A/N: Early warning- a lot of you won't like what I have planned for Cyke. It's a thought that's always been on my mind, though. anon nailed it. Being a vigilante is a choice. Gonna proofread this later.
"You got a way of doing that, Scott. Asking people to do what they can't not do."
- Rogue to Cyclops, X-Men Legacy #230
"I don't like this." Clint Barton frowned as he watched the video feed with a critical eye. Reporters filled the screen as they crowded around Cyclops. "This is a mistake. What if Cyclops incriminates us?"
"People have the right to think for themselves, Clint." Though Steve's voice was calm, there was no denying the seriousness in his eyes as he watched the feed. Not for the first time he had to remind himself that this was for the best. It had only been a few days since speaking with the captive Cyclops, after all.
Hawkeye was not entirely convinced. "Cyclops has played the PR angle before. Nothing's stopping him from playing it again- especially now that he's surrounded by them." He ran a hand through his hair in agitation. "I don't see why you pushed for his trial. Summers isn't the man we all thought he was. He's a delusional lunatic. The longer he is in captivity, the better."
Steve chose to ignore Clint's comment, even if he was of a similar opinion. What happened to Scott Summers was a tragedy, in his eyes. Maybe if the Avengers had intervened earlier in mutant affairs, maybe if he had looked after Wanda much better, then maybe this would not have happened.
Sadly, maybes always ran in circles.
"Tony and Carol can diffuse the situation while Logan keeps him in line." Steve paused, then added as an afterthought. "And if need be, we can ask Ororo to reason with him. She's in, after all."
Storm was trying to part ways with T'Challa as a friend. While Steve understood T'Challa's stance, he also believed in diluting the bad blood between both Avengers.
"I still don't like this."
"…I don't like this, either." Steve admitted reluctantly. "My gut's telling me something bad is happening."
It would be another hour before the reporters left the captive Cyclops in peace, and another hour still before the Avengers left the prison.
There was an unfamiliar presence poking in his mind.
"Like I said, I'm not here to harm you." The unknown but distinctly female telepath began. "So please, there is no need to withdraw into your black box."
The lack of familiarity, however, seemed entirely one-sided.
"Who are you?" Scott was right in front of his door. He was no fool; whoever this telepath was, she was able to slip into his mind before he noticed. It was as if she knew every path of his mind, and considering that two of the only three people that had such access, Jean and Emma, were dead, Scott was very apprehensive of the final one.
The telepath did not sound like Sinister, however.
"I'm a friend." She assured in a deliberate tone. "I'm here to help."
Scott's brows met in thought. "You- are you a mutant?"
His heart pounded in anticipation; did Hope actually succeed? Was this woman a new mutant?
There was a short pause, and Scott felt the sudden surge of excitement die down.
"I am a mutant." The telepath finally revealed, though Scott detected a hint of sadness in her voice. "But no, your Hope did not restore the X-gene, yet."
The admission confirmed Scott's second guess. His posture sank. "You're a timetraveller."
"Who are you, really? You don't sound like anybody I've met."
"That's because you've never met me. But I've known you my entire life."
Even in this plane, inside his mind, Scott could feel his throat constrict at the pained yearning in her voice. There was no way to deny the truth in her statement; not when she sounded like that.
Thinking of where he was now, he could only imagine one woman that would travel through time just to meet with him. A mutant from a future where the curse of M-Day had been undone…
Did she have his eyes?
"Will you show yourself?" Scott asked.
"Don't be surprised." The woman warned him softly. At his nod, the door opposite him opened to reveal a blonde woman with ruby-red skin. Though black goggles covered her eyes, Scott could see her determination shining through them.
She was here for a purpose, and Scott stopped himself from running possible outcomes of the future. Thinking about what he should do when faced with possible time paradoxes always ended up worsening the situation and gaining a sudden need for aspirin.
One corner of Scott's lips did quirk at what he saw. "You didn't inherit your mother's fashion sense."
His words suddenly had his chest constricting in remembrance, and then sudden confusion: how was she born if Emma…?
The blonde woman shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not." The vagueness in her reply deepened his frown. She cleared her throat before he could voice his question, however, and continued. "Regardless, I'm Ruby Summers. I'm your daughter." Ruby introduced herself. An impressed brow arched upwards at her father's lack of reaction. "You don't seem too surprised."
It was Scott's turn to shrug. "After everything I've seen? It keeps getting harder to be surprised. You wouldn't be the first of my children to timetravel, either. Besides, Layla and Jamie may have mentioned you." A small smile tugged on his lips. "Thanks for taking care of them."
"Layla was nothing; I'd do it all over again. Jamie, well, you're welcome." Ruby accepted her father's gratitude with a curt nod. There was a short pause; Ruby frowned. "…This is awkward."
"Definitely." Scott agreed. "I take it you didn't think this through?"
"It sounded better in my head." She admitted. Her face twisted as if she had eaten something sour. "Travel here, manipulate you, and then exit in style."
Though Scott's eyes did narrow at her admission of intent, he decided to play off the candid mood to gather more information. "Sounds like a plan."
Ruby was familiar with sarcasm.
"Oh shock you." She scoffed. "It's a well-thought plan. Execution could use a bit of work, but a well-thought plan nonetheless."
He then gestured to her appearance. "Was this supposed to happen?"
"No." Ruby's admission caught him off-guard. "I scanned through your head when I was younger. We never met."
"I… see." Scott swallowed. That ruled out their meeting being the natural progression of this timeline, then. "So, why are you here?"
All trace of awkwardness and posturing left the timetraveller. Ruby's posture straightened. She shut the door behind her, and closed the gap between them with deliberate steps as she carefully pondered how to word her response.
Though she admired her father, Ruby knew just how unfaltering Scott could be when it came to his mission. It would be no easy feat to pry him from years of brainwashing.
"I'm here for you." She declared. Scott could see that she was deathly serious. "I travelled back to exactly this point in time just for you." Ruby swallowed all her hesitations, and Scott understood that it was this next part that was most important. "I'm here to convince you to stop what we both know you're planning."
Scott frowned at her response. "I'm merely fulfilling my duty."
"You're planning on rejoining the X-Men; protecting a world that hates and fears you." Ruby scoffed. He could see her eyes narrow from beyond her black goggles. "That's not a duty. That's not even a job. That's myopic masochism."
Scott raised both his hands to quiet her. "Why should I listen to you?"
"Because I'm your daughter." Ruby declared once again as she stared up at her despondent father. Her hands rose to her goggles, tipping them ever-so-slightly for emphasis. "And you know it. You will listen to me."
"Is that a threat?" Scott's eyes narrowed as well. His hand also flew up to the frame of his ruby-quartz glasses just in case.
Ruby laughed haughtily, her hand leaving her goggles as she folded both her arms against her chest in certainty. "No, dad. It's not a threat. It's a declaration."
A chill ran down Scott's spine. The door behind him, the door to his fortress against telepaths, suddenly slammed shut. He was suddenly reminded that he was face-to-face with a telepath that knew the nuances of his mind.
A malicious smirk split Ruby's cheeks.
"Because if I can't convince you with words, then I will force you with power."
Scott was finally left to his thoughts after the reporters left.
It was a foolish move on Steve's part: allowing Scott to come in so close contact with this many people. Steve was clearly trying to forge good will, and though his intentions were altruistic, it did not lessen the fact that it was stupid. Even with the security detail's posturing, Scott knew he was virtually untouchable so long as he stuck with words. Logan, despite his best attempts to look menacing, could not kill him in a room with so many people without risking damning himself and the rest of the mutants.
Tony and Carol, however, were wise choices. Being public figures and experienced elocutionists, they could easily diffuse any situation with a smile and a word.
A pity, really, that they had no idea what exactly had transpired in a room this small.
"Scott," Carol slowly began from the door.
Scott made no movements as he sat on his bed, hunched over.
The blonde was conflicted at this situation. She could remember just how happy this man was a few years ago, and it made reconciling then and now all the more difficult. And yet still, "…if you need someone to talk to, Scott… we're all here."
It was the least she could offer for not being there for her friend.
Emma had been right. The Avengers have been too engrossed in the idea of heroism to understand what exactly it meant.
Never again, Carol vowed.
She will make it up to the X-Men… and to Scott.
How else could she find peace with herself?
Ruby had only just arrived in the hotel room she had been staying in when she felt a thought other than hers prodding through her mind. Unfortunately for her intruders, Ruby was quite familiar with this particular set of triplets.
She opened the door and was not surprised to find three sets of cold eyes boring into her.
"Well, girls, looks like you caught me." Ruby had one hand on her hip while the other held her shades at the ready. "How the shock did you find me?"
"Simple. We have been monitoring for new mutants ever since the Phoenix left." Celeste explained calmly.
Mindee continued the explanation with her arms folded. "And we have rotated monitoring duties on Mr. Summers ever since he was incarcerated."
"Of course, Mr. Summers' room is shielded from outward psychic intervention," Phoebe began. She looked a tad disgruntled at admitting there was psy-shielding in Scott's cell. "So instead we discreetly scan the intent of his visitors to make sure nobody hurts him."
"Imagine our surprise to find a new signature so close to Mr. Summers and with full intent of making contact."
Had she been a lesser woman, Ruby would have been unnerved by the chilling chorus with which the Stepford Cuckoos spoke. Three-in-One, indeed.
Still, Ruby remained unfazed but tense. For all she knew, these three did not come alone. "Is that right? Well then, what are you gonna do about it?"
"You will not hurt us." As one, the blonde triplets spoke dismissively, as if the notion of Ruby attacking them was laughable.
"You don't know that." Ruby countered. Her skin suddenly morphed into organic ruby and, abruptly, the telepathic probe in her mind vanished. When she continued, she did not bother hiding the venom from her tone. "You don't know what I'm capable of."
If the Stepford Cuckoos were surprised by her transformation, it did not show.
Mindee, though, looked a sliver unimpressed. "We know who you are,-"
"-when you came from,-" Phoebe added a tad more haughtily than her sister.
"-and why you're here." Celeste concluded with concern in her eyes.
"Really?" Ruby challenged, stalking towards the seated three. Though her mind was racing with thoughts and contingency plans, she remained focused. Grace under pressure; the paradigm her father taught her. "If you know all that, then you know what I'm capable of." There was no denying the threat in her tone. "What's stopping me from wiping your memories? I could conduct a psychic surgery, or we can settle this with a tried-and-true concussion."
The three young women smiled coolly.
"We're here to help."
"On one condition, of course."
"You're taking all of us."
"Otherwise, you will fail." The three sounded with certainty. "You're arrogant to think that you can take on contemporary psychics the likes of Professors Xavier and Grey, Mr. Nathan Summers, and Ms. Braddock singlehandedly when you make your escape."
Ruby frowned. That was the trickiest part of this entire operation- circumventing all these telepaths. "I fail to see how you three can make a difference."
"Not just us three; no." Celeste amended, and turned to her sisters with a knowing smile.
Mindee grinned confidently, and added. "But we know people willing to help-"
"-and we have access to Cerebra." There was an unhealthy gleam in Phoebe's eyes when she mentioned said device.
The three then nodded at each other, and then at Ruby. "They won't stand a chance."
Ruby still was not convinced. "Are you sure? You'll have to leave everything behind, you know. Especially to where we'll be escaping to."
"We're sure." They determinedly before a knowing smile stretched their lips."You may be surprised, as well. Events rarely fall into plan."
"We're not leaving behind much, anyway." Celeste pointed out.
"And we know where our loyalties lie." Mindee nodded her head.
"Unlike those indecisive Greys." Phoebe grinned.
"We are the betters of the Greys." They shared a vindictive chuckle. "Only a Frost can balance a Summers."
"Huh," Ruby began, honestly impressed and more than just slightly excited by their declaration. The rebellion against her father may just pan out much better than she expected. A wide grin spread across her cheeks, and her organic ruby form slowly melted to reveal her porcelain skin. "Alright. I've got a general idea of our liabilities. What are our assets?"
Celeste, Mindee, and Phoebe grinned as one.
As their planning commenced and their chief asset arrived, Ruby had to reconsider the words she had told her father. Maybe it was not that the X-Men weren't his family but, instead, that the X-Men Scott thought were his family were not the ones that truly were. Here, before her, Ruby began to see just who should matter to her father.
After all, family never abandoned each other. True family stood by each other, and helped each other especially in the darkest of times.
Monovision had always been Scott Summers' greatest failing, it seemed.
… … …
… Her father would thank her when this was over.
"This is the last day for visitors." Nathan Summers informed his father.
Both were once more inside Scott Summers' mind. The scenery was different this time, and Nathan took this as a sign that his father was recovering. Indeed; instead of the isolated cabin atop a hill in the Alaskan wilderness, the two were in Scott's hotel suite chilling over a tall mug of ice-cold beer. Nathan had to suppress the smirk on his face when he first entered; if anything, this proved just how human his father was.
Still, though it chilled the timetravelling mutant to notice a distinct lack of redheads and scantily-clad blondes, the fact that Scott had relocated himself back to civilization was what mattered.
"I heard." Scott's voice was less tight and less tense than their last meeting. He seemed almost relaxed. "They're transferring me to a closer facility to the courtroom. Though no specifics have been said, I'm certain it will be in New York City."
Nathan agreed, and replied as if speaking about the weather. "Despite the population, it would be far easier to deploy the Avengers. The Baxter Building is also nearby, though I doubt the Fantastic Four, bar Ben Grimm, would get involved regardless what happens." He took a swig off his drink. "Nothing I can't handle."
Scott actually smiled; he could read between the lines. "You're not breaking me out, Nathan. Promise me that no matter what happens, win or lose, you're not breaking me out."
"You're not supposed to be behind bars, dad." Nathan frowned, not giving up so easily. "And if they imprison you, then they should do the same with the rest of us. We've dabbled in much darker affairs than you have, and we don't have the 'possession by a cosmic entity' excuse to fall back on."
"You're not thinking clearly, Nathan. If we're all locked up, who will take care of our children and secure the future?" As always, Scott brought feelings down to level. "If you're locked up, who will take care of Hope?"
"…You just can't let yourself go, can you, Scott?" Nathan stopped his attempt to provoke an emotional response from his father.
Nathan didn't think too deeply of the quiet smile on his father's face.
"Rachel never visited." Nathan pointed out.
"No." Scott was honestly unsurprised by Rachel's absence. He knew he had failed her far too many times, after all. But now… "It's alright. I might see her in the hearing, after all."
"I'll make sure of it." Nathan reassured. He could understand what his sister was probably feeling, and would never fault her for it. Rachel had always been the most emotionally-driven of them. "We will be there."
A dark chuckle rumbled in Scott's chest. "You're making it sound as if you have a choice."
Nathan blinked at the unexpected response. "What do you mean?"
"Nothing." Scott replied smoothly, shaking his head. "Just unwarranted worries and pervasive pessimism, is all."
"…Alright." Nathan made a note to keep both eyes open and his ears to the ground. If Scott suspected anything, then there was a chance something would happen.
The timetraveller downed the final half of his drink more out of habit than need – he was in his father's mindscape, after all – and stood.
"I'll be seeing you on the other side, Scott."
Scott nodded his head, and sunk further into the comforts of his seat.
When his son left, Scott couldn't help but wonder if this was how he'd feel for the rest of his life.
Scott was roused from his sleep when the door slid open with a hiss. He could hear the sounds of men filing in; there were probably five of them. The way their boots hit the ground suggested that these men were serious, and well-trained. These weren't highly trained soldiers, though. These were… SHIELD agents. Professionals.
A sixth set of steps then entered the room, and Scott immediately knew who this man was, and what this escort wanted.
"I'm ready." Scott pushed himself off the bed and stood up to his full height. "So, to Washington, Rogers?"
After all, while New York was a strategically sound decision, he was a political prisoner of the American Government. The Avengers never had a choice in the matter of his handling.
Steve Rogers was glad of the captured mutant's blindfold, as it meant Scott couldn't see the frown on his face. Then again, maybe he should have expected this much from Scott; the mutant had nothing to pass the time with but with brooding in the past weeks, after all.
"Yes." Regardless of his personal feelings, Captain America remained somber as he followed the will of his country. "Time to go, son."
Cable's temper flared.
"What the hell is this?!" The son of Madelyne Pryor growled, gesturing angrily to the large screen before him. "Why the hell are we here?!"
Why were they here in Avengers' Mansion instead of there in Scott's courtroom – where the video feed originated?! When the Avengers came that morning to chaperone them to Scott's hearing, Cable felt something was off. Still, at Xavier's reassurance, he had joined the group on the Quinjet to be transported to the hearing site.
And here he was, watching the live feed as Scott settled himself on his chair.
"Calm down, Nathan." Xavier reminded him with an arm on his shoulder before turning his attention to the gathered Avengers. "Let them explain."
"I'm with Charles." Ororo spoke up. She looked very tense and displeased at the situation, but, nevertheless, she was willing to give her fellow Avengers the benefit of the doubt. "Please, Nathan, sit."
Cable roughly shrugged Xavier's hand off and folded his arms, glaring at everybody present save for Hope, who was already seated and watching quietly.
Tony Stark cleared his throat. "Well, it's not our fault." He admittedly bluntly, completely ignoring Cable's posturing and the tempers rising. "This was the only way the big man allowed Steve to let Scott stand trial."
"By taking us out of the picture?!"
All the furniture started rattling from the mutant's uncontrolled telekinesis.
"By making sure neither Avengers nor mutants will intervene." Tony corrected.
"Nathan…" Rachel pulled on her brother's arm, trying to get him to calm down. "Hear them out, alright?"
"Thank you, Rachel." Tony smiled at the young woman. "Have I ever told you I have a thing for redheads with bodylines like yours?"
Rachel looked at him in disgust.
"Get to the point, Anthony." Xavier reminded calmly, massaging his pulsing temple. This was an unexpected surprise, and one he honestly was not happy about. "What did you mean about intervention?"
"We're making this trial as fair as possible." Tony added. At the blank looks he received, Tony explained as clearly as he could. "As both sides were involved in the fighting, none of our opinions on this matter would be fair. Thus, all our opinions will be taken out of the equation. After all, what is important is how the public views Scott's actions, am I right?"
Cable's frown deepened before pointing out the giant pink elephant in the room. "And this is not because we're mutants?"
"…Well, I can honestly tell you that your powers are part of the reason." Tony reluctantly admitted, and quickly raised his palms to quiet the agitated timetraveller so he could clarify, "Look, you are a telepath. Our lovely Ray's a telepath. Chuck's a telepath." If Tony was perfectly honest, he did get a slight kick at the twitch on Xavier's brow when he called him by his nickname. "And what do you three have in common? Close ties to our pesky villain."
"Don't call him that."
Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly Tony realized, it was Rachel that spoke up to defend Scott.
"He's not a villain." There was a deathly serious glint in her green eyes; Tony made a mental note not to poke any more fun at Scott for today. "Scott-" Rachel shook her head. "-dad needs help. And when he wins, I'll make sure he gets it."
"Sure; that's nice." Tony nodded quickly and relaxed on his seat, happy to put an end to all this unneeded tension. "So, can we now shelf the melodrama and watch the show?"
Rachel and Hope could sense that Cable wanted to argue more, but before they could make any move to placate the angry Summers, Nathan stalked towards the offered chair next to his daughter and plopped down angrily.
Nathan glared over his shoulder at Tony, and scoffed.
"Even without us, this trial is anything but fair. Why?" He growled dangerously. "Because Scott is still a mutant."
A disbelieving brow arched through Tony's forehead; he was not at all plussed. "Have some faith, eh sport?"
Tony Stark never realized the bitter irony of his statement.
The hearing was going as he predicted.
His side was losing.
He still wasn't surprised.
It truly was uncanny how much a year could change a man.
A year ago, Scott would have fought harder to make his stance known; he would justify himself in the eyes of these people; he would be more upset about his own treatment; he would have given a damn. He wondered if he was truly that much of a naïve idealist…
…and Scott Summers, prisoner of war, wondered what it would feel like to be that man all over again.
:.: Why wonder, dad? :.: Ruby's voice was like silk in his thoughts, smooth but unyielding. It was probably a trait passed down through his blood. :.: We can make it happen. :.:
:.: You and I? :.: He thought back to her in amusement.
In an instant, Scott found himself standing at the edges of a wooden pier, overlooking an ocean. His attention snapped behind him, and he found Ruby staring at him again, her physical mutation activated.
"All of us." Ruby remarked, walking towards him. "This will hopefully be the last time I'll see this."
At once, Scott understood. This place, this ghost city, was taken straight out of Ruby's memories. This was the place she called home. This was the place she spent her years hiding.
This place was a result of the path he was about to choose before she infiltrated his life.
Scott's chest constricted at the sudden realization, and he let out a shaky breath. He had fought so that his children would not have to live like this, and he failed with Ruby.
"I'll make things better." He promised his daughter.
"You better." Ruby shot him a flat stare. "By the red-haired devil, I am not living the rest of my life in a dump, metaphorically, and literally."
"I love you too, Ruby."
Had they been normal, Scott would have felt weird how easy that came out considering it hadn't been a full week yet since they first met. This was one of the many perks of having a timetravelling telepath with a spine for a daughter, probably.
"Aw shock it." Ruby seemed flustered with the way she scratched the back of her head and broke their gaze. It was hard to tell given her current form. "The hearing is about to end."
Scott paid slightly more attention to the proceedings, and nodded at his daughter's assessment. "It appears you're right."
"You do realize that nobody will speak up to defend you." Ruby pointed out. "They are much too afraid of defending a mutant, particularly now when opinions regarding you can become very volatile. You are an extremely scandalous figure; one that tests a selfish, antiquated paradigm." She scoffed. "Let freedom ring if it fattens Sam's pocket."
"I don't mind." Scott shrugged. "Let them debate their opinions all they want. In the end, they are just words."
"True." Ruby stretched her arms high above her head then patted his shoulder reassuringly. "Well, it is time to do my part. While opinions are merely words, you need words to become a free man."
"I'll see you outside, Ruby."
:.: Don't be late, dad. :.:
Cable abruptly stood from his seat.
"Dad?" Hope was the first to comment. "What's wrong?"
"Something isn't right." Cable muttered.
"Oh?" Tony massaged the bridge of his nose; he could feel headache coming. Seriously, these Summers…"And why is that?"
"The guy that spoke up to defend Scott and got the ball rolling." Cable quickly looked between the gathered mutants Hope, Charles, Ororo, Logan, and finally Rachel, before facing the television again. "There's something off about him."
"What do you mean?" Carol questioned, only for Tony to cut in.
"Let me get this straight." Tony began as if talking with a daft child. "You argue with me that our closet villain – oh, don't sully pretty face looking at me like that, Ms. Grey – back to the topic; You argue that he won't be able to win because there are no mutants to speak on his behalf, and then when yours truly is proven correct, you whine 'foul play'? My god! With a persecution complex that huge, it's no wonder we haven't worked with you more often!"
"Can it, Stark." Cable glared at the man. He was not in the mood for Stark's melodrama.
"While you raise an excellent point, Anthony," Xavier cut in before tempers flared past the diplomatic threshold. "I'm afraid I have to agree with Nathan: something isn't right."
"Mind explainin', Chuck?" Logan asked gruffly. While he was a bit disgruntled at the amount of praise Scott garnered, his instincts were shouting at him that something was off about the entire thing.
"It's a psychic-thing." Rachel tried to explain. She was met with blank looks of incomprehension. "It's- that guy wasn't acting right. It's hard to explain."
"You will just have to take our word for it." Xavier told them. He was already stood up and ready to go. "We don't have any time to waste. Who knows who has their hands on this situation?"
"Slim." Logan growled out. "He's planned this somehow."
"Easy, Logan." Ororo tried to placate her old friend's temper. "We aren't sure if whoever is responsible is a friend of Scott's."
Logan merely shot her a tired look.
"Keep tellin' yourself that, 'Ro."
:.: The Cuckoos are ready. :.: Ruby's telepathic message sounded when he walked past the double doors as a free man. :.: You've got incoming. :.:
Scott nodded his head and ignored the flashing lights from the multitude of cameras. :.: Extraction in ten. :.:
:.: This is exciting.:.: A chorus of three suddenly spoke. Scott smiled gently when he recognized their voices.
:.: Easy, Mindee, Phoebe, and Celeste. You wouldn't want to give away your positions. :.:
:.: Sure, Mr. Summers. :.:
:.: And thanks, girls. :.: Scott added. :.: I know this is a lot. :.:
:.: It's what we want. :.: They reassured him. :.: Megan and Nori have already gathered everyone. We're just waiting for your group, now. :.:
Scott couldn't quiet the elation he felt at their words. His mind drifted back to his talk with Magneto back in his cell.
:.: Heads up; they're here. :.: Ruby warned.
"Dad!" Cable flew down several feet before him. Scott felt guilty for the panicked look on his son's face, but reminded himself that he had other responsibilities now.
Next to Cable, the rest of the fliers touched down – Carol, Tony, Ororo, Hope, and…
"Scott!" Steve looked conflicted. He had already been briefed by Tony while his group was en route, and already he had the Avengers on standby. "Don't make any funny business, son. We've got you."
"I'm a free man now, Rogers." Scott folded his arms. "I don't see what you can do to stop me."
The reporters, sensing a large scoop for the headlines, gave the gathered a wide girth in case a battle would commence while at the same time continued to record the entire event.
"You and I both know this was a sham." Steve was deathly serious with his statement. His eyes darted around, assessing Scott's battle strength. "Please return to the courtroom so we can conduct this peacefully."
"Please, dad," Rachel spoke up, and Scott felt his heart twinge at her plea. "Let us help you through this."
"With all due respect, people," All the gathered were surprised at who had just spoken up. A blonde woman with black sunglasses strode confidently towards Scott and pulled his arm towards her side. "You're making a scene."
"Who are you?" Cable eyes narrowed at the newcomer. He quickly attempted to probe her mind telepathically, only to find a barrier hindering him. His eyes widened and his gun was aimed at her head. "Back away, telepath."
Everyone tensed at Cable's proclamation.
The blonde smiled. "Make me."
Just as the gathered Avengers and mutants were about to make their attack, numerous wide blue discs suddenly opened all around Scott. Fire began to spill from the portals as large demonic arms clawed their way out.
"Magik!" Steve shouted, recognizing this. He turned towards the former Sorcerer Supreme in alarm. "Stephen, you need to contain-"
His words died in his throat when he found Dr. Strange knocked unconscious.
"Damnit! Everyone, formation!" Steve reached for his shield…
…and realized he couldn't move his body. "What-?"
Panic wracked Steve even more when the Quinjet never appeared. Someone caged the Avengers.
"Don't bother moving." Scott calmly spoke amidst the chaos happening around him. "Cable, Rachel, Charles – it's pointless fighting it. Instead, all of you, listen."
Scott could feel Ruby undoing the clasps of his helmet. He smiled gently at her, then continued to address the gathered.
"I don't plan on harming anyone." Scott told them as sincere as he could. "Having said that, I don't plan on fighting anymore."
"Dad," Ruby made it a point to make sure everyone heard the way she addressed her father. It was a tad vindictive on her part, but she couldn't care when it tasted so sweet. "Visor or shades?"
Scott didn't even need to think twice about the question.
"Shades." Scott told her and felt her slip the familiar weight in his hand. Wearing them on his person, Scott Summers finally opened his eyes. He cleared his throat. "Like I said, I'm done fighting. My mutation may not be a choice, but fighting, as I've been recently reminded, is."
"You don't mean this, dad." Cable tried to reason with his father. "You don't know what you're saying."
"I do, son." Scott looked at his own flesh and blood with a sad smile. "I'm done fighting. I want to use my powers the way I want to. Charles," he turned towards his mentor. "I'm done. You have a good dream, and I'm grateful for everything you've done for me… but I can't fight your war anymore. Logan's restarted the school; you can start again there."
"Scott, stop being selfish!" Hope shouted angrily. She couldn't believe the words she was hearing. "You were right, alright? So what if Emma died? So what if I didn't meet your expectations? There's always next time, right? And next time-" she swallowed the lump in her throat. Hope was suddenly reminded of every time she acted like a brat towards this man, never once thinking how it felt to be in his shoes. "Next time… I'll-"
"You don't need me for the next time, Hope." Scott cut in. He could see everyone watching him with baited breath, and he decided to answer the unasked question. "Yes, there is a next time. The Phoenix will come back." Everyone flinched at the sudden warning. "She will come with the same purpose. Next time, however… well, you can handle it."
"That's- that's not what I was trying to say, Scott." Hope tried to make him pay attention to her. She couldn't understand why Scott was treating her like a child. "I will trust you-"
"Time's up, dad." Ruby called her father's attention.
Hope's heart sank when Scott looked away from her to address the blonde woman beside him.
"Right." Scott needed to cut his speech short. He turned back towards his captive audience. "Steve, despite what you may think, my anger towards you was not because of what happened. I am angry at you because you turn a blind eye to mutant affairs even as we are dying at your doorstep. Logan," Scott saw Wolverine trying to escape his psychic confine; he shook his head. "I never told you this before but you're doing something good with that school. Some of the children have chosen to follow me, however, so don't hold it against them. And Jean…" Scott sighed. "Jean said she likes the name of your school."
"Dad!" Rachel shouted. "Take me with you!"
"Like hell he is!" Ruby snarled back only for Scott to place a hand on her shoulder.
"Easy." He soothed her before addressing Rachel. "Rachel… you can't. I've got nothing planned, and you deserve stability in your life. I can't provide you that at the moment."
"Dad, if this is about my choosing the school-"
"It's not, Rachel." Scott interjected. "You made a wise choice. I'm sorry for not being there for you."
Rachel sucked in a pained breath; that wasn't fair. It was she that wasn't there for him; she went against his wishes to go after the Shi'ar, and then chose to teach at the school instead of trying to help her father through his struggle. She had been focusing too much on herself, and only clung to her father when it was convenient…
…even going so far as to denounce his name when he tried to find his own happiness.
"Where are you going, Scott? Where are you taking everyone?" Charles questioned his first pupil solemnly. He knew he couldn't change his mind anymore.
Scott stared at his teacher sadly.
"Someplace I've never been before." A blue disc opened beneath him, swallowing him and his daughter up.
"To a distant world."
"That Ruby!" Jamie cursed. "Damn those Summers!"
A plate met the floor and smashed into many pieces, making the other occupant in the room jump.
"Woah! Layla, careful! We're rather tight these days so don't go smashing innocent eatingware!" Jamie's heart was pounding against his chest.
It abruptly stilled, however, when he registered the deathly pale whiteness of Layla's cheeks.
"…That was not supposed to happen. " Layla shakily muttered in a tone so soft that Jamie barely heard it.
Jamie looked up at her in surprise as he picked up the broken pieces. "What?"
Layla cleared her throat and approached him with an unsteady gait. "That wasn't supposed to happen. Scott- he was supposed to be incarcerated for ten years. He wasn't supposed to be acquitted."
Jamie placed the pieces to the side, and stood up. Layla's arms wrapped around him and Jamie could feel the uncertainty in his girlfriend's trembling body.
The thought made him fearful.
"Wait- so- what's going to happen?" He palmed his forehead to keep his mind from spinning. "Will, y'know, that happen?"
Layla paused and thought hard, trying to remember a future that was supposed to be hers.
Scott Summers was supposed to be brooding in his cell until the Red Skull resurfaced one month later, starting another culling of mutantkind. Captain America, knowing he needed help, contacts Cyclops and appeals to his sense of duty once more. Despite his grief, Cyclops would accept; duty and responsibility have always been the driving forces in the Summers line, and Scott was nothing but the best example of a Summers. Cyclops would then fight battle after battle alongside comrades wary of him, the race that had abandoned him, including even a young Jean Grey misplaced from the past. It would take only a few months before Jean's disgust in the choices Cyclops makes eventually breaks the worn mutant-
-and that's when she, Layla Miller, would make her entrance.
Layla would console him; tell him that it was as she knew would happen; remind him of what she and Jamie had warned when Utopia was first conceived. Tell him that, despite all his hardships, there would still be more battles to come, but he'd have to keep on fighting. Captain America's promises and idealism dies with him, and it will not take long before whatever smidgeon of good Commander Rogers thinks he has done for the mutant race becomes undone.
And then she'll give him the picture that he needs to keep safe for eighty years while he waits in Atlantic City…
The rest was history. Or the future. Really, sometimes knowing things was a pain…
"I don't know."
…but not knowing how the future would turn out, just like now, was frightening.
Frightening… but exhilarating.
For the first time, Layla Miller flashed Jamie a genuine smile.
So maybe the future was not set in stone. Maybe mutants will not be rounded up again, their faces branded with a discriminating 'M', and forced to live in Sentinel-guarded internment camps for years to come.
Hopefully not. Should that horrible future ever come into fruition, the Summers Rebellion may never happen.
Layla's fists clenched tightly around her clothes and Jamie, and not for the first time she was tempted with changing the future….
…and warning everyone of what lay ahead leading up to the Phoenix's return.
"You spent too much time on goodbyes, Scott." Erik Lensherr frowned when Scott Summers appeared before him. "I was getting worried that you suddenly developed cold feet again."
"I almost did." Scott admitted. "I didn't expect Rachel to be there."
"She only comes to you when it's convenient." Ruby frowned. It was clear to all that observed her that Ruby had problems with Rachel Grey. Scott had half the mind to question her why, and then remembered that he had all the time in the world to figure it out, instead.
"I'm not happy with your choice, Scott." Erik reminded him, before letting out a tired sigh. "But I suppose I cannot fault you for choosing to live life the way you want to."
"Thank you, Erik."
"You've made it a point that you don't know where you're going, Summers. My question is what are you going to do now?" Abigail Brand's sharp tone drew Scott's attention. The head of S.W.O.R.D.'s arms were folded, and her lips were tight as she watched Scott deliberate in silence.
Scott stared between the two mutants and scratched his head. With a sheepish smile, he told them vaguely, "Travel the world. Find a new place to live."
"Or an entirely different world?" Alison Blaire chimed in. "I know you were just being your usual dramatic self, but you mentioned going to distant worlds." She wagged her eyebrows at him suggestively. "You will need to find a place for your stragglers to live in, as well."
"Or that." Scott's brows met. He spotted Howlett and Kurt Waggoner being grilled by the mutants that followed him. In particular, the Cuckoos seemed annoyed that they couldn't tell what the adamantine-laced mutant was thinking, and said mutant seemed to make it a point to let them know about his enhancement. Sage - no, that wasn't quite right, either; just how many worlds had Ali visited? - former Ambassador Sage was somewhere around. Tessa was probably getting up-to-date with this world with the... Charles Xavier-head. "This is really not what I have planned."
"Look on the bright side, dad." Ruby linked their arms again. "You're no longer alone."
Staring into the eyes of his daughter, barely visible behind her dark goggles, Scott made a decision.
"That's Agent Brand to you, Summers." The green-haired woman corrected sharply. "I may trust you, but that doesn't mean we can skip formalities in public."
"Right." Scott rolled his eyes, though nobody could really see it. He smirked. "What does the UN say about mutants using their powers to help other countries?"
Abigail thought about it for a moment.
"There is no policy. It'd make their job a hell of a lot easier." Abigail explained. "Still, terrestrial affairs are not in my purview. Unless it involves world destruction, of course."
Scott nodded. "Sounds like a job."
The head of S.W.O.R.D. already had an idea what Scott was planning.
"Planning on becoming a nomad, Summers?" Abigail's lips curled into an amused smirk. "Travel the world baring gifts to those who open their doors?"
"It's something that was always in my mind and, seeing how well that worked during the trial, I feel I should continue it." Scott explained, scratching the back of his head sheepishly. "The nomadic lifestyle suits us. We can make our mark and return if opinions have changed. I'm sure a lot of my companions-"
"Followers, Scott." Alison cut in with a playful wink.
"Companions." Scott stressed, frowning at her. In response, Dazzler giggled at his dry correction, finding his defensiveness quite funny. "They would love to see the world more before jumping ship." His brows met. "If we'll jump ship."
Still, Scott could admit that he must have been appeared more Noah instead of John the Baptist.
"Well, we'll probably pop back, anyway." Alison gestured to her companions. "I can assure you that there is one world that will accept you. It could use everyone's talents as well."
"Is that right?" Scott thought about her advice. "I'll speak with everyone first and see what they think. Thanks, Ali."
Alison giggled again and teased. "Aw, Scott. You do have feelings."
"Funny." Scott snarked at her, then turned towards the Master of Magnetism. "Erik, I'll need you to look after the school until we're ready."
"The demon returns to being a schoolteacher?" Erik mused.
"I'm not teaching anybody." Illyana added nonchalantly as she passed by with Danger, heading towards the gathered crowd.
Scott shook his head, honestly surprised at how many still chose to follow him.
"Not a schoolteacher, Erik. I was thinking more... guardian angel."
"Demon to angel?" Erik raised a questioning brow. A low chuckle left his chest at the suggestion, but nonetheless he accepted it. "Truly, Scott, the times have changed."
Ruby frowned at her father. This wasn't exactly as she planned, and she was suddenly reminded of the warning the Stepford Cuckoos had given her - that she'd be surprised by Scott chosen path. Really, she had wanted to take her father with her back to her future or, at the very least, disappear from this world altogether. Start anew elsewhere and leave this world to burn. "Are you sure about this?"
"Of course I'm sure."
Scott smiled at his selfish daughter.
"It's my choice."
"Sometimes making your mark isn't about winning. It's about losing. Losing badly... and then getting right back up again!"
- Nightwing, DC Universe Online
A/N: Among all of Scott's children- Nathan, Nate, Rachel, and Ruby- I think Ruby, then Nathan, would be the most loyal to Scott. Granted, we don't know that much about Ruby except she's lived and supported Scott for the majority of her life and that she was quick to anger when Madrox made an offhand insult about Scott. Oh, and she was ready to kill Doom when he controlled Scott.
Finally complete. If ever I'm going to add another chapter, it'll just be a series of omakes tackling the entirety of Scott and Ruby's conversation when she snuck in his cell, the Phoenix herself returning only to find Scott gone, and Layla Miller breaking her code of silence. Miscellaneous stuff that, really, readers of this won't find interesting.