Cabbages, Ginger Root and a Crucifix
Fandom: X-Men Movieverse
Spoilers/Warnings: Through X2.
Pairing/Characters: Scott Summers/Jean Grey
Author's Notes: Thanks to hotelmontana for a beta, and then handholding, and then a song, and then another beta.
the top of the tower
Radio buzz in our ears
We can see your house from here
- Final Fantasy, "The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead"
"If," Jean, without provocation, said one night, "for whatever reason, we're separated someday, we should have a place to meet up again."
She was propped up on the sofa in the mansion's cozy library, surrounded by pillows and blankets, a psychology textbook open on her lap and a thick highlighter in her hand. She was studying the subject at Mr. Lehnsherr's insistence that telepathy was not synonymous with comprehension. For Jean, it was in equal parts amusing and annoying. The Professor had only been annoyed.
She turned a page, reading and thinking aloud at the same time, twirling the highlighter on the fingertips of her other hand.
"Our own special place, so we can find each other again. Like on field trips. Like the buddy system."
Scott, studying an aeronautics text, gave a noncommittal hum.
"And we should have some kind of signal, or something," she said, without looking up from a Xeroxed list of Latin verbs.
Scott had a drafting pencil in one and a ruler in the other. Even when he visited her in the city, he couldn't leave his work behind. "Why would we need a signal?" he asked around the compass he was holding in his mouth.
"So we'll be able to find each other, of course"
"We don't need a signal." Scott took the compass out of his mouth and dug the sharp end into a point on the paper in front of him. "I'll see you; you'll see me, and there we'll be."
From the next room, Kung Fu's theme music melted into an infomercial for a soft rock compilation, and the channel didn't change. Jean sighed. Misty fell asleep in front of the television more often than she did in her own bed. Jean pushed back from the kitchen table while Scott swung the compass around in a perfect circle.
In the common room, Jean pulled the quilt off of the back of the futon and covered Misty's curled-up body with it, before hitting the power button on the remote.
Back in the kitchen, Scott's face was not more than a few centimeters from his textbook, propped up against a bag of flour. Jean leaned against the doorframe and watched his lips moving silently as he read over some instruction.
"What if you've forgotten me?" she said.
"I won't forget you."
Under the kitchen's fluorescent light, Jean's hands seemed to swell and stretch. She made tight fists, as though she could hold the light inside. "What if I've forgotten you?"
Scott sighed impatiently. "Then I'll make you remember."
"The Empire State Building on Valentine's Day?"
"Top of Mount Everest on Arbor Day?"
"Too cold," Jean said with an exaggerated shiver.
"Eiffel Tower on New Years Eve?"
"The CN Tower on Guy Fawkes Night?"
"Guy Fawkes Night?" She scrunched her nose. "The CN Tower?"
"I know where it is, but, really?" Jean paused, squinting at him over her Pad Thai. "The CN Tower? That's our special meeting place?"
Scott seemed genuinely insulted on behalf of the building. He pointed his fork at her. "Don't knock the CN Tower. It's the tallest free-standing structure in the world. The American Civil Engineering Society just declared it one of the modern Seven Wonders."
"Alright, alright," Jean said conciliatorily. "It's a marvel of architecture. But Guy Fawkes Night?"
"Peanut sauce, please." He shrugged. "I don't know. It just came out. It's a night in November when they light..."
Jean passed him the sauce. "Bonfires. I know. For anarchy. But they don't even celebrate it in Canada."
Scott sighed and dumped too much peanut sauce on his rice noodles.
"Scott," she said, her voice uncharacteristically brittle.
"Honestly, Jean, I don't know what you want me to say." Scott, with a class to teach in six hours, had been nearly asleep. "We'll do it, okay? If we're ever separated, for whatever reason, and there's no other way to find each other, we'll meet at the CN Tower, on Guy Fawkes Night. And if you've forgot me, I'll give you the signal. I'll say, we can see your house from here. It'll be like we're spies."
"Don't patronize me," Jean snapped. "I'm not a lunatic on a Thorazine drip."
She pushed the covers back, letting the cold air slip beneath. Scott shivered as she pulled her robe on and shoved her feet into slippers with hard, angry movements. She didn't spare him a look as she stalked out of the room, though she shut the door gently in deference to the mansion's other residents.
Scott made a frustrated noise and flopped over onto his back.
"I'm sorry," she said, the museum suddenly feeling too hot and close. "I'm tired. I'm being silly."
"Yes, you are," he said sternly, but reached down and gave her hand a squeeze. They shared a look, and she thought that there was no one in the world who understood her the way he did.
They were still very young.
Scott hadn't thought Toronto would be so cold. He wouldn't have thought to pack for such weather, if he'd thought to pack at all.
He hadn't told anyone where he was going, hadn't even known himself that he was. Just a quick spin on the bike, he'd said. Just a joyride to let speed and wind strip away the stink of grief and pity that still clung to the school in concerned looks and the gentle manners. They meant no harm, Scott knew that. But Ororo's sweet voice, the Professor's attentiveness, even Logan's willingness to spar, these things tore at Scott and threatened to rip away his seams. For nearly a year, he'd felt in danger of coming undone, and knowing that he was loved only made the edge of loss more cutting.
The quick escape had turned into a longer trip, and before he knew it, he was crossing the border. By the time he got to Toronto, he was filthy and exhausted, but he didn't stop to rest or bathe. He went straight to the tower.
He rode up in an empty lift and stepped out onto the Glass Floor. Beneath his feet, over three hundred meters below, the city presented itself in geometric patterns of road, and bus, and shrub. Scott's step was silent on the reinforced glass, the silence itself a harsh buzz. He followed it out to the observation deck. There wasn't anyone around; the outdoor area was curiously devoid of both tourists and personnel. It wasn't truly open air, as he'd hoped. The deck was enclosed by a rail and bars, and then wire mesh between those. Still, it wouldn't take much to rip it all away. A squint, that's all.
Scott leaned on his elbows against the rail and waited. A flicker of movement in his ruined peripheral vision caught his eye. He turned, almost expecting to see red hair, long legs and strong, capable hands.
Disappointment tasted like sour ash.
Night was falling over Toronto. Through his glasses, the skyline glowed different shades of red, like the bonfires for the holiday this city didn't celebrate.
So long ago that it took more than two hands to count the years, Jean, in a late night confessional much like the ones that led him to Toronto, had said, "It feels like I'm bursting apart. Like I'm cracking around the corners, and I'm filled with fire and light that's trying to escape."
Scott remembered that, even muted by glasses that still felt foreign and heavy, she'd looked so young, and her eyes had been wide and fearful.
"It's telling me to let go," she said. "Jump, it tells me. Jump."
The city burned.
"We can see your house from here," Scott whispered to it.
Jump, it seemed to reply. Jump.
He pushed off from the rail, turning back to the interior. Walking across the glass floor to the lift, he didn't look down. When he reached the ground floor, he walked out in quick step with the thudding in his chest. He didn't look back until he was far enough away to see the whole picture.
Only then did Scott turn back to the tower. It was dark since the city had taken its lights away. Too difficult to maintain, was their excuse. Too costly. And it disrupted the migratory patterns of birds. It seemed like a terrible thing at the time, but he understood it now. He took a deep breath, in through the nose and out the mouth.
Like Jean had before him, Scott jumped.