AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE:
The Lion in Winter
Warning: This chapter is most assuredly adult -- graphic sexual
Scott didn't ask Jean out immediately. She supposed she should have
expected as much after his counting coup in the garage, but she
became frustrated. And then she became irritated. And then she
became downright depressed.
And then she became amused at herself.
His hesitation wasn't due entirely to revenge. He wasn't above a bit
of tit-for-tat -- he was only human -- but for all his occasional
exuberance, he was still a cautious man, and he'd asked her out five
times already . . . six, if one counted hitting her car and then
wheedling a date that wasn't a date. The real reason Scott bided his
time was that he wanted to be sure she was saying yes because she
meant it -- no regrets, no second thoughts.
So on Thursday night when they returned to the mansion, they behaved
as if the events in Manhattan hadn't occurred; he didn't try to take
her hand when they walked back into the mansion, nor did she try to
take his. But they stayed up late, watching movies with the kids and
sitting together on the couch, him with an arm along the couch back
behind her. Sometimes, unobtrusively, he let the edge of his thumb
stroke her shoulder or the skin of her neck. Sometimes,
unobtrusively, she rested her hand on his knee. Every touch, no
matter how trivial or brief, was electric.
Friday, she was busy all day and into the night, and Saturday, Scott
was out of commission with one of his migraines. Jean thought the
stress of everything probably had as much to do with it as built-up
energy, and she went by his room several times to bring him Imitrex
or just to sit and pat his arm. They didn't talk, even
telepathically, except once when he whispered, "You don't have to
stay here. You must feel it."
"I choose to," she'd replied -- to both things. He'd fearlessly
walked in to share her insanity. She chose now to share his pain.
So Saturday passed as well, bringing them around to Sunday -- the day
on which he'd always asked her out before. He got up late and she
was at the hospital most of the day, not arriving home until time for
supper. Scott was already in the dining hall, sitting with the
others at what had come to be dubbed "the teachers' table." Even in
a room full of people, her eyes naturally fastened on him, and she
was old enough to be embarrassed by her own fixation. Feigning
nonchalance, she slipped into the kitchen to pick up a dinner plate
from Valeria, the cook. She knew Scott was watching her, and she
knew it the minute he rose to come after her. She emerged back into
the dining hall with a plate full of pesto chicken and a bowl of
antipasto just as he caught up to her . . .
. . . only to drop to his knees in front of her and stretch out a
dramatic hand. *What on earth?* she wondered.
Whenever I see your smiling face
I have to smile myself
Because I love you --
yes, I do . . .
Her jaw dropped open. He was *singing* to her! In a dining hall
full of people, he was serenading her on his knees, a capella, with
an old James Taylor song -- and she glanced all around (seeking
escape), struggling to sort through emotions that ranged from pure
astonishment to white mortification. She wondered if she'd been
caught in a bad replay of TOP GUN.
And when you give me that pretty little pout
It turns me inside out.
There's just something about you, baby,
I don't know . . .
Isn't it amazing a man like me
Can feel this way?
Tell me how much longer,
If it grows stronger every day?
Oh, how much longer?
"Scott!" she hissed, finally finding her voice. "Get up!" Everyone
was staring now, and some of the students (not to mention their own
friends) were laughing. Bobby Drake scrambled up on a bench to
shout, "Woot! Woot! Woot!"
Scott ignored him, continuing to sing with absolute sincerity (and a
really enviable ability to stay in tune). Jean would have put a hand
over her face to hide her flaming skin, but as she gripped a plate in
one hand and her bowl in the other, such a gesture would have dumped
her dinner down her front, and that would have been even less
I thought I was in love
A couple of times before
With the girl next door,
But that was long before I met you.
Now I'm sure that I won't forget you.
And I thank my lucky stars
That you are who you are,
And not just another lovely lady
Sent down to break my heart.
*Oh,* she thought, *so pointed, Scott*! But despite her humiliation,
she couldn't help noticing the students' (and adults') amusement
appeared to be well-intentioned. The professor, of course, wasn't
present. But the rest? They were rooting for them, or at least,
rooting for Scott.
And wasn't it time she quit paying attention to what everyone else
thought, instead of what she felt? No, maybe Xavier didn't approve,
and she knew her mother wouldn't, but she wasn't a little girl
anymore. She had to make her own way, make her own decisions, fall
in love and make her own mistakes. Otherwise, the victories weren't
hers, either. People were so much more than the outward shell, birth
dates and eye color and height -- and didn't she know that
intimately? Didn't she know *him* intimately even though she'd never
seen his body unclothed or his naked face? He'd bared his heart, and
his mind, which was a lot more revealing. He was her friend, her
companion, her conscience, and -- just maybe -- her fate.
Isn't it amazing a man like me
Can feel this way?
Tell me how much longer,
I can grow stronger every day.
How much longer . . .
"All right!" she shouted, exasperated (but more with herself than
with him). And now it was his turn to appear startled. He shut up.
"I'll go out with you! Just get up off the floor! You're getting
your pants dirty."
And although he wore a shit-eating grin wide enough to split his
face, she couldn't hear a word he said in reply because there was too
much yelling and clapping in the dining hall. It reverberated off
the wood paneling.
"So -- you mad at me?"
He'd caught her a few hours later in the upstairs hallway as she was
coming out of her room after an evening shower. Crossing her arms,
she tried to glare and purse her lips, but it was mostly to keep
herself from smiling. "You made a spectacle of us."
He didn't appear apologetic, just shrugged a bit. And in truth, she
wasn't mad. Embarrassed, yes, but not angry. Scott was full of
surprises, persistent, and unwilling to surrender. And cocky. He'd
do whatever it took. That dogged perseverance was, in fact, part of
what attracted her to him. "You'd better take me somewhere nice,"
she warned him.
"Oh, I will." He shot her that *smile* again. "When do you want to
"I thought the guy was supposed to make the arrangements?" She asked
it coyly and leaned back against the wall.
"Oh, come on! You're in residency. It's more like when you've got a
free night. I don't care if it's on a Tuesday!"
She laughed. "I was just teasing. And actually, it's on Thursday.
Again. I work all next weekend. Is Thursday okay?"
"Thursday it is."
They didn't say anything else then. Still embarrassed, she stared at
a display table in the hall behind him; it sported a brass vase
filled with pussy willows and wilting tiger lilies. He put his hands
in his pockets and examined the interlacing pattern in the oriental
runner beneath his feet. "You want to take a walk?"
She glanced back at him. "Where to?"
"I don't care -- just get out of the house."
"You mean go outside? It's chilly after dark, Scott, and my hair's
wet. May in New York isn't May in Berkeley."
Instantly, his face fell into lines of apprehension and the soft
light of hallway lamps threw his shadow indistinct on the wall
behind. His uncertainty made her smile -- one minute, he was her
troubadour, and the next, a shy young man. "Can you wait while I go
get a sweater?"
His smile came back, but softer. He wasn't trying so hard. "Sure."
A few minutes later, they slipped out of the house to meander along
the mansion's sidewalks. She'd wrapped herself in an oversized dark
green sweater with a cowl neck, and he put an arm around her
shoulders, ostensibly to keep her warm. They talked about the newest
student, who'd arrived just the week before -- Doug Ramsey, whose
mutant gift was the mathematical ability to decode any kind of
pattern, wether in math, language, computer programming, or puzzles.
He came very close to being a living computer. Scott's mutant gift
granted him some natural pattern recognition, but: "Doug leaves me
in the dust. I don't know that there's anything much I can teach
him, Jean. I just give him stuff and he figures it out for himself.
It's like having Benoit Mandelbrot or Hermann Weyl in your class."
"Is he doing college level math already?"
"He's into the first sequence of calculus *now*. At *thirteen*. He
thinks it's a game. And he speaks sixteen languages ... so far.
Fluently. That doesn't count the computer languages or ASL. And he
asked the professor if he could start Sanskrit, for God's sake. He
said, 'It might actually be a challenge.' What the hell are we going
to *do* with this kid? Normally, we have to worry about catching
them up. In Doug's case, we have to worry about keeping up! Even
Hank has his hands full."
"He still has to learn social skills, Scott. There's more to high
school than classes." Her expression was rueful. "I should know.
And Hank, too. Maybe you should try talking to his mom. She found
things to keep Hank busy."
It wasn't, Scott thought, a bad idea. If anyone knew how to raise a
genius as a thoroughly decent human being, it was Edna McCoy.
Some distance from the mansion, they stopped by silent agreement
under a maple tree. She turned to face him and without debate,
without agonizing, raised both her hands to cup his face, thumbs
brushing his cheeks just below the glasses. They bent towards one
another at the same moment, lips met, opened, eased into the
quickness of tongues behind. This wasn't stolen, or orchestrated.
They kissed like old lovers, easily, and like new ones, passionately.
After a minute, he wrapped her up in his arms and held her tight.
His body flashed hot all over and he wanted to feel her against him,
wanted to peel her back and climb inside. Without thinking, he
pushed her up against the maple trunk until the bark rubbed rough on
her sweater and caught in her hair. She ignored it, hooking one of
her legs around his hip to pull his groin to hers even as she felt
out the contours of his mind as easily as she did his body. Fierce,
she dragged blunt nails down his thin shirt and pulled him into her
thoughts, and this time, he didn't resist being swallowed. His own
hands moved up and down her sides from the swell of her hips to the
smaller swell of her breasts, and when he pressed thumbs over her
nipples she bit his lower lip, tasting blood. His erection was hard
like wood, and warm against her lower belly. He was panting, drunk
on her touch and the kiss he'd waited five years to get, and she'd
stopped thinking of much beyond his neck and jawline and mouth, and
cock. She'd never felt this level of abandon with anyone, even Ted,
and she might have blamed it on her telepathy but couldn't. She knew
she'd been waiting on Scott as much as he'd been waiting on her, even
if she hadn't quite realized it, or been willing to admit it. He was
her ground of being.
They spent some time necking under the maple tree, confident in the
concealment of shadows and the hour, and unaware that they were being
watched from a third story window by a man in a wheelchair. It
wasn't that Charles' Xavier's eyesight excelled, or that he was
inclined to snoop, but their combined joy (among other things) was
hard to miss psychically. They flared as bright as Chinese fireworks
in the twining of their minds and their lust. He sighed. They'd
been headed in this direction ever since they'd joined in the Danger
Room, or really, since sometime last fall. It had been inevitable,
like death and taxes, and he'd been steeling himself for it even
while he'd tried to avert it. But done was done, and he'd say no
more. They might be the children of his heart, but they were not
children, however young they might seem to him.
Sighing again, he set aside his book and wheeled himself downstairs
to get tea, and when he ran into the two of them in the main hall
later, sneaking back in the door like teenagers caught out past
curfew -- hands twined, hair mussed and lips bruised -- Jean squeaked
and Scott began stammering a very lame explanation.
"Enough," he told them quietly. "You know how I feel about this, but
it is your choice to make. I'm not going to punish you. Come now,
should I *ground* you both for a week?" They managed to look as
amused as they were sheepish. He wheeled past, adding as he went,
"Jean, you might want to find a high-necked blouse for tomorrow."
There were still moments when Jean wasn't sure if a memory belonged
to her, or to someone else.
She could vividly recall an afternoon in the kitchen when she'd
lectured Valeria on how to make the perfect flan by placing eggshells
in the boiling water outside the flan cup -- and all of the others
had stared at her in shock, until Scott had said quietly, "Jean, you
can't cook. You burn water."
But she knew how to cook -- now. She knew how to do all kinds of
things now. Yet, she wondered, did she have a right to those
memories when she hadn't lived them? She might *know* how to make a
perfect flan, but would she actually be able to do it? The memory
lived in her head, but not in her hands. How much of knowledge was
the purview of the intellect, and how much belonged to the
existential? When Scott had kissed her last night, had he kissed a
sheltered young academic, or a cynical old New Orleans whore? Or a
hundred other people in between? It troubled her, and all Monday
morning, her concentration was off. She'd been working with a
patient suffering from insulin resistance, and another with chronic
Hepatitis B. She adored the problem-solving aspect of internal
medicine, and so far, had excelled in this rotation. But that
morning, the chief resident called her aside to -- humorously -- dig
through her hair. "What are you doing!" She'd jerked away.
"Looking for lice?"
He'd grinned. "Looking for the blonde roots. What's up with you
Rolling her eyes, she said, defensively, "Nothing! I'm just . . . a
little off. I'll be fine, Alan."
He eyed her seriously. "You okay?"
She knew to what he referred. It seemed as if the entire hospital
had heard about her breakdown in the ER in March. "I'm *fine*. It
has nothing to do with that."
"Then what is it? You're out orbiting Mars today."
He snorted. "In a pig's eye. Well, get it together." She nodded as
he walked off, and took a deep breath, returning to her slides.
Jean wasn't the only one unable to concentrate. Scott made three
mistakes in equations on the board and once, his train of thought
completely derailed in the middle of a lecture. The students
laughed. They, at least, had a slightly better idea of what had him
so discombobulated. "Where are you going to take her, Mr. Summers?"
Jubilee asked boldly.
"Where I'm taking Dr. Grey to dinner is my business. Yours is
pre-algebra homework." It came out a bit more harshly than he'd
"*Don't* tell me you're doing *dinner and a movie*?" Skids asked.
"What's wrong with dinner and a movie?"
"That is, like, *so* lame!" Jubilee pronounced.
Scott blew out lightly and rolled his eyes behind his glasses,
reminding himself that they were teenagers, and if he weren't so much
older than they, in that moment, he felt the difference keenly. "Can
we get back to *math*?"
What was wrong with dinner and a movie anyway, he wondered?
Jean had shift until eleven, and was taking her dinner in the noisy
cafeteria, so lost in thought that she didn't see Barb Clark approach
her small table until the other woman actually sat down. "Earth to
Jean," Barb said, waving a hand in front of Jean's nose. It made
Jean start, then smile.
When they were both on shift, they ate together, and sometimes they
met for drinks afterwards if the day had been long, and Jean began to
think that -- with remarkably little fanfare -- she'd finally found a
friend of the same sex. It was a new experience for her. She'd
always gotten along better with men and had thought the whole notion
of 'sisterhood' rather 1970s, yet as much as she loved the men in her
life, she also found interacting with them to be intimidating. Men
fascinated and frightened her both, and ever since her telepathy had
returned, she'd become increasingly conscious of her own
approach-and-repel attitude towards them.
When she'd woken from her confusion, she'd been touched to learn that
Barb had gone to the trouble to call the mansion, to ask after her,
and Jean had called her back as soon as she'd been emotionally able.
Barb had been solicitous, too, ever since Jean's return to Columbia
Presbyterian, in a way that was present, but not pushy. They'd never
discussed precisely what had happened, but Jean was unsure where to
begin, or what Barb would think if she knew the truth. "So what's
up?" Barb asked now as she salted her corn. For a physician who
should know better, she had remarkably poor eating habits.
"I have a date for Thursday night."
Barb's eyebrows rose but her grin was honest. "Mr. Cowboy Hat
finally wore you down, eh?"
Laughing and self-conscious, Jean made a prevaricating gesture. "He
*sang* to me."
"What?" Barb dropped her fork and leaned across the table. "Spill!"
So Jean told her what had happened on Sunday evening as Barb pressed
for details, asking what she planned to wear and where he was taking
her, and Jean was (embarrassingly) delighted to be engaged in the
kind of social gossip she'd missed in high school. "So when do I get
to meet him?" Barb finished.
Jean shrugged, suddenly unsure. It wasn't that she doubted Barb's
acceptance of Scott's age. This time, it was Scott's more obvious
mutancy she worried about. The mutant issue was another thing they'd
never discussed, although Barb knew it was the subject of Jean's
research. Neither had avoided it; it simply hadn't come up in a
context beyond the casual academic reference: "I'm working on a paper
about . . ." Jean had no real reason to think Barb would be biased,
but no reason to think she wouldn't be, either, and for the first
time, she fully understood Scott's reluctance, three years ago, to
tell EJ the whole truth.
"Come on," Barb said now. "You've met Randy. You can't keep yours
"I'm not hiding him." Jean gave a small, private smile. It seemed
to slip onto her face naturally of late, any time she spoke of him.
"You are *so* smitten," Barb said, sipping coffee. She seemed
"So -- dinner and a movie? Is that okay?"
Scott had still been up when she'd arrived home from the hospital
after midnight, and now they were in the kitchen. She made tea while
he watched, leaning up against the fridge door, hands in his pockets,
trying to seem casual but failing. "Dinner and a movie is fine," she
said. "Do you want any tea?"
"No, thanks. You're sure?"
She smiled at him sidewise. "Yes, Scott. Really. It's fine. You
worry too much."
He shrugged, and, reaching out, she slipped an arm through his until
he relaxed finally, pulling her in to wrap her up, her back against
his side and his face buried in her hair. They stood that way,
unspeaking, until the tea kettle sang.
Concluded in Part 18b....
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