Distant Voices

by Andraste

Disclaimer - None of the people here are mine. They all belong to Marvel. Rated PG-13 for "adult themes." Takes place in some kind of alternate timeline after XM#98.

Here's the story again, without any funny quotation marks. Hope it finds a whole new feedback writing audience . . .

There really isn't any reason you should be like this.

I've done all the tests, and there's no permanent damage. Nothing physically wrong with you. Nothing that wouldn't normally be wrong with a man your age who hasn't been eating or sleeping lately, anyway.

You didn't swallow that much water.

Of course, the pills on their own would have been enough. If you'd just lain down on the bed or locked yourself in your study, we'd never have found you in time.

You probably knew that.

You didn't really want to end it at all, did you?

You just wanted some help.

You could have asked, instead of scaring everyone like this.

I mean, don't you think they've lost enough? I never really knew Scott - took a bomb out of his abdomen once, but that's another story - but I know that his loss meant a lot to everyone here. You more than most, I suppose.

They need you to make it.

You know that too, right?


I should have seen this coming. I have waited with you for weeks while this crisis unfolded. I could see how tired you were, even before this final tragedy.

I should have tried to talk to you.

Yet I did not, because you have always been strong, or have at least appeared to be strong. You have always been self-contained. I am sorry that I did not try harder to reach out to you, to assuage your grief.

I will continue to lead the X-Men in you absence, because I know how important the dream still is to you, even if you have temporarily lost sight of it. We will go on without you, although we would prefer to go on with you. If you require time to recover, I will ensure that you will have home to return to, when you come back from wherever you are now.

It is a lovely day outside, Charles. I will not let the snow fall on the ground here, but the sky up above is a chill, fine, winter blue. I wish that you could see it.

The world is a beautiful place, even when it seems consumed by grief. I would be awful to leave it before time.


". . . I kissed her, and my baby brother, and was very sorry then; but not sorry to go away, for the gulf between us was there, and the parting was there, every day. And it is not so much the embrace she gave me, that lives in my mind, though it was as fervent as could be, as what followed the embrace.

I was in the carrier's cart when I heard her calling to me. I looked out, and she stood at the garden-gate alone, holding her baby up in her arms for me to see. It was cold, still weather; and not a hair of her head, nor a fold of her dress, was stirred, as she looked intently at me, holding up her child.

So I lost her. So I saw her afterwards, in my sleep . . ."

This isn't helping, is it? I just thought that . . .

Perhaps you're doing this because you need a little peace and quiet. Perhaps I should just sit here and say nothing, for once in my life.

Sometimes, I think that I've put too many of other people's words inside my head, so that they've crowded out my own. In all my vaunted vocabulary, I have not one word that can bring you back to us.


I can't reach you.

Not that I ever truly thought that I could, but in the absence of anyone else, I felt obliged to try.

As one craftsperson to another, I have to admit that your shields are nothing short of phenomenal. I doubt that even the enormous potential power of the Summers children could reach you. Even if they could, they would risk doing you serious damage. Damage that you can do very well on your own, apparently.

I know why you're doing this. I did it myself, for the same reason. You need to hide. From the guilt. From the pain.

But it won't heal while you're down there. You need to get up into the air again, out into the world. You know that. That was why you offered me a job in the first place, wasn't it? Occupational therapy.

It works. They've made me a better person. Given me a reason to keep breathing. Are you trying to say that your students haven't done the same for you?

Perhaps none of us ever thanked you properly for helping us. I, for one, would like to return the favour, if there is any way I can.


I brought flowers - well, Frosty picked them out - who'd have known that she'd care? - but she let me bring 'em in. All sorts - I think that one's an orchid. Wonder where they get them from in the middle of winter? Do they grow them in greenhouses, or do they come from some place hot? Anyway, someone should get a vase or something. I can't believe no-one else brought any, it's so dull in here.

And quiet. Would you like some music?

So . . .

It's been pretty peaceful up at school lately, as peaceful as things ever are for us, anyway, at least since we blew up the hall. I'm sure Sean would be here with you, but he's got to take care of Teresa - what happened to her was really rough, wasn't it? I guess it's rough all over these days. Everything changes - mutatis mutandis and all that. Monet's gone - never thought I'd miss her, but I guess you get used to anything after a while. It's weird not having someone to fight with. Penance turned out to be a real person after all, so now we're back at square one with her, identity-wise. Guess you heard about Mondo turning up again. Doesn't anyone around here just stay dead?

Oops. Didn't mean that. Sorry. Change of subject, yeah?

If you don't feel like talking you could, like, blink, or something. Once for yes, two for no.

Okay. Be like that.

I know this has been hard on you, but really, it isn't your fault. You don't have to do this. Cyke sacrificed himself for his kid. Given the chance I know you'd have jumped in in his place. That's what heroes do, right?

Not your fault.

You miss him, right? Can't think about anything else. We all know how you feel, believe me.

Erm . . . I know this sounds weird, but, when you're feeling up to company again, we could, you know, hang out for a while. I'm good at cheering people up - had lots of practice, what with all the teenage mutant angst in Snow Valley. We'll go blading again, get some icecream, hit the mall, you know, whatever . . .

It's your birthday soon, isn't it? You wouldn't want to miss cake, would you?

We all miss you.

Come back soon, 'kay?



Hey, Chuck.

I know you can hear me. You hear everything, don't you? Least, you hear everything you want to hear. Nothing special about your ears, but you usually manage to make up for that.

Don't know about your sense of smell, though. Can you smell that? Yeah, I'm smoking in the infirmary. Gonna stop me?

Guess I'll have to wait for the doc to do it, then.

You're probably thinking that no-one understands what you're going through - just like you thought no-one understood about Onslaught. Pretty adolescent of you, in a way. Hey, did you ever think that I'm old enough to be your father?

I do understand. I've been down where you are, maybe further. I've thought that I couldn't fight any more. I've lost a lot of people, and most of the time it's been my fault. Sometimes, I've been so far gone that I've lost the way back. There have been times when I thought that there was no reason to go back.

The X-Men gave me a reason. I never really understood what family was about 'til I came here. I think I've figured it out now. Support. Someone to watch your back, to catch you if you fall down. I'm not always good at letting people watch my back. But I do know that I'd come back from anywhere for the people here. Family gives you reasons. And it gives you responsibilities, too.

Cyke knew about responsibilities. He did what he had to do, for his family and the whole damn human race. Now you have to do the same.

The team needs you, now more than ever. If Cyke was still here, we'd manage - have done before. Hell, I'm not sayin' that 'Roro can't lead as well as he did, but we need someone to . . . look up to, I guess. I'm the best there is at what I do, but making dreams isn't exactly my line.

You think you can't cope. Cope anyway.

Sounds harsh, doesn't it? Just remember, we're waiting.



I . . .

I should not have come. I did not . . .

I have other concerns to occupy me. You obviously do not wish to speak to me. We are opponents, I am not your councilor.

I will leave now.

Damn it, Charles, what do you want me to say? Who am I to assuage your guilt? You made a decision as you had to make it, and someone else paid, as they have and will pay for every decision you ever make. They leave behind demons to torment us, to keep us from our sleep, and in this way they repay us. This is not an excuse to . . .

After all we've worked for over the years, all the battles and arguments and passion and idealism, you would let all that dwindle to nothing because one man lost his life? Children die. We keep going.

I never thought that you were a coward.

I didn't mean that. I . . .

I don't want you to die.


I . . .


That was cruel.

You shouldn't have ignored him like that.

To tell you the truth, I didn't think that you could ignore him. Do you know that you're different people when you're in the same room? Often angry, edgy people, I admit, but there's always that . . . awareness. I suppose it's difficult to squeeze that much testosterone-driven ego into a confined space, hey?

That was a joke. You're supposed to be offended.

He wasn't going to come, you know. I had to persuade him. Do you have any idea how scary yelling at that man is, how much nerve it takes? How stubborn he is?

I guess you always had the nerve. And if there's anyone on the planet half as stubborn as him, it's you.

You use it in a different direction, though. Take this situation as a relevant example. He'd never, ever do something like this. He doesn't want to die, you know. Not ever. It would prove that something was good enough to beat him.

If he ever did decide to end it all, he'd make a melodramatic speech and go out in a blaze of glory. He'd hate to be lying unconscious in a hospital bed.

I guess you don't like it much either.

They haven't seen you like this before. I'm getting déjà vu.

They think that you chose the swimming pool because you wanted someone to find you. I know it was because you wanted somewhere quiet, somewhere with peaceful memories. You always loved water - probably some kind of return to the womb thing. Which is probably what this is all about. Finding somewhere safe, where you don't have to deal with things.

They think that this is all about Scott Summers. I know that the kid is, in the end, an excuse. You've been thinking about doing this for at least as long as I've known you. Probably for a long, long time.

I brought you back once before.

If you need something to come back to . . . no. You're going to try that again, not even if the thing you had going with the Martian or Vulcan or whatever is on the rocks. I don't think that I want to go back either. Been there, done that, cut the T-Shirt into itty bitty pieces as a petty act of revenge.

Not that it wasn't nice while it lasted. Right up until the end, anyway.

Not that I don't care any more.

I wonder if you'd wake up for a kiss?

Guess not.


You want me to forgive you.

I can't.

If it weren't for you, he'd still be here. There wouldn't be this yawning void inside me. I wouldn't keep reaching for the bond, only to find a thread that winds away into the shadows, a line that still links me to something, but something dark and unknown. There wouldn't be a gaping wound where my heart used to be.

But this isn't really about that, is it? It's about everything. The way you took away our youth making us into soldiers for your cause. The way you left us. The way you betrayed us.

It's about your feelings for me.

I can't forget any of that. I can't forget how it felt, having to keep your secret when you hid in the basement for months. I can't forget that you didn't help the Phoenix when it wore my face and my memories. I can't forget Onslaught, and all that he showed me.

I love you anyway.

Every time you let me down, I wonder. Can I still care about you? Can I put it all to one side, remind myself of all the good things?

Sometimes I don't want to keep loving you. I do anyway, even as we grow further and further apart.

I don't want you to do this.

Whatever ghosts there are between us, you still matter to me, more than almost anyone.

Anyone still here.

I don't want to lose you as well.


You do realise that you're being a jerk again, don't you?

Has anyone actually had the guts to tell you that? That you're being selfish, dangerous to the team?

Okay, I know you've been through a lot. You're probably guilty enough already. But I'm not trying to lay a guilt trip on you. I'm trying to get you to come back. Pointing out that by punishing yourself you're punishing all the people who care about you.

You always liked it when I spoke my mind, even if you already knew what was in it. Sometimes I wonder just how often it was all a test, to see weather I had the nerve to stand up to you. I have to admit it worked - after sitting through your lectures, most super villains started to seem pretty non-threatening.

So I'll be the one to tell you how much damage you're doing.

Moira's worried. She doesn't need to be worried, not now. Of course, we could get her to fly over and pour coffee into your I.V. That stuff would wake the dead.

Sorry. Poor choice of phrase.

You made Magneto cry, for God's sake.

He hates this, I can tell, hates not being able to do anything.

So do we, for that matter.

I keep wondering, what would Scott say if he were here? What is it you're missing that made you do this in the first place?

The irony is, he'd probably be worse at this than any of us.

You two were never much good at communicating emotions, were you? You didn't say you were proud of him, that you wished that you really were his father. He never called you dad. I never heard you say that you loved him.

If he were here, he'd probably say nothing.

So I brought you this. Shi'ar homeopathic crystal, like the one we had for Jean. After she died. It doesn't have a voice, but I don't think that voices have ever been that important to you. You've always been good at hearing all the things we don't say.

The End.

(Further acknowledgement - the quote is from Charles Dickens' "David Copperfield", which certainly doesn't belong to me.)