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I Guess It's All Right - Part II
Sex, truth, and videotape

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I like mornings. Back at Boys' Town in Omaha, getting up early had ensured me at least a short time to myself before anyone demanded that I be here, there or otherwise "get with the program." The kids who tried to stay up late were usually caught and punished, but no one in our home cared if I went to bed early and rose at five. There's an assumption that people who get up early do so for all the right reasons; goes back to the Protestant work ethic and that stupid rhyme: 'early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.' I'm not sure it's ever made me anything, and I rise early even now for purely selfish reasons. It gives me a chance to get a shower before I have to compete for hot water, to make the coffee as strong as I want it, and to read the newspaper before my teammates haul off sections of it to the four corners of the mansion.

Besides, I have a thing for watching the sun come up.

That morning, I woke when I always did, but didn't get up immediately. Instead I lay there and stared at my bed partner like she might disappear back into my imagination if I took my eyes off of her. Even with her hair a mess from sleep and sex, and a pressure line on her cheek from a pillow seam, she was, to me, the most beautiful thing in my world.

God, Jean, if you only knew how much I love you.

But of course she did know, now. There had been no way last night to hide anything, nor had I really wanted to. She could have any damn part of me she wanted, though why such an amazing creature would want me at all still escaped my cynical comprehension. Once or twice, I reached out, intending to touch her cheek or hair or bare shoulder, but never let the hand connect.

If I touched her, she might wake up. And if she woke up, she might decide that last night had been an amazingly stupid idea on her part -­ whatever she'd claimed at the time ­- for a whole host of reasons ranging from the personal (namely Logan) to team dynamics. So I didn't touch her, didn't wake her. I wanted my heart intact for a little longer. I might suspect that she'd be trying to find a graceful way out of this by suppertime, but as long as she was asleep, I could continue in the hope that last night had been for real. In any case, my bladder was demanding that I empty it, so I dragged myself away from her to do that, then while I was up, figured I may as well shower and get dressed. I didn't usually shower before practice because I just had to shower again after, but Logan would be there and I was sure he'd be able to smell Jean on me. So I showered and made sure to scrub everything with deodorant soap. It was late for me ­- after six ­- and Danger Room exercises began at seven thirty. I had things to do first, including eat. I'd noticed that Jean had brought her clothes down last night and remembered the door opening, though I couldn't remember precisely when that was. But she hadn't brought anything else and I wondered if I could make it to her room and back without being seen? People were bound to ask questions if they caught me wandering around the hallways with Jean's toiletries in my hands, but I decided to try.

Her room was just above my own, which permitted the plumbing that gave us each a private bath. I'd been in her room before, but never in her bathroom. It was as small as mine, with a sink, toilet and shower stall, and barely enough space to turn around. She'd had to stack her blow dryer, comb and mousse on the back of the toilet because there was no room on the little counter. It felt . . . very intimate, to stand here -­ which was amusing, in light of the night before. But I knew perfectly well -­ better than most -­ that sex and intimacy weren't the same thing. Her toothbrush was on the counter along with Tom's Natural Spearmint Toothpaste. I grabbed that, too, since I doubted she'd want my Colgate. Deodorant . . . check ­- and God, I hoped no one ran into me. I might be able to explain why I was carrying around a toothbrush, but not why I was carrying around a stick of Secret. Or L'oréal ColorVIVE shampoo for that matter -­ formulated for hair dye? Jean dyed her hair? But I'd seen the evidence last night that the carpet matched the drapes.

Well, more or less. It was a little darker between her legs, and my awareness of color shades was less than dependable, even for red, yet I'd assumed darker was normal. It's not like it saw the sun. But maybe her red hair got a little help -­ which made me smile. I could care less. She could dye it bright green as far as I was concerned and I'd love her still -­ it's not as if I'd be able to tell much difference, anyway.

It occurred to me then that it'd be a wise idea to find a travel kit, to put this stuff in. If I did run into anyone, I wouldn't have to explain myself. I lie badly, at least outside of strategic situations. I hated to paw through Jean's personals, but I figured she'd be less happy if someone figured out that she'd spent the night in my bed, so I knelt down to look under the sink.

Toilet paper, extra shampoo, a dusty curling iron that hadn't seen use since she'd cut her hair, a spare toothbrush, an unopened package of face power in translucent light (powder came in shades?), two boxes of tampons in heavy and regular (tampons came in types?), some Nyquil, aspirin and Sudafed, and -­ oh. Three unused packages of birth control pills. I dropped them in embarrassment. Then, remembering that there was no one to watch, I picked one up again and flipped it open. I'd never seen birth control pills before, and I confess, I was curious. Numbered for 28 days and in three different colors. Wow, how weird. I put them back. I'd assumed she was on something though, because when I'd admitted last night that I didn't have a condom, she'd said not to worry about it.

Unfortunately, and despite the impromptu education in women's things, I hadn't found a travel bag. So I grabbed the shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush, and razor and got out of there, even managed to sneak back to my own room without being caught. I left everything on my bathroom counter for her and checked the clock. Past six-thirty. She was still asleep. I went back to the bed and sat down, watched her breathe for a minute. If I didn't wake her up, she'd be late. But as before, I hesitated. What would she say to me on the morning after? And did I want to hear it? It might be easier if I gave her a chance to wake alone and make a graceful exit. Moreover, after last night, I wasn't sure that she was up to strenuous activity this morning. Maybe she should just sit it out.

Playing favorites already, Summers? I asked myself. Would I cut Ororo the same slack?

Yes, I would, if it meant that she might hurt herself ­- or someone else -­ during practice. I'd sent people out before, if they were off their game. We couldn't always pick our physical state when we were fighting, but I wasn't going to risk Jean getting a pulled muscle because she was favoring her lower body. It could put her out of commission for a week instead of a single morning. Nor would I risk anyone else doing the same. That wasn't playing favorites; it was being pragmatic.

Rifling my desk for some paper, I wrote her a note but spent three times as long figuring out how to sign it as I'd spent writing it ­- settled finally on a simple "Scott" -­ and taped it to the bathroom mirror. Then I set my alarm so she'd have time to shower before class, and slipped out.

Nonetheless, I'd dawdled too much and could only grab a granola bar and a glass of milk on my way down to the Danger Room to set the controls for practice. Hank came in about ten minutes before so I could brief him, as he ran the machines when I didn't. He awarded me an odd look, but didn't ask any questions. Yet I was paranoid enough to wonder what that look had meant. Surely no one had heard anything last night. We'd been asleep before the rest of them would even have thought about bed.

My teammates filed in by seven-thirty, minus the professor and Jean. The professor didn't usually attend morning practice unless I asked him to, and before anyone could inquire as to where Jean was, I said, "Marvel Girl isn't feeling well this morning. She'll be up by class time. Let's get to work." I didn't miss the glances they passed when they thought I wasn't watching. There are advantages to wearing a visor; others think I'm looking only in the direction that I'm facing -­ which isn't necessarily the case. I have peripheral vision, too. But no one asked me anything more or challenged my explanation, so I relaxed after a bit.

And once the pressure was off, my mood turned good ­- turned positively euphoric, in fact. Whatever happened later today, whatever Jean decided about us, and however uncertain I'd felt upon waking -­ last night, for a little while, Jean Grey been mine. So I spent morning practice in a glittering cloud, handing out a lot more encouragement than usual, and much less criticism. At one point, Storm sauntered over to join me where I was leaning against a wall, arms crossed, and remarked, "If this is what happens when you don't get your morning coffee, I'm taking you off caffeine permanently, boss-man."

Oh. Coffee. I'd forgotten my coffee. And I hadn't even noticed. No wonder they'd looked at me strangely.

"I had chocolate milk," I told her. "That has caffeine."

I was reaching and we both knew it -­ and Storm, the ex-thief, was observant enough about details that if I didn't watch myself, she'd put two and two together and come up with four.

We just stood there for a while, until she asked, "Is Jean's feeling bad why you two weren't at supper last night?"

Careful, careful, Summers, I thought to myself. "I was taking care of her," I said aloud, and winced as soon as I heard myself.

Storm's expression barely concealed laughter. "I just bet you were." And she pushed away from the wall before I could answer. If I chased after her, it would look even worse. She'd handed me the classic "And when did you stop beating your wife?" kind of crack. Damned if you do reply, damned if you don't.

To complicate matters further, Jean showed up at the tail end of our hour-long practice while I was going over the video up in the control room, pointing out problems. Her entrance was hurried and she was wearing street clothing instead of her uniform, which meant she'd gone back to her room to dress after all. She gave me a dirty look that made me sweat. The others stared at her, and Hank said, "Hey, I thought you were sick?"

She answered him but looked at me. "Sick? I'm not sick."

"I said she wasn't feeling well," I corrected Beast, unable to meet Jean's eyes.

God, Scott, is that the best you could come up with? she projected into my head, followed by, And I didn't ask you for preferential treatment.

I wasn't giving it, I sent back. I didn't want you pulling a muscle because you were favoring . . . whatever.

It's called a cunt ­- which you know perfectly well.

"Jean!" I said, shocked into speaking aloud, but she mowed right over me.

And I may be a little sore still, but it's not that bad. You could've woken me up and asked, you know. Spare me your male patronizing.

Shit, shit, shit. This was not looking good. Everyone else in the room was aware that we were having a private mental argument, and they were as curious as hell. Can we . . . discuss this later? They're watching us.

Yeah? I noticed. She turned to glare at them, and they all found a sudden interest in something else. "Don't you guys need to shower?"

They fled, leaving me to face the lioness alone. The video was still running in the background, mindless noise. She advanced on me and spoke aloud. "Do not ever do that to me again."

'That' could mean any of a half dozen things from invading her bathroom to leaving her to sleep, but I was pretty sure she meant the latter. "I wasn't -­  I didn't ­-   Goddammit, what do you want from me, woman?" She could tie up my tongue faster than any human being on the planet, including the professor. "I wasn't trying to patronize you! I just didn't want you to maybe get hurt and be out for a week instead of a day. I'll work your ass off later this evening, okay?"

"As long as it's in the Danger Room."

"Jean, that was a cheap shot."

She rubbed at the bridge of her nose under her glasses and laughed a little. "But you just make it so easy sometimes, Slim." She glanced up at me. "I appreciate the thought, but really, I'm fine. A little sore, but I think I can handle it."

I stared at my boots, because I was afraid to look at her face. Here it was: the moment of truth.

"Thanks," she said, "for bringing me my toothbrush. And stuff."

It wasn't quite what I'd expected and made me glance up. "You're welcome."

She'd taken a few steps closer, and I suddenly didn't want to hear the rest of it. I didn't want to hear her tell me it had been great or whatever -­ some flattery to spare my male ego -­ but maybe not the best choice we'd ever made. So I said, "We're going to be late to class. Or I will. I still need to shower. Would you turn off the tape?" And I slipped past her out the door, and headed for the showers ­- the locker room showers. Usually, I dropped back by my own room for a few minutes, just to get my head together and shower there, but my room was no longer inviolate; Jean would follow me. I didn't think she'd follow me into the men's locker room, though. Peter would be amused by a stunt like that, Hank would ignore her -­ after all, she'd played doctor to him -­ but it'd scandalize Bobby. She wouldn't do it for that reason.

And it was because I was going where no one expected me to be, where I never went, that I wound up overhearing a conversation that I wasn't meant to hear. Peter, Hank and Bobby in the showers. I don't know where Logan was, but they wouldn't have been talking like that in front of him any more than they would have if they'd known that I'd come into the locker room after them, and now stood -­ halted by shock ­- just outside the shower entrance, bare feet on cold tile.

The first voice I distinguished was Peter's. " . . . heard them? You sure it's what she thinks it was?"

And then followed Hank giving a fair imitation of a woman in orgasmic extremity, which had Peter laughing ­- and I had to bite my tongue, too. The 'she' to whom Peter had referred must be Storm; no wonder she'd been so freakin' amused this morning. In any case, Hank ended his vocal display with, "What does that sound like to you?"

"Okay, okay," Peter agreed. "So she fucked his brains out. High time. Got rid of all that I-really-need-to-get-laid tension. He was almost human this morning."

"So why'd he let her sleep in?" Bobby asked.

A moment of silence. "Dunno," Henry admitted.

"She was pretty pissed," Peter said. "I hope she doesn't take too big a bite out of him."

"That's an interesting image, Pete."

"Your mind is even dirtier than mine is, Beastie Boy." Another pause, then Peter continued, "I wonder if Logan realizes?"

"If Ro heard them, I'm sure Logan could."

"Assuming he was hanging around in the halls. You said that Ororo heard only because she walked by Scott's door."


"You think Wolverine'll challenge Cyclops?" Bobby asked.

"Nah," Peter said at the same time Hank replied, "Are you kidding?"

"First," Hank went on, "she'd bust both their asses if they did any alpha-male posturing over her. Second, Jean swears that it's over with the Wolverine."

"It'll never be over with the Wolverine," Peter said. "Didn't you hear her apology to him, in Weapon-X? It's just gone into hibernation."

"I think Scott's more than a distraction for her," Henry snapped.

"Oh, I never said he wasn't. I just said it wasn't over with Logan. Watch her watch him. She doesn't look at Scott that way."

Standing outside, I leaned up against the porcelain tile wall and let the cold spread out from my bare back straight through my heart. In that moment, I hated Piotr Rasputin. But he was just verbalizing what I already knew myself. More than anyone else, I'd seen how Jean watched Logan still. And I'd heard what she'd said to him, in our cells -­ that he had more hope in him than almost anyone she knew. More than me, I guess. She admired him more than me. And Peter was right. She'd never looked at me the way she looked at him. Not even last night.

"She's such a ho," Bobby said, sounding indignant.

"You say that like it's a bad thing," Peter replied, laughing.

"Isn't it? She jumped right in bed with Wolverine, and now she's after Cyclops!" Still indignant.

"So she has a mind of her own and screws who she wants to. Big deal."

"Ro's not like that!" Bobby replied.

Silence. To deny what Bobby had said would bring up what none of us wanted to talk about: the things done to Ororo in Weapon-X. Or even before, when she'd lived on the street. Ororo had ten times the experience Jean did, but it was like mine ­- not necessarily willing. She'd done what she had to, to survive, and now she lived with the scars.

The showers were going off, and I faded back behind a row of lockers. I could hear fine, and began to redress quietly.

"In any case," Peter was saying, "sleeping with Logan doesn't mean anything except that she's got good taste in male flesh."

Henry laughed at that. "You are so astonishingly predictable, Pete."

Peter ignored him. "The rest of us didn't trust him, but she and the professor did ­- and they were right, weren't they? Don't be a Neanderthal, Bobby. The woman isn't playing musical beds. She slept with Logan for a week. Now -­ months later -­ she's sleeping with our Fearless Leader . . . whom she's known for how long? And she does love him. It ain't over with Logan, but she came back from Weapon-X in love with Scott. Who'd she fight beside, when we got out?"

Which made me stop dead while pulling on my uniform boot. I'd forgotten about that. Jean had stood by me -­ not Logan. They were getting close, though; I had to get out of there. Grabbing my other boot, I made for the door, still concealed from their sight by the lockers and a bend in the room. Barreling around the corner to make my escape, I ran right into Logan, managed not to make a noise of surprise. I had no idea how long he'd been standing there, but judging from his expression, almost as long as I had been. Our eyes locked even with rose quartz between ­- and I knew the hard-won truce we'd established was all shot to hell. He pushed the door open soundlessly and made a motion for me to exit, which I did; he followed and we faced off in the hall that led back towards the Danger Room, me with one boot still in my hand, sweaty yet, and Logan chewing on an unlit cigar. True to his word, he didn't smoke them any more, but he still chewed on them. "What?" I snarled.

"Is it true?"

"Is what true?"

He grabbed the front of my uniform and slammed me up into the wall. "Don't play stupid with me, Cyclops. Are you banging Jeannie?"

I slapped his hand away. "Man, do you have to be so goddamn crude?"

"Hurt her, and I'll gut you, pretty boy."

I got right in his face, spit, "First, it's none of your damn business. Second, if anyone gets hurt here, it'll be me. Now stay the fuck out of my life." I bent to yank on my boot and stalked off. I'd get a shower in my room after all, even if it made me late. No way in hell was I going back in that locker room.

My euphoria of the morning was completely gone and I was fuming by the time I made it back to my room. Jean was not, of course, there and I stripped down, threw my boots into a corner and ran over in my head what I'd heard in the locker room. I couldn't argue with Peter's assessment of Jean's feelings for the Wolverine. It wasn't over with him, it would never be over with him, and what kind of idiot was I, to think that last night had been anything more than a substitution? Logan had been stand-offish since we'd gotten back, Jean had been horny, and I'd been desperate and convenient. I'd been telling Logan the truth, outside the locker room. If anyone got hurt here, it was going to be me. Jean would try to be gentle, considerate of my feelings, but she wasn't in love with me, except as a friend. In that, Peter had been wrong. Even this morning, she'd gone back to her room to dress, though I'd brought down everything she'd need. No doubt, she hadn't been able to get out of my room fast enough.

Sitting down abruptly in the middle of the floor, naked as the day I was born, I drew up my knees and pressed my visored face to them. I didn't have time to cry. I was already late, and I'd brought this on myself by being gullible. Yanking my head up, I stared across at the armoire but didn't really focus on it. Though the mansion had burned after the Weapon-X attack, the fire hadn't consumed the entire building. My room, located at the far end of the east wing, had somehow escaped with only smoke damage, and the antique solid pine furniture that I'd hauled out of Xavier's basement storage was still in one piece ­- the kind of small blessing you don't expect, but means more than you'd ever have guessed. I'd spent hours on this furniture, cleaning it up after I'd first found it; I'd never before invested so much of myself in objects I couldn't carry, and I couldn't believe I still had it all. The armoire with its twined, carved ivy along the top and down the side was my favorite piece.

So I noticed finally that the doors weren't closed all the way. And there were shoes sitting in front of it ­- women's tennis shoes.

Pushing myself up, I walked over to open the door wider. It took me a moment to spot the difference: a change of clothes for Jean, sitting neatly on the bottom shelf.

I blinked and went into the bathroom, found her toothbrush lined up next to my own, her shampoo in a corner of the shower because there was no room in the holder over the shower-head (which I could remedy), and her razor nestled with mine in the tray.

And at that point, I started to laugh. Mostly at myself. I could be a real idiot some days.

The door to my bedroom opened and I jumped. "Scott? Are you in here?"

"Yeah," I called, biting my lip to stifle my amusement as she appeared in the bathroom doorway. Despair had turned back into triumph. Her things were still in my room.

"Peter said you never showed up in the locker room, though I thought I saw you head that way. You . . . felt upset just now."

How had she known? "I went to the locker room," I told her. "But they were, um, having a conversation, so I left."

"You mean they were gossiping about us?" Yet she seemed tickled, not offended. "Care to share?" And she tapped her head.


The link.

"What link?"

You numbskull -­ the link we made last night! Or did you forget that? Just open your mind.

We have a link? But even as I asked, I could feel it. It had been there all morning; I just hadn't noticed because it was a subtle thing. But standing here in front of her -­ naked, now that I thought about it; how embarrassing -­ I could feel that there was something intangible between us.

She was laughing at me, but fondly. Welcome to life with a telepath. Now, you want to show me what they said about us? And I could feel her reach, but I blocked it. Some things, she didn't need to know, including what Bobby had called her. He was young. He was entitled to be stupid occasionally without inviting the Wrath of Jean. Not to mention that I didn't want her to know that Logan knew.

The block surprised her, and she stared at me a long minute. "What don't you want to tell me?"

I shook my head.

"Somebody said something you know will piss me off," she continued.

"Yes. If it were really important, I'd tell you. It's not important."

She frowned, considered yelling, and then swallowed it. "Okay. I'll trust your judgment."

Which touched me. "Thank you."

"But you were upset. I felt it."

"I was. I'm not now. I was being stupid."

Her lips tilted up. "You were angsting, weren't you?"

"Jean ­- "

"You were. Scott, you're so predictable!"

"I wasn't 'angsting.'" God, I hated it when she accused me of that, as if I always blew everything out of proportion, but she was the one who inclined to temper trantrums and broken crockery. And how could I explain without telling her more than I wanted to? Even thinking about it was sending me back into the spiraling uncertainty of fifteen minutes before. Good God. I could do without the emotional roller coaster that I'd been on this morning. Up, down, up, down. I was headed down again.

And she could tell in a way that was completely new. She'd always been sensitive to my moods but now I watched my own sudden rush of fear chase across her face. She'd picked it up from this new link. I wasn't sure I liked that. I valued my privacy.

You worry too much, Scott. I won't invade your privacy. Remember a minute ago? You blocked me and I let you, didn't I? But just now, you were projecting.

I don't want to project everything!

You won't. You'll learn. We'll both learn.

Last night, I'd been willing to give her everything. This morning, I was less sure, and feeling tender. I needed to have some space in my own head.

We all need that, she sent, and crossed the few feet between us to rest her hands on my chest, just like she had last night when we'd first come to my room. It's okay. Don't shut me out, please. You're afraid of being hurt, I know -­

Yes, I'm afraid of being hurt! Is that a freakin' crime?

I won't hurt you, Scott. She held my eyes through my visor. She always knew how to find them. I wanted to say, "You hurt me before. You went to him . . . and it burned me like acid." But I kept my mouth shut and my mind closed.

Her hands slid out across my shoulders and down my arms as she pushed herself up against me. I thought about how strange this felt, but how very, very apt: I was completely naked, exposed, while she wore clothes.

She must have picked up on that because she rocked back and yanked her shirt over her head, then undid her bra and dropped it all on the bathroom floor. Pressing herself up against me again, she held me tight and said, "Shhh. I won't hurt you. I won't lie to you. I can't ­- not with the link. I can't lie through the link." Don't you feel it? Don't you feel that I can't lie?

And because I was scared, and because I needed to know, I replied, Then tell me -­ here, where you say you can't lie ­- that you love me more than Logan.

Is that what this is about? You're afraid of Logan? What did he say to you?

I didn't want to reply, didn't want her to know that Logan knew, but she pushed me. "Tell me, Scott. What did he say? He said something to you, didn't he? That's why you blocked me earlier."

It wasn't, entirely, but it was part of it. Still I hesitated, but her eyes held mine, pulled me in until I admitted, "He said he'd gut me if I hurt you. I told him you wouldn't be the one getting hurt."

"What! You think I can't hurt, too?" Anger snapped around the edges of that.

"I didn't say that -­ "

"But you sure as hell implied it!" She released me to step away, and I knew from the thunder on her face that I was in trouble again. "You don't trust me. I trusted you, no matter what, and you won't trust me. If I wanted to be as paranoid as you, I could start with Wanda Maximoff! We all know why she showed up with the Brotherhood in Finland! To haul your ass out of the fire!"

Furious, I almost came back with, "And you don't think Logan showed up to rescue you?" But I knew it wasn't true, or not entirely. Instead, I said, "Jean, you know damn well nothing happened with Wanda Maximoff, not in the Savage Land, and not after we escaped."

"You want to tell me you weren't checking out her cleavage?" She tapped her temple. "I know better."

"Oh, please!" The accusation ticked me off because I had looked at Wanda's cleavage -­ it was hard not to, given her costume ­- but that was all I'd found interesting about her. "Jean, you know me better than that."

She nodded. "Yes, I do. I know you well enough to trust you. But you won't trust me. How on Earth can you say that you love me if you don't trust me?"

"I want to!" I practically shouted it. "I want to, Jean!" And we just glared for a moment, each breathing heavily. "You hurt me once," I admitted. "Very badly. I need to know that this time, you're choosing me because you want me. You're not just taking me because I'll do."

Her hand reared back to slap me and I moved to intercept it, grabbed the wrist. "I told you once before -­ you don't get to hit me unless I get to hit back. And I could hurt you. Can the melodrama. I think you're doing whatever distracts me and keeps you from having to answer my question. Do you love me more than Wolverine?"

YES, DAMMIT! I do! Happy, now?

Well, that reply had made my head ring. I put a hand up to my forehead and blinked, realized that she was sobbing and pulled her in to me. She hit at me. I ignored it. "You are so frustrating, Scott Summers! Sometimes you're like a black hole! Doubt, doubt, doubt! Nothing I say is enough! You don't think you're worth loving, so you don't trust me if I say that I do! And I don't know what you want to hear! I don't know what would be good enough!"

The words pierced me, each one an iron knife in the gut. Was she right? But I knew she was. Yes, I sent, I have a hard time believing you could love me. I want to, just like I want to trust you. But I heard what you said to Logan, in Finland, and I see how you still look at him. And it's not how you look at me.

"God, you big idiot!" she yelled and shoved at me, which didn't do more than rock me a little, then she continued in my head, Am I not allowed to apologize to someone without setting you off? Can't I respect him and still love you? Good God! She glared through tears. Do you really want me to look at you like I look at Logan? Do you want me to look at you and wonder if you're undressing me in your head? Look at you and notice that you tend to stare at my big ugly breasts more than at my face? God knows, I can't explain why I think he's attractive ­- but I do. There. You want truth? That's the truth. I think he's attractive. But I don't love him. I never really did. I waited a year for you to ask me out. I flirted with you but you just ran away, or you went stiff and formal. When I flirted with him, he flirted back. YOU, I could never figure out. I thought you wanted me, but you never acted like it, even when I gave you every chance in the world.

I told you before, you were pure -­ the one pure thing in my life. I didn't want to mess it up.

"THAT ISN'T WHAT I NEED!" she screamed aloud, and hit me -­ strong enough to bruise ­- right in the chest with both fists. She was crying harder now. It broke me heart. "I NEED YOU TO LOVE ME! I NEED YOU TO LOVE ME AS MUCH AS I LOVE YOU!"

I grabbed her and held on. "I do, Jean. God! I've loved you from the beginning. Only you. You know that. Only you."

"So why is it so hard for you to think that maybe I can love you?"

"It just is." I'd started to cry now, too, eyes shut behind my visor. It really wasn't big enough in the bathroom for us both, but I was afraid to move, afraid to upset the moment. We were finally talking to each other ­- really talking. It scared me, but I wanted her to know these things about me so she could understand, even while I was terrified of telling her, terrified of being that open. My whole body was shaking, and my skin felt like it was burning, but I kept hold of her because she meant more to me than anything, more than my own fear.

"Talk to me," she whispered, petting my back like a I was a spooked horse.

It took me a minute, but finally, I managed, "When I was younger, no one wanted me. I was always getting passed over, bounced around foster homes, then sent to Boys' Town because I was a 'problem child.' No one was willing to adopt me."

Her head was on my chest and she continued to stroke the skin of my back, fingers straying down to the burn scar. It made me flinch, but I let her touch it. "God, why?" she asked.

"Who wants the kid with brain damage?" And then I really did start to cry.

Turning her face in, she kissed my chest up and down the sternum, right over my heart. "I do. I want him. He's the best thing in my life."

I closed my eyes and tightened my arms around her. I couldn't speak. I was too full to speak. She pulled down my head to kiss me on the mouth. "We are so late," I muttered against her lips. "And so dead, when we get to class."

The professor knows where we are. My shocked response to that was wordless, but she could feel it. He knew last night, Scott. Don't be embarrassed. So I sent to him that we'd be late. I think he realized that the shit had hit the fan. I felt her smile against my mouth. He told me we should deal with it, and he'd see us both later. He's not mad at us, I don't think, but we're in for a lecture.

I'm sure. But I was rapidly losing interesting in either a shower or a lecture, and let my hands roam over her naked upper body.

Good grief, Charlie Brown, she sent, laughing into my mouth. AGAIN? And after how many times last night?

It's not my fault you're sexy.

Big breasts and all, huh?

I pulled away to frown down at her, remembering what she'd said before. "Whatever gave you the crazy idea that your breasts are 'ugly,' anyway?"

"They're too big."

The patent absurdity of that left me speechless for half a minute. Then I said, "They are not!"

"They're funny looking."

"Jean! They are not!" But she was serious, and I'd never have guessed that my Jean-who-hated-bras might be honestly worried about her breasts. I glanced over my shoulder at the mirror, then turned her to face herself in it, and pulled her arms away from her chest so that her breasts were fully exposed to both our sights. Standing behind, I cupped them in my hands, light bronze-tan skin on milk-pale. "Look -­ there's nothing wrong with them. You have beautiful breasts."

"The nipples are too big, the skin is too white, I have freckles down the middle, and one boob is bigger than the other."

It was? I hadn't even noticed, but now that she'd pointed it out, I could see it was true ­- if not by much. "Human beings aren't symmetrical. One of my eyebrows is higher than the other. So what? As for the skin -­ Jean, you're a red-head. You have a red-head's complexion. And I can't even see the freckles."

"They're right there!"

"And they fade out to my glasses. There's nothing wrong with you. Look -­ " I let my hands run down her sides. "It's not about size. It's about proportion ­- the whole effect. Your hips are wide, and your waist is narrow -­ it all matches. Your breasts are not too big; they're just right." Then I added, "I like them," because maybe that's what really mattered.

"I'm glad you like them," she said, and her hands moved behind her back to get hold of my cock -­ whose interest had flagged a little while I'd concentrated on reassuring her. It perked up now, and my own hands moved from her breasts to the front of her pants, undid them and pushed them over her hips. She stepped out of them and I shifted a hand up to slip it between her legs. She opened to me, let me find the slick folds, and made cat-in-heat noises, bucking back against me.

"You are so amazingly sexy," I whispered, having gone from moderately interested to extremely turned-on in record time, and despite the marathon last night. I just couldn't get enough of her. She was my drug, or maybe my anti-drug, like the TV commercials. This was all I needed to stay sane. The buzz of the link between us, the warmth of her palms on me, guiding me inside her, and then the heat of being encased -­ a pleasure like nothing else, as much psychological as physical. "Jean," I whispered. Right here, right now, I felt loved. I believed it.

She was leaning over the sink counter and we could see ourselves in the mirror. A bit kinky, perhaps, but it cranked up my arousal more than I would have imagined. I wasn't watching myself at all; I was watching her and I didn't mind being behind -­ though the primal side of it disturbed me, reminded me of things I'd rather forget -­ as long as I could see her face. She was beautiful when she came, chin up, white throat exposed and chest flushed down to the dark rose of her nipples. After we finished, she cleaned up while I showered, and it was almost eleven by the time we actually made it back downstairs to join the others.

We held hands.


Go on to Chapter Three, "Bad Desire"

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