"Hey, Jean, you waiting for your nanny?" Layla Parker yelled at the girl
sitting on the curb.
The eleven-year-old red head tore her eyes away from the line of ants
she had been watching so carefully. She looked up at Layla and her group of
girls. They were laughing at her again. Jean rested her head in her hands
and went back to watching the ants. Storm had told her to ignore girls like
that. But Logan had told her not to take any crap from people. She had
tried Logan's approach and ended up suspended for giving a girl a black
eye. Now she would try Storm's method.
But it was only Monday and already Jean was wishing it were Friday.
Mondays are the worst, she thought with a frown. Mondays mean a whole week
of school and a whole week of teasing.
Layla kicked a rock at her. It struck Jean's thigh and rested there.
Jean winced but pretended not to care. She knew Layla. Eventually the girl
would get bored, put in one
last insult and just walk away. Tears slipped across Jean's cheeks. She
tried to wipe them away quickly so that nobody would notice. But it was her
sudden movement that caught Layla's attention again.
"Oh, poor little orphan Annie is crying," Layla mimicked Jean
fiercely rubbing the tears from her face.
"Shut up, I'm not an orphan," Jean murmured.
"Then where are your parents?" Layla asked in a cold voice.
The girls giggled as Jean sat silently watching the ants.
"That's what I thought," Layla smiled.
"Jean's parents sent her away to live with that freaky wheelchair guy
in his big mansion," Chrissy explained to one of the new girls. "She lives
with him, some African woman and this really scary guy who rides a
"Why?" the new girl asked, "did they adopt her or something?"
"Yeah, Jean, what happened anyway? Why'd your parents finally decide
to get rid of you?"
Jean rose off the curb and slung her backpack over her shoulder. She
had only been out of her coma for a little less than a year and she still
didn't really feel comfortable around people, especially people her own
age. The professor had wanted her to wait a year before going back to
school, but her father had insisted that they enroll her immediately. John
Grey wanted his mutant daughter to grow up as normal as possible.
She dusted off her charcoal gray pleated skirt and pulled up one of
her white knee socks that had fallen down around her ankle. She sighed and
scuffed her shoe against the cement sidewalk. "Don't know," she replied
softly. On some level this was true. She really wanted to be at the
institute, but at the same time she was surprised and a little saddened at
how quickly and easily her parents had signed over custody to the
"Well I know," Layla said with a sly grin, "they don't want to have a
freak for a daughter."
Jean almost laughed aloud. Layla had hit the nail on the head. It was
what the professor would call ironic. The girls at school had no idea what
she really was. To them she was just too tall, too smart, too awkward, too
different. Jean fantasized about letting lose with her TK and juggling the
girls in the air. But she could barley lift an apple let alone a person.
Sure she could send people flying by accident, she had done it to Logan a
few times, but moving things with control was a whole different matter
"I guess you're right," Jean complied as she turned her back to the
pack of girls and began to walk away. She didn't have to look over her
shoulder to know that Layla was boiling with rage. The worst thing you
could do to a girl like Layla was ignore her.
Ororro had taught her about Martin Luther King Jr., passive
resistance and the black civil rights movement. Although Ms. Monroe was
Kenyan, she nevertheless had a strong sense of America's history regarding
blacks. Ms. Monroe didn't like the term 'African American.' She said it
mistakenly lumped all people of color to being from Africa. Sometimes Jean
was glad that she was just plain white, it made things a lot easier.
But even if she was just white, she was also a Mick. She wasn't quite
sure what that was, but someone had said it to her and her grandpa once at
the park, when she was younger. Her grandpa had told her to ignore the
comment and, in his thick accent - which Jean thought quite lovely-he
added, "better a Mick than a prick!" She wasn't really sure what that was
either, but she laughed because he laughed.
And then of course, she was a mutant. That was something she knew to
be ashamed of. She wasn't supposed to tell anyone and her parents never
liked to talk about it. She called them on the phone every weekend and
whenever she would try to talk about her training they would always ask her
how school was going or how her violin lessons were. So being a mutant was
something to not talk about.
The rock struck her in the shoulder and caused an instant stinging
sensation. Tears burned in her eyes. She turned and faced the girls. She
bent down and picked up the rock. She tossed it to Layla's feet. "I think
you dropped your rock," she said with a smile. She had heard the line from
a movie she had watched on the Disney Channel. The movie was about
integration of a school in the South.
"Oh, Jeannie, here comes your nanny. See ya tomorrow," Layla waved
goodbye and she and her friends turned and walked the other way.
Jean smiled at the sound of Storm's kind voice. She turned and ran,
arms extended, toward the tall, stately black woman. Storm lifted her up
into a big hug. Jean had been very jumpy with everybody when she first came
out of her coma, but eventually she settled in and her true nature came
out. She was a very outgoing, affectionate girl and Storm had never
remembered getting so many hugs in all her life.
But today Jean's hug seemed extra hard, almost desperate. "Is
everything all right, child?" Storm asked as she set Jean down and stroked
her hair softly.
"Yeah, it's ok, I guess," Jean answered with a forced smile. She took
Storm's hand in her own and together, arms swinging as they walked, they
headed toward town and Andy's Ice Cream Shop. Every Monday, Storm would
come pick her up from school and the two of them would go have ice cream at
Andy's. They would talk for a while and just relax. Jean admired Storm
immensely and wanted to be just like her when she grew up. So calm,
confident, powerful and beautiful. So different from me, Jean thought
glumly as they walked down the sidewalk side by side.
"So what did you do in school today?" Storm asked, knowing what the
reply would be.
"Nothing," Jean sighed as she skipped a few steps to keep up with the
"Nothing? Well, that sounds very exciting," Storm said with a small
Jean rolled her eyes and danced over the cracks on the sidewalk. "You
know what I mean."
Storm shook her head and smiled, "Sorry, I don't."
Jean finally relented, " We dissected a lemon shark in biology
Storm made a face and Jean giggled.
"We started learning about the Egyptians and did watercolor in art
"What about PE class? Did you get chosen as a football captain?"
Storm chuckled, "I mean soccer."
Jean sighed, "No."
"Oh, well that's too bad. I think you would have made an excellent
"Thanks," Jean replied with a small grin. Layla, Wendy and Bianca had
been chosen as captains. Jean was a better soccer player than any of them,
but nobody would vote for Jean.
"How are your shields holding up?" Storm asked in a casual way.
Jean shrugged, "Ok, I guess. Every once in a while something will
slip through. But it doesn't hurt like it used to," she paused and bit her
bottom lip. She really wanted to ask Storm a question but she didn't really
know if she should. "Storm?"
"Can I ask you a question? Promise you won't get mad?"
Storm stopped for a moment and looked down at the girl holding her
hand. She nodded for Jean to continue.
"Have you ever used your powers to, um, get people to leave you
alone? Like if somebody is being really really mean to you did you ever
just zap them or something and then pretend like you had no idea what had
A small laugh slipped through Storm's cool exterior. "I suppose I
did. But that was before I really understood what I was capable of. I only
did it once, but I only needed to do it once to realize that it was wrong."
"Oh," Jean said in a small voice. It wasn't really what she wanted to
hear. She wanted to ask more but she sensed that Storm would rather not
talk about it, at least right now. "Does that mean that I shouldn't do it?"
"Why? Is there a girl at school who is bothering you?"
Jean gave a short laugh, "A girl."
"I don't understand," Storm mused aloud, "a friendly, intelligent
beautiful girl like you?"
Jean was blushing madly. *That's what's wrong with this society.
Where are this girl's parents? Why is she walking around holding hands with
this black bitch?*
Jean froze as the thought entered her head. She glanced around
An overweight middle aged white woman walked by. She was gripping the
hand of a small boy licking a Popsicle. The woman smiled and nodded a
polite hello to Storm as she passed. Storm smiled and nodded back.
Jean felt sick. She felt sick to know that somebody could be so civil
on the outside and so completely horrible on the inside.
Storm was smiling and they had just reached Andy's, so Jean decided
not to say anything. She didn't want to ruin the mood.
"So what will it be today, Jean?" Storm asked as she held open the
heavy glass door. The cowbells attached to it rung and Jean stepped into
the cool, air conditioned shop.
"Strawberry," Jean said with a grin.
"Why don't you try something new? You always get strawberry."
"That's because strawberry is my favorite," Jean answered as she
skipped across the black and white checkered floor. "What are you going to
"Today feels like a lemon sorbet day," Storm said with a grin.
"Why, because it's so sunny and nice outside?" Jean asked as she
slipped into a red padded booth in the back of the shop.
Storm nodded and sat in the seat opposite Jean.
"I don't suppose the nice weather could be interrupted with a freak
snow storm. Like enough snow to cancel school tomorrow?" Jean suggested
with a small smile.
Storm sighed and shook her head slowly, "Why would you want that to
Jean shrugged her shoulders and focused her attention on one of the
lazily turning ceiling fans.
Storm let her sit quietly for a moment. "Why would you want school to
be cancelled, Jean?" she asked again. She had become somewhat accustomed to
repeating questions around the girl. Jean was still re-learning how to
interact with people around her. The professor told Storm, Logan and Dr.
McCoy that they should do all they could to engage her in conversation and
help her socialize again. They had been rewarded with flashes of her
boisterous nature but there was still a little bit to overcome.
"School's boring," Jean sighed and lay her head across her folded
arms on the table.
"Well, at least you get to spend some time with your friends."
Jean shifted her head slightly but remained silent.
Jean could feel Storm's concern pulsing through her usually tightly
guarded mind. She felt it because Storm wanted her to feel it, this Jean
knew for sure. She lifted her head from her arms and looked at Storm.
"Storm, I don't have any friends."
Storm nodded her head slowly. She already knew this. Jean never went
over to anybody's house, she never went to parties or to sleepovers, she
had never been to a dance or out to a movie with a group of friends. When
she wasn't at the mansion she was at school, violin lessons or club soccer
practice. Every time Storm looked outside to see Jean climbing trees by
herself, making little necklaces of flowers without having anybody to give
them to, or having conversations aloud with herself, Storm's heart would
ache a little.
But as much as Storm wished to blame it on the fickle cruelty of the
other children, she knew there was more to it than that. The reason that
none of the other girls liked Jean was that Jean didn't like herself.
Somehow, they sensed it and fed off of her lack of confidence.
The professor had informed them all that the combination of her
parent's inability to deal with the idea that their youngest daughter was a
mutant and the fact that she had to conceal her abilities for her own
protection had caused Jean to develop a deep seated shame of her mutation
and of who she was. At only eleven Jean was constantly facing bouts of
serious depression. Occasionally, when something set her off, she would go
about her day in a numb daze, never taking interest in anything going on
around her. One particular night, on a day when Jean's depression had been
especially bad, Xavier had come to Storm in a panic-an amazing thing in
itself as Storm had rarely seen the professor lose his cool. Apparently,
Jean had had some very disturbing thoughts, which were being broadcast to
Xavier loud and clear. With a sad look on his face, Xavier linked Storm's
mind with Jean's: *I guess nobody would really care if I got hit by a car.
Maybe I wouldn't mind it so much, maybe it'd be better that way. I could
see Annie again. I think my parents would love me more if I were gone. I
kinda wish it would happen, I don't think it would be so bad.*
After that incident, the professor stuck to a strict schedule of
mental scans. He worked with her for three hours a day on shielding and
control of her telekenetics. Her telekinetic 'finger paints' hung proudly
on the refrigerator door. She had progressed to manipulating paintbrushes
with her mind, all in the effort to gain finer and finer control. Control
was the basis of all of Xavier's teachings. And in Jean's case, this was
Storm sighed softly as she watched Jean trace a path across the table
with her finger. Storm knew what it was like to be different, to be an
outsider. But a good deal of her isolation developed due to her unusual
physical appearance-- her white hair. For a long time she was shunned by
people in her village. Until I manifested my powers and suddenly became
useful to them, she thought bitterly. With a deep breath, she cleared the
anger from her mind. Like Jean, Storm's world revolved around control.
"What do you mean you don't have any friends?" Storm asked quietly.
Jean looked away, blinking back tears. "Nobody likes me at school."
"I don't want to talk about it," Jean said softly.
"What can I get for you two ladies?"
Storm and Jean looked up to see their waiter standing in front of
them. He smiled and plucked the pencil out from behind his ear. He never
waited on anybody, just them. All he was supposed to do was scoop the ice
cream. But these two had been coming in every week for close to a year now.
He never missed an opportunity to try and make the shy redheaded girl
smile. And, besides, it gave him a reason to talk to the woman he could
only describe as a goddess.
He smiled and brushed back his dirty blond hair. He didn't have a
chance in hell with this woman and he knew it.
Jean giggled and squirmed in her seat. Ben's thoughts were very loud
Ororo glanced over at her suspiciously, "Good afternoon, Ben. I think
I will have a scoop of lemon sorbet," Storm smiled at him.
* Oh my God, she's smiling at me. Is she just being polite, or does
she really like me?*
"And let me guess," Ben said as he looked over at Jean. He furrowed
his brow and pretended to be deep in thought. "Strawberry for the lovely
Ben winked at her. "I'll be back in a jiffy."
"He's nice," Jean said he walked away.
Storm nodded absently as she sifted through her handbag.
"What are you looking for?" Jean asked as she shifted further up in
her seat to peek.
"I got those pictures back. The ones that we took last weekend. Ah-
ha," Storm said triumphantly as she pulled out a packet of pictures. She
handed them over to Jean, who took them eagerly. "Oh, and your parents
Jean frowned and set down the pictures on the red vinyl booth seat
beside her. "Oh," she said simply.
"I'm sorry, Jean, your mother said that they wouldn't be able to make
it to your violin recital," Storm sighed.
"Oh, that's ok," Jean said unconvincingly. She blinked back furiously
against the tears. They hate me, that's why they don't come. They are
ashamed of me, they want to forget that I was ever their daughter. Jean
"Jean, come over here," Storm said softly as she turned sideways in
the booth and held out her arms.
Jean slid off her seat and walked over to Storm. With a small sob she
buried herself in Storm's soft arms. I'm such a little baby, she thought to
herself angrily. But as Storm lifted her up into the embrace, Jean felt her
control slip and the tears shed down her cheeks. Jean sat beside Storm,
hugging her tightly, face buried in Storm's shoulder.
"Shhhh," Storm whispered as she stroked Jean's red hair.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Jean lifted her head and choked out through
"Sorry? Why are you sorry?"
"I'm sorry for crying, for acting like a little kid. It's just a
stupid recital," Jean mumbled.
"Jean, never be sorry for crying," Storm smiled down at her, "Crying
helps all the anger and the sadness and the pain flow out of out bodies."
"But you don't cry," Jean said.
Storm smiled back mysteriously. "Mother Earth does my crying for me."
"Rain?" Jean's eyes lit up in understanding.
Storm nodded and hugged the girl tightly.
"Mommy, how come that girl and her mommy aren't the same color?"
Jean shifted in Storm's embrace to look behind her. There was a
little blond boy tugging at his mother's hand and pointing at the two of
them. His mother turned around, her face red with embarrassment.
Storm smiled at the woman and kissed Jean on top of the head.
The woman smiled back and bent down to talk to her son, "I don't
know, honey, why don't you ask them?"
The boy shifted from foot to foot nervously before finally walking
over. "How come your mommy looks so different from you?" the boy asked as
he watched Jean intently.
Storm smiled and replied, "Oh, I'm not her mother, I am her--"
"Aunt," Jean interjected, receiving a surprised look from Storm.
The boy stuck his hands in his pockets and squirmed anxiously, "So
how come you aren't the same color?"
Ben set down the rag he had been wiping down the counter with and
listened with interest. He had always wondered what the relationship
between the two was, but had been too embarrassed to ask. He had just
assumed that Ororo was a Jean's babysitter or something, that she walked
Jean home from school. Westchester was a very wealthy area and Jean did go
to a private school, maybe she had a couple of jetsetting parents who were
never around. It would explain the close bond between the two.
Storm gave Jean a quick little hug. The idea that Jean thought of her
as family surprised her and made her more happy than she had been in a long
time. Of course, she had come to think of the girl as more than just her
student. "Well," Ororo said as she looked at the boy, "a family is more
than just who you are related too. Sometimes the people who love you most
and are there for you are not your parents, or even your siblings,
sometimes they are just people who love you more than anything in the
world," she smiled down at Jean feeling a little saddened by the truth in
what she had said. She and Logan loved Jean unconditionally, as did Hank
and the Professor and though her parents loved her too, they were only
human and it would take them a little time to remember that. I hope they do
remember that, Ororo thought sadly as Jean slid off her lap and sat back
down across from her.
"Oh," said the boy, clearly a little confused. He grinned and turned
back toward his mother. He grabbed her leg as she ordered two ice cream
cones from Ben.
"Thanks," Jean said with a shy smile as she looked at Storm.
"No, thank you, Jean," Ororo reached her hand across the table and
gripped Jean's hand softly. "I could never ask for a better niece."
Jean blushed and laughed, "Maybe you should hold that judgement until
after you've seen what we did to your garden."
Ororo's faced blanched at the mention of her prized garden, "What did
you do? And who is we?"
Jean peeked sideways and bit her bottom lip. Ben was approaching
holding their two ice cream cones. "Oh look, our ice cream is here!" Jean
said with a smile as she accepted her cone from Ben.
Ororo took her cone and smiled a thank-you to Ben. "Jean," she said
in a low voice.
"Well.Hank and I tried to plant some orchids for you. And then he
thought that some mini-palm trees might be nice and then I saw some roses
that I just knew you would love so we kinda bought a whole lot of flowers
to plant and then we got Logan to help us and there was a lot of dirt and I
was planting a geranium and my hand kinda slipped and I tossed some dirt at
Logan and then he got all mad because he was wearing a nice shirt so he
tossed some back at me and then he hit Hank and then-"
"I think I get the picture," Ororo said with a sigh.
"Uh, so, long story short, there is dirt all over your garden," Jean
took a lick of her ice cream cone and watched as the boy and his mother
made their exit.
Storm chuckled and shook her head, "Well, it is the thought that
counts, after all."
Jean smiled brightly, so happy that Ororo wasn't angry.
The two sat in comfortable silence for a while as they finished up
their ice cream. Jean ate hers too quickly and had to stop for a few
seconds as she scrunched her eyes shut and rubbed at her forehead.
"Shields?" Ororo asked nervously, hoping Jean's mind was not flooded
"Ice cream headache," Jean grimaced.
Ororo laughed and shook her head. She enjoyed the moment. For this
Monday afternoon in a small ice cream parlor in Westchester Jean wasn't a
freak. She wasn't a dangerous telekinetic, or even a powerful telepath, she
was just an eleven-year-old girl with an ice cream headache. Ororo smiled.
The bells on the door jingled and both Ororo and Jean looked over as
Logan strode through the door. It looked like he was entering a saloon, not
an ice cream shop. He flashed them a wolfish grin as he spotted them in the
Jean sensed a pang of jealousy from Ben which melted into despair as
the ruggedly handsome Logan walked over and slipped into the booth beside
Ororo. Jean glanced over at Ben who had turned away and was now washing
"Thought I might find you two lovely ladies here," Logan said as he
nudged Jean's leg under the booth. "So whadya order for me?"
"Sorry, Logan, didn't order you anything," Jean admitted.
Logan mocked a wounded expression.
"Didn't think you'd want anything. They don't have beer flavored ice
cream here," Jean said with a giggle.
"Their loss," Logan countered. "So it looks like you two are done,"
he observed as he glanced over at Ororo. "How about we swing by the pound
and pick up a mutt on our way home?"
Ororo's eyes widened in surprise. A dog?
"Really?!" Jean practically screeched.
Jean leapt out of the seat and raced toward the door. She was dancing
across the checkered floor spinning little pirouettes as she approached the
glass door. All she could do was dance and smile.
"Logan, are you serious? Does the Professor know about this?" Ororo
asked in a quiet voice.
Logan threw an arm around her shoulders and gave her a wink, "It was
his idea, 'Ro. Animals are supposed to be great at helping people's
psychological health and welfare."
"Have you been talking to Hank again?" Ororo asked as Logan rose from
"Ya got me there, 'Ro," Logan admitted with a grin. He watched as the
Weather Witch rose from her own seat.
She lay some money on the table and waved over to Ben. "Thank you
very much, Benjamin. We will see you next week."
Ben turned around and smiled nervously, "Uh, yeah. Have a great rest
of the week," he said as he waved goodbye.
Logan followed Storm out the door. Jean had already raced over to the
red convertible where she was hopping around waiting impatiently.
Ben set down his dishrag and leaned over the counter to watch them
leave. What a strange little family, he thought to himself as he watched
Logan open up the car door for Ororo.
Ben walked out from behind the booth to get a better look as they
drove off. As he walked by the booth they had been sitting at, he noticed a
packet of pictures they had left on the table. He looked up again, but they
were already gone. He picked up the pictures and held them in his hand.
They had already been opened.
Curiosity overcame him and he slid into the booth and took the
pictures out of their envelope.
In the first picture, Jean sat atop the shoulders of the man who had
just been in the shop. They were both grinning hugely. As Ben sifted
through the pictures, he saw that they were taken at some kind of picnic.
There was a lake and a tire swing. There was a bald man in a wheel chair, a
huge man with large hands and a chef's hat, the man who had come into the
shop today, Jean and, of course, Ororo. It certainly was a random grouping
of people. But in each picture, they all seemed so happy and comfortable
with one another. As he looked though the last of the pictures, a group
shot with everybody leaning in close, he remembered what Ororo had said; "A
family is more than just who you are related too. Sometimes the people who
love you most and are there for you are not your parents, or even your
siblings, sometimes they are just people who love you more than anything in