Intermission

August 05, 2018:

Scott and Jean, both in need of a quiet moment away from their many responsibilities, talk about the various challenges facing them.

The Xavier Institute

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Storm, Rachel Summers, Tony Stark, Emma Frost, Wanda Maximoff

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Charts, numbers, graphs, statistics, name attachments, code simplified so he could read it and still Scott Summers is struggling to focus, the red on red haze his eyes are casting wavers, shape discernment is great, range, but colors, the blend. Just awful and right now he is frustratingly and accutely aware of this. Enough so the often stoic and impassive X-Man is radiating a sense of volatile anxiety.

Stepping out of the teacher's lounge he unfastens the top button of his striped and long-sleeved shirt. Forearms bare where hes already rolled it up as high as they can go on his arms. Some fresh air might be all he requires right now as hes tands in that antechamber to hallway. A long pause overcoming him while fingers pinch underneath ruby shades to his nose.

It is a Sunday of course, rather quiet and most of the students who have returned are outside eating up the sun and enjoying the lake while they can, that at least is a blessing. With the Professor again gone overseas Jean Grey is headmistress in his stead and the rest of the senior members are left to shoulder as much as they can while juggling their X-Men lives.

*

Jean Grey has always been attuned to the moods of Scott Summers. She has spent what feels like a lifetime protecting herself from the psychic onslaught of the human race, and her mind by now is a fortress upon a fortress, but for Scott there has always been a gate left ajar.

Even across the Institute, she can easily feel the knot of tension that he is, and it turns her head from where she was taking some time to herself in the garden.

Minutes later, the quiet sound of heels clicking against the school's polished floors heralds her approach from down the hall, along with the faintest scent of lemon verbena that usually accompanies her. She is not in headmistress mode right now, her dress casual and her hair left absently loose. Both of them are workaholics, but Jean usually remembers how to take breaks just a little better.

"Scott," she calls. Her voice is a balm, whatever other troubles are hanging in the air between them all. She has spent so long avoiding her own deep issues by focusing on those of others — by being the quiet center when everything else is spinning out of control — that this aspect of calm comes very easily to her. Humor, too comes easily: "We've talked about working past the point the headaches start."

*

Any easy snap to 'now' upon hearing his name from Jean's lips. It's an odd sort of come to he always has around her, a hyper-awareness thats almost beyond the physical and he is by no means a psychic or telepathic sort by any means to sort sense of this oddity that is simply them….

"Jean." He responds with a quiet acknowledgement.
"Got the memo from the Professor, looks like he won't be home anytime soon…. " He intended to talk over any worrying or concerned words but fails the initiative there.

"I was on my way out to get some fresh air. Was I?" Being loud? He doesn't say the last part. Very likely doesn't need to.

*

Jean's arms fold across her chest, her head bowing a little as she feels Scott sail near a real conversation, but then skew off to safer shores. "Yes," she says. "It is a hard time for him to be away, but then again, he taught us with an eye to ensuring we would survive if he was not around." It is what a father does. He raises his children to be able to live without him.

She raises her head, half a wan smile crossing her features, red hair sliding back across her shoulder. "The school continues to fall to me, and all the many things happening within it." And there are many, goes unsaid.

She steps in closer, to the point she would naturally fall into a walk beside him. "A bit of air sounds good," she says, nudging him with a shoulder to come along. "I was just out in the garden, with the roses." Her eyes crinkle a little at the corners. "I could hear you from across the Institute."

Her lashes lower. "Come back out there with me. There are things you wish to discuss, and which we need to discuss." A hesitation. "Rachel is back."

*

Scott's talent lately in dodging any sort of actual conversation has been greatly exercised, outside of the 'missions' hes had limited things to say to near anyone, including Jean.

"It's become a regular, I wonder if he hasn't grown tired of this end of the fight." The elder Summers considers outloud, never much of a need for filtering himself around Jean. Not often.

"You're good at it. It's what you were groomed for. The students and others look to you for guidance and support. It fits."
The walk joined and carrying easily through the foyer to the front, the nudge has him turning his focus from the door to look at her, one of those weak smiles showing up, "They're growing well, Ororo no doubt." Himself no green thumb. Lesson learned…
"Oh. I didn't mean to project, I wasn't well, you've not exactly been around as often as I am used to and you are again, some things slip." The door to the outside is thrown open, the red filters helpful in reducing visual discomfort from the sun, holding it for her he waits until shes past him to step down beside her.

"Not that I am complaining. I missed you, everyone did. It is only fair the Professor lets you come home while hes out… just, be nice to have you both around for once."
A clearing of his throat as he feels awkward, weak, 'Slim' again. Like his teenage years just fell on him again being next to her. He thought he was over that. Easy to believe these things when you don't have to share immediate space…

*

He's fought for long enough that I wouldn't begrudge him a little exhaustion, if so," Jean says, as usual staunchly faithful to the man who saved her life. "But I don't think he could stay away from the fight forever. It's too important to him. Too much part of who he is." Much like another man they could name.

As far as Jean's place as the school's administratrix? "It fits," Jean agrees, with a slight sigh that belies a lot more unsaid behind the two words. "We were all groomed for what we were good at." Jean loves Charles… but she also sees him quite clearly, at times, and does not even need the benefit of her telepathy to do so.

She pauses, before adding, "Sometimes I wonder if it fits because of my desire, or because of my habit." Scott is not the only one with less of a filter when the two of them are together. Greater responsibility fell on the two of them from the very start, and it often meant they had no one to confide but one another.

He opens the door for her, and she steps out into the welcome warmth of the sun. Doubly welcome, given the topic. A mote of guilt clouds her expression a moment as he speaks of her having been away, but it passes. "I missed everyone," she admits. "I missed the school, the mission… the sense of purpose. But I guess I know better than anyone the dangers of burning out."

Her hand brushes his arm as she says that, a tacit reminder. "You know you don't need to apologize, anyway. I care more about why you're feeling that way than the fact you're projecting it."

It's a quick walk to the garden, uninterrupted by needy students or urgent news: just about everyone is at the pool or the lake, on a day like this. "Is it the missions that have you so strained? Or the fact Emma Frost will be here in a month? Rachel had her opinions on the matter…"

*

"I'm not trying to sound bitter." Scott says, "Just… right now and before this. I suppose, I just fear at times this is him tossing us out of the nest in a way. All of us." Even remotely speaking out against the Professor fills Scott with an insane amount of shame and guilt. The idol worship he has for the man who had become his surrogate father is rather deep rooted.
"You're right though. I'm just letting things out, all these… concerns I don't talk about to anyone and have not been able to, they're just spinning around up there. I thought a break looking in to the Liberation Front would do me some good, it didn't. I'm starting to think they were just a fluke or some subproduct related to this shit around Tony Stark. A diversion."

A clip of his tone and his words hes lets Jean's voice set in, "You think at times he might not have steered us towards too much codependency on eachother? I feel like we're almost… hardwired to just magnet up, pick up strays, link arms and… rely on one another." He slows to stare at her, features hes memorized, will never forget. A lifetime? More than one?
One of Scott's hands rises up to curl around her wrist, settling there before releasing.

"I wasn't apologizing. Just letting some pent up steam I guess."

The garden rounded in on and he allows himself to give it an actual look, not just at it but taking it in. For a moment he appears like hes about to relax then she mentions Emma a spike of tension shoots between his shoulders. It's training, a force of his own impressive will and he's walling the excess thoughts that could bleed out, openly slapping up barricades in his mind.

"Shes what? I wasn't aware of this."
"The missions are wanted, if anything. I could use the exercise."
"Emma though… and Rachel's thoughts? Enlighten me."

*

"I think it is him throwing us out of the nest," Jean says, her voice quiet. "And all birds need to be thrown out at some point, in order to learn to fly."

She is silent a moment. A hint of light and heat plays along her red hair: or maybe it's really just the gleam of the setting sun, and the heat is merely imagined, a memory of consuming fire and countless screams.

She closes her eyes and walls off the memory. "Not that it makes it any easier," she allows. "Perhaps he steered us in that way…" Her head lifts, her green eyes looking into his. "Or maybe he just cultivated what was already there. You were the only quiet for me, in a world that constantly screamed in my head."

Jean's eyes turn away, and her right hand crosses to clasp her left arm in what he would recognize as a gesture of uncertainty. The tension only loosens slightly when she feels his hand on her wrist, but it does not fully go away. I feel like we're hardwired to link up and rely on each other. "A little," she says, "though not so much as before. We have lived many lives, now." A thought of Nathan, a child in her arms, crosses her mind. "Are you asking for something different? There are more than enough troubles to keep us respectively busy."

Like Emma. Jean slants a sidewise look at Scott as those barriers go up. "That open invitation," Jean says. "She is taking it. She will be teaching in the fall. Rachel is concerned about it… and her ties to the Hellfire Club."

*

"A little." Scott echoes. The play of red hues though largely differing for him is still in it's own way fetching, it has him looking at Jean the way he was the flowers of the garden, lost in a memory like hers just much less tragic and terrifying. The warmth of it much different than an all consuming cosmic flame.

"No, I suppose I am not asking for anything different just for it to line up, make more sense and fall in line so we can deal with it. Theres always a new threat and this one… it's a backpedal, we spent years getting in good with SHIELD, the DEO, a recognized team thats not just seen as terrorists like the Brotherhood… Magneto and his psychotic family."
"Now, that hill we finally got purchase on is a goddamned mountain, it's daunting." He flexes his jaw, his tongue working against a sore he bit behind his lip from grinding teeth in his sleep likely.

"The Professor insisted I am open to her, pushed me to make her feel welcome here and accepted as we can manage despite her Hellfire Club ties… " Scott quiets himself, trying to consider the proper words, the posture Jean's presenting has him reflexively moving closer to her, his arm and shoulder against hers.

"As a teacher… thats a lot of trust. Rachel's maybe not off, not entirely. How do you feel about this?"

*

Jean is a pretty picture among the roses, her red hair a perfect match for their hues. It is reflective in many ways of how so many view her: as a picture, an ideal, an ideology and a myth more than an actual person. If she wonders if Scott is looking at her in that same way, in this moment, she gives no indication. Her green eyes are averted, looking instead at one of the flowers. She can feel his eyes on her, and the familiarity of that gaze — his close warmth — soon soothes her fears.

He supposes he's not asking for anything different, he says. Just for things to feel more manageable again.

"I am always here, Scott," Jean says, finally looking up at him. "And I am always the same." It has the quality of a statement Jean is trying to convince herself of, more than one that is factually true.

The fight will always be the same, too," she goes on. "Sometimes we make great steps forward, and sometimes we must struggle against the steps backward." She pauses. "I have some of us working a few of those angles, at least. On Tony Stark and the strange experiments he spoke of. On the collars, on registration, on trying to keep the Brotherhood in line." A pause. "I spoke to the woman, the Scarlet Witch. They are in the mold of their father. If they are less radical, it is only slight. There will be the need to keep up good PR against the harm they do to mutant image. I travel. I speak. It is all we can do, for now."

As for Emma? Jean looks away again, at the ground. But she does not move away when Scott leans in; she leans back, her head tipped gently against his taller shoulder. "I spoke to her," she says thinly. "I took over one of her check-in sessions. I made it very clear to her that my primary concern will be whether she gets more children killed. Her reaction was satisfactory to me — for now."

Her hard aspect softens, but only marginally. "But as I said to Rachel, none of us should be barred second chances. I am on one of my own…"

*

"You weren't." Scott corrects but not harshly, theres a gentle in his tone. No one could be cruel over someone dying. Thats just… not.
"But you are now and I am too. Have been and will be."

"I trust Tony Stark even less than I trust Emma Frost." He admits, "I think he only looks at the big picture, nothing his big damn picture bulldozers over or what is left behind but I do not think he is evil. Not in the least." He doesn't say the same about Emma, he likes to think shes not but then, they're not new to any of this game.

"They've been less openly hostile of late, it is likely a good time for us to lay it on thick. Seize the quiet while it is present. I'll work something on that front too. I'll keep the team buttering up the DEO for more jobs that keep us in the public eye and working alongside the authorities… " Though the 'quiet' around the Brotherhood only makes him feel they are winding up for a big punch again.

When Jean leans in to him he lifts his arm up and slides it over her shoulders, clutching the opposite to hold her against his ribs.
"That… had to be one hell of a conversation. She won't, mistakes and… she won't. Not on our watch."

"I'll support you and the Professor in this, I've already taken the steps. Finally shes budging. This could be in our favor."

*

Jean looks away at the correction. The red wing of her hair hides her expression, but the way her shoulders tense betrays enough. "I suppose I said what I wished was true," she admits. "And what I want to be true, from now on." She exhales a breath. "I'm tired of dying on you." A hint of sad humor leaks into her tone. It's very exhausting."

You are now and I am too. "I'll hold you to that," she says, finally looking back up.

As for Tony Stark and Emma Frost? Jean bites her lip, thinking. "He is not evil, no," she says. "I feel that his intentions are typically for the best. But he is negligent in his pursuit of them. Frost…" She shrugs. "The opposite, really. There is not a single shred of negligence in her, but a considerable amount of deliberate malignance. I hesitate to think of there being any true evil in the world, but at the least… she values nothing above her own skin. Regardless, I asked Rachel to liaise with him. She has the teeth for it."

As far as the Brotherhood? "They have been," she agrees. "Some of ours have had conversations with them, brief cooperative dealings. But still, they always fall back upon spates of explosive violence and dogmatic anger. At times, I do not think even they know what they want. There may be more traction to be had with them than there ever was against their father. But I have no doubt Magneto is still pulling strings in some way, even from where he is. Our best course is to work on what we can control. Our image has taken a hit, as of late."

His arm around her brings her eyes to close. "It was certainly a very short conversation," she says, of her talk with Emma. "But she is well aware I will be keeping an eye on her while she is here. If there is any good to come of this, we will have to wring it out of her." She sighs. "I still have paperwork to do, in that regard. Stark made some vague philanthropic noises."

*

"It is fairly schedule taxing and inconsiderate of you also." Scott adds. The dry delivery only giving away his humor because she knows him and he cannot hide a meager smile thats showing itself.

"I expected you to." He drifts off in more to say there for the time being as she updates him on her thoughts towards Stark and Frost, a frown appearing across his brow.
"You assigned Rachel to Tony Stark? Have you seen the magazines and leaks, the ne… " A low overly long exhale from Scott, a dad noise. One only parents are capable of making authentic whether intended or no.

"I am sure she's already feeling the scrutiny and expecting she'll be watched, by everyone. Shes been here to visit me and talk, shes made comments about the judgement and air of discomfort."

"I have to go run checks on our systems, it's sunday night. We'll touch base soon, maybe tonight?"

*

Jean makes an amused noise, a bare exhale of breath not quite strong enough for a true laugh. "I'll try to not be so inconsiderate in the future," she says, her humor often equally as dry as his. "If death comes again, I shall tell it to take a number."

As for Rachel and Tony? The 'dad noise' doesn't escape Jean, nor its meaning, but her reaction is mostly to actually laugh. "I think Stark has another thing coming if he tries anything on Rachel," Jean says, "though if it becomes anything she cannot handle at any point, Stark will answer to me."

Emma's discomfort about the air of judgment around the school? Jean transparently has no pity there, either. "It's the price you pay when you conduct yourself 'like Emma Frost,'" she says, a little sharply, though without considerable heat. "If she altered her behavior, then miraculously there would be a corresponding change in how she is received."

But the decision is already made, so Jean's sharpness does not last long. Especially with work calling to both of them. "Tonight," she agrees, and disentangles after a last nudging lean against his side. "I have work of my own to do."

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