Stormy Monday

"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 motorcycle."

"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 professor.

"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 entirely.

"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?"

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 long-legged Storm.

"Nothing? Well, that sounds very exciting," Storm said with a small smirk.

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 class."

Storm made a face and Jean giggled.

"We started learning about the Egyptians and did watercolor in art class."

"What about PE class? Did you get chosen as a football captain?"

"Football?"

Storm chuckled, "I mean soccer."

Jean sighed, "No."

"Oh, well that's too bad. I think you would have made an excellent captain."

"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?"

"Yes?"

"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 happened?"

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 wildly.

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 have?"

"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 happen?"

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?"

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 extremely important.

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."

"Jean."

"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 today.

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 Ms. Jean?"

Jean nodded.

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 called."

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 sniffed.

"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 the tears.

"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 with voices.

"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 back booth.

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 dishes.

"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.

Logan nodded.

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 the booth.

"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 the world."

End.