SUMMARY: A dark night of the soul.
SERIES: "Special: the Genesis of Cyclops," #8
N.B.: As this takes up directly where "Diamonds in the Rough" left
off, re-reading the final scene, or at least the final few
paragraphs, is advised.
I had to get *away*. Get away from what I'd done, get away from
anything and anyone else I could hurt, because my whole fucking life,
I'd been nothing but a jinx.
That was the only thought in my head as I fled the shattered mansion
den. I could barely think at all, in fact, and stumbled about in the
rain, sliding on wet, muddy spring grass and driveway gravel, blind
and stunned. Once or twice, instinct made me open my eyes as I went
crashing to my knees and each time, the same twin red beams lashed
out, ripping through whatever lay in front of me: grass, gravel,
dirt, bushes, trees, the stone wall around the grounds itself . . .
it was as if *nothing* could stop them. Nothing except the fragile
skin of my own eyelids.
But it didn't take me long -- even in my stupefied state -- to come
to three conclusions. First, no matter what, I had to keep my eyes
shut. Second, I really was a mutant. And third, I had no place to
It was bottomless desperation that kept me walking anyway. Just
walking. I wound up in the orchard, tripping over tree roots until,
furious and trapped, I sank down on my knees to beat at the loam,
digging up clumps of it with my fingers. This was what the fox felt
when cornered by baying hounds. My hounds came in the form of police
sirens screaming through the night up Greymalkin Lane, and I sure as
hell didn't want to get caught. If I were caught, there would be an
interrogation, a trial, and probably a shrink or three, then they'd
lock me away in some cell to rot.
"Get up and walk, Summers," I told myself. The cops might question
Xavier and the rest for a while before coming after me, but come they
would, and I had to get somewhere fast. "*Think.*" I didn't have
time for panic.
The orchard was close to the lake, and chances were the cops didn't
have dogs. Even if they did, water killed scent and between the rain
and the lake, I had a chance if I could just get to the boathouse
dock. I could wade out under it and hide. In the dark, they likely
wouldn't see me, and any dogs couldn't smell me. Maybe, if I were
lucky, I'd pass out from the cold and drown, and that would solve
So I headed in what I hoped was the direction of the lake, but I was
so utterly disoriented, I had to open my eyes three times, damage be
damned, just to get my bearings from a few seconds of sight. The
ancient apple trees paid for it. Finally I found the lake, though
the skin of my hands and face was cut, and my clothes were soaked and
torn. I couldn't hear sirens now, or any sound of pursuit. It was
funny how preternatural my hearing had become in half an hour, but
all other senses were reaching out, compensating. My nose brought
the scent of water and decay and my ears brought the peculiar flat
echo of sound off water to my left as I walked along the lake shore,
then the distinctive lapping of water against something. I slowed,
moving forward with caution, feeling for the foot of the pier by the
boathouse. I should be approaching on the far side, and that seemed
to be the case when my shoe finally struck wood. Despite my care, I
almost stumbled, but still heard no sounds beyond the water lapping
and my own breathing, harsh, scared. My hand found the pier rail,
just enough for direction, then I waded out into the water before
turning to find my way beneath the walk. In the night and the rain,
everything was uniformly dark, but I could sense the enclosed space,
smell rotting wood, and feel the cobwebs that clung to my fingers. I
made a startled, disgusted noise, shoving my hand under water to wipe
them off on my jeans. I hate spiders -- creepy, crawly things.
There were goddamn *spiders* under the pier and it made me shudder.
"Stay away from me, Charlotte," I whispered.
Then I tried to hunker down and be quiet. The water was freezing and
before long, my teeth were chattering. I still heard nothing, but I
couldn't believe they'd let me get away. I'd just killed three
people and wrecked a man's historic, family mansion, plus I was the
reason Jack Winters had come there in the first place. No way would
anyone help me after this. I'd never really grasped why Xavier was
helping me in the first place, and now, I'd nearly caused his death.
Let a snake into the house and eventually it bit you. I could have
told him that six months ago, but I'd been too . . . too what?
Selfish? Bent on my own survival? Survival had become a habit, like
the words I'd memorized from ANGELS IN AMERICA: "Death usually has
to take life away. I don't know if that's just the animal. I don't
know if it's not braver to die. But I recognize the habit. The
addiction to being alive. We live past hope."
I'd lived past hope. Or maybe, in these past six months, the desire
really to live had finally granted me the courage actually to die.
People on the street survived; they didn't live. I'd learned -- just
a little -- how to live. And it seemed to me, in that moment, that
my death was the best thing I could give the people who'd done so
much for me.
And I wasn't afraid.
The shaking had become so bad, I could feel my muscles spasming.
*Let it go, let it go, let it go . . .* If I could just slide down
under the surface, too cold to resist and too rigid to fight to
breathe, that would be the end of it. I'd never hurt anyone again.
I'd never hurt again.
*Let it go . . .*
*Don't you dare!*
A voice in my mind and it wasn't my own. It startled me so much I
made some squeak, like a mouse.
*Dammit! Don't you dare give up on us, Scott Summers!*
The words were full of a fear and anguish as great as my own, but
distinctly not mine. Rage, too, but a rage born out of dismay. And
now I could hear the sound of someone moving out of the orchard trees
and down the path at a run. Just one person, loud. No dogs. *Where
are you, you stubborn son of a bitch?*
*Who are you?*
*JEAN! Who'd you think it was?*
Yes, of course. I should have recognized her mental signature but
hadn't often felt her mind -- she was scrupulous in her respect of
other's mental privacy -- yet it was her impatience, her irritation,
and beneath, her innate warmth that had always drawn me like a moth
against my will. I hadn't wanted to like her, but she'd made me.
And now, I didn't want to reveal myself, but the force of her concern
made me. "Here," I said aloud. My voice sounded funny to my own
Her feet drummed on the pier overhead. "You're *in the water*? You
*idiot*! Get out of there right now!" Then to my astonishment, I
heard her leap off the pier into the lake, cursing the cold as she
waded beneath the pier to pull me out bodily. "Do you want to catch
your death? It's freezing!"
And then . . . something. Some hint she caught fluttering in my
mind, and she just stopped. "My God," she said. "You were. That's
what you meant to do. Die." And, in a softer voice, almost broken,
"How *could* you?"
"How could I *not*? I just fucking *killed* three people, Jean! I
fucked up! I fucked up so bad I almost got all of you killed! Just
leave me the hell alone -- it's better this way!"
Heartbeats of silence, stretching out, then she was yanking me off
balance and out from under the pier. I could hear her sobbing, but
also cursing through chattering teeth, "*Fuck, fuck, fuck!* You
goddamn stupid little shit! I *refuse* to let you die just because
you think it's convenient." She was like a force of nature, and all
I could do was follow as she hauled me towards the shore, half by her
grip on my arm, half by her telekinesis. I was reminded of the
whirlwind she'd created with her powers in the den, in defense of us
all. Never underestimate Jean Grey.
"The cops -- "
"The professor's taking care of that. You shut up." She was still
crying -- I could hear it in her voice -- and she was hauling me
somewhere. Then I tripped -- on a rock or a root -- and fell. She
was immediately at my side, helping me to stand, wrapping one arm
about my waist and stroking my hair with her free hand. "I'm sorry,
I'm so sorry. I've got you, okay? Do you trust me?"
"Do I have a choice?"
"Yes, Scott -- you do." The hand was still stroking my wet hair.
"I'm furious at you -- you scared us to death -- but yes, you have a
choice. Do you trust me?"
The words surprised me, but I answered, "Yeah." And I did trust her.
And suddenly . . . I could see.
It wasn't my own vision. For one thing, I was seeing *myself* in the
dark -- sopping wet, bruised in the face, eyes squeezed shut in
panicked desperation, and very, very pale from the chilled lake
water. "Wow," I whispered, amazed despite everything.
"I'm taking you to the lake house."
"Aren't the cops after me?"
"No. I told you, you don't need to worry about that."
"But how -- "
"Don't ask questions. Just let me get you there." And hauling me
up, she led me the rest of the way, propelling me through the door of
When I'd first heard the term 'boat house,' my working-class
background had assumed it to be a machine shed for engine and
equipment storage. But it's a *house*, or cabin, really. Once, a
butler or groundskeeper might have lived there, but these days,
guests used it, the decor woodsy-rustic with exposed ceiling beams,
dark paneling and wooden pillars, a red brick fireplace, lattice
windows and comfortable furniture. Upstairs were two bedrooms and a
bath, and downstairs, a modern kitchen and a dining nook off the
living room. Because it used pillars instead of walls to separate
areas, the open space made it seem larger than it was.
It was a bit dizzying to see out of her eyes, but so much better than
being blind. I hadn't realized just how much sightlessness had
contributed to my panic, but with the solid feel of her grip around
my waist, her body heat, and her vision, my terror eased and
adrenaline faded. I was very, very tired, and still so cold my
tremors were a constant thing, making my muscles ache. Jean sat me
down on a footstool by the fireplace and said, "Don't move," then
(gently) broke the mental link and my world went black again. "I'll
be right back, okay?" Her hands withdrew and I listened to the sound
of her moving about the bottom floor, then up the stairs, the creak
of steps overhead, and back down. A soft fleece blanket was dropped
around my shoulders, very big. "Get out of your clothes, Scott, and
wrap up in the blanket. Drop the wet stuff on the carpet and I'll
take care of it. Then I want you to go lay down on the couch. It's
right behind you, about two feet. I won't be watching you undress.
I'm going to find some wood for the fireplace."
I could have cared less if she was watching, and grabbed for her arm,
caught it more by chance than design. "Your clothes are wet, too."
But what I meant was, *I'm scared. Don't leave me.*
She laid a hand over mine. "Don't you worry about me. I need to get
a fire started, then find some food. I looked for clothes but
couldn't find anything besides spare socks." She seemed amused by
this. "But I was in a hurry, so I'll check again. There are lots of
blankets, so we'll be fine, just not fit for a Paris runway."
"Thank you," I whispered.
"Don't worry about it." Then to my surprise, she bent and kissed me
on the cheek. "Everything's going to work out. You'll see."
I almost laughed at that. She was either crazy or as na�ve as a
newborn kitten. And why was she here? What had I ever done to
deserve her protection, or her care? To deserve anyone's? Hadn't
she realized what I'd been and what I was? Could I still get away
when she wasn't looking?
Not damn likely. She'd found me with her telepathy once; she could
do it again. I felt as trapped by that as by the cops back at the
mansion, and it mutated my relief and gratitude into anger and
resentment. I couldn't leave, so I did the only thing I could do:
refuse to comply. I sat on the rug in my wet clothes and my darkness
and clenched my teeth, trying to stop my shaking. Even my body
wouldn't obey me.
She came back after a while. Without vision, time seemed to stretch.
I heard the door open again and the smell of rain and the lake, then
the clatter of logs in the hearth and her voice. "Scott? What's
wrong? Why didn't you get out of those clothes?"
"Why do you fucking care?" I snarled back.
Silence, then she knelt down in front of me and her hand touched my
face. I jerked back. "Scott? What is it?"
"Why won't you leave me *alone*? Why do you think you have to save
me? Maybe I damn well don't want 'saved,' okay?" And I was reminded
of the guy in the silver jaguar, who'd once told me that he saved
people like me, all while he lay naked in bed after I'd blown him.
'Save' me, indeed. "I'm not your fucking toy," I told Jean now. "Or
your goddamn 'project.' I don't need your pity."
I'd half expected her to yell at me again, or slap me, or even to
cry, but she remained silent. Finally, she asked, "Do you really
want to be left alone? Or are you just scared?"
"Don't play the shrink; you're no good at it." I wanted to make her
mad. I wanted to make her go away. "You're just a pampered little
upper class bitch who thinks she's Mother Teresa."
"And don't you play the bastard; you're no good at it." But she
sounded amused instead of hurt, and that just made me angrier.
"I'm not fucking around! Get the hell away from me! I never liked
you from the first time I laid eyes on you!"
She sighed. "Scott, quit trying to lie to a telepath. I thought you
had better sense than that."
Her words stopped me cold, and I hissed, "*Stay the fuck out of my
"I'm not *in* your head. But I can still tell a lie. You're scared
to death." Abruptly, I felt her grab my hand, hers atop the blanket,
mine beneath, and I was glad for that thin skin of cloth insulating
me. "I'm your friend, Scott. Nothing is going to change that."
"You don't fucking know me!" I pulled my hand free.
"Oh, yes, I do."
"No, you don't! You don't know anything about me! You don't know
who I was!"
"I know who you are."
She gripped my chin with her other hand and for the first time, an
edge of irritation entered her voice. "Quit arguing for half a
minute, would you? *I know you.* Underneath all that bravado,
you're the kindest person I've ever met. The house cats follow you
around, and I see you with the horses -- how you take care of them.
You feed the birds, and the squirrels, too, and I remember the time
you made Warren stop the Boxter, so you could move a turtle off the
road. I see all the little things you do -- pick up after the rest
of us, keep the floors clear for Charles's chair, bring Henry food
when he forgets to eat down in the lab -- put more Coke in the fridge
. . . You thank the cook for making you dinner, and the maid for
cleaning your room. The rest of us, we take it all for granted. You
don't. You *notice* things, and I admire you so much for that."
Embarrassed and a little humiliated, I struggled to answer, and
finally said, "I'm just trying to pull my weight. It's not like
I've got anything else to give, no money, nothing of value. How can
I pay back the professor except to do stuff? I'm not worth
And then she did cry. She hadn't cried when I'd insulted her, but
now she cried. I wanted to ask what was wrong, but I was already
confused enough. After a minute, she moved a little closer to me,
pulling my head onto her shoulder, the blanket still between us. I
wanted to resist, but was so tired, and still so very cold. She was
warm. She just held me, patting my back. "Listen to me. You are
worth something. The professor loves you, Scott. I think he cares
about every student he's ever had, but you -- you're special. You're
special to me, too."
Her words bowled me over. "Why? Why do any of you care?" I
whispered. "You don't know what I was."
"You keep saying that like it matters."
"No, it doesn't. And you're wrong, too. I do know. It still
doesn't matter." Her hand moved from my back to my hair. "I had to
ask Warren what a 'peach boy' was."
"Stupid name," she continued. "But yes, I know."
I couldn't move. I thought I might die of shame.
"It makes me so mad, I want to scream. I want to go out and hit
something. But it doesn't change our friendship -- except to make me
realize you're stronger and braver than I ever knew."
Hope beat wings against my ribcage, as if trapped inside Pandora's
box. But I've often wondered, is Hope an amelioration, or the
greatest evil of all, teasing us with impossible possibility?
"Please don't mock me," I begged.
"Never." she replied.
"I don't know if I can trust anymore. I'm so tired, Jean."
"I know." She was still stroking my hair. "How about if we make a
deal? Trust me just a little --enough to take care of you tonight.
Can you trust me that far? I won't let you down."
I thought about it, finally said, "Okay."
So Jean undressed me down to my skivvies, her touch as impersonal as
the doctor she wanted to be someday. Then she wrapped me in a
second, drier blanket and went about lighting the fireplace. She
found food, too. I hadn't realized I was hungry until she brought me
some crackers and cheese, and a glass of apple juice.
She also fashioned a makeshift blindfold. "You're making your face
muscles tired from squeezing your eyes shut, Scott."
"I don't know if I can keep them shut otherwise. I can feel the . .
. whatever they are . . . *pushing*."
"I think I know something to take care of that." And she
disappeared, returning a few minutes later to lay a heavy weight
across my eyes. It smelled wonderful, sharp and cool with flax seed.
"I saw this upstairs when I was looking for blankets and clothes.
It's one of those eye pillows you see advertised." The 'pillow' was
heavy and helped hold the eyelids shut. She bound it in place with a
second tie. "That should hold it. Now, will you try to get some
"What time is it?"
"Almost four in the morning."
And the cops still hadn't come for me. "What happened, up at the
mansion? Is the professor okay?" It was the first time I'd thought
"Charles is fine. He came to not long after you ran off and sent me
after you. Then he called the police."
"What's he going to tell them?" There were at least three dead
bodies in the mansion den.
"I don't know what he told them, but I don't want you to worry about
it. It's being taken care of."
"That was before the police got there."
"No, Scott. I'm a telepath, remember? And so is he. He knows where
we are, and that you're safe. He was so very worried about you. He
wants us to stay here and sleep. He'll see us in the morning. You
have *nothing* to worry about." And she led me upstairs, helped me
into a bed and tucked me in, as if I were her child. She even rubbed
my back. But it reminded me of touches I'd rather forget, and after
a minute or so, she registered that I'd tensed up. Letting her hand
fall away, self-conscious, she muttered, "Sorry."
"It's okay," I said, embarrassed to have embarrassed her.
But I had a hard time sleeping. Whether or not I had to worry about
the police, that didn�t change the fact that I�d killed three people
tonight. Yes, I�d hated them. Yes, they�d hurt me, and had been
trying to kill me and my own. And yes, I�d probably do it again to
save the others. But dead is dead, and a body without a head is a
horrible thing. So is a body cut in half. I�d done that, and the
weapon had come from inside myself.
*I* was the weapon. *I* had killed. After everything I�d done in my
life, every way I�d been used as a sex toy, nothing had polluted me
like that. I would never be the same.
Continued directly in Part 2/2
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