Before he was a leader, Scott Summers was a tightly wound ball of trauma and anxiety.
His power was dangerously strong and without control it would end up with extreme levels of destruction, which didn’t bode well for anyone - unless they wanted mass destruction and death, but that was something else entirely.
He was terribly crude, unable to speak without stuttering - unless he was cussing someone out, and flirtatious with anyone with a pulse that wouldn’t beat him up. This was all true...unless Jack Winters was around. Then he’d go back to being shy and quiet and extremely socially awkward.
The way his personality changed in front of authority figures he respected - or feared, in this case - was astounding. But truly, no one could blame him. After all, Winters’ cruelty could sometimes be down right abusive. His anger and greed burned like the cigarettes he puffed on. Even being a mutant himself, he had no sympathy or loyalty to his own kind.
The neighbors noticed. Of course they noticed. Hell, some had even cared enough to come over and confront Winters. Of course, with a smile he told them, “He’s a mutie,” and they’d be on their merry way to ignoring him.
Winters, though, was not completely satisfied - a man like him could never be - and so Scott learned to talk, scream, and cry quietly. But sometimes it wouldn’t matter and he’d be thrown into the closet for a day or two - he couldn’t decide if being beaten or being starved of food and sunlight was worse.
It turned out to be quite beneficial for Winters. Unfortunately it was immensely terrible for Scott. Especially when Winters heard him cuss out other kids, or flirt with the friendly prostitutes who helped patch him up.
Winters drilled a motto into his head: Don’t do anything that won’t lead you to getting more money.
That meant no cussing out and getting into fights with other kids because they were anti-mutant or homophobic. Meant no more flirting and smoking and drinking with the women on the curbs who slept around for money. And most of all no giving back stranger’s wallets after he’d taken the cash - it usually led to them finding out and chasing him anyway.
The only good thing that came from their ‘partnership’, Scott supposed, was that Winters was a scientist and as such had created the glasses that allowed him to see without destroying things. And that apparently without a few days of sun, he didn’t need them for at least the same amount of days he was in the linen closet.
Scott knew he could run away for good, but he also knew that there would be nowhere to run to.
No other person would give food and shelter to a dangerous mutant. They’d probably beat him or start yelling for him even looking at them. Plus, Winters would probably just track him down with those damned mental powers.
No other person except for the oh-so-kind Professor Charles Xavier.
He was Scott’s lucky break.
Scott had been wandering around after being temporarily kicked out by Winters after a fit of rage. Apparently stowing away a little of the money he’d stolen - not Winters, he’d always made others steal for him - was cause to be beaten, burned, and thrown out harshly. The words Winters always repeated no matter the reason behind Scott’s beating were these: You owe me. I own you.
And wasn’t that just lovely?
Kicking at rocks, he kept his head down, his hands had other plans though. It was always good to come back to Winters with some money, just to appease his greed. After all, his greed was greater than his anger.
But what he didn’t expect was to find that Winters was still angry, and now he was drunk. Usually he’d just be angry drunk. That was better, reflexes were slower and he fell asleep quicker, but when he was angry and then he drank…
Scott gasped, the money scattering onto the floor like ugly, green snowflakes. His hands were occupied with tugging at Winters’ larger one, which was wrapped tightly around his neck.
“Aw, Scotty, you’ve come back for more,” Winters cooed, a smile sharper than a knife stretching along his face, “And you’ve even brought me money! You’re getting soft on me, aren’t you?”
“Please...can’t...breath,” Scott wheezed back. Black dots danced across his turning-blurry vision.
Winters tightened his grip, “Oh, you dumbass boy, that’s the fucking point,” he snarled, throwing Scott on the ground to gasp for the much needed air, “I got you off those dirty streets, brought you in, and raised you to survive. You owe me, Scotty. I. Own. You!”
The last three words were punctuated by sharp kicks to his ribs. Winters was always careful enough not to break anything, but made it painful enough that any harder and there wouldn’t just be a little blood and bruises.
“Always remember that, understand?”
Scott nodded, curling up and clutching at him stomach. His vision was blocked by tears as he tried to will the pain away.
Winters, seemingly satisfied, nodded to himself and went back to him room - probably to drink some more and then pass out.
On the floor, Scott realized that Winters didn’t find him as valuable anymore. He was being thrown away like a piece of trash. And the next time he angered Winters might be his last, even if he delivered all the money he’d stolen.
So he stayed there, still and hurting until the pain dulled to a throb. As the noon sun shone, he crept up and out of the apartment. Out of the building, away from the block, and he was running.
He hadn’t realized he was running, but then he did and as he came to the conclusion that Winters wouldn’t wake up in a fit of anger and track him down, he let himself slow. A tentative smile lit up his face. Something real, the ones reserved for the women whos corners he stopped by. The ones left better for the dead of night as he had one of his few dreams instead of nightmares.
But then his body was shoved, glasses jarred, and a red beam of light shot out, releasing a wrecking ball. Pushing himself up desperately, he sent out another shot and hoped that maybe, just maybe, it would hit the ball and not some innocent person.
To his relief it did. To his horror, he realized what he’d done. That the humans were closing in on him, screaming, throwing things at him. And then he was running again.
Running to the subway, and to wherever it took him.
Running until he was shaking more from fatigue than fear.
Looking around his surroundings, he realized he was far, far away from where Winters was. The sign read: Westchester, NY.
A breathless laugh left him, and that’s when a man in a wheelchair came up to him. The man gave a little smile, before offering his hand and his home to the broken boy in front of him.
“Hello, my name is professor Charles Xavier.”
It had been one month, two days, and twelve hours since Scott had arrived.
The three weeks Scott had stuck to only saying, “Good morning”, “Thank you”, “Sorry”, and “Good night”. One week and two days after he’d started to be able to answer some of Charles’ tentative questions. And for the twelve hours after that, Scott had been able to answer most questions verbally, though not without a stutter.
“Professor, this picture...you knew my brother?” Scott’s quiet voice rang in his ears. Charles turned as quickly as he could in his wheelchair to see a picture.
A memory and reminder of people who’d turned on or left him.
Charles gave Scott a tight smile, not surprised that even after the Summers brothers had been separated he’d recognize the other, “Yes. And I think you know just what that picture is of, don’t you, Scott? You’re a smart boy.”
“You...you’re Professor X. You founded that mutant gang, ‘First Class’.”
“Co-Founded. Erik...Magneto, helped.”
Scott made a noise, part understanding and part confusion, as he traced his brother’s face. Gripping the arms of his wheelchair, Charles remembered the day they had disbanded.
Angel and Darwin had died in the fight with Erik and Raven, who decided to make their own gang: ‘The Brotherhood’. After that, Alex and Sean...they didn’t want anything to do with him. Not anymore.
Shaking off the memories, he turned to observe Scott. His lips were thinned and turned downward, eyebrows pushed together as he comitted the picture of his brother to memory.
Charles could hear Erik taunting him now , ‘Look at him, the boy’s all jagged edges and no soft place to land. And now you’ve come along, trying to play God again, Charles?’
Well fuck off, Erik. He wasn’t trying to play God, he was trying to help. That’s all he ever wanted to do: Help.
And he did. He helped Scott, made those memories turned nightmares a little softer. The dreams of burning planes, his brother leaving him behind, and Winters’ abusive hands weren’t gone. They just...hurt less.
Charles wouldn’t take away Scott’s memory. It’s what made Scott...Scott. He just made the edges a little less jagged and the nightmares a little less vivid. For both their sakes.
Scott was a fast learner, and after the first week he’d stopped projecting his nightmares; the ones that woke both of them up sweating and tearing up in horror and fear. And if Scott didn’t want Charles coming into his room to comfort him, then so be it, but Charles couldn’t just not help. So he did what he needed to, not that it made Scott less anxious or less broken, thank you very much Erik.
“Professor, do you have-do you have any other pictures of Alex?” Scott asked, the hint of hope in his voice making Charles develop a lump in his throat. Hope...he hadn’t heard that in such a long time, despite the things he lectured about.
Nodding instead of speaking, Charles rolled over to his desk. Unlocking the very bottom drawer, he drew out a well-kept scrapbook. On the front they stood united, Erik’s neat cursive underneath: ‘First Class’.
“Here,” Charles slid the book over his desk to Scott, “You can look through this, take any pictures of Alex that you want.”
Scott froze, placing the framed group photo down, he grabbed the book with shaky hands, “Are y-are you sure?”
“Yes, of course. He was your brother.”
“But these are your memories...this isn’t my Alex, this is yours.”
Charles slowly placed his hand on Scott’s, who flinched slightly anyway, “These are pictures. My memories are up here,” he tapped the side of his head, “If you ever want to know about him, you can ask me. You deserve to see who your brother grew up into, even just by pictures. Okay?”
“I-okay...thank you, Professor.”
“Of course. Would you like to take that up to your room and then come down for dinner, or look through it first?”
Scott hesitated, slipping the book off Charles’ desk before answering, “I’ll look later.”
“Right, see you down here in about five minutes?”
He nodded before soft footfalls turned softer until he was out of sight.
Dinner with Scott was a quiet affair.
It wasn’t that Scott thought Charles would go into a rage if he so much as opened his mouth. And it wasn’t as if Charles thought Scott would become a puddle of embarrassment if they tried making small talk.
If either of them was being honest, it was because they were used to quiet meals. Charles because he was alone and Scott because he didn’t want to wake Winters out of his alcohol induced sleep.
Though, Scott would admit, Professor Charles Xavier was the strangest man he’d ever met.
A rich man, and a powerful telepath no less, had brought him - a thief - into his home. His very big home. Full of very valuable things. Scott’s hand twitched just thinking about how much even one spoon would get him at the pawn shop.
Charles must have known Scott was a thief, even if he hadn’t used his telepathy. He did though. Scott sometimes felt Charles’ presence in his head, and he knew Charles was the reason why he had fewer nightmare. That Charles knew he was a broken, terrible person, who probably should be in jail.
Though sometimes he’d start to wonder, in the darkest corner of his mind where even Charles couldn’t see, what Charles would have done if he wasn’t a mutant. Would he have left Scott to die? To wander the streets? Or would he still open his home and heart to the poor little orphan boy? Such questions were carefully filed away, and pushed out of his mind. After all, he probably would have been dead without Charles, no need to wonder now that he was there.
Living with Charles and getting actual sleep, somewhere truly safe to live, and real food - not just scraps - he’d started to relax. He was filling out, and could no longer see more bone than skin.
Still, thinking back, he couldn’t see why the women on the curbs would tease him for being a handsome boy. Wasn’t as if they had reason to lie, he never wanted to sleep with them or had the money if he did. Then again, there wasn't really competition where he'd stayed.
Shaking away the thoughts of his past life, he watched as Charles ate his own slice of pizza. Yes, pizza. But it was rich people’s pizza. At a table. In a mansion!
“Scott, are you happy here?”
“Wha-yes! Um, very happy- I’m very happy here, Professor,” Scott replied hastily.
Scott hesitated before asking, “But if this is a school, where are the other kids?”
“It’s a new school, you’re my first student, Scott,” Charles informed, “I’m a little surprised you hadn’t asked before, but I understand this was a strange change for you.”
“It was a good change, though. I’ll always be thankful.”
With a warm smile, Charles asked his own question, “Why do you ask? Are you anxious to have more people here?
“The, um...opposite, actually,” Scott muttered, staring at his pizza as an embarrassed blush painted his cheeks. Charles’ mouth formed an ‘O’ as he realized Scott was nervous. That he didn’t want more people to try to impress, or to look out for, or hide away from.
Shaking his head, he assured, “You don’t have to worry, Scott. This is a safe-haven, but you don’t have to get along with everyone who walks through these doors.”
Despite his hesitant response, Scott’s mind calmed and was shuffled back in order. Charles couldn’t help but like Scott’s mind, it was so organized and calming.
A fond look passed over Charles’ face. Shy and stuttering, though something darker lurked that Charles wouldn’t look into because he respected peoples’ boundaries and kept his promises Erik, a different boy than Alex was before he’d left though the calmness of their minds was astounding. His expression wavered at the thought of his ex-friends, and he focused back on his pizza.
Charles wasn’t twenty-three and running a dangerous gang with barely college-age, incredibly powerful mutants. He was thirty, and trying to open a school.
Everything else was in the past, and here was Scott: the future.
There was an chance to help this boy, and he would. He’d do everything to help Scott grow into the man - the leader - he knew lurked under all the sharp edges of Scott’s mind.
He swore it.