Title: Broken Dams
Author: Gaeriel Mallory
Fandoms: Buffy and X-men the Movie
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy, Inc. X-men is the property of Marvel, Bryan Singer, and a whole bunch of other people.
Continuity: After X2 for X-men and up to the series finale for Buffy. Story three in “The Hero Biz” series.
Scott walked downstairs the next morning and headed for the dining hall. He paused as he noticed a cluster of boys peering out the windows of the bay doors that lead into the back gardens. “Bobby?” he asked, singling out Drake as one of the few he recognized based on the back of their heads. “What’s so interesting?”
The boys jumped or twitched in surprise as his voice and a few faces turned guiltily to face him.
Bobby’s face turned pink and he shook his head, mumbling something that Scott couldn’t quite pick up.
He sighed and pushed through to the window, where he spied Buffy – clad in a sports bra and a pair of sweat pants – performing a complicated series of movements which he vaguely recognized as martial arts, only severely slowed down. Scott shook his head in amusement. “Okay, fellas,” he said. “Why don’t you go get breakfast, huh?”
The teenagers reluctantly decamped down the hallway. Scott opened the door and stepped outside, shivering a bit at the slight chill in the morning air. How did Buffy stand it? He sat down on a bench placed to the side of the exit and watched her finish her exercise. She clasped her hands in front of her and slowly lowered them, her feet together and her head slightly tilted down. Keeping that position for a few heartbeats, she then looked up and smiled at him. “Chased off the ogling masses?” she asked cheerfully.
“You noticed them, huh?” He stood up and walked over to her. “I should apologize for them, but they’re teenaged boys and you’re not exactly fully dressed.”
She shrugged. “Like you said, teenaged boys. You should have seen some of the things Xander used to do when he was pretending he wasn’t looking.”
“That was tai chi, wasn’t it?” he asked.
She nodded. “Angel and I used to practice in the mansion when he was recovering. It was calming.” She walked past him and opened the door. “I sometimes get up early and do a few katas if I need to think or something.”
He followed her inside and up to her room. She grabbed a sweatshirt which she pulled over her head. The front had “UC Sunnydale” printed on it in generic collegiate apparel lettering. “Did you ever think about going back to school?” he asked her suddenly.
She paused with a brush poised against her hair and frowned. “Not really,” she said. “You don’t really need a degree to slay monsters, and my life is just too hectic to even think about even part-time.” Pulling her hair back into a ponytail, she sighed. “Dawn, on the other hand, is just itching to go study dead languages at Oxford or Cambridge. Xander calls her ‘mini-Watcher’.”
“And how do you feel about that?” He tried to remember Dawn, who when last he saw her was still losing her baby teeth, as a Watcher. Scott failed miserably.
She shrugged. “I can’t keep her out of the fight, though god knows I’ve tried.” She sat down on her bed and flopped onto her back. “Did you know that she’s going to be twenty this year? Twenty! When did we get so old?”
He chuckled at that. “I don’t think you’re in any danger of being put into a nursing home yet.” He walked over to the desk and pulled out the chair. Turning it around, he straddled it and rested his arms on the back. “How about the fighting? Will she be going on patrol and stuff?”
Buffy rolled onto her side and propped herself up on an elbow. “Yeah, she will. We’re training the Watchers to be able to fight alongside their Slayers. We’re hoping to get them all up to the level of brown belt at least before letting them into the field by themselves.”
“That’s rather ambitious,” Scott observed. “Doesn’t it usually take several years to get up there?”
“We’re working on an accelerated program similar to the ones military black ops uses. It’s still in the trial stages but Giles has some high hopes for it. In the meantime, it’s practice practice practice for the would-be Watcher-types.” She smiled. “Dawn’s actually been leading some of the sparring sessions. She’s been itching to take some of the Watchers on patrol to give them some field experience.”
“And how do you feel about that?”
Buffy sighed. “She’s determined. We all learned long ago that when Dawn wants something bad enough, she’ll go after it herself despite what the rest of us say. I may not like it that she wants to be on the front lines, but if she’s going to be a Watcher, I’m going to make damn sure that she can take care of herself. I’ve seen enough people I care about in body bags already.
“And, well, I hate to say it, but she’s good. She’s got a knack for researching, and growing up in Sunnydale gave her early experience with fighting. Dawn knows what she’s doing. And we’ve also been letting it spread through the demon grapevine that if anything happens to her the entire weight of the Council will come down on whoever is responsible.”
“So you guys are that powerful?” Scott’s brow furrowed at the thought. Just how scary do you have to be to get the demons afraid of you?
“We have a rep.” She sat up and stretched. “You stop so many apocalypses and kill so many Big Bads and suddenly, things start running away from you in the street when you confront them.” A slight smile touched her lips. “You should have seen Willow and Xander’s faces the first time a demon surrendered to them on patrol. This big seven foot tall X’la with spikes coming out of its arms, face down on the street begging for mercy.”
Buffy got off the bed and walked to the door. “So, breakfast?” she asked, lightly bouncing on the balls of her feet.
At the dining hall, Scott watched bemusedly as Buffy charmed embarrassing stories about him out of Ororo and the Professor. Logan’s eyes studied him and Buffy, as if trying to figure out how the two Summers could be related.
Focusing on his oatmeal, Scott tuned out the sounds of his cousin’s laughter and tried to settle his thoughts on today’s classes. His advanced class was reading Macbeth
and he hadn’t discussed with them the differences between Shakespeare’s version and what historians say really happened with the Scottish king. His other classes were reading To Kill a Mockingbird
and he still had not prepared more than a skeleton lecture outline for them. He was startled out of his thoughts by Buffy’s elbow into his stomach.
“Did you really?” she asked him, mirth in her voice.
He glanced around, confused. “Huh?” he answered intelligibly.
The Professor chuckled and quickly relayed the conversation to him mentally. Scott blushed and dropped his spoon back into his bowl. “It seemed like a good idea at the time!” he protested. “How was I supposed to know that the food coloring wouldn’t wash off?” He remembered the week after Halloween he had spent bright green because he didn’t have makeup for his Frankenstein costume. Instead, he had used food coloring to dye his skin. The students still teased him about it every October. Jean had even left bottles of food coloring in his desk this past year.
He sighed as he thought about Halloween without Jean. Christmas, New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day. 365 days a year, 24 hours a day without Jean. The pain had lessened, yes, but it was still there and it came back with a vengeance at times -- like now. He pushed his oatmeal away from him and stood up. “Excuse me,” he said stiffly. “I have to go get ready for my classes.” He walked quickly to his office and shut the door firmly behind him, and then locked it.
* * *
Buffy looked worriedly at the other adults at the table. “Is he all right?” She noticed the sadness that flickered across the Professor’s face and latched onto him. “What’s going on with Scott?”
The Professor shook his bald head and tapped his forehead, looking at her significantly.
Oh for pity’s sake. She rolled her eyes and carefully lowered her mental shields enough for a telepath to communicate with her.I would give Scott some room today. He was reminded of Jean.Ah
, she replied, all too familiar with grief and how quickly it can hit without warning. Just how long has it been?
Scott had been very vague about when Jean had died and in what manner. She’d been able to figure out that she had been killed in action but that was about it.It was just a few months ago. The wound is still very fresh for all of us.
The Professor’s sad eyes stared at her from the other end of the table.He has to talk about it eventually.He will in his own time. We all know about it so he never had to speak of it, and I took care of informing her parents. To anyone else, it was simple enough to say that she had died in the Blackout like so many others.
Buffy put her shields back in place and sat back in her seat, her lips pursed in thought. While it was true that grief didn’t just disappear overnight, what Scott was doing wasn’t helping him heal. By bottling it up inside and not speaking of Jean to anyone, he was only delaying how long it would be before he broke down emotionally. And if it happened while he was out on a mission…
Today, Buffy decided. Today I’ll get him to talk about what happened.
* * *
Somehow, Scott wasn’t surprised to see Buffy lying on his bed, flipping through a magazine. She glanced up at him as he walked through the door. “How were the kiddies?”
He threw his briefcase onto the desk chair and rolled his neck. “The usual,” he replied.
She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and leaned forward. “How did Jean die?”
Behind his glasses, he closed his eyes. He knew that she would have asked him eventually and judging by the way she had all but ambushed him, she wasn’t going to settle for anything less than a full answer.
Sighing wearily, he asked, “Do you remember the Blackout?”
She nodded. “Of course. Who doesn’t?”
He moved over and sat down on the bed, learning against the headboard. “It was caused by a man named Stryker. He had invaded the mansion and kidnapped as many of the students as he could. But his real goal was Cerebo, a machine that amplifies the Professor’s powers. It’s how we find new mutants. It all ended at a supposedly abandoned military base in Canada at Akali Lake. There was some mind control and Stryker got Xavier to use Cerebo to attack all the mutants in the world.
“Only, Magneto – you’ve heard of him, yes?” At her nod, he continued. “We had teamed up with Magneto to stop Stryker. We should have known better. Magneto rearranged Cerebo’s plates so that regular humans were pinpointed. We finally stopped them but in the fight, weakened the dam. The plane couldn’t lift off and we would have all been killed but Jean…” He stopped and swallowed hard. “She ran off the plane and saved us. She held back the tidal wave and forced the Blackbird into the air.”
He felt Buffy’s arms encircle him and he leaned back into the embrace, finally letting himself cry. “There was nothing I could do!” he whispered. “She was so powerful at the end that even the Professor couldn’t—”
“Shhh,” Buffy whispered, gently rocking him. “It’s okay.” Her hands smoothed his hair and he shook with sobs. He closed his eyes, letting the tears spill out from under his eyelids.
Last night, after returning from the city, he had come close to falling apart but had instead fallen asleep with the help of some sleeping pills that Jean had kept in the medicine cabinet. In the morning, the grief had receded enough for him to function even with the reminder at breakfast.
“It’s okay to cry,” Buffy told him. “You don’t have to be strong all the time. You’re only human after all.”
And because it was true, he let himself get lost in his grief for tonight at least. He put Cyclops, fearless leader, behind him and just became Scott, who was allowed to cry and show emotion.