Fic: Twenty Things
Disclaimer: The X-Men belong to Fox, Marvel, and affiliates.
Summary: Could've, would've, should've. Ensemble cast, Scott/Jean.
A/N: This started out as an exercise in backstory. The wonderful sionnain urged me to post it here, since it has its Scott/Jean moments. Happy now, Sionn? *g*
1) A month after Alcatraz, the newest members of the X-Men might have sneaked out of their beds at two in the morning to hold a wake for their former leader. They didn't go to Scott's memorial stone (they'd nearly collectively taken to thinking of him as "Scott" rather than "Mr. Summers") because a cold marble slab over an empty grave didn't seem to say "Cyclops" half as well as the basketball court, with its memories of summer evening games and the slight ridge in the middle that opens up to reveal the Blackbird. Kitty recited the Mourner's Kaddish and Bobby brought whiskey and tequila. They all got smashed, Rogue threw up in the bushes, and Storm was furious in the morning (though Piotr secretly wondered if she was angry because of what they'd done or because they hadn't invited her to do it with them). None of them regretted it.
2) When Xavier's School still had only four students, all of whom were required to take Latin, Warren and Hank might have scoured the library for a non-bowdlerized dictionary in order to read the dirty bits in Catullus. (They knew there were dirty bits not because Professor Xavier ever said so, but because the corners of his lips would sometimes twitch when he listened to their stilted translations, as if he knew a secret that they didn't. They thought that Dr. Lensherr might tell them what certain words meant, but decided it was too embarassing to ask.) Scott had rolled his eyes at their search, and Jean laughed and tapped her forehead, saying she already knew what the poems meant, though she refused to share her telepathic knowledge with them. Years later, Warren would email Hank a link to an online site that provided Catullus's texts in full, with the subject line, "It's too easy these days..."
3) Three weeks after the X-Men's first mission went horribly wrong (when the nightmares had just begun fading and Scott was driving the team harder than ever), one of Scott's nighttime visits to Jean's lab might have resulted in sweaty, panting sex in the pilot's chair of the Blackbird. If anyone had asked (and, of course, no one ever would, because no one ever knew), Jean would have said that it hadn't been a calculated move on her part. But no one could deny that Cyclops was downright mellow during Danger Room sessions for the next five days. And for months, Jean couldn't hear the words "jet," "leather," or "leader" without bursting into giggles.
4) In the early days of Xavier's School, Jean might have cheated on a math test. She'd fallen asleep studying the night before, and was so groggy in the morning that she'd already taken four answers right out of Scott Summers's head before realizing what she was doing. She guiltily turned in her exam, but not ten minutes had passed before she burst into Professor Lensherr's office and asked that she be allowed to take exams in a seperate room from now on. Erik, who'd been wondering when something like this would happen, had nodded silently, only letting the small smile cross his lips when she was gone.
5) Erik might have taught Scott everything he knew about mechanics. He could have easily fixed the mansion's cars with little more than a thought and a flick of his fingers, but instead spent a series of afternoons covered in grease and oil in the garage as he and Scott dissembled and reassembled all the automobiles one by one. He wouldn't allow himself to think that there needed to be someone else who could fix Cerebro, in case anything happened to him, or to Charles.
6) When Jean started her period, Erik might have been the one to drive her to the corner drugstore to buy tampons. On the way home, steering the car along dark curves of road, he tentatively begun to explain the birds and the bees. She laughed before reminding him that she'd spent almost two years living in the heads of other people, some of whom had been mature women. Then she admitted, not quite looking at him, that she'd nonetheless not expected it to be "so messy... but I guess kind of special, too." She asked if he'd keep her secret (from the boys and even from Charles). He felt strangely honored.
7) During his brief sojourn at Xavier's, Kurt might have prayed on the roof, at night after most of the school was asleep. He liked the stillness and the silence of his haven and could sit for hours under a moon as round as any of the beads on his rosary.
8) Once, when Jean visited Warren during his first year at Yale, they might have decided, very rationally, to kiss. It was five in the morning and they'd talked since finishing dinner at eight thirty. Warren was sprawled on his stomach, wings outstretched and fluttering occasionally above him, with his cheek resting on Jean's abdomen. They both felt pleasantly fuzzy, and in such a setting, kissing seemed almost obligatory. Afterward, they looked into each other's eyes for ten seconds before laughing until they couldn't breathe.
9) Before the accident, Charles might have tried skinny-dipping in the mansion's pool once or twice. He'd never done so as a boy, had always held his dignity too dear to do so. But these were the days immediately following Erik's departure, and he wanted to prove that his lover's accusations of how safe he was were utterly unfounded. One night, he stayed underwater for as long as he could manage, and when he surfaced noisily, he startled Ororo as she walked past the pool. She screamed and he swallowed an entire mouthful of water. The next morning, not quite looking into her eyes, he apologized. The pool lay undisturbed by nocturnal visitors thereafter, and he tried not to remember Erik's sneering disdain whenever he passed it.
10) Believers of hands-on education that they were, Hank and Scott might have once turned the entire mansion's grounds into the setting for a game of Risk. They laughingly renamed all significant landmarks (the boathouse was Australia, of course) and set Ororo's history class to a weeklong battle. They had to set a "no powers" rule after the first day (telepaths were at a particular premium on any team), Charles wondered more than once if his ancestral home would still be intact by the game's end. Bobby and Scott were the last players standing, and they had a three-day stalemate before deciding to call it a draw.
11) A few months before Alkali Lake, Scott might have bought Jean a ring. He hid it in the toe of the left boot in an old pair and tried not to wonder if he was ever going to give it to her. When Jean went through his office a few days before Alkali Lake, in search of a few old files, she might have found the jeweler's receipt tucked carefully beneath the mug that held his pens.
12) When her acceptance letter from MIT arrived in the mail, Kitty might have been so excited that she phased right through the floor and landed in the middle of the men's locker room. It was empty, except for Piotr, who was showering after a Danger Room session. She thought she might spontaneously combust from embarrassment before she fled, and though he heard her good news a few hours later, it was months before either of them could look at the other without blushing. (One day, if they ever got together, they would laugh about it.)
13) When they held Jean's memorial service (the small one at Xavier's, for immediate family, close friends, and students only), John might have sneaked back onto the grounds to pay his respects. He'd heard the news from Erik and while he thought he was well rid of the dorks at Xavier's, he felt like he needed to do this one last thing before turning his back on "that place" forever. After everyone had gone inside, he made his way to her stone and lit a small fire in his palm. After thinking for a few moments, he willed the flame to take the shape of a bird, wings outstretched and long neck extended. He didn't know why that image came to him, and after watching it dance for a couple minutes, he snapped his fist shut over it.
14) When Mystique was masquerading as Bobby in order to sabotage Cerebro and make the girl run, she might have kissed his roommate in that form. It was just a bit of distraction for her, and an opportunity to wreak a bit of extra chaos at Xavier's. Except she couldn't quite get the taste of ashes out of her mouth afterward, and her tongue felt raw for days, as though she'd burnt it on something hot. John never brought the kiss up to Bobby, too unsure of just what the hell his roommate was thinking that day. But sometimes, after he'd joined Magneto, he would wonder how things might have turned out differently if he'd been able to say something or if he'd worked up the courage to kiss Bobby again.
15) At one point in his late teens, Scott might have been a leather-wearing, speed-loving, motorcycle hellion. It was only after Xavier's School formally opened to the public that he traded in his gear for button-down shirts and pressed slacks. He saw no reason to give the school a bad rap before it even got off the ground, and as mutant awareness and hysteria were both rising, he didn't want to be That Guy. He got enough strange looks for just wearing his glasses indoors and at night, and he figured it'd be stupid to push people any further just to play at being cool. (Sometimes, when he flew the Blackbird or took her out on the bike for an evening ride, Jean could still see the boy that she fell in love with. Not long after they moved in together, she found his old leathers hanging in the very back of his closet. She had every intention of asking him to put them on again, one evening or another.)
16) The first Christmas after Scott arrived at the mansion, Charles might have set a price limit on gifts. He told his four pupils that he thought they ought to learn the joys of giving and began a tradition of taking them to work at a soup kitchen on Christmas Eve. While he did hope his students would become altruistic people, his main concern that year was making sure Scott wouldn't be embarrassed at his inability to match some of the fancier presents that Warren, Jean, or even Henry could give.
17) Scott might have once lost his bike to Logan in a game of poker. There was alcohol involved, and while Scott's mutation had honed his mind to think in probabilities and calculations, it also had the effect that his body couldn't hold his alcohol worth shit. He woke up the next morning with a foul taste in his mouth and a scrap of paper on the poker table in front of him. Hope you get a good night's sleep, Slim. Too bad you passed out before you could play that flush. I'm gonna take my bike out for a spin now.
18) Scott might have won his bike back from Logan in a game of pool. He'd warned everyone in the mansion not to tell Logan about his skill on pain of death. Then he'd challenged him to a "nice, friendly game with high stakes." He poured most of his beer into one of the potted plants (Ro would scold him when she found out) and won the game in three turns. Logan muttered about cheating, but handed over the keys anyway. "It's just geometry," Scott told him, grinning. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take my fiancee out for a ride on my bike."
19) For years after he left, Erik might have still sent Charles cards at every birthday and holiday. No one ever tampered with this correspondence. Xavier's newer students were a bit too much in awe of their professor to even think about reading his mail, and his old pupils all knew Erik's handwriting on sight. They were willing to turn a blind eye to this, even as more hints came by other means that their old teacher was fast becoming a dangerous enemy. Two and a half years before Liberty Island, the letters stopped coming.
20) After Liberty Island, Charles might have offered to play chess with Rogue a few times. She accepted, but after a few games, she politely told him that she didn't think chess was her game. She was lying. It scared her to be so good at a game she'd never tried to learn before, and chess made terrible, logical sense with all its cold calculations and small deceptions. Besides, she was more than a little disturbed at how, sometimes, she would look at the Professor's hand on a piece and imagine his long fingers against her mouth.