Author's note: Written for the X-Men Ficathon and more specifically for Wanderlustlover, who requested: Jean and Xavier. Specific request: Not really looking slashy/sex-ish at all here. I want a really nice sorta father-daughter, growing up, or of age whatever in here.
Set between X1 and X2.
My gratitude to my wonderful betas, Liz and Rocky. All mistakes are mine.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Marvel. No profit or infringement intended.
The Professor wheeled his chair to the edge of the patio, taking deep breaths of the fresh air. The mid-afternoon sun created a pattern of shadow and light across the vast expanse of lawn surrounding Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. It was a mild day, late in May, and the blue skies and light breeze were a welcome respite from the recent deluge of rain.
Xavier could hear some of the students playing basketball on the court about a hundred yards from him, their excited shouts mingling with the occasional bird chirp. Xavier relaxed, letting the tension ease out of his muscles. He turned his face towards the sun, and for that particular moment, Liberty Island and the politics of the Mutant Registration Act (MRA) were mercifully far away. A perfect day to spend some time with the Bard, he thought as he opened the book he'd brought out with him.
Xavier was halfway through the first act of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' when he felt a sharp tap again his mind. He frowned. This was not the first time he had been touched like this since Liberty Island and there was something distinctive and familiar about it as well. He pressed the tips of his fingers together as he considered.
Given that this was not the first time he had felt that particular mind against his, Xavier had to accept the possibility this mental intrusion was no fluke and for that reason, was certainly cause for concern. No ordinary telepath would have the power to breach his mental shields, he thought. He winced as the pressure in his mind grew stronger and with some effort, he deflected it away. Xavier exhaled sharply and with some regret, he closed 'Hamlet'; it was time to use Cerebro to investigate where this telepathic 'signal' was coming from. He turned his chair towards the house just as Jean Grey approached him.
"Professor," Jean said, her cell phone clenched in a white-knuckled grip. "I saw you sitting out here. I hope you don't mind my joining you." She frowned. "Were you leaving?"
"I remembered something I had to attend to," Xavier said.
"Oh." Jean sounded disappointed.
"But it can wait for a few minutes more," Xavier said quickly. It was rare he got much time to spend with Jean, Scott, and Ororo these days. In the beginning, when they had first come to the school, he had spent time getting to know and understand them so he could help them adapt to their awesome powers. But with attendance at the school growing each year, he spent more time teaching and taking care of administrative tasks than he had in the past. And, he had to admit, Jean and the others didn't need him as much as they once had and in fact, they were teachers themselves now. Now, Xavier watched as Jean sank down on the marble bench set at the very edge of the patio. Her shoulder sagged and she pressed her hand to her face. "Is something the matter, Jean?"
"It's a beautiful day, though breezier than I thought it would be," she said, as if she hadn't heard his question at all. "I've been waiting all afternoon for a chance to come outside, but if it's not one thing, it's another." She waved her hand dismissively. "I'm having problems with the charter bus company we hired to take us into the city tomorrow. Now they say they can't do it after all." She held up the cell phone. "I've just spent the last forty-five minutes trying to find a replacement."
"Did the bus company give you a reason for the cancellation?"
"Well, not exactly. They offered up an entire litany of excuses. First, the bus driver called in sick and they couldn't find a replacement, and then they were overbooked and when I insisted we had a contract with them, they said they couldn't find the paperwork," Jean said, running a hand through her hair. "I drew my own conclusions from all that." She stared down at her hands for a moment before looking back at Xavier.
"And what conclusions are those?" he asked.
"Maybe I'm overreacting, but my guess is they want nothing to do with us because I admitted there may be some mutants among the group." She sighed and Xavier sensed she very much regretted her moment of honesty. "I promised the students would be on their best behavior and there was nothing to worry about, but they said something about insurance liability, but you know, that could just be an excuse. Anti-mutant sentiment is high, and there are reports of people boycotting businesses who offer services to mutants..." Jean's voice drifted off.
Xavier said nothing, though he understood Jean's frustration. The MRA was the large battle everyone focused on, but one that would be impossible to win without victories at the small skirmishes mutants faced every day. The mental tap he had felt before intruded again, this time with slightly more violence. Xavier tensed and re-adjusted his mental shielding. The touch he felt abruptly vanished. Next to him, Jean sighed again.
"Anyway, I finally got another charter bus company that might be willing to do the job. At double the price. They're going to call back in a few to confirm the contract. No doubt, they'll want to check their liability insurance and poll their customers as to their mutant/anti-mutant sentiments as well." Jean gave him a sidelong glance. "I'm sorry about the additional expense, but I don't want to disappoint the kids. We've been promising them this trip to the museum for weeks and--"
Xavier shook his head. "The cost is of no concern."
"Still." Jean stood up and roamed across the patio restlessly. The wind picked up, whipping Jean's hair around her face. She stopped and tucked the errant strands behind her ears. "I don't know *when* it got to be this difficult," she confessed.
"What are you referring to?" he asked, eyeing a potted plant set upon an Ionic-style pedestal, a foot or so behind Jean; it was trembling. He wanted to attribute the movement to the wind which had suddenly taken on a curious intensity, given the mildness of the day. But as quickly as the wind had picked up, it died down.
"I guess I was thinking it would be easier." Jean shook her head ruefully as she jammed her hands in the back pockets of her jeans. "I thought raising public awareness about mutants -- what our lives are like, emphasizing that we're really not that much different from everyone else -- would make it easier for people to accept us. Instead, it seems to have made it harder." She gazed at Xavier somewhat unhappily. "I wish I knew what to do."
"You can only do your best, Jean," Xavier said. "In theory, you cannot control other people's reactions, their thoughts and feelings, no matter how much you wish to do that."
"Intellectually, I *know* that," Jean said. "Viscerally, I have a hard time." Jean came back to the marble bench and sat down again, her shoulders hunched over. "I don't know how you've done it all these years," she said. "Taking us in, teaching us, protecting us. It's an enormous responsibility--"
As Jean spoke, Xavier stared at the trembling potted plant; hairlines cracks were now appearing across the exterior. In fact, he realized, the entire column the plant was placed on was shaking. Next to him, Jean seemed utterly oblivious. Finally, with some effort, he focused on Jean, who was now saying, "I can't help but wonder I can give the students what you've given me -- a way to accept who I am, and how to control what's happening to me." She glanced at him, a troubled look crossing her face. "I'm not sure I can live up to your expectations."
"I never had any expectations, but if I had you would have more than exceeded them," Xavier said. He reached across and took Jean's hand in his. Despite the warmth of the day, Jean's skin was cold to the touch. "You've shown that it is possible to be a part of the non-mutant world. You went out and received a medical degree. You succeeded, but without compromising who you are or your values. You set an example that I believe the students appreciate. And as for expectations, Jean, I only ask you be yourself with no apologies."
"I'm sorry." Jean pressed her lips into a thin line. "I didn't mean to complain." She pressed her hand to her temple. Xavier noticed her fingernails were bitten to the quick.
"There is no need to apologize." Xavier leaned forward. "You and Ororo have done a lot of work to plan this trip."
"Did 'Ro mention to you the museum nearly rescinded our tickets?" Jean asked.
"Fortunately, we got that settled in a hurry. It certainly helps when one's father is on the board of trustees," Jean said, her tone tinged with bitterness. "But we still had to give assurances and examples of other field trips we've taken, how they've been successful in the past and as far as we know, no complaints or problems. Of course, a subtle warning or two about discrimination didn't hurt the negotiations either." She sighed and Xavier knew she regretted having to take a heavy-handed approach. "Ororo is in the Rec Room now, talking to some of the kids, telling them what behavior is acceptable, what isn't." She smiled to herself. "Which is, you know, normal parenting type behavior. Just like you would for any other group of kids about to go on a school field trip."
"There is more common ground than you would imagine between mutants and non-mutants--" Once again he felt that familiar touch pressing deep into his mind, this time with much more vehemence. Xavier concentrated and once again, forced the intrusion out. Each mental contact, he realized, was getting stronger and more powerful. Xavier knew the limits of his own powers, but had never quite reached them before; he sensed all that was going to change if this contact continued. Next to him, Jean was rubbing her forehead with the heel of her hand, and seemed utterly unaware of him.
Finding his voice again, Xavier said slowly, "It is merely a question of how we can work together to identify where we have commonalities with non-mutants, rather than continuing to focus on our differences. Of course, some of those differences are rather obvious and it's hard for the average person to look beyond things like wings or blue-hued skin." Xavier pressed the tips of his fingers together. "People are afraid of what they don't understand and when they fear something, they try to destroy it." Xavier knew it would take time for the general public to reach broad acceptance of mutants. "No one said patience was easy."
Jean nodded slowly. "No, you're right." She got up from the bench again. "I'm at a loss as how we're even going to make headway. I mean--" she scoffed "-- even we mutants don't always agree on the right approach to the 'problem' is." Xavier knew she was obliquely referring to Magneto and his failed attempt to activate the X-factor in all of humanity, starting with New York City and extending through to parts of New Jersey.
"We don't, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try," Xavier said.
"Again, that's another thing I know intellectually," Jean said, balling her hands into fists, "but when it comes down it, if it's this difficult to just charter a *bus*--" she stopped in horror as the plant stand, just a few feet beyond her shattered, pieces flying everywhere, with a large chunk of marble narrowly missing Xavier's head. Jean whirled around, lifting her hand; the debris froze in place and then slowly and deliberately, Jean managed to divert the remains of the plant and marble stand away from Xavier and into a neat pile at the edge of the patio. Xavier stared at what she had accomplished with a mixture of horror and amazement; just a few weeks previously, Jean had struggled to even lift a textbook a few inches off her desk.
"I'm so sorry, so sorry." The words tumbled out of Jean in a breathless rush. "Are you hurt? Oh my God--"
"I'm fine, Jean," Xavier said, though his heart was beating rapidly. It was difficult to keep calm as he looked at Jean with new perspective; he hadn't quite formulated a theory as to who could have been pressing up against his mental shielding, but Jean Grey certainly hadn't been on his list. He inhaled sharply in an attempt to regain his composure. "But we have much to discuss."
"I didn't mean to do this." The color rose in Jean's cheeks and her eyes. "I wasn't paying attention." And then, a second later, she added in a flustered voice, "Sometimes I feel like I'm out of control."
"There's no need to apologize, Jean," he said. "But you should have come to me." He paused for a moment, choosing his next words carefully. "Would you like to discuss what's going on?"
"I feel--" Jean paused and Xavier sensed she was grasping for the right words. Finally, Jean said, "Since Liberty Island, the last couple of weeks, more specifically, I've been feeling stronger, more aggressive." She bit her lip as she stared at him, guilt clearly etched across her face. "I've been trying to rein both my telepathy and telekinesis in, but as days go by, I'm becoming less able to control them."
"Perhaps it's not a question of lack of control, but rather one of increasing strength," Xavier said gently. "As your powers grow, you are finding the level of control you were previously accustomed to exerting now no longer suffices."
Jean paced for a few feet and then said, "It started with little things, you know? A broken dish or two, and then the other night, the picture frames in my room fell off the wall." She bit her lip. "I didn't think it was a big deal."
Xavier shook his head. "Jean, you overcame my mental shielding earlier."
Jean pressed her hand to her mouth, her eyes wide. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize--" she paused when she saw the copy of 'Hamlet' lying on the Professor's lap "-- 'And then it started like a guilty thing, upon a fearful summons.'" She stared at Xavier. "Act one, scene one." She resumed her pacing, intent, it seemed, to look anywhere but at her mentor. "When I was coming out here, those words popped into my head. I had no idea where they came from, so I just thought I was remembering something from English class from years ago." She stopped abruptly and pivoted to face Xavier. "I am *so* sorry."
Xavier held up his hand. "Jean."
"It's happening again," she said, a note of panic edging into her voice. "I hear things, even when I'm trying desperately *not* to." She frowned. "The basketball game, what they're all thinking -- Bobby, John, Rogue, Jubilee, Kitty, all of them. Bobby wants to pass to Kitty, but he's conflicted because Rogue really wants to play, it's just that she's not very good and he doesn't-- oh, he's going to pass to her anyway."
She closed her eyes and massaged her eyelids with the thumb and index finger of her right hand. She inhaled sharply and then opened her eyes. Outwardly, she appeared calm, but it was obvious to Xavier that Jean Grey was anything but. Jean twisted her hands tightly together as she paced back and forth across the patio.
"I'm worried I might hurt someone without meaning to." She gestured to the shattered pot. "Like just now." She held up a hand, effectively precluding Xavier from speaking. "I seem to be eavesdropping on people all the time now, even when I'm making a concentrated effort *not* to."
"I see," Xavier said, pressing his lips into a tight line. "If your powers are indeed growing stronger, then it is very possible your mental shielding is eroding. It has been, after all, many years since I placed them in your mind and I have made no adjustments--" he noticed Jean staring at the horizon. "What is it, Jean?" he asked quietly.
When she spoke again, her words came out in a hoarse whisper. "I feel like I'm going crazy--" she paused, took a deep breath "-- like I did before, when Annie died, and everyone's emotions and thoughts just kept washing over me and I couldn't keep them back." She pressed her hands to her face, as if embarrassed to look at him.
"You were just a child then, Jean, I don't think you need fear a repetition," Xavier said with conviction. Now, contemplating the trigger which had first set off Jean's telepathy, Xavier remembered something Jean had said just a few minutes earlier. "You say this has all happened since the events at Liberty Island."
"Yes." Jean leaned towards the Professor and placed her hand warmly on the back of his. "Maybe I've just been under too much pressure lately, I don't know."
"Or perhaps," Xavier said slowly, "Magneto's machine had an effect on you." The thought alarmed Xavier considerably. "Have the others who were there, Logan, Scott, Rogue, for instance, have they noticed any changes?"
"It seems to be just me," Jean said unhappily. "At first I wasn't sure--" she turned to look back at Xavier "-- and then I thought I could control it." A cloud skirted across the sun, momentarily casting a shadow.
"Why didn't you come to me, Jean?"
"I wanted to deal with it on my own. With all you've had to deal with recently, I just didn't want to bother you."
"You're never a bother, Jean." He wheeled his chair to the edge of the patio and stared across the lawn contemplatively. A gentle breeze sent ripples across the green grass. "After all these years, you must know that." He tipped his head in her direction. "You do not need to fear a relapse." He gazed at her warmly. "I'm here, we all are. We will help you."
"Thank you," Jean said hoarsely. She stared down at smashed pot and scattered dirt and then slowly, she got down on her hands and knees and picked up two of the larger pieces of pottery. She stared at the jagged edges for a few seconds and made an attempt to fit them together, but with no luck. She glanced around again and was about to grab another piece, when her cell phone rang. Jean furrowed her brow as she checked the number.
"It's the bus company." She sat back on her heels and then flipped her phone open. "Jean Grey." She listened for a moment, and then turned to Xavier, mouthing the words, 'they're going to do it', before getting up and taking a few steps away from him. "Not nine-thirty, we said nine o'clock. Yes, seating for 40. No, you didn't say anything about half the money up front. We discussed--" she walked away from Xavier, her voice rising sharply, but he was no longer listening.
Xavier wheeled his chair towards the pile of debris and gazed down at it and then towards Jean, now standing in the middle of the lawn, animatedly talking on the cell phone, her free hand akimbo to her hip. A strong wind rustled through the maple trees, sending down a flutter of leaves. A remnant of grey-veined marble clattered noisily onto the patio and then rolled into the grass. Despite the warmth of the sun, Xavier shivered.
~ the end
Feedback always welcome.
Back to Seema's X-Men fanfic
Back to Seema's Fanfic