Notes: As far as I know, this fits into current Uncanny canon, with Alex in the coma and all. Thanks namely to Lyssie and Times for pestering me. (And for writing smut. Smut is always appreciated.)
The Moments Between
Pain exists - don't dwell on it. Joy exists - don't get addicted to it. You make your life in the moments between.
In his mind's eye, they're on a beach. It's sunny and he can smell the salty air. The sea is green, the waves frothing at the mouth in a way that makes this place less safe.
The grains of sand are softhard beneath his feet.
A shadow falls on him.
"I'm not leaving, Charles."
He doesn't look away from the now turquoise water, and he knows it's Xavier that made this place be what it's not. It's safe again, now.
"If I ignore you, you'll go away." Everything else does, Alex adds silently, but he knows Charles heard it. So he braces himself for the sermon, the lecture, the whatever is going to come from the telepath's mouth.
"You're being childish."
"My head, Charlie. You can leave any time you want to. In fact, please do."
"Alex. You're not alone."
"I'm giving it another few minutes until I *force* you out, Xavier."
He can feel the telepath's eyes boring into him, and he knows it's insane. He knows it's not really happening, because it's all in his head, and the man standing there, casting a shadow over him is nothing but an astral projection.
It's all in his head.
"Just tell me why."
Alex picks up a rock from the sand. No jagged edges, smooth. He throws it in the waves.
He remembers dying.
"That's not enough," Charles almost hisses at him, and Alex's nails dig into his palms, not drawing blood. This place is safe, he never hurts here.
But he remembers where he did.
When darkness fell.
Madelyne's bed on top of the Empire State Building. Black sheets. His mind being *pulled* towards her, towards the Goblin Queen, as was the duty of the Goblin Prince. Knowing just how wrong it was. Fighting, fighting to keep the image of Maddie *clean* and untainted.
Pure, as she cried against his chest in the Outback. When she laughed, mouth full of sharp, white teeth that snapped commands to the goblins.
Sex changes everything.
He remembers the heat of Australia in her breath, the dry heat of their bodies. Her softness. Soft clothes, soft smiles, soft breasts. Tender embrace, and his mind fought back at seeing her so cold and *hard* and vengeful.
His Maddie was hurt, *yes*, but she didn't crave vengeance at that capacity. Didn't *yearn* for it. Her eyes showed love, sorrow and sanity.
Love was replaced with hate, sorrow with bitterness and sanity with-- He doesn't like to remember this.
"Then don't." Xavier's voice is steel, cold blue like the ocean rumbling in front of them.
"I don't want to."
"Come back to your family."
He remembers Lorna's hair. Lorna's smile, and then he said, "I don't hate Scott. I've never hated Scott."
She brushed a sleek finger over his face, over a scar he didn't have yet then. "I know. He's the only family you have."
"I have a family." He knew she expected him to say it's her, but that wasn't the truth. "The Blandings. They raised me, they put up with me through puberty, and they never abandoned me like Scott did. Like Corsair did. Like Mom di--" Tears in his throat, and he never finished that sentence.
He knows he would have hated himself if he had. His mother didn't choose to die, he *knew* that. He always knew that, even when he was eight and Scott held him as he cried in his arms four nights after they died, but he told Scott that then. That he hated his mother and his father for leaving them and Scott promised he never would. And four more days later, Alex got adopted, and he didn't see his older brother for 13 years.
Xavier is next to him, and that's wrong, because he's not supposed to be there.
The sun sets in the west, and the "Alex" he hears is a warning. "You need to face this."
"You wanted a trip down good ol' memory lane, Charlie? Now you've got it."
He remembers Scott's eyes, furious behind the red glasses. "We could've been *killed* today, because you weren't..."
Scott reached a hand towards him, stopping it in midair, when Alex said, "Don't."
"Just tell me."
"It's none of your business."
He wanted to walk past Scott, past the cold fury he owed no responses to. He didn't want to fight, not that day. Not after the day he'd had.
He didn't want to match his own anger, red and hot and *human*, against Scott's. But Scott gripped his shoulder, pushed him against the wall. "As God is my witness, Alex. If you don't tell me where you were..." Scott's breath is hot against him, and Alex explodes.
"You wanna know where I was? *Fine*." He wrestled out of Scott's grip, throwing him a look would've deferred a lesser man. He'd been practising the look for hours with Logan. "In the hospital. My mother called."
"My mother, Sue Blandings. The woman who adopted me. My *mother*, Scott."
Visible shudders went over Scott's eyes. "Oh." A step away from him. "You're right. It's none of my business."
"You wanted to know, so now you'll stay and listen to the rest of it."
Scott looking defensive, hands crossed over his chest, but no longer doing it for the authority but the comfort. Hugging himself.
But even though Alex's brain absorbed and analyzed that, there was enough anger to simply plough on. "My father had a seizure."
"He died two days later," Alex tells Xavier. He can't even hear the waves anymore. It's so calm.
"I know. Scott told me of the funeral."
He bites back a snarl that could be nothing but a sob. "Charles, stop. You're pushing my, my buttons." The sand isn't smooth anymore, the grains of sand are rough beneath him.
"You're hiding something."
"I told you about Maddie already."
"But you didn't tell me about--"
He remembers Jean's eyes on him, so incredibly gentle. "Is there anything I can do?"
And he was a drowning man, clutching on a life raft, on a rope that would pull him back to dry land. He was drowning in his own tears. "Just, please. Can you please just be," he didn't say anything, just thought it, thought of her, not even sure if Jean would hear him. "Just for a while."
The look she gave him was enough to know he probably broke her heart with that request.
"I miss her, Jeannie. I *loved* her, so much. It wasn't Goblin Queen, it wasn't your clone, it was just her. Just Maddie. And you must find this incredibly creepy?"
Jean smiled, wistfully, like she knew everything, and that was very unlike he remembered Maddie. There was always *wonder* in Maddie, in his memories. "I don't." Then she held him, tighter, and kissed his...neck. Then his jaw-bone, his throat. Little butterfly kisses and something *lurched* in his stomach. A burning hurt in his throat, then his eyes. "Jean, don't--" Pulled away from her, looked into those green eyes that weren't Maddie, no matter what he hoped, and no matter what she did. For him.
Shook his head, whispered, "I know you're not her. I *know* that. But sometimes I just--"
She squeezed his arm, gently, and got up to leave. "I know. When you need an ear, tell me."
He closes his eyes, feels the rhythm of the waves once more. "I think we're done now, Charles."
"Let's talk about your father."
"Which one?" he asks, and he finally looks at Xavier now. Breathing raggedly, but still standing, his shadow no longer visible as the night's drawing to a close. He can see the look in Charles' eyes by the moonlight.
It's not contempt. He looks away.
"Christopher Summers. Let's talk about him."
He remembers the look of surprised hurt on Corsair's face he saw reflected in the mirror as he turned his back to his father and walked away.
"You really think that's the thing to do, kid?" Logan, a cigar in his mouth, lounging on the windowsill.
"It's not-- It doesn't have to be smart."
"'cause feelings ain't that. They just. Are."
"Exactly," he replied, easing himself to the seat next to Logan.
"He wanted to make peace with you?" Logan rumbled at him, old eyes always studying him, and usually, he didn't mind that much.
"Yeah. I just-- I don't wanna talk about it."
"That's fine," Logan replied, not taking his eyes off him. He didn't look at the older man, because he knew he'd lose in a simple battle of wills. He also knew that Logan was just going to stare at him until he came out with it, and that he had to say it to someone and that was why Logan was there in the first place.
"I've lost my father three times already. I don't want there to be a fourth time."
"So you won't even try?" asked another voice. Scott, staring at him. He shook his head with a sigh, retreating back inside the house.
"C'mon, kid. I'll buy you a beer at Harry's."
"Are you so afraid of dying you refuse to live?" Charles asks, sitting beside him.
"No. I'm not." He blinks back moisture from his eyes, as he looks at the sun rising from behind the horizon, painting the sea red.
He remembers his son. Alex brushed back blond sleep-tousled hair. "What's wrong, kiddo? Nightmares?"
No reply came, not immediately, Scotty just wrapped his arms Alex. "You won't leave me like mommy did, right?"
"Right." He didn't even consider it a lie. At that moment, he thought he would always be with his son. At that moment, he forgave both his fathers for many things. He wasn't sure whose hug was fiercer, his son's or his own.
He closes his mouth, pressing his lips together tightly, and drapes his arms over his knees. "Please stop."
There is real sorrow in Xavier's voice when he says, "I can't. I'm not the one who's doing this."
"Then who is?"
"Your time is up," Alex says. His palms are upturned, fine, white sand falling through the cracks between his fingers.
Xavier fades, his voice drowned out by the thundering, blue sea. He is alone again. Safe in his own mind.
He remembers dying.
But most of all...