1963-10-12 - What Is Love?
Summary: A happy reunion, a lighter heart, and a curious bird.
Related: N/A
Theme Song: Neighbourhood #1 - Arcade Fire
rogue jean 

It has been a very, very, very long while since she's seen the third part of the Cold War Kid. In fact, there was no more sign of Sam in sight and the school itself was looking bare by the day. Even with Logan out and about doing his own thing, oddly enough, Frank.. she didn't want to see but did go see, wasn't there. Though, that did not stop her from attempting to reach out to her intended, Scarlett.. through grapevines and stolen minds that often whisper 'See Jean', once Scarlett strolls past.

It was a headache.

But with the help of the flaming one, she could track down her intended with just a single thought, a hope and a wish, and a jump from mind to mind to see through their eyes. Whether or not Scarlett heard her message, it would be easy to find her. She was in the cabin, making herself at home by cooking a nice meal for three. Maybe four. Over the time had passed, Jean had at least learned to perfect the art to housewife standards, meat loaf in the oven, potatoes freshly mashed, broccoli freshly steamed and cheese soon to be melted. If there was a cake? It was done hours ago and left in the fridge, right next to the bottles that would make a few old fashioned and a couple of cans of beer.


Far too long since she graced these halls. Then they worried about stone heads in the ground, and caverns concealed in the barrens. Hounds howled, and bodies recovered where minds might not at the rescue of an Inhuman princess and too many mutants from Weapon X. That day she walked out, the beginning of a semester at Columbia that pulled the drifting star further out of the Institute's little cosmos.

That's the whole problem. The place is a galaxy of tiny lights, some brighter and some bound in binary, with a supermassive black hole at the center shrouded by that halo. Whatever force rotates them around has also summarily cast out the eldest, longest lived stars. Familiar faces vanish. Others take with them concerns back into life, and the empty hallways no longer buzz with life.

Though Scarlett is hard to find, by any sifting consolation. There may be one hour when Jean can find her through the chaotic haze of crystal and stormlight, shattered radiance and dark voids that shield her thoughts behind the broken fragments of the mutant's soul.

In the middle of the night: a girl crying out in the pandaemonium of thousands upon thousands of voices whispering and sobbing, uttering despairing words and scribing misery through the flesh. The connection of one who has touched her soul and absorbed such a tiny portion of the flaming one's vessel could prove more powerful and lasting than anyone intends. That's the secret with Scarlett. What she borrows, she never truly gives up. And like to like, even when writhing under wards on the floor, soundlessly enduring all the fear and pain and suffering inflicted on a captive population too close to that Hellmouth, could have jolted the redhead awake.

The other redhead is awake, anyways, wandering over the grass after a landing several hundred meters off. It's only appropriate to walk in, trailing a bottle of something frosty, blue, and undoubtedly not anything an alchemist whipped up. It's pretty for wine, and the taste is out of this world. Literally. So one little flame comes home to the inferno. "Oh Jeeeeean!"


Oven mitts; they were the best invention anyone could hope for. While Jean could exercise the use of her gifts, she does not. They were slipped on, oven door pulled open, meat pulled out and.. viola! Dinner. Dinner that she hoped she wouldn't eat alone, but would happily truss up into a bag to deliver to those who.. well, she thinks would need a good, hot meal.

But there was something there upon the horizon, teeter tottering towards the door. The sound of heaven blared within her ears and she positively perked up. The world was on fire for her; men did things that she couldn't even fathom, men tried to kill her just for being there, she stole a child and.. it was too much. But this voice? A spot of light in a dark place that has her cheeks tinting rosily.

"Scarlett?!" Why did she even ask, she knew. Even without knowing she knew.

The sing-song voice carries bare feet upon the wooden floors, creaking beneath her weight as the door was soon snatched and tugged wide open. Her eyes, green as they were, brighten even more (they really do, blame the bird) as she lets out a shriek and allows her feet the dance of rapid beating upon the floor. That wasn't the only part of the dance; her arms stretch out and fingers splay, sun hair bouncing as she comes in. Yes. Comes in for a hug that was only full of arms that wrap around the cloth that Scarlett wears and nothing else. "Scaaaarlllleeet!" She shrills out. She's really missed her.


A spot that burns like the green on white auroras, a girl tinged by the Arctic latitudes and never quite given over to snow. Not quite. Somewhere in the heart of her dance a pair of eternal chips of glacial ice, so true an intense blue they might as well be violet, pirouetting in constant and perfect orbit around a flame that burns the same shade as her eyes, the same radiant spectrum as the northern lights.

That's not entirely new so much as hyperfocused, given a lens to sharpen the light. The redhead's regular swaying step brings her closer, arms held open. Her usual minidress is there, leggings, those high boots in a totally fashionable European look. Not many Americans trust that short a hemline. "Jean!" she sings again. Scarlett has no restraint where this one is involved, bounding forward a few steps, and flying forward in a controlled launch that is the better for everyone.

No one blows up when she tackles her shrilling friend, all arms, all joy.


The hug lasts long; long enough to make a girl want to cry. In fact, if she's quite honest, she hasn't had a hug in ages. Being surrounded by many bodies and those who would love and give a care, she hadn't thought to ask for that simple little connection that would make everything worthwhile. Finally, at long last, she pulls away, a little step taken back as she nudges her friend inside with a back-toss of her head and a few steps backwards before she turns. "Can you believe it? Logan finally finished it. His cabin." She states, gesturing around.

It was a homely looking thing, nothing at all screams a woman's touch save for the food upon the counter top and stove; it was reminiscent of something that remained in the woods, even complete with a rocking chair for an old man who smokes. "And you're just in time for dinner, and to tell me what you have been up to."

She doesn't say the obvious to close the door, but she brings out two places and begin to serve. There was confidence there, that had finally reached her shoulders. No look of fear as she touches the food and the smell itself wafts to her nose. The meat was good, the butter gorgeous across the white backdrop of potato, and the broccoli itself a lovely offset to line the plates.

They were soon carried to the dining room table where they would sit. And where Jean would remain silent when they ate.


The terrible strength available to Scarlett is something she rarely turns against anyone, the last notable instance involving a rusting fire escape in Hell's Kitchen to stop a vampire from making dinner of other mutants. That contact she rarely trusts with anyone, high collar of her shirt reaching almost to her throat and still insufficient to keep anyone from being pricked by particularly keen and harsh thorns indeed if her control slips. She's always holding on by the skin of her nails.

It doesn't matter. Lithe arms shaped by yoga wrap around Jean and hold her into that blend of neroli and pomegranate, the mouth-watering autumn spices replacing her sunnier perfume preferred for warmer weather. Then once the smaller redhead breaks free, she shall pirouette around to her left side and step into the cabin, peering around at the rough wood, the floorboards, the spartan interior. An approving nod follows. "I like it. A great deal, for there is a simple, comfortable charm to this place the estate back there lacks." A gentle nudge indicates the sprawling manse, which apparently is not sufficient for her tastes, such as it is. "I can imagine we dwell somewhere near Quebec, or Colorado, rather than here. How delightful! He must find this place very comfortable, as might you."

Her fingertips ply along varied surfaces, the scent of the food staggeringly delicious for someone used to eating far less and not at all. "How lovely this all is. You cannot tell me this is your regular dinner, there is so much here."


There was a little smile that curls her lips as she reclines in the chair, a piece of meat broken off and eaten there after, the fork soon placed down and plate shoved away ever so slightly. There -were- times she didn't eat. She wasn't sure if it was because she was forever distracted, sad.. or what. But never the less, this was a happy time. While she may not have her Scarlett back; she was here and in the flesh.

"It's like in my head. Or was.." Jean says openly, her gaze flitting towards the ceiling. "..where the Professor put her. And where she stayed for a time. She's come to love it, that place and this place, though she's still like me. Is me. We wander." Her shoulders lift in a shrug. "I still live in the mansion."


"It's.. not my regular dinner. I've been cooking every night for the past week hoping that a certain someone comes by. Logan has his share. Sometimes I take it out into the city to a man I met.. but he's gone.." She frowns a little. "He hates me." Again, she continues. "Or I just give it to someone who's sleeping. I stay far away from Central Park."


She has her Scarlett, in a sense, a Scarlett who has walked further than the young woman might ever imagine herself to go. Jean has more Scarlett, and mayhap a touch less, one who has stared at the stars and discovered exactly how unimportant she is to the grand sweep of the cosmos.

A lie, if only she knew, because of what this other sister in Team Redhead is. The whole cosmos, who cares.

With a small smile, the bohemian drops into another seat opposite of the telepath; she takes up knife and fork quite readily, demonstrating a keen sense for manners. "Your broccoli looks delicious. I too often boil it so long it turns into a limp, very sad tree." Such a terrible calamity bestows a mock sigh, and the flicker of her intensely vibrant eyes, emeralds set in a pale face. "I shall demolish it all as politely as I can. Forgive me if it vanishes in a heartbeat." Knife put to segmenting vegetables into bite-sized pieces gives a certain sort of rhythm to her dining, and she altogether indulges in that texture, heat, and flavour.

When one forgets to eat while daydreaming or losing herself to her studies, is it not unreasonable to partake of that extra pleasure while she can? "I see. This is wonderful, by the way. Why would anyone possibly hate you? You are one of the sweetest, most caring people in this city. I should know, I've met more than my fair share of the terrible ones between Central Park and the universities. You're right to stay away from the Park. It has a giant hole leading to the wrong dimension in the middle."

Like this is just common knowledge.


And it was common knowledge. The most uncommon would be the sacrifice that Logan had promised, and carried out all for her. She stays away for that reason. She who wants to save the world avoids the Hellmouth at all costs. Mostly because it was her fault.

"I think that's why." Jean states, pulling her fork back and begins to eat. "And among other things." Things that she wouldn't dare mention. But that was a story told in private, mostly to herself. But she inhales her meatloaf, not all of it at once, just the bits upon the fork and the pieces that were sheared off from the slice.

"But is it bad to want to see?" She asks openly. "To see that other dimension, at least. I know that nothing in the world can protect me more than.. whatever.." She waves her fork. "..but to know that there are other dimensions, to have proof." She muses. "I'm not scientist, but.. it's a frightening concept."

'But, you already knew that, didn't you?' The bird asks. 'I have seen the beginning. I could let you see.'

Jean shakes her head completely, a smile upon her face. "Never mind. I'll continue to pass."


Unless one knows the bargain, for reasons all her own. Perhaps Scarlett maintains her secrets for various souls' sakes, but Jean is a special cause, a vault not opened for anyone.

"I know how much pain lingers there. I can only imagine for someone like you, able to read deeply into the world, it must seem… impossibly loud. Horribly so." Scarlett hovers her fork over the potato, nudging the white flesh open. Her eyes dim in memory even as she lowers her head. "How you manage to keep your wits about you, it's a miracle and makes me appreciate even more how hard you work, how fortunate we are that you put up with the rest of us."

Then the smile blossoms bright and wide, sunshine in the dim interior. "How is Logan doing, anyways? I hope to see him about at some point. As for your question about how bad the hell dimension is, I had to trip a very large deer that was goring people with its horns to rip out their soul. A good number of metahumans, mutants, and whatever else we are appeared to take care of whatever opts to spill out. You are right to be curious, even if that curiosity might lead you into danger. Isn't that what we are supposed to do, grow and learn our boundaries? Neither you or I are children like those eleven year olds with prophecies hanging over their heads coming to Xavier. It is risky to peer down there, but a lack of knowledge is more dangerous than no knowledge at all."


Jean's face falls flat; not flat in the sense that she was perturbed or had no nonsense about what Scarlett had said. But flat in a sense that she tried to conceal her sadness. The loudness. It hurts. While under control as much as able there were still many sleepless nights; and nights were she felt sick enough to not bother eating at all. These days, like now, were little bright spots. The voices were mere hums, soft songs played in the background. The lilting voice of herself, the Phoenix, older than she was now, provided comfort that she actually came to enjoy.

"Because I love you all. Easy peasy." Her fingers snap, and soon that flat face turns upright in a huge smile, giggle fits and all.

"Logan is fine." She says quietly, mashing up her potatoes and meat, as well as veg into a pile of slop. It was all going into the same place, and oddly enough it reminded her of the hospital food she never ate. "Most of the time he spends in the chair. Sometimes wandering the city for a drink. I don't know if he fights or not.. but all is quiet. I try to do things while he's gone so that he isn't stuck to following me. He has his own life to lead, and I'm all better. So I'm not here to hold him back from doing as he wishes." She grins at that. "I'm secretly hoping he has a lady friend out there somewhere."

The Hellmouth, while a sore subject one of interest. Still, she wouldn't go. "You have a point. Yes. Equal parts are dangerous, but there is a fine line I think. Learning is good, but not at the cost of lives. Ignorance can be bliss, but.." She points her fork. "..not at the cost of lives."


"You love us all, and we love you. There were days…" Scarlett puts down her utensils, resting her wrists on the tabletop, and giving a long, assessing look full of a thousand meanings wrought in poetic ideals, soft expression and the violent radiance of her gaze. "Days when I wish you were by my side, staring into the future, telling me everything will turn out well. That my own foolishness hasn't driven me around the bend, and despite trying to wed the impossible, maybe there is a hope after all. Nights when I have never felt more inspired or more alone, and one of those moments I think for an instant your compassion and forbearance became especially clear. That or I was completely around the bend."

Her fingers pinch the edge of the braids, chrysanthemum crowned as she is, and the foxfire glimmers against the bands of wire and copper there. "No doubt if he has a lady friend, he will be the most fortunate of us. But there's a power in knowing you have our backs, Jean-shine, never you doubt that. A friend in trying times, a partner in all. You don't hold any of us back. I mean that. We all have our flaws and our foibles, but your heart and your spirit are good, and anyone lucky enough to call you a friend after getting to know you is blessed to see inside that magnificent inner world of yours."

She may eat, but she forgets. Par for the young woman's course, her thoughts inevitably divided onto two wavelengths. One, the future; the other, here, but forever tethered to the primordial forces that be. "Learning, as you say, is the crux. How you do it makes all the difference in the world. How do you learn about other dimensions other than asking? Can you study them at a distance?"


Jean smiles sadly. "There were days I wish I was there with you too." Its true! "I see you in places I've never expected. Sire. The man who.. he isn't a man. But he's like a wolf. A werewolf in the stories." Jean muses. "I've seen your eyes in him. Or his eyes in yours. But seeing him reminded me of you and home." Her hands draw up, clasped together. "Sometimes I wonder.. what you're doing. Because the world is so big and you're in the thick of it. Isn't it funny, though? How we're surrounded by so many people.." Her hands splay out around her. "..and us ourselves.. and we realize how truly alone we are in the whole wide world, and we're empty. I'm empty. Yet full." She was rubbing her head now. "It's odd. We're lonely and odd."

The food was all but forgotten now, for she stands and begins to search out glass tumblers, tumblers that were brought to the table in favor of wine that she possibly wouldn't drink. But she toys with the idea.

"It's big." She admits. Her world. "But I can study at a distance." She taps her temple. "She.." Jean starts, never really speaking about her at all. But names her 'She'. "She can show me the world." Wonder where that came from?

"In the beginning there wasn't a man. But a different life that walked this garden." She sounds old. "And then there was man, at least She says. Man who came alone. And a woman who came there after, alone. She never really understood why they held hands or why they kissed or made love. I never understood that myself." She shrugs.

"But at a distance, She didn't study. She watched yes. But She didn't study. Just.. a distance all the time until someone called Her." She sniffs, fidgets, nearly reaching for the empty glass to hide it from the liquor, but it doesn't. "But not here. Not in this place, She thinks. We're newborns. But different."

She shakes her head. "It doesn't make any sense. Vocalizing her is .. odd. I never do it, but.. she says yes. You can study. But now, She lives it."


"What am I doing?" The question is repeated, not fully rhetorical, while the young woman stares down at her fingers, five each framed in a splayed triangle laid upon the tabletop. Etching angles at varied widths, Scarlett draws her thumbs closer until the suspended malachite glitter in a transparent lacquer forms a natural bridge. "At first trying to find a place for myself, where there might be any sort of hope I would somehow remain in society without leaving a string of bodies in my wake." Her eyes grow heavy-lidded, the only indication of the emotional spike slammed through her being by a few choice words. "Xavier left little hope I might improve my control by somehow mastering myself. He says the science simply is not there. Thus I looked for other methods."

She watches Jean's dance through the kitchen, reaching out to take whatever dishes might be suitably shifted and placed on the table, or whisked away. For her this is not an uncomfortable dance, and the bohemian is happy to partake in the normalcy of the tasks. "Other ways, ones that would not sacrifice another person's safety or their wellbeing to give me brief respite, anyways. I found a path, a long and very hard path in magic, and perhaps that might provide the shield I need from myself. Of course the best teachers are the hardest to locate, let alone convince, and they tend to believe my lifespan simply isn't sufficient to do more than learn to crawl proverbially. Isn't that humbling?" The corner of her mouth lifts.

Then she reaches out almost to brush a lock of that lovely strawberry hair away, letting it fit through my fingers. "I am still alone, except in those moments when the people closest to me have enough control — and I have enough control — to let me inside their orbits. They do it fleetingly, and every time they or I withdraw it hurts on a molecular level. If she wants to know why they crave holding hands, losing themselves in one another, waking up in a sheet together, I can tell her. Let her see for a moment what it all means, after having none of it for so long. So far. So full."

Scarlett's voice holds an orchestral movement of emotions, barely brushed, hinted at it in a distant swell of strings in unison that have a simple direction. "To have it. Then to live it. Not study, not imagine, but be it. Oh yes. There is nothing the same between them."


"It is not all about science." Jean simply says in return. Though she remains seated, there was a need to get up and pace again, to parse those thoughts that flow into her from the cosmic child, to form it into words that made sense. She was complex. "That is my fear. She says. My fear. Nothing else?" She frowns slightly, then her eyes lift with wonder. "Oh! Her fear that there will be nothing else. That when we crawl, it would be too late. But She says. Remain humble."

Jean closes her eyes as the hair was brushed away from her eyes. Part of her wishes that it was darker, that ran the color of blood and stood out among the masses, but the rest of her was happy that she was a good blend. "We're all alone. In some ways.." She says quietly. "..but She would love to know. But there is a fear in which She finds out.."

There was a pause. A turn of her head as if she were listening. "..and she loses it?" She questions. "What would happen to -me- if she loses it? I don't understand." Ramblings of a madwoman. "But I myself can feel it, by proxy She. You love him." And that was all there was to say. "I wish that I could feel that love for someone, incredible. And that someone could love -me- the way you love him. But.. She is afraid of that love. Better to watch. She says."

She leans away again, her bottom lip trembling. "And I'm afraid that She'll never let me go. And I'll remain to watch you all die. But we're bound together, there's no turning back now. I can reject Her. She's me." She looks at her own hands, then reaches out to try to grasp ahold of Scarlett's. "Your gift. She says. No science."

She turns to listen again, as if the very woman was standing upon her shoulder. "It's.. head. She said head. You do not understand? The mind matters. Acceptance."


The separations of flesh are only temporary. The divisions of humanity never last. "Then allow her to know. Tell me what there is to fear in love? I love you as much as anyone in this world, as the sister I never had, as the friend who I promised to keep safe and happy. That means I love her too, for you are her and she is you, even if you are still separate. Whatever else, Jean, you are not merely a vessel. You are a partner, a lens for her to see through and understand in perceptions that make sense, no?" She shakes her head, and Scarlett's smile shifts into something almost rueful, marked at the corner by a tinge of recognition and self-incrimination. "Listen to me. I sound so utterly knowledgeable, but I have been living in conceptual terms for weeks and imagining arrangements that would sound impossible, if I weren't privy to know otherwise. But I mean what I said, you are important to me and that love, that power, does not change. You are whom you were all along, and that's good enough for me. You will grow up and change, so have I."

Then she toys with one of the buttons of her sleeve, pulling out a pair of slim gloves from her pocket. It's not a lack of trust, merely a recognition for the lack of control that comes alongside certain moments. Slipping them on by reflex, she pulls them higher over her wrists and takes Jean's hands a moment later.

The bohemian's gaze is certain, if heavy-lidded, seeking out its emerald likeness in her fair face. "I invite you in. Whatever she fears, or you fear, what is going to be so terrible about love? Love, the force that renders even the greatest powers named by science, like electromagnetic and gravity, to pale shadows beside it? For that emotion, empires rise and kingdoms fall, futures are forged and destinies laid, stars torn from the sky and whole plans waylaid, and the impossible becomes not only potential but probable, all in its name? Nothing to be worried of there, that its shaping force lies even in the smallest, most vulnerable of sources and withstands the pressures that strive to tear us apart." She speaks in poetry at a low, quick lilt saturated by hints of an English accent and her own New York sophistication swept atop it. "No words are sufficient even if I give them voice. But yes. It's terrifying and hopeful, being swept through that open door to such a place."

Fingers squeeze their like, palms sought to assure through touch that all is well, a bond uniting two very different people together. "My gift? You are a gift, Jean. Even on the worst days, I am glad to have you there."


That question, it sent a powerful, moving pang through her entire body. The Phoenix was quiet there after. They were the same, after all, right? She felt what Jean felt. Jean felt what She felt. The answer of it all, doesn't allow her to be forthright with it at first, but her eyes burn ever so deeply as she tries her best to keep them planted upon the flowers that decorate Scarlett's hair. Not her eyes. Never her eyes.

"Yes to it all." She finally manages, the tears welling, her bottom lip trembling ever so slightly. She would not tear the secrets from Scarlett's brain even though the need to was there. Even though the offer was there. It was a violation of her knowledge, a violation of learning and trust. "I.. I think I grew up too fast. There was.." She snuffles hard. "..I've done something I could never take back."

She was full on sobbing, neverminding the glove that was soon slipped upon her fingers, the hand that Scarlett takes was nearly snatched away until she felt that cool fabric. What was so terrible? Everything was terrible. The rush of endorphins; the high. The way the chest feels as if it's to be torn open. The lump at the throat, the inability to breathe because the tears that do not come out still clogs the nose. All of it. The weakness, the unwillingness to move, the need to have life slipped away. She wanted to answer to it all, but she settles with just a shake and lower of her head, the silent cries drawing her shoulders to bob as the hand was dragged to rest upon her forehead.

"Thank you.." She manages to sputter out. Avoiding the question of.. love. What is there to fear. Everything.

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