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FIC: Illusions Part III: Coping Mechanisms: 2/2: R: Logan, Jean, Logan/Rogue, Scott/Jean, others

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  • Jenn
    2/2 {:::Have a good trip, Jean. Enjoy yourself.:::} {:::Thank you, Professor.:::} She packed her bags and stared at the plain blanket on her bed for a long
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 6, 2001
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      2/2

      {:::Have a good trip, Jean. Enjoy yourself.:::}

      {:::Thank you, Professor.:::}

      She packed her bags and stared at the plain blanket on her bed for a long
      time--so long, in fact, that she was vaguely startled when there was a
      short knock on the door.

      "Come in." Checking that her hair was secured in its careful coils, that
      her dress was straight--she was Dr. Jean Grey, she never looked other than
      immaculate. Control, it was all about that, the concentration it took, a
      long time ago when the voices grew too loud and she'd knelt on her bedroom
      floor in a far away house with a sponge and turned the entirety of her body
      and mind to scrubbing the wood clean.

      Broken nails and raw, bleeding hands later, here, in fact, she'd turned all
      that concentration on herself, and she wondered suddenly if anyone had ever
      seen her get dirty.

      Expectations again. Of course not. Dr. Jean Grey didn't get dirty.

      Mental list--dresses, check, make-up, check, briefcase in the suitcase,
      shoes and alternate choices, casual clothes and cash, credit cards, her
      toothbrush, and a digital phone for emergencies. Her laptop tucked in its
      case inside the garment bag and a selection of meditation candles, since
      she'd be around unshielded humans and would need to put in the extra time
      regaining her mental balance. Three novels, a pack of gum, a box of
      chocolates, and a bottle of water for the plane ride in her carry-on.

      Scott came in with impeccable good manners, and she wondered, not for the
      first time, if he'd actually read the entire Emily Post or simply knew all
      the finest points of etiquette by instinct. Scott didn't believe in
      instincts--that didn't mean he didn't have them.

      She knew him, so that wasn't the bit that startled her--it was the
      realization he'd never been in this room before. Not since her occupancy,
      at any rate, and she straightened over her bag and watched him look around
      with curious eyes. Closing her eyes briefly, she opened them again and
      looked around, trying to see it as he did.

      Her personality was stamped everywhere--her meditation candles, the
      comforter on her bed, the careful pillow arrangement, the spotless line of
      the dust ruffle a very correct inch above the floor. Then took in Scott's
      expression, and wondered if his bedroom was a mess, because she'd been the
      one to always clean it. Or maybe not--he might get one of the students to
      clean it when the clothes piled high enough to block the door. All that
      energy that went into being the Fearless Leader didn't translate well into
      domestic chores.

      "You ready?" he asked finally, and she nodded. Without another word, he
      walked to the bed, picking up the suitcase and garment bag, and bemused,
      she followed him to the door with her carry-on over one shoulder and her
      purse in her hand as he politely waited for her to go out first--pure
      Scott, ladies first.

      "You know, you don't have to go," she told him as they walked down the
      hall.

      "I've never been to Daytona Beach." A pause. "Storm'll contact me if
      anything comes up. Where are we staying?"

      That startled her, and she stumbled in her heels, definitely a first, and
      instantly, a hand was below her elbow, gently supporting, and Jean looked
      at him for a minute before pulling away. One touch and she wasn't holding
      her shields very well and she picked up more than she'd expected--hell,
      more than she'd wanted to even think about.

      "It's not going to work, Scott."

      One touch was all it took and he grinned a little, hefting the bag back up
      with casual ease.

      "I have time." And he waited while she began to walk again, off-balance
      and uneasy from that smile, a smile she remembered from long ago. He'd
      been eighteen and they'd knelt on the floor of her room while she explored
      his mind with careful touches, the warm feel of his thoughts blending with
      hers. The first time he told her he loved her and she believed him,
      because even she couldn't believe that his mind could lie so well.

      "Scott, whatever you're thinking of doing, nothing is going to happen."

      He gave her a thoughtful look, nothing changing in his aura when she dared
      a look, and the confidence shook her. Scott was always confident, though,
      so it shouldn't surprise her. What surprised her was everything that
      seethed beneath.

      He was ready to forgive her, and she wasn't ready for that.

      "You'd be surprised how often I've heard that."

      * * * * *

      The diner was a cross between a truck station and a restaurant--the kind
      where the patrons were left utterly to their own devices. You could draw a
      circle on the floor and start a human sacrifice in the far corner and no
      one in the place would ever claim to have seen a thing. Just placidly
      drinking too-strong coffee and enjoy fatty eggs and bacon and wipe any
      splattered blood away with a convenient checkered napkin.

      So it was his sort of place. Fair enough.

      Rogue was curled up opposite him in the booth, looking a little less than
      her usual energetic self--he'd guess that her stomach was still doing
      cartwheels, and when the gum-snapping waitress stopped to take their
      orders, Rogue growled out coffee, black. Logan, still looking at the
      stained menu, absently asked for the same.

      "You'll feel better if you eat," he told her and got a glare for his
      troubles. She looked pale, now in the harsh light of halogen bulbs, and he
      studied her for a second. "What did you take last night? Before the
      alcohol?"

      "Nothin'," she answered sullenly, and curled her legs up against her chest.
      "Didn't have time between Remy an' you."

      "And the mission."

      "Yeah, there's that." She pulled off her glove, tapping idle rhythms on
      the table with long nails. "I wanna go back, Logan."

      "Walk," he answered pleasantly. Another glance, and Logan finally thought,
      just maybe, the reality of the situation was getting through to her.

      "How'd you swing Xavier into letting me leave?"

      "He's not your warden, darlin'. You could have left any time you damn well
      pleased."

      "And have you sent after me," she answered darkly, and picked up a fork,
      twisting it between her fingers restlessly. Logan couldn't help being a
      little fascinated--Rogue discomposed was so rare that he really had to get
      his kicks where he could. She was too used to being the manipulator.

      "Maybe I wouldn't have gone."

      Well, that was a lie, and a good one too, if her expression was anything to
      go by.

      "It's not like you have anything better to do with your time, sugar," Rogue
      shot back, dropping the fork with a noisy clang and almost overturning her
      water. "It was that or fuck your way across the continent, huh? How many
      people have you killed, anyway?"

      She was really trying, he had to give her that. Logan waited as the
      waitress put their coffee down and picked his up, taking a thoughtful
      drink.

      "One hundred and eight--that I remember." Her mouth dropped and he reached
      out to catch her water when her wrist hit it involuntarily. "To be
      perfectly fair, however, about a third of that since I joined up in Chuck's
      mission, therefore sort of accidental." He took another drink. "You're
      suddenly far too interested in my life, and I can count the times on one
      hand that you've shown any interest in my activities in the last three
      years. Wanna stop tryin' to bait me and maybe enjoy the fact that you
      *aren't* in the mansion?"

      "Why would I enjoy it? You kidnapped me."

      "You didn't fight too hard."

      She fell back into brooding silence, but he knew he'd shocked her--watching
      her face, he could see her trying to access his memories from the deepest
      parts of her mind, almost completely faded by now. Picking up her coffee
      cup absently, she took a drink, long bare fingers wrapped around the mug.

      "Why?"

      He smiled a little over the coffee.

      "Because maybe I don't wanna drag you outta a lake again."

      "I promised." Her voice was sulky.

      "Well, baby, your promises are worth less than the breath you use to make
      'em. You promised me fidelity and broke that pretty fucking quick, so
      don't be so surprised I don't believe it."

      Her eyes came up, startled, and he could almost see the machinations in her
      eyes, thinking she had something to work with now.

      "This is about your pride? I fuck other people and you gotta get all manly
      and possessive 'bout it?"

      "If I was possessive, darlin', the body count you just asked for would be
      considerably higher. And considerin' I haven't fucked you for awhile, get
      all your kicks wherever the hell you wanna get them."

      She growled softly, putting her coffee down on the checkered tablecloth
      hard enough to spill some over onto her gloves and excess pooled around the
      bottom.

      "Look who my role model is." She cocked her head, half-dried dark hair
      clinging to her throat. Logan looked at her--no make-up, her hair a mess,
      dressed in flannel and blue jean, bad posture, smoking another cigarette,
      and she still managed to look classy. Which was a lot more than could be
      said for him, truth be told, and it didn't bother him much. He was
      relatively content with who he was--Rogue switched personalities and habits
      so much she probably didn't know Marie from a hooker.

      "Nice to know." He took another drink of his coffee, glancing at the menu
      again. "You ready to hear the rules of this little road trip, baby?"

      Her head jerked around again, cigarette almost falling from her fingers.

      "Rules? You're kidding me."

      "Nope."

      A pause.

      "You can't tell me what to do."

      He glanced up at her, meeting her shocked eyes.

      "Actually, I can. And I am. One--"

      "You're fucking unbelievable!"

      "--no sex. Got it? No picking up in bars, no running out to cruise the
      streets, no hittin' on unsuspecting humans. I'm not fishin' you outta any
      more messes, you got it?"

      It was somewhat amusing to see her mouth gape open like that.

      "How the hell would you know what I've been doing?"

      "You sleep in my room, you get drunk, you usually end up telling me
      yourself, if one of your exes doesn't wander up at some point and feel free
      to tell me how you screwed him over. Which has happened, but not too many
      times." Not very often anymore--and *why* they hell did they do that
      anyway? What the fuck did they think he could do? He took another drink
      of coffee. "Trust me, Rogue, there's damned little I *don't* know about
      your life. Two--"

      "I don't have to--" She gathered herself and Logan reached out, catching
      her wrist and pinning it to the table. Tears filled her eyes, hastily
      wiped away, and she didn't try to pull away. After a second, her arm
      relaxed and he let her go.

      "Two--no drinking or drugs. Non-negotiable." She flicked her cigarette in
      defiance. "You can keep those though."

      "How ya gonna enforce this?" Almost mocking, but then, she wasn't
      stupid--she knew he had ways.

      "The old fashioned way." He grinned at her, throwing her again. "Watch
      you. And considerin' we're gonna be pretty far away from your usual idea
      of good company, it ain't gonna be that hard."

      She pushed her coffee aside--empty, he noticed--and resettled her feet
      beneath her.

      "Where we goin'?" she asked finally. "This is too planned, sugar--you
      been thinkin' about this."

      "Just a nice little roadtrip. Everyone likes to get away."

      "If you wanted to get away, sugar, you coulda gone alone, per your standard
      operating procedure." The waitress returned, standing patiently by the
      table. "Pancakes, more coffee," Rogue said sharply, tossing Logan the menu
      and turning away to look out the window.

      "The special," Logan said, and handed the woman both menus, waiting as she
      patiently wrote down their order. When the cups had been filled and the
      woman left, Logan pushed her cup toward her. "I like company once in
      awhile."

      "You don't like me."

      "True." Her eyes closed, and he wondered if that possibly could have hurt
      her. "But again, I get along better with you than Cyke, so if you had a
      choice, who would you choose?"

      That brought the slightest trace of an unwilling smile, and she turned
      back, picking up her coffee. Composure still ruffled, she watched him as
      if she didn't know what to expect, but that was fine, he was going for that
      anyway. With a finger, she pressed her hair back from her face and stared
      down at the table.

      "You take requests?"

      He tilted his head a little.

      "I'm open to suggestions."

      Absently, gloved fingers skated across the surface of the table, drawing
      lines in the coffee she'd spilled, before she lifted her head.

      "You told me when--when I could control it, you'd take me to Anchorage." A
      pause. "If I gotta be on this little jaunt, I'd like to go there. Just
      for remembrance, ya know?"

      Logan hid a smile behind his cup.

      "Darlin', you read my mind."

      * * * * * *

      "Jean?"

      First class on an airplane was deathly quiet--mid-week flights almost
      guaranteed that there were few other passengers, and Jean liked that.
      Enclosed spaces with a large number of people made her more jittery than
      she liked to admit--leftovers from days before her shields were good enough
      to block out excess mental noise. Those long days in the Congress chambers
      had probably been less stressful in their actual content than in the fact
      she was the definition of trapped, and one slip meant she got information
      overload in terms of hate and fear. Two slips--and that little public
      plunge into telekinesis, damn it--had taught her that this would *not* be
      her chosen life's work if she could help it.

      How unfortunate, that she was a poster-child now for the good mutant, the
      nice mutant, the mutant that could pass. That this would probably be her
      life's work. Shit.

      "Jean, you okay?"

      Glancing at Scott, she saw his worry. Probably remembering her long days
      in Congressional chambers too.

      "Fine." Off the airplane, in a quiet room where she could center herself,
      and why the hell did he have to choose now to start rethinking his position
      on her infidelity? She'd needed this quiet, wanted it, just the chance to
      be legitimately away on business. She wasn't Logan, she couldn't take off
      whenever she felt like it. She had responsibilities, so when a
      responsibility just happened to combine with personal preference, it was a
      small miracle. Or maybe a big miracle--she marked her life with these
      little jaunts, and her last one Scott had come with her on and they'd
      shared a room in Memphis.

      "You sure? Do you want me to get you anything?"

      She'd like for him to switch seats and leave her alone. She wanted to tell
      him she didn't want him here, that he should have sent Bobby instead and
      sat around doing whatever he did with his free time these days--apparently
      a smoking habit, maybe he combined it with designing new vehicles. He and
      Logan tentatively bonded over engines regularly--she'd sometimes wondered,
      watching them from a window of the Mansion, if either one could ever feel
      comfortable again hating each other. They hadn't been able to yet--and the
      disturbing cordiality was probably something else that should have broken a
      long time ago. She figured, and knew she was accurate, that one argument
      would probably have led places that neither man wanted to go. Because
      while Logan had his vulnerable spots that Scott could hit with deadly
      accuracy, she also knew Logan was aware of every one of Scott's as
      well--and more, that Logan could and would use every one of them. All
      those spots were named Rogue, and the crimes would read like a litany of
      failure.

      And Scott Summers took failure badly.

      "No. I'm fine, Scott, thanks." Close your eyes, Jean. Breathe. In and
      out. Good. She levered her seat back, letting her book close in her lap,
      wishing she could take off her heels and stretch her toes a little--Italian
      leather or not, no heel ever created had ever been comfortable for her.
      Scott had asked her a long time ago why she wore them, and hadn't been
      surprised by the answer, though she thought other people might be.

      It was all about image.

      One hour into the flight and she was getting so tense that alcohol might
      end up being a real option.

      "I think we should talk," Scott said, and her eyes snapped open.

      God, she hadn't expected him to be that blunt. Reign it in, Jean. He
      means something else entirely. Scott Summers doesn't air his dirty laundry
      on a public plane.

      "I thought you looked at the itinerary," she answered, her voice even.
      Took a lot of control to do that, to keep her voice so steady, but Scott
      didn't seem to notice, and he would have before. Three years made the
      difference between intimacy and strangers who lived in the same house.

      "No, not that." A pause. "About you and I."

      Dirty laundry spread evenly over a public space and he wanted it all aired.
      This wasn't Scott-like at all--Logan must have had an effect on him.
      No--if anyone was more private that Scott, Logan would be it.

      "This isn't a good time."

      "It may be one of the few times you won't be able to find something else to
      do. You don't have to say anything, just sit back and listen to me."

      He made it sound simple, as if this was something she could watch on
      television that had no effect on her life other than short-term
      entertainment. Or as if she herself had no real choice--he'd made a
      decision and she was supposed to let him. Their relationship had had a lot
      of that, Scott Summers-specific autocracy, and that part of Fearless
      Leadership had translated very well into domestic life. Not that he ever
      thought of it that way--he was just Scott, who really did always know best.

      And damn, he was usually right.

      Something in her moved this time, though--not resentment, because she knew
      him too well, knew that he was rarely malicious. It was hard to hate
      someone for being true to their character. She'd tried that once and it
      hadn't worked out too well.

      "Jean?"

      "Scott--" but what the hell was she supposed to say? Don't talk to me,
      Scott, because whatever was between us is over for good. No. She'd never
      be able to say that and be truthful. I love you Scott, but I don't trust
      you anymore, and you don't trust me, so let's not even try. She couldn't
      burn bridges like that. She'd never been able to.

      I don't want you anymore. She could say that, but she couldn't be sure if
      that was a truth that would remain the truth for very long. She'd never
      really learned how to let go.

      "When--when we get to Daytona, we'll talk," she said finally, and turned
      her head. "You name the time, I'll be there. Just wait until then.
      Just--just until then."

      She need time, to build up something that could fight him, some logical
      reason that this wouldn't work, that whatever was in his head wasn't going
      to happen, period.

      A pause.

      "All right."

      And things had changed--Scott had backed down. Mostly. And for some
      reason, that scared her. He might not just be ready to forgive and forget,
      and might not just want to begin again in hopes of rebuilding their
      relationship from the ground up by burning away all the foundation of the
      original, like normal, logical people did. Which she couldn't even say
      wouldn't happen, given time, given space, given patience, given effort.

      There was a truly frightening chance that Scott Summers wanted to start
      exactly where they left off, and her left third finger began to burn with
      the memory of that ring.

      Scott never did anything halfway. She should have remembered that before
      getting on this plane.

      * * * * *

      "When are we stopping?"

      "Not until we get into Alberta," he told her. Rogue was quiet, her jacket
      pulled securely to her shoulders, staring quietly at the changing
      landscapes. Which vaguely surprised him. Shouldn't have, but it did.

      "How far are we from Laughlin?" she asked, and he turned to look at her,
      but there was nothing written on her face but simple curiosity. Nothing he
      could read, anyway.

      "We'd have to go farther north. I wasn't planning on that originally."

      "Okay." Quiet for a moment. "When you were gone that first year, me and a
      few of the kids got together and drove into Niagara Falls. Scooter threw a
      fit, of course--Professor had to get in Cerebro and send the grown-ups
      after us, and we were all sitting on the rocks watching the water. Ororo
      came to get us, like runaways or something, like we'd done something wrong.
      And I understood her fear--who we were and all that, and how dangerous it
      was for us to be wandering around until we could control our powers better.
      But--it felt good, to pull a stupid prank like that and make a run for it.
      Just to act like kids and not secret weapons."

      "What did you do before Ororo got up there?"

      Rogue grinned a little, curling herself in her seat.

      "Bobby froze water vapor and made little ice roses for me and Kitty. Jubes
      set off fireworks. Johnny and the others took turns playing chicken--we
      had a kid who was a low-level kinetic, so we weren't afraid of falling. Or
      maybe we just didn't care--we were all eighteen and we just wanted to act
      like it, you know? Pull stupid shit like that. We got a long lecture from
      Xavier and Scooter before we were grounded, to remind us that we were
      future X-men and we had responsibilities, that we couldn't just take off
      whenever we felt like it." A smile turned up her mouth. "Unless we were
      Logan, of course, who got to be an independent agent and play between
      episodes of saving the known world." Her gaze slid to him for a moment,
      thoughtful. "If you'd been with us, they would have let us stay."

      "If I'd been with you, I'd have kicked your asses for choosing such a
      fucking boring spot for a field trip."

      Rogue smiled suddenly, a real smile.

      "Yeah, that's what I told them too. But none of us were legal enough to
      get into some low-class Ontario bars for a good fight. Trust me, we did
      try." She straightened, jacket falling into her lap. "I wanted to see the
      world, before, you know? I didn't think it was too much to ask that I get
      to see a waterfall once in awhile. Afterward, I went a lot, but alone.
      Everyone would cover for me, and I sat up there and thought about running
      again. But not letting myself be caught."

      "You weren't exactly in great shape when I found you, kid."

      "Yeah." She mulled that. "I like eating regularly. Bad habit, I guess."

      Absently, she began to pull off her gloves, and Logan watched her stretch
      her fingers idly, looking at her nails. "Why do you even bother staying
      around anyway? Is it that much fun, to have Scooter baiting you about
      Jeanie and me?"

      He knew he stiffened--he'd gotten too comfortable with her, always a
      mistake, but before he could answer, he glanced at her face. There was
      nothing there except honest curiosity, the real thing.

      "It never occurred to you I wanted to?"

      "No. It never did." She looked away again, and he wanted to see her eyes,
      see what was in them. "It never--" Her hand clenched in her lap and he
      watched her bite her lip briefly before a tilt of her head curtained her
      face with a length of her hair. "I don't wanna talk about it."

      "Yeah, well, that makes two of us. But you know, the drive is long and
      boring."

      Her head came up.

      "You've never cared before."

      "Some things change, Marie. You really don't know me that well at all."

      The End


      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      www.geocities.com/seperis
      www.wolverineandrogue.com/seperis

      --She has all the passion and attraction of airplane noodles.--Nacey's
      opinion of Jean's wild side
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