Author: Kat Lee
Character/Pairing: Shadowcat, Professor X, Wolverine
Challenge/Prompt: beattheblackdog 99: Innocent
Warning(s): Spoilers, Cannon Character Deaths
Word Count: 1,594
Date Written: 10 February 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Marvel Comics and Disney, not the author, and are used without permission.
Kitty Pryde tosses and turns, unable to sleep and yet knowing that she’ll be even more wide awake in just a few hours no matter how little sleep she manages to attain. Awakening every day at six o’clock is both a blessing and a curse. It enables her to get more things done on most days, but on nights like tonight when the X-Men are out night saving the world or she’s left struggling with the fact that she failed yet again, it can definitely be far more of a curse than a help.
She flips over on her side again with an aggravated sigh. Her body’s partially phased and sinks into the mattress a little. Her bed is soft, and the loneliness isn’t bothering her tonight. There’s only one thing to which her mind keeps turning time and time again. She failed another innocent tonight. Her team failed to help another young mutant again tonight. They managed instead to get the poor child killed. Tears glisten on Kitty’s cheeks.
“You can’t save them all, Kitten.” The voice is gentle and soft yet sends Kitty’s wide, brown eyes popping instantly open. “God knows I tried. Sometimes I think I failed more than I helped -- “
“Professor?” Kitty asks in surprise, blinking rapidly.
“But then I look at you and what you’re doing for our Dream, Kitty. I look at all the other mutants, both young and old, we have managed to help. I see the lives that are still with us, because we didn’t stop trying. I see the world still moving, hear laughter still amongst our family, and I know we have to keep trying. Or rather you have to keep trying as I no longer can.”
“Professor!” Kitty’s lips quiver. She wants to move from her bed, throw her arms around him, hold him tight, and never let him go, but for some reason, she can not seem to convince her body to rise. But then, in the next moment, she’s gasping out the truth. “But, Professor, I saw them gun her down! I saw the bastards her gun down, and I didn’t stop it!”
“Memory serves correctly, pumpkin,” a new gruffer and deeper voice speaks from just behind Kitty’s chair where the Professor sits, “you were busy savin’ the Elf.” Logan puffs on the cigar in his teeth. “Would you rather have let him die?”
“No!” Kitty cries. “Of course not! But I should’ve saved her! I should’ve found a way!”
“We can not be everywhere in this world, Kitten, no matter how much we may wish we could be or endeavor to do that very thing. In this world, life itself for a mutant is war. It’s a daily struggle just to survive. The Friends of Humanity would have found that child regardless. They were not there because the X-Men were there. They did not kill her because of the X-Men or because of you.”
“Yeah,” Logan pops a claw as he growls viciously, “they killed her because she’s a mutant. Fucking bastards!”
“Had things been different,” the Professor continues, ignoring Wolverine, “perhaps you could have saved her. You certainly tried your hardest. Nobody can argue with that fact, Kitten. But even you can not be everywhere at once.
“The hardest thing about the life that I led,” he continues, “the life you lead now, was not fighting the hatred. It was knowing that sometimes, no matter what we do, how hard we fight or try, how far we push ourselves and our teams, no matter what, there will be sacrifices. We can not save them all. And when death calls, it will call. Save one who is not intended to live another day, you will either still lose that precious soul or you may well lose a hundred or more in its place.
“It was that child’s time, Kitten. As hard as it is to accept, it was her time. She probably lived a few more hours tonight because of the X-Men and your efforts. She did not die because of the X-Men. She did not die because you tried, and failed, to help her. She died because of the hatred of humanity. To save her, to stop what fate had intended, you would have had to have lost another. Who would you have sacrificed instead?”
Kitty’s face falls even further. She understands what the Professor is saying. Too often in her own life, especially since she started leading teams, she’s noticed that death is insistent. When it’s ready to take someone, it’s going to take someone. Perhaps not the person it originally intended to take, she reflects, thinking back to when Excalibur lost Brian but regained Rachel instead until Rachel sacrificed herself to make things right, but it’s still going to take someone.
If she hadn’t reached Kurt when she did tonight and phased him through the bullet he hadn’t seen coming, she would have lost her best friend. After all the people she’s loved and lost, she can not even bear to think of losing Kurt. She never says it aloud, but she couldn’t do this job without him. She doubts she’d be brave enough to even try.
Part of the reason why she took up the helm that Xavier left behind besides the simple fact that someone had to do it is that she knew she had Kurt, Ororo, Piotr, and Rachel backing her up. Kurt and Ororo especially could no longer stand to lead, but they help her lead every day. They help her forge lives and fight battles she could never win without them. Their mere, dedicated presence in her lives helps her so much.
“You’re right,” she whispers, silent tears streaking down her cheeks, “but it still hurts.”
“‘Course it hurts, pumpkin,” Wolvy murmurs, taking another puff on his cigar.
“If death ever stops hurting, Kitten, especially deaths for which you blame yourself even when you should not, then it will be time to stop trying. It will be time to step down and let someone else step up.”
“There’s no one else to step up, Professor!” Kitty cries.
“We know, darlin’.”
“That’s one of the reasons why we’re behind you, Kitty, every step of the way. You’ve always been a source of pride for me, Katheryne, ever since you first joined the X-Men. You have almost always put others first, and you have always shown intelligence, grace, and compassion far beyond your years.”
“What Chuck’s trying to say,” Logan clarifies, “is that we’re proud of you, darlin’. You’re doin’ a damn good job, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some losses along the way. In these lives, there’s always gonna be loss. But we’re always gonna be behind you too, pumpkin, every step of the way.”
“We love you, Katheryne.”
Kitty sits up as her alarm clock begins to beat. Her eyes are wet with tears and red from both stress and lack of sleep. She swings out of her bed and looks up at one of her favorite pictures hanging on the wall. In it, everybody is smiling. It looks like they’re all happy, even though she knows that’s often far from the truth with the X-Men, with her family. She has her arms around the Professor, and Ororo, Kurt, Piotr, and Logan also stand around his chair. Her eyes linger on the Professor and Logan. “I hope I am making you proud,” she whispers, remembering her dream.
She wipes away a tear and starts to go to her bathroom but stops and sniffs the air. She looks at her empty chair and especially the area around it. She smells cigarette smoke as clearly as if Wisdom had been here -- or as if Logan had truly been here. She frowns, wondering rather or not it was just a dream, and walks over to her window. The sun is just beginning to rise above the horizon, but she has a feeling it’s going to be a beautiful day.
The weather is going to be beautiful -- and why shouldn’t it be with their resident Weather Witch to make it so? --, but her day is still going to be fraught with hard decisions and possibly more lives to save and maybe even lose. She doesn’t want to lose anyone. She hadn’t wanted to lose that child last night. But losing is part of trying. One cannot succeed without trying, but any time a person tries, there’s always the risk of failure.
But the X-Men have done a lot of good in this world, she reminds herself. She has done a lot of good. They’ve saved the world countless times, the universe at least half a dozen times, and more lives than she can even count. Those lives aren’t always saved for long, and sometimes they lose, but if they don’t at least try to save them, they will have still lost, only they will have lost without even trying.
“Watch out, world,” she whispers, smiling through the tears at which she still dabs. “The X-Men are coming.” And they will come. And they will fight. And they will dream. They will cry, too, and lose sometimes, but they will never stop trying to save all they can. She will never stop trying to save all she can. “Thank you, Professor, Wolvy,” she whispers, gazing at the rising sun and blinking back more tears. “I love you too.” She goes about her day, as ready as she ever can be to make more hard decisions and ready, too, to save whoever she can.