Disclaimer: Angel, Beast and Cyclops don't belong to me. They belong to Marvel Comics. I am making no money from this project and it is for entertainment purposes only.
After reading many of the lovely stories written in the aftermath of Cyclops's "death," I found this story brewing somewhere in my own subconscious. I guess this is my own way of saying "goodbye" and it's heavily inspired by the great stories I've seen on the mailing lists over the last few weeks. I guess I was just wondering how a few of the other "originals" would handle Scott's passing and out it came.
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"Well it's just you and me now, Slim," said Warren Worthington as he flattened his palm against the cold granite of the monument erected for their fallen comrade, Scott Summers. As he clutched a bouquet of white roses against his chest, he traced the name with his index finger, allowing his sense of touch to make the moment seem a little more real.
Real. To the X-Men the last few weeks had seemed anything but real. When they returned from Egypt, several members of the team had tried to go about their lives as normal. As if it hadn't happened, as if the heart and soul of the X-Men hadn't... died. Warren found the thought still sent a chill through his spine.
The winged X-Man shook his head and addressed the memorial. "There wasn't even going to be a memorial, you know. Funny enough it was Bobby who insisted. Jean and the Prof didn't want to have anything to do with it. Jean..." he cleared his throat. "Charles is ... well frankly, he's too busy blaming himself to look around and see that his students might need him."
The flowers rattled gently in his grip, the baby's breath tickling the sleeve of his coat unnoticed as he shrugged. "But what else is new, right?"
Taking a deep breath as he sat on one of the folding chairs left over from the memorial service Warren said, "You were always our rock anyway, Slim. I think I'm just now beginning to realize it. Sure we did a lot for the Prof ... but it was always you. Setting the example, giving us a yardstick to measure ourselves by, showing us exactly what a hero was."
He frowned, "I wasn't there in the end. But I know you did what you thought you had to. I still wish ... we all wish there had been another way. We are going to miss you terribly."
Releasing a sigh, he hung his head as he gripped the bouquet tightly. "Jean's not doing so great, Scott. She claims that she can still feel you through your rapport, that you're actually fighting Apocalypse. No one believes her. They think she's losing it, that she's in a serious state of denial. Funny enough, I actually want to believe her. I know Apocalypse better than anyone, even your son. And if anyone can fight him, it's you."
He raised his head again to look at the cold, stone slab. "Please fight him."
After a few moments silence, the only sound the winter wind whipping through the trees, he continued, "But Jean will be okay. Betsy is going to her parents' home right now to get her. The two of them are going to some property I have in Tahiti. A place where she can think and figure out what's really going on in her head. A place that's not so cold ... a place away from the ghosts. We thought it was best that she get away from this ... from all the memories for a while. And she agreed. She's a fighter, Slim. Always has been. But I guess you already knew that."
He cleared his throat. "I wonder how much you knew that you never said. You were always so quiet. Jean said it was because you didn't know what to say, that you felt like an outsider among outsiders. But I didn't buy that. I knew you were studying us, observing us, figuring out what made us tick. You probably knew us better than we knew ourselves. You probably even knew that I hated you."
He pursed his lips and then took a deep breath. "Yes, Scott. I hated you. I know it's probably hard to believe, the rich brat who had everything handed to him on a silver platter hated the orphaned outcast. But I did. Do you want to know why? I bet you never figured out the reason. With all your watching and quiet contemplation, I bet it still puzzled you. But I think it was because you had nothing and made a life for yourself and I had everything and it always seemed to turn to ashes in my hands. You were the one with everything. And this isn't about Jean. You had something I don't know if I'll ever have. Respect. People respected you, Slim. People would lay down their lives for you. They loved you. And you didn't have to buy it with money or charm. They respected you for you."
"But I don't hate you anymore, Scott. No. I don't know when I stopped. It just happened one day. I think it was when I realized I no longer wanted to be better than you... but that I wanted to someday be as good as you. You were truly the best of us."
Warren got to his feet and stood in front of the memorial stone as he read part of the epitaph out loud. "A hero among men."
"You know, Slim. You're my hero. And always will be."
Behind him, he heard the a soft rustle in the brittle, winter grass and turned to see Hank McCoy standing a bit awkwardly, his eyes averted toward the ground, his bulky frame dressed in an uncomfortable three-piece suit and warm woolen coat as he stood at an unobtrusive distance. Warren said quietly, "It's okay, Hank, I'm done. I've said my goodbyes."
Hank approached him and stood silently at his side for a moment before he finally said, "They've been inquiring for your whereabouts at the reception. Bobby says it feels wrong without you there."
Closing his eyes tightly, Warren said quietly, "No, it feels wrong without him here."
He felt the weight of a furry hand on his shoulder as he continued speaking, his words suddenly filled with a twinge of anger as his voice cracked, "How many times has Scott been here to help us through something like this? How many times has he been there ... strong, resolute, constant? Dammit, Hank. It wasn't supposed to happen like this. Out of all of us he deserved to die in his bed. Old, surrounded by friends and family. He wasn't even allowed to say goodbye... there's not even a body for his grave!"
Quickly bottling the anger back inside, Warren took a deep breath and said in an even tone, "It's just not fair."
Next to him he heard Hank say in his soft baritone, "But we both know that life is not always fair. And that funerals are for the living, not the dead. We do not weep for his loss, but for our own."
He turned to look at Hank's sympathetic expression as he nodded his head slowly. It was good to be with someone who understood. Someone who felt just as powerless as he did. And then he could not help but laugh as he turned his head to see the rows and rows of cars parked along the mansion's long driveway, each belonging to someone who had come to pay their respects to the fallen Cyclops. "Scott would have hated this, you know?"
Hank returned his smile. "Yes. Yes, he would have. He was a very private person. I do believe the only reason there were so many guests at his and Jean's wedding was because she insisted on it."
Grinning, Warren said, "I think he was more nervous about the audience than the actual vows. It's a wonder he actually remembered the words."
He then laughed once and smiled as he shook his head. Hank then asked, "What is it? What is so amusing?"
"Nothing. Just remembering that time in speech class where Scott had to give an oration comparing the civil rights movement with the state of mutant liberation in America."
Hank chuckled, flashing a large, toothy grin. "Oh yes, and he forgot the words and his palms were so sweaty the ink ran on his note cards. So he dropped his notes, planted his hand over his heart, and started reciting the 'Pledge of Allegiance.'"
"And when he was through there was a blue hand print over his heart from the ink. He'd ruined his shirt!"
Shaking his head, Hank mused, "With Liberty and Justice for all ... You do know Charles gave him an 'A' for that?"
Warren's jaw dropped. "No way!"
Hank nodded. "Yes. For, and I quote, 'creativity in an awkward moment.'"
"Well, it was creative. And it was truly an awkward moment."
Releasing a sigh, Hank agreed, "That it was."
They stood quietly for a moment before Warren remembered the flowers in his hands and set them gently at the foot of the memorial as he said, "For you, Slim."
He then turned to look up at Hank as he asked, "What is it they say? Roses are for remembrance?"
"Actually, in Hamlet, Ophelia says that rosemary is for remembrance. But she was under a bit of mental duress during that particular scene."
Warren stood and brushed off his hands as he asked, "Well, what do white roses mean?"
"I am worthy of you."
Nodding, Warren said, "That seems appropriate. Or I hope it will be some day."
Hank clasped him firmly on the shoulder and the two started a slow walk back to the mansion and the awaiting guests. "Now, zinnias, I believe are for remembrance."
"Zinnias, you say?"
Warren stopped and turned back to look at the stone monument and said, "I think in the spring we should come back and plant zinnias. I think he would like that."
Hank smiled. "I do believe he would."
Before resuming the walk toward the mansion, Warren pursed his lips as he looked past the marker and over the campus grounds. "Yes, zinnias. For remembrance."