Emma Frost had never in her life had occasion to wish she were more familiar with the catalog of the Bee Gees. She had an idea they had existed as bubble-gum pop group turned white soul kings of the disco era, and that they took up entirely too much space ('any' would too much, and this was more than 'any') in Scott's CD collection. Otherwise, she didn't know much about individual songs. She picked "To Love Somebody" as Scott's karaoke number with the vague idea that it was corny and that having to sing it would embarrass him, in the innocuous way that a man so conscious of his every move needed to be embarrassed sometimes. That was all there was to it. For once, Emma actually wasn't thinking five steps ahead.
She should have known better.
When the music started, Scott turned away from Emma's table and lifted the microphone toward the table of drunk college girls, who had recently been swarming Logan.
Scott? Emma sent the thought out to him.
The words flew back at her in a tumbling swarm of negatives: Not now, not here, not listening, not funny, not now. The sudden rebuff startled her; his psychic shields wouldn't stand up if she really wanted to break through them, but lately, he hardly bothered to raise them at all. The last time she remembered resistance like this, she had been offering him an astral-plane blow job during a curriculum meeting, with his wife talking to Xavier on the other side of the wall. She won him over that time, and when Jean walked in the room ten minutes later, he jumped to his feet and kissed her; she laughed and put a hand in his rumpled hair – which Emma had never touched – and said, "Well, somebody's in a good mood --" She didn't say "for once," and Emma didn't say, "You're an idiot" or "Maybe adultery agrees with him." Husband and wife walked away without a look back, and that was the last time Emma remembered Scott putting up any effort to keep her out of his head.
Except he was doing it now, and something told Emma not to push the issue, as Scott started to sing --
"There's a light. . .
A certain kind of light. . .
That never shone on me. . .."
His voice was a little unsteady from lack of practice, but Hank and Peter were right. He was very very good. It was a better song than she remembered – what little she remembered – or maybe that was him as well. Emma realized, belatedly, why she didn't actually very much like hearing people sing. She preferred symphonies to operas, unless they were comedies, and there weren't many popular singers she cared for at all. The human voice was an unreliable instrument, subject to the whims of emotion. For a telepath, the air was full of enough annoying and distracting stray feelings, without hearing all that concentrated energy poured into music.
Or maybe it was something else -- a guarded jealousy of her own gift. Empathic reading was a tricky proposition, one that had never come naturally to her, but when you put a voice to music, suddenly everybody thought they could hear the emotion behind it. Scott, God damn him, was keeping her out of his head, at the same time he was singing the hell out of that lousy song for a room full of strangers. Meanwhile, Emma Frost had to slump down at a table full of people who already thought she was a heartless bitch while her boyfriend -- yes, that one, the guy with the many-times dead wife and the ever-so-tragic story they had all just played through, once again – belted out the chorus she had sent him up there to sing:
"You don't know what it's like. . .
Baby, you don't know what it's like. . .
to love somebody. . .
to love somebody. . .
the way I love you."
Emma supposed she should be happy that he never once looked in her direction.
"See that?" Logan grumbled. Scott stepped down from the stage, as the manager and a few of the giggling co-eds swarmed around him. "They're gonna want to put his picture up with Dazzler and me."
"He is very good," said Peter.
"Better than I remember," said Hank.
"Now I'm embarrassed for myself," said Kitty.
"As well you should be," said Emma.
Four sets of eyes turned to her, but no one spoke, and then Scott was back at their table.
Honestly darling, she thought at him. You didn't have to be nearly that that convincing --
Not now, not here, not listening, not playing. His thoughts came to her in a jumble of negation. He stepped right past her chair and held out his hand to Logan. "Keys. For your bike. I'm taking it home." Then, in an act utterly without precedent in Emma's experience, Logan reached into his pocket and silently handed them over. Scott picked his coat from the back of the chair and, still without looking at Emma, walked out.
"Well," said Kitty, as the door slammed behind him, "that was awkward."
Emma's whirled on her. "Shut your fucking mouth."
"What?" Kitty kicked back her chair and bolted to her feet. You can't just say that to me, you -- "
Emma stabbed a finger at her. "Don't say that, either, little girl or you will regret it."
Kitty gasped, and moved toward the table. Peter stepped in front of her. "Ms. Frost, Katya did not mean –"
Kitty whirled on him. "Where the hell do you come off apologizing for me?"
"Look, kitten," said Logan.
"I'm not a kitten --" Emma got to her feet, and turned to the door. She didn't care enough about Kitty at the moment to have this fight. "And I'm not a little fucking girl –"
Emma picked up her shawl, wrapped it around her shoulders, and started walking away.
Kitty's voice followed her. "I'm nobody's goddamn mascot. I had a six-figure offer with Microsoft – "
" -- and if Emma doesn't want him to get mad, maybe she should stop being so mean to him, like she's mean to everybody what does she expect and –"
The door slammed behind Emma, cutting off the noise from inside. The air had grown cold, and of course she wasn't dressed for it. She walked to school's SUV – Hank had driven; she didn't have keys – and kicked the ground, where she could make out the tire treads of Logan's bike. Scott had taken off in a hurry. Well, screw you, too. I guess running away is what you're good at. She could have shot the thought out toward him, just to see if it hit anything, but what was the goddamn point? Not listening not playing not home not for you. Emma could have broken past those defenses, but he clearly didn't want her to. She didn't know if her willingness to comply was a sign of growing respect, or cowardice. Maybe the part of her that didn't want to know what he was thinking had won out.
The door to the bar slammed, and Emma stiffened as heavy footsteps approached. "Shove it, Logan," she warned.
"Guess again," said Henry McCoy. Emma didn't look around but blew warm air on her hands. The steam that rose with her breath made her wish she had a cigarette. "Didn't get to him on time?"
"I wasn't trying to. I just thought I'd come out here and wish I still smoked. Do you have a cigarette?"
Hank raised a paw. "I'm a bit too flammable these days."
"If I smoked, I could have a good reason to be out here. I suppose everyone is in there talking about how awful I am."
"Just Kitty, really. Logan and Peter are defending you. Of course, you didn't curse at them for no reason and, as they're both quite fond of her, I imagine you've used up your 'Abuse Kitty free' card." He swallowed. "Don't worry about Kitty. Are you all right?"
He stepped closer, and Emma turned her face more fully into the shadows. "I didn't remember the words to the bloody song. Obviously. We had just been teasing him about his music, and I thought it would be fun and silly and he might actually crack a smile. Please tell me it wasn't their song or anything idiotic like that, because I already feel enough like the second Mrs. DeWinter."
"I think you're safe." Hank's mouth twitched. "I won't vouch for Scott, but Jean had better taste than that. It wasn't the song."
"No. You're right. He was looking for a reason to storm out of there all night."
"Probably," said Hank.
"It's not like coming here is my idea of a good time," she snapped. "You think I care about team bonding or – beer or grease or, God forbid, the vocal stylings of Miss Katherine Pryde? It just seemed like the kind of thing Scott would want to do if he was actually here. So why can't he be happy for five minutes?"
"You mean besides having to deal with seeing someone he loved die. Again."
"Someone. Yeah." Emma rubbed her eye. There was something in it; all this dust. "I'm going to sound like a heartless bitch, but you know that already. So I'll just say it. People die. Most people only die once. I'm not glad the woman's dead – you know that."
"Of course you're not."
"For one thing," said Emma, letting her mouth curl into a smile, "it makes my victory ring a bit hollow."
Hank gave her a curious look, and she wondered if she had pushed too far. But he just nodded slowly. "It's like Joyce said. The dead don't fight fair." He grinned sheepishly and amended, "Paraphrase."
"I know the story," Emma answered. "Christ, I taught Dubliners to the tenth grade for years until I got sick of all that Irish fatalism. So Jean's the little Irish boy who froze to death in the snow, and Scott gets to be so very haunted by his tragic past, while I'm the blundering bourgeois spouse who wants him to forget all about it."
"It was just a comment, Emma. I didn't think it out that much."
"I understand." She shrugged. "You're never going to win a contest for sainthood with a certified martyr. Especially not if you're me. But it would be nice if people didn't talk about Scott like he's the only person who ever knew anyone who died. I clawed my way out from under sixteen million corpses. I can claim a little knowledge about the dead."
Hank clasped his hands behind his back and looked at her intently. "You did. Yes. You took all that loss and you've worked to make it into something positive. That's what you do. You're a survivor. People admire that in you. I admire that and - – now Scott's doing what he does."
"Bloody wonderful," said Emma. "So we have no idea when we get home if he'll be there, or he'll be back in Alaska living on his shrimp boat."
"The shrimp boat was in Florida, actually," said Hank. "Alaska was a different time. But yes – I see your general concern. Of course, we all share it. Scott has always been that way. Now tell me." He tilted his head, as though examining her from a different angle would improve his insight. "Which part of this did you not know when you signed on for this?"
"I didn't –" She shook her head. "He should let me help him."
"Help him -- be a different person than he is?" .
"I know." She slammed her heel onto the pavement where the bike had stood. "I know, and it's stupid."
"It's human," answered Hank.
"Exactly." Emma hugged her arms to her chest and looked at the broad white moon rising in the sky. "I've never been any good at 'human.'"
"It's not you," said Hank. "Believe me. This isn't the first time I've had this same conversation about Scott."
"I don't think we've had this conversation. We've had the one about how I should leave Scott and Jean alone, and –." And they both knew how well that went.
"I didn't mean I'd had it with you."
"Oh." She caught his meaning all at once, and struggled to sound sufficiently indifferent. "Really?"
"Yes," he said. "A long time before you ever came into the picture. Those two fought like crazy sometimes. You wouldn't want to be in the house for all the tension – and I mean, I wouldn't, and I don't read minds. Scott Summers is not the easiest person in the world to love, Emma. But some of us do. I do, and Xavier does, and God knows Jean did. And though you'd have to strip the adamantium off his bones to get him to admit it, I think even Logan --"
"Well, obviously, Henry --"My telepathy is good for something. Not that I would need it for that pair."
"Oh," said Hank, looking flustered. Honestly. Men.
"So tell me. What do I have to do to earn a membership in the Lovers of Scott Summers? Since, obviously, just being his lover isn't enough."
"You have to love him," said Hank, "and be sure it's enough to deal with the periodic bouts of insanity that such a condition is likely to cause. And if you don't think you can, you should let him know."
"It was just a song."
"No it wasn't."
They stood there for a moment in silence, and finally Emma said,"Thanks for the pep talk," She couldn't quite get the right level of sarcasm into her voice.
"I don't know who you're going to hear it from, if not from me. For what it's worth, I'm on your side."
He reached out a furry hand, and Emma tentatively took it. "I thought we were all supposed to be on the same side."
"Exactly." He squeezed her palm firmly. "Now. What you have to do now is to go back in there."
"Right." She sighed. "I can't let them think they chased me out."
"Well, there's that," said Hank. "And also, the song I put in for you is coming up."
"Oh, no –" she began, then saw his lopsided grin and thought, dish it out and be prepared to take it.
"You know it," Hank assured her. "And it's fitting. The rest of them all think it's true, anyway."
Patsy Cline would not have been Emma's first choice. Of course, she had undergone the standard vocal training expected of a Frost daughter, and she wasn't at all bad. But Emma was realistic in the perception of her own abilities. She wasn't especially good, and she'd observed enough school talent competitions to know that inviting comparisons to the great vocal talents of the past was the surest way to make a decent voice sound mediocre. She would have liked to start with something easier, or something she could turn into a parody – "Fever," by Peggy Lee or (apropos of Hank's earlier comment) "I Will Survive."
But Hank was right. The important thing was to stand up there in front of the room and let them know Emma Frost wasn't going anywhere.
I'm crazy for feeling so lonely"
Kitty, Peter, and Logan had migrated to the billiard tables, and they stayed at their game as Emma sang. However, Kitty nudged Peter, who leaned down to whisper something. . . that Emma wasn't going to worry about, because she had to keep singing this song --
crazy for feeling so blue"
Hank, standing by the door, put his thumbs up at that one.
And then – providing, as she had long suspected, that his secondary mutation involved either the best or worst timing in the world – Scott Summers pushed open the front door.
you'd love me as long as you wanted
And then someday
you'd leave me for somebody new."
Hank tapped him on the shoulder; he leaned forward and looked in surprise at the stage. Emma closed her eyes, not wanting to lose the flow of the words.
"Crazy . . .
For thinking that my love could hold you . . ."
Scott's voice crept into her mind, tentative. Sorry. I don't know what that was about --
Oh, don't you? She opened her eyes to see him in the back, spreading his arms in a shrug.
You'll have to do better than that, she answered.
That's lovely, darling. But do be quiet and let me sing.
He smiled, folded his arms, and leaned back against the jukebox.
Emma let herself return his smile, and gave every ounce of her mediocre voice to the song's final lines.
Notes: Lyrics from "To Love Somebody" by Barry and Robin Gibb, and "Crazy" by Willie Nelson. The story Hank and Emma are talking about is "The Dead" by James Joyce. And of course the last lines to the song are "I'm crazy for crying, and crazy for trying, and I'm crazy for loving you."