Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara

Flirting With Objects

Flirting With Objects

by Mara

Summary: When Scott loses a bet to Jean, she comes up with a…unique way for
him to pay up.

Author’s Chapter Notes:

The title is from an essay by Jean Baudrillard. Heh. Thanks to Medie,
Cassie, Trollprincess, KayJay, Yahtzee, Blue_braces, Tasha, my mother, and most
especially Mo for answering my questions.

This was written for Kalimando in the 2006 XMM Ficathon.

Continuity: Takes place somewhere between X1 and X2.

The sun was almost directly above the mansion and there wasn’t a cloud in the
sky. Under most circumstances, this would please Scott, but today he’d been
hoping for a violent hurricane. A monsoon. Maybe a tornado?

A light breeze drifted through the shrubbery, carrying the scent of azaleas.
Scott groaned and tried to step backward.

Jean patted Scott on the cheek as she herded him out the front door. “Look at it
this way: If you’re lucky, maybe Magneto will attack on the way there.”

“I *wish*,” he muttered, scowling at her as she leaned her head back and
laughed.

Ororo came down the stairs at a jog. “I could accompany you, if you need help.”

“Oh no.” Jean shook her head firmly, waving her back. “No way. He lost the bet
fair and square and he’s not wriggling out of this.” Ororo shrugged and turned
down the hall toward the kitchen, unsuccessfully hiding a smile.

Birds chirped in the trees, as if they were also laughing at him and Scott
decided the entire universe hated him. “If I’d known,” he said, almost pleading,
“that Jubilee and Angelo were *capable* of behaving themselves in class for an
entire week, I would never have agreed to the bet in the first place.”

“You’re a pessimist,” Jean said, crossing her arms.

“A realist.” Scott corrected her as he checked his pockets.

Heaving a sigh, Jean watched him. “The keys are already in the ignition. Your
driver’s license is in your wallet in your right pocket. The car is waiting and
you have to go now.”

Scott wavered. He could beg. Maybe if he offered back rubs for a month? To spend
less time working on the jet? Anything else?

Her smile beatific, Jean pointed toward the Ford Explorer sitting in the drive.
“Go.”

Scott manfully suppressed a whimper. “Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutamus.”
Turning, he trudged down the walk toward his doom.

“Don’t be so dramatic, Scott. You’re not actually going to *die*.” She closed
the front door with a resounding thud, which echoed in the courtyard.

Really, Scott thought, there was only one thing that would make this moment even
worse. He thanked whatever deity might be listening that Logan was still off on
his quest, then looked around hastily, lest the universe teleport him back in
time to witness this humiliation.

“C’mon, Mr. Summers,” Jubilee called, leaning out the window of the SUV, “it’s
almost 12 o’clock! The mall closes in nine hours and we’ve got a lot of shopping
to do.”

Scott rubbed his temples and got into the driver’s seat, glancing around to make
sure nobody was missing. No, there were Jubilee, Rogue, Kitty, Betsy, Monet, and
Paige, all lined up in their seats looking like cats with their eyes on a
particularly tasty fish.

Jean opened the door and leaned back out. “Oh, and try and look interested,
would you, Scott?”

Scott decided he hated his life.

* * * * *

Very few people knew that besides his unusual visual skills, Scott also had the
more common ability of passive absolute pitch: He could identify and name
individual notes or groups of notes. It was useless, he’d found, since he
couldn’t *produce* those notes on command, just recognize them–an extension of
his excellent memory.

All of which made for a great party trick and an absolute hatred of mall music,
which always seemed to be transposed to a different key or played at a
nonstandard pitch.

It gave him a headache every single time.

Scott paused at the door, glaring through the glass with loathing at the milling
hordes. Jubilee took his left hand and Paige his right.

“It’s okay, Mr. Summers,” Paige said in what was meant to be a kind tone, but
came out sounding like a parent trying to convince a child that shots weren’t
really that bad. “It’s just one day at the mall,” she said, “how bad can it be?”

“You’re kidding, right?” he asked as they led him through the doors.

“Okay,” Jubilee said, taking point. “We agreed we’d hit Hot Topic first, right?”

Monet sighed. “If you insist. However, I find the store quite wearying.”

Scott realized he was in the odd position of agreeing with Monet about
something. Proving that *anything* was possible at least once.

“I promise we’ll take you and Betsy someplace appropriately snooty before the
day is over,” Kitty said with a grin.

Betsy and Monet both sighed.

“As long as I get to go to Old Navy for pants,” Rogue said.

“Yes yes,” Jubilee said. “Let’s go. We’ve got important shopping to do, ladies.”

Scott followed in their wake as the strangely assorted gaggle of girls swept
semi-majestically down the corridor. He winced as the public address system
blared out a hideous instrumental version of “Stairway to Heaven.”

* * * * *

The procession came to a stop in front of something that looked like a
nightclub. “This is Hot Topic?” Scott said, his voice faint. “Are you sure–”

But the girls were already in the store and Scott dashed in, odd
lights winking off…was that a collar? A chain?

If he lived through this day, Scott decided, he was going to *kill* Jean for not
warning him that there was something that looked like an *S&M dungeon* in the
local mall.

There were *corsets* over there and satin things…and…

His students were happily congregated on the other side of the store looking at
jewelry and t-shirts. Monet and Betsy were laughing at Jubilee as she waved her
hands at a rack of t-shirts, and he decided to let them sort that out
themselves.

Paige’s mouth was pinched in mild disapproval and Scott went to stand with her.
“Not your favorite store?” he asked.

She shrugged. “I don’t know what my momma would think of it.”

“Paige, c’mere,” Rogue called. “I need you to look at these earrings.”

Scott hid a grin as Paige forgot her misgivings and dashed over to inspect the
apparently vitally important accessory. Then he resolutely turned his back on
the wall of terrifying unmentionables and concentrated on keeping Kitty away
from clothing that bared too much of her skin.

* * * * *

Fortunately for Scott’s nerves, Hot Topic was the most terrifying store they
visited. Victoria’s Secret ran a close second, but fortunately, when they got
*there*, the girls strictly ordered him to stand outside the entrance with the
fathers, boyfriends, and husbands.

Scott was irresistibly reminded of a doctor’s office, with a corner full of men
avoiding each other’s eyes and trying not to blush. Leaning against a fake
pillar, he was briefly glad that he couldn’t see colors, as the overwhelming
amount of pink would otherwise be sickening.

Although the pink couldn’t possibly be as bad as the fact that the music coming
from overhead had moved on to AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” Scott wondered if it
would really be a problem if he punctured his eardrums to survive the day.

It seemed to be days before his giggling students emerged from the store, but
his watch claimed it was only 20 minutes. He frowned at them, trying to decide
if he was supposed to ask anything. Certainly he didn’t want to *see* what
they’d bought. He squirmed at the thought. No, his responsibilities as the man
in loco parentis definitely didn’t extend to supervising the purchases of
unmentionables.

Jubilee grinned at him and the blush he’d been fighting promptly emerged. He
glared at her and she grabbed Kitty’s arm. “C’mon,” she said, “let’s go get
coffee!”

Scott sensibly dove out of the way as six girls made a run for Starbucks.
Fighting Magneto was one thing, but getting between teenage girls and a chai
latte was suicidal.

* * * * *

Betsy and Monet finally gained control of the outing and the group moved on into
the more expensive niches of the mall. Scott raised an eyebrow as he caught a
glimpse of the price tags in Lord & Taylor, and most of the girls were obviously
restricting themselves to window-shopping here.

Betsy, however, made a beeline for a complicated piece of black fabric that
seemed to have straps or…something. Monet tilted her head this way and that as
Betsy held it up in front of her, then started to mutter arcane incantations
concerning accessories and silk and…Scott walked over to where Paige was
pointing to a flowery dress that looked like nasty wallpaper.

“I’m telling you, my gramma had a housecoat that looked just like that,” she
said, covering her mouth to stifle the giggles.

Kitty nodded. “Mine too. Maybe it’s back in fashion.”

“Kitty,” Jubilee said, peering at the dress, “that pattern was *never* in
fashion.”

Scott jumped when someone sniffed. Reminding himself it might be a bit of a
giveaway to hit someone with his beams, he lowered his hand from his glasses and
looked at the woman behind him.

From the bun resting atop her head, to the glasses attached to a chain around
her neck, to the severe dark-colored suit, she was the very image of a
librarian, if hell had a chief librarian. Her tag insisted that she was the
floor manager in the store.

Jubes and the woman eyed each other warily and Scott wondered if he was going to
have to break up a fight.

“Is there a problem?” the manager said, her lips missing a sneer by a hair.

Scott opened his mouth but Rogue beat him to it. “No, ma’am, no problem. We’re
just looking at the clothing.”

“Perhaps,” the manager said, “if you don’t enjoy the clothing we sell, you might
move on to somewhere more suitable to your tastes.” She flicked a glance over
Paige’s denim and t-shirt, Jubilee’s yellow jacket, and Rogue’s enveloping
scarf. “Might I suggest the Wal-Mart down the street?”

Scott’s jaw dropped and there was a frozen moment where he didn’t know what
everyone was going to do.

“Pardon me,” Monet’s smooth and cultured voice said as she strode over. “Do you
work here?”

The manager smiled approvingly at Monet, whose long legs were encased in skin-
tight pants and her upper body draped in a maroon sweater. “Yes, I do. Can I
help you?”

Betsy came up beside Monet and smiled brightly. “Yes, you can.”

“You see,” Monet went on, “we were just about to spend hundreds of dollars in
your store, buying the latest fashions.”

“But then you insulted our friends,” Betsy said, still smiling. “So I think
we’ll go spend our money at Nordstrom instead.”

Monet gestured imperiously at Scott and the others. “Come along, everyone. We’ll
go to Nordstrom and then you must test the new Vera Wang fragrance at Sephora.”

She and Betsy swept toward the entrance in unison, looking very grownup and
graceful.

“Vera Wang?” Scott said, trailing after them. “I thought she did clothing?”

“Oh no,” Kitty said. “Don’t get M started please, or we’ll *never* shut her up.”

Behind him, Scott glimpsed the saleslady still standing where they’d left her,
jaw drooping and glasses sliding slowly down her nose.

Take *that*, he thought.

* * * * *

Old Navy was a relief, Scott decided, two hours later. It looked respectable. It
didn’t overwhelm his eyes with weird lights and reflections. It didn’t stink of
perfume and makeup and lotions. And the salespeople left you alone, which was
nice.

Most of the clothing was relatively harmless and the colors weren’t eye-
searingly awful. Scott took a deep breath and thought perhaps, just perhaps, he
might make it through the day.

Jubilee dithered over a rack full of cropped shirts, and Scott went over to try
and help. He figured it was simple self-preservation: If he helped her pick one,
it might not give him a heart attack when she wore it, and perhaps they could
leave the mall sometime this decade.

He glanced around and saw Paige and Kitty in the back of the store by a sale
rack of the odd skinny pants they’d seen everywhere, Monet hovering
(figuratively, not literally) by the door, and Rogue had her head bent over a
nearby pile of scarves, with Betsy looking on.

“I just don’t know if this color works on me,” Jubilee said. “What do you–oh,
never mind.” She popped her gum and waved at Rogue.

Behind his glasses, Scott rolled his eyes. He could never decide if she said
things like that on purpose, to needle him, or if she really kept forgetting
about the side effects of wearing red glasses. It was always hard to tell with
Jubilee.

There were several male voices a few racks away, and part of his brain paused to
listen to what they were saying.

“Dude, the one with the blonde hair is totally hottest,” one said. “I bet she’s
never done it. I could be her first.”

“No way,” another voice said, “the black chick is hotter. I’d totally do her.”

“What do you think the scarf is hiding?” a third voice said.

Jubilee was still talking to Rogue about the shirts, so she didn’t even notice
Scott sliding away and circling around the young men who were talking. All three
had the backwards baseball cap and baggy jeans look of boys trying to look like
gangsters, which wouldn’t have endeared them to Scott under *any* circumstances,
but especially not when they were leering at his students.

Not being battle-trained, they didn’t notice Scott until he stood directly
behind them. “You know,” he said, watching them jump with surprise, “any one of
those young ladies you’re eyeing could kick your ass with one hand tied behind
her back. And I wouldn’t need either hand.”

His voice grew lower as he spoke, and even the apparent leader–a particularly
repellant specimen in need of a bath–stepped back, nearly tripping over a
wheeled cart.

“In fact,” Scott continued, crossing his arms and flexing his biceps, “I would
recommend that you go somewhere else to ogle, because if you so much as stand
next to one of these ladies, I will return you to your parents minus at least
one portion of your body.”

Eyes wide, the boys stumbled away, tripping over each other in their haste to
get away from the crazy man, nearly knocking over piles of sweaters and vests.

A slow smile grew on Scott’s face. Now *that* was fun.

Betsy pushed through a rack of denim jackets and stomped up to him, scowling.
“You ruined it.”

“What?”

“I was just about to–”

“Wait!” Scott put up a hand to stop her. “Whatever you were about to say, I’m
sure it’s against school rules, so don’t tell me.”

She put her hands on her hips and waited.

“Unless…” He weakened. “Did it involve them seeing spiders?”

Betsy grinned. “Tarantulas. Big hairy ones.”

“I didn’t hear that,” he said with a firm nod. “Let’s go. I’m tired of this
store.”

Betsy grinned and efficiently rounded up her classmates to make their purchases.

Scott found himself smiling. His kids really *could* take care of themselves,
couldn’t they? And they took care of each other, which was even better.

* * * * *

Scott lost count of the stores they visited throughout the afternoon and early
evening, although he vaguely remembered something about eagles and an endless
array of stores selling music and…something about a debate over the coolness
of opaque stockings worn with shorts. That couldn’t be right, could it?

Hands laden with bags, Scott was about to elbow his way through the doors when
he stopped and tilted his head. The public address system was playing “I Will
Survive.”

With a chuckle, Scott followed his students into the parking lot.

“Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Rogue asked as they stepped off the curb, and
she smiled at him from under her white streak of hair.

Scott slowed his walk to consider the question. Really, it hadn’t been all that
bad. They were good kids, even if he would never understand their music, their
dress sense, or many of their preoccupations. And it was sort of nice to get to
know them better. “No, it wasn’t so bad,” he agreed. “But you should still take
Jean or Ororo next time.”

Rogue laughed. “So…what are you going to do to get Dr. Grey back for this?”

Hands full, Scott couldn’t put a hand over his heart, but he projected sincerity
with all his might. “I lost the bet fairly, Rogue. I wouldn’t try and get
revenge.”

“Mm-hmm.” She paused, narrowing her eyes. “So, what are you going to do?”

Shrugging, he looked skyward for a moment. “I don’t know. Logan’s still got my
motorcycle. Maybe for my birthday, I’ll take her motorcycle shopping with Bobby
and Peter and Angelo.”

“Ooooh.” Jubilee turned around and stared at him. “That’s cold.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Scott said with a straight face.

–end–

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