Title:Away From the Sun
Away From the Sun
Itís down to this, Iíve got to make this life make sense
Can anyone tell what Iíve done
I miss the life, I miss the colors of the world
Can anyone tell where I am
The television skipped from Fox News to "Mister Ed" to the obnoxious Billy Mays expounding upon the wonders of Oxi-Clean. When Scott Summers finally reached the History Channel and a documentary about World War II, he tossed aside the remote control and stared up at the ceiling, flinching occasionally at the sound of an explosion on the screen.
Jean was gone.
A week after Alkali Lake, her absence was still a constant, crushing weight on Scottís soul. Every night he woke from fragile repose with the sense of something missing, and when he realized all over again what that something was, a chasm of emptiness would open between him and the much-needed refuge of sleep. Then he would rise and roam the quiet hallways, looking, behaving, andótruth be toldófeeling very much like a ghost.
His wanderings inevitably ended in the TV room. He craved noise to crowd out the silence within himself, but he didnít want to look at the screen. He didnít want to look at anything, because it reminded him that he was forever condemned to a crimson world.
Redóthe color of Jeanís hair, adding salt to the wound each time he opened his eyes.
She had given him respite from his monochromatic point of view. With her telepathy, she had often let him see through her eyes, sharing the colors he would otherwise have long since forgotten. Their connection became so strong, he had even learned how to catch those glimpses without effort on her partósometimes even without her notice. Only through her eyes could he have discovered that Jubileeís favorite jacket was yellow, and that Professor Xavierís kind eyes were gray.
Yet those colors paled, literally, in contrast to the other vision she had given him. Her faith in their purpose had been stronger than anyone elseís. Her compassion, her conviction, her courage; all of these had given him the strength to lead, to fight when the cause seemed hopeless.
Without her, he had no will to fight any longer.
Yet somehow he would have to. The Professor believed in him, and the children trusted him. He couldnít let them down. He would have to rediscover himself and his strengths apart from Jean, no matter how much it hurtÖ and no matter how hard it was to choke out the seeds of bitterness in his heart.
Scott leaned forward, reaching up slowly to touch the back of his neck. The scar caused by Strykerís mind-controlling toxin was a devilís mark, a manifestation of deeper scars within his own mind.
He closed his eyes and put his head in his hands, carefully easing his fingers beneath ruby-quartz glasses to massage his eyelids. In that darkness, once again, he saw Jeanís faceÖ and he wondered whether she could have found any forgiveness in her own heart, if their places were reversed. He felt she would have, and he was ashamed that it was so difficult for him.
If he could not forgive, the message of equality and peace which he and Jean had both taught for so long would be nothing for him but a lie.
Then Stryker would have succeeded in turning him, after all.
Iím over this, Iím tired of liviní in the dark
Can anyone see me down here
The feelingís gone, thereís nothing left to lift me up
Back into the world I know
Something crashed by the bedside as Logan started awake, claws slashing, a growl rumbling in his throat. Met only by darkness and the now-familiar smells of Xavierís School, he sighed heavily and retracted the claws, bowing his head over his hands as he rubbed the raw ache in his knuckles.
He would have given just about anything to go back to the old nightmares.
In them, he now realized, he never truly had to face his fears. That abyss of pain and terror which had so often drowned his soul was mere fait accompli. The past had left its indelible mark on him, in the mystery which once gripped him, in the harsh realities of his nature which dominated him stillÖ but the memories, all in all, were really nothing more than cold and sterile facts.
Now he knew what real nightmares were like.
Now he saw eyes that gazed inescapably at him, accusing and condemning. Jeanís eyes, lit with an ethereal fire that consumed her as he watched, helpless. The eyes of the otherósoulless, silver eyes that changed to a warm and living brown, weeping adamantium tears as he thrust his claws into her heart.
He struggled to understand what those bitter eyes were searching him for, but found even fewer answers than he had at Alkali Lake.
What had he to fear any longer?
The questions of the past still unresolved? Surely not. He had turned his back on them, walking away from them just as he had walked away from Stryker. What he might once have been would never matter to what he could become. When he realized that at last, he had let go of everythingóand for a brief moment, he had known freedom.
Are you okay?
ÖI am now.
Logan closed his eyes against the dark and muttered a curse, pushing himself out of bed. Further sleep was out of the question. He could do nothing now but sate his restlessness, pacing the house like an animal in the calm before a storm.
So he went in search of someplace where there was light.
Perhaps it was this new life itself that he feared. A life that meant something; a life that called upon him to be more than he thought he could be, in many ways. A life worth fighting to keep, and worth giving for the sake of someone elseóa life that had a chance because someone else had lived, and fought for, and given her own life that way.
They were a rare and precious thing, second chances. Jeanís sacrifice had entrusted Logan with just such a giftÖ and some part of him was afraid he would screw it up. That he would be unworthy, not of the new life he had been given, but of the life that had paid the price to make it possible.
There are no answers that way, Wolverine.
It was a grim irony that Strykerís last words could echo in Loganís thoughts with such a different meaning. There were indeed no answers in self-doubt and second-guessing; not for his past, and certainly not for his future. He could only try to be better, to believe, to repay debts of kindness instead of vengeance. It might never be easy, but it would be rightÖ and perhaps it would fill the hollow place within him that once felt only anger.
Something of that anger would always remain, but it was no longer his masteróand he could never return to the familiar, comfortable bitterness of his old life, even if he had wanted to.
The half-lit hallways of the school smelled of fresh paint, sawdustÖ and still, beneath it all, traces of blood. Logan grimaced at the memories of that night, its disjointed fragments relegated to the gray-red nightmare landscape of his most primal core. When he was provoked, his capacity for human thought was intermittent at best.
He felt a strange, unpleasant moment of deja-vu when his hearing picked up canned gunfire noises coming from the TV room. Shaking his head, he moved down the hall to the doorway and looked in.
Scott was sprawled on the couch in an upright but somewhat corpse-like pose, his arms slung out to the sides and his head hung over backward at an uncomfortable angle. His shades were pointed in the general direction of the flickering black-and-white shadows that danced across the ceiling, but that didnít mean that his eyes were open, or that he was even paying attention if they were. He was clearly ignoring the noisy World War II footage on the television.
Logan wasnít sure he liked the manís choice of entertainment, and he did not care to dwell on any possible reasons why.
Just as he had concluded that Scott was asleep and was about to move on, a loud commercial erupted from the screen, and Scott stirred. He leaned over, coming up with the remote control in a pile of throw pillows that had been jettisoned from the couch, and turned down the volume a few notches. Then he dropped the remote and returned to his apparent state of sprawling catatonia.
"Still too loud for you, Logan?"
The offhanded question almost made Logan flinch, as it was the first acknowledgment of his presence that Scott had made. He frowned at the other manís harsh tone. Since Alkali Lake, they had been civil to one another; they had even worked together fairly well on a few of the rebuilding tasks. Yet for all the walls they had repaired, they had not yet managed to tear down the wall which still stood firmly between the two of them.
Logan was unsure that Scott could lead, and Scott was unsure that Logan could follow. Their respective roles in the crisis at Alkali Lake had not helped on either count, with Scott becoming a pawn of the enemy, and Logan striking off on his own purposes when he was needed most. Even the tension they felt over Jean was not lessened in her absence, in spite of Loganís rather awkward attempt to make his peace on that scoreónot so much with Scott himself as with Jeanís memory. Regardless of his flaws, he did have honor enough to accept her choice in the end.
Now, as he looked at Scott sitting alone in the dark, the phrase "charity begins at home" rattled in Loganís mind. This was his home nowóand if he was going to live a new and kinder life, it might as well start right there.
So he shrugged his shoulders, hooked his thumbs into the belt loops of his jeans, and sauntered into the shadow-filled room.
Itís down to this, Iíve got to make this life make sense
And now I canít tell what Iíve done
Now again Iíve found myself so far down
Away from the sun that shines to light the way for me
With a skeptical eye, Scott watched Loganís approach. The Canadian flopped his powerful frame down on the other end of the couch without so much as a by-your-leave, folding his arms over his chest. For a long moment he sat staring at the line of tanks rolling across the TV screen; then the stock footage suddenly cut to a young soldier firing a rifle from a foxhole. Loganís gaze shifted, the shadow of a grimace passing over his featuresÖ and for a moment, he looked more animal than human.
Have you ever seen real combat, boy?
The conversation was recalled clearly to Scottís mind, a snapshot of a time when what was pointless in the scheme of things had seemed important. Logan had never answered the question, too busy fronting petty challengesóas, Scott ruefully admitted to himself, he had been as well.
They both had their answer now.
The awkwardness stretched taut, snapping at last when Logan turned to cast a somewhat contrived glance around the darkened room. "So whereís Jones?"
"Uh." Logan looked back at the television, fidgeting.
As Scott watched him behind the cover of his glasses, he slowly grew more puzzled than irritated. He could easily guess what had once more awakened Logan to prowl the houseóand he found himself wondering how the nightmares had been changed by the return to the place where they were forged.
Perhaps nightmares were the one thing they had in common.
"Are the dreams different now?" he asked quietly.
Loganís head turned sharply, and he looked at Scott in wary surprise. Then his expression softened, and he lowered his eyes with a small shrug. "YeahÖ they are."
Scott said nothing, and waited. Logan was still for a long time; at last he unfolded his arms, his left hand sliding down to clasp his right, and he stared down at his fist as he rubbed the place where there were no scars that should have been.
"I killed the other one. The one like me."
The feelings this confession aroused in Scott were entirely ugly. He had gathered some understanding of who and what the other wasóand he knew her contribution to his own pain. He looked away from Logan, his jaw tightening as he closed his eyes.
"I wish that didnít make me glad."
He felt the movement of the couch cushions as Logan started, and glanced back quickly. Logan was staring at him, the hardness in his expression mingled with something else that was difficult to face, even through a concealing mask of ruby-quartz lenses.
This time it was Logan who turned away, and spoke in a quiet voice.
"Maybe youíre human after all."
It seemed a backhanded compliment at best, but Scott didnít have the energy to be angry. He stared down at his own folded hands, unconsciously mirroring Logan, and the two of them sat in silence for a long time. Scott wanted to say somethingÖ but Iím sorry felt too wrong.
It also felt like a lie.
"It wasnít her fault," Logan said at last, with a small shake of his head. "You know that."
Scott felt an ominous tingle at the back of his neckóbut when he looked at Loganís expression, he wasnít even sure which her he meant. Perhaps it didnít matter. He shrugged and stared at the television; Winston Churchill now. One of his role models, a great leader in a time of great suffering.
"Yeah," Scott murmured, and leaned forward with an urge to scratch the phantom itching of the scar, but pride restrained him and he stared down soberly at his restless, clenching hands.
"Wasnít your fault, either."
A pang ripped through Scottís chest. He closed his eyes, cursing mentally.
"You look like youíd feel better if you punched somebody." Loganís tone of voice registered somewhere between factual observation and bleak humor, and as Scott looked up, he could not prevent a small, bitter smile from curving his lips.
"Is that an invitation?"
The snort Logan uttered might have been some species of laughter, but it failed to reach his solemn eyes. "You wouldnít be the first to take it out on me."
For a moment, Scott believed Logan was referring to the students; a few of the younger children were afraid of him by association, after the carnage of Strykerís assault on the school. Yet there was something deeper in his face, a shadow of regrets turned inward, and it resonated with Scott in a way that he would not have cared to admit to.
"There was nothing you could do for her," he said softlyóand now he didnít know which her he meant, either. He only knew that some part of him meant the words for himself, as well.
His eyes downcast, Logan shrugged, unclasped his hands, and folded his arms. "Yeah."
He could have walked away from the X-Men. Instead he had returned, just in time to share their painÖ and to pay dearly in blood and peace of mind for a few jagged scraps of half-truth. That twist of fate was the twist of a knife in the heart of Scottís distrust.
"Why did you come back?" Scott asked quietly.
Logan cocked his head to one side, his eyes distant. It might have been an effort to put together a more eloquent reply than he had ever given in his life; but words were not his strong point, and they both knew it. At last he shrugged and met Scottís hidden gaze.
"It was the right thing."
That was all. No sarcasm, no cynicism; only simple, quiet sincerity, the final sum of a choice that Logan had madeóand Scott had to make all over again. Sitting there in the dark, he now understood how difficult that choice really was.
Scott sat back then, and for the first time he could remember, the silence between them was comfortable.
Now again Iíve found myself so far down
Away from the sun that shines into the darkest place
Iím so far down, away from the sun that shines to light the way for me
To find my way back into the arms that care about the ones like me
I'm so far down, away from the sun againÖ
© 2004 Jordanna Morgan -send feedback