Disclaimer: I wish I owned so many things. Fact is, I only own my ideas o/
A/N: I'm testing out a style most of my favorite authors here in FFnet seem to employ. Whereas I'm used to bombarding my readers with description, they tend to focus instead in conversation- wording each in such way that expresses a character's mood. Their speechcraft is magic, so be prepared for another one of my attempts at it!
"Hardly. Never once have I doubted you. Never once has my trust in you been less than absolute."
- Emma Frost to Scott Summers, Dark X-Men: The Confession
"But you know that when this is all said and done, we'll be cast out. By the X-Men, by the Avengers… by everyone."
- Scott Summers to Emma Frost, in reply
"Is it… over?"
"Yes! We- we won! Finally we-! NO!"
"Ugh… That last- att-tack was too m-much for thi-s body to handle…"
"No! No, shock it, no! Stay with me- we're going to fix you up, you hear me? Then you'll be bright as day!"
"Silly… girl. I've lived far t-too long- fought more wars than I should. All the people I've grown up with h-ave already de-dep-parted. But just to see this day- to know mutants will be in good hands for g-generations to come- it's all worth it."
"Stop! Don't- don't think like that! You deserve more than this- you deserve to live! To enjoy all you've accomplished!"
"I'm sorry…. I'm s-so sorry… but I am t-tired. Let me… finally… rest."
"…Then… then I shall rest with you."
"I'm dropping this. You're the only one I have left. You're the only reason I stayed."
"D-don't be stupid-"
"I promised you!"
"Don't you remember? If today you choose to die… then today so shall I. I've lived a long life, too."
["-and gentlemen as I strive to bottle my excitement at the opportunity to interview the living legend himself; I am here with Commander Rogers, who has stepped forward to resolve all the confusion in the wake of the madness that transpired in the past weeks. As I am sure you are all aware, Commander Rogers lead the battle against the mutant menace and, together with his Avengers, ended their terrible reign. Commander Rogers, how do you feel now that you and your team have successfully saved our planet once again?"
"Well, not to disrespect, but I'd just like to get some facts straight. First, I did not do this alone, and I could not have done this alone. While the Avengers fought hard for this day to come, if it wasn't for Wanda Maximoff, Hope Summers, and the mutant faculty of the Jean Grey school coming to our aid, we would not be sitting here today. We should be grateful to the assistance these mutants provided- which brings me to my second point. This 'mutant menace' you mentioned is wholly inaccurate. Pax Utpoia was enforced not by every mutant, but by one man: the mutant known as Cyclops, Scott Summers. He-"
"Speaking of Scott Summers- sorry- we have several questions about him. Was he not the mutant leader of the X-Men and the same man that stood up against Director Osborn before? Should we fear retaliation from the X-Men now that this madman is behind bars?"
"Yes to the first, and no to the second. The X-Men have denounced Cyclops, and have proven so by helping bring him in. Furthermore, the third point I want to clarify is, while Cyclops was insane, he was not malicious. I've known Cyclops- Scott. I have fought alongside him and watched him grow into his role. What he did, he did firmly believing that he was helping his species- a species that is quickly dying out. I believe that, if only we treated mutantkind better, this tragedy would never have happened, and Scott would not have gone down the path he did."
"Magnanimous as ever, Commander Rogers. Taking down this madman- sorry- this man, an old friend gone rogue, must have been hard on you- in more ways than one. On another note, while Cyclops has done so much harm to our society, there are few that would argue that he did some measure of good, as well. Now that Cyclops is behind bars, how will the countries he provided food and water for survive?"
"They have survived before Cyclops' intervention, and they will survive again without it. However, I did learn one thing about this ordeal, and that is, if man and mutant work together, we could achieve feats far greater than our wildest dreams- which is why I'm making this announcement now. I want everyone to welcome mutants with open arms, so that we may work alongside each other and solve the problems plaguing our world, paving the way for a brighter future. If you look beyond their appearances, these people are not so different from the rest of us; they have dreams, aspirations, and rights just like the common man. I will personally see to it that mutants will never be oppressed again, and prove to them that humanity has changed for the better."
"Thank you, Commander Rogers. You truly personify the best of us, and I hope everyone else listens to this ma-"]
"Turn it off." Layla's muffled order came from somewhere below his chin, and for a moment he mused that she sounded rather cross.
They were sat in his apartment; just the two of them cuddling against the couch while the rest of X-Factor were off working.
Jamie Madrox glanced down at his girlfriend's blonde crown with an amused smirk. As soon as he heard that the Phoenix was vanquished, the changeling mutant religiously watched the news every night in impatiently waiting for more information- which finally came.
He was not disappointed.
"As you wish, Buttercup." Jamie may not have been able to keep the gloating off his tone as he pressed the button, still directing his amusement down at her. "I can fully understand why you feel such annoyance; it must be hard to be finally proven wrong." He stretched before folding his arms behind his head relaxingly. "It feels good to know that Cyclops was completely wrong."
Neither the pinch on his side nor the deadpan look Layla finally shot up at him changed his overjoyed mood. It was, as is always the case with Layla Miller, her words that grounded him.
"Westley, what are you saying?" Her eyes were very, very sad. "I always knew this would be the outcome. Nothing has changed."
Jamie blinked in stupor. Mind struggling to register her words, he could only ask a hollow, "…What?"
"All of Scott's attempts to fight against fate were bound to fail. Utopia. The Extinction Team. This. Hope would always side with the Avengers because she doesn't respect him. And so…" Layla's eyes misted as horrible glimpses- memories- flittered in her mind. "That future… it's still coming."
Jamie's mouth opened to say something- a quip, a joke, anything- but nothing came out.
Layla smiled at him sadly; her gaze made his heart to painfully clench, as if squeezed by reality's iron fist.
"Did you really think that was the end? That the Phoenix will never return? Or that the Phoenix was actually the cause? No. It was, and will still be, Hope Summers' fault."
"That- that can't be." He managed to say, denying her claim. "Cyclops was wrong. The good guys brought him down."
The look she shoots him now once more reminds him that Layla knew, experienced, and understood far more than he ever could. Some detective he fashioned himself out to be…
"Jamie, I love you, but the world isn't Hollywood no matter how much you want it to be. Only ego defines what is 'right'- not society, and certainly not results. It just so happens that this time, Scott could not overcome the opposition, and so his voice will be silenced."
"…You're… being… unreasonable. Why d-do you think I f-fought f-for s-so long? I-it was so y-you cou-ugh-ld-could live a g-good life!"
"Why do you think I stayed? Just because you asked? Because it was for the future? I didn't stick around this long because of that! I stayed because I didn't want you to die alone fighting for a cause that has already taken so much from you! So- so if you tell me that you're gonna leave me… then I'll come with you."
"I know… it's been difficult. I- it hurt me as well to see what you were forced to become- what more you had to sacrifice. So I understand. But, I just want to hear it from your mouth. Will you really, finally, rest?"
"…Yes… I'm sor-"
"Sh. You're the one being silly now. This is my decision. I'm a big girl now. I… I was very happy despite everything because I was with you all these years. I love you."
"I love you, too. I'm very blessed to have you…"
"H-hey! Don't shut your eyes yet! I… I want you to see me when this is finally dropped and be reminded of better days; of how things used to be. Ready?"
"If y-you're sure…."
"Of course I'm sure… …. … There. How do I look?"
"… Just as I remembered… you look just… like… except… more... beautiful…"
"T-thank you... Thank you f-for e-everything. Thank you for… for loving me. Thank you. There are… so many more things I want to say to you… so many more experiences I want to share with you… I love you so much..."
"… … …"
"…I love you…"
The room Scott Summers was contained in was specifically tailored to this individual's abilities. Ruby quartz lined the walls; a helmet blindfolding him; arms cuffed securely; legs chained to his bed. Cameras watched his every waking and non-waking moment from all four corners, and his door was keyed specifically open to only a select few.
Truly, it was a work of paranoia, but one not at all unfounded.
Erik Lensherr has watched this man grow from a boy. He knows from experience that, should Scott truly wish to break free of his bonds, he would have done so already in the week since. This mutant was subjected to far more advanced containment methods, after all.
"I see you are well." The master of magnetism opens; when speaking with a blind man, it is only common courtesy to speak first. "All things considered, I expected you to lose weight."
"Erik." Scott acknowledges him, and he notes that the imprisoned mutant's voice is still strong, if weary. It was still, however, direct to the point. "What are you doing here?"
Really, Scott never was a man for small talk; now even more so.
"I am not contained, if that is what you are truly asking." Magneto pulls up the only chair with his hands. He was treading on eggshells by being here, talking to this man. He knows for a fact that at least five Avengers and X-Men out intently scrutinizing his every move, each with their own intentions. "I simply came to talk."
Scott faces him through sound alone, and summarizes. "They're watching. They put you up to this."
"Only in part." Erik truthfully confessed. "I wanted to speak to you myself, Scott. To apologise for what has transpired, among other things."
"It's alright, Erik." Scott would have smiled at the thought if he could. Magneto was once the bogeyman of the X-Men; it was almost poetic how bringing a species to the brink of extinction could change a man hardened by strife his entire life. "I understand."
"Do you?" Magneto isn't sure, but when Scott answers, he is reminded of how old they both have become.
"Yes. We did need to be stopped. We lost ourselves to the Phoenix's influence."
"You didn't though, Scott. Or wouldn't have, had not the Avengers interfered." Erik inhaled a sharp breath. "Emma, however, succumbed to the Phoenix."
:: "Don't provoke him, Magneto." :: Logan's distinct growl warned through his earpiece. Erik paid him no heed; Scott was a lot more man than many would ever admit.
"I know." Scott agreed tightly because it was the truth.
As a tense silence descended between the two former leaders of the mutant race, Erik did not need to be a telepath to know that Scott was thinking of her final moments.
"They are giving you a trial, you know." Erik informed, eyes keenly observing for every possible microexpression on Scott's face.
He found none; his jaw clenched.
"The Avengers are trying to save face." He stated bluntly.
:: "I warned you, Magneto! I'm comi-!"
"Silence, Logan." ::
A twitch formed at his lip's corner at the thought of Ororo-once-more-Munroe silencing the feral man.
"They had previously lost the public's trust when they incarcerated Simon Williams without trial, and Norman Osborn had given them a lens of doubt to study the Avengers with. The Avengers were already in shaky ground after you played your card at the beginning of all this, but that was limited to America." Scott Summers, he could honestly admit, was a tactical genius. "After stopping you, the world is watching the Avengers. With you, they are hoping to regain favor."
There it was; the point in all this.
"Why are you really here?"
"Scott," Erik started and considered his words carefully. He would kneel before this man once more if the man could see. "I ask that you resume leadership of mutantkind."
When Scott did not speak, Erik took that at his cue to elaborate.
"The Avengers may mean well but they do not have a clue about these waters they tread in, and we cannot afford any more losses. You and I both know that the public mind will not just suddenly change. That was the whole point why you went about fixing our world's problems, after all, instead of diving in to restore our species."
"I didn't know how to, either." Scott quietly confessed. "I couldn't speak to the Phoenix."
A sad smile formed on Erik's lips as he pointed out; it was all as he had concluded. "And so you wanted to ready the world until Hope herself is ready. Make the humans see that mutants can be more than their fears, ending their prejudice. So that, when Hope finally has the Phoenix and brings forth a new generation of mutants, the public will not retaliate; another Cooperstown will not occur over the birth of a mutant child."
Erik saw the muscles underneath Scott's cheek twitch, and he knew his words struck home. "Why do you have so much faith in that girl?"
Not long ago, Scott would have risen to the bait and reprimanded him for speaking about Hope in such condescension. Scott had always been like a mother hen around her, after all; he felt it was his duty to look after her, being the adoptive child of his son.
No, Erik realized as he watched the prisoner's body tense, this goes further back than that.
It was Scott, after all, who held a newborn Hope in his arms before ordering Cable to escape with her to the future.
"This wouldn't be the first time I considered the life of one mutant over the needs of humanity." Scott turned to him and despite the metal hiding the former Phoenix host's eyes, Erik could feel his gaze boring into him; blindfolds have never impaired this man's vision, after all. "You were there, Erik."
It did not take the master of magnetism to realize who Scott meant. "Kitty Pryde."
Scott nodded his head. "Society seemed to make it a point to kill us faster now that we are so few. Xavier's judgment could not be trusted." Erik inwardly winced at how Scott now referred to his former mentor despite his detached delivery. "Your counsel could not be trusted." It was true, and so he took no offense. "The only thing left was to have faith that my decisions would help us live until tomorrow."
A tired sigh left the imprisoned mutant's chest.
"It was faith that brought back Katherine, as all logic and evidence dictated she should be killed in that bullet when you pulled her from space. It was faith that erected Utopia, because nobody else came to help us during those riots. And…" Erik saw it- sadness. He knew what was coming next. "It was faith that Hope and Nathan would return that allowed me to part with them so she could live. In our darkest hour, it was only faith that helped me pull us through, that made all our sacrifices bearable. And it was rewarded… with five new lights."
"While you were pulling Katherine out of that Breakworld bullet, I was given two options. The first was to stop you- and given the state you were in, that only meant your death; Xavier might have deemed that an acceptable collateral. The second was to try to stop that bullet, and the only way to do so was to destroy it- passenger be damned. I would not sacrifice one life just to save another's, Erik, but there are things you just cannot stop. So instead, believed that just maybe Katherine was still alive and you would pull through- and she came back home to all of us." Scott let out a tired sigh. "Then the Phoenix arrived, and Hope was confirmed to be its host. The Phoenix always comes back, Erik. No matter how many times we fight it, it always comes back to us. Mutants. But with Hope, just maybe the Phoenix could be controlled to herald our rebirth."
Scott's shoulders squared, and there was no denying the undercurrent of cold, hard seriousness in his tone.
"Tell me, Erik. What did Hope say was the reason behind the Phoenix coming?"
:: "Don't answer that, Magneto! We discussed this! I swear to god-"
"Erik, please don't-" ::
"To jumpstart the mutant race."
:: "Damn it!" ::
"This is a secret only a select few are privy to, Scott. I'm sure you fully understand the consequences should the public ever to find out. Mutantkind will lose its faith in the Avengers, in the X-Men, and most especially in Hope Summers. I respect you, Scott Summers, and you have the right to know."
Erik cared not for the heroes' image, not when his species was upon the guillotine, and would have spread the truth had it not endangered that child's life.
"The Phoenix was born immediately after M-Day- from the powers my daughter had expelled." He didn't care what Logan thought or how Hope felt. He owed the truth to this man. "It came to use Hope to bring forth a new generation of mutants. Hope is- how did they put it?- the voodoo doll of the mutant race."
"But that is all in the past, Scott." Erik swiftly intervened before Scott could contemplate on the matter further. "What's done is done. We must move forward again as a species. There will be more chances, Scott, and this time, things may work out for the better. The Avengers have formally requested to create a united front with mutantkind. And, you've seen it for yourself; so long as Hope is alive, we will have more mutant births. Our species will not die with us; it still fights to preserve itself."
It may not be the boom Scott was hoping for, but it was still something. However, Erik could see exactly what it was Scott was mulling. Their battle would still be far from over. Scott Summers has already sacrificed too much; how much more could this cause take from him? And Erik would admit, if only to himself: despite all the crimes he had committed, he had not lost as much as this man before him who only wanted to do right by his gifts and his people.
"Scott, will you lead us once more?" He implored. "There are still many that believe in you. Despite Wolverine's attempts to convince them otherwise, Surge and her group remain standing by you. I don't know what you taught them to be so loyal, Scott, but it will probably be the only thing that will keep them alive."
"I didn't teach Noriko, Erik. Her experiences did."
"…as is always the case." Erik tightly admitted. "All the more reason for you to return and lead us, Scott; to prevent the future generation of mutants from experiencing what we had to face. What say you, Scott?"
"…Logan is here."
The door to the room angrily opened, revealing an enraged Wolverine and the rest of the eavesdroppers. Behind him were Captain America and Iron Man, each restraining the mutant by an arm each. His eyes caught a glimpse of red hair standing next to Storm; Hope, no doubt, suddenly cowed after Nathan had woken up to her actions.
It did not surprise Erik at all not to see Charles despite knowing he was among those spying. After all, Charles had a nasty habit of berating himself over his mistakes instead of facing them; it was why when his mistakes finally reared their ugly heads, they were too far gone to listen to his pleas of forgiveness.
Even Scott, the man who Xavier professed was like his very own son, was no exception to Xavier's cowardice. Charles was probably still in the monitoring room with Hank. After all, to him, it was probably a good idea at the time.
"You. Out. Now." Wolverine growled.
"Scott…" Hope called out, her face a painting of regret.
"Settle down, you two." Storm ordered.
Erik glanced at the stoic Cyclops and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
"Think about the future of mutantkind, Scott." The once proud mutant implored before standing. "I will be there during your trial. Stay strong, Scott. Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character."
He made to leave.
Erik paused by the door when Scott correctly identified the quote's maker. He looked back with a brow arched.
"How did you know?"
Scott's lips curled with bitter melancholy.
"Emma would reprimand me whenever I'm being unsatisfactory."
"How-… why? Why am I still alive?! Why is this happening?! I'm supposed to- I'm-"
"Hey! Get ahold of yourself!"
"No-! He's dead- my dad's dead! And I'm still alive!"
"I know... I know. Shh, it's going to be alright."
"No! He's- dad- he's-!"
"It's going to be alright. You and your dad were there for all of us; let us now be here for you."
"Shock it… why…?"
"I don't know…but we'll do everything to make you feel better."
"It won't. Dad… He's gone."
The fields were beautiful, and reminded him of his Alaskan childhood before everything started. The grass was of vibrant green, and the air was cool and fresh. A gust of wind caressed his locks, and Scott called out.
"It is beautiful, Nathan."
At once, he could feel his son approach. "I wanted to make you comfortable."
"I'm surprises they allowed you, this." Scott's lips twitched with amusement. "After Erik's visit, I expected them to be more wary."
"They did not have much of a choice." Nathan crouched beside his seated father. "Hope was adamant about talking with you."
Scott was not surprised when another voice spoke up as if cued.
"Hey, Scott…" Hope was uncharacteristically meek in her approach.
Nathan made no comment as to how different the greeting he received was from his daughter's. Hope shuffled forward uncertainly, eyes glancing between the backs of her father and Scott's before impulsively choosing to sit by her father's side.
She immediately regretted her decision as soon as she was upon the ground.
It was fortunate that her father was not a cruel man, and Nathan swiftly relieved her of a painful silence.
"Xavier attempted to get in here, you know. When he visited." Nathan waved his hand as if to emphasize their location. "He said something odd; that you shielded yourself from him."
"Psionic black box. I didn't want to hear his excuses." Scott replied without care. "I learned more than just to recognize a telepath in my head from Jean. If I will it, no one can enter."
"But we're here." Hope spoke up bravely.
"You are." Scott agreed, though he still did not pay the young mutant a glance.
"Why?" She pressed.
Nathan sent her a warning glare not to go too fast, but Hope wanted to know.
"Because Nathan is my son. Talking to you… is inevitable."
Nathan cleared his throat. "Dad," he started quietly, "I… don't know what to say. I didn't intend for this to happen when I asked you to make that promise."
"Promise?" Hope mouthed at her father but was ignored.
"Stop, Nathan. It's done." Scott's voice was warm but tired as he glanced over at his son. "What's next?"
Hope clutched at her tattered cloak. "Scott-"
"Nathan," he cut her off sharply, "what comes next?"
"I don't know." Nathan ran his hands through his hair haggardly, and then shot Hope a pained look asking for her patience. He looked back at his father. "I think that future was averted, though. Blaquesmith- he said that that future happened because the Avengers attacked. Your battle with the Avengers, if you hadn't stopped when you did, you may have set things into motion."
A nudge at his side made him glance at Hope; his daughter looked lost at the sudden topic. "Not now, Hope." He whispered, and bestowed her with a smile, albeit strained.
Silence descended between the three generations of the Summers' line as the eldest processed his son's words.
"So you're saying," Scott's voice was tense. Red and orange started to bleed into the skies; had this been anywhere but Scott's own mind, one may have easily mistook this as the sun setting. Nathan was a hardened telepath- he knew better. "That you made a mistake?"
"Stop. I know." The orange skies turned blue again. "It's alright. Crisis averted. The world doesn't end."
"What comes next?" Scott asked again.
"…We're standing in your trial." Nathan told him, knowing that the topic was already closed.
"Yeah…" Hope agreed. Though her voice was subdued, Nathan could tell that his daughter was getting impatient.
"And then what?" Scott prompted.
"And then you're gonna win." Nathan's voice radiated certainty. It was as if he was stating a fact; knowing him, it probably was. Then again, Nathan didn't see this coming… "Your charges will be dropped. Then… we're going to need you back. The fight isn't over yet."
Nathan and Hope blinked when Scott sighed.
"What if I don't want to fight anymore?"
The question came out of the blue, and caused both younger Summers to wince.
Scott took a deep breath even though he never needed to.
"I might actually grow to like it here." He told them listlessly. "Guaranteed meals. No responsibility. I don't need to make a headcount every time I wake up and again before I go to bed. I don't need to plan for every hazard tomorrow will bring. I can finally sleep without disruption."
"Scott, that's not-"
"DABDA." Nathan interjected.
Hope shot her father an uncomprehending stare. "What?"
"The Kübler-Ross model." It was Scott that clarified.
Hope became even more confused at the fond smile her father directed at the eldest Summers. "What-?"
"Yes." Nathan ignored her. "You taught it to me. The Five Stages of Grief. You're on stage four."
"Depression." Scott tasted the word and frowned.
Hope bit her tongue from lashing out; it didn't take a genius to know Scott was depressed! But, she trusted her dad. Nathan knew what he was doing.
"No. I'm in five. Acceptance."
"You're not, dad." Nathan disagreed empathetically. "You're stuck on four, because there is no way you would ever speak this way. I'm pointing this out to you because that's the only way you can move past this- you need to acknowledge this." Nathan rested his hand on his father's shoulder. "There's no way you've accepted all this already. Not by yourself."
"Then what are you suggesting, Nathan?" There was an edge that Hope has never heard before in Scott's question.
"I'm here to help. Hope- she's here to help as well."
"I'm sorry." Hope suddenly blurted without thinking. Nathan gave her a hard look. "I-I mean- yes. I'm here for you, Scott."
"Dad, you're not thinking straight. You're still in grief. None of the decisions you make now are what you truly want." Nathan squeezed his father's shoulder reassuringly. "You're not alone, Scott, so please. Let us in."
"Scott, I-" Hope quickly glanced at her father. Nathan didn't make any move, so she took that as his sign to finally speak. "I heard, you know. I was listening in when Erik visited you."
The certainty in his voice made her chew her lip nervously. Never had she seen Scott react like this to her.
"I- I freaked, alright? At the crucial moment, I freaked." Her fists balled against the grass, plucking the greenery from its home. "I mean- how else was I supposed to react? You never told me anything! You never told me about the Phoenix!"
"Hope." Nathan tried to cut in.
"And when you got the Phoenix, you never told me about your master plan! I mean, why should we trust you!?"
"Hope." Nathan repeated more firmly.
"And then you make everyone else's lives your business? And when they don't conform, you sic Namor at us? You attack K'un Lun and Shao Lao? What else was I supposed to think other than you being an power-drunk tyrant, huh?!"
"HOPE!" Nathan shouted warningly.
Hope was snapped out of her rant, and her eyes widened in horror as she realized what she just said. "I- Scott, I'm-"
"You've said enough, Hope."
But Hope wouldn't have it.
"No, I haven't said-" Hope tried to apologise for everything.
"Hope," Scott began in a slow, curious tone that let both Summers know he was switching topics. "You will not remember this but before you and Cable fled to the future, I gave you a locket to remind you of something. Did you ever look inside?"
"I…" What should she reply? Lie? Truth? What should she- "…don't have any locket."
When under such pressure, one can only blurt out the truth.
There was so much disappointment in his reply that she felt her world break.
Hope's emerald eyes watered and her existence immediately vanished from Scott's mind.
Run away when things get tough- she was always good at that.
"Dad." Nathan sounded pained. He knew exactly what his father did- he purposely drove Hope away from his mind. But, "Why did you do that?"
"I'm not the only one in grief, Nathan." Scott pointed out with a sad smile. "Hope's been through a lot, and she's trying to bottle it in, but she can't. She knows why the Phoenix came and feels the gravity of her consequences. She's going to break if nobody intervenes."
Nathan palmed his head for not having realized how Hope was feeling. Maybe- maybe it was a bad idea to bring Hope along, after all, but he just wanted to do right; by his father, and by his daughter.
"She actually believes that she trained for the Phoenix for her whole life." The young mutant was a lot more fragile than people realized; it was why, after all, Scott had made it a point that her fellow mutants not say anything untoward about her- wouldn't remind her of hardships she already knew. "I guess it's my fault for not seeing the Phoenix returning that made her delude herself so. You and I- we only trained her to survive. To live, because there are so many that want her dead."
A gust of wind blew past them.
"Go, son. I'll speak with Hope again when she has calmed down." Scott told his son. "Hope needs her father, now more than ever. Be the father for her that I never was for you."
"That's not true, Slym." Nathan countered him honestly, calling his father by his other name and reminding him of difficult but wonderful days past. Though he could not see it behind his shades, Nathan could tell he made the desired effect. But all the same, he knew Hope needed him, as well. "There's no father that loved more than you."
It made Scott smile slightly.
Nathan stood, breathing in the fresh air even though he needn't to. His father remained seated, watching the blank blue scenery silently.
"Dad, do you mind if I tell Hope? Tell her the truth and make her see?"
That the X-Men were his family- Scott had practically grown up with them. He was a son, a brother, a father, an uncle, a student, a teacher, a counselor, a confidant, a rival, a follower, a leader, a friend- he was so many things to the X-Men, and yet they couldn't trust him the way he trusted in them.
They couldn't trust in him enough to know that he would never order Namor to attack Wakanda.
And when Scott invaded K'un Lun, he only wanted to bring Hope back. Nathan had read his father's mind- had seen exactly how the battle transpired, seen all the hate directed at his father for simply trying to bring Hope home. Hope had shouted that Scott had destroyed innocent lives; what innocent lives did he destroy? He wasn't even razing K'un Lun to the ground despite all the anger he felt at being provoked at every turn.
"Should I explain to Hope how she, the Avengers, and everyone else misunderstood you?"
It was heartbreaking to see how much the X-Men had divided. While Scott had marched forward to lead his species, each one of his friends had succumbed to their own dramas until Scott was left treading the lightless night with strangers.
A lone Cyclops blindly staggering forward with iron ball chained to his feet.
Scott's lips curled into a wry smirk. "A misunderstanding… that's rich."
Nathan's eyes widened as he realized what he just implied. "Slym, I didn't mean-"
"It's alright, Nathan." Though Scott waved it off, Nathan knew everything was precisely the opposite. "Do as you wish. If Hope would listen to anyone, it would be to her father."
"…alright." Nathan reluctantly nodded. "But I will be back, dad."
Scott nodded as well, looking up to his son's form with a sliver of pride. "I'll be looking forward to it."
"Rachel-" A flash of pain came and left Nathan's eyes. She was afraid of what Scott thought about her. So very afraid… "Rachel sends her regards."
Nathan was met with a nod before his father returned his gaze back into the endless blue before him. As he was about to leave, he heard Scott utter wistfully.
"Emma knew, you know. She knew the truth, and she accepted me regardless. We were prepared for alienation."
A sad breeze drifted wearily between them.
"But I wasn't prepared to face this without her."
"Why are you so adamant that I continue living?"
"Look! Look at how happy everyone is! Humans, mutants; everyone is living together! And this- this is all thanks to you and your father. You both never gave up on us, so I will never give up on you!"
"In every dream I had of this day, my father was always at my side. We would both finally let go, and live, and die. Together. Why can you not understand such a simple request?"
"Because we are now living in utopia! Man and mutant hand-in-hand!"
"Yes. After all our hardship and oppression, we are finally at peace. And you deserve to live here more than anyone."
As soon as the door opened, Scott already knew who it was. The man had a certain charisma about him, after all; from the sound of his footsteps to even something normal as his breathing, Steve Rogers had a presence that turned heads wherever he went.
"Good evening, Scott. I hear you've been having a lot of visitors lately."
"Rogers." Scott returned.
Blindfolded as he was, Scott could only use his hearing to locate the man.
"I know I'm not exactly your favorite person, now." Steve began.
Scott heard him approach and drag the only seat across the floor until he came to a stop in front of him.
"Doesn't matter. It's about time."
This conversation was long-overdue.
"Scott, I've had a lot of time to think, especially now that things have calmed down." Steve began calmly, and Scott could hear him take something out of a case. "I- back in Utopia, when I said I trusted you- I understand why you did what you did." Steve Rogers was not a man that would lie when things were so personal, so Scott listened. "I shouldn't have brought the Avengers. But that's in the past."
"Just say what you want, Rogers."
"I didn't do anything to prove my claim." He confessed seriously. "So now, let me do something. I'm going to remove your blindfold. I brought your shades. I'm trusting you not to do anything reckless."
"Not like it matters." Scott snorted. "We're being watched."
Then, Scott could actually feel Steve's smile when he replied.
"No we're not. I switched off the cameras, and told the personnel in duty to take a break until we're finished. This conversation is entirely off-record. Nobody else is here. No other Avenger, no other X-Man, nobody. Just us two." Steve revealed. "When telling someone you trust in them, you have to show it. Isn't that right?"
Scott remained silent as Steve undid his helmet. He pressed his eyes shut when he felt Steve lift the device, and opened them once again when he felt his shades set against his face.
He could see again, if only in the eternal red he has all his life.
The first thing he noticed was that Steve didn't bring his shield.
"…you didn't even bring my visor." Scott commented. "I could kill you by making these glasses slip and claim it was an accident."
"I know now you're not that kind of man, Scott. I trust in you. So trust in me when I say that I'm here just to talk."
All tension left Scott's body, and his posture sank.
"Alright, Rogers." The mutant acquiesced. "Let's talk."
"I want to apologise, Scott. For all-"
Scott raised both his hands and shook his head.
"Stop. Move on. What else do you want to say?"
Steve looked pained at the quick dismissal, but he conceded or he'd never be able to say what he wanted.
"There are so many things I should have done differently. I should have realized that Logan was too involved in this- both with the Phoenix and with you- to be objective with his judgment when I asked for it, especially after the schism. I should have-"
Scott frowned. "You're still apologizing, Rogers. Please,-" he wasn't asking. "-cut to the chase."
Captain America took a deep breath.
"The divide between humans and mutants is getting wider, and it's only been less than two weeks since, and mutantkind is scattered once again despite our attempts to keep it together. I need you, Scott. I need you to help me. Think of your duty to your people, son. Think of all the sacrifices made so far; don't let them all be in vain by giving up now."
"In vain?!" Scott's temper flared. "What do you-!"
"I know, son." Steve cut him off somberly. "I made my mistakes, and now I'm trying to fix them but I need your help, son. Scott, I'm here asking for your help." Steve's hands curled into fists against his knees as he tried to contain his guilt. "Let us work together, Scott. This isn't the end of mutantkind. We'll find another solution. Together. One without any possible genocidal risk."
Scott stared at him silently. Steve would admit that he was a bit unnerved by it, as it was very difficult to tell what Scott was thinking and feeling, no thanks in small part to the shades he wore.
"I had the chance, you know." Scott started quietly.
Steve remained silent, choosing instead to listen before jumping into any conclusions.
"During that massacre when Hope was newly born, I could have ended Hope right then and there, or trained her to be someone else. But I didn't." He could remember Hope's face so vividly, looking up at him with curious green eyes as she held his locket with one chubby hand. "Right there, held in my arms, I saw my son dying, and the only chance I had to save him was to thrust him to a future knowing that I may never see him ever again. But I knew if I didn't send my son, then he would definitely die. I needed to have faith, then. I had faith that my son would return, and he did."
Scott looked at the man squarely.
"So I had faith that Hope will survive, and wouldn't become the monster the future dictated she would be. I believed Hope was worth keeping alive, if only because she was just an innocent baby born with the mutant gene." Scott's hands met as they rested on his knees. "I don't regret that decision, even now. Hope has every right to live. I just regret putting so much faith in her when I saw my prayers answered; the five lights, five new mutants. I regret not trying harder to get along with her; for putting the needs of my race before the needs of my family. Maybe then, events would have unfolded differently. Maybe then…" Her brilliant smile flashed in his memory. "Emma would still be here with me."
Scott shook his head, refocusing on his quiet listener. Steve's knuckles were white until Scott spoke again after having regained his composure.
"I've always known, Rogers. I've always known Hope was destined for either greatness or ruin. I could have ended Hope prematurely knowing what I knew, but what if Hope could be someone greater than all logic dictated? I always knew, and still I made that choice."
"If you knew, Scott, then why didn't you tell me?"
"Apart from this being a mutant affair- and you were too busy fighting your own fights to pay us any attention?"
The dryness in his tone caused Steve's forehead to twist.
"Scott, if this is about the attack on San Fran-"
"This is more than that, Rogers." Scott almost shouted as he restrained himself. Anger, indignation, accusation, sorrow, grief, pain- everything wanted to spill, but he would do so more unwarranted damage than intended if he let himself loose. "Much more, but you were too busy fighting Stark and everyone else that had a different opinion from yours to notice." His tone was sharp- pointed. "To answer your question: I didn't know Hope was going to be the host of the Phoenix, only that I knew she was our future."
"Tell me, Steve. If the situation was reversed, if there were only two hundred humans left and dwindling by the day, with a billion strong mutant population- a different but similar species and culture, with mutants that want to coexist, and mutants persecute the remaining humans much like Erik was before- and you had a chance to restore your race, with our same risks, what will you do?"
Steve thought about it. What would he do? But just as he processed the question, he already had the answer.
"…I will fight to reach coexistence. I won't take that chance knowing that it would put the world at risk just to restore my own." He wouldn't do what Scott Summers did. Steve blinked when a wry smile formed on Scott's face, and he commented, "You don't seem surprised."
"It's because you answered just as I expected." Scott shook his head in disbelief, and Steve frowned. "You gave the ideal answer because you couldn't fathom the gravity of the situation… even though you should have already."
Steve blinked once before he realized what Scott was saying. His stomach sank.
"See, Rogers, you've just recently lived the same way we have lived. The Avengers were persecuted. Your numbers were dwindling quickly, and you didn't know when you would be next or if your friends were still alive. What did you do? You didn't sit down and talk. You fought back. When the government wanted to exert a measure of accountability on superheroes, you fought back. Whenever you were a minority being persecuted, you fought back. You didn't talk it out, not until there was too much collateral damage."
"That's because you wouldn't listen!" Steve's voice rose feeling insulted. "You didn't listen before, what more when you were possessed by a cosmic firebird with the power to destroy a planet!?"
"Listen to yourself, Rogers. You're reacting just like every human. You feared what we would become, so you made it your right to stop us. You didn't trust us enough to think we knew what we were doing."
Steve felt Scott's gaze harden.
"You attacked Utopia and our children, and you actually thought we'd take that lying down?" There was no denying the disgust in Scott's voice. "I'll let you in on a secret, Rogers. We've always had the power to destroy this planet, and many more, you and I. The only difference is we don't carry the Avengers' logo. Doesn't this sound familiar to you, then? Something you and Stark fought over before?"
The Superhuman Registration Act. The government couldn't trust the metahuman community, so they forced them to conform to their system. He, Steve Rogers, couldn't trust the mutants, so he forced them to conform to his ways.
Seeing that his point was made, Scott relaxed on the bed he was sitting on and gave a tired sigh.
"You're a good man, Rogers. But the world eats good men alive."
"I don't believe that, son." He disagreed. The world was better than that. "Have more faith in humanity, Scott. The world is much better than what you've seen."
"I've seen humanity blow up a bus full of depowered mutant children. I've seen humanity massacre an entire town for just one newborn." Scott bowed his head, not willing anymore to reason with this man. "I've seen much more about humanity than you, Rogers."
Steve shook his head but offered no further retort. He knew when a conversation was over.
"All the more reason for you to return and help us, son." He picked up Scott's helmet, and the two made to place it back on the mutant. "I urge you give this more thought. What would Emma have wanted?"
"Quite frankly, Rogers? You don't know Emma Frost."
His visage darkened.
"And now, you never will."
"You! You and I- you will transport me to this time, consequences be shocked!"
"Whatever you say, hen."
"Ugh, I have forbidden you from- you know what? I just don't care anymore. Move it!"
Scott Summers sat in his prison cell mulling over everything that happened that brought him to this one moment as he awaited his trial.
Win or lose, did it even matter?
His mind was already made up.
He was a mutant, after all.
A/N: I added Rogue in my original draft to touch upon what Scott did for her in X-Men: Legacy when Emplate attacked but I thought, 'screw it. This crap is getting too long'. This was supposed to be a one-shot, but again, I thought, 'screw it. This crap is getting too long'. Stay tuned for what comes next o/
AvX is about to conclude. I've got a feeling I know what's up with Cable's vision, and the future Layla visited, and how this all ties in to AvX. Still, depending on how AvX ends, I might boycott Marvel comics as well. Seriously though, reading AvX and reading every X-Men related story pre-Schism, it makes me wonder how this is the same company.
Anyways, reading over the arcs past, it seems almost prophetic how Marvel built up Scott and Emma for AvX, from Messiah Complex to Utopia to Second Coming to present. If only AvX was written much better '_' I've already shelved Hope in ingrate; re-reading Messiah Complex only reinforces why. That closing scene- goddamn!
Food for thought: whatever happened to the Void Scott trapped inside the black box of his mind? I realize it's a major contributor to his constant repression since Nation X, if that symbolism with (the annoying) Beast at the end of Uncanny X-Men #519 is anything to go by.