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Fic: Red Hair and Quesadillas (1/1) S/J, c.4900 words

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  • Minisinoo Girl
    RED HAIR AND QUESADILLAS Minisinoo See previous email for full notes. If this is all run together, the story is also available here:
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 5, 2001
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      RED HAIR AND QUESADILLAS
      Minisinoo

      See previous email for full notes. If this is all run
      together, the story is also available here:
      http://www.geocities.com/minisinoo/redshades.html

      --------

      "*Scott*."

      "What?" I glance around, trying to play dumb.

      Jean half-laughs at me as she glances out the door
      after the red-head who just exited. The one who I'd
      been following with my eyes as she browsed the little
      shop.

      Caught again. These damn shades are just useless with
      Jean.

      We exit, too, leave the rustic jumble of overpriced
      soap and maple syrup, calico dolls and Amish quilts
      and wooden tourist nicknacks couched in pretty
      displays on sanitized hay. Smiling, her fingers lace
      through mine as we amble down a sidewalk outside art
      shops in the renovated Salem Center Marketplace.
      "What is it about you and red-heads?" She's still
      struggling not to laugh.

      "I may be on a diet, but I can still read the menu," I
      mutter.

      "You've used that line before. It's a day old and a
      week stale. At least you're not looking at blondes."

      "Not into Kansas Corn Queens, thank you. Strictly
      classy women with red hair and great legs who look
      really sexy in tight sweaters." Absently, I tuck the
      tag down in the back of hers.

      She does laugh then as we pause to survey the display
      window for a . . . what? . . . *Knitting* store? Good
      god. How can there be an entire store devoted to
      *yarn*? The store beyond sells glass art: cast,
      blown, and bevel-cut windows. I drag her over to look
      at that. If we ever do get a house and can quit
      playing residence hall parents at the mansion, I want
      to put a bevel-glass window in our front door. She
      leaves me standing there, slips into the Christmas
      shop on the other side with a "I'll just be a minute."
      I hate Christmas shops, so I enter the glass shop
      instead. The owner watches me cautiously. I learned
      a long time ago that when a man alone walks into a
      store and doesn't remove his sunglasses, the counter
      help gets antsy. That's one reason I dress the way I
      do. I appear less threatening in button-downs and
      cardigans. The shades and my leather jacket really
      make people nervous. "Can I help you?" the woman
      asks.

      I smile at her � the �charming smile' I use sometimes.
      I'm not oblivious to what it gets me. "No, thanks.
      I was just admiring."

      She smiles back, and Jean has appeared in the open
      door, backlit by autumn sun. "Scott, hon? You
      ready?" I follow her out to continue our afternoon of
      goofing off.

      This four-block-square strip called the Marketplace is
      the heart of the town's recent attempt �to revitalize
      for the new millennium,' which amounts to giving tax
      cuts and rental assistance to the small independent
      art shops that appeal to the tourons (tourist + moron)
      who are the life blood of this area. There are leaf
      peepers who haunt the whole region in October and
      November � that is, right now � chasing the fall
      foliage south. In summer come the city vacationers,
      and in winter the ski freaks who descend like a plague
      of bipedal locusts in their obnoxious neon snow-suits.
      I think I hate them the most.

      I've lived in New York, off and on, for eight years
      now and still can't ski. I consider it a point of
      honor not to learn. Jean, who grew up in New York and
      skis very well, tells me that I'm being reactionary.
      I probably am. That doesn't mean I'm going to learn.
      I don't care if James Bond skis. Cyclops doesn't.

      Now, coming out of a shop right in front of us is the
      red-head I saw earlier. She almost collides with us,
      apologizes and hurries on. She's a pretty woman, but
      this close, I can tell the hair owes more to Miss
      Clairol than to nature.

      Jean glances at me. Her eyes are dancing. As soon as
      the woman is out of earshot, she says, "*Mine* is
      real. More or less."

      "Believe it or not, I have noticed that," I say. "Up
      close and personal. Some things women don't dye.
      Usually."

      She lets out a small shocked sound and hits at me,
      chases me across the street. I try to defend myself,
      but mostly, I'm laughing too hard at her indignation.
      It's a good thing the kids aren't around. They really
      have no idea how hot-tempered Jean is, think her the
      poster girl for Miss Calm and Collected. They should
      see some of the bruises this woman gives me.

      An elderly couple watches us with indulgent amusement.
      I've caught Jean from behind, my arms crossed in
      front of her, hands holding her wrists immobile while
      she tries to kick my kneecap. We're laughing. But
      suddenly aware of � and embarrassed by � an audience,
      we stop wrestling in public like teenagers on a first
      date. As we pass the couple, the woman smiles at
      Jean. "You keep him in line, honey."

      Jean smiles. "I try."

      Sometimes it's nice to be taken for normal.
      World-saving mutant X-Men out for a Sunday stroll, all
      by ourselves and not a crisis in sight. "We should
      get ice cream," I say.

      "Scott, it's fifty degrees."

      I shrug.

      She rolls her eyes. "Okay. Come on, but if I'm cold
      after, you have to keep me warm." And she heads off
      towards the ice cream shop.

      In the distance, I see the other red-haired woman
      disappear into yet another store. I catch up to Jean,
      slip my arm around my own red-haired woman. Very
      quick, I lean in to brush my lips over that hair.
      "I'll keep you warm now."

      It makes her smile.




      I confess, I do have a thing for red-heads. Everyone
      who knows me well, knows that. You wouldn't think red
      hair would appeal particularly since everything I see
      is some shade of red (or black). And even if red hair
      did stand out for me (which yes, it does � a purer
      color), wouldn't I be damn tired of the shade?

      But the truth is, I had a thing for red hair long
      before I wound up with red shades.

      It started in kindergarten. Her name was Leah. She
      had Shirley Temple curls in bright flame instead of
      gold. She also had faded-copper confetti freckles all
      over pale-ivory skin. No one had explained to me that
      I wasn't *supposed* to like freckles, that they
      weren't the all-American ideal. Between the bright
      hair and those freckles, I thought her the most
      interesting thing in my class. And although at five,
      most of my male age-mates were chasing Hotwheels, not
      girls, I used to wait at the front window for her
      mother to drive up in a slick blue 1971 Dodge Coronet,
      let her out. I'd meet her at the door to carry
      whatever she was bringing to kindergarten that day.
      She would permit me to kiss her, sloppy child-kisses
      that made my belly drop for reasons I was really too
      young to fathom yet. Our parents thought it �cute.'
      But I was heart-broken when my father got a transfer
      off Eglin out to White Sands that summer, and our
      family moved. A psychologist would probably have a
      field day with Leah and me and theories of fixations
      and fetishes.

      Anyway, Jean has freckles. Light ones. She keeps
      them covered with makeup. I'm *still* not sure she
      believes me when I say that I like them, thinks I'm
      flattering her. But I *do* like freckles, dammit.




      My passion for ice cream, or Sweet Tarts, is almost as
      legendary as the one I harbor for red hair. I'll eat
      any flavor but that awful White House cherry or stuff
      that's green (that is, pistachio). But invariably,
      whatever Jean has looks better. In this case, pumpkin
      pie. Maybe it's just an excuse to get her to hold the
      cone for me. "You're a pig," she says, laughing as
      she watches me eat half her ice cream along with my
      own (chocolate espresso).

      "Yeah?" I say. "So what else is new?"

      "God. Why am I dating you?"

      "I don't know. After three years, I'm still trying to
      figure that out. I've got a cute smile and great
      biceps?"

      Looking off, she grins faintly. "The lethally sexy
      back muscles are better. But that's not why. I love
      you because you let me trust you."




      "Aren't you going to wash your face?"

      Startled, Jean jumped and turned to look at me. She
      was dressed in one of my shirts, old flannel borrowed
      for the night. Remembering the way fabric pressed
      light against the outline of her nipples would turn me
      on now every time I wore that shirt. I'd leaned into
      the doorjamb to watch her borrow my toothbrush, too,
      and get ready for bed. This was the fifth time we'd
      had sex, but the first she'd agreed not to go back to
      her room until morning. For some weird reason, we
      always wound up in my room.

      We'd decided to hell with the student gossip mill. I
      knew there was a bet on. After I'd serenaded Jean in
      the dining hall on my knees in front of God and
      everybody, the kids had started a pool on how long it
      would take me to get her into bed. I didn't really
      like being the subject of speculation but I was going
      to have my revenge, of a sort. No doubt tomorrow some
      money (or CDs) would change hands, and they'd all be
      dead wrong by over a week. The *first* time hadn't
      been in my room or hers. It had been in the rear of
      the Mercedes. I was twenty-two but had never had sex
      in the backseat of a car until I did it with a thirty
      year old woman after we'd been to dinner and a movie.
      THE LION IN WINTER on the big screen, with Peter
      O'Toole as Henry II, Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of
      Acquitaine, and the film debut of Anthony Hopkins as
      Prince Richard. A pretty safe first-date flick. The
      sex after had been completely unexpected, and it had
      been pure chance I'd even had a condom in my wallet.
      But I can move fast when I'm inspired. Nonetheless,
      sex-in-a-car wasn't something we were in a hurry to
      repeat. Cramped conditions aside, I'd fallen off the
      seat and bruised my tailbone and ego both. She'd
      laughed herself silly (once she was sure I wasn't
      really hurt).

      Now, she said, "I, um, already cleaned my face."

      I just blinked at her. Jean had never lied to me
      before, not so baldly anyway. And why on earth she'd
      lie about washing her face I couldn't figure. It made
      absolutely no sense. So, annoyed, I picked up the
      washcloth and wet it. "You took your mascara off.
      But I can tell makeup from bare skin, Jean, whatever
      Revlon advertizes. I'm not stupid. Or blind."

      She shook her head and tried to duck out of the
      bathroom door around me, but I caught her by the waist
      and pushed her up against the jamb. "What is it?
      What's wrong?"

      "Nothing. I just � Don't, Scott."

      I handed her the washcloth. "I don't get it. Do you
      think it matters to me if you have a rose birthmark on
      the end of your nose? Which I can tell you don't. I
      love you, not your face. You know that. Trust me.
      Take your makeup off and let's get some sleep. We've
      got to get up at six."

      I left her in there, crawled into bed, put on my
      sleeping goggles. And waited.

      She came out after a minute. I'd been half afraid
      that maybe she did have a blemish somewhere I hadn't
      noticed. Not that I'd have cared, but it hurt me �
      more than a little � that she was so afraid I *would*
      care. There was no birthmark, no scars. Instead, she
      had a little splash of freckles faint across her nose
      and cheeks. They made her look younger and unbearably
      cute. I grinned. "You were afraid of *freckles*?"

      "Don't laugh."

      "I'm not! I like freckles."

      She rolled her eyes and slid into bed beside me.
      "Flattery will get you everywhere."

      Scooting down, I turned on my side to smile at her.
      "It's not flattery. I really do like freckles."

      "You are the strangest man."

      "Is that why you agreed to go out with me?"

      "No."

      "So why did you?"

      "Maybe I have a thing for guys with shades who sing me
      Sting." She studied me a minute. "Do you have to
      sleep in them?"

      "The goggles? Yeah. Sorry."

      "Don't *apologize*, you nit-wit. I was simply
      thinking they must be uncomfortable."

      "Not too much. I just don't sleep on my stomach any
      more."

      She sighed. "God, I love him, but Hank can be slow on
      the uptake about some things. I think we can find
      something better for you to sleep in."

      I shrugged and rolled onto my back. I really hated
      the damn goggles but didn't want her to know that for
      some reason. There were aspects of my gift I despised
      but had learned to live with. No sense in making
      others miserable, or having them feel sorry for me.
      Rose quartz was better than being blind. Or being
      dead � the only other options I'd seen once, to avoid
      killing someone by accident. I'd rather sleep
      uncomfortable than risk destroying the roof, or my bed
      partner.

      "Close your eyes," she said now, softly, reaching for
      the goggles.

      I sat up and scooted away, almost off the bed. "Jean,
      don't. It's not a game. I could hurt you. I don't
      wear these things for my fashion sense."

      "You won't hurt me. I've seen you without glasses or
      visor before, in the lab. I trusted you a minute ago.
      I took the makeup off. Now, you trust me. Take the
      goggles off."

      There was a good deal of difference between her makeup
      and my glasses. Still, she had a point about trust.
      I'd asked for hers. So turning my head away, I shut
      my eyes tightly and removed the goggles, felt her
      fingers as she took them out of my hands. "Jean � "

      "Shhh." Then she kissed my bare face. I jerked back.

      "Don't do that! Don't put yourself in front of me
      without some protection!"

      Her hands were on either of my cheeks, holding me
      still. "Don't you pull away from me. With your eyes
      shut, you're harmless. You know that."

      "If I cracked my eyelids by accident even for a second
      � "

      "Have you ever?"

      I didn't answer. Because, in fact, I never had. Not
      once. But I wasn't going to play Russian Roulette
      with Jean and my control. If I killed her, I wouldn't
      be able to live.

      "I trust you," she said.

      "You shouldn't."

      "I can't stay with a man if he won't let me trust
      him."

      She moved to get out of my bed and desperate, I
      grabbed for her. "Jean, don't leave me! Please!" My
      hand didn't connect with her body, but I didn't open
      my eyes to find out where she was. "Jean!"

      "See?" she said.

      "I can't *see* anything!"

      She laughed and her hands were back on my face. I
      could feel her mind pressing into my own. It was
      almost as frightening as having her face in front of
      me, but I loved this particular adrenaline rush. Her
      telepathic touch was as addictive as a drug. She was
      full of pleased certainty and wanted me to know it.
      "I scared you, and you still didn't open your eyes."

      "That was one hell of a test, Jean."

      "You had to see for yourself. I knew."

      "What if you'd been wrong?"

      "Then you'd have taken out your dresser and a wall.
      That's all. Now, do you trust me to trust you?" She
      was getting my t-shirt off. Then I felt her body
      press against mine; she had the borrowed shirt open in
      front and I sucked in breath at the soft crush of
      breast. "Make love to me without the glasses or the
      goggles or the visor."

      "I don't trust myself that much. Besides, maybe I
      want to see your face when you come."

      She sighed. "Okay. But let me kiss you a while
      without the goggles. Will you trust that far?"

      "All right."

      It was a long time before I agreed to enter her body
      with nothing between my eyes and her but my eyelids.
      Nonetheless, it started that night. I was
      half-dressed and completely naked.




      Jean and I have dinner at a little Mexican restaurant
      we love, one street off the Marketplace. It's dim
      inside and the plaster is cracked but the tables are
      clean with checkered tablecloths and those
      restaurant-ubiquitous big teardrop votive candles.
      Colored Christmas lights adorn the walls, and cheap
      pinatas, and pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
      Ramon serves the best quesadillas I've ever had and
      Corona with lime, and he knows but doesn't care that
      we're mutants. The attitude, not the exceptional
      food, is why we come back.

      I don't drink much at the mansion, not because I have
      anything against alcohol (I was raised Catholic, not
      protestant), but because I don't want to tempt the
      kids by keeping it around. I've turned a blind eye
      when the elder boys stole some of Logan's Budweiser.
      (How does he drink that cat piss?) It was better if
      they experimented where they wouldn't be driving a
      car, and I could keep an eye on them � whether or not
      they realized it. Still, I wasn't about to let them
      make a habit of it. Logan had agreed with me on the
      matter; he has more common sense about teenagers than
      I sometimes gave him credit. He now keeps his beer in
      a little fridge in his own room, and knows exactly how
      much is there. He's kept beer for me, too, but I just
      don't care enough about it to go through the hassle on
      a regular basis.

      Yet I like a beer now and then, and I like even better
      some time away from the school, with Jean. We all get
      it. Professor's rule. Each of the adult staff must
      take four hours off-grounds each week. It can be as
      simple as shopping for supplies, but he makes us get
      out. And once a month, we have to take four to six
      consecutive hours. Meaning we have to get lost for at
      least half a day. Usually, Jean and I take our time
      together and the Marketplace is a favorite haunt for
      us, but some of the best times I've had has been spent
      with Charles. Fishing.

      He doesn't exempt himself. He's got more sense than
      that. So we go fishing together because we both love
      it and it gives us a chance to be more than mentor and
      student over good German beer, bad soggy sandwiches,
      and barbless fly-fishing. But I won't take him out on
      a boat. He swims very well; a lot of paraplegics do.
      Swimming is his favorite form of physical therapy.
      But I'm not about to take him out on a boat and risk
      an accident which could leave me blind in the water
      unable to help him if he needed it. Water just
      compounds how dangerous I am. Open my eyes underwater
      and I'd kill everything within my vicinity � including
      me. I'm immune to my own blasts, but not immune to
      boiling water. I'd serve myself up well-done, along
      with the fish and anything else near me.

      So no boats. But sun and water and a pier, an
      occasional bite on our lines.

      In any case, and just now, Jean and I are ending our
      evening over a dinner we don't have to share with
      howling masses under twenty, and getting a little
      drunk and silly on Corona. Not too much; I have to
      drive back. But enough to really relax. The
      red-haired woman we saw earlier enters with her own
      party and involuntarily, I glance over, then jerk
      attention back to my dining partner.

      She has that smirk again. "What would you say if I
      dyed my hair? I'm getting a bit tired of red."

      She's yanking my chain and I let her � "Don't you
      dare" � but I yank back, too. "And anyway, you do dye
      your hair."

      "I do not!"

      I raise my eyebrows. She amends, "Well, it's only to
      keep the grey out. I don't *dye* it."

      I smile and take a drink of beer. Jean's touchy about
      the dye thing. It's more than covering grey. I
      pretend that I don't notice she keeps what's on her
      head a little brighter than what I've found between
      her legs. It doesn't matter to me. I love her red
      hair. But I don't love Jean because she's a red-head.

      Not, mind, that I'm complaining about it.

      Now, she adds, "I'm just not ready to be Jean
      very-Grey."

      "I'd settle for Jean Summers."

      She reaches across the table to squeeze my hand.
      "Soon."

      A little over six months, in fact. May first.
      Assuming the world leaves us alone long enough to have
      a wedding. This is the third time we've set a date.
      She told me she always wanted to be married on May
      Day. It's not a Saturday, but if she wants to be my
      May Queen, I'm not going to argue. I don't care,
      myself. I just want to get married already. If it
      doesn't work this time, I'm going to suggest we elope,
      take off for LA in the Blackbird. I know a certain
      Baptist preacher there whose son I roomed with for
      four years at Berkeley. The Right Reverend Jeremiah
      Haight owes me a favor or three.

      Now she's looking at me from under lashes, but not to
      tease. She's nervous about something. "Scott, um �
      We've not talked about this yet, and I don't want to
      hurt you, but � " She pauses, swallows.

      It kills me when she acts nervous of telling me
      things. I bend down a little to catch her eyes and
      put my hand over hers. "Just spit it out."

      "I'm not going to be Jean Summers. I love you and I
      can hardly wait to be your wife � legally, not just in
      virtual fact because I sort your socks and sleep in
      your bed. But my name is Jean Grey. I'm not changing
      it."

      I sit back in my chair. I don't know why, exactly,
      I'm startled. Jean has publications and a career, a
      fairly prominent one given her youth (and she is young
      for her field). Her decision makes perfect sense.

      "Are you upset?" she asks me.

      I can't lie to her. I don't. I may not always
      volunteer the truth, but I don't lie if she asks me
      something point-blank. She'd know. "A little," I say
      now. "I'll get over it. Stupid male pride."

      That makes her smile. "It's not stupid. It's social
      conditioning. But you do understand why I'm keeping
      my name?"

      "Yes � your job. �Dr. Jean Grey' is fairly well
      known. �Dr. Jean Summers' isn't."

      She shakes her head, once, sharp. "That's not why.
      The reason I'm keeping my name is because I'm marrying
      you, not becoming your property."

      Not *that*. "Jean, don't be stupid. You're *not* my
      property; I've never thought that way and you know it.
      More like I'm yours. I should have it tattooed on
      the back of my neck like those labels in kids clothes
      for preschool: �property of Jean Grey.'"

      She doesn't laugh. Instead, her chin has raised high
      into pure Stubborn-Jean. She enunciates clearly, like
      Hank at his worst. "It is not *stupid*. Would you
      change your name to Grey?"

      "Christ! It's just a social convention! You're not
      selling your soul." I'm sidestepping and we both know
      it.

      "Easy for you to say," and she slams down her napkin
      on the table, starts to rise.

      I grab her hand before she can storm out. She will.
      She's done it to me before. Like I said, the kids
      have no idea what a temper she really has. "Okay, I'm
      sorry. Sit down. I'm just � "

      "*Conditioned*." She settles back into her seat.
      "Your father was an air force pilot and your mother a
      good little military wife. But I'm not your mother.
      And I'm not property to be handed over from my father
      to you. There will be no �giving away of the bride'
      at this wedding, Scott. I enter into it by my choice.
      I'll be your life companion �till death us do part.'
      But I was born a Grey and I'll die one. To ask me to
      take your name is to take away my selfhood."

      "Jean � " I sigh and drink my beer because I really
      haven't got a clue what to say. I don't understand
      why this is bothering me so much, but I'm honest
      enough to admit that it is, and I'm suddenly unsure of
      things I'd believed as certain as death and taxes. If
      she didn't want to take my name, was she ashamed of
      me? How could she love me if she was ashamed of me?
      "The name thing is just a symbol. Besides, it keeps
      things less confusing at the post office."

      "The post office can take care of itself. Symbols
      have power, or they wouldn't be symbols in the first
      place. They're not just here," she taps her forehead.
      "They're here, too." She touches her abdomen. Then
      she looks me in the eye. She has that �I'm not going
      to budge on this' expression. "Will you marry Jean
      Grey? Or insist that I become your trophy wife?"

      "It's more like I'm the trophy husband. Which of us
      is younger and who has �Dr' in front of her name?"

      I hadn't meant that to sound bitter. I really hadn't.
      I'd meant it to be funny. But it came out bitter
      anyway.

      Her eyes have softened. "You'll get the �Dr,' too,
      someday. You're almost done with the master's
      thesis."

      "And that's as far as Hank can go with it. You know
      that."

      "You'll get it."

      "*When*?" I lower my voice and lean over the table.
      "When mutants and norms can all sing �I'd like to
      teach the world to sing in perfect harmony' and drink
      coke together?"

      I've finally made her smile. It's nice to know my
      sense of humor never deserts me, no matter how much it
      hurts.

      "We can't afford for me to go back to school right
      now," I continue, "and not any time in the near
      future, either. I gave up the degree when I left
      Berkeley. I knew that; I made that choice."

      She takes my hand, lifts it to kiss the backs of my
      fingers. "You'll get your degree if I have to kick
      your stubborn ass back into grad school
      single-handedly. And you're definitely not my trophy
      husband, leader of the X-Men. But now you understand
      why I need to stay Jean Grey? I refuse to belittle
      you, or let you belittle yourself. Don't belittle me.
      Don't take my name away."

      "Fine. I understand." And I did.

      But she knows that's not all of it. She touched me.
      She knows there's more but she won't steal it out of
      my head. "What is it?" she asks.

      "Are you ashamed of me? Embarrassed to be my wife?
      I'm a lot younger � "

      "Oh, *shut up* about that already!" I'm grateful for
      the table between us or I think she might hit me.
      Instead, she takes my hand again, says into my mind
      where I know she can't lie. *I'm not ashamed of you
      and I'm not refusing the name Summers. I'm just
      keeping the name Grey. You see the difference? I
      will be very proud to be your wife.*

      I'm grinning like an idiot, but can't help it. Beer
      and love. "And I'll be proud to be your husband. How
      many guys have a lady who gets invited to lecture at
      international bio-genetics conferences in Stockholm?
      But you'd damn well better take me with you or I'll
      get jealous'"

      She's laughing as she lets my hand go. "I'll take you
      with me to Stockholm as long as you don't develop a
      thing for blondes in the meantime."

      "Never. Just redheads."

      The smile still plays with her lips. "Fair enough.
      You like red hair. I like red shades. We make a good
      pair."

      "We do."

      ---------

      Um....Feedback? Please?





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