Shattering The World
She didn't know how it had happened. She didn't know how it could have happened. She wasn't even precisely sure when it had happened, exactly. All she knew was that she was very, very glad that Scott wasn't the telepath in their relationship, or things could have been monstrously worse than they were at this moment.
'Their relationship.' She would have laughed if she hadn't felt so terribly guilty about the whole thing. Their relationship was a laughing stock, all boiling down from the simple fact that Scott was an ass in a red visor. A very nice ass, it was true, but--
Oh, good God! It was so difficult. It hadn't been so difficult before, why was it so awfully difficult now? She didn't love him anymore. She'd thought and thought, poured over those thoughts for weeks on end, and she was firmly convinced of that one simple, irrevocable fact.
She'd fallen for someone else.
It was quite possible to love two people at the same time. She knew and understood that, better perhaps than anyone bar the Professor -- that was what had made this whole sorry mess such a disaster. If love were confined to one single target, then the instant of clarity that had come to her in the arms of her lover exactly three weeks, two days and fourteen hours ago would have been a relief beyond magnitude. It would mean that she was irrefutably out of love with the man who shared her bed, that they were finished, that she could stop living the lie that had somehow become her life.
But love, and life, didn't work that way. She had been terribly afraid for weeks now that she was somehow – despite all her efforts to the contrary – in love with them both. So terribly afraid, in fact, that she had pushed away the one who now held her heart and clung desperately to the tattered threads of normalcy that still surrounded her relationship with Scott. They were right for each other, after all, everyone had said it from the start; they made the perfect couple, they'd be together forever, all the awful clichés of romance that sounded so wonderful back then and made for such hollow memories now. They weren't perfect, and they weren't right for each other. They wouldn't be together forever, because she had finally made her decision.
Now all she had left was to tell him.
She paced the room awkwardly, her gaze swinging between the plush carpet and deep grey ceiling as if afraid to even glance away from her path. The bed, the bed they shared, seemed far too large and demanding as she counted down the minutes to his return from this latest mission. But in here, sweating and shaking and pacing like a trapped animal, she could finally see what it was that had kept her here and out of reach of the one she truly wanted.
She owed him. She owed him their time together, the love they had once shared, the dreams they'd built their life upon and sworn to protect with both their lives. She owed him her rescue from frightened family who barely understood her talents let alone accepted them, and above all she owed him the feelings he had unlocked in her back then. Feelings that she had now grown able and aware enough to transfer to another -- another who she had come to care for, come to love, more deeply than she had ever felt those feelings for Scott. And when it came to it, everything she owed him simply could not match the intensity of those feelings for her new lover.
It had been building for months, she knew that now. Maybe even years, and certainly since Logan's arrival. She had seen him with Rogue, and her mothering instinct had come sharply into play: he was too old, too tough, too scarred and emotionally damaged to ever be the right one for someone like Rogue, especially given all that she'd been through to come here. She had been convinced, beyond any reasonable doubt, that he would run and leave the young girl heartbroken and abused on the mansion doorstep, with she and Scott to pick up the pieces. She had believed that without question because it was the obvious end to things, just as her marriage to Scott would be, and in the everyday annals of her mind she had been happy to believe that. Because it made her world straightforward and orderly and, although perhaps not right or fair, at least generally uncomplicated.
And then, to her intense and world-shattering disbelief, Logan had damn well stayed. And not only stayed, but defied all her reasonable and ordered arguments to the contrary and started dating Rogue -- dating, for pity's sake! -- with a quiet warmth and gentleness that would have shocked even the most romantic novelist around. It simply defied belief that that man could love that girl and make it ever, ever work out. She had searched every instant of every day they were together to find the niggle, the crack, the problem that would mean her view was right and this bizarre, unconventional reality taking place around her was wrong.
But Rogue was happy. And in the oddest twist of all, so it seemed was Logan. He'd settled in, took some classes, made a home for himself... and somewhere along the road, concern had become envy and envy had become jealousy and then jealousy had become something else -- the suffocating need to be in that world they shared, a world that was strange and unfathomable and so damned wonderful that it rode rough-shod over the rules and beliefs of her tired life with Scott and went out on its own to be what it wanted to be, because that was just the way they wanted it. And she'd realized, on one dull grey cloudy morning when she woke up and rolled over and looked down at the man beside her, that she'd thought that was what she had with him. And that she'd been wrong.
It might not have gone any further than that. It wasn't as if she'd ever intended for any of this to turn out the way it had, and she'd certainly never planned to fall for anyone else even if this rocky patch turned out to be the final break-up for she and Scott. She'd planned -- meticulously, as always -- that when she told him there was no one else it would not be a lie.
Well, then it had happened.
It was innocent at first, as it always is. She wasn't good at flirting, but somehow it had come so easily this time: a smile that was a shade warmer than usual, a touch here and there when it wasn't needed... and it wasn't as if her attentions were discouraged, either. Soon they were sitting next to each other at lunch, taking training classes together, wandering the grounds under any and all excuses possible to get them together and away from the others. Then the morning had dawned, the same as every other, except that when the sun flickered through the trees it had caught them lying on the dewy grass in each other's arms and kissing.
She hadn't known what to do. It hadn't been a surprise, but it was such a revelation in so many ways even she couldn't explain that it threw her totally off balance. She wasn't the type to do things on impulse, to throw away years on a simple feeling, and she'd panicked. She'd gone running to the one and only person she could imagine feeling anything similar to her tumbling emotions.
If Marie had been either surprised or amused to find the usually calm and collected telepath standing at her bedroom door with the sun still only half risen, then she never mentioned it. She had just calmly, with more decorum than many women twice her age, woken Logan and ushered him with only a quick peck on the cheek out of the door and along the hallway to what could laughably have been called his room. And just to shake the foundations of the ordinary world that final inch, he'd actually obeyed without so much as a mutter of protest, and he hadn't even glanced her way as he passed by and Marie ushered her inside.
Oddly enough, speaking to Marie had done very little for her that hadn't already been decided somewhere deep down in her mind; it did, however, surprise her again just how mature Rogue actually was about her relationship with Logan. She'd seen it from the start, after all, and what had seemed at first to be a simple crush had obviously matured into a connection that was, for the most part -- but for the occasional burst of Logan-esque jealousy -- amazingly healthy. Far healthier than her engagement to Scott, in fact.
She had to do it. She had to leave him. There was no other way to make things right, and she had finally learnt that simply because the ordinary world made her dreams seem wrong and silly and doomed to failure did not necessarily mean that she, Jean, needed to give up quite that easily.
She could feel Scott's presence just outside the door; probably fumbling for his key card, she realized, immensely glad of even that short second of reprieve. He seemed to find it easily enough, and as the door cracked from its frame and began to open she had to fight down the urge to bolt forward and grab him, kiss him, tell him how much she'd missed him -- anything to prove to herself that she really did believe they could be together, even if her heart told her that those feelings and actions were meant for another. As much as she'd been glad, these past weeks, that fate and nature had conspired to keep the talent for telepathy out of Scott's reach, at the instant he walked into the room she wanted more than the world for him to take those thoughts directly from her head. She didn't know if she could do this now. She didn't know if she could ever do it. All she knew right now, looking at the man she had taken as her fiancé, was that she had to.
"Scott, I... I'm leaving."
"Leaving?" He stepped instinctively, comfortably towards her; looked confused, that puppy-dog-lost look that tried its damned hardest to melt her heart. "Why? Where are you going? There's no mission--" She held up her hands, backing away from him, and she could see a frown dig lines of worry on his forehead. "Jean..."
"No, Scott." A pause: cold in the silence that he let hang between them. "I'm staying here. What I'm leaving is -- is this." Her arms spread wide to encompass the room around her, a room that felt small and cramped and far too stale now that she came to dwell on it. She swallowed down the lump in her throat, her voice quiet but clear, and firm. "I'm leaving you, Scott."
He looked at her suddenly, shocked beyond belief at the sincerity, the finality in those words. They hung in the air, cold and sharp, stinging like razor blades every second they remained alone in the silence. He wasn't prepared, her telepathic mind screamed at her. She could read Scott so, so well, and he wasn't prepared at all. She should have worked up to it, explained it to him, anything but pressed it on him outright and expected him to just let her go without another word. That wasn't how Scott worked.
"I'm sorry..." She tried to fill the empty air, knowing her apologies were as hollow to him as they sounded to her but needing to say something else to take away the dreadful loss on his features. "I was hoping it wouldn't end this way, but I need to go..."
When he spoke then, she didn't need to see his eyes to know the searing pain that echoed in his voice, or the wounded fear that invaded his thoughts as he began to process her words.
"For... for somebody else?"
Lying to him was impossible, she realized. She didn't love him, that much she admitted when she looked into his face, but she knew him: every sign, every look, every movement however small that told her how desperately he was hurting and how quickly and brutally she had torn his world apart. It was impossible to lie with that expression boring into her - and she did at least owe him the truth, if nothing else.
He stared at her, silent, and she could feel the overwhelming mass of emotion welling just under the surface, threatening to overwhelm her with the intensity of it. Her mind demanded freedom from the crushing weight of emotion, panic gripping her as the barriers began to slip: she pushed past him toward the door, quickly enough that in his betrayal and disbelief he wasn't fast enough to grab for her. She was out into the corridor in an instant and running blindly; halfway down the hall before she heard him again, onto the ornate staircase by the time his footsteps sounded behind her and nearly down the last turn to the hallway when he caught up with her desperate flight. He grabbed for her arm, swinging her around to face him on the stair above her, staring down at the tears that were beginning to streak her face.
"Who is it?"
She choked on the answer, looking up at him, feeling the anger and hurt that radiated from him in desperate waves. He needed to know, she knew that, but she also knew why -- and she was not, no matter how badly she felt over hurting him, going to allow him that.
She yanked her arm free of his grasp; grabbing at the rail to steady herself at the sudden motion, a rush of unfathomable relief overcame her as she saw her final escape standing at the end of the hallway.
"Jean." Scott's voice hissed sharply behind her, begging her with his mind not to bring this out into the open even though she could feel his anger beginning to boil over. She took another tentative, shaking step down, fearful of falling with all the roiling emotions coursing through her -- Scott's as well as her own... and just beginning, just at the edge of her mind, that strong, tender warmth that gazed at her through worried green eyes from the end of the hallway.
"Jean, for God's sake, who is it? Who? Jean! JEAN!" The words started off at a hiss, growing to a shout, echoing behind her as she touched the bottom stair and knew, with the sudden relief that certainty brought, that he would not follow her any further than this.
He stood on the staircase, gripping the rails with each hand as if to tear them out of the floor with iron fists, but he did not move another step even as she walked away. His hands seemed to have a will of their own, only that unrelenting grip restraining him from leaping down the final steps to grab her and shake her and damn well force her to tell him who on this earth had dared to seduce his fiancée. He didn't care if the entire mansion heard him shouting, never mind that he didn't need to do that to get her attention. The anger felt good, damn it, and it was about the only thing that did right now, so he poured his broken heart and wounded soul and all the fury he could bring to bear into the bellowed shouts that followed her down the hallway.
"WHO IS IT?! WHO IS IT?!?!"
She kept walking, silent and dreadfully slow with her back to him as she strode with great precision out of his life and into the arms of someone else. Great, brutish arms, he imagined, with huge, hot hands that had almost definitely touched her and held her and fucked her...
He could actually taste the fury as it welled up in his throat, burning like pure liquid fire, as if his heart had suddenly taken over the mutation of his eyes and was burning a hole in his chest. Logan, damned bastard Logan with his cocky smile and his sharp tongue and that punch-me leer that always adorned his face when he looked at Jean the way he was looking right now--
The way he was looking at her ass right now, to be more precise. She'd walked right past him -- not a glance, not so much as a flicker in his direction. If anything, he looked confused; one look into his eyes, however, indicated that something was going on that Scott wasn't privy to. Moreover, it made quite clear Logan's innate amusement on the topic and gave Scott the perfect target for the roiling fury pounding in his brain. It was Logan, it had to be, all eyes and hands that had never stayed off Jean for an instant from the moment he'd gotten here. The damn smug bastard didn't even bother with a smart comment as he walked past, trotting up the stairs with a sudden grin he was obviously not even bothering to hide.
"Logan?" Rogue's light Southern accent made him turn then; he hadn't even heard her approach, his brain still clouded with the image of Jean held in Logan's arms, in Logan's bed... Oh, just fucking wonderful, the entire mansion knew what was happening now. Respect was obviously not high on the agenda today. "What's wrong with him?"
Logan caught her arm, deliberately failing to hold in his amusement at the situation as he steered her away. "Don't you worry, darlin'. Just women troubles."
"Oh." She brushed off his attentive grip for a moment, peeking her dark head around Scott's shoulder to see Jean standing at the end of the hallway, her back purposefully turned. "I was wondering when she was gonna tell him."
Scott's eyes burned, actually burned behind the quartz of his visor as he spun around to stare with menacing intensity at her. The effect was somewhat ruined, however, by the fact that she had already headed up the staircase with Logan hot on her heels -- so close to her, in fact, that the absolute fury that Scott had been preparing quite inventively to hurl at him was unceremoniously left homeless, since it was quite obvious that Logan's sights were indeed set firmly away from the fiancée -- ex-fiancée of his team leader. Given that it was Rogue he was chasing like a puppy-dog, though, that revelation did very little to temper the burning rage in Scott's mind.
When he turned back around, however, even thoughts of Logan's raging hormones roaming the mansion were tolerable compared with the image in front of him now. No... it wasn't possible. It just wasn't. She simply... wouldn't...
"I'm sorry." The hallway was still mostly empty of people, and years of living as a half-blind man let him pick up Jean's breaking voice even from this far away. The words alone sounded useless, but the emotions in her voice made that simple phrase a world apart from the trite apologies she had bandaged over his wounded pride no more than minutes ago. She could still feel his anger throbbing in her head, he knew her well enough to know that, but as she reached out to touch her lover he realized, without doubt, it was completely over.
"I'm sorry," she whispered again, but the words were nothing like what she had said to him moments ago. This time they were filled with regret, a painful pleading for forgiveness. "I didn't mean to do this to you, to run away..." His feelings disappeared from her mind then, blanked from her thoughts in the sudden intensity of her own emotions as she finally allowed them free rein. "I don't know what else to say except that I'm so sorry..."
"I know. And it's all right." A leather-gloved hand rested gently on hers, then, and after a moment the other pressed gently against her cheek. She turned her face into the warmth of it, burying her lips against the soft, worn palm.
"I do..." Her voice choked for a moment, but the words escaped her last ounce of control entirely on their own, floating out into this weird, wonderful world. "I do love you, you know."
Storm smiled at that.
"And I love you too, Jean."
GOTCHA!! (For those who didn't help me plan the thing, anyway. <g>)
Comments, questions, fireballs? Leyenn@aol.com