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AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE: "Saving Cats" 10b (S/J + ensemble, prefilm)

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  • Minisinoo
    Continued directly from 10a.... ... To Doctor Jean Grey! Warren shouted, raising a glass of 18-year scotch. Jean blushed. I m not a doctor, yet, War. Not
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 3, 2002
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      Continued directly from 10a....
      -------

      "To Doctor Jean Grey!" Warren shouted, raising a glass of 18-year
      scotch.

      Jean blushed. "I'm not a doctor, yet, War. Not till I actually
      graduate. And I've got thirteen months of internship rotation hell
      to live through first."

      "Don't argue with us, woman," Ted said, grinning at her from the seat
      beside hers and nudging her fondly. "Shut up and drink your liquor."

      Smiling, she did as he ordered, and Warren poured her another. She'd
      been smiling since she'd been walked through the door, in fact, Ted's
      hands over her eyes as he'd guided her from behind to keep her from
      tripping. It was a small, exclusive Members-Only lounge not far from
      Warren's family penthouse, the sort of place that didn't card because
      anyone entering was either already well known there, or the guest of
      a member. The bar was to the immediate left behind highly polished
      wood and overhung with every size and shape of glass imaginable, and
      the room's decor included impressionistic paintings and plush seats
      in muted blues and maroons. In the back were two larger tables that
      Warren had reserved to throw Jean a party. Even underage Ororo and
      Frank were there, and little Bobby, having arrived with Warren and
      the professor to hang streamers and set up the cake. Angel Food.
      Warren's little joke. "Heaven after hell." ** Congratulations, Dr.
      Grey ** had been written across the top.

      What they would have done, had Jean failed to pass, no one had even
      discussed. But Hank did phone them immediately after, to inform them
      that all had gone well and Ted would be arriving with Jean shortly.
      Bruce Banner, Hank and Phil Lacey arrived by another car. No one had
      invited McMasters.

      The party was both a celebration, and a bit of not-so-subtle
      strategy. They'd plotted to take Jean out, get her good and drunk,
      drive her home afterward, put her to bed and let her sleep off months
      of pent-up anxiety. But first there was cake to eat and toasts to
      make, and an extra surprise all the way from California.

      Ororo was cutting cake. They'd forgotten to bring plastic forks, and
      tipsy from the scotch, Jean had started in on the cake with her
      fingers before Bobby could get back from the bar with utensils.
      Icing smeared her mouth and Warren snapped a picture while Frank set
      up a mini-TV with an internal VCR on a table end. he said, "Please
      direct your attentions to the silver screen . . ." Turning on the
      TV, he popped in a video.

      It was black at first, then there commenced several seconds of camera
      shaking before the picture stabilized to show a lighted bar stage --
      but a very different kind of bar from the one they currently
      inhabited. This had a barely raised platform covered in cheap green
      Astroturf, brick walls behind, and a black-painted ceiling with
      playing cards stuck to it in random patterns. Scott and EJ's band
      had set up on the stage, Scott at the center and pacing around as he
      was wont to do. He'd finally splurged on a headphone unit so he
      wasn't trapped in one place, as he couldn't both play and hold a mic
      at once. That night, he was dressed all in white: white pants,
      white tanktop, white fedora on his head. "Mr. Snazzy," Ororo said,
      and Jean grinned.

      "And now," he began in his best announcer voice. "I want to make a
      long-distance dedication. Think Casey Kasem here. Awaaaay off, in
      freezing cold New York, a good friend of mine is defending her
      dissertation in a week."

      Jean put a hand over her face, shocked and embarrassed and
      pinkly-pleased all at once. This was obviously a real concert -- he
      was sweating from the lights and the effort of previous performance
      -- and he was talking to a live audience, a bunch of total stranger .
      . . about her.

      "Now," Scott said, "she thinks she's going to blow it. But I know
      she's not. What d'you think?"

      Drunk and cheerful, the Berkeley audience was happy to roar and clap
      for someone they didn't know, and around the table in the Fifth
      Avenue lounge, there was laugher and a few good-natured shoves at
      Jean.

      "Anyway, this next song is for her. 'Closer to Fine.' EJ's gonna
      help me out on vocals and we'll be the Indigo Boys."

      "I'm trying to tell you something about my life
      Maybe give me insight between black and white.
      The best thing you've ever done for me
      Is to help me take my life less seriously, it's only life after all.

      "Well, darkness has a hunger that's insatiable,
      And lightness has a call that's hard to hear.
      I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
      I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it; I'm crawling on your
      shore.

      "I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains,
      I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain.
      There's more than one answer to these questions, pointing me in a
      crooked line.
      The less I seek my source for some definitive the closer I am to fine
      ...."

      Tipsy and already prone to emotional display after having swung
      between too many extremes of late, Jean was sniffling and grinning at
      once.

      "I went to see the doctor of philosophy
      With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee.
      He never did marry, or see a B-grade movie.
      He graded my performance, he said he could see through me.
      I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper and I
      was free..."

      When the song was done, Scott whispered, "I know you did fine, Jean."
      Then the video went to blue. Frank popped it out and passed it down
      to her, and wiping her eyes, she hugged it to her chest a moment
      before slipping it into her purse. She noticed neither the glance
      that Frank exchanged with Ororo, nor the frown on Ted Robert's face.
      If Ted had feared nothing from a then-nineteen-year-old boy when he'd
      first begun dating Jean, in the past year of their liaison, he'd
      heard entirely too much about Scott Summers to be sanguine, and was
      jealous of the special bond that Jean seemed to share with the
      younger man.

      "I thought he had a girlfriend," he muttered now beneath his breath.
      "Doesn't she care that he's singing songs to another woman?"

      Jean glanced at him. "I don't think Clarice is that petty." The
      comment was pointed. "Besides, she's EJ's sister."

      "You mean the guy he was singing with -- "

      "Yes." Jean's eyes held his, daring him to comment on the color
      difference. He didn't. He just took a sip of scotch. She ought to
      know him better than to think he'd be racist just because he was from
      the South, and it depressed him that, after a year, she still would
      make that assumption. Couldn't he be surprised by the uncommon
      without it mattering beyond that?

      Warren fed Jean five more shots of scotch, and by the time she left,
      she was giggling like a schoolgirl, her hair down and curled about
      her flushed face. Ted half-carried her to his car and put her in the
      passenger seat, buckling her seatbelt and debating with himself. The
      original plan had been to take her back to the mansion, but God knew,
      he hadn't seen much of her since before Christmas. He didn't resent
      that; next year, it would be him. But he'd missed her all the same,
      and he'd begun to ask himself some uncomfortable questions, too,
      about where this relationship was headed. Walking around the car
      front, he got behind the wheel and put his keys in the ignition.
      "Honey, let's go back to my place. Just for tonight."

      At that, she sat up and blinked dimly, wiping hair out of her face.
      "Ted, I don't know. I'm so tired."

      Bending across the space between them, he kissed her. They'd parked
      in a little garage not far from the lounge, and there was no one else
      around to see. She accepted the kiss more than participated, and he
      pulled back. "What is it?"

      "Nothing." But she couldn't look him in the eye. She was staring
      out her window.

      "Jean -- "

      "Ted, don't. I'm tired. And pretty damn drunk." Her inebriated
      giggling had been replaced by a doe-eyed sadness made slightly vague
      from alcohol. "Too drunk for sex. Please take me home."

      Clenching his jaw, he gripped the steering wheel and stared at it.
      He himself felt stone cold sober. He'd had one shot to toast her,
      but mindful of the fact that he had to drive her home, he'd passed on
      anything else. "We don't have to do anything tonight," he said
      softly, needing some kind of resolution, and he was still smarting a
      bit -- though he disliked admitting it -- over her reaction to that
      video. "I just want to wake up next to you. We haven't done that in
      months . . . "

      "I know." But that was all she said.

      "And?" He was starting to get angry.

      "I just don't want to, Ted. I want to go home and sleep."

      "You could sleep at my place as long as you want. I wouldn't wake
      you."

      "I don't have a change of clothes."

      "You could borrow something from me -- a sweatshirt and pants."

      "*Goddammit!*" she yelled suddenly, taking him entirely by surprise.
      "You always have to *push*, don't you? You always fucking *push*.
      You can't take 'no' for an answer! You want the truth? All right --
      I don't want to go back to your place. I don't want to sleep with
      you. I don't want to wake up next to you. And I fucking do not want
      to fuck you! Are we clear?"

      Then immediately horrified by what she'd just said, she slapped a
      hand over her mouth, staring at him in surprise as he tried to shut
      his gaping mouth. Turning, she jerked at her door handle and
      unbuckled her seatbelt at once. Getting the door open, she swung it
      into the side of the car parked beside theirs -- hard -- and stumbled
      out, falling to her knees on concrete. Her purse slid from her grip,
      skidding halfway beneath the other car. "What are you doing?" he
      asked, but his heart wasn't in it. His heart was shrinking in on
      itself, folding up like a flower at dusk.

      She was crying and fumbling awkwardly for her purse. "I'm sorry,"
      she said over and over. "I'm sorry. This wasn't how I meant to do
      it. It wasn't. I'm such a bitch. You've been nothing but kind to
      me, but I don't love you, Ted. I don't love you and I'm not going to
      love you and I'm a bitch to have kept you this long. I'm so sorry.
      I'm so, so sorry."

      It was a drunken ramble but the meaning was clear enough. She was
      breaking up with him. Intellectually, he recognized it, even while
      he couldn't quite feel it yet. She was doing enough crying for them
      both, but he thought it more for guilt than sorrow. "I'm too drunk,"
      she said, having retrieved her purse. "I guess I had to be drunk,
      though, to get it out. I don't know why I can't love you, Ted. I
      don't know if I can love anyone. It's all up in my brain. I think
      everything to death. I'm not a woman. I'm just a big, fat, walking
      *brain*." He'd rarely heard her sound so furious, but it wasn't
      directed at him. Sobbing now, she began to assault his car door,
      kicking it in fury. For someone who claimed not to feel, she was
      pitching an astonishing temper tantrum. "I hate it, I hate it, I
      hate it! I hate how I am!"

      Then she slammed the door and stalked off, weaving across the parking
      lot, and he didn't know what to do. Get out and follow the person
      who'd just stomped on his heart with her size-nine high-heeled shoe,
      or leave her to todder about a New York City parking garage, drunk
      and alone? Even on Fifth Avenue, that wasn't safe. Reaching into
      his suit jacket, he pulled out his cell phone and exited the car,
      calling Hank even as he followed her across the lot, not trying to
      catch up to her, just keeping an eye out. He told Hank where they
      were, and asked if he had room in his car to come get her. When Hank
      asked what had happened, Ted replied, "I don't want to talk about it.
      Just come get her before she gets herself mugged."

      She finally came to a halt against a concrete piling and sat down on
      the dusty floor. He stood at a distance and watched, frozen cold
      inside. She didn't look beautiful or classy now. She looked like
      what she was -- a crying drunk, pale skin splotchy, hair a mess, her
      makeup smeared. Rather pathetic, really. He knew that thought was
      cruel, but couldn't help it. She'd sliced him deeply, and like a
      fresh cut from any sharp blade, he didn't feel it yet, but knew that
      when he did, it would ache like hell.

      Hank mustn't have driven far, as he arrived back at the garage less
      than ten minutes after Ted had phoned. Pulling up beside Jean, he
      and Bruce Banner got out to lift her off the concrete and put her in
      the back seat. Hank glanced once at Ted, but seeing Jean taken care
      of, Ted had turned on his heel. Without acknowledgment, he walked
      back to his car.

      Jean sobbed all the way back to Columbia, where Hank let out Bruce.
      Phil Lacey had returned in another vehicle, and Jean was grateful
      that he wasn't present to see the self-destruction of the grad
      student whose dissertation he'd just passed. Banner leaned in to
      peer at her where she was stretched out across the rear seat. "Jean
      -- ?"

      "I'll be okay. It's not me you should worry about." She couldn't
      look at him.

      "I'll take care of her," she heard Hank say, and then the slam of the
      door, and the car was moving again. Silence reigned for a few
      minutes, but Jean knew Hank could never leave it alone. "You want to
      talk about it?"

      "No."

      "I take it you broke up with Ted?"

      "Yes."

      Silence for a good dozen streets. "Was it planned? I mean, to break
      up with him tonight?"

      Furious again, but more at herself than at him, she pushed herself
      up. "No, Hank! It was not planned for me to break up with the guy
      who's been as patient as Job while I finished this goddamn
      dissertation, on the very night that I defended it! But that's what
      everyone will see and think, isn't it? Jean the bitch! Jean the
      user!" She sank back against the seat. "Maybe they're right. Scott
      was right. I should have broken up with him back in January."

      Politely, Hank refrained from agreeing. There was no use in shutting
      the barn door once the cows had escaped. "So how did it happen?"

      "He wanted me to go back to his place. I didn't want to, and I'm
      just . . . too far gone tonight to pretend. I was afraid I'd say
      something that gave me away." Then she began to laugh. "And I did,
      didn't I? But God, he just kept pushing and pushing, and I got angry
      because he wouldn't leave it alone. He said that he only wanted to
      wake up next to me but I know he'd want more than that, and -- " She
      stopped abruptly, not wanting to discuss her sex life -- or lack of
      sex life -- with Henry McCoy. She and Ted had, eventually, gotten
      past fumbling under clothes in back rooms, but their sex had never
      been good. At least not for her. She'd always found foreplay more
      satisfying than sex, and had looked for as many excuses as possible
      to bring Ted to climax early. When that had failed, she'd gritted
      her teeth and thought of England, or at least of how nice he was to
      her, and how very, very different he was from the men she'd known at
      Vanderbilt.

      "What's wrong with me," she asked Hank now, her voice small and quiet
      and slurred, "that I couldn't love him? He was never unkind. I
      enjoyed being with him, mostly. Especially at first."

      Henry McCoy was silent a long while as he considered that. Now that
      she was no longer with Ted Roberts, he could be more gracious. "Love
      isn't something you can make happen, Jean. Or shut off, either.
      Sometimes it's there, sometimes not, but it doesn't necessarily make
      sense. You cared about him."

      She nodded. "Yes, I cared about him, but I let it get out of hand.
      Because I was a coward. It's funny. You wind up hurting someone by
      trying not to hurt them. I did the same thing to Scott."

      He looked in the rearview mirror at her. They were passing Trinity
      Cemetery with its great oaks and elms and neatly trimmed walkways, a
      green jewel set amid concrete and steel. "Scott recovered," Hank
      said. "He has a girlfriend, and it seems serious. Ted will recover,
      too."

      "Scott was nineteen, Hank -- too young for me, and he knew it. I
      never encouraged him, much less dated him. Ted's a little older, and
      I went out with him for a year."

      "Did you give him any promises?"

      "No. Never." She hadn't even said the L-word, but she wondered what
      was wrong with her, that she couldn't love a good man who loved her.
      Was she the Tinwoman? "I still hurt them both." Hank didn't reply
      to that.





      Done with her dissertation and lab research, there was no cause for
      Jean to see Ted Roberts, and ashamed, she avoided him. Once, she
      plucked up courage enough to call him when she knew he'd be out,
      leaving a message on his answering machine to apologize in circular
      sentences full of discursive phrases, for how it had ended. "I know
      it sounds like a bad line," she finished, "but you deserve better
      than me, Ted. You deserve someone who's not emotionally crippled."
      And she hung up. Maybe he'd listen to it, or maybe he'd erase it at
      the first sound of her voice, but at least she'd done something.

      Thus marginally eased in conscience, she embarked on the final stage
      of her student career before graduation and residency -- her
      thirteen-month clinical rotations. Only one week into them, Frank
      phoned her from the mansion to say that Scott's girl had broken up
      with him. Still smarting from her own newly defunct relationship,
      she called California as soon as she could get a break in her daily
      schedule.

      "Hey, Boy-o," she said when he answered. "I heard what happened with
      Clarice. You okay?"

      "I guess. As okay as can be expected. I'm not thinking about
      slitting my wrists or anything, if that's what you mean."

      "Well, I should hope not!"

      Then she winced. She shouldn't make light of it, even if he was
      trying to. He'd been devoted to this girl. Warren had said, "When
      we were at the mall before Christmas, he was looking at rings in
      jewelry-store windows." It didn't get much more serious than that.

      Now, she said softly into the phone, "Can I do anything?" And she
      listened to his breath sigh out, then hitch once, twice. He was
      *crying*. "Oh, Scott . . ."

      "Sorry, I didn't mean -- "

      "Don't be." And a sudden rush of anger replaced her discomfort.
      "She is . . . incredibly stupid . . . for letting you go."

      "Jean, please. Don't be mad at Clarice. It hurts like hell, but the
      breakup was pretty much mutual. It wasn't working and we both knew
      it. I just didn't want to see it."

      "What wasn't working about it? Do you want to talk?"

      She could hear him draw in breath as if to refuse automatically, then
      he paused and finally said, "It wasn't that we didn't love each
      other. But what she wants to do with her life, what she *needs* to
      do, and what I need, don't mesh well. And it was getting too intense
      to keep going like it was. Sometimes you date someone because you
      enjoy her company, but you know it won't ever be more than that. But
      sometimes, you think it might be the real thing. I thought this
      might be the real thing." His voice trembled and he paused, then
      said, "Shit. I've been like this since Friday. I've gotta get a
      grip. I can't study, I can't concentrate on class or papers. I'm a
      mess. She's no better."

      "You're talking to her?" Jean was astonished.

      "A little. Like I said, it hurts like hell, but we both knew it was
      coming."

      "Scott, you told me once that you were just a guy, not a gentleman,
      and couldn't always control how you felt -- and sometimes you felt
      angry. That was honest. I confess, it hurt at the time, but I
      understood. Now I hear you playing the gentleman again."

      "*Stop it!*" he snapped. "Just stop, dammit. Don't psychoanalyze
      me." She could hear him breathing, then he said, "Look, I'm trying
      incredibly hard not to hate her. It would be so easy. And it'd be
      wrong. Right now, I need to be a gentleman, okay? Just to keep my
      head together and to keep from acting like an asshole. We're still
      in love with each other, but it's not going to work. Sometimes it
      doesn't. And that just . . . really, really hurts. It hurts so bad
      . . ." He stopped again because he'd lost his voice. "She's
      hurting, too," he whispered finally. "When we broke up . . . when
      she left the apartment after . . . she was crying so hard she almost
      fell down the goddamn stairs. I had to call DeeDee to come get her,
      to drive her home. That was Friday, this is Monday, and Dee told me
      she didn't even get to class today. At least I made it to class.
      She's not the bitch here, okay? She's just the one who actually had
      the guts to sing us Taps."

      And Jean had no idea how to respond to that. Her feelings for Ted
      had never come close to this magnitude of intensity, and she was
      struck by the enormous difference between how Scott was reacting to
      losing Clarice, and how he'd reacted a year before, to her dating
      Ted. He didn't sound like a boy anymore, or like a mockery of a
      gentleman. He sounded like a man who was in pain, yet who'd grown up
      enough to realize that someone else was hurting, too.

      "I'm sorry," she said, again. "You're right. It's easy to blame.
      It's just that you're my friend and I've never met Clarice, and when
      I know you're hurting this badly, it makes me want to go after the
      person who did it to you."

      That got a little laugh, and a "Thanks" amid covert sniffles.

      "Speaking of people caught in the middle," she said, "How's EJ. How
      is this affecting you two?"

      "We're okay. He's seen the whole thing go down, and he and DeeDee
      have sorta been running interference, and Lee, too, for that matter.
      Clarice and Lee got to be friends. Like I said, we're not mad at
      each other, Clarie and I. I want to know how she is, and the
      reverse, even if we're not ready to see each other yet. We'll all
      live through it, I think. It'll just take time. It's probably good
      the summer is coming, so we can be away from each other a little. I
      think we'll be okay by fall. We can be friends again."

      "Are you sure that's going to work? That you can be friends?"

      "I don't know, but we'll try. We've got too many people in common,
      and hey, it worked with you and me, didn't it? Not that we were
      dating, but �- "

      "Scott, that's just it. We weren't dating. How are you going to
      deal with it, when she starts seeing someone else? Or how will she
      feel when you do?"

      "I don't know." The words were sharp. "We'll cross that bridge when
      we come to it. I'm not even up to *thinking* about dating, and
      neither is she." He sighed. "Sorry, I didn't mean to snap."

      "It's all right. I just don't want to see you play the martyr, or
      suppress what you're feeling because you think you ought to. You
      were right, to tell me you were angry a year ago."

      He laughed at that. "I've got to suppress some of it, just so I can
      function. I don't have time to fall apart. It's the end of the
      semester and we've both got these terrible course loads. I'm
      managing, but I'm more worried about her, right now."

      "Okay." She paused, racking her brain, but couldn't think of more to
      say. She wished she could be there with him, just to sit with him as
      the professor had sat with her before her defense, but he was
      three-thousand miles away, not downstairs, and even if Warren could
      fly her out there, taking a day or two off right now just wasn't
      feasible. She'd consigned herself to the fact that she'd eat, sleep
      and breathe the hospital for the next year, and could forget about a
      social life of any kind. Even now, she was due back in orthopedics
      in ten minutes. He didn't sound as if he were falling apart, so she
      said, "Listen, I have to go, but you call me if you need me -- even
      if you just need to talk to someone who isn't in the middle out
      there, and who won't have to pick a side. I'm already on a side.
      Yours."

      "Okay. Thanks." She could almost hear the smile in his voice. Even
      if he didn't want to speak against Clarice, she was sure that it
      helped him to know that he had a friend who wouldn't be emotionally
      torn if he wanted to gripe.

      She hung up then and dumped the paper left on her tray into the trash
      bin before heading back to the ward. In the hallways, she brushed by
      people without quite seeing them -- visitors, medical personnel,
      secretaries, support staff. In the elevator, she crossed her arms
      and leaned up against the steel wall, handrail pressing hard into the
      small of her back. She was getting angry again, just thinking about
      it -- how dare Clarice Haight break up with Scott?

      Then she shook her head at herself. She could hardly question the
      girl. She'd turned Scott down herself. But that had been different.
      He was eight years younger than she, yet she wondered what might
      have happened if he hadn't been? The question haunted her for the
      rest of the day.

      ----

      Continued directly in Part 10c.....



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