Love rescue me
In the early morning half-light she watched him, silently studying the guarded lines of his face, the closed posture of his body; he was dreaming fitfully of her, and when she reached her hand out to stroke his forehead, to soothe him, he rolled over, curling away from her.
Jean sighed and lay back, staring up at the ceiling, a dull ache in her chest. She knew that he loved her every bit as desperately as she did him, but that didn't change the fact that they had never fully trusted each other, that there was always something withheld, missing. Whether it was fate or a shared and perverse subconscious choice that resulted in their emotional detachment she couldn't say; but it seemed that whenever she wanted to be open with him he pulled away, and she found herself doing the same in return.
He was so ready to believe in her, to accept her and her love despite his misgivings; and yet she was hesitating, seriously contemplating keeping the events of the day before a secret, not wanting him to think badly of her for having seen Jason, for having spoken to him.
For having been drawn to his darkness even as she was sickened by it.
She sat and swung her legs over the side of the bed, bare feet touching the cold wooden floor. Behind her Scott mumbled, incoherent, and she sent out a gentle telepathic caress, easing his distress. He was such a very good man....he deserved a woman so much better than she.
~To speak such words is to do thyself a grave injustice, child of light and darkness. Thou hast surpassed even my wildest expectations~ The hushed voice was intangible, nebulous, and paralyzing, like the memory of a nightmare, and as it faded it left a sour, mocking aftertaste in her mind, making her gag. She rushed to the bathroom, splashing cold water on her face, her hands shaking with such force that she could barely manage the faucet.
Chilled and bewildered, she stood there for a long time, struggling against tears. "You're not crazy," she whispered into the mirror, unable to meet the dark, stricken eyes that looked back at her. "You're not crazy."
Groggy and thankful that he had the day off, Scott stumbled out of bed and into the bathroom where he relieved himself and brushed his teeth before tugging on a pair of boxer shorts. As he headed to the kitchen he picked up the trail of discarded clothing that lay strewn on the floor from the foot of his bed to the front door. "Jean?" he called. "Are you cooking?"
She was standing at the stove, her hair mussed and tucked behind her ears, wearing one of his old shirts and nothing else as far as he could tell. "Good morning, love," she said, the distracted look melting off of her face as she stood on her toes to kiss him, batter dripping off of the spatula she held and onto the floor. "I thought I'd surprise you with breakfast."
"You really didn't have to," he muttered, pouring himself a cup of coffee and trying not to see that she was surrounded with spilled milk, smeared butter, and egg shells. It looked as though a bag of flour had exploded near the sink. He sat down at the small table.
"I'll clean it up," she assured him, her voice taking on the stern tone it always did when she was annoyed with him. "Don't worry."
He caught her by the waist and pulled her onto his lap. "You're very energetic for someone who didn't get much sleep," he observed, stifling a yawn.
"If you complain about how tired you are, I'm going to let you clean up this mess," she warned.
"I'm not complaining," he said, kissing her. She gasped against his mouth as his hand disappeared under the shirt she wore.
"Mr. Summers, you are incorrigible." She wriggled out of his arms, no longer cross with him. "You're going to be late too, if you don't hurry," she added, rescuing the pancakes from the griddle and serving them to him with gusto. "Eat up. I'll get your clothes and you can shower and shave while I iron them."
"I'm not scheduled to work today," he told her, "and the Happy Homemaker routine doesn't suit you at all, although it is a bit of a fantasy fulfillment." She hit him lightly in the back of the head with a dish towel as she leaned against the counter and he turned in his chair, expectant. "Are you going to tell me what's wrong, or do I have to guess?"
She looked away from him, drying her hands on the towel with excruciating slowness. "I saw Jason yesterday," she blurted out suddenly. "I saw Jason and he talked to me and it upset me very much and I didn't know what to do and so I came here."
Scott dropped his fork and it clattered onto his plate as he stood. There was a terrible sinking sensation in his soul, a churning mixture of fury and dread and fear. "Mastermind approached you?" His voice was filled with rage. "I'll kill him."
"You won't go near him," Jean said with an intensity that stunned him. "I don't want you getting in his way, Scott. You don't know what he's capable of."
"I don't know what he's capable of?" He grabbed her by the shoulders, forcing her to face him. "Jean, I was there. I watched him destroy your soul. I felt it through our rapport. I may not be the one he violated, but I sure as hell know what he's capable of."
"You're hurting me," she said flatly.
He released her, still flushed with anger. "What did he say to you?"
"He said he wanted absolution, if you can believe that," she replied, slamming her heavy coffee mug into the sink. "He was just playing another one of his sick mind games with me and I don't need you to get involved."
"I'm already involved."
She started to say something and stopped, throwing up her hands in frustration and fuming out of the kitchen. He heard the shower turn on and followed her, against his better judgement.
"This is what he wants," he said after a few minutes. "He wants us fighting. He wants to drive us apart so that he can gain leverage over you."
"Yes," she snapped. "This is his master plan. We'll yell at each other about how evil he is, and then I'll run to him for comfort. That makes sense." She turned off the water and reached for a clean towel.
"Not for comfort. You'd run to him out of anger." As the color drained out of her face he knew that he was right and wished it wasn't so. "The truth, Jean -- you were going to leave here and confront him, weren't you?"
She sat down on the edge of the tub, her head between her hands. "Jesus...he's getting to me again."
"Promise me you won't go to him," he demanded. "Promise me that if he approaches you again, you'll ignore him, and leave."
"I promise," she said quietly. "But I don't want you to go looking for him either, okay?"
He hugged her close and kissed the top of her wet head, hoping she wouldn't realize he hadn't answered the question.
"Ooomph!" Kitty winced as her body solidified and hit the concrete floor of the alley; she rolled to her feet and dashed around the corner of the building she had just been swatted through. "Hey," she yelled, "didn't anyone ever tell you it was wrong to hit girls?"
The big angry purple guy paused in his distruction of a local produce market and looked at her. "I shall rule the world!" he declared, stomping towards her, his fists clenched.
"A small piece of advice, my friend," Kurt volunteered, appearing in a poof of smoke atop the creature's head and flicking his tail into its left eye, eliciting a roar of pain. "It's usually best not to announce plans of global domination. You see, if you keep your evil machinations a secret --"
"Nightcrawler! Colossus! Depart!" Ororo commanded, swooping down from the ominous clouds she had created. Kurt complied immediately; Peter paused to land one last punch before diving to safety as the sky above them literally exploded, a mass of lightning seeming to tear the heavens in two.
When the smoke cleared they picked their way gingerly through the mess in the street and gathered around their now insensible opponent. Electricity crackled about him. "This is what you get for wearing a belt with a buckle the size of a Toyota," Kitty commented as the scream of police sirens grew louder.
Ororo squatted down next to their foe, her gaze piercing. "I do not know who you are, or why you have chosen to attack defenseless people; but know this - the X-Men will not tolerate this behavior."
Kurt switched on the image inducer he carried as they walked away, leaving the cleanup to the police. "Does anyone wish to join me for breakfast?"
"I could go for a muffin." Kitty pulled her jeans and sweater back on over her uniform. "But only blueberry. And not the kind with the crumbly stuff on top."
"It will be my treat," Peter offered, shifting back into his human form. Kurt clapped him on the back.
"Good man. Ororo?"
"I think I shall return to the mansion and debrief the Professor. Enjoy yourselves, my friends." She swept her cape around her and took off, soaring into the air and disappearing from view.
Pete Wisdom gently nudged the girl standing next to him on the corner and pointed up at the sky. "It's a superhuman, Miss, is it not?"
She hunched, but her eyes flickered to his face. "It might be a mutant," she whispered, turning her head away from him sharply.
"Well, yes, I suppose it could be." The light changed and she hurried across the street, making him jog to keep up with her. "I've never seen either one. I have to admit I'm a stranger in this wonderful city of yours."
She looked up at him shyly. "Are you from another country?"
"My accent gave it away, did it?" He chuckled. "I am Lord Wycherley of Sussex. It's a pleasure to make your aquaintance, Miss --?"
"Tommy," she said, awe in her voice. "Thomasina. I've never met a Lord before."
He couldn't believe this garbage was actually working. The little Morlock wench would be eating out of his hand in no time. "Oh, it's not so grand," Pete announced airily, gesturing with his walking stick for good measure. "Really quite bland at times, and wearying. I'm afraid I must return next week," he continued, "and I have hardly seen any of the sights!"
"I...I...could tell you some things to see," she offered hesitantly. "If you want."
"I have a splendid idea! You could come with me!"
Her mouth twisted itself into an odd expression, half smile, half fear. "I shouldn't though....my family doesn't like me talking to strangers. Or going places with them."
"Why, Thomasina, surely you don't think I would take advantage of you?" He laughed heartily, as if the very idea was absurd.
"Then it's settled. Where shall we go first?"
She looked stricken, but fairytale dreams of estates and England and Lords and fancy dresses were spinning through her mind. "We could see the Metropolitan Museum of Art," she suggested, beginning to grow excited in spite of herself.
"Delightful." He offered her his arm, and after a moment she took it.
Auditory hallucinations are a cardinal and disabling symptom of schizophrenia; their pathology remains unknown. Several studies of patients with schizophrenia have correlated the intensity and content of reported auditory hallucinations with sub-vocal speech... The individual may hear noises, meaningful sounds such as music, or one or more voices speaking meaningful phrases. The sound is usually localized, the source being precise, and may be the voice of a famous person, a friend, or some unknown or mysterious person or being. In schizophrenia there is often auditory hallucination where the voices are saying something derogatory about the individual or whispering about him...
"Can I help you find something, Jean?" Charles asked, shutting the door behind him as he entered his study.
She quickly shut the book she was perusing and put it back on the shelf. "No, thank you."
"Are you sure?"
She hesitated for a moment, and then nodded. "I think so. Are those clementines?"
"Would you like one?"
She shrugged. "Okay."
He took a small orange fruit from the bowl on his desk and handed it to her; she dug her thumbnail into the skin and peeled it completely before breaking off a piece and putting it in her mouth, the juice sweet and slightly tangy against her tongue. "Thank you," she said, chewing thoughtfully. "It tastes of sunshine."
He took one for himself and they ate in silence; and he found himself thinking back to when she was but a child and living with him, still and silent and wrapped up in her own secret world. In the evenings he would have her sit on the rug of this study and he read to her from Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott and Frances Hodgson Burnett; and she would stare at the fireplace, captivated by the flickering light and heat, seemingly oblivious to his presence or his words; but then one night he had stopped at the part in The Secret Garden where Mary discovers Colin, and Jean had looked up at him and whispered, "More, please," her voice slow and unsteady from disuse, and it was then that he realized he loved her, her strength, her courage. She was a survivor.
Charles threw his peel in the trash can and wiped his hands on his handkerchief as he glanced at his watch. "I have to be getting back to class," he told her. "If you wish to borrow any books, feel free to do so."
"All right. Charles...."
"Never mind." Jean hugged her arms to her chest. "It's not important."
Like so many other New York law firms, Nelson & Murdock looked down upon the city from their skyscraper locale; and informed upon arriving that both Mr. Murdock and Mr. Nelson were in court and unavailable, Scott sat down to wait, absently flipping through old issues of National Geographic and exchanging small talk with the receptionist. Around lunch they wandered in, one portly and genial, the other statuesque and serious. And blind. Although he could essentially see without difficulty when he was wearing his glasses or visor, Scott felt a rush of commiseration.
"Debbie called," the receptionist told them. "Mrs. Lissner wants to review her testimony again before she takes the stand tomorrow, Mr. Burns jumped bail, and Mr. Summers is here to talk to Matt about the Stryker business."
"Thanks, Becky." Nelson wandered into his office; Murdock turned to face Scott.
"I hope you haven't been waiting long, Mr. Summers," Matt said as they shook hands. "Why don't we talk in my office?"
"I'm sorry for dropping by without an appointment," Scott apologized, seating himself across from the large oak desk. "I'll try not to take up too much of your time."
"Do you mind if I eat while we talk?"
"Not at all."
"Then there isn't a problem." Murdock smiled and unwrapped his sandwich. "So, what exactly about the Stryker business brings you here, Mr. Summers?"
"I'm an associate of Charles Xavier," he began. "We haven't yet discussed it in great length; but as of last night Charles was prepared to turn down your offer and is also planning to have the X-Men ignore the subpeona issued to them."
"I told him that would be foolish. What's your personal stake in this?"
Scott took a deep breath. "I'm Cyclops. I want to testify."
Matt put down his lunch, dark glasses staring in Scott's direction for long, agonizing minutes. When the lawyer spoke it was with a certain degree of amusement. "I'm Daredevil," he said. "I want to represent you."
Mariko rubbed the swell of her belly as she sat in the car, pleased with her slowly changing figure. Logan told her that she was even more beautiful now than she had been, and she believed him, seeing the expression in his eyes. He had always looked at her with love, with adoration and respect; but not quite like this. There was another level to his affection now; she was not merely his wife, but also the mother of his child.
Beside her, Logan checked his mirrors and merged off the expressway and into Salem Center. "Are you sure you won't be bored while I'm talkin' with the Professor?"
"Oh, no," she assured him. "It is warm. Ororo promised to show me the Stroll Garden in North Salem."
"Just don't overdo it."
"It is a Stroll Garden. Not a Run Fast Garden. I shall be fine," she said firmly.
"All right, all right. You know I worry."
She smiled. "I know." They turned onto Graymalkin Lane and she ran a quick brush through her ebony hair. "What do you think of Michiyo?"
"It's pretty," he considered. "I still like Seiko though."
"I went to school with a girl named Seiko," she said, making a face. "She was a yariman."
He raised his eyebrows, amused. "Well, we wouldn't want our daughter to be like that."
"No. I would rather she be a sunobbu."
"I'm sure she'll be like her mother in every way possible," he quipped, and she laughed. It was rare that he treated her with anything less than the utmost reverence, and even though she would grow furious if anyone else spoke to her in such a manner, she found she didn't mind when Logan teased her.
Jean was sitting on the front step as they drove up to the mansion, kitten nestled in her lap; she waved and ground her cigarette out in the ashtray that lay next to her, shutting the lid and using her powers to cleanse the air before Mariko got out of the car. "Hi," she said, walking over to greet them. "I didn't know you were coming up today."
"I've got to talk to Chuck," Logan explained. "He around?"
"I think he's in the conservatory with 'Ro. How's the baby?"
"Very well, thank you. I felt her move last night," Mariko replied proudly, eager to share the news with another woman; and to glimpse that wistful, bittersweet expression on this particular woman's face, for although she liked Jean as a person, she didn't care for the way in which she looked at Logan.
Or the way he looked back.
Wide-eyed, Tommy looked over the menu that was placed before her, trying not to appear too eager. "What do you think I should get?" she asked, sipping her soda, the cold, sweet, fizzy drink alien to her senses. It tickled her nose and felt strange as it went down her throat. She liked it.
"Whatever you would like," Pete replied generously, surprised but thankful for the depth of the girl's naivety. It made his job that much easier. "Where shall we go after lunch, my dear?"
"I....I can't. I mean, I have to go home," she said, viewing him blankly. "My family will be worried."
"Surely you can call them?"
"We don't have a telephone," she said, embarrassed.
"You're very fortunate. So often I wish I could simply smash mine to bits and be done with all the hassle it brings." He motioned for the waitress to bring him more coffee. "Would you object to me accompanying you home this afternoon? Perhaps I could speak to your family --"
"Oh, no," she interrupted, color rushing to her cheeks. "No, you can't."
"You just can't." She slouched down in the booth like a frightened animal and Pete reached out and patted her hand, afraid of losing her.
"Well, then, I have another idea. After we eat, you can go home - alone - and we shall meet again tomorrow. Does that suit you?"
She nodded, managing a small smile. "I guess that would be okay."
Stepping out of Matt's office, Scott
turned to thank him again, still processing the turn of events the last
hour had taken.
"Are you sure you want to go through with this?" Matt asked. "It's not too late to back out."
Scott shook his head. "I understand the risks, and I'm prepared to accept them."
"You're a brave man, Scott. I don't think I would have the courage to do what you're planning to." He spoke to Becky. "Call the D.A. and schedule an appointment for Mr. Summers and I. Tell them an X-Man is willing to meet with them and discuss the case against Stryker."
She nodded and dialed the phone; Matt
returned his attention to Scott. "I'll contact you as soon I know
more. For now, go home, talk to Xavier and the others. Find out how
things stand with them."
Her legs comfortably crossed atop Charles' desk and her nose buried in Ripley Under Water, Jean was quite happily ignoring her temporary charges, some of whom were staring vacantly into space while the others surreptitiously passing notes to each other. She had just begun a new chapter when Sam raised his hand, clearing his throat. "Miss Grey?"
"What is it?"
"Seeing as it's nearly the end of classes, well, may we please be excused early?"
"Why not?" Dani asked, more curious than challenging.
"Because I'm drunk with power," Jean replied. "Now shush."
Illyana twirled a lock of golden hair around her finger. "Why?"
"Because I said so."
"I don't think we should have to listen to you," Illyana said. "You're not our teacher. You're our babysitter."
With a sigh, Jean put down her book and walked over to the young Russian girl, leaning against her desk to look her straight in the eye. "You know, Illyana, you're right."
Rahne looked distressed. "She is?"
"Yes, you are." Jean turned to the rest of the class. "Charles essentially asked me to sit here and watch you like you were little kids; and frankly, you're too old for that and I have no desire to be turned into a nanny. If he wants me to substitute for him, he'll just have deal with the results. I doubt you'd be having a study hall if I wasn't here," she finished. "What class are you missing?"
"Latin," Doug voluteered, "we're reading Ovid."
He was greeted with several groans of protest which Jean dismissed as she picked up the Professor's copy and opened to the bookmark. "We're going to play a game," she announced. "Amara, Roberto, Dani, and Sam will go up to the board and illustrate what Doug, Illyana, Rahne, and Kitty take turns reading."
"Is this all right with Professor Xavier?" Rahne asked, worried.
"Does everything have to be all right with Professor Xavier?" She didn't wait for an answer, but continued speaking. "You can't live your lives based on what Charles wants, on what he says to do. You have to make your own decisions. He has our best interests at heart, but he isn't infallible; and if you believe he is, you'll regret it for the rest of your life."
Logan leaned forward in his seat, chin on his hands. "You got to understand my position in all this, Chuck. It's not exactly what I want either; but I got a family now. I can't be thinkin' just of myself any more."
"I haven't seen you think exclusively of yourself in a very long time, my friend," Charles commented. "Perhaps I could discuss this with Mariko..."
"You could try; but she's not goin' to budge and I got to respect that. Look," he continued gruffly, "it's not like I'm leavin' tomorrow, or even next month - I'm just takin' a hiatus once the baby's born. I've been here for close on five years, Prof --"
"And you feel you've completed your tour of duty?" Charles asked bitterly. His head hurt.
"Somethin' like that. I never signed on for life; and I've stayed a hell of a lot longer than I ever thought I would."
Charles waved his hand dismissively. "Fine. Go."
"Don't act like this is comin' out of nowhere and I'm betrayin' you like you think Slim did," Logan said, standing up and pushing his hands into the pockets of his jacket.
"My reaction to your news has absolutely nothing to do with Scott," Charles lied. "It's a different situation altogether."
"Yeah, whatever." He turned to leave and paused. "You can't keep us forever. You got to realize that sometime."
Charles felt his shoulders sag. "I do realize that, Logan. I realize it more deeply than you could ever imagine."
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