September 18, 2018:

Between crises, Scott and Jean snatch a few quiet moments to talk of recent events.

R&D Labs, X-Men Base


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Rachel Summers, Nathan Summers, Nate Grey, Tony Stark, Sage, Emma Frost

Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

The lab often reminds Jean of simpler times — better times. Times when she was just Miss Jean Grey, a young medical resident, spending her days at the hospital and her nights bent over genetics research. Times when she was not any of the other things 'Jean Grey' has become over the years: both past and future.

But even those times were blemished, because in the background lurked the eternal awareness of what she was avoiding with her frenetic struggle to seem normal.

Here and now, Jean's presence in R&D is equal parts that search for familiarity and comfort — the simplicity of a scientific question that needs answering — and equal parts an admission that monumental problems face them all which cannot be avoided with nostalgia. She's at one of the lab benches, looking at a sample of what appears to be blood through a microscope. Additional samples are whirring away in the centrifuge.

Beside her, a holographic projection flickers busily through images of what Jean is seeing, recording snapshots of it along with neat notes done in Jean's precise hand.

R&D… Scott Summers cannot remember the last time he caught Jean in here. Though, it is not chance he is opening the door now to pop his head in. He was watching through the security feeds, no doubt something she may have felt. Everyone has that 'sense' of being watched at times, for telepaths and true run Omega levels like Miss Grey… thats just a pronounced reality.

"Hey." He tosses in with a neutral tone before following his voice inside. A hand splaying out and rubbing palm along one counter top. Simple attire today, black sports pants and tennis shoes with a grey t-shirt a bold X in yellow on the front.

The return trip in fetching the Hulk from Antarctica kept him up last night, he has not slept upon return. But at least Bruce Banner is back from his unexpected flight trip after the skirmish with the Brotherhood and the /RAVEN/ had it's succesful first flight. He'll brag about that soon…

The sensation of being watched crept over her slowly, like frost over a pane of glass. Jean had made no physical reaction that could be seen on the feeds, but after a time Scott would have felt her reach back across their long-term bond, tangling psychic hands with him in brief acknowledgement.

Still, she doesn't ask him outright to come down. That choice is left up to him.

As he enters, Jean still doesn't quite look up from her work, though after a moment she observes, "You didn't sleep." There is a slight chide to her voice, but no actual surprise: this is not new, on Scott's part. "But I take it Dr. Banner is safe?"

Now that Scott is closer, it becomes more obvious what Jean is looking at. The blood samples crawl with nanites, disorganized and alien. A sample of Extremis-influenced blood.

"Safe as the man can be." Scott replies casually moving close enough to place his hand near the scope set up. Leaning in to the countertop beside her giving him the ability to see what shes looking at though, not at the perceptions shes got right now through that device.

"Better yet the smaller jet, the /Raven/ was a success." Prior upgrades upon the SR77 Blackbird also came with a gift of the smaller four person sleek VTOL shuttle jet. Scott keps plugging the name Raven as if it will stick and catch on, much like Blackbird. It's a youthful thing for him, rare to witness the man get so excited about something that silly. It's taken over his grief about destruction of not one but two of his cars this year.

"I'll sleep at some point today. What about you, you slept?"
A tap-tap of a fingertip, "Whats that? Or more… which is that?"

Jean finally leans up away from the scope as Scott draws near, shifting in her chair so she can tilt closer to him. Whether love or codependency or something else orchestrated by Charles Xavier, Scott and Jean have always automatically leaned together for support. Each has always needed the other to be something for them.

Before all that, however, they were awkward teenagers who found friendship in their shared situation, and it's that friendship which is the source of the smile Jean gives him when he talks about the Raven's maiden flight. After all that's come weighing down on their shoulders, it's nice to see him boyishly excited about some variety of fast vehicle again — to see a hint of Scott Summers under the mantle of Cyclops.

"Good performance even in those conditions?" she asks, pushing a long fall of hair over her shoulder. "I know there were concerns about the temperatures and the high winds down there."

But that good humor falters a little as her chide about sleeping is returned back on her. Her gaze tracks back to the holographic display. "There'll be time for that later," she says. "My schedule is full… the start of the school year, speaking engagements, meetings with the lawmakers up in Albany. I had trouble just getting anyone to sit down with me, Scott. The mood there is not good."

And the slide?

"This is a sample from the man we brought back from the Extremis beta site," she says. "Savin, he is called. I don't have the expertise Stark or someone else would have, but I wanted to see it for myself. Especially with Stark… indisposed. Savin is still in our holding, but…"

"Excellent performance. Cut through all of that like a razor. It's like driving a sedan over a semi compared to the Blackbird. Needs more air time to figure where we'll have to compesnate or adapt but it's amazing… " Scott's boyish grin falters and becomes something more to their age and the times as he watches her. His train of thought skipping a beat as she moves her hair, something he has always had a trigger for. Even when to him, the world itself is just one picture show of red shades and darkness.

"It's everywhere right now, Jean. Parents are even afraid to send kids to our school again, I seen our registration numbers. The upswing is down, this mix up with the Brotherhood, Trask, the imposters, Purifiers, all of it has us back a decade. Our good work over the years dashed aside like it was nothing… " Scott's lips curl and he stops himself from cursing, it's words, names, /Maximoff/ all in his mind in a swirl full of venom that he does his best to curb. Focus on the ideals and doctrine of the Professor.

"Savin, after the guy we dealt with. Yeah. But?"

"You'll have to take me sometime," Jean says, her smile widening. She's flown the currents of solar wind in empty space, skimmed the corona of a star, but somehow none of that compares to the simple pleasure of piloting something man-made through the atmosphere, seeing the beauty of their own home planet far below. Probably because of the memories that come attendant with those interstellar travels —

A dissonant note of grief pangs through her mind. She pushes it aside quickly, however, along with a long lock of her hair.

Scott's own mind turns down as he thinks of all the things that have happened, all the ways in which their public works have been set back by the short-sighted violence of a few. Jean reaches forward, a hand resting down on Scott's shoulder, offering a bracing squeeze. "Progress comes and progress goes, Scott," she says. "History is a cycle. Everything is a cycle — I have seen that with my own eyes." Her eyes darken. There is briefly an echo of something vast and distant in her voice, a power caged a thousand light years away.

Then it is gone, and Jean is smiling sadly at him. "All we can do is stay the same, ourselves. We can't let this change us or what we stand for. Amidst it all, we have to stand as examples that there are those of us who want peace, and that it is within our collective reach."

But as for Savin? Jean balks uncharacteristically. She pulls her hand back. "I have… done something," she admits. "We're working with SHIELD on trying to locate the alpha site, but this Killian has covered his tracks very well."

Her arms fold in front of her, almost defensive. "If they cannot find it through conventional means, I want to release Savin. With an… instruction that I have placed in his mind."

"I will. Whenever you like." Anytime and always. He doesn't say as much as it pours out of him just naturally. They are very coached in to this through so many years and even lifetimes.

"Stop that." Summers jokes, helping himself to tossing that lock of hair back over her face in a unique and between them alone playful moment.

The squeeze he doesn't pay mind to, though he can feel it. "I'm not disagreeing, I just didn't think the past years had been the Golden, I figured we were nearing those but they were just a lul… a break in the storm."

"I haven't changed. I don't think, for a while, I worried you changed, maybe in that I might have drifted or become different some but… I feel I am still the same man I always strive to be." Not saying this for just her but apparently himself as well.

"What have you done?"
"You… put a suggestion in his mind?" That is serious. Ironic considering the tear he had just startd to ramble in to.

Jean can't help but laugh as her hair is flipped back over her face. For a moment she feels sixteen again, without any of the cares and crimes that have accumulated to her name. With how the Institute and the X-Men alike have grown as institutions, moments for either of them to be merely Scott, or merely Jean, are rare and far between now.

She sobers rapidly, though, as Scott says he hasn't changed… but he feared for a while that she did. That he might have drifted himself because of that, but still strives to be who he always has been. That puts something very like a note of fear in Jean's mind, a small seed of worry that takes root and refuses to go away. He is the same. Is she?

What have you done?

"Maybe I have changed," Jean admits. "Scott, I…"

She is silent a moment, looking at the holo. "We have to stop this," she says eventually. "They are mulching people for their profit machine, even as we speak. I want SHIELD to succeed at locating him, but if they cannot… a small trigger. To cause him to tell us where the site is, when he returns to it. It is the most bloodless way I can think of."

She looks at him, a little lost. "It is a last resort. I do not know if it is something the Professor would have done. I can't say for sure… and I worry sometimes that I can't say for sure, anymore." Her green eyes look up at him. They seem to ask him: are you still certain?

"Only with no other option I imagine." Scott says, a frown worn as he looks down at her looking in to those emerald orbs, he knows their real look even as his lifeless reflective shades just cast her own face and look back upon her.

"This is something you always said you never wanted to do, it's on that line, Jean. The one we're trying hard to stay away from. If you feel it is our only option right now though, do it. I'll support you just… remember." Promises, oaths, young ideals. Times that are more smoke than substance in the memory now.

"Last resort." He repeats and his hand rises to cup her chin and jaw, a thumb brushing over it. "We can't let this change us and what we stand for." Second ago, her own words.

"Only with no other," Jean agrees, a slight breath of relief escaping her. Her head bows a little, as if in the Professor's absence she has come to rely on Scott to remember what they stand for when temptation calls. Just as he must, in turn, rely on her for the exact same thing.

He promises his support — but so long as she remembers what they all oathed long ago. The promises they all made when they were young, and thought the answers were simple. She reaches for his free hand with both of her own, holding on. "It is still something I do not want to do," she says. "I've spent my life wrestling with the ethics of our powers.

"And it's a hard line, Scott," she admits. These are things she says to no one else. Not her children, for whom she must be strong. Not the world, for whom she must be an ideal. Only Scott. "There are so many things we have to live up to being, and at the same time… so many things we have to accomplish. Those things are so rarely compatible."

There is a distinct tremble in her hands as she brushes his knuckles. "But I can hear them all. In my head. They are hurting and they are dying, and I can help them."

Her head lifts when his hand tips up her jaw. Her eyes soften when he reminds her of her own words. "But you're right. We can't let go of what we are. God willing, I will not have to do it."

She leans her head into his hand. "With Sage back, with all that is happening, it feels as if things are taking a turn. I feel like something is waiting on the wings. Like an ache in my teeth." Her eyes turn up to him. "Are you all right?"

They're soldiers. Children soldiers with powers and Scott knows this, knows the moral implications of it and how it reflects on Charles Xavier, what it has done to all of them and how it has shaped who they are. They're messed up but who isn't… They have a purpose. Not many can say that.

"We'll do what we have to. We'll just make sure we don't ever lose sight of that line, together. " Hear them all. The suffering, the dying. He almost wonders if she still hears the snuffing out of stars and the screams of entire planets too but he doesn't ask those things, they're just lingering echoes in the back of his mind. Ones he does well to shield from even active telepathic probes. For her sake.

"This once. Plant the suggestion, nothing else. Then when it is done with you make sure to let him know you did that to him. Even apologize to that piece trash if you have to clear your own conscience." He doesn't have to add more to it, shes got the same ethics at the core that he does. Often even more. She is Jean Grey after all. The heart of the original X-Men.

"Sage is just as just as much a victim in this war as us. We'll help her like we would anyone, like Logan, Laura, Rachel, Nate… our family, children… eachother. It is what we do. Even someone like Emma Frost." He adds in there, his hand paused on her cheek, held there with his thumb set against the corner of her lips. There is intentional tone change in him, that warmth hes always gotten towards her a tad harder than usual. Yet he doesn't remove his hand from her.

"I'm stressed, torn in too many directions and full of anger but those are not new, they're just lately there is no respite."

There are two faces to everything. Just as there are two faces to Erik Lehnsherr, that of ruthless terrorist and broken victim, there are two sides to Charles Xavier as well. The shining humanitarian, visionary and pure… and a darker side. The mastermind. The man who knew how to position everyone around him in order to bolster his far-reaching dream.

Jean knows and understands both sides of her mentor. She struggles with it at times, because sometimes she feels the same push-pull in herself. "This once," she says. "If I must." Her eyes are briefly haunted, and in that look is answer enough for his wonderings. She hears those things nightly, beyond her dreams, in the dark spaces of her soul.

But she knows her purpose, in the end. Not just knows it — embraces it. She is to be the heart of the X-Men. The beating soul of what Charles Xavier wished his dream to be. She knows that she was selected by him for this purpose… to be the face and embodiment of his hopes and wishes for human and mutantkind. But if given the choice, she would have selected it for herself. She also knows that others were selected for very different tasks. "Sage had her role to play," she says tiredly, "and I had mine. We all became soldiers, and too young."

Her eyes close — especially to mention of Emma Frost. There is a brief, brittle moment… and then Jean straightens up, that familiar strength pouring back into her after the momentary weakness. Her eyes open again, and that familiar sad compassion is back. "Even Emma Frost," she agrees. "Perhaps especially her. It is the most damaged among us who need our help the most."

She shakes her head. "And there are so many damaged among us. The stress and anger are… everywhere among us, lately. I feel the violence within the Institute itself. People are afraid. Frustrated…" A brief image of Rachel flickers in her mind, at that word. Her eyes lift. "So it is time for us to be strong."

"She does. I was reluctant to agree to that at first but the Professor was the one who set me on the course of recruiting her." Scott clears his throat, his head lowering enough to stare down between them, that hand falling away from her to his side. Like her, he was chosen, molded not to be the heart but the one steering, even when he was naive, lacking confidence and uncertain Charles seen inside of Summers his potential. A commander for an army of the future. Two sides of one coin Erik and Charles as are the Brotherhood and the X-Men.

"There are, but that is life, right? Even if we were able to have a normal one, we'd have our problems that we would believe outweight everything else. We're stronger than that though, we have calling and though they're afraid, the others know it too. We'll guide them." It's that bond, he doesn't see Rachel or an image of her but the name comes to mind, the person.
"We have to talk about our daughter from another us at some point as well. There is a lot we have to talk about."
"But strength." He smiles a genuine one. Now once again looking at her and not the gap between them, "That is something we have never lacked. Either of us. Especially when we have eachother."

Jean looks troubled when Scott says that it was the Professor who set him on the course of recruiting Emma. It is not in her to question the mentor she loves, the man to whom she owes everything, but it is perhaps in her to see him with clear eyes. Especially as she's gotten older. "There was a lot that the Professor needed to balance," she says slowly. "He struggled with the line, too. The moment where ideals and necessities pull away from one another, irreconcilable."

She trails off. There is a moment of silence for all that they were, and all that they could have been.

New generations now go through the struggles they once did, and a particular name comes to both their minds. "Rachel," Jean says, her head bowing in thought. There is a brief moment of hesitation, a sense of reserve, as if Jean had trouble with the word 'daughter' for a moment. An adult daughter, born of some predetermined future her, a product of a lifetime of choices already made — how much of Jean's life is really her own? She bites her lip to stop the thoughts. "She is willful. I think young enough to still believe herself invincible."

But neither of them can stray long from the responsibilities that have molded their entire lives, however. We'll guide them, Scott says, and Jean's head dips in wordless agreement. Her hand reaches to take his. "Together," she agrees.

"I don't like questioning him or his descisions." Scott doesn't. He gets obstinate about it even, sometimes to the point of blind. "All we can do is trust his wisdom and foresight." Good trooper that he is.

Jean's hand finds his waiting for hers and fingers intertwine, a tug guiding her closer to him while her head is down so he can rest his chin on it, "Rachel is a concern, she means well, shes raised hard, more than we know like the others Nathan, Nate… we'll do what we can there. Back her up. Work with her. Rather not chase her away but, she'll have to learn we're a team and more than that here. Like we all have."

"Hey… so. How about you and I take a break, we'll go load up one of the old simulations you used to like. 1635 Tortuga? Between the Spanish Raids of course, not going to toss us from one war to another. We can find that cove and just float around for a while, maybe read a book. I can spare a few hours if you can."

"I know," Jean says. Scott Summers, with his military blood, with his militant upbringing. Perhaps the most soldier of them all… a man molded past his insecurities into a commander. "I don't like questioning him either." She owes him her very life. She owes him all she is today. "Whatever he does, there is always a purpose for the greater good." She leans against him, shoulder to shoulder. If there is something unsaid in the words, it stays unsaid. "Always."

As far as Rachel? "She's stubborn." Jean smiles, her head pillowing in the crook of his neck. "Wonder where that came from?" But the tease is brief, Jean soon sobering again. "She's had a hard life, and I think she's used to managing a team after Excalibur. Used to flying hard on her own trajectories. We can work with her, but time will tell if this will be what she wants — or needs."

Jean is briefly quiet. And the Phoenix, its relationship with Rachel… there is much about that which intensely bothers Jean, on a visceral level.

That's not something she wants to speak to, however. Especially when Scott finally offers the rare option of a break. She looks up at him, a little surprised, a lot pleased. Perhaps more for his sake than her own; she knows how hard it is to make Scott Summers take a break from Cyclops. Though of course, them being them, 'running simulations' is their idea of downtime. "It's a deal," she says, eyes softening. "Let's lock out the simulation. No interruptions this time."

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