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Volume 2 -- Supreme Reflections -- Scott Summers

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Scott Summers
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Scott’s Reflections (AN: Takes place shortly after issue 35)

Everyone sees the world through an obscured perspective. There is nobody without bias. We all interpret things through our own skewed senses. Some are more skewed than others. Some are totally rational while others are completely insane. In the end it’s all subjective, but that doesn’t mean there is no room for truth.

I’ve seen the world through a skewed perspective for some time now. I have to look at everything through a certain tint and I’m not talking in metaphors either. I literally see the world in a tinted red hue. All those contrasting colors and fine details are utterly invisible to me. That’s because of a burden I must bear every second of every day of my life. It’s a burden that will always influence my perspective and it is my responsibility to accept that burden.

It was a rare moment for Scott Summers. For once he wasn’t hard at work keeping up with his classes or training in the Danger Room or refining his leadership skills for future missions. Every day of his life was serious and he treated every day as a work day. He rarely took breaks and rarely set aside time to just be alone with his thoughts. Tonight was one of those nights where his thoughts finally caught up with him. It had been happening a lot more lately and it was never easy for him, but he didn’t avoid it. He had avoided one too many harsh realizations in his life and wasn’t about to avoid any more.

So with no tasks of vital importance before him, he allowed his thoughts to drift. Night had fallen and the moon was full, shining brilliantly over the lake. He sat silently on the bench overlooking the clear waters below, taking in the crispness of the air and the calmness of his surroundings. It allowed him to contemplate that which he so rarely dwelled on.

My whole life has been a test of discipline. That’s the kind of mindset you develop when you spend most of your childhood in an army base. Everywhere you look, you see a ridged hierarchy. You see commanding officers giving orders to their squads and if those squads don’t obey those orders, then the unit fails. My dad was kind of like that and so was my mom. They stressed discipline more than most parents. But I’m not talking about the kind of discipline that earns a kid a good beating if he steps out of line. My parents could barley hug me, let alone ever raise a hand to me. I’m talking about the kind of discipline it takes to do the right thing even when it’s not easy. Sometimes it requires you to take chances, make mistakes, and humble yourself. But that’s the kind of discipline that will make you a better person.

I always had a lot to live up to in my family. The Summers clan sets the bar pretty high. We come from a long line of soldiers and military men. That’s part of why there are so few of us left. My grandfather, Phillip Summers, was the model my dad emulated and he encouraged me to do the same. What made him such a powerful character was his leadership. He was a Colonel in the United States Military who made a name for himself in the early days of the Cold War. There were a lot of war-mongering hawks back then, looking to start World War III for whatever reason. It wasn’t because they were cruel or bloodthirsty though. It’s because they were scared. My grandfather had the discipline and the courage to never be scared and stand up to the fear that consumed so many.

Phillip Summers was a man who lead by example. He was disciplined in his own right, standing tall against a long list of powerful forces looking to oppose him in any way. Alone, he probably wouldn’t have succeeded. But because he was such a strong leader, he got people to follow him. Some called him stiff and unyielding. Were he alive today everybody in the X-men would say he has the same stick up his ass that I do. He didn’t make a lot of friends with his methods, but what he lacked in friends he made up for in respect. He stayed focused and disciplined. He never lost sight of his goals.

My father would always end up smiling when he talked about him. He said it was rare for my grandfather to show much emotion, but anybody close to him could see that he put more passion into his work than anyone ever gave him credit for. That passion extended to his family. He didn’t have to say how much he loved them. That was always clear in everything he did. My father was kind of like that, but to a lesser extent. He never hid the fact that he was a bit more adventurous than my grandfather. In fact, he said I emulated Colonel Phillip Summers more than he ever did. And I was just seven at the time. I had no idea how he could know something like that, but I would eventually find out first hand when life decided to test me in the worst possible way.

Scott stoically looked up at the night sky as a string of cursed memories floated in front of his mind’s eye. Even for someone with obscured vision, every minute detail was as clear to him today as it was when it happened all those years ago. He could still smell the burning jet fuel. He could still sense the cold air brushing across his face. But more than anything else, he could still feel the sheer terror and sorrow of that fateful night. It was the night when father’s plane crashed and his whole world came crashing down with it.

The hardest part about discipline is maintaining it when the world around you completely shatters. Few things will do that better than watching your parents die in a plane crash. That was where I needed to channel the strength of my grandfather. At the tender age of eight I had to grow up really fast and discipline would only be part of the struggle.

That day taught me just how powerless I am in the grand scheme of things. I didn’t know why my dad felt the sudden need to go on a trip to New York. It came out of nowhere. He rarely took vacations from his job. My mom was the same. At the time I didn’t think much of it and neither did my brother. For us it was just a good excuse to see the big city and get away from school for a while. Now that I look back on it I would have loved to know why my parents wanted to leave so abruptly. I wish I could remember whether or not they were anxious about something. It’s hard when you’re eight years old and you tend not to think as thoroughly as you should. I guess I’ll never know for sure. All I do know is for whatever reason I survived that crash. From there, I would have to rebuild my life.

The first challenge was just getting out of a coma. It turns out my parachute caught fire on the way down and I came in for a pretty rough landing. I was out of it for a good six weeks. My little brother, Alex, was scarred for life during that whole ordeal. He was younger than I was and he had to endure the sheer terror that he was about to lose his entire family. I wish I could have been there for him. He was really never the same after that. By the time I did wake up, he wasn’t the same little brother and I wasn’t the same Scott Summers.

The X-leader turned away from the sky and just stared distantly towards the ground. After all these years it hadn’t gotten any easier. Tragedy and loss did a lot to a child, but the real impact can only come when that child grows up. It was hard to hide the scars of that tragedy. It still plagued him to this day. Even among the X-men, it affected how he carried himself. Most only caught glimpses of it because he always came off as being so well-adjusted and mature. It certainly wasn’t like that in the early days when he was still struggling to put the pieces back together.

I don’t care what Charles Dickens and old Disney movies say. There’s nothing charming or glamorous about being an orphan. My experience was nothing like Oliver Twist. For one, the orphanage I went to wasn’t the run-down shacks run by bitter old women that always come to mind. It was actually a special group home for children whose parents were soldiers that lost their lives in the line of duty. An old friend of my mothers ran it and by and large it wasn’t that bad a place. Alex and I stayed in the equivalent of college dorm rooms. The food wasn’t terrible, there weren’t any rodents, and we weren’t forced to do menial labor or anything. But it’s pretty hard to appreciate these amenities when you’re young and traumatized by the death if your parents.

The first two years were kind of a blur. I was so messed my primary focus was pulling myself together and not getting adopted. Every day the head of the orphanage would bring in these child psychologists to try and counsel me and Alex. They were a big help, at least for me anyways. My little brother wasn’t so accommodating. He often lashed out and broke down into crying fits when they asked too many questions. I often found myself having to comfort him. In a ways that kind of helped me because it forced me to try harder. I had to be the disciplined brother who pulled himself together when most kids my age were playing Nintendo and watching cartoons. I did everything I could. Then life threw another challenge at me.

Around the time I was ten, I started getting these pounding headaches. I remember the doctors saying they detected some unusual anomalies in my head while I was in a coma. I would later learn that these were my mutant powers just beginning to manifest. They weren’t all that flashy in the beginning, but just when it seemed I was beginning to move beyond the loss of my parents my eyes started flashing red. I knew they were flashing because every time it happened I would see this red haze around everything. Anybody who was near me freaked out, even my little brother. It was like I was a monster or something. That seriously worried the orphanage, who because of their ties to military families had to watch their backs.

This little period in my life was marked by my first experience with foster families. It’s a period I would rather forget because my powers made it next to impossible. Prospective parents tend not to look fondly on kids whose eyes glow like he’s a demon child or something. They looked at Alex a lot more fondly. There was even this one family that was rich and ready to give him a new life. That life lasted about a month because he kept lashing out. He didn’t want to leave me and he didn’t want to start calling someone else his parents. There was no reasoning with him. He was accepting the fact that he was on his own and had to fend for himself. I wasn’t ready to give in.

This experiment with foster families lasted another two years. Then something else happened that could have become yet another mind-numbing challenge to test my spirits. But strangely enough, it turned into an opportunity. It started off bad enough. I was twelve years old and the headaches were getting worse. The glowing in my eyes hadn’t gone away either. It got to the point where I couldn’t stop them from glowing and one of the doctors gave me these thick sunglasses to cover them.

Then it happened. One day Alex got into another fight with the staff psychologist. I ran in to stop him, but this was a particularly nasty episode so the guy calls one of the doctors in and he has a sedative. I see this and I don’t like it in the slightest. So I yell out at him, telling him to stay the hell away from my little brother. As I did this, I felt this burst from my eyes that shattered the sunglasses, knocked the doctor back, and blew a whole in the concrete wall that was big enough to drive a car through. It was my first optic blast, but it was a new beginning.

Scott looked up from the ground and rose from the bench. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he walked away from the bench and towards the walkway that overlooked the lake. His expression remained hardened, still showing little emotion. Even memories of the darkest moments in his life could not bring out the sheer breadth of the feelings he felt during those times. This was how he maintained his sense of discipline going all the way back to those difficult days before the X-men. Yet as hard as they were, these were the days that would later make him Cyclops, leader of the X-men.

That first blast caused quite a spectacle. It nearly shut down the whole orphanage. I was rushed to the hospital with Alex following along only to find out that I was a mutant. At the time mutants were really going mainstream so when word got out a mutant nearly destroyed an orphanage, that caused a media circus. I still remember the doctors trying to fight off reporters and officials from the orphanage trying to safe whatever face they could. For a while I thought Alex and I were going to get kicked out onto the streets. Because who would want to take care of us now? Alex wasn’t going to leave my side and no one wanted to handle a twelve-year-old who could blow holes in walls. Our options were pretty limited.

As it turns out, I never had to give any of those options much thought. The answer to my plight literally found me. This young guy, who was barely in his late teens, snuck into the hospital and found me and Alex. He said he used to live at the same orphanage we did. He lost his father in some failed military experiment and got bumped around foster homes in the area for a while. None of them worked out so he struck out on his own, forming his own little street gang of cast-offs and runaways. I didn’t know what they were into at the time, but he offered to help us get away from the doctors, the foster homes, and the media circus that was sure to follow us. I figured it was too good an opportunity to pass up. That cozy orphanage was not an option anymore with that gaping hole in the wall and nobody else was going to lend a hand. So I went with it.

I still don’t know how good a decision that was. Knowing what I know now, I probably would have reconsidered. That’s the worst part of hindsight. Everything seems so obvious when you look back on it. I didn’t regret it at first. This guy brought us into a group where we weren’t cast-offs or freaks. There were some kids my age and others as old as twenty. Everyone was bonded by the same link. They lost the life they once knew and were struggling to get something back. These weren’t a pack of deviants or drug dealers. These were kids like me and Alex trying to look out for each other in an unforgiving world.

They were good to us. Hell, they even got me a new set of sunglasses to hide my constantly glowing eyes. Alex sure got along with them. I think that’s largely because they let him vent. He was a fighter and they nurtured that. I’m sorry to say I may have nurtured it as well because I thought it was good for him, being able to let out all those frustrations. It would cause all sorts of consequences that I would pay for later. Every time I think about it I want to kick myself for missing so many chances to make things right.

But Alex wasn’t the only one to find his niche. With this gang, I became my own person as well. It was here where the discipline and leadership my father and grandfather instilled came together. All those hard feelings I struggled with were internalized and I refocused my efforts in a new way. Unlike the orphanage, nothing was provided. We had to fend for ourselves in order to survive. I was a fast learner in this respect. I learned how to strategize, plan, and execute while maintaining my demeanor. I had to make sure I was the last one who would panic and the first one to make the right decision. That’s what discipline is all about and that earned a lot of respect within the gang.

As the years went by I became the de-facto leader. The other kids followed me whenever we went out looking for food and shelter. Sometimes it involved petty crime. We had to break in, steal, and fight. But I always made sure we never crossed a certain line. We couldn’t be thugs or bullies or anything like that. I always told the others that the moment you start getting greedy, you set yourself up for disaster. They took that to heart and we steered clear of some pretty nasty temptations along the way. We could have easily gotten into drugs, fraud, and violence. But we didn’t. It was more important to stick together than it was to risk ending up in jail.

By the time I was fifteen I was carrying myself like a soldier. I had a focused mind, a strong spirit, and a newfound strength. I wish I could stay the same for my brother. By that time he was showing signs of his own mutant powers, except he wasn’t using them with the same reservation. It was up to me to keep him in check. I did that for everyone in the gang. That was my sole focus. I still had no idea what I was going to do with my life. My whole mindset was the present and finding a way to survive. It would take another horrible tragedy to make me contemplate the future again.

Pulling his hands out of his pockets, Scott clenched his fists in a mix of anger and sorrow. While the tragedy of his parents’ death hung strongest in his mind, it wasn’t the only one that left such a profound impact on his psyche. One of the hardest aspects of being on the street was that it was hard to get out. Being so focused, he never even contemplated leaving it behind. That was before his world became forever shrouded.

The gang was looking to stock up on some food and hardware for a winter storm that was coming. We found this grocery truck broken down in a parking lot. The trucker was obviously a little tipsy and backed it right into another parked big rig. It caused all sorts of confusion, which for us was like the perfect storm of opportunity.

It started with a distraction. I had Alex and some of the others stumble onto the scene and pick a fight with one of the supervisors on the scene. I don’t know exactly what he said, but Alex always had a talent for rubbing people the wrong way so within minutes we were clear to make our move. I lead another group towards the back of the truck where we started unloading as many boxes as we could carry. It all went smoothly for the most part. Then the trucker that started this mess decided to throw us a wildcard.

It was too stupid to ever take into account. The man dropped his whiskey bottle during the scuffle with the others and like any good alcoholic he went after it. In doing so he saw me and the others unloading the truck. This little fluke blew the whole operation open.

“You little punks! Get away from my truck!”

These words would end up haunting me for years to come. That’s because they would end up being the last words this drunken trucker ever said. The man rushed back towards the front seat of his truck and pulled out a 12-gauge shotgun from under the seat. While this was going on, Alex and the others broke away from the trucker’s buddies and made a break for it. Once I saw the gun I knew I had to cover them so I ran up to distract the guy so I could buy the others time. But one of the younger kids who Alex was with tripped and ended up falling flat on his face. He was an easy target and the first one the drunken trucker took aim at.

This would be the last time I saw the world in color. I was so determined to save that kid, my powers overcompensated. I yelled out at him. I don’t even remember what I said. I just remember the sunglasses I had on shatter into a million pieces as I shot out a concentrated optic blast right at the guy. It hid him point blank, sending him flying back. I don’t know if it was the sheer impact or the awkward landing that caused his neck to snap like a twig, but the man was dead. Before he even hit the ground, he was a goner.

The X-leader exhaled deeply as a wave of guilt washed over him. His stoic demeanor tensed and all those internal emotions that he kept so hidden raged within. It was an inescapable facet of his past. He took a life. He killed a man. It was enough to thrust even the most disciplined mind into a world of doubt. It seemed that was part of an unending cycle. A traumatic event forced him to re-evaluate his life. It was a cycle that could not go on if he was to rise above the sorrow.

It was like being in a deep sleep only to be awoken by an earthquake. A man died because of me…because of who and what I was. All that discipline and leadership faltered. I completely froze in place, losing any sense of focus or understanding. I don’t even remember Alex coming after me. He pretty much took charge from there and got me and the kid to safety. But that was just the beginning.

I never learned anything about that truck driver. For all I know he had a wife and family that still mourn him to this day. Everybody in the gang tried to console me. They said he was a jerk and couldn’t have had many friends if he was drinking on the job. They even justified it as being self-defense. That guy was going to kill one of our own. I had to stop him. That doesn’t mean killing him was justified. It didn’t matter what they said. I couldn’t forget about this. I couldn’t avoid the responsibility I now bore for this loss of life.

From that day forward, I always covered my eyes. I never again saw the world in color. It wasn’t just a personal punishment. It was the end result of my powers. That blast that took a life caused my powers to be stuck. The on switch was flipped and it couldn’t be flipped back. It seemed like a fitting punishment. I take a life and I lose my sight. I’m not sure if there’s anything poetic about it. Mr. McCoy could probably make a whole Shakespearian monologue about it. The rest of the gang thought I was losing it. I thought I was losing it as well. I no longer wanted this life. I no longer wanted to think in the present. I wanted to dedicate some energy to the future.

This whole mess made me an outcast in my own group. My little brother basically picked up the reigns from there. He would have to because a day after the incident, I stumbled away from the gang. I had these new super-thick glasses that could give way at any moment so I decided the only thing to do was tape my eyes shut with a blindfold. I could have walked out into an oncoming car or just tripped over myself for hours on end. I still don’t know how I made it as far as I did. It was a good thing I did though because at the end of that dark path, I met a man named Professor Charles Xavier.

The guilt and sorrow eased somewhat. In a daze Scott reached for the ruby quartz glasses that now constantly dominated his face. It was amazing to think how he could have lived every night after that as a blind kid. He could have lost his vision completely, but instead it was only shrouded. Because of this, he would have a second chance to do something with his life…something that would build towards a future rather than be chained by the past and the present.

When I first heard his voice, I swear I thought it was the voice of God. He was so wise and understanding. It was the first time I met someone other than my brother who could relate to what I was going through, but unlike my brother he wasn’t so brash and thick-headed when it came making important decisions.

Professor Xavier offered me more than a choice. He offered me a way out. He said he was starting this school for mutants. He didn’t even have any students yet, just another teacher named Hank McCoy. I could be his first. He told me he heard about the incident from the orphanage years ago. He also said he had a machine that detected me when I used my powers to kill that man. At first I thought he was leading me on. Then he talked about how that same machine allowed him to analyze my powers. From that analysis, he discovered that my optic beams could be completely contained by a substance called ruby-quartz. From this, he made these special glasses and offered them to me as proof. I admit I was pretty skeptical at first. Part of being disciplined meant not blindly accepting everything someone says just because it seems nice. But my instincts told me that this man deserved a chance. I’m glad I gave it to him because when I first put on those glasses and opened my eyes, I knew it was a new beginning.

I accepted Professor Xavier’s offer to join the Xavier Institute. I wanted Alex to come with me. But Alex being Alex, he made it very difficult. He was still loyal to the gang. He wasn’t ready to leave. He was still living in the present, not giving any thought to the future. I tried playing the family card. I tried playing every card I could play. It didn’t matter in the end. Alex and I erupted in an all out fight. It was the first time he shot me with his energy powers. I was lucky that our bodies somehow repel each other’s blasts, but beyond the fight it sent a clear message. Alex and I weren’t on the same path anymore. He wasn’t going to let me shelter him anymore. It was the hardest decision I ever made. I did everything I could for my little brother. Now I had to leave him behind.

Scott’s demeanor sank again. Every time he thought back to that fateful decision to join the X-men, the angry reaction of his little brother stood out. He once dedicated every moment of his life to protecting him since the plane crash that killed their parents left much deeper scars on his psyche. He kept trying to protect him, but on that day Alex shook off his protection. There was nothing he could have said or done to change it. He had grown by then and was a fighter in his own right. Alex chose to go one way with his life while Scott embarked on a new journey.

Sometimes I wonder if I did the right thing. I don’t know if there was anything else I could have done or said with Alex to at least leave the proverbial door open. If there was I sure lost my chance. I carried it as a chip on my shoulder as I joined Charles Xavier and the X-men. To this day I still never remove my protective eyewear, even when I’m presented with a chance to see clearly again. I needed to carry that burden. It’s a burden that would be instrumental in the new path before me.

I took to the Xavier Institute with a passion and dedication that impressed even Charles Xavier. I didn’t allow myself to be wowed by the mansion or the fancy equipment. I hit the books immediately, going to all my classes and doing all my training. I had a lot of catching up to do so I worked hard, much more so than a normal 15-year-old would care to. It also helped that I made some new friends during that time. Shortly after I joined, a beautiful and shy redhead named Jean Grey joined. In addition there was this kid with wings named Warren Worthington III that made frequent visits. They were the first friends besides the gang I ever had. Since this was the early days we all kind of leaned on each other. I get the sense they leaned on me the most because I was so disciplined.

I was on the front lines for those early developmental stages of the X-men. I would always volunteer first and work the hardest as Professor Xavier worked out the plans for his institute. I was the first one to test out the Danger Room. I was the first one to put on an X-man uniform. I was the first one to lead a mission. Jean later told me I came off as a veteran superhero, but in reality I was just as anxious as everyone else. I just didn’t let it show. I didn’t let a lot of emotions show. I sort of couldn’t during those early days.

My whole focus back then was making something of my life. I wanted to turn my powers from a burden to a blessing that cold benefit the world. Professor Xavier gave me all the tools I needed. He hired men like John Proudstar to train the X-men to fight as a unit while conditioning us to handle an increasingly hostile world. From that training, we began our mask-wearing crime fighting period. The first incarnation of the X-men was basically these mysterious vigilantes who went out into cities across the world fighting crime and using our powers to protect people. Nobody knew we were from the Xavier Institute. Our identities were kept secret and as far as the rest of the world knew, the Xavier Institute was just some fancy private school.

It was the first really positive press mutants ever got. Until then, it was this growing menace that was increasingly difficult to contain. I actually feel kind of proud that I was part of that initial push to show that mutation could offer something positive to the world. Seeing the looks on peoples faces after we saved them and hearing the cheers of people when they saw us in uniform, I felt as though I was really making a difference. I knew without a doubt that this was my calling. This was what I wanted to do with my life.

The X-men became my central focus. Every second of every day was dedicated to being a better X-man. Needless to say, that gave me a reputation for being a stiff. I believe the first stick-up-the-ass joke I heard was from Warren when I was sixteen. I’ve long since lost count on how many have followed. It was all part of the whole discipline aspect of my life. I had to stay focused and strong. A side-effect of that was that I came off as being cold and callous. It was a mindset that would end up having a huge impact on my personal life.

The X-leader sighed again. This time it wasn’t out of sorrow or anger. This time it stemmed more from exasperation. He spent so many years just trying to hold himself together. Losing his parents and surviving on the streets took every ounce of his resolve. Because of this, he never spent much time developing a sense of emotional maturity. He kept everything internalized and that would affect many relationships throughout his life.

It spent much of those early years in an emotional shell. The only ones I really opened up to were Professor Xavier and Jean. But even with them, I would be that proverbial stiff that everyone loved to crack jokes about. I never let it get to me because staying disciplined was more important than being cool or fun. Yet that shell couldn’t hold up forever. A select few managed to pull me kicking and screaming into the world of mature emotional interaction.

It was a slow process that spanned two full fledged relationships, complete with love, sex, and enough drama to fill any daytime soap opera. It was an awkward feeling at first, opening my heart to another person after losing my family. Up to that point love to me was a memory…a feeling I lost years ago. There was also the whole notion of having a life outside of work. I dedicated so much time to being an X-man and a leader that I stopped taking the time to be a normal teenager. Even Professor Xavier was worried that I was losing touch with what it meant to have a semi- normal life. In addition, losing my family left a big hole in my heart that needed to be filled.

Needless to say, filling that void wasn’t easy. But I admit I did learn to have fun again in the process. Dating girls like Rogue reminded me that being disciplined doesn’t necessarily mean I should cut myself off. It’s important to be adventurous. It’s important to reach out to people and connect with them on a unique level. It helps remind me of my humanity, which is something Professor Xavier has always stressed. It’s one thing to be humbled by tragedy and loss. What keeps us from walking the same path of men like Magneto is holding onto that capacity to love. If you don’t put any passion or heart into what you’re doing, then you might as well be a mindless drone. I didn’t want that and I worked hard to be just plain Scott Summers in addition to being Cyclops.

But time and again I found out that opening up to someone was more difficult than a thousand world-threatening missions. In pretty much every relationship I’ve had, romantic and platonic alike, the same problem always caught up to me. I never opened up as much as others wanted me too. This made it especially hard on the girls I dated. They never asked a whole lot of me, but what little they did was still too much for me to give them. It’s not that I couldn’t love someone. I just couldn’t love them unconditionally in the way that makes a strong relationship even stronger.

I never did take that extra step. Every time I got to a certain point in a relationship, I would hit a wall. There were plenty of other conflicts that came into play, but the one that always stood out most was that inability to truly connect with someone. Even with friends, it was tough.

There is, of course, an exception to this rule. It’s an exception that only surfaced recently, but it’s been building for years and it’s taken me on another new path in life…one that has led me to a happiness beyond anything I imagined.

Back towards the mansion, a figure emerged and approached the X-leader from behind. A familiar if not heavenly voice rang out, jolting Scott Summers from his conflicted daze.

“Hey there, handsome!” greeted Jean Grey, “Hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long.”

Scott smiled warmly as he turned to see the beautiful redhead approaching him with a bottle of wine and two glasses in hand.

“For you…it’s always worth it,” he told her.

“Aww, did you spend all this time coming up with that line while I fumbled with the institute’s limited wine selection?”

“Would you think less of me if that’s the best I could come up with?”

“Of course not,” she assured with a loving gesture, “I can always take comfort in the knowledge that what you can’t articulate with words you make up for with more subtle means of affection.”

It was the kind of tender comfort that only Jean Grey could muster. With these playful words in mind, Scott didn’t bother putting anything else into words. He could tell just from Jean’s grin that she understood all those tricky emotions he couldn’t get out. In many ways it was a perfect summary of the long and complicated course they took towards falling in love and coming together.

I can safely say now that the void I had in my heart has been filled. The pain and hardship that has plagued me for most of my life has been mended by the love of Jean Grey. She has always been a big part of my life. She’s my best friend. She’s the first one I really connected with after I joined the Xavier Institute. Now she’s my girlfriend and the love of my life. I’m not afraid to admit it either. I love this girl with all my heart and she makes me feel complete in every way.

It was quite an arduous process, the way we fell in love. It certainly wasn’t love at first sight or anything that sappy. In fact, we kind of bugged each other early on. But we became best friends pretty quickly. It may have been a lack of options because we were among the first students. Whatever the reason, we got along really well and did so for years without any romantic feelings creeping in.

Sure, there were a few occasions when teenage hormones started flying. Jean really grew into a beautiful body after showing up thin as a rail and pale as a ghost. She definitely drew her share of looks and I certainly can’t blame guys like John Proudstar and Logan for acting on them. But we stayed friends in each others’ eyes. We did grow closer over the years as we worked together and grew together into the X-men we are now. Perhaps it was inevitable that we would start to have romantic feelings, but that wouldn’t be enough. It took something big to shape these feelings into what they are now. It didn’t happen all at once, but a lot of it transpired over the course of a single mission.

It’s kind of funny now that I look back on it. That mission to the SavageLand went wrong in too many ways to count. Not only did we get stranded on that Jurassic death trap, but we were completely outsmarted by Trevor Fitzroy. He captured and contained Professor X and the entire team. Only Jean and I got away and for two weeks, we had to survive the worst this unforgiving environment had to over. It felt like a lifetime, having to spend every waking moment fighting for survival. But in the process something amazing happened…something that goes beyond just feeling a basic attraction to someone.

During the whole ordeal, Jean and I had to rely on one another in so many ways. On our own, there was no way we would have survived. We had to lean on each other for physical, mental, and emotional support. We couldn’t just be best friends. We couldn’t just be teammates either. We had to trust each other so implicitly that there was no room for shutting each other out. I had to open up to her in a way I hadn’t done with anybody before. I made myself so vulnerable and so did she. It’s only in that vulnerability that people can be who they truly are. There’s no subtlety, deception, or public charade. There is  only this raw sense of honesty. When I saw Jean Grey in that sort of light, it was official. I fell in love with her.

We became something special during that mission. I remember this one night when we were trying to get some rest, we just started talking to each other. We started spilling secrets that we never told anyone else, not even Professor Xavier. I told Jean about this time when Alex and I spent a week in a potential foster home. This guy looked nice enough, but when he saw my glowing eyes he was so disgusted he beat me. I never told anybody about it, not even Alex. Jean told me some of her secrets too, many of which come from those dark days she spent locked up in a mental ward. She said there was this orderly who would fondle her in a sexual way when she was drugged. For a while she was afraid he would rape her so she lashed out with her telepathy and gave him a seizure. The hospital wrote it off as just some random incident. She never told a soul.

All this came out as we were fighting tooth and nail to survive the worst the SavageLand could throw at us. It bonded us in a powerful way. It still bonds us to this day. I don’t think we understood it at first. It was kind of hard to wrap my head around, falling in love with this girl I once saw as my best friend. Everybody else just thought we were being dense, but it was a lot more complicated than that. We really didn’t understand the depths of these feelings. It took another set of failed relationships to make us realize it. But if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. All those trivialities and complications only served to make our love stronger. Now here we are, friends and lovers on the cusp of a blossoming relationship.

Scott slipped his arm around Jean’s waist and sat back down on the bench with her. Once seated Jean showed off her telekinetic talents, levitating the wine bottle in mid-air and pulling out the cork. With a glass in each hand, she directed the floating bottle towards her and poured them both a decent helping of wine. Once the glasses were half-full, she re-corked the bottle and telekinetically set it aside.

“It’s not the fanciest brand of wine to share on a romantic night. You can’t always get the most appropriate refreshments for an impromptu outing like this,” said Jean as she handed Scott a glass.

“As long as it’s with you, it could be club soda for all I care,” said Scott.

“Spoken like a true connoisseur, Mr. Summers,” she laughed, “So what should we drink to?”

“I don’t know,” he said, swirling the glass as he gave it some thought. “How about…to us?”

“To us…not very original, but workable,” shrugged Jean.

“If you want to add something, feel free.”

“Okay then…how about to us and everything we’ve overcome to get this far.”

“Hmm…I like that. It seems so fitting,” said the X-leader, “Almost as if you were reading my mind.”

“Just because I can doesn’t mean I have to,” she retorted wryly, “It helps sometimes to know someone just as strongly as you love them.”

The two lovers shared more affectionate gestures as they tapped their glasses and took a few sips. A comfortable silence soon fell over them. Jean curled up next to Scott, resting her head on his shoulder while they both gazed over the lake. The moon was hovering just above the horizon so it made for a very picturesque setting to this tender moment.

“This was a great idea, Jean,” said Scott with an approving smile.

“Indeed,” said Jean with a soft purr, “I’m surprised I was able to wrestle you away from your homework to come out like this.”

“I needed it. We both did. I’m glad you talked me into this. I hope you can keep talking me into it now that we’re together because it’s good for me. It’s good for us.”

“Glad you think so. I believe it’s a good sign in a relationship when two people can persuade one another to step out of their comfort zone.

“If that’s not a universal rule it should be and I’m not just saying that to be coy with you.”

“Oh? Guess that means I should forget about this little reward I was prepared to give you,” said Jean playfully.

“I’m serious, Jean. I’m being totally honest when I say I want our relationship to be different. We’ve both been on the wrong side of romantic dramas and I want to avoid those issues now that we’re together. That means we should share moments like this. We should pull ourselves aside, take some time out of our hectic lives as X-men, and enjoy what we have. Because even though we haven’t been together for very long, my love for you is a vital part of my complicated life.”

“Oh Scott…I take back what I just said. The reward still stands.”

With tender affection, Jean pulled Scott into a deeper embrace and captured his lips in a tender kiss. Under the calm night sky with the moon shining over them, it was a simple yet fitting gesture for a moment like this. There was nothing fancy or complicated about it. They were just two people in love enjoying a relationship that had been a long time coming.

It’s amazing how things work themselves out. One of the biggest lessons my father ever taught me about being disciplined is that so long as you never lose focus and always stay true to yourself, then good things will eventually follow. It may not be apparent sometimes. In fact, there may be some occasions where you feel like you have the worst luck in the world. But so long as you stick to the fight, stand strong, and never cross those important lines then life will find a way.

I’ve gone from an orphan to a street punk to a dangerous mutant to an X-man. Through every phase and every tragedy, I never faltered. I never lost focus. Now I have a cause that I’m passionate about, a life that I can be proud of, and a woman I love with all my heart. If the measure of a man is what he’s able to overcome in addition to what he’s been able to accomplish, then I like to think I measure up pretty well.

There’s still so much I’ve yet to accomplish. I don’t know what kind of challenges I’ll face or what tragedies I’ll endure to get there. All I know is that with Jean Grey in my arms and the X-men by my side, my resolve has never been stronger.

Next Issue: Jean

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