Scott's not good with people.
Actually, he hates people, human and mutant. He doesn't discriminate.
Okay, obviously he’s exaggerating there, because...duh. No one actually hates everyone, but.
But he sometimes feels like he does. Or he did.
He was never popular, mostly because he was always just weird, this high-strung, silent kid who lashed out at the slightest provocation once he realized that trying to connect with people only ended in disappointment.
So the truth is that Scott’s always been a freak. Before his powers manifested, which is a polite way of saying 'before he started shooting fucking lasers out of his fucking eyes', he couldn’t even fit in with the other outcasts at school, the ones who made friends with each other but went silent when he passed by.
It makes sense, then, that when Jean said 'you're not the biggest freak here', Scott felt like he belonged somewhere for the first time, even though, technically, he hates it at this school—
(It's on principle.)
—because with the other X-Men, he's found friends who are just as or even more fucked up than him.
And now that Scott’s got his friends, his people, he’s never letting them go. He knows he’ll do everything he can to protect them (like he couldn’t protect Alex), and he does, even if sometimes he may or may not take it too far and make them worry—which, by the way, is actually weirdly awesome, because people outside of his immediate family have never worried about him—when he 'demonstrates his complete lack of self-preservation'.
He honestly doesn’t get what the big deal is, because what it all comes down to is that he’s not going to preserve himself when that might mean that someone he cares about could get hurt or die, and Scott doesn’t want to be alive if it means someone else can’t be.
Scott’s always going to do everything possible to keep the people he cares about—hell, even the people he doesn’t care about—out of danger.
Then there’s his mutation, and the fact that because of his mutation, one of the things he has to protect the people he cares about from is himself.
Maybe, if he was a glass half full sort of person, he’d be able to see the mutation as a blessing, since it’s the reason he’s part of the X-Men, the reason he went to Xavier’s school, the reason he has friends at all, but he’s not that kind of person. He’s never been, and that hasn’t changed. Sure, the mutation manifesting led to some of the only good things in Scott’s life, but the mutation itself? Most of the time, it sucks.
It’s only a plus when he can actually use it, when he’s in battle or the Danger Room, and—okay, sometimes he feels like he’s in battle all the time, but technically he’s not, and he misses seeing colors that aren’t shades of red.
(It kind of hurts, the knowledge that he's never seen his friends, or his new 'home', in anything but shades of red. He doesn't even know the color of people's hair other than 'light' or 'dark', and if he can figure it out, exact shades are always difficult.
Not everyone has to see like this, and it makes Scott really fucking jealous.)
When the world’s not tinted rose, it’s just black. Eyes bandaged. Eyes closed. Nothing but darkness.
When Scott was little, he was afraid of the dark.
He thinks that that fear is coming back, though lately he’s just kind of scared in general.
He shouldn’t be, because he’s a man and he's Scott Summers and his brother was Alex Summers, who wasn't afraid of anything, who wasn’t even afraid of dying, who was a hero before Scott could say his own name.
But the only reason Scott hasn't killed anyone is because of luck, and that can’t be anything but terrifying.
He knows that once upon a time, Alex didn’t have control of his powers either, even went to jail, but he didn't have to walk around with his eyes covered up all the time, and Scott can't imagine him not being able to get out of bed in the morning because he was so afraid that today would be the day he killed someone, or because it just...hurt. Because the mutation does hurt, it hurts his eyes, which burn and water like he hasn't blinked in forever even though he blinks just like a normal person.
His tears are fucked up too, so when he cries or when the water in his dry eyes spills over he ends up with third degree burns on his cheeks, which is more embarrassing than painful, a physical manifestation of what a fucking wimp he is, tear tracks branded on his face.
Usually, he feels hot around his eyes, and sometimes his eyelids puff up like he's got allergies that are downright agonizing. He’s always been good at ignoring pain, but some days he has to stay curled up in bed with his bandages around his eyes because fuck, it hurts, it hurts like hell, especially after he uses his powers a lot, when his eyes and the skin around them feel red and raw, like they're blistering or bleeding.
It’s hard to see on those days, the kind of days where he holds onto Jean’s elbow so that he won’t stumble with only his blurry, watery, tinted vision to rely on.
Scott doesn't mention the pain to anyone, definitely doesn't mention that using his powers is painful, that he always has to bite back screams when he uses them, doesn’t mention that one of the reasons he doesn't use his hands to cover up anymore is because he ends up with second degree burns on his palms, blistering and cracking.
(The only person who knows is Jean, and that’s just because Jean knows everything.)
He wonders if Hank could help with the mutation’s side effects, but he doesn't ask. Maybe it’s because in some way, he likes the pain because it feels like it's something he deserves.
Maybe it’s cleansing.
But he thinks it's more that he just can't bring himself to let people know that he’s weak.
(He asked Kurt where he got his marks once, if he was born with them, and Kurt said no and looked uncomfortable, but Scott's not good at backing off, so he pushed until Kurt explained.
"You cannot tell anybody else," Kurt said, trying to sound stern and failing. "I think they would be not alright with it."
"Okay," Scott said easily, because he knows all about keeping secrets.
"They are Engelmarken. They are for my sins, to get forgiveness. I carve them when I sin, so that God can see that even though he made me looking like I came from Hölle, I still am his child."
Scott had looked at Kurt in horror, vaguely nauseous, before blurting out, “You do them? Fuck, man!"
"You cannot tell! They are to repent! So that God sees I have a place in heaven!"
"You're already going to heaven! You can't do that! You'll kill yourself someday, even...even by accident."
"I have not yet, and I have done this since I was thirteen."
"You'll kill yourself," Scott had said again, uselessly. "You're hurting yourself. That must've hurt. Your face, that must've hurt."
You're hurting yourself and I can't protect you.
How do you protect someone from himself?
"I will not kill myself. I promise. I am practiced at this."
"You can't. You can't. You have to stop, please, stop, Kurt, you can't," Scott said, starting to hyperventilate, because he couldn't lose Kurt, he couldn't lose anyone else, he couldn't let the people he cared about get hurt, not anymore, he always let the people he cared about get hurt.
"Oh, Scott," Kurt had said, sounding upset, even tearful, wrapping his tail around Scott's torso and his arms around Scott's shoulders, leaning his head against Scott's shoulder too. "I do not do it nearly so much these days. That is true." It was. "I will not do it at all anymore."
Usually, though, it’s not the pain that makes it hard for Scott to do anything, it’s the fear he shouldn’t feel, and the quiet crushing sadness that lives in his heart.
It takes a long time to get out of bed in the morning, sometimes because he just can’t figure out why he’d want to, and sometimes because he's afraid to even open his eyes, viscerally terrified that today might be the day that the glasses don’t hold and his laser beams end up killing someone, a stranger or an acquaintance or one of his friends (please God no), the day that he fucks up in the Danger Room and becomes a liability instead of an asset, the day that it turns out that his skin can make someone blister just from brushing against it.
Scott doesn’t actually run abnormally hot, but he can feel himself burning inside even if a thermometer can’t, and sometimes it’s like he’s just waiting to become untouchable. He doesn’t even like being touched, but he thinks he would miss it.
He knows he would. Even if sudden skin-on-skin contact makes him feel like there are red-hot needles pushing into him, he still wants touch, needs it, likes it in a way he didn’t before because before he didn’t really have people he was okay with touching, didn’t have Kurt and Jean and sometimes even his other friends.
It makes sense with Jean, at least, because he's into her, but not as much sense with Kurt, because Scott’s definitely not into him (not that there would be anything wrong with that), but he does let Kurt hug him, or hold his hand, because with Kurt—it's just that he's really tactile and Scott's not good at talking but he does...care, and it's a way of showing it and being comforting without having to do anything.
Besides, Scott likes making Kurt happy, because Kurt's got the most contagious happiness ever, and thick skin that doesn’t burn easily, and it always feels more like he's hugging or holding the hand of a little brother or a kid even though Kurt's his age, so, anyway, they touch. Not as much as Kurt does with the girls, but they do. Even then, Scott is easily spooked when Kurt touches him suddenly, or teleports right next to him. The only reason Jean never scares him is because he can always tell when she's about to touch him, even if she's behind him. She broadcasts it. He appreciates that.
He hates being so jumpy, hates all the threats he perceives that (probably) don’t even exist, hates himself, hates that he has even more reasons to hate himself now than before, hates being scared of himself.
More than anything, though, he misses not being scared of himself.
He was scared of everyone else, sure, intimidated by their existence and the fact that they had thoughts and feelings and could hurt him if he didn't push them away first, but at least he never had to be scared of himself.
Before, he would never lie in bed all day and tell everyone (because there wasn't an 'everyone', just his parents and sometimes Alex) he was sick and refuse their company with his eyes clamped shut under thick bandages, crying tears that burned him like acid, too scared to even open his eyes, breath coming agonizingly fast and bile rising in his throat, body wracked by tremors.
Sure, sometimes, before, he would feel too scared to face the world, but he usually did anyway, even if he ended up getting sent to the principal’s office for disturbing class again because he bolted in the middle of some lecture to panic in the bathroom, or if he ended up picking a fight with someone to get his mind off of things and got sent to the principal's office for that instead.
But now he can't always fight it. He can't even always fight.
In the Danger Room he can, sure, but now his friends usually pull him away when he tries to fight people outside of training. He yells, sure, but no punches are thrown and he never gets the chance to say anything really awful. These days, he only says really awful things by accident, because they just slip out defensively. Be an asshole and people won't bother you, but that doesn't work with a group of friends as close as his—it doesn't work with teammates.
They haven't even known each other for that long, but he's gotten so attached that he can't bring himself to consciously push them away (despite everything, despite the danger, he guesses he’s just selfish), except for the bad days when he can't let anybody in, curled up in his bed trying to fight his mind, nobody there to pull him away and calm him down, tell him it’s not worth the trouble and that everything’s fine.
And there’s Alex, of course.
Alex, everywhere in his absence, and Scott hates being so completely conscious of the fact that he isn’t ever coming back. He didn’t even see his brother that much, but he always knew he was there. He always knew he’d see him again.
Scott’s never going to see him again, and every time he thinks that, it takes his breath away. Not like when he gets too overwhelmed to breathe and starts choking on the oxygen that's supposed to keep him alive; instead, it’s like he’s gotten the wind knocked out of him, though any reminder of Alex’s forever-absence hurts more than a punch ever could.
Everything hurts. All the time. He's so scared.
He can't stop thinking it, the phrase running through his head, sometimes in the back of it, sometimes up front: I'm so scared, I'm so scared, I'm so scared.
He'll put on a brave face when he leaves his room, he'll drown himself in bravado and sarcasm like it's cologne, but he doesn't think he'll ever stop being scared like this. He’d gotten used to the other kind of scared over the years, the lighter kind that buzzed under his skin and made pointless anger bubble in his chest, but this fear is all-encompassing and big, big and constant. Sometimes being with his friends can help stop it, but sometimes they're part of the fear. Doing things, that can stop it too, doing everything he can. He throws himself into schoolwork just because it gives him something to think about that isn't what he's actually thinking about, but—
But in the end, the fear never goes away.
It’s settled over him like a coat that’s too heavy to take off without using more energy than he has to spare, so he just wraps it tighter around himself.
It’s easier this way.
He’d rather have terror as a constant in his life than try to get help for it, because what would he say? It would all just come back to I’m weak, and to get better you have to hurt worse first, and it seems like so much work when he’s already got enough going on, when he’s functioning just fine, when he’s already gotten used to being this way.
That’s what it comes back to, really. He’s gotten used to being like this, and things have already changed so much, the idea of seeing his worldview shift again makes him feel sick; so he’ll let himself live like this.
Burning with hate, burning with love, and with his eyes shut.