Mo (mofic) wrote,

Returning Spring - Story 9

Not the Exact Likeness (Returning Spring, 9/10)

“You’ve spoken to Jean-Paul and Walter?”

“Yes, Charles. I met with each of them individually and interviewed them both at length. And I’ve met with... Jean a few times, as well. I’ve examined her. I’ve talked to her about her mental and emotional state and heard a pretty extensive account of her capture, imprisonment and escape. She’s shared some of her difficulties in being accepted and feeling comfortable within the school and with the X-Men.”

“And how did she seem to you?”

“Well, please remember that I hadn’t seen Jean Grey in a number of years, Charles.”

“Yes, I know. I’m not asking you to commit yourself to a decision. But what’s your opinion? Is this woman Jean, or not?”

“She is Jean. I’m convinced of that... I guess that’s not what you wanted to hear.”

“Perhaps not. It’s not what I expected to hear anyway. On what do you base this opinion?”

“Charles, it’s just... not possible, what you’re suggesting. There cannot be two people who look so exactly alike. I think it’s close to ten years since I’ve seen Jean Grey, but I recognized her right away. She looks older, of course. Her personality is very different. But, Charles, that’s what happens – with time, with experience, especially with trauma such as she has suffered. She is a changed woman – I don’t doubt that. If you were saying ‘she’s not Jean’ to me as metaphor, as indication of how different she has become, I could totally accept that. I can understand that. She is indeed a different woman from the one you knew before she had this horrific experience. But she’s still Jean Grey... You’re not saying anything.”

“I don’t know what to say, Ethan. I felt sure you’d see what I did, understand that this can’t be Jean. You’ve talked to Scott?”

“Yes, and he’s understandably very conflicted. But I realize that he – like you, like the two Alpha Flight representatives – really does think this is someone else. I think to some extent you are all convincing each other, reinforcing each other’s beliefs. Still, you must know at some level that this belief is not grounded in reality. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have asked me to look into this.”

“I asked you because I felt I needed an objective look at the question. Yes, I was concerned that we were all influencing each other and I thought you could take a fresh look. I thought you’d confirm what we believed, though. And now it seems you’re telling me we’re all crazy.”

“You know that’s not a word I use. Charles, you are an extremely levelheaded, rational, thoughtful individual. I wouldn’t have gone as far as I did to check your claim out if it came from anyone else. On the face of it, it’s an outlandish belief. I took it very seriously solely because you believed it.”

“I appreciate that.”

“I still have very complete medical records from the time when Jean was my patient. She had two small scars – one on her head, behind her left ear, and the other on her right thigh. Neither of them is noticeable in clothing - her hair covers the one on her head. The scars are still there, Charles. Okay, let’s assume someone looked enough like Jean to pull this off and managed through plastic surgery and so forth to look even more like her. Even if that were true, how would she get the scars? I just don’t see how this can possibly be someone other than Jean.”

“Do you remember how you and I met, Ethan?”

“Of course. How could I forget? If it were not for Jean, we might never have met.”

“Then you remember that you’ve thought some things were impossible before that turned out to be true. There is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy. Particularly when mutants are involved.”

“Are you saying that looking exactly like Jean is someone’s mutant gift?”

“Not precisely, but there are mutants who can change their shape, who can exactly copy the appearance of someone else. Although what you say about the scars concerns me. In my experience of shape shifters, they are only able to copy what is readily seen.”

“I do know about shape shifters. I’ve even treated some. They tend to have a fairly weak sense of self, for obvious reasons. And yes, the scars argue against this being the answer. Shape shifters look remarkably like the person they are imitating, but they make mistakes, precisely because they can’t know about things like scars, or small blemishes, or old healed injuries that show up on X-rays. And yes, Jean’s got a couple of those, too. But it’s not just the scars or the marks on her bones, Charles. Or the fillings – which are all in the right place.”

“There’s more?”

“Yes. I asked Martin Kline if Jean Grey had fingerprints on file. She does. She was fingerprinted as part of the security procedure before she testified before the Senate Commission on Mutants a couple of years back. Charles, I had him take her prints now. They’re the same. This is Jean. Nothing else is possible.”

“I understand that’s how it seems, but...”

“Charles, listen. The kind of trauma Jean has undergone – it has changed her. There’s no doubt about that. I know how close you were to her. You considered her almost a daughter to you, is that not right?”

“It’s very much right. Jean and Scott are the people I have been closest to - have loved the most – of anyone in my life. I knew her so well, Ethan. We shared so much. I can’t be mistaken about this.”

“Maybe you *have* to be mistaken about this. Have you thought of that?”

“I don’t know what you mean by that.”

“Think about how she’s changed. She’s harder edged. Calculating. Manipulative. Not the open and caring person you knew and loved. I see that. I know you do, too. Charles, I think you don’t like Jean Grey very much now. And I don’t blame you. It’s not her fault how she’s changed, but they are not pleasant changes she has undergone. She’s not the warm and loving daughter you remember with such affection.

“I think it must feel so disloyal to find yourself disliking her. What kind of way is that to welcome back long lost Jean? And with both of you being telepaths, well, that would be pretty hard to hide, wouldn’t it? You couldn’t hide your feelings from yourself; you couldn’t hide them from Jean. Not under normal circumstances, with your minds open to each other. It would make you feel inadequate to the task of helping her re-assimilate, helping her heal, wouldn’t it? On the other hand, if it’s not Jean... well, then it’s okay to feel that way, right? Your hostility towards her is not only understandable, it’s loyal. It’s necessary to stay on your guard, to keep your mind closed to her. It’s not rejecting of Jean, not if you convince yourself that this isn’t Jean. On the contrary, it’s loving towards Jean, the real Jean, to unmask the imposter. You can’t face the fact that your feelings towards Jean have changed along with her personality, so you decide instead that she isn’t Jean.”

“I don’t know. I just don’t know. It makes sense when you say that, if you were telling me this about someone else – a patient – I’d commend you on your insight. Still, for all your skill and knowledge, Ethan, I don’t believe you can see what’s really going on here. You’re not a telepath; you’re not a mutant. I think you just aren’t as open to possibilities – even new and unusual possibilities - as my team and I have had to be. It’s not just my view. Jean-Paul Beaubier and Walter Langkowski independently came to the same conclusion, you know. And neither of them was particularly close to Jean, so your theory of my motivation would not apply to them. Jean-Paul, in particular, never got along well with Jean.”

“Yes, I know that. I’m not saying I understand or can explain why all of you feel like this. I am saying I just don’t think it could possibly be true.”

“Perhaps this woman is an extremely adept shape shifter, more so than we’ve ever encountered. Perhaps she’s able to mimic even details like fingerprints and scars. I understand that sounds unlikely, but leading the X-Men as long as I have has convinced me that many unlikely things happen. I’ve also learned that we discount the unlikely at our peril.”

“Have you talked to Logan about Jean? What does he say?”

“I haven’t spoken to him about her. I really don’t know. Have you?”


“He believes this is Jean?”

“He doesn’t know what to believe. He’s confused. But what he told me led me to rule out the possibility of a shape shifter, Charles. He said his heightened senses aren’t fooled by that, that every individual has a distinct scent. Logan can tell who’s in a room with his eyes closed, even if no one says a word. That’s how acute his sense of smell is. And he has no doubt that the woman who calls herself Jean has the scent he knew from the real Jean Grey.”

“Cyclops? Northstar here.”

“Jean-Paul. How are you?”

“Been better, copain. I talked to that shrink. He doesn’t believe me.”

“Did he say so?”

“No, but I could tell. I can’t convince him, Walter can’t, Charles Xavier can’t. Did you try?”

“Not very hard. Frankly, I don’t know what to believe anymore. I’m not surprised that Ethan thinks this sounds unlikely. I don’t see myself how it could have happened. How could someone look exactly like Jean? How could she move like Jean, sound like Jean, smell like Jean? How could she know what Jean knew?”

“She doesn’t know everything, believe me.”

“I do believe you. I’ve noticed that myself. But memory lapse is not proof that she’s an imposter.”

“No, but I have proof. And I gave it to the shrink. He still won’t believe it.”

“What kind of proof?”

“I’ve got no time to explain. That’s not what I called about. If we can’t unmask this imposter, then we’ve got to neutralize her.”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s a danger now – a danger to the mission and a danger to Cassandra. We’ve got to get Cassandra out of here and on to her new life before that woman causes her harm.”

“Is she ready, do you think? Is it safe to start her on her new identity?”

“I don’t know. I’d rather give her another couple of weeks, bien sur. I don’t know how safe this is. But I know it’s not safe here. We need to get her out, and fast. She needs to be far away before the one who pretends to be Jean even knows she’s gone.”

“Hi. It’s me.”

“Jean? Are you okay? It’s...”

“Three in the morning. I know, ‘Ro. I’m sorry to wake you, but this couldn’t wait.”

“It’s okay. What’s wrong? Is Angela okay?”

“For now. But I need your help.”

“Of course. What is happening?”

“She’s in danger. We have to get her out of here.”

“Danger? What’s going on there?”

Northstar and Sasquatch. They’re not... doing what they say they are. They’re plotting against this mission.”

“Jean, I know you and Jean-Paul don’t get along very well, but I can’t think he or Walter would plot against our mission. We’ve worked with Alpha Flight so often. They’re very reliable and committed to joint missions.”

“Not this time. They’re trying to take her away from here.”

“That’s the whole idea of this mission. At our status meeting yesterday, we heard she should be ready in another two weeks.”

“They’re not waiting two weeks and they’re not taking her to... where was she supposed to be resettled?”

“Where do you think they’re taking her? When do you think this is happening?”

“I don’t know where. I only have the sketchiest information. But I know they’re planning on sneaking her out tomorrow, without telling her in advance, and without informing me or the FBI. They don’t mean her well, ‘Ro, I’m sure of it.”

“What do you want to do? What do you want me to do?”

“You have to help me. We’ve got to get her away from here. Before they do.”

“Jean? Please calm down. We can’t just do this on our own. We need to talk to Charles. If you have concerns about the Alpha Flight team members, he’s the one to bring your concerns to. Jean? Jean? Are you there?”

Tags: returning spring, x2 fic
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