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Question of Sacrifice

Title: Question of Sacrifice
Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: X-Men
Character/Pairing: Kitty, teen!Jean
Rating: PG/K+
Challenge/Prompt: halfamoon Day 14: Sacrifice
Warning(s): Spoilers
Word Count: 1,997
Date Written: 13 February 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Marvel Comics and Disney, not the author, and are used without permission.

"I have something important to ask you," Kitty announces, walking forward and leaning backwards against her desk. Her arms folded in front of her chest, she looks down intently into the eyes of a woman she remembers to be much older, smarter, and more experienced. But that person, she reminds herself again, is not the girl in front of her. That was another person she loved, and although they are so much alike, she must accept this new Jean for her own potential. Still, she's noticed their uncanny similarities do not only bother her, which is exactly why she must talk to her.

Jean Grey looks up into her teacher's serious face, wondering what could be so important to make Kitty look so worried and cause her to keep her after class. She caught Warren's and Bobby's looks as the others left and now fidgets in her desk. She knows they're going to tease her when she catches back up to them. They'll also want to know what Kitty wanted to talk to her about that was so important, but Jean has a feeling that whatever it is is never going to leave this room. She concentrates on lifting her slim shoulders into a shrug to make herself appear unconcerned. "Ask."

"Would you do what she did?" Kitty questions without missing a beat.

Jean frowns. "What do you mean?"

"Would you do what she did?" Kitty repeats. "You're upset that all of us from this time look at you and see our dead friend. You're upset that your life seems to have already been lived out for you, your decisions all already made, and you're determined not to make the same mistakes your predecessor made even though she was you. You've got all this information now that you didn't have the first time around, the first time you had to make the decisions that changed your life so greatly. You claim you won't make the same decisions, the same mistakes. I heard you say that if you know what the future you did, you're going to do just the opposite, but is that really true, Jean?" she asks, raising an eyebrow to emphasize her question. "Are you really going to allow yourself not to make the right decision because you know the future you made it?"

"I . . . I . . . "

For just a moment, Kitty pauses, wondering if she's laid too much information on the girl's proverbial plate. These children have already been through so much, being snatched forward from their rightful timeline and brought into this one where they've had to deal with all the fallout from the wrong decisions their future selves made. But she's heard this girl say the same line too many times, and she knows she's thought it even when she hasn't said it. She has to make certain Jean sees the mistake she's preparing to make before she actually makes it.

"The future Jean Grey, your future self, the one we all know and love decided to stay with the X-Men, because it was the right thing to do. There are many, other paths, easier paths, she could have taken, but she didn't choose them. She did what she had to do to try to make the world a better place and to save her friends and family."

"I'm not going anywhere, if that's what you mean. I'm not about to leave the X-Men! Scott may be off having fun in outerspace or whatever -- " Kitty presses her lips together to keep from telling the girl that the future Scott Summers, the same man who killed their beloved Professor, also spent a while in space, getting to know his father and the rest of his father's family, the Starjammers. " -- but I'm not going anywhere," Jean concludes.

"That's good," Kitty approves with a nod though her arms remain folded before her. "You need to be really careful which decisions of your future self you decide to change."

"I know I have to be careful! I know all about the risks to the timeline, Professor Pryde, but I'm not going to let anybody else, even if she is me, decide my fate for me! I'm not going to let anybody else tell me how to live my life! I'm not -- " She stops, noticing that Kitty's shaking her head and gives the older woman a chance to speak.

"I don't expect you," Kitty answers, choosing her words carefully, "or any of you to make the same decisions that your other selves did just because you don't want to mess up the timeline. Maybe, and I'm sure to a certain extent it does, this timeline needs to be changed. I would never tell you to let anybody else, including me, tell you how to live your lives. But I also don't want you making the mistake of not doing something just because you know it's what your future self did."

At Jean's frown, Kitty relents a little. "I know this is all confusing. I can't pretend to know how you're feeling or how confused you really are, and I've done a good bit of time traveling myself. But somebody needs to make you realize something, and since nobody else is going to do it," she continues, shrugging one shoulder, "that somebody is going to have to be me."

She moves one of the desk sideways to better get on Jean's level and slides into its seat. "What I'm trying to say, Jean, is that you need to make your own decisions, but you don't need to let the decisions your future self made influence you in any way." She shakes her head again. "You don't need to not do something just because you know it's what your future self did, just like you don't need to make the same decision your future self did only because it's the decision you made the first time around." She's gazing directly into Jean's big, green eyes now as she asks softly, "Does that make any more sense?"

"I think so," Jean answers after a moment of hesitation spent nervously chewing her bottom lip while mulling over everything Kitty's said in these last few minutes together. She has a lot of respect for Professor Pryde. She's the only one who's stood beside them since the first moment in this time, the only one who's fought as hard as she has for their basic right to make their own decisions. She knows she's only trying to help, but Jean really doesn't like talking about all this stuff. It makes her head and heart hurt, and she'd much rather forget about all this time traveling stuff, all the mistakes her future self made, and most especially the fact that her future self is dead because of one of those mistakes she made -- not that she can ever forget it, even for a moment.

She watches Kitty's eyes as she talks, and she knows there's something more the Professor's not making clear. There's something big bothering her. Finally, she adds, still gazing into Kitty's eyes, "But there's something in particular you want to ask me. One mistake she -- I -- made above all the rest."

"Maybe it wasn't a mistake. But you tell me."

"Which one?" Jean questions although the ice curling in her gut already warns her that she knows which decision, above all the decisions her future self made, that Kitty's wanting to ask her about.

"The Phoenix force did a lot of harm to our team, our family. Maybe it's true that the Professor wouldn't be dead if we had never encountered the beast, but a lot of other things would have changed too. Jean -- your future self -- agreed to let the Phoenix take her, because it was the only way she could save her family. If it hadn't been for her sacrifice, none of the original X-Men would have made it back to Earth alive from their first mission in outer space. The Phoenix saved Jean -- "

" -- and later killed her," the younger Jean points out.

"Yes," Kitty agrees, not trying to hide the fact. "But it also saved Scott, Hank, Warren, and Bobby. It saved them all, and without the first five X-Men, probably none of the rest of us would have ever come to meet or come to be X-Men ourselves."

"But the Professor started a second team."

"Yes," Kitty acknowledges with a nod. "But he only did so because he needed a second team in order to save the first from the mutant island that was holding them hostage. If he had not believed they could be saved, he probably would have never formed that second team and -- " She pauses, not wanting to burden the girl even more than she already is but also knowing that she must know the truth. " -- and probably would have died still blaming himself for the first team's deaths."

"So none of this would have happened," Jean whispers, looking around them. "The school -- "

" -- would have just been a dream he gave up on, and so would the X-Men."

Jean sighs, tears brimming in her green eyes. "So what's your question?" she asks finally, frowning in confusion. "Do you want to know if I would let the Phoenix force in me?"

"Yes," Kitty answers, "and no." She frowns this time. "I'm sorry. I know this is confusing, -- " Jean lets her talk. " -- but what I really want to know is, You say you'll stop at nothing to get to live your own life. But what will you stop at to protect your friends?"

"To protect Scott, Hank, Bobby, and Warren?"

Kitty nods.

Jean thinks for a minute, mulling over everything Professor Kitty has told her. She understands her question now. She's afraid that she won't make the same mistakes her predecessor did, but that she'll make even worse mistakes. But, in her heart, Jean already knows the answer. "Nothing," she answers at last. "Yes, I would do the same thing she -- I -- did before if it came to it. If the only way I could save them was by letting the Phoenix force in me, I would. To save them, I would do anything. It's like you're always saying: The X-Men are more than a team, more than friends. We're a family. They're my family, and I'll always do whatever it takes to save them."

Her Professor's bright, approving smile relieves Jean. "Does that mean I answered right?"

Kitty's smile falters. "You only answer right, on anything," she tells her, "if you answer truthfully."

"Well, it is true, but I would do one thing different from what I did before too."

"What's that?"

"I'd tell somebody. Or write it down. Or something. Somehow, I'd let you guys know what I had done and that it -- the Phoenix force -- was here, but I'd let it in. I'd sacrifice myself every time to save the others."

Kitty beams again. She stands, and the other girl follows. "Spoken," Kitty says approvingly, "like a true X-Man, like the true Jean Grey."

"Of course," Jean answers, "because no matter how much I might want to be somebody I'm not, no matter how much I want to change what I became and what happened before, I'm still me. I'm still Jean."

Kitty smiles down at her student. "And I still love you for that."

She's surprised when Jean moves swiftly and wraps her in a hug. "Thank you, Professor Kitty," she says, squeezing her hard. "Thank you for believing in us and for doing everything you have -- everything you do -- to help us."

"It's all part of being an X-Man," Kitty says, trying to pretend she's not choking up with emotion.

"No," Jean corrects gently, "it's all part of being a family."

"You've got that right," Kitty acknowledges, nodding, grinning, and hugging her student back in return.

The End

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