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From the Ashes - Part 3

Posted on Wed Jun 5th, 2024 @ 2:03am by Jean Grey & Scott Summers & Sean Cassidy

Mission: Episode 4: The Savage ConneXion
Location: Mutant Research Center | Muir Island
Timeline: September 17th, 1990

Scott and Jean had fallen into a simple but fulfilling routine over the past couple weeks of their stay on Muir Island. Exercise and research, physical therapy and meditation, they worked together on centering their bodies and minds while trying to find any possible clues about their missing teammates. There was a familiar rhythm to their efforts, a regimented schedule that made both of them feel structured and productive. It served as a reminder of who they once were and what they were capable of. This routine was a return to their true character and merit, a nudge back to a place both of them so desperately needed to be.

Jean’s nightmarish memories still haunted her, but with Scott’s presence they never got as bad as they had been in those early days. He had always been her center. Whenever Jean had felt lost and hopeless, Scott had held onto her and guided her back towards the light. It was why she had been so resigned to forgiving him, not just because she loved him but because she truly needed him. Both of them were incomplete without the other and neither one of them could heal on their own. It was in this codependency that they both thrived, missing pieces that fit together so perfectly that it was impossible for anyone to ignore. Scott and Jean were better people when they were together.

Scott had returned to this role of tactician and strategist. As someone who observed everything and carefully planned and prepared for what was to come, he had taken to keeping a pad of paper on his nightstand, writing down any clues or information shown to him in the dreams Jean shared. Her eidetic memory made each nightmare a horrifyingly accurate return to what she had endured, but these accounts were riddled with clues and a bevy of information that was hidden below the surface level of horror. Hoping that they might find any leads about their missing friends or Jean’s captor, Scott poured over every detail of her dreams. It was a painful process at times, as he relieved the terrible and cruel torture that had been administered to Jean. Heartbreaking moments of fear and pain that had made her wish that she really would die. She had always been so afraid of death, but her captor had made her welcome it. That single realization on its own provided enough insight into how broken Jean was.

When the dreams became too much for Jean, Scott comforted her. Their psychic rapport made it easier for Scott to reach her and help her shake off the darkness that consumed her. He found a long lost purpose in these moments, his role of provider and protector returning to him. He was no longer lost and disillusioned now that he had Jean with him. The more time they spent in their joined mental state, the easier everything was becoming. The word “partner” started to have more and more meaning for them as they walked through these hard times together, hand in hand.

Today’s routine took them to the research center’s pool, a place where Jean could work on cardio without being too physically taxed. The indoor lap pool and its connected hot tub were on the other side of the island, allowing the couple to walk together in the balmy weather for their scheduled time to swim.

“I think we should try to find out more about the Essex Corporation.” Jean continued to ponder Scott’s notes as she walked arm and arm with him down the paved road that connected the North end of the island to the South side.
“That name has come up three times now, it feels like more than just a coincidence.”

Scott nodded. “Maybe it's a front or maybe it's the hub. Either way we can't ignore the clue.” He turned pensive for a moment. “I've seen a face in your dreams a few times. It's… I've never seen anyone like him before.” What really worried him was something he had not ever considered before. “Experimentation on mutants is nothing new. But…what if that guy was one of us? A fellow mutant?”

Jean scowled at the idea. “I don’t want to believe that, but the world has a terrible way of surprising me and proving me wrong.”

She mentally reviewed the face Scott had noticed, a shadowed figure whose features did lend themselves towards a mutation. Without his help, she wouldn’t have noticed that face. Her focus was always in the foreground, on the dying clone and what was trying to be achieve through her torture.

“I wonder if the Professor would know?” He felt her hesitation before she continued as he knew what she was going to say next. “We should think about going back. It’s Moira’s final decision for when I can, but I am getting better.” It was a bittersweet realization that her health had improved enough that they would have to leave Muir Island and go back home. Their time here had been restorative, yet it had also served as a way to avoid the challenges that plagued them in the real world. A small comfort in knowing that at least they would be facing those problems together.

They entered the large wooden building that housed the pool and several tanks for mutants that needed an aquarium. The pool was empty except for one of the aquarium tanks. Inside was housed a webbed and gilled mutant who lazily floated in brackish waters. Jean waved hello to the mutant before heading toward the pool.

“So you want to go back to New York?” She slipped out of sweats, exposing the simple one piece swimsuit she was wearing. It wasn’t racy or flashy in design but maybe that was a good thing since they were abstaining from a physical relationship.

“We could go to Alaska?” Jean turned her back to him as she twisted and tied her long red hair into a tight bun. The lean lines and soft curves of her figure were displayed in the low back of her suit. She paused in that position, with her hands above her head in mid-step towards the pool. Jean felt his eyes on her and the thoughts running through his head.

~* ‘We aren’t alone.’ *~ There was a hint of coquettish humor in her thoughts. She didn’t mind him looking. It was the mixed company that made her shy. Jean glanced at the mutant in the tank, who daftly waved at them as soon as he saw their eyes return to him.

~I’ll be good~ Within the shared space of their joined minds, Scott imagined himself getting handsy just to send back a little of what Jean was giving him.

Out loud, he asked, “What's in Alaska? You aren't the first to suggest it.”

“You’re from there, it’s beautiful and serene. It has its own unique appeal.” Jean looked up at him as she sat down on the edge of the pool and saw the look of disapproval on his face. “Alright, noted. Alaska is a no.” She couldn’t help but smirk a little from his disdain towards Alaska.

His reasons for returning to New York were obvious. All the X-Corp resources available to him were there and he intended to make use of them to track down his brother Alex and the others who were still missing. If Jean had other suggestions, he would hear her out.

“I don’t have any other suggestions.” She verbally responded to his train of thought. A bad habit that made a telepath look crazy to outsiders. “If you say New York, then New York it is.”

“For now,” Scott said. “Later? Who's to say?”

Jean slipped into the waist deep waters of the pool and he watched and felt her displeasure at how cold the water was.
“I’ll go where you go,” she said while mustering a smile up at him, despite the cold water.

“That goes both ways.” His return smile was reassuring.

“But I don’t recommend this pool, it's freezing.” Jean wrapped her arms around herself as goosebumps rose across her skin. “I’m sorry I suggested Alaska.”

“Don't be sorry.” Scott pulled off his wind shirt and pants to reveal mid-thigh swim trunks before he exchanged his glasses for ruby goggles. “Alaska could be a nice home in another life. We have to play the hand we're dealt.”

There was a little more to it than that, but Scott let it be for now.

Leaning forward, Scott performed a shallow angle dive that sent his momentum forward rather than down. He cut a circular swath around Jean and came up out of the water behind her. With half a foot of height advantage, the water didn't even cover his trunks all the way. His lean but chiseled arms enveloped her around the shoulders.

“Maybe we should get you moving,” he said into her ear with a familiar rasp to his voice. “Your body will acclimate to the water faster.”

A different type of shiver passed through her body as his lips brushed against her ear, the use of that raspy voice always drove her wild and he knew the exact effect it would have on her. Since they had decided to abstained from sex, their flirtation had become a game of cat and mouse. Who could do or say the least and still produce a reaction from the other had become the substitute for what they really wanted to do with one another. The mental bond they shared served as the means to know how successful they each had been. Today, Scott was winning. Not that she was keeping score.

Jean was suddenly grateful for the cold water and the third party mutant who was now just unabashedly watching them.

“Yeah, yeah, get to work." She mumbled in defeat. Jean submerged herself in the water, freeing herself from the warmth of his embrace. The long freestyle strokes took her away from him as she provided a few devious thoughts about what she would rather be doing to keep warm.

Jean soon fell into the mind-clarifying rhythm that came with the rigors of extended exercise. Her focus remained on her body and her form and how to keep pushing herself until she couldn’t anymore. Reaching the end of the pool, she placed a hand on its edge and used it to still and support herself as she caught her breath. Jean looked up at the large digital clock displayed above the pool, tracking her time in addition to the amount of laps she had taken.

“That’s my best time to date," she huffed and panted to Scott when he arrived by her side.

“You were looking good back there,” Scott said. “Getting stronger every day.” He instinctively drew her to his side and let her cling to him rather than the pool’s edge. “You might even give me a run for my money.” A smile teased at his lips. On land, Jean could outrun him all day but he had always been the stronger swimmer. Her beating him in the pool would have been unlikely on her best day. The absurd compliment was ridiculous on the face of it which made it all the more fun.

“I might.” Jean wrapped her arms around his neck and her voice dropped into a soft sensual purr. “Or I could just fight dirty.” Her eyes lingered on his lips and that faint smile. The red lenses he wore and the cut of his square jaw framed the feature, making it easy to fixate on his mouth. The bow of his lips and the way the corners subtly curled when he was happy, his mouth would always be her undoing. “I’m not saying I would drown you.” Jean joked in that bedroom tone. “But maybe I just make it a little harder for you to finish.”

~Harder, you say~ Scott chuckled to himself. God, she was beautiful even when she wasn’t being amorous. Times like these were hopeless. He was born a sucker and it seemed he would die one. The pout of her lower lip held him in thrall. ~I’ve never had a problem finishing with you~

“If you’re feeling froggy, Miss Grey, then maybe you should leap.” Overtly he could have been talking about a swim challenge, but internally they both knew his double meaning. He couldn’t hold back a grin. Nobody ever challenged him wit for wit like she could and he loved every minute of it.

~* ‘I can think of a way to clear my froggy throat.’ *~ Jean gave him a wicked smirk and dared him to indulge in the suggestion. Never brazen enough to openly say something so filthy, her thoughts housed all the lascivious comments and desires that the redhead was willing to perform behind closed doors.

The water wasn't so cold that it stifled Scott's biological reaction to such unfiltered imagery. He lost the game. There was no hiding it.

~Careful~ His thoughts were torn as evidenced by the crooked smirk on his face which was both excited and a little embarrassed. ~I might have to hold you to that~

Jean bit her lower lip and did her best to suppress her now devious grin. She knew she was being bad, that she was tempting him to move past boundaries they had both agreed upon. But as time went by, it was getting harder and harder to resist him.

~* ‘I hope you do.’ *~ She delivered those words with such assuredness that it turned her suggestion into a promise. Jean looked up at him for another long minute, as a myriad of conflicting thoughts rapidly passed through her head. He could feel her struggling with what she wanted to do and what she should do. She may have won this battle but Jean was losing the war and they both knew it. She let go of his neck and reached for the edge of the pool. She lifted herself out of the water with a simple svelte movement and made her way over to the stacked towels left for drying off.

This time on Muir Island had been a gift. She had once worried that she would never see him. And even though their reunion had been marred with complications, Jean was so grateful he was here. Things between them were better than they ever had been, proving that the strongest steel was forged in the hottest fire. She glanced back at him as she toweled off and it made her heart ache with the beautiful pain of how much she loved him and needed him.

Picking up another towel, she made her way to the edge of the pool and crouched down in front of him.

“Day by day, step by step, we’ll do it all together.” Jean's subtle way of apologizing for her flirtation going too far, they had both agreed on taking the hard but correct path forward so she offered him her hand in assistance.

How perfect could this be? Even the bad parts were good. Scott thanked his lucky stars for second chances and second lives. The flirting. The preening. The apologizing. It was all textbook Jean. And he loved every bit.

“You know what that means, right?” Scott gave her a mischievous grin. Jumping up to his full height, he seized her easily in his full arm span and pulled her into himself while falling backward into the water. He belly-laughed until the water claimed him. When they came back up, his grin was split wider than ever. “You toweled off without me. Now we get to do it together.”

Jean knew it was coming even, that grin alone told her what he was planning on doing. Despite her knowledge of his impending mischief, she let out a shriek that was dotted with laughter before returning to the chilly water.

“I was trying to be nice.” A touch of redhead sass within her lighthearted voice as she chastised him with a slap across his bare chest. Not hard enough to hurt, but hard enough that the impact created a loud, wet smacking sound. There was a coy look in her green eyes as he continued to hold her tightly against him. She was doing a terrible job of suppressing her smile while pretending to be upset with him. “Are we toweling off now or did you have something else planned?”

“No plan. I was just going off the seat of my pants,” Scott admitted with a grin, still quite pleased with himself. Her lopsided grin was life itself. “But I suppose we do find ourselves back at a crossroads.” He stole a kiss from her, slow and sweet. “Should probably go find that towel hook…”

Was he teasing? Was he tempting? Probably both and then more. She was his and he relished it so much that couldn't confine himself to just one head space over it. She was more than his lover. She was his best friend and his closest confidant. In a word, soulmate.

If there was anyone he could wind him up and enjoy doing it, Jean was the one. There was more than one way to play.

~* ‘Now who’s the one who should be careful?’ *~ Jean playfully provided him with the same rebuke he gave to her whenever she dared to tempt him.

“I don’t know if I’m necessarily in a hurry to get out of the pool again.” She kissed her way across the length of his chest, letting him savor the sensation of her lips across his body. She hadn’t dared to caress or kiss him below his neck for fear of how it might escalate things between them but Jean appeared to be taking a few risks today.

“I would much rather do this than swim laps.” She kissed his Adam's apple and felt him roughly swallow under her lips in response. Scott was playing with fire when it came to tempting her. Jean was eager to take everything he was willing to give her.

“You and me both.” Scott inclined his chin to give her free access to his neckline. “Maybe we could work it into your physical therapy regimen.”

It was meant as a joke but her kisses turned his chuckles into moans.

“Easy, gorgeous.” He pulled up on her chin and kissed her. As far as breathing room went, it wasn't much. Her lips were intoxicating against his. “I'm a scoundrel now.” It wasn't quite a depressing intrusive thought like those which haunted him when they first reconnected but it was still a humorous self-deprecating jab. A reminder that even the mighty can fall.

“Love has a redemptive power.” Jean wrapped her arms around his waist and pulled him in close to her. She hugged him tightly, as if her presence could remove that darkness that still loomed on the horizon. “You just have to let me love you.” Her lips grazed the side of his neck, not enough to be considered a kiss, it was just the faint sensation of how close she was to him. The warmth of her breath and the flutter of her lashes on his skin. Her hesitation to do more created a knot of anticipatory tension between them. “Let me redeem you.”

Their time together had been healing for him as well. Just those words alone from her would have devastated him weeks ago. So foolish, so unworthy, so disgraceful, said his inner thoughts. Such was how he had seen himself. Yet Jean had given him a window into the man he once was and could be again.

“If anyone can,” he said softly, “it would be you.”

It was permission to try. More than anything, he wanted to rewind the clock and pick up where they had left off. But that wasn't reality. Life required amends for wrongdoing in order to truly move on from it.

~I trust you~ His truest self bled into their shared space. ~So I believe in us. I'll let you redeem me, no matter how much it hurts and or what it takes. I'm yours, forever and again~

She refused to gently warm him with something sweet and tender, instead Jean’s lips returned to his and she kissed him with enough passion to ignite the smoldering embers that glowed between them. Her hands traveled up the length of his back, hungrily touching and exploring every line of his body. All while Jean’s lust filled thoughts consumed them, inviting both of them to indulge in what they continued to refrain from.

She was a force of nature that moved across him, inundating him with the promise of the pleasure she could provide.

Similar to his superior physicality in comparison to her dainty frame, Jean dwarfed him on the psychic scale. They were a true yin and yang union of masculine and feminine, strength and spirit, such that it was difficult to tell where one ended and the other began. That was what making love together represented. It was the closing of a circuit that let the power flow uninterrupted between them on every level. Scott wanted that so badly he nearly seethed with passionate longing.

Overtaken by the moment, he swept her up in his arms and kissed a trail down her jaw and neck to her breastbone. The smell of her skin ignited memories of all the times they had been in this position before. His breath blew hot and cold against her with his inhaling and exhaling, never pausing to take a full breath. He held her tightly with arms and mouth as if drinking from an oasis in a dry and desert land.

She moved in time with him, like a choreographed dance, Jean wrapped her legs around his waist and elegantly arched her back to expose more of her throat and chest to him. She made for a gorgeous offering of creamy pale skin for him to feast upon. Her hands found the back of his neck where her fingers pressed into his skin. Jean’s touch was laced with want, an urgent ravenous need for him to continue. Her thoughts only whispered one simple word to him.
~* ‘More’ *~

Scott moved his kisses from her sternum to her breasts. Compressed as they were by the one-piece swimsuit, there was a full spread before him. Moving between exposed cleavage and covered by fabric, his lips opened and closed with a passionate force. The suit fabric did little to obstruct her hardened nipples which blatantly poked through. Scott nibbled them like fruit on the vine in his circuit back to her cleavage.

“Jean,” he whispered, her name an involuntary, worshipful expression. His mouth met hers again in renewed vigor for the taste of her lips and the touch of her mind.

She closed her eyes and lost herself in his kiss. Their bodies and minds thrummed together creating an intoxicating rhythm that resonated through her and made her core ache. It was a deafening sound that dulled her senses to everything but him. The sensation made her moan in satisfaction. Jean’s hands began to roam again, his body familiar and thrilling to explore. Her hands lingered in the places that caused him to hitch or shutter in delight, coaxing him step by step to plummet into pleasure with her. Her fingers toyed with the waistband of his trunks as a wave of anticipation crashed into both of them for what she was going to do next.

“Oi! Stop t’ loights!” shouted a familiar Irish brogue.

Jean’s spine stiffened at the sound of Sean’s voice. She had been so lost in Scott that she stopped paying attention to her surroundings and had allowed the Irishmen to walk right in on them.

“Is sumthan’ wrong with yer bunk? Must be sumthan’ wrong with yer bunk if’n ye’ar fixin’ t’ fook right ‘ere in front o’ God and t’ warld.” Sean Cassidy shook his head in incredulous disbelief. “Pooar Newton nearly got an eyeful.”

The fish man in the tank had a big smile on his face. He pressed a button inside his tank which made the overhead light flash twice.

“Shut t’ fook up, Newton!” Sean yelled. “T’wasn't talkin’ to ye!”

“Hi, Sean!” Jean’s cheeks were pink from embarrassment but she was holding back a fit of laughter over the idea of being caught like this, it reminded her of when they were teenagers.

“Hi yerself!” Sean looked back and forth between them, trying not to laugh. This was a proper scolding, it was.

“We were just having a heated discussion,” she said while still attempting to swallow her laughter. Jean’s legs let go of Scott’s waist and she returned to her normal height, the obvious shift in position added to the comically poor explanation she provided. She placed a hand on Scott’s chest to sneak one last touch of him before she left his embrace and made her way to the pool’s edge.

“Uh huh. Roight. I can see t' heat all t' way over ‘ere.”

Scott discreetly lowered his hands to help obscure his incriminating condition.

“I was hoping I’d get to see you before I left.” Jean climbed out of the pool, creating a puddle of water on the floor as she stood up and walked over to Sean. She gave him a big hug, holding onto him long enough so that he was soaked with pool water. “It’s good to see you.” The fond words carried a touch of brevity, Jean had once believed she would never see any of them again.

Sean pouted for a second. He knew he was being plied by a sweet and sassy telepath, but he really was glad to see her again as well. And in the arms of her one true love, no less. There was only one nagging detail…

“Likewoise,” he said, returning her hug despite the water damage being done to his jacket. “Not t’ say I ever gave up hope, but it certainly got darker before t’ dawn.”

During their quick embrace, Sean shot a questioning look over her shoulder to Scott. With a quirked brow and a jerk of his head, he pressed the issue they had discussed when they'd last met up.

Scott was out of the pool now and tying a towel around his waist. The look from Sean was hard to miss. He gave an affirming nod. Talks were had, truths were told, amends were made.

Jean raised a single brow in amazement while she smirked at their absolutely terrible attempt at a nonverbal conversation in front of a telepath. “You two are as subtle as a heart attack. Yes, I’m aware.”

That took a weight off Sean's shoulders. The last thing he needed was dirty secrets marring such a reunion.

“Sorry fer t’ intrusion. If’n ye need some alone time wit' that ruttin’ ol’ bastard over there, just say t’ ward.”

“I can hear you, Sean,” Scott groused with mock offense.

“Aye. Everybody hears t’ Banshee.” Sean grinned.

“Banshees are female, right?” Scott asked. “Bean-Sí. Woman of the Sí.”

“Oooh,” Sean sing-songed. “Look who’s so fookin’ smart now. I was an incognito international thief, you absolute gobshite. O' course I wasn't gonna’ advertise anythin’ remotely close to me real identity.”

Scott started laughing. Nobody ranted like Sean.

“Wasn't a Cyclops an ugly arse monster who thought he got blinded by Nobody?”

“Easy, now,” Scott said, still laughing.

“Big, lumberin’ galoot who couldn't tell his arse from a hole in t’ ground,” Sean went on. “That's a Cyclops for ye!”

“Hey, I surrender!” Scott could barely contain his laughter now as he offered a towel to Jean.

Jean took the offered towel and wrapped it around her shoulders as she listened to Scott and Sean banter back and forth. Some things would never change. “Are you two finished? Or should I leave you alone in the pool?” She tilted her head back to look at the aquatic mutant who was still silently watching everything from his tank. “How does that sound, Newton? Round two with the boys?”

Newton pressed the button in his tank which lit up the light above his tank one time with an obvious scowl on his fishface.

“Well, there you have it,” Jean said with a laugh before bringing them back to the topics at hand.

“Aside from getting you two reacquainted.” Jean’s sass continued one last time. “We wanted to talk to you about some leads we had regarding my abduction and a possible connection to the other missing X-Men. What can we help you with?”

Sean and Scott broke eye contact with their eye rolling.

“Well, fer one,” Sean began in reply, “t’ coordinates fer the island where they found ye are empty now. T’ain’t nothin’ there but water. I dunna’ know who can move a whole island with none bein’ t’ woiser but apparently that is t’ caliber of people w’are dealin’ with.” Gone was the jovial old friend, replaced by the no-nonsense investigator. “If’n ye got any leads at’ll, I’d be much obloiged.”

“That explains why I had such a hard time contacting anyone,” Jean said with a frown, it made her feel slightly sick realizing just how lucky she was that she got out.

“Jean’s therapy has been… revealing,” Scott said. “Her dreams…” They were so awful that Scott really didn’t want to give form to them through words. But, for everyone’s sake, Sean needed something actionable. “There was a clear face.” He nodded to Jean. “Show him.”

The redhead nodded in agreement and provided Sean with the mental picture of a devil of a man. Tall and broad shouldered, his skin was a pallid shade of white which contrasted dramatically with his jet black hair. But the most distinctive features were his glowing crimson eyes and a red diamond in the center of his forehead. His appearance was unusual and unique, at least there would be no confusion when they found him.

“There were several documents and tags on equipment that contained the name of a business, the Essex Corporation. I’m not sure if there is any connection between the facility I was held at and that business but the fact that it showed up more than once during my time there, I think it’s worth looking into.”

Jean let out a huff of air, suddenly feeling rather tired. Maybe it was her physical exertions or maybe it was considering the scope of this situation. “Scott thinks that my captor is a mutant who experiments on and sells mutants to fund his research.”

“Bollox…” Aside from that, Sean was at a loss for words for a moment. “Real piece o’work, that one. I’ll get wit’ a sketch artist back at t’ field office and run searches through t’ database. Same wit’ this Essex Corporation.” He scowled in deep thought. “Any notion which country holds its charter? That would narrow t' search down considerably.”

Scott shook his head but looked to Jean for confirmation.

“No, other than it was always in English, I never saw the font or design of the tags in any other languages.” Jean frowned it was going to be a long shot but it was all they had.

That made Sean frown. There were dozens of Commonwealth countries besides the United States and all of its territories. English was the most commonly spoken language in the world. Still, it was better than nothing.

“Thanks for looking into all of this with us, Sean. We should all get a drink together before we leave.”

“Aye, will do.” Sean nodded at them both and smirked. "'Tis a shame ye missed Cameron. He and I were on a mission together, chasin' down his ol' colonel."

"Oh?" Scott had only known Cameron for a few months, but he knew the ugly business that had driven Cameron into hiding at the X-Mansion in the first place. "Did he get his man?"

Sean nodded. "Aye, we did. Ended with a new job offer fer him, too, with a bright and shiny outfit that's way above my paygrade. Real spooky shite, truth be told."

"Huh..." Scott wasn't sure what to make of that. "Without Cameron to help train the students... maybe we should make our way back sooner than we'd planned."

"G'luck, mate!" Sean laughed. "Those shite geostorms are still playin' hell with international flights. Even shielded avionics can't hold up. Planes be fallin' rought outta' t' sky."

"Thanks for the update all the same," Scott said. "Come on, Jean. Let's get changed."

Sean grinned at their backs. It was good seeing them back together as he’d remembered them. He did make a note not to visit Salem Center anytime soon though. Fur was sure to fly.

- END -


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