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To Every Thing There is a Season (After the Fall, 8/8)

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  • Mo
    To Every Thing There is a Season (After the Fall, 8/8) Months had gone by, and life was achieving a semblance of normality for us all. With spring, Ro s
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 15, 2004
      To Every Thing There is a Season (After the Fall, 8/8)

      Months had gone by, and life was achieving a semblance
      of normality for us all. With spring, 'Ro's
      landscaping efforts were showing, and the gardens and
      fields looked much as they had before the siege. To
      me, anyway. She told me she was trying a new color
      scheme in the South Flower Garden. I, of course,
      couldn�t tell the difference. "I'm still looking at
      the world through rose-colored glasses," I reminded
      her, the old joke sounding less bitter than it had
      lately. To my ears, at least.

      We began thinking about what, if anything, we should
      do to commemorate the battle anniversary, which was
      approaching. And which day to use as anniversary,
      anyway. When Kurt had, against his will, attacked the
      White House? When Charles and I had been taken
      captive? When Jean had sacrificed herself to save us
      all? Ultimately we felt that the first anniversary of
      the siege of the school was most important to the
      students, and planned a general assembly and moment of
      silence for that day. We expected it to be a
      difficult day, but cathartic. Necessary. We were
      taken aback a little at how hard most of the school
      found the day *before* the anniversary, though. More
      weeping, more hollow-eyed blankness then than the
      anniversary day itself. Perhaps reflecting on the
      last day before our world fell apart was harder to
      take than remembering the first day after.

      I had a tough day, myself, the day before. And the
      anniversary itself, and a few days after. Reliving
      those days of a year before, thinking what I could
      have done differently. But I wasn't worried that I
      was sinking into depression again. I was cutting
      myself some slack and giving in to the melancholy for
      a few days, recognizing that I had healed a lot, but
      still needed to grieve some, one year later.

      Mostly, I was functioning very well. Not just
      functioning, enjoying my work in a way I hadn�t for
      some time. I was teaching my classes with a renewed
      zeal, working effectively with Alpha Flight - our
      affiliate team in Canada - and the FBI reps on our MPP
      project, training with the team and with students in
      the Danger Room, directing the school play. I was
      starting to feel like myself again.

      A lot of feeling better was just letting time work its
      magic. Some of it was the result of getting over the
      stubborn insistence that I had to handle all this
      myself, and truly enjoying and benefiting from the
      comfort that my old friends could give me. Charles,
      �Ro, Hank � they all shared my loss and I found, over
      time, that talking and listening to them was more
      consoling than painful. There was a healing factor in
      just being in my own home, doing my own job with the
      people who cared about me and had cared about Jean,
      and once I opened myself to it, I profited from it.

      There were still times I missed Jean so much I could
      taste it. Even worse were the times when I forgot she
      was gone, tried to say something to her in my brain or
      rolled over in the night reaching for her. But, as
      time went on, those were fewer and farther between.
      Jean�s absence had felt like a sharp wound for months
      after her disappearance. But lately it seemed only a
      dull ache most of the time, and even that was

      No, it wasn�t Jean�s absence that was worrying me
      lately, but what seemed to be her presence. Or the
      presence of *someone* or *something* that called
      itself Jean. The dreams, and even waking impressions,
      of Jean speaking to me telepathically became quite
      frequent in the first few months after she was lost.
      She�d tell me she wasn�t dead, that she�d be coming
      back. At first I thought they were just an expression
      of my own longing, wish fulfillment in dream and
      fantasy. But they were too insistent and too real for

      Charles had alluded to similar experiences, saying he
      wasn�t surprised that I thought Jean might be alive
      but we hadn�t talked about it much. He�d tried to
      raise the subject once or twice after I told him what
      I suspected, but I wasn�t ready to discuss my
      experiences or let him into my brain and he�d backed
      off. Time had passed, though, and the messages from
      Jean were getting more and more frequent. I brought
      the topic up again with Charles and he confessed that
      he, too, was hearing thoughts from Jean. Only he
      wasn�t sure that they *were* from Jean. He wasn�t
      able to articulate exactly why he doubted the
      messages� veracity, but he said that somehow it didn�t
      *feel* like Jean in his brain.

      He told me that the last moment he'd felt Jean as
      herself was when we were all in the Blackbird and she
      was outside. He'd tried to convince her to join us in
      getting to safety, assured her that she could move the
      jet and escape, too, if we all worked together. And
      then it was as if another being was there, along with
      Jean. When Jean took over his mind and spoke through
      him to me, saying "Good-bye," something happened. He
      was sure there was someone else there in his brain,
      too, along with her. Jean had never had powers that
      could overcome his. He wasn't sure what had happened
      then and he wasn't sure what was left now, but it
      wasn't Jean as we knew her. An enhanced Jean, a
      mutated Jean? Or was Jean dead and someone had
      absorbed all her memories and was impersonating her?
      He didn't know the answers, but he felt sure that the
      being that was contacting him was someone other than
      the woman I'd loved.

      And once he�d told me that, I attended to the dreams
      more and found the same thing. The words were Jean�s
      � the references to things we�d done were ones only
      she would know � yet somehow the presence in my mind
      was not Jean�s, not what I remembered. I didn�t know
      what to make of this. If not for Charles, I might
      have thought that I was just imagining the difference,
      not remembering anymore just what it felt like to be
      telepathically connected to her. But I didn�t think
      we could both be imagining this. And, then it wasn�t
      just Charles and me, but Logan, too. Still, it took
      me a while to realize that he was experiencing
      something similar.

      Logan certainly had a role in my improved state of
      mind, as well. We weren�t lovers, not in any real
      sense. I think I could have fallen in love with him.
      I was certainly needy enough and he was appealing
      enough. But he had made it so clear that love was out
      of the question for him and that kept me at arm�s
      length, emotionally. He was friendly, and he was a
      valuable team member, and we were having sex several
      times a week, but there was still a certain reserve
      about him that made clear the boundaries of the

      And, truth be told, that was fine with me. I was
      increasingly sure that I didn�t want to go back into
      the closet, but I wasn�t sure I wanted to step out so
      far, either. If I�d been involved with someone where
      we were kind of a social couple, I�d have to deal with
      that with my colleagues and students in a way I wasn�t
      ready for.

      With Logan � well, we certainly weren�t an
      acknowledged couple and I think it unlikely that most
      people even realized we were friends. The time we
      spent together was out of the watchful eye of students
      and faculty. I wasn�t suffering from insomnia so much
      anymore, but I was still meeting Logan at night, to
      train together and to talk, as well as to have sex.
      We�d often start with one activity and end up with
      another: swimming laps or working simulations and
      then, in the flush of success and exertion, sucking
      each other off or fucking on the Danger Room floor or
      by the side of the pool. And long conversations
      afterwards, with him telling me his fragmented
      memories of long ago times, often spurred by poems I�d
      recited to him or books of historical fiction I�d lent

      So, I was getting the advantages of regular sex and
      the excitement of getting to know Logan in ways I
      hadn�t before, in ways I don�t think anyone else at
      the school did know him. And I didn�t have to deal
      with the potential changes in how colleagues and
      students would view me if I came out more publicly. I
      was getting annoyed, yet again, at the girls in the
      poetry class and their crushes, but I also saw their
      mooning in class as a good thing, as a sign that they
      saw me sort of coming back from the dead, not thinking
      about Jean all the time.

      That Logan might be disturbed by thoughts of Jean
      hadn�t occurred to me. He�d gotten into the habit of
      knocking on my door at night when the aftereffects of
      a nightmare were bothering him. I hadn�t seen the
      full-body shaking again that had so alarmed me that
      night in Vermont, but he often seemed shaken and worn
      out by the time I saw him. He said that sex helped
      and I was only too happy to provide that kind of
      assistance, for my own sake as much as for his. I
      never thought much about the fact that he seemed not
      to want to have sex, or even talk much, in my bedroom
      � that we always had to go to his room or the Danger
      Room or the pool or the gym. My room was on a student
      floor and more in the thick of things than his, which
      was right near the Danger Room. So, I figured he just
      wanted more privacy than we could have in my room. But
      one night when he knocked on my door just past
      midnight I felt kind of settled in bed, and asked him
      to stay there with me.

      �I can�t.� He shook his head.

      �It�s okay. The soundproofing is good here. No one
      will hear us,� I said, with a smile, gesturing to him
      to sit on the bed. He just shook his head, looking
      nervously around. �What�s wrong, Logan?� I asked,
      feeling suddenly like there was more to his refusal
      than worry that some student would hear us having sex.

      He kept looking back and forth, not meeting my eye.
      �I can�t tell you.�

      �Why not?�

      �You�ll think I�m nuts.�

      �I haven�t yet,� I replied, trying to reassure him.
      �And you�ve told me some pretty crazy-sounding
      stories. Imprisonment and torture at the hands of two
      governments; fragmented memories that seem to span
      well over 100 years from a guy who doesn�t look a day
      over 30. You�re not nuts � you�ve just had a lot of
      crazy things happen to you.�

      �Yeah, well, this is different.� But he did sit down
      on my bed.

      I reached over and started rubbing his shoulders,
      which were terribly tense, talking to him
      reassuringly. �Did you have another nightmare?� I
      asked, and he nodded but didn�t say anything. �Lie
      down,� I said. �I�ll rub your back.�

      He lay prone across my bed and I got on top of him,
      straddling him as I rubbed his shoulders and back,
      feeling some of the tension go away as I massaged and
      talked to him softly. �That feels good,� he said,
      sounding sleepy and relaxed.

      I, on the other hand, was feeling more and more awake.
      His body under me was giving me ideas for more than
      just a back rub. I leaned down to his face, turned to
      the side, and tried to kiss him, but he turned away.
      �Not here,� he said. And then he was asleep.

      I wasn't quite resigned to just let him sleep. I kept
      rubbing his back, thinking it might wake him a little
      and lead to something else. He turned on his side in
      his sleep and after a while I lay down next to him,
      pressed against his back, spoon fashion. Nuzzled his
      neck a little, reached around and started stroking his
      cock. He was getting hard, seemed to like it. He was
      maybe sort of half asleep and half awake, moving into
      me, sighing happily. But then he stopped suddenly,
      took my hand away and said, "Stop it."

      �Why?� I asked.

      �She doesn�t want us to.�


      He sat up and turned on the lamp. "I didn't mean
      that. I was half asleep."

      "I know you were half asleep, but I think you did mean
      it. You're talking about Jean, aren't you?"

      He nodded, slowly. We looked at each other. "I don't
      believe in ghosts," he said.

      "No, me neither. She's not a ghost."

      "She�s talking to you, too?�

      "Yeah, except I'm not sure it *is* her." I explained
      what Charles had told me about that time in the
      Blackbird and how her telepathic presence had felt

      "Jean never talked to me in my head, before. I guess
      I wouldn't know how it should feel." He looked me in
      the eye. "What do you think it means?"

      "I don't know. But this I know for certain sure:
      Jean wouldn't tell you not to have sex with me. Is
      that what she's telling you?"

      "Yeah, but I figured I'd just agree not to do it in
      your room. Her room."

      "So, you're compromising with a ghost? A ghost you
      don't believe in?"

      "Okay, when you say it like that it sounds a little
      strange." I laughed at that. He thought some more
      about what I'd said before. "Why not? Why do you
      think she wouldn't tell me not to? Don't you think
      she'd be pissed off about you and me?"

      I shook my head. "If she were, she wouldn't let it
      govern her actions, anyway. That's not how we were
      with each other. I told you - we didn't know if it
      would work out between us. But what we did know was
      we wouldn't stand in each other's way." I stopped
      talking, mulling over what he'd said before. What he
      said about ghosts was bothering me, making me think of
      something. "Nineteenth Century American Literature."

      "What are you talking about?"

      "It's a class of mine. We're reading _The Turn of the
      Screw_. There's all this whispering and muttering in
      class. Three kids transferred out of class, saying
      they couldn't read it, that it�s giving them
      nightmares. I meant to talk to Charles about this -
      I've taught this book before without trouble. I was
      figuring it was indicative of more after effects of
      the siege. But now I don�t think so. It's a ghost
      story. I never thought of it that way, but yeah,
      somebody who wasn't familiar with how telepathy feels
      might think it's Jean's ghost talking to them."

      "So you think Jean - or whoever it is - is talking to
      some of the kids, too?"

      "Maybe. And scaring the shit out of them in the
      process. That�s not like Jean at all. If it were
      Jean, she�d assure them she�s not a ghost. Or stay
      away from the kids altogether, not wanting to scare
      them. But this being isn�t showing that kind of
      judgment. Charles, you, me. Students, too. What
      does she want? Who is she?"

      "I don't know. I'm just relieved to know I'm not the
      only one she's talking to." He thought some more.
      �Do you think Jean�s alive?�

      �No.� I shook my head. �I think it�s someone or
      something else. But that somehow whoever it is got
      hold of her memories. Because if it were Jean in my
      brain, no matter how she�d changed, I think I could
      tell. And if someone had her captive she�d be in my
      brain. If she were alive, nobody could stop her from
      talking to me. And the other stuff � telling you not
      to do it with me, scaring the kids � none of that
      gibes with the woman I knew.�

      I was convinced and I think I managed to convince him.
      We needed to be on guard, I thought, from whoever
      this presence with Jean�s voice and memories was,
      since we didn�t know her intentions. But she wasn�t
      Jean. That�s what I believed and what I kept on
      believing. Until the day Jean walked in the door.

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