Something threw me in the dirt
"I still can't quite believe it," Misty Knight exclaimed, spooning sugar into her coffee. "Lord knows, I shouldn't be surprised, considering everything I've seen in my life - including your first resurrection; but I have to admit your phone call certainly gave me a shock."
"Thank you again for coming. I needed someone one to talk to; and even though Hank and Bobby are both in New York, I was hestitant to get in touch with them so soon," Jean replied sincerely, tapping her cigarette against the ashtray and looking across the table at her former roommate. They had always had a unique relationship for which both were grateful: while comfortable enough to talk openly and truthfully about their lives, they weren't close enough to become entangled in each other's problems, and each could usually count on the other for an unbiased opinion or perspective.
"Not a problem," Misty responded. "You're just lucky you were able to get ahold of me. I've been told it's next to impossible."
"I take it that means business is going well?"
"Booming, actually. You wouldn't believe the number of cases Colleen and I get asked to look into these days," the cocoa-skinned woman answered amiably. "But Jean, I didn't drive up here like a maniac, risking life and limb, to talk about my work. What's bothering you?"
"What isn't?" She took a drag on her cigarette, inhaling the sweet, spicy taste and scent of the cloves. "Ever since I arrived in Westchester, I've been on emotional overload. Everything's so raw, so...primal. It's unsettling. I shouldn't be thinking, feeling, like this."
Misty laughed softly. "Red, you've always been emotional and tempermental; and considering what you've been through, I think that whatever you're experiencing inside is perfectly normal." She cocked her head and studied her friend closely. "What is it you're not telling me?"
"Really, nothing. You're probably right. It's understandable that I'm so upset; and the only reason I didn't panic until now is because everything's so much more familiar here than in Scotland."
"There's something else." Misty's voice was sharp and determined. "I know there is. It's my job to know; and even if it weren't, I know you. You didn't want me come here and quickly alay your fears about your emotional state. You wanted to talk to me about something important; and neither one of us is leaving here until you do. I'll ask you again. What's bothering you?"
Jean grinned. "Now I know why Colleen lets you do most of the interrogating."
"Ha ha. God, this coffee's bad."
"That's why I'm not having any."
"I thought it was because you were getting all the legal drugs you needed from that cancer stick."
"I don't notice the drugs. Can't taste or smell them because of the cloves; and they don't affect my body for long because of my powers. However, because of your caffiene dependency, you are forced to drink Harry's sludge, which serves one purpose and one purpose only."
"To sober you up quickly with it's sheer disgustingness?"
"Is that a word?"
"It might be. It should be. Nice try at changing the subject."
"Hey, you're the one who brought up the coffee." Tossing her head back, Jean ground the butt of her cigarette into the ashtray. "I admit there's something else on my mind that I was hoping I might talk to you about; but now I'm not so sure."
"You know I'd never speak to anyone about what you tell me, Jean. I never have."
Jean smiled faintly. "I know. You were the only one that I was able to talk to back then, when I first became Phoenix, and I'm more thankful for that than you can imagine. Although, in retrospect, it might have been better if you had told someone what I spoke to you about."
"Maybe, maybe not. I do know there's no use worrying about past problems, especially when ones from the present are staring you in the face."
"True enough," Jean sighed. "Misty, I'm scared; and not because of how I'm reacting to all of this." She paused, looking for the right words. "When I first came back, I told Moira and Sean that I didn't remember anything about being dead except for nothingness. And I was telling the truth - that was all I remembered."
"And now it's not?"
"I still remember nothing. Seemingly neverending nothing. The problem is, I'm starting to remember what was before that. It isn't much, not even enough to really be called a memory. Nothing I remember seeing, or hearing, or experiencing. Just a feeling."
"Does this feeling have a name?"
"That's certainly to the point," Misty said quietly, wondering if it were too early in the day to have a brandy. She'd forgotten how unsettling Jean and her life could be.
"There are other emotions mixed up with it; but they're intricate and I'm not sure what to make of them yet. All I know is that the underlying feeling is that of abject, paralysing terror. Misty, I don't know what happened to me during that time - I'm not sure I even want to any more - but I really appreciate you being here for me. I feel more in control, talking about it," she explained, lighting another cigarette. "It seems more real."
"You doubted that it was?"
"Death and resurrection affect your perception of reality."
"I suppose they would. Now, Jean, about this feeling of 'abject terror' --" She stopped as the other woman held up her hand, and the tell-tale sign of a telepathic conversation - a faintly glazed, faraway look - came over her eyes.
"Sorry, Misty, it looks like we'll have to finish this another time. The Professor's calling me back to the mansion." Her slight smile faded into an expression of utmost seriousness. "They've decided what to do with me."
Smoothing the tight skirt of her pale, cream colored, highly expensive suit, Emma Frost slid gracefully into the back of the waiting limo and accepted a glass of dry white wine from her companion as they pulled away from the Massachusetts Academy.
"Did your meeting with Wyngarde go as planned?" he inquired, his voice husky and smooth, as masked in darkness as his face.
"Better than I expected," she replied with a wry smile. "He is even more of a fool now than he was before. He's so eager for vengeance, domination, that he'd do anything I requested without a second thought, provided he believes there's something in it for him. I wish you could have been there to see it, Sebastian. He played right into my hands. It was delicious."
"I have no doubt of that, my dear."
A decidingly self-satisfied look entered Emma's eyes, warming the blue ice ever so slightly.
Because of her slight build, fine, angular features, and the almost childlike quality of her voice and mannerisms, Jean Grey was often underestimated by those who did not always see the strength, the iron will, that lay just beneath the delicate exterior. And although it made her angry not to be taken seriously, she had learned early on how to turn such a liability into an asset.
Now, as she entered the Professor's study and closed the door behind her, unaware of his decision but preparing herself for the worst; she launched a pre-emptive strike, clasping her hands in her lap, crossing her ankles, biting her lower lip and casting her eyes down, looking for all the world like a lost little girl in desperate need of a hug. Charles would have to have a heart of stone to turn her over to Lilandra, or do anything else along those lines. Her demeanor would not seem false to him either, for she was not acting. She was simply allowing what was at the core of her to shine through her hard mantle of courage, and the deceptively fragile shell.
Charles looked at her and underwent his own transformation - the foreboding sterness of his face becoming milder, his voice taking on the tone one would use with a despondent child. "Don't look so forlorn, Jean. I'm not going to 'throw you to the wolves to be rendered limb from limb in a bloody spectacle' as Moira put it," he said, taking a seat beside her on the small couch.
She looked at him warily. "Really?"
"You thought I would?" There was hurt in his voice, and a part of her regretted doubting him; but she had too much reason to do so.
"Yes," she said, "I thought you would."
Their eyes met, and for a moment she thought she would be able to tell him, to confront him with all the rage and hurt and betrayal she harbored toward him; but then he stood and paced toward the window, and the opportunity was lost.
"Jean, after discussing the situation in great length and detail, the X-Men, Moira, and I have reached a decision that we feel is fair to all involved," he began. "First, no further punitive action will be taken against you for the crimes you committed as Dark Phoenix. Having to live with what you've done, along with dying for those acts, even temporarily, is punishment enough. We trust that you will also continue to make reparation, in whatever way you deem necessary. Is that satisfactory?"
"Secondly, on the subject of your returning to the X-Men, I'm afraid that at this point in time, it is entirely out of the question. It would not be safe. You're out of practice. There are trust issues to be dealt with. You have to learn how to work as part of a team again; and we have to make sure your powers are stable, for your wellbeing as much as everyone else's."
"So I'm a student again? On par with the New Mutants?"
"Essentially, although you will obviously have more freedom than they, and may use any facilities you wish. You may also live here in the mansion for as long as you like. You may have a say in matters concerning the X-Men, but you may not go into battle with them. Periodically, Storm, Cyclops, and I will review your progress, and eventually, when you are ready, you will be offered full membership to the team. Are those terms also acceptable?"
"I suppose. It wouldn't do any good to argue that I'm ready now, would it?"
He shook his head. "Not in the least. I'm sorry."
She nodded resignedly. "It seems fair enough. Anything else?"
"Yes." He paused, meeting her eyes again. "During your probation, as it were, you must allow me to perform regular, in-depth, psi scans."
"NO!" She stood, almost shaking with anger. "No. That's not fair, Charles, not fair at all. I'm not going to let you poke around in my head whenever you wish."
"Jean, it is necessary."
"No, it is not. I'm not a child any more, Professor. You can't do things like that without my permission, and pretend it's so very important. Why should I believe you anyway? You insisted that cutting off access to my telepathy was the best thing for all concerned, and look where that got us."
"I made an error in judgement, one that I will regret for the rest of my life. That doesn't mean I'm making a mistake now."
"What would be the point, Charles? What will you be looking for? Will I have to watch what I think? Will ideas that you find in there and don't agree with be detrimental to my progress in getting back on the team?"
"No, of course not. All I wish to do is moniter the effect of your powers on your psyche. I wish you would stop overreacting, Jean."
sat down again, her voice calm. "I am not overreacting, Charles.
You know that you would have the exact same reaction if our positions
were reversed. You have no right to go into my head without my
permission, and I don't intend to give it to you. Cerebro can run the
same type of scans, with far more accurate results; and that is the only
way I'll be 'monitered'. If you don't like it, too bad. I'm tired of
being your unwitting experiment," she finished.
"Experiment? Jean, I have never --"
"Yes, Charles, you have. Who did you use to calibrate Cerebro in the first place? Me. Who did you use to discover what would happen if mutant powers were cut off and not allowed to flourish? Me. Who did you then refuse to help, even a little bit, trying to see how long it would take for insanity to set it? Me. Who --"
"Stop it!" he said angrily. "You are twisting the past, and I am not going to listen to it."
"Perhaps," she replied quietly. "Perhaps not. I'm only telling you what it felt like to me."
"Did it really seem like that?"
"That was never my intention," he sighed. They sat in silence for several minutes before he spoke again. "If it's that upsetting to you, I suppose that I could have Cerebro perform the tests, but they would have to be done more frequently."
He caught her hand in his as she stood to leave, forcing her to look at him.
"I know I made mistakes, terrible mistakes, where you were concerned, Jean. Earlier, you said that all you wanted was a second chance. Don't I deserve one as well?"
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