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Story Notes:
Spoilers: Through X2
Original story: "Sixteen" by with references to "The Busy Griefs".
Jean’s dead.

Remy doesn’t get a call from anyone at the school. Probably Ororo would have called him, she calls so many others, but the links which bind former students are too tight and the phone chain works too fast. He gets the news from Dazzler and then other calls come in, old friends he hasn’t seen in years, and it’s possible Ro gets a busy signal when she calls Remy, that’s how fast the phone starts ringing once people know.

Of course Charles doesn’t call, and doesn’t speak to him when he phones the school to give his condolences. Mon deu, the old man can carry a grudge. Turn down the offer to join his X-Men and suddenly you’re the black sheep of the family.

There is no body. There is just a memorial service, and so many people they can’t all fit inside the school, and misery heavy in the air. The sky is clear, thanks to Ororo. He doubts she even did it consciously.

Jean deserves no less.

When he tries to picture her, he doesn’t see a competent woman, a doctor, a mutant who uses her abilities to try to bring mutants and humans together. Instead he sees a teenage girl, scared of her power and beautiful and vibrant. Even her hair seemed alive, long and red and in motion, like she had her own personal breeze carrying it along.

She was a pretty girl, and so alive.

~~*

It is impossible to surprise Jean. On her birthdays, she always knows what the gift is before she unwraps it. She doesn’t say anything – she’s too polite, too perfect for that – but she knows, and they all know she knows. They pretend, but there’s something in her face, some tightness in the corners of her mouth, some twitch of her eyebrows, something that gives it away.

Remy thinks he should really give her lessons on her poker face. He runs his thumb along the edge of his favorite deck of cards.

He could teach Jean Grey quite a few things.

It’s just a passing thought, a recurring thought he’s never going to do anything about. It’s fun to try to wind her up, but that’s it. He’s a little afraid of her, and though he likes that spice when teasing her, he doesn’t think it would be fun at all if things happened. He doesn’t like the idea of her reading his mind when he’s vulnerable.

Then, everything changes.

A year ago, six months ago, Jean would have known what they were doing despite herself. Now she’s clueless – or at least doing a very good job of pretending, he’s not sure which is more likely – as to why the underclassmen keep giggling at each other and hording pretty things to make decorations.

Remy, at least, knows how to keep a secret. No one but Alison knows the entertainment plan, and even she doesn’t know all of it. Not after she vetoed his first suggestion.

“No strippers! This is Jean’s party, not yours.”

“But mon cher. Remy said nothing about strippers. Remy said exotic dancers. They are – artists with their bodies.”

She snorts, and it’s a disgusting sound. “No strippers. No exotic dancers. And could you please stop referring to yourself in the third person. That gets old fast, you know.”

“Remy knows you secretly love it.”

“Remy’s going to get his nose broken if he don’t shut up.”

“Alison, cher….” He reaches out to stroke her cheek, but she rolls her eyes and pulls away.

“Come on. We want this to be good. It’s for Jean.”

“I know.” Everyone knows. That’s all Remy’s heard from Scott for weeks. He changes his tone anyway, settles down a little. “What kind of entertainment do you want?”

She looks skeptical, and why shouldn’t she, after all. He givers her his best innocent look, and, after a moment, Alison smiles.

~~*

“Hank!” Alison grabs his arm, but then angles her body so the younger students can’t see the way her fingers dig in. “What’s going on? There’s this rumor –”

“Nothing!” Hank pats her hand. “There are no infelicitous circumstances and no critical dilemmas and certainly Miss Grey is not exiting the premises within the day.”

“What?” Alison yelps, and Remy moves closer, one hand on his cards. There is no threat from Hank McCoy, but it’s ingrained in him now, making sure his weapon is close at hand. Pun intended. Normally he would smirk a little at that, and make the girls groan, but this was too important.

“Oh dear.” Hank looks quite a bit like a trapped animal. “Of what rumor did you speak?”

“The rumor that says someone let it slip to Jean about the party. What are you talking about, she’s leaving?”

“As I said, she is most certainly not. If you will excuse me, I must run a vital errand for the party which will continue as planned. Post haste!”

Alison releases his arm, and together she and Remy watch him flee.

“I have a bad feeling,” she says, and it’s the most obvious statement in the world. “Maybe we should talk to Jean.”

“It’s a surprise party,” Remy says, but he doesn’t sound like he’s even convinced himself.

They try to figure out a cover story, but when they get to Jean’s room, she’s not there, and Ororo is laying out her clothes along both beds. She doesn’t look at them when they come in, and Alison scuffs one foot back and forth across the floor.

Hero worship, Remy thinks, and it makes him smile.

Ororo is no help. She says nothing either way about Jean leaving, but threatens them with lightning strikes and localized rain clouds and tornadoes destroying their rooms just before inspection. They aren’t to say a word to Jean about the surprise party they may or may not still be planning.

Isn’t that the point of a surprise party, Remy thinks, but doesn’t say a word.

~~*

Jean knows how to keep secrets, even if her friends, it seems, do not, and someone taught her to keep her face poker straight. The whole party is called off and Jean’s out the door almost before anyone knows what’s going on.

There really is no way to surprise a telepath.

~~*

Remy prefers to remember her like that, beautiful and unsurpriseable and oh, so alive.

There are many pretty girls among the student body still. They are vibrant even while mourning, shiny eyes and smiles they can’t restrain. It is strange to see them and know Jean will never be a pretty girl, a vibrant girl, a live girl again.

End


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