Title: Away From the Sun
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Scott, Logan.
Setting: Post-X2, canon.
Summary: Beneath different shadows, Scott and Logan share the same darkness.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Marvel and Fox.
Notes: In its proper form, this story is a songfic to "Away From the Sun"by 3 Doors Down. The lyrics have been removed due to FFN paranoia, so if you want to read this story as originally written, please visit my website.
The television skipped from Fox News to "Mister Ed" to the obnoxious Billy Mays expounding upon the wonders of Oxi-Clean. When Scott Summers finally reached the History Channel and a documentary about World War II, he tossed aside the remote control and stared up at the ceiling, flinching occasionally at the sound of an explosion on the screen.
Jean was gone.
A week after Alkali Lake, her absence was still a constant, crushing weight on Scott's soul. Every night he woke from fragile repose with the sense of something missing, and when he realized all over again what that something was, a chasm of emptiness would open between him and the much-needed refuge of sleep. Then he would rise and roam the quiet hallways, looking, behaving, and—truth be told—feeling very much like a ghost.
His wanderings inevitably ended in the TV room. He craved noise to crowd out the silence within himself, but he didn't want to look at the screen. He didn't want to look at anything, because it reminded him that he was forever condemned to a crimson world.
Red—the color of Jean's hair, adding salt to the wound each time he opened his eyes.
She had given him respite from his monochromatic point of view. With her telepathy, she had often let him see through her eyes, sharing the colors he would otherwise have long since forgotten. Their connection became so strong, he had even learned how to catch those glimpses without effort on her part—sometimes even without her notice. Only through her eyes could he have discovered that Jubilee's favorite jacket was yellow, and that Professor Xavier's kind eyes were gray.
Yet those colors paled, literally, in contrast to the other vision she had given him. Her faith in their purpose had been stronger than anyone else's. Her compassion, her conviction, her courage; all of these had given him the strength to lead, to fight when the cause seemed hopeless.
Without her, he had no will to fight any longer.
Yet somehow he would have to. The Professor believed in him, and the children trusted him. He couldn't let them down. He would have to rediscover himself and his strengths apart from Jean, no matter how much it hurt… and no matter how hard it was to choke out the seeds of bitterness in his heart.
Scott leaned forward, reaching up slowly to touch the back of his neck. The scar caused by Stryker's mind-controlling toxin was a devil's mark, a manifestation of deeper scars within his own mind.
He closed his eyes and put his head in his hands, carefully easing his fingers beneath ruby-quartz glasses to massage his eyelids. In that darkness, once again, he saw Jean's face… and he wondered whether she could have found any forgiveness in her own heart, if their places were reversed. He felt she would have, and he was ashamed that it was so difficult for him.
If he could not forgive, the message of equality and peace which he and Jean had both taught for so long would be nothing for him but a lie.
Then Stryker would have succeeded in turning him, after all.
Something crashed by the bedside as Logan started awake, claws slashing, a growl rumbling in his throat. Met only by darkness and the now-familiar smells of Xavier's School, he sighed heavily and retracted the claws, bowing his head over his hands as he rubbed the raw ache in his knuckles.
He would have given just about anything to go back to the old nightmares.
In them, he now realized, he never truly had to face his fears. That abyss of pain and terror which had so often drowned his soul was mere fait accompli. The past had left its indelible mark on him, in the mystery which once gripped him, in the harsh realities of his nature which dominated him still… but the memories, all in all, were really nothing more than cold and sterile facts.
Now he knew what real nightmares were like.
Now he saw eyes that gazed inescapably at him, accusing and condemning. Jean's eyes, lit with an ethereal fire that consumed her as he watched, helpless. The eyes of the other—soulless, silver eyes that changed to a warm and living brown, weeping adamantium tears as he thrust his claws into her heart.
He struggled to understand what those bitter eyes were searching him for, but found even fewer answers than he had at Alkali Lake.
What had he to fear any longer?
The questions of the past still unresolved? Surely not. He had turned his back on them, walking away from them just as he had walked away from Stryker. What he might once have been would never matter to what he could become. When he realized that at last, he had let go of everything—and for a brief moment, he had known freedom.
Are you okay?
…I am now.
Logan closed his eyes against the dark and muttered a curse, pushing himself out of bed. Further sleep was out of the question. He could do nothing now but sate his restlessness, pacing the house like an animal in the calm before a storm.
So he went in search of someplace where there was light.
Perhaps it was this new life itself that he feared. A life that meant something; a life that called upon him to be more than he thought he could be, in many ways. A life worth fighting to keep, and worth giving for the sake of someone else—a life that had a chance because someone else had lived, and fought for, and given her own life that way.
They were a rare and precious thing, second chances. Jean's sacrifice had entrusted Logan with just such a gift… and some part of him was afraid he would screw it up. That he would be unworthy, not of the new life he had been given, but of the life that had paid the price to make it possible.
There are no answers that way, Wolverine.
It was a grim irony that Stryker's last words could echo in Logan's thoughts with such a different meaning. There were indeed no answers in self-doubt and second-guessing; not for his past, and certainly not for his future. He could only try to be better, to believe, to repay debts of kindness instead of vengeance. It might never be easy, but it would be right… and perhaps it would fill the hollow place within him that once felt only anger.
Something of that anger would always remain, but it was no longer his master—and he could never return to the familiar, comfortable bitterness of his old life, even if he had wanted to.
The half-lit hallways of the school smelled of fresh paint, sawdust… and still, beneath it all, traces of blood. Logan grimaced at the memories of that night, its disjointed fragments relegated to the gray-red nightmare landscape of his most primal core. When he was provoked, his capacity for human thought was intermittent at best.
He felt a strange, unpleasant moment of deja-vu when his hearing picked up canned gunfire noises coming from the TV room. Shaking his head, he moved down the hall to the doorway and looked in.
Scott was sprawled on the couch in an upright but somewhat corpse-like pose, his arms slung out to the sides and his head hung over backward at an uncomfortable angle. His shades were pointed in the general direction of the flickering black-and-white shadows that danced across the ceiling, but that didn't mean that his eyes were open, or that he was even paying attention if they were. He was clearly ignoring the noisy World War II footage on the television.
Logan wasn't sure he liked the man's choice of entertainment, and he did not care to dwell on any possible reasons why.
Just as he had concluded that Scott was asleep and was about to move on, a loud commercial erupted from the screen, and Scott stirred. He leaned over, coming up with the remote control in a pile of throw pillows that had been jettisoned from the couch, and turned down the volume a few notches. Then he dropped the remote and returned to his apparent state of sprawling catatonia.
"Still too loud for you, Logan?"
The offhanded question almost made Logan flinch, as it was the first acknowledgment of his presence that Scott had made. He frowned at the other man's harsh tone. Since Alkali Lake, they had been civil to one another; they had even worked together fairly well on a few of the rebuilding tasks. Yet for all the walls they had repaired, they had not yet managed to tear down the wall which still stood firmly between the two of them.
Logan was unsure that Scott could lead, and Scott was unsure that Logan could follow. Their respective roles in the crisis at Alkali Lake had not helped on either count, with Scott becoming a pawn of the enemy, and Logan striking off on his own purposes when he was needed most. Even the tension they felt over Jean was not lessened in her absence, in spite of Logan's rather awkward attempt to make his peace on that score—not so much with Scott himself as with Jean's memory. Regardless of his flaws, he did have honor enough to accept her choice in the end.
Now, as he looked at Scott sitting alone in the dark, the phrase "charity begins at home" rattled in Logan's mind. This was his home now—and if he was going to live a new and kinder life, it might as well start right there.
So he shrugged his shoulders, hooked his thumbs into the belt loops of his jeans, and sauntered into the shadow-filled room.
With a skeptical eye, Scott watched Logan's approach. The Canadian flopped his powerful frame down on the other end of the couch without so much as a by-your-leave, folding his arms over his chest. For a long moment he sat staring at the line of tanks rolling across the TV screen; then the stock footage suddenly cut to a young soldier firing a rifle from a foxhole. Logan's gaze shifted, the shadow of a grimace passing over his features… and for a moment, he looked more animal than human.
Have you ever seen real combat, boy?
The conversation was recalled clearly to Scott's mind, a snapshot of a time when what was pointless in the scheme of things had seemed important. Logan had never answered the question, too busy fronting petty challenges—as, Scott ruefully admitted to himself, he had been as well.
They both had their answer now.
The awkwardness stretched taut, snapping at last when Logan turned to cast a somewhat contrived glance around the darkened room. "So where's Jones?"
"Uh." Logan looked back at the television, fidgeting.
As Scott watched him behind the cover of his glasses, he slowly grew more puzzled than irritated. He could easily guess what had once more awakened Logan to prowl the house—and he found himself wondering how the nightmares had been changed by the return to the place where they were forged.
Perhaps nightmares were the one thing they had in common.
"Are the dreams different now?" he asked quietly.
Logan's head turned sharply, and he looked at Scott in wary surprise. Then his expression softened, and he lowered his eyes with a small shrug. "Yeah… they are."
Scott said nothing, and waited. Logan was still for a long time; at last he unfolded his arms, his left hand sliding down to clasp his right, and he stared down at his fist as he rubbed the place where there were no scars that should have been.
"I killed the other one. The one like me."
The feelings this confession aroused in Scott were entirely ugly. He had gathered some understanding of who and what the other was—and he knew her contribution to his own pain. He looked away from Logan, his jaw tightening as he closed his eyes.
"I wish that didn't make me glad."
He felt the movement of the couch cushions as Logan started, and glanced back quickly. Logan was staring at him, the hardness in his expression mingled with something else that was difficult to face, even through a concealing mask of ruby-quartz lenses.
This time it was Logan who turned away, and spoke in a quiet voice.
"Maybe you're human after all."
It seemed a backhanded compliment at best, but Scott didn't have the energy to be angry. He stared down at his own folded hands, unconsciously mirroring Logan, and the two of them sat in silence for a long time. Scott wanted to say something… but I'm sorry felt too wrong.
It also felt like a lie.
"It wasn't her fault," Logan said at last, with a small shake of his head. "You know that."
Scott felt an ominous tingle at the back of his neck—but when he looked at Logan's expression, he wasn't even sure which her he meant. Perhaps it didn't matter. He shrugged and stared at the television; Winston Churchill now. One of his role models, a great leader in a time of great suffering.
"Yeah," Scott murmured, and leaned forward with an urge to scratch the phantom itching of the scar, but pride restrained him and he stared down soberly at his restless, clenching hands.
"Wasn't your fault, either."
A pang ripped through Scott's chest. He closed his eyes, cursing mentally.
"You look like you'd feel better if you punched somebody." Logan's tone of voice registered somewhere between factual observation and bleak humor, and as Scott looked up, he could not prevent a small, bitter smile from curving his lips.
"Is that an invitation?"
The snort Logan uttered might have been some species of laughter, but it failed to reach his solemn eyes. "You wouldn't be the first to take it out on me."
For a moment, Scott believed Logan was referring to the students; a few of the younger children were afraid of him by association, after the carnage of Stryker's assault on the school. Yet there was something deeper in his face, a shadow of regrets turned inward, and it resonated with Scott in a way that he would not have cared to admit to.
"There was nothing you could do for her," he said softly—and now he didn't know which her he meant, either. He only knew that some part of him meant the words for himself, as well.
His eyes downcast, Logan shrugged, unclasped his hands, and folded his arms. "Yeah."
He could have walked away from the X-Men. Instead he had returned, just in time to share their pain… and to pay dearly in blood and peace of mind for a few jagged scraps of half-truth. That twist of fate was the twist of a knife in the heart of Scott's distrust.
"Why did you come back?" Scott asked quietly.
Logan cocked his head to one side, his eyes distant. It might have been an effort to put together a more eloquent reply than he had ever given in his life; but words were not his strong point, and they both knew it. At last he shrugged and met Scott's hidden gaze.
"It was the right thing."
That was all. No sarcasm, no cynicism; only simple, quiet sincerity, the final sum of a choice that Logan had made—and Scott had to make all over again. Sitting there in the dark, he now understood how difficult that choice really was.
Scott sat back then, and for the first time he could remember, the silence between them was comfortable.
© 2004 Jordanna Morgan - send feedback