FAQ       Archive      Extras       Gallery
       Links       Subscribe

L. Burke

Boy Scouts, Sex, and Other Mysterious Things

DISCLAIMER: The characters belong to Marvel, and are
used without permission for entertainment purposes only.

"Scott pay attention!" Charles Xavier snapped. "I am NOT teaching this class again."

            Scott rolled his eyes behind his glasses and said, "Yes Sir."  Tab A goes in to slot B.  How difficult is that to figure out?  Anyone with a brain could figure out where all the pieces went and how, he thought to himself.  It was all the stuff that led up to that point that confused him.  He never quite understood how the simple process of reproduction could be the center of a teenager's existence.  It all boiled down to what, about five seconds of gratification?  He never really understood the pull.  Maybe there was something wrong with him?  This whole messy process was the one thing a teenager lived for?  It didn't make any sense.  It really seemed like a complete waste of energy and resources to him.  Hormone urges just distracted you from your primary objectives, confused your thinking process, and wasted energy.   

A date Warren had set him up with once accused him of being a dead, cold fish.  Maybe she was right. He had never really put any thought in to what she had said to him before.  All Scott really remembered from that awful date was the fact that the girl never shut up and her nose was too big for her face.  Maybe there was something wrong with him? There had to be.  When the only thing he could remember from his first date was the fact that he wasn’t quite sure how much of her was real and how much had been plastic.  The evil little voice inside his head had kept calling her ‘Barbie’ all evening.  That and she droned on and on and wouldn’t shut up.  It was the first and last date he had ever gone on.   

            “Scott I told you to pay attention to this lecture.  I am not going over this material again.” Professor Xavier snapped.  Professor Xavier suddenly turned an icy glare towards Warren, who was raising his hand gleefully, and asked, “Yes?”  Scott didn’t quiet catch Warren’s question, but Scott was sure that he had never seen the Professor turn that shade of red before.  He did catch the ‘I’ll get you for this’ glare that Professor Xavier shot Warren after Warren asked his question.  Scott shook his head and let his mind wander again.

            Warren once told him to understand the pull, he needed to understand women.  Fine, information gathering was something Scott could comprehend.  To understand the enemy you needed to learn about the enemy.  Before you could anticipate the enemy's next move you had to understand them.  After doing some heavy research, which included wasting an afternoon in the bookstore’s romance section, Scott had come to the very logical conclusion that women did not make any sense.  A strategy that worked for one woman would not work for another.  The only thing that made him feel better was the fact that most other men didn’t have a clue either.  It was nice to know he was floundering with the rest of the male side of the species. 

            Scott had come to the conclusion that dating, like warfare, was all based on deception.  Dating and warfare both depended upon making the other person see and think what you wanted them to think. Hence, men wore ties, and women wore makeup.  The thing that confused Scott was what, in the end, did women want you to think?  If you cannot understand an enemy, you cannot hope to defeat it; and if you cannot defeat your enemy, your best tactical option is to escape and elude the enemy.   What baffled Scott was that sometimes the harder you tried to elude, the harder some women tried to get you.  Women just did not make good sense tactically.

            “Alright,” Xavier suddenly snapped, slamming his book shut.  “I think everyone has had quite enough.”  Xavier glared at Warren. “I know I have.”  Warren gave Xavier the sweetest smile in return.  “Everyone is dismissed.  I have an appointment with Carol this afternoon, so if anyone has any questions, I will be free to answer them this evening.  Dismissed.”


            “Carol’s coming,”  Bobby Drake chanted as he jumped around the living room.  Scott rolled his eyes and tried to concentrate on the book he was trying to read.  Hank sat on the couch snickering, and Warren was shaking his head, amused.

            Hank started sniffing the air, glared at Bobby and asked suspiciously, “Are you wearing my aftershave?”

            Bobby ignored that question. “Carol’s so nice, funny, and she has the most glorious smile.  Do you think she might notice me?”

            Warren rolled his eyes and groaned at that question. “Carol’s pretty job oriented, Bobby.  She would only notice you if she thought you were a youth in trouble.”

            Hank glared at Bobby. “If that’s my good aftershave, Drake’s going to be a youth in trouble alright.”

            “Okay, I’ll bite,” Jean announced looking up from the homework she was working on.  “Who’s Carol?”

            “Carol’s nice, funny, has a great sense of humor and she’s a wonderful person,” Bobby announced.

            Scott rolled his eyes behind his glasses.  “Carol’s my parole officer.  She comes up here to get a status report once a month.  She’s young, just out of school, perky, idealistic, and determined that she can save every troubled child.  I can deal with her being young and right out of school.  It's the cheerful, idealistic and perky part that I have a hard time dealing with.  She's part of the juvenile justice system for God’s sake, they’re not supposed to be idealistic.  Carol’s a freaky anomaly.  I hate anomalies."

            Bobby glared at Scott for that remark. “Carol’s great.”

            Scott raised an eyebrow at Bobby’s and stated dryly, “No one is that perky without artificial means; a lot of artificial means.”

            “Oh no,” Warren announced with a smirk “A woman is already coming between the two of you.”

            Right then, the Professor came walking in alongside a woman who had to be Carol.  Carol was a short, perky blond, with the bluest eyes Jean had ever laid eyes upon.  Jean did a quick scan with her telepathic senses; Carol was pretty on the inside too.  Carol saw Scott and gave him the widest smile Jean had ever seen.

            “Hey Scott,” Carol announced, smiling. “I’m so pleased with your progress so far.  Charles was filling me in on it.  I’m going to have a great report to file.”

            Scott nodded at her and said, “Thanks.”

            Carol’s smiled got wider. “So what have you been doing besides studying, Scott?”

            Scott studied Carol for a moment, then stated in a monotone: “Well, on my off time, I’ve saved the world a couple of times from evil mutants.  I joined a cult and then overthrew its leader because he was badly mistreating his people.  That’s of course after the head of the cult tried to sacrifice me to a demon.  After I overthrew the old leader, the members of the cult voted me their leader.  I made everyone get jobs.  I outlawed human sacrifice.  I helped them fix up their boarding house and open a soup kitchen for the homeless in its basement.  I also organized a band for them and they’re playing at the children’s hospital cancer ward benefit next month.  Other than that, not much; it’s been a slow month.”

            Carol smirked at Scott and turned to Charles, “He’s learning to express a sense of humor.”

            Charles gave Carol a nervous smile and glared at Scott. “Yes, Scott is learning to express a sense of humor; a very dry one.”

            Scott gave the Professor a completely innocent look and replied, “That’s me Sir, life of the party.”

            Carol just smiled at him. “All I have to do is teach you how to smile now.”

            Scott just gave Carol a cold look and dryly stated, “Putting a smile on my face is like putting pastel colors on Wednesday Adams.  Some things should just never be done."

            Carol smirked at that response. “Anyway, that’s not the reason I tracked you down, Scott.  I talked this idea over with Charles and he thought it might be a good idea.  I’m running a weekend getaway for troubled youth.  I think it would be great if you could come out with us and give these kids an example of someone just like them, who turned his life around.  All the kids are non-violent first time offenders, and I think you could do a lot of good coming with us.  I’ll knock the time off your community service.  What do you say?”

            Scott studied Carol for a moment. “I won’t have to give any speeches, will I?”

            Carol shook her head.  “Nope, all you need to do is come along and be your charming self.  You’re friends are invited to come along too if they want to.  Volunteer work always looks great on any college application.  The ivory league schools look for it.”

            “I’ll go,”  Hank McCoy added in gleefully.

            “I’ll go too,” Bobby chipped in excitedly. “We can help drag those kids back on the straight and narrow, just like we did Scott.  It sounds like fun.”

            Scott glared at Bobby. “Dragged me back on the straight and narrow?  Don’t you mean ‘nagged’ me back to the straight and narrow?”  Bobby stuck his tongue out at Scott for that remark.

            “I’ll go,” Jean stated. “I would love just to get out of here for the weekend.”

            Warren suddenly added in, “I’ll go to.  I’d hate to be the only one stuck around here for the weekend.”

            Hank shot Warren a questioning look. “I thought you were going home this weekend?”

            Warren sighed. “I was, long story.”

            Scott shook his head and sighed. “I guess I’ll go as long as I don’t have to do any public speaking.”

            Carol gave them all a wide smile. “That’s great!  We’re going to have so much fun! Just you wait and see! Just wait till you meet these kids!  I’ll be by on Friday at noon to pick the five of you up.”  Carol turned to leave and then turned around again when she hit the doorway. “Oh, and Scott.”  Scott raised a questioning eyebrow at her.  “Try to pack a smile or two to bring with will you?”  Scott scowled at her for that remark, but Carol just smiled back at him, then walked out the door.


            The van pulled up Friday right at noon, as Carol had promised.  Jean watched as Carol and three other kids piled out of the van. Carol jogged up to them and asked, "Is everyone ready to go and packed?"

            Bobby nodded, chattering excitedly, "Yup! We even bullied Scott into bringing his guitar."

            Carol gave them all a wide smile. "That's great!  Scott, shame on you; you never told me you could play."

            Scott sighed. "You never asked and it never came up."

            "Okay, everyone gather around.  I only want to make introductions once," Carol shouted as she gestured to the other three kids.  "Sue, Bruno, and Jose', I want you guys to meet Hank, Bobby, Warren, Jean and…"Carol paused, wrapping her arm around Scott's shoulder.  Scott stiffened at the contact. "This is Scott.  He's the one I've told you so much about.  You all can learn so much from him; that's why I asked him to come with us this weekend."

            "So we finally get to meet the Boy Scout," Bruno sneered at Scott, then looked at Bobby. "Oh look, he brought a pet, too." 

            "Bruno," Scott scoffed. "What a original thug name."

            Bruno sent another sneer in Scott's direction. "I don't like you, skinny."

            Scott smiled back at Bruno sweetly. "I don't like you either."

            "Oh my stars and garters," Hank broke in. "Under thirty seconds, I think that's a new Scott record for instant dislike."

            "Okay everyone," Carol broke in. "Break it up!  I have to go talk to Charles before we leave.  I will be just a minute.  Everyone behave while I'm gone." With that, Carol started jogging towards the door of the mansion.

            Bruno glared at Scott. "While Little-Miss-Goodie-Two-Shoes is gone, I’m going to make myself perfectly clear.  Make sure you keep yourself and your pet away from me.  Do I make myself clear? Mess with me and you're both going to regret it."

            "Hey jerk!" Bobby injected.

            "Bobby," Scott said calmly. "Let me handle this."  Scott turned and walked up to Bruno, looking him straight in the eye. "Since we are making ourselves perfectly clear Bruno, let me tell you how it is.  You're going to be polite and respectful to everyone going on this trip.  You're also going to leave Bobby and me alone."

            "Or?" Bruno sneered.

            "I'm going to wipe the ground with you punk," Scott stated in a very calm, very deadly tone.  "I'm tired of your insult throwing, bad attitude, delinquent want-a-be, whiney ass, momma's boy, country-music-reject, self already.  If you don't behave, I’m going to take the nearest blunt object, something close to the size of Warren, Hank, and their tents and stuff it up your largest body crevice.  I don't like bullies and I won't tolerate them.  Bullies tend to bring out the worst in me.   Did I make myself perfectly clear to you Bruno?"

            Bruno was taken back for a moment. "I'm supposed to be worried about that threat?"

            Scott just continued to look Bruno coldly in the eye and replied, "Try me."

            "Well," the boy Carol had introduced as Jose' added in. "Apparently, someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning."  Jose' had a very nice smile, Jean thought.

            Warren just gave Jose' his most charming smile and said, "Slim tends to live there, I'm afraid."

            Jose' just shot Warren a nervous smile back. "I'll keep that in mind."

            "Do that," Warren replied coldly.

            Sue bestowed a wide smile on Scott.  Sue could be very pretty, Jean thought, if Sue took some of the make up she had piled on, off.  "So, Scott you play the guitar?" 

            Scott just turned his head to glare at her. "Yes," was all Scott said.  Sue just shot Scott an even wider smile and started batting her eyelashes at him.  Jean decided right then that Sue and she were going to have issues.  "Carol's told me so much about you, it's like I almost know you already."

            Scott just turned his head to glare at her again. "Doubtful," he retorted.

            Sue just batted her eyelashes at Scott harder. "I bet you’re a cornucopia of hidden talents.  I bet you're a regular genie in a bottle."

            Scott turned his head to glare at Sue yet again. "You're managing to rub me the wrong way."

            An even wider smile. "And you have a great sense of humor too."

            Before Scott could respond, Carol came walking out the front door of the mansion.  "Is everyone ready to go?" Carol asked. 

            "Very," Scott announced dryly.

            "Great!  Everyone pile up in the van and we're out of here."

            Jean tried to get the seat next to Scott, but Sue got it first.  Sue was smiling at Scott and Scott was glaring at Sue.  "Looks like we'll be sitting next to each other for the ride there, Scott," Sue announced. Jean did some quick calculations in her head to see if she could ram Sue out of one the van's windows telekinetically. 

            "Apparently," Scott said wryly.

            Sue just grinned at Scott. "I'm just going to have to keep close tabs on you all weekend, Scott." 

Scott looked like he was considering trying to ram himself out the nearest van window.  "You have no idea what type of instinctive reactions that thought calls up in me, Sue."

Sue continued to smile, not snagging the hint. "When I'm around you, do I give you butterflies?"

"Oh, you manage to affect my stomach alright," Scott replied.

Sue's smile got wider and she batted her eyelashes again at Scott. "Here let me help you with your seat belt, Scott."

"Kindly, get your hands off of me!" Jean heard Scott bark coldly. 

Jean then looked up out of the van window as the van pulled out of the mansion's drive.  Jean vaguely wondered where the cloud of doom that was following them was hiding.


"We're here everyone!  We're going to have so much fun.  Is everyone ready to do some camping!"  Carol shouted as the van came to a stop and she jumped out.  Scott looked out the window.  Some higher power had a sense of humor--Scott Summers was at a Boy Scout Camp.  Scott vaguely wondered, while looking out the window, whether he would catch fire and implode into dust like a vampire in contact with a holy object, if he stepped out of the vehicle.  Scott just continued to sit there and study the place as some of the others jumped out and started unloading.

"Oh, this is charming," Warren, said sarcastically. "All I need is coveralls, a can of spray paint, and a water tower.  I could go native."

Scott smirked at Warren. "I can't help but notice, you're wearing the same dark blue color as a Cub Scout's uniform."

Warren shrugged. "I couldn't help myself, the irony was just two temping."

"Yes," Scott said, shaking his head as he continued to look out the window. "The irony of the two of us being here didn't escape me either."

Warren gave Scott a mock snotty look.  "Warren Worthington the Third at a Boy Scout camp.  Whatever will people think?”  Warren's look suddenly got thoughtful. "Do you think they have some sort of list that says who can come to one of their camps?  After some of the stunts I pulled at prep school, I mean if they do have some banned-for-life list, my name is certainly on it."

            "Come one you two," Bobby grumbled, hopping out of the van. "Stop stalling and help us unload."

            "Indeed," Hank stated as he jumped out next. "I haven't been to a Boy Scout camp in years.  The last time I was at a Boy Scout Camp was when I became an Eagle Scout.   My dad and I went together."

            That's when Sue came up and threw her arms around Scott's shoulders.  Scott stiffened, and turned his head to glare at her.  "Are you an Eagle Scout, Scott?"

            Scott shot her a very irritated look. "No. I never made it past turkey," he snapped.  Then Scott glared at the arm that was thrown around his shoulders. "What did I tell you about the touching-me thing?"

            Sue blinked her eyes at him, ignoring that statement. "Will you help me put my tent up?"

            Scott continued to glare at her. "Only if I can tie you up with it and throw you in the lake."

            Sue just gave Scott a coy look. "Do you have a thing for knots, Scott?  I was a Girl Scout you know?  I know a few knots that could come in very handy at securing things."  Scott snapped his head around to look at Sue with an absolute expression of horror on his face.  He opened his mouth to say something, then snapped his mouth shut again.  Sue just blinked suggestively at him in response.  Scott, in one smooth move, scooted across the seat away from Sue and bolted out of the van.  

            Jean turned around in her seat so she could look at Sue.  "I'll help you put your tent up, Sue," Jean said sweetly, in a tone that Warren recognized as containing lots of menace.  "Let's go start putting that tent up right away.  The guys can stay and unload the heavy stuff."  Right then Jean's arm, grabbed Sue's forearm, and Jean started dragging her out of the van.

            "You're hurting me," Sue protested, as Jean dragged her out of the van.

            "Am I?" Jean asked innocently.  Warren just shook his head as he climbed out of the van.  This was going to be a very interesting weekend. 


            “So you think you can carry that all by yourself Skinny, or do you think you’re going to need some help with that?”

            Scott just shot Bruno a look, picked the backpack up, pretended to not be able to handle it and smacked Bruno hard in the gut with it.  Bruno went sprawling on to the ground.  “Whoops,” Scott said innocently.  “I guess it might have been heavier than I first thought. Sorry about that.”

            From where he was sitting on the ground, Bruno threatened, “You had better watch your little pet, Skinny.”

            “Skinny,” Scott retorted sarcastically. “That’s so original.  Allow me a moment to bask in your radiant brilliance.”

            “Okay you two,” Carol shouted as she ran over. “Break it up.”  Carol turned and addressed Scott, “I’m making you responsible for the music tonight.”  Then, addressing both of them, “We’re going to have a cook out, sing songs, and roast marshmallows, doesn’t that sound like a great time you two?  Scott just needs to come up with a couple of great songs everyone knows the words to and can sing along with.  Everyone will have a great time tonight, just you two wait and see!”

            Scott gave Carol a innocent look. “I think I have a song running through my head already.”

            “You do?  That’s great!” Carol said excitedly, jumping up and down. “What is it?  That way I can go ask around and see if everyone knows the words.” 

            Scott looked down at Bruno and sneered. “How about, ‘I Hate Everything About You’ by Ugly Kid Joe?”


            “Well I was thinking about getting a tattoo.  What do you think I should get?” Bobby asked as they were hiking along towards the location they would be camping for the night

Scott rolled his eyes behind his glasses.  Knowing that all Bobby wanted a tattoo for was to impress Carol, he replied, “How about ‘Kick Me’?”

Bobby stuck his tongue out at that response.  “You’re just cranky because Sue asked you if you liked to rock, as in a woman’s world.  You’re a regular girl magnet Scott,” Bobby said, an impish expression on his face. “It must be the glasses.  Women just can’t help themselves.”

Scott turned and glared at him. “You know Bobby, I’m already picturing wrapping you in duct tape and throwing you in the lake.”

“Hey you two!” Carol shouted, waving as she jogged up to them.  “I’m impressed.  I thought I was in great shape, but you two are putting up a killer pace and not showing any sign of slowing down.  You two have full gear too.”  She was gasping. “How about we stop here and take a rest and let the others catch up?  How much hiking do the two of you do anyway?”

Bobby just shrugged. “We go hiking almost every weekend.  Jean and Warren usually go home to visit their families.  Hank’s usually in his lab, and Scott and I go out and hike.  Scott tends to set a killer pace.”

Carol nodded at that response. “Tell me about it.  Bobby why don’t you backtrack and hustle the others along?  I’m going to rest here with Scott and try to catch my breath.”  Bobby just nodded and headed back down the trail.

“Good now that we’re alone,” Carol began. Scott rolled his eyes; here it comes.  “I’m asking you to try to be a little nicer to Bruno okay?  I know it’s not an easy task and he’s not the most pleasant person you'll ever meet.  Bruno’s not a bad kid Scott.  Yes, I know he’s a bully, but he’s only acting out what he knows.  What his father taught him.”

“So?” Scott growled. “That makes it okay for him to threaten to hurt Bobby?  That makes it okay for him to threaten to hurt someone younger than he is?”

“No, of course not,” Carol responded. “But Bruno has only threatened, and he actually hasn’t made a move to hurt Bobby.  That leaves a lot of room for you to let it slide off your back and compromise until he actually tries something.  If Bruno actually tries to hurt Bobby, you won’t be the first one to trounce him.   Trust me.”

Scott glared at her for that remark. “Compromise, in my experience, has always been another word for lose.”

Carol shook her head sadly. “You are so wrong, Scott.  Compromise most times is the only way everyone wins.  Bruno is acting out the lessons that his drunken, abusive father taught him.  Don’t act out the lessons that Jack taught you.  Don’t let Jack win like that.”  Her face suddenly got that perky look that Scott had learned to dread. “Let’s sing a song while we’re waiting for the others!  Come on Scott I know you know the words!”  Carol suddenly broke out in to a round of ‘Why Can't We Be Friends.’  Scott eyed a rock about the size of his fist on the ground by Carol’s feet and wondered if she’d notice if he beat himself unconscious with it.


"Sue, I'm so sorry," Jean declared sweetly.  "I didn't see you when I swung that tent pole around.  I didn't mean to brain you like that."

Sue smiled sweetly right back at Jean and glared. "I'm sure you didn't."  Sue turned to look at Scott. "Will you kiss it and make it feel better?  The lump really hurts."

Scott glared at her and replied, "I wouldn’t kiss you even if you promised to sleep in a pit of mean hungry scorpions.  Better yet I wouldn't kiss you even if you took a full bottle of sleeping pills, set yourself on fire, jumped out a fifty-story window, and hit a live high-voltage wire on the way down in to a pool."

Sue smiled at him and blinked her eyes suggestively. "I think you're just shy." Scott snorted and glared at Sue.  Sue just smiled back. "I understand you like to study World War II, Scott.  Do you like the Pacific or the European front?"

Scott blinked at her in surprise for a moment, and then got a thoughtful look on his face.  "You like World War II?"

Sue nodded. "My Grandfather was a commander in the Pacific.  It's been a hobby of mine for years.  I told you Scott, we do have a lot in common."

Jean caught the thoughtful look that Scott was giving Sue.  That wasn't going to do at all.  "Scott, come help me put up my tent."  Jean said sweetly, as she gave his arm a good yank. 

Scott went flying off the rock where he and Sue were sitting. "Whoa!  Red you're hurting me," he said, as Jean dragged him across the camp away from Sue.

"Am I?" Jean asked sweetly.


"Can I help you with that?"  Jean, struggling to put up her tent, turned around and saw Jose' standing there.  She nodded you him. "If you could hold this line for me, I would be really grateful."

Jose' gave her a charming smile worthy of one of Warren's.  Jose' was very good looking in a very Spanish sort of way.  He had black hair and ink-black eyes you could just drown in. "Where'd your friend go anyway?" Jose’ asked.

Jean rolled her eyes. "Scott went to go look for Bobby.  He still doesn't trust Bruno not to try something."

Jose' gave her another charming smile. "You're friend must have forgotten a very important unspoken rule."

Jean tilted her head and asked, "What rule?"

Jose's smile got a little wider. "Never leave a beautiful woman to put up a tent all by herself."

Jean gave him a smirk. "I don't think anyone ever taught Scott that rule.  He told me, and I'll quote him here, 'it would be to my own strategic advantage to learn to put a tent up without assistance.’  Just in case I ever found myself in a situation where I would find myself alone and requiring shelter."

Jose' gave her a thoughtful look. "Are you sure he didn't mean to just blow you off?"

Jean chuckled humorlessly. "If we were talking about any other guy but Scott, I'd say yes.  Scott never says anything he doesn't mean, and exactly how he says it, is exactly how he means it.  I remember I took him shopping with me once.  I came out modeling a dress and asked him what he thought of it.  Scott just looked up from the book he was reading and stated dryly, ‘I won’t bother waking you.  I’ll just leave the twenty on the dresser.’  Scott hasn’t learned the fine art of being subtle.  You never ask his opinion unless you want a blunt, honest answer."

Jose' gave her a thoughtful look as he yanked on the line he was holding. "He must be a blast at parties."

Jean gave him an amused look. "Oh he is.  Scott once told me, there are people who put the sweet in life, and there are people who put the spice in life.  Scott then stated that Dr. Seuss wrote about people like him when he wrote the line 'triple-decker toadstool and sauerkraut sandwich, with arsenic sauce.'"

"Jean!" Bobby shouted as he ran up to her. "I'm so happy I found you.  I need you to be my inner voice of reason and maturity."

Jean blinked at Bobby.  "Your inner voice of reason and maturity?"

Bobby nodded.  "You know, like the professor would be.  I need something to counterbalance my inner brat."

"Okay?" was all Jean responded.

Bobby took a deep breath. "Well, Bruno has been giving me a hard time.  I need you to tell me all the reasons I shouldn't do something nasty to him in return."

Jean raised an eyebrow. "What would Slim say?"

Bobby gave her a thoughtful expression. "Don't get caught?"

Jean shook her head. "What would the Professor say?"

Bobby bit his lip for a moment. "That doing something mean and petty to Bruno would be putting me on his same level." 

"And?" Jean pressed.

Bobby gave her another thoughtful expression. "I've decided to go with my inner brat on this one.  To quote Slim, 'To hell with transcending.  Who wants to be a better person?'   Sorry Jean.  I can live with being on Bruno's level.  Thanks for trying."

"Anytime," Jean said dryly.

Bobby gave her a wide smile. "Hank's been showing me all the knots he learned when he was at Boy Scout camp.  I think it's time I show Hank what I learned at Boy Scout camp.  I think Hank will get a big kick out of it."

Jean watched Bobby as he trotted off, and muttered out loud, "Why do I suddenly feel very sorry for Bruno?"


"You cross the line like this, then you pull it through, and here we have a secure knot," Hank announced.

"That's great Hank," Bobby said.

"Out of my way runt," Bruno announced, pushing Bobby out of the way.  "If I catch you near me, I'm going to trounce you, got it?  You're friend isn't around to protect you."  Bobby just nodded innocently at Bruno.  Bruno snorted and crawled inside his tent.

Bobby shot Hank a wide smile and asked, "Would you like to see what I learned at Boy Scout camp?"

"Sure. What did you learn Robert?" Hank asked sweetly.

Bobby walked over to Bruno's tent. "Take this knot, if you yank this end of the line, the knot just comes right undone."

"Really?" Hank asked innocently.

Bobby nodded. "The funny thing about this line.  If you let it go, " Bobby said, letting the line go, “It just happens to be the line holding the support poles up and the whole tent falls down."  The tent then fell down like a badly supported house of cards.

From inside the tent Bruno shouted as he struggled to get out. "When I get out of here and get my hands on you runt, you are going to be so sorry!"

Hank smirked at Bobby, trying to keep a straight face. "How does being an agent of Satan pay these days?"

Bobby just smirked back and shrugged.  "Pretty good." Then a pout crossed Bobby's face as he turned to watch Bruno struggle to get out of his tent.  "But Slim's made my duties largely ceremonial, so I just don't get as much field work as I'd like."


Warren was sitting out on a rock, taking a drag of his cigarette, and watching the sunset.  When a voice barked out, “I thought you quit?” 

Warren jumped about a foot, almost falling off the rock he was sitting on.  “Damn it Scott, can you walk anymore quietly?  You scared the hell out of me.” 

Scott, in response, just put his hands on his hips and glared at the cigarette in Warren’s hand.  “Bobby might catch you with that thing.”

            Warren sighed. “That’s why I came up here to be alone.  I don’t want Bobby seeing me,” he said, flicking some ash off his cigarette. “As for quitting, I am.  It’s called stepping down.  It’s a horrible filthy habit I picked up at a prep school.  It screws up my high altitude flying; it also messes up my long distance endurance.  It makes my breath and clothes smell like an ashtray, my teeth turn yellow, and most likely will give me some form of throat or face cancer someday.  Just for the vanity aspects, I’m quitting.”  Warren got a very bitter expression on his face. “Not to mention that it makes one of my father’s fat, obnoxious, stuck-up friends even richer.”  Warren studied the pack of cigarettes he had. “Oh wait, I think we own stock in this particular brand of death stick,” he said bitterly, with a sneer.  “Beer and cigarettes, sure stocks during a recession.”

            Scott studied Warren for a moment, then asked, “If I pretend to care, do you want to talk about it?”

            Warren smirked at Scott. “Since you’re pretending to care, my dad cancelled out on the three-week ski trip we had planned for summer break.  He used the usual line of an ‘important business meeting came up and I’ll make it up to you.’  That’s why I didn’t go home this weekend.  I didn’t want to sit there and listen to my mom defend him.”

            Scott got a thoughtful look on his face. “Do you ever wonder that the only difference between the haves and the have-nots is that with the have-not’s, nobody pretends to care?”

            Warren’s face wore a bitter half-smirk. “All the time.  Would you be interested in going to Switzerland for our three-week summer break?”

            Scott bit his lip, then turned his head and looked in the direction of the sunset.  Warren could tell Scott was seriously considering his offer.  After a few moments Scott shook his head and said, “I can’t go.  I already bought a bus ticket to Nashville and I can’t exchange it.”

            Warren blinked. “Nashville, as in Tennessee?”

            Scott nodded, turning a little pink. “While everyone was out on break, I was going down to Graceland for a week.”

            A smile broke out on Warren face. “Graceland, Scott?  You are full of surprises.”

            “You’re welcome to come along with me if you want?” Scott offered.

            Warren took another drag on his cigarette, “How about this?  I’ll go down to Nashville with you.  I’ve never been down there and it sounds like fun.  Since, I’m dragging myself along, I’ll pay for the hotel rooms.  Warren Worthington doesn’t do Best Western.  We’ll spend a week down in Tennessee like you planned, then from Nashville we’ll catch a flight to Switzerland and we’ll spend the rest of our break trying to cause international incidents with Swiss sky bunnies.”

            Scott was very quiet as he considered the offer for a few moments. “Deal,” he finally said. “ Someone needs to keep you out of trouble when you’re in one of these modes.”

            Warren studied Scott for a moment. “If pretend to care, you want to talk about it?”

            Scott scowled at him. “I was looking for Bobby.”

            “And?” Warren prompted. 

            Scott’s scowl deepened. “Explain women to me.”

            Warren almost inhaled his cigarette. “What?” he croaked.

            Scott tapped his foot impatiently. “You heard me.  You have much more field experience in this area.  Women do not make logical sense.”

            Warren blinked at him. “Logical sense?”

            Scott rolled his eyes. “Darwin argues that physical attraction is nature’s way of passing desirable traits down through generations and ensuring a species’ survival.  Females of every species look for mates that have favorable traits that would help their offspring survive.”

            “You’re trying to explain women in the context of Darwin’s theories?” Warren choked.

            Scott scowled at Warren again. “Are you listening or not?”  Warren nodded.  “So,” Scott continued, “women should logically pursue mates who have traits they want their offspring to inherit.  Take social standing and good looks—women should logically pursue you.”

            Warren blinked in shock. “Thanks.  I’m flattered.”

            “If a woman wanted her offspring to inherit intelligence, Hank would be the logical male to pursue,” Scott went on.  “If a woman wanted a good-natured personality, Bobby would be the logical choice.  I have no traits a woman should find desirable to pass on to her offspring.  Evolutionally speaking, I’m a total waste of energy to pursue.”

            “Funny. I don’t remember the Professor going into Darwin in great depth,” Warren announced in a baffled tone.

            Scott sighed. “In the orphanage where I grew up, the head of it, made us memorize Darwin and Nietzsche.  I can recite their works backward and forward.  He was really into the concept of survival of the fittest.  Ran the orphanage that way, too.”

            Warren shook his head in disbelief. “Did he have a German accent and show you Nazi brainwashing propaganda in his secret basement lab?”

            Scott shrugged. “The kids at the orphanage had a bet going about the noises we heard coming out of the basement sometimes.”

            “I’ll keep that in mind,” Warren said wryly, taking another drag. “The problem is that you sabotage your own argument by stating woman are not logical, but then you try to analyze them logically.”

            “Still,” Scott stated, shaking his head.  “Human beings are self-centered creatures.  We understand the basics of cost-benefit instinctively.  Let’s take it in context of a battlefield.”

            Warren rolled his eyes. “Okay.”

            “If you have a well fortified position to take, you would calculate how many resources are needed to take that position.  If the cost were greater than the benefits of gaining that position, you would not logically try to take that position.  Evolution is one huge battle for survival.  Why waste valuable resources pursuing a male that will not give your offspring the greatest genetic payoff in the long run?”

            Warren let out a deep breath. “Why does a woman stay with a drunk?  There are no benefits to her offspring in doing that either.  People are not logical, no matter how we try to explain their behavior that way.  We’re more than just instincts and logic.”

            Scott sighed and scowled. “Women and love completely baffle me.”

            Warren smirked as he took another drag. “Welcome to being male my friend.”  Warren suddenly got a very thoughtful expression on his face.  “Honestly, I don’t understand love either.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that you and I tend to keep people at a distance.  Hence, I only date bimbos and you avoid the whole messy affair like a toxic chemical spill.  For us to really start understanding love, we’d need to drop the walls and let someone in close enough to hurt us.  Better yet, use us. And both of us are a little to world weary to do that.”

            Scott absorbed that for a moment. “I’m starting to understand why the great philosophers and poets that tried to comprehend women either went crazy, killed someone, killed themselves, or started drinking heavily.”

            Warren started chuckling. “Yes, women tend to be able to do that to us. Then they wonder why men start wars.”  Warren threw his cigarette to the earth and ground it out with his foot.  “If it makes you feel any better Scott, I don’t think women have any more of a clue about how we think.  Women just think they understand us better.  It’s actually reassuring in a way to know they’re also floundering around.  So did this little talk help you out at all?”

            Scott sighed. “No.”

            Warren smirked at him. “Good.  I’d hate to think I gave you an unfair advantage over the rest of us.  Come on I’ll walk back with you before someone comes looking for us.”  Scott nodded and started walking down the trail.  “Scott can I give you one good, solid piece of advice?” Warren asked.  Scott stopped, turned around and raised an eyebrow.  “For your sake,” Warren continued, “I would try very hard to forget everything that Nazi ever tried to teach you.”

            Scott was very quiet for a moment, and suddenly replied, “I’ve been trying to do that for years.”


            “Then the roundworm said to the hookworm, are you free tonight or are you latched right in there.”  Hank McCoy was across the bonfire holding his sides, overtaken by laughter. 

            Scott glared at him. “Is that your last joke or do I have to buy your silence by ripping out your spleen, pinning it to a tree, and letting the wild animals gnaw on it?”

            “Thank you,” Bobby grumbled, as he stuffed a hotdog into his mouth. “I couldn’t take another one.”

            Hank gave Scott a snotty look. “You just don’t have any appreciation for a good intellectual joke.”

            Scott raised an eyebrow and replied, “I do when I hear one.”

            Carol playfully smacked Scott on the arm. “Oh, come on Scott; the joke was cute.  Not necessarily funny, but it was cute.  Why don’t you try smiling?”

            “Because it takes all my dark energies of cynicism, apathy, and sarcasm, to keep perkiness and fun in check,” he answered straight-faced.  “It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.  What would humanity ever do with a fun-filled, perfect world anyway?”

            Carol shook her head. “You know Scott, one of these days I’m going to see you smile.”

            Scott studied her for a moment. “The odds of a miracle, though infinitely small, are not exactly zero.” 

            Carol gave Scott her perky look and replied, “Why don’t you try to say something perky?  I bet once you do, you’ll feel great!”

            Scott scowled. “For tonight only, I will try not to keep a mental tab of other people’s stupidity running through my head.”

            Shooting Scott a wide smile, Carol replied, “We’ll work on it.  Why don’t you go get your guitar and play us all something?”

            Scott’s reply was quick and to the point. “No.”

            That’s when Jean looked up from where she was roasting a marshmallow across the fire. “Please Scott, for me?”

            Scott sighed. “For you Red, and only for you.” Scott headed over to his tent for his guitar, then quickly made his way back to the fire.

            As Scott was tuning his guitar, Sue asked, “Are you going to delight us tonight Scott?  I bet your just great at delighting people.”

            Scott looked up from where he was tuning the guitar.  “Doubtful,” he replied.  “Most days I can hardly find the energy to tolerate them.” 

Jean studied the melting marshmallow on her stick.  She sat there and wondered how long it would take Sue to get it out of her hair, if her marshmallow ‘accidentally’ ended up on Sue’s head. 

“I know,” Bobby butted in. “Why don’t you play some of the rebel music I like to listen to.  Just to show Carol what type of rebellious kid she’s dealing with here.”

Scott rolled his eyes and started stringing ‘Puff the Magic Dragon.’”  Soda came shooting out of both Warren and Hank’s noses, as they both started howling.

“Very funny,” Bobby growled under his breath.

Scott’s eyes met Jean’s right before his song started.  Jean recognized the Sting song almost immediately.


You could say I lost my faith in science and progress

                        You could say I lost my belief in the holy church

                        You could say I lost my sense of direction

                        You could say all of this and worse but

                        If I ever lose my faith in you

                        There’d would be nothing left for me to do

                        Some would say I’m a lost man in a lost world

                        You can say I lost my faith in the people on TV

                        You can say I’d lost my belief in our politicians

                        They all seem like game show host to me

                        If I ever lose my faith in you

                        There’d would be nothing left for me to do

                        I could be lost inside their lies without a trace

                        But every time I close my eyes I see your face

                        I never saw no miracle of science

                        That didn’t go from a blessing to a curse

                        I never saw no military solution

                        That didn’t end up as something worse

                        Let me say this first

                        If I ever lose my faith in you

                        There’d be nothing left for me to do


            Carol was the first one to jump up and shout, “Bravo!  Let’s do another one!  How about ‘High Hopes?’”

            Jean noticed that Scott was squirming and turning as red as glasses.  Jean just gave him a wide smile. “That was beautiful Scott.”

            Scott looked down at the ground, blushing even harder, and muttered, “Whatever.”

            Right then Carol started dancing around.  “I know. We can sing ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane,’ or ‘How Many Roads.’”

            Scott looked up from the ground and pegged everyone around the fire with one of his ‘looks.’  “I’m only going to say this once so listen carefully,” Scott said, glancing over his shoulder at Carol, who was still dancing around and shouting out song suggestions, before looking at everyone sitting around the fire again.  “Whoever is supplying her with the happy drugs, either cut her off now, or share them with the rest of us.”  Jean started laughing when she noticed that even Bruno was nodding in agreement.


            Bruno was the one that broke his and Scott’s unspoken truce.  Bobby was walking carrying a scalding-hot cup of cocoa.  When Bruno stuck his foot out and tripped him, hot chocolate went splashing all over Bobby’s hands and Scott’s back.  Bobby let out an involuntary yelp.  Warren could see from across the fire that Bobby’s hand was already starting to blister.  Scott got up and started heading toward Bruno.  From the expression on Scott’s face, someone was going to die, and Hank, reading Scott’s face, jumped between the two.

            Scott glared at Hank. “Get out of my way,” he ordered mildly. 

            Hank shook his head. “Only if you promise not to kill him.”

            Scott continued to glare at Hank and, once again, said in a deceptively mild tone, “I said, get out of my way.  Go take care of Bobby.”  Hank shot Warren a pleading glance.  Warren quickly got up from his place at the fire, scooped Scott up, and threw him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.  Scott very mildly said into Warren’s back, “Put me down.” 

            “I don’t think that would be a very good idea, Slim,” Warren replied, his tone just as mild.

            “Put me down or I’m going to make Shake ‘n’ Bake out of you.  Then I’ll kill the slime-for-brains, bully-wannabe, reject anyway,” Scott muttered into Warren’s back.

            Warren watched as Hank, Jean and Carol fussed over Bobby.  “If I put you down, are you going to kill him?”

            Scott was very quiet for a moment. “I’m weighing my odds of getting away with it.”

            “Well, at least your thinking about it,” Warren mused.  “You have to promise that if I put you down, you won’t kill Bruno.  Then you need to promise me that you’ll let us take a look at your back.”

            “Back?” Scott asked, puzzled.

            Warren nodded. “Bobby’s hot chocolate spilled all over his hand and your back.”

            “I really didn’t notice.  Another task had my attention,” Scott replied.

            “I could tell.”

            “Is Scott all right?” Jean asked as she came over to them.  “Bobby’s got some nasty blisters.  How’s Scott’s back?”

            Warren shrugged.  “That’s a very interesting question.”

            Jean blinked at him. “You haven’t checked?”

            Warren sighed. “Scott’s back wasn’t my first priority.  Preventing Scott from killing Bruno, thus forcing me to come up with ten thousand dollars in bail money, was.”  He shrugged at Jean. “Getting a hold of that much cash on the weekends can be a problem, even for me.”

            “Ten thousand?” Scott snorted indignantly.  “What kind of underachiever do you think I am?  If I was going to kill him, I’m going to make it worth my while.  Try a couple of million in bail bonds. I don’t do anything half measure. ”

            Warren shook his head in amusement. “Can I put you down now?”

            “Yes,” Scott replied calmly.

            “Promise me you won’t kill him.”

            Warren felt Scott stiffen up for a moment before replying, “I promise.  I won’t kill him tonight.”

            Warren rolled his eyes and dumped Scott on the ground.  “Close enough.”

            Hank jogged over. “Warren I need you to bring Bobby down to the lake.  Jean and I are going to look at Scott’s back.”  Scott opened his mouth to protest and Hank glared down at him.  “Not one word, or I’m putting you in a head lock.”


            Scott was laying face down on his sleeping bag.  “I’m going down to the lake to get some cold compresses for his back,” Hank said. “I need you to gently take some soap and water and clean those burns out.”  Scott heard the tent flap rustle as Hank left.

            “Well Slim,” he heard Jean say.  “This is going to hurt.”

            “Fine,” Scott spat out.  “Just do it.”  He knew what the next question out of her mouth was going to be.  He always bristled at having to answer it.  He knew what would catch her attention first—the burn scars.  The scars he got when a burning parachute landed on him following the plane accident that killed his parents.  They were a shade lighter than the rest of his back and they always caught people’s attention first.  Next would be the scars acquired when Jack had knocked him around so hard one night, that he had needed stitches.

            Scott flinched when he felt the cloth that Jean was using to clean his burns touch his back.   He flinched again when Jean said, “Let’s play twenty questions.  It will help keep your mind off of what I’m doing.”

            “I’ll give you ten.  In exchange, I promise not to lie overly much when I answer them.”

            Jean considered that response for a moment. “Deal.  What’s your favorite color?”

            That one threw him. “I really don’t have one anymore.  All I see is shades of red.  I guess before my ‘gift’ came out, blue.”

            Jean's smirking face suddenly appeared in front of him. “I guess that could explain some of your outfits at school?”

            Scott sneered back at her. “What explains the outfits is that I’m tall and skinny and can’t find anything on the racks that fits.  That’s two,” he finished sweetly.

            Jean scowled down at him. “That wasn’t one of my questions and you know it.”

            “You wasted one; not my fault.  Next?”  Scott tried to keep from yelping aloud as he felt Jean slap a cloth on his back.

            “Fine,” Jean sneered. “What’s your favorite food?”

            “I love omelets.  That’s three.”  Jean’s hands were velvet-covered, liquid fire on his back. Suddenly realizing that Jean was saying something to him, Scott threw his mental walls up fast.   He didn’t want Jean seeing his thoughts diving straight for the gutter. “What was that?” he asked.

            “I asked you what your three favorite books are,” Jean repeated sweetly.

            Scott had to think about that one for a minute.  “I would have to say the Autobiography of Malcolm X.  People piss me off when they run around chanting ‘by any means necessary’ when they have never taken the time to read the damned book.  Next would be Hamlet, and then The Art of War.  That’s four and five.  I’m counting that one as two.”

            He almost leapt off the sleeping bag when he felt the cloth slap his back again.  “Fine,” Jean acknowledged. “But I’m asking you what your three favorite movies are and it only counts as one.”

            Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Rear Window, and Twelve Angry Men.  That’s six.”

            “Why do you have a parole officer?”

            Scott sighed. “I’ll answer this one, but I’m counting it as two.”

            Jean's face suddenly appeared in his line of vision. “Deal.”

            Scott took a deep breath. “I helped someone break in to somewhere.  Things didn’t go down as planned when the Professor showed up.  After the whole mess was over, I turned myself in, did the right thing, and pleaded guilty to all charges.  The judge agreed to drop the charges and wipe my record clean if and only if I agreed to go Xavier’s school, kept my grades up, stayed out of trouble, and agreed to do so many hours of community service.  The judge in her infinite wisdom decided I still needed to be punished though, so she assigned me to Carol.  Carol monitors my progress and keeps tabs on my community service hours.  That’s why I have a parole officer.”

            Jean studied him for a moment.  “Why do I think there’s more to that story than what you just told me?”

            Scott shrugged. “You just threw that one away, because I’m not answering it.  You have one question left.”

            “Is it getting hot in this tent?”  Now that she mentioned it, the tent did seem to be getting very hot and stuffy.  The more her hands ran over his back, the hotter the tent was becoming.

            Everywhere Jean’s hands went, a trail of sparks seemed to boil his blood.  “Yes,” Scott croaked out.  “That’s ten.” 

            “Oh, by the way,” Jean said, breaking the silence in a nervous perky tone. “I’m doing a few massage techniques around the burn area.  It should help the blood flow and get the burns to heal faster.”

            It was getting the blood flowing all right.  Just nowhere near the area of his back.  She was going to kill him.  His blood was catching fire and pumping fast through his veins.  By the time Hank showed up, Scott didn’t need the cold compresses on his back; it wasn’t the part of him that was aching.


She had him pinned against the wall of the shower stall.   He looked down in to her glittering, passion-filled eyes.  The shower spray and her hands were all over him.   Suddenly, she wrapped her legs around his waist.  He ran his hands through her wild red hair, then leaned forward to kiss her.

            Scott bolted awake from his dream.  He remained very silent to see what had snapped him awake.  It was a rustling in his tent.  Something or someone was in here with him.  Part of him hoped it was Bruno.  He was really in the mood to kill something; screw his promise to Warren. "You had better be a fur-covered, bug-eyed, rabid, little creature or you're in big trouble," Scott growled quietly.  "And if you are a rabid, little creature, I'm warning you now, that in the foul mood I’m in tonight, I'll bite back.  I'll make those rabies shots worth my while."

            "I always knew you would like to bite.  It's always the quiet ones," Scott heard Sue's voice whisper out of the dark.

            He took a deep breath as he sat up in his sleeping bag.  "I'm going to only ask you this once Sue.  What the hell are you doing in my tent?"

            Sue turned on a flashlight. "Since you had to leave the fire early, I thought you might like some company."

            He just glared at her. "I don't.  Get out!"

            She just blinked at him. "I just love a man that plays hard to get."

            He set his jaw. "I don’t play.  I am hard to get.  Now get out!"

            Sue blinked her eyes at him harder. "I know you like me," she said.

            "What ever gave you that ridiculous notion?  Half the time I'm fighting the urge to slap you."

            Sue smirked at him. "You're just shy."

            Scott counted to ten, trying to keep his temper under control.  "I am not shy!  I don't like you.  I didn't like you from the moment I first met you.  There's nothing about you that I would ever like.  You and I wouldn't get together even if we were the last man and woman on Earth.  I would let the species die out first! NOW GET OUT!"

            He was totally unprepared for what happened next—Sue broke down in tears.  "What am I doing wrong?” she sobbed.  “Carol says I need to find a nice guy, and not the usual creeps I manage to find.  The way Carol described you, you’re one of the best.  What's wrong with me?"

            Sue suddenly reminded him of a girl he had known in the orphanage.  Her father had hit her a lot.  She never had a very high opinion of herself because of it.  She was always out to prove to a guy that she was worth something.  The problem was, the guys she always hooked up with ended up being bad news.   Scott suddenly had a pretty good idea how Sue had ended up in trouble.  Sometimes he really hated having insights in to screwed-up people.

            There were tears running down Sue's face as she turned to leave.  "Sue wait!" Scott suddenly blurted out.  He vaguely wondered why it was that he always had to play ‘knight in shining armor.’ He cursed his Sir-Lancelot-streak for getting him into these messes.   Next time it had the nerve to show itself, Scott swore to himself that he was going to track it down, stake it, burn it, and then scatter it to the four winds. 

            Sue turned around to look at him.  Scott cursed under his breath.  He could handle this.  He could handle this delicately; as delicately as a bull in a china shop.  He took a deep breath.  "Sue, listen I'm really sorry about what I said.  I was out of line and a little mean.  I’m a little surly tonight.  I didn't really mean…most of it."

            Sue gave him a very hopeful look.  "Really?"

            He nodded. "Yes, really.  Sue you have to realize….you come on…a little strong."

            Sue's face fell a little. "Oh."

            Scott nodded to her.  “Let me give you a little advice.  Stop trying so hard.  Work on the I, and the we will follow."

            Sue was silent for a moment. "That’s not what my boyfriends thought."

            Scott sighed and shook his head sadly.  "And I bet one of those charming creeps got you in trouble with the law and that's why you're out here camping with Carol.”

            She nodded.  "Yes," she muttered.

            "Can I clue you in on something Sue?" Scott asked gently.  She gave him an interested look. "I don't do one-night stands.  The best guys in the world that I go to school with don't do one-night stands either.  Respect yourself enough to realize you're worth waiting for, and if a guy tells you differently, tell him to go straight to hell."

            Sue blinked at him for a moment, then broke out in to a genuine smile.  “Carol is right.  You are a great guy.” 

Scott just snorted at that remark. “No I’m not.  I just play one on TV.  There is a reason I have a parole officer you know.”

            Sue smirked at him. “I bet the reason you’re here, is that you did the right thing.”

            He glared at her. “You’d lose that one.”

            Sue’s smirk just got wider. “Sure I would.  You wouldn’t be interested in just being friends would you?”

            He eyed her for a moment. “Just friends?  I won’t be forced to drown you in the lake to keep your hands off of me?  If you’re planning on trying anything, get out.  I’m not interested and I have no patience for that crap tonight.”

            She just shook her head. “Just friends okay?  I promise to keep my hands to myself.  I can tell you about my Grandfather who fought in World War Two.”

            Scott studied her for a moment. “Deal.  I have a deck of cards in my bag.  We can play some cards and talk.  I wasn’t sleeping very well anyway.”

            Sue smiled. “Deal,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Anything is better than going back and listening to Carol sing ‘Shinny Happy People’ again.  All that perkiness is starting to turn my stomach.”

            He nodded in agreement. “I’m starting to think that all her perkiness is actually natural.  My theory is that our real parole officer was kidnapped and replaced by an alien clone.  She’s really an alien, planted here to warp young people’s minds in order to make an alien takeover easier.  You know, like Barney the purple dinosaur.”

            Sue nodded in agreement. “It would explain her lack of cynicism and bitterness,” she mused. “You might have something there. You don’t think Carol’s a new breed of juvenile officer do you?  What if they’re training all new juvenile officers to be that optimistic and perky?”

            Scott shot Sue a look of horror.  He pulled the cards out and started dealing them.  “I’d rather stick to my alien theory, thanks,” he said.


            Jean was just about to head to her tent for the night, when she decided to stop and check in on Scott before going to bed.  She was outside his tent when she heard two voices.  Her stomach suddenly bottomed out.  Jean set her jaw; one voice was Scott's and the other belonged to Sue.  Betrayal stabbing into her like a knife, Jean turned on her heel and stalked off into the woods.   She had thought Scott was different. She was going to be damned before he saw her cry.


            “Hey Jean!” Jean looked around for the source of the voice and saw Jose’ sitting on a rock.  Jose’ looked at her from where he was sitting on a rock.  He gave her a considering look.  “What’s wrong?”

            Jean glared at him.  “Nothing,” she spat out.

            Jose’ gave her a concerned look.  “What’s bothering you?”

            Jean turned to face him, put her hands on her hips, and spat out one word.  “Men.”

            Jose’ gave her an amused look for a moment. “I can’t deny I’m one of them.”

            “Then you might want to stay away from me right now.  I’m holding the whole side of the species accountable,” Jean fired back hotly.

            Jose’ gave her another amused look. “Let me guess, it’s that prickly bad-tempered friend of yours.”

            Jean glared back at him. “Maybe,” she said.  “Explain to me the inborn, male weakness for bimbos.  I thought Scott was better than that.  I thought he was the…oh, never mind.  You’re male, you wouldn’t understand.”

            Jose’ offered her a look full of sympathy. “Let me guess, Prince-so-charming turned into a rat at midnight like the rest of us?”

            Jean smirked at him bitterly.  “Something like that.  Though Scott would argue that he’s more of a cockroach, hard to kill and extremely irritating.  That’s why he’s always fighting the Professor about transcending and becoming a better person.  He doesn’t was to evolve past where he is now.  Just in case the Karma thing is right.”

            Jose’ looked momentarily confused.  “He wants to come back as a cockroach?  Your friend has some very strange ideas.”

            She just shrugged, and tried not to break out in tears thinking about Scott. “That’s what I thought too, when he told me that.  At the end of the world, Scott argues, all that will be left are cockroaches and Elvis.  Scott wants to meet Elvis.”

            Jose’s scooted over on his rock and gestured for Jean to come sit beside him.  When Jean did, Jose’ put a bottle in her hands.  “Here, I think you need this more than I do.”  Jean took a sip—it tasted like lemonade.  Not bad.  Jose’ smiled at her.  He really did have a nice smile; it reminded her of Scott’s.


            “Where’s Bobby?”  Warren jumped a foot straight up into the air.  He turned around and glared at Scott as he walked out of the shadows.

            “Damn it Scott, will you please stop doing that.  You’re going to get yourself killed sneaking up on me one day.”

            Scott shrugged in response.  “You rely on your eyes too much, Warren.  Someone is going to use that against you.”

            “So you keep telling me,” Warren sneered.  “Bobby is sulking around in the woods somewhere.  Hank went to go look for him.  I thought you went to bed.”

            “I did.  Sue showed up.” 

            Warren raised an eyebrow. “Were you forced to drown her in the lake?”

            Scott shook his head. “No, but I think we came to an understanding.  I didn’t even have to hold her head under till she passed out once.”

            Warren smirked at him. “Oh, progress.”  His expression grew very serious.  “Have you seen Jean?  She headed off to bed a while ago and she’s not in her tent.  In fact, it looks like she hasn’t even unwrapped her sleeping bag yet.”

            Scott took that information in.  “I haven’t seen her.  We’ll go find the others and go look for her.”

            Warren suddenly stiffened up and muttered, “Son of a…I’m going to kill him.”  He stalked off in a hurry.

            “Warren?”  Scott shouted, running after him.  He quickly followed Warren into a clearing.  “Damn it Warren!  What the hell is going on?”  He stopped dead in his tracks.  Warren had Jose’ dangling off the ground, pinned to a tree by his throat.  Warren looked like he was going to kill the teenager.

“I swear to you man, I only gave her one,” Jose’ was saying to Warren.  That’s when Scott noticed Jean sitting in the middle of the clearing.  She was sitting on the ground laughing her head off, obviously dead drunk.

“Warren!” Scott barked.  “Put him down!”

“Give me one good reason not to kill him,” Warren replied, not taking his eyes off Jose’—or loosening his grip either.

Scott thought fast. “You’ll get blood all over your good shoes?”

Warren thought about that answer for a long time.  Scott figured he was going to have to blast Warren into the lake to make him let go when Warren suddenly let Jose’ go. “Good point,” he said, as he released his grip.

Jose’ was backing up slowly from where he landed on the ground, rubbing his neck, and muttering, “What the hell are you?”

 “Your worst nightmares,” Scott replied, walking up to him.  “I’m going to tell you what you’re going to do Jose’ and you’re going to listen very carefully.  If you don’t, you’re going to be dealing with me.  You really don’t want to do that.  You are going to march right into camp and tell Carol what happened.”

“What if I don’t do it?” Jose’ demanded.

Scott gave him a very chilling smile.  “You’re going to make me very angry.  There’s a difference between Warren and me.  Warren will rip your arms off and feel guilty about it later.  I, on the other hand, will simply hold your head under the water until you stop struggling and I won’t feel anything.  It would be in your own best interest not to irritate me.  Do I make myself perfectly clear?”

Jose’ swallowed hard. “You’re some type of psycho.  You know that?”

He smiled coldly down at Jose’ again.  “Recovering,” he replied.  Jose bolted towards camp.  “Was it something I said?” Scott asked Warren innocently, as they watched Jose run as fast as he could in the opposite direction.  Scott walked over and scooped Jean up, threw her over his shoulder, and tried not to flinch when she hit his burned back.

Jean just started laughing harder.  “You have such a cute ass.  I’d never admit it, but I just love it when you play cave man.”  Scott felt the blush starting to creep into his face and proceeded to unceremoniously dump her on her feet right in front of him.  Jean stumbled right into his chest and started laughing harder.  She threw her arms around his neck and looked up in his face, her expression coy.  “Every time I think about looking into your eyes, I….” Jean suddenly turned a very green color.  “I need to throw up,” she said, stumbling out of his arms and into the woods.

Scott suddenly turned and glared at Warren, who was standing there watching the scene with an amused expression on his face.  “What the hell are you two looking at?  It’s an appropriate response.”


“Alright, what are we going to do?” Warren asked gently.

Scott sighed and wondered why theses decisions always fell on him.  “We can’t take her back to camp until she sobers up.   We have four humans with no shielding training.  That makes Jean not only a danger to them, but them a danger to her.  One of the reasons I played scare tactics with Jose’.  The faster he got the hell away from her the safer he was.”

“And I thought you didn’t like him,” Warren said dryly.

“That either.  Our first priority is to contain a potentially dangerous situation.”

“I think your missing something very important here,” Warren advised. “Underage drinking or covering up underage drinking is an expellable school offense.  The Professor has a zero-tolerance policy towards it.  So that leaves the question of how we want to play this?  Unless Jose’ ran all the way back to camp and told Carol all about this mess and everyone knows already.”

“He didn’t.” Scott said with conviction.  “He’d stop about halfway there, sit down and try to figure out how to word the whole story.  Possessing alcohol underage is a violation of his parole.”

Warren studied Scott and gave him a very serious look. “If we get caught and expelled it’s not a big deal for me.  I’ll go to Harvard or Yale.  You’re looking at possible jail time.”

Scott shrugged. “Three squares a day, and a light bulb so I can continue to write my hate-filled protest letters to the government about the state of our child welfare system.  That’s all I really need anyway.  Our first priority is still containing this situation.  I think it would be best for Jean if we kept it quiet, and let her confess it all to the Professor when we get home.  Since covering this mess up is expellable, I’d understand Warren if you didn’t want to get involved.”

“I think you’re missing the point.  I am involved.  I just don’t want Hank or Bobby dragged in to it,” Warren said.

Scott rubbed his head.  “Agreed.  One of us has to stay with her until she sobers up.”

“That should be you,” Warren asserted.  “Everyone thinks you’re in bed sleeping; that and you have the best natural shields of the two of us.  If an accident happens, she’s less likely to fry your brain than mine.”

Scott smirked at him.  “Thanks a lot.”

Warren shrugged unapologetically.  “I’ll head back to camp.  Intercept Jose’ along the way and help him word his story.  He may be persuaded to leave Jean the hell out of it.  I’ll make a big production of going to bed and sneak back when I can.”

Scott considered the plan for a moment and sighed.  “Agreed.  I’ll stay here with Jean and you head back to camp.”


Jean came staggering out of the clearing, fell on her butt once and just started howling at the top of her lungs.  Scott shook his head while watching her.  It was nice to know she was a happy drunk.  She staggered over to where he was standing.  “Are we alone?” she asked.  Logic was a hopeful sign.  Maybe she was starting to sober up.

Scott nodded at her.  “Yes we’re alone.  Warren went back to camp and I got volunteered for baby-sitting duty.  Please do me the kind favor of not frying my brain with a drunken slipup.”

She started giggling at that remark and threw her arms around his neck. “You’re so funny.”

“Your drunker than I first thought,” Scott retorted.

Jean smirked up at him.  “I know you dream about me Scott.  You can’t deny it.”

Scott glared down at her.  “How would you know that?”

“The night you fell asleep in my arms,” Jean whispered.  “And your dreams project some nights.  You really do have a very, very creative mind.”

Scott felt himself blush.  “Now that I’ve shown you that my mind is the consistency of a triple X, third-world dive, I’ll keep that in mind, and try not to let it happen again in the future.”

“Why,” Jean purred in his ear. “The chocolate sauce and the cookie dough just intrigued me.”  She started kissing his neck.  “What you dreamed of doing on the back of a motorcycle just turned me on.”

He felt his face get even warmer.  “You’re drunk.  You have no idea what the hell you’re doing.”

 “I’m not that drunk,” she purred in his ear, then started kissing down his neck.

“Oh yes you are,” Scott croaked.

She bit him through his t-shirt. “You really do have the mind of a bad boy, underneath that cold, icy exterior,” she purred. “But I know you aren’t made of the stone you like to show everyone else.”  Then she looked up at him and smirked. “At least not most of you anyway.”

His face had to be the shade of his glasses by now.  The whole world seemed to be spinning, and suddenly his whole existence was centered on where Jean’s hands were touching him.  “You’re drunk,” he croaked.  “We shouldn’t be doing this.”

“Run wild with me Scott,” she whispered in his ear.  “You would never be able to do it with Sue.  Let go and lose control.”

Suddenly, Scott was caught in Jean’s eyes like a net.  His mouth met hers and Jean responded back.  Their tongues and minds entwined.  Scott found himself running his hands though her wild red hair.  Jean’s hands were all over him.  The next thing Scott knew, they were on the ground with Jean on top of him.  She looked like some pagan goddess, looking down at him with passion-bruised lips and her hair all mussed.

Scott’s burned back coming into contact with the ground snapped him out of his passion-filled daze and brought the world back into focus.  “We’re not doing this.”

“Why?” Jean asked huskily. 

Scott gently pushed her off of him. “We are not doing this,” he repeated.  “One, you’re drunk and not thinking clearly.  You’re the closest thing to a best friend I have and I refuse to ruin our friendship for a five-second hormone rush.  I care for you too much to take advantage of you like that; it’s a line I won’t cross.  Two, I am not prepared or equipped for this and I can almost guarantee that you’re not either.” 

Scott got up and started backing slowly away from her.  Scott had a very vivid image in his head of a siren calling to Odysseus.  He needed a mast right now, a really big sturdy one.  Gathering up his willpower, Scott continued to back away.  “I refuse to do something in the heat of the moment that could affect the rest of your life,” he continued.  “Three, if the guys ever found out, they would trounce me and I’d let them.  We all agreed you’re off limits.  Four, what the guys left breathing the Professor would gladly finish off.  So we are not doing this.”

Suddenly, as he was slowly backing away from her, he felt his ankle turn.  Scott lost his balance and the next thing he knew, he was sitting in a stream.  He checked his glasses to make sure they were still in place and opened his eyes.  Jean was giggling and trying to get up.  “You’re staying right there. Sit!” Scott ordered.  Jean started giggling harder and sat back down.  “I’m running really low on self control tonight.  So I’m going to stay right here and you are going to sit right there and not move.” 

Jean for some reason thought that line was absolutely hysterical and choked out, “You’re just adorable when you’re flustered and don’t know what to do.”

His ankle was throbbing, and he was sitting in the middle of a very cold stream.  And then he noticed the patch of poison sumac that Jean was sitting next to.  He groaned inwardly.  It just had to be Sumac didn’t it?  Sumac was the one plant in the entire plant kingdom that gave his mutant skin a horrible itchy, blotchy rash.  It was a lot harder to find than poison ivy or poison oak.  Of course they had to find a patch of it.  By the way his arms were itching, he had to have landed in it, too.  

The old adage ‘all is fair in love and war’ came to mind.  Screw the love part.  Give him a long, bloody war any day.  He honestly thought he had better odds of surviving a war.


Warren arrived a while later to find Scott sitting in a stream, resembling a drowned rat and looking like he was ready to the kill the next person that dared to get near him. Jean was sitting on the bank giggling her head off.    “Did I miss something?” he asked smoothly.

“No,” Scott replied in a tone that warned ‘don’t ask.’  “You remember you implied that men start wars because of women?”  Warren raised an eyebrow and nodded.  “Well, you’re wrong Warren.  Men start wars because it’s the only way we can get the hell away from women!” 

For some odd reason, from her place on the bank, Jean found that remark absolutely, hysterically funny.


“Would you mind telling me how you sprained it?” Hank McCoy asked, as he wrapped Scott’s ankle.  Scott was sitting close to the fire, wearing one of Warren’s spare sweatshirts, trying to get warm.  He pulled the blanket wrapped around him a little tighter.

“I fell,” Scott snarled.

Hank rolled his eyes. “I could deduce that one all by myself,” he stated dryly.  “Okay, how did you land in the poison sumac?”

Scott glared at Hank and tried to get a little closer to the fire.  “I fell.”

Hank just blinked at him.  “Land in the stream?”

“I fell.”

Hank threw his hands up in the air exasperated.  “That’s one of the reasons I love treating you Scott, you’re always so informative.”

“Did you find Bobby?”

Hank nodded. “I spent three hours looking for him.  By the time I gave up and came back to camp, I found him sleeping in his tent.  He did something; I know he did.  I just haven’t discovered what, yet.”

“Hey,” Warren said as he walked over.  “Jean’s in bed.”

“I still think you should have allowed me to examine her.  She didn’t look good when you walked her into camp.”

Warren shrugged. “It’s one of those twenty-four hour bugs.  Let her sleep it off and she’ll be fine.”

Hank scowled. “I still think I should have examined her.”  Warren shrugged again.  Hank tipped his head in Scott’s direction. “How far did he walk on that ankle?”

“About a quarter of a mile.  I couldn’t stop him,” Warren replied.

Hank threw his hands up again and turned to Scott. “I don’t want you walking on that ankle.”  Scott responded by pulling his hand out from under the blanket that was wrapped around his shoulders and flipping Hank the bird.  “Oh look,” Hank responded dryly. “He’s being his usual good-tempered self.  The order still stands Scott—no weight on that ankle until the Professor can examine it.”

“Can I walk to my tent?” Scott asked with a sneer.

“With Warren’s and my help.  No weight on that ankle,” Hank replied.

“Fine.  Help me up.” 

Hank and Warren each grabbed a hand and Scott threw an arm over each of their shoulders. 

It was half way to his tent that the three of them found Bruno.  He was dangling upside down from a tree in nothing but his boxers and a t-shirt. He had been tied and gagged.

“Oh my stars and garters,” Hank muttered.  “I never learned how to do that at Boy Scout camp.”

Warren studied Bruno and shook his head. “Hey look guys, Bobby’s learned something new.  You would think with his burned hand that would have hurt.”

Scott glared back and forth at the two of them after hobbling up to inspect Bruno. “Okay, which of you two idiots taught Bobby how to tie a decent knot?”

 “He did!” Warren and Hank announced in unison, each pointing at the other.



The next morning Jean’s hair hurt.  She didn’t think that was possible.  That and the bright, sunny, beautiful morning only made her headache worse.  Staggering out of her tent, she found everyone gone except Carol, who was putting some stuff away from breakfast.  “Good morning,” Carol said in a perky tone, giving her a big smile. Scott was right about the woman—she to be on happy drugs; no one was that perky first thing in the morning. 

Carol inspected her carefully and started chuckling.  “I bet you feel lousy this morning.  I did stick around to give you hell.  Looking at you now.  I figure being stuck in a canoe for a good part of the day while hung over will be punishment enough.”  Carol handed her a pair of sunglasses, a bottle of water and two Tylenol.  “Here, Scott left these for you. 

Jean gave Carol a sheepish look.  “You know?”

Carol smirked at her. “I do this for a living.  You think I haven’t seen a hung-over teenager before?”

Jean gave Carol another sheepish look. “I guess you would have.”

Carol nodded to her. “Yup.  Though you look worse than most of them.”    

“Thanks,” Jean retorted.

“It’s the truth, Carol said, shrugging.  “Don’t worry about Jose’.  He and I had a long talk last night and it’s going to continue on our canoe trip today.  He’s in big trouble and he knows it.”

“I’m planning on throwing myself on the Professor’s mercy when I get home.”  Jean sighed.  “I can see the fifty-page research paper on the dangers of drinking that I’ll be writing already.”

“I think going to Charles and telling him what happened would be a excellent idea,” Carol responded.  “If you do, I won’t even call Scott on the red carpet for covering for you.”

“Scott covered for me?”

Carol gave her a bemused expression.  “You expected him not to?  Most of the time you’re all I hear about from him.  It’s Jean this and Jean that.”

“I don’t remember too much of last night.  Scott does not like drinking.  I honestly expected Scott to be the first one to drag me up in front of the Professor.”  Jean rubbed her aching head.  “I remember once we were invited to a dinner party at one of the Professor’s friends.  The wine was flowing, and Scott just kept inching away from the table.  By the time anyone noticed what he was doing, Scott was out of the room.  We didn’t see him for the rest of the evening.”

Carol shook her head.  “Hearing that story doesn’t surprise me at all,” the probation officer said.  “With Scott, it’s all about control. When people start drinking, they start to lose control.  If someone loses control, you can’t control how he or she will react.  You take control by removing yourself from the situation.  Scott doesn’t like to lose control, and he doesn’t think too highly of people that don’t display it either.”

Jean absorbed that information for a moment.  “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Carol gave her a very serious look.  “I would.  It will make dealing with him in the future much easier.  Anyway…” Carol suddenly got that perky look back on her face.  “Scott and Warren were the ones that brought you back to camp last night.  Gave me some lame line about how you were sick. Good luck finding out what really happened. Neither one of them are talking.”

Flinching at that information.  “I’m sure I’ll be teased about it later,” she grumbled.  “Where are the others?” Jean asked with as much enthusiasm as she could muster, which was none at all. 

Carol grinned at her. “They’re down at the lake, waiting for us.  You missed the sing-off this morning.”

Jean slid a pair of sunglasses onto her face.  “Sing-off?”

Carol nodded.  “Scott, Bobby and Sue,” she said.  “Sue was trying to snap Scott out of his bad mood.  She started with this really raunchy Marine marching tune her grandfather taught her.  Bobby got into it and retaliated with a couple of Army tunes his father taught him. Then, to everyone’s surprise, Scott broke out the old Air Force Classic about a paratrooper whose parachute didn’t open.  I think Scott won.  That song is both raunchy and gross.  Gives you wonderful insight in to the minds of men that go into firefights sitting on jet fuel. Did you know that song has sixty-five different verses; all of them dealing with what happened when the trouper hit the ground and what happened to his body parts.”  A wide grin covered Carol’s face.  “I was very impressed.  Scott sang five verses with a stone-straight face.  I think he was having a good time making Warren blush, even if Scott wouldn’t admit it.   

Jean grinned back at her.  “I would have loved to see Warren blush.  I didn’t think he could.”

Carol grabbed her pack up. “So are you ready to go canoeing?”

“No,” Jean replied dryly.

“Tough.  Think of it as punishment for your sins.  I’m partnering you and Scott together today.  In the mood he’s in, good luck.  You’re going to need it.”



“I’m telling you exactly how my grandfather told me how they did it,” Sue explained, as she pointed to some chucks of driftwood.  Scott, Bobby, and Sue where sitting in a circle around the driftwood talking and arguing.  Jean saw that Scott was wearing his favorite red sweatshirt and had his ankle up on a rock.  They were arguing tactics.  Why wasn’t she surprised?

“Then he forgot something,” Scott argued.  “Pulling the maneuver off would have been impossible.  We’re missing something.”

“I think the maneuver is possible,” Bobby grumbled.  “I remember lying in my bed listening to my dad and some of his old army buddies talk one night.  The pulled a similar maneuver in the A Shau.”

“Okay,” Scott said thoughtfully.  “I know the terrain for the A Shau or The Valley of Death.  If the terrain were similar on that island, then those mountains would be a lot steeper.  I’m starting to see how they might have pulled it off.  You would either have to be completely crazy or desperate to even try it.  Maybe both.”

“So what’s everyone doing?” Carol asked, heading over to the three of them.

            “Studying our past mistakes, and projecting them onto our futures,” Scott replied sardonically.

            “Nice to see you’re usual good-tempered, optimistic self this morning Scott,” Carol fired back.

            “Hey Jean,” Bobby gave her a wild smile.  “You feeling better?   Warren said you were sick last night and we should let you sleep in.”  Sue glared at her.  Jean noticed Sue wasn’t wearing half the make-up she was yesterday.  She was looking quite pretty in that ‘girl next door’ kind of way.  Jean glared back at her.  Scott threw his sweatshirt hood over his head.  Which was Scott-speak, for ‘leave me alone’.  Jean glared at him and Scott glared back.

            “I’m fine Bobby,” she answered, glaring at Scott again.  “Thanks for asking.”  Scott just grunted in greeting.

            “So,” Carol bellowed.  “Is everyone ready to go canoeing?”

            The only response she got was from Bobby, who shouted, “Yup!”

            Carol gave Bobby a wide smile.  “Okay, Bobby, Bruno, and Warren you’re together.”

             “Please No.  He’s a monster,” Bruno barely choked out.

            Bobby gave Bruno a wide innocent smile.  “Oh come on.  It will be fun.  I can show you a couple other knots.  Like I did last night.” 

Bruno started backing away from Bobby slowly.  “Please, anyone but him!  He’s an agent of Satan!”

            Scott rolled his eyes. “Incarnate of Evil please.  I’d like to think I have the major religions covered.”  Scott shook his head thoughtfully. “I’ve really got to put him back in the field.  As a minion, it’s a waste keeping him for ceremonial use only.”

“Okay,” Carol suddenly broke in.  “Hank would it be okay for Bobby to ride with you and Sue?  He can’t hold a paddle because of his hand.”

Hank smirked at Bobby.  “As usual, Drake’s dead weight.  Yes, he can ride with us.”

“Okay that leaves Jose’ and me.”  At that announcement, Jean swore Jose’ looked a little pale.  “In the other boat, that leaves you and Jean,” Carol said, looking over at Scott. 

Scott looked as if he had swallowed a lemon.  “I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

All that comment got him was a sweet smile from Carol.  “Tough.  You and Jean are together.”  She suddenly turned to Jean.  “Try not to kill him.”



“You know, this is almost the perfect description of my life,” Scott mused as he looked down at where their canoe was stuck on a group of rocks.  “All we need is a hole in the bottom of the boat and it sinking fast.”

“Well,” Jean growled back at him, “If you had let me steer, we wouldn’t be on the rocks right now.”

“The precise reason we’re on the rocks right now is because I let you steer,” Scott fired back.

“Oh yeah?  Every time I tried, you took control, so we ended up going in circles.  Now we’re out here drifting aimlessly,” Jean retorted hotly.

“You’re just hung over and looking for a fight.”

“I wouldn’t be angry if you weren’t acting like such a jerk!”

“Fine!” Scott fumed.  “I know better than to talk to you when you’re in one of these moods.”  He pulled a book out of his pocket and stuck his nose in it.

“You aren’t going to ignore me Scott Summers!”  Jean swung her paddle back, sending Scott’s book flying into the lake.

Scott glared at her. “What the hell did you do that for?”  Jean glared right back at him.  “Okay, if you want a fight.  I’ll give you a fight!” he said.


“I’m glad I’m not over there with those two,” Bobby announced, as he watched Scott and Jean from a distance.  Bobby was sitting in the middle of the canoe because he couldn’t hold a paddle with his burned hand.  “That fight looks like it could get ugly.”

“Apparently Carol was very wise to put the two of them in a boat together.  I would hate to have one of them take that mood out on me,” Hank said, shaking his head.

Carol paddled over with Jose’.  “Isn’t it nice to see two hormonally charged young people working their problems out in a nonviolent fashion,” she chirped cheerfully.  Hank flinched as Jean swung the canoe paddle at Scott’s head and he ducked it.  “I think if we just leave the two of them alone, they’ll work their problems out.  Don’t you?”

“Or kill each other,” Hank muttered.

 “Either or.  I’ll see you at the island,” Carol said as she paddled off, humming.

“Okay Drake,” Hank muttered, watching Carol leave.  “I’m starting to see what you see in that woman.  She’s evil.  She’s more than evil, she’s perky evil.”

Bobby nodded. “I know.  Isn’t she so hot?”

“She’s perfect for you, Drake.  If she wasn’t fifteen years your senior, I’d tell you to go for it.”

“Hank can I ask you a question?” Sue asked from where she was sitting up front in the canoe, watching Scott and Jean.


“Are those two going to kill each other or start ripping each other’s clothes off?”

Hank glanced over to where Scott and Jean’s argument was heating up and sighed.  “I don’t think the two of them have it figured out yet.”


“Your problem is that you never think anything out,” Scott growled at Jean.  They were standing in the middle of the canoe yelling at each other.  Jean swung the canoe paddle at his head again.  Scott dodged on his one good ankle, rocking the boat.

“Well you have to over think and micromanage everything to death!” Jean fired back.

“Well if you thought things out, you wouldn’t be hung over from drinking with your bad-boy Spanish stud muffin!  Let me tell you something Jean, bad is walking in and finding the monster under the bed screwing mommy.  You have no clue what ‘bad’ is!” 

Jean swung the canoe paddle at him again.  “What the hell was that bimbo doing in your tent last night!”

“That’s none of your damned business!”  Scott ducked the paddle again and the boat started rocking a little harder.

“Well it’s none of your damned business what Jose’ and I were doing out drinking in the woods last night.”



Scott just set his jaw and glared at her. “You are the most impossible woman.  I don’t even know why you’re my friend.  Half the time I want to throttle you!”

“Because no one else would put up with you!” Jean snarled. “That’s why, you stubborn son of a bitch!”  The next thing Jean knew, she was flung into the water and had to come up to the surface.  “We tipped the canoe.  I hope realize this is all your fault,” Jean shouted.  When Scott didn’t fire a retort back, Jean did a quick scan of the area.

Scott wasn’t anywhere in sight.  “Scott?”   His life preserver was floating on top of the water.  He must not have had the thing fastened because of his back.  “Scott!  You had better answer me!”  Jean dove under the water and caught sight of him.  The light filtering through the water bounced off his glasses.  Jean grabbed him and yanked him to the surface, then threw him on their capsized canoe.

“You hit me.  I can’t believe you hit me with a rock,” Scott muttered in shocked disbelief, as he grabbed the edge of the canoe.  Dazed and coughing up water, he looked like a half drowned puppy.  Jean thought he looked adorable.  “First I get burned, end up in poison sumac, and sprain my ankle.  Then you hit me in the head with a rock and try to drown me.  You’re trying to kill me.   I want to go home.”

“I didn’t hit you with a rock and try to drown you.  The canoe tipped and you had to show that rock who was boss by hitting it with your head.  Probably cracked the poor rock with your thick skull.   I want to go home, too.  I’m hung over and my hair hurts.”

“You know,” Scott, grumbled. “The two of us are really pathetic sometimes.”

Jean grinned back at him. “Definitely.  No one else would put up with us.  That’s why we ended up best friends.  You know what our friendship is like?”

“The Titanic hitting the iceberg?”


“A bad case of sea sickness?”

            She shook her head. “Nope.  Not that.”

“Maple, toffee-flavored coffee?”

            “Yuck! No.”

            “A no-plot, B-rated action flick?”

            “Double yuck! No.”

            “A tricycle designed by Dr Seuss?”

            “That’s it!”  Jean kissed him on the cheek and started laughing.  “It works. It putters right along but no one can quite figure out how.”


            They were sitting on top of their capsized canoe when Scott suddenly broke the silence by saying.  “Sue and I just played cards in my tent last night.  That’s it.”

            “Oh,” she replied.

            “I don’t do one-night stands and I don’t have time for a relationship.  I almost have too much on my plate with school, community service hours, and saving the world from evil mutants.  Figuring out women takes too much time and energy.  That and most people just manage to irritate me.”

            Jean sighed. “I’m sorry.  I should never have jumped to conclusions with you and Sue.  It’s just one of these days, all of you guys are going to get girlfriends and I’m going to be the odd woman out.  You’re the only really close friends I have right now and I’m scared of losing that.”

            Scott snorted.  “That’s not going to happen.”

            “You say that now.  What happens when a girlfriend enters the picture?”

            “She’ll have to deal.  I am who I am.  My friends are my friends.  If she has a problem with my friends, that’s her problem not mine.”  Jean absorbed that answer.  They were quiet for a long time when Scott suddenly asked, “Is this weekend one of those moments that if anyone ever brings it up, we’ll laugh nervously and change the subject fast?”

            “Yup,” Jean replied dryly.  “I think Carol is deliberately leading them away from us.”

            “Yup,” Scott agreed.

            “Can I ask you a question?”

            “Maybe,” Scott replied.

            “What happed last night?”

            Scott was silent for a long time.  “If you allow me to laugh nervously and change the topic, I’ll give you five more questions.”

            “You’re dodging my question Summers.”

            “Yup.  Take it or leave it.”

            Jean considered that response for a moment.  “Deal.  Name one song that best describes your life.”

            Scott smirked at her. “That ones’ easy:  Welcome to the Jungle’ by Guns and Roses.  You can make them harder than that.”

            “Why don’t you ever ask anything about me?”

            “I know that you love grape blow pops.  Your favorite flavor of ice cream is Black Cherry Swirl.  If we don’t have any cherry ice cream, strawberry will do in a pinch.  I bet you were the type of kid that always had a cherry Cool Aid mustache growing up.   You’re not a big chocolate fan, but you can eat a whole box of chocolate-covered cherries by yourself.  You prefer Cool Ranch Doritos’s to regular chips.  You love sappy love songs.  When you go to the bookstore you pick up both Cosmo and a motorcycle hot rod magazine.  Your favorite book is The Lady of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  You really don’t like math, but you’re better at it than you think you are.  You love to draw and you do a little clothing designing when you’re daydreaming in class.”  Scott’s grin got wider. “Should I go on?”

            Jean looked at him in shock.  It was a while before she could voice her next question.  “Name three historic figures you would like to meet,” she said.

            “Sun-Tzu, Alexander the Great, and Abraham Lincoln.”

            Jean smirked at him for a minute.  “This one’s a tough one and it only counts as one.”

            Scott eyed her for a moment.  “Fine.  A deal’s a deal.”

            “Tell me one thing about yourself that even the professor doesn’t know about you.” 

Scott was silent for a while.  “Gathering blackmail material?  I do like how your mind works Ms. Grey.  What I tell you stays between us.”

“Well?” Jean prompted.

“I’m thinking,” Scott said seriously.  “I’m looking for something worthy of everything you said to me last night.”  Then, after a long silence, Scott answered. “I have a tattoo.”

Jean almost fell off the canoe.  That information didn’t match the uptight, tie-wearing Scott she knew around school at all.  “You have a tattoo?”  Scott nodded.  “What is it?”

 “A salamander.”

            Jean blinked at him. “Why a salamander?”

            Scott shrugged. “At the time I got it, it was a bitter, self-directed joke.  The salamander, according to legend, can’t get burned.  The gecko, in ancient times, was believed to be invulnerable to fire.  A Chinese story I heard once, said that when the flames consumed the Phoenix and everything else around it, the gecko survived.  It was the only thing around the Phoenix that did.  I admire something that can walk through the flames of life and survive.”

            “Where is it?”

            Scott got an impish look on his face.  “I’m not answering that question.  That’s question number six.  Besides Miss Grey, I need a few secrets or you’d get bored with me.”

            Jean eyed him coldly for a moment.  “You know between changing in the locker room and the bad guys pretty much blowing our uniforms off, there’s possibly about six inches of you that I haven’t seen.”

            “I didn’t know you looked,” Scott answered smoothly. 

Jean felt her cheeks get warm.  “I never….  I didn’t mean….  I just catch a glimpse….  You’re enjoying this way to much, Summers,” she fired back, embarrassed.

“Maybe just a little,” Scott replied innocently.  “It’s not like you said I have a cute butt.”  Jean felt herself get a little redder.  Damn her fair complexion.  Great, just what she needed; another reason to get a glimpse of his butt.  “It’s not like the thought of a hidden tattoo might turn you on.   It’s not like bad boys push your buttons right?”  Jean felt her face flame.  Looking at her flaming-red face, Scott got a devilish, bad-boy smirk on his face.  Jean thought that smirk was so hot. “Looking at your flustered face, I’d say we are now completely even for last night.”  Jean groaned to herself.  It was going to be a very long weekend.


<Other Stories By L. Burke>

Return To The Archive