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L. Burke

The Line

DISCLAIMER: The characters belong to Marvel, and are
used without permission for entertainment purposes only.

            My pilot signals that we are almost to jumping altitude.  I just nod to him and check my chute on more time.  For a man that has lived through the effects of what happens when a parachute doesnít work correctly and cracked his skull because of it.  You would think I would be the last one you would see up here.  Wrong.   Itís my way of drawing a line. 

My whole life has been about pleasing someone.   I was always the good kid that took care and tutored the younger ones at the orphanage.  I was a good little Nazi and memorized my Darwin and Nietzsche.  Deep down I guess I was hoping if I tried hard enough to please, someone would adopt me.  It never worked.    Later when I was with Jack I tried hard to keep him happy so he wouldnít beat me.  I guess it would only make sense that pattern would follow through to Charles.  How I tried to pleas that man.  I threw myself in to my lessons, with everything I had.  For a while I was his only student and X-man and I thought maybe he did see something special in me. Then the others came and I realized I was wrong.

  Hank was absolutely brilliant.  Warren was hansom and charming.  I quickly came to the realization that Jean was Charles favorite.  I remember them teasing me that I should get my face out of a book sometime and have some fun.  I donít think they realized that Bobby and I fought for our grades.  Hank picked things up at blinding speeds.  Warren had the best education that money could buy from the very start.  Jean had a college professor father and an upper class education.  I truly understand why Bobby decided to become the slacker of the group.  He compared himself to the others and decided he wasnít going to measure up and decided not to even try.  Bobby realized quickly he wasnít going to be the smartest, the best looking or the teacherís favorite.

I took a different road from Bobby and threw myself in to my studies with everything I had.  I thought if I worked hard enough and became the perfect X-man.  Maybe, just maybe I might get Charlesí approval.  I tried to compete on the otherís level.  Itís that inborn completive nature of mine.   I hate to lose.   There was nights I stayed up until four in the morning studying for a test, get an hours sleep and be up at five to get ready for danger room morning drills at six.   I would pull the same grade as Hank who didnít study for the test, or Jean and Warren who maybe spent an hour or two tops studying for it.   There were days I must have been running on sunlight and mutant energy because I wasnít running on any sleep. 

There were a lot of nights that I went in to the library and taught myself the foundations of subjects that attending school had already taught the others.  I had missed out on them when I was on the streets.  I was too damn proud to ask Xavier to go over the basics that even Bobby knew.  So I went down to the library and taught myself.   I fought for every grade I got.   I pushed myself to learn information quickly.  There were times I thanked God for the fact that I instinctively picked up math.  I didnít have to study that subject.  I dedicated the time to my other subjects.  I eventually did graduate second right under Hank and towards the end I even made him work for it.  What I lacked in intelligence I made up for in self-discipline and plain hard work.  The day that Hank McCoy realized how close our grade point averages were and decided he better go study for that final was one of the proudest days of my life.

At about eighteen I realized that no mater how I tried or how hard I worked, I would never become Charlesí favorite.  I would never please that man.  When he played dead and only told Jean he was alive, it became glaringly obvious even to me.  It was my eighteenth Ďbirthdayí or at least the one the government gave me, that I made my first jump.   I went down got my drivers license and headed up to the airfield.  It was the first time I was absolutely terrified to try something and that was why I did it.  I drew a line that day.

I hate freefalls.  I hate them with a passion.  I love heights.  Iím just not crazy about the idea of falling from them.  The thought of a long free fall just makes me want to throw up.  I take secret pride that no one knows how truly terrified I am of free falls.  It took me years to build up that kind of self-control.  Why do I do it?  Why do I go do the one thing that truly terrifies me?   Thatís a very interesting question.  Why would I want to relive the most horrible and defining moment of my life?

            Jean would argue that I like to pick at my scabs.  I wonít deny that I do.  Human beings are the only animals in the world that dwell and examine their pain.  Other animals just react and forget.  Humans beingís obsess and Iím worse than most of them.  Why do we do it?  I have no clue.  Why does my grandfather who fought in World War Two force himself to sit through a fire works display, when all his instincts are screaming to dig a hole and take cover?  Why does Logan relive the night he escaped from that lab in the danger room over and over again?  Why do I come up here and jump out of a plane?

            Who knows?  It would take a smarter man than me to figure that out.  My theory is itís our way of taking the most horrible defining moment of our life and flying it the bird.  Lancing wounds we know are never going to heal.  Itís our way of wrestling back control.  Itís that moment you stop seeing yourself as a victim and start seeing yourself as a survivor.  You have no clue how big of a jump in attitude that is and how long it can take you to climb there.  Itís amazing what you can survive with the right attitude and perspective.  My life would be a fine example.  I made Elton Johnís, ĎIím Still Standingí my theme song years ago.

            I jumped for the first time on my eighteenth birthday.  I faced down the most horrible moment of my life and I did it by myself.  It took all the self-discipline I had managed to build over a very short lifetime but I did it.  I forced myself to jump out of that plane.   I faced down all my horrible memories, fought down the blind panic and jumped.  It was one of the few moments of my life that I felt I could do anything.  That day I drew a line and made a small part of my life mine.  I over came myself that day.

            There has been times in my life I have forgotten that lesson of drawing lines.   When I married Maddie I tried so hard to please her and I never could.  My life in Alaska was one huge lie.  I tried to mode myself in to being something Iím not.  I tried to be the perfect grandson for my Grandfather.  I tried to be the perfect father and husband for Nate and Maddie.   Playing all those roles just ate me alive inside. I had everything I thought I ever wanted, and I was completely miserable for it.  I had that Ďnormalí life.  I should have been happy.   Instead, all I wanted to do was jump in a car and get the hell away from it as fast as I could.

            Though the years Iíve had the same problem with Jean.  There have been times in my life that Jean has treated my like dirt.  The time that I asked her to marry me and she turned me down flat.  At first I thought it was because Nate and I were now a package deal and she wasnít so sure about taking on a ready made family.  I let it go.  Then I caught her flirting with Forge.  Part of me wanted to tell her off, but instead I smiled sweetly tried to ignore it and tried harder to please her.  Then there were the times I caught her flirting openly with Logan.  Bobby asked my once why I didnít call her up on the carpet for it.  I honestly donít know.  There were times I should have.       Instead I told her it was okay, and tried harder to be what she wanted me to be.

            I think losing Nate was the turning point in my life.  I had just lost my son, and Jean was more worried about how Charles was taking losing the use of his legs.  I just smiled sweetly, listened to her fuss over Charles and tried harder to be the perfect X-man.  Betsy opened my eyes.  She and I became friends with all the hours we spent together on missions.  Betsy told me point blank one night she was tired of the games and she wanted to get to know the real me not who I thought she wanted to see.  No one had ever told me that before.  When I couldnít answer her question of who Scott Summersí was.   I started doing some serious soul searching and relationship examinations.  Betsy got me re-examining everything I thought I knew about myself.  I love that woman I really do.  She opened my eyes.   And she will always hold a very special place in my heart for it.

            I came back from Alaska with a very different perspective.   On the car ride home I told Jean I couldnít live this way anymore.  I told her it was time for her to make a choice because frankly I was tired of these sandbox games.  I was willing to give it one more try to make it work but she was going to have to grow up and figure out what she wanted.  I just couldnít take this anymore.  I drew another line that night.  I honesty expected Jean to tell me where to go and tell me to pack my stuff.  She asked me to marry her instead a few weeks later.  Just goes to show how I think I know that woman and she still manages to surprise me.  

            My whole life has been about trying to please people.   About drawing lines between whatís theirs and whatís mine.  Thatís why I still jump out of planes today.  Up here waiting to jump, Iím just plain old Scott Summers.  Iím not Cyclops, leader of the X-men, resident stick in the mud and torchbearer of the dream.  Iím not Jean Greyís husband and soul mate.  Iím not the father of the ĎChosen Oneí.  Iím just plain old Scott Summers once again facing the most horrible moment of his life.  Thereís no one I feel I need to please up here.  Skydiving is my way of drawing the line between who they want me to be and who I am.  These moments are all mine.  I donít have to pull on another mask and pretend Iím something Iím not.  Itís just the freefall, my memories, the chute and me.

            My pilot is signaling that we now are at jumping altitude.  And I get in to position to make my jump.  I never told Jean about this particular hobby of mine.  I think Iím afraid that she might try to stop me.  That she wouldnít understand about this.  I know Charles doesnít approve and frankly I donít care.  I know that Charles saw to many young men maimed in war.  He canít understand why I would risk myself this way to make a point, even to myself.  I think Charles realizes if he ever tried to stop me from jumping Iíd leave the X-men and never look.  I think he realizes I need this line.


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