we're walkin' through this together
the Way by Lonestar
I wonder sometimes about the twist of fate that brought Scott and me together. When I was a child, I watched the news reports about how mutants were being treated, and it never once occurred to me that I could someday become a mutant. Becoming a mutant was like getting sick with cancer. Sure, everyone knew that it happened to people, but unless you personally knew someone it happened to, you never considered that it could happen to you. It was always something that happened to "other people". I never in my wildest dreams thought that it could happen to me.
Thatís what is so funny. Not "ha ha" type of funny, but ironic funny. If I hadnít become a mutant; hadnít become what so many people hate and fear; if I had continued to be just plain Jean Grey, my life would have been much different, and probably not nearly as happy.
I probably still would have become a doctor. Iíve always had that compulsion to heal, to help others. Once, when I was about 10, I found an injured baby rabbit in the woods and nursed it back to health. She was the first of my medical accomplishments, but was far from the last. I donít know if it was the thrill of saving something so helpless, something that I KNEW would die without me, or if I just had some kind of inborn desire to help others. Maybe thatís why Iíve been willing to put my life on the line so many times as an X-man. Well, X-woman, actually. Ororo and I have jokingly been telling the professor that weíre going to strike unless he starts calling it X-people. He always laughs and shakes his head at us, but I really think he would if it didnít sound so stupid. It makes sense, my desire to help, I mean. There have been so many times when weíve gone out to help someone, and when the crisis is over, they turn around and spit on us, sometimes even literally. Sometimes I donít know why I continue helping people who hate me. But whatever it was, the more medical successes I had, the more determined I was to become a doctor.
Of course, when my mutation appeared, I wasnít so sure about anything anymore, but once I grew to accept that I was different, I was even more sure that I wanted to be a doctor, and I applied myself to my studies with new vigor. I suppose it had something to do with another incident that occurred when I was about 17.
I remember watching one of those "reality based" TV shows, where someone follows along with a camera and records everything that happens. I forget what it was called, but it took place in a hospital emergency room. Well, anyway, there were two people who were brought in that had been in a car accident. One of them appeared normal and appeared to have only minor injuries. The other had green, scaly skin, clearly a mutant, and had very obviously life-threatening injuries. Without even hesitating, the doctors rushed to help the normal one first. There was one young intern that kept looking between the mutant and the others, and finally worked up his courage to say something. And probably immediately wished he hadnít. He asked one of the doctors whey they werenít treating the more critically injured patient first, and the doctor just kinda sneered at him and told him that "In my hospital, humans get treatment before freaks." The intern seemed kind of shocked, which makes me wonder if he was a mutant. He asked the other doctor if it was okay if he tried to stabilize the mutant, and the other doctor told him that he didnít care, as long as he stayed out of everyoneís way.
Unfortunately, it had been too long and the mutant died. I donít know if she would have survived if she had received quicker medical attention or not, but that isnít the point. Every doctor takes the Hippocratic oath, that says, among other things, the most seriously injured person is always treated first, regardless of the doctorís personal feelings for the persons sex, color, age, etc. And of course, that should include lack of or occurrence of mutation.
But it doesnít. That was the first time I had seen that, but it wouldnít be the last. The more I saw it, the more I resolved to do something about it. So thatís what cemented my decision to become a doctor. I thought, that since I appeared normal, if I were to treat mutants like any other patient, maybe a few people would see what I was doing and might think "well, heck, if she doesnít mind treating mutants, maybe theyíre not really so bad", and maybe they might start treating mutants like real people. Of course, this all hinges on everyone believing that I am not a mutant, which wasnít easy at first. I had to be so careful about what I said, what I did. Just one time of saying "us" instead of "them" when I was talking about mutants and my cover would be blown. But thatís what Iíve done. Both as a doctor, and in other areas of life, such as when I was asked to testify about mutation in front of the Senate. You canít imagine how difficult it was to respond to Senator Kellyís question about "why are mutants hiding" by saying "I never said they were hiding." instead of "I never said we were hiding." I almost slipped up on that. I was so angry at where he was taking the questioning that it was all I could do to not telekinetically drop the podium on his head.
So anyway, like I said, even if I hadnít become a mutant, I probably would have still become a doctor. My medical successes were too inspiring for me to think of anything else. And Iíve never regretted my decision. I donít know if thereís been much improvement in medical care for mutants since that show I saw, but at least I know that thereís one doctor in the world that will treat mutants like anyone else.
It is difficult though. Thatís why I asked to be assigned to Xavierís school when I graduated from med school. Of course, that raised a few eyebrows, and I heard a few snide "mutie lover" remarks, but to be honest, I didnít care. Trying to hide who I was during my internship was difficult enough; I knew I would never be able to keep it up every day for the rest of my career.
But thatís not to say that Iím only helping the students at the school. Professor Xavier has opened up a clinic downtown for mutants who are homeless, indigent, or just lack medical insurance. Of course, few insurance companies are willing to underwrite policies for us. They consider mutations to be a poor risk for health related problems, not even considering that we get sick far less than normal humans.
I work there every Friday, helping those that arenít too afraid to come in. Which unfortunately, many are. In order to get the word out about the clinic to the mutant community, we had to make it known that the clinic would welcome mutants with open arms, which has left it open to protests, most non-violent, but some not. The scene is much like the protests around abortion clinics a few years ago. The extent of most protests has been people carrying signs and spitting on the patients, but we have had to rebuild the clinic twice from arson. And unfortunately, the government has been far less willing to provide protection for us than it did when it passed all those laws restricting what the abortion protestors could do. Nowadays, if you harass a doctor at an abortion clinic, you will get arrested and probably spend at least a few nights in jail. If you harass a doctor at a mutant clinic, not only will you not be arrested, the cops probably will join you in harassing the doctor.
Often Scott and Logan will accompany me to the clinic and stand guard outside, in civilian clothes, of course. I donít know if anyone suspects they are mutants, but few are willing to try anything with them there. Theyíre both pretty good at that Ďdonít mess with meí expression. When Logan gets angry and pops his claws, I like to tease him that he probably doesnít even need them; that just glaring at people is probably scary enough. He pretends to be offended, but I can always hear the laughter in his mind. Thank God the two of them have finally come to an understanding. They arenít good friends; I mean, they donít share secrets or go out for a drink or anything, but they have come to an understanding of what makes the other tick. I know, though they would probably both deny it, that they do care about each other, and would die to save the other if it ever came to that. Of course this really only started when Logan stopped making advances toward me. I must admit, I was rather flattered by the attention at first. I mean, what girl wouldnít enjoy having two men fight over her attentions? Good for the ego. But it didnít take me long to see that it was hurting Scott. So Logan and I sat down one night and had a long talk. We discussed a lot of things that night, but mostly I explained that I cared for him as a friend, but that it would never be any more than that, that what he was doing was jeopardizing my relationship with Scott, and that if Scott and I started having problems because of his attentions, I would consider our friendship to be ended.
That caught him totally off guard. For a guy whoís been around as much as he has, he can be really dense sometimes. He said he didnít realize that it might be causing problems, that he was just doing it in fun. And then he asked me to forgive him. I told him that I wasnít the one who needed to forgive him. He promised to apologize to Scott too. Whether he ever did or not, I donít know, but I do know that shortly after that, the tension between them seemed to dissipate, so I suspect he said something. Although, I doubt if he actually went up to Scott and said "Scott, I didnít realize my taking an interest in Jean was causing your relationship to have problems. Iím sorry. Iíll stop immediately." Haha. Yeah right! More than likely it was something like. "Hey, One Eye!" (He still calls Scott that, much to Scottís irritation.) "One Eye, Iíve decided Jean isnít right for me. I think Iíll let her waste her life with you." Or something like that. Why he always feels the need to act tough, I donít know. He really is a softie at heart. Everyone can see that.
But whatever it was, I am thankful that they agreed to work together to protect me and the patients at the clinic. There have been some pretty scary moments there now and then, a lot of violence and hate. I just wish those people could stop for a minute and see what they are doing. They are afraid of us because they donít understand us, but they donít understand us because theyíre too afraid of us to learn anything about us. There have been times when I have been tempted to tell the whole world that Iím a mutant. Maybe if they see that someone as normal appearing, and as educated, compassionate, and caring as I strive to be, is a mutant, maybe they would see that weíre not all to be feared and hated. They have seen the few that are violent, or bent on destruction, and donít realize that those are the tiniest percentage of mutants overall. That most of us are doctors, and lawyers, and firefighters, and teachers, and police officers. People who are dedicated to helping to make the world a better place, not destroying it like Magneto wants to. But people donít see that. They see one incident of bad, and it overrides the one hundred incidents of good.
I hope I donít sound bitter about that. Iím not. I know that every minority group has had to go through what we have. A few years ago, when I was doing my internship, I had the honor of caring for a 102 year old African American woman with whom I had many long talks, talks about being different, being a minority, and what we had gone through in our lives. She told me about the separation of churches and schools, and how she wasnít allowed to eat at certain restaurants, and was only allowed to drink at "colored" water fountains. I had heard all this before, through history lessons, but hearing it first hand from someone who had lived it was far more compelling.
Iíll never forget what she told me the day she died. She took my hand and said "Jeannie, it will get better, it always does. When I was your age, I thought the same things you do. I thought it would always be the same. But itís better for my people now. We can eat at any restaurant we want, no one makes us give up a seat on the bus for a white person, and there are even blacks in Congress. I know itís only a matter of time until being a mutant is something to be proud of, not something to hide, not something to fear."
Of course there are benefits to being a mutant. If I had remained "normal" I never would have met Scott. Iím still amazed at how we fell in love. Well, maybe not HOW we fell in love, but just the fact that we did. Scott is shy, painfully so at times, although he puts that aside when he puts on the Cyclops persona and goes off to lead a mission. As long as heís Cyclops, you would never guess that inside is a very scared, very pained young man who doubts nearly everything in his life.
Including my love. Well, not so much anymore, but for a long time he did. I donít know if he ever would have worked up the courage to tell me how he felt if I hadnít told him first. Even then, it was months before he said "I love you" back to me. Even now, he has difficulty with expressions of love, but he has at least allowed the telepathic link, so if I canít hear him say how much he loves me, I can at least feel it in my mind. Which in some ways is even better.
I watch him sleep sometimes. I donít know if he knows I do this. But I just canít help it. When heís awake, he has a perpetual scowl on his face. For a long time, I thought it was because he was always in a bad mood, but I now know that it isnít that. He just doesnít really like to smile. He does now and then, and I treasure those moments. Although I do admit to sometimes not understanding his sense of humor. I mean, when Logan set off the metal detector at the Statue of Liberty, he smiled the biggest grin I could ever remember seeing. And he talked for days afterward about how funny it was. Personally, I didnít understand that one. I thought it was mildly amusing, but Scott just thought it was the funniest thing in the world. Oh well, I guess if I understood everything about him, it wouldnít make him nearly as interesting.
But when he sleeps, heís different. The scowl is gone. He doesnít smile much in his sleep either, but he has a very open look, an unguarded look, that is just so damn cute. Sometimes when I can tell he is in a deep sleep and there is no chance I will wake him, Iíll take off his glasses and just look at his face. He looks like an innocent little boy when heís asleep. Especially if I can see his closed eyes. He would be furious with me if he knew I did this. Heís so terrified of his powers that he refuses to take the glasses off any time Iíve asked him to. I know he wouldnít hurt me. That night at the Statue of Liberty proved that. Proved that even under the most stressful situation, he is capable of keeping his eyes closed; keeping his power contained.
But he sees no reason to take any chances. He had nightmares for weeks after that and would wake in the middle of the night screaming and drenched with sweat. And they were always the same. He would accidentally open his eyes and would kill me with his optic beams. It finally got to the point where he would lay awake for hours holding me, afraid to fall asleep and have the nightmares again. Eventually, when he would finally succumb to exhaustion, they would start up again. So I trained myself to be a light sleeper, and when I could feel him starting to thrash, I would enter his mind and alter the dreams so they had a more positive ending. Eventually, once he gained control (or should I say, once I helped him gain control) of how the dreams ended, and when he wouldnít kill me every night in his mind, they lessened in intensity, finally stopping altogether.
I suspect he knows what I did, but has never mentioned anything. Whether thatís embarrassment at not being able to stop them himself, or gratitude that they are gone and who cares how it happened, I donít know. I just know that the dreams he has these days are far more settled, far more pleasant. I know I really shouldnít, but sometimes I canít help myself, and when I canít sleep, Iíll listen in on his dreams, at least when he projects them loud enough that I donít have to pry. I often have to smile at what I see there. I donít know why, but in his dreams he has no problem telling me what he feels. Maybe thatís why when I donít hear it in the real world, it doesnít bother me that much. Sigmund Freud would say that what we do in our dreams is what we would really like to do in the real world, and some of the things he says to me in his dreams are far better than anything I would ever expect to hear in real life.
Maybe he does know that I do that. Once, I let slip a mention to something we had done in his dream, and he gave me a funny look, but never said anything. I suspect he might know, but doesnít feel ashamed about what heís dreaming. I hope not, because I wouldnít like to think that heís embarrassed about how he talks to me, what we do together. Maybe thatís just how he has to express himself, and since he tells me in his dreams what he would like to say in the real world, but is too shy to talk about, he wouldnít choose to keep me away from those feelings, those thoughts.
Thatís what Iím doing now. Watching him sleep. It was a long day, and for once, he fell asleep before me. Usually Iím out as soon as my head hits the pillow, but then wake a few hours later and watch him sleep. Itís silly I know. What could possibly be so exciting about watching the man I love sleep?
I donít know. Maybe exciting isnít the right word. Comforting is probably better. Maybe just seeing him there, being able to reach over and touch him, run my hands down his chest, stroke his hair, entangle my legs around his, all done very gently so as not to wake him. Comforting because I donít know that I ever really believed that I would find someone who would love me like Scott does, someone who loves me for who I am, not what I look like.
I suppose that sounds kind of shallow coming from a mutant. I mean, some of my best friends are rather odd looking. But that was exactly the problem. At first I thought I would be resented for being normal looking. And then when I matured and realized I was going to become attractive, my anxiety increased tenfold. I hope I donít sound conceited, but the truth is, I would have preferred to remain ordinary looking, not to turn into someone who people are afraid to get to know because of my looks.
I suppose thereís a certain stigma attached to beautiful women; that weíre standoffish and conceited, or at least so aware of our appearance that weíre unapproachable and haughty. I wonít insult anyone by claiming that Iím unaware of being attractive, but let me clarify that by saying that my looks arenít important to me. If I woke up tomorrow morning looking like something the cat dragged in, it wouldnít matter, because I would know that Scott would still be there for me, would still love me.
It wasnít always that way though. It took me falling by the edge of the lake and him seeing me covered in mud before I truly believed that he loved me for who I was, not anything physical. Once I believed that though, our love blossomed. I hadnít realized before that time that I wasnít showing him who I really was, I was showing him who I wanted him to see. Not exactly a good way to start a relationship that should be built on mutual trust and respect, but we survived.
And in fact flourished once we realized we didnít have to hide from each other. Cause you know, Scott is pretty good at hiding too. Maybe thatís why weíre so happy together. Since weíve both spent so much of our lives hiding, we know what itís like to not be comfortable with ourselves, and when one of us clams up and withdraws, the other tends to be far more understanding.
And it can go either way. True, Scott tends to do it more often, I suppose cause heís still not totally sure of himself, but I do it too. But thatís what got me thinking about our relationship in the first place. Since sharing our pain brought us together, would we still have become a couple if we had remained normal? I doubt it. Not even considering that we probably never even would have met, if we had, and if we hadnít had anything like our mutations to share, itís doubtful if anything would have come of it.
I probably still would have been insecure about my appearance, but Scott wouldnít have had the fear about his powers, and probably wouldnít have become nearly as insecure as he ended up being. An ability like that would scare the shit out of anybody. I know I wouldnít want to have to be as careful as he has to. Sometimes I get frustrated by how much work I have to put into controlling my abilities, but at least I CAN control them. If Scott relaxes for even one second, if he gets careless, someone can get killed.
Thatís why so many people tend to think of him as rather, um, shall we say, anal-retentive? He isnít really. But you have to get to know him pretty well before he lets you see that heís not anal, heís scared. He doesnít let many people see that. He knows he canít take chances, because people can get hurt if he does.
God, Iím rambling, arenít I? Scott tends to do that to me. I start to think about one thing about him, and before I realize it, Iíve been daydreaming about him for an hour. I hope to God the Professor doesnít catch any stray thoughts from me when I think about him, cause those daydreams are certainly not "G" rated. The way his hands feel on my skin, the shivers that run through my body when he kisses my neck, the feel of his warm breath in my ear, running his hands through my hair....Oh God, Iím doing it again. I swear, that man has some kind of a hold on me, and Iím not talking about his hands. Those are pretty nice too, though. I remember hearing him talking to Hank a few months ago and Hank was teasing him about me having some kind of hold on him. I remember thinking that I didnít know if I had a hold on him or not, but he sure as hell does on me. I guess we do on each other. Some nights when neither of us can sleep, weíll just stare at each other for hours, never saying anything, touching only gently, not as a prelude to lovemaking. We pretty much just stare and occasionally exchange thoughts, just feel each other close, I guess. Those are some of the best parts of my days, and I know he feels the same way.
Anyway, like I was saying, powers like he has would tend to scare anyone, but it must have been even worse for him, because he was shy to begin with. And the knowledge that he could kill someone with a careless glance terrifies him more than he will ever admit, even to me. Heís far more comfortable with people thinking that heís anal than realizing heís scared. Leader mentality I guess. He feels he has to be the sturdy, detached leader, the dependable one that we can all lean on for support.
Which makes me all the more happy that he trusts me enough to show me who he really is. He trusts me with his image, but more importantly, trusts me with his heart and mind. Iím not sure which pleases me more. Probably my first instinct would be to say heart. I mean, he trusts me not to hurt him, not to betray his love, but the more I think about it, I tend to think his mind is the more fragile of the two. His mind truly is the essence of who he is. There have been times when the use of telepathy has been vital to the success of a mission, and I have had no choice but to invade his mind. It used to bother him until he realized that anything I might see in his mind stays between the two of us. And he knows that I would never judge him for the things he thinks but chooses not to say. I think thatís why he was so closed minded when we first met; he didnít trust me with his thoughts; with his most personal feelings and desires.
But trust goes both ways. I donít know that I trusted him either. When we first met, I told him what my mutant powers were. That seems to be a standard greeting when two mutants meet: "Hi, my name is so-and-so and I can do such-and-such. And you?", but it was a long time before I actually let him see me using my telekinesis. Too many years of people looking at me like I was some sort of demon, I guess. I knew that it wouldnít matter to him; I mean, he can kill people with a glance, telekinesis is pretty mild compared to that. Still, itís hard to trust when youíve been called a freak so many times.
And then, to my great embarrassment, when I finally did show him, I screwed it up. I had been in the kitchen cleaning up the dishes from breakfast when he came in. He watched me make about four trips from the table to the sink and finally asked why I didnít use my telekinesis. I just shrugged, but decided to take his advice. I had moved two plates to the dishwater and was working on the glasses when he stepped closer and took my hand. It wasnít meant to be anything but a friendly gesture, but the feel of his skin touching mine totally blew my concentration and the glasses dropped to the floor, shattering on the hard tile. I pulled away in embarrassment, but then looked back at him, and he had that half smile that Iíve come to know so well. He just kind of nodded his head real slightly and said in a real dry tone of voice "maybe telekinesis isnít such a good idea for the BREAKABLE breakfast dishes." I knew he was laughing at me, but I couldnít be angry at him. After all those times of people thinking I was possessed because I could move things with my mind, someone teasing me about it was a welcome change. It showed that he was comfortable with my abilities, not afraid of them.
Thatís probably when our love first started, though I donít think either of us realized it at the time. And of course, it was on hold while I attended medical school, but after I returned to the school, I was surprised, and more than a little pleased, that Scott had attended college, but then had returned there to teach. I hadnít really kept in touch with anyone at the school like I should have, and I didnít realize Scott would still be there. Actually, itís probably better that I didnít know. I felt so bad about not keeping in touch that if I had known he was there, I probably would have requested another assignment. But Scott, bless his heart, forgave me.
I had been avoiding him since I returned, but one day he cornered me in the arboretum and finally weaseled it out of me why I hadnít come to say hi since I returned. I told him about how guilty I felt about not keeping in touch and how sorry I was and stuff, and he just took my hand and squeezed it real gently and said that he wasnít angry, that he knew how important med school was to me and that I had done the right thing. That if I had taken a bunch of time for letters and phone calls, it would have taken away time that I really needed for classes and studying.
Any feelings that Iíd previously had for him returned in an instant after that. I had been worried that he would have changed and I wouldnít still care for the person he had changed into. But I shouldnít have worried. He had changed, but only for the better. I saw that the sensitive, gentle teenager I had fallen in love with had matured into a wonderfully kind, compassionate, thoughtful man. Scott has always been an understanding, forgiving person, but that conversation surprised me. I could sense the hurt in him at my not calling him now and then, but he willingly forgave me, just because he still loved me, even for all those years we were apart.
Oh God, Iím gushing arenít I? Iím making him sound like a perfect person, a totally flawless saint or something, which he isnít. He has faults, but I guess Iím just too much in love with him to really see them. When I look at him, I see the bad things, but I donít really see them as bad. I guess I just warp them until they seem good.
You know, like his need to always be in control. Most people see it as being tight-assed, being unable to relax. I see it as being responsible. Or how he can be so obsessive about finishing a project once heís started it. I donít see it as obsessive, I see it as dependable; you always know heís going to come through if he promises something. Like what happened last week. I kept having a problem with one of the patient monitors in the infirmary, and though he doesnít know that much about medical equipment, he kept at it until he finally found out what the problem was. I guess I will just always see him in a good light. Even when he pisses me off, I usually understand why he did what he did. Problem with loving someone, I guess. I guess heís not the only one who sees the world through rose-colored glasses.
So here I lay, watching the man I love sleep. I donít know why. I guess I just like to think about him, and this gives me a good opportunity. I stroke his hair, kiss him gently on the lips, and no longer able to resist waking him, kiss him again, more firmly this time. He wakes with a start, with a sudden intake of breath. I can see the half smile starting at the corner of his mouth.
"Jean? What are you doing?" He says, the smile reaching his voice.
"Thinking about you, Scott." I reply, pillowing my head on his chest, but looking up at his face.
He reaches up, stroking a hand down my arm, pulling me closer to him. "Oh. Anything good?" I can feel him gently feeling along the psychic link, sensing the happiness, the contentment in my mind. The joy that thinking about him always brings to me. The half-smile is now a full, radiant smile, and I delight in his happiness, drawing my body closer to his and closing my eyes.
"It always is, Scott." As I feel my body relaxing into sleep, I repeat the words in a whisper. "It always is..."
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