Chemical Imbalances, Kissing, and Other Sappy Things
L. Burke

"Blast it, Moira.  You and I have ripped all the data and test results apart, and we still can't find what's wrong with Scott."  Jean Grey stood very still in the shadows of the hall, listening breathlessly as the professor directed his frustration at a computer monitor in the medical lab.

She heard a woman sigh and reply in a heavy Scottish accent, "I'm guessing his condition is being caused by his old head injury.  Not only does the damage not allow him to control his powers, but it's also interfering with his body making the subtle changes needed for his mutant powers to manifest completely.  That's the cause o' the headaches, and this recent bout as well."

Jean inched in a little closer so she could hear the professor's reply.  "A migraine is a far cry from a full blown seizure, Moria."

"Not necessarily."  The Scottish woman replied from the monitor.  "Scott's earlier doctors diagnosed him with borderline epilepsy and speculated that the headaches were minor seizures."

"That was before anyone knew he was a mutant," Charles replied.  "I assure you, my powers can give me blinding migraines when I push them too far.  And as I went through puberty, I also got blinding migraines as a matter of course.  As far as my research has shown, many mutants do.  Henry and I honestly believe it's some form of chemical imbalance.  But I think Scott's headaches are a totally different problem and not related to his immediate condition."

"But you can't deny the blinding headaches seemed to bring on this condition," the Scottish woman fired back.

"I'm not saying you're wrong.  I agree with you; I think his present condition does have something to do with the brain damage he suffered.  That brain damage is throwing something off chemically as his powers develop and that's what threw him into the seizure.  I honestly think the headaches are something completely different.  I can't exactly explain it, but Scott has been 'off.'  He's been moodier than normal lately and his concentration has been almost nonexistent."  The professor got very quiet for a few moments.  "Moria, both of us have seen some rough transitions as a mutant power manifested and developed.  Scott could very well be one of the unlucky ones."

There was no reply from the Scottish woman for a while.  "That could be the case.  Scott is completely unique.  We have no other mutant like him even to go by.  We'd only speculated that rechannelers like him existed until we examined Scott.  We honestly thought that high energy wielders were like Eric and psychic in the nature of the energy they wielded."  Jean heard the woman grumble under her breath for a moment.  "Remind me I owe you lunch for that.  I was wrong and you were right."  She sighed.  "But we have absolutely no blueprint to go by when it comes to treating Scott."

"Which is half of our problem," the professor butted in.  "We have no clue what is 'normal' for Scott for the time being.  If I had only managed to approach him sooner before his powers manifested, we might have something better to go on."

"We'd still be running into the same problems," the Scottish woman replied.  "We'd still not have any case to compare him to in order to monitor the changes and chemical surges that puberty produces, and we'd still not have a clue what 'normal' ranges are for Scott."  The woman on the other end of the line was very quiet for a while.  She suddenly replied in a voice no louder than a whisper, "Charles, as you said, you and I have both seen some rough transitions as mutant powers manifested.  We have also seen a human being not survive that transition."

Jean decided right there that she couldn't bear to hear any more of that conversation.  Scott was not going to die, damn it.  He had come to mean to much to her and she wasn't going to lose another friend like she'd lost Annie.  She carefully crept out of the shadows she was hiding in and made her way back to the room in the infirmary where Scott was staying.  When she got down to Scott's room she found Bobby inside dancing around chanting:  "I won.  I won."  Scott was glaring at Bobby, giving him a very annoyed look.

Scott noticed her as she walked in and held up a card with a color square in the middle of it.  "What is this color?" he demanded.

"Orange," Jean answered.

Scott scowled at her and then turned to Bobby.  "Fine, damn it, you won."

That started another round of dancing and chanting from Bobby.  "I don't even know why I agreed to play anyway," Scott grumbled.  "I hate this game."  That's when Jean noticed that the two of them were playing Candy Land.  Bobby stuck his tongue out at Scott.  "You just assume that because you cheat everyone else does too.  You're the one who shot down cards."

Scott sneered back at Bobby.  "I was not going to play poker with Hank.  He counts cards and cheats."  Bobby rolled his eyes in response and wisely chose not to respond to that comment.  Scott had a terrible reputation for cheating when he was faced with losing.

She smirked at Scott.  "Is that the pot calling the kettle black?"  The thing that bothered Jean was Scott didn't fire a retort back at her or Bobby; in fact he seemed to have lost interest in the conversation altogether and his attention had drifted towards something across the room.  Jean caught the worried look Bobby didn't manage to hide.

How is he doing? Jean asked Bobby telepathically.   Bobby shot her a very concerned look when he thought Scott wouldn't notice.

He's been like that all morning.  He can't seem to keep his mind focused on anything for too long.  He's only aware his attention is drifting part of the time.

"Well," Bobby said out loud suddenly.  That seemed to snap Scott's attention back to them.  "I have to get going.  I'm leaving you to Red's tender mercy, Scott."  Bobby turned to her with a smirk.  "Try not to kill him, Red."

With that remark Bobby grabbed his books and left the infirmary.

"Hey," Jean announced as she walked over and plopped down next to Scott's feet.  Scott moved his feet over to give her more room.  "How are you feeling?"

"Fine," Scott grumped.

Jean smacked him playfully on the thigh.  "I mean it.  How are you doing?"

"It's been a lousy week."  Jean chuckled softly to herself.  Slim could be the master of understatement sometimes.  Scott ran his hand through his hair.  "First off, I flunked my genetics test.  Then I had the seizure.  My concentration is shot because my head feels fuzzy.  I can't seem to focus on anything for very long.  To top it off, the professor has no idea what's wrong with me and every time my migraine comes back he dopes me up so badly, I can't feel my nose."  Scott gave her a totally annoyed look.  "Oh, yeah, he won't let me out of bed either.  I'm going completely stir crazy.  Don't even get me started on the amount of blood the professor and Hank have taken in the past twenty-four hours.  I should just slit one of my wrists and drip it into a bucket.  It would save them a lot of time."  Jean knew Scott was confined to bed because the professor wasn't taking any chances due to the possibility that either an artery or a vein was ballooning in his head or something was bleeding inside his skull.  Despite the battery of X-rays and scans they had given him the lab reports hadn't shown them anything.  Scott was confined to bed to keep his blood pressure as low as possible.

"So," Scott grumbled, "is it your turn to baby-sit?"

"No," She replied.  "I'm avoiding studying for the math test the professor is giving us tomorrow."  Jean smirked at Scott impishly.  "I figured even visiting you down here was still better than studying math."

Scott actually smirked back at her.  "Gee, thanks.  It's nice to know I rank before math class."  Scott reached over for what looked like a paint bucket on his bedside table.  "You want one?  I couldn't possibly finish all of these by myself."  The bucket was full of 'Super, super, fiery, hot balls.'  "I don't know what Bobby was thinking, getting me this huge thing."

Jean took a handful of hot balls.  "That you won't be able to finish it by yourself, so Bobby will have something to munch on when he comes to hang out and keep you company.  To think the Iceman has a taste for fireballs; the hotter, the better.  If I didn't know better, I'd think he missed his roommate too."

Scott flinched at that remark and replied, "Please don't remind me.  I can picture what my dorm room looks like already.  His dirty clothes are most likely spread all over my bed.  As for the something to munch on . . . "  Jean could tell he was rolling his eyes behind his glasses as he pulled out a package of cherry fruit pies from a drawer in the night stand next to the bed.  "Apparently I'm not sick enough to get any Twinkies from Hank yet."

"You hate Twinkies.  That's why Hank calls you an uneducated barbarian."  Jean snatched up the package of fruit pies.  "I didn't even get one bowl of Fruitloops, and you're getting junk food thrown at you.  Did Warren give you junk food too?"

"Yes, but the sour apple blow pops are mine.  You can have the dirty magazines he gave me though."

Jean crinkled her nose and replied, "No, I think I'll pass on those.  I'm taking a cherry fruit pie."

"Oh, come on," Scott reached for a stack of magazines he had under his pillow.  He pulled one out and read her the lead article headline.  "Doesn't the article 'Breast Implants:  do they feel any different?' interest you at all?"  Jean smirked at him and shook her head no, and Scott flipped to a new magazine.  "How about 'August Sultriest Redheads'?"  Scott studied the cover with a scantily clad red head with some interest.  "I might keep this one.  I wouldn't want to hurt Warren's feelings."

Jean smacked him playfully for that remark.  "You want to play a game?"

Scott gave her a very serious look for a moment as he put the magazines in the drawer he had pulled the fruit pies out of.  "You don't need to stay and keep me company if you have a test to study for.  That should be your first priority."

Jean snatched up the cards that were lying on his bedside table and handed them to him.  "Shut up and deal the cards, Summers."

They ended up playing Candy Land because Scott couldn't concentrate enough to follow card games.  His attention kept drifting so even the simplest game of fish was almost impossible for him.  Jean ended up taking a black permanent marker and marking the color cards and patches on the board with symbols so Scott could play since he couldn't see the colors.

"Gee, look," Scott stated dryly as he moved his game piece, "I'm back in the marshmallow swamp.  What do you think?  Should I buy a condo or build a new house?"

Jean rolled her eyes at him, "Well, I've been stuck in the lollipop forest so long I should build a campground."

Scott was going to fire back a comment when he got this dazed dreamy look on his face.  "Scott?" Jean asked quietly.  "Are you all right?"  She did a quick telepathic scan of Scott and got something similar comparable to static -- mental white noise.  She pushed the swing bed table with their game on it out of the way and again asked quietly, "Scott?  Are you all right?  Can you hear me?"  Scott's response was to start jerking uncontrollably.

It was amazing, Jean thought, as everything seemed to flow in to slow motion, how self-preservation came to her mind first.  When Scott started seizing, her first thought was to hold his glasses to his face and make sure they didn't slip.  If his glasses slipped he could do huge amounts of damage to her, the mansion, and anyone who came running in to help.  She was just about to shout for the professor when he and Hank came bursting in to the room.

"Jean!" The professor barked.  "Make sure his glasses don't get dislodged."  Jean nodded and quickly backed into a corner to get out of their way.  The professor ordered Hank to hand him a dosage of some medication.  Scott continued to jerk uncontrollably on the bed.

Jean had only felt this useless once in her life and that when she was holding Annie's broken, dying body in her arms knowing there was nothing she could do to stop her from slipping away.  "Please don't do this to me, Slim," she whispered quietly under her breath.  "You need to get better; this Albatross needs you."  And her mind drifted back to the day he'd called her that for the first time.

"Oh, come on, Slim," Bobby Drake was whining as she entered the kitchen.  "It'll be fun."

Scott looked up from the newspaper he was scribbling on with a pen, held Bobby's eye and stated, "No, and that's my final answer on the topic."

"The final answer on what topic?" Jean asked as she got herself a bowl of cereal.  Bobby shrugged at her and replied, "We wanted Slim to come with us this weekend.  We're heading up to Warren's vacation home up in the mountains.  I thought Scott getting out of the mansion for a while would be good for him.  Want to come?"

Jean bit her lip considering the offer for a moment before replying, "I can't.  My Mom and Dad are dropping off some stuff I need and visiting me this weekend."

Scott smirked at her from across the table.  "That's Jean speak for, 'my mother told me to pack my warmer clothes and the more practical shoes.  I was stubborn, didn't listen, and now they have to drop them off to me as the weather is getting colder.'"

Jean sneered at him as a comeback.

Scott's smirk got a little wider and she stuck her tongue out at him to respond to his smirk.

Bobby turned his attention back to Scott and simply asked, "Please?"

Scott glared at Bobby again and said, "No, I have a date this weekend."

Bobby almost fell out of the chair he was sitting in and Jean choked on a spoonful of cereal.

"With a girl?" Bobby blurted.

"What's her name?" Jean fired back from the other side of the table.

Scott glared at them annoyed.  "Is it so unbelievable that I have a date?"

Bobby smiled at him sweetly and replied, "Well, we are talking about you, Slim."

Scott turned his head to glare at Bobby yet again and replied, "Her name's Katy, and that is all you need to know."

Bobby's face suddenly lit up with mischief.  "Wait until I tell Hank and Warren about this."  With that Bobby bolted out of the kitchen.

"Great, just great," Scott grumbled.  "Now all three of them will stalk me for details."

"What are you writing?" Jean asked, changing the topic.  She'd get the details about his date that the guys managed to bully out of Scott later.

"Nothing," Scott replied rudely.

Jean reached across the table and snatched the paper out from under his pen.  "Come on, if you're doing the crossword puzzle I want to help."  When she saw what he had been scribbling she smirked at him.  "Don't you think that's a bit childish?" she asked, her eyes dancing mischievously. She was looking at the horns, mustache, and devil tail Scott had drawn on Brian Henderson's picture.  Brian and Scott had a long-standing grudge.  Jean never understood completely where the grudge between the two of them had come from.  Scott and Brian had hated each other at first sight.  Brian had set out to make Scott's life hell since he started living in Westchester.  Following the picture was an announcement stating Brian had gotten a full athletic scholarship to Harvard.  She could just imagine what Hank was going to say about the announcement when he finally saw it.  Jean was almost certain it would be nothing nice.

Scott blushed a little before snapping out, "Maybe, but I only blacked out one tooth.  Brian makes the perfect dark haired, blued-eyed, two hundred and eighty pound, football MVP, class president, and prom king a target.  Did I forget to mention that I don't particularly care for him?"

She smirked at him before replying, "I got that impression."

Scott snatched the paper back from her and replied, "And I thought I hid the dislike so well too."

Jean was having fun yanking Scott's chain and catching him acting petty for once.  "Well, I am psychic.  I don't know what you hold against poor Brian.  He and I went out once or twice and I had a very good time."

"Did you?" he asked too innocently.  "I wasn't aware of that fact.  Brian's perfect, don't you know?  Read the newspapers:  Westchester's own Golden Boy."  Scott gave the picture a sneer.  "No doubt he'll find the cure for cancer someday.  Never mind that he and his entire family are the biggest snobs I've ever met."  Scott gave her a mock haughty look and added, "I bet Brain can't send old women running into the streets by simply lighting up his eyes behind his visor-of-doom or whistle 'Dixie,' while eating crackers and covering one eye."

Jean threw her head back and started laughing.  "Now you really are being petty."

Scott shot an annoyed look in her direction and responded, "Maybe.  Give me some time and I'll come up with a rational reason for hating him."

Suddenly the front door bell rang and Jean got up from the table.  "That must be my parents."

Her parents stayed twenty minutes tops, just long enough for her to miss going up to the mountains with Warren, Hank and Bobby.  They essentially chucked her stuff at her, told her how much they loved her, to keep up the good work, and headed out the door saying they wanted to see the pictures of the twins that Sarah had just gotten back.  The part that annoyed Jean the most was the twins weren't even born yet, and would most likely look like ink splotches or misshapen lizards.  She was already getting blown off for the grandkids.

She was sitting on the couch pouting when Scott walked down the stairs with his coat on.  Scott studied her for a moment and shook his head smirking.  "Let me guess," he stated in rather dry amusement, "You got blown off for two small blots in a photograph?"

Jean cross her arms over her chest, glared at him, and replied, "Shut up, Summers."

After that response Scott chuckled out in amusement.  "You're already getting blown off for the grandkids.  Did anyone ever tell you that you act like a three year old when you pout?"  Jean sneered in his direction and raised her right hand to give him her middle finger.  Scott found that very amusing and responded, "Now I know you've been hanging around with the guys too long."  He smirked at her again and added, "I've started to have a horrible influence on you.  What would your father think of his little girl using a gesture like that?"  In response, Jean used both hands and eyed a vase across the room.  She wondered how badly the professor would punish her for hurling a priceless heirloom at Scott's head.

Jean was taken by complete surprise by the next thing out of Scott's mouth.  "If you can be ready to go in fifteen minutes, you can come along with me today."

Jean blinked at him in surprise for a moment, then blurted, "What about your date today?"

He shrugged and answered, "Katy will be cool with it.  I'll just have to stop and buy her some candy along the way."  Scott suddenly sent her a smirk that lit up his whole face.  "Katy will understand that you happen to be my personal albatross and you need a keeper."

"Albatross?" Jean asked not quite getting the reference.  The smirk never left Scott's face.  Jean swore if she could have seen his eyes at that moment, they would have been alight with mischief.

"Yup," Scott replied.  "An albatross is considered both a sailor's boon and bane.  You have to keep a very close eye on an albatross or it will make a huge mess.  It's an annoying, messy, frustrating bird to deal with, and most of the time a sailor just wants to kill it, but for all their annoying aspects an Albatross will always show a sailor home safety.  So an Albatross is considered very bad luck to kill, no matter how annoying it is."  Scott suddenly smiled at her and added, "When Katy told me that story I thought it fit you perfectly."

Jean gave him a dry look and replied, "Gee, thanks."

Scott looked her straight in the eye and stated, "My offer is open for another twelve minutes.  Are you coming or not?"

Jean nodded yes and headed up the stairs to get dressed. She threw some cloths on and quickly ran a brush through her wild red hair.  Looking in the mirror she decided she was reasonably fit to be seen in public and hurried downstairs to where Scott stood, stuffing a book and a few other items in to his backpack.  He watched her descend and stated with amusement, "That was fast.  No Cosmopolitan look today?"

Jean looked down at her old blue jeans and her green sweater the exact shade of her eyes, and gave Scott a snotty look.  "Maybe, I didn't want to make you look bad today, Summers.  Just for future reference it takes time for a woman to get ready."

He gave her an exasperated look.  "We have a bus to catch, and you're always running late."  His expression changed to a thoughtful one and he added, "I didn't calculate in you actually getting ready in under the time limit.  So we're early."

"Very funny," She shot him a glare.  "I am not always late."

"Fifteen to twenty minutes."  He chirped back gleefully.  "You're the 'a snooze button is a poor excuse for no alarm clock at all' type of person.  You're delightfully predictable in your unpredictability -- a very interesting paradox."

"You know that's what I love about you sometimes, Scott; you really know how to sweet talk a lady.  You and Hank have been spending way too much time hanging out together.  Keep up the math talk and I'm going to retaliate with a lesson on fall hem lines."

Scott threw up his hands up in a conceding gesture.  "I surrender -- you win.  Anything but fashion and hem lines."

"You know," Jean blurted out as the thought came to her.  "We don't have to take the bus.  I could drive us to where ever we're going."

He shot her a dubious look.  "I would really like to get there alive, thanks."

Putting her hands on her hips she fired back, "My driving isn't that bad."

"Most people don't take turns on two wheels," he replied calmly.  "Not to mention almost running down two of her teammates who were walking up the drive, minding their own business, while she was going ninety miles an hour.  I don't think Hank and Bobby are ever going to recover.  Every time they see you blasting up the drive now, they instinctively dive for cover."

She glared at him annoyed.  "I don't know why all of you are making such a big deal about this.  I didn't hit them."

"Only because both of them dove into a ditch to avoid the path of your oncoming car."  He grinned at her suddenly.  "You know, most people try to steer the car away from pedestrians not towards them.  Then there was the time you knocked Warren's side mirror off, and glued it back on with Super Glue.  Or the time you managed to get that huge scratch along the side of the professor's Buick and tried it hide it with six bottles of nail polish."

"Okay, okay," Jean grumbled, "Quit the ragging."

"Somebody has to; Hank's too traumatized to do it since you almost ran him down."

Jean gave him a completely annoyed look and headed towards the door.  "Don't we have a bus to catch?  Or are you going to make us late for a change?"

Scott's grin got bigger as he motioned for her to walk through the door first.

They sat next to each other on the bus headed for downtown, Scott closest to the window, reading.  When Jean decided to ask, "So how long have you been seeing Katy?"

Scott looked up from his book, shrugged and replied, "For a few months on the weekends."

"You haven't said anything about her until today."  She hoped Scott didn't see through to her real motives; to know the enemy gave you an advantage towards defeating the enemy.

He looked up from his book again.  "Nothing much to tell."

"Well what's she like?  Spill your guts, Slim."

Scott closed his book, and put it back in his backpack.  He turned to look at her and sighed, "She's a feisty redhead and she can be a bit blunt at times.  Don't take it personally if she decides to get a bit rude."

So Katy was a redhead, Jean thought; already she and Katy were going to have issues.  "You do realize redheads tend to have horrible tempers," she suddenly blurted out without thinking.

Scott raised an eyebrow at her and replied sarcastically, "Really I never noticed?  Redheads have tempers?  It's not like the one I go to school with hasn't tried to brain me with a blunt object upon occasion.  What do you think?  Is she some sort of mutant redhead?"

Jean smacked him for that line.  "Very funny.  You deserved getting something hurtled at your head and you knew it, too, you jerk."

"I don't think being right constitutes getting something thrown at my head, thank you very much."  He rolled his eyes behind his glasses.  "We'll get along so much better if you'll just accept the fact that I'm always right."

"I wouldn't hold my breath for that day, Slim."  She grinned at him and chirped, "You need someone to argue with or you're not happy."

The bus started slowing down and he suddenly tugged on her elbow, rising from his seat.  "Come on, this is our stop."

They headed over to the store across from their bus stop.  Inside, Scott started piling candy necklaces, bracelets, rings with the lollipop gems, and gold coins on the counters for the clerk to ring up.

Jean watched him with some interest.  "Gee Slim, most woman go for a box of chocolates.  Either, Katy is really strange or she's really young."  She blinked at him innocently.  "I don't have to worry about you doing anything illegal do I?"

"All the time," he stated dryly.  "But not with Katy."  Scott gave her a completely amused look.  "As for the candy, I'll have to buy your way on board ship, Wench, or the Captain will make you walk the plank.  Redheads tend to by very territorial, you know -- like wolves."

Jean gave him an infuriated look and smacked him on the arm playfully as the clerk gave them strange looks.  "Did I mention what a sweet talker you are?"

"You might have mentioned it before."

"You know," she stated mischievously.  "I should tell Katy about the 'wolves' remark.  Then we might gang up against you."

"Like wolves would?" he shot back gleefully.

Her only response was another smack on his arm.

"That will be five dollars and sixty-three cents," the clerk informed them.  Scott threw six dollars on the counter.  When the clerk gave him his changed he threw the change in a can for blind children and headed them both towards the door.

Jean caught a thought the clerk was projecting as they walked out.  Young love.  Those two make a very cute couple.  She looked over her shoulder, and gave the clerk a huge ear-to-ear smile as she walked out the door on Scott's arm.

They walked about a block from the store up to an older building.  It was very well maintained and in good condition.  As they approached the door, Jean saw a sign that said simply, "Haven House."  Jean stopped, examining the sign a little more carefully, then turned to ask Scott, "So what is this place?"

Scott shrugged and replied, "A battered woman and children's shelter.  I got hauled down here once and that's how I met Katy.  She and her mom are staying her for a while."  Scott pulled an ID of some form out of his backpack and clipped it on his jacket.  "You're going to have to stick by me until they give you a visitor's pass," he informed her, "because the women staying here have restraining orders filed for their own protection.  The management of the house likes to keep close track of whose coming and going.  You're going to have to sign in before they'll give you a visitor's pass."

"Got it," Jean respond.  "I guess they don't want anyone sneaking in who's not allowed?"

He nodded as he turned the doorknob to let them in, "Exactly, some of the women staying here are in fear for their lives.  Not all shelters are run this way or this efficiently but Shelly, who runs the place, runs a very tight ship."

They walked in to a rather large entrance hall.  As Jean looked around she realized the whole hallway's design and color scheme were designed to give a sense of security and safety.  It was a bright welcoming place.  Scott approached an older, middle-aged black woman who sat at a counter in what looked like a reception area.  She gave him the biggest smile when they walked in.  "Hey Slim," she called.  "It's great to see you."

Scott grinned at her and answered, "You too, Jade."  

"I brought some macaroni-and-cheese in today -- your favorite.  I also brought some fried chicken.  It's in the back.  Don't let me catching you only eating the mac-and-cheese, Scott.  I keep telling you white folk that macaroni-and-cheese is a side dish, not a main course."

She inspected Scott up and down.  "Don't they feed you where you're from?"

Scott chuckled, amused, like this was an old argument between them.  "I'll go clean out the fried chicken later.  I keep telling you macaroni-and-cheese is a main course.  Is Katy here?"

"It's only a side dish," she fired back as she punched in a code on her phone.  "And make sure your skinny girlfriend gets some of the chicken.  She needs it."  She then grumbled out, "What is it with you white folk and being skinny anyway?  If there's a little meat on your bones, it's only more to love."  Someone must have picked up on the other side of the line Jade had dialed.  "Shelly, Scott's here to see Katy.  Can I send him up?  He brought a . . . " -- Jade winked at her and Jean decided right there she was going to like this woman -- ". . . a female friend with him today.  Can I send her up too?  Yes, it appears Slim, does indeed have a girlfriend.  Some of the older girls around here are going to be heart-broken."

"She is not my girlfriend," Scott protested loudly, blushing a little, "She's a close friend, I go to school with."

Jade covered the mouthpiece of the telephone and replied, "Shelly said she heard that and you are protesting way too much for her not to be your girlfriend.  'Bout time you got yourself a life."  Scott groaned and blushed a little redder.  Jade chuckled at that display and took her hand off the mouthpiece.  "I'll send them both right up."  She hung up the phone, gave Jean a wide grin and offered a hand.  "Hi, I'm Jade and regardless of what Shelly might tell you later, I run this nut house."

"Hi, nice to meet you, I'm Jean," she responded, shaking the older woman's hand.  "Otherwise known as 'not-Scott's-girlfriend.'"  That response pulled another groan from Scott.

Jade winked at her once more as her grin got a little bigger.  "I'm going to have you sign in, Jean.  Then I'm going to give you a pass that you will have to turn back in when you leave."  Jade pointed to a book on the left side of the counter for Jean to sign.

Before Jade could hand her a pass, an orange streak came out of nowhere and leaped in Scott's direction.  The streak hit Scott with enough force that he staggered back a few steps and it seemed suddenly, almost out of nowhere, there was an eight-year old girl in Scott's arms, wrapped all around him.  "Hey Katy."  Scott chuckled softly.  "Nice to see you too."

Katy, who was a big mess of red curls, the classic carrot top, took a deep breath.  "Mommy left Haven House and went back home to Daddy.  I told Shelly I didn't want to go home with her because Daddy hurts me.  Mommy cried at first, then started yelling at me when I wouldn't go home with her to Daddy.  She called me all kind of nasty names.  Now, Shelly wants me to talk to this lady and the lady wants to put me in a foster home.  I don't want to go.  I want to stay here."  Katy noticed her over Scott's shoulder.  "And who's that?"

Scott hugged her gently and replied, "That's Jean -- a friend of mine from school."

Katy looked Jean up and down.  "She's a redhead.  Why am I not surprised?"

Scott moaned out softly.  "I don't need it from you too."

"What makes you think I'm going to let her on board?" Katy demanded.

"The wench brought booty with her, Captain."

Katy studied her again.  "What type of booty?"  Scott handed her the bag of candy he'd bought earlier.  Katy inspected the contents carefully.  "She has my permission to come aboard, for now.  If she doesn't behave, I'll make her walk the plank."

"I'll do my best to keep the wench in line, Captain.  She's here to see your boats."

Katy's brown eyes lit up.  "Really?  Why didn't you say that before?  Come on."

If her vocabulary and knowledge was any indication, Katy was extremely bright.  She could sit and explain sailboat design and navigation charts all day, without stopping for air.  She informed Jean that her dream was to race for the America's Cup someday.  The closest comparison Jean could come up with for Katy's boating enthusiasm was Scott's for flying and planes.  Katy brought her up to her room, which was covered in pictures of sailing ships from floor to ceiling.  Then she started explaining what every part of a sailing ship did and the basics of how to sail.  By the time she got to navigation charts, Jean's head was spinning while Scott sat there and listened with a very amused expression on his face.  Katy had taken a deep breath to start explaining another aspect of sailing when Scott butted in, "I think she's had enough for the day, Captain; Jean's looking a bit overwhelmed.  Besides I brought a present for you today."

Katy snapped her mouth shut and looked at the confused look on Jean's face.  "I think you're right; she's definitely a land-lover."  She turned her undivided attention in Scott's direction.  "What did you get me?"  Scott pulled the book out of his backpack that he'd packed earlier.  Katy let out a shriek of delight.  "You got me Treasure Island?"  She snatched the book and started dancing around the room chanting, "Thank you, Thank you -- no one has ever got me a present I wanted before."

A woman appeared in the doorway, checking out what all the shouting was about.  Katy ran up to her to show the woman her new book proudly.  "Look Shelly, Slim got me Treasure Island."

Shelly squatted down to take a closer look at the book and replied, "Very nice.  Be sure you thank him properly."  Shelly got up.  "Scott, can I talk to you for a moment in my office?  I need to ask you a favor."

Scott shrugged as he followed her out of Katy's room.  "Sure."  He turned to Katy and asked, "You won't make Jean walk the plank will you?"

Katy shook her head no and replied, "She's safe."  With that Scott left and Katy suddenly threw herself onto her bed an announced, "I hate them.  They want Slim to talk to me about talking to that lady and going to that foster home."

Jean sat down on the bed next to her.  "So what's the problem?  Is the foster home they want to send you too that bad?"

Katy muttered, "No, but if I go, who's going to take care of Slim?"

Jean blinked for a moment trying to comprehend where that answer came from.  "I'm pretty sure Slim can take care of himself, aren't you?"

"No," Katy hiccupped.  "Slim pretends he can take care of himself and everyone falls for it.  He needs a keeper.  Slim would give his coat to a freezing person, not even thinking he'd freeze instead.  He's really smart and cleaver about some things, and a complete ditz about other things."  Jean absorbed that answer for a moment.  The girl was completely right.

"You're right; he does need a keeper."  She sighed.  "Scott tries to dismiss himself with logic all the time, so he doesn't have to explain how much he cares.  He needs someone to stand there and remind him he's worth caring about too."  Jean calculated her tone to make Katy laugh.  "It's a constant struggle.  Could I borrow a plank to break over his head, Captain?"

Katy laughed and rolled her eyes.  "A boom would work much better, but you would have to get him on a ship to hit him upside the head with it."  Katy expression got really serious.  "Slim is a mutant.  He tries to hide it, but his eyes glow sometimes.  If that bothers you, you better let him down gently."

Jean let out a laugh at that remark, and Katy was getting an angry look on her face.  "Can I show you something, Katy, if you promise to keep a secret?"

Katy narrowed her eyes and replied, "Depends on what it is."

She leaned in a little closer to whisper in Katy's ear, "What if I told you that Slim being a mutant didn't bother me?"  She reached out with her telekinetics and levitated the book off the bed.

"Cool," Katy whispered breathlessly.

"What happens if I cut you a deal, Katy?  If you go talk to that lady and see what she has to say about going to a foster home?  I'll take the duty upon myself to keep Slim out of trouble.  How's that sound?"

Katy studied her carefully before whispering (loudly), "Promise?"

She made a motion of a cross over her heart and replied, "Promise."

Jean was snapped out of her memories by the concerned face of Hank McCoy suddenly appearing in her line of vision.  Hank studied her for a moment and asked, "Jean are you all right?"

She took a shaky breath, having hysterics never helped any situation.  "Yeah, Hank, I'm fine.  How's Scott?"

Hank's eyes glanced to where Scott was slowly stirring on the bed.  Professor Xavier was trying to get a coherent response out of him.  "This seizure was worse than the last one.  As for how Scott is, I honestly don't know."

"Can I go talk to him?" Jean asked quietly.

"I wouldn't for a while," Hank informed her.  "It's going to take some time for Scott to snap out of the aftereffects, and he'll be completely physically and emotionally exhausted.  All Scott is going to want to do is sleep for a while."  Hank grabbed her hand and lead her towards the door.  "Come on, let's go outside in the hall and talk."

Jean waited until Hank had led her out and shut the door behind them before she asked, "Okay Hank, what's going on?"

He sighed at her for a moment.  "I have no clue what's wrong with Scott."

"Neither does the professor, or the doctor he was talking to earlier," Jean grumbled.

Hank eyebrow shot for his hair line.  "My, you've been a busy little spy haven't you?"

Jean just glared back at him.  "Can it, Hank, and fill me in on what the hell is going on."

He sighed.  "The professor and I tend to disagree on what is going on.  The professor and the doctor he brought in tend to think this is all part of his mutant powers emerging.  I disagree; I don't think this is the result of his mutant powers emerging, but of something 'gumming up the works,' you might say."

Jean blinked for a moment.  "What's the difference?"

"Not too much."  Hank sighed.  "If it is a problem with another aspect of his mutant powers emerging, there's nothing we can really do about it but wait and see.  If it is something 'gumming up the works,' however, we might be able to do something about that."

Jean was quiet for a few moments considering that.  "You mean something gumming up the works like a food allergy or a reaction to an over-the-counter drug?"

Hank nodded.  "Something like that.  Mutant systems can be thrown out of balance rather easily."  He gave her a grin that didn't quite meet his eyes.  "Over-the-counter drugs aren't quite tested for mutant safety."

"No, they aren't."  Jean sighed too.  "I ought to know.  A doctor almost overdosed me on regular pain-killers."

"Exactly -- though as far as I know, Scott hasn't taken anything over-the-counter since the little Nyquil incident."  Hank looked thoughtful.  "It is conceivable that an unknown food allergy might be able to do something similar, and might explain the elevated white count."

"Like Warren and anything made with milk?"

"That isn't an allergy," Hank informed her, rather amused.  "That is someone who's extremely lactose intolerant.  Warren can't digest milk products anymore because his mutant system can't break them down.  Makes him deathly ill.  No, I was thinking more like Bobby and eggplant really."

"Scott doesn't have splotches all over him, and Bobby didn't have a reaction anything like this," Jean reminded him quietly.

"True."  Hank turned to study the wall, and Jean could tell he was thinking out loud rather than answering her question.  "Every mutant system seems to react differently.  I could be completely off track too.  I disagree with the professor about his elevated white count.  His white count isn't all that high, so the professor think it's normal for Scott as his body is going through this process.  I, on the other hand, think the white count is his body's reaction to something foreign."

"So," Jean said, trying to follow his train of thought, "the professor thinks the raised white count is a result of the stress of some new aspect of his mutant powers emerging, and that's the same thing giving him these fits?  You, however, think all of this is a reaction to something not even related to his mutant powers?"

"Exactly," Hank said, turning to look at her again.  "The problem with my theory is that his white count is up, but it's still in the fairly normal range.  That's not a mutant's typical reaction to any type infection, because we have more effective immune systems.  Any infection that could give him this type of reaction should send Scott's white count through the roof.  That's where the professor and I are disagreeing."  Hank sighed out loud.  "The professor tested Scott for meningitis just to be safe and those tests came back negative.  So I could very well be wrong."

Jean studied Hank for a moment before she asked, "How long until we know?"

Hank shrugged for a moment and studied the wall again.  "If his white count suddenly spikes, then we'll know for sure it is an infection.  If it's just some new aspect of his mutant powers emerging" -- Hank's shoulders fell a little -- "then there's nothing we can do but wait.  Emerging mutant powers are like a chick coming out of an egg, or a butterfly from a cocoon.  The person going through it survives and jumps to the next level, or their entire mutant system burns itself out, trying."

After that conversation with Hank, Jean wandered the mansion aimlessly for a while until she found herself climbing up towards the roof.  She knew who she'd find up there.  Warren always drifted to high places when something was bothering him. "Hey," She announced as she spotted his form on the far corner of the roof.  "I was wondering if you were up here.  You haven't been down to see Scott that much."

"No, I guess I haven't been."  Warren spoke around the cigarette in his mouth.  Jean shook her head.  Warren with a cigarette in his mouth always looked like a classic Greek statute with a cigarette in its mouth -- out of place and ruining the whole effect.

"I thought you were going to quit?" Jean said, looking straight at the cigarette.

Warren gave her an amused look as he took it out.  "Slim can't nag me about quitting, so you take up the slack, Red?"

"Something like that," Jean replied.

Warren shrugged, pretending indifference.  "I am.  Last pack.  Once these are gone, I'm not buying any more."

"You want to talk about it?" she asked calmly.  Despite Warren's indifferent mask, Jean had come to know him well enough to tell when something was bothering him.

"What's there to talk about?"  Warren took a drag of his cigarette.  "Scott's sick and no one knows what the hell is wrong with him.  I'm pissed at Xavier for not letting me fly Scott over to Scotland to see a specialist.  End of story."

In short, Jean thought to herself, Warren was feeling as helpless as she was, and not taking it very well.  Scott and Warren might fight bitterly most times, but they were close.  The two of them were more alike than they wanted to admit sometimes.  Scott always tried to dismiss how much he cared with a cold mask of logic, and Warren did it with a cold mask of indifference.  Both hid very big hearts and tried not to let anyone see them.

"You haven't really been down to see Scott that much."  Jean stated calmly.

"I don't like the Infirmary," Warren replied taking another drag from his cigarette.

"Don't like feeling helpless, Warren?"  She studied him closely.  Warren glared at her for that remark.  His blue eyes really did remind Jean of a bird of prey at times.

"Bad memories," he snarled.  "Happy now?"

Jean made her way over to where he stood.  "I held my best friend in my arms while she died after being hit by a car.  I never felt so helpless in my life as I did at that moment."

Warren's look softened and he looked out over the mansion grounds.  "At least it was fast," he whispered quietly.  "I watched my grandfather die of lung cancer."  Warren flung the cigarette over the edge of the roof.  "One of the reason I'm determined I'm quitting.  Two packs a day killed him.  No amount of money or specialists could stop the cancer from spreading.  All I could do was watch him lie there and moan.  He was in so much pain by the end, the painkillers weren't even taking the edge off anymore.  All I could do was watch him lie there and suffer.  There's nothing worse than watching someone you love die inch by inch."

Jean said nothing for a long time.  "I'm sorry about your grandfather, Warren."

Warren sighed.  "So am I.  One of the reasons I hate anything that even resembles a hospital.  All I can hear is my grandfather moaning every time I walk in to one."  He paused for a moment.  "I'm sorry about your friend, too, Red."

Jean hugged herself, suddenly feeling very cold.  "You're right at least that she didn't suffer.  She was dead as soon as the car hit her.  It doesn't really matter if it's quick and fast, or slow and agonizing."  The next words almost came out as a sob.  "In the end, they're still dead."

She suddenly felt Warren's arms around her and his wings wrapped around them both.  "Hey, it's all right," she heard him whisper.  "Scott wouldn't even think about having the nerve to die on us."

"He still could," she whispered into his chest.

Warren snorted at that comment.  "Please.  Scott's too much of a control freak to die on us.  He won't let something like this kill him; he's just too damned stubborn."  He smirked down at her.  "Scott doesn't have his death penciled in until age ninety-nine or so.  You think Scott will a little thing like this throw him off his schedule?"

Jean looked up at Warren in shock.  "Scott has his death scheduled?"

Warren nodded at her,  "Old age and in his sleep; nothing else will be 'acceptable.'"

Jean actually chucked and then snorted.  "Figures."

"Yup," Warren stated.  "That's Slim.  You take him as he is, control-freak quirks and all."

She felt herself grinning into Warren's chest.  "Only Scott would have the nerve to look death straight in the eye and tell death to come back later because he still has things to do and people to piss off."

"Don't forget," Warren added.  "Scott would give him the bird and rip him a new one for not sticking to the schedule."

"Heaven forbid something happen that wasn't planned or scheduled," Jean added.

"Exactly, the two of us ought to know.  We've be given that lecture enough."

"Warren," Jean whispered quietly.  "I'm still scared we're going to lose him."

"Me too, Red," he murmured as he pulled her a little closer.  "Me too."

Scott came awake looking in to a pair very concerned eyes and feeling as if he'd been trampled by an elephant.  "It's bad; you don't have to tell me.  I can tell by the expression on your face."

"They really don't know what's wrong with you yet."  Jean replied gently looking down at him.  "How are you feeling?"

Scott didn't answer for a moment as he did a quick inventory.  "I feel like a limp noodle and my head is still killing me.  Care to tell me what they do know?  The professor has been dodging the topic."

"Honestly not too much."  She answered as she brushed his bangs off his forehead.  "You have three different doctors disagreeing on what's wrong with you.  Well, two doctors actually -- the professor, a specialist he called in, and Hank.  They don't seem to be agreeing on anything.  Do you remember what happened?"

Scott had to think about it; his brain was still fuzzy.  "You and I were playing a game and about then everything went black.  I don't really remember the game very well."  He reached up to touch his goggles. "Someone put my goggles on."

"You're less likely to knock them loose and level the mansion with out meaning to."

"Good point."  Scott suddenly felt very cold and began to shiver a little.  He didn't seem to be able to get warm and felt like a chunk of ice.  He was also getting a very sore throat.

"Move over."  Jean announced, surprising him for a moment.

"Why?  What are you planning on doing?" Scott asked suspiciously.

Jean gave him a completely coy look.  "Why Mr. Summers, what did I ever do to deserve that suspicious tone?"

Scott glared at her or as close as he could come, as exhausted as he was.  "Every time you tell me to move over on the couch and I'm nice enough to do it, I end up with those ice blocks you call feet on my back somewhere."

Jean grinned down at him, not even pretending to be apologetic.  "You're better than a heated pair of slippers, Scott.  Remind me if we ever get stranded out in the artic, I'm snuggling with you."

"Planning on sucking the life's warmth out of me first?" Scott asked dryly, exaggerating his motions so Jean could tell he was rolling his eyes behind the goggles.

"Well, Warren's a hassle because you have to get around those wings of his," she replied as she started climbing next to him on the bed.  "Now move over."  He scooted over and gave her some room as Jean snuggled up next to him.  "I figure you can suck the warmth out of me for a change."

He snorted for that remark but snuggled a little closer, "Your just angling me in so you can get those feet of yours square in the middle of my back."

"Maybe," Jean replied in a devious tone.  The real reason she was doing this was that she could sense he was scared, but didn't want anyone to know it.  Part of him really needed someone to hold him right now.  She snuggled in a little closer and replied with a grin, "You know, it's amazing you and I ever became friends."

"Yup," He replied, "considering you have incredibly cold feet."  For that remark, Jean smacked him gently and stuck her feet up against his legs.

"Hey, your feet are cold!"

"You would have been disappointed if I didn't do it."  Jean grinned at him.  "I was thinking more in the realm of the night after our first mission taking on Magneto, Dummy.  We got off to a rather rocky start."

She heard him chuckle under his breath, "Our first fight.  You called me a prick."

"Well," Jean fired back, "You called me a raging man-hater.  You remember?"

"All right, where is he?" Jean demanded as she marched up to the three boys sitting like lumps on the couch watching TV.  She was as mad as hell and was pretty sure the three of them could sense it.

"Where's who?" asked Bobby Drake, the youngest of the three, looking at her like she had grown two heads.

"Our Fearless Leader," she growled out planting her hands on her hips.  "He and I need to have a talk."

Hank McCoy gave her his most charming smile.  "Hey Babe, why don't you forget about Slim and plant it on the couch next to me?"  He patted a spot a spot right next to him.

Jean glared down at him and asked coldly, "Would you like to take another flight around the room."  Hank McCoy visibly paled that remark and turned to Worthington, saying, "I'm moving her up from high Beta female to Alpha for my research project."

"A very wise idea," Worthington replied, amused.  Warren suddenly gave her his best charming smile and asked, "Is there something I can help you with, Miss Grey?"

"You can tell me where Slim is."  She gave Warren a glare.  Warren shrugged.  "Sorry, no clue.  Slim has a knack for vanishing when he doesn't want to be found."

"Have you tried his dorm room?" Hank asked in a very patronizing 'were you smart enough to check the obvious' tone.  She got really tired of men seeing a pretty face and automatically thinking 'bimbo.'  Jean decided right then that Hank McCoy was going to end up taking another flight around a room someday very soon.  When it did happen, she would make sure he tossed his cookies.

"Ah . . . well, Miss Grey . . . Marvel Girl . . . " Bobby stumbled over the names, probably sensing that Hank was about to take a flight.  "I'm not really sure where Slim went.  You could try the library or the Danger Room control booth."

"Thank you," she replied frigidly as she turned on her heel and marched out of the room.

In fact, she found Slim the very last place she looked for him and by that time, her temper was at a low boil.  He was down in the basement, sitting Indian style on a dryer, reading a book; for some odd reason that really annoyed her.  They started out so well in the Danger Room earlier that afternoon before they left for that mission.  She should have known the cute one would be a complete jerk.  Wasn't that always her luck?

She marched down to where he was sitting and snarled, "You fought the professor about me going on that mission today."

He looked up from his book inspecting her like one might study a particularly annoying insect.  That only managed to annoy her more.  "Yes, I did.  You had no business going on that mission and I told the professor that."  Scott looked down at his watch, "Since I'm sure you're here to argue otherwise and try to change my mind, you have five minutes to waste your time and mine."

Oh yes, Jean thought bitterly, jerk-with-a-capital-J would definitely describe him.  She set her jaw and planted her hands on her hips.  "You told the professor that you doubted I was competent enough to be brought into the field, yet I handled myself quite well this afternoon, Cyclops, and you can't deny it."  For some odd reason, part of Jean was actually hurt that he thought about her in that way.  "You objected because I'm a girl, didn't you?"

He looked at her with a completely unreadable expression.  Jean couldn't see his eyes to get even a hint on what he was thinking and she decided, at that instant, she was going to hate those glasses.  "I can tell already that this conversation is going to bore me long before your five minutes are up.  For the record, Marvel Girl, you did handle yourself remarkably well in the field this afternoon.  But even knowing what I do now, I would still have objected to the professor including you on that mission."

"You're avoiding answering my question," she stated coldly.

His eyebrow went up towards his hair line and he responded just as coldly back, "Is there actually a reasonable woman under that raging, man-hating exterior and mountain-sized chip on your shoulder?  If there isn't one, you and I are going to have issues."

"Is there a reasonable human being under your prick exterior, because if there isn't one, you and I are going to have issues," she fired back.  "Now answer the damned question."

He closed his book and looked at her with that unreadable glaze again.  "Do you always assume that men take one look at you and assume 'bimbo,' Miss Grey?"

Taken aback, Jean blinked.  Slim didn't hash words or beat around the bush.  "That's been a majority of my past experience with men.  They see a pretty face and a decent figure, and tend to forget there's a person there too.  You're still avoiding my question."

He looked at her amused as his eyebrow climbed a little higher toward his hair line.  He suddenly asked, "Have you ever read Sun Tzu, Marvel Girl?"

"What does that have to do with you answering my question?" she demanded exasperated.

"Answer mine and I'll answer yours," he responded calmly.

"No," Jean spat, her exasperation getting the better of her, wondering what this had to do with her original question.

"I figured."  He replied in a mater-of-fact tone.  "Sun Tzu wrote 'Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.'  It was my job as field commander of this team to object.  You shouldn't have been brought on that mission.  You had no time to familiarize yourself with this team and we had no time to familiarize ourselves with you.  On the battlefield you were a completely unknown element to everyone, and that could have cost this team badly.  The professor took a huge risk including you on that mission, so it was my job as field commander to object.  So no, my objections had nothing to do with the fact you're a girl."  He studied her for a moment.  "I think the question I should be throwing out to you right now is, Can you work with an all-male team?  I guarantee it's not going to be easy being the only girl among four guys.  You always thinking the worst of us will make working with you very difficult."

Jean was quiet for a while absorbing that.  "I guess I could try to leave my man-hating chip at the door, Cyclops."

He gave her an amused look.  "If you do, I'll try to beat the crap out of you at practice like I do to everyone else, Marvel Girl."  He added, as a compromise, "You still can pull that mountain-sized chip on your shoulder out when we deserve it, and trust me, there will be times when this crew is going to deserve it.  Probably take something about the density of a mountain to dent the thick heads around here."

She found herself smirking back.  "It sounds like a deal to me, Slim."

"Good," he announced as he jumped off the dryer.  "Your five minutes are up.  I have things to do."  Half-way up the stairs, he stopped and turned, giving her a very thoughtful look.  "You know I really have to suggest to Hank that he should move you up from High Beta to Alpha female for his paper."

Jean gave him a baffled look.  "What paper is everyone talking about?  And are you implying that meat-head McCoy can actually string a sentence together?"

He actually smiled at her and Jean decided right there he really had an adorable smile.  "First impressions can be very deceiving Marvel Girl, especially when the 'meat head' in question is putting together a thesis for his masters-level psyche class on 'Female Responses to Male Aggression,' ranking female responses from Alpha to Gamma."

"What?!" Jean demanded in a tone that was almost a shout.

"Good night, Marvel Girl."  Jean could almost swore his eyes were twinkling with amusement behind those glasses.  "Or should I call you ‘Test Subject number 143?"  With those last words, Slim vanished up the stairs.

"McCoy!" She shouted at the top of her lungs and hoped Beast heard it all the way in the living room.  It appears Hank was going to be taking that flight around the room tonight after all.

"I remember you relented in pity and didn't make Hank toss his cookies," Scott grumbled.  That's what snapped her back to the here and now.  She felt him shiver a little and pulled him closer.

"Yup, but I made him promise never to use me as a test subject again.  From that point on, he started using the big words to intimidate me with everyone else."   She gave him a lopsided grin.  "I also found out who the evil puppet master was around here that night, and decided I better make him my friend fast.  You set Hank up rather nicely."

It was Scott's turn to give her a completely coy, innocent look.  "I have no idea what you're talking about.  Besides," he grumbled, "the stupid jock impression was wearing on my nerves.  And it just didn't seem fair they were using your ignorance against you."

"You know what really bothers me, you scheming devil?" Jean said, rolling her eyes a little.  "The fact that there's four of us and only one of you, and you're still winning."

Scott gave her an amused look that was edged with exhaustion.  Jean realized he was tiring fast.  "Scheming is such a harsh word.  I like to think of it as holding in check strong personality influences within a group dynamic."

"I'm sure," Jean replied dryly.  "It's also called evil, manipulative string pulling.  You know?"

"Really?" Scott replied too innocently.  "You should read about Julius Caesar sometime.  He was very good at holding strong personalities in check."

"They also killed Caesar rather brutally in the end too," Jean replied, matter of fact, and when Scott didn't answer, she realized his attention was starting to drift again.  She pulled him closer in response.

Suddenly Scott asked, "It's happening again isn't it?"

"Yeah," Jean whispered quietly.  As least he was aware it was happening this time.

"I hate this," he growled out, his frustration bubbling up to the surface.  "It's like a switch won't throw in my brain, which then decides to stall."

"Hey -- it's okay," Jean whispered in a tone that was meant to comfort as she stroked his hair.  "You're just tired.  It's about time you got some rest anyway."   She felt his conflict then.  He was exhausted, barely keeping his eyes open, but he also didn't want to be alone right now either.  She also knew he'd be damned if he'd ever admit that fact.  "Besides," she announced, grinning and hoping he didn't notice that it didn't quite make it to her eyes.  "I just got my feet warm.  You think I'm leaving anytime soon?  I'm still sucking the warmth out of you, mister."

She reached out with a small tentacle of her telepathy and told him to sleep.  He and the professor could be mad as hell at her about misusing her powers later.  Right now, Scott desperately needed the rest.  She felt him slide into sleep with little resistance.  Jean just held him close until she fell asleep too.

Sensing a presence was what caused her to open her eyes, finding Hank McCoy grinning down at her.  He announced with amusement, "Did anyone ever tell you two that you make an adorable scene piled up like puppies?"

Since Slim wasn't awake to do it.  Jean flew him the one fingered salute.  That made Hank chuckled under his breath.  "We weren't doing anything wrong.  He was cold."   She replied defensively, sitting up.

"I know," Hank replied.  "It's just Christmas-card cute.  Every time I find you two, you're snuggled up together."

Jean blushed a little.  "Slim would never . . . I mean we never . . . "

"I know," Hank said again.  "Scott's safe and we all know you need the contact.  Your telepathic powers are still emerging, and you use physical contact to help you break down barriers and form bonds."

Jean scowled at Hank and wondered where he got that information.  "The professor hasn't gotten to that lesson yet."

Hank shrugged looking down at the clip board he was carrying.  "The professor explained it to us in class one day when you first arrived.  He didn't want any of us getting the wrong idea and misunderstanding."   He gave Scott's sleeping form a thoughtful look.  "Besides, it made you safe for Scott or else he would never have let you anywhere near him.  Your touchy-feely nature was just another aspect of a mutant power he would have to put up with."   He winked at her.  "You know, like me, dangling from the ceilings in my BVDs or Bobby putting a king sized icicle through his bed at one in the morning when he had a night mare.  Don't know about you, Red, but Slim taught me a few new swear words that night."

Jean found herself grinning back as she untangled herself from Scott and got off the bed.  "I'm still trying to figure out what some of them meant.  I remember Scott standing there with his blanket wrapped around him, calmly looking at his bed with this huge icicle through the center of it, then calmly looking back to Bobby, then to his bed again.  I still believe that Slim started cursing Bobby a blue streak more to soothe an almost-hysterical Bobby, not so much because Scott was actually mad about what happened."

"Yup," Hank announced quietly, looking down at the sleeping figure in the bed.  "Scott certainly proved that four letter words were for armatures."

Hank's face turned serious, and Jean had the feeling he was thinking out loud more than actually talking to her anymore.  "The professor's lecture that day made it okay for Scott to take the contact.  He needs the physical contact, and you need to give it.  Makes sense that the two of you are drawn together."

Right at that moment Jean wondered exactly how much Hank McCoy knew about Slim that she didn't.

"So how is he?" Hank asked quietly, gesturing towards the sleeping form in the bed.

"He's still 'drifting' Hank.  Scott actually compared it to his brain stalling.  I think he still has that headache too, and he didn't seem to be able to get warm."

Hank nodded and gently put a hand to Scott's forehead.  "He's running a low-grade temperature now."

"Is that good or bad?"

"I'm not sure," Hank responded.  "It could mean it is an infection of some sort -- a white cell count will tell us for sure."   Something caught Hank's eye and he started inspecting Scott's chest carefully, right around the collar of his t-shirt.  He turned to her and asked, "How long has he had that rash?"

Jean stepped forward to look at what Hank was pointing to a little closer.  It was a red blotchy, blistery rash that appeared to run in a straight line until it vanished under his t-shirt.  "I don't know.  He didn't have had it before."

Jean didn't need telepathy to know what Hank was thinking.  This wasn't good.

"I'm not denying it could in fact be Meningitis, Henry," Professor Xavier said calmly.  "But not all the symptoms are adding up.  His fever and swollen lymph glands could be symptoms of lots of things."

Jean was standing in the corner of the lab listening carefully.

"Meningitis doesn't explain the rash breaking out in a straight line," Hank said.

"Exactly," the professor agreed.  "I've never seen anything like this before.  The rash and how it broke out is baffling me.  I think we can eliminate an allergy or his mutant powers excalating as a possible source."

"I think you're right," Hank muttered.  "If it was an allergy, the rash would have erupted long before now and wouldn't be so contained.  I was right -- it is an infection of some form since his temperature is starting to rise."

"His white count is starting to react too," Xavier informed him.  "Congratulations, Henry, you were correct.  It is indeed some form of infection."

Hank ran a hand through his hair and replied, "Part of me is happy I was right, Sir.  That means there might be something we can do to help Scott recover.  Another part of me is realizing that if this is some form of infection, it could possibly be opening a huge, new, unique set of problems."

"Indeed," Xavier looked none too pleased himself.  "It could be a new infection that Scott's unique mutant biology makes him susceptible too."

"Or," Hank added in finishing the thought, "it could be a common infection and Scott's mutant system is just reacting to completely differently than a normal human being would."

"Exactly," the professor stated dryly.

At that moment, Bobby Drake stuck his head into the lab, saw Jean and walked over to where she was standing.  "Hey.  Have they figured out what's wrong with Slim yet?"  As soon as Bobby had entered, the professor and Hank moved into the far corner to confer quietly.  She had a feeling the two of them didn't want Bobby hearing what they were saying to each other, but Jean decided she wasn't going to lie to him.  "No.  They still don't really know.  Scott's got a rash now, and they're trying to figure out what's causing it."

"Could it be an allergy?  Like that one time I ate stuffed eggplant?" Bobby asked, his blue eyes studying her thoughtfully.

"No," Jean sighed.  "The professor and Hank have pretty much eliminated that possibility.  The rash is breaking out in a straight line on his chest.  A food allergy like you had breaks out everywhere."

"Is it chicken pox then?" Bobby asked quite seriously.

The question took Jean aback.   What would make him ask that?  Hank had stopped talking to the professor in mid-sentence, turning to look at Bobby.  "Why would you ask that, Robert?"

Bobby looked nervous for a moment, and eyed the door.  Jean got the impression he thought he had said something incredibly stupid and was about to get lectured for it. "Well," he began as the professor and Hank both gave him a very interested look, "my Aunt ended up in the hospital with them.  I guess the virus lay dormant in her nervous system and reactivated on her.  Chicken pox can lay dormant in the roots of certain sensory nerve cells.  When the virus does reactivate, it erupts along the nerve paths at first.  I guess it happens very rarely."   After that Bobby eyed the door again like he might bolt.

Both Hank and the professor were quiet for a few moments.  Xavier was first to speak up.  "The symptoms might fit, actually -- including the headache he's had for close to two weeks.  It would definitely explain the rash."

Hank nodded.  "Incubation period.  The rash doesn't look like chicken pox though, and chicken pox wouldn't cause seizures either, unless the brain is swelling from an added complication."

"True," Xavier said.  "But Scott's nervous system is completely unique.  Who knows how the virus reactivating in his nervous system would affect it, much less how it would affect a mutant power that revolves around the nervous system.  The other symptoms fit."

Bobby blinked back shock.  "You mean I might be right?"

Hank gave Bobby a smile.  "Indeed Robert, the Varicella Zoster Virus is definitely a strong possibility."

"The what?" Bobby asked.

"The chicken pox, Bobby.  Could you go do me a favor?"

"Sure," Bobby said excitedly.

"Go ask Warren if he's had the chicken pox."   With that, Bobby nodded to Hank and trotted out of the lab.

As soon as Bobby walked out of the lab, the smile on Hank's face vanished and he muttered, "Damn."   Jean had a feeling that wasn't good.

Hank and the professor quickly threw Jean out of the lab after that.  She wandered around the mansion for a while, and somehow found herself heading back to Scott's room.  It was empty except for the room's sleeping occupant.

Scott didn't stir as she as quietly moved a chair over to sit by his bedside.  Eyeing the IV that the professor had Scott hooked up too now, she wondered if this was a natural sleep or if it was brought on by a drug of some form.  Either way she didn't get any reaction as she settled herself in the chair and took his hand.  "Well," she muttered quietly, just to break the awful silence of the room.  "The professor and Hank still aren't quite sure what's wrong with you yet, Slim.  They were actually kicking around the chicken pox when they threw me out of the lab."   She brushed the bangs off his face.  Scott always looked years younger when he was sleeping.  "It figures.  You would make something as simple as the chicken pox complicated."

Scott still didn't stir or give any indication that he heard her.  Jean just continued and grasped his hand a little harder.  "You know, Slim, there's only a handful of times by which a person defines their life.  You know -- those moments you walk into a room, bump into that special someone, and know from that moment, your life will never to be the same again?  You know how I realized walking into this school was one of those moments for me?  It was that hot August afternoon, remember?"

It was one of those HOT August dog days.  Hot, as in if the devil were standing in front of Jean right now, she was pretty sure he'd be sweating.  The damned heat wave had lasted almost two weeks and showed no signs of breaking.  To make matters worse, the main air-conditioning unit of the school had decided to break down and it would take another week -- at least -- to get the part to fix it.  The only one in the whole house who had air conditioning in his room was the professor, and he needed it for health reasons.  The rest of them were sweating it out and praying for this awful heat to break.

Jean hadn't had a decent night's sleep in weeks.  It was too hot to go outside.  It was too hot to cook anything that actually tasted good.  She was cranky, and someone had broken her night-light and not bothered to tell her.  In other words, Jean was in the mood to kill someone, and after being cooped up with them for the last week driving her crazy, her teammates were looking like really good first victims.

As she marched down the hallway of the boys' dorm holding her broken night-light, she heard Warren's yell in his and Hank's dorm room, "Listen to me, Ape Man, I don't have to put up with this.  I want the lab equipment moved from my side of the room!"

"I'll move the equipment when you give me some room in OUR closet!" Hank growled back.  "And my lab equipment doesn't take up as much room as that damned exercise equipment of yours!"

Apparently, Jean thought with bitter amusement, she wasn't the only one in the mood to fight.

"My exercise equipment doesn't blow up mold slime all over OUR room!"

"No, it only takes up three-quarters of OUR room.  Not to mention your feathers fall all over the floor and I end up with them poking into my feet."

"Well King Kong, maybe you should actually wear shoes instead of kicking them all over the floor where I can trip over them!"

"'King Kong,'" she heard Hank sneer through the door.  "How very original.  And your sneaking in after curfew gets old really fast, Feather Head."

"Well, I could have said you were related to a monkey's uncle," Warren sneered back.  "But I would be insulting the monkeys."

"Don't ever use anti-bacteria soap, Warren," Hank shot right back.  "It'll destroy the only culture you'll ever possess."

"That does it!" Warren announced.  "I either want my own room or a new roommate!  I can't take you or your mold-slime-throwing experiments anymore!  I don't care WHAT I have to do to get it, or how much more it will cost me in tuition."

"The feeling is mutual!" Hank shouted back.  "I can't take you and your ego anymore; there just isn't enough room in this dorm for all three of us!"

"Fine!" Warren shouted back.

"Fine!" Hank responded.

Suddenly the door was thrown open and both of them got suck in the doorway trying to get out at once.  They turned to glare at each other.  Jean held up her night-light and demanded, "Who was the one to break this, and what the hell was he doing on the girls' side of the dorm?"

"Marvel Girl," Hank addressed her coolly, glaring at Warren.  "This isn't the time.  Perhaps if you came back later?"

"You two will make time for me," Jean growled.  "Now -- who broke my night-light?"

Both Hank and Warren turned from glaring at each other to glare at her.  "This isn't the time," they both said -- at the same time.

Jean glared back.  "I don't care if one of Hank's experiments ended out the window, and half Warren's stuff is now floating in the pool.  You two are going to tell me who broke my night-light."

They both turned to glare at each other again, and replied to each other, "Too late."

"Who broke my night-light?" Jean demanded again.

Warren threw his hands up in the air.  "How the hell should I know?  Aren't you a little old to be sleeping with one anyway?"

"Indeed," Hank growled.  "Are you still worried about the monster under the bed?  If you haven't noticed, we're a little busy."

"Oh!" Jean snarled, exasperated.  "That does it!  I'm going to talk to Slim.  You know -- a mature male.  And if I find out either of you two jokers are responsible for this" -- she held up the night-light -- "there will be hell to pay."

"Fine!" Hank growled.

"Fine!" Warren snarled.

"Fine!" Jean yelled at them both as she marched down the hall straight towards Slim's dorm room, with Hank and Warren following her.

They found Slim in his bathroom, cleaning his shower.  He gave the three of them an exasperated expression as they barged in.  "What is it?"  He held up the shower cleaner.  "If you haven't noticed, some mildew has a date with destiny."

"We need to talk," Jean announced, holding up her night-light.

"I want a new roommate," both Hank and Warren said at once.

"Someone broke my night-light," Jean added.

"Look," Slim said dryly, pretending to read the label on his shower cleaner.  "It says use only in well ventilated areas."   He rost to shut the window.  "I guess that means you'd better leave."

"He is impossible to live with," Hank announced pointing at Warren.

"And I've had it up to here" -- Warren made a gesture over his head -- "with his mold-throwing experiments."

Scott glared at all three of them and opened the window again.  "If you haven't noticed, you three are standing in the middle of MY bathroom, arguing.  Can't a man get a little privacy when he's committing the mass murder of mildew?"  Scott rolled his eyes behind his glasses.  "And as the mildew and I can't transcend our problems, it must die a horrible, slow death.  But, as the three of you claim to be mature young adults who can transcend problems, unlike me" -- Slim eyed a spot on the wall of the shower and started scrubbing it -- "why don't you three show me how to transcend problems without resorting to industrial-strength cleaners?"

Warren rolled his eyes and replied, "Is the mildew in your shower the only thing you can think about?"

"Well," Scott threw back, "I don't want to be embarrassed if a bad guy decides to jump me on the can, do I?"

"Heaven forbid," Hank grumbled, "that our problems interrupt your compulsive behavior."

"Say it with me, Hank," Scott told him in a gleefully patronizing tone.  "I will not blow up the basement.  I will not blow up the basement.  I will not blow up the basement."   Scott eyed a spot on the shower.  "Crap, I missed a spot."

Hank glared at Scott.  "We are trying to address a legitimate concern."

Scott glared right back.  "No, you're not.  You're trying to pull me into the middle of a stupid argument.  Next?"

Warren set his jaw and replied, "It's nice to know our problems are not important, Slim."

Scott turned his glare ont him next.  "The heat making Bobby sick, and the professor not being able to leave his bedroom because he has bad circulation to the lower part of his body and can't cope with the heat -- those are legitimate concerns I need to deal with."  Something caught his eye on the roof of the shower and he snarled out, "That, and the mildew on the roof of my shower that must die."   He returned his attention to Warren, and took off his rubber gloves.  "This is a stupid argument that the heat has blown all out of portion."

"What about Jean and her night-light?" Hank sneered bitterly.

Jean turned to glare at Hank.  "Did anyone ever tell you you're a jerk, Hank?  Did it ever occur to you that the girls' side of the dorms can get really dark?"

"Scared?" Hank asked with a mocking tone.

"Enough!" Scott  roared.  "This is heading right into the realm of stupid argument.  Christ, you three should listen to yourselves."

"What about my night-light?" Jean asked softly, realizing he was completely right.

Scott sighed.  "You two" -- he glared right at Hank and Warren -- "are taking Bobby and Jean to the mall, and treating them to a nice meal at an air-conditioned restaurant.  AND," Slim said the next words in his no-argument tone, "then the three of you are taking Bobby out to see a late movie -- anything he wants to see."

Hank groaned.  "You're sentencing us to the 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' yet again?  It was only nice the first twenty times or so."

"Am I?" Scott asked sweetly.  Then his face took on a malicious look.  "Let's say the heat isn't just making you three pissy.  When you hear 'Time warp' in your dreams tonight, think of me.  Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to the mildew in my shower."  Jean turned to follow Hank and Warren out when she heard Scott throw out quietly, "Leave the night-light, Jean.  I'll see what I can do with it."

The four of them didn't get back until late.  Scott had elected to stay home in case the professor needed him, and to address some very personal 'issues' with the mildew in his shower.  Spending the day in the mall and getting a decent meal down her had improved Jean's mood quite a bit.  Hank's and Warren's too.  About fifteen minutes surrounded by air conditioning and Hank had been his usualm cheerful, easy-going self again.  It was a shame that Slim had decided not to come with them.  They had a good time watching Bobby sing and dance in the isles.  They'd pretty much had the movie theater to themselves, so there had been no one to complain when they started making fools of themselves.  It had been fun.  And since Slim tended to show up in her dreams regularly anyway, in various states of undress, Jean wouldn't even going to mind hearing 'The Time Warp' in her dreams tonight, and thinking of him.

When she finally made it up to her room, her lamp was on and she found a note on her pillow from Scott:


There was nothing I could do for the night-light.  Hopefully what I did will help.

Just remember when you turn the lights off.  When you dwell on the darkness long enough, you tend to forget looking for the light.


When she turned off her lamp, she caught her breath.  Her ceiling was now a night sky.  She would never have to fall asleep dreading the dark again.  She'd have a night sky of stars.

Rising, she headed out, and found him lying on the dock looking up at the star-filled sky, his feet splashing and dangling over the edge, singing something softly.  Jean actually did a double-take to realize Scott wasn't wearing a shirt, just a pair of cut-off jean shorts.  She stood on the edge of the dock and watched him.  With the moonlight bouncing off of him, she was reminded of all the fairly tales gtom her childhood of elves coming out to play in the moonlight.

Breaking the spell, she called out from the edge of the dock, "So -- did you solve your personal issues with the mildew?"

She had to choke down a laugh as Scott jumped in surprise and almost fell off the dock into the water.  He sat up to glare.  In the dark, his eyes glowed softly behind the glasses.  "If you tell anyone you saw me doing this, I'll deny it."

She walked out onto the dock to grin down at him.  "What?  Having a good time or relaxing?"

He glared at her again.  "Both.  As for solving my issues, it required industrial-strength mildew killer."

Jean shuffled her feet nervously.  "Thanks, for what you did up in my room."

He just shruggedm covering his embarrassment by bowing his head to study his feet.  "The glow-in-the-dark decals were on sale.  No big deal."

She looked at him very seriously for a moment.  "You figured out that I'm scared of the dark didn't you?  That's why you shut up Hank so quick this afternoon."

Scott shrugged.  "We all have our ways to get through the night.  Bobby has Mr. Whiskers -- this ratty old stuffed lion his mom made -- under his bed.  Hank has his favorite football jersey his mother sewed for him, and Warren listens to the soft ticking of the clock his grandfather gave him.  We see the darkness almost everyday.  We all have our own methods of coping with it.  Yours is sleeping with a night-light.  There's nothing wrong with that."

Jean grinned at him.  "Let me guess -- yours is cleaning your shower?"

"No," He replied dryly.  "I started cleaning my shower on insistence from my therapist that I should find something productive to do when I feel the urge to micromanage and control every aspect of my life and relationships."   He gave her a smirk.  "You could say my shower-cleaning is coping with my coping method."

Jean looked down at him, amusement dancing in her eyes.  "Is it working?"

He gave her a thoughtful look for a moment.  "I don't know.  I've had to re-grout my shower three times."   Then Scott crossed his arms over his chest and gave her a sulky look.  "I don't know what people's problems are sometimes.  I think my knack to micromanage, over-react, and lose all perspective about the smallest details of my life makes me a theoretically interesting person."

She chucked under her breath as she sat down on the dock next to him, removing her shoes to stick her feet in the water right next to him.  "Seriously, what you did up in my room was very sweet."  She made a point of trying to meet his eyes through his glasses.  "Thank you."

Maybe it was the moonlight, but he didn't look away and tried to meet her eyes back.  "You're very welcome, Red."   The next thing Jean knew, their eyes had locked and their lips met gently, and all Jean could feel where their lips met was fire and sparks.  All other sensations were drowned out.  She didn't know how long they sat there with their lips just touching gently.  Time seemed to stop.

Scott somehow came to his senses first and bolted to his feet.  He wore an almost panicked look and stammered, "I have to go.  You're welcome about the stars."   Then he bolted down the dock.

Ill-met by moon light, was all Jean could think sourly as she watched his retreating form beat a hasty retreat towards the house.

"Of course you made a complete ass of yourself the next morning by calling that kiss a 'chemical imbalance' brought on by you inhaling too many fumes.  When you didn't want to talk about it and I did, I ended up losing my temper."   Jean looked down at the sleeping figure on the bed.  "I still owe twelve hours of detention for losing my temper and cursing you a blue streak in front of the professor.  You know what makes me really mad, you stubborn jerk?  I was only using the words you taught me that night Bobby put the icicle through your bed -- except I was unlucky enough to have the professor walk in druing the middle of it."  Jean gave the figure down on the bed a smug look.  "You should have seen the shock on the professor's face when he realized I knew that type of language."

"And you should have seen the lecture Scott got for teaching that language to you."   Hank McCoy's voice informed her from doorway, causing Jean to jump.

A little embarrassed, she turned to face him, asking quietly.  "How long have you been there?"

"Not too long, just heard the very end of what you were saying," Hank replied, leaning against the doorway.  "And you're right. the professor's expression was priceless."   He smirked at her.  "I don't know what was more funny -- the look of shock on the professor's face, you standing there blistering everyone's ears, or Scott just sitting there with a stupid smirk on his face and urging you on."

"How is he really?" Jean asked, motioning her head towards Scott.

"I actually think the worst of it was over when the rash appeared."   Hank chuckled softly.  "Although on Scott, they resemble ugly red blotches more than the blisters we commonly recognize as the chicken pox."

Jean gave him an interested look.  "So Bobby was right?  It is the chicken pox?"

"Indeed," Hank replied.  "As the virus reactivated it was, 'gumming up' his mutant powers, throwing off his whole nervous system, chemically.  The professor managed to figure out what enzyme the virus was preventing him from making enough of as it reactivated."   Hank motioned his head to the IV.  "That's why we hooked him up to that.  He'll be connected to it for the next two weeks."

"He'll love that."  Jean grinned at the thought of what Scott was going to say about being hooked up to an IV for two weeks.  "You mean no more seizures?"

Hank grinned back.  "No more seizures.  In about twenty-four hours, we should have our normal, sarcastic grouch back -- barring any secondary complications, of course."

"I guess I better go pull out the calamine lotion then," Jean announced happily.

"That my dear," Hank said, grinning ear to ear this time, "would be an excellent idea.  Bed rest, Tylenol, and lots of calamine lotion are what the doctors are now recommending."   Hank winked at her.  "Scott's no doubt going to be cranky, itchy and irritable tomorrow -- and you will probably be the only one of us who he'll be able to stand for long periods of time.  Go get some rest, Red."

"Oh my God," Jean groaned with the shocked horror that most people reserved only for train wrecks and other disasters.  "That's so gross."

Bobby Drake responded to that statement by quickly unwrapping another Twinkie and stuffing it in his mouth.

Warren shook his head in shock.  "That's thirty-two."

"Where does he put them?" Scott asked Warren.  "Bobby isn't that big.  He's got to have a hollow head or something"

"Give up, Hank," Bobby announced to his challenger.  "You won't win."

In response to that, a slightly green looking Hank gave Bobby an amazed look and announced, "I concede.  I couldn't eat another Twinkie if I tried."

"So he never challenges my record again," Bobby announced -- and took another Twinkie out of the box, unwrapping and eating it.  All the while, Scott, Jean and Warren watched, groaning in sick horror.

From where he sat on the edge of Scott's bed, Warren announced, "I pronounce Bobby the school's Twinkie eating champ."

"Bobby's going to walk into the hall way and blow up or something," Scott announced.  "Doesn't sponge cake expand inside of you?"

"I'm not cleaning it up if Bobby does," Jean chirped.

"I think I'm going to die," Hank groaned as he plunked himself on the bed right next to Scott.

"Well," Scott said, "you did eat twenty-eight Twinkies."

"Please don't remind me," Hank moaned.

"Scott," Jean admonished playfully as she caught him trying to itch again, "stop trying to itch your blotches."   Scott gave her a dirty look in response.

"All right, everyone," Hank announced, getting up slowly and rubbing his stomach.  "Visiting time is over.  The professor is going to be coming in to examine Scott in about five minutes."

"Come on Warren," Bobby announced gleefully, getting up.  "Let's escort the Loser to his room."   Warren rose from the edge of the bed without saying a word and gave Hank a hand down off the bed.

"Can it, Drake," Hank muttered, making his way slowly towards the door.  "I'll beat you next time."

"Sure you will," Bobby said gleefully.  Warren followed the two of them out, rolling his eyes behind their backs and shaking his head.

With the three of them gone, Jean turned to Scott and grinned evilly.  Scott gave her a very suspicious look back and demanded, "What are you up to, Jean?  I know that look."

"Nothing actually," Jean responded as she walked over to the other bed and pulled something out from under the pillow.  "I got you a get-well present."

She could tell he was blinking at her in surprise.  "You did?" he asked.

"Yup," Jean announced, handing him the package.

Scott opened it and inside was a watch with plane on it.  He gave her a lopsided grin as he inspected the plane.  "It's the L-39 Jet.  Its nickname is 'The Albatross.'"

Jean grinned at him.  "You can wear it and think of me."

"Now I can carry my Albatross everywhere I go?" he asked, amused.

"Exactly."  She kissed him chastely on the check.  "Now, if the professor comes in and asks if we were in here keeping you from resting after he ordered us out -- lie.  I have to go."   Jean rose to leave.

"Umm, Red?"   She turned to look at him from the door.  He ran a hand through his hair in a nervous gesture.  "Thanks.  I really like the watch."

She winked at him as she walked out.  "I'm glad you like it.  Now get some rest and get better soon."

When the door closed, she leaned her back against it in relief.  He liked the watch.  Scott never did see the silly grin that never left her face for the rest of the day.

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