Warnings: There's a description of a medical procedure herein that may turn the stomachs of the especially squeamish. I doubt anything else will prove offensive.
The day I saw Scott's eyes for the first time, is the day that I fell out of love with him.
And whatever the students are saying, Logan had nothing to do with it.
Now, understand, I had seen pictures of Scott's eyes - pictures from before. A lot of pictures. He'd been an extremely attractive young man and adolescent vanity had ensured that he hadn't fled when the cameras came out. These days, he does. He hates to see himself behind reflective red, so he's the one who takes the pictures, and amateur black-and-white photography has become one of his hobbies - revenge by Minolta on a world of color that he can no longer see. In fact, for a while, to catch him on film became a game among the students, who chased him with 35mms like teenaged paparazzi until the day he ripped Bobby Drake's out of his hands and smashed it against the atrium wall. He's always so very controlled - almost mild. Except when he isn't. They'd quit chasing him after that.
Yet I'd seen his high school year-books, and his personal photo albums, and the white-and-red Wal-mart processing paper packets stuffed with undated images of events he never talked about, containing the faces of people he wouldn't name. Scott after never looked at these pictures any more than he willingly permitted his own to be taken. I don't think he wanted to be reminded of what he'd lost. But I'd asked him once, not long before we'd started dating, if I could see a picture of him "BV" (before visor), and he'd shrugged and gone into a closet, opened a few of the boxes he'd brought from his parents' house when he'd left San Diego for New York, and dug around in them. Coming back with one, he'd dropped it on his bed. "Here." Then he'd left his bedroom. We never did look at those pictures together, though I asked, begged, and even promised sex on his bike at three in the morning, when we could be certain no one would surprise us in the garage. (He has a few vanilla fantasies and I'm a telepath.) It's the only time he's ever turned down a direct request from me that wasn't potentially dangerous (at least to the body). He said, "No," and that was that.
But it was while looking for the first time through that box of albums and mixed-up mementos from high school and college - a pressed carnation once blue and now brown; his acceptance letter to Berkeley; his GRE scores for the graduate degree he never completed (the man had gotten a 780 on the logic portion for crying out loud); his old Hawaiian shirt from his college band; and a sports Letter for volleyball - that I found a birth certificate for one Michael Scott Summers.
We'd known each other for years, yet he'd never told me that Scott wasn't his first name. That annoyed me for some trivial reason.
I called him on it later, over supper at the "teachers" table in the mansion's dining hall. "So, Micky Blue Eyes," I began as I took my usual seat across from him, "when did you become 'Scott'?"
Ororo actually spit juice out her nose and Hank barked. (People really can bark when they laugh; it sounds ridiculous. It's even more ridiculous when the one doing it has blue fur.) But Scott just glanced over at me, the corners of his mouth tipping up in that way he has when half amused and half annoyed. "I became Scott when my family moved from Omaha to San Diego. Do you have any idea how popular the name 'Michael' is? There were eleven - count them, eleven - in my grade alone, back in Omaha. At least I didn't have to share 'Scott' with half my class." He paused to put salt on his fries and added, "And I was never Micky, Mick, or Mikey. Just plain Mike Summers, thank you."
Ooof. That's the sound of wind being knocked out of my sails. His reply was so very Scott. Calm, rational, logical. It made me feel stupid and petty. Of course, my needling had been stupid and petty, so I deserved it.
But you see, that's how I started calling him 'Micky Blue Eyes.' Never again in public, or to his face. But I did it in the privacy of my own thoughts. Scott Summers was my boyfriend, and later, my fiancé; the man I made love to at night and whose socks and shirts and BVDs I sorted by day; the man who would look right at me while playing bass when I was talking to him, and not hear a word I said; the man who could build bookshelves, fly jets, fix cars, and teach History of Technology with the kind of passion that made sixteen-year-olds actually care why bronze had been rare and expensive in antiquity, how rice-paddy farming had come to be, why horses were choked by oxen yokes, and why the wheel was never invented in the Americas. Math is his specialization, history of engineering his passion. He took a degree and teaching certificate in math for Xavier, because the professor had needed a math teacher. He gave up a degree in anthropology for me, because of love. It's the one thing that Xavier has never forgiven me for. It took me a long time and an operation to understand that I'd never forgiven Scott, either.
But at that point, I still saw Scott as responsible, dependable, fiercely private, a logician with the soul of an artist, a young man with the heavy weight of command in his voice. Micky Blue Eyes had been a fresh-faced grinning angel imp whose irises were the color of summer. Pun intended.
I thought that seeing those albums would satisfy my curiosity, end it. Except it hadn't. Later, when the need to see him - to see his eyes - grew too great, I'd go into his closet (then our closet), fetch down that box when he wasn't there, and look at pictures. My Micky Blue Eyes. But pictures are pictures - flat, two-dimensional. And these were Scott at seventeen and sixteen and younger, a sky-eyed kid. They weren't my Scott in all his complex, adult mystery behind red.
So why did getting my wish - to see those eyes in his living face - destroy us?
It's a complicated tale, as complicated as he is, as complicated as I am, a woman eight years her lover's senior but only recently aware of what that means, what it cost. A price I didn't want him to pay.
But let me begin with how I got to see those eyes in the first place.
It started with Hank McCoy. A couple of months after the incident with Magneto at the Statue of Liberty, Hank returned to the school from sabbatical. Logan was still off chasing his tail in Canada and waiting for a little girl to grow up. We were delighted to see Hank, half because he gave relief from doubled-up classes and work in the lab, but also just because he was Hank, our over-educated, quirky Beast. As much my mentor as the professor, I loved him like an uncle - his wacky humor; his big, gentle hands and blue fur; his slow smile; and the amusement in his voice when he and Scott went off on one of their ridiculous theoretical-philosophic arguments over the price of rice in China, or whatever had been on the front page of the newspaper that morning. He's the only person I know with whom Scott finds it impossible to become angry.
In any case, one evening after supper, Hank knocked at the door of the room that Scott and I shared. Scott let him in because I was still in the bathroom brushing my teeth, and Hank plopped all of his three-hundred pounds in the leather office chair at the desk in the corner. The chair groaned.
"How'd you like to get rid of your glasses?" Hank asked Scott without preamble.
I sprayed the mirror with toothpaste. Dropping the brush and hurrying out, I was just in time to see Scott sit down slowly on the bed, his body rocking back a little as if accepting the impact of a heavy object. "I could see colors?"
That was his first question, about the thing he most fiercely denies that he misses. To see colors.
"No," Hank said, gently. Sadly. He understands. "I'm sorry."
Scott just nodded once. "Then explain."
"Cataract surgery. With a twist."
"Huh?" I said from my place in the bathroom doorway.
The old Hank-grin let loose then. "It came to me, Jean. Stars and garters! I have no idea why it didn't before. Elegantly simple. If we can replace his current eye lenses with artificial lenses that have a micro-layer of rose quartz attached - a very similar procedure to cataract surgery - he won't require the glasses. I think."
When Hank says 'I think,' it worries me. Not to mention that any surgeon attempting to operate on Scott's eyes would first have to survive the operation.
A "mere blip" to Hank. I think I love him so dearly because the man is irrepressible.
And that day, Scott needed it. He needed hope. As it turned out, we were two years away from making Hank's theory become a reality.
But they did it, Hank and Scott and Xavier together. They built some contraption (I am not an engineer, so don't ask me how it worked) that would contain the power of Scott's eyes, or really, the energy in Scott's head, long enough for Hank to operate. They also had to build what amounted to a permanent visor with imbedded triggers. It's behind his ear, like a hearing aide. Very small, unobtrusive. No one can tell that it's actually implanted in bone. I worry about that, as a doctor. I worried then and I still worry at the invasive cost of the procedure that gave Scott back his eyes.
But the day came at last when all was ready, done, prepared; Xavier and Scott had triple-tested the machine (because Scott's like that), and Hank had completed the artificial lenses. Those floated in solution, down in the lab, little clear circles of red. I caught Scott looking at them the day before, turning the bottle in his square, strong hands, an expression on his face somewhere between wonder and mild disgust. He does better with emergency situations than in controlled blood-letting like surgery - the opposite of most of us. If he ever had to watch an autopsy, I think the fearless leader of the X-Men would fall over in a dead faint.
So Cyclops was going under the knife, and would emerge with a blank face. A whole face. He would never see our colors, but we would, at last, see his. Very early on the morning of surgery, long before he even woke up (do you honestly think I slept?), the students had begun to gather in the chapel. Some prayed, some sat, some lit candles. When he woke, I took him down there because I wanted him to know. He didn't realize what it was about until he glanced in, saw them there, then turned around to walk rapidly away.
He never cries in front of them.
It was Rogue who explained it to them - to the new ones, the children who had not been there long enough to understand Scott, to understand why the older kids so loved this stern-faced man with the occasional smile of a Puck. She had her own prickly alpha wolf to interpret, so she could fathom mine a little better. Logan had been home almost a year by that point. He hadn't come back for me. Instead, he paced around the mansion, taught kids how to keep from getting themselves gutted, and watched and waited while his Marie turned from a girl into a woman. As I'd once watched and waited for a boy to become a man who I wasn't afraid to touch.
What I didn't yet realize on a chilly morning in May was that he never really had.
It was Ororo who sat with him, held his hand while he waited for Hank and I to prep ourselves for surgery and the professor to prep the machine that would keep his deadly gift inside his skull for an hour or so. The entire surgery including the controller implant would take far longer than that, but replacing his lenses was a simple matter, requiring only half an hour total - done in countless hospitals around the country daily - and once done, his eyes could be safely bandaged.
Hank hadn't wanted me to assist. I don't know who he thought could; we didn't have a nurse. And I'd be damned if I sat this one out, and told him so. I wanted to help give Scott back his eyes. I had absolutely no hint of what it would mean. We were all excited.
When I went out to fetch him, dressed now in one of the filched blue hospital gowns we kept in the lab, Ororo was telling him bad lawyer jokes (I'm not kidding), and Logan was there, too, holding up a wall. They like each other, Scott and Logan. They'll never admit it, but they do. Once they quit clashing over me, they adopted periodic testosterone flexing as a peculiar expression of mutual respect. Scott needs someone around who doesn't take him seriously. It's good for his ego, which is always threatening to over-extend itself. I love him, but I know his faults. He's too good at too many things, too smart, too handsome. It makes him cocky. But gentleness and a deep-rooted concern for justice save him from hubris, that and his wonderful rare smile that makes you smile back at him before you realize it because it springs out of his heart and soul and warms up a room. He'll never be sympathetic like the professor, but we don't need two professors. We need a Scott. Even Logan knows that and Logan was here to keep Scott from spazzing, because he knew Scott would never admit to fear with Logan in the room.
Truth was, this could be a fantastic disaster. We could blind him, damage the ocular nerve or cause some other sort of permanent condition. The chances of the lens replacement going wrong were vanishingly small, but it could happen. Surgery, however routine, is always about chances. But it was that damn box we were inserting into his head - and everything that went with it - that worried me.
When Logan and Ororo saw me, they slipped out, Ororo kissing Scott's cheek before she went. His eyes behind red quartz had fixed on me, and he smiled, full and white. "I trust you," he said. "I trust you and Hank both." That was all. My commanding officer had put himself in my hands. It made me cry a little. I came over, kissed him, and told him to close his eyes. Then I took off his glasses for the last time, and brushed my fingers over those cheekbones as I did so. He laid down on the gurney so I could give him anesthesia, and I told him to count backwards from ten. He got to negative seven. Most people are out before three, but Scott fights. He hates to lose control. Once he was out, I administered a retrobulbar block by needle into the muscle cone under the eye, to keep it from moving, then shaved just behind his right ear, where the implant would go, and took him in.
Cataract surgery is, as noted, a simple, routine procedure. Normally the patient isn't even put under, just has a local and the block, but in Scott's case, it was absolutely necessary for the "suppressor," or whatever the hell they were calling the machine, to work. They put it on his head, a band of black that fit over his brows with little twinkling lights, like a prop from Star Trek. And even if not for the problem of Scott's powers, he'd have had to be out because when we were done with his eyes, Hank was going to saw into the skull behind his ear to insert the controller implant. I hated to see them put that thing in his head.
But now, with the suppressor in place, we opened each eye wide with a lid speculum and cut a slit in the top, normally three centimeters but in this case four and a half because the ruby quartz kept the lens from bending. Then we emulsified his old lens, irrigated the cavity to remove the debris, and inserted the thin artificial lens with its ruby quartz protective covering. Normally, stitches weren't necessary, but with a slit wider than usual, it took a few. It sounds grotesque, I suppose, but that's how it's done. Very simple.
I focused on the mechanics of the procedure, not on Scott-my-lover, who breathed quiet and dreamed, perhaps, while we made irrevocable changes in his body. Once we were done with the eye operation, we bandaged them and put his visor on. Under normal circumstances, he'd have had his vision back immediately, but Hank had decided to make him wait twelve hours, just to be on the safe side. Then the bandages would come off and we could see whether or not this had worked.
Then Hank lifted the bone saw and the little black box. I helped with that, too, although it was much harder to distance myself from the grind of serrated surgical steel cutting a hole in his skull. This was the truly dangerous part. We were playing very close to Scott's brain - any slip and no telling what would happen.
Nothing slipped. Hank is good at what he does, though for the life of me, I don't understand half the mechanics behind this fusion of flesh and metal and nearly microscopic nanotech that joins the controller to the eye lenses so that Scott can still be Cyclops when all this is over. They're giving him a machine to do what his brain is too damaged to do. Scott understands it. The professor does a little. And Hank, of course. But me, I'm a simple physician and bio-geneticist. I'm not even technically a surgeon, though I did my rotation years ago. Yet, like I told Hank, I'd be damned if I was going to sit this one out.
The whole operation, from beginning to end, took almost ten hours, nine tenths of it concerned with the controller and the delicate work there. Hank and I had been fitted out with catheters, like brain surgeons, because we couldn't take a bathroom break while there was a hole in Scott's head.
Finally it was done. Hank declared that, as far as he could tell at this point, it was a complete success. Everything had gone off without a hitch. Scott would have his eyes out from under black metal and quartz, and the X-Men would still have our Cyclops.
And who says miracles never happen? Exhausted though I was, I went to tell the students in the chapel and the den and the dining hall. There was much cheering, whooping and celebrating. Scott woke a few hours later around eight-thirty, woozy still from pain killers, but insisting on seeing 'his' kids. Well, not seeing them. He had gauze around his face and his visor on. But he could hear them and touch them. They trooped through our bedroom to grip his hands and giggle at the shaved spot in his hair, do the things that teenagers do when they're excited and happy. He was happy, too. They made him smile, and that made me smile.
But that night after everyone had gone, he clutched at me while we lay in bed. Temporarily blind, and scared, he was drowning in the nightmare he'd known at seventeen. All I could do was repeat to him what Hank had said: there was absolutely no reason to expect anything had gone wrong. He'd be able to see again. I repeated that over and over.
The next day dawned clear and bright, without the usual muggy heat of a New York July. A beautiful day for bandages to come off. We made it a private little ceremony attended by four and held outside, where red optic blasts could do the least damage if something went wrong. Scott, Hank, me and Professor Xavier - not even Ororo. She understood, I think. The rest in the mansion would know soon enough. Some of the kids were back in the chapel. Hank was too excited to stand himself, or be stood by us. Scott sat white-lipped. Xavier held his left hand and I held the right as Hank removed the bandages. When Hank was done, instead of telling Scott himself, he nodded to Xavier. It seemed fitting.
"Open your eyes, Scott."
And he did.
No red. No blast of scarlet light. Nothing.
Just blue. Micky Blue Eyes.
"I can see," he whispered, awed. "It's still a little fuzzy, but I can see. And I'm not killing anything."
I cried. I cried for the simple, phlegmatic horror of what he'd just said, and I cried because there on a field in Westchester, New York, I saw my lover's eyes for the first time. And I fell out of love.
My strong and beautiful one, my fearless one, my commanding officer, my dependable, logical, faithful lover, was a boy - a boy with eyes like the summer sky above us and a face even younger than his twenty-seven years, smooth and shocking in its fine-boned beauty. Even more shocking in its youth without the camouflage of black metal and rose quartz.
This was not my Scott.
I was thirty-five. He was twenty-seven going on seventeen; he had ten years of living hidden behind a visor from which to unbend himself. I wanted a man, not a boy. Am I wrong for that? Am I cruel?
My heart broke that day. It's been in pieces ever since, waiting for Scott to put it back together. Not Micky Blue Eyes. I got up and walked away because he'd know. At the time, he'd just thought me overwrought. And I had been. It took me five days to tell him why, to tell him that I couldn't look in a mirror and see our young-old faces side by side. I didn't know this boy. I didn't love this boy who'd left his passion and his dreams behind at Berkeley to teach math, fly a black jet, and be my lap dog. I want a man who belongs to himself.
I cried for us both as he moved his things out of our room; I cried because he wouldn't. Some wounds go too deep.
It's been six months now. He's healing, and so am I. I don't think he hates me anymore. He can talk to me now without trying to draw my emotional blood, and sometimes we even laugh. He can pass my room and his stride doesn't catch.
He's stolen all the girls' hearts at the school. I knew he would. Like groupies at a rock concert, they sigh when he walks into class. They'd sign up for bean counting if he taught it. I find this funny, and it hurts a little less now to see their dazed faces. You'd think they'd have gotten over it after six months. You'd think I would, too, but I haven't. He is the grinning, fresh-faced angel boy who leads the X-Men.
He's just not my angel.
I am like Logan. I'm waiting for my child to grow up, to become the man I thought I saw, and loved, and maybe, will love again. So Logan and I measure our days in patience, together. We trade a look, a smile. We know what we're waiting for. The students don't understand, assume we're in love with each other. Some have even suggested that I left Scott to go to Logan. How absurd.
I left Micky Blue Eyes to wait for Scott.
I think he may finally have figured it out. I spoke to him at breakfast this morning and he told me he's been accepted at NYU for the fall, and had found a man in the anthropology department there willing to direct his thesis. Xavier is giving him time off from teaching. He's got at least three more semester's worth of classes to complete, and a dissertation to write. He's doing research on bellows temperatures and the relative percentage of tin and copper in the bronze found on Cyprus and around the Mediterranean, with a committee composed of chemists, engineers, and archaeologists. I didn't understand a word of it, but I loved listening to him try to explain it to me. This is the man who carries a pocket-sized Periodic Table in his wallet just in case he needs to consult it. He's crazy. Then he smiled at me and asked if I'd meet him in the garage tonight. At three. In the morning. By the bike.
He was bringing a box of pictures.
Dr. Scott Summers. I think I'll like the sound of that.
Notes: Scott's backstory here follows the film/book universe in which (apparently) his parents are still alive - contra comic canon - and and which I detail in full in An Accidental Interception of Fate. Even in the comic, Scott's full name was never given. My sincere thanks to Crys Wimmer (a nurse) and her husband (an ophthalmology technician) for their information on cataract surgery. The seed idea behind this one started the first time I saw a picture of James Marsden as himself. I was shocked at his youth; he looked even younger than he was at the time the first X-Men movie was filmed.