Date: Wed, 11 Nov 1998
From: "Elizabeth K"
[Scott, Jean] After the Fall [PG]

Hey! This is a repost. Why? Because every time I bloody mention this to someone, they say, Really? I didn't get that. And, suspiciously, most of these poor souls have Hotmail accounts . . . if you have already seen it, read it again!!! If not, enjoy, and Guess The Author!

Hi there! Mitai here. This lovely piece of writing is the sequel to "On Letting Go." I didn't write it. However, I am proud to post it. 'After the Fall' goes out with my blessing and my admiration. I will be more than happy to forward any replies to the author, I'm sure s/he will appreciate it. [hint, hint.] Enjoy!

Disclaimer - Marvel's people belong to Marvel. PG for the very occasional swearword.

After the Fall

Jaya / Mitai


*I couldn't hold on.*

*I couldn't hold on.*

His own words echoed ceaselessly in Scott's mind, an unending, mocking refrain. Every time he closed his eyes, he was there again, kneeling at the edge of that building, desperately trying to hold on to his son. Scott rubbed his wrist absently, wondering why he could almost still feel Nathan twisting his hand free.

Wondering if he always would.

He'd dreamed last night, of course, and dreamed the precise sequence of events, unchanged from reality. Bishop hadn't taken care of the FOH and gotten there in time to help him pull Nathan up. Nor had Rogue carried out some daring aerial manuever and caught Nathan mid-fall. No last-minute rescue--no hope.

He wished he could be angry. Wished he had Nathan standing right there in front of him so that he could rage at him for making that last, fatalistic choice. A moment more, and Bishop would have reached them.

*A moment more, and you both would have fallen,* a bleak voice whispered to him. It was only a question of which would have happened first. Apparently, Nathan hadn't been willing to chance it. He had to have known, Scott thought hopelessly. No one, except maybe Logan or another mutant with a healing factor, could have possibly survived a fall from that height. He'd known, and yet that hadn't stopped him. Remembering the utter lack of fear in his son's eyes, Scott shuddered.

The door opened, and Jean came in. Her eyes were red-rimmed, and Scott could feel, through their psi-link, how much effort the calm facade she was wearing took. That was another memory like a knife twisting in his gut--how could he have ever thought so little of Jean, to imagine that she saw Nathan as a symbol of his, Scott's, betrayal of her with Madelyne? So self-centred--even if he hadn't known the truth already, known how much she loved the man who was not quite her son, it would only have taken a single look at her face when she'd seen Nathan's crumpled form lying atop that car in a pool of his own blood.

Jean came over and sat beside him on the bed. "Gambit's going to be all right," she said softly, and Scott felt a stab of relief pierce the haze that seemed to envelope him. "His recovery's going to take a while, Hank says, but we got him back to the mansion in time."

"And Storm?" he asked, surprised at how clear and unwavering the words came out, considering that this was the first time since they'd returned to the mansion that he'd trusted himself to open his mouth and say something beside 'I couldn't hold on'.

"She's going to be just fine," Jean said gently, taking his hand and squeezing it tightly. A dark, distant part of Scott's mind chuckled at the cruel irony of the gesture. "The internal bleeding wasn't as bad as Hank feared--she's actually in the bed right next to Remy's. Keeping him company, she says."

Scott could almost see the scene in the medlab now. Hank and Rogue and Storm, all gathered at Gambit's bedside, waiting for him to wake up. And alone, in a different, colder room, another man--another X-Man, who never would.

"Scott--" Jean whispered, turning his face towards her. "Talk to me--please." The anguish in her soft voice nearly broke him, but he pulled away, fighting to keep control.

"I--can't, Jean. Not now."

"You can't deal with this by yourself!" she cried. He looked back at her, and the tears in her green eyes pierced him to the core. "Damn it, Scott, *I* can't deal with this by myself! And you've closed off the link from your end, I can't feel anything from you--"

Scott started, only now realizing that he'd never lowered the mental defenses that he'd raised in that desperate moment, trying to prevent Nathan from entering his mind and forcing him to let go. "I--I didn't realize," he said unevenly. "He tried to telepathically force me to let go of him--" Jean stared at him pleadingly, and Scott, though every fibre in his being shrieked against letting her see the guilt that burned inside him, lowered his defenses, slowly and reluctantly. As he did, some of the strain left Jean's expression, but the pain was still there, as terrible as before.

"I'm not surprised," she whispered. "It's something he would do."

"He took the decision away from me." Scott closed his eyes, sinking his face into his hands. "He knew, Jean. He knew I'd never let him go, not a third time." Memories flashed vividly through his mind of the first two times, both on the moon. The searing heartache he'd felt at his decision to hand the infant Nathan, infected with the T-O virus, over to Askani so that she could take him to the future and save his life. The despair he'd felt as he gave in to Cable's plea and triggered the temporal vortex that had sucked him and Stryfe into the timestream--to their deaths, as he'd thought at the time.

"I would think that's exactly why he did it," Jean said, biting her lip as fresh tears shone in her eyes. "You two always did understand each other better than you ever wanted to admit." She stared down at her right hand, clenched around something, and seemed to come to a decision. Taking Scott's hand again, she put what she'd been holding into it. Scott had looked away for a moment, but turned back at the sensation of cold metal against his skin.

It was Nathan's medallion, the small gold disc marked with the symbol of the Phoenix. Scott's hand shook, and he nearly dropped it. He stared at Jean with a sort of stunned incredulity, not understanding what she meant by this.

"I thought you might want it," Jean said, meeting his eyes without looking away.

"Want it?" Scott asked in a cracked voice. "Jean, how could you even think--" If Nathan hadn't been so focused on the mission that the Askani had set him, he never would have been stupid enough to go after Apocalypse himself. The X-Men wouldn't have had to ride to the rescue, and Nathan wouldn't have even been on the Blackbird yesterday when they'd gone after the FOH. None of this would have happened, and Jean thought he wanted a reminder of it all?

"It was who he was, Scott," Jean said softly, obviously reading his thoughts through the link. "Good and bad--"

And the anger that had been simmering deep inside him exploded outwards at last. Scott rose, his hand clenching so tightly around the medallion that the links of the chain bit into his skin. "He was my SON, Jean!" Scott said feverishly. "Not the Askani's 'messiah', their weapon against Apocalypse--my son! As far as I'm concerned, this is as much their fault as it is the FOH's--as it is MINE!" His head rocked backwards at the telepathic equivalent of a 'slap' across the face, and he glared at Jean.

Her expression was absolutely calm, at odds with the tears that streaked down her cheeks. "It was his choice, Scott," she said slowly, as if talking to a particularly slow child. "His choice, his decision. If he were here to see you blaming yourself, he'd probably kick your ass up between your ears for suggesting otherwise."

"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" Scott didn't know what was wrong with him, why he was taking his anger out on Jean. It wasn't right, wasn't fair, but he couldn't seem to stop himself.

"No," Jean said levelly, rising. "But you have to stop blaming yourself. He took the choice away from you, yes, but he did it because he valued your life more than his own." She gave him a faint, tired, loving smile. "I wonder who he learned that from? But that was his decision, Scott, and even if you can't respect it, you have to accept it--"

The anger drained out of him, and he sank his face into his hands once more, feeling tears threaten again. "Some father I am," he rasped. Nathan, Rachel--both his children had lived lives like something out of a parent's nightmare. And instead of making the most of the time he'd had with them, he'd wasted it on his own fears and doubts and sense of failure, let stupid things like his annoyance over Nate's impulsiveness prevent him from expressing his feelings. "I was such a coward," he whispered as he felt Jean sit down next to him again, sliding her arm around him and resting her head on his shoulder. "I waited to tell Rachel that I loved her until she was in an irreversible coma, and I didn't let Nathan know until he was falling off a damned building. I sometimes think the two of them would've been better off with no parents at all. What did I ever do for either of them?"

Jean's arm tightened around him. "You can hardly blame yourself for anything that happened to Rachel," she said doubtfully. "That wasn't even you, Scott--"

"But it was," he insisted miserably. "Another me, true, but still me. I've been a miserable failure as a parent in any timeline, Jean."

"Look at me." There was a command in her voice he'd never heard before, and he lifted his head, meeting her eyes. "Scott," she said, gently but firmly, "your children--our children--" She hesitated, and then plunged onwards. "Nate and Rachel went through a lot, true, but they never let that stop them from doing what they thought was right. You might have had too little time with them, you might have let your reserve get the better of you when it came to telling them how you felt about them, but you gave them both more than you'll ever know. Their strength, their courage--where do you think they learned it from? Even when it was a different you, like with Rachel, or the memory of you, like with Nathan-- you were always with them, Scott. Believe that, if you believe anything."

It had been anger that had boiled over in him earlier, but now, it was grief. Shaking, Scott turned away from that penetrating green gaze, unable to hold back his tears.

"I wish I could--" he managed to whisper before grief took control entirely. Jean wrapped both arms around him tightly, and he turned into her comforting embrace, letting go of the last vestiges of control.

"Then I'll just have to keep telling you until you do, won't I?" she whispered, and said nothing more, just reached out to him through the psi-link, sharing her own grief and love. Letting him know that he wasn't alone.