The Nearness of You

By Seema

Disclaimer: Marvel Comics, not mine.

Author's note: Set between the two movies, minor spoilers for the first one, a couple small ones for the second. Thanks to Liz and Minisinoo for the betas.


Jean Grey closed her eyes as she leaned her head back against the gentle curve of the tub wall. The warm water of the bubble bath caressed her aching body. Despite being in top physical shape thanks to Danger Room workouts, the three-day backpacking trip through the Peekskills had intimately reacquainted Jean with every muscle in her body.

It had been a good hike and the kids had seemed to enjoy the outing. After all the excitement of the events at Liberty Island just two weeks previously, it had felt good to get out into the calmness of nature and to breathe in the fresh air. The weather had been perfect too: dark blue skies, a gentle but cooling breeze, with temperatures in the low seventies.

Jean shifted her position in the tub, stretching her long legs out. The water swished, some of the soap bubbles slipping over the side; she didn't particularly care. She'd deal with the mess after the indulgence.

The only drawback to the trip was that Scott had not come with them. He had chosen to stay behind with the Professor to conduct orientation for two new students and take care of some administrative matters at the school. Jean had been disappointed but she understood; there would have been little time for romance on the trail anyway, not with fifteen students around. Even without Scott, she, Piotr and Ororo had managed quite nicely. Thinking of Scott, Jean reached out mentally, searching for him. Disappointingly, he hadn't been home when the weary group had trudged back to Xavier School for the Gifted and the Professor mentioned, in passing, that Scott had gone into the city to take care of some errands.

But still, it was close to nine o'clock at night now and Jean was starting to get anxious. Just as she was about to rise out of the tub, she felt a flash of Scott in her mind; he was home. Coming to her, but he seemed curiously closed off. She sensed a little bit of excitement but not much more than that. She frowned. Rarely did Scott block her so completely out of his mind and once, early in their relationship, he had confessed it was damn hard a secret from a telepath, even though Jean had assured him she would never invade his privacy without his permission.

*Hey,* Jean telegraphed to Scott. *Miss me?*

*Always. Welcome home.*

A few seconds later, Scott stuck his head around the bathroom door. "Hey," he said.

Jean smiled. "I was just about to come looking for you." She captured some soap suds and lightly blew them at him.

"Sorry," Scott said as he sat on the side of the tub, "I should have called, but I lost track of time." He leaned down to kiss her. "Did you have a good trip?"

"It went very smoothly." Jean tipped her head to look at Scott. "No major disasters and all of the kids got along very well, especially Bobby and Rogue. I can't say much about their campfire cooking though; there's room for improvement in that area." Jean shook her head. "Imagine hockey pucks for burgers. They forgot to thaw the meat all the way through but they were proud of what they had accomplished so Piotr, Ro and I did our best to eat what they prepared."

Scott made a face. "You must be starving."

"Hmmm, a little. We made for the kitchen the moment it was appropriate to do so." She reached up to caress his cheek lightly. "What have you been up to? You were out in the city late."

"I had something to take care of," he said. Again, she got the sensation he was hiding something from her.

"What is it?" she asked apprehensively.

"Why don't you get dried off and dressed and I'll show you," he said, standing up.

Jean stared after Scott's retreating figure in dismay. She'd been hoping he'd join her in the tub and impishly, she projected an image of what she'd been planning into his head. However, Scott appeared impassive to her seduction attempt and sighing, Jean rose from the tub and grabbed her robe. Walking out of the bathroom and into the bedroom, she saw Scott reclining on the bed.

*Don't fall asleep on me, Summers. I've got plans for you.* She winked at him before turning to her closet.

*Sounds faintly ominous but I think I can handle it*.

She grinned as she pulled on a light cotton summer dress and sandals.

"You may want a sweater," Scott said helpfully. Jean noticed then that he was wearing khakis and a button-down blue shirt -- quintessential Scott Summers. Just once, she thought, it'd be nice to see him slum it in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, the way he used to when he was in college.

"Are we going out?" she asked, anticipation coloring her voice. It would be like Scott to plan a little "welcome home" surprise. After all, it had been three days, almost four, since they'd last seen each other. Hell, she thought, a little more excitement on his part would be nice.

"Wait and see," Scott said mysteriously. He held the bedroom door open. "After you, Dr. Grey."

Downstairs, Scott led the way to door leading into the garage. He turned to Jean. "Close your eyes." Jean obliged and Scott took her by the hand and led her into the garage. She wrinkled her nose at the pungent aroma of gasoline and grass that filled the air. The garage itself was quite large and served as home to a variety of gardening equipment -- including three riding lawn mowers and half a dozen weed whackers -- as well as an assortment of vehicles, including Jean's own late-model Toyota. "All right," Scott said and the thin note of repressed excitement Jean had felt running through Scott before was now in full crescendo. "You can open your eyes now."

She did, then took a step forward in excitement and said, "Scott," in a mixture of awe and surprise.

"Well? What do you think?"

She looked at the electric blue sports car admiringly. "You-- this is -- does -- is this yours?"

"Ours," Scott corrected gently. Jean touched the smooth surface. This car was sleek, low to the ground, designed with stylish curves. The top of the car was rounded, giving the impression of a space vehicle of some kind. A beautiful car all around and while Jean didn't necessarily share Scott's fascination with all things that went zoom, she had to admit, this was one irresistible car. And while Scott was practical in most matters, it didn't surprise her that his one weakness (besides a certain red-haired doctor) happened to be cars. "Well?"

"You... bought this?" Jean finally managed to spit the words out.

"It's a Mazda RX-8," Scott said proudly. "What do you think?"

"It's beautiful," Jean said. She peered in the windows. The interiors were all-leather and Jean could discern small indulgences throughout, such as the wooden paneling in the doors. It looked as if there was an impressive sound system inside as well. The car, Jean realized, must have cost Scott a fortune -- one that he didn't have. Jean glanced sideways at Scott. "Does the Professor know?"

"Yes," Scott said. "He actually went with me when I purchased it. It helps, you know, to have a telepath on your side when you're negotiating with a car salesman."

Jean felt a tiny stab of hurt, which she pushed away quickly. As much as she would have loved to have been the one at Scott's side when he had negotiated with the car salesman, she understood Scott wanted to surprise her. Even now, he was beaming at her with barely repressed joy. "I'm sure the Professor was able to help you negotiate a favorable deal."

"That he did." Scott dangled car keys in front of her. "Want to go for a ride?"

Jean nodded. Scott opened the passenger-side door for her; the doors swung open and upward. With its rounded styling, this was the type of vehicle Jean had seen in sci-fi vehicles.

"Neat, huh?" Scott said, grinning. He looked young, boyish, and adorable and Jean knew he held her heart in the palm of his hand. It was a realization that once upon a time had scared the hell out of her. "Get in."

Jean slid in, sniffing the air appreciatively; she'd always loved the smell of a new car.

"This car has 247 horsepower. It really can go but it's still amazingly fuel-efficient," Scott said as he turned the key in the ignition. He continued to point out the various features of the vehicle, such as the windows which could be darkened at the push of a button and the 15-inch LCD screen built into the backseat. "And instead of rearview mirrors, those are video monitors that capture all external activity." The note of pride in Scott's voice was unmistakable. "How about some music?"

Jean, still in awe, nodded and said, "Please."

"It comes fully equipped with a six CD-changer," Scott said. He pressed a button and the sound of *NSYNC filled the car. Jean burst out giggling.

"Does Kitty know you have her CD?" Jean asked as Scott hastily searched for another CD. The strains of "Bye Bye Bye" were replaced with the silky smooth tones of Ella Fitzgerald.

"I grabbed the first couple of CDs I saw lying around in the rec room," Scott said, "I didn't realize I'd grabbed one of hers at the time. I thought they were Hank's. Mea culpa."

"Kitty's going to kill you." The young girl's fascination with the boy band – particularly with Justin Timberlake – was well known throughout the school.

Scott grimaced as he eased the car into 'drive' and opened the garage door. Jean was right; Kitty would not be happy with him. "I meant to put the CD back before I came to get you, but I forgot." He adjusted some knobs on the control panel. "By the way, the music system is top of the line and includes Bose speakers. Let's hope I can sneak it back before she realizes it's gone. So --" he glanced over at Jean "-- sit back, enjoy the ride." Out of the main drive, he turned left and then about half a mile down the road, another right which took them on a quiet farm road.

Jean had to admit that the feel of the car was wonderful. The ride was smooth and quiet, and Ella's robust voice came through clearly, almost as if the great singer were in the car with them.

"Do you like the car?" Scott asked. He glanced over at Jean worriedly.

"Yes, very much." She looked out the window. It was a clear night, a full moon hung high in the sky, casting a glow across the fields and forests of Westchester County. There was no traffic and on a whim, Scott put more pressure on the accelerator as the car rounded a curve. "Scott!"

He grinned at her and Jean felt a sudden warmth flow through her as she felt his barriers drop and there he was again, reaching out for her, his mind against hers. She placed her hand just above his knee and leaned her head against the window as they sped through the night. In the background, Ella Fitzgerald softly crooned, "It's not the pale moon that excites me that thrills and delights me, oh no, it's just the nearness of you."

Scott finally parked the car near the river. It was a popular picnic spot regardless of time of day and Scott and Jean had come here on many occasions to spend some time together. The moonlight glanced off the river, providing a silver accent to the dark ribbon of water which flowed past the river banks. Tiny pinpricks of light dotted the clear sky. The crisp air crackled with the cacophony of insects. Despite the clarity of the night and the mild temperatures, the spot was empty. Jean attributed the absence of lovers (for, at this time of night, they could only be that) to the fact it was a weeknight.

"I hope you're still hungry," Scott said, breaking into her thoughts. He opened the car door. "I was late coming home because I stopped by Scholtz's to pick up dinner for us since I figured you’d want a treat after spending all of the time in the wilds of New York. I hadn't anticipated the traffic coming back would be so bad." He looked over at her. "I am sorry I wasn't there when you got home."

"It was for a good cause, so you’re forgiven," Jean assured him. "I haven't had food from there in ages." Impulsively, she leaned over and kissed Scott on the corner of his lips. "Thank you."

"I got your favorite chicken salad sandwich," Scott said, handing a brown paper bag to her. "Chips, dill pickle and lemonade too."

"Perfect." She shivered and Scott looked at her in concern.

"I was thinking we could have a picnic, but if it's too cold..." he said.

"No, no, I'm fine," she said, pulling on her sweater. "This is wonderful, Scott. Thank you."

Scott spread the blanket out on the soft grass and Jean sat down next to him, curling her legs beneath her dress. She bit into the sandwich, savoring every bite. During med school, she and a couple of her fellow classmates had been regulars at Scholtz's Deli but these days, it seemed too much of a trek to go into the city just for a chicken sandwich. For that reason, she was grateful to Scott for making the trip.

"How long has it been since we've been out? Just the two of us, no kids?" Jean asked.

"You make us sound like a pair of fuddy-duddies."

"Not at all." Jean turned slightly to look at him. "Could a fuddy-duddy do this?" She concentrated on a grove of trees just off to the side and a few seconds later, fireflies danced in a swarm around them.

"Very nice," Scott said approvingly. "Got any other tricks up your sleeve?"

"Hmmm." Jean lifted a hand. "Voila. No mosquitoes."

"I like that one even better."

They continued to eat in companionable silence, but the psilink between them remained open. Jean always felt comforted when she could feel Scott inside her head. There had been a time when she couldn't have imagined dropping her mental shielding to let someone in, but with Scott, it just felt right.

"So you want to talk about it?" Jean asked softly after she had finished eating. She pulled her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. The thin material of her dress barely offered any warmth nor did the cotton crochet sweater she'd brought along. Seeing her shiver, Scott shrugged off his jacket and wrapped it around her. Jean smiled her thanks at him.

"Talk about what?"

She kept her voice calm and even. "Why you bought the car."

"It was a good deal. Manufacturer's rebate and zero percent financing for sixty months both." Scott shrugged as he lay down on his back to stare up at the stars, his hands providing a cushion for his head. After a moment's consideration, Jean joined him, resting her head on his chest. "And I needed a way to get around now that my bike is gone."

"It was nice of you to give Logan your bike." In fact, Jean had been surprised when Ororo had told her what Scott had done. That he'd even written Logan a terse note was even more unexpected. Jean knew Scott loved that bike; he had spent hours on the weekends taking care of it and she loved riding with him, wrapping her arms around his body and feeling the wind whip through her hair.

"He seemed to have taken a shine to it," Scott said wryly. Jean caught the faint echo of snark and knew Scott had meant to complete the sentence with, 'among other things.' An uncomfortable feeling rose up in her throat and she swallowed hard.

"It was unexpected and I'm sure he appreciated the gesture," Jean said slowly. She twisted the engagement ring on her finger nervously. "This car though, it's quite the trade-up from the motorcycle."

"Hey, you know what they say," Scott told her lightly, "the guys with the cool cars get all the girls."

"No," Jean said with a flash of anger, "that's not how it works."

"No? How does it work then?"

"The girls want the guys who are going to stick around long enough to wash the dishes, buy us flowers every now and then and not leave the toilet seat up."

"That's it?"

"Believe it or not."

Scott tipped his head to the side to glance at her, considering. "I think I can handle that."

"It's a lot less expensive than a car," Jean said softly. "And more impressive too."

There was silence. Jean tightened her grip on Scott's knee and was relieved when he covered her hand with his own. His hand was warm and comforting to her.

"You do know, Scott, that you've always had me, don't you?" she asked finally. "From the very first moment I saw you. Maybe I didn't know it at the time, but --" she smiled "-- you had me." She summoned up her memories of their first meeting, of their first date, of the night he proposed to her on top of the Empire State Building -- all of those she sent to him so he would know exactly how each of those milestones in their relationship had made her weak in the knees; at the time, she had been bewildered by her own emotional response to him. Scott was just a kid, she'd told herself a million times, but in the end, age didn't matter, only the intensity of feeling between them. She wanted Scott to know Logan's presence had done nothing to change how she felt about him. *Trust me.*

"I do," Scott said earnestly. He leaned towards her, cupping her face with his hands. "And honestly, Jean, I didn't buy the car to prove anything to you or to show Logan up; I just wanted it." He smiled ruefully. "And I don't need to be a telepath to know you're upset I didn't discuss it with you first. I'm sorry." He kissed her lightly, first on the lips and then on the tip of her nose. "I just wanted to surprise you."

"You certainly succeeded and apology accepted." Jean held his hand against her heart. "And --" she nodded towards the river "-- I'm glad you chose to bring me out here and not the Professor."

Scott laughed. "No. Only you, Jean. Only you."

Jean rested her head on his shoulder, just enjoying the sound. Scott smiled often, but laughter -- now that was rarer and usually he only indulged in her presence. Scott's restraint surprised many who met him and were unaware of the amount of strength it required to keep his mutation under control. He was serious for a man of his age, but mature, reliable and level-headed too. Those were the characteristics which had first attracted Jean to Scott despite their age difference. On so many levels, she knew she could trust Scott not only with her heart, but with her life as well.

She pressed her lips against his cheek. "I missed you, Scott." She wanted to feel Scott, trace her fingers over every inch of him. There were times when touch spoke so much more than words.

Scott shifted, pulling her awkwardly towards him. "I missed you too." The sentiment which underlined his words was no less genuine. "I'd forgotten how lonely it was without you. Made me think I should have come with you guys after all."

"Think of all the excitement you missed. A bout of poison ivy, a couple of scrapes and bruises, getting lost on the trail," Jean said. She nibbled at his ear. "Trying to figure out how to set up a tent, trying to find the bathroom in the dark, ghost stories that hit a little too close to home, persuading the kids that no, bears were not going to eat them no matter what the park rangers were saying..."

Scott chuckled softly. "You certainly had your hands full."

"There's no way you're getting out of the next camping trip, Mr. Summers." Jean looped her arms around Scott's neck. She lowered her voice. "Next time, I'll be the one snuggling in a warm cozy bed and you can try to get comfortable in a sleeping bag with eighty million rocks jutting into your back."

Scott grimaced. "I guess you got me on that one." He glanced at his watch. It was after eleven. "We'd better head back. If I recall correctly, you have an eight o'clock class tomorrow morning."

"I think I can handle staying out a little longer," Jean said silkily. She inched her hand up his thigh suggestively. "After all," she whispered, "have you shown me everything this car has to offer?"

"Well, not everything." Scott leaned in for a long, deep kiss. "There is a very comfortable back seat you haven't seen yet..."

"Hey, who's the telepath around here anyway?" Jean whispered. "You read my mind." She let herself be swept away by Scott's laughter as he pulled her to her feet.

~ the end

Author's note #2: The inspiration for this story came from a couple of things. One, Minisinoo mentioned there are two interpretations of what happened to Scott's motorcycle: 1) Logan took it without asking, or 2) Scott gifted it to Logan. I like the latter explanation and then, Cyclops shows up in X2 with a lovely new car and voila, fic idea. I also felt the need to explain the *NYSNC CD in Scott's stereo system. Hope you enjoyed!

Feedback always welcome.

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