["Jean, Scott . . . I'm sorry, but," Hank took a deep breath and continued, "Jean, you're not pregnant."]
Worse than that, what had truly crushed her hopes, was the flood of relief that had surged down her rapport with Scott. He had been glad she wasn't pregnant. Despite his words to the contrary, he didn't want children, a family of their own. And that realization had cut her in two. She loved Scott, she always had and always would, but she desperately wanted children, someone to raise, to cherish, to love. A gesture of creativity in a world that was all too often marked by destruction. But all that had been taken from her, overwhelmed by his oh-so-reasonable logic.
"Jean, it's too dangerous for us to have a child now. With this Operation: Zero Tolerance and the resentment towards the X-Men after Onslaught..." he'd let his voice trail away meaningfully. "There's plenty of time for us to have children. When things are better. I promise."
'Liar!' her thoughts now shrieked at her. The tears were now streaming down her face so hard she couldn't make out the trail in front of her. It had been a false promise, a false pregnancy, a false marriage, a false life... Her foot caught on a root and she fell to her knees. Ignoring the dampness seeping into her jeans, she huddled there, face buried in her hands. Her shoulders shook with the sobs she had had to stifle for weeks now, as her anger opened up doors within her mind that had long been sealed.
When Onslaught had taken her from the dressing room of a small dress shop in Salem, he had tried to seduce her to his cause by showing her the hidden thoughts of Charles Xavier, the innermost, forbidden secrets that festered behind locked and bolted doors in his memory:
"Secret fears... secret hatreds... the same dark, dank, shameful thoughts that everyone has... and everyone hides." (1)
Even Jean. She knelt there in the damp leaves, and realized how much of herself she had kept under wraps, how tight the rein on her feelings was. Every moment of irritation, every flare-up of resentment or frustration she had stifled, burying it deep within her mind before it could surge down the link and shock or frighten Scott. Even now, at her lowest point, she had to shield herself from him.
"But why?" she whispered to herself, not aware she was speaking aloud, "If we love each other so much, why do I have to hide myself from him?" She knew the answer, felt it rising from the dark recesses of her mind even as she voiced the question: the Phoenix.
During the time she'd been in a healing cocoon beneath Jamaica Bay, the Phoenix had taken on her form, her life. Unable to cope with the bewildering array of human emotions, the cosmic entity had gone mad, destroying an entire solar system before slaying itself. The Phoenix had experienced and displayed all the extremes of emotion, and that was the key to the reason why Jean had to repress so many of her own. Every instant of anger or passion, anything that contradicted the image of calm, kind, gentle Jean... she felt the surge of fear from Scott, the terror that she'd somehow become Dark Phoenix, and was on the brink of a murderous rampage. As ridiculous as it sounded, as unlikely as it was, Scott's fear of the Phoenix was the only irrational belief that couldn't be exorcised by his logic. And so Jean controlled herself, conformed to his image of what a good wife and X-Man should be, agreed with him even when her mind was shrieking at her of how wrong he was, like now...
"Damn you, Scott, why must it always be about you!" she cried out angrily, lifting herself into the air with a thought. "When is it my turn?!" She swept the leaves up around her in a telekinetic whirlwind, the violent display reflecting her mood. "I almost wish I was the Phoenix. Then this would be fair!"
"Ya don't wish that, darlin'" growled a familiar voice from the shadow of a large elm. In the midst of her own grief and anger, Jean hadn't sensed him approach. Then again, since losing his adamantium, Logan's thoughts were becoming more and more difficult to read.
"Logan. You... startled me." The words were thick, choked by her crying. Her eyes felt red and puffy, and she was positive her nose was red and swollen too. One of the drawbacks of being a redhead: crying ruined her complexion.
"Doubt ya woulda heard me comin' even if I hired a brass band," Logan replied with a slight chuckle, coming out of the shadow almost reluctantly. Since he'd started changing, he had spent most of his time hidden from sight in the woods. 'Perhaps with good reason', Jean now thought, observing the flattened features, the long, claw- like nails on hands and feet, the hair covering him almost as thickly as an animal pelt. Only his eyes remained the same, those piercing, all-too-human eyes that sometimes gave her the impression he could see inside her soul as easily as she'd once could read his mind.
"I could smell ya crying from th' other end of th' estate. What's hurtin' ya, Red?" Jean sighed and crossed to a fallen log, sitting down without her usual grace. Her face suddenly looked very tired.
"Oh, Logan, where do I begin?" she said, looking down at her hands twisting together in her lap. "What do you do when you feel you've been living a lie?" Logan didn't answer, just crouched in the leaves, that gaze still fixed on her face. "It's just... I wanted so badly to be pregnant , Logan, and when we found out I wasn't... He lied to me! He said he was disappointed when all the while his thoughts were saying something completely different!"
"He doesn't want kids?"
"No, and I doubt he ever did! It's not fair Logan! When we got married, it was because we wanted to settle down, raise a family... And after the twelve years in the future raising Nate, all I wanted was a chance to do it myself, to have a child truly of my own flesh and blood. He tricked me!" Jean broke down again, bending forward and burying her face in her lap. Logan hesitated for a split-second, and then was at her side, arm around her shaking shoulders, making wordless, comforting sounds deep in his chest. Jean clutched at him as if she were drowning.
Gradually her sobs lessened, dissolving into hiccuping breaths. She wiped her eyes on her sleeve and smiled at him shakily.
"I guess even us cosmic avatars have to have a good cry sometimes," she said with a laugh that was almost another sob. Logan began to withdraw, but she grasped his arm. "Don't leave just yet. I don't want to be alone right now."
"So, what happens next, Red?" His gaze was as inscrutable as always, but he didn't resist her hold.
"I... don't know. I'm not sure I could go back to the way it was, pretend nothing happened..." Her voice trailed away as she realized Logan was staring at her. "I must be a complete mess."
"You'll always be th' most beautiful woman I've ever seen," Logan said so quietly she almost didn't hear him. Her breath caught in her throat as she leaned closer to him, breathing in his almost-animal smell. His lips, when they met hers, were softer than she would have thought, considering everything else about him was as hard as iron. Except his heart. His arms tightened around her, drawing her so close to him she could feel his pulse racing beneath her own.
*Oh, yes* she murmured into his mind, *Yes, Logan...*
Abruptly, he pulled away. "No. Jeannie, this... it's wrong. What 'bout Scott?"
"What about him?" she retorted angrily.
"Damnit Jean, He's your husband. He loves you. This is wrong!"
"He's the man that forces me into a mould that doesn't fit me!" Jean exclaimed, her eyes flashing emerald fire. "He hasn't loved the real me since that shuttle crash. He wants me to be meek and mild. God help us if I show any strong emotion, oh no! Too bad if I get frustrated or angry or passionate! Then it's "Help, Jean's turned into Dark Phoenix again, she's going to eat a few planets!" Too bad I was never actually the Phoenix in the first place! Scott doesn't love me, he loves an image of me that doesn't exist, that has never existed!" She glared at him, chest heaving with the fury of her words. "You were the one who loved me for what I was. You saw the wild streak in me, and didn't try to hide it. You were never afraid of me. Please, Logan, don't make me beg. I need you, and I need you now."
Her voice trembled on the last sentence, tears
once again threatening to spill. And although he
knew it was wrong, that they'd probably both regret
it for the rest of their lives, Logan didn't flee
from the pull of those impossibly green eyes.
Leaning forward, he kissed away the tear that ran
down her cheek, then her nose, and then those full,
luscious lips. Her body melted into his, as he had
dreamed about since the day they met, and for a
while, the world vanished.
Logan slept in a patch of afternoon sun that streamed through the baring branches. Jean buttoned her shirt, watching him, and reflected that he looked truly peaceful for the first time since she'd known him. Even with his features distorted by his advancingly feral state, she could see the nobility of the man within.
"I'm sorry, Logan," she whispered, pulling her
sweater on and starting to comb the dead leaves from
her hair. "I never planned anything like this, but
when the opportunity came... It was the only thing I
could do." She pressed her hand against her abdomen
with a small smile. "But I can't let you remember
this: sooner or later Scott would find out, and that
would be the end of us, the X-Men, everything." She
deepened her telepathic hold on the sleeping man's
mind: she was already telepathically keeping him
from awakening. Now she carefully erased his
memories of what just happened, replacing them with
his departure after a nice heart-to-heart chat. She
knew as she did it that she was disobeying every
rule the Professor had ever taught her about
telepathy, but who would know? Not the Professor,
gone who-knows-where after the Onslaught mess. Not
Psylocke, whose telepathy just wasn't up to the job.
And certainly not Cable: he and Logan barely
exchanged civil words, let alone telepathic scans.
"I'll remember for the both of us," she said
softly, "And I'll see our daughter does you proud."
Stooping to place a final kiss on Logan's forehead,
Jean turned and walked back the way she had come,
not glancing back.
Footnotes: (1) from X-Men #53.