Sorrow, or, The Transience of Memory

by Amanda Sichter

This was just one of those odd ideas that came up (when I was in the shower if you really want to know - help, fan-fic is taking over my life).

Disclaimer: Marvel owns the people. I own the idea. But I'm not going to make money out of either of them.

Continuity: None, particularly, but the Psi-Wars never happened.

It all started when Scott died.

I remember that day with perfect clarity. She left me that, at least.

It should never have happened. The mistake was so stupid, so basic - but it happened and all the tears in the world won't change it.

She had him in her shield, wrapped him tight in TK, stopping anything that came towards him while he used his eye-beams to shatter the columns around us, trying to bring down the building on the Marauders. We'd already taken out half of them, bodies all scattered around us, unconscious or dying. I was trying to take down Sabretooth, Rogue was getting the Cajun out from under a beam where he'd been pinned, the others were all around somewhere, fighting.

The mistake - maybe it was Cyke's. I don't know anymore. He hit a column and it started to fall, but it fell the wrong way, inwards instead of out, heading straight for Jean. Cyke shouted to her and she saw what was happening, and for just a second - less than a second - she took her shield away from him, used it to punch the column away from her, so she was safe.

Any other second, any other instant, and it would have been fine. But it had to be that moment.

That moment when Riptide's last burst of projectiles passed through the space where the shield should have been.

Scott didn't even have time to scream. The projectiles went through him like hot knives through butter, and I looked, looked once as Jeannie's scream pierced my brain, and he was bleeding, bleeding all over, and his face was not there any more and blood blossomed out, and then everything went away in a golden burst as Jeannie let go, let it all go, and her power streamed out of her in a wave and the Marauder's were vapourised around us. Sabretooth went so fast I nearly fell over.

They didn't have time to scream either.

And then Jeannie was on her knees next to Scott's body, cradling it, kissing it, and inside my head she was screaming, inside all our heads she was screaming, and the others came and gathered around her, she was covered in Scott's blood, and she wouldn't stop screaming.

She leaves everyone that memory. Even the ones who weren't there.

She left me the funeral as well. It rained that day, Storm's tears coming from the sky, not her eyes. Black clouds, black suits, black cars, black veils. A black day for the X-Men.

Long, droning words. The murmur of the curious crowds. Quiet weeping in the background.

And inside our heads, the echoing silence where her screams had been.

Oh, she was there. Chief mourner. In front of everyone she was brave and strong, still beautiful despite the grief that ravaged her face. She didn't even falter when the curtains closed behind the casket.

But inside our heads, where the screaming had been, there was nothing. They had to do it in the end. She wouldn't stop screaming, not for days, and in the end we couldn't take it any more. The Professor made the decision and we had to admit it was a relief when he and Psylocke and the White Queen made the box of their thoughts and put Jean and her screams inside of it - cut off from all of us, cut off from everything, her screams echoing inside those walls back and forward on top of themselves. But in our thoughts, it was blessed silence.

It was only supposed to be temporary, only until she had grieved enough to stop the screaming, to stop tormenting everyone else with her sorrow.

When she broke out she was still screaming.

That was how we knew. Her screams were inside our heads again, and even though they were psychic screams, they were so loud I covered my ears, and screamed along with them, until suddenly, they cut off. My ears were bleeding from the assault, but the healing factor had them fixed by the time I got to Chuck's office.

He didn't have a healing factor. The blood ran from his nose, his ears, from his fingers where he'd gouged at his chair. Luckily, he must have been knocked out before the real damage was done, because he came out of it okay in the end. Psylocke wasn't so lucky. She lost most of her powers. And her hearing. And any mental capacity above that of a eight-year old.

The White Queen was dead.

Jean was gone.

Even then, we would have left her. It wasn't her fault, we said, she's mad with grief and loss. She'll come back one day. We still loved her and looked for her and wanted to care for her.

We found her victims first. Time must have passed, must have, because Psylocke was getting better, but that part of my life is gone now. I'm sure I must have helped search for her, but she took that part away from me.

She left me the victims. She left me their blank faces, the nothingness with which they looked at loved ones, the complete amnesia that had overtaken them.

We didn't even find them. The authorities from the hospital came to us with a wild tale about amnesia victims who couldn't remember their own names, but could describe in detail Scott's death and funeral. Like I said, she leaves everyone those memories.

Chuck couldn't work out what had happened, couldn't read their minds, but something had happened to Psylocke when most of her mind was wiped. She'd become attuned to Jean in a way no-one else was, and in her new and breathy child's voice she told Warren that the blank man in the room was made by Jeannie, that Jeannie had been in his head and taken everything away.

How do you track down the greatest telepath in the world? I don't know. She took that part away.

But we must have done something right, because we found her and made a plan to capture her and that's where my memory starts - in the fog that surrounded Jean, with Storm up on high keeping us concealed in its folds, and me creeping in, and somewhere beside me, in the fog, the Cajun sneaking in too. I was the distraction, the one she could sense, the one she'd attack, the diversion. She was mind-blind to the Cajun, same as all telepaths, and he was going to get close enough to her, and knock her out. On the old Jean it would have worked beautifully.

But this Jean got frustrated in the fog, and instead of searching for us with her mind, she simply picked up every bit of debris around her and flung it outwards in a spiral of death. I was left bleeding from a hundred wounds, shocked and suddenly afraid.

Gambit didn't have a chance.

I don't know how Storm knew he had died, whether the fog thinned and she saw him, whether they had a stronger connection than I thought, but her scream came from down on high, like the scream of a lonely hawk, and then she was falling down through the sky like a falcon, and the fog was thinning, and I caught a glimpse of the Cajun, his body torn and bleeding, half-ripped away, so dead, so dead and then she was there, in front of me.

'Jeannie,' I moaned. 'Don't do this. I love you, Jeannie.'

Then she was inside my head, all of her, and I knew what it was that was driving her mad. For her psi-link to Scott was still there, the end of it torn and bleeding, and it fastened on to me, grabbed hold of my psyche and I was lost.

I thought it would hurt, having everything ripped out of my head. It felt like nothing on earth - better than sex, better than love, better than anything. The psi-link was there in my head, and it was passion and pain and love and heat and desire all wrapped up in one, and I wondered for a second how Scotty had walked around with that in his head without a permanent hard-on.

And then she began to feed.

When I came back to the land of the living, she was gone, long fled. Storm was beside me, shaking me, and her face was all tears and blood and terrible grief, and the others were behind her, and I could see the blanket that concealed Gambit's corpse and there were tears and mourning and they were so afraid it washed over me in waves.

I didn't remember their names.

I didn't remember my own.

They've taught me my names now, their own. The one called Jubilee sits with me a lot and she tells me as much of my past as she knows, and I am grateful, but still there is nothing there.

I know what she is trying to do. I know that she hopes if she tells me all those things that they will spark something inside of me and I will start to remember, that the dots will connect up and suddenly I will be me again.

I don't know how to tell her that it'll never work. Jean didn't conceal my memories or alter them. She took them away. They can call me Logan as much as they want, and I will answer to it, but inside my head there is only the lonely, echoing vault where my memories used to be.

Jubilee tells me that I am the best at what I do. How do I tell her that I don't know what I do? Or did. How can you be the best at anything if you can't remember what it was?

I think, deep down, Jubilee knows. That would explain why she cries so much, when she thinks I won't notice.

The only things I remember are what Jean left me. Scott's death. His funeral. Her escape. The victims. Gambit's death. The end of my life.

She's still out there, the mind vampire. We haven't been able to find her. We find her victims often enough - the poor bastards who'll never remember who they are again.

I told the Professor why I think she does it - how the broken psi-link has driven her mad, how it fastens onto whoever it can to try and give her someone who can replace Scott, how - when she can't find anyone who matches up - she takes away their memories so she can use them as her own, to put them in her own head, to try and live a happy life without Scott. But she's stealing other people's lives, taking away what makes them who they are, sucking them dry of thoughts and memories. And it seems her stolen memories only last so long because she keeps taking new victims.

They've turned up in batches all over the country. Psylocke confirms that Jean is what causes their amnesia, but we still haven't been able to find her. The memories she steals conceal her from the Professor, they stop him from being able to pick out her mind in the cities she frequents.

She is a monster now, a mind vampire, who steals the happiness of others and leaves them sucked dry, trying to cover over her grief with the memories of others.

We will keep hunting her. We will find her.

In time, I hope that I learn enough to be able to join in the hunt.

I don't know what I'll do when we find her. She stole my life. She stole everything.

But I still love her.

I wish she had let me remember why I love her.

Maybe then I'd know why I hate her so much.

The End

Amanda [email protected]
'All that glitters is a high refractive index'