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I Guess It's All Right - Part III
Bad Desire

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Hey little girl is your daddy home,
Did he go away and leave you all alone? And me,
I got a bad desire. Oh, oh, oh, I'm on fire.

Springsteen on the CD player, and I knew who'd put in that album. "Move, you big lummox; I don't have room," I told him.

"Maybe because this seat was made for one?" But Scott was laughing at me, and he moved . . . a little. Enough that I could slide myself into the big reclining chair that sat beside the couch in the den. And he honest-to-God didn't seem to mind this playful public display of affection even if we weren't alone. Storm, Henry, Peter and Bobby were all here, too, hanging out after lunch. And maybe he didn't mind because it wasn't the first time I'd commandeered his lap and part of this recliner, even before we were a 'we.' And that's why I did it. He'd come in here to study, and taken the recliner because everything was too new and he didn't want caught on the couch where he might have to decide if he were 'allowed' to put his arm around me.

I'm pretty good at guessing Scott Summers' paranoias.

This had seemed like the wisest course to introduce the change in our relationship to the rest of the team in a way that didn't send Scott fleeing for the hills. It wasn't the others who I was worried about; I'd seen Peter grinning earlier when we'd shown up downstairs holding hands. But of course Scott had dropped my hand almost immediately . . . so I'd made sure that what we were doing now was only what we'd done a dozen times before -­ nothing new, nothing radical -­ and that made it okay with Scott. His grip on my waist was comfortable and he was genuinely concentrating on his book, not pretending to concentrate while trying to conceal his hard-on. "Whatcha reading?" I asked.

He held up the book so I could see the title on the cover. The Marshals of Alexander's Empire. I snorted. "Jeez, Slim, aspirations of grandeur? I can see it now" ­- I made a gesture in the air as if sketching words on a scrolling ticker: "Cyclops the Great!"

"Fuck you," he muttered.

"You did that already," I whispered back in his ear. "Very well, I might add."

Which made him blush furiously. "The professor gave this to me to read," he defended. Then his lips quirked up. "He said something about Alexander's 'management of powerful personalities under his command.' Gee, I wonder who he was referring to?"

I laughed and leaned back against his shoulder, shut my eyes and just enjoyed the feel of him. After a while, the other four stopped trying to steal furtive glances at us. They're not looking at us any more, I sent into his head.

I know, he sent back. A pause, then, They know, y'know.

You just used 'know' three times in six words. Sounds like dialogue off Seinfeld.

He grinned and shifted me a little so that I wasn't crushing his hip.

"Jean ­- are you ready for your lesson?"

Everyone in the room jumped. How a guy in a wheelchair could sneak up on us all without anyone hearing I'll never understand, but he does it on a regular basis. Now, I glanced at Scott, sent quietly just to him, Lecture time. He smiled, and gave me a boost out of his lap so I could follow the professor off to the shielded library that houses Cerebro, where we conducted our thrice-weekly telepathic lessons. Once, I'd had a lesson every day, first thing. That I was now down to only three times a week was a mark of my progress.

The professor rolled into his usual spot by the fireplace, lit against the fall chill, and indicated for me to take the high-backed queen chair opposite him. Overstuffed florid gold and red upholstery. I'd asked him once if he liked it. He'd said, "Of course not. I keep it as a reminder that wealth doesn't guarantee taste. Or sense." That still made me smile.

"Shall we work, this afternoon, on your shielding?"

My skin went as red as my hair. He only raised an eyebrow. "Shielding has always been difficult for you, Jean. First, shielding out the thoughts of others, and then, shielding your own thoughts, especially when angry. Or otherwise emotional."

Sighing, I nodded agreement, and we spent the next hour on the complicated task of shielding -­ something next to impossible to explain in words. I could describe it as a wall built brick by brick, as a force field erected by the energy of my power, or I might call it the skin holding in my own thoughts, separating "Jean" from others. But none of that was more than a metaphor, and I had always had trouble with it, would have gone mad if Professor Xavier hadn't found me. I've often wondered if the reason he hadn't gone mad himself, when he was my age, is because shielding comes so easily to him? He has a powerful, disciplined mind ­- organized, protected, private. But for me, the thoughts of others are sometimes louder than their voices. They hammer at me.

One reason I've always found Scott's company so comfortable, and later, Logan's, is that both have natural shields. They don't shout in my head. The same is true of Henry, and I can only imagine what horrible abuse he survived at the hands of an alcoholic father that hardened him so much. The minds of the others are a different matter. Ororo is probably quietest, but Bobby is as noisy, mentally, as a preschooler. Chatter, chatter, chatter. Extended time with him makes me tired.

I'm just very, very sensitive. I once caught a rare unguarded thought from the professor to the effect that, one day, I might be more powerful than he is, for that very reason. He won't let me use Cerebro yet because he fears it might overwhelm me. When my shielding is good enough, and my mind strong enough, I'll be able to hear farther than even he can. Maybe a lot farther.

That thought scares me a little.

But shields are key. Without them, I'd curl into a helpless ball and beat my head against the floor. It's what I was doing the day Charles Xavier found me.

Go away, go away, go away. Make all the voices in my head go away.

And he had. And I loved him for it, even if I might occasionally question some of his methods. He'd saved me, and I know he means well even when he seems cold and callous. I understand him because I'm like him. Having all these voices in your head, knowing all the intimate hopes and fears of people you've never even seen . . . .   The only way to stay sane is to learn coldness. Every day of my life I struggle to be calm, detached, to transcend the morass that threatens to drown me. Unfortunately, my own temperament doesn't make it easy. I envy Charles Xavier for his telepathic Zen.

After an hour of the professor battering away at my mind, I was exhausted and he called a halt. I still hadn't received the lecture I'd anticipated. I was oddly disappointed. When he said finally, "That's enough for today. You may go, Jean," I replied with, "That's it?"

He gave me an amused glance. "You want a second round?"

"No, I just -­   I mean -­   Uh ­- " He wasn't making it easier, just sat waiting with hands folded in front of him and an annoying half-smile playing on his lips. "You don't want to talk to me?" I asked finally.

His eyebrows went up. "Should I? Maybe the real question is ­- do you want to talk to me?"

I started to say 'No, of course not,' but then stopped. It would be a lie, and of course, he knew it. I did want to talk to someone; I just hadn't wanted to be forced into it. He wasn't forcing me. Quite.

Popping to my feet, I paced the circumference of the library, ran fingertips along cool metal walls. He just watched, and waited. "Why is he so scared?" I burst out finally. "Why doesn't he believe that I can love him? Do I really come off as that fickle?"

But my questions were more expressions of my own frustration than genuine questions, and now that the dam was down, the words poured out. "Last night, I told him this wasn't a game or experiment -­ I loved him. And I do, Professor. But this morning, he went slinking off while I was still asleep, like he thought I'd . . . I don't know . . . kick him, or something! Like he doesn't believe what I tell him, plain as day. What does he want? A note signed in my blood?" I ended my rant facing him, my arms flung out wide to either side. He just watched, hands still folded, his damn cat curled over his shoulders. I dropped my arms, sighing heavily. "How do I make him believe me, Professor?"

Unfolding his hands, he sat up a little. His gaze was distant, his mind shut tightly. "Have you ever heard the phrase, 'Opposites attract but they don't wear well?'"

Wary, I nodded.

"You ­- and Scott, too ­- are young. You're experimenting, trying out new things ­- "

"This isn't an experiment!" I shouted. "I love him!"

"I don't doubt it. Last night, I told you as much myself. But love won't necessarily make you compatible. Jean, Scott is -­ " He paused and glanced off. "He's very troubled, very emotionally wounded -­ very needy. To . . . become involved with him will not be an easy thing, especially for someone your age. Rather, it would prove draining, tiring, and frustrating. He'll need -­ even demand ­- constant reassurance." He finally met my eyes. "He doesn't know how to have a relationship, Jean. He's never had the chance to learn, never had any good examples . . . . "

"Then I'll teach him," I interrupted, because he was scaring me. Part of me knew he was right. Scott was all of those things. But the way he phrased it made it sound as if Scott and I were doomed from the get-go. "Maybe he doesn't know how to have a relationship, but I can teach him. Like you said -­ he's never had a chance to learn. And he wants to learn, Professor."

"What we want, and what we can do, are not necessarily the same thing. And sometimes we want different things, on different days, in differing situations. Scott's emotional wounding occurred across years. It will take him years to recover. You cannot 'kiss it and make it all better' overnight, however much you may like to."

"So I should just give up on him the same as everyone else did?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing, even while part of me -­ the part that had been in Scott's head, if not into the ugly details of his past ­- recognized the truth in what Xavier said. Scott's emotional scars were extensive and deep. But, "I'm not going to give up on him just because it'll be hard. I know it will be." I nodded once, decisively, as if that settled it. "I know I'll have to reassure him. I can do that."

"But you were just expressing how much that frustrated you ­- "

"It does! It makes me furious! But . . . I'm not angry at him." I pulled this up from somewhere deep inside myself, a recognition of my real angers and frustrations, not simply the easy targets. "I'm angry at the circumstances that left him an orphan and at the people who hurt him so badly that he doesn't believe he's worth loving. He's a good person and I'm not going to throw him away just because it'll be 'hard.'"

"I'm not suggesting that you throw him away, Jean."

"So what are you suggesting?!"

Xavier didn't answer immediately. "I suppose I am . . . wondering aloud . . . if a romantic relationship with Scott is the best thing for either of you. You've been good friends for three years and that's had a very positive impact on him. When you first met, he was still quite introverted and distrustful, was he not? Compare the Scott you knew then to the man he is now. Your friendship has had a great deal to do with that -­ and a romance wasn't required."

I rubbed at my temples. "It's not required now, professor. I'm not doing this to . . . fix him. It's not a pity fuck." I winced. "Sorry. Language, I know. But I do love him. I just finally figured that out. I want to be with him."

Again, the professor didn't answer immediately but glanced away into the depths of the fireplace, and I felt a very slight mental shift, like a breeze on skin. For an instant, a mere blink of time, an edge of his mind unsealed enough to grant me a devastating peak inside. Hiding there, mostly shielded and all suppressed, I glimpsed anger, envy and a dangerous desire.

The professor didn't want me with Scott because he wanted me for himself.

Shock went through me in lightning-wild electricity. It became an earthquake shaking my foundations, shattering my world like the collapse of a temple, or an ideal. Charles Xavier was not a god. And every shield that I had snapped up in self-protection. Because he was already shielding himself so tightly, he didn't realize it. And because he was looking away, he didn't see the scandalized expression that skittered across my face before I could catch and contain it.

He began to speak. "Your affair with Cyclops is, of course, your own business, Jean. I don't intend to interfere in your personal life. But I am concerned for you both. You were my first students and I have no wish to see you savage one another emotionally because your histories are too different for you to be compatible." A wry smile that seemed so very dark, dark, dark to me because I knew now the shadow that lay beneath it. But why was I so scandalized? I'd seen, over and over, the malformed things that slipped through the mud of human minds, all the taboo impulses that we suppressed and controlled because we pretended to be civilized. Even honorable men like Scott had them. And Xavier was just a man. It was me who'd beatified him because I'd needed to. He'd never asked me to make him my patron saint.

That didn't change in the least this awful sense of betrayal.

He was still talking. "In all honesty, I'd be less worried if this were just a fling. Beware of investing too much of yourself in this, Jean. Scott simply isn't ready to have a mature, long-standing relationship. He'll sabotage it because he doesn't know how to do otherwise . . . even if he wants to do otherwise."

It sounded so wise, so much like the concerned advice of the trained counselor that Xavier was:  respected doctor of psychology with a Yale Ph.D., adjunct faculty at Columbia and licensed to practice in the State of New York. But I knew his fundamental motivation was selfish, and listening to him, I thought back on all the little things he'd said to me across the years since I'd first come here, the veiled cautions regarding Scott. He'd prejudiced me from the outset, shaped how I saw my fellow student, and set up the subtlest of rivalries: made Scott the leader, but made me his favored protégée.

That rivalry had backfired. Scott had adored me, and in turn had expected that everyone else would adore me as well. It had never entered his head that he should be jealous, because he didn't see himself as worthy of favor. He was just so damn grateful to be accepted anywhere that being the stepchild was good enough.

I wanted to weep for that wounded boy. But I didn't dare show a thing that might alert my mentor, my savior -­ the man who secretly loved me despite all propriety ­- that I understood his real motivations. I wasn't even sure that he understood his real motivations -­ why he rode Scott so hard, patronized him, occasionally belittled him behind his back . . . all while treating me in ways decidedly unstudentlike, such as asking my opinion when Bobby had spilled the beans about the school to his girlfriend. I'd felt so important to be taken into his confidence that day, so proud. And I'd been harsh, arrogant in my pride. Later, the whole thing had troubled me. He'd asked for my permission to mind-wipe a peer. What kind of burden was that to give a student? "I'm concerned about the ethics of such a decision," he'd said. "As always, your thoughts would be appreciated."

But wasn't he the teacher here?

Shaken, I managed now to dredge up a smile and a nod. "I understand your concern, professor. I'll think about what you've said."

"Good." His smile was fake and feral, like his cat's. I fled the library and went up to my room, but it felt empty there, cold. Cold like the professor. Cold like the way I'd wanted to be, and now didn't. So I fled again to Scott's room and flung myself across his bed, buried my face in his pillow. The sheets still smelled like sex, and sweaty Scott. I wrapped myself up in them, seeking comfort, seeking concealment. Everything was suddenly inside out and backwards. I was lying in Scott's bed, where I'd never thought to find myself, and I no longer trusted the professor.

I needed to talk to Scott. Badly. But never, never, never could I tell him the whole truth. I knew him. I might be able to accept ­- eventually -­ that Xavier had his faults, that he was just a man. But Scott needed a hero. If Xavier fell off the pedestal that Scott had put him on, everything he stood for would shatter in Scott's mind, and Scott didn't need one more broken dream.

The difficulty was that, whatever the professor's motivations might be, much of what he'd told me was true. Twisted, but true. Scott didn't know how to have a healthy relationship, and was skeptical of anyone offering love. To his mind, there must be something wrong with me if I loved him, because he didn't deserve to be loved. Not that he was consciously thinking anything of the sort, but it was rooted so deeply inside him that it colored everything, like that crazy notion he'd invented that I was too 'pure' for him to sully with his dirty little desires. Stupid man.

It was, in a weird way, the same thing that I'd done to the professor, and seeing as much calmed me a little, took the edge off my jitters, but it didn't change the fact that I had to be very, very careful in accepting Xavier's wisdom about Scott. I didn't believe a relationship between us was doomed. There were certain things that I had to beware of, had to be ready for -­ but that didn't mean I was pessimistic.

My confusions sorted out somewhat, it was time to talk to Scott, settle matters there. But Scott proved to be nowhere in the building. "I think I saw him go outside," Ororo said when I stumbled over her in the den, surfing on Henry's laptop.

Outside. No doubt to the hammock. Scott's retreat at the rear of the property.

It was on the far side of the gardens where two young maple trees stood down by a little creek, just visible from the den windows. Private without being completely out of sight. The maple leaves were turning in shades of brilliant pink, and the blue and white hammock swung lazy between them. As I approached, I could see Scott dozing, the same book he'd been reading earlier upside down and forgotten on the grass beneath.

At the sound of my feet, he woke with a start and smiled at me, as warmly as the afternoon sun. "Hey, Jean." I didn't reply, just grabbed one edge of the hammock and flung myself over the side into his arms -­ which nearly sent us both tumbling out the opposite side. "Whoa, be careful!"

I ignored his irritation and shifted my weight to keep us in the hammock fold, then laid my head on his chest. "Hold me."

Frowning, he did as I asked, stroking my back. I was sure he could feel my turmoil even without our link. Every muscle in my body was tense. "He's mad at us, isn't he?"

"Not mad, no."

"So what'd he say?"

I pondered which words to choose that wouldn't give it all away, wouldn't enrage Scott past the point of listening. "He's worried about us," I began finally. It was even true. He was.

"Worried how?" Scott asked after a minute.

"He's worried that we're too different, that our backgrounds aren't compatible."

There was no reply to that, but his fingers had begun to thread through my hair. Above, in one maple, I could hear a jay call, and the creek burbled past a dozen yards to the north. Finally he spoke, "I worry that we're too different, too, sometimes."

This confession surprised me, and I raised my head to look across his stubbled chin and study his face. "The way I see it, we have two choices," I replied. "Work at it, talk to each other -­ try to understand each other. Or just throw in the towel now and walk away. I've never been a quitter, Slim. I didn't think you were, either."

He didn't rise to the taunt. "I don't want to throw in the towel. That doesn't mean there aren't things that worry me."

His own equanimity calmed me in turn. Sometimes he could be a whirlpool of anxiety, but when his deep fears weren't triggered, he could also be remarkably levelheaded. And right now, I was arguing for us to stay together, so he felt free to express his concerns. "Fair enough," I said, and laid a hand on his chest over his heart. "So let's make a promise ­- decide right now that there's no walking away, no giving up. No matter how hard it gets. Deal?"

I'd surprised him -­ I could feel it ­- and he tried to sit up. "Jean, you don't have to tie yourself to me that way."

"Of course I don't have to. I want to." I pushed him back down and rolled on top, straddling his hips with mine and propping my hands on his shoulders so I could glare down at him.

"Interesting position, Jean."

"Good thing the hammock is so far from the mansion then," I replied. "And don't try to change the subject. The only way I'll get involved with you is if we both promise to stick with it. No running. Period."

"That may as well be a marriage vow!"

"Baloney. There are other reasons we might not work as a 'we.'" I grinned. "We might get bored with each other, for instance."

His expression was laughably skeptical. "I doubt that."

My grin widened. "I do, too. But I'm not asking for better or worse, richer or poorer yet. I'm asking if you'll promise not to run when the going gets tough. And it will." I paused to see if he'd try to contradict me. He didn't. He knew it, too. "I'm asking that, if you have doubts about us -­ like this morning ­- you won't just shut yourself up in your little tower of male pride. You'll tell me that you're scared. I may be able to read your mind, but I won't always think to. And I shouldn't have to. I need you to talk to me."

"Okay . . . ."

"So you promise?"

"I'll do my best."

"No deal, Summers. You'll do it period, or else."

"So I don't get a chance to screw up?" He sounded angry, like that morning -­ frustrated. I could see the glow from his eyes behind the visor.

"Screw up? Yes. Give up? No. I imagine we'll both screw up; that's why I want this promise."

"Okay, fine. I can do that. I promise not to give up, Jean."

I bent over his body until our faces were nose to nose, and stared through his visor. This close, I could just make out the red-almond shape of his eyes, canting slightly at the outer corners. Leaning in further, I kissed him. "I promise, too. You're stuck with me, Cyclops. Like Superglue."

He smiled under my lips, muttered, "I wouldn't have it any other way."

Then we made out in the hammock for a while, and there's something to be said for necking without any real body-pressure to go further. Very sweet and sensual. We finally fell asleep, dozing like puppies in the autumn afternoon.

The next few days were surprisingly calm. No evil mutants to fight, no calls to save the world. Life went on. Morning practice, morning lessons, afternoon study, evening exercises and, tucked in between, general relaxing and hanging out. Scott was still circumspect regarding our altered relationship. He's a private man, but a fundamentally honest one, too, and now couldn't decide where to draw the lines. Wasn't it just another form of lying, to keep our relationship under wraps? But smothering me in public wasn't his style, either.

The others refused to indulge his coyness.

"So," Ororo asked on the third morning, while casually pouring honey on her English muffin, "when is Jean moving out of her room so Henry and I can have it? It's got a private bath."

Scott, who'd been in the process of sitting down, even while taking a drink, literally spit chocolate milk out his nose all over the table. "Yuk!" Peter said, as Henry tried hard not to laugh and Bobby tried to decide if he were allowed to. Ororo continued to saturate her muffin with honey, apparently unphased.

"Bite me," Scott told Ro.

"That's Jean's job," she replied, and Bobby snorted, unable to contain his amusement any longer.

"Jean's room isn't up for auction," Scott said. "She lives there."

Ororo glanced up at him and winked. "She just doesn't sleep there."

Scott's mouth dropped open at her frankness, but Peter tactfully changed the subject to box scores before Scott could put his foot in it.

And however brazen Storm's approach had been, she had broken the ice verbally ­- put our affair up on the (breakfast) table. After that, Scott was more willing to touch me in front of the rest, even to put an arm around me now and then. Once, we even got involved in a game of table hockey where Ro and I had the two middle bars, while Hank and Scott stood behind to play the outer two. So I owed Ro one.

And I had started to think about moving in with him. After all, he had the nicer furniture. In just a few days, an awful lot of my stuff had migrated downstairs to his room, and he'd cleared out three drawers for me in the dresser, though he'd never actually asked me if I wanted him to. He'd just done it, and mentioned it in passing, and I'd brought down more of my clothes and mentioned that in passing. My robe now hung in his bathroom, and my favorite feather pillow occupied the left-hand side of his bed. If someone were looking for me, they tried Scott's room before my own.

Two flies spoiled the ointment: Logan (predictably), and the professor. When Logan stalked into a room where Scott and I were, Scott would find some excuse to move away from me. What he thought this was proving, I had no idea. "Would you cut that out?" I scolded him at one point. Logan could glower and growl as much as he wanted to. He didn't worry me.

The professor worried me. I hadn't promised him that I'd break up with Scott, simply promised that I'd think about what he'd said. And I had. But the professor wasn't used to being placated. He was used to being listened to, and obeyed. That I continued to defy him in order to stay with Scott had brought us into a battle of wills like I'd never experienced before. It was all subtle, all beneath the others' radar -­ even Scott's. We were both making sure that Scott didn't notice. Our battle consisted of hard looks across a room, a quirked eyebrow, a patronizing smile, or a mental remark meant to sound concerned but imperfectly concealing disapproval.

The tension mounted steadily until it broke me on the ninth evening, P.S. ­- post-sex. I'd had trouble with a chem lab that morning, and had suffered a headache since mid-afternoon. Storm was more snappish than usual at supper because she and Henry were fighting, and everyone's timing had been off at evening practice, making Scott swear and stamp around a lot. He'd yelled at me in front of everyone, almost made me cry (and I'm not in the habit of crying just because Scott Summers is feeling pissy). But he'd called my competence as his lieutenant into question, and I'd never expected Scott to shame me that way in front of the others. Always before if we'd had a conflict of opinion ­- even over a Danger Room exercise -­ we'd dealt with it privately. It had been completely out of character for him.

So the den wasn't a place I wanted to be that evening. Scott was sulking in the recliner, Henry and Ororo still weren't speaking to each other, Peter was playing Ancient Chinese Tuning Melody on his guitar, and Bobby was bouncing off the walls from the tension, trying to cheer people up but mostly irritating them in the process. I dawdled in the kitchen while Logan haunted a corner until he got up the nerve to ask me if I wanted to play a round of pool. Maybe he was trying to capitalize on my disaffection with Scott, but more likely, he was just trying to cheer me up. His motives aren't always selfish. In any case, I considered it, but finally said no. My headache was still there and the sharp crack of ball on ball wouldn't help, but also, half my reason for accepting would have been to annoy Scott. That wasn't right.

So for the first time in more than a week, I went to my own bedroom, took some aspirin and curled up on my bed, but without my pillow. It was still in Scott's room. I might not feel like talking to him right now, but I wasn't going to take the pillow back. It would send the wrong message. We'd made a promise to each other.

Sometime after ten, there was a soft knock on my door. "Jean? Can I come in?"

It seemed strange for him to ask permission; I no longer asked to enter his room. "Door's open," I called. I just didn't feel like getting up, or turning on the light, either. He slipped in and made his way in the dark to the edge of the bed, sat down. I could read his mood immediately over our new link. Shamefaced, apologetic, concerned. A little afraid. He tried to joke it off. "You still talking to me, or am I in the doghouse with Henry?"

"Forget the doghouse. You're in the kennel, Cyclops."

"Ouch. And it's 'Cyclops,' huh? Well, what does Scott have to do to get out of the kennel?"

I thought about it, rolling slightly so I could see his face in the shadows. My nightlight reflected off his visor. "Rub my shoulders, promise never to humiliate me like that again, and take me out on a date?"

He was silent a few minutes. "I'll never do it again, Jean. I'm sorry. I was way out of line."

"Yes, you were." But that's one thing I love about Scott. When he makes a mistake, he's man enough to admit it. "You owe me dinner at the very least. You never have asked me out, y'know." Already upset, I was inclined to dwell on even minor previous offenses.

"Wouldn't asking you out be a little . . . superfluous at this point?"

"God! Men!" I rolled away to put my back to him.

"Jean!" I heard him sigh. "I'd be glad to take you out. I just figured it'd sound stupid to ask you, now."

"You got in my pants, so romance is dead?"

"No! You're twisting what I'm saying!"

I sighed and flopped back over. He was right. I was. But he was so damn annoying some times. "We skipped over some parts last week on the way to the bedroom. Maybe I'd like to play catch up ­- do something old fashioned like dinner and a movie."

He nodded. "We could do that. Where d'you want to go to eat?"

"Some place exotic. The most exotic food we ever get around here is Chinese take-out."

"You don't like Peter's stroganoff?"

"Peter's stroganoff is divine. But it's not exotic. I want exotic. Otherwise . . . surprise me."

"Okay." He smiled. "So when?"

"Pick me up tomorrow at seven? You know where I live."

"I know where you sleep, anyway. Most of the time." He let his hand stray to my back and gently pushed me over onto my belly, began to massage my shoulders. "You want to come downstairs? Your pillow's there."

I thought about it a moment. I did want to come down, but I wasn't entirely over my mad. "I'm tired. And I have a headache, dear."

"To sleep, Jean." He let my shoulders go and rose up. "Come down and I'll finish the backrub." And he left. The attempted lure annoyed me and I resisted for half an hour, but then I gave in. I really did want to be with him. And I wanted a backrub, too. So I got up and padded down the stairs to his floor.

The professor was on the mezzanine, apparently coming back from the kitchen after fetching a snack. He had a sandwich on a napkin on his lap. He stopped when he saw me and we faced one another across fifteen feet. I'm going to Scott's room, I sent. I hadn't needed to tell him anything, but I wanted him to know.

You were upset with him earlier.

I was plain pissed off! But he came up. He apologized. Tomorrow night, we're going out.

Jean -­ I'm glad. Really, I am. He tried to make it sound as if he actually were.

Saturday, I'm moving in with him, Professor. Henry and Ororo can have the bathroom they want.

And turning, I headed off to Scott's room. Our room. We'd survived our first real fight as a 'we.' And I'd stood up to Charles Xavier. I was actually grinning by the time I reached the door.


Go on to Chapter Four, "Hephaestion"

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