by Domenika Marzione

The X-Men are © Marvel Comics; no material gain has been sought or achieved.

I've had the love of my life die in my arms. Twice.

The first time, I was blind with grief. I was drowning in pain and apathy and helplessness and I didn't want to be saved. I was so miserable, so determined to do Jean honor by giving her a proper mourning. I quit the team because it reminded me of her, because I couldn't face every molecule of the air echoing her absence. And everyone nodded approvingly at the propriety of it, at me finally showing the depths of my love for her by showing so much respect for her memory. Everyone felt better because I was taking it so hard, because the Scott Summers, the Great Stoic, was showing cracks under the strain of his loss.

Jean would have laughed at it all. She would have laughed because she never needed any ostentatious demonstrations to know how much I loved her. She didn't need the telepathy, either, she'd tell me. The little things, she'd say. She knew because I showed her in a million little ways that I loved her, that I was saving the world for her to live in. Let everyone else think whatever they wanted because, really, Scott, it's my opinion that counts. Let the rest of them wonder because I know.

But she wasn't there to laugh and I was so good at publicly grieving. I was so good at making sure my wounds never healed. I have no ability greater than the one that lets me hurt myself for someone else's ease and comfort. I was so good that it was a relief for everyone when I met Maddie because, by that point, I couldn't stop bleeding and I was making others uneasy.

And then Jean came back and my world came undone -- followed shortly thereafter by everyone else's -- and then things got better and then we were good. Then it was Jean's turn to mourn me until I returned, to watch me struggle to find a place in a world that had passed me by. Things were so dark, so black, and I was hateful and spiteful and cruel in ways that only someone who knows another intimately can be. But Jean held on, even when I would let her go, even when I would let myself go, because she knew things would get better. They always do. And they did, but then we hit a wrong turn on the way from better to good.

I can't go through this again. I won't go through this again. I can't stand in the spotlight and spill my heart's blood all over the stage just to make everyone else feel better. I'd never survive it a second time. Jean would understand. She'd be the first person telling me to ignore everyone else's opinions, everyone else's wants, and just take care of myself for once. No matter how much we hurt each other, no matter how far apart we tried to draw, we never, ever lost the ability to understand each other. I know her better than Logan could ever dream; I know her better than even Charles, with their telepathic intimacy; I know her better than Ororo, with whom she shared her secrets. And I will not listen to them -- or anyone else -- tell me what I should be doing to better be in accordance with Jean's wishes. I am already doing what I can: I'm waiting for her to rise again.

It doesn't mean I'm grieving. I am and fuck the ones who say I'm not. I will never love anyone the way I love Jean -- love, not loved. Present tense because it's permanent. She is a part of me whether we are man and wife or widower and memory and I shattered inside all over again when she breathed her last in my arms. I'm numb, from my fingers to my heart, unable to feel... except when I'm with Emma.

I don't care what everyone else things. I really, truly don't. I don't want to be alone with my grief this time because I go out of my mind; telling myself that she'll come back doesn't make it hurt any less. But I also don't want to sit there and listen to the self-absorbed mourning of others, nodding at appropriate times as the stories get told and the reminisces relived. I'm going to take care of myself first, for once. Because Jean didn't save the world so that I could give up on it.

Emma is not self-indulgent; she abhors it in anyone else. She is acutely aware of her own mortality and will only 'go along to get along' for just so far because life is too precious to waste it making everyone happy but yourself. She is impatient in a good way, intolerant in ways both good and bad. She is heat and energy and impetus when I have none of my own.

She loves me in a way I cannot reciprocate; her willingness to compete with Jean's ghost is powered solely by her self-confidence and aided by a hope that I will come to love her in some fashion more warm than the need and respect I feel for her now. In another woman it would be demeaning and stink of desperation. With Emma, it is a pragmatism fired with her own ferocity --she has accomplished too much to be easily foiled; she has gotten what she wants too often to be put off by my reluctance or anyone else's scorn. She is like Lee in that, unwilling to settle for second place and yet willing to risk being kept there. Strong.

Charles is off in Genosha. Ororo and the others are out playing mutant Wyatt Earp. I am here at a mansion -- a school -- full of refugees and children and someone has to take charge. Emma has all of the skills and the desire, but no one's approbation. I have the respect, but it's a shell without substance right now. Together, we can pull this off. Together alone right now, while everyone else plays at being betrayed for Jean's sake without realizing that Jean is not betrayed. When they are done with their righteous indignation, we shall have a team, a school, and a safer world and if it is to spite me, then that is fine, too. We survive as we can because we must.

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