He wished he’d just let Jean kill him. He thought she would have, if he hadn’t somehow managed to pull away. Which had broken her hold over his eyes, and she had cried out, and he had turned and run. He still didn’t know whether he had killed her or not.
No, he knew he had killed her. Because somewhere in him, he knew that Jean Grey truly was gone, in a way he hadn’t know before that fateful encounter.
His glasses were long gone, and without them he had no idea where he was going, nor did he care. He pushed through bushes and branches and tangling vines; they scratched him and tore at him and bumped and bruised him. He listened to the sound of his feet treading over the rough ground until he wanted to scream, but he didn’t dare.
He wasn’t sure who he was afraid of, but he knew there was someone out there, someone to be terrified of. Someone who felt like Jean, but couldn’t be Jean, because he knew that Jean was gone, and he must have killed her.
So when he first heard the footsteps, he began hastily moving away from them. He bumped into more trees, then his foot hit a rock too fast and he went flying. He very nearly opened his eyes again, before he face was smushed into the dirt. He felt a thornbush jab into his upper arm, and for a fleeting moment wondered if he could just scratch his eyes out. Then he heard the footsteps getting closer, coming for him, and frantically scrambled to his feet, only to feel them give way again.
He heard a woman’s voice say something(A woman! It was a woman who was after him, likeJeanbutcouldn’tbeJeanbecauseJeanwasgoneandhehadkilledher), then next thing he knew a pair of strong arms had pulled him up and were holding him fast, even though he was sure the footsteps hadn’t been right on top of him yet. But they were male arms, and it was a male voice which said, “Calm down. We won’t hurt you.”
More footsteps, and a woman’s voice said, “Careful. We don’t know what he can do, but no human has that level of energy, and not many mutants either.”
Her footsteps got closer(womanlikeJeanbutnotJeanbecauseJeanwasdeadandhehadkilledher), and Scott yelled and opened his eyes at last, then twisted himself around to blast his captor. He felt the arms releasing him, heard both the man and the woman shout, and then suddenly his sight was filled with red light of a hue not his own.
“Please,” said the woman again. “We want to help you. If you’re a mutant, you’re amoung friends.”
This woman wasn’t like Jean, Scott was coming to realize. There was a separate voice still calling to him, and that meant she had to be someone different. He closed his eyes again.
“Well, you’ve managed to blast a few trees down, haven’t you?” the woman commented.
“I need ruby quartz,” Scott said, some automatic response kicking in.
“Oh dear, that’s a problem. Pietro, do you have any idea-”
“I can go look, for what it might be worth. Who knows, there might be a nature museum nearby. At any rate, we need to get more food. I’ll bet he hasn’t eaten in days.”
Indeed Scott hadn’t, not that he’d felt at all hungry or thirsty. Which was something he should perhaps have wondered about. Come to think of it, why hadn’t he felt tired or fallen asleep either?
“I’ll be back in an hour or so,” Scott heard Pietro say, and then there was a minute or so of silence.
“Well? Are you going?” he asked in confusion.
“He’s gone,” the woman informed him. “He has superspeed. Sit down?” She took his arm and guided him onto what felt like a fallen log. “My name’s Wanda Maximoff. Pietro’s my brother. Our friends call us Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.”
“I’m Scott Summers. My friends...” but here he drifted off. The X-Men seemed so far away now. The rift that had been growing ever since Jean’s death(or what they thought was her death, but now shereallywasdeadandhemusthavekilledher) had after the encounter with Jean turned into an impossibly wide divide, because now he didn’t think he could stand setting foot in the mansion again at all.
“Scott Summers,” he heard Wanda say softly. “I think I’ve heard that name before...”
He left it to her to remember by herself if she could, if only because he still didn't know how to finish that sentence. “How long have you two been out here?” Scott asked. If these two were homeless, and willing to fight for a peaceful world, they might go to Xavier as his replacements.
“Well...” It sounded like he had hit an uncomfortable topic. “On our own, a day or two.”
“On your own?”
One second of silence, as Wanda got her bearings. “You’ve heard of Magneto?”
“All too much...”
“The truth is, we followed him out here, but we deserted him. He sounded right on some things, and I don’t at all blame him for not trusting the cure, but some of the things he said...‘Humanity is the disease, and we are the cure...’” That was extreme even for Magneto, Scott thought. No wonder he’d scared some people away. Though what was this about a “cure”?
“I mean, he talks about how we’re in danger from genocide, but then I wonder why if he thinks genocide is such a bad thing; he’s advocating it! So when we all began moving towards...oh, I don’t want to tell you, but it doesn’t matter, they’ve probably all come and gone from there by now anyway...”
“It’s all right. You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to.” The mentor role, he thought, might just be ironic at the moment, especially because she didn’t quite sound like a teenager. She might even be older than him; he couldn’t tell at the moment.
“Thanks, so at any rate when they left the woods, we bolted. It was easy enough, thanks to Pietro’s little ability.”
“I think Magneto would have left you go,” Scott informed her. “He doesn’t keep followers against their will. Or at least he didn’t at one time.”
“Now he doesn’t have to,” replied Wanda. “His other followers would have done it for him if we hadn’t been so quick.”
“Sounds like a number of them.”
“You have no idea...” So Magneto was increasing his numbers, and if he was losing a few people, he probably felt he could afford to.
“Wait a minute!” yelled Wanda. “Cyclops! That’s where I’ve heard your name before! You’re one of those X-Men, aren’t you?”
“I....was. I’m not sure if I still am.”
“What? What happened to you? I’ve told our story. You won’t arrest us, will you?”
It was easier to address the last question first. “On what grounds? You two haven’t actually done anything, have you? Unless Pietro’s out there stealing.” Utter silence, and Scott had the feeling that Pietro was doing exactly that.
“But really,” Wanda finally said, her voice betraying a new nervousness, “I wouldn’t expect to find one of the X-Men out here lost and without his equipment.”
“I...” Scott groped for the words, but couldn’t force them past his mouth. “I can’t tell you. I’m sorry.”
He wasn’t even aware of how violently he was trembling until she put her arm around him and whispered in his ear, “It’s okay. You don’t have to say anything. Though I would think you’ve lost someone. I remember losing my mother...not a person many mutants grieve for that way, but my father was a mutant, so she knew what we were from the beginning, and had accepted it.”
“She must have been a good woman,” Scott commented. “Neither of you sound too young, so if your father was a mutant, she must have been able to accept something that wasn’t even explainable at the time.”
“We’re both 24.”
“Not much younger than me, then.” Yet much younger emotionally, he imagined. He had aged perhaps ten years since losing Jean(except she hadn’t died yet, she was only dead now, because he had killed her, oh Jean...)
“Shh, don’t cry.” Her arms around him tightened.
“I can’t cry. I wish I could.” Maybe it would make him feel better. It might have been worth a shot.
“Well, if you really want to...I could make it happen. Even if you don’t have tear ducts, though that might be harder.”
“I have tear ducts...what exactly can you do?” he asked, thinking he really should have asked this question earlier.
“I alter the laws of probability, basically. Makes me capable of a number of things. I don’t know what’s going on with your eyes, but I’m pretty sure that whatever it is, I’ll be able to override it.”
“How can you tell that? And I thought you did something with energy.”
“Not per se, though I can alter its probability, same as with everything else. I can just sense yours as a side-effect. You need to be able to sense energy fields and such to operate the way I do.”
That was hardly impossible, Scott knew. Magneto had the ability to sense anything made of metal within a certain range, and the Professor automatically knew if anyone came within ten meters of him even when his shields were up. Even Jean had(had had but now shewasdeadandhehadkilledher) a vague sense of matter density in her local area which she had tried to describe to him once, but hadn’t been able to put into words.
Jean, Jean, everything came back to Jean.
Maybe she sensed something coming out of him, because she said, “I think you do need to cry. Can I let you?”
“I don’t know if I could even then," he replied, his voice almost ragged, "but go ahead and try.”
Her fingers settled at the corners of his eyes, her hands on his forehead, and he felt the heat behind them recede(like it had with Jean but shewasdeadandhehadkilledheritallcamebacktoJean). It was so constant a presence he almost never noticed it anymore, but now he noted that it wasn’t gone entirely.
Scott cautiously opened his eyes, noting that his vision was still slightly red-tinted, in fact slightly more so then when Jean had done this(right before hehadkilledheritallcamebacktoJean). Wanda Maximoff was a pretty young woman with wavy hair, probably brown, possibly black; he couldn’t tell for sure. He was sure that her shirt and jacket were red though. Living up to her other name, it seemed.
“They tell me I look like my grandmother,” Wanda commented. “She died when I was four.”
“Was she a mutant?”
“No, but we think her first husband-my grandfather-was. Don’t know for sure, because she’d never talk about him.”
“But why?” It didn’t sound like her grandmother had had any problem with her father, after all.
“Beats me. Maybe it had nothing to do with his being a mutant. Hell, maybe he wasn’t a mutant at all.”
“I suppose it was relatively easy for noone to be afraid of him. He was a Class One if there ever was one. Had the most harmless, most charming little ability. He’d just twirl his hand around, and it would reproduce any sound he’d ever heard. Like I said earlier, our grandmother died when we were four, but we still grew up hearing her voice. He used to play to us the lullabies she sung to him as a kid. She had such a voice...at least some Gipsy blood, I know, though they never told us the details.
He was the quietest man ever too. He let his hand do all the talking. The kind of person, I think, that even if he had been shooting fire from his eyes, or had that kind of demeanor that the red-haired woman that Magneto always had next to him, you still could never have been afraid of-”
“Red-haired woman?” Scott interrupted, hope and terror warring for control of his suddenly hammering heart. But that couldn’t have been Jean, because Jean was dead, he knew Jean was dead, and he must have killed her, and even if he hadn’t, what on Earth would she have been doing with Magneto?
“Yes, he had her with him when we joined him. She didn’t say much, but stood there screaming ‘I am very powerful and very, very dangerous.’ I wasn’t the only one who could sense it.”
“Her name! Do you happen to know her name?” But it couldn’t have been Jean, it couldn’t-
“What’s up with you? No, I didn’t catch it.”
Scott decided to assume it hadn’t been Jean. It was too unlikely. There was no logical explanation for her ending up in that position. Plenty of women in the world, and even powerful mutant women, had red hair. Or at least he was sure that there were other powerful mutant women with red hair. Logic would dictate that there were. Besides, he knew that Jean was dead.
The sudden sound of footsteps near them startled Scott, but then he heard Pietro’s voice, saying, “I’m back.”
“Have you brought food?” Wanda asked him.
“Not only that, I’ve also brought news.” Scott heard a light thud as Pietro sat down near them. “Magneto’s vanished. They think he was exposed to the cure.”
“Oh, wow,” said Wanda. “I actually feet sorry for him, if that’s true.”
“That’s the second time you’ve mentioned this ‘cure,’” said Scott. “Could you tell me what it is?”
“You have been out here a while, haven’t you? Someone found a formula that turns mutants into non-mutants. That’s the cure.”
“I wish she was!” Pietro snapped at him. “Has it occurred to you how this could be abused?”
It was quick to occur to Scott exactly how it could be abused. From there, figuring out what Magneto had been up to was easy. “So Magneto went to destroy it.”
“Along with Alcatrez Island, where it was developed and stored. But it seems the X-Men showed up and did him in. Then that redhead that Magneto had about him went crazy, but one of them was able to kill her too. A number of our former Brotherhood colleagues were definitely exposed, though, and many of them are unaccounted for.”
Scott was assuming that the redhead was not Jean(who was dead anyway, heknewthatandhemusthavekilledher), so he ignored the mention of her. Instead he considered all of the implications. He felt a twinge of pity for Magneto, but more relief. But even so, both he and those other mutants exposed to the cure might still be dangerous, especially because they would be angrier than ever.
He still didn’t want to go back to the mansion, but he wasn’t a former X-Man yet. So under the circumstances, he should find out more information, and if it was information the X-Men didn’t have, he should find an internet café and email the Professor. Or he should at least find an internet café, email the Professor, and explain that he wasn’t coming back, if he truly wasn’t coming back.
“Can you take us into a city?” he asked Pietro. “I want to see what happened for myself.”
Even with Wanda holding his power down the brightness of the bar’s TV had been almost painful, but he'd been able to see the CNN footage, and he never would've failed to recognize her. It still didn’t make sense entirely, because he still knew that Jean Grey had been gone from the time he’d turned and run, but perhaps she was only gone metaphorically, as in she’d somehow gone mad. Because her behavior in the footage made it likely that she had indeed gone mad. What had happened to her in that lake? Would he ever know?
Either way, she was dead again anyway, and this time Logan had killed her. It was pretty obvious he really hadn’t wanted too, that he'd been so far gone there had genuinely been no choice. Even so, watching him carry her dead body past the cameras, growling at them in bleeped out language to go away, was more than Scott could take. He screwed his eyes back shut again and said, “I’ve seen enough. Let’s go.”
“Sure you don’t want a drink?” he heard Pietro ask.
“Well, I’m getting one anyway. I’ll meet you two outside.”
Wanda guided him out of the bar. He heard the noise of it fade behind him as he felt the sun on his face. “So what do you want to do now?” she asked.
He’d been considering his options already, and now he was more certain than ever that he couldn’t go back to Xavier's. Already being in the mansion had tormented him with the memory of Jean, and now he knew he wouldn’t be able to stand anywhere in those halls without seeing her dead in Logan’s arms. The CNN report had included a clip of Ororo telling a reporter that they were going to try to keep it open despite the Professor’s death(which hadn’t even sunk in yet, maybe after Jean’s death finally did...), and he wished her and the others luck, but he couldn’t be a part of it anymore.
But then, what was the use of running? Jean could haunt him anywhere, now that even his powers could remind him of her, of what she’d looked like just before she’d gone mad and was lost and was dead, and even if he hadn’t directly killed her, was his presence what finally pushed her past the edge? Had he destroyed her in an even worse way than simply killing her would have been? He knew just what would happen to him now. He might try a fresh start, but it all came back to Jean, and sooner or later, he’d be reduced to his current state again.
It built slowly, this kind of thing. For nearly a week after Jean’s death(whattheythoughtwasJean’sdeathbutshehadonlydiedlaterafterhehaddestroyedherinanevenworseway) he’d behaved as if nothing had happened at all. Perhaps he’d wanted to sleep a little more, but that was all. Then he started delaying going downstairs for meals because, he told himself, he didn’t like the pity in everyone’s eyes. This had translated to staying in his room more and more, and it was only so long that he could lie to himself and say that it was only to avoid everyone else. It was because he plain didn’t want to leave, didn’t want to go out and have to keep going, be reminded that Jean wasn’t there with him, even though he hardly forgot it by acting the way he was. Once the pretense dropped, he’d gone straight from denial to despair, losing all desire to do anything at all from think about Jean and wallow.
His only chance of getting past this might be to discard everything.
“Where are they distributing the cure?” he asked at last.
As he expected, he response was a horrified, “You’re kidding me.” Her hands landed on his forehead in a clear demand for him to look at her.
He gave into it, staring into her shocked and even angry face. “I can’t be Cyclops anymore,” he tried to explain. “I have go away, and I have to leave everything behind, including my powers.”
She showed no understanding; her eyes(blue, he thought) were hard, judgmental. They reminded Scott of someone’s, though he couldn’t remember whose at the moment. “Besides,” he added, “I can’t spend my life walking around with my eyes screwed shut, or with you walking around with me with your hands constantly on my forehead.”
“We can go to Xavier’s and get your glasses. That’s not a problem at all.”
“Sounds like a good idea to me,” said Pietro, appearing with Scott’s line of sight, having apparently just come out of the bar and missed the first part of the conversation. “Tell the truth, I’ve been thinking about that. Obviously Wanda and I’ll have to talk about it a little further, but we’ve got to go somewhere and I think we could give the X-Men a try, maybe.”
“You think so?” Wanda turned her attention towards him, sounding game enough.
“It’s either that or return to our lives as vagrants and possibly wait until another wingnut is elected president and comes after us. We can’t follow Magneto anymore, we agreed on that, but I want to fight somewhere.”
“As X-Men, you’ll have to protect humans as well,” Scott reminded him. “Knowing Magneto, he isn’t finished yet.”
“That’s true,” said Wanda, “but maybe it won’t be quite so bad. It’s worth a look. So are you coming with us or not?” She returned her focus to him. “I’ve heard a bit about your reputation; this isn’t like you, to run away.”
He really should explain, Scott knew. She and her brother had been very kind to him, he wasn’t going to get to the cure without their aid, and he couldn’t ask them to help with something they objected to without at least trying to make them see why he needed what he needed. But he thought he could explain now. Being certain of Jean’s fate had somehow removed a barrier in talking about her.
“I think I may need that drink after all,” he said. “And all three of us are going to have to sit down.”
He explained sitting in the corner back in the bar, drinking some beer without really tasting it, his eyes closed again, and his stomach experiencing weird sensations, possibly at having to function for the first time in days, his two companions listening warily. It was much easier to tell the story of what had happened to Jean then, especially once he got started and words followed words.
When he finished, Wanda first said, “Well, now that you’ve told me that, I have an idea that could explain a few things. I think she must have made some sort of mental imprint on your brain, making you thus aware of her mental state. So your brain figured out on its own that Jean Grey was gone, perhaps because if she’d been in your mind before, it might recognize her, and didn’t there, because she’d gone crazy or something, possibly from trauma inflicted during her time in the lake. The isolation would be bad enough...mind you, this is a pretty wild theory.”
“And my lack of hunger or fatigue?”
“You’ve been living off her energy, which you absorbed. That I’m now sure of. Though I’ve noticed it’s wearing off. You’ll probably need to eat something and sleep again soon.”
She placed her hands on his forehead; he opened his eyes to look into her face, now very grave, but much more sympathetic. “I understand. In fact, I’ve been there myself, and I’m not just talking about my parents either anymore, but...” She drifted off. Scott knew better than to press, or to protest. “I don’t approve, but if you really feel that you can’t live as a mutant anymore, we’ll take to you to the center, and I’ll stay with you until you’re injected, if you want.”