X-Men fan fiction
Letter to Jean
Invitation: the story behind Letter to Jean
Open Letter From Scott Summers to the X-Men
Fearless Invitation: The story behind Letter to Jean
Scott Summers walked upstairs to the room he’d been assigned at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, emptied out his pockets, and tossed the motorcycle jacket he’d been wearing over the back of a chair. There on the desktop, among the small collection of things he’d borrowed from his future self, was the one thing of his own that Scott had been keeping on his person since he had left the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters a week ago... or decades ago, depending on your point of view. His gaze fell to the desktop, resting on the letter that he’d begun writing just before all hell had broken loose. He carefully unfolded the single page and read the first few lines.
Please don’t be alarmed by this letter. I have been thinking of all the ways I wanted to tell you this and thinking of all the missed opportunities I’ve had....
That was as far as he’d gotten before Hank and Bobby had barged into the professor’s study. Then shortly after that, Blue Hank had arrived....
“Dammit,” Scott cursed under his breath. He hadn’t been able to come up with the right words in writing any more than he had in person. “Why didn’t I tell her when I had the chance?” Everything had been so much simpler a week ago.
“What’s the use now anyway?!” Scott was tempted to crumple the letter and throw it away. There had been too many missed opportunities... including his latest one. “I had my chance. I couldn’t do it.” He sighed in frustration.
Just a few minutes ago, he’d had the perfect opportunity to actually talk to Jean about the future, their future, together, and about the way he felt about her right now. Instead he’d made things worse. He’d handed her that invitation, like an idiot. And then he’d walked away, like an even bigger idiot.
Jean walked slowly back into the school, still staring at the small piece of paper in her hands. It felt like it should be important to her... even when she didn’t know if she wanted it to be or not. She ran her fingers over the ornate lettering, trying to absorb its meaning. By the time she got back to her room (well, technically, it was Professor Kitty’s room that Jean was staying in) she decided she didn’t want to see it anymore. She placed the invitation under her mattress for safe keeping. She didn’t know why. Part of her wanted to tear it up and forget she’d ever seen it.
But she had seen it. She’d seen it all. In Blue Hank’s head, his memories of that day were filled with incredible love and joy... a joy that hadn’t lasted. But when Scott had handed her this beautifully embroidered little piece of paper – and Jean could just tell that she, herself, had lovingly designed it – that was different than seeing something out of someone else’s memory. This was somehow more real. It somehow made everything more real.
She knew the truth. She had known it since she’d heard adult Scott’s thoughts. As repulsive as it had been to hear him admit in his own mind to Xavier’s death, to see him proudly standing as there as Magneto’s ally, it had been even more surreal and jarring to hear him remembering... her. She didn’t begin to know how to process all that. Hearing what was inside adult Scott’s head threw all the things she had felt a week ago for her Scott into turmoil. She had pushed him away, and she had been avoiding him ever since... she knew that wasn’t a good long-term solution; she couldn’t keep avoiding him forever. But then she had read Blue Hank’s mind... and that made matters even more overwhelming and confusing.
She knew the truth, and now her Scott knew it too. By handing her that invitation he was calling her bluff, daring her to keep avoiding what was happening between them now, and what had happened between them in this future. And he was telling her that nothing had changed; all of this changed absolutely nothing about his feelings for her. She just didn’t know what to do about any of that.
Scott stared at that unfinished letter for a couple of minutes. “What the hell am I doing?” He felt a horrible combination of senseless rage and intense helplessness, worse than anything he’d felt in years. He thought he’d finally learned to control those emotions. He leaned both hands against the desk and closed his eyes tight until it passed. “Just... get a grip, Summers!” Then he pushed away from the desk and walked out into the hall, grabbing the oversized leather jacket off the back of the chair as he left. He had no idea where he was going, he just needed some air.
Naturally, he barely made it out into the hall before he ran right into Wolverine, who wasn’t any happier to see Scott now than he had been a few minutes ago, when he had accompanied Scott back to the school after Scott had taken his bike this morning and gone AWOL.
“Hold it.” He placed one hand to Scott’s chest. “You. Back in that room. Now.”
Scott glowered at him for a moment. He hated being arbitrarily ordered around.
“I already gave you one free pass today, Summers. Don’t tempt me.”
“That’s your call.” Scott handed the leather jacket back to him. “I won’t take your stuff again; just let me pass, and you don’t have to deal with me anymore today.”
Logan raised one eyebrow. He was half tempted to let the fool kid have his way. But there was a voice in the back of his head that insisted otherwise.
“Believe me, Slim, I’d love to let you take off. It ain’t nearly that simple.”
“I get that you don’t want me to be your problem.” Kid Cyclops gave a little shrug. “I don’t blame you; just the opposite, I’m used to that... and I’m fine with being on my own....”
Logan tuned out the rest of the kid’s icy-calm argument. He’d seen this show before. Summers, adult Summers, was a gifted negotiator. Old one eye had a way of seeing through to the truth, figuring what people wanted out of any given situation, and turning that knowledge to his advantage. It was a little weird to see it coming from kid Summers, especially when the best bargaining chip he had was the fact that no one really wanted him to be here... and it was a little disturbing, how willing he was to use that... or maybe the disturbing part was that he saw no reason why his approach shouldn’t work.
This place wasn’t his home. These people weren’t his family. Not yet. Logan was seeing Scott Summers as the kid he was before Xavier had managed to teach him otherwise, and that was just... weird.
“Is everything alright?” Ororo Monroe was walking swiftly in Logan’s direction.
Logan took one look at her, lowered his hand, and started backing away from Summers.
“Deal with this,” Logan told her gruffly before he snatched his jacket away from Scott and stalked away.
“This?!” Scott’s already simmering anger came to a boil over the sudden, blunt dismissal. He took a step after Logan that he wasn’t fully aware of taking, his fists clinched.
“You don’t want to do that.”
Quicker and easier than he would have expected, Professor Monroe had taken hold of Scott’s wrist and pivoted him away from the headmaster. Her other hand, planted between his shoulder blades, pushed him gently but firmly forward, returning him to the room he had just exited. He was instantly twice as furious at himself over the lapse of focus that had resulted in her being able to physically take control of the situation, but this time the logical part of his brain managed to quickly shut down the anger. He was also impressed.
“How did you do that?”
She surprised him again by stopping on the spot and showing him what she had just done.
“That’s a good move,” he admitted.
“I know it is,” she replied. “I learned it from you.”
Scott blinked in surprise. “Really?”
She smiled at his surprise. “Logan and I both were part of the second generation of X-Men.”
“For a time Warren, Hank, Jean, and Bobby went on about their lives outside the team. You remained here, alongside the professor, to train their successors.”
He noted the change in her voice when she mentioned the professor’s name. But unlike most of the others here, she wasn’t angry, resentful, or distrusting of him. She simply sounded sad. And Scott hadn’t forgotten that it had been Professor Monroe who had stepped forward and gotten the headmaster to back down from his earlier talk of killing Scott.
“You don’t hate me like he does. Wolverine.”
“No.” She shook her head. “Actually, I feel happy for having your presence here again... but sad for it as well. It was deeply unwise – and most unfair, to you all – for Hank to bring you here the way he has. But it still feels as though the five of you belong here.” She paused heavily. “I cannot condone many of the actions your older self has taken, but, regardless of all that has occurred, I do not hate him. And I certainly don’t hate you. We were friends for many years, through many difficult times... I hope that in the future there may come a time to renew that friendship....”
Scott only nodded. “Then I trained Headmaster Logan too,” he surmised, deliberately steering the conversation away from the more recent actions of his future self. “Was he always... this way?”
She laughed. “More or less.”
Scott shook his head. “I can’t believe I actually thought that guy should be an X-Man.”
“The two of you rarely got along, but you did learn to coexist. It was the professor’s belief in him that changed Logan’s path.”
“Yeah. He told me something like that.”
Ororo’s smile softened. “And I suppose Jean’s presence played a large part in keeping him here as well.”
“He’s the one who renamed the school after her.”
Ororo gave a reluctant nod. “I cannot imagine how confusing this all must be for you, Scott.”
Scott rubbed the back of his head, slowly nodding in agreement. Professor Xavier changed my life too,” he admitted quietly. “I was just starting to get used to all that when....” He fell silent. Suddenly his throat felt tight.
“I understand. Truthfully, he changed all of our lives... but perhaps none more so than yours.”
Scott glanced up at her, surprised.
“As I said, we were friends for many years.”
“It’s just– until the Professor took me in–”
She nodded. “I know. Like you, I grew up without home and family, and I learned to fend for myself.”
“I– I’m sorry.”
“I am not,” she stated calmly. “The past has no more hold over me than I choose to give it. I choose to embrace the parts that were beneficial to me, and to release the parts that were not.”
Scott shook his head. “I wish you could show me that move.”
She smiled back at him. “You will find your own way forward, in time.”
“And then what? I thought this was too good to be true, this new life, all these amazing things Professor Xavier was teaching us... being a part of a team, like a family. Jean....” He swallowed hard, looking down. “I didn’t really expect it to last, but I wanted to try. I wanted to be the leader he believed I could be. I wanted to justify his faith in me... and now.... Look how I’ve repaid him.” Scott shook his head. “I don’t care if nobody wants me here, or trusts me at all. Everybody can hate me, and that’s fine; I can take that.” He looked up at her, his face showing the same desperation that Ororo could hear in his voice. “But I have to find some way to make this right... and I have no idea how to do that.”
“You can begin by apologizing to your teammates,” Professor Monroe encouraged him. “They were worried when you left. Jean, especially.”
“Jean doesn’t want to talk to me.”
Ororo frowned. “Why do you say that?”
“She told me so. In fact, she told me to leave her the hell alone.”
“And you took her angry words as a literal invitation to leave?”
He sighed and ran his hand through his hair. “I know. That was stupid. I just keep making things worse, don’t I?”
“You can start making them better,” Ororo countered. “Start by apologizing to her.” Ororo smiled unexpectedly. “What is this?”
“It’s nothing–” Scott quickly grabbed the sheet of paper off the desk, folded it, and tucked it into his pocket.”
“That’s the letter you wrote. To Jean.”
“That’s none of your– Wait. How do you know I–?” Scott trailed off.
“Jean told me so, of course.”
Ororo shook her head. “The Jean who was my friend told me about it. It took a long time for you to finally tell her how you felt, and that letter meant a lot to her.”
Scott stared in confusion for a couple of moments, trying to absorb that information. The letter he hadn’t written yet was important enough for adult Jean to want to tell her friend about it, and Ororo still remembered the way Jean had felt about it, years after Jean had– He shook his head. As if he wasn’t nervous enough trying to figure out what to say to her. “This is all... so strange.”
“She may be angry and confused right now, but the Jean I know, she would want to talk to you, Scott, about all of this.”
“I don’t know how to talk to her,” Scott finally admitted. “I’ll only end up making things worse, pushing her away.” He shook his head. “That’s the way I am with people. Nobody chooses me.”
Ororo slowly crossed the room to stand beside him. “I know that life has been difficult for you until now, Scott. I know that the orphanage where you grew up was a dreadful place. And the streets are rarely a better option.”
Scott walked over to the window, mostly trying to create some distance, to give him something to look at other than her concern. He was relieved when she didn’t follow, but allowed him the space.
“I know that before our Hank arrived in your time, you were just starting to figure out where you belonged and whom you could trust. But, Scott, you can trust your teammates; you have to trust your teammates.” She smiled. “You taught me that too, very shortly after I came here.”
He didn’t say anything, just looked out the window in silence.
“I know it requires a leap of faith, one you don’t know if you can make right now, but you can take that leap, Scott. Believe in them, and your teammates will stick with you, no matter what.”
He heard Professor Monroe’s footsteps turn toward the door.
“You can start making things better,” she reminded him. “Start by talking to her. I’ll check in on you later, Scott.” And with that promise in place, Ororo walked away down the hall.
Scott continued looking out the window, just trying to get a handle on his thoughts.
He wheeled around. “Jean!” She was standing in the doorway.
“I– didn’t know... about how you grew up.”
He winced. “I really wish you hadn’t overheard that, Jean.” He paused uncomfortably. “Did you... you didn’t hear anything else... before that?”
She came inside, shaking her head in a stunned fashion that didn’t quite reassure him.
“Why didn’t you ever say anything?” she asked gently.
“Huh?” Panic shot through him.
“To us– About how you grew up,” she quickly clarified, again leaving him slightly suspicious.
“Not exactly light dinner conversation, is it” he mumbled. “And after a while, when nobody asked, I figured maybe the professor gave you all a heads up, told you not to ask me.”
It was her turn to wince. “He didn’t say anything like that. We should have asked, Scott.”
He shook his head. “It wasn’t something I wanted to talk about.”
“Scott– I’m really sorry.”
“I didn’t know. If I had–”
“Oh no. No, no, no,” he said calmly.
“Don’t you look at me that way. I know that look. Every time I ever got in trouble, every single case–” he broke off suddenly.
She looked back at him in confusion, then shook her head at his abrupt stop. “Don’t you do that, Scott. Don’t you shut down on me. What way? And where do you know it from?”
“That look,” he shook his head helplessly, “like you’re trying to figure me out. Like now it all makes sense to you. I’ve seen that look. Every time I ever got in trouble at school. And on the face of every case worker I ever saw.”
She laughed unexpectedly. “You? Trouble?”
He smiled reluctantly at her reaction. “Not for grades or discipline. For my head.” He motioned to his glasses. “Headaches, because of my eyes. After a while teachers thought I was just faking, to get attention, or to get out of class.
“They’d go to call my parents and see in my records that my contact info was the Home.” He paused. “It was always the same after that: pity, worry. Fear, as I got older. Wondering how much trouble I was going to be to them.” His quiet voice hardened. “Just a damage case, or a real menace to society.”
Jean pulled back, her own expression hardening. “That is not what I think of you, Scott.”
“But you’re wondering if that’s why,” he persisted coldly, “if that’s what went wrong with me. If that’s what caused Xavier’s–” Scott took a beep breath and swallowed hard. “If that’s why he’s dead now,” Scott finished weakly.
Jean sat down on he edge of the bed and placed a hand to her forehead. “I'm wondering why, Scott. I’m wondering why so many terrible things have happened to all of us in this future. Why I’m dead. Why Hank is blue and furry, and Bobby looks like an icicle. And why Warren is... different. And, yes, I'm wondering why Xavier is dead, and why it seems like everyone here wants to kill you on sight. I’m wondering what happened to future you to make him the way he is now. But I didn’t mean to look at you like that. I don’t blame you for his actions, and I certainly don’t blame any of this on the way you grew up.”
Scott swallowed hard, regrouping. “I shouldn’t have jumped to that conclusion. Truth is, this – the way things were before Blue Hank brought us all here – that was the first time in my life I ever had that, you know? Not since I was a little kid.... People treating me like...” he trailed off.
She looked up at him. “Family?”
He nodded and sat down beside her cautiously. “Until the professor took me in, nobody ever cared what was going on with me, and if they acted like they did that only made me suspicious. But Professor Xavier gave me a whole new life. Before that, I was always trying to prove myself, and always feeling like I never measured up. I didn’t think anyone was ever gonna care, I didn’t think it would matter to anyone, either way, whatever became of me. But you all, starting with the professor, you all believed in me instead of writing me off as a lost cause.”
“You’re not a lost cause, not even close.” Her hand covered his and squeezed reassuringly before letting go. “And we all care, Scott.” She paused and smiled. “Maybe we don't always show it; it’s just that you’re so serious all the time. You’ve always seemed like the most grown up, the most adult of the five of us. But that’s a good thing. You’re the one the rest of us count on. Not having that stability has thrown us all for a loop.”
“Tell me about it,” Scott breathed.
Jean laughed softly, and Scott couldn’t help but smile.
"Ever since we got here, I keep trying to wrap my head around everything... but there’s a part of me that just wants things to be the way they were before.”
Jean nodded. “I know what you mean.”
“Jean– I– I know a lot has changed, but, I’m still the same guy I was a week ago.”
Jean squeezed his hand again. “I know you are, Scott.” This time she didn’t let go.
“Thank you. I don’t know how I could handle losing you guys too.” He hesitated. “I’d ask you, if we could talk about everything, but– maybe I’d better start by just saying, I'm sorry.”
“I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have said what I said to you before... when you wanted to talk to me. That wasn’t fair. I just– had him in my head, and you. And I couldn’t draw lines between the two of you....” She leaned against his side, tiredly.
“It’s okay.” He gave a little shrug. “You said it. You meant it.”
“I don’t blame you. I know you’re dealing with a lot too.”
She raised an eyebrow. “You mean like finding out I’m dead, and dating a homicidal mutant terrorist?”
“I wouldn’t have put it that way, exactly,” he admitted dryly, but her blunt statement of fact made him smile and cover her hand with his own, “but yeah. Your future, and your powers. All of a sudden you’re telepathic, and the professor isn’t here to help you figure that out.”
“All the more reason the five of us need to stick together.”
“I shouldn’t have used what you said as an excuse to run off the way I did... and I shouldn’t have given you that invitation. That wasn’t fair of me. I just– don’t understand– any of this,” he admitted haltingly.
That wasn’t entirely true. She could feel the conflict in his mind and emotions: the chasm between the things he thought and felt, and the things he actually could say to her. But the invitation was something he understood. It was the first thing he truly understood in all of this. And it hurt. It hurt him more than he could say.
“I’ve never been good at talking about my feelings....”
He loved her. Before, he hadn’t really known what it was he felt; it was overwhelming and confusing... and he thought maybe he was falling in love with her. But now that love was a real, tangible thing that existed... kind of. It had existed. It would exist?
“If someone had told me a week ago–”
“Scott, don’t– Please.”
He fell silent, then nodded. “You’re right. I know. We probably shouldn’t be talking about any of this. I’m sorry, Jean... for a lot of things. We both know too much about our futures and–”
“Don’t have a clue what to do about that?”
He nodded. “Yeah.” And he refocused on the task at hand. “We just need to figure out how to put things right here. We put things right, then we can go home.”
She could sense him shifting gears mentally. He was as determined as she was to avoid this conversation.
If someone had told her a week ago that she was going to marry Scott Summers... the guy she’d had a crush on since the moment she saw him, the guy she wasn’t sure felt anything like that for her in return.... If someone had told her a week ago that he really loved her, that someday he would propose, and they would get married, with a beautiful ceremony, surrounded by all their friends and family... she would have been absolutely ecstatic for knowing that.
But that was a week ago.
“And the professor will make us forget.”
His last word was clipped. He looked at her for a long moment. He didn’t want to forget. He had said that earlier, after they had confronted Scott’s future self... but it was different now.
Like it or not, that invitation gave him hope. It was the only thing in this future that had, and he was going to cling to that scrap of hope; he wasn’t going to let her tell him otherwise. He couldn’t bear the thought that she might not want that glimmer of hope to be a possibility for them anymore....
“Scott,” she said softly, “I don’t want to go home, hide my head in the sand, and not know– that my time is limited.”
He shook his head helplessly. “It doesn’t have to be–”
“Even if we can change things for the better here, I don’t know if we– if I can do anything to change my future....”
“It’s not going to happen that way, Jean,” he told her softly, but determinedly. “You hear me? We won’t let it.” That possibility was unacceptable to him.
He didn’t want to forget what he had seen here. He wanted desperately to remember every detail of this future, so that he could make it right. Going back to their own time only to blindly make the same mistakes all over again was completely unacceptable.
She nodded in unspoken agreement and leaned her head against his shoulder. “But if my life is going to be cut short, then I want it to count for something, and I want to make sure I make the most of it.”
He released a heavy sigh. “Jean– I should tell you–”
“I already know, Scott.”
“I knew it when you handed me that invitation.”
“Jean– I–” He didn’t know what else to say.
“Scott? Just tell me it’s going to be okay?”
He nodded and tucked her head under his chin. “I promise.”
Scott wasn’t sure how long he sat there before he felt Jean release her grip on his hand. She had fallen asleep on his shoulder. He carefully tucked her in and draped a blanket around her. With Jean curled up asleep in his borrowed bed, Scott sat down at the desk. He sat in silence, gathering his thoughts for a few minutes. Then he slowly started to write:
Please don’t be alarmed by this letter. I have been thinking of all the ways I wanted to tell you this and thinking of all the missed opportunities I’ve had....
I wish I could tell you how I feel....
How do you tell the girl you love that you’ve loved her since the moment you first saw her? How do you tell her that from the moment you first met, you knew she was the only girl in the world for you? How do you explain that, even when you couldn’t string together enough words and sentences to make simple conversation in her presence, you knew without a doubt in your mind that you were meant to spend the rest of your life with this woman?
Sometimes I don’t know why this future surprises me so much.
Sure, I never could have imagined anything like this. Yes, so much of it is horrifying and shocking, and nothing seems to have turned out the way we all thought it would.
But when has anything in my life ever gone according to plan?
Except for this.
From the moment I held that scrap of paper in my hand, read the wedding invitation, saw that date in June like it had been set there in stone... I had proof that, finally, something in my life had gone right.
The girl of my dreams had loved me.
We had been happy.
Enough to get married.
Enough to want to spend the rest of our lives with each other.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I handed you that invitation. A million things. I knew it wasn’t fair to spring it on you like that... but you had to already know about it from what was in Blue Hank’s head. I was hurt that you hadn’t wanted to talk to me, hurt that nobody here seemed willing to give me a chance, hurt that even my own teammates were starting to doubt me. Truthfully, I was starting to doubt myself too. And that scared me.
This was the one bit of proof I had to show I hadn’t turned out all wrong.
At some point you loved the man I had become.
At some point in my life, Jean Grey had loved me for the man I was.
But this wasn’t just some mind-bending future artifact. It was also, at least in my head, a way of saying all those things I couldn’t say to you. The way I’ve never in my life felt anything that compares to the way I feel when you’re standing right next to me. It’s the difference between the darkest night and the brightest day. It’s like, finally, I’m where I’m meant to be– and I–
Scott stopped writing and ran a hand through his hair.
What’s wrong with me? I can fight Magneto, for crying out loud! Why can’t I simply say, I love you, Jean Grey!? I love you with all my heart and soul. And I always will.
He carefully crossed out that last line then put the pen down. There was more... but some things were just too personal for words....
And now– I’m afraid I’ve missed my chance.
Neither of them had said the words, but both of them knew the truth. He had never felt anything like this. It changed everything... and what if none of that made a difference?
Scott wasn’t sure how long he sat there, lost in his thoughts.
She doesn’t want me to feel that way about her. I thought I might still have time to change that, to show her I’m still someone she might be able to love... someday. But she doesn’t feel the same, and given everything she knows about future me... I’m not so sure I blame her.
I still love her. The only thing I really know for sure is, I can’t imagine ever not loving her.
He gave a sigh, carefully folded the letter and tucked it into his pocket for safe keeping. For now, all of that would have to stay in his own head.
So Let it Be Written Publishing © 2004