Waking up to the sound of children's laughter was definitely a new experience for Heather.

It took a moment for her brain to register that no, she wasn't going crazy, there was definitely some kid laughing close by. Pushing herself up on her elbows, she glanced across her room, trying to blink the heavy sleep from her eyes. Everything seemed to be in order, no ghost kids peeking out behind the boxes and stacks of clothing or anything, but her eyes quickly settled on the set of windows, accidentally left open from the night before.

Bingo.

It seemed like someone was leading a rather lively lesson right below her bedroom window.

With a smile, Heather collapsed back into her warm cocoon. Today was the first day of lessons and, despite students (only 4 at the moment, but enough to have Charles bouncing off the walls with excitement) trickling in over the course of the weekend, Heather had managed to forget all about it. But that didn't matter. Charles, Angel, Sean, and Alex had taken the few students they had, with Erik and Raven volunteering to step in for extra material and practice. Hank was, well, Hank and had multiple projects going on. Teaching wasn't exactly his top priority. There was no room in teaching for her, Riptide, or Azazel – at the moment, Charles would hastily remind them, at the moment.

Not that she was upset though.

No, how could she be upset when she got to lay in her comfy bed all morning when she got to be woken up by the sound of laughter and not a blaring alarm. No lesson plans. No stress. As she stretched, joints cracking, she reminded herself to send flowers to Charles as a thank you.

A quick glance at her bedside clock told her that it was 8:30.

Even though she wanted nothing more than to stay in bed, Heather's body was demanding coffee. She just hoped that the others had left her some. Dragging herself out from underneath her quilt, Heather maneuvered herself around the multiple cardboard boxes that littered the room. Despite being rather spacious, the room she occupied wasn't exactly built to hold the entirety of Heather's apartment. She was getting really tired of this obstacle course, but she hadn't really found the energy to find a place for it all, even after living here officially for just over a week. Later, she told herself, as she nudged one particularly heavy box out of her way so that she could move to close the windows.

Hearing more laughter, she stopped for a moment, out of curiosity, and peered out at the yard below her. Alex, grasping a football, ran a hand through his sweaty blonde hair before motioning the other person to go long. Satisfied with the distance, he pressed his lips together and launched the ball. The redheaded little boy – Scott, Heather reminded herself, Alex had called him Scott – ran with all his might and jumped, little arms reaching and reaching until –

He caught it. Despite a slight fumble, he caught it and lifted it up for the world to see. Both of them let out a whoop of excitement. Even Heather couldn't help but smile.

Sure, it wasn't really a lesson, but it was nice to see brothers reunited.

Heather hummed to herself as she dressed in a simple plaid skirt and a long-sleeved white blouse, as she tucked her copy of The Violent Bear It Away under her arm, and as she strolled through the long, heavily decorated hallways. The day seemed to get even better with her discovery of a full pot of coffee in the kitchen. She made herself a cup, using her favorite lilac mug, stirring it until it reached the perfect light brown color, and leaned against the counter, relishing in the brief silence, the peacefulness of the morning. She continued to hum her happy tune as she walked through the halls again, coffee mug and book in hand. Her original plan was to find and bug either Erik or Raven, to show off her lack of duties, but, as she walked through the designated hallway of classrooms, she decided to have a peek into her own – maybe even relish in its emptiness. She snickered at that thought.

The handle turned easily, and Heather's eyebrows furrowed as she pushed the door open. That's so weird, she thought, I could have sworn I locked this. Still deep in thought, she barely noticed the other presence in the room – and when Heather finally, finally made eye contact, she froze.

A little girl, no older than 10, sat in the front row, the middle seat closest to Heather's desk. Her strawberry blonde hair was pulled back with a black bow, her hands were clasped together politely, and her pens and pencils had been lined up perfectly on top of her desk, ready for the day to start. She gave Heather a sweet smile and Heather – Heather's brain was shutting down.

"Uh, are you in the right room?"

"Is this Miss Coleman's room?"

Now Heather was in panic mode. She glanced up at the clock hanging above the door and winced when she saw the time was 9:05. The poor girl had been waiting for her to show up for 35 minutes. She shakily set her things down on her desk.

"I'm so sorry for being late, I – "

Oh, god, now she couldn't even come up with an excuse. She was so going to wring Charles' neck the next time she saw him.

"It's okay," the little girl said, her voice just as sweet as her smile, "I understand."

Heather nodded absentmindedly, trying to rack her brain for what exactly teachers did, especially on the first day of school. Ice breakers, the nuns at her school had been obsessed with them. She chewed on her lip for a moment, before she leaned against her desk and gave the girl an uneasy smile.

"This is my first-time teaching, so I'm sorry if any of this is weird. But welcome to the Xavier Institute. Uh. Since it's our first day together, I think it'd be best if we spent some time getting to know each other. I'll start. I'm Miss Coleman," the name felt, sounded, so wrong on Heather's tongue, "I'm 25. My power is mediumship. And, uh." Heather tried to think of something, anything, special about herself. I helped stop a missile crisis last month. I'm good at helping spirits move on. I sent Shaw straight to hell. "And, uh, my favorite color is yellow."

If the little girl noticed her nervousness, she wasn't showing it. She sat up straighter and began, "It's nice to meet you, Miss Coleman. My name's Ruby Martin. I'm 9 years old. I don't really know the name of my power, but I can hear dead people. Oh, and my favorite color is purple."

Ruby. Okay, okay, she could do this.

"It's nice to meet you too, Ruby." Ruby gave her another smile and Heather felt some of her nerves easing, her hands smoothing the hem of her skirt, "So, how about we start with the powers and their names? It all seems really confusing, but I promise I'll try and help you as much as possible. My power is called mediumship," Heather wrinkled her nose, before continuing, "There's a connection between it and the astral plane and somehow I manipulate it." Judging by how wide Ruby's eyes were, Heather was losing her. "But that's all really new so… we'll just focus on the simple stuff. Basic stuff. Mediumship means that I can hear and talk to dead people. I can see them too."

"You can really talk to them?" Ruby looked at her with what seemed to be a mixture of disbelief and wonder.

"Yeah, I can. And it's almost like a living person, but you can tell they're dead, there's something… static about them." Heather wanted to wince at her explanation, but Ruby seemed to eat it up.

"I can't do that."

"You can only hear them?"

Ruby nodded. "How often do you hear them?" Heather asked, her curiosity getting the best of her.

Ruby's smile faltered, her face darkening. "All the time. They never stop."

"Never?" Now Heather was a little worried.

"Never. They're always whispering in my ear. Sometimes yelling. I can't understand them. And they don't listen to me when I ask them to stop."

Heather's heart hurt for the little girl. Ruby was practically shaking in her seat. "That's why you're here. I'll help you. We'll find a way to make it better, more manageable. I promise."

Ruby looked at Heather, hesitance in her eyes, but Heather gave her a soft smile, one that she hoped would be reassuring. It seemed like it helped, as Ruby seemed to relax, giving a nod to continue. Heather took a deep breath, "Okay, let's start."


"Ow, what was that for?"

Charles rubbed the back of his head, eyebrows furrowing in confusion. He was seconds away from reaching into Heather's mind to find out why she smacked him upside the head, but she wasn't going to give him the pleasure. She set her mug safely into the sink, before whipping around to face him.

"You really couldn't have told me that I had a student?" It came out a little more screechy than Heather planned but it seemed to get the point across.

He blinked. "She came early this morning."

"And you didn't think to wake me up or send some weird brain message?"

"Well, perhaps you should have reported to your classroom like everyone else did this morning." Heather threw Charles a look that made the man take a hesitant step backward. She sighed. "Fine, you're right. I should have gone. But still. Charles, she was there alone for so long. I'm probably the worst teacher in her eyes."

"Now, you know that's not true – "

Heather threw her hands up in the air. "If you had a teacher that showed up half an hour late with no plans, would you consider them a bad teacher?"

Charles didn't reply. That was enough for Heather. "It will get easier," he reassured her, always the optimistic, "These next few weeks will be trying, but this is a time to learn from our mistakes and from each other." He took a sip from his coffee cup. So, these kids are our guinea pigs, she thought, and Charles snorted.

"You know I don't have any lesson plans," Heather pointed out after a moment of silence, "Or any experience. Or really any idea of what I'm doing. How am I supposed to do this?"

"I'm sure you'll figure it out. Just like the rest of us."

Heather was going to smack the smile off of Charles' face. "Now," he said, leaning over to rinse his cup, "If you excuse me, I have lessons to attend to." There seemed to be a slight shift in his demeanor then and he glanced at her, a gentleness in his eyes, "If you do run into trouble or find yourself struggling, come to me. But until then, I have faith in you, Heather."

As he left the kitchen, Heather leaned against the counter, arms crossed against her chest. His optimism was truly exhausting.

"Hard day?"

Heather looked up, meeting Erik's questioning gaze. "Yeah," she said, letting out a soft laugh, "I guess you can say that."

Erik took a seat at the small table, before motioning for her to take the seat across from him. Heather's heart jumped into her throat. She didn't know why a simple invitation to talk would make her feel this way. It had been a confusing couple of weeks. She didn't know when it started, even what started it. If it was Edie calling her her daughter-in-law (yes, Heather had bought a German dictionary and found the word, and no, she didn't sit there staring at it for a half an hour with tears in her eyes), if it was him being so caring and protective over her when everything with Shaw was going on, if it was the sight of his biceps when he had taken the heaviest boxes from her arms when they were still in her apartment in DC, how his bluish-grey eyes were finally seeming to get their sparkle back, and how he'd given her that big toothy grin, that seemed reserved just for her and her stupid comments and actions –

No, she told herself, no, stop it, this is just Erik. Nothing else.

Heather took the seat, trying to figure out how to breathe and seem normal. Erik gave her an expectant look.

"From the beginning?"

"From the beginning," he hummed.

By the end of her tale, Heather's head was in her hands and Erik was letting out a low whistle. "And now," she finished, "Now, I have no idea what I'm going to do or – or even where to start."

"You can always start with the method that Charles and I taught you."

"But what if that doesn't work? What if Ruby can't control the astral plane like I can and finding happy memories does nothing? I mean, I'm literally still learning to control this plane, but still. What if she controls a whole different plane and I can't reach her? What if I can't help her? What if I have to break my promise? I can't – "

"Heather."

"What?"

"Breathe."

Heather looked Erik in the eyes, a somewhat amused look within them. I wish you knew how hard it is, she thought, but she nonetheless took as deep of a breath as she could. "I'm overthinking," she mumbled, and Erik hummed in agreement. "I just," she swallowed before continuing, "I just want to get this right."

Erik leaned forward. "Heather, not every lesson is going to be perfect. Right now," he began, "You have no idea if this will work or not. What's the harm in trying? It's better than not having a plan at all. And, if it does fail, we can always find a new method."

Heather tried to ignore the we. "Charles' optimism is rubbing off on you," she grumbled.

He chuckled at that. "How awful."

She couldn't help the smile that grew on her face. "I guess I can let it pass this time." And there was that stupid grin of his and now her heart was fluttering, and she needed to leave this kitchen before she passed out.


Heather's attempt at lesson plans kept her up until the early hours of the morning and, despite her best intentions, her love of the snooze button meant that she was scrambling to make it to the classroom on time. There would be no cup of coffee this morning – she'd just have to try and function without it. She could mourn later.

She smoothed her hair into place, before lying the pieces of paper, decorated in Heather's most colorful chicken scratch, out across her desk. Hearing the squeak of the door, she looked up and gave Ruby a welcoming smile as the young girl scrambled in at 8:30 sharp.

"Good morning, Miss Coleman."

Heather was going to have to get used to hearing that.

"Good morning, Ruby. How are you feeling today?"

Ruby gave her a smile, but Heather could see its weakness, could see the small purple bruises under her eyes. "Good, just tired," Ruby replied, and Heather tried to make her smile as sympathetic as possible. When it came to the dead, some nights were better than others.

"I have some plans for us today. Do you think you'll be up to try some of them?"

Ruby seemed to brighten upon hearing that. But before she could say anything, there was a heavy knock at the door. Heather didn't even bother to question the unexpected arrival, moving away quickly from her desk to answer it. And, when she managed to open the door, her eyes widened.

Erik stood there, a smirk growing on his face, and maybe Heather would have focused more on the way that his black turtleneck seemed to just fit him so right if she was distracted by the coffee mug in his hands – her lilac mug, she noted, as her eyebrows drew together in confusion.

"What – "

But he was pushing the mug towards her and now Heather's brain was definitely short-circuiting because she was just staring at the offering like an idiot.

"You never came down this morning," he responded, like it was no big deal, "I figured you could use it. Considering you usually drink close to a pot yourself."

Heather slowly took the mug from Erik, her brain trying to find the right words, maybe a defense or some witty comment.

"I haven't done anything to it if that's what you're worried about," he chuckled, and Heather let out a small laugh. The part of her that was worried that Erik had brought her a cup of plain black coffee (his favorite, she remembered, trying not to gag) was silenced by the sight of the nearly white liquid within, almost as if Erik had dumped the entirety of the creamer within it. Heather was trying not to swoon. He remembered.

"Thank you," she whispered, holding the mug like it was the most delicate present she'd ever been given. It's a cup of coffee, dumbass, she tried to tell herself, but she could feel her cheeks heating up and oh god, Erik needed to leave.

"We're about to start, uh, practice, but I'll see you later. At lunch." Smooth.

Erik didn't seem to notice her nervousness – or he was hiding it well. "Good luck," he called out briskly, already moving towards his own classroom, where a tiny redheaded girl was waiting for him, little shoes clicking impatiently.

Heather closed the door behind her, making immediate eye contact with Ruby, a knowing smile growing on her freckled face.

Great.


So it's been a solid 2-3 years since I've written anything in this fandom or even any fanfiction. Wow.

Lots of new developments: I'm majoring in English and Creative Writing now, so I do this for a living. That also means I'm always reading and writing and editing and dying.

With all the extra time that I have on my hands because of the virus, I decided to finally kick it into high gear and get a start on this story, which has been sitting in my drafts for about a year now. It feels awesome to come back to this group and to Heather, and I'm really excited to see where this story goes.

Because of my major and the end of the semester coming up, I will say right now that updates are probably going to be slow, but the chapters are going to be on the larger size.

Thank you for all the support these past few years. Stay safe out there.