2/19 Issue: Fight or Flight

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Slarti
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Title: Damn Not Given
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2/19 Issue: Fight or Flight

Post by Slarti » Sat Feb 20, 2021 1:10 am

Timelined the day after Hitfire Club.

Jean: After the scramble of getting her luggage - checking bags was always a terrible idea, but business meetings required good clothes - Jean finally had time to find a seat, catch her breath, and wait. She could sense Jamie. He was driving, so she didn't want to poke his brain and make him crash.

Jamie: Jamie drummed on the steering wheel while waiting for the light to turn green, bobbing his head to the music coming from the speakers instead of his brain, for once. The tiny noise beside him shook him from his reverie and he grinned down at the seat. She was howling to the music in her tiny puppy voice! Jean was going to go nuts! So cute! Oh, green light! Woo!

Jean: He was also excited. It made Jean smile to herself, enjoying his good mood from afar. She hadn't managed to come up with a good way to talk to him about her lunch with Monet during her short commuter flight, but she knew putting it off would end badly.

Jean: She didn't want to act weird because she was trying to hide something because he'd automatically assume the worst, and he was way more observant than he used to be. Generally. Jean sighed and picked at her cuticles. She was gonna need a new manicure.

Jamie: Aaand he had a helper with driving! Jamie frowned when she put her paws on the bottom of the steering wheel. "Okay, but when I need to turn, you better not claw up the leather." He got a face full of wet kisses in response. "You're too adorable for your own good. Just like Jeannie."

Jamie: He pulled into a parking garage and found a spot to park faaaar away from everyone else. Baby should be safe there. He tucked the pup under his arm and got out, heading for the airport pick-up section to help Jean with her bags. She was hoooome!

Jean: Oh, he was here. Jean snapped to attention, realizing she hadn't been checking for threats around her as Monet had suggested. Not really. Well, shit. This might make her crazy. Crazier? Shaking her head shook off her thoughts for the moment and she sent Jamie a mental hug. On my way!

Jean: Hopping up from her seat, she smoothed down her skirt and checked her curls and her girls before she wrangled her bags to wheel behind her, since using teke in the airport was totes frowned upon.

Jamie: Jamie grinned when he felt her in his mind and started moving a bit faster. Jeanniiiiieeee! "You're going to love her! I promise!" He skidded to a stop at the crosswalk to check for traffic, then practically jumped across to be able to meet her at the door.

Jean: She felt her own grin emerge at his voice in her head. Jaaaaaamiiieeee! There was a brief blip of panic when he tried to bounce into traffic, then as the doors slid open and she stepped out she spotted him and... Figaro? Whaaat?

Jamie: Jamie scooped her up with her other arm and held her close, kissing her hard. The puppy did its squeaky little bark and he laughed into the kiss.

Jean: Figaro barked! Jean's head jerked back in shock as she finally got a good look at the puppy tucked against Jamie's chest. "Whaaaat?"

Jamie: Jamie beamed at her as the puppy squirmed in his grip, licking the air since she couldn't get to Jean. "Jeannie, meet Breathless Mahoney. My new puppy!"

Jean: Jean blinked, taking a moment to process the name. Of course. "You got a puppy?!" Her voice had gone up an octave and she let go of the handle of her suitcase to pet the white wriggly floof. "OMG! She's gorgeous!" Jean was immediately French kissed by the puppy, but she couldn't even care.

Jamie: He laughed as Breathless squirmed into Jean's arms. "I needed protection from Figaro while you were gone! Also, IneededsomethingtocuddlebecauseImisseedyou."

Jean: Puppy! Jean tried to contain the little wriggling puffball, laughing and giving her kisses as much as the puppy kissed her. Jamie's biglongword sank in and she looked up at him with a grin, freeing one hand to reach up and cup his cheek and kiss him. "I missed you, too."

Jamie: He mirrored her grin and kissed her back until the puppy tried to french kiss them both. "C'mon, babe, let's go home. The cats miss you." He let her keep Breathless and leaned over to scoop up her luggage, pausing to kiss her hip since he was there and why not.

Jean: "And I missed them! I missed everyone! And apparently a new addition to the family." She giggled and flipped the puppy upside down baby style in her arms. EEE! Tummy! Jamie's surprise kiss when he fetched her bag made her melt a little more, too, if in a different way.

Jamie: Jamie slung her purse over his shoulder when he stood up, starting to lead the way with her super girly suitcase wheeling behind him. He rocked the walk across the road in a hip-swaying fashion. "She's a white Swiss shepherd and she's nine weeks old."

Jean: His antics made her grin and she definitely wasn't paying attention to the road now, trusting him to have checked for traffic, because PUPPY! "You're a precious baby floof is what you are!" she cooed, and the dog agreed, wriggling and squeaking and trying to eat her hand.

Jamie: Safely across the street, he walked normally on the way through the garage to Baby. "Don't let her get too, too excited. She does that weird excitement pee thing that some dogs do." He put the key in to open the trunk and put her bag inside, opting to leave her purse on his shoulder in case she needed it in the car.

Jean: That made her stop tickling the dog's tummy, but only for as long as it took to cuddle the fuzzy baby to her chest. "Don't pee on mommy, okay?" Jean looked up, noting her bag. "Sorry, babe, but that bag just does not go with your shoes." She grinned. Such a good purse-carrying boyfriend!

Jamie: Jamie looked down at his worn out sneaks, then at the purse, then at Jean. He gave her a haughty look and turned on his heel to go open the car door for her. "You just don't know what's in, obvi."

Jean: "Oh, are you starting a trend, dahling?" She laid it on thick, inclining her head in thanks when he opened the door and taking as dainty of a seat as she could with a wriggling dog in her arms. Still, it was the companion move to her dramatic exits, flashing him plenty of leg as she swung them inside.

Jamie: Jamie leaned into the car to set her purse on the floor by her feet, taking the time to run his hand up her bare calf while he was standing back up. He leaned in again to give her another kiss, pulling back to brush her nose with his. "Any requests for food on the way home?"

Jean: She met his eyes and thought of a half dozen responses to that question and none of them had anything to do with food. His hand scorched on her skin and she had missed him. Buuuut, dog. "Um..." Jean cleared her throat delicately. "I'm kind of hungry, but I don't know what I want," she hedged.

Jamie: "Burgers and fries? We can share the fries with Breathless!" He did love that look in her eye, buuuut dog. "And then she'll pass out into a food coma and we can have some adult time?"

Jean: "That sounds like a solid plan." Jean grinned and brushed her nose against his, stealing another kiss before she sat back to look for the seat belt and get the puppy settled.

Jamie: Score! He shut her door and jogged around to his side, unlocking the door and sliding in. Jamie gave her a grin as he cranked the motor. She was so sexy. And beautiful. And home. "How was your trip? Get everything sorted out?" Jamie checked the mirrors and blind spots, then pulled out of his parking space and headed out of the garage.

Jean: "Um." The awkwardness rose up in her and Jean winced, beating it back into a corner. "Yeah. I had to check in with some of my suppliers and there's always changes to the testing requirements, so that seminar was super thrilling..."

Jamie: Jamie felt something weird from her and frowned, but brushed it off. If it was something bad, she would tell him. "You mean you don't enjoy people droning on and on in a monotone voice about laws and procedures and the legal ramifications of failing to follow them?"

Jean: She mimed a huge, bored yawn, rolling her eyes dramatically. Breathless took this opportunity to pounce with a squeak bark. "Eep! So cute!" Jean had caught his slight frown and flicker of concern. Dammit, he was observant today.

Jamie: He chuckled at the two of them and stole a quick glance in time to see Breathless stick her tongue up Jean's nostril, which made him laugh harder. "My two favorite girls. I love it. Maybe you can help me pick out a suitable collar for Dick Tracy's femme fatale?"

Jean: "Oooh, girl! We'll get you into something with sequins!" She giggled and ruffled the puppy's soft fur. One ear hadn't learned to stand up yet and it was the cutest fucking thing ever. "How do the boys like her?"

Jamie: "They're not quite sure why the new cat is making weird ass noises that don't belong to a cat." He grinned at the thought of Jean and Breathless picking out a fancy collar with a fashion show afterwards.

Jean: That made her laugh aloud, easily picturing the delightful image of the cats sitting in judgment on the bouncy baby dog. "I'll have a talk with them. They have to play nice with their new sister!"

Jamie: "Good because they sure as hell don't listen to me. Duparo does sometimes, but still doesn't know what to make of our new baby." Jamie reached over to pet her and was rewarded with a sloppy hand as she tried to teeth on his palm. "So did you find any fun things to do between Bueller segments?"

Jean: It was a puppy, but it still made her heart swell just a bit as he talked about their new baby. This was a window, to at least ease into it. "I don't know that it was actually fun, considering the company, but I had lunch with Monet St. Croix." Jean did her best to hide her nervousness, which was harder with Jamie than Monet. He knew her, and had a reserved seat in her head.

Jamie: Jamie's head swiveled towards her, then realized he needed to watch the road, so turned back to that quickly. "Um. Why? She's, like, a bitch."

Jean: "Well, yeah," Jean watched his profile, petting Breathless as the puppy circled and flopped against her stomach. "Sort of. It's... kind of hard to tell. I can be a bitch sometimes, too, so I'm not so sure she really is..."

Jamie: "Hmph." He didn't miss that she hadn't answered his question. "I guess if you really think she's not, then I won't try to change your mind."

Jean: "I haven't decided." She licked her lips, realizing the lip gloss she'd worn in place of her usual bright colors had worn away. "But, bitch or not, she's one of the strongest telepaths I know. I wanted to talk to her about a few things."

Jamie: Ah ha! He knew waiting would pay off. "Yeah? About what? Is everything okay? Did Xavier Kool-Aid Man you again?"

Jean: Jean laughed a little. "No, although I do want to ask her about that, too. She had some suggestions for how I can better, um, take precautions with my powers." Okay, now was when she had to start wording things carefully. Don't say anything stupid, Jean.

Jamie: "That's good! Maybe she's not so bad after all if she's willing to help keep you safe." He grinned and reached over to give her knee a gentle squeeze.

Jean: Uuuuugh, he was being all sweet and understanding. Jean covered his hand with hers. "Yeah... except she's not gonna just do it for free."

Jamie: His eyes narrowed a bit and he glanced at her quickly, then back at the road. "She's richer than Midas. What the hell does she want you to pay for?"

Jean: "Exchange her time for my time so that she can say she's not doing anything for free..." She still had her eyes on him, watching for his reactions and keeping her senses tuned to the link.

Jamie: "Oh..." That calmed him some and he stayed silent for a moment while the many, many thoughts played over in his head. Finally he settled on one. She would be safe. "I guess that's fair? So long as she's not having you do any murdery cult things..."

Jean: She didn't quite hide her wince. "Yeaaah, um, I, uh..." Fuck, she was making it worse by not being able to word!

Jamie: Jamie's brow furrowed and he was glad he finally had a light to stop at. "Jeeeaaan?"

Jean: Oh fuck, he was looking at her now, and frowning. Breathe, Jean. She did just that, taking a moment, and then started. "I told her I wasn't going to do anything illegal for her, but she does want me to work for her at the Hellfire Club. It's like... an internship?" Maybe that was a terrible way to explain it.

Jamie: His furrowed brows went up to his hairline instead. "An ... internship... for the murdery cult. For the queen of the murdery cult?! Jean! What the fuck?!"

Jean: "I didn't give her an answer! I told her I'd think about it, and that I had to talk to you before I made a decision." The puppy huffed and kicked at her, as if in agreement with her dad.

Jamie: Jamie couldn't think anything specific right now. Murdery cult queen. Interning there. All bad. No good. Jean would be safe. No! Bad! He scrubbed at his face then gripped the wheel tightly with both hands, staring at the light. "Thanks," he grumbled under his breath.

Jean: Jean's nose scrunched and boy there was a lot going on in his head. "Jamie," she said softly, watching him white knuckle the steering wheel. "Talk to me?"

Jamie: The light turned green, but it took the person behind him honking for him to realize he needed to go. "Talk to you? Talk to you about what? About the fact that you decided to keep delving into the fucking murder cult after we already decided we didn't need them? About the fact that you would be interning for the queen of darkness herself? Or how about the fact that Viper has a foothold there?!"

Jean: That was the outburst she'd been expecting, and it was almost nice to have it in the open. "Actually, Monet doesn't like Viper, either. She killed her fiance, remember?"

Jamie: "Monet isn't the top, top dog, Jean! Mr. Shaw is! And Jess is the one who holds his balls in the palm of her hand! Not Monet!" He heard Breathless start crying and he clenched his mouth shut, turning into the drive thru of the first burger joint he saw. "Want your usual?"

Jean: "Sure." She turned her attention to the dog for now, soothing the whining puppy, who wriggled up to kiss her face.

Jamie: Jamie placed their orders and pulled up to the window, passing the money through without even looking at the person working the register. "Keep the change." He drove to the next window and waited, staring straight ahead at nothing. It wasn't until the bag was shoved nearly in front of his face that he broke his trance and took the food and drinks, situated everything, then headed out again.

Jamie: "Why?" Jamie tried to keep his voice calm to keep the puppy calm, but it was a struggle.

Jean: "Because Monet is the strongest telepath I know who can actually control her powers? Beth's control is pretty sketch. And Xavier..." Jean made a face. "Just, no."

Jamie: "Your control is fine." Careful... Keep the edge out of the tone. Breathless doesn't need to think she did anything wrong. He tried again, "Your control is fine. You've never needed help with it."

Jean: "She knew Rachel," she pointed out.

Jamie: "Everyone knew Rachel," Jamie quickly glanced over to frown at her, then looked back at the road. "What's your point?"

Jean: "Meaning she knew about the Phoenix." Jean was talking in a soothing voice, for all of them, and petting Breathless, who was a shockingly sensitive little pup.

Jamie: Jamie huffed out in a growl, but didn't say anything for a minute. At a straightaway, he leaned over and got a french fry, taking a bite to make sure it was cool enough, then holding it out blindly for the puppy. "Knowing about it and having it are two different things."

Jean: Jean took the fry and fed it to the puppy, who was wriggling with excitement again. Her simple, but powerful puppy emotions were bleeding into hers a bit. "But she can help me learn to use it to my advantage, which would help with dealing with Viper, o-or any other crazies, if they pop up and come after us."

Jamie: "I really thought we talked about this already, Jean. We don't need anybody but us! And we definitely don't need help from a murder cult!"

Jean: "Can you help me learn to identify threats with my powers? You did what you had to do to learn how to take care of yourself and be a detective. So, this is me doing what I need to so I can do my part!"

Jamie: "Who said anything about learning to identify threats?! What the hell, Jeannie! Is this what being an X-Man again is gonna do to you?!"

Jean: Breathless yipped and pawed at her face as Jean opened her mouth to respond and she grabbed the puppy for a cuddle instead, burying her face in her soft fur.

Jamie: Jamie clenched his jaw and seethed in silence until he pulled up in front of his tenement. He grabbed the food and got out, going to open Jean's door first, like usual, then going to get her bag from the trunk, all in complete silence.

Jean: Jean spent that time lining up her arguments... the ones least likely to get her dumped, at least. She swallowed hard. When they stopped, she found a leash for Breathless and got out with her, clipping it in place so the puppy could go potty.

Jamie: Jamie unlocked the front door, set Jean's bag just inside, then closed it, using it as a backrest as he watched her and the dog. Fucking Monet St. Croix. Really? And Jean just innocently thought that all she would have to do would be some filing? HA. This was probably how the cult set their claws into her. Persuasion by immersion. First you dip your toe, then your foot, and the next thing you know, you're in over your fucking head.

Jean: She could feel him stewing in his own juices behind her and didn't look at him as she encouraged the puppy to pee in her squeakiest of squeaky voices. Even though the day turned to shit the doggie was adorbs.

Jamie: Dammit, Jeannie. Why was she so fucking adorable with the new puppy? He screwed his face into its pissiest look, hoping that would keep him angry for long enough to actually have this out this time. But, inside. Nobody in the neighborhood needed to know their business.

Jean: Breathless reminded Jean of her precious pomeranian. She'd left him behind when she went to Olympic training, then when her parents shipped her off to Trask, and then when she went to Xavier's. He'd died a year after she returned home after her break-up with Jamie. Just thinking about him now made her want to cry, so that was great.

Jean: Luckily, the fluffy white floof finally squatted and Jean held her breath while the puppy tinkled, then erupted into happy squeaks, which the puppy was happy to copy. They both bounced a little.

Jamie: Jamie's face broke into a bright grin at the scene playing out on his front lawn. No. Be mad. Murdery cult! Right! He knit his brows together and erased the grin, looking just slightly to the side of the display of joy from his two favorite girls.

Jean: "You are such a smart baby! Good girl! Who's the best girl?!" Jean scooped up the doggie for a cuddle. If she was a shepherd of some kind, she'd be too big to pick up soon, so she may as well take advantage. Finally she turned back toward the front door and took in the thunder cloud on the steps.

Jamie: Stop. Don't listen. Jamie turned his head to look more down the street until he felt Jean's eyes on him. "Ready to see the cats?"

Jean: Jean kissed the fluffy white head as she walked up to him. "Of course! I missed my babies." Since his head was still full of conflict, she was staying out of it, but she didn't like his tone.

Jamie: Jamie reached out to take Breathless from her so her arms would be free for other white fluffballs, then opened the door once the squirming pup was settled. "They're probably curled up on your side of the bed. Or hiding, waiting to pounce at me from the closet."

Jean: She waited for him, really hating this stilted politeness thing he was doing. Jean gave him a long look, then went inside and floated upstairs to see her cats.

Jamie: Jamie shut the door behind them, set Breathless Mahoney down to run around where she could, and sighed as he watched Jean retreat up the stairs. He would give her a few minutes to say hello to the cats, then maybe he would be cooled off enough to have a legitimate conversation about things. Murdery cult. Not things. Murdery. Cult. He rolled his shoulders in his jacket, then pinched the bridge of his nose. Fuck.

Jean: Jean found her kitties curled up not on her side of the bed, but on his. "Heeelloooo, babies!" The stretching and yawning and meowing was adorable and did a lot to soothe her nerves. Tossing her purse onto the bed, she gave them thorough cuddles too. "Imma stay with you boys for a while. Daddy's pissy."

Jamie: Jamie went to his office and sat down in his desk chair, sliding down in it until his head was on the top of the low back. He watched Breathless chase her multi-colored stuffed octopus around the room. She kept kicking it when she would try to grab it with her mouth, which sent it flying, which sent her chasing it, which saved Jamie from having to play fetch at the moment.

Jamie: His eyes slid to the foyer where Jean's bag still sat, then they moved to the stairs, wondering if she was going to stay with him tonight or go home. This whole thing was so fucked up.

Jean: Go downstairs? Wait him out? See if he comes up? What to do, what to do... Jean was staying out of his head, because she was pretty sure she didn't want to experience his less than charitable thoughts about her judgment right now.

Jamie: Jamie finally pushed himself out of the chair and scooped up the puppy, who showered him with kisses. He gave her head a ruffle and stopped in the entry, looking at Jean's bag again. He pinched the bridge of his nose and stood in silence until Breathless tried to bite his ear. Jamie shifted her to the other arm and picked up Jean's suitcase before heading upstairs.

Jean: Jean heard him coming and debated playing dead for a split second, but knew he'd never buy it. Also, was she five? So, instead, she just watched the door until he appeared with his own white fluffball. She started squirming and squeaking the moment she saw the kitties, who puffed up.

Jean: "It's okay," she assured them, fussing over both cats. "She just wants to play with you! She's a happy baby!"

Jamie: Jamie had to put the bag down the instant Breathless saw Jean and the cats. She was squirming so much that she needed to be held with both hands. "Wiggle worm wants down. Is it safe, do you think?"

Jean: She spotted her bag and took that as a positive sign that he wasn't planning to chuck her out. "If anyone gets too aggro I can always freeze them." He still had tone, and Jean was not looking forward to whatever came next.

Jamie: Jamie walked over and set Breathless on the bed and she instantly tried to pounce for the cats. "What was the real reason for your trip, Jean?"

Jean: Dupero bolted behind her and Figaro hissed at the excited puppy, holding his ground. Jean looked up at Jamie, meeting his eyes but unable to read them. "I really did have some weed business, but yeah, it's not like I just ran into Monet."

Jamie: "And you decided it would be a good idea to just leave that part out, huh?" He leaned back against the door frame and crossed his arms over his chest.

Jean: She had to work very hard to keep his emotions from affecting hers. "I wasn't even entirely sure she'd show, or if she did, that anything would come of it."

Jamie: Jamie clenched his jaw and took a deep breath, closing his eyes while he let what she said play over in his head a few times. "So, instead of talking to me about it, you decided to lie by omission on the off-chance that it would turn out to not be a lie?" He opened his eyes and met hers, "Am I getting this right?"

Jean: Well, when he put it like that... Jean studied his face while his eyes were closed. She opened her mouth, thought better of it, then went ahead. "I fucked things up more by trying to avoid fucking things up. Again."

Jamie: Jamie frowned. That wasn't fair. She wasn't supposed to be able to use his own argument against herself. "I thought we agreed already: No. More. Secrets. This is a pretty fucking big secret, don't you think?"

Jean: That made her swallow. "I told you as soon as I got home." Breathless had flopped down onto the bed, boofing under her breath at Figaro, who had likewise settled into a catloaf to give her his death glare.

Jamie: "And you think that makes it okay that you kept the real reason for your trip from me? Because you told me after the fact? Do you not see how this is so fucked up?"

Jean: "No, I didn't say that makes it okay." Jean frowned, her own temper rising above her guilt. "But what would you have said if I'd told you before I left? Then you would have just been pissed at me the whole time I was gone. There's no winning either way."

Jamie: "I don't know! I don't know what I would have said because you never gave me a fucking chance!" Jamie realized he was holding his breath and pinched the bridge of his nose while he forced himself to calm down a bit. "You never give me a fucking chance," he said much more quietly. "It's like you don't trust me to trust you. Or to love you no matter what."

Jamie: Jamie finally looked back up at her, most of the heat gone from him. "What the hell am I supposed to do with that knowledge, Jeannie?"

Jean: She sensed the shift in his emotions and swallowed down a lump in her throat. Was this it then? "When we fought about the club after Daken you said I didn't think you could protect me," she said, voice soft. "It didn't seem like you believed me when I told you that wasn't true."

Jamie: "So then tell me again. Tell me that you believe that I can protect you and we don't need the fucking murder cult in our lives. Tell me now and I'll believe you." He sucked his lower lip under, hard, for just a second. "But if you can't tell me that honestly, then there's something wrong here."

Jean: "The right answer is never that easy. There's black and white and all those shades in between." Jean closed her eyes, because she was going to cry if she wasn't careful. "I absolutely believe you can protect me, but I want to be able to protect you, too." She sniffed, brushing her hand over her nose.

Jamie: Jamie rolled his shoulders in his jacket and took a slow, deliberate breath. "I don't need you to protect me anymore, Jean. I learned how to do it for myself. I'm not a dumb kid who plays like he knows what he's doing. I actually know now."

Jean: The animals were watching them now, catching on to the tension in the room. "I know. Really. But what if Viper sent Rott after you because you were tailing her? What if I made all that worse? Or, Rott could realize you're alive on his own and come for you," Jean swallowed hard as her voice became strained. "Or come for our kids someday?"

Jamie: Jamie sighed and moved to sit next to her on the bed, forcing himself to take her hand, but stared at the wall. "No one will come for our kids. We're not going to have any until Rott is gone."

Jean: She was a little surprised when he sat beside her, but he wasn't looking at her. Jean held onto his hand, finding herself studying his profile again. "What do you mean?"

Jamie: "What do you mean, what do I mean? I said what I mean. Rott is a danger to our future kids so we're not having any until his ass is grass."

Jean: "I thought you were just keeping tabs on him to make sure to stay out of his way?"

Jamie: "I am. But someone, somewhere, some day, will take that fucker down."

Jean: Jean licked her lips. "Who though?"

Jamie: "Who knows?" He sighed and finally looked down at their hands, giving hers a squeeze. "What did I do wrong that made you think you couldn't talk to me and tell me things?"

Jean: She immediately returned the squeeze. "I just... don't like fighting with you," she said with a quiet sniff. "A switch, I know, since I totes live to argue with other people, but the one big argument we had... well, you know. So it freaks me out."

Jamie: "So, instead of being honest with me, you thought hiding things from me would keep me from getting upset?" Jamie shook his head, "That's bass ackwards."

Jean: She sighed. "It made sense at the time..."

Jamie: "Does it still?"

Jean: She was still staring at their hands, feeling her eyes slowly filling up no matter how much she fought it. "No."

Jamie: "At least there's that." Jamie let go of her hand and put both of his arms around her, pulling her side into his chest. "You have got to talk to me, Jean. We've had this same fight before."

Jean: She was still struggling against the tears, right up until he hugged her. Jean choked a little trying to stifle her sob and slid her arms around him. "I'm sorry." It was pretty much all she could say, now. Good job, Jean.

Jamie: Jamie sighed and held her tighter, putting his cheek on the top of her head. "I know... me too."

Jean: Jean froze. She knew how this was going to go now. She bit down on her lip and squeezed her eyes closed, waiting for the axe to fall.

Jamie: "I should have done something different. I don't know what, but I should have done it different." He held her in silence for a minute and closed his eyes, breathing in the smell of her hair. "Tell me how to get you to trust me with things. Tell me what I need to do, Jeannie."

Jean: Or, maybe not. She held still, rolling that around in her head. It was an interesting way to phrase 'pack your shit and GTFO.' Jean's brain stalled out for a moment.

Jamie: Why was she so quiet? Jamie held still and waited and worried. Did she not want to trust him? Does she want to not figure things out? Did she like the turmoil they went through?

Jean: Jean replayed his words again. I hate fighting with you, she finally responded. Hurting you, disappointing you. I should have done something different.

Jamie: "But if I had done something different, you wouldn't have had to." He sighed and turned his head to kiss the top of hers. "I hate being mad at you. I hate upsetting you. I hate it all."

Jean: Jean squirmed her way free to look at him, her lips pressed together as she fought with herself. "Me too."

Jamie: "So how do we fix this?" He met her eyes, his own sad and worried.

Jean: "I just... whenever I bring up certain things..." Remember Jessie's therapy-fu! Use your words, Jean! "I feel like I can't, because it starts a fight... soooo, I don't..."

Jamie: "I would rather fight with you than not fight with anyone else. You have to know that." Jamie brushed some hair from her face and gave her a wry smile, "Sooo, you should."

Jean: Jean tilted her head toward his hand. "You want me to fight with you?" she said, almost smiling.

Jamie: Jamie blinked at her, taken slightly aback by that. "Ideally, no. But if we have to, yes?" Was this a trap?

Jean: She licked her lips. "Why do you hate the Hellfire Club so much? The cannibal people are... totes dead. You've even worked for their head honcho, but if I bring it up you just shut me down instantly."

Jamie: "I worked for him outside of the cul- club's parameters." Jamie licked his lower lip before pulling it into his mouth to think. "I don't like that Viper has such easy access to everything. Which means so does anyone who works with her. I don't like how unscrupulous they are. It's just a bad place."

Jean: "Monet told me if I want to avoid Viper then I shouldn't join the club," she said, watching his face for signs of another explosive reaction. "She said she's investigating Viper too, because she killed her fiance." Jean's gaze flicked to his eyes and down just a bit to focus on the tip of his nose instead. "She said she understood my worries... that she lost her love because she wasn't paying enough attention."

Jamie: Jamie's eyes narrowed in concern and he moved his hand to feel Jean's forehead, then both cheeks one at a time. "Jet lag isn't a thing when you're in the same time zone... Do you have some sort of weird brain-eating bacteria?"

Jean: That made her look up at him, both brows shooting to her hairline. "Whaaaat?"

Jamie: "You're hallucinating. Right? That's what that is?" He pulled back just enough to be able to look over her torso, checking any bit of skin that was showing for a rash or something.

Jean: Jean frowned. "I told you I wasn't so sure she was actually evil. That would be why. Part of it, anyway." She moved back just enough to cross her arms and fix him with a watery-eyed look.

Jamie: "Huh." He let his hands fall to his lap and Jamie cocked his head to the side. "She really said that, then? ...Wow."

Jean: "She really said that." Jean relaxed and reached for one of his hands. "She said she could teach me to be more aware of threats around us, but she didn't want people to think she did it for free, so she wanted me to do filing for her. I'm not sure I buy that part either."

Jamie: "So... You're not joining the murder cult." Way to make an ass of yourself, Madrox. "And you don't have any plans to join the murdery cult..."

Jean: "I guess... filing for the murder cult? She also mentioned refilling her bar cart, which totally doesn't sound like a plot for global domination." Jean made a face. "She called me child a lot, too..."

Jean: Jean wiped at her eyes with her free hand and met his without flinching. "I do think these people are shady, for sure. Every time the little voice in my head tells me they're full of shit, it sounds like you, for realsies."

Jamie: Jamie tried to keep the grin from his face on hearing that, but his lips twitched upwards at the edges anyway. "Then... I guess... so long as it's really just telepathy lessons?"

Jean: Jean shrugged one shoulder. "I think so. I didn't sense any deception from her." She had totally noticed his small smile and squeezed his hand again. "I annoy her, but I think she felt... actual empathy for me."

Jamie: Jamie sighed and leaned forward so that his forehead would rest on hers and he closed his eyes. "I can't lose you, Jeannie. I won't."

Jean: Her heart did a little stutter in her chest and she raised her hand to his neck, brushing her fingertips over his jaw. "I... feel the same way... it's why I kept after the Hellfire Club thing. Anything I had to do, to make sure I didn't lose you."

Jamie: "You don't think that there's maybe a better way to not lose me than to join a murder cult?" He pulled back just enough to be able to open his eyes and not cross them when trying to see her face. "Because something makes me think that that club will take you away."

Jean: Jean frowned, studying his face. "Why? What makes you think that? I know a bunch of people who belong to it and it's not like they're pod people or anything. It's just... a thing they belong to."

Jamie: "A thing they belong to that's dangerous, Jeannie." There's no way to win this one. Just keep an eye on her. She's a big girl. "The people who go there... They've got a reputation..."

Jean: "Yeah, Monet asked me why I wanted to join the 'elite ruling class,' and I was like... uh, I don't. I just want one perk." Jean mimicked Monet's accent, cupping his cheek as she smirked.

Jamie: "And you believe that it'll just stay that one perk? Seriously?" He smirked at her accent. It sounded hot on her.

Jean: "No, I don't believe that, but she tried to scare me off already by saying some old dude might want me as a plaything for a month and I said, um, no. Hard pass."

Jamie: "What?! Who?! I'll kick his ass!" He hopped up from the bed, startling the animals and headed for the door. "Text me his name!"

Jean: Both cats bolted beneath the bed and Breathless - who had dozed off by some puppy miracle - sprang to her feet with a squeaky bark. Jean jumped too, unable to stop herself from laughing as she lunged for the dog. "It was an example! There is no dude. We didn't even meet at the Hellfire Club. I really did have lunch with her - alone - at some swank restaurant she picked."

Jamie: Jamie slowed at the door and scratched the back of his head as nonchalantly as he possibly could. "I knew that." He cleared his throat and calmly walked back to the bed, giving Breathless a scritch on the top of her head.

Jean: Breathless pawed at his hand, dragging it down for a nibble. "I wouldn't let that happen. You know that, right? I'm yours." Jean smiled up at him, hoping her eyeliner hadn't smudged too much to make her look insane. "Monet knows that, too."

Jamie: Jamie sucked in a breath when a tooth scratched him. "Ouch! Tiny needles!" He stuck his knuckle in his mouth to suck on the wound while mock-glaring at the pup. "Monet's smart." Once he was done with his wound, he put his hand against Jean's cheek. "I know that, but I also know that men are assholes and don't always accept no for an answer."

Jean: Jean leaned into his hand and pulled the puppy close for a cuddle. "Yeaaah, but I'm a woman who could literally castrate them with a thought." She smirked.

Jamie: "Unless they put a collar on you, drug you, or have stronger powers than you."

Jean: "No one has stronger powers than me, apparently..." She frowned to herself, recalling McCoy's diagnosis.

Jamie: "Babe, you don't have super strength. And one roofie would totally knock you flat."

Jean: "Well, then I just have to make sure that doesn't happen, right?" Jean shook herself, catching his hand to pull him back down onto the bed with her. "Anyway, I'm just dealing with Monet, not the rest of them."

Jamie: Jamie sighed and let himself be pulled back to sit. He silently wrapped his arms back around her and their puppy, thinking through all the information he had just received. "So, how long are you going to be using Monet for her mad power skillz?"

Jean: "I don't know. She wants me to meet with her once a week, but she said she'd come to Boston if I wanted. And then I just have to do shit for her for a few hours a week." Jean leaned against him, resting her head against the crook of his neck. "...there is more," she said after a moment.

Jamie: That made him squeeze his eyes shut. If he pretended really hard, maybe that part of the conversation would be gone. Lost forever in the abyss of no-man's land. He could feel her waiting for his response though. Drat! "More. Yay..."

Jean: "Um... I honestly don't know how you will react to one thing, soooo..." She turned her face into his neck to nuzzle his pulse point. Breathless wanted in on the action and started licking her neck.

Jamie: "Well, you've already started telling me and you agreed to not keep things from me. Aaaand I don't want you to, so spit it out."

Jean: Jean didn't want to make him wait too long, or he'd get antsy, but blurting out 'ohey, I may have accidentally ordered a hit?' seemed like a terrible idea. "Um. Monet might be the one to take care of Rott for us?" She closed her eyes and waited for that to sink in.

Jamie: "And you decided to tell me?! You've just made me an accessory to murder! And you are, too! Jean!"

Jean: "I didn't think she was going to say that!! ...I don't think I even gave her the idea. Like, Sebastian Shaw was kidnapped, too, and they're like... close. I could sense it was bothering her."

Jamie: "...Oh." Was that okay? Did that still make them accessories? How did that work? "Um. Okay?" So weird. All of this was just so. Weird.

Jean: "Yes, it's very weird," she agreed, picking up on his very loud internal monologue. Jean shifted enough to see his face again. "But maybe if that, uh, happens... then we won't have anything to worry about?"

Jamie: "Welllll..." He had said that one day someone would take care of Rott... "I guess that's not too bad, then. I just never thought I would know that it was in the works. Sooooo... that's weird."

Jean: "Full disclosure? There may have been offers of the Hellfire Club holding him prisoner and, um, some Old Testament kinda justice." Jean cleared her throat. "I, uh, declined."

Jamie: "You declined? Why? That sounds awesome!" Bad, Jamie. Ohh... "I mean, of course you did. Good job, Jeannie. I'm proud of you." He leaned in to give her a kiss on the cheek.

Jean: Jean gave him an owlish blink. "I didn't know you'd be into the idea of chopping off parts of him..."

Jamie: "Not chopping parts off... but a bit of pummeling never bothered me."

Jean: Well, that was a little bit of a relief, and definitely made her feel better about her own desire to immolate the guy. "Well, Monet did say to let her know if we changed our minds..."

Jamie: It was Jean's turn to be on the receiving end of an owlish blink. "I don't want to do it."

Jean: Jean snorted. Okay, never mind. She cleared her throat. "I said, if they were going to do ...that, catch him, that is, it'd be easier, in theory? To, um, just kill him? Because that way he can't escape again, or get sprung out. I mean... dead is dead and we wouldn't have to worry about it again."

Jamie: "But... isn't that how those teachers got fired? Wouldn't you get kicked off the X-Men if people find out?"

Jean: "I dunno. They, like, did it personally." She sighed and leaned back against his chest. "It'd be worth it, to not have to worry he might get you again someday."

Jamie: Jamie screwed up his face at the memory thinking about that brought up, but he squashed it down super fast. His hold on Jean tightened a smidgen and he kissed the top of her head. "I get it. I feel the same way. But, I mean... do we really get to do that and not have any consequences? Wouldn't we get smited on the spot?"

Jean: "Why? People like him do horrible things and he's still out there. And so is Viper. So is Trask. We're just trying to live." She turned her face into his neck again, sharing her conversation with Monet through the link because saying it aloud would make her cry. Again.

Jamie: He sighed heavily and held her even tighter. "I know, babe. I know. But, then that makes us as bad as him. Playing God like he did..."

Jean: Jean sighed and twisted to wrap her arm around him, with Breathless wriggling into her lap, already nearly back asleep. "I guess." She closed her eyes and just felt him close.

Jamie: "I love you, Jeannie. I don't want you to have to carry that around with you." Jamie checked behind them and slowly laid down with her since the cats had returned to a spot a bit further up on the bed.

Jean: Breathless scrambled to insert herself between them, rooting onto her back, sneezing, then letting out a doggie huff. Jean giggled, stroking the soft white tummy with her free hand.

Jamie: Jamie smiled at the pup between them, holding her front paw in his fist, then looked up at Jean and gave her a proper kiss. "I'm sorry I got so mad."

Jean: She took her time to enjoy a sweet kiss, then brushed her nose against his before pulling back to look at him. "You... had a right to be mad, since I didn't handle it well. Like, at all. Buuuut, yeah, maybe we work on you not reacting so, um, strongly, and I don't try to sidestep a fig- a discussion, and make everything worse."

Jamie: "I think that sounds like a plan." He smiled at her and brushed their noses together a second time before giving the tip of hers a kiss. "So... do you want to go to your apartment or stay here tonight?"

Jean: "...I thought I'd stay here, unless you don't want me to..." Jean hated how quickly that uncertainty reared its head. Ugh. Maybe she did need to go see Jess again.

Jamie: Jamie was a little shocked at the follow-up portion of her answer and just blinked for a second before his brain caught up to the part that was the actual answer. "Of course I want you to stay here. I just didn't know if you wanted to sleep in your own place and get some fresh clothes and stuff. Or I could stay with you at your apartment if you want. Whatever's good, Jeannie."

Jean: His surprise and confusion was hard to miss and she winced at herself. "Sorry. I just get... jumpy? It's my problem..."

Jamie: He frowned at her and shuffled them until her back was against his chest and Breathless was against her tummy. Jamie kissed her ear gently. "Don't. I've never wanted to be without you since alien tomatoes, remember? Why would I start now?"

Jean: Jean closed her eyes after he rearranged their positions. "I'm working on it," she said, voice quiet. "I'll... work on that more, 'kay?"

Jamie: "We'll both work on it. I'll help you." He moved her hair off of her neck and gave it a feather-light kiss, "You don't have to do it alone. You don't have to do anything alone."

Jean: She couldn't help the little noise that escaped at his touch. He wasn't breaking up with her, or making her leave, or even actively angry anymore. Jean could tell he was still worried about it, but he was here, and so was she. She wasn't alone. "Neither do you."

Jamie: Jamie smiled against her skin and kissed her neck again before settling his head down on the bed. He brought his hand around her waist to rub Breathless' belly. "I love you, Jeannie. Always."

Jean: The puppy's high-pitched yawn interrupted her before she could respond. "She loves you, too," she giggled.

Jamie: "Aww, I love you too, Breathless Mahoney! Cutest little pup there ever was!"

Jean: "She is! Soooo cute!" Jean turned her head to see him. "And I love you. I'm never gonna run like I did before. Promise."

Jamie: Jamie's smile lit up his face and he leaned over her enough to kiss her. "You better not. I can properly track you down now."

Jean: She grinned in answer. "Good! The only way you're getting rid of me now is if you for realsies tossed me out the window or something."

Jamie: "And the only way I would do that is if the building were on fire. Or something similarly drastic."

Jean: "Then we're good!" Jean gave him a quick kiss, punctuated by a puppy sneeze.

Jamie: Jamie giggled at the sneeze and he leaned over Jean to kiss Breathless' head. "Bless you, pupper." He shifted his head to press a kiss to Jean's sternum. "You've blessed me."

Jean: Jean's grin softened and she ran her fingers through his hair. "You're not gonna lose me to the murdery cult. I'm not interested in their bullshit games, so I'll watch my back and stick close to Monet."

Jamie: "I'm glad." He smiled up at her then shifted back to lie behind her. "Get in, get done, get gone. Right?"

Jean: "That's the plan!" She was gonna protect him even if he didn't want it. So, nyah.

Jamie: Jamie frowned at the feeling he was getting from her, but ignored it, pressing a kiss to her shoulder. "Good. Keep the link open every second you're there in case I need to come kick some ass."

Jean: Jean turned her head to look at him behind her from the corner of her eye. When they were like this, he was getting really good at picking up things from her. "I can do that, if that's what you want."

Jamie: "It's what I want. It will help keep you safe. It's like wearing a wire, kind of."

Jean: "Kind of," she agreed with a quiet giggle, snuggling back against him. "I just meant it might be distracting."

Jamie: "To me or to you? Because if you're there, I'm only going to be focused on that."

Jean: "To you... I'm always-" His words sank in and Jean wriggled, rolling in the tight space to face him and sliding her arm around him to give him a thorough inspection... at very close range. Her eyes crossed slightly.

Jamie: Jamie's eyes crossed, too, so he backed up just his head a teensy bit. "What? You're always what?"

Jean: "I can always feel you. On my end, the link is always open, sooo... generally not distracting." In fact, it wasn't distracting at all since they'd completely re-established it. Jean moved in and booped his nose with her own. "It's actually comforting."

Jamie: Jamie wrinkled his nose and grinned, booping her in return. "Well, it's always open from me to you, but I know that sometimes you block yourself from me. Which is what I don't want when you're in the headquarters of the cult. Deal?"

Jean: "Only because you don't know how to turn it off," she teased, poking out her tongue. "But yeah, deal."

Jamie: "Hey, don't judge me because I'm a newb." He nipped playfully at her tongue, then gave her a kiss. "Good."

Jean: She returned the kiss with a giggle. "I would say if you're going to do that you could just come with me and look menacing in a corner or something."

Jamie: Jamie arched an eyebrow and studied her face for a long moment. "I know you're trying to be funny, buuut that's not a half-bad idea."

Jean: Jean blinked. "I didn't think you'd go for it, actually. If you want to come, I doubt Monet would mind. Like I said, I think she, um, gets it."

Jamie: "Still so weird..." He shook his head a little bit, then snuggled against Jean. "You didn't think I would take any opportunity to protect you and take care of you?"

Jean: "How's it weird?" Jean was a fan of snuggles, and with a warm Jamie on one side and a warm Breathless on the other she was starting to get sleepy. It'd been a day. "No, I know, and I love you for it... I just know you don't like that place.”

Jamie: "I don't like it because everything in my bones tells me that it's bad news. I want to be able to keep an eye on you if I can."

Jean: "I like your eyes on me," she said, wriggling against him because she just couldn't help herself.

Jamie: "I like more than that on you."

Jean: "That so?" She gave him the blink-blink. "Gonna demonstrate?"

Jamie: "I waaaaaant to... But I think Breathless may be a little young to be put out in the hall for how long that normally takes us... and I don't trust her to not get in the middle. Just wait until we try to sleep. She's a bed hog." He laughed when the pup squirmed and kicked in her sleep. "I beeet I could order a crate to be delivered in a couple of hours, though."

Jean: "Well, that'll be fun when she gets big," she laughed. "Us, plus her, plus the boys?"

Jamie: "When she gets big, I'm hoping we don't have construction shit everywhere that she can get into and eat and then die from."

Jean: Her lower lip popped out. "Well dead puppies aren't romantic. You just gave me a sad."

Jamie: Jamie kissed her pushed out lip. "Sorry, babe... Maybe a nap with the puppy would be cute and make up for it?"

Jean: "That," she said, giving him a quick kiss, "would make up for it." Jean punctuated her words with a flurry of little kisses and grinned. "But first! You order that crate."

Jamie: "Good!" He laughed and pulled his phone from his pocket, hopping on the internet to do just that. He glanced down at the pup, then back at his phone. Then he searched for how big white Swiss shepherd females got. Back to the crate. Select the biggest size for just in case. Cozy padding... some toys to cuddle... treats. Yes. "Done!"

Jean: Rolling to her back, Jean entertained herself by petting the soft sleeping pupper and watching Jamie make his adorably cute frowny thinking face at his phone. She was glad he'd never grown out of that.

Jamie: Jamie looked down at her from where he had propped up on an elbow. She was perfect. Life was pretty damned good. He gave her a soft smile and leaned down to give her a gentle kiss. "You're the most amazing woman I've ever known. I can't wait to see what's in the future for us." His smile turned devilish, "After the crate gets here."

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