Summary: Not everything meant well causes comfort.
Notes: This short story is based on that final exchange between Logan and Scott in X2. The expression Marsden chose was perfect. The title? In Greek, agonia means "contest" or "competition," and we derive our word 'agonistic' from it, but also, 'agony.'
Ever since, he'd been restless, could never stay long in one place, one room, at one duty. He had to keep moving, keep doing. Mechanical. He ate (a little), he spoke, he shaved and got dressed in the morning -- wore whatever he grabbed first. One day, he forgot to shampoo his hair when he showered. The next, he forgot to tuck his shirt in. And he wrote notes to himself in order to know what he'd done; otherwise, he did things twice. His focus had narrowed into a serial attention: do this, then do that. Keep moving, keep doing, keep talking. Keep, keep, keep. He woke early before the sun, and he worked late into the night until he fell asleep at his desk.
He couldn't sleep in their bed.
Three days now. The world had gone on for three days since . . . He regarded that with a kind of stunned surprise -- dulled by incredulity at the obscenity, incomprehension of the finality. He kept living because it was a habit. He attended meetings, he taught classes . . . he went through the motions. Sometimes he said things he couldn't recall later. Vacant. He moved through cotton.
And he hurt.
He'd always thought "heartache" the most ridiculous word, too sappy for honest use. But it was literal. The space around his heart hurt -- throbbed in a physical pain -- and there was a heaviness in his gut that weighed him down. He moved more slowly, and didn't see that the children turned off faucets behind him, shut off lights, and picked up things that he'd abandoned between one thought and the next. Once, Jamie Madrox had pointed out that he'd left the TV blaring in the den and wasn't he always telling them not to waste electricity?
Piotr and Jubilee had taken Jamie aside, and he never said anything again.
Startled by the gloved hand on his arm, he turned. Rogue smiled at him. Her eyes were liquid and dark, like lake water. He flinched away. "Sorry," she muttered, though without recognition of what offense she'd unconsciously given. "The professor asked me to find you. He'd like you and Logan to meet him in his office, if y'all would."
"Okay," Scott replied and, turning, went out of the dining hall. Behind him, Rogue glanced at the half-eaten meal left jilted on the table. Quietly, she cleared it away.
In Xavier's office, Scott took up a position, arms crossed, staring out a window. He didn't want to look at the other two. One hadn't commandeered her mind, forcing her to come back onto the plane, and the other hadn't let him go to die with her. And when he asked them if there hadn't been more that "we" could do, what he'd meant was, "How could you just abandon her? How could you force me to?" They hadn't even returned to look for a body.
Xavier gave him platitudes -- "Because she made a choice" -- and he could barely hear. Sacrifice sounded noble, selfless. His Jean was a hero. Xavier spoke her name with tenderness, Ororo with reverence, Logan with sorrow, and the children with awe. But it was his room that lay empty. And if he spoke her name with anger, with resentment -- with agony -- who were they to judge?
So he stalked out as students moseyed in. Logan chased him. "Hey, Scott." He paused, and Logan went on, "She made another choice. She chose you."
For just a moment, Scott feared that the coiling thing in his middle called Rage would rise up hissing, hood flared. The overweening arrogance of the man, as if Scott's devastation could be alleviated by a crown of victory in some petty contest between them? His lips thinned and he shook his head minutely. Logan might ridicule his control, but it was that control, that attempt to be decent and to recognize that Logan was offering a piece of his pride . . . it was only these things that kept Scott from saying: "Do you honestly believe I ever had any doubts?"
He walked on.
He needed to have nothing around him, no walls. He threw open the front door and exploded from the confines of their pity.
On a bench in one corner of Ororo's garden, he sat down and let his eyes go out of focus behind the glasses. For the first time in days, he just sat and did nothing.
After a while, he heard footsteps behind, an odd gate, and turned his head, half fearing it would be Logan. It wasn't. It was the blue man named Kurt Wagner, the one who'd quoted the 23rd Psalm on the plane.
Kurt sat down or, really, perched on the bench beside him like a mutant gargoyle. Too tired to be polite, Scott said, "Come to tell me she's in a better place?"
It wasn't the answer Scott had expected, but he turned his face forward and struck out again. There was too much inside; it had to go somewhere. "I don't believe in heaven." The words were flat and harsh, like the caw of a crow.
Kurt said nothing.
"I don't believe in God."
Kurt still said nothing.
He didn't even look at Scott, just watched the garden as Scott had. A small breeze blew his dark hair and his tail was curled over the back of the bench, its flat end shaped like a spade. He was, Scott thought, too unique to be anything so simple as hideous or beautiful, and maybe the angels looked like that -- shocking and terrible and awe-full. "There are more things in heaven and earth than dreamt of in your philosophy...."
Scott still didn't believe in God, though he wished he could, so he could rail at him in defiance.
They sat together for a long time. Finally, Scott asked, "You don't have anything to say?"
"Sometimes, there is nothing to say."
"So what are you doing here?"
Kurt half shrugged with one shoulder. "Would you like that I leave? I will if that is what you wish."
Scott thought about it. "No." There had been an odd comfort in hearing Kurt breathe beside him.
They were silent again. Scott's own breathing fell into the same rhythm as Kurt's. He felt his muscles unclench, just a little, as the sun set behind the line of trees. "You know how I met her?"
"No," Kurt replied. "But I would love to hear."
"I was headed back to the mansion on my bike . . . "
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