"Are you okay?"
"Of course I am, Jean. Why would you think there was something wrong with me?"
"Because you are lying to me. I know you are."
The professor looked at the attractive young woman sitting across from him, her hands resting lightly on her lap. He couldn't lie to her. He thought of Jean as a daughter, she had been with him for so long. He sighed heavily. Bringing a hand up to his face, he rubbed his eyes gingerly. He was so tired.
"All right, Jean, I won't lie to you. I am not well."
Jean's eyes widened with worry. "What's wrong?"
"Jean...I'm old, in case you haven't noticed."
Jean gave a small smile. "I know that."
"I am just getting too old. I can no longer carry the load and responsibilities to the X-Men as I once did. If I carry on, I will one day give up completely."
"Professor, if you need a break..."
"I don't need a break, that won't do it. I need a change of pace, a change of lifestyle."
"No buts. I'm sorry. I have dedicated so much of my life to the protection of mutants...I guess I just didn't expect to get old. I hate this and I don't want to do it, but I need to take a back seat. I will still be here, but I won't be able to keep up the pace I have been used to any more."
Jean looked at the Professor, tears in her eyes. Professor X looked at her sympathetically. "Jean, I know this will be hard; I have a feeling you thought as much as I did that I would be around forever. I need rest."
Jean sighed. "I know," she said resignedly.
"Besides, even though the war is still raging, because of Mystique posing as Senator Kelly, the hatred for humans that was once there is dying down. The fear is there it's just not as widespread."
"I understand. Whatever you want me to do, I will..."
The professor held up his hand to silence her. He took a deep breath.
"Jean...I do not want you to take over as leader of the X-Men."
Jean looked confused. "Then who? Not Logan -- he couldn't keep a cool head even if he tried..."
"No, not Logan. I want..." He paused for a moment.
Jean heard the door open behind her and as she turned she gasped in surprise. She found herself staring into those ruby red glasses once more. Found herself staring at that chiseled jaw and the shiny brown hair. She found herself staring at a man she thought she would never see again.
"Scott..." she said her voice barely a whisper.
Scott Summers felt his breath catch in his throat. She was beautiful. Correction: she had always been beautiful, but after all this time somehow she had managed to become more so.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, that's for sure. Stay calm, he ordered himself as he walked into the room. "Hello, Jean. Good to see you."
Jean, still in shock, managed to spit out a weak reply: "Yes, it is good, to see you I mean." She sat down quickly. Her face felt like it was on fire.
The professor extended his hand. Scott took it and shook it warmly. "Please have a seat. Scott, it's good to have you back."
"Yes, Jean. Scott will not only be taking over his old job as field leader but he will also take over the management of the school and the X-Men from me also."
"Oh," was all Jean could say.
Scott stole a glance at her. She looks shocked that's for sure. This should be fun -- I just love awkwardness.
It had been almost eight years since Scott had turned his back on the X-Men and Jean after he found her in the arms of another man.
Not just any man.
Scott felt anger bubble within him as he thought of the fateful day. It had broken his heart. He hadn't been able to stay. The Professor had given him the option of taking a break. He'd never come back...until now.
"Well, now that the news has been broken I think that we should get Scott settled in."
Suddenly Storm entered the office. Scott rose and greeted her with a smile. She advanced towards him with a smile on her normally calm and placid face.
"Hello, Scott -- welcome back. I have your room ready."
Jean looked at the Professor again with shock. She knew... Before me.
Yes, Jean, she did.
We'll talk about it later.
"Scott, if you could follow Storm she will get you settled back in. I need some rest. Jean, I'd like to speak to you later. Come by my office about seven."
She nodded, still dumbstruck.
Scott followed Storm out of the office. As he looked back, he caught Jean's gaze momentarily before she turned away, pain flickering across her eyes briefly.
Oh yes, this won't be awkward, he thought before he walked away.
Other Stories By Danielle Kerins