What You Leave Behind

Author Notes: Unbetaed because my betas would not touch L/J. Don't tell them. *All criticism and commentary extremely welcome*. Feel free to tell me if it doesn't work--first serious attempt at L/J. I don't even know where this came from, to be honest, and it feels very odd, but it's also 123 AM and I think two days of staring at it is excessive. I feel like I lost the focus somewhere along the line, but have no idea exactly how.

Archiving: XMMFC, otherwise ask. I'll probably say yes. Disclaimer: Not mine. At this point, I'm almost able to accept it.

She didn't feel quite real that night.

She was alone, anonymous on a sidestreet in Chicago's red-light district. If it had one, which was debatable, but when she was propositioned while walking past a late model Volvo, she categorized it there and left it at that. Knowing she looked the part too much, with her white dress blouse tied at her waist and vinyl pants, though the shoes she'd worn as a respected member of the medical community, five hundred dollar Italian leather she was ruining with the slightest malicious pleasure with every step across the garbage-choked alleys.

{--"We need to talk, Jean."--}

It'd rained for hours, only now clearing into thick, hazy humidity that stuck her shirt to her skin like glue, hot and heavy, ruining what was left of her patented Jean-Grey twist, stray strands clinging to her face.

Sidestepping a puddle, feeling the movement of other minds at the edge of her thoughts. Addictive to feel them around her, undisciplined and strong and *real*, living and breathing around her. She liked it, liked how she could steal a habit here, a preference there, smoking her way through a full pack of Marlboros she'd bought at the convenience store down the street from the hotel she'd been chained to for three godforsaken days of mind-numbing hell that doubled as a medical conference on human mutation.

She'd never smoked before and could understand the attraction.

{--"...I think we should take a break from each other, get some perspective..."--}

Who could take seriously a thirty year old woman--she wasn't old enough to stand before them and have them believe she was an expert in her field. She gave her presentation in conference room three while an undiscovered leak plopped steadily into the grey carpet behind her and the other inhabitants pretended interest and barely hid their desperation to be out of the stuffy room before another power failure locked them inside.

She didn't blame them and gathered her papers without once looking up as they fled to the exits, escaping Remy and Logan's eyes to disappear, a soft mental fade that they never would guess she could accomplish. A tiny shop three streets down had yielded her the clothes and she'd stripped in a side alley, leaving a Donna Karen suit to the rats or someone desperate to absorb her anger through the feel of fine wool and silk stockings.

Dr. Jean Grey was feeling a little less than fine, thank you very much.

She lit a cigarette on the strength of telekinetic manipulation, because the damp was making it almost impossible, and reached out with her mind. Far behind, Logan, tracking her by the scent being held in the water-heavy air, but she estimated him at three blocks away, taking her false trails and the push of her mind when he came a hair too close and into possible view. Remy probably waiting at the hotel, chewing over his cigarette and dealing poker to the other two security guards assigned to her case. Her case. Mutant activist Dr. Jean Grey, threatened, how very frightening. How very--

How very little she cared and stepped down enthusiastically into a puddle to feel the brackish water splash over her calf and run off the vinyl covering to puddle in the toe of her shoe.


She should have left the ring on the dresser when she left Westchester. Only she would have felt naked without it, and she walked into conferences feeling naked enough.

She struck with a mental shove before he could move from his crouch beside the dumpster, startled that she could put so much force behind it, so much power. Slightly addictive and she paused to explore it, how it felt in her mind. Reaching out slowly to knock him back again, startled black eyes peering at her in horror from behind ragged muddy-brown hair.

"Jeanie, I think he's down for the count."

Shit, he'd caught up. Letting go, she turned her eyes on him and Logan took a step back, eyebrows raised, silently asking her if she really wanted to go one-on-one against him tonight. She was tempted.

Distantly, the frightened would-be mugger disappeared into the night.

{--"...you're cold, Jean..."--}

"I don't want to be followed." Turning on her heel, hoping to God she didn't stumble because a quarter-inch heel wasn't much in the way of maneuvering room, and her arm was caught easily, turning her back around with negligible strength, and she struck out with all her mind, knocking him back four steps, his balance caught too fast for her to follow up on her advantage, too startled that she'd done it to try and do it again.

But God, the feeling--

"Don't really care what you want." His hair was damp and there were wet stains on his jacket from ducking into blind alleys that were too narrow and brushing against rotting tenements to check the remains of her scent. He moved with raw threat whether he meant to or not, and something in her responded to it--she'd always been attracted to alpha males.

"I don't need a babysitter, Logan." She was thirty and while that was a mark against her in any respected conference of dedicated researchers, in the real world she was certainly adult enough to take a walk when she needed the release, to smoke a cigarette to clear her head--

{--"I can't do this anymore..."--}

--maybe just get rid of accumulated psychic energy bottled so strictly when she was in public. Logan's mind was always hard to read, more so when he was aware of what she was trying to do, and he waited patiently until she withdrew, almost sulking and sickened to her stomach she was acting out like a teenager going on a post-break-up self-pity binge.

This wasn't about Scott.

"Do whatever you want. I'll just watch." Crossed arms--she wasn't sure if she could blur herself from his perceptions when his full attention was on her and took a pull of the cigarette while her hand trembled. Finally, she shrugged--she was Jean Grey, she knew how to give in to the inevitable gracefully--

{--"I love you, but"--}

--knew how to walk away with her head held high.

He nodded, as if that had been his intention all along, and fell into easy step just beside and behind her, a presence flickering on the edges of her mind and eye. Dizzingly, so she focused her gaze ahead, half-wishing she'd kept her suit jacket. The damp was creeping under her shirt and her skin had come up goosebumps along arms and back.

It was so warm tonight, it might not be the air--sweat was trickling between her breasts.

"Where we goin'?" Few things seriously ruffled Logan anymore--not when he fought Brotherhood every third day and taught to slightly psychotic teenagers the art of self-defense. As close to at ease as she'd ever seen him, and she wondered if it was being in his element, surrounded in the familiarity of filthy streets and twenty-dollar hookers looking for their next fix, casual violence humming along every nerve. Happy to be immersed in the familiar threat of a city at night where no self-respecting woman would tread her leather heels.

"Just wanted a walk, that's all." Deliberately not choosing the touristy, brightly-lit and well-patrolled streets near the hotel or working out her frustrations in the nicely appointed hotel gym, where she'd spent the better part of the first night. She told herself it was to keep her edge, her nominal position as an X-Man, so one day she wouldn't be watched on every mission as if she'd be the first to fall--

--which had happened too many times now to count and she didn't like what that said about her self-preservation skills. They were shit--she was a little too upper-middle-class to function well outside the suburbs or ultra-professional, ultra-safe world of intellectuals.

This wasn't about Scott.

Scott once called her the mother-figure of the X-Men. Tonight, after being reminded how very young she was among her colleagues, she wanted to try on a new identity. It appeared in the shape of a bar that Logan doubtless found appealing in its dilapidation and she ducked inside, ignoring his growl, feeling like an intruder when the bartender raised an eyebrow on her descent onto a convenient stool.

"What'll you have?"

Chicago accents were not so strange--she wondered if she'd finally absorbed enough Yankee influence from New York to be spotted out as a tourist or if her life as a public speaker had trained all traces of any local dialect out of her voice.

"Whiskey, straight." She'd never drank whiskey, wondered if it was the effects of television that made her grind the order out like a bad western, and she saw the bartender glance down at the hand she'd rested on the bar. Her hands looked like her profession--cultured nails, manicured cuticles, slim, clean, long fingers, all straight graceful lines and sharp angles. She wondered if she could deliberately break a nail without feeling as if she'd committed sacrilege. Your body is your temple, her mother had always taught her. She supposed she'd carried something away from her family besides lingering resentment and curiously muted dislike.

"Same thing," from behind her, and Logan sat down. Jean took in the taste of the minds surrounding her--smokily dark, edged in traces of casual violence and dull dislike, almost as alien to her as mutants were to them. Perhaps even more so--among the students she instructed, she was always aware of the oddly mature eyes that evaluated her, tested her, reminding her every day of the sheltered life she had led compared to them. Pampered telepath and famous researcher--it was no wonder she stumbled during her lectures and flushed when she dropped a book under their eyes. She was always on unequal footing with others.

This wasn't about Scott.

"Jeanie, you okay?"

If she said no, he'd ask why. If she said yes, he'd know she was lying. The shot ended her debate and she threw it back, startled by the burn--she'd only drank cocktails and fragile drinks that came frozen with tiny umbrellas in bright hotel bars. This glass wasn't clean and probably hadn't been for a long time, and she absorbed the burn of the alcohol into her stomach, discipline asserting itself so her eyes didn't tear up--

{--"We've been friends for a long time, Jean. I hope--"}

No one was allowed to see Jean Grey cry.


She felt rather than saw Logan's sideways glance, ran her fingers through her hair to catch the tangles, the odd leaf from a tree she couldn't remember passing. It felt damp, dull, and she unfastened the clasp and shook her head sharply, feeling it brush her cheeks, feeling the speculative glances of the other patrons, the flares of interest radiating warm on her back.


She turned her head and smiled, finding the filled shot glass by touch and lifting it to her mouth, eyebrows arched, waiting for his inevitable questions--questions why Scott hadn't come, why she was had chosen this conference to attend so suddenly, why she'd discarded her suit.


"You keep drinking like that, I'll be carrying you home."

She shook her head, facing the bartender to take the shot, leaning farther than she needed to set the glass down. Felt Logan's gaze on her face, on her body, curious and oddly detached. She was accustomed to his wordless admiration--the way he stripped her down with a glance, making her wonder how she slid through his fantasies.

He was looking at her as if she was a woman, not Jean Grey, and she found she liked that. Liked it more with every passing second.

"Logan, are you going to follow me all night?" No dialect--definitely the voice of a formal speaker, the words precisely ordered and neatly lined up, no grammar errors to be found. A voice that carried over five hundred people stuck in conference room three, their thoughts thick with disbelief that she was anything other than a pretty face and pretty voice.

A voice that told Scott Summers that she understood when she didn't.

She tapped her glass meaningfully and the various eyes were counting the shots, lingering on the unbuttoned top of her shirt, on the presence of the man beside her. Opened her mind to take in their speculation, seeing herself in their fantasies before shutting herself down again.

It was a heady feeling, another kind of power.

"It's my job." Taking his one shot while she held her third, glancing around the room before drinking it, eyes back on her. Even now, watching and evaluating for potential threat, as if the FoH had nothing better to do on Friday nights than follow Dr. Jean Grey to local bars to harass.

"I'm surprised you'd take orders from Scott so seriously."

It was too obvious a goad, she knew that when his lips quirked, turned her gaze back down to her glass, seeing her distorted reflection in the whiskey. Drank it back, and the burn was the same, grounding her into the reality of the bar she sat in, the smells of smoke and spilled alcohol and old sweat.

"I'm sorry 'bout you and Cyke, Jean. But this ain't gonna help."

She frowned into the empty glass.

"I know." Was that why she was drinking? She didn't think so. She hadn't left the hotel to find a bar--it had found her, after six cigarettes and a dozen different alleys. "It's not about Scott."

"Then what?"

She shut her eyes.

"Bad conference" Uncomfortable shoes, scratchy clothes, glasses perched on the bridge of her nose so she looked the part of a professional. "Do I need a reason?"

"No." Logan stood up beside her, pulling out his wallet and dropping a twenty on the bar. "Come on--three's your limit." His gaze slid to the table of men to her right, watching her like wolves watch a deer, and she shivered a little, replaying the imagery she'd fished from their minds. "We'll walk for awhile."

When they emerged outside, it was raining and Jean stepped into it without hesitation. Then something smelling of expensive cigars was tossed around her shoulders and she smiled at Logan, pulling his jacket closer by the edges of the collar.

"Would you spread it across a puddle for me, Logan?"

That earned her a grin.

"Sure, darlin'." An arm lightly around her waist, as much for support as reassurance. "It won't always be this hard, Jeanie."

"This isn't about Scott."

{--"...you're cold, Jean..."--}

Maybe she was. Three whiskeys hadn't dimmed the bored expressions of her colleagues or the reminders that a mirror gave her that she was a beautiful woman and on principle she'd be distrusted for that alone.

This wasn't about Scott.

"Jeanie--" A sigh. Logan was everything that was brutal truth--he didn't sugarcoat or sidetrack or live in illusions. He was reality, walking beside her. It could frighten her, his raw honesty--he never lied to himself.

She couldn't be sure she didn't.

"It's not about Scott."

She turned her face up to look at the darkness above her, rain splattering across her skin, washing away the last traces of her make-up, closing her eyes to feel it better. His hand tightened on her hip as she stumbled, losing a heel and grinning up at him when he retrieved it, broken, from the sidewalk. Stared up into the clear hazel eyes for an endless moment that was curiosity and wonder and a little fear as she covered the hand that held her lost shoe, wondering if--

"Jeanie, let's go." His voice was soft and he'd stepped closer, almost touching her body.

--if she could touch him and if he'd let her. The night was warm and wet and she could do anything. Anything at all.

This was the most real she'd ever felt.

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