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I Guess It's All Right - Part I
Il bel tenebroso

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I hadn't meant to kiss him -­ though in retrospect, I guess it was inevitable. Call if fate if you like, or plain curiosity that demanded to be satisfied at some point. So I kissed Scott Summers, and he kissed back, and my whole world was dumped upside down. Good thing I have a hard head.

He'd kissed me before, of course ­- chastely on temple or brow, and once, hard on the lips to prove a point. But when I kissed him, it was the real deal. Mouth to mouth, tongue to tongue, breath to breath, and butterflies in the belly. It was the kiss I'd been waiting for all my life and I hadn't even realized it.

God, that sounds corny as all hell, but what can I say? I'm a closet romantic. I had the whole Hello, Kitty collection as a girl, and a pink bedroom, too -­ though don't expect me to confess that in public. These days, I read murder mysteries most of the time, but have a soft spot for Catherine Asaro's hard SF romances, where the hero and heroine fall in love at first sight, even if it is on a starship with an account of hyperdrive physics tucked into the paragraphs between.

Scott, of course, doesn't read fiction. He reads anything non-fiction that he can lay his hands on, including cereal boxes -­ but not fiction. He considers it a waste of his time. He does watch movies, though, and I kid him about that inconsistency, but he flips me off. We're so different in so many ways that I think it a minor miracle we haven't strangled each other yet. He's prickly, paranoid, sarcastic, and always has to be right. But we share a commonality of outlook that binds us, rather than a commonality of interests, and I guess I should have seen that kiss coming. Who else was I going to fall in love with, in the end, but my best friend?

We were in the kitchen of the newly rebuilt mansion, making a salad for supper, of all things. I was on a little stool so I could reach the counter at a comfortable height, chopping tomatoes on the cutting board while he shredded lettuce in the sink. I was teasing him. I'd always teased him from the very first day we'd met when he'd been so tongue tied that I'd thought he might trip over his own ineptitude. Funny, sweet, mildly annoying, and charming in an odd way, but I've always been a sucker for hard-luck cases. He'd made me want to pat his head, straighten his collar, and kid him -­ gently -­ into relaxing. I'd done only the latter since he was too tall for me to reach his head without standing on tip-toe, and his collar had already been straight.

But that first meeting had set the tone for our relationship: shy Scott, teasing Jean. Until Logan had come. Then it had been jealous Scott and preoccupied Jean. Guilty Jean. After Scott's return from the Savage Land, it had been guilty Scott and reassuring Jean. And after Weapon-X? Shattered Jean and steady Scott. We went through more phases than the moon. But always, there was the teasing. It saved us from revealing our true selves. We were like some mutant Mulder and Scully, I'd told him once. He'd laughed and asked me if I had an iced tea in my bag.

Not a joke most people would get.

"If there's an iced tea in that bag, it could be love, Scully . . . ."
"Must be fate, Mulder. Root Beer."
Like our relationship for going on three years now.

"You done making a mess of the lettuce?"

"I'm not making a mess of the lettuce. I'm grating the lettuce . . . which is what you told me to do."

I laughed at the eviscerated green stuff in the bowl and picked up a little with my fingers to let it fall. "Scott, you're the only person I know who can mess up salads and microwavable hot dogs."

"Then why drag me in here?" It was petulant.

"Because you're also the only one I can bully into helping me."

"Gee, thanks. You do wonders for my ego."

"Like your ego needs more puffing up?" I elbowed him in the side. "Besides, you're cute when you're trying to cook."

He frowned and shook his head, the overhead light winking off his visor and catching in the chestnut highlights of his hair. That was when the change happened, the one time it was different. The one time there was iced tea in the bag. I set aside the paring knife I'd still been holding and reached out to touch his cheek, running the tips of my fingers from a high cheekbone down to the edge of his jaw. It made him jump, and he sliced a finger tip on the edge of the grater. "Ow!" Blood all over the lettuce, bright red on green. I turned the faucet on cold and grabbed his wrist to shove the hand under water. Not a bad cut, but it bled freely. He twisted his hand loose to stick the finger in his mouth and frown at me -­ but not seriously. It made my stomach turn over, that mix of annoyed man and little boy vulnerability, and reaching out, I pulled his finger from his mouth.

And then I kissed him. Standing atop the stool, I had five inches on my usual height, which made it easier on both our necks but more awkward to hug. I had to lean in, and he had the edge of the stool pressed against his shin. He over-balanced me as his arms went around me and I fell against him, flailing a little, but didn't break the kiss. One of those classically awkward moments that are the staple of romantic comedies. He caught me and kept me from falling ­- off the stool, anyway. Emotionally, I was lost from the minute our lips touched.

Logan had been a good kisser -­ a fantastic kisser ­- due to a blend of experience and an innate, animal sensuality. It's what had first drawn me to him, that sensuality. Scott had little experience, but all the passion, intensity, and intelligence I could want, and more sensuality than he ever let on. One of his favorite pastimes was to give me a backrub . . . and not for the predictable reasons. Scott just needed touch desperately, and was terrified of that need. Yet he had wonderful hands, and a backrub put me in heaven for a while and let him touch me, so we were both content. But he'd never yet let me return the favor, as if he were afraid to surrender himself that much.

But now, he surrendered. He became the kiss, as if he'd never existed before or after. The fingers of his good hand were locked in the short hair at the nape of my neck, and his mouth completely covered mine, his tongue sliding all over my lips and teeth and pressing against my own tongue. It wasn't so gentle that it lacked fire, but it wasn't hard or harsh. It was just pure sensation beyond thought, sparking every nerve of my body until I was aware of everything in the room: the whole-body feel of him against me, the taste of new blood and old coffee in his mouth, the sharp tang of cut tomato in the air, and the sound of our breath, rough but not fast yet. His little goatee tickled and his visor was in the way, so I tried to take it off but he pulled back enough to whisper, "No, don't. It's not safe."

"Fuck safe," I replied, moving my mouth down his jaw to his neck and speaking against the skin ­ so warm. "We're way past 'safe,' Scott. And I think we'd better get out of the kitchen."

"What about the salad?"

"Let them make their own damn salad if they want one. I seem to have developed a sudden disinterest in food. How about you?"

The question made him laugh and he didn't bother to reply. Instead, we got out of the kitchen. How we made it upstairs, and what our faces must have looked like when Peter passed us in the hallway, I have no idea. We wound up in his room; it had been closer. I nearly attacked him as soon as we were over the threshold and he'd kicked the door closed. I locked it with a twist of my mind even as I was saying, "Off, off, off," while trying to yank his shirt over his head with both my hands.

"Wait," he hissed, and suddenly seemed panicked. That got my attention. I paused to slip my arms around his shoulders and just hold on. In my excitement, I'd forgotten -­ Scott's previous sexual experiences hadn't been either pleasant or gentle, and despite the happy abandon of the kitchen kiss, I shouldn't rush him. Kissing in the kitchen had ­- by its very public nature -­ created certain safe boundaries, so he'd been free to indulge himself. Being locked in his bedroom with a frantic, horny Jean trying to wrest his shirt off his back was no longer protected.

So I said, "Hey, it's okay," and faced him with just my palms on his shoulders -­ non-threatening. The last of the day's light was falling in the window that overlooked the west gardens, and somewhere far off, nighthawks called. The room was full of indistinct shadows, like the fears in his head, and I used my mind to flick on the brass reading light beside his bed. "Relax," I told him, and stood on tiptoe to brush my lips over his, as soft as cotton, no demands, just a return to simple touch. It was, I thought, like coaxing a wild animal to my hand. Move too fast and he'd bolt, but how amazing would it be to have such a skittish creature rest trustfully against my side, how humbling to have such a fierce creature be tame for me.

He was like Logan in that respect -­ more than he'd want to admit, I was sure. But Logan had never completely trusted me when we'd been together, nor I him. Our fling had been full of passion, great sex, fun, and a half-concealed caring. He'd fascinated me -­ his innate power, his masculinity, his roguishness. But I'd never trusted him like I trusted Scott, even when Scott had gone to Magneto. I'd known Scott wouldn't betray me, even while I'd been half-certain that Logan would, and so, been completely ready to believe that he had. I'd learned better since, but it was water under the bridge now, apology or no apology. And I still didn't trust Logan like I trusted Scott -­ at all levels.

Loving Scott wasn't going to allow me the half-way status that I'd had with the Wolverine, no live - for - today - and - we'll - see - where - this - goes. Scott was intense about everything he committed himself to, could steam-roll right over you and never notice. That tended to scare most people, send them screaming for the hills.

It just excited me.

He excited me, I'd never realized before how much. It wasn't necessarily sexual. He excited my mind, which is, I suppose, the best way to the heart of a telepath. Yet now, he was terrified that I wouldn't be able to give back to him as much as he wanted to give, and he was considering the wisdom of fleeing rather than staying here to find out how badly his heart was about to get shredded -­ like the lettuce in the sink.

Kissing my way up to his ear, I whispered in it, "You want to talk about this?" Talking wasn't normally how I did things in the romance department, but Scott was more rational and I needed to give a little.

He pulled back just enough to speak. "Is this an experiment, Jean?"


"It seems like I've waited for this forever. I need to be sure that you're sure. I need to be know you won't change your mind tomorrow."

"I won't change my mind."

"Jean -­ "

"Scott, this isn't an experiment or a game. I'm sure. Now shut up and kiss me again."

"You were sure about Logan."

"No, I was never sure about Logan. Never." I pulled away to focus on his face, put as much earnestness in my words as I could. "You, I was always sure of. So sure that I took you for granted." I touched his cheek. "I'm sorry. You've been the one certain thing in my life for three years. No matter how much I changed, or the world changed, you were always there."

"Until I went running off to Magneto -­ "

"Would you cut it out about that already?" I just wanted to slap him. Talking was one thing -­ angsting was another, and Scott was the king of angst. How he could be so certain of himself on a battlefield and so uncertain off it, I'd never understood. "That happened, it's over, I blame Xavier for it, but you're back now and I really, really want to get your shirt off so I can see what's underneath."

That startled a smile out of him. "You see me in my uniform every day, Jean. It doesn't hide much."

"Mmm. I know." I grinned back and leaned my hips into his, just a little pressure against his groin, and he was flushing. But he let me get hold of the shirt bottom so I could draw it up over his head, even raised his arms to make it easier.

And then he was bare from the waist up; I ran my hands over his chest. The reading light and the glow of the setting sun sent shadows rippling over the planes and angles of his body, highlighting muscle. I'd seen him bare-chested before in Weapon-X, but it had been antiseptic, forced on us by circumstance. And he'd usually been quick to vault up into his bed and pull the blanket over himself. Scott didn't like to be naked physically any more than emotionally. But now . . . .

I was reminded of a statue I'd seen in the Vatican when my parents had taken my sister and me on a tour of Italy. The Braschi Antinoös, a full-body marble of the boy beloved by the Emperor Hadrian, crowned with grape-vines like a tragic Dionysos. He'd had the anatomically-defined chest of a swimmer and the soft mouth of a poet -­ inscrutable and so sadly beautiful that he made you want to weep. Like the man in front of me. But Scott was real, flesh and blood, not marble or bronze on a museum pedestal, however stiff he might seem at times, and I pressed my face against the softness of his flesh and locked my hands together behind him.

That was when I felt it -­ the faintly raised ridges of old scar tissue very low his back. I'd noticed it before, especially during our time sharing a cell -­ the top edge of a scar that barely showed above the waistband of his pants -­ but I'd never asked about it. We'd maintained personal privacy there symbolically, since we'd had so little in truth. Now, my hands unlocked and my fingers spread out, exploring. He tensed but didn't pull away, let me walk around to look, tugging down his jeans a little to see better. My God. Someone had burned him, on a radiator grid, it looked like. "Oh, Scott," I whispered and bent to press my lips to the thick, white lines. "Who did this to you?"

"It happened a long time ago. I really don't want to go back to that time now, okay?"

I considered pressing him, but didn't. There would be plenty of chances later. He was trusting me to see what he'd usually kept hidden. So I slipped arms around him from behind, hugged him tightly, and laid my head between his shoulder blades, not tall enough even to reach his shoulder. He dropped his own head backwards, resting the back of it on the top of mine as his fingers knitted through my own fingers over his chest. "I love you," I whispered, because it was true, and because he needed to hear it. His fingers tightened but he didn't need to say a word. Joy was singing in every muscle of his body. Turning in my arms, he lowered his head until our brows were pressed together. He was smiling. Really and truly smiling, but it was still edged with sorrow. My Antinoös. Il mio bel tenebroso. My gloomy beauty. "Let's go to bed," I said.

Logan would have scooped me up and carried me, flung me on top of the sheets. Scott took my hand and we walked there, side by side. And that was why, in the end, I chose Scott. Women don't really want to be conquered. We want to be loved, and every once in a while, we even like the chance to be the strong one, to know we're trusted for that strength.

We climbed on and knelt in the middle of his bed, on denim-blue sheets, and kissed a little more. I could feel that he was shaking again, but no longer on the verge of bolting. He was in it for the long haul. So when he worked up the courage to run his hands from my back around to my sides, just skimming the edge of my breasts, and ask, "Is it my turn now to get your shirt off and see what's underneath?" -­ I smiled at his shy humor and held up my arms. He went about it more slowly than I had, taking off my glasses first and laying them on the nightstand, then turning to peel off my tank top as if he were unwrapping that last Christmas present in the special paper that had been saved for the very end. When it was gone, he just stared for a long minute. It made me a bit nervous, made me want to cross my arms over my breasts, which I'd always feared were too big and funny-looking -­ until I remembered how long he could stand in a museum and just stare at something he liked ­- artwork, sculpture, it didn't matter. Scott was spacial and visual, and right now, he was adding me to his private mental collection. He wanted to touch, but wasn't sure he was allowed, so I reached out for his hand and brought it up myself, cupping it around one breast. He inched forward then and ran his palms all over my skin, a pleasant tracery of warmth followed by cool air on bare flesh, sensual more than erotic. We were back to Scott and touch. But he let me return the favor this time, explore every bare inch of him, first with my fingers, and then with my mouth.

It didn't take long to transform from sensation-glazed exploration to something a lot more serious. He'd moved around behind me, and the damp heat of his breath panted against my cheek. He was focused completely on my breasts now, weighing them in his hands, stroking the skin with his fingers and rolling the erect nipples between thumb and forefinger -­ carefully, carefully ­- until the tingle-raw pleasure of it drove me wild. Eyes closed and head pushed back into his shoulder, I rubbed hands up and down his outer thighs, dragging nails over the cloth of his jeans and humming in the back of my throat because I absolutely had to make some sound or go mad. My body had begun to arch back against him, press into his groin so that the seam of my shorts could rub between my labia. I needed that pressure; I ached for it, and I could feel the bulge of his erection against my ass, which was almost as exciting. Every now and then, his tongue licked out along the point of my jaw, or the curve of my ear. I moved one hand back to press over the straining fabric beside his zipper, outline the firm cock beneath, and he grunted. His fingers pinched my nipples harder and I bucked faster, almost wild against him, which excited him more. He was whispering my name, voice hoarse, and I was almost crying with a need to get more pressure to my groin -­ get some relief. He was tugging on my nipples, running his forefinger over the tips, and my insides shook and quivered. At the height of it, when my body just couldn't take any more, the orgasm broke over me, frustrating in its triangle diffusion between breasts and groin rather than a piercing pleasure blooming from my clitoris outward. No one had ever before given me an orgasm just from manipulating my breasts. I shouted and arched back hard, felt him clutch at me convulsively, and then the feeling passed, but his hands were still stroking my breasts and I snapped, "Stop, stop" ­- sharp with the tickle-annoyance of too much sensation on too-sensitive flesh. He quit and there was just the comfortable warmth of his palms against me, cradling me back against his chest, almost protective, a little possessive. It was only then that I realized two things.

The first was his own breath, heavy and rough, and his weight almost boneless against my back. He'd come, too, and from no more stimulation than my rubbing against him through two layers of cloth and the excitement of touching me. I'd known Scott had wanted this for a long time, dreamed about it, fantasized about it, but even so, his climax from no more than that seemed a bit extreme. Until I realized the second thing.

My mind was singing like a plucked harp-string, vibrating against the peculiar rock-solid sensation that was Scott's unique mental signature. I'd been so overwhelmed by it all that I'd thrown everything I was feeling right into his head, and he'd come in his pants in response to my own orgasm. That had never happened before, not with anyone. I'd always had more control than that. But I knew Scott so well that reaching out to him mentally had been as natural as breathing.

"I'm sorry," I whispered, and could feel blood flash hot all under my skin. How very funny to be kneeling on a man's bed with my breasts in his hands, my underwear a damp mess from the orgasm he'd just given me, and be embarrassed about that very orgasm projected into his skull. But putting the firework kaleidoscope of my own raw passion directly into his mind had made me vulnerable . . . and I intensely hated that feeling.

I would have pulled away, said something flippant to protect myself -­ and probably hurt him in the process -­ except in that moment, the mental shields that Xavier had taught him to construct came tumbling down like Jericho's walls. I'd exposed my most private pleasure for him and he was giving me back . . . everything. It was all there, anything I wanted to see, offered up in toto because he never does anything by halves.

And my God. It's hard to express what that's like, to swim through another's essential self, to breathe his soul and mind and heart, and without even thinking I raised up a little to extend my arms wide. A cruciform of symbolic acceptance: all his pain, all his pleasure, all his fear, and especially, his desperate need for love. I took every bit of it in, and he wrapped his arms around me from behind, his face pressed into my neck because he didn't know what else to do -­ and he was scared. As scared as I'd been just moments before.

But he didn't run away. And he didn't let me go. He had faith in me, and I took that faith and slung it around us both like mail. He'd given me his heart to protect and I would protect it, to the end of our days. And in return, I gave him my own heart. I opened every door and window to my mind and soul and let him come roaring in, let him fill me up, and I was strong enough to hold him. All the intensity and passion and drive that was Scott Summers took up residence inside me, turned on the porch light, and settled in to stay. The orphan had come home.

The shoulder under my head shifted a little, and a voice spoke low into my ear. "You warm enough? I could turn the blanket on."

I rolled inward to face him and licked the sweat-salty skin of his shoulder. "I'm fine," I whispered back. Lying beside him was like lying beside a furnace, and a heated blanket was completely unnecessary. I couldn't imagine why he'd thought I might be cold. Twisting my neck, I glanced at the clock. 9:04 pm. "You hungry?" I asked. Scott was usually hungry.

But this time he said, "Not really." Which made me suspicious.

"Not really hungry? Or not really inclined to go downstairs and face the questions?"

"Both." I could hear in his voice that he was smiling, didn't need to see it.

But I raised myself up on an elbow anyway to trace a finger over his cheek. His eyes were closed and his visor was off. It probably wasn't safe, as he'd worried earlier, but we weren't doing anything at the moment that might incline him to forget himself, so just now, he was indulging my curiosity. And I enjoyed this chance to look at him unguarded, to touch his skin. He hadn't shaved since morning and his beard made a dark shadow along his jaw. Very sexy in a Don Johnson kind of way, but I was too tired and my body too sore to go further with that thought than abstract observation. We'd just made love four times in under three hours. I chalked that up to years of waiting on his part, nineteen-year-old hormones, and this new link between us that put our bodies so in tune that we fed off one another like feedback through a speaker. Now, however, we were sated and tired, and I just wanted to be with him, touch him, make him smile like he was doing now: without reserve and as sweet as a child. For the first time almost since we'd met, he was wholly content, not thinking about anything else but this moment. His own hand had moved, blindly, to find my shoulder and trace the line of it inward along my collarbone to the hollow of my throat, then up over my larynx to my chin, where he rested his thumb. "I like your skin," he said now, a baritone rumble in his chest.

"You've been over it enough tonight, I should hope so."

He didn't blush, just smiled a little wider. That more than anything else revealed his ease with his new status as my lover, and his ease with the link that bound us, too, his freedom in it. He wasn't ashamed to want me anymore. At least, not in private.

We still had tomorrow to get through, though. And we had to decide where I was sleeping tonight: here, or in my own bed. Although barely past nine, I was ready to crash right now, and I just didn't feel like surrendering my warm spot in the circle of his arms to face the chilled air and get dressed. I wasn't even sure I could walk comfortably anyway, to get back to my room. Every muscle in my lower body was sore and shaky from the sex marathon, like riding a horse for hours when you weren't used to it.

And my, wasn't that an image? Scott as stallion, if not necessarily Italian. I giggled. "What's so funny?" he asked.

I started to explain, then remembered I didn't have to, and just sent him the image. It made him blush, but he became aware, too, of my physical discomfort, and his hand skidded down from my chin over my bare body to my groin, where he cupped his palm over the curls. Gently, his thumb rubbed the skin of my belly. "Sorry about that," he said.

"Don't be." I smiled a little though he couldn't see it; he could feel it. "I wasn't complaining at the time."

"No, you weren't." And he kissed me, but only with friendship and that unique Scott-adoration. He was all out of passion, thank God. Then settling back, he put on his night goggles and pulled me down to tuck my head under his chin, stroke my hair with one hand. The other rested quiescent on my hip. I could feel the rough scratch of the Band-Aid he'd put on his forefinger earlier. At some point, we both fell asleep with the light still on.

I woke again about one in the morning, neck stiff from using his chest as a pillow. The mansion was silent, and a glancing mental touch skidded over sleeping minds ­- everyone's but the professor's. I tried the mental equivalent of duck and run, to no avail -­ he gathered immediately where I was. Wry amusement at my attempted evasion -­ and perhaps at my embarrassment. You were loud enough earlier, he sent. Any telepath in the state of New York would have felt what you were up to. A little more shielding next time, Jean.

And what did I say to an admonishment from my mentor about the mental equivalent of flashing my telepathic neighbors?

Don't be embarrassed, he went on. It's something we must all learn.

I didn't have this problem with Wolverine.

You weren't in love with Wolverine, he sent back, as if that explained everything. We'll talk tomorrow, Jean, and with that rather ominous comment, the connection closed.

I sighed. It was too late, and I too tired, to bother getting up now, so I indulged in an exercise of my telekinetic skill by fetching clean underwear and my uniform out of my own room, floating them down two halls and the staircase to Scott's. Door open, clothes in, dump them on the chair in the corner, and then close the door again. And lock it. Light off, as an afterthought. Scott woke at the sound of the door ­- left-over hypervigilance from our Weapon-X hell ­- but I shushed him and he dropped back off immediately. Lying on his back, he snored lightly. Ten minutes later, I was asleep once more, too, flat on my belly on the left side of his bed, my hip snuggled against his side. Just touching.


Go on to Chapter II, "Sex, Truth and Videotape"

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