Breaking Up is Hard to Do
I could have handled it - I'm sure I could have - if only they hadn't been laughing. That's what made all the difference. If it had just been urgent, fumbling sex, the sort born of desperation and lust and a hundred other little /trivial/ things, I could have handled it. But it wasn't. Even as he let her push him gently back against the wall, his fingers splayed over her back, there was a smile on his lips, and he muttered something, and she chuckled quietly.
It changed everything. It was gentle, and loving, and intimate and a /relationship/. Not just a fuck against the changing room wall. Something more. Something special.
For a frozen moment I just stood there, stunned, with the door in my hand still and barely five inches open. Watched as Ororo pressed herself against Scott. /My Scott./ No, not my Scott. Not for months now, and where had that possessive thought come from? But even remembering that we'd broken up, that I was with Logan now, it was breath-chokingly difficult to watch. Watch as he ran his fingers through her hair, nuzzling at the hollow just under her ear.
I knew what that felt like. What his lips felt like there. How it felt different if it was late in the day like it was now and there was the light scratch of not-quite-stubble. I'd shuddered like Ororo shuddered now, her entire body shivering and her head tilting back.
God knows how long I might have stood there, watching as she turned her head and their mouths met hungrily. I might have stood forever, if not for the sound of a zip that jolted me from my haze. His uniform, hers, I didn't know which, but it was enough to get me moving. The door fell from my hand, slipping the small distance closed without a sound as I turned and almost ran down the corridor.
I couldn't get away from there fast enough. I fled to the kitchen, making a cup of coffee with hands that didn't quite shake.
I could have handled it - I know I could have - if only it had been Ororo I'd seen first afterwards. We were best friends. Best friends congratulate each other on getting a good man. And Scott was a good man. I could have smiled with her, and things could have been patched up. Tentatively, at first, but it would have been a beginning. Something to build on later when I saw Scott and then the two of them together and it would have worked.
But I didn't see Ororo first. It was Scott who walked into the kitchen as I sat with the dregs of my coffee cold and distasteful in the bottom of my cup. He'd showered and changed, of course, because no matter what Scott wasn't the sort of man to go straight from sex to society without some ablutions between.
He paused when he saw me, and I wondered if his eyes lost the satisfied expression I imagined they'd held. It had always been one of the things that irritated me when we were together, the fact that I couldn't see his eyes. You tell so much about a person and their emotions from their eyes. I hadn't thought about it for months, though. Now, I wondered if Ororo was irritated by it as well. Or if everything was too new and special for that sort of thing just yet. They couldn't have been together for very long, or the gossip network would already have reported it.
If only it had been Ororo. Because as soon as I saw Scott, as soon as he moved and spoke, I remembered everything that had been so good about us together, all his quirks. They weren't mine any more. Someone else was experiencing that kiss of his that I swear should be registered as a lethal weapon, the one he only gives when he really lets go. Someone else was finding out that he loves it when the woman's on top, that the small relinquishing of control turns him on like nothing else. Someone else was finding out that he liked to sleep holding his lover close, could only relax into sleep with her body against his.
I wondered, for the first time, how he'd slept without me.
"A good training session today," he'd said to me as he entered the kitchen. He was by the sink now, refilling the kettle for his own cup of coffee, and I hadn't replied, lost in thought. He looked curiously over his shoulder at me.
"Yes," I managed, dredging the word out of somewhere. "Very good. We're really starting to work together as a team."
He nodded, continuing about his coffee-making. "At this rate, we'll be able to include some of the older students by this summer. Those that are interested, of course. I think Rogue will want to stay. Maybe St John as well. I'm not sure about the others. They might want to see the world before they try to save it. What do you think?"
The most I could manage was a small sound of vague agreement, looking down into my coffee cup. We'd had awkward moments before, just after we broke up. And again, after Logan and I started our relationship. We'd managed to get through them, somehow. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember how at the moment.
He brought his coffee over to the table, looking at me with what I thought might have been concern. It was certainly in his voice. "Is something the matter, Jean?"
I pushed my cup away. "No." Curt, clipped, evidence that something was indeed wrong for someone who knew me as well as Scott had once known me. "Is there anything you'd like to tell me, Scott?"
He took a mouthful of coffee. "Yes, there is. But I'm guessing that I don't need to tell you any more. How did you find out?"
It would serve him right if I told him I'd seen them down in the changing room. It would really bother him; he's such a private man. But I didn't want to relive that, not just yet, so I ignored the question. "Oh, so you were planning on telling me?"
"Of course I was." The tightening around his mouth that's the only sign he's annoyed. And how frequently had I seen that during the last month we were together? "It's not precisely the easiest thing to work into a conversation, Jean. Yes, it is lovely weather we're having, and by the way, Ororo and I have been sleeping together for the past week and a half."
A week and a half. Not long. Since New Year's Eve? I barely remembered the little party we'd had that night. I vividly remembered the hangover I'd had the next morning.
I had nothing to say, which seemed to give him the impetus to continue talking. "Besides," he said, raising his coffee cup again, "I don't recall you taking great pains to let me know about you and Logan."
I winced slightly. Yes, true. I mean, I'd had inklings that Logan and I were about to happen. But like he said, it wasn't something you could work into conversations. 'Oh, by the way, I thought I should warn you that Logan and I are probably going to be doing the horizontal tango sometime in the next week.' One night we went out and got ourselves quite drunk, only to stumble home together at three in the morning and decide that the front lawn was a perfect place to start getting down to business. Of course, it was Scott who opened his window to tell us to shut up and take it inside.
Hence the awkward moments that followed.
"It's just... well, Ororo. It's a bit of a shock."
He just drank his coffee, and said nothing. Well, what did I expect? A declaration of all the reasons he was falling in love with her? A step-by-step dissertation on how they came to take the relationship that extra step? That sort of thing wasn't Scott's style.
"Are you happy?" I hardly recognised my voice, such a small, lost sound.
Scott nodded, and smiled, all handsome, apple-pie America, except for the glasses. "Yes, Jean. I am."
He'd asked me the same thing the morning after that 3am incident. I'd answered the same. And now I returned the same as he had, and I wondered if he'd felt this flat inside. Probably.
"I'm glad." As I stood and crossed the kitchen, dumping my cup in the sink. And then straight out of the kitchen. Scott didn't stand, didn't say anything, didn't even look at me. He knew how I felt, I'm sure. He's smart, and sensitive. Mostly.
I needed to get out and clear my head. Figure out what I was thinking. I started down the front drive for a bit before heading out into the gardens. There's so much garden. So much potential for getting lost. So that's what I did. Got lost, and walked, and thought.
I wasn't jealous. Was I? Yes, what I'd had with Scott had been a grounding point. The most important relationship in my life to date, and that included Logan. It had been a soul-changing experience. But honestly, I think we'd both gone as far with it as we could go. I didn't regret breaking up with him. Not at all.
But did he have to have something so good so fast?
A bit hypocritical, that. After all, I'd hooked up with Logan sooner. Not with unseemly haste, but it had been a good couple of months now. So I expected Scott to accept my freedom, but I was still possessive about him?
It's never easy to face up to your own faults. Especially because just facing up to them doesn't eradicate them. They're still there, and now they annoy you more than ever because you can see them there, being blatantly wrong. So now I was faced with the fact that I didn't want Ororo to have Scott, not because I wanted him myself, but just because I didn't want her to have him.
Ororo and Scott. It was, as I'd said, quite a shock. I just didn't think about them that way. I hadn't noticed them spending any more time together than they ever had. Then again, they'd always been discussing business - the school, the team, all sorts of things. They were the action side to everything. They'd worked together for years. I'd been Ororo's best friend, and Scott's lover and fiance, but they'd always found in each other something that I couldn't provide.
Maybe it wasn't so much of a shock after all, if I thought about it.
As I turned back to the house, dusk was falling, laying a blue blanket over everything. Maybe that peaceful light had something to do with my inner calm. Yes. I could handle this.
I could have handled it - I'm certain I could have - if only Logan hadn't been waiting for me in our room. It wasn't his presence, so much as the look on his face.
"You'll never guess the news I have," I said, trying to keep it light.
"I heard already," he said curtly. The way he brushes away anything that interferes with his main focus. And then, the Words: "We need to talk."
Those words. I'd used them before. I knew that they meant when they were said like that. Not 'we need to talk', but 'we need to break up'. I'd opened the conversation with Scott like that. I'd had no intention of coming out of the 'talk' still engaged to him. And now Logan was regarding me with equal focus.
"Do we?" I managed to say, dully, sitting on the corner of the bed. Rallying reserves I thought I'd depleted with my afternoon's soul-searching. I'd need everything I could muster for this.
"Yeah, we do, Jeannie." He leaned against the desk, already keeping his distance from me. That was a psychological thing.
And I was doing the same thing mentally, already. Observing, diagnosing, disentangling myself from him. Reflex defense mechanism. Not that it mattered. This was still going to hurt. Damn it.
"So what's your problem then?" I snapped, crossing my arms over my chest.
He was expecting that. Didn't even blink. "Our problem. Us." Long pause. He's gathering the words to say it right. "The last few months've been heaven. But... it's not going to last forever. And the longer we hang onto it, the less like heaven it's going to be."
Now my arms weren't so much crossed over my chest as holding myself together. I was right. This did hurt. "But what we've got now... it's good?" It was meant to be a statement, but it didn't come out that way.
One of his brief, tight grins; pure Wolverine. "Darlin', it's fucking spectacular. It's everything I wanted for so long and didn't think I'd get. Maybe that's the problem. I never thought past getting you, Jeannie. And now, no matter how good it is, it's not enough for the long haul."
"We could change it." My voice was down to a whisper now, saying things I have to say even though I know they won't do any good.
"I don't want to change it."
No. Of course not. He liked it like it was - great sex and the light touch of companionship. That was what he'd wanted with all those intense gazes and little hints. Why would he want anything else? Too much like hard work. It's not commitment, it's the effort. If anyone tells you love isn't a lot of work, they're lying. I knew. Logan knew. He didn't want to put in the effort with me.
That was unfair and I knew it, but it all got swept away by the tide surging through me. Anger, resentment, bitterness, spite, hate, screaming hysteria. Squash them all down, shove them into a box, close it tight. Except it's a jack-in-the-box, and the handle was already turning. I had to get out of there before it turned the final click, and the lid sprung open again.
"Yeah, well," I almost snarled, standing, striding to the door. "Shit happens, I guess."
"No." I paused with the door in my hand, the second time today, and my knuckles were white. Looked back at him. "Just... It's done, OK? But you can't get anything more from me. Not right now."
I slammed the door behind me because it felt good. Not good enough, though. There was so much inside me I was this close to flying apart. Scott was a good man and now he was Ororo's good man and couldn't I even be goddamned happy for my best friend? Scott was a good man and I'd dumped him trying to be sensitive but no matter what he'd been hurting. As much as I was. More. Because I'd always known - if I was honest with myself - that Logan and I weren't going to live happily ever after. That's not what either of us was after. But couldn't he have just tried a little bit? It was bursting in my head; Scott and Ororo and Logan and Scott and... Jesus!
I could have handled it if... so many things.
I couldn't handle it.
I went out onto the back lawn far from the house, until it was just me and the trees and the stars sparkling new as the last of the sunlight fled. All of that and the bottle of Johnny Walker I took a swig out of, sitting on a night-chilled rock. And the cigarette I lit with a nervous flame. The first one I'd had in years. And the tears that I couldn't have stopped if I wanted to. Heaving, wracking, soul-searing sobs that tore out from my very centre as if someone had reached down my throat and wrenched them out. They left me limp, breathless, sodden in body and mind and soul.
I lay on that rock and breathed. On my back, spread wide, limbs and hair and being, watching the stars multiply, one twinkle at a time.
Then I gathered up the pieces, and went back to the house. I walked straight, I held my head high. I was Jean Grey.
I could handle it. I had to.
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