Title: Long Walk Home

Warnings: X2 spoilers, copious angst

Disclaimer: Not mine, not making money

Notes: This is my first fic in this fandom. It came to me after all the movies kept being played this summer, and I finally got around to uploading it... There's that one quick scene in X2 of Rogue standing next to Scott, and it got me thinking why she'd be there, and this is what I came up with. I hope you enjoy it!

The jet lifted off, and the water rushed into the place it had been.

Dr. Grey drowned. Mr. Summers cried.

Logan was the one who held him by the arms as he raged and flailed- the one who shielded him so that the kids couldn't see one of their heroes breaking down.

Storm was the one who took over command, quietly voicing the orders that should have been his to give.

And when they reached the White House and prepared to disembark, the professor was the one who murmured a gentle, "Stand up, my boy" when it became clear it needed to be said.

Rogue was the one who went to Mr. Summers' side as he stood. Because she knew she had to be.

Bobby tried to stop her, tried to catch her gloved fingers and keep her close to him instead, but she fixed him with a look to convey what she'd figured out. It had to be her because she was young- because she was a student, and Mr. Summers would pull himself together in front of a student- and because, really, she wasn't young at all, not with the imprint of power and older men tangled up inside her mind.

Mr. Summers drew a sharp breath when he noticed she was there, inhaling the tears and somehow managing not to choke. She looked up when she thought he was looking at her, but he jerked his head back and started to walk before she could do more than that. She never left his side, though, except to place Stryker's files on the President's desk, and she ached with the wrongness of being there- there, in the White House, and there, next to him.

Logan kept glancing at her, and she knew- could feel- his restlessness. It made her itch with the need to go… somewhere else, anywhere else… to deal with the deep-down grief he kept clamping down on.

For a dizzy moment, she wondered if this was how it felt to be telepathic- like the professor was, like Dr. Grey had been.

Logan's emotions cut into her the most, but she could also feel Bobby's stunned confusion, John's disgust that Dr. Grey had been stupid enough to let a lake fall on her, and even Magneto's solemn regret for the loss of one of their own.

She thought that all of it together had to be something like how Mr. Summers felt. Which was another reason why she refused to move away from him, even when they returned to the jet and she had to half-jog to match his longer stride.

She wondered what the President was going to do. Then she didn't care.

Mr. Summers was crying again.

She felt absurdly sorry when she realized that he couldn't wipe his eyes, and upset that she couldn't brush the tears off his cheeks for him. Storm did it instead, and gently pushed him into a seat on the jet.

Rogue took the next seat over, even though Bobby tried to get her close to him again. "It's all right," she told him, and she meant "I can handle this."

"All right," Bobby echoed, even though she knew that he was disappointed.

But without her to look after, he took to comforting the younger kids, and she loved him for that. She might not have needed his capacity for kindness just then, but the children did. Most of them were looking at Mr. Summers with saucer-round eyes, as if they knew there'd been an ending, but it wasn't a happily ever after kind.

He was a busted up Prince Charming, she thought- like Cinderella hadn't gotten out of the room the wicked stepmother had locked her in, and he got left wandering around the countryside with nothing but a glass slipper and a memory.

Storm got into the pilot's chair and fired up the jet. Rogue felt the shakiness of the take off, and shuddered, remembering how she'd struggled with the controls, how she'd crashed. If it hadn't been for that, Dr. Grey wouldn't have needed to rescue them…

If, if, if.

She'd thought the fighting had been bad, but this thing that came after was a lot worse; it was slow, and heavy, and too much. It was sandpaper on skin over and over, and she didn't know what she could do about it.

"Professor, are we going home?" one of the children asked tremulously.

Mr. Summers flinched, and Rogue did, too, imagining the hollowed-out shell of the school, the silence, and all the leftover signs of life that would eventually have to be cleared away.

"Yes, my dear," the professor said quietly, "we are going home."

Kurt mumbled what was probably a prayer.

Rogue looked at him and thought of Sunday school classes in a hot church basement in Mississippi, of reedy six-year-old voices singing- Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight-

So much for that.

But it wasn't as terrible as it could have been when they arrived at the school. A scattering of lights could be seen, meaning at least some of the other students had made their way back since the attack. The little kids ran into the arms of their older playmates, who embraced them and watched with solemn eyes as their X-men passed. Rogue watched them realize that Dr. Grey was gone, saw the way their eyes shifted to her- some with confusion, some with understanding.

She knew she shouldn't have been there, walking with the X-men, walking with Mr. Summers.

But there was no one else. So she kept walking.