SHADES OF GREY

chapter one: the fall and rise of jean grey


For a home which had been completely obliterated, the X-Men's Westchester mansion had certainly managed to fill a room with boxes in San Francisco.

They'd been there for three weeks and no one had touched a one of them.

"The past is the past," Emma had told Cyclops. "You should've left all of it for the garbage men."

But even though he rarely showed it, Summers had quite the sentimental side--and he needed something to tie the X-Men of yesterday to the X-Men of tomorrow.

Something to tie the Scott Summers of yesterday to Cyclops.

He'd been so certain about the jump to San Francisco, about his vision for the mutants of the world. Things were hardly about a peaceful co-existence these days -- they were about existence at all.

But for every certainty there was still a wild card; parts of himself he could barely recognize at times... parts of himself that he wasn't sure he really wanted to.

He spoke of it to no one, least of all to Emma. His strong desire to do right by everyone was often seen as a weakness, as an insecurity... but Scott only saw it as a dedication. A pledge and a promise.

He thought about that pledge and how he'd broken it to Alex. How he'd broken it to Kitty. He thought about his son, stranded somewhere in the future with a baby that promised mutantkind a tomorrow, and he thought about Jean.

"Shake it off, Summers," Scott said aloud as he shuffled through the first of the boxes. He'd managed to stay busy enough to think about anything but the things he probably should have been thinking about.

Maybe that's why Emma didn't want him standing in front of his past, scattered but organized in boxes from every failure, every shortcoming...

No.

They were just boxes, and he would have his future -- and so would mutantkind.

Scott grabbed at a box marked simply "Bobby" and herded it into another corner, smiling at the snowball in place of the "o."

He moved several to a "Hank" pile, others to "Peter" and quite a few to "Gambit and Rogue." Where were they? Scott made a mental note to try his best and find out.

As he continued his box-shuffling, Cyclops pulled a small box from the pile marked "Mr. and Mrs. Summers."

He ignored it, lunging farther into the boxes to pull out a "Charles" and even a "Neil." Scott hadn't heard from Neil Sharra, the third mutant to use Thunderbird as a member of the X-Men, for years.

He set "Reyes" apart and told himself he'd contact Cecelia's brother, though the X-Men's relationship with ONE was rather strained at the moment. It seemed Val Cooper had more important things to worry about, like clinging to Madrox's X-Factor.

He wondered if Theresa's baby had been born. If she'd given birth to a mutant.

He thought of Cable again, dwelling on the fact that he had no idea where his son actually was.

"Sam."

Scott stood firmly, his knees cracking and back aching. He was beginning to see why Hank had once joked that mutant years weren't unlike dog years when it came to aging, especially when dealing with being a member of the X-Men.

There was an open "Rahne" box, Scott peering inside to see a ruby-tinted polaroid of Wolfsbane and Moira MacTaggart. With all of her troubles lately, Scott thought, it might do Rahne some good to see that.

He set it on the outside of the boxes, his eye catching "Mr. and Mrs. Summers" again.

He ignored it until he found himself at the back row of boxes, six or seven of them marked Jean.

Summers hadn't gone through any of the boxes Ororo packed after her death. Things rarely settled down and he'd spent enough time standing in front of her grave to know that going through her old belongings would only take time away from Emma, adding to time alone.

These were the moments when he felt like an uncertain schoolboy, rags tied across his tightly-clenched eyes in fear of taking someone's head off.

Opening them meant screaming, it meant pain... it meant rejection; another home, another set of parents.

Scott cleared his throat as if he'd been speaking, pulling one of the boxes into his arms and sitting it in front of him, plopping down indian-style and shredding the tape.

The first box was clothing. An old purple robe, pink trim. He could see her red locks across the back of it, imagining (though not for long, they were only just below) her matching slippers and the smell of pancakes. Jean always made breakfast in that robe.

Even worse, he could smell her. Almost touch her.

"It's probably good that you go through it," Emma stood in the doorway. Cyclops meant to stand but only clutched the robe from the ground, turning to his girlfriend uneasily.

Emma's telekenesis pulled the other Jean boxes to the floor in front of Scott, the tops of each spreading apart. "I'll do it with you if you'd like."

Cyclops said nothing.

"Don't look at me like that, Scott," Frost made her way toward him, uncomfortably lowering herself to the ground beside him. Those heels were expensive. "I'm being serious."

"I didn't say you weren't."

"Darling," Emma pulled his hand into hers, "I love you. If we're ever going to get married I think this is something we need to put behind us... to deal with together."

"...wow," Scott smiled. "Really?"

"No," Emma threw his hand away from her. "I picked up your thoughts the second you started grabbing at that ghastly, moth-ridden robe. I'm going out, Scott," Frost stood. "Be finished when I get home."

"When are you coming home?"

"We have dinner with the Mayor at seven."

"Seven-thirty, then?"

Emma arched an eyebrow. "I'll see you at six."

Scott turned back to the boxes, abandoning the clothing and moving on to a box of framed pictures. Some of them he recognized instantly -- they'd been on display in their Anchorage home at one point, in their cabin behind the Institute at another.

The original team, she and Ororo at the pool (probably in December), a picture of Lorna and Alex, Charles and Jean from God-knows-when and he and Jean on their wedding day.

She'd looked so beautiful.

He dug through the box some more: loose photographs this time; Jubilee and Logan, Kurt and Kitty, various Christmases and birthdays, her parents.

And then at the bottom of the pile, a journal.

It was simple. Leather-bound. The kind of thing you could buy anywhere... or the kind of thing someone could have bought you from anywhere. There was no lock, only an olive ribbon tied around it.

Scott ran his fingers along its cover and looked closely at the cracked spine. She'd used it.

Then he began to read.

There was no date, only a few scribbles atop the page to push the ink in her pen back to life.

Summers sighed deeply, decided he wasn't invading Jean's privacy -- they'd shared a psychic rapport -- and continued:

I've had people tell me I'm the most powerful telepath on the planet. Personally I'd never say that... Charles is much more powerful than I am. I hope.
But that's what they've told me.
I certainly don't feel like I am. If I were the most powerful telepath on the planet... well, why would I need to write in a journal?
That's a trick question. I think if anyone would need to write in a journal it'd be the most powerful telepath on the planet. It's still so hard sometimes... all of the thoughts. I don't know if hard is the right word for it. I don't find it hard to shut out the thoughts anymore... just... well, tiring.
Scott and I are getting married next week. I can't believe it -- after all that we've been through... in the last year alone...

I'll finally look at Scott Summers and know that he's my husband. The man I'm going to spend the rest of my life with.
I've known that for some time... I probably even knew it when he was too shy to stand in the same room with me. Or when he'd stammer over hello.
I can still feel my stomach turn inside out when he walks into the room. Nobody fills out a pair of spandex like my man.
But I'm even more excited to see him in his tux. Oh, journal, it's going to be wonderful!

God, I could never seriously write that. I understand personifying something you're supposed to be putting your deepest thoughts and desires into... but if I ever start writing like that, well, I'll definitely know I'm not the most powerful telepath on the planet.

Maybe I should start writing things like that.

"I'll talk to you soon, journal!"

-Jean

Summers shut the journal again, stood, took one last look at all of the boxes and made his way out of the past.

He'd spend a lot of time there, he'd decided: the journal was full.

But now he had to get ready for dinner with Emma.