Work Header

Arms and the Mutant

Chapter Text

At this point—after Xorn, after so many bad futures averted, after so much closeness that he never thought he’d have-- Scott wouldn’t trade his psychic connection to Emma for anything. It, and she, had literally saved his life. And maybe the world.

But having a special telepathic connection to such a fiercely committed classroom teacher…. had its downsides. When Scott wasn’t careful he could take in, even all the way across the school, whatever his lover was teaching, especially when it was unfamiliar material. Tactics and rhetoric? how to speak clearly, how to make complex commands intelligible? those kinds of lessons barely registered—they were already in Scott’s head.

Literature, on the other hand, and especially long classics…. not much room on Xavier’s syllabus for those, and even less room at the orphanage in Nebraska. Jean was a reader, sure, but not so much for the old stuff.

Emma, however, read everything. And remembered everything that she had read in her classy school. She said it helped her anticipate both her allies and her opponents; said it was the closest a non-telepath could probably come to reading strangers’ minds. Especially famous old stuff in other languages.

“What I love about this part of teaching,” Emma said yesterday, “is how it’s not about fighting for your life in a world that hates and fears you—until you really look at the poetry, darling, and then you see that it is.”

Along with the four-squad division—her favorite Hellions, Dani’s New Mutants and so on-- Emma had started teaching Latin this year: it’s not like Magma was available, and gentle telepathic help meant basic language lessons could go by fast. Julian hated it but got good marks. Sooraya struggled. Anole (from what Scott could sense, remotely) ate it up.

Today the students Scott can sense from across the mansion are only a little ways into the story. Troy has fallen, and burned. Aeneas, who fought for Troy-- and lost big-- is fleeing the burning city, trying to save his father along with his son. “Come dear father, clasp my neck; I will carry you on my shoulders; that task won’t fail me. Whatever may happen, it will be for us both…. Some hostile power scattered my muddled wits.” A fiery, noisy wreck, receding, farther and farther away.

There’s a roaring in Scott’s ears, and heat, and flames, without the ruby-red overlay that tints everything in his adult sight; the sound of an engine. The sound of propellers, failing. A child who wants to save his mother, and can’t. And a baby, and everything turns ruby red. It's the end of the world, for a kid. Except it's not... and there's a parachute... Scott has to walk away. He can't overhear-- or overread-- Emma's class from the new garage, so he works on a motorcycle for a bit until he thinks they're done.

But still: he wants to know what happened, if he can.

Now Mercury speaks to Aeneas, wings on his feet, and the proverbial wings on his words, much smaller than Warren’s, the same white feathers. “Were you thinking of settling down with your wife in Carthage and building a great city here? You can’t; you’re needed elsewhere. The gods command it.” Aeneas: the man of destiny, the man singled out to found a new nation for his people, hated and feared by the Greeks. The man who’s not allowed to settle down.

And suddenly Scott can see himself in Alaska.
“Darling, what is it? What did Warren want?”
“He… er… needs me to meet him in New York—today!”
“Scott Summers, if you walk out that door, don’t bother coming back!”

Cyclops walks away to look at some floorplans for the new school and devour a sandwich. But then he tunes into the classroom again, half-willingly. They’re still on Virgil. Dido confronts Aeneas, who has already chosen to leave her: she’s cursing him out, with the deities, or the idols, of Carthage behind her. The students are translating as they go.

“If our gods have power," Queen Dido tell him, "you will drink from the cup of suffering till it’s dry as you sail to the destiny that has no place for me. You will call out my name again and again, and when death has split my soul from my body, my ghost will be everywhere. You’re going to be punished by Fate for this, cruel lover. I’ll get the news when I’m in Hell.”

Emma is asking Sofia: do you think Dido meant it when she told her sister that she was going to use magic to start a new life, to escape from her old obsession with Aeneas? Or did she know what was coming next?

Now Scott sees himself in New York, but it’s not New York. Buildings, streets, parks warp and shift in the heat.

“You hoped I was dead… so you could enjoy your one true love in peace. You’re such a pathetic fool.” Maddie’s hair, all fire, five shades of red, a hazard to anyone near her. “You don’t know what you’ve tossed away…. It wasn’t me you wanted. It was never me.” The portal-dimension to the Goblin Queen’s Limbo shimmers and yawns on the roof.

The Academy X students are still reading, still trying to translate Virgil by sight. Now Virgil is describing Dido's choice. “Rolling her eyes, her cheeks red, she rushed into the flames with her borrowed sword… ‘I will die without vengeance. But I am willing to die.”

Not flames, exactly, Julian corrected Sofia. “Pyre. Bonfire…. Inferno.”

Did Emma know Scott was listening? They had talked about Jean so much, especially in the beginning, before either Scott or Emma knew how Emma was changing, how Emma was falling in love for real. But they had never really talked about Maddie.

Was the whole classroom week for Scott’s benefit?

How well could Emma—not read, but know; anticipate; even try to heal—Scott’s mind?

Scott hears Maddie again. “I’ve learned I wasn’t made for happiness…”

And then Jean. “In her heart, she knew. She wanted the truth. She wanted it to end.”

And then Emma, a staircase away, still and always a teacher. “David. When do you think Dido knew Aeneas would leave her? Do you think, in her heart, she wanted it to end?”

Chapter Text

Emma never got through the whole Roman epic in Westchester: M-Day, and the Purifiers, and the bus, intervened, and the Xavier School curriculum turned less academic and more about survival, not for the first time. But she wasn’t done with the idea.

Especially not after she and Scott and X-Club and the rest of their team raised an island from the sea. “Darling,” she had said, not many nights after that, “I need to get back to teaching.” There were, after all, young mutants on the artificial island called Utopia. Young enough to benefit from school. Some remembered it. Some had been kicked out of it, hated and feared, once their mutations appeared. Even the ones who were no longer mutants, after Decimation, had chosen to come here, rather than try to stay home.

And so there were classes, sometimes, with some of the same kids—Pixie, for example, and Armor—and some of the same things to read. Virgil, for example. And at very reasonable hours: noon, for example.

Which, given everything else going on all around the West Coast—especially giving instructions to X-Force—was sometimes when Scott woke back up.

“You who can see the future—I ask for no land except my destiny,” Emma’s version of Aeneas was saying, “let us Trojans settle in Latium with the refugees from Troy. We will make, there, our temple.” Aeneas and-- someone? a prophet of some sort? a sybil?-- are having a conversation about his future. He's seeking a prophecy? trying to make better plans?

Armor speaks for the Sybil. “There will be war. So much war. You will need strange and unlikely alliances with your former enemies over the sea.”

Scott rubs his forehead, makes sure his glasses were back on his head, rubs his head, feels around for an undershirt. Why was he hearing this class now? He didn’t normally hear every lesson that Emma taught; not even every poetry lesson, now. But there was something about this story that triggered their telepathic link—mildly, he wasn’t inside her head, but he was a fly on the wall in her classroom, a presence as they ploughed through the sad scene.

Aeneas is trying to get an ancient prophet, the Sibyl, to tell him what’s coming next, and how to take care of his people, how to bring them to their destined land. He also wants to visit his father in the underworld and get advice. Is he really the man of destiny, the leader who can take his people there? How much blood must he shed?

Who’s reading the lines aloud now? Could it be Laura? She’s not in traditional classes a whole lot, though she’s hardly aged out of them; but she’s here. “It’s easy to go to Hell,” the Sibyl is saying. “The trick is to get back out.”

Scott picks up some floorplans from the nightstand, reminds himself to talk to X-Club this afternoon about stabilizing the island, to San Francisco about the food supply, to Illyana about the possibility of a better on-site kitchen, given the joke she made last night about her unlimited access to charcoal and open flames. (What if she’s in the class? His telepathic link with Emma wouldn't let him see her there, because she doesn't show up on telepathy. She’s probably read it in Latin anyway. Isn’t Latin a language for spells? Scott wouldn’t know.)

When he opens his eyes again, Aeneas is under the earth, looking for somebody called Misenus, in order to give the man a proper burial and ceremony; he’s a casualty of the Trojans’ search for a new home. Scott closes his eyes and sees Quill, and Brian Cruz, and DJ, and Mark Sheppard, and Laurie Collins, and a bus in flames.

“Meanwhile, on the beach, the Trojans were weeping over Misenus, and heaping their gifts on his funeral pyre… They named a mountain after him. The mountain survives.”

You could name a whole mountain range, Scott thinks, after the kids we’ve lost. The mutants we’ve lost. The original Hellions…

Scott’s cut off from the classroom entirely. Emma must have had the same thoughts—of course she did—and shifted to diamond form, so as not to overwhelm the class. She does that sometimes. It’s good pedagogy, too. Use your feelings as teaching tools, but don’t just emote all over a roomful of teens. Especially not if you are an adult and one of the world’s most powerful telepaths.

Scott gets up, throws on his boxer shorts and a towel over his shoulder, and fries an egg on the hot plate in their room.

By the time he’s had egg and toast and bad black coffee (he saves the bad coffee for when he’s alone: Emma gets the imported espresso) he can tune back into the end of the class, the end of the chapter, the end of Aeneas’s stay in the underworld. He’s also made an eighteen-point to-do list for the afternoon: “check structural integrity of Utopia modules” is item 2. Item 12 involves Utopia’s diplomatic relations with Atlantis.

Aeneas is now hearing the ghost of his father, predicting success. The Trojans in exile will build the Roman Empire. Rome will conquer the known world. “Are we still afraid,” Aeneas’s father is asking, “to show our power to the other nations?”

Item 14 on the agenda involves the U.N.; item 15, the United States Department of Defense.

“Now we’re at a place,” Emma Frost is saying, “where scholars disagree. Is Virgil on the side of Aeneas here, who has to use force to take care of his people, hold territory, and conquer the world? What will it do to his soul? Will it even work? The Roman Empire: did that work? Aeneas seems to think it will.” And then a pause. “But he knows that he can’t keep his son. That’s the next thing his dad says. You can’t keep your son.

"Aeneas just goes on hearing all these predictions." (Scott thinks about the debacle of Destiny's Diaries; about blueprints, floor plants, 18-point action plans.) "And Virgil leaves it up to us, maybe, to decide whether all those predictions are true. There are two gates at the edge of the underworld, the gate of horn for true dreams and the gate of ivory for fiction. And when our hero goes back to the world of the living, he passes through the gate of ivory. Maybe it’s great to found a new nation with refugees. Maybe it’s just a recipe for endless war. Maybe it’s all made up.” Emma pauses. “What kind of person would want to found a new nation?”

When Scott switches out his glasses for his visor he can remember himself making speeches, not to a class but on TV. It feels like yesterday. (It was maybe weeks ago.)

“We reject Norman Osborn’s pogroms. We reject the hate crimes. It seemed to us the people of the United States wanted us gone, so we’ve left. But we won’t be purchased, prosecuted, persecuted or punished any further…

“Our children shall not be hunted or harmed. They shall not be prejudiced against, legislated against, or ever go to sleep for a single unsafe moment.”

What kind of person would want to found a new nation? Scott asks himself. And he answers: the kind whose people don’t have an old one.

When Emma comes back to their bedroom he has an espresso for her, and he puts his right hand on her fake mink stole. “What kind of person—“ he starts.

“Sssshhh,” she says. “The whole world isn’t watching.”