Timing: This takes place during the film, after Jean and Logan's conversation in the lab, but before Logan leaves. Beware of some bad language; on ff.net, I've rated it PG-13, but some might consider it a light R.
Notes: I don't deal much with the S/J/L triangle (except in Heyoka) because I saw it as resolved by the film's end. But sometimes things aren't resolved; sometimes they're just swept under the rug. Inspired by a blue mood, and the fact that Jean and Scott sit together on the couch at the end of the X-Men film, but don't touch. That's always bugged me.
She moves like water. Quiet and fluid, mostly soft, but determined. People underestimate the power of water because it's a mutable element, yet a river can wear away a canyon, if given long enough. Jean's like that. Push her away and she keeps flowing back. But rivers do silt up, and the water turns elsewhere, leaving river mud, parched and cracking.
I stand here at the lab door, leaning into the wall, arms and ankles crossed as I watch her wrap up her work for the day. The professor is awake and gone, released to his own bed with orders to take it easy for another twenty-four hours. The furball was discharged, too, thankfully. I saw him wandering about upstairs, looking as if he'd not suffered so much as a hangnail, never mind come within a breath of dying.
I don't hate Logan. Not anymore. I don't think he hates me, either. We can pass each other in the hall without snarling, and he even asked me how Rogue was, and where she could be found, and I pointed him in her direction -- out sunning herself with the other girls on the lawn, where the boys could see. The resilience of youth. Three days ago, she was having her soul and power sucked out by a maniacal machine. Now, she's flirting with Bobby Drake. Not that I'm under any illusions that she's over it. We get too many wounded kids here, and I know it takes time. But I'm glad to see her on the lawn, not locked in her room. A little attention from Logan would do her good.
I'm not sure what a little attention from Logan did to Jean, though. It woke me up, that's for sure, but maybe it just showed her how little she still feels for me. And I don't dare ask.
I wasn't raised to discuss my feelings, even in my own family. Especially not in my own family. Men are stereotypically bad about sharing feelings anyway, and pilots are worse. My father was an air force pilot, and I probably would've been, too, had the mutation not interfered. I'd fought the very idea all through high school -- tooth, nail and claw -- but in the end, chances are good that I'd have wound up in the air force just like him, and in a jet cockpit. I did wind up in a jet cockpit; it just has little Xs on the side instead of US flags. Summers men are born with hydraulic fluid for blood. All but my brother. He could care less about planes, but I've been convinced for years that Alex is really a changeling that someone slipped into the crib when my mother wasn't looking.
In any case, I'm a flyboy, and the son of a flyboy, and I have all the attendant virtues and vices. Cocky, arrogant, cool under pressure, quick-reacting, obnoxiously self-assured, and with a heart wrapped about in black titanium. I'll kid around, I'll wisecrack right and left, but bare my insecurities? Forget it.
Yet the first time I laid eyes on Jean Grey, almost nine years ago now, she blasted me right out of the sky. I was too young for her, barely more than a kid, but she shot me down anyway, peeled back the metal, took off with my heart, and I haven't seen it since.
Which sounds hokey as hell, but it's true.
I lost myself in her. She's my ocean. I sank into her swell and relaxed, and she bore me up. She taught me how to bend and not to break. She taught me how to talk about what I felt, and I could even cry in her arms. She unwrapped me like a present, all for her. I've had other girlfriends, and I've even been in love a time or two, but I trusted Jean Grey utterly.
It's not emotional reticence that seals my lips. But so much water has passed beneath our bridge, daring to bare my feelings constitutes a different kind of risk. I'd have to be honest, and then she'd be honest back . . . and I might hear things that I don't want to hear. I've invested so much of myself in this relationship, like blood spilled into the foundations, to hallow a fort. What would I do if I didn't have it? Who would I be? Could I even stay here?
I doubt it. One of us would have to leave, and it'd probably be me. All Jean's research is here. I can get a job somewhere else. Maybe.
Does she still love me?
That's the question I can't ask, because the hell of it is . . . I don't know the answer anymore. And I did once.
I still love her. But my pulse no longer speeds up when she lays a hand on my knee, and I can watch her dress in the mornings, and think only about what I have to wear that's clean. Our sex remains good. If anything, it's better -- but it's no longer spontaneous, and hasn't been for a while. We work at passion, but does that make it less real when it ignites? Is it a bad thing, to be comfortable instead of smitten? Should I miss the excitement of romance? Maybe I do, a bit. Maybe she does a lot more.
Logan wooed her. Flattered her. He watched her ass when she crossed a room instead of thinking about which of the cars in the garage was up for reinspection, and whether the sliding glass door in the west wing was going to jump its runner again.
What annoyed me most about him, though, wasn't that he watched her ass, or even that he chased her. Men have chased her before. This time, what fucking pissed me off was the fact that he'd pursued her with the same goddamn self-assurance that I'd once shown.
I'd just returned from college -- twenty-two years old and full of myself. She'd been thirty. I'd asked her out and she'd turned me down, but I hadn't given up. I'd asked her out seven times before she'd finally said 'yes,' and I'd never given up because I'd known she was in love with me. She'd just been worried about the age difference, concerned with the perceptions of others. It hadn't been me who'd born the brunt of social disapproval. "Cradle-robber" was whispered behind her back, and sometimes said to her face. Even the professor had doubted. But I'd known it was real, and I'd been like water. The more she'd pushed me away, the harder I'd flowed back.
So what gave Logan the right now to be that sure of himself? Did his animal senses tell him for certain something that I only feared? Was she bored with me? Had my "I love you"s become so perfunctory, I'd sacrificed what I'd worked so hard to win? Jean needs to be adored, needs to be reassured, because for most of her childhood, she'd been dished double helpings of criticism with the occasional side plate of a back-handed compliment. Elaine Grey can rot in hell for that, as far as I'm concerned. Jean's better these days. Five years ago, she'd never have been able to stand up in front of the Senate without bursting into tears. Med school was hell on her. She's always invested too much of her self-worth in her intelligence, because she'd thought that all she had. I'd like to believe that's changed because of me -- because she knows I love her till death us do part, and for reasons that have nothing to do with the fact she's the smartest woman I've ever met. But maybe she doesn't know that anymore. I'm a bit of a conqueror. I like the thrill of the chase, and when I'd won Jean after pursuing her for five years, I'd tucked her away as my most prized possession -- even if I deny possessing her at all -- and thought that was enough. I'm a sad shit sometimes.
I forgot our anniversary last year, until the day before. So of course I didn't have time to get anything. I took her to dinner and brought her flowers, but what kind of effort does that take? I used to see things when I was out, think how much she'd like them, and pick them up for her, as a present later. I don't do that anymore. She still does it for me, but only occasionally. It's easier if I buy my own toys, and the same for her. I don't always, or even often, know what she wants.
But once, I would have. Once, I knew where she was every minute of the damn day. Now, I have to stop and think about it, or beep her. We're both guilty of taking each other for granted. Familiarity breeds contempt, and all that.
It's not that I'm afraid she's in love with Wolverine. She doesn't know him, and Jean's eminently sensible about things like that. She needs to learn to wear sensible shoes, perhaps, but when it comes to matters of the heart, she knows the difference between lust and love. I'm not even sure what she feels is lust. It may just be the thrill of being chased again, of being told she's sexy and desirable by a mysterious man, instead putting up with her lazy lump of a boyfriend who forgets anniversaries and to compliment her dress.
I know better, for Christ's sake. That's the sad part. It's not as if I don't know better.
And if Jean isn't in love with Logan, that doesn't necessarily mean she's still in love with me. I'm not afraid she'll leave me. Jean's too much like me. She'll stick it out because, between us, we've built too much. It's not kids and a mortgage, quite, but if we rip apart now, too many things will fall into the chasm. We have responsibilities, and breaking up would be as bitter and complicated as a divorce. And I just . . . I can't deal with that. I can't face it. I'd rather keep my house of cards. So I won't tell her how finding her in Logan's room with her hands on his shoulders ran a sword through my gut, or that I'm terrified she doesn't love me anymore.
And it's not because I fear showing weakness. I want to sink into her ocean again. I'm desperate to have her pour around me and whisper it's okay, she forgives me for being selfish and blind. And she's sorry for being the same. I wish like hell we could do that. But I won't ask her because my private anxieties might be right -- maybe she doesn't love me anymore. I'm a habit, but she's sticking around because of the commitments we both made, and the things we share. And she doesn't know any more than I do how to rebuild herself without them.
That's why I don't speak, because if I asked, and she said those things out loud, we couldn't keep pretending. I can live with a lie, but only as long as it's unspoken . . . because then I can maintain my uncertainty.
It's being sure that scares me most.
So I stand by the door and watch her move like water as she works. And she knows I'm here, but says nothing. We'll do the proper social dance. We'll have conversations about the school and the budget, about what to order from the food supply company and what to purchase at the grocery. We'll start planning winter quarter classes with our colleagues, and we'll go over the architect's blueprints to restore the boathouse out by the lake, for after we're married. We'll talk about what color to make the new school brochure, and we'll talk about the goddamn weather.
But we won't talk about our feelings.
Because they're too important.
She's put away the last of her instruments and is taking off her labcoat to lay it over a chair and walk across to smile at me. "Sorry I took so long, hon."
"Time to head up for dinner, I guess?"
She lets me hold her hand as we walk down the hall.
I'm not going to forget our anniversary this year, because I can be like water, too. Inexorable.
I am a shameless feedback slut. It's better than chocolate