A therapy session with Charles Xavier, about two years after the events of The Dark Phoenix sent Gabriel into a tailspin
"Anyway, it's all kind of, like — I mean, you know, I know it's stupid, but..." Gabriel trailed off, his attention drawn by the patter of rain drops outside. Winter had brought its dark skies, but for the most part, they came with icy rains instead of fluffy snow, and Gabriel couldn't help but feel a little cheated. It was all bare tree branches blowing in the wind and the chill of an old mansion with drafty windows but few of the benefits.
He became aware, suddenly, of Charles sitting across from him. Well, remembered he was there. It had happened surprisingly often in their sessions. Gabriel had never thought of himself as much of an introvert, but sometimes, sitting across from Charles, he'd find himself following various threads in his mind, then suddenly aware that he'd been sitting in silence. For no real reason; it's not as if he were ever thinking deep thoughts.
This time, Gabriel had the dignity to look the least bit flustered as he turned from the window back to the older man. "God, sorry. I don't even remember what you asked. I just..." He stared at the man for a few seconds, then smiled weakly. "This is where reading minds would come in handy, doc."
"Ah, but why would I invade a good train of thought?" Charles asked with a small smile, sipping his tea. "I'd hate to interrupt and have you lose track of what you were going to say next."
"Yeah, what a pity." Gabriel snorted. He kicked off his shoes and brought his legs underneath him, shifting in the armchair in which he'd settled. It had been long enough that he had no problem getting comfortable. His eyes went to Charles's teacup, and a small smile came to his face. "It's kind of weird, but sometimes, like, I'll be doing whatever, and my mind will be kind of..." He waved his left hand around in circles. "You know, lost in thought. And then I'll catch sight of something that seems... off. Something dumb, like, a chair that suddenly seems like it's in the wrong place or, like, a plant that seems like it doesn't belong where it is."
Without really thinking about it, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. "And I — it doesn't freak me out or make me panic or anything. But you know how it dreams, you can tell you're dreaming because something seems out-of-place, and then suddenly you're waking up? I just, sometimes, for a second, wonder if that's going to happen. I know it's not, and it's — I'm not explaining it right," he shrugged, more than a little frustrated. He flipped the box over a few times in his hands. "I know this is real, and I'm here, and all that other stuff isn't anymore. It's just, you know, a thing. Just for a second."
"You're explaining yourself fine," Charles assured Gabriel. "There's still that feeling of other
so to speak. Even just for a moment. Is that correct?"
"Yeah, I guess." Gabriel didn't look totally convinced; his face still showed the annoyance of being inarticulate. "Like, it all feels false. Or broken or — like, I don't know, like I can see the seams?" He really wanted a cigarette. "It's not like I — I don't expect any of it to come back. I just..." He looked up at Charles, shrugging again.
"It's not that feeling that life's so horrible that everything must be a dream or a nightmare," he added after a few seconds. "I've had that before. Plenty of times. This is something else, I think."
"Any thoughts on what it might be?" Charles had learned that the best way to talk to Gabriel was to just let him talk, and to guide him. Too much pushing was never a good thing.
"No." Gabriel shook his head. "I dunno. These problems were much easier to figure out when I was just miserable and grouchy and, you know," he waved a hand. "Lonely or jealous or whatever." He tossed the cigarette box onto an end table. "I guess it's all part of learning to live with... whatever all this is? A weird-looking flower's giving me the same reaction I got seeing adult, fucked-up-beyond-all-belief Clint." He could sense Charles getting ready to raise an eyebrow. "Fine, get, got, whatever. It's all just smaller. Less in my face."
Charles took another sip of his tea, letting Gabriel get the words out. "How do you deal with it when you get the feelings now?" He asked when Gabriel was done.
"I dunno," Gabriel shrugged. "I'm not running and hiding. I'm not drowning myself in well vodka. That has to count as progress, right?"
"It's absolutely progress," Charles agreed. "Is there anything you've found that helps with the feelings?"
"Running. Netflix. Fucking? What do you want me to say? You told me it was all about time. It's been, what, two years?"
"It does take time," Charles said. "But believe it or not, two years isn't that long. Trauma can take years to recover from. You've already taken amazing steps."
Gabriel raised an eyebrow. "The but is practically leaping off the end of that compliment, chief." He shifted on the couch and crossed his arms. "I'm getting through life without this... hurt. That unbearable, gut-wrenching, everywhere-I-went-I-saw-his-face pain. I'm, like, making plans and I stopped shutting people out. And I'm, you know, hanging out with Angel every so often. If that's not leaps and bounds, I'm not sure what is."
Charles smiled a bit. "There was no but, actually. I know you're well aware of all the buts already. There's no point in reiterating them. It's more important to focus on the progress you've already made. Such as hanging out with Angel. Such a thing would have been unthinkable a year ago."
Gabriel was quiet, his gaze focused on the carpet in front of Charles. He ran his hands through his hair, then pulled his legs back onto the floor, where his foot tapped idly. "This whole situation still fucking sucks." He looked up. "I mean, I know you know that, but it does. I didn't ask for any of it. All I did was, you know," he waved a hand as his foot tapped faster, "live here. And now I'm, what? Broken? Less broken, I know, I know, that's good, I'm not trying to be hard on myself, I just..." He reached for the box of cigarettes. "One day at a time and all, but it's like, when does it stop?"
"Honestly? It might never." And oh Charles knew that Gabriel wouldn't like that answer. But it was the truth. And he wasn't in the habit of lying to people. "It will get easier to handle, but it may never stop completely. That's the problem with being a survivor. Sometimes it never stops."
"Yeah," Gabriel said, unable to help sounding a little exasperated, "I know. I mean, of course I know that." Without thinking about it, he tapped a cigarette out. "I just, I dunno. Thought maybe you'd have a different answer."
"I know." If only he could
have a different answer. "I wish I could say time heals all wounds, but we all know that isn't really true."
"Do we ever," Gabriel snorted. He glanced down at his hands and was a little surprised to see the smoke there. He shoved it back into the box. "There better be an uplifting ending to this conversation." He looked up, his face blank. "I can't leave here feeling less good, so you better pull something out of that brain of yours." From anybody else, it might have sounded impudent, but after months of conversation, Gabriel figured Charles knew better.
"Well..." Charles considered for a moment before saying, "You're now one minute closer to being able to smoke that cigarette you keep taking out."
"Oh," Gabriel raised an eyebrow and leaned back a bit in his seat, his arms crossed, "look who's got jokes! How the tables keep turning."
"Have to keep you on your toes, don't I?"
"Wouldn't worry about that," Gabriel said dryly. "The world's doing plenty of that already."