A/N: Howdy, true believers~! As mentioned before, Distant Worlds itself is finished, so the rest of these chapters are a series of omakes featuring miscellaneous stuff. I've planned 5-6ish of such omakes.
First off, and still not proofread, is Scott and Ruby's conversation when Ruby infiltrated Scott's mind in the previous chapter. In my first draft, I wanted to include this conversation. However, I then felt that maybe I could leave the question of whether or not Scott is being telepathically compelled to follow Ruby following her declaration as an interesting point hanging.
Given that there was no mention of it in the reviews I garnered, perhaps my attempt at incorporating this literary cliche was too subtle? Regardless, here is the final answer for those that still care about reading this uninteresting story of duty and the pursuit of happiness o/
Omake 1: The Frost That Withstood The Summers
"Although many, we are one. So in the final analysis could it be that we're fighting a war that can't be won?"
- Morgan Freeman, Bombs Away by B.o.B. feat. Morgan Freeman
There was a tense stillness in the metaphysical plane of Scott's mind that was birthed from Ruby's bold proclamation. Ruby would have shivered when the temperature in the hallway they stood on, part of the large mental construct of her father's doing, plummeted, but the time-traveler was ready.
She was so very alike Scott in this regard.
"You're very upfront about this." Scott began coolly in a tone that appeared to be testing her, and Ruby had the distinct impression that her father would dissect her every reaction for hidden meanings. The only reason he hadn't ejected her from his mind, she figured, was that she was forthcoming with her intents. It was quite clear that he wouldn't pass judgment on her; not yet, anyways.
"It's the only way I can get you to believe me." Ruby replied with an even tone, unafraid by Scott's posturing.
Two chairs suddenly materialized in the hallway through Ruby's summoning; one behind the time-traveler, and one behind her father. When the blonde woman sat herself down, a round table appeared between them. Ruby chose that moment to rest her chin atop her hands in a calculating pose; lips hidden so as to focus attention on her shaded eyes.
"Sit, dad." Ruby offered to her father, tilting her head forward slightly as if to punctuate her statement. "We've much to discuss."
Scott's eyes darted between the furniture Ruby materialized, appraising their quality. He suppressed the frown that threatened his lips. Like Rachel's early telepathic constructs, the material of both the chair and table spoke volumes of what kind of environment they had grown up in. Unlike Rachel's, however, the old and clearly worn-out wood of Ruby's making whispered to Scott that Ruby had either grown used to living in the slums, or had given up living with the hope for a better life.
Whatever the reason, the message chilled Scott to the bone. As he took his seat, both hands resting on top of the table in an imposing manner that showed he was not the least bit intimidated by Ruby's own posturing, Scott banished the whispers of guilt that reminded him that, whatever measure of good he thinks he has accomplished for mutantkind, for a much better future than what his species was currently forced to live through, he would still continue to fail those dearest to his heart.
"You don't need to be so dark." Ruby's concerned voice cut through his self-loathing.
Scott blinked before realizing that the hallway had actually dimmed sometime when he wasn't focused. Immediately, their environment brightened.
"Sorry." Scott apologized, forcing himself to give her a small smile. "Lost in thought."
Ruby shrugged off his excuse. "You know…." She began; her posture relaxed. "I'm here to make sure nothing like that happens to you again. Your thoughts drifting darkly, I mean."
"…I'm not sure that's a good idea." Scott admitted.
"It is." Ruby disagreed swiftly. "You've stressed yourself silly analyzing every angle of a puzzle to make sure you don't miss anything, and then proceed to doubt the decision you've made relentlessly. Even when you've finally managed to convince everyone that you no longer held any doubts so as to lead your entire species, you and I both know you never did manage to convince yourself."
Scott frowned at her dissection of him. "Doubting a decision preludes its correct culmination."
He wasn't proud of his insecurity, but even he recognized its worth.
"That is true." Ruby nodded slightly. "But yours, well… that way you do it is almost masochistic."
"I don't do it for pleasure." Scott replied snidely, offended by Ruby's remark.
"I know you don't." There was something in her tone that made Scott's irritation pause. "That's why I'm here to put a stop to it."
It was almost scary to see someone with such unconditional concern for him. He couldn't remember the last time anyone bar Emma had actually taken the time to look out for his humanity. Pathetically, he had even been forced to plead Ororo to be the one that would ground him but, as events played out, the weather witch had no intention of uncovering his humanity, and instead merely looked out for his downfall – just as his darkest, most repressed fears had whispered their predictions. Truly, Scott wanted to feel surprised by Ororo's choice; he wanted to feel slighted but, in the end, all he felt was a hollow numbness at having once more been proven right.
He was truly alone.
The chilling thought made him ashamed of how he treated his White Queen in the days before her…
"Quiet." Scott hissed harshly to himself, banishing his demons in a too-routinely manner. It was painful, yes, but Scott, more than anyone, knew how pointless it was to dwell on the past.
Water under the inferno that was the bridge…
His heart clenched. It was getting more and more difficult to always look to a brighter future.
A warm hand rested on his, and only then did Scott realize his whitened fists and the once more dimmed room.
He relaxed, and Ruby withdrew her comfort.
"So," Scott began, his voice tight and unwavering like steel, his eyes behind his ruby-quartz frame settling on the time-traveler – his daughter the far future. "What then? You're going to stop me from fighting for your future?"
"Yes." Ruby replied succinctly, and though her father did not show it, she knew he was surprised by the conviction in her voice. "I don't care about that future. I don't care about a future of coexistence. I don't care about any of that when you're not there to share it with."
Scott frowned. He really did not like the skewed views Ruby had. "It seems none of my teachings made it to you. This fight isn't about my wants, but the needs of our people."
"Oh, your teachings did get through my head, dad. You preach a lot even when you were a mechanized old man." There was a spot of dark humor in her bitter words. It was promptly dashed when she continued in a more somber tone. "But this revelation only came to me when you finally died."
"I must have died happily, then." Scott concluded. "I lived and died fighting for peaceful coexistence."
Not long after his short spiel left his lips, Scott realized he said something wrong.
Ruby's shoulders were trembling.
"You didn't die happily, dad." Scott almost missed her pained whisper. The goggles she wore seemed to glint when she continued, her voice now much stronger and more determined than moments before. "It's why I'm here to make sure that never happens. I will make you happy."
"And do you think this makes me happy?" Scott countered, gesturing his hand to their meeting. "Your coming back here and screwing up your future - a future where all our struggles had finally paid off?"
"My future is secured." Ruby calmly cut in. "I'm not carrying a Doomlock on me, so whatever I do merely creates a diverging world line." Scott figured that this Doomlock was an important device capable of manipulating coalescing realities, though its nomenclature did cause him no small measure of wariness. Still, that wasn't important.
"You should know this, dad. Marvel Girl is living proof of this." Scott paid no mind to the way Ruby seemed to spit Rachel's codename. "No, I don't think my arrival has made you happy. But I will make you happy. Life is too short to be living it for another man's ideals."
"…I believe it can happen." Scott sank in his seat, all his anger and tension undulating from his body and leaving him tired.
"And it does. Like I said, where I come from, you finally did it. Peaceful coexistence has been reached… at the cost of your life." Ruby head was downcast, her hands resting on the desk, thumbs fidgeting as she recalled her dying father. "Not your death, but your life."
The grim and harsh statement was like liquid ice against Scott's tired body, but Ruby was not nearly finished.
"You fought far longer and much harder than the rest of the so-called X-Men; you fought onwards even when the so-called champions of mutantkind absconded their professed duty, and the man who spoke of that dream had given up on the very same ideal he preached! Eighty years of sacrifice, dad, that's how long you've spent. Eighty years… of neglecting your needs, your happiness, your family… me."
By the end of her rage, Ruby's voice was nary but a pained whisper filled with longing. So much loneliness bled from the time-traveler, and Scott knew, truly knew, right at that very moment that whatever choice he made, he was damned.
And so she would be, as well; this daughter that loved him so much that she fled paradise for him.
"I won't let you go through that again." She hissed at him, hands trembling as she struggled to reign in her emotions before she exploded again. "I won't allow you to continue apologizing to the dead and apologizing in death. No. You will live a life outside somebody else's shadow. "
Scott listened to her. He felt her every pain; saw glimpses of her sacrifice; understood that she was speaking the truth. There were no cryptic riddles or blurry prophecies. Ruby was simply doing what she wanted, and Scott himself could feel the iron grip of temptation pulling on his heart and mind with such strength that he feared he would not be able to resist for much longer.
Was it so bad that he finally sought his happiness? He had fought for so long and for so hard…
But then, Scott still resisted.
The battle wasn't over, yet. Far from Xavier's dream, his people were still dying to prejudice. His species was still on the road to extinction. Their enemies were still plenty, and the Avengers couldn't help them, not with their current modus operandi.
Docile lambs could not spot flaws in the system - much less change it before something catastrophic happened. Someone still needed to stand up to the system. And even if this job would plunge him into the harshest inferno, so be it.
Ruby watched with a frown as she observed the minute changes in her father's features. Her frown deepened even further when she realized Scott had managed to reclaim his conviction to tread down the path of the damned.
"My – our people still need me." Scott finally said.
Ruby shook her head slowly. She could not suppress the fond smile from crooking her lips at her father's admirable sense of duty – his willingness to sacrifice himself if it meant more people would survive. It was noble, and Ruby would have been swayed by such heroic virtue before.
"See, dad... nobody ever wanted you to lead. You took that task upon yourself."
But now, she understood a truth about herself that was far more profound.
Where once she believed that a hero was someone that rose above themself to answer the call of duty, a martyr was one that died fulfilling their duty, she now understood that both were fictitious labels fickle lay fools ascribed individuals that did what they couldn't. Whatever measure of glory was achieved in so-called heroic deeds was only one-sided, ephemeral, and fleeting. When one died, there was nothing more.
And Ruby finally realized how short life was that there was no point hurting oneself living it.
"That is precisely your mistake, dad; trying to shoulder the fate of your species is the epitome of your arrogance. That is not heroism. And you will continue to hurt yourself - even though you have already done enough."
Scott remained perfectly still as the world around them shifted while Ruby spoke. No longer were they in the hotel his mind had constructed, no; they were floating high above a ruin. Broken buildings, torn houses, hollow winds, barren streets – they all seeped with an eeriness that felt all-too familiar to Scott, who had seen his fair share of post-apocalyptic worlds.
But what set this vision apart from the rest was the suspicion that this was the time Ruby had come from.
"You strove to be better than your mentors." Ruby continued. Her eyes were focused on her father with aquiline intensity. "You didn't want to be like Xavier, who ignored the call of a newborn simply because he felt it was insignificant to a larger picture only he could see. Instead, you tried not to ignore everyone. You planned and made more plans despite every bullet the world shot at you, doing your absolute best to minimize every casualty. You worked your damnest so you wouldn't ask more than what anybody could give, and then damned yourself when you still were forced to sentence them to their deaths because of a miscalculation on your part. You did not want heroes on the battlefields, because all of yours ended up martyrs in some form."
Scott's body tensed; and Ruby knew she struck a nerve.
A predatory smirk split her lips.
"See, father, only I can understand you, and accept you."
"…" Scott remained silent as he processed Ruby's truthful assessment.
A cautious, dutiful part of him whispered harshly that he should be wary of Ruby's honeyed words.
There had to be a catch. There was always a catch.
"Can you see this? Your happy ever after does not exist. I refuse to allow this to come to be, again."
There it was again; the absolute resolution in her voice, an unwavering stubbornness that Scott knew from personal experience that made reasoning pointless.
Ruby was set on this path.
"You had the chance to know the true outcome of your decisions, and you made the mistake before of believing that a better world will come out of your efforts." Scott recalled that, and more than once daggers of regret twisted in his skin, shouting at him for not taking up the Other in her offer way back when Utopia was first raised. "Can't you see, dad? You have done nothing but send your loved ones to the slaughter. Every. Single. Time."
"Shut up!" Scott shouted at the salt her words scrubbed against his raw wounds; he slammed both his hands angrily on the table. Had it not been a mental construct of Ruby's own making, the wood would have splintered into many pieces in the face of Scott's rage at the bitter truth of what he has done.
But just like before, Ruby was not done.
"You know the truth, don't you?" She spoke coldly, not at all daunted by her father's angry display. "That it's your fault the Phoenix left? The Phoenix recalled you in that singularity when Emma Frost died," If Scott was calmer, he would have noted the lack of familiarity Ruby spoke her supposed mother's name with, "and fled when it felt the anguish it brought you, leaving you beaten and broken and without any reward for your sacrifice."
"Please," Scott pleaded softly of his time-traveling daughter. "I already know all this, so please, shut up."
Ruby was not without empathy, fortunately, and she, too, stood from her seat and leaned over the table to squeeze both his fists in a soothing manner. She granted her father the silence he begged, giving him only the comfort she could give as she could his emotions waged war within himself.
At last, she could feel that he had quieted.
The time-traveler once more continued; her voice soft and eyes watery beneath her dark goggles.
"The Phoenix does return, dad, and from what I can tell of your memories, that ingrate will repower the X-gene, but not until you have made yourself an even more despicable pariah in the eyes of your so-called friends and family. I know what you plan to do, and let me tell you: it changes nothing. So, don't."
Glimpses of the grim future Ruby grew up and fought in flashed before his eyes.
So much death and so much destruction... and all just to reach the ideal world Xavier spoke of? And he lived in such a world - continued fighting in spite of such bleakness?
Scott could now see what Madrox meant when the investigator bitterly spoke of how Scott would live.
He licked his suddenly chapped lips, staring up at his daughter.
"...How do I know you're not lying? That you're just making me see a fantasy?"
Ruby exhaled deeply.
"Have faith in me."
Faith. It was that one word again - the one word that was so very comforting as it ushered him into this all-consuming darkness.
Ruby seemed to understand what ailed him, too, because she continued just as softly as before.
"I realize this is asking much, and I can only promise you this: I will never abandon you."
And then she smirked. It wasn't smug or triumphant or gloating or anything of the sort.
It was warm.
"I'm tempting you, dad." Ruby told him honestly, retracting her hands again when her father crumbled onto his seat. "You don't have to do what you've been doing your whole life. You can choose to do what you want without worrying about the lives of other people. The X-Men can handle things without you. No matter what people tell you, no matter what that hairless head has said, it's not your responsibility to lead our species. You've neglected your family to fulfill another man's dream; I'm telling you to stop and return to your family… to me." A sudden fire lit up inside of her and she could not stop herself from declaring to her father. "You will accept my offer or so help me, I will make you. I won't allow you to throw away your life!"
"…" He couldn't mutter anything in the face of Ruby's unbridled emotions.
Scott could only listen and try to understand.
"Do you want to know what your last thoughts were, dad? When you laid dying, your body more machine than man, your last thoughts were 'I'm sorry'; you were apologizing to me and everyone else you've had to sacrifice just for the sake of some stupid dream!"
Scott shivered at the unbridled pain Ruby spoke with.
Had he really hurt his daughter so much?
"And you know what? I'm sorry too." Suddenly, Ruby's voice was quiet. But the pain was still there. "I'm sorry I wasn't strong enough to stop you – for thinking that choosing to die with you would make you happy. I'm sorry I wasn't strong enough to show you another way to live and die."
There it was; the reason behind Ruby's forlorn gaze.
"But I am now. I won't let you die full of regret like that, dad." Ruby finally sank into her seat, exhausted beyond belief and yet, still, she spoke. "Do you know why I chose to come to this time? It's because this is your turning point. What you do next will forever change you… and I'm here to make sure you choose the path that will make you happy." Her eyes searched for his longingly, trying to see past his ruby-quartz frame. "I want to take you to the future with me. We can live there, together, until the end of our days."
It was then that Scott saw how lowly Ruby's hands were as they rested on the wooden desk.
"Please, dad." It was Ruby's turn to plead. "Please… stop fighting."
This was it.
It was time.
Faced with such an amazing woman and such a weighted choice, what could he do?
Could he give up his mission and live his life happily, ignoring the plight of the present? Was this really not his battle to fight? He was a mutant, but he was not the only mutant left, was he? Hadn't he commanded enough death? Hadn't he sacrificed enough?
But all that did not matter.
Not when he was faced with the pain he brought this wonderful gem of a woman.
His Ruby, his selfish child from yet another reality he had never planted his feet on…
… … …
Silently, Scott reached out and claimed Ruby's hands in his.
And he smiled at her softly.