Disclaimer: I'm saving every last penny and possession that I have for the purpose of taking over the world. I have no time or money for owning the Marvel universe as well, and anyway, I don't like it as much. Lyrics (title, and at the bottom of the story) by Sarah McLachlan - nobody panic, it's not a songfic, but I liked the way they fit.
Warning: No booze, no drugs, no punk music, not even more than one mildly nasty word, I think. I'm a little weirded out. But it's a sort of AU, and there are a bunch of dead people.
Thank you: To Lise. And Sascha, for being there in a time of fear. ;p
Feedback: I can but beg.
Archiving: Sure, just ask - I'll say yes, but I like knowing where my things go. (And then going over every ten minutes and glowing over my name in a nifty font and kicking up your visitor count, so it's a good deal all around.)

Beyond the Streetlights
by River

The room is dark, and full of the sounds of soft breathing.

The city outside my window is dark as well, and I can see my reflection in the glass. Long red hair with the tiniest amount of gray in it. Maybe I should start dying like my hairdresser always tells me. Wide green eyes. Pretty features, now holding faint lines.

In my window I can see the glinting lights of the city, and the face of a woman, and my ghosts standing solemn around me, looking out as well.

One of them has the face and body of a model, an actor, a rock star. He would probably draw in as many screaming teenage girls for the way he holds himself with utter confidence as for the way he carries those lovely angel's wings. People treat the idea of mutants better these days, like something exotic and fascinating; I'm not sure that's what the professor always wanted, but it's certainly better than many things we could have had.

One of them has the frame of a line-backer, blue eyes too soft for that intimidating bulk, and I almost smile at him fondly. A strangely large hand rests on my shoulder, as light as the air it really is.

The third is a tall boy in sunglasses, the red ruby glint showing when a light from outside reflects on them. He is lankier than the other two, standing between them in heights, and something in his face still makes me want to reach out and touch his cheek, after all those years.

Here is me again, always wanting the impossible.

I can almost see, behind us, two more figures. A young red headed girl smiling confidently.

A younger boy reaching out to hold two fingers behind the girl's head, or maybe behind the sunglasses wearing boy. Grinning with mischief as though towards a camera. Just my memory playing tricks.

These are my ghosts.

I got married at a very young age, you know. Too young, probably, and too fast. I don't think it would have made any difference if we had waited a few more years, really, but these are the facts.

I found Bobby through loss, a loss that changed and deepened the love I always had for him. My ghosts are here as silent testimony, reminding me of how it was.

Me and Bobby. What a weird idea, I suppose, to that radiant girl on the edge of my vision, reflected in the glass. What an improbability to the boy beside her, tossing back light brown bangs and laughing at someone's glare.

But we were very, very young, and the one thing that we had that was closer to us than a family - dearest to us, I almost say, though that may be the weight of the time that had passed talking - was almost completely gone.

The professor had long conversations with both of us, trying to make sure that was what we really wanted. But he was old, in a way that he had never been before that battle, and he was - it feels almost like blasphemy to say this - defeated. I don't know if he could have changed our minds anyhow, without trying to alter them forcibly, but I also don't know if he had done his best to try.

I don't fault him for that, god. I don't. His family had died too, and in a way he was worse off than either of us. Where we had lost the stability and confidence of our friends and 'brothers', of family, he lost those of his conviction in his beliefs. Where we held the guilt of not being better, not fighting harder to save them, he felt the guilt of sending us into battle in the first place.

I don't fault him for that, either. I never have.

But I suppose it made him - feel better, in a way. To think that two of his children had found each other, to believe we would take care of one another. To believe love could be born out of death.

I think Bobby would have stayed, maybe, and fought the good fight. But the fire of it was gone in him, and when I said I wouldn't stay he decided not to, either.

And we both would have stayed, you know, for the professor. After everything he had lost, we would never take away his dream as well.

But he said he chose not to go on; that the way to ensure peaceful coexistence wasn't through sending children to battle, it was through politics, speeches, encouraging mutants to fit into normal society, changing the educational system ... and we didn't argue too much. It was so much easier to ignore the bitterness of grief in his words, and walk away towards our newfound freedom.

Freedom to mourn, freedom to grieve, freedom to love. To live a normal life, we said, and smiled at each other with the confidence of young ones knowing they can do anything.


Even be a normal family, 2.4 children and a dog, white red-roofed house and a small picket fence. It's good to have dreams.

We never got around to the having children part, or the dog. There's time, we're still young, but...

We're old enough to see our illusions for what they are.

Bobby ... Bobby loves me. Fiercely. But he isn't in love with me. I'm the wrong gender entirely. It was much harder for him to accept than for me, which isn't to say it was a piece of cake on my side. But we both know the score, now, in a way.

Me? I do. I love him. Is that surprising for you? I don't know. He used to be a little brother to me, the prankster, the little kid who was always butting in, who we always forgave for everything. Who rarely said I'm sorry and never did anything really horrible.

I miss that boy, god knows I do. I miss that boy and I miss the girl I was and I miss ... god, I miss them. The things you leave behind you, dead memories and wisps of smoke ... something always wants to go back there, if you can't take it forward with you.

We all died around the same time.

But I wouldn't replace him with the man I know now. That man who rarely laughs, but whose smile makes my heart feel lighter. Whose face is older, stronger maybe, but never harder. Who had given up his innocence and found a way to look at the world without the cynicism I can't ever seem to shake off.

We've changed so much. The dead would never recognize the living.

I can still remember the days after the Battle. I remember the first night, when in all the darkness that surrounded my bed, the darkness even closing my eyes couldn't drive away, he came into my room and sat on the floor by my bed and reached for my hand.

It's not a simple thing for a nineteen years old boy to admit his grief and his fear and his vulnerability. Not to any boy his age, and certainly not for super hero, youngest kid, laugh it all off Bobby Drake. And I admired him for that. For coming to me, wordless, and crying without making any sound, and holding my hand.

And then there were other nights, when I would go down the hall and left into the boys' dorms, that place that used to feel alive even at nights, and slip into his bed. It was a comfort thing, at first, holding each other through PJs and whispering and falling asleep together. I was very aware of myself at that age, the only girl in a house full of boys. But I suppose, on hindsight, that Bobby always felt safe.

I suppose I seduced him, and I suppose it was wrong of me. But we both needed someone to hold, someone to cling to, someone to believe in entirely. And I wasn't brought up to think that the guy could ever be the one losing something from sex. I wasn't brought up to believe it was something any guy would turn down, given the opportunity and no reasons not to. And he went along with it, of course, because Bobby was brought up in the same world I was and he had much more to prove.

And we both needed someone. And we both loved each other, and it was so damned easy to believe it was the same kind of love. I was too young, with all my knowledge of the human psyche born of years of practice, to identify what I sensed on the inevitable glimpses of his mind. And I don't think the professor wanted to know.

It was all around far too easy, you know. For all of us.

Sometimes I wonder, now, how much of running to Bobby was about losing Scott. He was my first love, after all; and when your first love dies, that one most intense love where you truly believe in ever afters, it's hard to let go. I'm old enough now to admit that first loves rarely last, I'm old enough that I can't see how I could ever fit with that long-ago boy in my memories. At thirty two, I'm as old as the mountains themselves.

But I was once twenty one, and heart-broken, and I allowed myself to mend it by putting someone else's image in. And even though I know now how wrong that is, for both him and me, I can't take it out now.

We still cling to each other, I suppose. We still hold close and dear that feeling, that belief that there is no one else for us in the world. We still love each other fiercely and protectively and in two ways so very different, ways that we will never be able to bridge.

I don't know whether my life got screwed up by an explosion eleven years ago, or whether I did it all on my own. I don't know if the fact that I'm happy outweighs the fact that I'm scared shitless.

I don't know where he goes at nights and I don't want to know. I don't know whose face he sees when he makes love to me, and I feel strangely grateful to him at knowing it's never the same face twice.

I love him for loving me, and for being as faithful as he can, in our own strange way, and for needing me as much as I need him. I love him for being Bobby Drake. I love him because I love him, without rhyme or reason.

And sometimes I hate him too, at rare times, for being the right person for me when I am so much the wrong person for him. For loving me and for not forcing me away to live his own life. For giving up everything, damnit.

For being a coward with me. I wonder what they'd say about that. We used to think we were so brave, teenagers going into battle.

We used to think we were superheroes. We used to think we could have everything.

We used to have everything.

Ghosts, warm my bed tonight, and watch over my husband's sleeping face. Keep him safe while I go outside to walk dark streets and pretend I could just keep walking and never say goodbye.

And don't hate me, please don't hate me for coming back.

Under a blackened sky
far beyond the glaring streetlights
sleeping on empty dreams
the vultures lie in wait.
You laid down beside me then
you were with me every waking hour
so close I could feel your breath.

When all we wanted was the dream
to have and to hold
that precious little thing
like every generation yields
a new born hope unjaded by the years.

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