FIC: But By Degrees (Summers in a Sea of Glory 10/10)
- I spent a lot of time with Charles over the next few
days. It was what he wanted to talk, to listen, to
just spend time together by ourselves. He would call
me to his office telepathically or come and find me
pretty much any time I wasnt occupied with leading
the team or teaching or in advisement sessions. The
rest of the team backed off and just left Charles and
I was surprised he turned to me. Id prepared myself
for just the opposite Charles avoiding me.
Its not that being alone together was an unusual
pattern after a traumatic mission. Weve done this
before, particularly after an unsuccessful one, or a
successful one with a fatality. Its a hard time for
all the team, but as their leader it hits me a little
differently. The official post-mission debriefing was
only the beginning of the process Id have to go
through. Charles generally was my main support and
sounding board. He has been ever since I became field
Its a complicated relationship hes my boss, my
teacher, my friend. My father, too. The only parent I
have left. Not a biological tie, but a real kinship
nonetheless, one born of caring and commitment and all
weve been through together. He and I are very close
we always have been but I still didnt expect him
to be there for me this time and was surprised he
wanted me there for him, too. I didnt know what this
would do to our relationship. What do you do when
your son kills your oldest friend?
I know what youre thinking, Charles had said after
wed returned from Vermont, after the official
debriefing, as soon as he and I were alone.
Thats what everybody says about you, I answered,
and he laughed.
Then he turned serious. It wasnt your fault.
I know that. Well, part of me does. I didnt even
mean to do it. I wanted to stop him, to protect
Johnny and Jean. I didnt want to My voice
cracked a bit at the last part and I didnt finish the
Not just because of you. That was part of it, but
not all. Its just well, I cant get used to it.
Hes the sixth death of an adversary on a mission I
was commanding. The second death at my hands or
eyes, really. Six under my command in all these
years, two that I killed myself. I know them all. I
know their names; I know how they died. They were all
necessary deaths, I know that. Its not even bad
stats, really. I havent lost one X-Man now that we
have Jean back and weve only had to kill six times
in more than fifteen years.
They are remarkable statistics, Scott. Amazing,
really, when I think of what youve been through, the
missions youve commanded. No one else could have
done as well, managed with so little loss of life.
You bring them back alive and you do it with the
absolute minimum of damage, even to our enemies. I
couldnt have found a better leader for the team.
I smiled at the compliment. I still lie awake nights
thinking about how those six deaths could have been
avoided. Ive relived each of those battles so many
times, thinking that a few seconds here or a different
order there and it would have come out differently.
I shook my head and said it again. I cant get used
to it, taking human life. I *should* be accustomed to
it by now how long have I been leading a combat
team? How many times have I made that same speech
just before we go into battle, the one about using
deadly force if you have to? And its as true as
anything Ive ever said we only do it when we must.
But I just wish to God we didnt need to. Ive spent
half my life trying my damnedest not to kill people.
I pointed at my eyes. I still have nightmares about
doing it accidentally, at least weekly. And every
night since Magnetos death. I stole a glance at his
face when I said that. I hadnt said it so baldly
before Magnetos death not to Charles. I
wondered if hed flinch, but he didnt. He looked
straight at me as I said it, expression open and
listening. If he could look into my eyes, thats what
hed be doing. Im still terrified of my power, I
continued, terrified of my own damn eyes. I hate
them, you know. I want to pull them out half the
time, like Oedipus. It tears me up when I use them
and somebody dies, even when its necessary.
What have I done to you, Scott? Such sadness in his
You gave me my life back, Charles. You taught me
everything in life worth knowing. Thats what youve
done to me. And for me. Dont think otherwise, not
even for a minute. He shook his head. Dont think
like that, I repeated. I dont really *want* to be
someone who finds it easy to kill, you know. Thats
not the man I want to be. We sat in silence for a
little while. I dont think I did anything wrong. I
do believe I acted the way I had to, that what I did
was necessary to save them. Still, Im sorry hes
Im not sure I am. I looked up, surprised. He
tried to kill you all of you and it wasnt the
first time. If hed succeeded at the Statue or this
time if Id lost you, well I would have killed him
without hesitation, without regret. And it wouldnt
have been the easy and quick death he had. His grim
expression said he meant it. He fought on our side
against Stryker, but it was only a temporary alliance.
I knew that. I know you would have captured him if
you could, but I dont know what Id have done with
him if you had. Turned him over to the authorities?
I doubt they could have kept him any better this time.
He would have found a way to escape.
Yes, he would have. Thats why we let Mystique go.
And that Multiple Man, whoever he was. We didnt
think a prison could hold either of them. Well, that
and not wanting to let law enforcement in on all that
had been going on there.
He nodded. The mutagenic machine was destroyed
before it was built. Its creator is... gone. The
animal that could power it died, as well. Why let the
normal population know they might have been forced
into becoming mutants? He sighed. In some ways I
do think Erik is better off dead. Hes not the man I
once knew. He got that faraway look in his eyes and
I saw a younger Erik Lehnsherr in my brain, smiling,
talking animatedly. He was... unique, like no one
else Id ever met. He knew what he wanted; he had a
vision. *We* had a vision, a shared one. But over
the years it diverged. The image disappeared and
there was just Charles, smiling sadly. He was the
first mutant besides myself Id ever met. You cant
imagine what it was like, Scott. I was no longer
I dont have to imagine it. Thats how I felt when
you found me. I would have done anything for you,
I know. I feel like Ive asked too much of you.
Dont. This is the life I want.
Several days with Charles left me feeling like he and
I would survive this one intact. I still had
unfinished business with Jean, though. After dinner
one night we found ourselves in the garden again.
Can you enjoy it at all? she asked.
The garden. The flowers. Ros color scheme is
really striking, but without that...
Yeah, its still beautiful. I shrugged. I like
the patterns, the geometry of it; I like the smell of
the plants. And just the quiet out here. See for
yourself, I added, and let her into my brain so she
could see the garden the way I do. How are you
holding up? I asked her after a bit. A pretty
traumatic mission for your first combat one since
youre back. I smiled at her and added, I wish I
could have arranged a nice quiet battle where nobody
gets hurt, which made her laugh.
Im okay, she said. A little worried about you and
Charles. Is it a good sign or a bad one that youve
been basically closeted with him since we got back?
A good one.
She smiled at that. Ordinarily Id assume it was a
good thing, but this time...
I know. Its different. Neither of us said
anything for a minute. Theres something I need to
tell you, something I should have said before.
Youre gay, right?
I laughed and then had trouble starting. After a
minute I said, We talked before about what happened
while you were gone. I didnt tell you everything I
should have. I know you thought I was involved with
Jean-Paul, but I wasnt. I was with someone, though.
Logan. I looked away from her and continued, I
loved him. Still do, if Im going to be honest, but
Im working on getting over it. And I understand it
wouldnt have worked. Im not saying its easy for me
to know you and he are together, but I really do wish
you the best.
She didnt answer for a while. When she did, she
said, That was really good. Ive been practicing
that same line, but I couldnt manage to say it
without sounding bitter, so I havent. You sounded
What do you mean?
Logan and I arent together. She sighed. We never
were, really. It was probably 90 percent wish
fulfillment on my part and 10 percent rebound on his
part, after things fell apart with you. But hes not
really interested in me. So yeah, Ive been
practicing that wish you the best line but it always
seems to be accompanied by bitter asides about how it
feels to find out that the two guys you thought were
fighting over you are really hot for each other.
That, or world-weary comments about all the good ones
Logans not. Gay, that is.
No, I think youre right. Hes not, exactly. Not
like you, anyway. But he is in love with you.
He told you that?
Logan? Get real. He did talk to me about it, and I
give him credit for that. But it was more along the
lines of Scott and me, we were fucking for a while
and then we werent and then I was mad at him and then
you were there and I always liked you and you and me,
well it just kinda... You get the picture. Anyway,
he let me into his brain. And youve let me into
yours now. I realized with some embarrassment that
Id let on more than my feelings about the garden. I
have no idea if you two could ever make a go of it. I
cant even picture you as a couple, and I dont think
its just my jealousy talking. Ive thought about you
being with a man a few times over the years. Hell, I
couldnt help it. Hes not the guy Id think of you
I know. It was a surprise to me, too, I replied and
she chuckled a bit.
Well, its a surprise to both of us all three of us
but its real. Scott, I loved you, I really did.
And I know you loved me. Being a telepath has its
advantages, she said with a smile. Disadvantages,
too. I know what youre feeling when you think about
him. I know what he feels, too. All I can say is I
hope I have that with someone before I die.
Neither of us said anything for a minute. Where do
we go from here? I asked.
Dont! Jean, this is your home.
It is. A lot more than my mothers house. This is
where I really grew up. Ill be back. To visit, maybe
eventually to live. But there are things I need to
do. I cant do them here. Not now.
Where will you go?
Burlington, Vermont. UVM is starting a Department of
Mutant Medicine at their med school. Ethan hooked me
up with them. There will be some teaching, some
clinical work. Its the right job for me right now.
Are you sure?
She nodded. Im not really over you, you know. I
should have known that was Mystique. If there were
telepathy licenses, Id have to turn mine in for
missing that one. But I wanted it to be you, so I
didnt really pay attention. She shrugged her
shoulders. And its not just you. Its me. I need
to understand what really happened to me. I need to
get that year I lost back and know that Ive got the
defenses so it wont happen again. Ethan thinks we
can get there together. I want to be near enough to
keep working with him. She smiled at me. Ill
still come on missions with you, when you need me.
Once an X-Man, always an X-Man.
I found Logan in the Danger Room. Id had all sorts
of plans about what to say to him, but when I saw him
they all disappeared from my brain. We just looked at
each other in silence for a minute.
Jeans leaving, I told him, finally.
When you attacked Mystique, did you know it was her?
Yeah. She dont smell like you.
Neither of us said anything for a while. Logan, I
said, finally, I want to try again. Do you? He
nodded but didnt speak. Do you think we should talk
about what happened? He shook his head. About
where were going? About us? I love you, Logan.
He shook his head again and took my hand, put it to
his crotch. I could feel him through his pants,
getting hard as I touched him. I dont want to talk.
I dont want to hear you talk. Not now. I got
something better for you to do with your mouth. Suck
on that, okay?
More than okay.
Mofic Website: http://mo.fandomnation.com/fic/
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