You know, I've had a marriage. The past five years with Jean was a marriage, a nice solid relationship liberally peppered with sparks, trust, and a few heated arguments. It was great.
Then the wedding came.
I'm sure that weddings are around for a purpose. I mean, almost every culture in the globe has a formal mating ceremony. There must be tonnes of books and billions of websites devoted to weddings and their importance. I wish someone would tell me. I was ready to hang myself with my cravat.
Warren rapped at the open door. "Need any help with that cravat, Scotty?"
"Can you drive the get-away car?" I snarled envisioning the two-hundred count Egyptian linen going through the shredder.
"Can I have that in writing? Bronzed? You do know that I fully intend to have an affair with Jean as soon as you two come back from the honeymoon."
I smirked as I tossed him the limp cravat. "Get in line." I walked to the window almost tripping on a bump in the rug. My arm touched on the table for balance. Three envelopes fell to the floor. Two were bills-- the only way to start married life was to be billed for the wedding expenses. The third, the one on the top, was in a dollar-store envelope with no writing on either side.
five months ago...
I snorted as I folded the weather section of the papers. There was something very screwed up with the world when New York City gets sun in the middle of January and Dallas gets a foot of snow. I sipped my coffee, inhaling the scent deeply. Well, sunny but still cold enought to freeze the calls off of a brass monkey. Or in the school's case, a brass lion.
Remy slid into the seat across from mine, cupping his gloved hands around his industrial-sized mug. His irritation was evident even behind the parka, the cap, the scarf, and the shades. "I hate you, you know that? Stupid, fuckin' cold. There's a reason why I moved out."
"Yeah, yeah." I slid his present across the table. "Happy birthday."
He took out an envelope from his pocket. "Same to you. An' congratulations on finally gettin' a pair of round-and-hairies and proposing to Grey. Any longer an' I'd've done it for you."
I shook my head slightly. "I should have known. How'd you find out?"
He mimicked zipping up his lips and throwing away the key. "I'd tell you but I'd have to kill you, hein?" He grinned, big and all teeth.
Funny thing is, sometimes I think he's serious.
"You buy a ring yet?"
"Naw, not really." I let myself slump a bit in my seat. "We both thought we were behind all of that, y'know?"
I sighed. "But Jean's family got involved."
I could tell he only partially got it. "They're great people, really, but kind of... proper. Needless to say, our original plan for a simple vow-taking in the mansion has now been expanded into a three-ring circus of a cathedral, a country club, and Bora-Bora."
"You complainin' about Bora-Bora?" He obviously wanted to add "You deranged, fucked up, sorry excuse of a turd."
"No," I said slowly. "Not really about Bora-Bora. I love Bora-Bora. It's just... I made plans, dammit!"
Remy laughed and I knew he understood. He was just as anal as I was about planning, especially his heists. His heists. Funny how I didn't get half as disturbed by them as I did when I first found out. Granted, most of the anger was about his keeping secrets. That's what I get for thinking that I was something special in his life.
"So, how's everyone?" he asked as he stirred more honey in his drink. As if the amount of caffeine in that thing wasn't bad enough.
I shrugged. "Why don't you visit and find out for yourself?"
His eyes flashed behind the dark shades. I sighed, letting it go.
"Fine. Jean-Paul's taken your place as the object of every girl's desire despite his sexual orientation."
Remy snorted. "Egotistical bastard. I bet he's lovin' it more than I did." Chuckling, he said, "He still with What's-His-Face?"
"They broke up a couple months ago." I stared into my coffee. "That's when he started becoming the pin-up actually. Hank and Trish are still together even though I want to pop her like a ripe pimple."
He snorted in agreement.
"Ro's traded places with someone in the UK school and is apparently having a blast."
"An' the kids?"
There's a reason why Remy picked up on poker so easily. If he was an actor, he'd get Oscars left, right and centre. He's also got this fantastic mental shield. Jean always suspected he had a latent telepathic powers. I don't know how I pick up on his emotions and I sure as hell don't know how he picks up on mine.
"Bobby, Kitty, and Piotr come visit at least once a month. They're having a blast in college. Johnny--" I quickly swallowed a mouthful of coffee to lubricated by dry throat.
Remy reached over to pat my hand. "Yeah. I heard about Johnny, too."
I took another gulp of joe. "Bobby took it the hardest. He's... too happy, you know? He's friends with the entire NYU population and has a little black book Hugh Hefner would envy but I just..." I let my tone finish off the sentence.
"He don't got anyone to bounce off against anymore," Remy said. Unexpectedly, too. He used to just nod, letting the silence speak. "Him, he pretends he hates the guy but you know that he'd fuckin'... He'd die for Johnny." His knuckles went white on his coffee mug. "Got to be like a fuckin' knife in the back knowing he didn't feel the same way, the stupid shit."
Welcome to the city of Metaphor in the country of Denial where once I reigned supreme.
"Maybe Johnny's just confused," I said, keeping my eye on Remy's non-expression. "It's always easier to run away especially when you're young."
"It's fuckin' selfish."
"Kids are selfish. They're wired to be that way. I best thing I can hope for is that I've taught them enough to let them figure stuff out once they've grown up."
"Thank you, Dr. Phil."
"The way I see it," I continued, ignoring the jibe, "the entire school just have felt a bit like a trap. He probably had plans before his power flipped on, things he wanted to do, places he wanted to see. But once he enrolled and all this hype started up, it stopped being like a haven and started becoming a cage. He wanted his life back and he tried to take a way out, to have control, no matter how stupid."
"That's bullshit." Remy finally turned his face to me, his lips curled into a sneer.
"Not complete bullshit."
I sighed. "Rogue's homesick, too, Remy."
He was going to deny his interest, I could see it in his body language. I kept my eyes on him though, knowing where he was looking even though his shades were reflective. Still, he wasn't going to ask for more information.
"They're a lot looser in England about mutants but she still misses home. We get mass emails once a week." He probably did, too. I saw his address in the carbon-copy lines. Chances were, he never opened them. "You scare her, Remy."
He stiffened. With a mental groan, I tried to back-pedal the conversation. There was a reason why I hardly ever did talks like this.
"Not because your past or your present or anything you've... Shit, I'm going to fuck this up." I dragged a hand through my hair. "She's a baby compared to us, Remy. She had plans."
"I'm sure she did."
Ouch. That probably came out more bitter than he wanted. I forged on. "Besides, it's not like you were that obvious. You flirt with everything that moves."
"Yeah, that's me. The communal bicycle. Anyone can get on and take a ride."
My lips pressed together as I tried to reign in my temper. "Cute."
He pressed a hand to his chest, his eyebrows arching up in mock-surprise. "You, too, Summers? And newly engaged, too. There just ain't no borders in my sexual magnetism."
There was more to be said. I knew it but I sure as hell wasn't going to waste my breath when he obviously didn't want to listen.
"I'd better go," he said, fidgeting with his coat and scarf and all as if he actually needed to. "I got stuff to do."
"Sure thing." I picked up the envelope he'd given me and gave it a little wave. "And thanks."
"Same here." He pocketed the small, tissue-wrapped box. "Make sure an' tell me how the wedding goes, hein?"
"Won't have to. I'll blast you if you don't come."
He smirked. "You can try." Fluidly, he rose to his feet. He did that a lot. Move fluidly, I mean. Only one of the reason why Rogue might feel intimidated-- how could a girl stand being around someone more graceful than her? He held his arm out. I grabbed it and squeezed his forearm hard like medieval warriors would, hanging on for a lot longer than necessary. It forced his gaze back to mine.
Two guys wearing sunglasses and I was trying to make eye contact.
He squeezed my arm in response. Then, he was gone again, managing to charm a disgruntled businesswoman and flirt with two servers before he even took a step outside. The sky was painfully brilliant, reflected off a million drops of frost. He looked to the left, to the right, and jaywalked in front of a metermaid, curls of smoke or condensation rising from his scarf-covered mouth.
"Your brother's something else," said the server, the second one Remy had charmed. "Is he an actor or something?"
"Or something," I replied, fingering the envelope.
The cliched thing to say is that (a) the wedding sped by at an excited blur or (b) that everything went in a treasured slow motion. I experienced neither. I wasn't kidding when I said that a vow-taking was all I wanted. It was all I ever wanted in a wedding when I ever thought about it. This entire ceremony was a headache of massive proportions.
I dry-swallowed a pill for my migraine in between the third and fourth course. Jean patted my leg in sympathy and half in apology. She was enjoying herself though. A hard-as-nails doctor she may be but I guess no one could really complain about the set up (except me). This was the kind of weddings that girls dreamt of. Classy, expensive, and-- I admit-- pretty smoothly run. Even the kids were behaving themselves relatively.
I'm talking of the recent graduates not the various cousins, nieces, and nephews.
I don't know why I have such a special place in my heart for those seven. They weren't the first class I'd ever taught nor were they the brightest. God knew they weren't the most behaved. Only Bobby really thought of becoming an X-Man and then only because he had no idea what else to do. Sam wanted to work with mutants but in a noncombative way.
They all came to the wedding except Johnny, of course. Bobby looked kind of... thin without his partner in crime. On the opposite side of the spectrum was Kitty, who glowed. MIT really agreed with her. Piotr was also basking in the glow of art school and Kitty's attention. Sam wrangled a day off from the school where he worked to come; Jean got all teary when she found out.
Jubilee was... well, she was Jubilee and you can't really say anything bad about someone who's so determinedly optimistic about her ability to take over the world despite dropping out twice in one year. Last I heard, she was applying for acting school. God help us all. Dani came with her brother who was wide-eyed at the big city. Proudstar somehow managed to come too, despite his work in the PeaceCorps.
And then there was Marie. She was using her name again. A teacher shouldn't have favourites, but I have to admit, she was one of mine.
"Hi, Mr. Summers." Marie paused for half a breathe before wrapping her arms around me in an exuberant hug. "Congratulations. You, too, Ms. Grey."
"Grey-Summers," Jean corrected, smiling at my false irritation. "I'm glad you could come."
"Are you kidding me? I wouldn't miss this for the world, school or no school." She stepped back and pulled her friend over, loosely holding on to his arm. "This is Jono, one of my roommates. You all owe him planefare for flying me over."
Jono shrugged the words away. "Consider it a gift. She wouldn't stop whining and making pouty faces. It was either help her out or murder her and the rest of the guys convinced me that the latter would get too messy."
I shook his out-stretched hand. "Thanks for coming, Jono. I hope you're having fun."
"Better than midterms." He grinned ad winked at Jean. "Although the bride's about to break my heart."
"Oh?' Jean raised one expertly pencilled eyebrow. "How so?"
"Well, how am I supposed to go on living knowing that God's loveliest angel is now taken?"
Jean's skin turned as red as her hair and Marie coughed "Bullshit!" dramatically. Some people looked over to make sure she wasn't choking. I allowed myself to grin-- how Remy-esque. I'm not sure I had the patience to deal with that though coming from someone other than Remy though.
Despite outward appearances, Marie was beaming over her water goblet. She made eye contact with me and rolled her eyes. "Jono, behave yourself or else you'll get thrown out. Then you won't be able to eat all this wonderfully catered food."
She touched his cheek as she talked, then his arm again, then ruffled his hair all in just wrist-length gloves and short-sleeves. She'd gotten over her fear of touch. At the very least, I should thank this Jono for that.
three months ago...
The computer beeped urgently at me. I flipped on my IM; Marie was online and was asking me to view her webcam. I sent off a warning note first, just in case. That had happened before with Bobby; I still can't think of him or his girlfriend without my face burning.
"Go ahead, all clear," Marie sent back.
A four-hundred square screen of Marie waved at me. She adjusted her mic and greeted me with a, "Hi, Mr. Summers!"
As I didn't have a webcam or a mic on my office computer, I old-skooled it and wrote another IM. "Hi, Rogue. I thought we agreed that Scott was OK for you to use?"
She scanned the note for a moment. "Well, I know but it just seems weird still. Gimme a few months, maybe I can call you that."
Am I really that ogre-like? Hmmm. "So what's up?"
Now she looked really excited. "Watch this!" she announced, pushing her chair back. Five paper clips rose from the desk to follow her. Raising one hand, she kept four of the paper clips still as she manouevred one into larger and larger circles, slowly then faster and faster. The four in the middle remained stationary.
I as about the type my congratulations when Marie called out, "Wait, there's more!"
I sat back again. Now the paper clips were in a relatively straight line. She touched all her fingertips together to form a very loose fist then, slowly, opened them again. The paper clips shivered then began unbending in unison. She closed her hand and then bent back in relatively the same shape.
"And the piece de resistance!"
I could see Marie's forehead wrinkling with concentration. Her arms were locked straight, right in front of her chest. The paper clips weren't in line any more but they were all curled into their original shape. The one furthest to the right started uncurling and onlythe one on the right. Then the one furthest on the left; the first paper clip was coming out of its last curl. The second wire clip on the right started to unfurl just as the first one straightened and the second one became C-shaped. And on and on until all five were twisting and re-twisting out of synch.
I let out a war-whoop, clapping my hands together, laughing like a madman. Jean came in immediately, sensing the out-pouring of emotion.
"What is it?" she asked. I pointed at the screen. In no time, she too, was grinning from ear to ear.
"That's fantastic!" I typed. "It's further along that I thought you'd get to by now."
Marie dropped her hands, noticeably wilting with exhaustion. "Yeah, well, at the expense of my academic career, I've been practicing. It's coming easier, actually."
"That's great," I sent.
Beside me, Jean asked, "What about her absorption power?"
I typed the question in.
Marie made a face. "It's about the same as before. I just... I can't get a hold of it, Mr. Summers. With magnetism, I can see the energy lines and I know what I have to do. The absorption is just... there. I don't have a frame of reference."
Jean was thinking hard. I could feel it tickling the back of my head through our link. "Maybe I should ask someone from the Muir Island Academy to have tutor sessions with her once a week."
I asked Marie about the possibility. Her face was expressionless as she read the message.
"I'll think about it," she replied. "I'm kind of busy right now though."
Too busy for MIA but not too busy to mess around with paper clips. I sighed and shrugged. "Whenever you're ready, Marie. You know how to contact them."
"Sure thing, Mr. Summers." She twirled a lock of hair around her finger. "I'd better go and hit the books then. I just wanted to show you that."
Dammit, now she was down. "Wonderful job, Marie. I'm really proud of you."
She smiled and waved at the webcam again before closing the window. Jean kissed my cheek and I settled back into marking the pop-quizzes when a message window opened up.
Marie again. "BTW, Mr. Summers, if you hear from Remy, could you ask him to email or something? I'm beginning to feel like something you had to scrape off on the grass."
Rice can't be thrown in weddings anymore in New York. Something about expanding in birds' stomach and making them sick. I personally don't know anyone who'd want a sick pigeon; healthy ones are bad enough.
So whenever Jean and I passed by anyone, we were bombarded with bubbles and flower petals. Bobby confessed that he snapped a picture of the professor in the middle of blowing a bubble. That was one picture I'd love to see. I'm sure he could make something like that look regal and dignified.
There were, of course, the mandatory questions about having kids, nudge-nudge, wink-wink. Mostly from Jean's side of the family. I didn't have much family with me. My brother, Alex, came but we weren't very comfortable with each other any more. He had his life and I had mine; they were so different that conversation was impossible. Let's just say that he lived an existance straight out of a sitcom. My grandparents were here, too, but they weren't the type to say things like that. My side of the church were mostly friends and students.
"So, Scotty." One of Jean's many godfathers punch my arm, looking a bit surprised when I didn't fall over. Thank you, BowFlex. "So, Scotty, when will we be expecting the little ones?"
I'm glad my glasses covered my eyes because the look on them would have been extremely insulting. And he was the one who gave us money, I think. "I'm not sure, sir," I replied, dutifully, "That's up to Jean."
"Better get crackin'. You're not getting any younger, you know."
Didn't he see the fifty-some-odd kids that were milling around?
There were also the mandatory perverted aunts who liked to pinch butts, the mandatory threats of death from various male relatives, and the mandatory clueless idiot who managed to insult everyone in sight.
"Good God!" said a woman who I thought was Jean's cousin. "Shouldn't there be a different room for all the normal people? I'm afraid to breathe in here!"
I was calm. Jean was furious. "I told Mom not to invite her!" she said through gritted teeth. "I don't even like her!"
I patted her arm. "Just a few more hours and we'll be in Bora-Bora."
"Screw Bora-Bora. I'm going to--"
I squeezed her hands and forced them on her lap. "You're going to ignore her. She's not worth it."
Jean pouted. God, she had nice lips.
"And besides," I added with a grin, "I'm sure one of the kids will do something in revenge anyway."
That particular cousin went around the rest of the day with her skirt perpetually blowing over her head revealing brown-stained underwear. No one ever confessed to it, and I didn't bother to ask. Needless to say, she went home early as did one of the kids. Something in the dessert didn't agree with him; mutant metabolism can be such a bitch.
I danced with as few people as possible: Jean, my grandmother, Marie, and Jubilee. They were the only ones who made my shuffling look half-way graceful.
Marie was trying to show me a proper waltz at first but she promptly gave up.
"I've got something for you," I told her as the song was ending.
"What is it?"
I reached into my pocket and took out the letter than Remy gave me. "Here. Don't open it until you get back to England, okay?"
Looking curious, Marie nodded. "All right. I promise." A mischevious smile danced in her eyes. "Is it naughty pictures?"
I almost fell on my nose. "Marie!"
Laughing, she said, "I'm kidding, I'm kidding." And as far as I knew, she didn't even look at the letter once she stuck it in her purse.
Then finally, it was over and we escaped into a cab with our luggage.
Jean cuddled up close and kissed my cheek. "Imagine. For two weeks, I'm going to be the only thing on your mind. No bad guys, no exams, no budget..."
"What about you, Ms. I-Just-Need-to-Run-One-More-Test Grey-Summers?" I flicked a strand of red from her cheek. "I had to unpack your laptop."
She gasped. "You did not!"
"I did, too, and proudly."
"Scott, I need the reports on that computer." She tried to look serious but I laughed it off.
"We're on our honeymoon, Jean. Hank will take care of your research while I finally work on the tan lines that you complain about so much."
After a short mental struggled, she allowed herself to be teased. "At least you can tan. I just turn into a giant freckle."
I tried to grin a Remy-grin but, failing that, resorted to a normal leer. "You know what I like to do with freckles."
Playfully, Jean shrank back. "Yes, I do, and don't you dare do anything with the cabbie watching!"
Oh, well, the cabbie was out of luck. We were quite civilised for the rest of the trip, including the plane despite a small incident concerning my toe and the food cart. Interestingly enough, when we got to the hotel, there was a present left on the pillows with a note attached on top.
"Who's it from?" Jean asked, looking over my shoulder.
"Remy," I answered. "But I'm not sure who it's for."
"If it's from Remy, it must be for you."
"I don't know know, Jean." I held up the silk bustier, the French-cut panties, and the thigh-high boots. "I'm not sure these are my size."
Jean looked caught between outrage, embarrassment, and lust. I could work with that. I had no idea how Remy got the address for our hotel, never mind the room, and quite frankly, I couldn't give a shit. Right now, the wedding was over and we could concentrate on the marriage again. That thought kept the smile on my face for the entire honeymoon.
The bustier helped, too.
nb: For anyone who was wondering, Heinriche Heine is a poet who once said, "The Wedding March always reminds me of the music played when soldiers go into battle."