Wishes and Shooting Stars
Through Death and Through Life
When O5 Jean Grey meets post-AvX Scott Summers.
Exile ties into the All New X-Men comic series (where the Original 5 X-Men have been brought forward in time to the present day) and is set after the Avengers vs. X-Men comic event.
In this story, O5 Scott and Jean are a couple, Jean Grey has the use of her telepathy, and present day Scott Summers and Emma Frost have remained together throughout AvX.
Now O5 Jean Grey has traveled to Utopia to get answers.
He was standing silent and alone, hands clasped lightly behind his back, the bulk of his attention occupied in surveying an intricate holographic display which spanned the length of an entire wall.
She expected that he would hear her coming. Scott always did. He was as reliant on his hearing as he was on his eyesight. He said it was a reflex, because the glasses limited his peripheral vision, but she’d always suspected the habit was also a throwback to times in his life when he had been blind. He’d never forgotten that vulnerability, and he knew it was something he would always be susceptible to, even with the glasses. It all blended into his need to be prepared for anything.
So it didn’t surprise her to find him standing in what was effectively a war room, planning. That was very much like the Scott she knew. But there was another, more unfamiliar element to this Scott. She could sense a palpable tension in his mind, the instinctive alertness of a warrior who was ready to meet an unexpected ambush at any time, even when that ambush came on his own home turf... but this wasn’t really his home, not anymore.
It had been, or so she was told. It had been his utopia.
Now it was his place of house arrest. That arrangement was owed to a strange combination of facts: there was the worry that conventional prisons couldn’t safely hold him, and then there were the strange politics surrounding his capture. Half the world considered him a terrorist and wanted him dead. The other half viewed him as an almost god-like savior and wanted him freed. She was reminded of the Dalai Lama, leading from a place of exile following the Tibetan uprising.
This was the compromise. Self-imposed exile. He was essentially free from prosecution, as long as he agreed to remove himself from the conflict that he was accused of dangerously escalating, as long as he isolated himself from the world. That essentially made him a man without a country. Literally: a mutant, on an island, in the Pacific Ocean.
The arrangement was enforced by the Avengers and the X-Men, but presently Scott Summers was cooperating fully. Even so, she suspected all three parties had to know this couldn’t and wouldn’t last forever, not for many reasons. Jean Grey still had a hard time understanding how the present day X-Men had so thoroughly turned their backs on one of their own, but she also suspected that factor was the primary reason why Scott had accepted this fate. Cyclops was now a leader without a team.
He said nothing to acknowledge her presence, but the moment she stepped into the room Jean felt the change in his mind. It was more than just a change. Everything she had sensed of his mental signature a moment earlier almost ceased to exist as he effectively barricaded his mind against attack or intrusion. She came to a stop just as he turned to meet her, and Jean forced a dim smile.
Seeing him in person was different from seeing him in photos and on the newscasts. There was something distinctly intimidating about this older Cyclops, and yet she wasn’t at all intimidated. Nothing that he was accused of and no passing of years could change the fact that she trusted Scott Summers with her life. Even while he was effectively blocking her from getting any read on his thoughts and feelings, she still knew him well enough to read his body language. And she had complete confidence that her trust was not misplaced.
“Wow,” she acknowledged the change she had just sensed. She had only previously felt mental defenses on this scale from Professor Xavier. As such, she had assumed it was a skill that only a powerful telepath could master. “How did you learn to do that?”
“I’ve been in battle against some of the strongest telepaths in the world. It was a necessary skill.”
She nodded. The man standing in front of her was a seasoned warrior. Any lingering doubts she’d had to that effect quickly evaporated as she studied him. His every movement was calculated and deliberate as he slowly walked toward her.
“And was I one of them?”
His mouth turned in a slight smile, easing her suspicions. “Quite the opposite. Most of what I know, I learned from you.” He paused. “But that’s not to say I haven’t resorted to using those tricks against you.” Then he released a heavy sigh. “Seeing you here–”
He gave a glance toward one section of the display he had been studying. There she saw an image of herself along with her teammates – and there were others, almost countless other images, presumably of mutants.
“Seeing you all here–” he continued, “I feel incredibly old and battle-worn.” He shook his head, refocusing his attention. “Tell me what I can do for you.”
She moved closer to him. “I needed to talk to you. I need to ask– How–” She struggled for a moment over the enormity of the question. “How did it all go so wrong?”
He only nodded, looking down. “I’ve asked myself that question a million times. There’s no one answer that I can give to explain it all. The struggle was so much greater, longer and harder than we ever imagined. We fought well. We kept the dream alive, for a long time. The fighting just never stopped long enough to pursue peace. Eventually we weren’t fighting for peace at all. We were just fighting for the chance to keep fighting, another day, and then another.
“Then the Phoenix– It seemed like a way to break the stalemate, to finally tip the scales back in our favor and give us a real chance again.” He shook his head. “I should have known better. Should have known I couldn’t control it; it can’t be controlled. But I was desperate to create a turning point for us– for mutants,” he clarified himself... making her wonder if it was really that simple.
He looked at her for a long moment, half certain that this couldn’t truly be real. It was all a part of some elaborate penance, and an appropriate one at that.
“I took a terrible leap of faith, hoping for the best... even knowing how bad it could be at its worst, if I was wrong. It was my decision. And I’m responsible for everything that happened after that.”
He was looking at Jean Grey, as she had been when they were both teenagers, before the Phoenix. And she was here, impossibly, staring back at him, seeing him as he was now.
She drew close enough to touch him and placed a cautious hand against his cheek.
“Scott,” she whispered. “What happened to you?”
He simultaneously flinched at her touch and felt himself thrill at the sound of her voice. Her thoughts pressed just as cautiously, gently, against his mind. For a split second he felt like he was a teenager again. Completely unable to resist, and utterly unwilling to deny her.
“Please tell me.”
And the iron curtain that surrounded his mind fell of his own accord.
He closed his eyes tight, silently consenting, giving her access to a lifetime of memories. They both knew there was no other way for her to understand everything that had occurred, and it was vital that she understand.
He felt the roller coaster of her emotions as she looked through the prism of his own mind. Witness to shock and horror, love and loss, deeper joys and deeper pains than she could yet imagine so early in the course of her life.
“Scott–” she whispered his name again, shaken, as she drew back. He was holding her hands in his, nothing more to offer, spent by the exercise, spent by the weight of his life.
“I’m sorry that this burden has fallen to you,” he whispered. “But I hope that the five of you can find a way to right our course, Jean.”
They both felt it: a change in the psychic currents that marked the approach of a very powerful mind. And then Scott was in motion; a fraction of a second later he had released Jean and moved to stand between her and Emma Frost.
Jean’s eyes narrowed distastefully at the sight of the other woman.
“Leave it, Emma,” Scott warned her in a low, quiet voice. “She’s no threat. She’s a teenager, and she belongs to him.”
Emma Frost looked at the teenage Jean Grey for a long moment, as if she were an insect Emma wouldn’t mind squashing, given the chance. Then she turned her gaze back to Scott.
“And you are not him,” she stated pointedly, coldly, before issuing her own warning. “Be certain you remember that, Scott.”
Scott nodded fractionally.
“I can’t believe–”
“She’s right,” he admitted.
Jean shook her head. “How is it possible for you to love me and– be– with her?”
Her eyes narrowed slightly, but Emma Frost bit back whatever comment she had been about to make to let Scott answer instead.
“I lost you, more than once. Each time it was like losing part of my heart and soul. I don’t think I could love that way again. Emma understands me as I am now. She knows what makes me tick. She keeps me from taking myself too seriously. She’s smart, and strong, and capable. Simply put: We’re a good match for one another, and I want her by my side.”
He spoke honestly and openly, making it unmistakable that he had no secrets from Emma. But Jean had already seen as much in his mind. Scott wasn’t proud of the way things had happened, especially between the three of them. He deeply regretted the hurt that he had caused. But he didn’t regret the choices he had made. He had done the best he could at the time, and he was at peace with himself given that knowledge.
Jean nodded, honestly trying to accept that, but she found she still couldn’t let it go.
“That may be good enough for you, but if it was enough for her she wouldn’t be so jealous and possessive over you.”
Scott nodded in acknowledgment, but it was also clearly a dismissal.
“Emma,” he prompted, then he left them both in his wake, walking silently across the room.
“Allow me to escort you off of this god-forsaken rock,” Emma Frost stated. Her coldly controlled voice betrayed the underling threat, or maybe it was the hope, of more forcible removal... preferably into an icy ocean.
Jean still didn’t move.
Scott spoke without turning back to her. “You have what you came here for; you should get back before he misses you.”
Jean nodded reluctantly. Emma left without waiting for Jean to follow.
When Jean left him, Scott was again standing where he had been when she’d first entered the room. His back turned to her, his mind again closed and defended, surveying the holographic display that was all he had of the outside world. She left him standing there, still trying to make sense of his world.
Scott stared at the display for a long time, looking into those five youthful faces.
He remained there long enough to see the teenage Jean Grey safely leave the Utopia facility. Long after she had gone, he was still thinking about all the things she had seen in his mind.
Mainland United States
“What did he have to say for himself?”
Jean shook her head, only mildly surprised to find the teenage Scott Summers waiting there for her, the moment she stepped back onto the mainland. “How did you know?”
Jean could tell he wasn’t happy with what she had done, that she had gone to the Utopia Facility alone and without telling the rest of the team of her intentions, but he wasn’t going to make an issue of that right now.
“It’s what I would do.” He hesitated, but only by a fraction of a second. If there was another version of you in this time, I’d need to see her face to face; I’d have to ask.”
Scott came to meet her. Right now he wanted to know what she had learned, and he wanted to know that she was alright.
“I asked him... but he didn’t have an answer.” She shuddered. “He– showed me.... Oh, god, Scott,” she whispered before she folded into his waiting arms and sobbed for everything that she had seen.
Scott – her Scott – stroked her hair and held her close to him until she could gradually compose herself. She knew this reality scared and horrified him as deeply as it did her, but he refused to give into those emotions.
He gently pushed back to look at her and whispered, “His life is not our future. I refuse to let it be, Jean. We have to consider this experience the warning they never had. We won’t let things come to pass in the same ways they did.”
She sniffed and nodded in agreement, soaking in his steady strength and unfailing determination.
“It was so strange,” she whispered, placing a careful hand to his face. “I could see you in him... but so many of the things I love most in you are the things he’s sacrificed along the way.”
He winced as she gently stroked a finger against his face. “I can’t imagine losing as much as he has lost... but I can almost understand how he must feel... like everything has become a battle for survival now.”
“No,” Jean whispered. “Life is so much more than that, Scott, and you know it. Promise me now: No matter what happens to you, to us, you’ll never be so afraid of what you might lose that you forget to truly live.”
A smile turned his lip despite the grim conversation. Even faced with this bitter and brutal future that had taken so much from them all – but especially from her – Jean still fought back with unwavering hope and optimism.
“I love you so much, Jean,” he whispered, leaning in against her, touching his lips to hers.
“Promise me, Scott,” she insisted.
He gave her a smile and nodded. “I promise.”
“I love you, Scott Summers,” she whispered against his lips in return, and kissed him passionately.
Scott lay awake for a long time that night.
“I’d offer a penny for your thoughts, but they’re worth far more to me than that.”
Scott smiled. She could pry anytime she liked, but it always made him smile when she made that offer. He turned to face her.
“Unbelievable, the way life stops and changes on a dime. I’ve come to terms with death, and resurrection, children from other timelines, and countless possible futures– but now it’s my world that’s become the horror-inspiring possible future.”
“Are you certain that was wise, showing her this future?”
“Wise? No. But it had to be done. If they’re going to remain here they can’t be expected to walk around blind and helpless to all the threats we’ve faced and all the enemies we’ve made over the years.”
“That wasn’t just defense. It was also offense.”
He gave a slight nod.
“And it was also personal.”
He smiled unexpectedly. “How can it not be, Em?”
“Then why risk making it even more personal?”
“Because, like it or not, I’m the only one who knows the full story... especially when it comes to the Phoenix. Jean and I are the only ones who know that full story.”
“And there’s not even some small part of you that simply wants her, and that connection to her?”
He sighed. “I know exactly how my younger self feels about her right now... and that is not what I feel.”
“So that’s a ‘no’”, she prompted him.
“That’s a ‘no’,” he agreed. And he fell silent for a long moment. “Want isn’t the right word. I think I envy her. Them. If you’d asked me yesterday how we were doing, I would have said ‘fine’, ‘good’ even.
“The mutant race finally has a chance to survive again. There’s no price I wouldn’t pay to secure that reality.”
“There are few you haven’t paid already, darling,” Emma countered, the strain of bitterness unmistakable in her voice.
Even before all this, the weight on him had been enormous, the price had been great. But now, he had accepted this farce of an imprisonment without trial for crimes that half the world still regarded as miracles. He had accepted it because there had also been collateral damage: unintended, but still costly. And he had accepted it because the team that he had devoted his entire adult life to had seen fit to turn its back on its founding member and long-time leader. Someone had to be held responsible for the actions of the Phoenix-possessed X-Men. Scott had taken that responsibility on himself because that was what he always did. In part, he believed he deserved the blame, but his actions also allowed the rest of his team to go free.
Emma had chosen to remain at his side.
She insisted she had nowhere else to go. He knew the truth. There was nowhere else she wanted to be, nowhere else she felt she belonged.
“Seeing their faces, and seeing their absolute revulsion for everything I’ve come to accept as a hard-fought victory.... It makes me question everything I’ve done and everything I am.”
“They’re teenagers, Scott. None of our lives can live up to the expectations of youth. We have to grow up, and that’s a hard and sometimes cruel process; it’s a hard and cruel world out there.”
“But isn’t it supposed to be better – not perfect, not easy – but better? Each new generation should be handed a better chance to make their dreams come true than the chance the generation before them had. It feels like we’ve failed in that legacy.”
“Scott, darling. Because of you there is a whole new generation alive to loath and blame you for those failings.”
He laughed in spite of himself and gave a slight nod. “Thanks, Emma.”
“Anytime, my love.”
“Seeing them all,” he continued more quietly, “I also realize how much I’ve lost. I can’t believe the way I used to, in the dream, in Xavier, in a world that will ever simply allow us to peacefully coexist. I don’t have that kind of blind faith in me anymore... and they deserve that. This new generation, they deserve to start off with the same lofty hopes and dreams that we all did.”
“And you believe that the original X-Men can do now what they couldn’t – what all of you, together, couldn’t – do then?”
“I honestly don’t know,” Scott admitted. “But I hope they can.”
So Let it Be Written Publishing © 2004