All My Relations (Man Behind Red Shades 2) All My Relations

Summary: Scott deals with the inevitable. A death that he caused. Scott & Logan friendship. Not a 'character death' story.

Warnings: Real life, real death. What Hollywood doesn't show you. This is supposed to bug you, so I don't make any apologies for it. Still, young readers might want to steer clear.

Notes: The X-Men may belong to Marvel, but Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin belong to us all.

Series: This is story #2 in "The Man Behind Red Shades"


I killed a man today.

Not with my visor. Not from a distance. I've done that before from necessity, but I didn't have to see the results.

This time, I killed with my hands and steel. I saw the life of a man bleed out all over me, mix with rain and wash away on concrete. That's a hell of a thing.

A dead man does not look asleep. He looks dead.

I didn't stop, after. I didn't pause in shock, or gape, or let it register on my face. I kept moving because I had to. I am field leader. They look to me. So I killed a man and I kept going when his body fell, as if it didn't matter, as if my soul didn't crack.

You cannot fix it. You cannot undo it.

Storm hesitates too much; it's her failing. And it's my job, as leader, to know all their weak spots (including my own). Tonight, Storm froze at the wrong moment.

A warehouse, a call about a mutant child in hiding. A little too convenient, too easy to ambush. It was rainy and dark. We smelled the trap going in, were prepared. But the problem with ambushes it that even if you expect them, you don't know how they're going to spring until they do. There really was a child, as it turned out. A dead one. Very young. Maybe four? Five? Obviously a mutant, with gills and pale green hairless skin, the kind of child who hides in terror because people spit on her and there are no arms to hold her at night, no one to rock her, tuck her in, sing lullabies. They'd strung her upside down and flayed her. I hope she was dead first but I doubt it. There are some images you know you'll never get out of your head. So I was shell-shocked and trying not to throw up when we cut the girl down. That's when they attacked, while we were stupid with horror.

God, if only I could blame rage.

The fight happened fast ­- they always do ­- and ended with a knife under Storm's chin, outside the building in the pouring rain. She became a hostage to hold us at bay while the rest of them fled. We bleed, you know. Stick a knife in us and we die ­- just like that child. Even Logan would die if they hit his brain.

But Storm knew damn well how to get out of that situation. I taught her. Tonight, she panicked and forgot what she knew, just froze.

I had no time to think. I shot above with the visor at the concrete block building behind; our enemy didn't expect that and looked up. People are gullible; but then, if I was afraid a wall was about to fall on me, I'd probably look up, too. I had hold of the hand with the knife before he realized it was a distraction. Twist of the arm, turn of the wrist to snap it. That was all I needed to do. The knife was away from Storm's throat. But I didn't stop.

I drove it home into his own throat.

I ask myself, over and over, why? I see the same question in Jean's eyes, and can't bear it. Ororo is just grateful she's alive, Logan feels vindication, but Jean knows. She knows what I did wasn't necessary. I cannot hide the truth from her, and I don't know if she can ever forgive me. She walked away from me when we got back to the mansion, left me standing by the Blackbird. She was taking the child's body down to the lab, to put it in a cold box. We'll bury it ourselves; we take care of our own. But that wasn't why she walked away from me. And I can't blame her. I came apart in her eyes tonight; I'm not who she thought I was. I killed when I didn't have to. She saves lives. I took one. I tell myself he tortured a little girl, or at least was party to it. That doesn't make what I did right. It's not that simple. I wish it was. Or rather, it is simple, very simple, and that's what scares the hell out of me. I didn't kill him because of the child. I killed in a fit of adrenaline rush and instinct as old as my Y-chromosome. Protect. Kill what threatens the tribe. So I did.

I will never get the blood off. I feel like Lady MacBeth. Out, out damnéd spot.

I hate that man for what he did to a child, whatever she looked like. I hate him so much it makes me sick to my stomach, makes me want to scream and hurt myself. I recall a quote: "The only answer to a child's grave is to lie down before it and play dead." That's what I feel like. But I hate myself more than I hate him because I knew better. And I can't face anyone tonight, least of all Jean. She didn't ask me to sleep somewhere else but I can't bear the disappointment in her eyes. I should go to the professor, but I can't face him, either. It would be the same thing.

I mean, what do you say? 'Sorry, I screwed up'?

I've seen some bad things. But nothing like what we found in that warehouse. A Dario Argento nightmare, and it wasn't on celluloid. It was real, and wet still, and bodies flop after they've been dead long enough, and I knew that child had spent her last minutes screaming her throat raw. It was the latter, not the blood, that made me shake all over and gag. Like I said, there are some things you know you'll never get out of your head.

It's two in the morning in Ororo's arboreum. It seems fitting, to spend the night here. I can see the moon through the sunroof. It's a clear night. Cold, if I went out, and part of me thinks I should. I am cold. I need to be cold. I sit in the dark and shiver and listen to air move, listen to my breath. I'm still breathing and something about that is obscene.

The ancient Hebrews believed that a man's soul was in his breath. If I stopped mine, would my soul disappear, too? And if it did, would that erase my sin? Would it erase the horror I saw?

I hear it when the door opens. I hear the brush-scrape of feet on tile, very soft, but my hearing is good; it had to be. Even now, I am mostly blind in the dark. People can't tell because I know the mansion. If I'm wearing my visor, I have an infrared tracker artificially embedded, to assist me. But if I'm just wearing my glasses, I'm effectively blind. I don't need to see to know that tread. Sometimes ears are better than eyes.

"Logan. Go the fuck away."

There is no reply. He's stopped walking. I hear him breathe.

After a moment, he moves again, not concealing himself now. He is dark on dark instead of Blonde on Blonde. Me, I'm temporary like Achilles.

I know too many songs. Lyrics run around in my head like dogs chasing their tails. For the hell of it, I sing, low: "Standing next to me in this lonely crowd, is a man who swears he's not to blame. All day long I hear him shout so loud, crying out that he was framed. I see a light come shining from the west unto the east, and any day now, any day now, I shall be released."

Logan's shadow detaches from Ororo's magnolia tree which she struggles to keep alive through our bitter New York winters. He sits down beside me on the bench. "Never figured you for a Dylan fan, One Eye."

"I'm a misplaced child of the sixties born thirty years too late. Joan Baez; Bob Dylan; Neil Young; Peter, Paul and Mary; Janis Joplin -­ I know them all."

"Joplin had good taste in motorcycles." He offers me a glass. The smell of whiskey is strong.

"I don't need to get drunk, Logan."

"Shut up and take it, or I'll pour it down your stiff throat."


"Don't be a wise-ass. For once."

So I take it, but just turn the glass in my hands, don't drink. I don't want my thoughts fuzzed. They're the razor on which I cut my much-vaunted morals, make them bleed red like everything I see. I am such a fucking hypocrite.

"He was a piece of shit, One Eye. A bigoted piece of human shit."

"Christ!" I explode. "You think that's an excuse?" He doesn't answer, just watches me. "We learn to disarm, disable ­- not to kill. I teach them not to kill, no matter how angry we are. The professor insists on that. But how the hell can I stand up now and demand that? I didn't have to kill him. And the fact he was a piece of shit doesn't change it. I am not judge and jury and execution squad but I acted that way. Which makes me no better than he was. I'm a piece of shit, too."

He shakes his head. "You know what your problem is, One Eye?"

"No, but I'm sure you'll tell me."

"You don't let yourself be human."

"What?" I laugh, because it hurts. "You think I'm Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey? Or maybe the robot from Lost in Space. 'Danger, Will Robinson.'" I wave my free arm a little.

"You are such a dickhead, Summers. Drink your whiskey and think about somebody else for a change -­ like Jeannie. Stop acting like a three old on the verge of a crying jag."

I don't stand up, I don't yell, I don't throw liquor in his face. That would make me the three year old he accused me of being. Instead, I say, "You're one to talk. You stalk around this place with your shirt off like a peacock spreading his tale feathers, waiting for everybody to notice your testosterone. Logan the Loan Wolf. And you accuse me of display."

"At least I don't feel sorry for myself. And I don't mix my metaphors, neither. Go talk to Jean."

"She doesn't want to see me."

"She's crying in your room, you jackass. If you won't go, I will." He starts to rise but I grab his arm fast and yank him back down.

"Don't push me tonight, Wolverine. And stay away from my girl."

"Or what? You'll kill me, too?"

"Fuck you!" I throw the glass. At the far wall. I never said I didn't have a temper. Leaping up, I start to leave. He knows he went too far, catches me before I can reach the atrium door, grabs my arm and yanks me around. He's stronger than me, mostly due to the weight of metal in his bones. Muscle-wise, we're probably even.

"Cut it out!" A hesitation, then, "And I'm sorry, Scott ­- that was out of line."

The use of my name freezes me. He's never used my name. Not once. So I wait. After a minute, seeing I'm not going to bolt, or slug him, he goes on. "It never gets any easier."

It's not what I expected him to say.

He adds, "If a day ever came that it did get easy for you, I'd stop following you. Or I'd kill you myself."

He lets my arm go. I rub it, not sure what to say. So I ask the question I need an answer to, of the only person in this mansion able to answer it. "How do you get over it?"

"You don't. You go through it. Not over it, not around it, not under it. It's fire and you go through it."

"That doesn't help."

"It's not meant to. I'm not your daddy. I can't kiss it and make it all better. You killed a guy. But maybe if you stop a minute and think, you'll see the truth."

"Which is?"

"That you acted at a moment when the rest of us did nothing but stare. That he and his buddies made an awful mess with a little girl and left us to clean it up. That you're human, dammit. And you're young -­ and that's no insult. You are young; it doesn't mean you're not a good leader. You've got a hell of a lot of natural talent. There, I said it. Happy? What you don't have yet is experience. Tonight, you made a mistake that really, any of us ­- "

"It's not just a mistake! A man died! I killed him and I didn't have to!"

Instead of answering, he pulls me in and crushes the tears out of me. I cry because I need that and he holds on. This is something that can't be explained to those who haven't experienced it; it looks like what it isn't. Life and death make a bond between men. It's not something I've ever shared with Jean or Ororo; the gender thing gets in the way, though I'm enough of a modern guy to be bothered by that. It doesn't change it. I can't release in front of them this way. So now Logan holds me against his body, one hand on the back of my neck to push my face into his shoulder so I don't have to meet his eyes. It saves my pride. "Yes, you made a mistake and a man died. But I don't hate you. Quit hating yourself. Cyclops." He says it with the familiar grinning sneer, but this time, it's meant kindly. "You won't do it again. You won't ever get over it, and you won't do it again. That's the cost of leadership. This time, the man you killed was a stranger, an enemy. What'll you do on the day it's a friend? Could you order one of us on a suicide mission? Could you send Jean?"

"What the hell kind of question is that?"

"A real one." He lets me go; I pull two steps back, regain my personal space and my emotional balance. "This is a war, Summers. People die. And sometimes, if you're CO, they die because you order them to. If you can't face that, then get out of the goddamn hot seat. You think too friggin' much. It keeps you from really feeling." He doesn't look at me as he heads for the exit. But before he can leave, I hear his feet pause. "Go talk to Jean. She's as freaked out as you are. She needs you tonight."

"I told you. She doesn't want to see me."

"Bullshit." The door opens, closes.

I don't leave immediately. I go over to the magnolia and lean against it, let my back skid down rough trunk until I'm sitting on the dirt beneath among fallen, waxy leaves. Picking one up, I shred it into pieces.

Maybe I get Logan's point, maybe I don't. But I do see something new. Moral quandaries are pristine when your emotions aren't really involved. I wasn't mourning the man I killed, mourning for whatever family he wouldn't go home to tonight, the mother who would weep for him, any children he'd never see grow up. I was feeling sorry for myself because I'd learned that my actions don't always match my ethics, and some mistakes are irreparable. It was all about myself, and that was the most obscene thing of all.

I get up and brush dirt off my ass, go back to my room. Jean is waiting for me, sitting on the edge of the bed, a lamp on. She's still in her uniform and there's still blood on it. Just like mine. She looks up when I enter and she's been crying. Her eyes are red. Some women cry prettily. Jean just cries, and I love her for that. "Scott ­ "

I force myself to approach her, kneel down in front of her, take her hands and raise my head so I can meet her eyes. She can't see mine, but she always knows when I'm looking at her. I expect condemnation, find acceptance. She says, "I'm not angry with you. I was upset, for the child. I shouldn't have left you."

"I shouldn't have let you go do that alone. I'm sorry. Logan's right. Sometimes I am a dick."

It makes her laugh a little, wipe at her runny nose. Then we hold each other. She takes off my glasses and runs her thumbs over my eyelids, kisses them because it's the ultimate act of trust between us. Then she takes me into the bathroom and gets me out of my uniform; I get her out of hers and we wash each other off in the shower. This is not about sex. It's about touch. Touch heals. She won't let me put on my glasses. When we're done, she leads me by the hand to our bed, cradles my head on her breast so I can hear her heartbeat. Tonight, I have my lover and she's forgiven me. But there might be a woman out there somewhere who doesn't have hers.

And I cry. For an unknown woman who is my enemy. Because she is human. And so am I.


Mitakuye oyasin. ('We're all relatives.')

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For more in the "Red Shades" series:
The Man Behind Red Shades

For more X-Men movie fanfic by Minisinoo
The Medicine Wheel