He had never really noticed it before. Not in all the years he had lived, studied, even taught at the school. He had never noticed how silent the mansion could truly be. The oppressive silence that filled the hallways at night. The silence which clung to the darkness created as students turned off their bedroom lights and fell into dreams. The cruel silence that echoed the happy memories of today and days long since past. Days which would, could, only be a memory to them now.
He didn't remember when he had taken roaming the halls every night. He had done it as a kid, when stuff got to be too much or bad dreams worse. The habit moved with him in adulthood, helping more with making sure the "kids" all were in bed on time. It became a joke between him and Jean, a chance for her to rib him without needing to search or sometimes accidently pull things from his mind. Now, it was a penance. Punishment for not doing more to save her.
He rounded the corner that led towards the kitchens and stopped. Voices which had been whispering loudly had cut off. He could practically see the breathless anticipation of the students still up. Giving an about face, he walked on ahead. He didn't have the energy to deal with teens anymore.
Moonlight fell in from the windows along the wall, illuminating the hallway almost as brightly as if it were noon. He practically choked on a memory from a summer...was it a year? two years ago? They had been chaperoning a pool party for summer break. He remembered commenting on the kid's behavior and Jean had told him to lighten up.
"They won't be kids forever," she said, smiling.
It was her smile he couldn't forget. The smile that made him go weak at the knees, willing to do whatever she asked. And he did. He forced himself to relax and all he got in return was a good mental push into the pool. But once again, she flashed her smile and a good-natured laugh later everything was forgiven.
His nightly wanderings took him past the stairwell in front of the entrance. Averting his eyes, he tried to push back the memory of their last parting. The real one, the one that was part of everyday life at the institute. Jean and Storm were suppose to go find the president's would-be assassin. It was simple. Which could only mean it had a thousand ways of going wrong.
He felt a pain of guilt at his dark thoughts. The mutant, Nightcrawler he called himself, it wasn't his fault. He didn't ask to be manipulated by Stryker, no more then Logan or even Magneto. The damn circle never stopped. One episode led to another in an endless chain. At least, endless for those still living.
Of course, as his thoughts turned to Nightcrawler, they followed to their inevitable conclusion with Logan. What was once a lover's jealousy had aged and festered in a short time to deep seated anger. He had been the one who loved Jean! He had been the one who was suppose to be with her forever! And then that...man had come in and torn it up. Mixed up Jean so that it took her forever to finally decide. But the minute she did, her life was ripped from her so she could never tell him. She only managed to pass the news onto Logan.
And then what did Logan do? Told it in passing. Casually mentioned it as if it were a conversation starter. Completely ignored the pain of someone else because he didn't feel any of his own. Then, in pure chavalier style, brushed off Jean's death as if it meant nothing at all.
His pace quickened with his dark thoughts, and he found himself approaching the patio. The moon hung low and full, like it did in the storybooks of the youngest students. He began to pass the doorway, not in the mood for outside air when he saw it. Something fluttered past his line of sight. Something that, even with his glasses, he could make out as red.
Breath quickening, he reached for the door handle and gently opened it. Stepping out silently onto the tile, he looked around. First appearances told him nothing was there. A chill ran down his spine. A sudden shadow moved along the corner's shadow's edge. His eyes snapped in the direction. From behind the wall he could make out the gentle curve of someone croutching out of sight.
Letting out a sigh of relief, he called out, "Okay, come out of there."
He smiled, glad for a moment that the authority hadn't been pulled completely out of his voice.
The figure rose slowly, stepping out to face him. It was one of the female students. Alia...Leslie...Melanie, something like that. She was newer, but had been living at the mansion before...Now she stared up at him, pulling into herself with a guilty expression on her face. Her hair was a deep red, the exact same shade as Jean's had been. Elaine, that was her name.
"What are you doing out here?" he demanded irritantly. He hated when the students disturbed his time alone to move and think. Even more so when the majority of them gave him sympathetic looks as he reprimanded them.
"I-I needed some air," the girl muttered lamely, lowering her face and causing several strands of hair to fall in her face, covering her brown eyes.
"Don't you have a window?" he replied mean spiritedly.
The girl flinched as if struck. She mumbled something under her breath.
"I said my roomate won't let me," she said, looking up at him. Her eyes, he realized, were far older then the rest of her. They reminded him of someone.
"And why's that?" he said, forcing control back on his voice. He felt awe at how difficult it seemed to him now.
The girl shrugged.
"How should I know?" she said, "I'm not in there enough anyway..."
She stopped as she realized what her statement implied.
"I mean, I don't sleep much," she muttered, "Too many bad dreams."
He opened his mouth to say something and stopped. Empath. That was her power. He had just remembered. She could sense the emotional state of others, feel what they feel.
He saw the girl relax as his mind ended the realization. She smiled at him, though the brightness of it didn't reach her eyes. He felt the need to get away from her, get her away from him quickly.
"Go to bed," he ordered, "And stay there."
The girl blinked, stunned.
"No reprimand?" she said, suprised.
"Not tonight," he replied, "Unless you want me to change my mind."
"No," she answered hurriedly, "No, that's okay."
She paused a moment, and looked as though she wanted to say something else.
"What?" he demanded snappishly.
The girl swallowed. Then, without a moment's more hesitation, stepped up to him and gave him a hug. He froze for a second, stunned by the action. His arms, which had hung limply at his side, eventually moved to return the embrace. A second later, she released him. Taking a step back, she gave him an understanding smile.
"It hurts," she said simply, "For everyone. Some more then others."
He stared at her blankly.
"It's alright to hurt, but better to share," she concluded solemnly.
Turning she began to walk away, stopped, and said, "Good night, Professor Summers."
Scott watched her vanish into the door till the shadows of the school swallowed her. He was now alone on the patio, but for the first time since Jean's death, he didn't feel entirely alone. Looking up at the moon, he blinked away stray tears.
"Good night, Jean," he whispered to the sky.
A.N. : Okay, I know, this is one really weird one-shot and for that I apologize. It just sorta popped into my head without my permission. Feel free to ignore these ramblings or tell me what you think. Ah, I don't own any characters associated or mentioned in this story save Elaine.