Christmas break could not have come sooner for those who were eagerly anticipating the holidays. And that could be judged from the traffic congestion that plagued New York City. Despite the cold and blustery conditions, this has not deterred a determined young man heading for Westchester, and the quaint town of Bayville.
It's great to be home, mused Scott as he found himself once again navigating familiar streets. He turned a corner and made his way towards the three-storey white mansion which sat at the edge of a cliff. It matched the snow covered grounds. The winds had abated, and tiny snowflakes hovered in the air. The passcodes had been changed, and Scott had to call for Logan to open the institute's gates. Scott wondered what else had changed.
As he drove through the gates, there was this sense of nostalgia. He had certainly been away for quite awhile; he missed home. His horn heralded his arrive. Scott could see three figures at the porch. Kitty, Kurt and Rogue had braved the morning snow to await their arrival. Well, technically his, since Jean would not be coming back till a couple of days later. He smiled and waved. They scrambled from their seated positions and stood and waved. Kitty was bouncing on her heels. Scott stopped his car by the front porch and was greeted with hugs from the bunch.
"It's so great to see you again!" Kitty squealed. Scott noted that Kitty had grown by at least a few inches.
"You have no idea vhat ze place is like vithout you around," Kurt joked lightly.
Scott had to laugh at Kurt's remark. "It's good to see you guys too."
Rogue stepped forward to accept Scott's embrace, albeit stiffly. "Where's Jean? Ah thought ya both were in New York?"
"Jean wanted to stop by her parents' place first. She'll be here in a couple of days." Scott could not help but let his anxiety and anticipating seep through.
"Say, I'll park my car in the garage and meet you guys for some hot chocolate?"
There was a general consensus and the three left for the kitchen while Scott started his car again and backed it into the garage. There he met Logan who was doing a general survey of the mansion's vehicles.
"Hey kid," acknowledged Logan in his trademark, gruffy voice.
"Hey," returned Scott.
"Welcome home. Charles is waiting in the library."
"Thanks." Scott gave the older man a smile as he disappeared back into the mansion. He found Ororo descending the stairs as he made his way through the foyer.
"'Ro." He received her hug.
"It's good to have you back."
"It's good to be back."
"Charles is waiting."
"Yeah, I know. I met Logan in the garage."
Ororo made her way back up to the attic while Scott headed for the library. He knocked softly and opened the heavy wooden doors.
"Scott, welcome home."
"Glad to be back sir. Jean'll be back in a few days."
"Yes, I'm aware of that. She called. I trust the journey went well?"
"Yes it did, sir."
"Well, I'd guess you won't want to keep the rest waiting? And once again, welcome home."
"Thanks," Scott offered a warm smile as he left to rendezvous with the others.
Jean had spent two days with her parents before returning to Bayville. And she wished that these two days would come and go swiftly, thus when that day finally dawned, she bid her parents goodbye and left eagerly. But she'd return to visit them again before heading back to Columbia. Jean left early so as to avoid the late morning congestion, and in no time at all, found herself back again in Bayville, and soon in the arms of the man she loved. Driving through the tall metal gates of the institute, she felt once more that familiar warm tingle at the back of her mind as their link sprung back to life. In the past months, she'd felt rather disorientated without it.
Scott, she sent, where are you?
I'm in the garage. He sounded mildly surprised. She had returned earlier than postulated, so he probably was not expecting it.
Jean eased her car into an available spot. Scott was waiting by his car when she practically leapt into his arms. The impact almost sent him falling over and into the back seat of his car. Her hair tickled his face and neck as he nuzzled her. They embraced for awhile; no words could express their emotion. Waves of happiness flooded their link. It was an unspoken bond that they shared. Scott lowered Jean so he could get a good look at her face. His arms were still around her waist as hers were around his neck. He leaned in for a kiss. Her cheeks were a little cold, but her lips were still warm, soft and sweet as he remembered. His tongue gently explored her mouth as she did his. And they did so before breaking for a breath of air.
"I've missed you, Red." Scott murmured, his breath warm on her nose, which still felt cold.
"C'mon, let's get you inside where it's warmer." Scott took Jean by the hand and led her gently back inside.
The foyer was crowded as the students were preparing to head home for the holidays. Some had already left the day before, but others like Kitty and Kurt had opted to remain behind and wait for Jean's return before leaving.
Christmas was a relatively quite affair. Even Kurt managed to persuade Rogue to accompany him to visit his foster parents. Over the past year, they had grown closer, although they were siblings in every aspect but blood. Thus, that left the whole mansion to just the professor, Hank, Scott and Jean. But the couple did not mind the silence, which gave them ample personal space as they cuddled by the fire while the professor and Hank engaged in chess. At times they found opportunities to catch themselves under the mistletoe, but the rest of the mornings were spent chasing each other around the mansion grounds with snowballs in hand. It was just like the old days when it was only the two of them in the institute. And life was so much simpler then.
Nonetheless, the (few) days fly by, and parting is such sweet sorrow. But come Valentine's Day...
"Scott? Earth to Scott?" Paul waved his hand over Scott's face, the latter whom was seemingly staring deeply into space.
"Thinking of something? Or more specifically someone?"
"Just counting. It's three more days till Valentine's." Scott had that dreamy faraway look.
"What's up with Scott?" Lee asked Paul, pointing her thumb in Scott's direction.
Paul shrugged nonchalantly and poked at his pasta. "Beats me."
"Humph..." Lee chewed on her food.
"Hey, can I join you guys for lunch?"
Three faces looked up at their mysterious lunch guest.
"Colleen, whatcha doing here? Where's David?"
"Screw him." Colleen plopped her tray on the table and took the seat opposite Scott.
"Oh, I believe you haven't met our neighbours. This is Paul, and this is Scott."
"Hi." Colleen eased back into her seat. She took a fleeting glance at Paul, and her gaze lingered on Scott for awhile.
"Nice shades," Colleen voiced with a purr. Scott caught her eyes behind his shades. She had shoulder-length, brown (he was assuming) tresses and doe eyes. She battered her eyelids at him while he felt her foot caress his right calf. He tried to suppress a strangled gasp. Dear lord, she was flirting with him...
"Oh shit!" Scott jumped out of his chair as he spilt his soda on his shirt. Paul and Lee startling giggling, but Colleen was just studying him quietly with a coy look on her face. "I think I'd better go wash these stains out," Scott flushed slightly as he excused himself from the table and headed for the washroom. He made a quick clean job of his shirt and stared himself in the mirror. But the smirk on Colleen's face just would not leave his mind. "You're in love with Jean, she was just flirting." Scott voiced to his reflection, before he decided to splash some cold water on his face. He wore his stoic face walking back to his table. He was clearly not amused with Colleen's seduction antics.
"So, who are you taking out on Valentine's?" Colleen drawled.
"Erm...no one in particular actually," Paul managed to choke a reply. Great, she was playing Paul too.
"How 'bout you Scott?" She put on an innocent smile.
"Forget it girlfriend, he's already got a date," Lee pointed out, and with her fork to emphasis her point.
Colleen recoiled, and her gaze turned seemingly cold. She looked away. "Oh," she mentioned in passing, her tone aloof.
Scott made no hesitation in standing, signalling he was ready to leave. "It was nice knowing you Colleen. C'mon Paul, we're gonna be late for Calc class."
"All the good guys are always taken." Colleen crossed her arms. "But he was cute anyway."
Lee shook her head and sighed as she finished up.
But Colleen was scheming. She was determined to know who this girl that captured his heart was.
Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday, and it took Scott quite a bit of coercing to get Jean's nose out of her books just for a lunch date. He even surprised her with a tidy bouquet of red roses on her doorstep.
"These are for the lovely lady," Scott presented the sweet-smelling roses to an astonished but beaming Jean. She accepted the flowers and the kiss on her hand, then proceeded to envelop him in a hug and plant a smooch on his lips.
"I'll go put these in water," exclaimed Jean elatedly. Scott was left standing in the doorway when Misty came into his line of sight.
"Hi, you must be Misty," Scott held out his hand.
"And you must be Scott." Misty took his hand and shook it with a tight grip. "Jean's told me all about you."
"Likewise. Thanks for...er...helping to look out for her." Scott smiled lightly.
"Erm...no problem." Misty returned his smile as Jean fetched her purse from her desk and headed for the door.
"Ready to go?"
Jean acknowledged with a nod and put her hand in his. They waved to Misty as they walked down the hall.
"Have fun you two!" Misty waved back.
Scott and Jean were oblivious to the watchful eye of Ted from atop the stairs as they exited the dormitory.
School had no doubt kept all of them busy, and though Columbia and CUNY were but separated by a few streets, Scott and Jean found they had barely time for each other, except for occasional lunch dates and walks in the park on weekends that they were free. And nightly internet chats proved an effort to keep up, so much so that it had been reduced to the frequency of three to four per week, but once in awhile, Scott would call Jean just so he could hear her enchanting voice.
They were both relieved when the summer holidays crept by, and this meant they got to spend quality time together, not just with each other, but their extended family back in Bayville. It had been months, and they were also slightly homesick.
Scott's birthday fell short of the summer holidays, and his college pals decided that a celebration was in order, before they broke off for the holidays. It was a small affair, but Scott naturally invited Jean and Misty along, much to Colleen's dismay. But she really wanted to find out who Jean was. Since none of them were of legal age to step into a bar yet, they had opted to celebrate it in a fine eatery downtown instead. Scott insisted he'd pick Jean and Misty up while Paul was left with the honours to escort Lee and Colleen.
It was a warm night, but it was not sweltering. Lee and Misty both dressed in dark pants and light blouses. Jean, on Scott's arm, adorned a champagne-coloured knee-length halter dress while Colleen's in contrast was chocolate, revealing a lot of cleavage and legs.
The six of them were arranged at a round table, Misty to Jean's left and Scott to her right. Paul sat next to Misty, and Lee next to Scott. Colleen positioned herself in between Paul and Lee, with a clear view of both Scott and Jean. Scott had his arm around Jean's shoulder and was whispering sweet nothings into her ear. Colleen scowled seeing the couple acting all lovey-dovey. And being the telepath that she was, Jean picked up that rather sound projection and shot a glare in Colleen's direction. They locked eyes for a moment, before the waitresses came along and broke their concentration.
All throughout the meal and light-hearted conversation, Jean noticed Colleen's hitting on Scott, from the fluttering of her lashes to the sultry pose and the projections from her mind. It was becoming a little overwhelming for Jean who was a receptive telepath and highly sensitive to mood changes of the people around her. And Scott notwithstanding, and who seemed to show seemingly the slightest interest and response to this enchantress. The loud chatter from the surroundings flooded her mind furthermore with emotions and a dull ache at the back of her head began to form. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to shake the voices out of her head. She felt her mind being pulled into a whirlwind of thoughts, and she was losing hold on the conversation carried out at her table.
"Jean? Are you alright?" Scott replaced his fork on the table.
"I'm...I'm fine." Jean voiced, a little dazed.
"You barely touched your food."
"I said I'm fine." Jean's voice raised a little, as she stood up. "I'm sorry, excuse me for a sec." She left in the direction of the washroom. Scott half-stood, hesitating to go after Jean. She was unusually moody today, and Scott knew inside-out her notorious temper.
The world about her was spinning, but the thoughts gradually weakened as she retreated into the washroom. Jean steadied herself on the counter and tried to calm herself down. She had been careless tonight, letting slip the mental blocks a bit. But she had not been exercising her telepathy much as of late, and being constantly cooped up in her room rendered her little contact with the outside world. Her mind had been relatively isolated, and she was feeling stressed with the increasing workload. Within a few minutes, the wave of nausea had almost deserted her as she closed her eyes and relaxed as the professor had taught her.
That Colleen is a threat, she must be rid...
"Wha..." Jean snapped from her meditation. There was a voice, but there was no other body in the washroom. Strange...
Jean looked up and caught her own reflection in the mirror. She stared intensely into her deep green eyes. She searched further and further, until she found a flame.
She must be rid, she must be rid...
The flame grew brighter. The flame in her eyes.
Jean let out a scream as she opened her eyes and found herself collapsed on the floor. She must have lapsed into a weird dream-state again.
"Jean?!" The door flung open and Scott rushed in to Jean's side. He helped her sit up as Misty peered in.
"Are you okay? You frightened us all."
Jean just found the strength to nod.
"I'll go get some water," Misty suggested, leaving them alone.
"There was this...there were these voices..."
"Your telepathy acting up again?"
"Yeah, I guess." Jean spoke through a partially parched throat as she buried her head in his shoulder and inhaled his familiar scent to soothe her nerves. There had to be a logical explanation for all this.
"What's that Colleen girl doing here? I don't like her." Jean knew that sounded silly but she did not care.
"She's Paul's date. And yeah, I don't quite like her either."
"There it is again. That voice..." A whisper escaped the lips of a startled Jean as Misty appeared with a glass of water in hand.
"Here, I've got the water."
"It's only Misty, Jean." Scott took the glass from Misty and Jean sipped cautiously from it.
"No it wasn't, it was another..." Jean felt another wave of nausea hit her. She stumbled for the nearest toilet and emptied the contents of her stomach into it.
"Jean?" Scott was starting to get really worried.
"I'll go get a bunch of napkins." Misty left again and hurried back with the napkins. She wet one in cold tap water and handed it to Scott, who was helping Jean hold her hair up while she repeatedly threw up.
"Here, press this on the back of her neck."
Scott did as Misty instructed, but it took a good ten minutes before Jean's condition stabilised. Misty collected the glass of water from the counter, telling Jean to rinse before swallowing another mouthful of water. Thankfully, Jean had not soiled herself, but she was not feeling so well.
"I think we better get you back." Scott helped a wobbly Jean to her feet and draped his jacket over her shoulders while Misty held the door open. They excused themselves from the table, and made their way outside to the car park.
"I'm sorry for ruining your birthday," Jean murmured, exhaustion almost claiming her. Her telepathy, for some reason had been overpowering and out of control tonight.
"It's okay sweetheart," Scott placed a kiss on her temple as he belted her up in the back seat where Misty sat with her. Scott took a slow drive back to Columbia. Jean fell asleep on the journey back and he did not want to wake her with a bumpy car ride, or much worse, cause another wave of nausea to stir. He carried her up the steps to hers and Misty's room. The elusive Ted lurked in the hallway as he saw Scott enter the girls' room and did not leave until nearly forty minutes later.
"Call me if she gets better, or worse," Scott told Misty upon leaving.
"I will, don't worry." Misty gave Scott a reassuring pat on the shoulder, and then closed the door silently.
Scott walked down the stairs and towards his car, but with his pent up frustrations, decided to head for a walk in the park instead. He called Paul on his cell phone to apologise, and that they carry out with the night's planned activities without him. He was a trifle tired and needed some time alone to himself. As he walked himself deeper into the wooded area, he had considered letting loose a few optic blasts, but then again feared levelling the entire area without his visor. He was angry, but not particularly certain with what issue either. So he found himself a stone bench and sat himself down to think of the night's events, the torrid summer breeze stirring his hair lightly. It was past one in the morning when he returned to his room.