|fic: Safe, for artaxastra
||[Jul. 1st, 2005|07:25 pm]
Author: kaydee falls (kaydeefalls)
Disclaimer: Fox and Marvel own them. I wouldn't know what do with them if they were mine.
Summary: Sometimes, Jean wished she had the guts to go through a rebellious phase.
Written for: artaxastra
Pairing/scenario requested: Jean/Raven, not before Jean's 18. Well, she's just barely legal here. ;)
Warnings: femslash. Nothing explicit, but it's definitely there.
The day she left for college, Jean very nearly broke up with Scott. Not because she didn't love him, but because he could be so damn annoying.
"I don't see what you could possibly learn in that place that Xavier couldn't teach you," he complained as she loaded the last of her bags into her car.
Scott had been recycling the same three arguments for months. Jean took a deep breath and reminded herself that he was just being an obnoxious prick because he loved her. "I told you, Scott, I just need to get out on my own for a while. It's perfectly normal to go away for college."
Scott frowned. Argument number two was coming up. "I'll never see you."
"Smith is in Massachusetts," Jean explained for the hundredth time. "It's only a few hours' drive. I'll come home at least once a month."
And here came the big one: "There won't be any other mutants around. It'll be dangerous for you."
Ororo, who was leaning against the wall of the garage, rolled her eyes. "If you don't cut that safety shit out and just let her go, I'm gonna make it rain on your wedding day," she grumbled, taking another drag from her cigarette. She was a skinny black kid, probably about fourteen or so, although she sure as hell didn't know when she'd been born. She'd only been at the school for a year. Xavier had found her living on the streets of Cairo. She'd tried to pick his pocket, and he'd taken her home. Stranger things have happened.
"Shut up, or I'll tell the Professor you've been smoking again," Scott warned.
Ororo shrugged and blew smoke in his face. Sure, she was grateful to Xavier, but she wanted to make sure everyone knew she was still a free-spirited gutter brat. Xavier said that she was just going through a phase.
Sometimes Jean wished she had the guts to go through a phase like that.
"I have to learn how to live with normal people sooner or later," she told Scott as gently as she could manage. "May as well start now. Besides, it's not like I'm going to wear a flashing sign announcing that I'm a mutant."
"I know," Scott sighed. He rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I just worry."
"Well, you don't need to," Jean said, and kissed him on the cheek. She glanced at her watch. "I'd better go. Tell the Professor that I said goodbye."
"See ya," Ororo said, feigning disinterest.
Scott leaned forward and gave her a quick peck on the lips. "Be safe."
Jean forced herself to grin and bear it.
Jean's new room was small. It barely managed to squeeze in two beds, dressers, and desks. After Jean dropped all her bags in the middle of the floor, there was hardly enough space to walk from the wall to the door. Her roommate hadn't arrived yet, and Jean shuddered to think how much more cramped it would get in there with the addition of another girl and all her stuff.
So she started unpacking.
She was about halfway unpacked when her roommate got there. The door swung open just as Jean was setting a framed photograph of her, Scott, and Xavier on her nightstand.
The girl who walked in was African-American, darker-skinned than Ororo. She was slender and fit. She wore tight cutoff jeans and a sapphire blue tank top, and her hair, wound around her head in a tight braid, was dyed a coppery red. She carried only two suitcases and a backpack – which, as Jean would learn, was the extent of her luggage. Her dark brown eyes were cold, and she gave Jean a contemptuous once-over.
"I suppose I'm your new roommate," the girl said unenthusiastically.
Jean determinedly ignored the contempt in the girl's eyes and voice. She gave her a bright smile. "Hi!" she said. "I'm Jean Grey."
"Raven Darkholme," the girl said.
Jean studied hard in college. She was planning on pre-med, but couldn't resist taking a political science course or two. Six classes of bio and poli sci were a heavy load, particularly for a freshman, but she managed. After a week or two, she was well settled in.
She didn't really make friends, but that didn't matter. Much.
Raven, on the other hand, hardly did any work at all, even though her courses were as difficult as Jean's, if not more so. "I'm a fast learner," she said curtly, the one time Jean mentioned it.
Unlike Jean, Raven was heavily involved in student life. She was a member of just about every militant political group on campus, as well as the one African-American organization. She was constantly organizing protests and leading rallies, and seemed to hate both Republicans and Democrats with equal fervor.
"Why don't you like the liberals?" Jean asked once. "I mean, they want what you want. Equal rights and treatment for everyone."
Raven snorted derisively. "Sure, they say that. But they never do a damn thing about it. Action speaks a hell of a lot louder than words. And most of those upper-class liberal bastards condescend like hell to us minorities. They help us by treating us like children."
"Come on," Jean said. "This isn't the Jim Crow South anymore. People are more open-minded these days."
Raven gave her a Look. "Are they really? Honey, the moment you saw me walk through this door, you were thinking about my race. It was the first thing you noticed, wasn't it? If I was a cute little white girl like you, you'd have noticed my smile or my outfit or something. But I bet the first thought you had about me was they didn't tell me I was rooming with a black girl."
Jean shrugged uncomfortably. "How is that any different from me noticing brown hair instead of blonde, or something?"
"Because hair color doesn't mean shit," Raven said. "Skin color does. And that's why you're wrong when you bullshit about how enlightened white folks are these days. We're still different from you, and you never forget it. I was responsible at the same time for my body, for my race, for my ancestors. I subjected myself to an objective examination, I discovered my blackness, my ethnic characteristics; and I was battered down by tom-toms, cannibalism, intellectual deficiency, fetishism, racial defects, slave-ships, and above all else, above all: Sho' good eatin'."
The silence that followed her words was painful, impenetrable. Jean forced herself to break it. "Who are you quoting?"
"A black man named Frantz Fanon," Raven said. "You probably haven't heard of him. No one knows about the black intellectuals, even if they do raise a ruckus."
Jean wanted to think of something intelligent to say. She couldn't. "Well," she said, trying a smile, "you've got a heck of a memory for quotations."
Raven smiled slowly. "I'm good with details," she said. "I've found they come in handy."
Jean was working on an bio problem set when it happened.
"So," Raven said casually, swinging a leg around the back of her desk chair, "what can you do?"
Jean started, her pencil jerking out and leaving a black trail across the page. "What do you mean?"
Raven tipped her chair forward and tapped the framed photo on Jean's nightstand. "I recognized the guy in the chair. You must be one of his pet mutants. So what can you do?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Jean managed. Her hands were shaking, so she clasped them tightly together in her lap.
Raven smirked. "Don't try to bullshit me, girl. I know all about being a minority. You've got a look to you. I'd know even if you weren't buddies with Charles Xavier."
Jean stared at her roommate. A note of bitterness had crept into Raven's tone, and Jean could have sworn her eyes had flashed gold on the word 'minority'. "You too?" she breathed.
For a second, Raven froze. Then she laughed. "Yeah, honey, I've got certain…talents of my own."
Jean decided. Be safe, Scott's voice hissed in her head, but she ignored it. "I'm telekinetic," she said. "And I can read people's minds, sort of, but only when I'm in physical contact with them and concentrating really hard. The Professor's trying to help me develop it further, but I'll never be anywhere near as powerful as he is."
"Too bad," Raven said. "It'd be pretty useful to be able to read anyone's mind, any time."
"So what's your mutation?" Jean asked, feeling as though a huge weight had been lifted off her chest. She wasn't alone here after all.
Raven smiled. "I can take on any body I choose," she said. "I can imitate anyone's appearance or voice."
"Is this your natural form?"
Raven's eyes flashed gold again. "No," she said shortly. "No, that's private, sweetheart."
Jean nodded. She understood what it was like to keep a part of herself secret. There was no need to go around proclaiming her mutation to the world.
Raven turned back to her desk. Discussion closed. Jean tried to work on her problem set, but couldn't focus. "If you could look like anyone," she said hesitantly, "then why a black woman? I mean, you keep saying how hard it is to be black in our society. So why?"
"Because I know how the black woman feels," Raven said quietly. "I know discrimination. Don't you?"
"You should come to the rally tomorrow," Raven said unexpectedly, a few days later. "We're protesting job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."
Jean blinked. "But I'm not gay."
"So what?" Raven demanded. "What if, someday, some asshole won't hire you because you're a mutant? Would you only want other mutants supporting you?"
She had a point. But Jean was still hesitant. Rallies could get out of hand. Large groups of people, all angry about something – it wouldn't take much to push them over the edge. Or what it the police were there? What if they got nervous or trigger happy? Rallies could be…dangerous.
She was thinking like Scott.
"I don't know," she hedged. Pick an excuse, any excuse. "I mean, this new AIDS thing is all over the news these days. They say it's primarily a homosexual disease. Maybe—"
Raven's eyes flashed. "Some people say mutation is a disease, too."
It occurred to Jean that she didn't have to listen to the Scott-voice in her head. "I'll go."
And at the rally, standing next to Raven and shouting some slogan along with a hundred other people while the cops looked on – it felt dangerous. Edgy.
"You two make a hot couple!" some girl told her and Raven.
Raven grinned and pinched Jean's ass.
Edgy. Hot. Included. It felt awesome.
Jean didn't really enjoy her phone conversations with Scott. He just told her he missed her a lot and wanted to know ever little thing she did all day. It made her irritable, all the more so because she did miss him. At least he wasn't pulling the jealous boyfriend routine. Smith was an all-girls school. He had no competition, and knew it.
The night after the rally, Jean was particularly short with him, and hung up after only ten minutes. She sighed and flopped across her bed.
"Your boyfriend?" Raven asked. Jean nodded. "The other guy in the picture, right?"
"You know," Raven said with deliberate casualness, "you could be with him tonight. If you'd like."
Jean sat straight up. "What?"
Raven shrugged. "I'm just saying. My mutation has its…benefits. If you'd like. Think of it as a favor to a friend.
Friend. Favor. Scott. "You mean…"
Raven walked over and picked up the framed photo. She studied it intently for a moment, then set it back down.
Watching it was the strangest thing. It was as though Raven's body were no more than a cheap costume, and it unzipped from the top of her head down. A new shape was revealed, brown hair sprouted, brown skin melted into cream-colored polo and khakis. And Scott stood before her.
"These are ugly shades," Scott-Raven commented, fingering the thick, dark glasses. "Why does he wear them?"
Jean swallowed hard. "His mutation," she said, a little unnerved. "His eyes…if he took off the glasses, he'd kill someone. Or punch holes through walls. Pure energy."
"You've never seen his eyes?"
Jean shook her head. "He told me they were blue."
Scott-Raven smiled. "Fortunately, I don't pick up on mutations when I shift." She took off the glasses.
One of Jean's secret longings was to be able to look into Scott's eyes, his real eyes. To know that he was really seeing her.
His eyes were beautiful.
Funny, Jean thought, as Scott-Raven pulled off his shirt and gently pushed her down to the bed. It even smells like him.
Scott and Jean had lost their virginity together when Jean was sixteen. They didn't have sex very often, but they were gradually improving. Jean could honestly say that she mostly liked sex with Scott.
Raven was much, much better.
So was it cheating? It was Scott's body she lay beside, Scott's arms holding her, Scott's name she whispered when she came.
But it clearly wasn't Scott. Scott-Raven had virtually no concern for safety in any form. No condoms, for one thing – "Deep down, I'm still a girl. I can't impregnate anyone in any body. And the mutation makes me more or less immune to disease, so no worries there." And, well – sex with Scott-Raven was not exactly vanilla.
Jean wasn't worried about Scott finding out – it was easy enough not to tell him. She mainly worried that when she was with him again, she'd be…disappointed.
And Raven was only Scott in bed. The rest of the time, she was definitely Raven. And that was kind of exciting, too.
"Raven," Jean whispered one night, just after Raven had shifted into Scott. "What do you really look like?"
Scott-Raven hesitated. "Monstrous," she said lightly. "You don't want to know."
Scott-Raven stared long and hard at Jean with golden eyes. Then, with a sight, as though shedding a heavy weight, Scott fell away, disappearing beneath sapphire skin and coppery hair. A slender, fit, perfect blue goddess.
"You're beautiful," Jean murmured, reaching out to her.
And oh, women's bodies were so very different from men's. They curved so wonderfully, and were soft in all different places. Raven's skin looked scaly, but was warm to the touch, and slid smoothly across Jean's. Jean couldn't stop touching her. "Raven," she whispered again, and this was definitely cheating now, and she didn't care.
The one thing that nagged: Raven was too good. Too skilled a lover in any form. And since she could look like anyone, she could probably sleep with anyone she wanted.
So why Jean? Sure, she wasn't at all bad to look at, and she was getting better in bed. But night after night? Raven should be getting bored with her, or at least showing interest in someone else. She and Jean had little in common; for the most part, Raven didn't even seem to like her very much. It certainly wasn't love, or anything like that – Jean was slightly telepathic, after all, and she'd be able to tell. There was an underlying purpose, somewhere, but it was murky, and Jean wasn't powerful enough to read it.
The answer came one Friday after class. "Come on," Raven said. "Let's drive to Boston tonight. I have someone I'd like you to meet."
Once they got there, Raven gave Jean a meeting time and place and a map, and left the hotel.
Jean had never been to Boston before, but she was good with a map. She wandered the streets for a bit, then found the right coffee shop at the appointed time. It was a bland little place, just like thousands of others. She bought a small black coffee and looked around. Raven was at a table in the back corner, seated facing the door. She hadn't looked up when Jean entered; she was involved in an animated conversation with the other person at the table. An older man, judging by the broad shoulders and the dusting of silver in dark hair. His back was towards Jean.
She walked up to the table. Raven abruptly cut off the conversation to look up at her and smile. Something sharp and calculating glittered in her eyes.
The man turned. "Hello, Jeanie," he said.
Jean blinked. "Professor Lensherr?"
"Indeed," he said with a smile. "It's certainly been a while, Miss Grey."
Lensherr had worked with Xavier; he'd helped start the school. But he and Xavier had parted ways years ago, when Jean, Scott, and Hank were the only students. Jean thought back. She'd been fairly young then, barely into adolescence; and shortly after Lensherr's departure, Xavier had had the accident that caused his paralysis, so no one had spared much thought for the absent professor.
Lensherr's smile was wolfish, and it suddenly occurred to Jean that perhaps his departure and Xavier's accident might have been related.
She was very glad that Lensherr wasn't the telepath of the pair.
"Well," Jean said with false cheer, "this is a surprise. Raven, this man was once my teacher."
"Raven knows," Lensherr said. "She has been a pupil of mine for several years." He winked at Raven. Her eyes shone gold.
"Erik has a proposition for you, Jean," Raven said. "I think you should hear him out." She waved at the empty chair. "Please, sit."
Raven never said please. Jean sat warily.
Lensherr leaned forward slightly. "How are your special talents progressing, Jean? If I recall correctly, you had a bit of a knack for telekinesis."
"She's also a fledgling telepath," Raven added.
"Indeed," Lensherr said with a small smile.
Mentally, Jean hit her head against the wall a few times. Idiot. She should never have told a near stranger the full extent of her abilities.
"Yes," she said hesitantly, "but I'm not particularly powerful as either telekinetic or mind-reader." She shrugged, affecting embarrassment. "The telekinesis is handy for little things, and I've learned to control myself so nothing flies around when I'm upset, but that's about it."
Lensherr's eyes were hard. He didn't believe her. "We can work on that."
Jean hated playing dumb, but it was worth a try. If only she really were a powerful telepath like Xavier! Then she'd be able to make them believe her. "I'm sorry, sir, but I'm still not sure what your proposition is."
"Of course," Lensherr said. "Jean, I'm the leader of a sort of…political activist group. We call ourselves the Brotherhood of Mutants. We work for mutant recognition and equal rights in society – a new civil rights movement, you might say."
Jean thought of the way Raven's eyes had glittered with hatred when she'd spoken of liberals politics. Somehow she doubted Raven would ever be involved with…a group of lobbyists. "Are you still in contact with Professor Xavier?" she asked innocently. "He believes in just that. Equality and all."
"Xavier and I have similar goals," Lensherr agreed blandly. "We merely utilize different methods. He likes to indoctrinate mutants into his way of thinking at a very young age. I prefer to train those with the maturity to make the decision to follow me or not on their own." He favored Jean with a knowing smile.
It was a subtle form of flattery, but Jean could see why it might be effective. You are the mature one, he seemed to be saying. I trust that you'll make the right choice.
He waved this away. "Please. We're all brothers and sisters in this together. All associates are free to address each other as equals, using their real names. You may call me Magneto."
"Mystique," Raven added with a wink.
Lensherr leaned forward again, his eyes boring into Jean's. "What's your real name, Jean?"
Silly code names, Jean thought with disgust. Like Scott and Ororo, playing at being heroes. "I'm Jean Grey, Professor," Jean said firmly. "That's all I've ever wanted to be."
Lensherr sighed and turned to Raven. "Well, my dear, it was worth a try."
Raven just looked at Jean. Her eyes were as cold as ever.
Jean stood and left the coffee shop. She called Scott from the hotel. "I'll be home tomorrow morning," she told him.
"Good," he said. "You shouldn't drive so late at night."
She didn't reply.
Jean stopped off at campus just after dawn, to get a change of clothes for the weekend back in Westchester. It took her a moment to realize why her dorm room looked so strange.
All of Raven's stuff was gone. Her bed was stripped of sheets, her dresser and desk drawers were empty. She'd packed everything back into those two suitcases and backpack and vanished, as though she'd never been there at all.
Scott came out to greet her with a tight hug. She didn't tell him about Mystique or Magneto. Xavier gave her a long, hard look, but didn't comment. Jean wondered how much he knew.
There was a new kid at the school, a frightened little boy named Warren. She wondered what his powers were, and how Xavier would use him. She wondered if Magneto would make propositions to the others when they were old enough to know what they wanted, and what they would choose if he did.
She heard "Storm" and "Cyclops" and "Beast" joking amongst themselves, and wondered just how different from the members of the Brotherhood they were.
She had sex with Scott that night. It wasn't great. And she lay there in bed beside him, wrapped up in his strong arms, and felt safe. It was suffocating.