This can't be happening Scott though. His vision was going hazy, the crisp crimson world fading to blurs of dull red. Something was aching in the left side of his chest and he felt the band of pressure that had been wrapped around his eyes for as long as he could remember… lessened.
There was a woman crouching over him and suddenly Scott realized he was sitting down, even thought the last thing he could recall was standing. The woman was crying and all she could say was "Look what you've made me do, Summers, I've come undone."
"My eyes…" he breathed. "Can't see you."
Hands gently lifted the visor from his eyes and he saw something unfamiliar. It was strangely sedate seeming, weird. It seemed familiar for a moment, then he finally managed to place it.
Emma had blue eyes.
"Love you," Scott said as the Phoenix stepped over him, blocking out the sunlight. Those were his last words.
Emma held him and did something like crying where her eyes moistened and her chest heaved up and down with sobbing regularity, but she didn't shed any tears.
The Phoenix looked, from the length of rebar piercing his side, to the blood that poured out on the ground, to the man who had thrown it.
She pointed a finger at him. "Down."
Before he could utter a word in protest, Magneto's eyes rolled back in his head. The rage left his mangled face and he crumbled to the ground with surprisingly little fanfare for such a man.
"Is he dead?" Emma asked hoarsely.
"Then you let him off easy."
As if noticing her for the first time, the Phoenix turned to see Emma still cradling Scott's head to her chest. One hand was snarled in his hair, the other held his visor impotently. A slight twitch jerked the corner of Jean's lip up and down.
"It's just a shell," the Phoenix said, walking away. "You're welcome to him."
In light of Scott's death, the Phoenix being part of the teaching staff was almost passé. Jean kept her powers under control and…
And Scott was gone.
Funny, how Emma hadn't noticed how gone he could be until he was gone. She didn't know how to explain it. It wasn't like he lit the room up with his presence. Yet without him, there was a decided lack that she couldn't put her finger on. The air seemed stiller. The students seemed quieter. The nights seemed colder.
The knowledge that Scott wasn't there and would never be there had a dramatic effect on her train of thought. Emma considered placing the factoid behind a mental block, just to see what difference it would make, but decided that learning about the death all over again would be… prickly.
For no particular reason other than that she decided to, Emma lifted a basic knowledge of lockpicking from Gambit's otherwise filthy mind. At dawn, when most of the early-bird X-Men were getting ready for the day but the students were still sleeping in, she went to Jean and Scott's room. Just Jean's now, really. She wondered how Jean felt with all that extra space in there. Mournful… or ecstatic.
Emma picked the lock, still uncertain what she was doing. Inside, the room was as kitschy and false as she had expected. Old greeting cards lined the top of a piano that hadn't been played in years, by either of them. Framed pictures showed the perfect couple in happier times. Emma picked up one that showed two teenagers awkwardly almost embracing, both hands clenched in that of the others'. Had they seen it coming, the couple in those photos? That right around the corner, their happiness would end? If they did, would they have stopped when it was less painful to? Or just kept on going, too intoxicated to halt?
Emma crushed the picture frame within her hands, spilling shattered glass to the floor. The photo itself she looked at. It had no markings on the back, no notations of any kind. The memories had been sufficient for Jean and "Slim" to find context. Suddenly reverent, Emma set the photo down.
His scent didn't linger in the air, at least not to her senses. She wasn't one of those ruddy X-Men that needed house training to be on the team. But Scott's psychic residue lingered. Repression and anxiety and… love and passion and courage. God, so much of it. Emma sat down on the bed, Scott's imprint still visible on the mattress, right next to Jean's. Emma ran a hand over it. Was that what she had wanted? To be the woman that laid there? For the life of her, she couldn't remember what her endgame had been in seducing Scott Summers.
The alternate, that he had seduced her, had occurred to her and had not been a pleasant thought.
The door creaked open telepathically, beckoning Jean in. She was dressed in one of those "astonishing" new costumes she insisted they wear. This one made no secret of her Phoenix heritage, showing off it just as blatantly as it did that athletic body of hers. Emma could appreciate female beauty, especially her own, but what did Scott see in her?
If Jean was surprised at finding Emma in her bedroom, going through her private things, she didn't show it. The Phoenix, probably. Too big for mortal emotions. Too big and yet too small at the same time. The Phoenix loved and hated and feared everything, in different measures, and Emma had long ago given up on trying to tap in to its emotions. It had too many.
"I noticed you were wearing black," Jean said, leaving at the funeral unspoken.
"I don't wear white after Labor Day either. My wardrobe is not an Alabama schoolhouse circa 1950: It has more than one color in it. What's your point?"
Jean sat down beside her. Her manner was kind, considerate. It made Emma want to scream. "You were dressed as a widow. Just wondering why."
Emma knew what she was about to say was the worst possible thing to say under the circumstances. She said it anyway. "Because I was more of a wife to him in the last five months than you were in the last five years."
Considering that the creature cohabiting her body could have blasted her to atoms, being slapped across the face was getting off light. It still hurt like hell.
"Harder," Emma said, despite the left side of her face stinging itself red.
The next slap nearly took her head off.
"Harder!" Emma cried. "I can't feel it!"
Jean didn't do anything as prosaic as hit her again. Her long, red fingernails burrowed into Emma's cheek and were yanked down, leaving four vivid scarlet lines in her flesh. Blood spilled from the wounds, cool against Emma's heated skin.
"Not a diamond now, are you?" Jean said, the baritone addition of the Phoenix distorting her voice.
"No, I'm not," Emma said as she got up to leave.
A week since the funeral. The Professor still hadn't come back. Jean Grey was the new headmistress, just as she was supposed to be. A new team was assembled, Jean actually listening to Emma's logic for bringing bossy little Kitty Pryde onboard. New costumes were made to match the one Jean had fashioned for herself out of blood and flame. And in their closets, the black clothes waited to be trotted out when they lost another friend.
Jean was rewriting a draft of the speech was going to deliver to the students (Scott, Scott had always helped her find the right words) when Emma walked into her office. Just walked. Didn't saunter or shimmy or stalk. Just walked. Jean looked down. Emma wasn't wearing high heels. Jean couldn't find it in herself to tease her about that, no matter how much she deserved it.
"What do you want?" Jean asked, taking off her glasses, the keynote speech forgotten.
"I came to apologize for my conduct," Emma said stiffly.
"Conduct," Jean repeated, folding her hands across the desk. Now was, of course, the perfect time for Emma to seek redemption. Right when she hadn't earned it. "You mean having an affair with my husband."
"Among other things."
"What other things?"
Emma let out a long-suffering sigh. Usually, that meant she was secretly enjoying herself. Yet Jean doubted that a thousand psychics could find a level on which Emma was in anything but abject misery over this conversation.
"We talked about you…" Emma said, her tone supplying the unspoken pillow talk. "Unflatteringly. You'll be happy to hear I led the discussion. Well, not happy."
The familiar fire rose in Jean's veins, wanting to rend and burn and kill. She squelched it down, as she always did, but a half a second slow, in deference to Emma. "Why are you telling me this? What do you really want? Absolution?"
"As if I care what you think of me," Emma said dismissively, turning towards the door. A dozen pieces of furniture moved to block her exit.
"But that's your big secret, isn't it?" Jean said, standing. She didn't walk as she came out from behind the desk. She stalked. "You care what other people think. In fact, you want to be like me. Respected. Beloved."
"I couldn't tolerate being you for five seconds," Emma shot back, arms crossed.
"Finally, we agree." This was good. They were back on familiar territory, even footing.
"You think you're…" Emma began before her mouth flapped shut to conceal what she had been going to say. She pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to think of how to convey her message to someone that had every reason to hate her. "The really sad part is that he loved you. Shame you couldn't love him back."
"You really don't know anything, do you?" Jean hissed. "The reason Scott was alone was because he chose to be."
"Sure, blame the dead. And you were just too happy to keep him at arm's length."
Emma could feel Jean's wrath boiling off her, curling into the atmosphere and holding itself at bay a foot from her body.
"I. Don't. Have to. Justify. Our. Relationship. To. You."
"Who do you have to justify it to?" Emma replied. "Yourself?"
"You've said what you came to say. Get out."
Having Kitty on the team was like a breath of fresh air, if said air was filled with cyanide. As promised, she undermined Emma at every turn, rallying support behind warrior goddess Jean, and generally being a nuisance. They were passing each in the stairwell, alone, when Emma reached out and grabbed Kitty's wrist, stopping her short.
"I was fucking Scott. You probably had your suspicions; I was."
"Why would you tell me that?" Kitty asked, confusion still temporarily beating out her anger.
"Because I deserve to feel horrible," Emma mentioned. "Instead, I feel nothing at all."
"This isn't about you and how you feel," Kitty lectured. "Other people were hurt by what happened. I just… I don't know what you expect from me. We're supposed to be at each others' throats because, what, you're a cunt? So what? You're a cunt. Leave me alone."
Scott's grave did a service to the man. It was cut from granite, almost as hard as diamond (almost), and, of course, rigidly inflexible. Curious things, gravestones. As Emma mused, they gave you all the relevant information on a person's life, but left out everything that made life, life. The headstone didn't mention that Scott would sometimes just hold a person until they felt better, because he knew that if it got to the point where he noticed a negative emotional state, it was time to act.
The headstone didn't mention that Scott has saved the world a dozen times over, only to be killed by a cowardly sneak attack from a washed-up old fascist. It didn't mention that he jogged for two miles every morning and invited Emma along. It didn't mention the way he, as they ran through the park, would pull her off the trail and kiss her, wait for her to begin undressing him before he ravished her against the morning dew. Really, it was a name, not a man.
Emma stared at the hunk of rock meant to commemorate the impact Scott Summers had had on the world.
"I don't have anyone else to talk to," Emma began, not knowing what else to say to a dead man. "That's your fault, I hope you realize," she said, deciding to get that out of the way. "Why did you have to be such a Summers and die before you had to choose? It shouldn't even be a competition. What does she have that I don't, besides a propensity for eating stars? You should be thanking me for giving you a chance. I could've left you as you were, an emotional cripple in a loveless marriage. Then you die on me? How ungracious can one be?"
Emma stopped, her breath fogging from her lips, the cold seeping in through her coat, the grave giving her no answers.
"I miss you," she said.
The air got a little cooler and Emma pulled her coat tighter around herself.
"Damn you," she said.
With nothing else to do, she hugged the headstone, not caring how the coldness of the stone burned her right through her clothes.
The single tear that hammered against the top of the tombstone was the last tear she shed for Scott Summers.