Author: Kat Lee
Challenge/Prompt: fffc r17.22: Reflection
Warning(s): Spoilers, Cannon Character Deaths
Word Count: 1,536
Date Written: 22 November 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Marvel Comics and Disney, not the author, and are used without permission.
The school is quiet as Kitty leans back in her office chair with a weary sigh. It’s been a long week. They’ve saved the world a half dozen times, the universe once, and far more than a couple dozen of new mutant lives or, at least, new lives to them. The school seems to stay a hubbub of activity these days with some classes even being taught at night, but now at last, everything is calm. Everything is quiet.
She knows it won’t last -- it never does --, and she knows too that, despite the hushed, peaceful silence, she’s not the only one still awake. In this place, there’s always somebody still awake even if it’s just the latest version of Wolverine popping open another beer or Kurt sticking to the shadows and repeating the prayers that bring him so achingly little solace these nights. There’s always someone who can not sleep, some poor soul who dares not close his or her eyes for the nightmares that are just waiting for them to doze, some worried heart that can not allow its owner’s mind to sleep.
She has often been one of those, and she is again tonight. She watches her computer screen go completely dark before raising from her chair and walking through the walls to her private corridors. She stretches as she moves into her bedroom and changes her clothes, but then she doesn’t sink into her bed. She sits at another computer instead, this time a laptop watched over by a purple, plush dragon who reminds her of yet another friend who has gone from this world -- though, at least, this one still lives, or he did the last time she received a message from him.
She wishes he’d come home. She wishes things could again be as they once were between them, between all of them. She’d give almost anything to go back to the days when she wasn’t the leader, when she was just another follower, another X-Man trying desperately to make a few things right in this crazy world. But somebody had to stand.
The Dream couldn’t die. She couldn’t see it destroyed, or stopped, or otherwise halted simply because of those who believed with all their heart and soul in the dream are no longer with them, or no longer able to lead. She fires up her laptop and watches as the little dragon’s wings beat as her own operating system loads. She’d give anything to not be the one with so many lives depending on her, but someone had to take the stand. For mutants worldwide, for the Professor, for Jean and for Scott, for Wolvy, someone had to take a stand.
Nobody else had been willing, or perhaps able, to do it, so she’d done what she’d always done and did what needed to be done. She’d risen to the occasion, but every day meets with new complications. Every night brings renewed whispers of doubt, like now. Was she really the only one who had been willing? What if she’d waited a while? Would Ororo have stood? Would Kurt? Would Magneto even?
There are so many people who are more suited to the role she struggles every day to fill. There are better leaders, wiser teachers, older and more experienced X-Men. But every one of them who was left had lost a piece of themselves along the way. Ororo had had her heart wounded time and again. Kurt had lost his very soul. Hank had lost his belief not in the Dream but in the X-Men who were meant to fulfill it. She had only lost her childhood, and she had given it freely.
She remembers, with a self-depreciating smirk, a few years ago when she’d left home for college. She’d thought she was returning to home. She’d thought she was doing what she needed to be doing. She couldn’t have been more wrong! This is the place where she belongs; these people are her home. There may be others more suited to doing what she does, but there was no one able to when she took the reins.
And they had to be taken. This had to be done. The Dream had to continue to be fought for. They couldn’t just give up. If they’d given up, all they had sacrificed, all they had lost, all the brilliant lives who had been lost . . . They all would have been for nought.
Kitty pops a disc into her computer and rubs tired hands over her face as she waits for it to load. She needs to review the files on this disc tonight. She has several copies of them and keeps at least one always at the ready. She even has a hidden pocket on her uniform where she slides the disc when they head out into the field.
It contains no secrets, only pictures whose importance no stranger would be able to understand. The disc loads, and she looks at each image in turn with tears growing in her deep, brown eyes. There’s herself with Illyana, both so young and inexperienced, both so carefree and full of love, light, life, and laughter. There she is with her arms around the Professor. They’re both smiling, though they had both been determined to win the challenge hanging between them. She understands now more than ever before that he had simply been trying to protect her, but she’d been unable to accept leaving her friends at that time.
She’s tried a couple of times. Everyone of them has, but the simple fact remains that they are home, her family, her reason for still being in this fight, for still even being alive. They are the reason she rises every morning and does everything she can throughout the day and following night to secure their safety and their futures. She cares about the mutants she’s never met. She cares about the survival of their species. She cares about every stranger’s life she’s ever saved. But most of all, she cares about her family.
None of them had been able to rise to the occasion when she’d done it. Few of them had even had ideas of how to begin to put their team, their home, their family back together. But every night Kitty had shut her eyes and tried to rest, she’d had her plans return to her, each evening with another additional step added on. She’s fancied, at times, that the plans were never hers, that they were placed inside her mind by the Professor or Jean or even Wolvy, but the fact remains that she is the one who has brought them all together again. Rather they survive or fail this time, rather the Dream happens in her lifetime or not, most of it is all up to her, and none of it can happen if she doesn’t keep trying every day she has, with every breath, she has to make this world a better place for them all.
She clicks through group pictures and photos taken from when she was dating Piotr and later Wisdom. There’s even one with her with Peter Quill, and Peter Parker. Kitty smirks again at herself. She certainly does have a thing for Peters!
But over and over again, she sees the same smiling faces. Over and over again, she sees herself with the Professor, with Logan, with Jean, with Ororo, with Fuzzy, with Illyana, with Rachel. These are her family, alive and dead. These are the reasons she keeps fighting and the reasons she will always fight.
She clicks all the way through until, again, she comes back to the image of her teenage self smiling brightly with her arms wrapped around the Professor’s neck. She remembers when he had confessed to her his pride that she would not be beaten when she proved herself, once and for all, an X-Man. She remembers his pride, remembers his love, remembers his wisdom. She remembers the tenderness of his hug and the gentleness in his blue eyes. She remembers how he gave everything for the Dream, including surrendering any hope he’d once had of making things work with the man he’d loved, and she remembers how he never, ever stopped fighting for them and believing in every one of them.
She smiles through her tears and wipes them away. “I hear you, Professor,” she whispers, ejecting the disc and holding it tight as she shuts down her computer and finally goes to bed. She slips the disc into a safe hiding place underneath her pillow and slips underneath the covers, still smiling. She can practically feel his lips on her forehead as she shuts her eyes, closing them against more tears.
She reaches out and pulls another plush dragon close. She wishes it was Lockheed, but it wasn’t. He might never sleep in her arms again, but she’ll never forget him. She’ll never forget any of them. If the Professor was here, he’d tell her again how proud he is of her and advise her to keep fighting, to keep dreaming, to keep living for him and for them all. “That’s exactly what I’m going to do,” she whispers and sleeps at last.