AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION OF FATE: "And All the King's Men" (S/J + ensemble) 16b
- Continued directly from part 16a....
"Remember, Scott," Xavier said when they had reached the sub-basement
and stood outside the Danger Room door, "Jean has been here for a
week and a half, and her unique situation makes it impossible to
permit just anyone to see her. Even Henry has been in only three
times." Xavier paused, and Scott just frowned. He wasn't sure what
point the professor was trying to make, but it was clear from his
unhappy expression that he was trying to make one and his New England
reticence prevented him from elaborating on it clearly. Then he
punched in the key-code to open the first door and they waited for
the light to switch to ready and passed inside the short hallway
leading to the inner chamber. Scott glanced down at himself. He was
dressed in a plain t-shirt and jeans. The professor had warned him
not to wear any jewelry that Jean could energize, even a watch, or a
shirt with buttons, and he wore lace-less sandals on his feet. "She
is far from a passive victim," Xavier had warned.
The inner door slid aside and Scott looked in on a mini-hurricane.
There weren't that many items inside the room, but what wasn't nailed
down had been lifted into the air. She'd obviously heard them coming
and was backed into a corner, arms wrapped protectively around her
chest. Scott's jaw dropped. Though dressed in (clean) hospital
scrubs, it was clear she hadn't had a bath in some time and Scott
understood now to what Xavier had been alluding earlier. But it
wasn't just a failure in hygiene that shocked him. She'd yanked out
clumps of her hair, and her face and forearms had been scored by her
own nails. "Goddamn!" he muttered, and took three hurried steps
forward, but she shrank back, whimpering, and the flying objects spun
faster. He stopped cold. "Jean," he said softly, "I'm not going to
hurt you. Please put the stuff down. It's me. It's Scott. I'd
never hurt you. I'd never, ever let anything hurt you."
Some moments passed in silence as the plastic water bottle, comb,
toilet paper, and the pillow and blanket from the cot continued to
circle through the air. Even the cot itself remained raised, and the
little table, and the small portable toilet, but none of it
threatened him directly. Scott waited, not moving a muscle. He
could feel her mind brushing against his, dancing around him,
*tasting* him. It was the strangest sensation, utterly different
from when Xavier read his thoughts. Jean's touch was close,
intimate, almost erotic. He studied her across the distance and the
confused fragility he found in her expression made him sick. It was
Jean's face but not Jean, and both distraught and disheartened he
brought his most recent memories of her to the forefront of his mind
and *thrust* them at her. "Scott --" Xavier hissed in a whisper, and
perhaps his act had been the wrong thing to do, overly rash, but
Scott's heart was breaking.
She didn't react hostilely. Instead, the objects she'd raised
settled back into place and her head tilted sideways, as if curious.
Then her mind reached out and *grabbed* his. This wasn't a tasting.
This was a crushing embrace, pressing him *into* her -- then she slid
inside him, slicing, and he was vivisected. He might have screamed
but he'd lost touch with his physical self, and it wasn't pain of any
kind he was used to; it wasn't properly pain at all. He simply had
no words to describe such utter nakedness.
**JEAN! STOP IT!**
From her perspective, the Teacher had brought her a present. She'd
licked him all over, sampling his flavor, sharp and bright like
cinnamon and apples. She'd peered inside, finding a reflection that
had wavered like water when breathed on -- a redheaded girl, and
she'd wondered if she should know her? Curiosity had pulled her
closer, sliding around him and through, weaving her weft into his
warp. So many desires, dreams, angers, joys, all checked by a
bridled aggression, yet he didn't frighten her like most men. Or
perhaps she'd simply grown more daring in her curiosity. She pressed
He resisted. *Jean, stop it!* And she could feel his struggle
against a sense of terrible pressure.
She withdrew a little. She didn't want to break her
apples-and-cinnamon present. Instead of piercing him with her
shuttle, she stroked his thoughts, twining around him in an ivy
investigation, digging in with little probing roots, cracking the
concrete of his control. She moved towards him physically as well,
her eyes half-lidded and her fingers worming into his. His skin was
warm, like his memories, and she let her palms travel up to his
cheeks. His erection lay hard between them and she stroked it, too,
with mental fingers, squeezing in the right places, rubbing, using
his own body-knowledge to arouse him painfully within moments. His
muscles quivered and he rose up on his toes. "Jean! Quit!" He was
embarrassed, excited, confused and put off -- all at once.
*Who's this Jean?*, she asked. Voices were so awkward.
*If you want. I can be anyone you want. We'll play pretend.*
*I don't want 'anyone.' I don't want pretend; I want Jean -- you,
the you you used to be.*
*Show me who she was and I'll be her if you'll love me.*
*I loved you already. Look inside yourself and I'll show you who you
She twisted away; he reached for her but she slid out of his grasp.
*I don't want to look inside.*
*There's nothing in there.*
*Yes, there is. There's you.*
*Who am I? What's in a name? Who's Jean? I am who I choose to be,
or who others want me to be. That's all I was anyway.*
*How would you know?*
Scott's thoughts grew sly. *And how do you know? If you can claim
to know, Jean's still in there. And I love that Jean.*
*You never knew that Jean. You made up a fantasy in your mind.*
*No, I didn't.*
*Yes, you did.* And vicious in her anger, she vomited the distorted
images she'd taken from his own thoughts. *THAT was never Jean.*
But they were old images, mostly, and he replied, *I know.* And he
did know. He could recognize the distortions, and he could see the
truth. It flickered in front of him now, fragile but angry, and no
longer an echo of others' echoes, no longer the ash of others' fire.
She was fire of her own. *I love the real Jean.*
*You love a frightened, temperamental, egotistic hypocrite?*
*I love a woman who's curious and intelligent, gracious, and who
wants others to love her -- sometimes too much. If that's a fault,
it's one a lot of us share. I don't want a perfect woman. I just
want my Jean back.*
She felt around the edges of his mind for the cracks of falsehood but
found none. He meant it. *You could love that Jean?*
*I do love that Jean. I need a friend who screws up sometimes, so I
don't feel so stupid when I do. I need someone who'll forgive me,
and who sometimes needs to be forgiven. I need someone I can tell my
secrets to, and who won't laugh even when they're laughable. I need
someone to protect, and someone who'll protect me. I need someone
who won't always let me be right, but who doesn't always have to be
right, either. I need somebody who wants to fuck my brains out, and
who'll talk to me about philosophy afterwards.*
She was a bit startled by the last, and he felt her mental bubble of
laughter, but there was no room here for concealing a part of the
truth. Not his truth, and not hers, either. She was turned on by
the thought of fucking him. Not making love, nothing so controlled.
She wanted to fuck him; it ran deep in her, burning like magma, a
little wild. It belonged to her body, not her mind, and she'd never
been entirely comfortable with her body. Wasn't her gift all about
the psychic? Mind over matter and mental communication. She existed
in the realm of thought, but she had a body and she'd never been too
sure what to do with it. And in that, Xavier couldn't help her.
He'd never been sure what to do with his, either. Scott knew; Scott
wasn't afraid of his body even while he wasn't ruled by it. Maybe
she'd let him teach her.
But not just now. She was curious, but timid, inclined to circle
something and watch before committing herself, even while a more
primal part of her would have liked to leap in with both feet. But
that primal part had been forced into submission for too many years.
Scott sensed as much and didn't press. He could be a patient hunter,
and he'd woo her if that's what she wanted. Acquiescing to her other
curiosity -- about herself -- he let her use his recollections as an
entry point to sort through the swamp in her head, deciding which
memories were hers, and which couldn't be. She'd never been a
mother, or a hooker, or a secretary, or an athlete. She'd never
lived outside New York; she'd never been poor; she wasn't a minority.
Yet she gave up those parts of 'herself' reluctantly. They offered
views of the world from a new paradigm that fascinated her
scientist's curiosity, or sometimes moved her gut. She'd explored
the upstairs of many different houses, laughing and weeping and
aching right along with those who lived there.
He was harder, more detached, and he observed her struggle with both
protectiveness and horror. She'd seen things -- had as good as lived
through them -- that he'd have kept from her forever, if he could.
And then there were events he'd never thought to experience from the
inside himself -- the act of giving birth, of nursing, or of being on
the woman's end during sex. It was seductive in its insight, and he
recalled his long-ago conversation with Lee, about men and women and
gender curiosity. He also recalled Jean's remark that she didn't
have to wonder; she knew -- and he finally understood what she'd
meant. Women no longer seemed such a mystery to him, even while they
remained fundamentally Other, and if he'd ever received a gift he
hadn't asked for but valued more highly, he couldn't name it.
Her personal reconstruction was leading her further inside herself,
and her hold on his mind loosened until he could swim up to a clearer
consciousness of the room around them. At some point, they'd sat
down in the middle of the metal floor with Jean resting between his
knees, one of her shoulders propped against his chest and both his
arms around her body. It was intimate, but easy. He lifted a hand
to press her head into his shoulder and slipped fingers through her
greasy hair, lightly brushing the patches where she'd ripped it out
by the roots. She needed a bath. Between shock and her
appropriation of his awareness, he hadn't registered it before, but
her body odor pressed on him now. This was rather different than the
subtle scent of her on his sheets. Women had a smell as strong in
its own way as a man's, heavy with musk and sharply sour, and he
hated it that he noticed, but olfactory senses were primal and
difficult to disregard. He listened to her breathe and felt her mind
shift in his, but lightly. He was her center, her stabilization, her
Xavier was no longer in the room and he wondered where the professor
had gone, and for how long he'd watched before departing. For that
matter, he wondered how long they'd been in there. Hours,
apparently. His bladder was demanding to be emptied. He ignored it
and waited until he simply couldn't wait any more. Whatever the mind
did, the body continued to function and he'd had three cups of coffee
that morning. He didn't, though, need to be touching Jean to remain
present for her telepathically, so he unwound himself from her
embrace and stood up. His joints popped. She didn't remain sitting
but slumped over to the floor, apparently unaware. He made his way
to the plastic portable toilet, white and antiseptic, and raised the
lid, unzipping. Jean was too out of it to see. But as he relieved
himself, he became aware that she was *observing* -- mentally -- and
it startled him so much, the stream of yellow stopped for a moment.
Yet wasn't this simply the reverse of his own curiosity about women
earlier? How *did* his body feel to her?
*Not so different,* she sent, amused. *It's the same physical
function, after all. Finish please; it's my turn next.*
He glanced over his shoulder to see her sitting up now, her arms
wrapped around her drawn up knees. Her eyes were open, but her head
was turned politely away, a small smile playing across her face. It
was a silly gesture, considering, but it was evidence of her manners.
He finished and zipped up, crossing to kneel beside her and run a
thumb down her cheek. She still appeared frail, and slightly
cloudy-headed, and he knew the process was far from resolved, but
this was *her* sweet face, animated by *her* thoughts. "Welcome
back," he said softly, then helped her to stand, waiting politely
with his own back turned while she made use of the toilet. He could
still feel the touch of her mind, but only as mental fingers on skin
overlaying the lineament of his thoughts.
"I need a shower," she said, her voice hoarse. He politely refrained
from comment, but she could sense his silent agreement anyway and
shook her head, amused. "You don't have to be coy, Scott. I stink."
"Do you want me to go get some things from your room for you?
Clothes, I mean."
"That would be kind, yes, but I'm not sure I can safely leave *to*
"Not even in the locker room next door?" he asked.
"I don't know. I'm not sure how shielded the sub-basement is."
"I'll find the professor and ask." But when he saw faint alarm cross
her features, he added, "Is that okay?"
"I, um -- I guess so."
"I won't leave if you don't want me to."
Her eyes crinkled with an amusement that was mostly self-directed.
"I'm all right, Scott. You're just very . . . solid, to lean
"I'll be back as soon as I can."
Her smile widened at his earnestness. "I know you will. Go on."
When Scott had delivered his news to an astonished Xavier, he hurried
upstairs to Jean's room to fetch her clothing. Passing the antique
grandfather clock in the second-floor hallway, he noted that the
hands read almost two in the afternoon and he understood then why he
was famished. Reaching Jean's room, he slipped inside and glanced
around. He wasn't sure what she might want and decided to assemble a
small collection, letting her choose for herself. A small bag sat on
the bottom of her closet for her nights on call; he grabbed that to
pack jeans and khakis, loose, comfortable shirts, socks, and
moccasins. She'd been barefoot when he'd seen her, but the
sub-basement could be frigid. Once he had three-days-worth of
clothes, he collected underwear. That made him blush, even alone in
her room. God knew he'd fantasized about Jean's underwear often
enough, but had never expected to get his hands on it (if not
necessarily in it). He was surprised and a bit disappointed to find
the drawer contained mostly sensible cotton rather than fashionable
nylon and lace, and then was amused at himself for his reaction.
Nonetheless, a few sexy pieces were stashed in the back, and he
couldn't resist fingering the silky fabric. "Fetish, Summers?" he
muttered but didn't dare put those in her suitcase, selecting cotton
instead, then he studied the bras. There weren't nearly so many of
those, and he wondered -- did a woman not change her bra every day,
or did Jean just have fewer of them? Befuddled, he finally packed
three anyway, just in case.
Next came toiletries and makeup; Jean was testy about the latter.
He'd never seen her without makeup even before her visit, and during
it, she'd refused to come out after a shower before her "face" was
on. He'd thought that silly, but after being inside her head, he had
a better appreciation for her deeply rooted fear that no one could
like the 'real' Jean. And what on earth had caused that, he
There were a lot of things he wondered, but now wasn't the time to
dwell on them; it was easier to focus on smaller matters. He
In the sub-basement below, Xavier faced a Jean solitary for the first
time in two weeks. He was pleased, and astounded, but also deeply
disturbed by what had occurred between her and Scott. He'd hoped
that bringing Scott along would encourage and accelerate her
recovery, but he'd never dreamed she'd regain her senses (however
tenuously) so fast. This, however, pleased him. What troubled him
was the increasing depth of Jean's attachment to the boy. He'd known
for some time that their "friendship" had crossed any traditional
boundaries, and he'd offered what he'd hoped were sufficient
admonitions to keep it in check, but apparently, not admonitions
enough. Jean had *bonded* to Scott, created a permanent psychic link
-- though he wondered if even she realized that yet. In any case, he
couldn�t but see it as a development mal � propos.
"It'll be safe for me to come out?" she asked now when he entered the
"For this, quite safe. I can shield you." A shower would do her a
world of good, and he escorted her from the room, guarded by the
bulwark of his own mind. "Scott has gone to fetch you some
clothing," he said.
"I know," she replied, smiling softly. It was the secret smile of a
woman in love, and he sighed.
"Jean -- please recall what I said to you on the phone about Scott
when you were in California. None of that has changed in the past
month. Scott is twenty-two. You are thirty. That is a generational
gap, and I fear that the emotional needs driving the two of you
together are not entirely healthy."
He felt both her shame and her resistance flare powerfully, but she
didn't reply, merely turned away with thinned lips to enter the
showers. In fact, she wasn't at all sure what to think. On the one
hand, playing by social convention hadn't made her parents' marriage
happy. She was convinced that her father had taken the chairship of
the Bard history department as an excuse to spend as little time at
home with her mother as possible.
And yet, and yet, and yet . . . she was loathe to defy the professor.
Moreover, he was right. She knew there was an age gap, and if Scott
might no longer be a boy, he hadn't so long been a man, either. She
saw elements of the boy in him still and thought that perhaps they
should wait. If this thing between them was real, it would still be
there in a couple years.
Concluded directly in part 16c....
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