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FIC: But By Degrees (Summers in a Sea of Glory 10/10)

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  • Mo
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 13, 2006
      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 wasn’t occupied with leading
      the team or teaching or in advisement sessions. The
      rest of the team backed off and just left Charles and
      me alone.

      I was surprised he turned to me. I’d prepared myself
      for just the opposite – Charles avoiding me.

      It’s not that being alone together was an unusual
      pattern after a traumatic mission. We’ve done this
      before, particularly after an unsuccessful one, or a
      successful one with a fatality. It’s 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 I’d have to go
      through. Charles generally was my main support and
      sounding board. He has been ever since I became field

      It’s a complicated relationship – he’s 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
      we’ve been through together. He and I are very close
      – we always have been – but I still didn’t expect him
      to be there for me this time and was surprised he
      wanted me there for him, too. I didn’t know what this
      would do to our relationship. What do you do when
      your son kills your oldest friend?

      “I know what you’re thinking,” Charles had said after
      we’d returned from Vermont, after the official
      debriefing, as soon as he and I were alone.

      “That’s what everybody says about you,” I answered,
      and he laughed.

      Then he turned serious. “It wasn’t your fault.”

      “I know that. Well, part of me does. I didn’t even
      mean to do it. I wanted to stop him, to protect
      Johnny and Jean. I didn’t want to – ” My voice
      cracked a bit at the last part and I didn’t finish the

      “I know.”

      “Not just because of you. That was part of it, but
      not all. It’s just – well, I can’t get used to it.
      He’s 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. It’s not even bad
      stats, really. I haven’t lost one X-Man – now that we
      have Jean back – and we’ve only had to kill six times
      in more than fifteen years.”

      “They are remarkable statistics, Scott. Amazing,
      really, when I think of what you’ve been through, the
      missions you’ve 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
      couldn’t 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. I’ve 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 can’t 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 it’s as true as
      anything I’ve ever said – we only do it when we must.
      But I just wish to God we didn’t need to. I’ve 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 Magneto’s death.” I stole a glance at his
      face when I said that. I hadn’t said it so baldly
      before – “Magneto’s death” – not to Charles. I
      wondered if he’d flinch, but he didn’t. He looked
      straight at me as I said it, expression open and
      listening. If he could look into my eyes, that’s what
      he’d be doing. “I’m 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 it’s 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. That’s what you’ve
      done to me. And for me. Don’t think otherwise, not
      even for a minute.” He shook his head. “Don’t think
      like that,” I repeated. “I don’t really *want* to be
      someone who finds it easy to kill, you know. That’s
      not the man I want to be.” We sat in silence for a
      little while. “I don’t 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, I’m sorry he’s

      “I’m not sure I am.” I looked up, surprised. “He
      tried to kill you – all of you – and it wasn’t the
      first time. If he’d succeeded – at the Statue or this
      time – if I’d lost you, well I would have killed him
      without hesitation, without regret. And it wouldn’t
      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 don’t know what I’d 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. That’s why we let Mystique go.
      And that Multiple Man, whoever he was. We didn’t
      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. He’s 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 I’d 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 I’d ever met. You can’t
      imagine what it was like, Scott. I was no longer

      “I don’t have to imagine it. That’s how I felt when
      you found me. I would have done anything for you,

      “I know. I feel like I’ve asked too much of you.”

      “Don’t. 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. ‘Ro’s color scheme is
      really striking, but without that...”

      “Yeah, it’s 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
      you’re 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.

      “I’m okay,” she said. “A little worried about you and
      Charles. Is it a good sign or a bad one that you’ve
      been basically closeted with him since we got back?”

      “A good one.”

      She smiled at that. “Ordinarily I’d assume it was a
      good thing, but this time...”

      “I know. It’s different.” Neither of us said
      anything for a minute. “There’s something I need to
      tell you, something I should have said before.”

      “You’re 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 didn’t tell you everything I
      should have. I know you thought I was involved with
      Jean-Paul, but I wasn’t. I was with someone, though.
      Logan.” I looked away from her and continued, “I
      loved him. Still do, if I’m going to be honest, but
      I’m working on getting over it. And I understand it
      wouldn’t have worked. I’m not saying it’s easy for me
      to know you and he are together, but I really do wish
      you the best.”

      She didn’t answer for a while. When she did, she
      said, “That was really good. I’ve been practicing
      that same line, but I couldn’t manage to say it
      without sounding bitter, so I haven’t. You sounded
      really sincere.”

      “What do you mean?”

      “Logan and I aren’t 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 he’s not
      really interested in me. So yeah, I’ve 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
      being gay.”

      “Logan’s not. Gay, that is.”

      “No, I think you’re right. He’s 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 weren’t 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 you’ve let me into
      yours now.” I realized with some embarrassment that
      I’d let on more than my feelings about the garden. “I
      have no idea if you two could ever make a go of it. I
      can’t even picture you as a couple, and I don’t think
      it’s just my jealousy talking. I’ve thought about you
      being with a man a few times over the years. Hell, I
      couldn’t help it. He’s not the guy I’d think of you

      “I know. It was a surprise to me, too,” I replied and
      she chuckled a bit.

      “Well, it’s a surprise to both of us – all three of us
      – but it’s 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 you’re 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.

      “I’m leaving.”

      “Don’t! Jean, this is your home.”

      “It is. A lot more than my mother’s house. This is
      where I really grew up. I’ll be back. To visit, maybe
      eventually to live. But there are things I need to
      do. I can’t 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. It’s the right job for me right now.”

      “Are you sure?”

      She nodded. “I’m not really over you, you know. I
      should have known that was Mystique. If there were
      telepathy licenses, I’d have to turn mine in for
      missing that one. But I wanted it to be you, so I
      didn’t really pay attention.” She shrugged her
      shoulders. “And it’s not just you. It’s me. I need
      to understand what really happened to me. I need to
      get that year I lost back and know that I’ve got the
      defenses so it won’t happen again. Ethan thinks we
      can get there together. I want to be near enough to
      keep working with him.” She smiled at me. “I’ll
      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. I’d 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.

      “Jean’s leaving,” I told him, finally.

      “I know.”

      “When you attacked Mystique, did you know it was her?”

      “Yeah. She don’t 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 didn’t speak. “Do you think we should talk
      about what happened?” He shook his head. “About
      where we’re 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 don’t want to talk.
      I don’t 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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