//Scott?// The voice in his head asked //Are you almost done in there?//
When, he wondered, had the mind link between he and Jean stopped being romantic and amazing, and started being tedious. When had he started automatically shielding certain thoughts?
In the bedroom Jean was wondering the same thing. //Honey? Everything okay?//
"Fine!" Scott called out, "I'll be out in a minute." He opened the door and looked at his fiancée half-sitting, half-laying on their bed. He had courted her fiercely, and never had been entirely certain whether she ended-up falling for him, or had just grown tired of the game and given in. "It's all yours," he gestured at the bathroom.
"Oh. I didn't need to use it," Jean explained, "I just missed you."
"Oh," Scott didn't know how to respond to that. "So, are you ready to go to breakfast?"
"I thought maybe we could "eat in" this morning," Jean raised an eyebrow suggestively.
"We've "eaten in" for the past week. It's getting kind of, routine," Scott explained, trying not to sound annoyed.
"You're right. Well, maybe at lunch?" Jean suggested as the couple left their room.
//Knock, knock// Jean announced as she entered Scott's office.
"Hang on a sec Jean, I'm mid-sentence," Scott informed her without looking up. There was a pause, before he felt her gentle mental probing. "Jean! Just. A. Minute!" He quickly skimmed the rest of the student paper he was grading and made a mental note to re-read Kitty's essay. Just to be fair. "Okay, sorry. What's up?"
"Oh, I just thought, you, me lunch?" Jean inquired. Scott looked down at his half-finished sandwich.
"I'm sorry. I got caught up in these essays. Sorry Jean." Scott hoped he sounded properly rueful.
"Scott? Is everything, okay?"
"Yeah, fine," Scott checked his mental shields once more. "Why do you ask?"
"You seem distant. Even your shields seem stronger," Jean wore a concerned expression, that even now Scott wasn't sure was a mask of her true emotions.
"Just, work. Every year it seems like there's more, you know?"
"Yeah. Okay sweetie, just don't get too overworked. I miss you sweetie," Jean told him as she walked out the door.
Scott didn't get back to work once Jean left. She had been everything he wanted. The beautiful, perfect older woman. He hadn't meant to lead her on, he never really thought he would get her. Now that he had her he couldn't finish what he'd started. Jean would never be his wife, and she probably wouldn't be his fiancée much longer. Scott knew it was his fault that everything fell apart. Who knew, maybe this would be good for Jean. More freedom, more time for her research.
Every day with Jean was becoming a chore. He didn't have a lot of experience with love, but he knew that considering your fiancée to be a chore was not really a good sign.
That evening they sat together on the dais at the Professor's yearly school benefit. Staring out at the mass of other people in formal wear, Jean squeezed Scott's hand. He felt more alone next to her than when they were apart.
//We need to talk, don't we Scott?// Jean asked.
//You need to know some things, yes. Just look in my mind, it would be easier.//
//No. You're the bad guy here Scott. You don't get to have it easy.// Jean informed him coolly.
//I understand.// Music began to play and Jean led Scott to the dance floor. "This is almost uncomfortably civil," Scott murmured with a platonic smile at assorted guests.
"Civil?" Jean spoke harshly, quietly, but harshly. "This won't be civil for long." She turned and lead Scott out of the ballroom, upstairs, to their room. His things were packed. "Just because I'm a telepath doesn't mean I don't deserve to be treated like a woman," Jean crossed her arms and waited.
"I didn't want you to find out telepathically. I wanted to tell you what I've been thinking. It's not like I'm playing a game, or being deliberately cruel," Scott explained.
"Like being accidentally cruel is a big improvement?" Jean wondered aloud. "You proposed to me. How did you change your mind in six months? Is there someone else?"
"No. No there isn't. I don't know what to tell you Jean, I don't know how to justify this to you," Scott apologized.
"Alright, I'll try. I felt, feel suffocated. Like I got in over my head with our relationship," Jean smirked.
"Am I too much of a woman for you Scott?"
"Is there a right answer to that question?" Scott inquired
"I didn't think so. I'm sorry Jean," he looked helplessly at her.
"Me too," she forced a smile, a sad, sad, smile.
"Are we... friends?" Scott asked, suddenly unwilling to loose Jean totally.
"I don't know. Sort of. Maybe. We're buddies, I don't think I trust you yet," Jean said sincerely.
"Buddies? Like beer and football?" Scott asked. Jean laughed.
"Yeah Scott, sorta like that."
"Jean, lets not do this," Scott said suddenly. "I'll move out, fine. I still need space. But lets not end it. Lets work on our friendship before we give up."
"You hurt me Scott," Jean reproached.
"I know. But what good is a relationship that's not worth fighting for?" Scott asked.
"Your right. Okay, lets work on it," Jean agreed.
Scott picked up a box of his stuff and kissed Jean on the cheek. "Grab that other box, will you?"