Rating: PG. A few mild swear words, some slight sexual
Archive: Please ask first. I say yes to just about everybody, but I like to approve first.
Feedback: Oh please. I'll beg if I have to. I LOVE
feedback. :-) Send to: email@example.com
Incredible thanks go to Erin, without whom, this would
have really sucked!
Author's Note: Okay, this is in response to my own
challenge to write a Christmas
Scott Summers watched in amusement as his girlfriend, Jean Grey, threw the scotch tape against the far wall. He bit his bottom lip, trying to keep from smiling.*At least it wasn't the scissors this time.* Except maybe for getting a body part blown off on a mission, Jean's least favorite activity was wrapping Christmas gifts.
"Scott, will you..."
"No, I will NOT help you wrap your gifts, Jean. I'm way behind on my own as it is," He interrupted, trying to hold down the corner of the holly-patterned paper and cut a piece of scotch tape at the same time. The paper popped up, and he cursed to himself. *Next year, I'm going with all gift bags, just stuff everything in and staple the top.*
She glared at him, hands on her hips. "I wasn't going to ask you that, MISTER Summers! I just realized I forgot to pick up Ororo's gift."
Scott groaned. "At the mall?"
"Well, certainly not at the bowling alley!"
He ignored her, looking pointedly at his watch. "Jean, do you have any idea what a zoo that place is going to be at 2pm Christmas eve?"
"Yeah. I'm sorry, Scott, normally I wouldn't ask you, but you know how much I hate driving in the snow. Would you take me, please?" She leaned her head on her shoulder and looked up at him through her eyelashes. He froze. Jean could be very persuasive.
*Damn, when she looks at me like that, she could convince me to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge if she wanted to.*
He shook his head. "All right." The paper still eluded him. "Could you put your finger here while I get the tape ready?" She held the paper down, and finally he was able to finish wrapping the package. "I think while I'm there, I'm going to get a bunch of gift bags. I hate wrapping the soft packages. Why does everyone have to ask for sweaters for Christmas?'
"Um, Scott, maybe because this is New York and it gets cold in the winter?"
He grinned. "You could be right." He grabbed his coat and proceeded to the door. "Meet me in the garage?"
She smiled. "Okay. I'll be right there."
He decided on the Durango. It was the best in the snow. He looked in the back. Yep, still there. He had insisted on every vehicle being equipped with a snow emergency kit, adding warmer clothes, several wool blankets, and food in addition to the standard jumper cables, flares, tools and such that he kept them equipped with for normal emergencies.
He started the motor just as Jean came running in, pulling on some fleecy gloves. She opened the door and jumped in, leaning over to give him a kiss. "Thank you Scott. I owe you one."
"Don't worry, I'll let you repay me."
She blushed. "Oh Scott, stop."
"Well, I meant by helping me wrap the rest of my gifts, but we could do that too." he replied with a smirk.
"It's traditional, isn't it?"
He shook his head. "What is?"
"Making love on Christmas eve?" She laughed, seeing the blush creeping up into his cheeks. But he did look over and smile, and she was almost tempted to skip the mall and celebrate that "tradition".
He chuckled. "Well, not that I know of, but I suppose we could make it a new one."
"Sounds good to me."
He accelerated carefully out of the garage. The driveway had been blown clear of snow, but the side streets were still nasty, and he took it slow. Once they reached the main road, he relaxed a little, laying his right hand on the center console. Jean reached over and took it, squeezing gently, and he looked over at her, smiling.
He looked down at the gas gauge. Crap. Who had taken it out and not refilled the tank? He pulled into a gas station. Surprisingly, there were few other cars. As he pumped the gas, he could feel someone's eyes on him and he turned. An older man, probably 60 or so, was watching him in puzzlement as he pumped his own gas.
"Don't think you really need them shades, sonny. It's pretty dark." He indicated the heavy overcast sky. It looked like more snow was on the way.
Scott fidgeted. He hated lying to others about why he wore the glasses, but he couldn't very well tell him the truth either. Telling the man æI'm a mutant, I have to wear them or I pulverize everything I look at, including you.' wouldn't start anyone's Christmas out too well.
"I have an eye condition." Which was sort of the truth. "If I take them off I can't see." Which was also the truth. If he took them off, he would have to close his eyes, and he wouldn't be able to see.
"You can't ever take them off?"
"No. Not without causing a lot of problems." Still fairly honest.
"That must be a pain."
Scott smiled. "Yeah." He nodded and mumbled under his breath, "You have no idea." The tank was full, and Scott replaced the nozzle. Screwing the gas cap back on, he turned toward the man. "Have a nice Christmas."
"You too, sonny."
Once he was back in the Durango, he let out the deep breath he hadn't realized he had been holding. "Scott? What's wrong?"
"He questioned my glasses."
"The eye condition explanation again?"
He grinned. "Yeah."
"Did he buy it?"
"I think so. But I still hate having to lie about it."
"It's not your fault, Scott. You know how difficult it is for mutants in this world. We do what we can to survive. A lie isn't harmful when it's being used as protection. "
"Yeah. I guess so." The snow started up again as they pulled back onto the road. Big, heavy flakes kept the windshield wipers working overtime. *Why can't they build a mall in Westchester* he asked himself. *I hate going into New York.* He wound along the road, a narrow, two lane windy road with tall hills on either side. Jean gazed out the window at the snow. She loved snow, even if it did make her cold.
The snow was getting progressively deeper. Scott was constantly having to correct for sliding. Apparently they hadn't plowed this stretch of road in a while. He slowed further, only able to creep along at 20 mph. The going was slow, but they were gradually making progress. Jean was no longer looking longingly at the snow, instead, all her time was consumed by holding onto the seat with a death grip. She hated driving in snow, but she hated riding in it almost as much.
"Scott, I think the road may be closed ahead. There aren't any other cars."
"I don't think so, Jean. If they were going to close it, I'm sure they would have done it both ways. But I guess it's possible." Without warning, the Durango hit a patch of ice and he had to fight to get it back under control. With a relieved sigh, he brought it to a careful stop, looking over at Jean. "I don't think this is a good idea, Jean. It's getting worse the farther we go. It must have melted yesterday and then refroze last night. There are patches of ice everywhere."
She nodded. Ororo was going to be disappointed to not get a gift, but it didn't make sense to take a chance with their lives either. He carefully turned the Durango around and started back. He was becoming worried. They hadn't seen another car in a long time. It was looking like Jean might be right and the road was indeed closed.
Suddenly, the front tires slid sideways on a large patch of ice. Scott jerked the wheel, trying to bring it back under control, but over corrected, and the Durango spun in a large circle. Jean screamed as she saw they were heading straight for a tree. Scott gritted his teeth, and with a quick motion, dove for the brakes, hoping to at least slow them down.
Of course, the brakes didn't stop them, but they did change the angle of the slide. They missed the tree by inches, sliding instead down the bank and plowing into a snow drift, the Durango coming to a stop with an abrupt jolt.
"Jean? Are you okay?"
She nodded. The impact had deployed the air bags, and they were both thankful for the new safety feature. Scott's glasses had been knocked off, but with the ease of long practice, he had closed his eyes even before they had come to a complete stop and he hadn't done any damage. Jean found them on the floor and handed them back to him, Scott sliding them back on with a quick "thank you".
"So now what do we do? Start walking?"
"I don't think that's a good idea, Jean. Neither of us is dressed for walking in this temperature. I'm sure someone will be along soon." He opened the door. "I'll be right back." He reached under the seat, pulling out the flares. "I'm going to go put these out. I don't think we're visible from the road." He closed the door, climbing up the bank. He was right. The Durango was nearly out of view. He ignited the flares and set one down on the ground, one on top of the "Speed limit 45" sign a few hundred feet back.
A sparkling object caught his eye. Smiling, he picked it up and shoved it in his pocket. Jean would like it. He shivered in the cold wind. He knew it wasn't really all that cold, but for some reason, he was more susceptible to cold than most people. He wasn't sure, but felt it might have been due to his mutation. Even a momentary usage of his blasts was enough to make him cold . He supposed that it could be something as simple as that his body was expending so much energy on creating the optic beams, that less was left over for the normal biological function of keeping warm. He had customized his X-men uniform, adding strategically placed insulation to the torso and legs, giving him a little additional warmth while still keeping his mobility intact.
As he returned to the Durango, he checked around the back of the vehicle, ensuring that the tail pipe was clear. If they were there for very long, they would have to start the motor and run the heater now and then, and he had to be careful of carbon monoxide. If the tail pipe became blocked with snow, they could suffocate. It was clear, and he quickly pulled open the door, shivering uncontrollably as he pulled it shut behind him and slumped into the seat.
"Scott? Are you alright?"
He nodded, not able to stop his chattering teeth. Starting the motor and cranking the heat to high, he pulled his coat closer around his shoulders. He let it run for a few minutes, til the vehicle was plenty warm, then shut it off.
"Scott? Why are you shutting off the motor? Shouldn't we keep it running and keep the heat going?"
He tried to talk around his chattering teeth. "To conserve gas. We don't know how long we'll be here. We don't want to run out." His shivering had intensified.
Jean looked into the back. Whoever had used the Durango last had folded down the seats, leaving the back as a flat platform. She reached behind the seat and found the two wool blankets stashed there. She spread one out on the platform. Scott was still balled up in the driver's seat. He needed more warmth than the heater could provide.
"Into the back, Scott."
"Jean, I'm fine, I just need..."
He grinned. "All right, all right." He climbed into the back, but when he started to lie down on the platform, she pulled him upright. Jean yanked his shirt out of his pants and reached a hand inside, laying it on his chest. He froze at her touch. "Jean, what are you doing?"
"Checking to make sure your shirt isn't wet. It's going to get cold tonight. You can't afford to have wet clothes." She untied his boots and pulled them off, checking his socks as well. He watched in amusement as she slid the boots back on, re-tying the laces.
"Are you almost done, MOTHER?"
"Shut up, Scott. You won't take care of yourself, so someone has to do it. Lay down." she ordered, pushing him down onto the platform and lying down next to him. She pulled the other blanket over them and pulled him closer. Trying to share her warmth with him, she laid her head on his chest, her arm across his waist. He reached an arm around her shoulders, holding her tightly. His shivering decreased, finally stopping.
"Do you think you might have hypothermia?"
"I don't think so Jean. I'm feeling better now."
"Well, you know, they always say that if you're trying to warm up a hypothermia victim that both the victim and the person trying to warm them should get naked, cause the body heat transfers better that way. I was hoping I could have an excuse to take your clothes off."
She looked up at him. His cheeks had turned the color of his ruby quartz glasses. *Damn, she knows how to embarrass me.* He sat up, pushing the blanket off. "Well, ah...I...um..." Jean rolled onto her back, watching him with a hint of a smile. He quickly collected himself. "Well, now that I'm not in imminent danger of freezing, let's get out of here, shall we?"
He reached into the inside pocket of his coat and pulled out his cell phone. He flipped open the cover and gazed in dismay at the cracked cover. He pushed the power button, but the display didn't light up. He closed the cover, setting it down on the seat, sighing deeply.
"Scott? What's wrong with the phone?"
"It's cracked. I guess when we hit the bank, the impact broke it. Do you have yours?"
She shook her head. "No. I didn't bring it. I knew you'd have yours, so I didn't see a reason. But if we can't call for help..."
"If we can't call for help, that means we're stuck here until somebody sees us."
"Did you see anybody on the road?"
"No. You must have been right. The road must be closed. We've been here for close to an hour. If we haven't heard anybody by now, there can't be anybody out there."
"But how long do you think it will be until they find us?"
"I don't know. This isn't a major road. It might be a while. They must have closed it because they couldn't keep up on the plowing. It's snowing pretty hard. I would imagine as soon as it stops snowing, then they'll re-plow it. So I guess we're here until it stops snowing, unless someone from the school finds us first."
"You sure they're looking?"
"They wouldn't be yet. I left them a note that we were going to the mall and would be back before supper. When we don't show, then they'll come for us." He sighed. "If anyone bothers to read the note, that is."
Jean sighed, leaning against the side of the Durango. She turned her head slightly, looking out at the snow. It was falling in big flakes, muffling the sound. "Well, I suppose it could be worse."
"Yeah. At least neither of us is hurt, we have a full tank of gas, and we do have emergency supplies."
She reached out a hand, stroking it across the frame of his glasses, down his cheek, finally settling on his shoulder. "That's not what I meant Scott. I meant, I could have gone to the mall alone and gotten stuck. I'm just glad you're here with me."
"No offense Jean, but I would much rather be back at the mansion." He looked down at his watch. 3:44. "They're probably breaking out the eggnog. You know how Jubilee can never wait til dinner to start drinking it."
She laughed. "Yeah. And how much you want to bet Bobby and John have tried sneaking a couple beers back to their room?"
He grinned. "How many women do you think Gambit has tried to get under the mistletoe?"
"All of them." She dead panned.
Scott laughed. "Yep."
They grew quiet again, each picturing the celebration soon to be starting at the mansion.
"So what were you getting for Ororo?" Scott finally asked.
"Slippers. She said the hardwood floors always make her feet cold, even in summer."
"Why would you wait until Christmas eve to get those? Everybody has slippers."
"Not these kind. They're battery powered. There's a little heating pad in the toes."
Scott laughed. "Oh I see." He paused. "She would have liked those."
Jean sighed. "Yeah, she would have." She paused. "What did you get the professor?"
He grinned. "A new seat for his wheelchair. Gel-filled."
"Oooh. That would be comfy."
"It is. I tried one at the store."
The Durango was cooling down again. Scott opened the back door and leaned out, ensuring the tail pipe was still clear, then started the motor. Soon the warmth filled the cabin again, and he shut it off, leaning against the back of the front seat and pulling Jean closer to him. She leaned into him, her head on his shoulder. Before long she was dozing. Scott drifted off soon afterward.
When he woke, it was pitch black. He gently nudged Jean awake and reached for the fluorescent lantern stowed in the back. He set it in the center of the floor and turned it on. He leaned closer, squinting in the dim light, barely able to make out the numbers on his watch. Jean sometimes teased him about having one of those old-fashioned red LED watches, but it was really the only kind he could see. He had tried one of those Timex with that fancy Indiglo light, but the blue of the Indiglo was tough to see through the red of the ruby-quartz lenses.
"What time is it, Scott?"
They both fell silent. "Dinner would be on the table by now." she mused.
"I want seconds on the turkey."
Jean tried to ignore her grumbling stomach. "You want gravy on your mashed potatoes?"
"Just a little. More yams, Miss Grey?"
"Well, thank you, Mr. Summers. That's very kind of you. Crap I'm hungry."
"Skip lunch again?"
"And breakfast. I know, I know. I don't need the lecture."
He grinned. "Not even a little one?"
"Not unless you want to try to find your glasses out in the snow."
"Okay." He opened the duffle bag and handed her a small, foil wrapped package. She squinted at it in the dim light, finally bursting out laughing. "A Power Bar?"
He shrugged. "All the vitamins and minerals you need for a full day, plus complex carbohydrates for sustained energy and no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives." He said, sounding vaguely like a commercial. "No taste either." He mumbled under his breath.
She stared at him for several seconds, then finally burst out laughing. He smiled too. "Not quite the same as turkey with all the trimmings, but I guess it will have to do."
"Choose your flavor please madam, we have banana, mocha, wild berry, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, or chocolate?"
"Which do you think, Scott?" He handed her the chocolate. She laughed. Scott knew of her obsession with chocolate.
"And I think I will have....mocha."
"Is there really a difference in taste?"
"Yeah. The chocolate tastes like chocolate flavored sawdust, the mocha tastes like mocha flavored sawdust."
She giggled, gnawing on her bar, casting concerned glances over at Scott. He was unusually quiet, even for him.
"Scott? What's wrong?"
"This wasn't what I had in mind for today."
"Well, we can always have a bigger celebration next Christmas."
"No, that's not what I meant." He took a deep breath, running a hand through his hair. "I meant tonight specifically."
"I don't understand."
"Well, I was going to pick up your gift at the mall too."
"Oh. That's why you agreed so easily to take me. I thought it was a little easy to convince you. It doesn't matter. I don't care if it's late."
"No, it can't be late, Jean, that's the point. If it's late, it's not as special."
She shook her head. "I don't understand, Scott. What does it matter when you give me my gift?"
He sighed. "I guess there's no point in not telling you now. We obviously aren't going to get out of here for a while." He took her hands in his. "I would be honored, um I mean, I love you, and I was wondering if you would, I mean, Oh crap. Um, Jean. I...I love you. Will you become my wife? "
She gasped. "Scott...I...yes!" She finally blurted out, throwing her arms around him. He held her tightly, his mouth in her hair. She could still feel his tension. Something else was bothering him. "You're upset because you couldn't give me the ring? "
He pulled away slightly so he could look at her face and nodded, his face serious. "Yes. I had it all planned out. And none of it involved being stuck in a Durango in the snow."
"It doesn't matter, Scott."
"It does to me. I had looked forward to this day for a long time. I wanted it to be perfect."
"It..." she was going to say æit is perfect to me' but stopped herself before she said the words. Scott had wanted it to be a certain way, a way which was now impossible, and denying those feelings would only serve to make him feel worse. "It's okay, Scott. How about you just tell me how you were going to do it?"
He sighed deeply, pulling her closer again. "After dinner, I was going to stand up and say that I wanted to propose a toast. I was going to propose a toast to us spending the rest of our lives together. Then when you looked at me in shock," He grinned, and she did also, "I was going to get down on one knee, present you with the ring and say æJean, I love you, will you become my wife?' Then you were going to say yes and kiss me."
"Well, we did the last part anyway."
"It isn't the same."
"No it isn't. But we can't have it that way. Longing for something we can't have will only make what we do have seem superficial."
"Scott, I know you like to be romantic, but to be honest, I could care less if you would have proposed to me in the stables when we were both cleaning out horse manure. The proposal is the important part, not where it's done."
"It really doesn't matter to you?"
"No. It doesn't. I don't deny that your original plan would have been fun, but you did the most important part. You told me that you loved me and asked me to marry you." She stroked his cheek. "That's all the matters."
He nodded. How could he have gotten so lucky to have a woman like Jean fall in love with him? She was everything he had ever hoped for, everything he had dreamed about. And she loved him too. He gazed at her face, afraid to blink, afraid to wake up from this dream.
He laid her back down on the floor, gently, then hovering over her, carefully unbuttoned her blouse, slipping his hand inside, stroking the smooth skin of her stomach. She shivered at his touch. "Was this part of your original plan? That after I accepted you were going to throw me down on the dining room table and make mad, passionate love to me?"
He laughed, blushing furiously. "No. Since the original plan fell though, I'm just winging it."
She pretended to be shocked. "What? Mr. Everything-in-it's-place, Mr. Organized..."
"You forgot Mr. Anal-Retentive." he interrupted.
"Wasn't going to use that one, since only John and Bobby call you that. Mr. Organized actually is winging it? Will wonders never cease." He grinned. She smiled up at him. "I guess we're going to celebrate that new tradition after all."
"If that's what you want." He said, his voice husky with desire. She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. He unhooked her bra, and leaned over, reaching to take her breast into his mouth. She sighed, losing herself in the delight of his touches...
They lay together for a long time afterward, Scott's hand making a slow trail up and down Jean's arm, until the cooling vehicle prodded them to get dressed. The snow had stopped. Scott opened the back window, again checking the tailpipe, then started the Durango. As it ran, he looked out on the white landscape. The moon had peeked from behind a cloud and the snow glowed with an ethereal light. Jean came up behind him, wrapping her arms around his chest. He enfolded her arms with his own, squeezing gently.
He nodded. "Yes it is." He glanced down at his watch. 8:12 "We'd be singing Christmas carols by now."
"Yeah." They grew silent again. As they watched, the clouds covered the moon, and the snow started up again, heavier than before.
He reached into his pocket. "Since I don't have your ring, I'd like you to have this."
She looked down at what he was offering, and gasped. He was holding a quartz crystal and even in the dim light of the lantern, she could see the sparkle. She took it gently, afraid to break it. "Scott, that's beautiful. Where did you get it?"
"I found it laying next to the road when I put the flares out. There's a lot of quartz in these mountains. The freeze must have dislodged it."
"What made you pick it up?"
He shrugged. "It seemed appropriate. Your engagement ring has a diamond on it, so I'm just giving you a different kind of rock."
She laughed, pulling him into a tight embrace. "Thank you Scott." she said softly. "That's a lovely thought." She pulled away slightly and with a smile, pulled off her scarf, wrapping it around his neck. "Merry Christmas, Scott."
He shook his head, reaching to pull the scarf off, but she stopped his hand. "I want you to have it."
"Jean, I can't. It's your favorite."
She shook her head. "Just a loaner until I give you your real gift, okay?"
"Okay." She leaned into him, her head on his shoulder, the soft scarf tickling her ear.
"The first Noel, the angel did say, was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay..."
Jean giggled. Scott did not sing well, but what he lacked in quality, he made up for in volume. She couldn't remember ever actually hearing him sing Christmas carols. When the entire school did get together to sing them, he would either take it upon himself to run back and forth to the kitchen, refilling every one's eggnog and apple cider, or would conveniently find something else to do for a while. Singing was not among his talents, and he tried to avoid doing things he wasn't good at, especially in front of others.
Jean smiled, remembering some of the dumb things she had done around him when they first met, but none worse than losing control of her telekinetic powers and dropping several glasses on the kitchen floor. She had been incredibly embarrassed when that happened, and Scott had laughed at her, but for the first time, she understood the difference between laughing at someone and laughing with them. When he saw that she didn't think it was funny, he stopped immediately and apologized.
"...No-el, No-el, No-el, No-el. Born is the King of Is-ra-el." She bit her bottom lip, trying to avoid laughing at him. She knew he didn't mind it if she laughed at him, although she was the only one who was allowed to do so, but still, he was making the effort to make their Christmas as good as he possibly could for her. She didn't want to ruin the mood.
"Are you done, Scott?"
"We could at least sing one that I know the words to. How about æDeck the Halls'?"
He smiled. "Sounds good to me. You want me to sing the main parts and you can do the fa la la's?"
"Okay. Go for it."
"Okay." He took a deep breath. "Deck the...Durango..." he looked over at Jean and raised an eyebrow above the rim of his glasses, and she giggled again. "...with..." he stopped. "Hold that thought." He pushed open the back door and jumped out. Jean narrowed her eyes, trying to see what he was doing in the snow. He returned carrying an evergreen branch, which he tucked into the pocket in back of the front seat. "Okay. Deck the Durango with a bow of pine..."
"Scott." she interrupted. "I think that's a Douglas fir."
He pretended to be offended "Hey! You're supposed to be doing the fa la la's, not criticizing my choice of decorations."
She held up her hands in mock surrender. "Sor-RY!!! Fa la la la la...la la la la."
"Tis the season to be...feelin' fine."
"Fa la la la la...la la la la."
"Don we now our warmest clothes."
"Fa la la...la la la...la la la."
"While we tell of yuletide...." He stopped, pondering.
"Snows?" Jean suggested thoughtfully. "That sorta rhymes with clothes."
"While we tell of yuletide snows." Silence. "Jean? The fa la la's?"
"Oh right. Fa la la la la...la la la la."
Scott clapped enthusiastically. "Very nice, Miss Grey, very nice."
She bowed, blowing kisses to an imaginary public. "Thank you thank you. You're too much. Oh thank you. Oh, no, not a standing ovation, please. Oh thank you thank you." Scott laughed, pulling her closer. "Sitting in the snow...in a 250 horsepower Durango....o'er the fields we don't go, cause Scott got us stuck in a snowdrift..."
"Hey!" he interrupted. "It was either that or hitting the tree. I think I made the right choice."
She grinned, continuing on with the song. "....bells on bobtails....what the hell is a bobtail and why would a bell ringing on a bobtail make spirits bright?"
"I don't know Jean."
She shrugged. "Me either. ...bells on bobtails ring, making spirits light..."
She slapped his arm. "WhatEVER....what fun it is to sit here in the snow and sing a sleighing song tonight..."
"Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to sit in a 250 horsepower closed Durango! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way! Oh what fun it is to sit in a 250...horsepower.... closed....Dur-ANGO!!!!!"
"Very nice, Mr. Summers, very nice."
He smiled. "Thank you Miss Grey. You are too kind."
"I know I am. You don't sing well, Scott."
"Hey, I can't do everything well."
Jean recoiled in exaggerated shock. "WHAT???? The amazing Cyclops, leader of the X-men, savior of countless innocent human lives, defender of evil, not to mention all around good guy, is actually admitting he can't do everything?"
He flushed, looking away. "I never said I could, Jean." he said softly.
She took his chin in her hand and turned his head, looking deeply into his glasses. "I know that. Everyone else knows that. Why do you always have to pretend that you can?"
He shifted uncomfortably, but didn't break the stare. "I don't know. I just...I guess I feel that it's important for everyone else to believe that they can rely on me, that I'll always be there for them, always be there to help, to save them. It's important to me that I maintain that image of professionalism, that strength for the rest of you to rely on."
"Admitting you can't do something doesn't make you weak, Scott."
"I know. It's just that if I don't know how to do something, I look uncertain, and the leader can't be uncertain. I have to be decisive, have to be able to make that quick decision, or a member of the team can get killed."
"I know, Scott, but I think you're too hard on yourself. No one can do everything. And if it's something you don't know how to do, it is okay to ask someone else for help...even for the leader it's okay."
"I know. And I do ask for help."
"Not as often as you should. You know, if it bothers you so much to admit that you don't know how to do something, you could just say that you don't know how to do it YET. That implies that you will learn."
"That's a good idea."
Jean yawned, snuggling closer to Scott's chest. "Well, I don't know about you, but I'm getting tired. Maybe we should try to get some sleep."
"Yeah." He smoothed the blanket out, and they lay on it, pulling the other over them, Jean pillowing her head on Scott's chest, gently stroking his shoulder and arm. But in spite of their words, neither was able to sleep. A while later, Scott looked down at his watch again. 10:01 Jean felt him sigh.
" æTwas the Night before Christmas."
"Yes. I'm going to miss that. The Professor has a wonderful voice for it."
"Yes he does. Why don't you say it, Scott? You must know it by now."
"My voice isn't as good as his."
"Yeah, well, he's not here."
He sighed deeply. "Okay, Jean. Whatever you want...'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the Durango, not a creature was stirring, not even a...crap. What rhymes with Durango?"
She laughed. "Nothing that I know of. Maybe you should stick to the traditional words."
"Okay." His arm tightened around her shoulder. " 'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there....."
Jean sighed, closing her eyes. There were so many times she wished Scott was more talkative. She loved to hear his voice. He could recite stock tables for all she cared, she just loved to hear him talk. As he continued reciting the poem, she thought back to the mansion, to the celebrations they were missing, but it suddenly seemed unimportant. For the first time since they had been stuck, she really didn't care when they got back, as long as Scott was here with her.
"....and I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight, æMerry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.'" He looked down at Jean. She was asleep, and he kissed the top of her head, closing his own eyes in contentment. "Good night Jean. Merry Christmas." He soon was drifting off as well.
He woke a couple hours later. 12:03. Christmas morning. "Jean?" He whispered.
"Hmmm?" She replied sleepily.
"Ummmm. Is it past midnight?" She yawned.
"Okay. Merry Christmas to you too, Scott." She was silent for a minute, pondering. "Scott?"
"Where did you leave the note about where we were going?"
"On the counter. Why?"
"Well, I would think they would have found us by now. We always go the same way to the mall. What do you suppose is taking so long?"
"I don't know. But I'm sure it won't be much longer. They should...." His voice trailed off.
"Shhhh. I heard something."
"Scott, I don't...."
"Shhhh." She stopped. Scott had much better hearing than she did. Maybe an additional mutation, more likely just that he had trained himself to pay attention to sounds more. Many times his glasses had been damaged or removed and he had only his ears to guide him. She strained her ears and was soon able to make out a high pitched whine. A snowmobile?
She craned her neck, trying to see over the bank. Whatever the sound was, it was coming closer. Scott opened the door and climbed up the bank, Jean following. Finally, around the bend, they saw two headlights and were able to make out two snowmobiles, each carrying a single rider. Was that someone from the school? Jean didn't recognize the snowsuits they were wearing. The first one came to a stop and the rider pulled off the helmet. They were greeted by a young man with dark red hair, red on black eyes, and a loose, easy smile.
"Greetings, mes ami!"
"Gambit!" Jean laughed. "What are you doing here?"
"Well, Gambit woulda been here a while ago, Chere, but Ol' Stormy dere set de punch bowl down on Scotty's note."
The other rider pulled off the helmet. "Remy, how many times have I told you, do NOT call me Stormy?"
Gambit shrugged, a wicked grin on his face. "Don' know, Stormy. Gambit can't count dat high."
Storm rolled her eyes at Jean. "At least he calls you Chere."
Jean laughed. "Yeah, which means 'dear'. I think I'd rather have him mangle my name." She glanced over at Scott. "I don't think it's appropriate for him to call a engaged woman ædear', do you, Scott?"
"I know it isn't, future MRS. Summers."
"Actually, Scott, I thought I would go with Grey-Summers."
"Okay, whatever you want, Jean."
Jean turned back toward Storm and Gambit. They were both listening, wide-eyed, to the exchange. Storm shook herself out of her reverie first, and lunged into Jean's embrace. "Oh, Jean, that's wonderful. I was wondering if he would ever ask." She pulled away and enfolded Scott in a hug as well. "Good going, Scott. You take good care of her, you hear?"
"Yes, Miss Munroe." Storm laughed.
Gambit shook his head, his smile wider than usual, and he too enfolded Jean in a warm embrace. "Congratulations, Chere. Gambit t'ink dat Scott could not have done any better dan you."
Jean blushed. "Thank you, Gambit."
The two men turned toward each other. "You a lucky man, Scott."
Scott smiled slightly, turning toward Jean. "I think so too, Gambit." he said softly.
"Well, what do you say we get out of here?" Storm asked. "I guess it's a little late for Christmas dinner or singing carols, but I made Jubilee promise to keep the egg-nog hot until we got back. I guess we can have the celebration tonight instead. Since Remy spilled punch on your note," she ignored the dirty look he was giving her, "and Cerebro is acting up again, we didn't know where to look, and have been out all night. We didn't have much of a celebration either."
Jean shrugged, pulling Scott closer. He tightened his arm around her shoulders. "If you want, Ororo, but I don't need one." He said.
"Me either." Jean added. "We had something even better. We had each other."
"We had what really matters." Scott whispered.
Other Stories By Khylea