We won't say our goodbyes you know it's better that way
We won't break, we won't die
It's just a moment of change
All we are, all we are, is everything that's right
All we need, all we need, a lover's alibi- All We Are, OneRepublic
"Bye Ms. MacTaggert!"
Moira leaned in the doorway and waved as Doug ran with his backpack towards his parents. They were waiting for him, his suitcases next to them. The winter holidays had come and with them bitterly cold weather. New York had colder winters than what she had been prepared for, growing up in the warmer states.
Most of the children were going home, but some had deigned to stay. Charles had agreed and not pried as to the why of thier actions. Among them was Hank. Unlike the others he had been articulate about his reasons; he hadn't been ready to face his parents with his changed appearance just yet.
Sean had returned home, feeling completely happy about his progress in both school and with his mutation. However, he hadn't done so before saying a long and tearful goodbye to Maeve. He had even asked Moira's advice on what to give her, unsure of what a good Christmas gift for a girlfriend would be. She'd directed him to a world that he had heretofore shunned; jewelry.
Alex had followed suit and returned to his parents. He kept talking about how much fun he was going to have with his brother. She secretly hoped that Scott would prove to be quieter than Alex. Otherwise she didn't know how the school would be able to stand it. The school was in good repair and she was sure spoke for the whole staff when she hoped that it wouldn't be burned down the next year.
Doug continued waving before his parents ushered him into the car. He jumped in and waved again before they shut the door. His parents, whom she had shared a few words with earlier that day, gave her a wave and got into the car too. Doug seemed perfectly happy to be leaving the school, but he had seemed happy when he was there too. To her it was the sign of a good first term.
For a long time she had been worried about Doug. He had been intensely frightened by his encounter with Erik and Azazel. Doug had actually burst into tears when he found that she was alright, hugging her but being careful of her injuries. However, he seemed to calm down as time had passed. He was now once again the cheery boy that she remembered. Moira was glad that the incident had left no real scars.
She couldn't say the same for herself. Some of the burns hadn't left scars, but most of them had. White dots of varying size were speckled up and down her arms and shoulders. In her more humorous times she had thought of herself a bit like a baby deer. In her worst moments she thought of herself as looking leprous.
Turning her head she saw Charles behind her. Then again, he never let her feel self-conscious for long.
"Seeing Doug off?"
Moira nodded. She observed his coat and scarf suspiciously.
"Getting ready to go outside?" she asked.
"I'm afraid I interfered with one of Hank's science experiments. I deduced that it would probably be best if I erny out for a while," he said, "But in my defense the fibrous membranes that Hank was designing did look and smell an awful lot like gingerbread."
"Sometimes I don't know if you're the wisest, oldest, and most mature soul that I've ever seen," she said, "or a little boy who keeps getting his hand caught in the cookie jar."
He grinned at her and cocked his head.
"Do you want to come with me? You are dressed for it," he said.
Moira was. She had been inside and outside the whole day, saying goodbye to students. Her heavy coat was on, buttoned all the way up. She even had gloves on.
"You must be planning to go out. If you're not then why are you bothering to keep the door open?" asked Charles, "You'll let in a draft."
"Like you said, I was just saying goodbye to Doug," she said.
In the distance the engine of his parent's car started up. They watched together as it pulled out of the driveway.
"He'll be back in two weeks," Charles said, "They all will. And then the school will be as noisy as ever."
"A shame in some ways," said Moira, flipping her head back, "Two weeks will be just enough time to get used to the silence."
"Perhaps," said Charles, "So, what do you say to actually going outside? Just for a little while."
"Alright, just a little bit. Then we've probably got to get back inside."
Moira opened the door so he could pass through. Once his chair had cleared the doors she took the handles on the back of his wheelchair.
"I can do that myself," he said.
"I know," answered Moira, "but I want to."
He nodded at her, giving her a small smile. It started to snow as they progressed and talked about the plans they had for Christmas at the school. They had already put up a tree in the foyer. All of the students had made one ornament and hung it there. A Secret Santa program had also been organized for those remaining at the school. There were a few other things that they wanted to do, namely for those who celebrated other holidays, but for now there was a lull in the activity.
Moira had already gotten Charles his present and had it wrapped and hidden. He'd been complaining for several weeks about how he could never find a pair of cufflinks when he needed them. So she'd gotten him some silver ones with an 'X' engraved inside it. She found it funny, 'X' for Xavier, X-men, X the unknown variable, and the X-gene. 'X' was for everything in thier lives now.
Hiding gifts from a psychic was difficult though. Since the event a few months prior she had allowed him to read her mind a little more. As a precaution she had had Hank hide them for her. He'd give her a note with its location that she'd open on Christmas Eve. Moira figured Charles would take that as a clear sign that he should stop prying. She could only hope so anyway.
Soon they reached the spot where she had stopped with him over a year ago and he'd sent her away. It was inevitable; it was where the path led. She hesitated there. Charles seemed to recognize it too, and to know what she was thinking. He coughed nervously.
"We can turn back now," he said.
"No," said Moira, "It's nice to get out of the mansion for a bit. We can go a bit further."
"At least stop for a minute," he said, "I know your foot isn't fully healed."
"It's healed enough to walk around," she argued.
"Hank says you shouldn't try to exert yourself too much," said Charles, "I wish you'd use the elevator we installed more as it is."
"It's never in the right place for me."
She definitely felt that he was over-exaggerating. True, she had been in bed rest for a few weeks. That had a lot to do with her ribs though. It had been a nice break, students and faculty alike had brought her flowers and candy. The boys had been frequent visitors and Charles had been a particularly attentative nurse. It must be due to his nurturing nature.
After that she had been on crutches for a week. When she had gotten off of them her foot still hurt. Charles had continued to try to take care of her though, constantly worrying about her. And she knew why. The sad smile he gave her whenever they finished arguing about how easy she should take it gave everything away.
"It wasn't your fault Charles," she sighed.
With an almost amused look he reached back and took her hand.
"I'm afraid that I have no idea what you're talking about," he said.
"You know what I mean," Moira said.
He gave her a sad smile that she was rapidly getting used to.
"Sweetheart, whether it's my fault or not I'll always feel guilty," Charles said, "I won't be able to stop harboring those feelings deep down just because you tell me to."
"You should," she said.
Charles rolled his shoulders back and turned his eyes away from her.
"I'll forgive myself for what happened when you forgive yourself for the beach."
With a deep sigh she knelt beside him in the freshly fallen snow. Moira took his hands in hers. While her hands were gloved, his weren't. A little irritated at their lack of contact, which she was sure would elicit a response, Moira removed her gloves. Then she took his cold hands into her still warm ones. He turned back to her then.
"You forgave me for that though," said Moira, "and that's all that matters in the end."
"But I never said you were to blame!" he argued.
"Exactly," said Moira, "Saying that's just another form of forgiveness. It's more subtle, but it's forgiveness all the same."
Instead of answering he looked away.
"I'll try," he said after a time, "That's all I can guarantee."
"That's all I ask."
He brought up one of her hands to kiss before looking over the grounds.
"When I first told you that I wanted to set up a school here," said Charles, "I wasn't sure it was going to work. There were times when I was frustrated, when I thought that it wasn't going to happen."
Already her hands had turned cold in the air. Moira wasn't paying attention anymore though. Smiling with contentment Charles said;
"But it did. It all happened. Now we're sending those children off on winter vacation. And they'll come back next year, and the year after that. It may exist my whole life, maybe longer. So if I'm lucky then I'll be able to spend my whole life doing this job."
"You are lucky," said Moira, "I'm sure you will."
"I am," he agreed, "But I have to ask you something."
"You see," Charles said, his voice heavy and ponderous, "if you're lucky, where do you think you'll be in ten years?"
She cocked her head and looked up at him. There were no undercurrents to the question, just a brutally honest urge to know. Her hands were now numb in his but she didn't care.
"Ten years," Moira said, rolling the words over her tongue as if to taste them, "Ten years. Where will I be in ten years…"
"Hopefully I'll be helping Alex's little brother Scott find his Algebra book or tutoring him with the other kids," she said, "Or, from what I've seen of the Summers boys, helping him clean up an explosion in his room."
His eyes were shining. Slowly he closed them.
"And hopefully, if I'm as lucky as you, we'll be like this," she said, "And we'll be able to come to this spot and laugh about what happened."
She clasped his hands tighter.
"And I'll have your hands in mine."
Although his eyes were still closed he looked down.
"Why?" asked Charles, his voice lost and helpless, "I know you love this school, but you don't have to be with me to stay."
"I know," said Moira quietly, "I'm not with you because I don't want to leave. I'm with you because I love you."
"But I can't give you anything. If...if we were to stay together I probably couldn't even give you children."
He shook his head when she tried to say something in protest.
"Don't deny it," Charles said, "I've seen your mind; I know how badly you want them. But I won't be able to give you that. All you would have is-"
"You," she finished for him, "You asked me a question Charles and I gave you my answer. Nothing's going to change it; that's where I want to be in ten years. I can see it, can you?"
A single tear fell from his eye. Charles opened his eyes again and stared into hers.
"Yes sweetheart, yes I can," he said, his voice low, "And that's why I think you should look at your hands."
Moira looked down. A diamond ring had been slipped onto her finger. Her hands had been so numb with cold that she hadn't noticed. She looked up at him.
"So?" he asked.
She reached up and kissed him. Charles' arms wrapped warmly around her. He held her close as the snow continued to fall around them.
A/N: And that's All We Are! Thank you to everyone who reviewed and gave their support, and a special thank you to 02AngelBaby75, 1010, and actressen. The sequel, Sins of the Father, should be up in about a week. Here's to Charles/Moira!