|Wed, 18 Oct 2000
"Fatata Te Moua" 1/1 [Gauguin: Phoenix/Psylocke, Iceman, Meggan]
See? Rewarding bad behavior pays off. Got a new installment of the "Gauguin Series" for you folks! I should really be bad more often. :-) Oh wait! Look at me. I'm being bad again. You people will be the death of me! *shakes a tiny fist*
Obligatory Tahitian Translation: "Fatata Te Moua" loosely translates as "at the foot of a mountain" and is taken from a painting by Gauguin (of course) of, you guessed it, the foot of a mountain.
Disclaimer: I don't own them. Marvel does. Not making any money. No sue. F/F themes - you have been warned.
Please do not archive without permission. Feedback is adored and appreciated at firstname.lastname@example.org Many thanks to everyone who's sent me feedback on this story so far. I had no idea these two would work as well as they do. Thanks for all the encouragement. Trust me. Your enthusiasm's contagious and gets this story written a bunch faster than it would.
The Gauguin Series
Fatata Te Moua
Jean Grey bared her straight, white teeth as she gripped the heavy-bladed axe in her small but sturdy hands, letting it fly, splitting a pine long neatly in two.
Winter was quickly approaching in Westchester, New York and the X- Men had done what they always have done every October. Order two cords of wood for the ambient fireplaces scattered throughout the mansion's first floor. Except this year the logs had come un-split for some reason. Logan had taken care of most of the first cord of wood, but Jean had insisted on splitting some logs on her own. She normally left house and lawn upkeep to the people who enjoyed it more than she but the gloom of this particularly long Sunday afternoon was getting to her and even the expanse of the mansion was beginning to feel confining. And Ororo was still away with Nathan, Hank and Remy, though they were due to return any day. So she turned to the great outdoors and the promise of mindless labor to set her at ease.
She couldn't help but think about Scott as she split another log. It was the kind of thing he would enjoy. He was always finding an excuse to work on a fence or tend to a drooping pear tree. He knew the value of a hard day's work whether it be in the Danger Room or fertilizing the lawn and it was something she was beginning to forget without him there to remind her. No one was quite like Scott in that respect. Betsy was more like Jean, living each day looking for an adventure instead of a task. She... she reminded herself she was trying not to think about Betsy. Or Scott for that matter.
Her red hair whipped into her eyes as the wind kicked up and sent a shiver down her spine. She had been doing too much thinking lately. She wasn't supposed to think this afternoon. She was just supposed to do. To be. But her thoughts kept racing to places she didn't want them and she silently chastised herself once more.
As she wriggled her fingers inside the leather work-gloves she wore, she saw Bobby Drake strolling across the back lawn toward her and she met his gaze as she slammed the axe down once more and another log fell away to the cold ground. Bobby had just rejoined the team a few weeks ago and it was good to see him. It was comforting in a way to have another of the original students around after Hank had left with Remy and Warren had literally flown the coop. The first five students had a bond that was different than the others. They had grown up together and seen and done things the others would never quite understand.
As he approached, he smiled and said quietly, "Hey."
She nodded as she swung the axe again, "Hey, yourself."
Bobby cracked a grin. "Jeez, Jean. I never knew you to be so manly."
"Oh, Bobby. I'm more woman than anyone could ever handle."
He smirked, "So I've heard."
Piling a few of the logs into a wheelbarrow to take back to the house, Jean studied him. From the expression on his face and the static in his thoughts it was apparent he had come outside to do more than just shoot the breeze. Pushing a handful of hair behind her ear, she asked flatly, "What do you want, Bobby?"
He smiled his most charming smile. "Oh, nothing. Just saying hello. You know I haven't had much time to talk with you since I've been back... since you've been back."
Lowering the axe to the ground, she put a hand on her hip as she wriggled the fingers of her free hand at him. "Hello? Bobby, it's me. You know, Jean Grey... most powerful telepath on the planet? I know you've got something to say. So say it."
The faint pink tinge of a blush tickled at his cheeks as he shoved his hands into his pockets. "Sorry. I guess I forget sometimes."
Jean sighed. "It's okay, Bobby. Now say what you're going to say. I'm really not in the best of moods, no offense intended. I'd rather not stand out here in the cold and jabber until it gets dark."
He cleared his throat and then spoke quickly, "I heard about what happened with you and Betsy. Why Warren isn't returning anyone's phone calls."
She raised an eyebrow. "Who told you?"
"Kitty. But everybody knows. They're just not talking too much about it. You know, no one really knows what to say so they're not saying anything."
Pursing her lips, she shivered as she wind kicked up again. "I see. And?"
"And? Oh. And. And I just wanted to say that it's cool with me. I mean it sucks that Warren had to get hurt and everything, but if that's what you and Betsy want I'll support you guys. I think it's great that you're being honest about your sexuality and stuff."
Jean released a sigh and forced a smile to put her friend more at ease. "Bobby, as much as what you said means the world to me, there's no closet for me to come out of. And there's currently nothing going on between Betsy and myself."
Wrapping her arms tightly around herself, she grinned as Bobby shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. "So you're not shacking up with Betsy and you're not a lesbian?"
She shook her head. "Lord. What did Kitty tell you?"
Bobby snorted as he folded his arms over his chest. "I'm starting to wonder."
Jean swallowed hard as she once again picked up the axe. "I just made the mistake of falling in love again, that's all."
Before she got a chance to use it, Bobby took the axe from her hands and said earnestly, "No. Not a mistake. It's never a mistake. You love who you love and sometimes it doesn't make sense with what you've always held to be true about yourself. But it's not a mistake. It's never a mistake. Okay?"
Furrowing her brow, she looked into his face, his expression both desperate and eager. She nodded and said quietly, "Okay."
Propping the axe against the stack of wood, Bobby then said, "Okay, then. So why don't you tell me what really happened?"
Sitting down on the stump she had been using to brace the wood, Jean tried her best to sum up the last few months of her life. "Well, it all started in Tahiti. You know how Betts and I went there and things got all mixed up and we had to cut my old rapport with Sc... with Apocalypse?"
Bobby nodded and Jean continued. "Well, we went through a lot down there with the exchange of our powers. We ended up sharing a mind for a long time. Things were very strange with us for a long time even after we fought off both Apocalypse and the Shadow King. I'd think something and she'd say it. She's stub her toe and I'd feel it. It was very intimate. We started developing feelings for each other... something more than friendship, more than lovers even. But she had Warren and I had a lot of healing to do so I sent her back here and traveled with Nathan for a month or so."
"But then when you came back here and saw her again, everything went back to the way it was in Tahiti?"
She nodded her head in affirmation. "Yes. And then, idiot I am, I haul off and kiss her one night and Warren walks in on us. I say I'm in love with her. He gets upset and leaves and then a few days later, she leaves for England. And no one's heard a thing from either of them."
Shifting uncomfortably on the stump, she dropped her head into her hands. "I can't believe I'm telling you all this, Bobby. You must think I'm horrid. I'm such an idiot."
Bobby smiled. "No. Not an idiot. If anything I think more of you. Following your heart is a difficult thing to do."
He offered her his hand and helped her to her feet as she sighed. "I just wish I had shown more restraint."
He smirked. "Restraint is highly overrated."
Just then the wind picked up, blasting the two of them with a frigid gust of air. As Jean shivered, Bobby took off his leather jacket and draped it over her shoulders. It was warm and she snuggled into it, appreciating both the gesture and the conversation. She smiled at him. "Why do you even wear a jacket, Bobby? You never get cold."
Shrugging his shoulders, he said nonchalantly, "I guess it's just habit. Something I do to appear more normal."
She stuffed her hands in her pockets as Bobby grabbed the handles of the wheelbarrow and headed toward the kitchen door. "I also hear that normal is highly overrated."
As he laughed out loud at her comments, she turned to Bobby and wrapped an arm around his waist as they walked back to the house, her mood slightly lifting. "So what am I going to do about this mess, Bobby?"
Wheeling the wood along a stone-lined path, Bobby shrugged. "I don't know, Jean. It's for you to figure out."
Shaking her head, Jean said quietly, her insecurities more prominent as she grew more at ease, "I know. I know. But what if she doesn't want me? What if I broke Warren's heart for nothing?"
"That's the risk you have to take."
She sighed. "I guess you're right."
Bobby grinned, obviously pleased with himself. "Damn skippy I'm right."
Jean couldn't help but laugh. As they walked into the kitchen from the back of the house, arms filled with wood, the phone began to ring. Jean then piled her armload on top of Bobby's and steered him toward the main sitting room as he teetered awkwardly past the kitchen counter. After five rings she managed to get to the phone, hoping she hadn't missed the call.
"Hello? Xavier Institute."
But there was no voice on the other end of the line.
In the back of her mind she felt a tingling sensation and her telepathy fired intermittently, reaching out beyond the grounds, searching to make a connection, her unconscious thoughts looking for the familiar astral pattern of another. She spoke once again into the receiver.
The line clicked and then went dead.
Psylocke hung up the telephone and whirled around to face Meggan, her new sister-in-law and long-time friend. An empath, the young woman's face mimicked her surprise and they both gasped at the same exact moment. "Meggan! I almost jumped out of my skin!"
Meggan smiled sheepishly as her bare feet floated a few inches above the floor and her blond hair danced around her head almost as if it prescribed to different laws of physics than the rest of the universe. "I'm sorry, Betsy. I just came to tell you that I have some coffee waiting in the drawing room."
Betsy smiled. Ever since she had arrived, Meggan had been waiting on her almost hand and foot. It was obvious now that Excalibur had disbanded and Brian was staying home due to the loss of his powers that Meggan was going a bit stir-crazy. As much as she loved Brian, she had grown accustomed to the adventure being a member of Excalibur had provided and now that Brian had lost his powers to the Dragons of the Crimson Dawn he wasn't equipped to scour the countryside looking for a mystery to solve or a crisis to avert. Betsy made a mental note to go flying with Meggan before she left Braddock Manor. It was just the thing both of them would enjoy. She reached out and took Meggan's hand and gave it a quick squeeze. "Thank you, Meggan."
She continued to float in front of Betsy, blocking her path out of the alcove they kept the phone in. "Brian will be home soon. He'll want to talk with you if it's not too late."
Betsy nodded. "That will be nice. I'll wait up for him."
They then stood there in the hallway blinking at one another until Meggan finally spoke. "You were calling her, weren't you?"
Betsy sighed quietly and ran an unsteady hand through her hair. When she arrived earlier in the week, she had no intention of telling Brian or Meggan exactly why she had come running from Westchester with barely any warning. She hadn't been to visit since their wedding and truth be told, was long overdue in spending time with them. But it was obvious that something was bothering her and one evening over dinner Brian had said off- handedly that he had hoped that things were well with Warren, that he was never too sure about him or his rumored womanizing ways and hoped he hadn't driven her to England in a snit. Before she knew it, she found herself defending Warren's intentions toward her and spilling the truth of what had really happened, that she was now confronted with another, completely unexpected entanglement.
Brian had been shocked, to be sure. But after the initial disbelief and trepidation, he stood behind his sister as he always did and said he wanted what was best for her and would support her no matter who she had intimate relationships with. Meggan on the other hand hadn't said a word, even when they went into town together to visit the salon and do some shopping, her face constantly reflecting Betsy's own remorse over hurting Warren and confusion over what step to take next. But as she stood in front of Betsy in the hallway, her emotions seemed to be her own. She held out her chin resolutely, even defiantly, as if she were exerting a great force of will to remain constant. And as Betsy studied her, she answered her quietly, "Yes. At least I was trying to. It seems I don't quite have the courage to talk to her yet."
Meggan tilted her head and narrowed her eyes. "Why not?"
Exasperated, Betsy said with a laugh, "Because I don't know what to say!"
Betsy shrugged. "Because... this is all so strange. It's so different and such a big decision."
Meggan pursed her lips and continued to study Betsy. "You worry about the wrong things. She makes you happy. Very happy. And she loves you and you love her. You complete each other. It doesn't matter what she is or who she is. You've got everything so very mixed up."
Betsy smiled. "You're right Meggan. It shouldn't matter. But it does to me and I need to get over it before I can be happy with her or without her."
Reaching out to grip Betsy's shoulder with more strength than Betsy remembered, the fragile, waif-like guise she wore hiding the force her body possessed, Meggan said with a smile, "Yes. Yes, you do. Before it is too late and she's no longer there when you make up your mind."
And then she was gone, leaving Betsy alone in the hallway outside of the kitchen as she took a plate of cake slices to the drawing room.
Betsy shook her head. Meggan did have a point. Several of them as a matter of fact. She seemed to a have a clearer grasp on the issue at hand than she did herself. And she was right. Totally and completely. But she couldn't pick up that phone and call Jean, not yet. Nor could she return to Westchester. She needed a few weeks to see if the idea of being with Jean could translate itself into a palpable reality in her mind. She needed to not think about Jean or the X-Men or anything to do with saving the world before she could face it again clear-eyed and aware of her own feelings.
Jean would just have to wait. They would all have to wait.
Head held high, she walked into the kitchen at the back of the great house. A steady rain had begun to fall earlier in the day and from the weather reports as well as the gray haze covering the landscape, it seemed there was no end in sight. Betsy chuckled as she stared at her reflection in the great windows that during the day provided a view of the garden. It seemed the weather was mimicking her mood and as a rivulets of water streamed over the thick glass, she couldn't help but be amused at the slight irony.
Before she had the chance to slip farther into her reverie, a loud knocking came at the door that lead into the kitchen from the stables. She assumed it was her brother... that perhaps he had his arms full of packages or someone had locked the back door. But as she breathed an almost irritated sigh and heaved open the large, oak door, she realized she had been mistaken.
Water streamed into his eyes from the downpour and his usually perfectly groomed blonde hair was drenched and plastered to his scalp. But as he blinked at her and pulled the collar of his trench coat up over his neck, there was no mistaking him as his great wings drooped and bobbed behind him, taking the brunt of the storm.
He narrowed his eyes and nodded as he said quietly, "I've come a long way."
She was about to ask him to come in, to dry off in front of the fire, to have some hot coffee and rest. But before she got a chance he grabbed her by the wrist, pulled her into his arms, beat his large wings and propelled them both into the clouds. And as the rain beat against her face and Braddock Manor grew smaller and smaller beneath her, he whispered into her ear, "We need to talk."