Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: X-Men/Generation X
Character/Pairing: Emma, Sean, mild Sean/Emma
Challenge/Prompt: halfamoon Day 8: Unsung Hero
Word Count: 2,193
Date Written: 7 February 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Marvel Comics and Disney, not the author, and are used without permission.
She walks the halls alone this night, as she so often does. She glances into the empty classrooms, seeing both the desks that are there now and the desks that were. She hears whispers on the night wind, remnants of voices belonging both to those who sleep peacefully in the dormitories now and those who no longer have mouths witch which to speak. Her heart aches, but she continues.
She pauses with every few steps, her mind seeing scenes again as vividly as if her former students were still here. She remembers the angry fingers thrust in her face when they didn't like something as well as the whispers of their fears they thought she couldn't hear. She wonders again and again, as she already so often does, if their fears were not valid. After all, was she not the reason they were eventually killed? And the reason why her current students will one day not see the light of another dawning day?
She should leave, Emma thinks, again not for the first time, but where would she go? The only reason she came out of her coma was because she was needed. She sensed Bobby's unused power and the turmoil in his soul and tried to help. She's trying to help every one of these young lives that Charles entrusted into her care, but will she ever truly succeed in helping them? She doesn't help people, she knows. She hurts people and causes others to hurt people.
They would be so much better off without her. Leaving while they're still alive and still have a chance at better lives is the right thing to do, but without them, without the lives she's trying to help now, she has no reason to be -- not just here but anywhere. Charles gave her a purpose when he entrusted these poor souls into her care. He chose her, but she fears he chose wrong. She'll only get these students killed as she already did her cherished Hellions.
"Ack, Em, nae this again!"
She whirls. Her blue eyes, widened with surprise and moistened by unshed tears, try to glower up at Sean. "What are you doing here?" she demands, silencing the real questions she wants to ask. How long has he been following her without her knowledge? How did she let his approach go unnoticed in her mind? How much has he seen? How much does he know of her guilt, of the real reasons she's here, of all she's done? She once told him she has a list of things she could do to impress him, but the truth is, on nights like tonight, she doesn't feel worthy of impressing any one.
"Th' real question, darlin', is what ye're diin' here again. Em, we've been through this. It's nae yer fault, what happened."
Oh, but it is! The silly Irish man is too blind and foolish to recognize the truth, but she knows it. She knows the fire with which it burns inside of her. She knows the way it makes the bottom of her gut roil. She knows the whispers she hears in the night, the cries she hears every time she shuts her eyes but never more so than on this night of all nights.
She blinks as Sean's hands gently caress her shoulders. His fingers rub her flesh. She steps back, knowing she doesn't deserve a gentle embrace and knowing that, if he knew half of the monster she truly is, he wouldn't dare to touch her so softly.
"Em, luv, ye've got tae stop blamin' yeself fer this. They would nae want ye grievin' 'em so hard."
"How would you know, Cassidy? You barely knew them!"
"Aye. That's true enough." He inclines his head in a nod. "But I knae if ye're not careful, lass, ye'll be drivin' yerself mad with this guilt. Ye din't deserve tha', an' we di nae need it."
"You don't need it?!"
"Aye. None o' us do. We're here fer a reason, Em, both o' us. I'll admit I was nae sure Charles was pickin' th' right ones when he chose us tae care fer these kids. I had me doubts about ye, still have 'em about meself, but I've seen th' way ye care fer those children in there, Em. Ye're nae a monster, luv. Ye're a beautiful woman who's been hurt tragically an' ye're tryin' tae keep yeself from hurtin' but also tryin' tae keep them from hurtin'." He jerks his head back in the direction of the dorms.
"But all I'm going to do," she whispers before she can stop herself, "is hurt them." She lets the truth linger between them. She won't deny it now that she's spoken, because she knows it's the truth. All she ever brings any one, in the end, is pain. She's the reason her Hellions were killed. She'll be damned if she's the reason these children are killed too.
"If nae ye, who?" he asks, startling her again.
She frowns in confusion, her once smooth brow furrowing. She likes to pretend she doesn't have wrinkles, but she knows she does and she feels every one of them on a night like tonight.
"If nae ye," Sean repeats patiently, "who? That's what I had tae ask meself too back when Charles first gave us these children tae guide an' care fer. I've messed up so many times, Em. Me own daughter wants so precious little tae di wit' me. I'm nae th' kind o' man tae be takin' care o' a whole group o' kids, 'specially nae when I can nae even take care o' me own."
"But at least you haven't gotten her killed," Emma whispers. Sean's hands are still on her shoulders, or she'd wrap her arms around herself. She's suddenly very much aware of the chill in tonight's air.
Sean, feeling her shiver, rubs her again even as he admits, "Th' only reason Terry's still alive is nae because o' me. It's because o' th' woman she's become. She's headstrong like her da, but she's brave an' smart like her ma as well. An' I've had naething tae di wit' th' woman she's become. It's a fact o' me life I have tae lie wit' every day. I'm nae father material. I'm nae teacher material. But ye are. These kids . . . They may nae luv ye, but they damn sure respect ye."
"Because they fear me," Emma speaks softly, once more from experience, "and well they should. I'm only going to get them killed, Sean. Every night I stay here is another night I'm bringing closer to their deaths."
"That's bull, Em. These kids would've already been killed if nae fer ye, if nae fer me too as hard as it is tae believe that sometimes. Ye're afraid, Em, an' I get that. So am I."
"But you haven't gotten any one killed, Cassidy -- "
Sean smirks. "Ack, if only that were true, lass. I'm th' reason Terry's mum's nae here, an' I have tae live wit' that e'ery day o' me life, just like ye have to live wit' what happened tae yer first students. But, Em, I've seen ye wit' these children. Ye're fulfillin' yer callin' in life, lassie, even if'n ye din't want tae accept it. Yer a teacher, an' ye only want what's best fer these children -- "
"Which is exactly why I should leave."
"Em, ye're a fine woman, a brave woman, but on this, lass, ye're wrong. Like I said, these children would've been killed long ago if it weren't fer ye. Ye've kept them alive so many times. I've seen ye when they get into danger. Ye become like a mother tigress, an' begorrah help whoe'er's fool enough tae meet wit' yer claws o'er these kids. Why, I've a feelin' if ye thought I was a danger tae 'em, ye'd even do e'erything ye could tae stop me."
Emma falls silent at last, because she knows, deep down, that at least part of what Sean is saying is the truth. She would stop at nothing to protect these children from any one -- villains, humans, even Cassidy himself if she thought he was endangering them, just as he said.
"Real bravery does nae come when ye're facin' somethin' o' which ye're nae truly afraid, luv. Real courage is when ye di somethin' that ye knae is right nae matter how much it scares ye inside, an' ye would nae be scared fer these children if'n ye din't care 'bout 'em. I watch ye wit' 'em e'ery day. I knae how much ye care fer 'em, how much ye luv 'em even if ye will nae admit it. Ye're scared o' causin' 'em tae be hurt, tae be killed, but let me ask ye this again, lass: If nae ye, who? Di ye really think Charles was wrong in choosing ye tae be me partner in all this? Can ye really t'ink o' any one who would stop at naething tae protect them as ye would nae?"
Emma's gaze turns wordlessly back to the dormitories. She sees each fresh and eager face of the children sleeping within their solid walls, and then she thinks of the X-Men and of all the other people Charles could have chosen to place here to help Sean care for the children. The others would bring such dangers to them as her presence does, that is true enough, but what would the X-Men do to protect these kids? She'd kill in a heartbeat to save any of them. But X-Men don't kill. Wolverine is the only one out of all the X-Men can see actually taking a life to save one, and she can't exactly see Logan taking care of a bunch of kids. The other X-Men would all let their pathetic morals stand in the way of keeping the children safe, if killing was the only way to stop the enemy.
Her mouth opens, but then shuts. Sean's right. No one will protect them like she will. No one else will stop at absolutely nothing to keep them safe, to keep them alive. She's a threat to them, but she's also --
"Charles was right when he made his choice," Sean insists, gently squeezing her shoulders through the thin, sheer fabric of her nightgown. "Ye're th' best damn chance these kids ha'e."
"No," she whispers, looking into his emerald green eyes and silently acknowledging everything he makes her feel. He makes her feel like maybe she can do this, not alone as she was before when trying to guide the Hellions but together. There's something else here between them tonight, too, something upon which Emma can't quite lay her finger or place a name, something that makes her feel a little safer tonight and a little warmer too, perhaps, even, a little hopeful. "We are."
He smiles, though there are unshed tears moistening his green eyes now too. "Gi tae bed, Em. Tomorrow's another day, another day guidin' these young lives with which we've been trusted, another day protectin' 'em from all th' harmful things in this big, bloody world around us an' from themselves. An' tomorrow, I'll show ye a little somethin' I made fer yer Hellions today." He knows most of them didn't have proper graves, at least not graves they can reach, and he knew well what today was -- the anniversary of their deaths -- and how it would hit his beautiful, already depressed partner tonight. "We'll take 'em flowers. I've some catnip, too. Di ye t'ink Catseye would like that?"
Emma laughs, surprising them both. It's a beautiful sound that rings crystal clear in the night air. It's a sound that makes Sean smile, even if there's still a little sorrow in it and that is quieted, at the sight of that handsome smile, far too soon. "She would," Emma says, approving.
"Then we'll get 'er some catnip, too, but fer now, Em, rest an' remember what I said. True courage does nae come when ye din't need it. True courage comes from doin' what's right no matter how bloody scared it makes ye tae di it."
"I will, Sean," she vows softly, and he likes the way her lips form his name. "Thank you." She leans up and places a chaste kiss on his stubbled cheek. "Sweet dreams," she adds with a wink before walking away, her head, he notes, held a little higher and prouder once again.
He watches her go, a strange mixture of emotions fighting for dominance inside of him. God knows the woman's beautiful! And he's rarely met a braver soul than she. She will do absolutely anything to protect these children, and that's exactly the woman he needs fighting by his side to form a better future for their charges. She's braver than she knows, he knows, an unsung hero if ever there was one, and if these children will only not shy away from her, they may yet, working together, succeed in making this harsh world a better place for them all. "Good night, Em," he whispers on the night wind and smiles.