“I’m not like you people! I’m not a fuck up, or a loser, or a pathetic old man waiting for someone who didn’t even give enough of a SHIT about me to stay with me after he’d shot me in the back,” Sean looks at Alex and Hank and Charles, his eyes blazing with an absolutely incandescent fury. “You’re pathetic, all of you.”
He turns his back on them, his shoulders heaving. He makes a choking noise and whirls back around.
“I had a family, you know? I had parents who loved me. I had a younger sister who thought I was the coolest person. I was going to school, and I had a future. So I didn’t cheer a football games, who cares? I don’t even like football!” he appeared unaware of the tears wetting his cheeks, “And and now what? I’m stuck with a guy so hung up on his feet that he turned himself into a hairy blue monster, a guy who hates himself because he killed a guy by accident and forced himself into solitary confinement to deal with the guilt, and a queer who managed to estrange his own sister. You’re PATHETIC. We saved the world and what? We’re stuck here, together, hating ourselves, ‘til we DIE.” Suddenly his fury seemed to leave him, his body was suspended for a moment with tension, he brought a hand up to wipe away the tears on one cheek. He shut his mouth, tightening his lips in a firm line.
And then suddenly his head dropped to his chest like a marionette with its strings cut. And his sobbing started in earnest.
They stood there for a long time.
Everybody looked up at breakfast the next day, when Sean walked in. His eyes had the hollow quality of one who has spent too much of the night crying and not enough of it sleeping. There was a moment of breathless silence. Then Sean straightened his shoulders and raised his chin.
“I meant it, you know,” his voice was hoarse, but firm, he looked each of them in the eye.
He walked to the breadbox and got out the loaf, took two slices and put them in the toaster and pressed down the button. He leaned on the counter, his shoulders up around his ears and his head bent forward again.
A chair scraped across the floor of the kitchen and a hand wrenched Sean around. Alex stood in front of him, his muscles strong and taught with anger. He crowed Sean back against the counter, pressing into his personal space, his face turned up to look Sean in the eyes, his face pulled into a snarl.
“What the fuck do you know about anything?”
“Nothing!” Sean’s voice was almost shrill, “I don’t know NOTHING. So why am I here with you freaks? I’m not like you. I know what it’s like to be a real person. Not some fucking weirdo genius, not some kind of rich, overly-empathetic fag, and certainly not some kind of a guilt-ridden MURDERER.”
Alex let out a yell and grabbed Sean by the front of his t-shirt, and shoved him hard into the counter. The redhead let out a grunt and then shoved back. Suddenly big blue paws were around Alex’s biceps, pulling him back and away. Both young men were flushed and breathing hard, Alex from the circle of Hank’s furry arms, and Sean, leaning on the counter, eyes suspiciously wet once more.
Charles’ voice came from the breakfast table:
“Sean, why don’t you wait in my office.”
Charles wheeled himself into the office they’d set up for him on the first floor to find Sean sitting slumped in one of the chairs, long legs spread out before him to either side, head down once more, arms crossed across his chest, and fingers restlessly tapping against his elbows.
“What’s wrong, Sean?”
The boy bit his lip for a moment, still staring at the floor then looked up. His eyes were clear and sharp.
“You don’t have to, you know, stay out of my head. I’m not like Raven or Lehnsherr. It’s a part of you, and we know you’re shit with people when you don’t know what they’re thinking,” his voice was flat, but underneath it was a little sad, “It’s not your fault.”
“Thank you for giving me your permission, Sean. It means a lot to me that you trust me that way.”
Sean’s face twisted in a grimace.
“Just practicing what you preach, Professor. You accept us, so why should it be any different for you?” now the bitterness that soaked through his words was clear. Charles let his mind reach out a little, Sean’s emotions were all sharp, jagged edges, the sort that struck out and hurt others but also gouged deep and lasting marks on their own psyche.
“But as easy as it is for me to read your mind, I think it’ll do you good to talk about it. What is all this about?”
Sean clenched his jaw mulishly for a second. Charles could feel his emotions cracking and buckling under the weight of his question, the bitterness and righteous anger giving way under the relentless push of contemplation and that moment where he floundered looking for something to hold onto, to push him into action.
“Hank’s an idiot. He was fine. Gorgeous, even. I could see it, Raven could see it, Alex could see it, which is why he acted like such a moron around him, he was smart and nice, accomplished and good-looking, but he was he was so, so STUCK on those damn feet of his he couldn’t see anything else. I know he went and visited Raven the night before we went to Cuba. The night he turned himself blue with the damn serum of his. I dunno what he told her, but after that she went and visited Lehnsherr in her goddamn bathrobe. He was a bastard. I don’t know what either of you saw in him. He used us, Professor, and you were always too fucking starry-eyed around him to notice. He pushed me off a SATELLITE DISH,” here his voice cracked, “Who the hell does that? Not anyone in their right mind, that’s for certain.”
He stopped, looking Charles full in the face, looking him over intently, and in that moment Charles felt as if all his secrets were being laid bare for the young man in front of him.
“You haven’t stopped looking tired since he left, Professor. And that’s what’s makes this all so sad. Because after Angel, after Darwin, we didn’t have time to stop and think. But now, all we’ve got is time,” his voice was quiet, and the words echoed in the room. “And you know what, Professor? You’re an idiot. You martyred yourself for them, without a thought to the rest of us. You made it EASY for them to go. Because whatever you say, you and Lehnsherr do want the same thing: you want us to be able to live. And if you’d been reading Raven’s mind, she never would have had a reason to go. But you could feel them leaving, so you pushed. You figured, if you sent them away with your blessing, it wouldn’t hurt so much. But guess what, Professor?” Charles felt the fury and the hurt rise up in the boy before him once more, a fiery maelstrom of emotion that was sucking him in, and Sean’s voice was rising again, steely now with the same righteous indignation as before, “They’re still gone. You’re still alone, and they’re sleeping with their consciences easy because you made yourself the bad guy. And the rest of us are stuck here, with you.”
There was a moment of silence that stretched into eternity. Charles felt cold at the throbbing ache and the betrayal rolling off Sean.
“And the worst part is,” Sean’s voice was soft once again, bitterness and compassion both swirling between the words, “Is that you’re all so broken you can’t even see past what you’ve lost. Hank won’t meet anyone’s eyes or look in anything that will remotely reflect back at him what he’s become, he locks himself in the lab more than ever, and works harder than before as if every mistake he makes is the same one he made the night before Cuba, he doesn’t even sleep in his old room anymore. Alex wakes up in the middle of the night from nightmares screaming Darwin’s name, and he won’t train with the beams, he just runs and lifts weights and drinks coffee to stay awake. And you, Professor, if you were untouchable before, it’s got nothing on what you’re like now. You’ve got no one left. Lehnsherr abandoned you, your sister ran away, and you sent Moira away. You’ve got us, but we’re not good enough. You just sit in your office, fill out paperwork, and stare out the window.”
There was another beat of silence.
“It’s like we’re all dead.”