Although this fic was originally meant to be a oneshot, the lovely reviews I received inspired me to add to it. This idea originated from a conversation about present!Scott and the X-Men's hypocritical treatment of him, especially in light of what Wanda has done to mutants. I haven't read the new Uncanny X-Men v3, and I'm shaky on the events of the Avengers vs X-Men series, but this is my interpretation.
"... and you are not to do that again. Do you understand me, Emma?"
Despite the thick metal door that stood resolutely between them, Scott's voice rang out loud and clear in the cold, otherwise-empty hallway where Jean Grey lingered. Emma's reply to his angry admonishment was significantly less audible, even if the derision in her tone was readily apparent, but the redhead would guess that she had said something snarky.
There was a second muffled exchange, then suddenly the door was jerked open and Cyclops, in all his stoic glory, was suddenly towering over her. Shocked, for she hadn't knocked or otherwise made her presence known, Jean took an involuntary step back and visibly shrank under his stern demeanour, instantly regretting her decision to visit their "school".
Seemingly stunned to see her standing there, though he had obviously been alerted to her whereabouts, Scott's expression softened, and his lips parted in something akin to guilt. Then he sighed, stepping aside to let her past.
Mentally berating herself for her timidness, Jean made an effort to square her shoulders and affect an air of confidence as she followed him inside. The room was somehow even colder than the hallway – though you wouldn't know that from the skimpy attire of the blonde who was perched imperiously on the arm of the sofa. Some effort had been made to turn to sterile room into something more comfortable, but the addition of living room furniture had done nothing to diminish the imposing nature of the stark, metal-covered surfaces.
Aside from Emma and Scott, the Cuckoos were the only other occupants of the room. Unlike Emma, they stood near to a door that Jean supposed lead to another part of the building, and she realised with a start that they had been te ones to announce her presence. The redhead – already feeling out of her depth, though still determined not to show it – flinched under their gaze and the adjoining memory of their mental assault earlier that evening. They smiled wickedly in response, but the glare Cyclops shot them went unnoticed by Jean.
"You shouldn't be here," he told her firmly, massaging the bridge of his nose as if she had just added significant force to his already painful headache.
"I have something I want to say," Jean answered, somehow managing to make her tone more assertive than she felt. "Where's Warren?"
"Recovering," Emma sneered.
"I want to see him."
"She wants to apologise," one of the Cuckoos, indistinguishable from the other two, chimed in.
"How sweet," the second cooed.
"Looks like she learned her lesson after all," the third added, smirking unashamedly.
Scott glanced at them briefly, irritation obvious in the furrow between his eyebrows. He looked back at Jean and sighed again. "How did you get here, Jean?"
"You invited me." That wasn't strictly true, but while they had been on the lawn outside the school, his mind had been practically yelling the whereabouts of their base, and images of her there with him had flickered across the surface of his thoughts, chased by mental, half-hearted self-deprecation. Jean had thought it was a clever thing to say, but the pained grimace from Scott and the half-amused, half-offended scoff from Emma quickly corrected that impression.
"Does anyone know you're here?" he asked, a twinge of something unrecognisable in his voice. Was it a desire to protect her? From Emma? From the Cuckoos? From himself?
"I told Hank."
Scott nodded and gestured at the door. "We'll talk outside."
Jean complied and let him open the door for her, following him back into the hall. Part of her worried that it was merely a ruse to get her to leave, another was infinitely relieved to be out from under the mocking gazes of Emma and the Cuckoos, and a third was scared of being alone with the man she knew simultaneously better than she knew herself, yet not at all.
The two stared at each other for what felt like an age, until the weight of it forced Jean to drop her gaze to the floor. Though she could feel his mind racing, and through his thoughts his heart hammering inside his chest, Scott remained quiet, waiting for her to speak.
Her nerves had gotten the better of her, and she scuffed her yellow boot against the floor. On her way here, she had rehearsed what she wanted to say over and over in her head, but now the script she had written herself seemed horribly childish, and she could not bring herself to recite it. Scott was already in awe of how young she was, and her actions earlier hadn't won her any admiration. But deep down she knew that it didn't matter what she said - he didn't care. He was just happy – happier than he had been in a very long time, even if he didn't seem like it – to see her there, like she was now. Before...
Finally, Jean spoke up, lifting her eyes to stare at his visor, and into the bleeding, weary heart beyond.
"Scott – my Scott," she corrected herself, hating that the distinction was even necessary, "Is angry at himself, at you. He can't see how he – you – could ever hurt the professor. The others are avoiding him. They can't comprehend how you could do such a thing, what would drive you to do that."
"And you?" he prompted when she hesitated. "What do you think?"
"I just want to understand. Hank... showed me things. He showed me everything. It's hard to make sense of it all but... I get that a lot of stuffed happen. With us. With the X-Men and everyone else. But I still can't work it out."
"It's complicated." The answer was generic, he'd said it to so many people over the last few weeks that it felt ugly on his tongue. Jean deserved a better explanation than that, but how could he begin to describe the events that had lead to the murder of his father?
"I know it wasn't your fault. The... Phoenix—" Scott's wince momentarily chased the already terrifying word from her mouth, but Jean quickly recovered her nerve and continued. "The Phoenix Force. I know what it does. What it did to me and what I did because of—"
"It wasn't you." This time his words were stern, carrying with them a finality and firmness that left no room for argument. It served Jean's aim perfectly.
"And it wasn't you that killed the professor. I know that. The others back at the mansion know, too. They just... They don't know how to deal with what you're doing now. With Magneto and all the fighting, and... you know."
Scott's lips twitched up into a smile that instantly melted her heart, though it as completely unexpected and seemed out of place in the sombre atmosphere her presence had created. "Why are you here, Jean?" he asked again, though this time his affection for her – his love – was written all over his face.
"I just thought you should know," she murmured, her voice breaking, her face crumpling, her resolve shattering under the power of his gaze.
Scott's arms lifted from his sides – where he had been holding them resolutely to keep them from crossing over his chest – and he took a step towards her as if intending to wrap her in his embrace.
Then he stopped, the weirdness of the situation hitting him anew. To him, she was his dead wife. To her, he was the teammate she had been guiltily avoiding, the one she knew she was fated to marry, the one she had seen kill her mentor.
Though she had initially gravitated towards him when he had held him arms out, the slight widening of her eyes told him that she was all too aware of what he meant by it. She was a little girl, and he saw her innocence – somewhat tarnished now by the future Hank had showed her – and his own, and he wanted so badly to go back to that time when everything had been so much simpler. He wanted to comfort her and protect her from the destiny that awaited her, and he wanted her to stay in his time so she would never have to meet it. So he could have her in his life again.
"I should go." The words slipped from her mouth, and instantly Jean wished she could take them back, but once the dam had broken there was no stopping the torrent that it had kept at bay. "I shouldn't have come. It was stupid. Tell Warren I'm sorry and I hope he forgives me. I didn't mean to do that to him. I'm sorry about... everything. I hope your school works out."
"Jean..." he started to protest, only to have the words die on his lips. "If you ever need to talk..."
"It's okay," she said quickly, already backing away from him. "I understand now."
And she did. She may have followed them to the school in order to comfort him, drawn by something she couldn't explain, under the pretense of apologising to Warren and finding out how he could have killed the professor, but what she had learned was something far more valuable.
It didn't matter how either of them felt now – even when they were no longer the same people they were now, even when she had done so many awful things, even when she was dead, Scott Summers would love her for the rest of his life. And that was the only lesson she needed.