A/N: Prompts: 'Canon pairing' and 'No one gets a break, do they?'
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The irony of it won't hit until much later.
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Beyond the crests of the mountains, the sun was still an imposing presence, but within the valley, night had long since fallen. Uncanny, long shadows crept pleasantly over the Summers' stretch of lawn. It was very quiet: their cabin was undisturbed by the creatures of dawn and dusk. Scott spent a moment outside admiring the post-sunset skies, enjoying the feeling of peace that washed over him. It was a rare feeling for someone who had been through so much, someone who had witnessed such tragedies.
There was a slight stirring of air, accompanied by the sound of grass crunching, as Madelyne picked her way from behind their log cabin to join him. She was dressed in comfortable jeans and a sleek fake-fur coat he had found after days of extreme, terrifying shopping for a good birthday gift, and the trimming of its hood was light and gentle his skin. Maddie looked tired, but not unhappy. Her hand slid into his, soft and smooth.
"What are you looking for?" she asked, after a moment.
Scott shrugged at the sky. "I'm not searching for anything. Just... thinking."
The air was lightly scented with pine, cold and crisp and exploding in his lungs when Scott inhaled.
Gentle light spilled from their cabin onto the grass outside, splashing across the wood pile he had filled that morning.
It was still strange, using battle-carved muscles to do something so mundane.
It was a good feeling, he told himself.
Maddie didn't tense, didn't have any physical reaction except to tug down her hood and lean against him. He untangled their fingers to wrap his arm around her waist, slim even under her coat, pulling her closer. Her warm, solid presence -- soft hair a tangle in her neck -- was more comforting than even the peace had been.
Within the Alaskan wilderness, it was easy to pretend they were the only two people in the giant-sized world, staring at the unveiling stars.
Scott only wished he could let his tension drain away, let himself believe his new life would stay longer than a breath.
"I could get used to this," Madelyne said, finally. The brush of her hair against his cheek was like silk.
"You mean you still aren't?" he teased, his other hand closing around hers.
She pulled away a little to look at him. Even though Scott's world was painted in shades of red, he could see a rainbow of light playing across her face.
"Cyclops, X-man, Fearless Leader," she listed playfully. "How many of them would have time to stand beside me like you are now, just watching lights flashing across the sky? Or what there is left of it, anyway."
"Like a life," Scott murmured softly. "Beautiful, but turn away for a moment, and it's over."
Madelyne looked disturbed at the turn the conversation had taken. "I wish you wouldn't say that. It's not your life now. We'll have years yet."
Scott inhaled deeply. The scent of fresh snow, pine, and peace burst across his sinuses, clear and refreshing. He'd had only a hauntingly distant memory of Alaska before returning, but now he would be lost without its steady presence, an anchor seared in the corners of his mind. Alaska was home: the snow, the forest, and Maddie. Yet...
"I have a feeling that this won't last," he admitted.
Her eyebrow arched in a silent question, and her lips turned down at the corners unhappily. The peaceful atmosphere was vanishing.
His following ramble formed somewhere between his mind and throat, and escaped, like a trapped bird whose cage had suddenly been opened. "Cyclops, X-man... Fearless Leader... they don't have the luxury of peace. I'm not an old man, and I don't know if I will live to be one. I'm still young but I've seen more than the kids back at the school. I travelled to the stars, the stars that poets write their pretty verses about, and found nothing but death there, and sometimes I think I'll never leave it behind. People like me aren't allowed to settle down and lead a normal life however much I want to."
He paused for breath, and Maddie took the opportunity to pull away from his casual grasp around her waist. Her expression was severe, but not unkind.
"Is that you talking, or Cyclops?"
"Is there a difference?"
Maddie looked annoyed, but not surprised. "Isn't there? When I met you, you were Fearless Leader, but you fell in love with me as Scott Summers. Nothing more or less." She folded her arms across her chest. "Cyclops is a part of you. He's a vital part of you, but he isn't ALL. His needs do not dictate your life."
He would have spoken then, objections lying on the tip of his tongue, questions clogging after them in his throat like a traffic-jam of strings of words. In the end, they were only a series of sounds looped in a steady sequence, and Madelyne overturned them as effortlessly as a downward sweep of long eyelashes to guard against falling snow.
She spoke with peculiar tension, the icy anger that came from mulling over the issue in private, too afraid to break the silent barrier between two halves of a marriage bed, only to find it wouldn't go away.
"I want this," said Madelyne, fiercely, and possessively. "I want you, because I love you, and I want a life with you. I would give a great deal to bring your happiness... but I cannot give you peace."
Scott's mouth opened in a reflexive denial, the uniform refusal with which he compared all others. Cold air rushed into his mouth in a sudden wind; his tongue nearly froze over, and his and teeth ached.
His first thought was that the air would not allow him to speak, which was not farfetched when he, astonishingly, could punch through mountains merely by opening his eyes and taking a look at what stood before him.
His next that this was ridiculous, but whatever force had stayed his words also gave his wife the time to voice hers.
"You'll have to take what is already here," Madelyne said.
"Maddie, I'm at peace--"
A quick, sharp shake of her head arrested his words. Her staring eyes were laced with scorn, questioning just how foolish he thought her to be. 'I am your wife,' the look announced, to any who cared to see. 'You can't lie to me.'
"This is part of you I have never understood, Scott Summers," Maddie murmured, quiet and insightful against a howl of gentle wind. "You fight so hard to survive... but cannot fight to live. Do you think I don't see you, day after day, alert and waiting for your friends to call for help? Do you think I'm blind to what's in your heart? Your body is here, but your mind is far away, trying to avoid the choice you have to make."
"I wasn't aware I had to choose between you and my team," said Scott.
Maddie rolled her eyes.
"Have some faith in them," Madelyne chided. "There are no angles to consider, no enemy to attack. There's just you and me."
She let her words trail away into a ringing silence, the likes of which Scott hadn't thought he would share with Maddie.
Maddie was the exceptional; the pure one. Their whirlwind romance, and marriage, had been the best thing that had ever happened to him, and it still was. All his other roles had shrunk away, replaced by the pressing urge to be a hero. He had been Cyclops, and Scott Summers had been his alias, even with his former team mates. But meeting Maddie had made him slip back into the man he had been; not the costumed crusader. She had poured life into the PERSON he'd once been.
Madelyne was Scott Summer's anchor, and for so long -- even after their marriage, as Maddie had told him -- Cyclops had regarded her only as a dream, and his life with her as substantial as one. He had imagined snatched moments of a perfect life, without the threat of vengeful villains rampaging after his family, or even things as mundane as strained silence.
He'd feared he would open his eyes and find everything gone, with only the hollow identity of a mask as his life.
He had known, but hadn't understood until she spelled it out for him, the look in her clear eyes so bitter and hopeful, that Scott Summers could perhaps be completely free again.
Birds did not greet the moment with a burst of song. The world did not stand still around him. But the yard was quiet enough he could hear Maddie's breathing, the pattern of trees smooth and natural. Day after day had slipped past in steady rhythm, odd, but not unhappy. Yet it could be more.
Take a step forward, her eyes told him silently, and do not hesitate because you are afraid.
Maybe it was just that easy.
"Whatever happens," Madelyne whispered soothingly, as if from a great distance, "we will always have now. We will always have this peace."
He grinned at her admiringly, unexpectedly exhilarated, pressing a gentle kiss to her forehead.
"I love you," he said, pulling back. "Have I told you that anytime today?"
"Not since this morning," she said, smiling slightly. "I'll expect it tomorrow... and the next day..." She was leaning closer. "And the days after that for at least twenty years..."
The world stretched away, quiet, but not silent, and Scott stood under the vault of night and enjoyed the stars.
Scott's world didn't shift in an instant. Sometimes, in the mornings after, he would shake away residual adventure like frost fallen onto his shoulders, and think worryingly about the future. People didn't change in a heart-beat, and even the most skilled surgery needed time to take. But he would remember the moment as the turning point.
Years later, after the Inferno had come and gone, and Madelyne an old guilt, partially healed, Scott would remember her words.
He would remember the light and the warmth of her mouth against the snow-chilled skin of his lips, the caress of her fingers against his cold cheeks. (Love was two lovers standing beneath a starry night, making promises that stretched into forever and truly meaning them.)
He would remember the leap of his heart when adventure called, the sick feeling of learning she was missing, and the knowledge that his life had put hers in danger. (Pain was fear, and guilt, and watching sacred vows crack before his eyes like brittle glass and knowing it was his fault.)
He would remember a great deal about Madelyne, his first wife, mother of his child, memories full of love and pain.
More than love, more than pain, he would always remember the peace.
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