Note: I was poking around in my "dead stories" folder, found this, decided it was weird but not too bad, and shazam! here it is. I wrote this right after "Day of Recovery", so it's a little AU now, but whatever.
It was like jumping off a cliff.
One moment he was there, with solid earth beneath him, and the next he was hovering some seventy feet in the air, weightless, formless, a creature of pure thought as she dragged him into the psychic plane with her.
Therapy, she'd called it, only half-joking. Their goal here was simple: they were going to build a house, and they were going to use his memories to do it. She had perfect recall, but she wasn't going to help. She was the guide only.
He looked down at the mental image of the empty, windswept lawn that ran to the ocean's edge, and was startled to see that it was green. He'd forgotten what green looked like. And there, the sky surrounding them - it was blue.
She gave them both bodies and there was color there, too.
Then she pulled him downward, toward the earth, and showed him how to lay the foundation with bricks of memories.
The cornerstone was his first glimpse of the mansion, peering over the dashboard of the car and through the wide metal gates, still too elated by the fact that he could see at all to miss color.
Other memories from that first day followed in quick succesion, from the long approach up the driveway, all the way until the moment he'd closed his eyes on the new, bare walls of his room.
The foundation was done.
She gave him encouragement as he started on the rest of the house, brick by brick and beam by beam.
Up went the walls, and the ceilings, and the floors. And memories swirled around them, pulled from the depths of his subconscious. The first time he'd gone into the Danger Room. The first time Wolverine had kicked his butt. The first time he'd seen Storm drop lightning out of the sky. Losing his glasses in the pool. Going off to high school. Driving the car. There were a lot of car memories. She laughed at that.
He skipped over one particular moment. She sent him a curious thought, which he turned away, choosing to ignore it for the time being and focus on the house.
The exterior was finished off with the million-and-one memories of early Danger Room sessions and trips to the infirmary. Of getting used to the visor controls and figuring out how the blasts would ricochet in a curved room.
They went inside, and it smelled like sawdust and new stone. He remembered running down the hallways and falling down the stairs that once, trying to get the party, and even as she laughed to hear it, paint and carpet spread out in front of them like a wave.
Into the lounge and the kitchen and the dining room, where mealtime was a sacred tenet and not to be missed - something he hadn't liked at first but then came to appreciate. The first floor was finished with the comfort of an unvarying routine.
Up the stairs, and she fell back behind him, curious as to why there was still no glass in any of the windows. He chose to ignore it again.
He counted off the rooms: the professor, far away from everyone else, Storm, Wolverine, and Beast right next to each other, then the four rooms the new kids shared, then Rogue and Kitty's, Evan, Kurt, Jean, and his own.
Memories hung thick here, too, with echoes of laughs and shouts and cries, and the smells of shampoos and laundry detergent and bleach coming from the main hall bathroom, and the time Bobby had frozen the pipes solid, and Ray had shorted out all the lights, and Tabby had accidently left a bomb under Kurt's pillow.
And there was his room. He remembered buying every poster, accumulating every model car and plane, the meticulous hours spent arranging it all until it was perfect, the precious photos of his family - which, thank God, he'd been carrying in his wallet the day everything was destroyed.
The other rooms he couldn't finish - he didn't remember what they looked like, exactly. She stepped in and added the details, pulling forth memories he didn't know he had, and, he suspected, adding some of her own. She shrugged, unrepentant: the important thing was that he did most of the work. This was his therapy, after all; his last goodbye to a home that had sheltered him for so long.
Then a quick trip down to the basement, Cerebro, the Danger Room, and under-construction sub-basement, and then upstairs again to the attic, where he filled in all the dusty, shrouded boxes that he'd poured over when he'd first arrived, in those lonely days when he was the only non-adult there.
After that was finished, there was one memory left, the one he'd been saving, so he tugged her back downstairs to the big foyer and they hovered in the middle of the room.
Goodbye. Close out that chapter of his life - a better chapter than the one before it, but time to end it anyway. New horizons waiting.
He used the last memory of his time at the Institute to make the glass in all the windows and sunlight burst in, brilliant golds and yellows filtered through the panes. They were flooded in sun. He looked at her and she was glowing like fire.
And he had given himself away, he knew it, because now she understood what that one single memory meant to him, what she meant to him. What meeting her for the first time had been like.
He snapped back into his body abruptly, back into the real world, and her eyes were looking at him, wide open. Green eyes, even if he couldn't see the color anymore. He knew it was still there.
She was going to ask him a question, and he was going to have to answer it truthfully.
And it was just like jumping off a cliff.