"What do you want? Jean?" Scott nudged her with an elbow.
Jean pulled her eyes, and her mind, away from the perfect blue sky and forced herself to return Scott's smile. She knew he had planned this picnic for her as a chance to get away from the X-brats, a reprieve from the responsibility of helping the younger kids hone their powers and handle their endless teenage problems. This was supposed to be "together time," but even now, even among the rolling hills and autumn-kissed trees, her mind wandered.
What did she want? College? An internship? A year of hitchhiking through Europe? How about the luxury of growing up, leaving all that comic book stuff behind her, and living in the real world, a world with no heroes or villains, just soccer moms and salesmen, plain Janes and average Joes? A white picket fence with a dog for the two point four kids to play with?
Those were all things she thought about, just like she thought about Scott Summers. But then there were the dreams. She didn't want to think about what she'd been dreaming lately. I'm glad he's not the telepath, she thought to herself, flushing. It wasn't Scott who held her in her dreams.
"I want-- I don't know! It's bad enough being a senior and having to make all these decisions, but being a mutant too, it's just--"
His mouth twisted into a wry half-smile. "Ah, Jean? I meant, 'What do you want-- tuna fish or ham and cheese?'" He reached into the paper bag and took out the two sandwiches, holding one in each hand.
"Oh. Tuna, I guess." She took the sandwich with a sheepish smile.
"It's your favorite, right?"
He looked so earnest that she didn't need her powers to tell he really did care. Everything he did had to be perfect, whether it was clamping down on the Brotherhood or planning a date. Details were everything to Scott, and she knew she could ruin his day right now just by saying, "No, actually, I prefer PBJ."
Where had that thought come from? Scott's fussiness was one of the things she loved about him. It had to be those stupid dreams, the ones that left her sweating and trembling and waking up feeling wrung-out and scared. In those dreams, she burned alive. She heard a voice calling her name through the flames, Logan's voice, but when she tried to answer, all that came out was a wordless cry.
"Yes! It's my favorite!" She took a big bite for emphasis.
"Thought so!" Scott nodded smartly and put an arm around her shoulders. "See? I know you, Jean. I know how to take care of you."
Then you know I haven't been myself. Some things were easier to say with telepathy, and besides, she was chewing.
"Mmm-hmm." Scott muttered around a bit of his ham and cheese. After swallowing, he continued, "I know. It's almost midterms, and you're worried about college admissions. You want to get in on your own merit and all that. I get it. That's why you needed a day outside in the fresh air, a chance to get away from the X-Mansion and Bayville High."
"That's it. You're right." Someday, she would learn to lie telepathically. For now, it was hard enough to lie to Scott using her voice.
"You bet I'm right! Whoa! What the hell?" He dropped his sandwich and pointed to the sky, where something streaked downward.
The object met the horizon, sending a tremor through the ground and making a "thud" that left Jean's ears ringing. Automatically, she reached out with her telepathy, searching for information. Near the source of the noise, she found twenty three minds, ten of them conscious, eight of them in at least some pain. Hurt. Dying-- is he? Are you--? What happened? I think they followed us. So much pain! I wish it would just end. The Crystal? The M'Kraan Crystal, is it whole? Is it--? Dying. Bleeding. How many casualties? The Crystal, is it--? It's here. The Crystal is undamaged! Then our mission is in tact.
"Jean?" Scott prompted her. "Jean, I don't understand anything you're trying to tell me!"
"I don't understand either, but we have to go help!" She stood, grabbed his arm, and started running toward the impact site. Hold on! Help is coming! That message, she sent to the injured people. To Logan and Xavier, she sent another. There's some sort of crash out here North of the Mansion, but don't send the police. I think it's something... out of the ordinary. Scott and I are on it, but we could use some backup. They keep worrying about something called the M'Kraan Crystal.
Xavier's response came quickly, and with a note of urgency she hardly ever sensed from the Professor. Be careful, Jean! Wait for Logan and I to assist you.
Sorry, Professor! Those people need help now. Shutting him out of her mind, she forced her legs to pump harder and faster. For some of the crash victims, seconds could matter.