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To Rebuild a Life

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When Alex left, Scott hadn't understood why.

Alex had been the resourceful one. He had been the one that was supposed to do something with his life. He was not supposed to suddenly rebel, arguing with his parents at all hours while Scott squeezed a pillow to his head in an attempt to smother out the screams. Their family home became like a pressure cooker, the tension boiling greater and greater until it felt like it would burst at any moment.

And it finally did, three weeks after the shouting began.

It wasn't a big explosion. It wasn't slamming doors and screamed curses.

Instead, it was Scott waking up to Alex shuffling around on his half of the room, cramming clothes into bags.

“Alex?” Scott sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “What are you doing? Are you going somewhere?”

Alex froze, not daring to look back at him. “Yeah,” he said, his voice rough. “Yeah, I'm going away.”

Scott frowned. “But when will you be back?”

Slowly, Alex resumed shoving items in his bag, still not looking at him. “I'm not coming back.”

The rusty wheels in Scott’s sleep-addled brain slowly began to churn. Alex was leaving. Alex wasn't coming back. But that was impossible, because Alex couldn't just leave him. The longest Scott had ever gone without his brother was a couple days; Alex was the most constant thing in his life. Decisively, Scott slid out of the bed and scrambled over to his closet, yanking out a bag and beginning to shove items in as well.

This time, Alex did look at him. “What are you doing?”

“I'm coming with you,” Scott informed him. In his mind, it was simple. Alex was his brother. Alex was leaving. Brothers were meant to stick together. Ergo, Scott was going with him.

“No, you're not.”

“Yes, I a-”

“No, you're not!”

Scott shrank back, surprised. Alex had never yelled at him before, not like that. Slowly, he sank back onto his bed, his eyes burning. “Yes, I am,” came out the watery protest.

Alex sighed, sitting down next to him and pulling him close. “Scott… You can't come with me.”

“Why not? Why are you leaving? You haven't even finished high school yet! Where will you go?”

“It's… complicated. But you can't come with me, Scottie. You have to stay here.”

Scott pressed his face into his brother’s side, his eyes burning. “I don't want you to leave.”

“I don't want to either. But I have to.”

“That's stupid.”

A humorless laugh escaped Alex’s throat. “Yeah, it is.”

“But you'll come back, though,” Scott said, seizing on a distant hope. “You'll come back and visit me.”

“Scott…”

“You'll come back,” he insisted.

“...I'll come back.”

“Promise,” he said stubbornly.

Scott could hear the smile in his brother's voice. “I promise. But while I'm gone, you have to promise me to be good. Use your head, do your school work.”

Scott poked his brother's side. “You're the smart one, not me.”

Alex laughed. “Don't give me that lie, Scottie. Not many kindergarteners are smart enough to know how to sneak a stray cat into the principal's office.”

“Nobody's ever proven that that was me.”

“Scott,” Alex said in warning. “You need to focus all that evil genius on your school work. You're gonna go far, kid.”

“You could go far too if you would just not go.”

“Promise me, Scott.”

Scott sighed unhappily. “I promise.”

“Alright,” Alex said, giving his shoulder one last squeeze before standing up. “I need to get going. Walk me out?”

Scott frowned. “Aren't you gonna say goodbye to Mom and Dad?”

Alex froze again. “Uh, no. We already said goodbye.”

Suddenly, all the pieces slid into place. “They're making you leave, aren't they?”

“No, no they just-”

“You're lying! They can't make you leave! I won't let them!”

“Scott, I told you, it's complicated. And right now, Mom and Dad think that it's best if I'm not here.”

“I hate them!”

“None of that,” Alex chastised, bending down to Scott's level. “They're your parents, and they love you.”

“They used to love you too.”

Alex smiled sadly. “Yeah, they did.” Suddenly, he stood up and held out his hand. “Come on; it's time to go.”

Slowly, Scott trailed behind his brother through the darkened house, reaching the front door all too soon.

Alex pulled his brother into a tight hug. “Never let anyone tell you that something's wrong with you, Scott,” he whispered into his ear. “Never let them say that what you are is wrong.”

“Alex, what…” Scott trailed off, confused.

And, just like that, the moment shattered. Alex pulled back, a fake smile on his lips. “It's nothing. I love you, Scott. Always remember that.”

“I love you too,” Scott whispered, tears dripping down his face.

And then Alex left, his bag slung over his shoulder and his brother watching helplessly by the door.

And Scott didn't understand why.

His parents found him the next day, asleep by the door, waiting for a brother that wouldn't come back. Scott refused to speak to them - to anyone - for three weeks.

Four months later, they received a call that Alex had been arrested, and sent to prison.

Scott's parents wouldn't let him visit him at the jail.

After that, Scott considered rebelling. He considered ignoring his promise of working harder, of spewing all his confusion and anger over everybody around him. But in the end, he kept his promise, because he had no doubt that the day his brother got out of prison he would come to see him, and Scott wanted to be able to show him that he had kept his promise after all. And so he worked hard. He brought his grades up and joined the cross country, baseball, and martial arts teams at school. He learned German and Spanish. He became a model student in every way possible (excepting the occasional prank Scott pulled, of course… And the occasional skipped class… And the occasional detention…Okay, he got good grades; he wasn't a teacher's pet), because maybe if he did then Alex would come back.

He tried as hard as he possibly could.

Alex didn't come back.

Then, one day, Scott was in his room reading when a pressure began to build in his head. He had been having headaches for the past few days, but this one was worse than all the others. Quickly, he put down To Kill a Mockingbird and rubbed his eyes, trying to get the burning sensation to cease.

It didn't. Instead, it grew.

Scott blinked hard, and the pressure suddenly grew and burst, his vision blurring red.

Twin streams of red exploded from between his eyelids and slammed a cup off his dresser and into the wall.

Quickly, Scott scrambled to his feet, his heart pounding. He slowly crept towards the cup and picked it up in trepidation. The entire side had warped and melted under the force of his gaze. Sprinting now, Scott rushed to the bathroom and looked in the mirror, locking the door behind him.

Red danced in his brown eyes.

“No way,” Scott breathed.

He was a mutant.

And suddenly, his brother leaving made a lot more sense.

Mutations were genetic, Scott knew that. In all likelihood, if Scott had it then so did Alex. Moreover, it unraveled the meaning behind a lot of what he had heard and seen in those hectic days when Alex was still here. The shouts of freak and dangerous made a lot more sense than they had before. Scott knew that his parents couldn’t stand mutants; when knowledge of them had become public, they had been very, very vocal about their disgust.

(Never let anyone tell you that something's wrong with you, Scott. Never let them say that what you are is wrong.)

Which left Scott with a problem. A very, very big problem.

If his parents found out about him, they would likely kick him out too.

Or worse.

And so Scott very quickly decided not to tell his parents.


 That night at dinner, for the first time in a long time, Scott asked about his brother.

“He was sent to prison,” his mother responded, her lips pressed together as if she had eaten something sour. “You know that.”

“I know,” Scott responded quickly. “It’s just, we never talk about him anymore. It’s been awhile since he’s been arrested, and you won’t even tell me what he had done; I thought maybe he’d be out by now.”

“What’s the sudden interest in him?” his father asked stiffly.

Scott swallowed hard. “I… I  was just… I was hoping that I could visit him. Talk to him.”

Silence fell at the table.

When his brother first left, Scott would stay up for hours, waiting by the window. Back then, his young mind hadn’t been able to comprehend that his brother wouldn’t be back for a long, long time. To Scott, “I’ll come back” meant a few weeks, not several years. And so, for months, Scott would fall asleep by the window, watching for a brother that never returned. And for everyday of those months, his parents would scold him for it, as if just because they no longer loved Alex Scott wouldn’t either. Eventually, Scott had given up the practice - much to his parents relief. It had hurt too much to continue it.

But now, Scott couldn’t afford to go back to waiting at windows. He needed help - his brother’s help - and fast. Scott could feel his abilities welling up behind his eyelids and threatening to betray his secret in a cataclysm of red. If anyone could help him control it, it was Alex.

“No,” his father said shortly, his lips pinched in annoyance.

“But I just wanted to-”

No, Scott.”

“But if you would just-”

“I said no, Scott!” His father’s silverware slammed down on the table with a sense of finality.

And that, really, was the end of that.


 Once, Scott had had a dog walking business.

It had been one of those things that every little kid did at one point to earn a little extra money, like lemonade stands or mowing lawns. It hadn’t been a very successful business venture; only three of his neighbors had taken him up on the offer.

The most memorable part of the work had been a Great Dane named Bruno.

Bruno had been an incredibly large, incredibly excitable dog that would take off after every new scent, yanking at the leash with fervor and threatening to tear away from Scott’s control at every moment.

Scott’s mutation reminded him a little of that.

It wasn’t like a faucet; he couldn’t simply choose to turn it on or off. Instead, it pressed at his eyes at all moments, requiring him to consciously restrain its force every second. If he even slipped up a little, his irises would bleed red and light began to form in his gaze. At the moment, if Scott relaxed his focus completely, two very powerful, very dangerous streams of force would shoot from his eyes, capable of mass property damage and bodily harm.

Hence why Scott no longer had a desk. Or a window.

So yes, Scott was a bit desperate to gain more control of his mutation.

He ended up going out and buying a woodburning kit. Which he never used.

Instead, he would burn patterns into planks of wood with his eyes.  

The kit was really only for his parent’s sake; Scott certainly didn’t need it. The boy was well known for finding a random hobby and becoming completely fascinated with it for several weeks, so if Scott claimed that the sudden influx of wooden crafts was due to an inspiration to undertake woodburning as his life’s work, his parent’s wouldn’t question it.

It certainly wasn’t an attempt to gain control over the mutation that Scott absolutely did not have.

Whenever he would practice, Scott would draw a pattern onto a plank of wood, then attempt create that same pattern using his lasers.

He failed at it. Miserably.

At first, Scott would more often blast a giant hole in the plank than have created an artistic masterpiece. Slowly - very, very slowly - Scott managed to gain control over it to the point that he was able to release just enough of his power that a thin, shallow line was formed. One which shot all over the plank wildly, and created a formless, squiggly line that in no way resembled the original pattern.

But, after many, many, many practices, Scott was eventually able to create an image with his eyes (sort of).

The act helped teach him aim and restraint, making containing his mutation almost second nature. That wasn’t the only method he used to practice. Somedays, Scott could be found traveling out to an empty field with his baseball bat, about to crack rocks high over the grass in an attempt to knock them out of the sky with his power. However, most of the time, Scott would be holed up in his room with a plank of wood, carefully etching a pattern with a gaze of fire.

Which is exactly how his mother found him one day when she walked into his room without knocking.

“You’re home early,” Scott had stuttered, jumping up from his seat with a pounding heart. He had had his Walkman on, the music covering the sound of her footsteps and the creak of the door. It hadn’t covered the startled scream that had escaped her lips when she saw the red stream escaping from his eyelids.

His mother glanced wildly between her son and the overturned block of wood that had ultimately betrayed his secret. “You’re… You’re a…”

Quickly, Scott ran through a list of desperate lies that could maybe, somehow save him. He was making a movie for school, and that had just been a special effect. She had seen incorrectly, maybe they should get her eyes checked. He had joined some weird cult, and had gained special powers from a dangerous and illegal initiation ceremony.

All of them were unrealistic, impossible scenarios that his mother would never believe.

“Mutant,” Scott sighed, picking up the still burning wood from the floor. “I’m a mutant.”

That night, Scott sat with his forehead pressed against the window, watching for a brother that wouldn’t come as he listened to his parent’s muffled arguing.

Then, he became fed up with it all. Scott was fed up of having to hide what he was; he was fed up with having to be scared of his parents; most of all, he was fed up with waiting for a brother that still hadn’t come back to rescue him.

And so Scott got up from the window, opened the door, and walked downstairs.

“Are you going to kick me out?” Scott asked, pretending he hadn’t felt a stab of pain at the way that his parents had tensed when he came into view (itdidn’thurtitdidn’thurtit didn’thurt ).

“Scott... What?” his dad floundered, staring at him in confusion.

“Are. You going. To kick. Me out?”

“Why would you think that we were going to-”

“You kicked Alex out,” Scott interrupted. “When you found out that he was a mutant, you kicked him out. I’m right, aren’t I?”

“What happened with your brother was complicated,” his mother soothed. “There were a lot of reasons why it happened the way it did.”

Scott snorted. Of course, everything was still complicated. For once, he wished that something in his life was uncomplicated. “If you’re going to kick me out, could you just do it already? I’m tired of this.” He was tired, so tired. In fact, having his parents find out about him was almost a relief. At least the fear and paranoia was over; at least he didn’t have to spend every second scared that red had begun to burn in his eyes.

Quickly, his parents exchanged a look, an indeterminable decision passing between them. His mother stood up and walked over to him. Then, much to his surprise, she enveloped Scott into a hug.

“What happened with Alex was complicated,” his mother said evenly, pulling back. “When we first found out about him, nobody knew that mutants existed. We were scared, and confused, and a lot of things were said by both sides that we regret. If we could do it over again, we would, but it’s too late for that. What happened with him doesn’t mean that we’re going to make the same mistakes with you.” Then, with a smile that Scott told himself wasn’t fake, she continued. “We’re a family, Scott, and we love you. We’ll get through this, together.”

And God help him, he believed her.


 Here’s the thing about Katherine and Christopher Summers: They weren’t bad parents.

Yes, Scott had hated them for kicking Alex out. Yes, he had tried to hide his mutant status from them.

But that was only a part of who they were.

Scott’s mom had never missed a single one of his cross-country meets. His dad had helped him with every homework assignment he had ever needed assistance with. They had baked cookies for the school bake sales; they had come to parent-teacher meetings. They weren’t abusive. They weren’t unfair in their rules. All in all, Scott thought he had pretty great parents.

(And really, nobody ever wanted to think that their parents didn’t love them.)

And so, like an idiot, Scott believed them when they said that they didn’t care that he was a mutant. He believed them when they said that they were a family.

Like a stupid, stupid idiot, he believed them when they said they loved him.

Looking back on it, Scott would wonder that maybe if they had been abusive, terrible parents, then maybe what had happened would have hurt less. Maybe then the pain wouldn’t have cut him so deeply. Of course, then he realized that if they had been horrible, it never would have happened in the first place.

Because if Scott hadn’t wanted to believe that his parents loved him just as much as he loved them, he would have run the moment he developed a mutation.


 Scott’s world fell apart exactly nine days after his parents found out that he was a mutant.

It had started the moment Scott had been born, his genes damning him from the beginning. It had started with twelve words.

“We’re going to be visiting a friend of your father's later today.”

“Which one?”

“You don't know him yet. They met in the military, and he can't wait to meet you.”

All in all that, wasn't too unusual. While Major Christopher Summers of the US Air Force had retired from the service, he still had friends popping up that he had met during his time there.

And so when his father had led him into the car later that day saying, “Come on, we don't want to keep Colonel Stryker waiting,” Scott hadn't been worried.

When Scott had questioned the long drive, his father's explanation that Stryker lived up in the mountains had allayed any fears he may have had.

It wasn't until he noticed the helicopter that he realized what was happening.

The road they were on was at least a half hour drive from the nearest sign of humanity. His parents hadn't spoken in at twice that time.

And there was a military grade helicopter flying towards them.

Slowly, Scott closed his eyes, his heart pounding in fear. “We're not going to see a friend of yours, are we?” he asked, his voice hoarse and hollowed out and beginning to tremor.

“Of course we are,” his father replied, not looking at him.

Liar.

“We're not out here to visit him, are we?”

His father didn't reply. It didn't matter.

Because Scott already knew the answer.

Quickly, his hands scrambled towards the door handle, jerking it in frustration.

It was locked.

Scott glared at his parents. “Open the door,” he demanded.

“Calm down, Scott,” his mother said, her hands white-knuckling her seat. “Everything's going to be okay-”

Open the door!”

It was too late. Scott could already see the armored trucks heading towards their car.

He looked at his parents in desperation, his heart racing and his thoughts screaming and he wanted, needed to know, “ How could you?”

“I'm sorry, Scott,” his father whispered.

Scott's blood turned cold. “No, you're not.”

Then, he blasted the car door off its hinges and threw himself out.

Scott Summers hit the ground at forty miles per hour.

For a moment, Scott laid there on the ground, groaning in pain. But then, he heard the trucks screeching to a stop and the soldiers running towards him, and Scott forced himself to his feet and ran as fast as he possibly could.

He could make it. He could. Somehow, he would outrun the soldiers and the trucks and the helicopter, and he would escape. He would live on the streets if he had to, as long as he could escape, please God let him escape whatever was waiting for him if they caught him -

Two more trucks raced down the street towards him, cutting off his exit.

Scott skidded to a stop, stuck between the rapidly closing troops, a half-formed plan in his mind.

Here's the thing about his mutation: Scott had never had to put effort into it.

Well, granted he had to put effort into containing it, but releasing it had never needed any work. After all, Scott had destroyed half his room when he accidentally relaxed his focus; he had never wanted to find out what would happen if he pushed his abilities.

But now, he wondered.

If a normal blast was enough to shatter his desk, maybe at full power he could destroy a truck or two.

And maybe if the trucks were exploding, the soldiers would be distracted enough that he could at least get a head start, if not get away.

Quickly, Scott gathered all of the betrayal and fear and anguish into his mind, and he pushed.

A soldier tackled him from behind.

The shot was knocked off course, missing the truck entirely and shooting off into the distance, hitting a mountain instead.

And the mountain exploded.

Scott stared in shock as massive, flaming chunks of rock rained down around what was formerly a very large mountain, and now appeared to be a somewhat big hill. “Oh God, what have I done?” he breathed.

He was so horrified that he didn't realize there was still a soldier on top of him until he was stabbed in the back.

Scott gasped in pain as the drug was infused into his bloodstream, wrenching his arms and legs against the soldier cramming a needle in his side.

And suddenly, Scott couldn't use his mutation anymore.

It was still there; he could feel the pressure building against his eyelids, wanting release. Scott just couldn't release it; it was as if someone had put up a block in his mind, restraining his powers.

Roughly, Scott was yanked to his feet with his arms pinned behind him. Another soldier rushed forward to help contain his frantically struggling form. Around him, Scott could see men glancing between him and the burning carnage in fear.

And then someone started to laugh.

“Alright,” called a man’s voice, clapping and laughing as if he had just watched a successful football play. “That's what I'm talking about!”

Wildly, Scott jerked around towards the source of the noise. There was a man standing next to the now-landed helicopter, his dark aviator shades focused on Scott as he let out smug laughs.

Slowly, the man began to walk towards him, still laughing. “I've got to admit, I didn't see that coming,” he chuckled, coming to a stop in front of Scott. The man - Colonel Stryker? - reached up and grabbed Scott's hair in his fist, jerking his head to a sharp upward angle. “You are going to be interesting for sure.”

Scott spat in his face.

Stryker stiffened. Slowly, he wiped the spittle off of his face.

Then, he drew back his fist and punched Scott in the jaw.

Scott's head snapped backwards under the force. The burning landscape surrounding him begin to spin, and the pressure behind his eyes swelled but didn't break.

“Alright, get it on the chopper,” Stryker called to the troops. “We need to move out before people start coming in about that mountain.”

Scott felt physically sick when he realized that the it he was talking about was him.

The men holding his arms began dragging him towards the helicopter. “No,” Scott said numbly. This wasn't happening. This couldn't be happening. “No,” he repeated louder, icy panic racing through his veins. “No!” Scott thrashed against his captors, struggling with all his might, and nothing worked.

Then, he saw his parents.

They were standing away from the proceedings, next to their now-ruined car. In his father's hands was a bag that no doubt was filled with money.

Filled with the price for the life of their youngest son.

And in that moment, Scott didn't know what hurt more: The fact that his parents no longer loved him or the realization that their love had always been conditional.

And he wanted to know one thing from his mother and father.

It wasn't why. He already knew why.

How long?” Scott screamed at them, dragging his feet in a futile effort to stop his captors. “How long have you been planning this? Since you found out I was a mutant, since yesterday, when?”

“Oh, much longer than that, Scott,” Stryker answered in their stead. “They've been planning this for years.”

Scott froze. “That's impossible.” They had only known about his mutation for nine days. There was no way that this betrayal was years in the making.

“On the contrary, it's very possible. As you well know, mutations are genetic, and if two siblings are both mutants they often display similar abilities. Now, it was your brother’s unique talent that caught our attention, but we lost track of him. After losing him, we suggested to your parents that if you ever exhibited similar traits, well…” Stryker continued with a sickening grin. “We'd make it worth their while.”

Scott felt sick, his world spinning until it no longer made sense. For years, his parents had acted like they loved him , all while planning to sell him if he ever showed a sign of a genetic fluke.

But one thing about Stryker's story didn't make sense.

How could they have lost track of his brother? Alex was in jail; it was impossible to lose track of him. “My - my brother's in prison,” Scott flustered numbly.

“Prison? Didn't you know? Your brother's been out of prison for years. After all, he only stayed there for what, seven months? Less?”

And in that moment, Scott knew what revelation had hurt the most that terrible, terrible day.

His brother had been out of prison for years. His brother had been free and hadn't once come to see him.

And Scott was a stupid, childish, naive idiot for ever believing that his family had loved him.

“Load it up!” Stryker yelled, waving his arms at the troops. “Let's get this one back to the labs before the suppressants wear off!”

Silent tears dripped down Scott's face as one of the soldiers walked up to him. When the bulky man raised his gun, he didn't even bother to struggle. Then, the pistol slammed down onto Scott's forehead.

And all he knew was darkness.