Just the result of the various wanderings of my fevered imagination…
I've started to walk the hallways at night.
Most nights I can hear screams coming from the dorms, as one or more children relive the terror of the past few days. Most times I pause, sometimes even touch the door, thinking to offer comfort but my feet carry me away. I can't help them, can't stop the nightmares. Jean could. Jean would know who needed sleep without dreams and who should be left to learn from their fear. But she is dead, swallowed by the fierce waters of a merciless lake. She will never help anyone again.
I have cut my hair in mourning, the locks falling in rhythm with the rain. It always rains now and although there are glances and whispers, no one has asked for the sun. Maybe this period of grief shall swallow my life and the sun will never shine again. My plants will drown and drain of colour and they shall sink back into the earth that gave birth to them. A few days ago I would have been out in my garden, tending the blooms with delicate love. I have always wondered at the fragile fleetingness of life. Now I cannot see through the storm to the sunrise.
There is no future now. No future for Scott and Jean, who had so loved each other. No future, perhaps, for Xavier's dream. No future for my flowers. A war is coming. And I have already lost hope.
My feet are carrying me down a dark corridor and for a moment I am disorientated. Until I hear another scream. As every night, I stop to listen to Logan's torment, picturing him tossing and turning until the sheets of his bed tangle into a knot and stills his frantic movements. At this time he normally wakes to slash his way free, the line between reality and dream still blurred. Except, in Logan's case, they aren't dreams. His horrific past surfaces in his sleep. I pity him. To see a past you can't remember only in tortured dreams is something I would not wish on anyone. But he is not as alone as he thinks. Jean dies every night in my dreams. It is so much easier not to sleep at all.
Even Jean couldn't help him. Only Rogue has ever tried to wake him, to tear him from his agony. In return, she got six claws through her chest. Since then, everyone seems to deem it wiser to let him claw his way to consciousness alone. I could go and wake him now, take my chances with his claws. But my own pain won't let me. Does this make me a coward? No one would ever have called Ororo Munroe a coward before. But they don't know that I run from my dreams every night and can't find the strength to save anyone else from theirs. That I listen to them through the walls and then continue to walk.
I step up to Logan's door and trace the rich wood with my fingers, listening to his muffled cries, his horror seeping under the door and surrounding me until I can almost hear every beat of his heart. Charles described him once as mutilated, not just in body, but in soul. Idly I begin to run through the meanings, the simple exercise slipping me back into my teacher frame of mind, and for a moment it is soothing.
…To be mutilated, to be deprived of an essential part, to be disfigured irreparably, to be made imperfect by alteration, removal or destruction of a conspicuous or essential part of the body, to permanently destroy, to be made unrecognisable, to be damaged...
Then I realise what I am saying. These meanings describe Logan perfectly. I feel a stab of pity as I repeat the last word, plucking it from the maelstrom of meanings and breathing it to the night air. 'Damaged.' It described the mansion in general, the Professor's sorrow, Scott's withdrawal, the children's unhappiness, Logan's past. Does that mean we were all damaged? That I was not as alone as I convinced myself to be?
But Jean was closer to me than a sister. No one could suffer as I have suffered, grieve as I have grieved. How could they understand? How could they possibly understand?
Logan screams again and I am brought back to reality. Tears prick my eyes and I drop my hand, smoothing the wood with my thumb as though to remove the indent of my fingers, remove any evidence of having been there. 'I'm sorry,' I whisper. 'I can't help you. I can't help you.'
Outside, the rain beats down a little harder.
Time has passed, though I do not keep track of it anymore. My flowers are dying. I have so exhausted my power over the weather that the rain has died down. I am too tired to connect my mourning to the sky, but somehow, the sky remains grey, although it is spring. I no longer care whether the students believe it is me who makes it so, or if they know it is not. Maybe it is easier for them to think I am still strong enough to use my gift, that I bury my feelings in strength. That is far from the truth.
I no longer eat and I no longer sleep. I return to my bedroom only long enough to wait for everyone else to go to sleep before I venture forth to wend my way through the mansion. Everyone is too numb to know I am breaking down, losing interest in life, that I am dying.
Once again I pass Logan's room but this time I open the door and step inside on an impulse I can't name. I remember the night Rogue was stabbed by him and imagine him accidentally burying his claws in me, my life pouring from me in a bright flood. The pain, the grief, the life would be gone and I would be free.
I would never have to feel again.
My eyes glow with suppressed hope as I turn to the tormented figure in the bed. Shutting the door behind me, I look down on Logan. His lips are moving silently as he jerks and twists, trying to escape the demons in his mind. I am about to touch him when I imagine the aftermath of my decision.
I imagine the terror of the children when Logan cries out for help, for someone to save me as I bleed to death. I imagine the anger of Scott, the unhappiness of Charles, finally turning away from the memory of Jean's death only to find another death, more pain. And then I think of Logan's guilt, how he would have been convinced it was his fault. He would be turned away, homeless again, hated for my selfishness.
Logan lets out a gasp and sits up unnaturally swiftly, his eyes focusing on me in confusion. Even as I step back, tensing for six blades of adamantium to rip their way through my body in a mindless attack, Logan throws himself backwards against the opposite wall with such force that I wince at the sound of the impact. His gasps for air fill the room.
As he draws a hand across his eyes, bathed in sweat, I step forward into the shaft of moonlight that pierces his room. I touch his heaving chest lightly to inform him of my presence and am saddened to find he is shaking like a leaf. Once again I feel guilt for not waking him from this nightly torture.
Mutilated in body and soul… His eyes find mine, confused. 'Ro?' he rasps in the heavy silence. 'What are you doing in my room?' The urge to be free had died in me and I could not very well explain to him that I had come here seeking death. His eyes narrow in suspicion and dawning understanding. 'Was I screaming?' I could feel the tears threatening to overwhelm me. Overcome, I simply nod. He sighs. 'Sorry I woke you.' A tear rolls down my cheek as I whisper tiredly, 'I was already awake.'
I don't know what he gathers from that statement and I'm too drained to care. But a few moments later he is walking beside me down the corridor, pulling on a shirt. So we walk together in silence. We are in the kitchen before he speaks. 'Do you walk every night?'
His eyes are sweeping up and down my body, taking in my haggard appearance and the bags under my eyes. I nod again. He walks from me to the window and stands there a moment, staring out at the sky. When he speaks again, his tone is devoid of feeling and his voice is sharp.
'She's not coming back, 'Ro.'
'What?' I ask, stunned. He turns to me, nothing more than a silhouette of darkness. 'Jean's dead. She's not coming back. You can't make her come back Crying and making it rain doesn't help anyone. You can't mourn her forever!' He strides over to me and I can see the anger in his hazel eyes.
'I know you haven't been eating. I know that you can't sleep because you dream about her. I know that you spend the nights walking the mansion to keep from seeing her again. I know you hate her for dying…'
He's right in my face now and even though I look away, I can still hear his voice. It slips through my defenses and his every word stabs me like a knife. 'Ro?' His voice stirs me and, as if in a dream, I look up into his feral eyes. They pierce through me and his voice is cruel and tight, pushing me over the edge. His head cocks slightly, his eyes cutting, cutting right through to my soul.
'She's not coming back.'
And then I'm shocking him again and again and again. I think I screamed in anger but it was lost in the crack of thunder. My power, released in a wave of pent-up fury and depression, cracked open the skies, violent with purple-white lightning. Lightning crackles through my body, lifting my hair, snapping through my fingertips, burnishing my eyes white with raw energy.
It seems like years until the thunder dies away, when my sight is no longer hued with white light. My shaking hands are pressed to his chest, to inflict as much pain on my tormentor as possible, my body slumped on his with exhaustion. And his arms are wrapped around me in a comforting embrace as I cry a flood of tears.
When my sobs die away, I look up at Logan's face. A lightning flash illuminates his sharp features, but his dark eyes reveal nothing. My hands, pressed against his unbreakable ribs, feel the pain of each breath, wracking his body. I feel him trembling and then the magnitude of what I have just done rocks me. I have just electrified what is, basically, constructed of metal.
'Oh my God…..I'm so…..so sorry….are you all right?'
Oh yes Ororo, he's fine. A quarter of the power I just pushed into him would have vaporized a human.
I stand, smoothing my crumpled shirt with anxious hands, unsure of how to help. But I don't have to. Logan stands himself, his usual grace noticeably absent, and stretches. He grunts with pain as his adamantium ribs snap back into place and then leans back against the wall, obviously letting his healing factor take over.
'She's dead. She isn't coming back.'
My voice is hollow, dead with the long-awaited truth. I have run from Jean for so long. Suddenly I can't remember her face, her voice. My every memory of her becomes a black void. My knees start to buckle and the kitchen spins, daubed with crystal tears.
He catches me, pulling me to him until I can hear the comforting beat of his heart. The rumble of his voice thrums through my entire being and I am infused with peace.
'Yeah, she's dead. But you're not.'
'Yes,' I murmur, pushing away. My façade has been shattered. But it shall be raised again for the children, for the Professor, for Scott.
'I have to take care of everyone. I have to be strong for them when they shatter. I have to… live for everyone.' My voice is laced with slight bitterness.
I look up in surprise, jerked from my pondering. Logan bends a strange gaze upon me.
'Let them live their own lives. Live for yourself.'
He passes me by, heading for the stairs, throwing me a small smile as though we had just met co-incidentally, each wandering the mansion in the storm. On an impulse, I call after him.
'You're welcome.' His voice drifts back to me. 'But I ain't being your emotional punchbag again any time soon…'
I laugh, for the first time in ages. My flowers need to be tended. The children need to be taught. The Professor's windows need to be opened. Scott needs to start healing.
Out the window, the rain lightens, then stops. A ragged moon floats high above, flanked by thousands of beautiful stars.