Disclaimer: The X-Men are property of Marvel Comics Group. I am using them without permission, for no profit.

Continuity: Somewhere before UXM #7. YES, 7.

Love is Just Another 4-Letter Word
A Valentine's Day Tale of the Early X-Men by Kerrie Smith

Bobby Drake scratched his head. That oughtta do it.

Warren Worthington III, occasionally known the Angel, strode down the hallway with the full intention of walking into his room and quietly ignoring Bobby Drake. Somehow, though, he failed to ignore the large bed sheet splashed with red and pink paint that had been stapled to Bobby's door.

"Drake... tell me that doesn't say what I think it does..." Warren blinked, hoping that it would clear his vision, such that the bed sheet stapled to Bobby's door would say something less... odd, and perhaps even disappear entirely. Such luck was not to be had, however. "Welcome to the Den of Love, Clothing Optional. Robert Drake, Love God in Attendance."

"It pays to advertise," Bobby nodded, sagely.

Warren blinked. "Tell me that's not my bed sheet."

"It's Hank's."

"Okay." Warren retreated to his room, deciding to tactfully ignore Robert Drake, Love God, after all. Suddenly, he stuck his head out of his room again.



"You don't actually have any clothing-optional women in there, do you?"

"Nope. But they're coming, Warren. They're coming."

Scott Summers stared at himself in the mirror.

"Today is the day," he told himself. "I'm going to ask her out. Today's Valentine's Day. Girls always feel romantic and stuff on Valentine's Day. I'm going to go downstairs, and I'm going to walk right up to her. And then I'm going to admit that I've liked her for a while now. And then I'm going to ask her out to dinner tonight. That is exactly how it's going to happen."

Scott nodded determinedly. His reflection nodded back.

"And I'm going to do all this as soon as Bobby gets back from Hell and tells me it was a little chilly down there. AAAUURRGGH!"

Jean Grey looked up from her project as Warren wandered into the kitchen, making a beeline for the refrigerator.

"And what are you working on, today, Ms. Grey?" he asked, mock-cordially.

"Nothing," Jean replied, gathering up her pile of red paper.

"Nothing?" Warren echoed, grabbing a bottle of juice.

"Well, a girl has to have some secrets, hmm?" Jean replied archly. "And don't you dare drink straight out of that bottle, Warren. There are other people living in this house, you know."

"Hey, I'm not Bobby, okay?" Warren replied, grabbing a glass from the cupboard. "Speaking of... you haven't been upstairs lately, have you?"

"No," Jean replied, thumping her papers against the table in order to line them up. "Why do you ask?"

"Bobby's up to something."

Jean rolled her eyes. "Oh, for Pete's sake, Warren!"

Warren shrugged. "Believe what you will. I think he's trying to gather a harem."

"Now you're just being silly."

"Hey, Jean, I was wondering something. Today's--"

"Oh, look at the time! Look, Warren, I have to run! I've got a haircut in twenty minutes. Ask me later, okay?"

Jean grabbed her things and dashed out of the kitchen.

Warren took a sip of juice. "Huh. I was just gonna ask her out for Valentine's Day."

Bobby Drake slumped against his door. This was taking much too long. Perhaps this had something to do with the fact the upper hallway of Professor Xavier's mansion got little traffic in the way of attractive women. Or any women, for that matter. If he was going to find a chick, he was going to have to leave the house.

Hank McCoy frowned and rubbed the eraser angrily against his paper for the fifth time. He felt a calming hand on his shoulder.

"Henry, I think you're taking this a little too seriously. We can work on it later."

Hank ran his fingers through his hair. "It's not that I don't understand it, Professor... the numbers just refuse to reconcile themselves correctly."

Professor Xavier chuckled. "You've been at it for hours, Hank. Besides, these are college level mathematics. You're far ahead of your classmates."

"I know. I helped Bobby with his algebra last night."

"Hmm. I'd wondered how he'd gotten them correct. So, do you have any plans for this evening, Mr. McCoy?"

Hank blinked. "This evening?"

"It's Valentine's Day, remember?"

Hank felt his ears burning. "I'd forgotten. And-- plans? No, of course not. Sir!"

"Oh, don't be a prude, Hank. I may be old, but I still know what Valentine's Day is. Isn't there some lucky young lady you have your eye on?"

Hank scratched his head. "Don't you already know that, sir?"

Xavier frowned. "I completely respect the privacy of you and your classmates. I would never poke around in your heads. Unless I thought it was something really juicy."

Hank chuckled softly. "Actually, there is someone... but I highly doubt my feelings are requited."

"You never know until you tell her, Hank," Charles reminded him kindly. "And I think a young lady would be very lucky, indeed, to find herself the object your affections."

"You think so, sir?" Hank asked nervously.

"I'm sure of it."

Hank nodded, partially to himself. Xavier grinned, tremendously proud of himself for being able to connect so well with his students. I wonder who she is, he contemplated. Meanwhile, Hank was lost in his own thoughts. Maybe Jean would go out with me. Unless Scott gets up the nerve to ask her first.

"Jean! How's is going? You're looking particularly lovely today..."

Scott scowled at himself in the mirror. "No. Too... Eddie Haskel."

He cleared his throat. "Jean, my darling... No. Ms. Grey... no. Wait, how did that movie go? What do you want, Jeannie? Do you want the moon? If you want it, I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down for you. NO! DEFINITELY NOT!"

Had anyone walked past the bathroom door that moment, they would have the distinct sound of Scott Summers' head coming into forceful, repeated contact with the wall.

Bobby Drake cursed the Gods of Transportation who had so cruelly reduced him to this lowly fate. After all, he was 16 years old. Old enough to be bestowed with that magic piece of plastic known as a license, which allowed him to escape the humiliation known as Riding the Bus. Unfortunately, he was not possessed of that OTHER magic piece of plastic known as a credit card, which would allow him to purchase something other than a bus to ride in. Scowling, he trudged down to the corner of Greymalkin Lane, where the bus stop silently mocked his plight.

As he approached it, however, he realized he was not alone.

"Hi, Bobby," Jean said brightly. "Going into Salem Center?"

"Um, yeah," he replied. "You, too?"

"Mm-hmm. As soon as the bus gets here."

Bobby frowned. "Why didn't you just ask Warren to take you? He's got..." Bobby sighed, "a car."

Jean smiled brightly. "Because I'm working on something, and Warren would have gotten in the way. Besides, I told him I was getting my hair done."

Bobby nodded.

"So what brings you into Salem Center?"

"I want to meet some birds," Bobby announced.

Jean raised one eyebrow. "Birds?"

"You know. Chicks. Babes. Women."

Jean's eyes widened. "I see."

It occurred to Bobby that he was currently seated next to a "bird" and a quite attractive one, at that. He scratched his head. Sure Jean was cute, but she beat him up on a fairly regular basis. She didn't count, he decided. "Hey, Jean, you're kind of a girl, right?"

"I suppose," Jean replied.

"Where do girls hang out?"

Jean contemplated this for a moment. She was no slouch. And was currently seeing a prime opportunity to avoid carrying her own groceries. "At the grocery store."

Bobby's eyes bugged. "The grocery store? You're kidding!"

Jean shrugged nonchalantly. "Girls like to cook, right? Where do you think they get ingredients?"

"You are SO SMART, Jean!" Bobby exclaimed, eyes alight.

Yes, I am, Jean thought to herself.

Hank wandered downstairs, straightening his sweater nervously. He seemed to remember seeing Jean working intently on something in the kitchen earlier. However, when he arrived in the kitchen, he found, to his disappointment, no cute little red-headed girl in sight. Instead, Warren sat at the kitchen table, nursing a glass of orange juice.

"What, not studying? Hit your twenty-three hour quota for the day?"

Hank ignored him tactfully. "Have you seen the lovely Ms. Grey, lately? I had a matter I would like to discuss with her."

"She went to get her hair done," Warren sniffed. "What did *you* want to talk to her about?"

"I'll have you know that Jean is a fascinating conversationalist," Hank informed him dryly.

"Huh," Warren replied. "Good. 'Cause if you were gonna ask her out tonight, I would have to beat you up, you know."

"And why would that be?"

"Because she's going out with me tonight."

The temperature in the room promptly dropped ten degrees as the two young X-Men locked gazes.

"I'll paper-rock-scissors you for her."

"You're on."

As he had told Hank McCoy earlier, Charles Xavier did not peek inside his students' heads. Ever. Except for that unfortunate incident with his ex-toupee and Bobby's turtle. But he had really wanted to get to the bottom of that. Anyway, despite his general policy, he couldn't help but detect the waves of generally dejection emanating from the upper part of the house. It was a brand of depression that knew no equal. Scott was at it again.

Confidence boosted by his discussion with Hank (and the fact that it was Valentine's Day, and having no girlfriend of his own, Charles rather enjoyed poking his nose into his students' business) he wheeled down the Boys' Hallway.

He didn't quite make it to Scott's room.

Instead, he was rather distracted by the large, paint-splattered bed sheet stapled to Robert Drake's door. He was fairly sure he hadn't authorized that. He was also fairly sure he hadn't authorized Robert opening a "Love Den" in his house. And certainly not a clothing-optional one. But then again, it was Robert. Was there really anything to be concerned over?

He started to wheel down the hallway towards Scott's room, then stopped.

Slowly, he opened Bobby's door. Dirty clothing on floor, check. Comic books scattered on top of schoolbooks, check. Distinct lack of clothing-optional women? Double check. Xavier closed the door. It never hurt to make sure.

Yes! Why hadn't he thought of this before? Scott grinned maniacally. Girls loved a sensitive guy. And nothing said sensitive like *poetry.* Words flew from his pen as he composed his heart out. And suddenly halted.

What rhymed with "eternal"?

Well, "infernal," but that wasn't very romantic.

"Maternal." Er, didn't want to go there.

"Colonel." But how to work that into a love poem?

"Spurnial?" Scott contemplated it. It rhymed, true. Its actual status as a member of the English vocabulary was less solid.

Scott scowled, crumpled up the page, and hurled it at the trashcan. Back to the drawing board. Mental note: Don't use the word "eternal" at the end of a line.

He tried to start again, but it didn't flow nearly as well. Finally, growling at the new poem, Scott crumpled it up, and hurled it across the room as well. Conveniently, just as Professor Xavier stuck his head in the room. The paper ball bounced right off that shiny spot on his head.

"I suppose I should have knocked," he commented.

"Omigod! Professor Xavier, I'm so sorry!"

"No harm done," Xavier said, removing the paper from his lap. "Unless, of course, this is an evil, mutant paper ball."

"No, just the ordinary kind," Scott replied. "Um, is there something I can do for you, sir?"

"You seem depressed, Scott."

Scott scratched his head. "Course I'm not depressed!"

"Scott, you practically have a little black cloud floating over your head."

Scott sighed. "I think I'm dull."


"Blah. Wishy-washy."

"And what brought this on, Scott?"

Scott stared at his carpet. "Well, see, sir, there's this girl I... kind of... sort of..."


"Er, right."

"Then you should tell her so!" the Professor replied. He was really rolling on the advice today.

"That's just the problem, sir. I can't figure out a way to tell her without sounding... lame."

The professor scratched his chin. "Just tell her how you feel. Words from the heart are never boring."

"You really think so, sir?"

"You know, Scott, I was once a young man, too."

Scott felt a reminiscence coming one. And he was stuck at ground zero.

Please don't let this be about that MacTaggert woman, he begged to a higher authority. Unfortunately, said higher authority didn't seem to be listening.

Jean hummed happily to herself as she tried to decide between chocolate icing and vanilla. She seemed to remember Warren commented on liking vanilla once before. But Hank and Bobby were both hopeless chocolate addicts. Come to think of it, so was she. Jean went for the chocolate. Behind her, Bobby Drake went screaming down the aisle, being chased by two irate women, one of whom was waving a Purdue Oven Stuffer Roaster. Jean tactfully ignored it, looking over the items in her grocery cart. She'd thought about trying to go fancy, but beyond pancakes, she still wasn't the world's greatest cook. So she went with the simple stuff.

Wheeling out of the baking aisle, she headed for Produce. Some other woman brandishing a stalk of celery stomped by, muttering something about perverted teenaged boys. Jean ignored that, too.

Hank crossed his arms and stared at Warren with lidded eyes. "No."

Warren growled deep in his throat. "Fifty bucks."


"Hank. Buddy. Pal. Friend o' mine."

"You had scissors. I had rock. End of story."

"Best two outta three, then?"


"Look, if you let me ask Jean out, I'll give you my bed sheet."

Hank furrowed his brow. "Why on earth would I want your bed sheet?"

Warren grinned evilly. "You haven't been upstairs lately, have you?"

There were actually a few times in his life that Scott was thankful for his rather destructive and debilitating mutant powers. After all, if he didn't have his powers, he never would have become an X-Man. Another upper was the ruby quartz glasses. Sure they were highly unfashionable, not to mention a pain, but they were also almost completely opaque. Which meant that Professor Xavier didn't really notice when he stopped paying attention to the Wacky Adventures of Chuck and Moira.

Charles stopped talking, and a laughed a little. "Ah, those were the days."

Scott chuckled a little, too. "You sure got that right, Professor." Then a happy thought penetrated the generally gloom of Scott's psyche. Jean could and would listen to Professor Xavier's rather dull escapades for hours on end. Maybe... possibly... could it be... Did Jean go for boring guys?! "Thanks, Professor X!" Scott announced. "I feel much better now!"

Xavier nodded happily as Scott dashed out of the room. "Sometimes," he commented, "I'm such a good teacher, I scare myself."

"What is all this stuff, Jeannie?" Bobby grunted, struggling to keep his grip on all five sacks of groceries.

"You'll see..." Jean singsonged, swinging her own bag, which contained the icing and a bag of rolls.

Bobby dropped the bags unceremoniously on the kitchen table, rubbing his head. "Campbell's needs to make softer soup cans."

"You've got a bump," Jean observed sympathetically.

"Yeah, that was the Cream of Mushroom. She missed with the Chicken and Stars."

"What did you do to make all those women so mad, anyway?"

"I don't know! But I think the girl with the ham hock knew some sort of martial arts."

Jean raised one eyebrow. The Danger Room was a challenge, but there were only so many things you could do with robots. Maybe she should suggest moving practice sessions to the grocery store. After all, what didn't kill you made you stronger.

"Thanks for your help, Bobby," Jean said brightly. "Now scram! I need the kitchen."

"Okay," Bobby nodded. "I think I need a band-aid. That tongue-in-a-tin has sharp edges."


"Ow," Warren muttered, rubbing his ears as Hank bounded down the stairs, three at a time.

Bobby looked exactly like the proverbial deer stuck in the hi-beams. Then he wondered... could the Wrath of Hank possibly be worse than the Wrath of the Chick with the Ham Hock?

"Hi, Hank," Bobby replied.


"Didn't you see? I stapled it to my door and painted "Welcome to the Den of Love, Clothing--"


"Hey, Bobster... Jeannie back yet?" Warren asked idly.

"Huh? Oh, yeah, she's in the kitchen."


As Hank's face turned steadily purpler, Warren tried to sneak to the kitchen unnoticed.

"Jean?" Hank said suddenly. "WHY, YOU--"

"Hey, guys, what's going on?" Scott asked, coming down the stairs.

"He's trying to steal my woman!" Hank exclaimed.

"Your woman? She's my woman!"

"I won her in paper-rock-scissors!"

"Ouch. Stupid tongue-in-a-tin. Anyone got a band-aid?"

"Who are you talking about?"

"Oh, YEAH?"


"Hey, why are you mad at me?" Warren said suddenly. "He's the one who painted your sheet!"

"Huh?" Bobby replied, sensing incoming Blame, and moved to deflect. "But he stole your woman!"

"What's going on?" Scott wailed.

"That's it! You're both going down!"

Hank attempted to tackle both Warren and Bobby at once. In his exuberance, he managed to take Scott down as well.


"Hey, watch the--"

"Get offa my--"

"Take that!"

"That hurt!"






Suddenly, with the creak of the kitchen door, the living room went silent.

"What," Jean Grey demanded, brandishing her wooden spoon, "is going on in here?"

"JEAN, WILL YOU GO OUT WITH ME?" Warren, Hank and Scott chorused in unison. Bobby scowled. Why hadn't he thought of that?

Jean blinked. "No. Bobby, get a band-aid, already. If you get blood on the carpet, I'm not cleaning it up. And don't forget to wash it, first. You don't know where that tin can has been." And then she walked back into the kitchen. The four boys looked at each other. And promptly started beating each other again.

Professor Xavier glanced contentedly at the four boys sitting around the table. He had no idea why they all seemed to be sporting various bruises and bandages. Sometimes it was just better not to ask. Suddenly, Jean swept into the room, clad in a frilly apron, carrying a covered tray.

"Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!" she announced.

The boys looked at her in shock.

"I made a special dinner for everyone," she added.

"For... all of us?" Warren asked.

"Of course," Jean grinned. "You're all my boys. I couldn't very well go out with one of you and leave the rest of you behind." She set her tray down on the table, and whisked off the lid with a flourish.

"Heart-shaped hamburgers! How lovely," the Professor commented happily.

Jean beamed. "It's not very fancy, but I couldn't mess them up."

"You wanted to... do something for..."

"All of you, yes, Scottie," Jean said. "Oh, I made you Valentines, too." She pulled out a stack of red paper, and started handing them around. Each boy stared at his, faces reflecting a mixture of emotions. Well, except for Bobby, whose face whose face reflected a general "I am such a Love God," expression. Jean paused to give each guy a kiss on the cheek along with his Valentine. "I didn't want you boys to get jealous and start fighting with each other. So I decided to have Valentine's Day with all of you" The boys exchanged glances, and finally shrugged.

"How thoughtful of you," Professor Xavier announced, as Jean pecked him on the cheek.

"And there's cake for dessert."

"CAKE!" Bobby exclaimed. "Wow, Jeannie, you're the best."

Jean dusted her hands on her apron. "I know."

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