Title: Differentials
Author: A.j.
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Rogue

Notes: Done because, apparently, it's XME canon that Scott was 'rescued' by Professor Xavier from an abusive foster home. And because I love Scott more than Thai food, and everyone always forgets that he wasn't always the golden boy.

Summary: "What do you see when you look at me?"

"What do you see when you look at me?" Scott wonders sometimes if he actually remembers what blue looks like. He thinks he might. He doesn't know. Pink clouds drift above him, looking perky.

"I see Scott. What kind of question is that?"

He knows Jean has red hair. Actually has red hair. It's not just tinted by his glasses. He won't ever admit it's one of the reasons he thinks she's beautiful. Loving a girl because she fits everything you think you want and actually telling her that are two different things. Besides. He knows he loves her.

He does.

"An idle one," he replies, and goes back to watching the sky.

Pain. Nails on skin. Screaming.

Scott learned not to scream, really scream, a long time ago. Kurt likes to laugh and mock him for his stoic fa├žade and the way he never shows anything. Tries to never show anything.

"You have such a bad poker face, my friend!" Kurt has the image inducer off and is lounging on one of the sofas in the common room in boxers and a t-shirt. It's an odd combination for the younger boy and jarring for Scott in ways he doesn't want to admit. Blue and fuzzy and in an X costume or dark haired and pale in a plaid shirt. Those are the very defined images Scott has of Kurt. Thinking outside the box is scary and not something Scott likes.

"You should have pants on, you know. The girls might come in any time." Lets his voice carry a fraction of the worry that has come on like a migraine. Kurt is his friend. Kurt expects this. It is something Scott would say.

He's gotten very good at being Scott.

"A 'girl' is already here, thank you. And yes, Kurt, pants are usually a good idea." Rogue is lounging in the doorway, smirking at Kurt, but looking at him. That happens a lot. The smirking. He knows it should make him nervous.

"Mein gott, don't you ever knock?"

"It's called 'common room', fuzz ball. I kind of don't have to." She rolls her eyes as she walks over and drops onto the sofa to commandeer the TV Guide from next to him. Her gloved hand brushes the side of his khakis. The warmth of it is fleeting.

Kurt just makes a face at her and flips channels spastically.

"Done with your homework, Rogue?" Because that's something he'd say too.

"Not even close," she says, not glancing away from an article about some new music show. There's a photo of someone looking depressed with a lot of dark makeup.

"That's not very responsible. We have that English paper due next week. It's fifty percent of our grade."

She turns then. Eyes him closely before snorting and going back to her article.

That does make him nervous.

"So you said Scott's crap at being Mr. Stoic, huh Kurt?" He knows she says it just because she can. Watches her turn to smirk at him and raise an eyebrow. Dare.

He blinks. It occurs, suddenly, that if he actually looked her in the eye, he might see her screaming too. Something inside him sinks a little. Twists.

Kurt is looking away and grumbling about girls and eavesdropping, but Rogue isn't smirking anymore. She's still looking at him though. Staring, really. Head tilted and eyes guarded, she pins him to the wall.

I know. She doesn't say this. She's never said this. Not in the six months since she touched him and took everything of him into herself.

"Ja," Kurt mutters, before settling on a cooking show. "He shows so much more than he hides."

And just like that, she drops his eyes and glances at Kurt. His palms are wet, but he tells himself it's the condensation from the glass of water he's been holding.

She pokes him lightly in the arm, and when he looks up at her again everything goes a little bit cold. Like a snowstorm. Like reality.

"I don't know," Rogue turns away to face Kurt again. Scott knows that isn't exactly true. "I think Scott has a pretty good poker face all things considered. It's about control, fuzzy. Something you don't seem to have."

She stands, still holding the magazine, to the sound of Nightcrawler squawking. Waves goodbye to them over her shoulder and Scott tries not to rub his hands together. His fingers
tingle for a long time afterwards.

Jean and Rogue save his life during their next mission. A tiny boy goes missing in the woods behind the mansion's outermost property line, and there is no reason not to help. They are nearby and trained and can easily explain their presence away later on.

It figures the kid will be stuck somewhere inaccessible and waterlogged. Scott slips on a patch of wet moss reaching for the crying child. Loses consciousness with a dull ache in his head and water rushing towards him with two voices screaming his name.

Wakes up to Jean's watery smile and grass beneath his head. The headache is splitting, but in the distance he can hear humming. It's familiar, and even as Jean clutches his hand and tells him that everything is going to be okay and that the others will be here soon, his gut clenches.

Carefully, trying to avoid any undue strain, he turns his head towards the source. It's a tune he knows well, his mother had sung that to him and Alex. Quietly and under her breath and every time it had stormed outside.

Rogue is a few feet away rocking the missing boy against her chest. He's fallen asleep, face stained with tears and streaked with snot. She is smiling down at the child, humming that song, and whispering something into his hair.

She never even looks up, even as they load them into the plane.

He doesn't let himself think that she doesn't have to.

The painkillers they give him for his minor concussion will give him nightmares. He knows this because the last time he got hit in the head they did.

Scott doesn't remember. Not if he doesn't have to. Remembering hurts.

Skin, screaming, pain, teeth, nails, "You like it boy! You little fag!" Darkness, pain, crying.

He just smiles through breakfast the next day, meeting everyone's eyes through a haze of red. Ignores that the only person who actually looks back isn't smiling at his close call. Isn't saying anything.

He didn't dream. Remembering hurts and isn't easy. But he didn't dream, and that's better.

"Your name used to be Slim." She whispers it into the dark of the garden. He doesn't flinch because he's known this was coming. He's been waiting for this for weeks.

"Yes." It surprises him that his voice is deeper. He's just a teenage boy. Scott is just a boy. Albeit one who takes things too seriously.

He feels her move, edge slowly along the path, gravel crunching under her boots. He doesn't smile at the caution, just applauds it silently. Known your enemy. Know your friend.

"You hate him. Slim." Not a question. That startles him. A lot.

"Yes." Because lying is pointless.

She is beside him then. Several feet away, but in his line of sight. It's odd to know that. Odd to realize that she's been training with him long enough to know exactly what he can and cannot see.

"I don't." Her arms are crossed around her, her head back to watch the sliver of moon peeking out over the trees.

"Why are you here, Rogue?" He is quiet with this. Scott wouldn't slam this girl up against a tree and demand to know. The stone of the bench he's on is cold under his fingers and he tries not to remember the conversation with her and Kurt. Stares pointedly up and waits.

"Because my name used to be Marie." It is not what he expected, but then she's seen his mind, knows his secrets. Not the other way around.

"Not anymore?"

"Not anymore." She tucks a strand of hair behind an ear and turns her head to face him. He can see it out of the corner of his lenses. The lighter pink of her bangs contrasts starkly with the darker hair behind it.

"Do you hate her?" Because he wants to know... something. She doesn't answer. Doesn't even flinch or move or do anything, and that's more of an answer than he deserves.

He changes the subject.

"What color is your hair?" Asks because no one has ever told him about it. No one has thought to mention it. As it should be.

"White and red."

He blinks and bites the inside of his lip. Waits because this is about him.

"She loves you." Again, not a question. "I know that. And I know how much that means to the person you want to be. To the person you have to be. I get that."

He looks at her then, for the first time. Tries to actually see the person beyond the makeup. She's seen him. She's seen Jean. She is lovely and broken in the reddish moonlight and everything inside him that was Slim claws at the image she makes. Desire flooding his brain, but for what he doesn't know.

"What do you see when you look at me, Rogue?"

She smiles. Tilts her head just a little, and Scott can see the screaming written in her eyes clear as day. Wonders how he doesn't always see it, just there.

"I see someone who wants everything. But won't ask for it."

She turns on her heel and walks away.

Later, he'll wonder what he would have said if she'd asked the same question.