”
Sarah flushed. “Sometimes forgiveness needs to be earned. And forgetting the past only leads to repeating it– there’s already enough selective forgetfulness in this house.” She stood before either of them could respond. “I’d better go up to bed.” She turned to Jean. “Please tell Scott and Ororo I was sorry to be rude, but I have a terrible headache.”
Jean watched her go. “I’d better try to talk to her.”
John shook his head. “She’s going to need some cooling off time before she’s ready to come back down.” He fell silent after that. John didn’t know how to initiate a conversation in the wake of everything Sarah had just unloaded on them, but he was hoping Jean might want to talk anyway.
“Then I’ll go see if they need any help in the kitchen,” Jean decided quietly.
John sighed. So much for talking about it.
“You don’t have to do that, either of you,” Elaine objected, but no one seemed bothered by her admonishment. Scott had already started washing dishes. Ororo collected Jean as she returned to the dining room to gather the rest of the dishes.
“I want to,” Scott said simply. “It’s the least I can do after all the trouble you’ve gone through to have us here.”
“Nonsense. You and Ororo are important to Jean. That makes you important to us. Having you here is the least we can do.”
He paused, considering that explanation for a moment. “I understand,” Scott said softly.
Sarah didn’t hear Jean enter the room when she came upstairs about half an hour later. Jean wasn’t surprised that Sarah couldn’t hear anything; the music was so loud on her headphones that Jean could hear it from across the room. Sarah always had found escape in music, whereas Jean had taken solace in books.
Jean paused to look around. Sarah had thoroughly redecorated over Thanksgiving. Her room was always taken over by her music interests, but now one wall was adorned with a massive black and white poster featuring four band members. The black and white photo along with the band’s simple dress and retro hairstyles made them look like a throwback to the 1950's. Jean tried not to laugh as she remembered Elaine’s interpretation of the group (it had caused Sarah to slam the door closed and turn the music up twice as loud). That poster was the centerpiece of the collection, its simple black and white presentation broken only by an artistic flourish that highlighted a handful of yellow daffodils held by the man standing slightly out in front of the other three; presumably that made him the lead singer. All around the larger poster were dozens of smaller photos and articles cut from various magazines. Jean studied the collage for a couple of minutes before she came across the band name: The Smiths.
Sarah’s voice surprised her. “Paul has friends in Manchester, England, where they’re from. They send Paul clippings and bootleg recordings from the early shows, before they were famous. Paul’s even more into them than I am. He says his next film school project is going to have a video montage using their music.”
Jean smiled. Obviously Sarah considered the common interest a badge of honor. Jean could still hear the music playing even though Sarah had slid the headphones down around her neck so she could talk to Jean.
“Paul wants to make professional music videos one day,” Sarah added.
Jean sat down on the edge of the bed. “Will you come back down?”
“Mom wants to watch the movie?” Sarah guessed.
Jean shrugged. “It’s a Christmas Eve tradition. Besides, you like It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Sarah shrugged this time. “How can you not like It’s a Wonderful Life? It’s just the same thing every year.”
Jean grinned. “That’s why it’s a tradition. Come back down. We’re going to open the gifts tonight instead of waiting until tomorrow morning.”
Sarah laughed at her sister’s cajoling tone. It reminded her of how excited they used to get over opening gifts early when they were little kids.
“Please come back down– for me.”
“For you, but only for you,” Sarah begrudgingly conceded.
Jean hugged her sister tightly. “Thanks, Sarah.”
John Grey retrieved the remote control from coffee table and flipped off the television. Elaine was seated beside him on the living room sofa, the room lit only by the soft glow of white lights on the Christmas tree. His other arm rested casually around her shoulders as she dabbed a tissue at her eyes. Of course Elaine was in tears by the end; she always started in at the exact moment George Bailey began screaming Merry Christmas at the top of his lungs, celebrating the fact that he was alive. John found that just as endearing after twenty-one years of marriage as he had the first Christmas they had celebrated together.
The kids were all camped out on the floor in front of the TV.
“So what did you think?” he asked them.
Neither Scott nor Ororo had seen It’s a Wonderful Life before, so John had been getting their feedback all night during the commercials. While he always enjoyed the story the movie told, he had especially enjoyed seeing it from their perspective. They each answered that they had enjoyed it and offered well-thought out analysis on everything from the plot and characters, to the time period, to the emotionally uplifting moral of the story.
Ororo was particularly taken with the themes of people’s lives being intertwined, and the way George Bailey never understood the value of his own life because his life never followed the paths he considered to be desirable. Scott focused more on actions than themes. He saw the flaws in George’s character, but liked that he always did the right thing for others in spite of his own flaws... even when that meant giving up what he wanted for himself. Scott was also fascinated by the historical depictions of The Great Depression and World War II, and especially by the way ordinary people had organized and mobilized to serve, both at home and abroad.
“Your grandfather was a pilot in the war, wasn’t he, Scott?” Jean asked.
Scott nodded proudly. “He was.”
“Grandpa Joseph was a paratrooper, right Dad?” Sarah asked.
John nodded. “He parachuted into Italy into 1943.”
“Op Husky or Op Avalanche?”
John grinned. “Operation Torch, the first wave into Sicily.”
“Alright, before the boys get lost in war stories, we have gifts to open,” Elaine told them.
Jean and Sarah made their way over to the tree and began distributing the gifts.
Scott and Ororo exchanged cautious looks, clearly wondering if now might be a good time for them to excuse themselves from the family portion of events. Then Jean handed each of them two gifts, one from her and Sarah, one from John and Elaine. For a couple of seconds they were each speechless. Finally Ororo gave a little nod that was almost like a bow.
“How very kind. Thank you all.”
Jean only grinned at them. “Merry Christmas.”
“You really shouldn’t have,” Scott protested weakly. He knew he probably sounded like a broken record by now, but he just didn’t know how else to react. “You’ve already done more than enough.”
“Nonsense,” Elaine insisted, swiftly cutting short the rest of his argument. “Just open it.” It sounded more like an order than an instruction or an invitation. But in this instance, Sarah laughed at her mother’s characteristic abruptness.
“There’s no use arguing with her. You won’t win, trust me.”
The two stared at each other for a few seconds before Jean burst out laughing. Finally Sarah and Elaine smiled at one another, causing John to laugh as well.
“Okay,” Scott agreed. “Thank you.”
Elaine nodded. “You’re more than welcome, dear.”
It was a very happy scene after that. Scott stopped arguing and simply conceded, mostly because he didn’t want to spoil things for the others. He understood that it wasn’t really about him. The Greys were all enjoying themselves, and he and Ororo were fortunate to be included in their good cheer.
Like him, he could tell that Ororo was a little floored, and deeply grateful... but unlike him, she didn’t seem at all hesitant. He had noticed that before. Accepting kindness didn’t bother her the way it bothered him. Scott always felt like there was a hidden catch lurking somewhere underneath any form of good fortune, and the fact that he hadn’t found it yet bothered him until he could make better sense of his circumstances. But in this instance, even once he thought he understood it, it still didn’t feel entirely right to him. He still felt out of place.
Jean finished handing out gifts and seated herself with Scott and Ororo to one side, Sarah to her other side.
“Come on now!” Elaine prompted them impatiently. “Everybody get cracking on those gifts.”
So Let it Be Written Publishing © 2004