Without, (Scott, X2, PG) 1/1
- Title: Without
Pairing: Scott (Scott/Jean)
Archive: XMMFF okay, everyone else please ask.
Summary: A post-X2 vignette. Spoilers for X2.
An HTML-version is available here: http://seema.org/xmen/without.html
By Seema (seemag1@...)
Disclaimer: Marvel Comics, not mine.
In Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' book, "On Death and Dying," the author
defined the five stages of grief for the terminally ill. Jean
abbreviated the steps to DABDA. "Denial, anger, bargaining, depression
and anger," she explained to me when I first saw her reading the book
several years ago. "Despite the controversy over the model, many
consider this *the* seminal work on grieving." Jean kept Kubler-Ross'
book in her office, a slim volume trapped between heavy medical texts.
Occasionally, I'd see Jean thumbing through it, a sure sign that she
would be giving a patient bad news.
"It's important I understand what the patient and his family is going
through," Jean told me once. "That being said, every case is
different, every individual handles the news uniquely. I don't expect
them to conform to Dr. Kubler-Ross' model nor do I expect the
reactions from their family members to be consistent with it either.
Grief, Scott, is a very powerful emotion and cannot be predicted."
"But the book does help?"
"Honestly? Not really. In the end, it's just a book," Jean had said.
She'd leaned forward, looking very professional. She'd taken her
glasses off then, looked at me earnestly. "Even so, it's interesting.
You should read it sometime, Scott."
At the time, I couldn't think of anything more depressing. After all,
as a math teacher, I didn't deal with issues of death and dying on a
regular basis. Grief in my line of work was caused by a midterm exam
or pop quiz. The psychological impact (read: trauma) of the event
could be easily mollified with a night on the town or (when they
thought I wasn't looking) a beer.
Until Jean was gone, I never touched the book -- or for that matter,
*any* medical or psychological text in her office. It wasn't that I
was uninterested in what Jean did, but more of a case never making or
finding the time (in my defense though, Jean never went through my
mathematics books either). But a few weeks after the events of Alkali
Lake, I wandered down to Jean's office and found "On Death and Dying"
lying on her desk. I touched the brown cover lightly. Then I settled
into Jean's high-backed leather chair -- it still held the
indentations of her body -- and began to read. I didn't go to bed that
night. The words blurred, the words slipping off the page as the night
turned into morning. When I finished "On Death and Dying," I
discovered Andrew Weil's "Health and Healing" and was pulled into the
discussion about the ten principles of health and illness. With Jean,
there was never illness, never an issue of bad health; one moment she
was there, the next, she was gone. There was no explanation for *that*
in Dr. Weil's book. Eventually, I fell asleep in the middle of the
chapter labeled 'Materia Medica."
In my spare time, I continued to read through Jean's books
voraciously. When I finished one text, I reached for another. In
retrospect, I'm not sure what I was looking for. I'm a mathematician.
I like straight lines and angles and maybe I was looking for a
particular geometry to explain Jean's absence in my life. In
mathematics, there is no ambiguity. A solution exists or it doesn't.
An answer can be proved or not. Formulas predict outcomes. There's
exactness to mathematics I've always admired and appreciated. The same
I could not say for what I found on Jean's shelf.
One of Jean's books suggested "reinvesting in the new reality" once
the griever started to adjust to "the environment without the object"
(A note to the author: it's impossible to think of someone whom you
love as an 'object'). I marked that stage by cleaning out Jean's
closet. Ororo helped and for that, I was grateful.
It was so easy to get caught up in a memory -- the black lacy dress,
for instance, that Jean wore when we attended a performance of
"Chicago" or her threadbare flannel pajama bottoms and goofy rubber
duck slippers she insisted on wearing whenever the mercury dipped
below thirty. Gloves, pants, suits, dresses, skirts -- I never
realized just how many clothes Jean had managed to cram into her
closet or how many of them just happened to be red. I never knew she
had a fetish for shoes either, especially of the strappy and flimsy
type; no wonder she complained of sore ankles and aching shins. Jean
liked soft materials, didn't care much for dry-clean only, and didn't
seem to have much of an interest in accessories like belts or scarves.
Her jewelry ranged from the delicate gold chains and conservative
diamond studs (for work) to more heavy and chunky styles, such as she
wore on the outing to the science museum. I sat on the floor of Jean's
closet, clutching the black lace dress in my lap, and that's where
Ororo found me.
"Scott," Ororo said softly. She sat down next to me and held me. Her
arms were comforting, her body warm and soft next to mine. If I closed
my eyes, I could almost pretend she was Jean. But the feel of her hair
against my cheek felt different than the way Jean's hair did and the
scent of her perfume was floral sweet, not musky like Jean's. After a
minute or so, I pulled away.
"It's hell discovering things about someone after they're gone," I
told Ororo shakily.
"Let me help you," she said, reaching across me for a sweater.
I kept a few of Jean's personal items for my own sake and a few for
her family, but the rest we sorted into bags for the Salvation Army
and a charity for women who needed business clothes for job
interviews. Jean's office though, I didn't touch a thing.
I felt closer to Jean in her office. The space was uniquely hers from
the Monet prints on the wall to the thriving spider plants in the
corner. It seemed an unspoken rule that Jean's office was off-limits
to everyone but me. No one came down here to see how I was. I could
close the door and be in peace. It's not that I didn't appreciate
Ororo and Kurt's concern or the Professor's efforts to draw me out, it
was more of the way they evaluated me. What a strange word that is,
'evaluate', when applied to something as nebulously vague as grief.
There were some who thought I was too emotional over Jean; the leader
of the X-Men, after all, is supposed to be stoic, strong and
unemotional. There were others who thought I wasn't emotional enough;
after all, I imagined them whispering as I passed, wasn't Jean the
love of Scott's life?
In Jean's office, I didn't have to worry whether I was missing her too
much or not enough. I simply pulled books off her shelf. I traced the
outline of her notes with my fingers, admiring the strong, flowing
curves of her handwriting. I paid special attention to the highlighted
passages. Some of the pages were stained -- spaghetti sauce, coke,
beer, and God only knows what else (I suspected blood or other bodily
fluids in some cases). A stack of the New England Journal of Medicine
sat next to the bookcase. When I ran out of textbooks to skim through,
I started on the magazines. I read about encephalitis, though the only
actual fact I remember is that the virus strikes 1 out of 200,000
people annually in the United States. I didn't know there was a
disease called leptospirosis, an infectious disease commonly spread by
rats to humans. I learned phrases like 'multissystemic manifestations'
and words like 'seroconversion.' In Jean's office, the purity and
exactness of mathematics belonged to another lifetime, one in which I
Jean's been gone for three months now. Life at the school is returning
slowly to normal; the heavy blanket of depression is slowly lifting. I
teach classes and tutor students on differential equations and related
rates. I spend a lot of time in the Danger Room working out. My Mazda
RX-8 is washed and waxed on a weekly basis. I chaperone trips to the
Met and in October, we plan to take the students on the three-hour
Circle Line cruise around Manhattan; Ororo seems to think the students
will enjoy it, I think it's a long time to be on a boat doing nothing
but watching the skyline of Manhattan, now irrevocably changed since
the last time Jean and I made the trip. This is what it means to take
it one day at a time. My life now is measured by activities, what I do
and what I don't do.
I don't read Jean's books anymore. After all of that reading, I know
there's only one truth. Loss cannot be explained by the simple
elegance of a formula; the Pythagoras Theorem of grief doesn't exist.
Someone mentioned the other day that I look a lot better. I agree when
someone points out time has eased the pain of losing Jean. I don't
bother correcting them because our versions of that loss are very
different. It's not that time heals; it simply makes each day without
Jean easier to bear. I know there will come a day when I will no
longer have the need to spend an hour or two in her office; that
knowledge makes me unbearably sad.
~ the end