When something’s hard to talk about, it only gets harder the longer you put it off. That’s a lesson I should have learned long before this.
Logan was right and I was wrong. I should have told Jean at the outset that he and I were lovers. I realized that now, but the realization had come too late. Waiting had only made it harder to say anything. I’d let ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’ and it hadn’t worked any better for me than for the poor cat in the adage. It had only consolidated the distance between us, only left me feeling like I was deceiving her.
I’d told Logan I was putting it off for her sake, but I think now it was for my own. I didn’t want to disappoint her more than I already had; I didn’t want to have to face her sadness. I didn’t want her to feel like I’d betrayed her. Maybe I didn’t want to face the fact that I had betrayed her. After all, as I’d said to Logan, it would be harder news for her to hear I was involved with him than it would have been had it been anyone else.
It would have been harder news, I mean. It wasn’t news at all. It was a moot point now. There was no reason to tell Jean about Logan and me, since there was no Logan and me, not any longer. Logan wasn’t willing to have anything to do with me. I’d tried to tell him that he’d misinterpreted what was happening with Jean-Paul, but he wouldn’t listen. “Logan!” I’d said as soon as we were alone, “It wasn’t what you think.”
“How do you know what I think?”
“Oh come on. You were looking daggers at me and Jean-Paul.”
“It’s nothing to me what you do with him. Or anybody else.”
“I’m not doing anything with him. He was showing me the transmitter Hank made him.”
“He’d’ve been showing you a lot more than that if I hadn’t interrupted.”
“Believe me, Logan. I’m telling you the truth: nothing was happening.” I tried to put my arms around him but he stalked off.
And that was pretty much that. Northstar and Pyro left the next day, off looking for Magneto. Their part of the mission was to find him and infiltrate, convincing him they were joining the Brotherhood and finding out what his plans were and why he needed that gorilla.
We were continuing the investigation on this end, too. Logan was in on all the team meetings and spoke to me as necessary when we needed to talk about a mission. But that was all. I tried to get through to him for a few days before I gave up. I looked for him every chance I could to speak to him alone – following him to the Danger Room, to his bedroom. I found him at the pool at night. It didn’t matter where he was – he wouldn’t speak to me, wouldn’t touch me, wouldn’t listen to me. When I tried to make him listen, he left. Logan made clear that outside of team business he was going to have nothing to do with me. I don’t know who he was spending his time with, but he was out a lot, particularly at night. I didn’t ask where he went. As he’d said, we had no claim on each other.
On the team, though, he was still a full participant. I don’t know if anyone noticed the tension between us, but I did my best not to let it show and I think he did, too. Charles had no reason to warn me again that we needed Logan, so I’d best not alienate him. He was fully an X-Man.
Jean was working up to being fully on the team, too. She wasn’t yet involved in combat missions, but she was in on team meetings and taking on some assignments. She volunteered to go to the zoo and talk to the veterinarians and zookeepers in order to find out what we could about the animal Magneto had snatched. Her medical background and ability to pass for normal made her the obvious choice. I didn’t want her going alone, though. She said she’d be fine, but I couldn’t be sure. I insisted that Logan accompany her, for protection. He had no objections. When it came to X-Men missions, he was listening to me.
I took Jean aside after the meeting where it was decided that she and Logan would continue the investigation by going to the zoo. I’d decided that I needed to make up for my silence, as much as I could at this point. “Can we talk?” I asked. She nodded but said nothing.
We walked to the enclosed garden. I felt it was time, past time, to tell Jean some of what I’d gone through, to make clear to her the changes I’d undergone, to apologize for disappointing her. There was no relationship to disclose, no involvement with Logan, but I felt like there was still much more to say to her than just “It’s over” and “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t know how to begin,” I told her, sitting next to her on a bench, “but I feel like I have to tell you some of what went on when you were... gone.”
“I’m not sure I want to hear about it. At least not all of it.” She turned away.
“Fair enough. I’ll try not to over-share.” I took a deep breath. “I... I never lied to you, Jean. You knew I was gay from the start. I wasn’t hiding anything. I thought I could marry you, live that kind of life. I hoped I could, anyway. I tried for so long. I loved you so much I thought I could do it.” She didn’t say anything. I continued. “When you were... gone, when I thought you were lost to us, I was devastated. You can ask anyone. I totally fell apart. In the middle of a class, even.”
That got a response. “Hard to imagine Scott Summers out of control,” she said, half a smile on her face.
“It happened. I thought my life was over. Well, it was. The life we planned together was over. But over time, well, I knew my whole life wasn’t over. You were gone, but I was still here. And I had to think more about what I wanted to do with the rest of my time. So much of my energy had gone for so long into denying who I am, into hiding from who I am. I don’t think I realized just how much effort I’d put into that until some of the weight of grief and loss started to lift. It took a long time, but I came to feel like what we did – what we tried to do – it was a mistake.” I looked at her. Her face was turned away still, but I could see a tear on her cheek. I stopped talking, but she gestured to me to continue. “An honest mistake, a sincere mistake, a loving mistake.” I remembered describing my relationship with Jean to Logan, using almost those exact words. “But still a mistake.”
And now she was looking at me, tears in her eyes. “I believed you could do it,” she said.
“I believed you could do anything.”
And then I let her in. The mental shields I’d kept in place since she came back – first under Phoenix control, then as herself – came down and I let Jean into my brain for the first time since Alkali Lake. I let her feel all my sadness at hurting her, but all my resolve to be myself – my own queer self – as well.
She smiled a bit through the tears. “You really did try,” she said. “I know it. I guess there are some things that even you can’t control.”
“Can we be friends again?” I asked.
She shook her head. “Maybe someday. I’m not ready for that yet.” She started crying again as she got up and left the garden.
Jean and Logan went to the zoo the next day. Between interviewing the staff and Jean surreptitiously examining some of them telepathically, we found out a lot. There was no doubt that the gorilla Magneto had taken was a mutant. Mutant animals were rare, but had been identified a few times – always primates. The X-gene on this gorilla seemed to just be beginning to activate. It wasn’t clear yet what its powers were, but it seemed to be something that frightened the other gorillas. None of the other animals would go near it. The veterinary and zookeeper staff were being very cautious. None of them had touched the animal without protective gloves. But the baby gorilla had touched one of the attendants on the face while he’d been feeding it. They found him unconscious on the floor.
“None of his colleagues had seen it happen,” Jean told us at a team meeting after she and Logan got back. “Their working hypothesis is that the animal has super-human strength. Or super-gorilla strength, I suppose,” she’d added, to chuckles from all assembled. “But he doesn’t remember being hit by the gorilla.”
“And there’s not a mark on him,” Logan had added. “He doesn’t look like a guy who’d been in a fight with a gorilla, even a baby one.
“Rogue’s powers.” I was the one who said it but the whole team had come to the same conclusion.
Charles added, “And we know what Erik used Rogue for before – to power his mutagenic machine. Could he be trying to build a new one?”
“Maybe,” I’d replied. “Maybe he figured out what was faulty about it, why it killed Senator Kelly. Maybe he’s ready to try again, that he’s perfected it so it doesn’t kill the mutants it makes.”
“Or maybe he doesn’t care if it kills them,” was Logan’s contribution.
I paused. “We should tell Northstar and Pyro, let them know what they’re looking for.”
But we couldn’t. Jean-Paul had contacted us a few times, with brief messages saying that their attempts to find Magneto and the Brotherhood hadn’t borne fruit. And then once, the day before Jean and Logan had gone to the zoo, saying that they thought they’d found him. He’d warned then that he might not be able to contact us for a while, but I’d hoped we’d hear from him.
Days stretched into a couple of weeks, though, without any contact. If Magneto was planning a new assault on the non-mutant population, trying to use that mutant gorilla to power his device, we didn’t know where he was planning to launch it from or how. I hoped Jean-Paul and Johnny had successfully infiltrated and were gaining the intelligence we didn’t have, but the longer we heard nothing from them the more worried I was. “Should we activate the homing device?” I asked Charles, two weeks after the last contact we’d had.
“Not yet,” he answered. “I’m worried, too, Scott,” he’d added, “but I don’t know if using it would endanger Jean-Paul. He can activate it himself if he needs us. If we do, there’s a good chance Magneto will realize what’s going on.”
Jean pulled me aside after the meeting, but it wasn’t to talk about Jean-Paul. I didn’t know what she wanted, but I was just glad that Jean seemed to want to spend time with me. So when she asked if I were free to go for a walk after dinner, I said “yes” immediately and then cleared my schedule to make it true.
Things had been better lately. I do think talking to her that time in the garden had helped, even if it felt like it was just making things worse right when it happened. I hadn’t seen much of her since that day, but when I did she didn’t seem unhappy in my presence. In fact, she seemed much more engaged both with me and with the rest of the team, more involved with the others. I’d see her on the grounds or at meals, with Logan or Storm, speaking animatedly and much more like her old self. Although still not back to combat duty, Jean was very actively participating in team meetings and using her knowledge, skill, and mutant powers in our efforts to find and thwart Magneto.
Jean was pleasant to me in meetings, engaged in conversations that included me at meals, and generally seemed to be treating me like a colleague, and maybe a friend. But this was the first time she sought me out to speak privately since that day in the garden. It gave me some hope that we could begin healing the rift between us.
We strode around the grounds a bit, just talking about school and team business. “I’m going to teach summer term,” she said. “Hank wants to just work on his research and I figure – with half the school going home for the holidays – it’s a good way to ease back in.”
“It’s a great idea,” I replied. “There are plenty of courses in the fall to keep both you and Hank busy. If you decide you want to keep teaching, that is.”
“I do. I’m sure I do. I want to get back to normal, back to work. I’ve spoken to Brad Langer in Yonkers about going back to the clinic, too. And I’ll be ready to be back on the team soon, too – completely – including combat missions. I’m sure of it.”
“I don’t want to rush you.”
“I know. You’ve been great. It’s helped – I’ve felt like everyone has really been so understanding. It’s made a difference. I’ve felt welcomed, wanted, but not pushed. They’ve all followed your lead, Scott.”
“I know how hard this has all been for you.” Looking at her expression, I added, “Well, I guess not really. I don’t suppose any of us can. But I appreciate that it has been extremely traumatic. I want to help. I don’t want to make things worse.”
“I know. I mean it – you’ve been great. And I really do want us to, well, to be friends again. I thought we should talk a bit, clear the air. I know I wasn’t so receptive to it when you tried, but I’ve been thinking about what you said a lot. I want us to try to find a way to kind of move on, you know?”
I nodded. “I appreciate that. Really.” Neither of us said anything for a minute. “Jean,” I said, finally. “I didn’t want to hurt you. But I did; I know that. I want to take responsibility for it, do what I can. But... well, I didn’t know how not to hurt you, if that makes any sense.”
She nodded. “Yeah, it makes sense. Look, I’ve thought a lot about it, about what we were trying to do. Some of the time I’ve felt really mad, felt like you were just using me to play straight, like I was just your beard. That’s the term, right?”
I nodded. “It wasn’t like that, really. I’m not saying that that wasn’t part of it – wanting to be respectable, acceptable, living a straight life. But a whole lot of it was loving you. You have to believe that.”
“I do. I don’t think I ever really doubted it. It’s just – well, realizing it was over and thinking you’re probably going on to some happy life with some guy and I’m just on my own... I got a little bitter sometimes. But I’m over that, I think. I know what we had was something real – not just a sham so you could look straight. We shared so much, had so much going for us. Love, respect, common experiences. Shared purpose and vision. It was easy to lose sight of why it couldn’t work.” I started to speak, but she continued. “And if your motives were mixed, well so were mine. I’d been hurt too many times by guys who didn’t really care about me. You – you were my friend. I knew you cared; I knew you’d take care of me. I may have been the safe choice for you, but you were the safe choice for me. We both should have known better than to play it safe.”
I laughed. “Hey, maybe we just needed to have some safe zone in our lives, what with Charles sending us out to almost get killed all the time.”
She laughed, too. It felt good – sitting, talking, laughing together. I said so.
“Me, too,” she said. “When all’s said and done; when it’s all over – well, all the stuff we liked about each other is still there, isn’t it? We were friends long before we were lovers. I want to be your friend again, Scott.”
“Nothing would make me happier.”
And I felt happy. Relaxed, comfortable with her. Until she asked me, “Are you... well, involved with anyone?”
I shook my head. “No, not really. I was, or at least I thought we were going to be... whatever. It didn’t work out, I guess. At least that’s how it looks now.”
“I’m sorry, Scott.” She hesitated, as if not sure whether to say more. “I think I know a little of what went on. Not everything, but I know who it was. I saw you together sometimes. Plus, I read his mind, so I knew he was interested in you.” I was surprised to hear this – I know Charles had taught Logan how to use mental shields, and my impression had been that he was careful not to allow telepaths in his mind without his permission.
Jean continued. “I didn’t mean to – he broadcasts something awful when he’s around you. Someone should teach him about mental shields.”
“Jean, I don’t know what to – ”
“It’s okay. You don’t have to talk to me about it. And no, Jean-Paul hasn’t said anything, either. Just blushed when I asked him – right before he left with Johnny.” She looked down. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out. And now, with him off on a mission, well... I hope you didn’t part badly.”
“Jean - ”
“No, I mean it. I know, he and I always kind of clashed, but that doesn’t mean I wish him ill. And I want you to be happy. So, if it’s what you want, being with him...”
“It’s not. You’ve got it all wrong.”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought him up.” I didn’t know what to say. She continued before I had a chance to figure that out and answer. “I’ve been seeing someone myself.”
“Great!” I said, perhaps a little too heartily. “I’m glad to hear it. I had no idea.”
“Well, it’s kind of new. And I’m trying to keep a low profile. You know how this place can be such a fish bowl. But I didn’t want you finding out from someone else.”
“I appreciate that. Umm, is it serious?”
She paused in thought. “I don’t know. No, not yet. It’s too early to say it is. But I kind of hope it will be. He’s... different. Special. But maybe not cut out for a serious relationship. Still, maybe he could, if he really wanted to. I just know I love being with him.” She touched my arm and looked right at me. “Don’t tell anyone, please. Don’t even let him know that you know.”
“He’s someone I know.”
This series begins at http://mofic.livejournal.com/31235.html and is also available here
Summers in a Sea of Glory is a sequel to Returning Spring, which in turn was a sequel to After the Fall.