Seeing him will not be simple, though. The policy of the detention center is that only parents or those they designate may visit. The result is that he has not had a single visitor during the time he has been there. It’s highly unlikely that his mother will provide me with the letter of reference I’d need to gain entry as a visitor. I could produce a letter purportedly from her, or even use mind control to get her to sign one. However, my concern is that if they check with her, my deception will be revealed.
I think I’m better off to come up with a different pretext. Perhaps I can pose as a psychologist doing research on incarcerated youth and interview him as one of a number of subjects. I can certainly come up with some realistic-appearing documents and provide some mind control convincing in addition, if necessary. Of course, I still run the risk that after the visit my stratagem will be uncovered and they will find out that the documents are fraudulent, and maybe even that I’m a mutant. However, if that does happen, they won’t know that I had a special interest in one of their inmates, so his mutant status will not be revealed. It’s important that whatever I do I do not endanger this young man through my actions.
Another question I’m mulling over is what to say to him when I meet him. I do think I should reveal my true purpose in coming there, and let him know that I am aware of his mutant status. I will also offer him assistance in concealing and controlling his powers. But how much to tell him about my future plans? It seems unlikely that I can arrange for an early release for him. He still has another two and a half years until he turns 18 and is no longer subject to a sentence for a juvenile offense. Will it be helpful to him to know that when the time comes he will have somewhere to go, a safe environment for mutants? Or would the promise of a home so far off in time and place just underscore the length of his imprisonment? Perhaps I’m better off to suggest to him that I might be able to secure his release before then. Sometimes false hope is better than none.
One thing I’ve decided not to tell him – that his brother is with me. Nor will I tell Scott that I’ve found his younger brother. Scott has no idea that Alexander was convicted of his father’s death. I fear that that would be news he would not handle well. He might even want to go to Indiana and turn himself in, telling the authorities that he, not his brother, was responsible for their father’s death. After all the work I’ve put into his training, where would that leave me?
Logan looked up from the page and shook his head, ruefully. “Ain’t that a kick in the pants.”
“Yeah. After all that stuff before about making sure I never lacked for parental love, I get to this. You know how I told you I felt like he thought of me as some sort of machine or tool before? Well, reading this I felt like I was a valuable racehorse or something – lots of money and effort put into it, can’t let anything upset it.” He smiled wryly. “Sort of makes you wonder if the ‘parental love’ was just another part of the care and feeding.”
“Do you mean that?”
“I sort of do. I mean, I don’t doubt that he had genuine concern for me, real affection. I lived with him for years, from when I was sixteen until his death. I saw him in all sorts of situations, including really stressful ones. We’ve had serious disagreements, even major fights, and he always treated me with affection and kindness, even when he made clear he had strong objections to the choices I made. There had to be something real behind that.
“But for Chrissakes! The way he writes what he’s thinking when there’s nobody to see it but him. What he says about me. And about Alex! Lying to him for expediency’s sake –‘false hope better than none,’ my ass. In some sense this has to be the more genuine Charles Xavier than the face he prepared to meet the faces that he met, if you know what I mean. I wish I’d known this while he was still alive. I’d at least like to accuse him of being totally without human feeling – see if that got a rise out of him.” He shook his head. “You know it really sucks being furious with dead people. You can’t yell at them.”
Logan chuckled. “I know the feeling, although I usually don’t want to yell, just kill them. Slowly.” He clapped an arm round Scott’s shoulder. “I’d kill him for you, if he was alive. If I thought that’s what you really wanted. But you don’t.”
“No. I want him back, and not to kill him. To yell at him, but not just that. To make him explain himself, to at least have him say he regrets some of this.”
“Like the song says – you can’t always get what you want.”
Scott sighed. “But sometimes you get what you need. And, truth be told, I got some of both, along with the answer to my riddle about whether he meant for me to see these. Look at this.” He pulled the notebook out of the bottom of the pile and opened it from the back, exposing the last entry.
When I read over these journals I’m shocked by the emotions expressed in them. Or, often, by the lack of emotion. Was I really so focused on my goal that I lost sight of the people in front of me? Lost sight of the children in my care? I have given years of energy and effort into creating the X-Men, and I’ve given my love and my care to these young people who comprise the team. I ache with fear for them whenever I send them into combat. I don’t know if I could bear it if they didn’t all come back. I care for them so deeply I hardly know how to express it. And above all for Scott – my Field Leader, my shining son, my hero who brings them back again and again. May he never see what I wrote about him in the earliest of these journals. May he never know that there was a time when I didn’t feel for him what I do now, lest the bond be cracked ‘twixt son and father.
“So he never meant for you to read them.”
“No. I guess he forgot all about them.”
“How could he forget?”
Scott shrugged. “I don’t know. They were sitting there a long time. Maybe he put them there, put them aside, and thought he’d deal with them later. But it was fourteen years from that last entry until he died. It looks like he didn’t use that safe for anything else. Maybe he totally forgot it existed. If I hadn’t been so anal about reading in order, I could have started at the end and known he didn’t want me to read them before I made a decision.” Ironic smile on his face, he added, “But this way I got to hear some regret, at least.”
“Would you still have read them? If you’d known he didn’t want you to?”
“I don’t know. I might have felt bound by his wishes, but I might have found the curiosity outweighed that. I’m kind of glad I didn’t have that decision to make, that I read them in good faith, sort of, not realizing he didn’t want me to.”
“Are you glad you read them?”
“Yeah. I found out some hard stuff, but I also think it’s stuff I ought to know. Like you said, knowing’s better than not knowing.” He sighed. “It doesn’t always feel like it, though. Particularly the stuff about Alex.”
“So he did see him?”
“Yeah. A few times.” He shuffled the journals, pulling out an earlier one. “You want to read it?”
“I think I’ve read enough. Can you give me the Cliff Notes version?”
“Yeah, sure.” Scott flipped pages as he spoke. “Well, he did it like he said he would – came up with a pretext of being a researcher studying juvenile delinquents. But he told Alex the truth – or some of it, anyway. He told Alex that he, Charles, was a mutant and that Alex was, too, and was beginning to manifest. He offered to help Alex suppress his powers until he could control them.”
“He could do that? Suppress mutant powers?”
“Yeah, through mind control. He did that with Jean’s telepathy until she was ready to handle it.”
“And your brother took him up on his offer?”
“No, but Charles did it anyway.”
“How come Alex didn’t want him to suppress his gift or how come he did it anyway?”
“Well, Alex didn’t want him to because he didn’t trust him. And I can’t say I blame him. As far as Alex was concerned, Charles was just this strange guy who shows up and starts talking about mutants as the next step of evolution and offering him a place and a life’s mission when he got out of that prison. Alex couldn’t relate to any of it. I doubt he was even convinced yet that he was a mutant. As Charles tells it, he was completely dubious. He was fifteen years old and in prison for a crime he hadn’t committed, spending his time with kids who were a whole hell of a lot older and tougher than he was. He was scared for his life a lot of the time.” He patted the journal. “It’s all in here. Alex wasn’t buying what Charles was selling. He didn’t want a vision for a mutant future – he wanted practical help right then and there. Charles suggested he might get him out early like he said. Well, false hope wasn’t better than none – it just convinced Alex that Charles has grand plans but doesn’t deliver. And he was still hoping,” and here his voice got soft, “that I’d show up and rescue him.” Scott sighed again. “I think if he’d told Alex I was with him, if he’d told me about Alex – it might all have come out differently.”
“Why didn’t he?”
“He didn’t tell me because he worried it would upset me. A few more of those ‘high strung race horse’ passages around that whole issue. He worried I’d want to spring him, that I wouldn’t wait for his sentence to be over. And he’s right. We could have done it, too. No one knew who the X-Men were then. We could have gotten him out. I would have done it, with Charles’s blessing or without. Jean, Hank, Warren – they would have done what I told them to. They wouldn’t have let Alex just rot there, no matter what Charles said, not if I told them what happened. And I would have – as ashamed as I was of what happened to my father, I could have put that aside if I’d known there was a chance to save Alex, if I’d known he’d taken the rap for me. It all would have been different.”
“Why didn’t he tell Alex you were with him?”
“He’s less clear on that. He thought he could win him over without it. He worried, I think, that Alex would want to talk to me and then we get back to objection number one: don’t upset the Field Leader with trivialities like the knowledge that his brother confessed to murder on his behalf and took his place in prison.” Scott shook his head. “You know, I just about hate him when I think of that. I’ve forgiven him for a lot, including letting Sabretooth and Toad out and all that led to. And since one thing it led to was me being kidnapped and almost killed, it felt personal. It was a hard thing to forgive, but I did. I got over it. I don’t know if I’ll get over this one. I’ve got a feeling that forgiving dead people is harder than forgiving the living.” He shrugged. “Well, I’ll see, since I’ve likely got to do both.”
“Who else you mad at?
Scott didn’t answer directly. “I hate being lied to. That he made bad decisions – or at least decisions I view as bad ones – that I can accept. But that he knew about Alex all that time and never told me, that’s harder. As hard as reading that stuff about how he made me wait to be desperate enough. Charles was lying to me every day, for years. He was lying implicitly most of the time and explicitly when he talked about how sorry he was that he hadn’t found me earlier. You should have heard him – right after he got sick – telling me how he felt he failed me. Shit! It was all lies.”
“You think so?”
“Not exactly. I’ve been wondering why he said that stuff. It was kind of out of the blue. I think maybe it was his way of apologizing for a lot of it, for things he felt I might not forgive, things he was too scared to disclose. Particularly then – he was so sick and vulnerable and dependent on me. He wasn’t going to tell me right then how he’d lied, he wouldn’t want to risk my anger and my rejection. And later – well, he didn’t really have a later.”
“He had enough time to tell you where your brother was before he died.”
“Yeah, he did. And that’s going to be the hardest to forgive him for.” Scott slammed the book. “Damn you, Charles Xavier!” he said to it, softly.
“So, who else are you mad at? Me?” Scott shook his head. “Alex?”
“What happened with him?”
“Well, Charles visited him from time to time, trying to win him over. And then right before his release, trying to get him to come here, join the team.”
“He wouldn’t? Why not? Where’d he have to go?”
“That was Charles’s hope – that he’d come since he didn’t have anywhere to go. He’d released the control on Alex’s powers by then. He offered to bring him back with him. Alex said he needed to go home first. Charles gave him $500 to tide him over and for transportation, and told him to meet him in Westchester in a couple of weeks.”
“And your mother gave him a chilly reception?”
“She undoubtedly would have, if he’d gone to her, but he didn’t. He never went back to Goodland. He and Charles’s money disappeared. I’d say without a trace, except he’s easy to trace. From petty crimes to less petty ones to major felonies within five years. And then in and out of prison until last year, when Adam found him for me.”
“And you sold your soul and the X-Men to get him out.”
“And he acted like he knew nothing of the Professor except what he’d read in the papers. He made you feel as guilty as he could for what happened to him.”
Logan didn’t say anything for a long time. “Let me know if you want him dead,” was all he finally said.
“Thanks, but I can handle him.”
Scott found Alex in the Danger Room that evening, practicing solo. “You lied to me,” he said, without preamble.
Scott laughed, short and hollow. “Too many lies to know?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Why didn’t you tell me Charles had offered you a place on the team, offered to help you years ago?”
He sighed. “Look, I could make up some story, but you probably wouldn’t believe it. I might as well tell you the truth.”
“I’d appreciate that.”
“I thought you wouldn’t help me if you knew. I thought you’d figure I had my chance and I blew it – blew the money he gave me for transportation and the chance at a new life. I thought you’d leave me there.” He looked at Scott sidelong. “Was I right?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know. It wasn’t easy getting you out of there. I might have told you to wait it out. I might have been more wary of taking you on. I don’t know.”
“Scott, I don’t know if you can believe this, but I didn’t know about you. He never told me you were with him. It’s hard to believe, I’m sure, but he didn’t.”
“I believe you. Not because you’re so convincing, but because I know it’s true. I found old diaries of Charles’s. That’s how I know about any of this. I hate him for not telling me he’d found you, for not telling you he’d found me. For keeping us apart.”
“If I’d known, I would have come with him in a heartbeat. I would have gone anywhere to join you then. But to be with some weird old guy who wanted to put together some kind of mutant army? It just seemed crazy. I figured I’d make my own way.”
“Through armed robbery, among other things.” Alex didn’t answer. “So why are you joining a mutant army now? I’m as crazy as he was, you know, if that’s the measure of crazy. I’m trying to fulfill his legacy. Why come with me?”
“It was a way to get out.”
“And you could have disappeared again once I got you out. You still can. You’re not locked in here.”
“Are you telling me to go?”
“No, I’m asking why you’re staying. Why you’ve stayed all these months.”
“Because you’re my brother. You and I are all the family we’ve got, Scott. There’s a connection between us, something important.”
“Blood is thicker than water?”
“Nah, not judging by our parents, anyway. But there’s something, something real between you and me. What about this?” Plasma force emerged from Alex’s hand, shimmering in the air as it moved towards Scott, leaving a tingling sensation in his chest where it landed. “You’re the only person that does no damage to. I’m the only one that can see your eyes. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
“It does. I don’t know what. When we met – in that prison – and you told me to take off my glasses, it did something to me. I hadn’t seen a human being up close and in color in almost twenty years. You’re the only person in the world I can look in the eye. It’s something, something... transcendent. Transcends the time we were apart, anyway. But it’s not everything. I can’t stand to be lied to.”
“I’m telling you the truth now.” Neither said anything for a moment. “I’ve got nowhere to go. I’m not saying I’m comfortable here. I’m not saying I’m some sort of model mutant like you. But I’m staying. And I’m trying.”
“Yeah, Storm says you’re making good progress lately.”
“Does that count for something?”
“I don’t know how much. You’re a pain in the ass most of the time, Alex. Half the team has complained about you to me. And the other half probably wants to and thinks they shouldn’t because you’re my brother.”
“Do you want me to leave?” Alex looked more serious, more sincere, than Scott remembered seeing him since he’d joined up.
“No,” he replied after a pause. “I want you to stay. I want you stop lying to me and I want you to stop being a pain in the ass. Do you think you can manage that?”
Alex grinned at him. “Time will tell.”
“Time will say nothing but I told you so.”
“Is that from Shakespeare or something?”
“Wrong century. Auden.”
“You know I don’t know that high brow shit.”
“What did I expect from someone who spells ‘havoc’ with a ‘k’?”
The serious look came back to Alex’s face. “I am sorry I lied. I’d do it again if it meant getting out, I won’t tell you otherwise. I’m just sorry it was you I had to do it to. And I am trying.”
“You’re very trying – at least that’s what half the team tells me.”
“Okay. We’ll try, too – try to make an X-Man out of you.”
“Don’t let me catch you lying to me again.” He paused and added, “I get why you did. It’s certainly more Charles’s fault than yours. He should have told you. He should have told me about you. I’m furious with him that he didn’t.”
“But I’m easier to yell at.”
“Indeed. Maybe easier to forgive, too. We’ll see. I want to let go of this. I’m willing to try. ‘What’s gone and what’s past help should be past grief.’ I believe that; I want to live by it.”
“Shakespeare, this time.”
“I give up.”
Scott took off his glasses, looked straight into his brother’s eyes, and smiled.
This is the last story in a 10-part series. The entire series is archived here.