Disclaimer: Not mine, not mine. Marvel owns them, sadly. No money is being made from this work of fanfiction.

Notes: This is a fairly direct sequel to 'Trying to be 5,000 Years Younger'. Rating: PG13ish, I'd guess. Again, I re-iterate that I haven't read a comic since... 97. Hrm. Not current, anyway. The title comes from Something for Kate's song 'Happy Endings'.

Little Victories
by Ana Lyssie Cotton

He can't think, can't get a word past the emotion suddenly filling him. Then he can, but it's so very little. "Jean?"

And she's looking at him, that look in her eyes from what feels like a thousand years ago. When the world was new, and there wasn't pain and the memory of life fucking them over. It's a hopeful look, one that cuts him to the bone. Because he can't hope. There's nothing left in him to hope.

"Scott."

And she doesn't get that yet--maybe won't. He feels ashamed to think that Madelyne would have. So alike, and yet not. How much is she blocking from her mind, how much is lying to herself?

He touches her cheek. How little do either of them really know anymore?

Movement distracts him, his eyes follow the dart of her tongue as she moistens her lips. She catches his hand and leans into the palm, sighing softly.

"Jean..."

"Mmm."

He's pulling back, seperating them, afraid that if he tries to do anything this will shatter. She'll remember--and why is he afraid when hope is lost, anyway? She catches his hand again and just holds it, eyes watching him. Sudden understanding shadows them.

And he didn't want this, the stain that suddenly spreads, the shadow that holds them abruptly.

"Scott." Her voice is sad now, full of sudden pain that nearly chokes him as she draws in another breath. And her hand has gone cold, the fingers shaking slightly as she squeezes tightly.

"It--"

"No. Hush." She uses her fingers to close his lips, her own firming as she raises on an elbow. "This--I--" And she shakes her head, frustrated at the lack of language for this sort of discussion. How do you tell the man you love that you understand his sudden reticence? That memories not your own never fade?

A sudden giggle worms out of him, and he rolls away, staring up at the ceiling.

"How long have we known each other?" She's glad at the steadiness of her voice. When what she really wants to do is scream and rail.

"Years and years." He says, flippant.

The giggle transfers to her, and she hiccups, tears trickling from her eyes. He can't see them, though, and she doesn't want him to know so she curls back into his side.

"Yes." Agreement, simple, conclusive. "Spent in the future, spent in the past." Sudden humour fills her voice. "I've been dead at least once, possessed more times--you've been the same."

Raw pain rips through him, memory over-shadowing everything, and he's back on that day. Nathan was failing and Apocalypse was laughing, fading as he moved. Mind suddenly invading another's, destroying as it rends its way in. And it hurts so much, so much light shining into the tiny dark crevices of Scott's mind, and he can't fight, can't get away.

Contempt runs through him and he stiffens. "Not the same."

"It never is." She agrees.

"No."

And he pulls away, suddenly angry at himself, at her--she can't understand. Rogue... But Rogue wasn't Jean, couldn't share with her the ultimate violation he felt.

She sighs and wraps an arm around his waist, burying her face in his back. "I don't know. You're right." Her voice is muffled. "I'm horrible, I suck, I can *never* make it better."

The anger slides away and he snorts. "Don't be ridiculous."

"Take your own advice," she snaps, moving away from him to lean against the headboard. "Think long and hard, Scott. Is Apocalypse really going to destroy the man you ARE? Are you just going to give up?"

"He already has." Bleakness settles on him.

"Keep saying that, and he will."

But it couldn't be that simple, could it? He glances at her, remembering when he first came back from the city. After apologising to Rogue, he'd made his way to this room. This bed, finding her sleeping in a ball and unable to resist laying down next to her on his side, watching her as she slept. So peaceful. She awoke, and it all began again.

"Scott."

He flops backwards, staring at the ceiling again. "How can I not keep saying it, Jean?"

The bed moves, the boxsprings creaking as she lays down, tucking herself into his side again. The air is almost too cold without a blanket, but he doesn't care. She shivers slightly. "I don't know, Scott. I only know who you are."

And that has to be enough for him. For all of them.

Jean sighs. "I'm hungry."

The non-sequitor makes him blink, and he glances down at her. A smile lurks at the corners of her mouth. "For what?"

"Chocolate-chip pancakes."

His stomach makes its own contribution to the conversation, and she chuckles while he scowls.

"C'mon, honey, I'm sure there's mix in the kitchen." She sits up and catches his hand, tugs. "I promise not to add too much sugar this time."

"Wench."

"Mm. Hungry wench."

A sigh escapes him. "You're seducing me. With food."

"It's chocolate-chip pancakes. Not just ordinary food."

He gives her a suddenly plaintive look. "With cinnamon and sugar and butter?"

"Yes."

"I'm sold."

"Mmmm." She narrows her eyes. "Does that mean you have to obey me?"

"I do." And he can't believe himself, suddenly. He's laughing and joking again. And it shouldn't feel so effervescent, so amusing. He touches her cheek. "Lead the way, madame chef."

There's laughter, and some melancholy happiness as she makes him breakfast. Her plate's stacked high, so is his. And it's not until he takes that first bite that it washes over him. The pure analytical coldness that inspects the forkful of fluffy pancakes, and decides they're not worthy. He eats anyway, ignoring the part that Apocalypse left behind.

And Jean's watching him again like she knows what's going through his head. But he doesn't want the smile in her eyes to go away, doesn't want to ruin this moment. Because there's so little that's perfect in life, and he doesn't think it will happen again.

But she won't let it rest. Pries. "What is it, Scott?"

"Nothing." He's shaking his head, avoiding her eyes.

"It's--okay. It's nothing." But the smile is muted now, a wary look in her eyes.

He curses softly.

"I didn't think you knew words like that." She's not condemning, just mild. Maybe amused.

Shrugs, looks down at the dwindling pancakes. "Everyone should have a word for every occasion. You weren't there on all the raids I led. My troopers could tell you many stories..."

"Slym?" The wariness is still there, but it's tempered with understanding.

"Yes. My troopers could tell you stories..."

"I wish I could have, but even I didn't think taking Nathan on raids was a smart idea." She grins at him, "Besides, it made the homecomings that much more interesting."

He chuckles, surprised. "I love you, Jean Grey."

"Smart words coming from the man who has to sleep with me."

"True words."

"I love you, too, Scott Summers."

Silence falls, then, and they're looking at each other, almost amused. "School children are more adult than us."

"Mmm. Probably."

He eyes her remaining pancakes. "Not hungry anymore?"

"Stuffed. You want 'em?"

Trying to look serious, he replies, "They could have cooties."

"Definitely." The look in her eyes changes, and he's suddenly reminded how long it's been since he held his wife.

"Jean... I..."

"What?"

"Apocalypse is still here--in my memories." And who knew pancakes could open up a man?

"Which means?" She tilts her head to the side.

"I don't, I... I want to," He pauses, searching for the right words, then flails into bad romance novel analogies, "--love you, but I--he could... intrude..."

"Apocalypse," she decides, standing, "can go flonq himself."

"Or you?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Scott. Just because his memories are there doesn't mean he controls you--or me. Or anyone. He's gone."

He tenses, tries to understand why he wants to be angry at her. Because he shouldn't be. Because she's right. And he... he wants to let go of the pain inside, but it's a comforting pain. It's been there for months, and he understands it. There's no way of knowing what will happen if he lets it go.

"It's okay, Scott." Her voice is quiet, and she picks up their plates. "I'll wash the dishes. You can... do what you want."

"No." Straightening, he walks to the sink and turns on the water. "We'll both do the dishes."

"You wash, I dry, then?"

He half-grins. "Sounds like a plan, Mrs. Summers."

-finis-