Disclaimer: Scott and the rest of the X-Men belong to Marvel. This is a movie verse fic, following how those characters were established. You are hereby warned that this is a 9-11 fic. The synopsis should tell you that you should proceed at your own risk. Oh, and a note to the X-Men creators: please donít sue. I have no money, I am a journalist by trade.
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What more could he have done?
364 days later, the clock ticking closer to midnight, and he still didn't have an answer to that question. Mere hours, and the anniversary of the worst day of his generations history would be here.
What else could he have changed?
3,000 lives, lost in the space of seconds. He felt the ripples of pain, the flashes of anger, the pure panic of others as first the South tower collapsed in a billow of smoke. All he had were sensations, echoes through the psy-link with Jean, but that was enough. Thousands of mental voices in freefall, and then gone.
He couldn't do a thing to stop it. His powers were useless in those few seconds, and all he could do was clench his fists and watch. Useless.
What should he have tried? Was there anything that he could have done? How was it possible to ease that kind of pain?
He had caught only those glimpses, fed back to him through a psy-link that was never meant to withstand that sort of strain. After a minute, what little he had caught faded to black, as Jean collapsed in his arms and they both tumbled to the ground. The last waves of dirt and wind blew past them seconds later.
As the rest of the team came running up behind them, Scott wrapped his arms around his wife, and gave one simple order. Go no closer, there's nothing more to do. He must have spoken sharply, because not even Wolverine argued. They would go in afterwards to help.
He couldn't get it out of his mind, those thoughts and those images. Arriving after the collapse, all they saw was destruction. The throat-clogging dust. Shards of metal sticking straight up in the air, all that was left of two 110-story buildings. Heroes among heroes desperately trying to find some bits of hope.
All but a few voices in the dark of the rubble were silent. They reached some, but not enough. Nowhere near enough. Those voices grew dimmer, but still clung to hope. The thought of holding a wife, hugging a child. Having a chance to say goodbye, or even just one last touch of a human hand.
Then one by one, those voices joined the mass silence that permeated the site.
Too many. Too many stories, too many people, too many heroes and too many villains. He didn't even dare think of the passengers on those planes, as they accelerated towards something they could not see and wouldn't have believed it if they did. How could anyone manage to warp their mind enough to understand jet planes used as weapons?
364 days later. 35 minutes away from being 365. And those faces still wouldn't let him sleep without nightmares. If they weren't his own, they were Jean's, amplified by whatever her power had snagged onto in those last fleeting seconds.
Behind him, there was a muffled groan, and he turned to see a pile of red hair with a face somewhere beneath staring at him in the dark.
"Scott? Come back to bed. It's late."
He turned back to the open window, letting the cool summer breeze--still full of fresh scents and damp living earth, even in September--come back to him.
"I can't. Not tonight."
There was silence for a moment, and then the rustle of covers and soft, almost muted footsteps on the floor. A pair of gentle arms wrapped around his chest, and pulled him into what solace he dared hope for.
"There are no answers for their pain, Scott." One of her hands gently stroked his cheek, like a mother trying to smooth away pain. "There's nothing more we could have done. We tried. We did our best... and we came up short."
He didn't answer. The questions rolled through his mind again, and he shut his mind to the comfort whispered to him in the psy-link. He couldn't open up to that comfort. The words made sense, but his failure did not.
He refused to let it be rationalized. The X-Men were good. The terrorists were evil. Somehow, some way, there had to be an explanation, some sort of reason in this madness.
~There is no reason in madness, Scott. You can't argue with something irrational.~ Jean managed to slip that past his defenses, and it echoed in his head with a vague impression of power and wisdom.
Jean's arms dropped, and she took his hands. Wordlessly, she pulled him towards the bed, pausing just long enough to grab an afghan from the rocking chair. She pulled it gently over his shoulder and held him close enough that he could feel the warm of her skin, her heartbeat, everything that made her feel alive. She made it impossible for him to escape the comfort, and he let himself be pulled down and held to her body for comfort.
In time, sleep approached, long after he had relaxed enough to placate his wife so she drifted quietly back to sleep. Then, with the practiced art so carefully gained over the past 364 days, he eased out of bed, and moved back to the window. Behind him, the wall clock softly chimed the 2 a.m. hour.
It was officially one year later, and the doubt and the fear still remained. He had read once that it was arrogant to assume all the blame. Maybe it was, but he was in charge, and the questions remained. Not every day, not anymore. They came back when he had no defenses left to fight, always when he thought he'd taken one step further towards letting them go.
What more could he have done?