Her hair was longer than it had been when she’d died. Before, it brushed her jaw, flipping out at the ends when she bothered to blow dry it in the early mornings before classes and responsibilities took them from each other. He remembered how she’d complain about that, standing naked or wrapped in a towel, blow dryer hovering behind her as she drew the brush through her hair.
Warmth gusting everywhere. Fine strands that he knew were red but which looked almost black through the distorted gleam of ruby quartz. The smile that lingered on her face as she looked up into the mirror and caught him staring at her with that same awed expression a year and a half of dating hadn’t managed to wear away.
She’s mine, the expression seemed to say. This woman standing here, this brilliant, beautiful woman whose mind brushes against me like the first glow of light—this woman is mine.
She was his even when he and Ororo were miles away being heroes and Jean was left behind with the Professor. She was his even when she slipped in late at night smelling faintly of the good brandy she and Xavier shared over chess sets and long, deliberately casual talks. She was his even when he imagined Logan reaching up to tangle his fingers into her hair, even when he felt the flicker of her desire when Logan passed.
She was his completely and inescapably…until she’d died. Until an act of intolerable bravery and a wall of water snuffed out the glow that always hovered in the back of Scott’s consciousness. Until there was nothing left but the guilt and the loss and her things still scattered through their room and her presence still ghosting through their memories.
Scott had wanted to claim her even then, even when she’d sacrificed herself for them, but he couldn’t bring himself to be that selfish. Jean belonged to all of them, now. She lingered in the shallow slump of Ororo’s shoulders and the wide, lost dark of Marie’s eyes. She lived in the long nights the Professor sat alone in his study, an empty glass of brandy by his hand, another sitting across from him as if waiting for slender, delicate fingers to lift it up to the light. She breathed through Bobby’s trembling body as he stood by the window and scanned the skies as if waiting for the flicker of flames across the blank surface of clouds to let him know he could stop holding his breath and hoping so very hard. She carried through the whispers of the children and rose again and again like a phoenix from the flames as they shared stories of her brave death.
Scott couldn’t be selfish enough to claim her when so many needed her so very badly, so he merely did what he did best: he straightened his shoulders, he lifted his chin and he pretended as if he weren’t falling apart inside. Some he managed to fool. Bobby gave him disgusted looks and Kurt looked gently baffled when Scott rebuffed his overtures with, “She’s dead and I’m not. I don’t have time to dwell.”
Some he could never fool. Ororo tracked his progress through his empty, aching days with warm, empathetic eyes. Charles brushed against his mind often, soothing with each mental caress. Jean had used to do that. He missed that most of all.
Logan had taken the direct approach, confronting him again and again until the only things he really had to look forward to each day were the soft, tender touches of Charles’ mind and the brusque, rapid-fire aggression of Logan’s School of Tough Love.
“She’s dead, Summers,” as if he could forget. “She chose you in the end,” as if that made any difference now. “Her mouth tasted like a desert wind,” as if they, at least, could share in that. “I woulda liked to touch her again,” as if, at last, they spoke the same language. Scott responded to these flashfire talks with baffled acceptance, arms crossing over his chest as Logan bared his teeth and talked of Jean. Everyone else treated him like glass, but Logan delighted in shattering glass and letting it splinter his fists. He talked about the things he would have said to Jean, the things he would have liked to experience: how at first it had been her pretty face and then how it had made Scott furious and then it had been her mind, God, her mind wrapping around his like red gauze as she sifted through his thoughts. Scott wanted to be angry listening to this man make love to Jean’s memory, but he found himself nodding, agreeing, remembering. Yes, it had been like that for him as well. Yes, she was impossible to resist. Yes, yes, yes she was mine but now she’s no longer mine, she’s ours.
Even when Logan grabbed him by the shoulders and kissed him, whisker-sharp and hard, Scott hadn’t been angry. He’d run his fingers up through Logan’s hair, twisting the gelled peaks and wondered, tongue sliding out and swallowed fast and rough, whether this was how Jean felt. Pressed deep against a hard, compact body, eyes closing and pulse fluttering, he’d felt like he was her for a moment: he’d felt torn and exalting, red and gold and bursting with the tastes, the textures. The burn of stubble was exciting and the strong arms were a secret thrill and Scott was never this rough, but Logan, Logan…
He’d pushed Logan away as he struggled back to himself, but for days after he could feel the sharp burn and kept trying to stretch his mind out to touch everyone around him.
After the third month he’d given up reliving and had gone about simply remembering. Xavier no longer lay out two brandy glasses every night and Logan no longer flared his nostrils whenever Scott passed or tried to confront him about the way that bit of skin just below Jean’s ear smelled. Ororo and Kurt stopped trying to be a friendly ear, Marie stopped watching him with that cold, level gaze and Bobby stopped watching the sky for fire. Scott packed up many of Jean’s things and slept in the middle of the bed and only cried at night when it was either that or burst. He stopped picturing every inch of her long, slender body and instead let himself take a mental step back to see the entire thing like a portrait lovingly done but no longer so very desperately needed.
Hung in the shared consciousness of the mansion was Dr. Jean Grey, telepath and telekinetic. Dark, beautiful eyes, fair skin, long-limbed body with its white lab coat. The stylish chokers she’d taken to wearing when Ororo had sifted through her closet and tsked at all the conservative clothing. The flippy red hair that she’d styled despite grumbling every morning. She was a fixed memory, a stable, unchanging constant in the center of a world that invited change with each new anti-mutant protest, each new Brotherhood member. She was their icon. Their Holy Mother.
Which was why when she was found again clothed in rags and lost in her own mind, it hadn’t been her seeming rebirth or the sound of her voice echoing in his ears after months of letting go that had shocked Scott. It was her hair, curling down in wet tendrils, brushing her shoulders when she huddled in on herself and stared up at the X-Men with a pained mixture of recognition, confusion and fear.
Her hair was longer than it had been when she died.
“She was never dead,” Dr. Hank McCoy said in those early days when Jean slept in the med bay and couldn’t find her voice. “I cannot say exactly what did happen to her, but I do know that she never died.”
“She retreated into herself,” Charles Xavier said not too many weeks later when Jean still hid from those she had known, shaken and reclusive in the safety of the Professor’s drawing room. “Her powers exploded at the dam and her mind curled in on itself to protect her.”
“She smells different,” Logan said as he crouched at the foot of Scott’s bed, ignoring the man in his confused tangle of blankets and instead staring out the window. “Her, but sharper. Edgier. As if something hot’s covering her skin from head to foot.”
He tried to keep his head high, but it was hard when kids stared at him in the halls and whispered. He tried to keep sleeping in the middle of the bed, but he kept waking curled up on the left hand side, his side, as if his unconscious body expected Jean to slide in next to his at night. One morning he woke and reached blindly for his glasses, laying so close to the edge that he nearly fell. A soft, steadying hand on his hip made him yelp in surprise and he did fall, arms flailing as he waited to hit ground…and did not.
Sheets rustled as she climbed out of bed. The floorboard creaked as she walked around to his side. A bare thigh brushed his as she crouched and then fingers were tugging the glasses from his death grip and slowly sliding them onto his face as he was lowered to the ground.
When Scott opened his eyes, Jean was crouched above him, hair tumbling about her shoulders, shadows only making her eyes more beautiful. “I found my way back,” she said, voice low and still a little lost, and Scott hadn’t been ashamed at all when he pulled her into his arms and began to cry.
Even then, things were different. The familiar soft brush against his mind was brighter now, startling him until he adjusted to the flicker of reds. The tone of her voice was stronger, accent a bit more apparent. The cut of her clothing was a little lower—low enough to make Peter stare and Scott shift in arousal whenever she looked up from the medical texts she and a now distinctly blue-haired Hank were discussing. She barely had to concentrate to juggle several complex tasks with her telekinesis and telepathy and sometimes, when the sun hit her just right, he could swear that the shadow cast by her slim body was that of a bird, wings spanning as it lifted to the sky.
She said I love you the same, however, and kissed him the same, and if he caught her casting Logan quick, warm looks…well. He was merely glad to have her back at all, even if he knew she’d never be completely his again.
The sun was setting, casting warm shades of red across the hardwood floor of their bedroom when Scott slipped in and quietly shut the door behind him. Jean had called to him mentally, inner voice tinged with something he couldn’t quite place except it made him nervous and excited rolled up deep inside his belly.
“Jean?” he called softly, then __Jean?__ with his mind, striding into the center of the room.
__Stop__ he heard clearly and he paused, head cocked. The lances of sunlight fell across his hands and thighs, staining them as Jean paused in the bathroom door, looking at him seriously.
“Jean,” he began but she shook her head and he shut his mouth, waiting for whatever it was she needed to say.
“We’ve been together a long time, Scott,” she murmured, eyes slowly trailing up and down his body. He felt a shiver of warmth where her eyes touched, spreading across his fair skin as she smiled and slowly moved into the bedroom. “Long enough that your mind holds no surprises for me.”
He watched her as she moved closer, dark eyes bright. It was strange, staring into her eyes. Sometimes he could swear he saw shapes moving in them, winging across her pupil and spiraling out into her iris in flickers of flame. The thought frightened him, aroused him, somehow, made him spread his feet and wait silently for what Jean wanted to say.
“It’s comfortable,” she murmured, close now. He could feel the heat of her skin, could smell that specific scent that always said Jean to him. If he listened hard enough, he thought maybe he could hear the rush of blood beneath her skin and the swipe of her lashes through the air as she looked down at him—so very tall—and blinked. “Safe,” she murmured, fingers tracing across the bridge of his glasses, breath gusting across his face. Jean shifted until their hips brushed, then moved away, smiling at Scott’s quick, stifled little noise. “You make everything safe, Scott. Sheltered and protected and good, but…I feel like I’m being flayed alive, inside.”
He snapped his head to look at her, brow creasing. “Jean, wha—”
“Hush,” she said, lifting a hand. Scott made a strangled noise and squeezed his eyes shut fast as his glasses slid off of his face, leaving him blinded and vulnerable.
“What are you doing?” he asked, hearing the glasses settle on the bedside table, hearing her take another step back.
“I feel like there’s something inside of me, beating to get out,” she said, almost conversationally. “I feel like I’m going mad.” Soft, elegant hands cupped his face, fingertips brushing his temples. “Do you understand, Scott? Do you understand what it’s like to be so full that you’re trembling with it, aching with it, this want crouched like an incubus on your chest?”
Jean always had a way with poetry. It was something she and the Professor shared laughing over their leather-bound books and scrabble tables. Scott had never felt quite at home with words; fumbling about like a fool at her heels, he’d always been content to be silent and still and listen to the webs she and Charles would weave. He wished he understood now what she meant. He wished he could pull her into his arms and touch them hip to hip and breast to breast and forehead to forehead and share it with her.
“When you were gone,” he tried instead, face lifted and eyes closed. “When I thought you had died, I…” Ached, longed, grieved. “Was very sad.”
A breath against his face as her hands slid down his neck to brush his shoulders. “No,” she said. “I shouldn’t have expected you to understand. It wasn’t fair of me.”
“I want to.”
“I know, Scott.” She slipped a button through its hole, then another. Jean twisted each disk before pressing it through with her thumb—he could feel the light press on her thumbnail against his chest, then belly as she undressed him.
“I wish,” he began, hands fisting.
“I know.” She tugged his shirt from his pants before sliding her palms over his chest, pushing it off his shoulders and down his arms. It dropped to the floor with a soft disturbance of air. Her thumbs hooked under the hem of his undershirt and tugged it up. Scott lifted his arms, allowing this with warm, baffled compliance. His arms were trapped back by the cotton before she tugged it the rest of the way down, tossing the undershirt aside.
“Everything I am,” he murmured, aware of her fingers unbuttoning his pants and sliding them down his slim hips. “It’s yours. I promise th—”
“Shh.” Jean touched a finger to his lips, silencing him. “Don’t promise, Scott. You know you won’t be able to keep it.” Her voice was low and not-quite sad. He could remember long conversations through the months they had been together and before: him sitting stiffly and explaining in careful, measured words why he had to give so much of himself to the Cause. Why they could never have anything like a normal life. Why he’d always be just a little drawn away from her, part of his mind always focused on what had to be done. She used to stand at the window while he talked, red hair brushing her cheeks as she pressed her fingers to the glass. Nodding gently.
“I will,” he protested, kissing her fingers. “Your death changed everything.”
There was a long silence, filled with the sound of the wind rattling against the house and the low rise and fall of their breaths. Someone walked down the hall, tread heavy. The creaking of pipes that no weekend plumbing could ever fix. Her mind brushed against his, hot and shocking red-orange-gold, fanning through his consciousness. “Yes,” Jean finally said and he could feel the brush of her hair as she crouched down before him. A touch at his ankle guided him to raise his foot, balancing on one leg as she tugged off his shoe and sock. Then the other, floorboards creaking under his shifting weight. She leaned in as she pushed down his khakis and underwear, lips brushing his thigh. “Yes, my death changed everything.”
“Love you,” Scott said, almost desperately.
“Love you, too.”
She’d never said it that way before. Always, always before Jean had been so very careful to make it personal. I love you, Scott. Love you, Scott. I love you. She’d always been so careful to never say I love you, too. She claimed it sounded too route, as if it were an echo when the words should never be a chore and always a gift. Scott hadn’t really listened to her when she talked about it or even particularly understood—it was just another part of Jean that was too cerebral, too emotional for him to grasp. Now he found himself clenching tight at those words.
He was naked. He felt achingly vulnerable standing in the center of their bedroom, bare and blind as an infant. Jean stood and stepped away. Scott could hear the whisper of cloth and at first he thought she was undressing, but…no. No, there was the sound of his belt buckle. There was the sound of the closet opening and closing. She was folding his dirty clothes like he always did and placing them meticulously in the hamper over her bundled up jeans.
Scott bowed his head, waiting. He shivered a little, feet planted and hands at his sides. He was more than half-hard, erection bobbing between his thighs. He always felt a small pang of embarrassment in this state, aware of the hang of his cock and balls. Aware of his slim, boyish figure. He was sparsely haired which only served to narrow his chest and hips. Jean sometimes brushed her fingers over the thin swath along his lower belly and teased him that it wasn’t so much a happy trail as a moderately contented one.
The closet door shut. Scott smiled a little at Jean’s laugh, realizing that she’d caught his fragments of memory.
“Very contented,” Jean said and she was still so far away. He could feel her watching him in the way their mental link contracted, focusing. She was examining him, eyes sliding over his body. His muscles shivered in the wake of her visual caress, tightening and loosening as his cock firmed further. It was a slow seduction, but she was so very practiced. She knew his body so well.
Better than anyone ever could. Better than anyone, perhaps, other than…
Scott immediately blocked out the thought, lips firming, but Jean’s soft flicker-flame caress along the bond relaxed him again.
“Don’t be ashamed, Scott,” Jean said seriously. “There’s no shame in taking comfort.”
“…Jean, I didn’t…”
“You should have.”
Scott’s mouth dropped open and he took a step back. Immediately he cursed himself and straightened his shoulders, firming his posture—it wasn’t like him to react so strongly to shock and yet. And yet.
Was she saying that he should have taken up with Logan? Impossible. Impossible. He misunderstood her. Never mind that their mental link allowed them to think on an elevated level. Never mind that they shared so much information in a constant loop that he couldn’t have possibly mistaken the soft color of her thoughts. He had to have misunderstood her because otherwise she meant he should have given himself to the enemy—the enemy despite months of friendship, always always the enemy—and that was unthinkable, that was—
The door opened and closed.
Impossible. The thought was as impossible as the sharp tang of whiskey, sweat and old smoke. Leather. A laughable amount of hair product.
A beat and then, “What the hell is this, Jeannie?” Logan snarled.
“It’s exactly what it looks like, Logan. Thank you for coming so quickly.”
Scott could almost see Logan through Jean’s eyes. He could almost see how Logan’s gaze moved between them: Jean standing next to the closed closet doors and Scott standing in the center of the room, naked and open and now, God, hard, achingly hard. Scott squeezed his hands into fists, feeling the quick little jerks of his cock. Logan would scent that. Logan would smell his arousal, his fear, his confused anger.
God how much he wanted this: a secret fantasy, locked down deeper than his memories of the airplane crash that took his parents from him. Locked down so very deep within himself but laid open now raw and naked and, fuck, dripping on the floor. Recognized by all because Jean would hear it and Logan would smell it and there were no secrets left for Scott between these two primal, powerful forces.
Another silence as if Logan was waiting for more. Or, Scott thought, perhaps they were talking telepathically, thoughts passing across his skin and stroking his flanks, his nipples, making his body ache as he stood there in obedient silence, waiting.
“Looks like a hell of a lot,” Logan finally said, words coming slowly as if he were choosing each one with a care Scott would have never given him credit for. He imagined it wasn’t often that the woman you loved was offering you full share in her own lover.
He had to stifle a laugh. He wondered if he were going crazy. Madness had to sound like Logan sliding off his leather jacket and slinging it over the back of a chair. It had to smell like Jean’s sandalwood perfume as she moved closer and slid a hand up the small of his back. “It’s everything,” she said seriously, kissing Scott’s shoulderblade. A brush of thought __Don’t be afraid. Don’t turn away. I love you and I know. I know and I love you because of it__ and he wondered whether she meant his attraction to Logan or the darker, stronger tendrils of emotions that he refused to examine.
__Both__ she said as Logan’s heavy boots thudded to the ground. His shirt. The jangle of dog tags made Scott whimper in the back of his throat. __Lust and lo—__
“Don’t,” Scott said sharply.
“Don’t what, Shades?” Logan said. “You having second thoughts?”
Scott laughed, relieved when Jean allowed him to silence her. Relieved that Logan misunderstood. “Fifth,” he said, chin lifting. Even with his eyes closed, even naked while they were still partially clothed, Scott could gather his dignity around him. It was a trick he’d learned in the orphanage: beat me up, trip me, call me names. I’m better than you all.
“That many?” His pants dropped, change falling out of the pockets. “Didn’t know you counted that high.”
“I’ve got a hand free.”
Jean’s hands went to Scott’s hips, turning him to face Logan. She kissed his shoulder and he could feel the amused curve of her mouth.
“Yeah?” Logan said, stepping in closer. The smell of him was strong now. It seemed to blend with Jean, earth and fire, one on either side of him. “Use all the fingers, then?” His breath was sour, but not unpleasantly so.
“Well, Logan, there are only five fingers per ha—”
Fingers dug into Scott’s hair, yanking him in for a kiss. He stumbled forward, unbalanced, hands coming up automatically to brace against Logan’s chest. Logan was hairy and compact, muscles bunched beneath his fingers. His hands slid through that thick hair as he melted into the kiss, mouth soft and wet and surprisingly giving. Logan made a low noise, nails gently raking the curve of Scott’s scalp, then rougher, harder as his tongue pushed into the other man’s mouth.
Scott drew in a ragged breath, but all he could feel was Logan, all he could taste was Logan, dark and hard and not at all like Jean but exactly as he remembered it. He whimpered, pressing forward, and jerked in the hard grip of his arms when their erections slid together. Logan was hard and pressed against him, slick and hot against his belly. Scott reached down, working a hand between their bodies and cupped his sac, fingers sliding through the dark curls of Logan’s pubic hair.
Jean stepped in close behind him, palms reaching out to press against his back. They scalded his skin, making him jerk and moan. Logan rutted up, hips and hard, calloused hands nudging up Scott’s thighs until he was wrapping his long legs around the other man’s waist. Scott’s ankles locked and he leaned back, tongue thrusting desperately into Logan’s mouth as Jean’s hands slid up and down his back.
“Down,” Logan snarled, breaking the kiss and Scott began to slide off his body before Logan’s hands moved to cup his ass, nails digging into his skin. “No, Summers,” he said, pulling him back up again. He moved Scott’s long body, positioning him until their cocks were aligned. “Ain’t what I meant.”
“Then specify,” Scott snotted, eyes squeezing shut tighter when Logan caught his mouth for another blistering kiss. Sharp teeth pulled at Scott’s mouth and nails raked across his skin, moving up. Scott gasped, tongue pushing out as he struggled to rock closer, take more, something breaking loose inside of him. Jean leaned in and bit at the nape of his neck, hands sliding over his shoulders as she mentally fed him images of their embrace: Logan small and powerful, Scott pale and aching, Jean a stabilizing force that grasped his hips and helped guide him in an aching, heady rhythm. He twisted, rubbing their cocks together, elegant only with her guidance, her support.
__Take, Scott__ echoing through his mind, and he sobbed at the sudden blinding connection: the three of them tangled together, thoughts snarled like a Celtic knotwork. He flowed through Logan, feeling the heady rage and want and need, seeped back into Jean with her fears and demons and bled back into his own skin, tainted by fire and earth and flowing between the two as precome on his belly became oceans and Jean’s hands sliding to part his body became time.
She knelt behind him as Logan kissed and bit across his jaw and all Scott could do was moan, “Please, please.” Elegant fingers slid him open and the very tip of her tongue traced the clenched skin of his pucker as Logan bit at the juncture of his neck. Scott jerked forward, howling, body rutting up and back with a sudden flashfire of need. “Please please now please fuck love you please love you love you,” he cried, hips moving in a rough circle, hands sliding over muscular shoulders, hairy arms, heavy chest, corded neck up to cup his face with a strange, trembling tenderness. His head fell back, eyes closed and mouth open as he drew in pained, ragged breaths. Logan’s cock slid against his belly, Jean’s tongue thrust into his opening and everything broke around him in a cascade of colors he never saw but knew by name and dim, shadowed memory.
“Logan!” Scott and Jean shouted together, minds melded in a sunburst of need. Orgasm was an explosion, rocking them both back, battering against Logan as heat blistered through him. Logan gasped and through their joined minds Scott could see with him: see the spreading wings of flame, see Jean standing as if pulled by some force, see the way his own face twisted in the glow of heat and wonder.
Logan sobbed, a strange noise coming from deep within his belly, and thrust once, twice, three times against Scott before he came. He turned his face and kissed Scott hard as if seeking something to ground him as he spurted across his belly, body shaking with fine, cascading tremors. Scott lifted his hands to Logan’s face and slid his thumbs over his closed eyes, needing them on equal footing, needing it to be about scent and hearing and touch and taste and the steaming, slippery come between their bellies, dripping between their thighs.
They continued kissing even when the desperation warmed to simple desire. Scott’s mouth felt swollen and tender, his body aching. His chin and cheeks would be red, he knew, from stubble burn and his back and shoulders throbbed with the heat of the phoenix effect. Jean moved forward, arms sliding around him from behind, hands moving across Logan’s arms, and it was as if the sun had shattered and fallen from the sky to somehow, some way, create a perfect pattern of life below: swirls of red and black and Scott between, Scott warm and sinking back into comfort offered. Broken and sated and feeling nothing but the scratch of his whiskers and the slide of come and the delicate brush of her hair.
Longer than it had been when she died, tangling like flames across his cheeks.