In Lori's Own Words:
This is another one of my experiments. Be afraid. :) And don't freak out too much. It's a What-If? after all. Warning: Cyclops lovers are gonna hate this one. Come to think of it, so are the Gambit lovers. And, as per usual, everything here belongs to Marvel.
SPLIT SECOND DECISION
By: Lori McDonald
Oh, God, how could this happen?
Cyclops was shaking as he knelt in the blood and reached out to put a hand on the other X-Man's throat. There was no pulse, and no reason to fight for one either. The younger man lay back against a pile of rubble, half his intestines spread out on the floor around him.
How? He wondered again, but of course, he knew how. It'd happened because of him.
Suddenly he heard a step behind him and immediately clamped down on his thoughts, putting a wall up around him built of shame and self-loathing.
"Oh, Scott," Jean breathed, her hand coming down on his shoulder. "What happened?"
Scott looked up at her, tears streaming down from under his visor. She was crying as well, the tears leaving tracks in her dirty face. Her costume was torn and she was limping, but she was alive. Thank God she was alive.
"I couldn't get here in time," he whispered. It was all he could get out.
She sniffed sadly. "It's not your fault, Scott. You can't be everywhere at once and you can't blame yourself." Tired as she was, she moved to lift the dead man with a telekinetic bubble. "Come on, let's take him home."
Scott stopped her. "No, I'll do it."
Ignoring the blood, he worked his hands under his teammate and stood, holding the body against him. With Jean leading the way, he carried him away from the place where he'd died.
"I'm sorry, Remy," he whispered.
"Cyclops! Can y' read me? I need y' help, dere are too many of dem!"
Scott looked up at Rogue as the young woman came into the room. She was dressed in an ordinary sweatshirt and jeans, her hair tied back into a ponytail. She'd been crying, leaving her face red and her eyes bloodshot, and even as she stood there, she wiped her eyes with a kleenex.
Scott sighed. He didn't want to talk to anybody, but he still had responsibilities and he was pretty sure what Rogue wanted.
"What is it?" He asked her softly.
She blew her nose. "Um, ah was down in th' mor- uh, in th' Infirmary. Ah saw Remy. Ah- ah needed ta see him." Fresh tears flowed down her cheeks. "He looked so pale..." Her voice trailed off.
"You want to know what happened, right?"
She nodded dumbly.
Scott leaned back in the chair in Professor's darkened office. He'd come here to think, to be alone, to remember. Still, he knew exactly what to say. He'd repeated the story so many times since they got back that he knew it word for word.
"We were forced to split up when we searched the tunnels. There were too many places we needed to look. Remy went to the west, Jean to the east and I went straight north."
He sighed. "I heard Jean telepathically, saying she'd been attacked by the Marauders. She drove off Arclight and Scalphunter and told me she was all right, not to worry about her. Then Scrambler got to her and interfered with her powers. I could barely hear her at that point, but she managed to tell me her telekinesis was down. All she had was our psychic link, and that worked so badly we could barely hear each other. She said she was all right, but I couldn't leave her like that." He looked back at the memories. "I ran to help her, and when we went to find Gambit, we discovered the other Marauders had already gotten to him." He looked at her trembling face. "I'm sorry, Rogue."
She shook her head as she fought off fresh tears. "It ain't ya fault, sugah. Didn't he try ta contact ya at all?"
"Cyclops, help me!"
"No," he whispered. "Jean's communicator was damaged in the fight. His must have been too."
Rogue sobbed, and he sat there, afraid to touch her even if he could. After a few minutes, her weeping stopped. "Was it quick?" She asked in an undertone.
What was one more lie? "Yes," he told her.
"Cyclops! AHHGGHH!! Help me, please!"
Scott woke with a start, sitting up in bed with sweat pouring off of him. He was shaking.
Jean sat up as well and hugged him. "The same nightmare?"
"Yes," he gasped, reaching to replace his sleeping goggles with his usual sunglasses.
"I wish you'd tell me about it," she urged. "You've been locking me out since Remy died."
He got out of bed. "I know. I'm sorry." He leaned back down to kiss her. "I'm going to take a walk."
"Scott, please talk to me."
"I... can't." Scooping up his jeans and a sweater, he went out the door.
Quietly, Scott walked away from the boathouse and up towards Greymalkin lane. It was rough not talking to Jean, even rougher not having the Professor around to confide in. But the Professor was under arrest by the government for what Onslaught did and he had to be the leader of the X-Men completely. He had to do everything he could to keep them alive in these harder times. He had to be strong.
It was all up to him. All the decisions, all the stress. He was the one the others had to look up to because there was no one else. He couldn't let them have any doubts in him, any concerns about his ability to lead. He had his nightmares, true, but only Jean saw them. The rest of the time, he was the same as he'd always been, the inflappable leader of the X-Men, guiding the others, teaching them, training them so that none of them would make the same mistake Gambit did.
Scott turned away from that unfair thought. It hadn't been Remy's fault he was killed, and he didn't want to think about Gambit, about how he died. He tried to push the memories away, but the Cajun kept worming his way in, his screams waking him at night, his blood coating his hands no matter how he washed them. If he believed in such things, he'd say the Cajun was haunting him, but the younger man was safely dead in the X-Men's cemetary.
Scott looked up to see his walk had brought him to the edge of the old graveyard. He wasn't terribly surprised. It seemed he came here a lot lately. Sighing, he walked through the tombstones to one in particular. He knew he'd never be able to get back to sleep unless he did.
He reached Remy's grave and stopped. Grass had grown over the dirt, a luxurient green thanks to Storm's watering and there were some old flowers laid on it. Scott stared at the stone, but there were no voices, no accusations. Just a cold night that was getting colder and a tombstone that was one among many.
Scott had never liked Gambit. He'd been too willful, too wild. With too much of a dirty past he was obviously trying to hide. Once the initial shock of his death had passed, the X-Men had relaxed back to normal, with less of the stress for many that his presence had brought. Rogue and Storm still grieved for him, and Bishop had been upset, of course, but many of the others had gotten over him. Some even seemed a little relieved to not have to deal with the difficult Cajun anymore. Scott kept telling himself he was glad to not have to deal with him either. The X-Men had too many problems to face in the world to take the time struggling with internal conflict from their own members. He regretted the Cajun's death, of course, but they were really better off without him. He had to believe that.
"Yer up late."
Scott turned to see Wolverine walk out of the woods, his feral nature obvious in his enhanced canines and thick hair. He sniffed the air. "You paying yer respects t' the Cajun too?"
Here was another troublemaker. Logan had always been almost more trouble than he was worth, and with his new regression, Scott didn't know what to make of him.
"I was just taking a walk."
"Uh huh." The mutant eyed him shrewdly. "You ain't the one for introspection at 3 am. Or visitin' graveyards. Yer still blaming yourself fer the Cajun, ain'tcha?"
He shrugged. "It's a difficult thing when a leader fails one of his troops."
"Uh huh." Wolverine walked past him, almost stalking his way over to the Cajun's grave. He squatted next to it, his knuckles resting on the ground. "I've been watchin' you. People think I'm feral, an' I am, but I ain't stupid. Yer hidin' something 'bout that night."
"Cyclops! No! Damn it, where are you?!"
"I did everything I possibly could to save Gambit," he said coldly.
"Right." Logan lifted his head, listening to some animal pass by that Scott couldn't hear. "Then how come y' here? How come y' smell like guilt? How come y' got Jeannie cryin' in her bedroom right now 'cause you won't talk t' her?"
"You were in my house?" For some reason, that enraged him.
"Walked by an' heard her cryin'. Didn't take much t' figure out why. She's been doin' it every night." He eyed him. "I don' like seein' Jeannie upset." The words came out with a soft growl.
"The relationship between me and my wife is none of your business." He turned to go.
"What happened that night?" Wolverine asked suddenly. "Why is the Cajun dead?"
Scott stopped, clenching his fists at his sides. "I've told you."
The little man snorted. "I know. Jean got hit by Scrambler an' you went to help her. Meanwhile, the Cajun was gettin' his guts ripped out behind ya and neither o' ya could do anything 'cause neither o' ya heard him so much as whimper. I heard ya say that ta Storm, ta Bobby, ta Rogue... I've heard you use the same words every damn time. Now I want you ta tell me again, usin' different words."
Scott whirled on him. "Are you implying I killed him?!"
"Nope. But you wouldn't be killin' y'self if you didn't know somethin' y' ain't telling us. Yer walkin' on the edge, Slim. I can smell it on you. You ain't no good to us this way."
"I did everything I could!"
"Then why do you hate yourself so much?"
It was too much. Something inside Cyclops snapped and he screamed as he yanked off his glasses, blasting at Logan with all the force of his eyebeams. Through the red haze that always coloured his vision, he saw the little man roll out of the way and swept his gaze after him, the beam cutting a path through the grass and tombstones. The grass started to smolder and catch fire.
Logan snarled, leaping at him with his bone claws extended, and Scott turned his head, trying to catch him in the full force of his beam. Logan managed to twist to one side, though, and only took a glancing blow that blew him backwards across the cemetary and into the trees beyond. Scott put his glasses back on and stalked after him.
"It wasn't my fault!" He screamed. "I had to save Jean, no matter what!"
Logan voice sounded to him from somewhere in the darkness. "Jeannie weren't in no danger."
Scott lifted his glasses and strafed the wood. He was shaking, sweating uncontrollably.
"She could have been! Arclight and Scalphunter could have come back any minute. I couldn't take that chance. I made a split second decision to save her instead!"
"Instead?" The voice growled. "You knew the Cajun was in trouble?"
There was a roaring in his ears, making it a strain to think. It was so hard. "He wouldn't stop screaming," he grated. "If he'd only stop screaming for a minute... but when he did, it was worse, because I knew he was dead."
"So you left him to die," Logan hissed.
Scott still couldn't see where he was. He laughed. "I had to. I had to save Jean. Nothing else is important." He began to shake and sat down hard. "Oh, God, I left him to die."
"Scott?" The voice was a whisper and he turned to see that most of the X-Men had come to investigate the fight. They'd heard everything. Somehow, that struck him as funny and he began to laugh again.
"Hi, honey. Sorry to wake you."
Jean's eyes filled with tears and she stepped past a Rogue who looked like she was going into shock to kneel at his side. "It's alright, don't worry about it." She smiled tenderly. "Come on, let's go back to the mansion and see Henry."
"Why? Did someone get hurt?"
"I'm afraid so. Come on." Taking his arm, she led him away from the devestated graveyard back to the mansion, leaving the silent X-Men behind. As they passed them, Rogue's face twisted and she look like she was going to leap at him, but Wolverine stepped between them, shaking his head.
Scott looked back at them all in confusion. "Where's Gambit?" He asked Jean. "Shouldn't he be here for the Danger Room session?"
"He's resting right now," she told him softly.
He shook his head. "Damn that Cajun anyway. He's just so unreliable."
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