FIC: Living Ever After (1/1) PG-13
- Title: Living Ever After
Keywords: X-Men: The Movie fic, post-movie, Rogue
Category: I have no idea how to categorize this.
Disclaimer: I own no mutants.
Distribution: My site (http://www.ficorama.net). Anyone else, please ask.
Thanks: To Molly, for the encouragement. And to Mare, for being so darned amazing.
She touches her neck as soon as he finishes speaking. Bare. Her skin feels strange under her hand-too smooth, too soft, too young or maybe not young enough. It's all hers. Sometimes she still forgets that.
He presents her scarf to her with a flourish, his hand curved out like he's offering her the world. He has long fingers, an artist's fingers. They say he was a thief; that he still is, sometimes. She likes that. He's a Rogue, like her. Only better.
"You should be careful, Remy," she tells him and knows that her smile negates any warning she might be giving. "You could have touched my skin."
He smiles back at her and she notices that his mouth is long too, that the ends of it, curled up, somehow manage to make his face look even better. "Chere," he says. "It would be worth it."
His voice is tinged with an accent. Like hers. Only better, because when he uses it, there's a slow melting inside her. Her own voice means nothing to her except that sometimes she spoke for other people and so sometimes her voice was not really hers at all.
"Sit down for a while," she tells him. "I need a break from studying anyway."
He does and it's again with the flourish, this time of his feet up onto the table. His boots look expensive, he must be successful at what he does, or must have been anyway, for isn't he here, now, inside the school, away from the world?--and she smiles again, tilts her face away from him. Teasing, with an almost glimpse of her.
"This," he tells her, "is heaven. Sitting next to the most beautiful woman in the world--" he pauses, and those long fingers touch her arm, slide up her sleeve, "and having her smile at me...ah, there it is. You're breaking my heart with that smile."
Maybe she is, a little. She's never done that before, not with anyone. She turns to face him, fully and the look she gives him is a real one, it's a real smile, it's her smile. "I'd never want to break your heart."
His hand tightens on her arm--maybe he knows something she doesn't, for isn't he a thief, after all, sneaking into corners, into hidden rooms, finding things that no one is ever supposed to see?--and she looks into his eyes. Red eyes, the color of his pupils so dark and true.
Red and shining and so familiar, yet not. Her mouth is dry, burning, and the faint click of her teeth together feels like opening her own eyes. Inside her, there's an echo of Erik, faintly. He's laughing, just a little. He tells her she's had her eyes shut for so long that she's forgotten how to see and then laughs more. She looks away from Remy, stares at the pile of books in front of her. "Oh."
Maybe it's her own thoughts she's having.
"You just realized, then?" he says, and his voice is gentle. "You never wondered why you picked me before? I know I did. You could have almost anyone. Couldn't you?"
She pushes away from the table and stands up. "It's not like that," she tells him. "I...you...it's not because....."
"No," he says wearily and she glances at him. He has tilted his head a little to the side and there is no teasing written on his face. I could love you, she thinks. You might be what I need. You might understand.
But then he finishes speaking. "It's because I'm not. Just almost."
Her mother used to talk about truth tasting like ashes. She never understood what that meant, believed that the truth was either bad or good, horrible or beautiful, that it had no taste, that it simply set you free or drowned you.
She swallows and the ash in her mouth doesn't taste like anything. But her eyes still burn anyway.
Where will it all end? I cannot say. As a child, I wrote small books which I began with the words The End. I needed to know the end was guaranteed. ---Margaret Atwood, "Unearthing Suite"
They never tell you that every end comes attached to a beginning, but she knows it now. Lying in the medlab, voices in her head, she thought to herself; I'm safe, I lived. It's over.
Then she had to actually get up and start living.
It turned out to be a lot harder than she thought it would be. Eventually it got easier--especially once she started thinking of her mind as a filing cabinet. But that came later. At first there was pity and self-pity, endless streams of it. Jean wanted her in therapy, wanted Rogue talking her feelings out, explaining herself. She pushed the sticky fingers of her mind against Rogue's, a soft voice earnestly asking 'Are you ok?'
That was simple enough to take care of. Logan did it for her. A hand on Jean's wrist--tiny bones, and he knew just how to press, hard enough for Jean to notice, soft enough for her to feel--and a stare. Leaning in, brushing his--but it had to be hers because he was long gone by then, wasn't he?--mouth against her neck, saying only a few words. They were enough though. Jean blushed crimson, pulled away, and the only voices in her mind then were those she was almost familiar with.
The Professor was harder. He was softer inside her mind and gentler. Logan didn't mind him, found him ridiculous but safe. Erik wasn't like Logan, wasn't all rush to the surface, wasn't all attack. He waited. He was good at it. He waited till Charles felt secure, reassured. She sat in his office and told him she thought she was getting better, that she was able to sleep at night, that she was able to think a thought and not have it mulled over by many different voices. She left out the sometimes.
She was playing with a paperweight--a shiny steel globe--moving it from hand to hand. She couldn't make it stick to paperclips anymore and she almost missed that. Maybe that was her mistake. Erik woke inside her, and smiled. Charles only (Jean added the "only"-- insisted that Rogue use it, probably thought it would make her feel better) needed five stitches, a thin line dancing across his head. She only needed a sedative when she came back to herself in his office, cradling metal in her hand and laughing while tears ran down her face. There was blood under her fingernails and she forgot all about it till she went to bite a nail and a copper taste, dry and brittle and yet somehow still fresh, slid over her tongue.
It took Erik a while to shut up then. He talked and talked for days until she screamed what he told her to. Charles sat white-faced; mouth compressed into a strained line, and listened. At the end, when Erik was done, he took her hand and said that he'd never meant to break his promises, but that he couldn't go on without hope, that he had to believe in a world with a future, a real future. She kissed the top of his head, heard him inhale when she moved her mouth down to his ear. He rolled back, a little, and the yearning in his eyes hurt her. Her, still there-- inside, and lonely. Almost gone and it wasn't her eyes Charles wanted to see at all.
Logan helped with that some. He didn't actually mind her, liked her as much as he liked anyone. Didn't want her to leave every time he came out, didn't mind her voice mingling with his, sometimes. He showed her how to tell when a storm was coming, taught her how to change sparkplugs in under ten minutes. She passed her mechanics class easily and he liked the way Scott tensed up every time she said "One-Eye." He even showed her how to read the stars, gave her his memories of clear nights and the trail of the Milky Way gleaming brightly and almost hotly under the light of the moon. She would go to the roof of the school late at night and put his memories overtop the blaze of the suburban Westchester sky, watch the stars come into focus. He would name the constellations for her and she'd fold her gloved hands together, picture his bigger hands pointing up at the sky.
But most of the time there was Jean to keep Logan busy. He had memories, scattered, indistinct, mostly centered around things she closed her eyes to, and he was perfectly happy to think of attaching Jean to some of those memories. She was never going to have the memories that kept him tied to humanity--flesh meeting flesh, a mouth running down a stomach and up over again. He could remember what the inside of an elbow tasted like and she looked at her own, cloth-covered, and was sorry she'd open her eyes even partway. Logan felt bad, a little, that he needed to remember and that it hurt her but that was how he was, who he was, and he wasn't going to change. Once in a while, when things got really noisy with him, she'd go find Jean and stare at her mouth till Jean would move away, almost-pity and maybe a little wonder in her eyes.
Those times, she'd convince Ororo to let her have a beer or two and sit with her feet up on a table in the kitchen, trying to remember what it was he'd forgotten, wanting to restore all the memories he'd pushed away as lost. He was more impatient than she was, and usually drifted off into fantasies of Jean while she was stuck in a room full of men in military fatigues and medals.
Sometimes, if he got angry enough at the holes in his mind, the beer bottle would shatter under her hand, cracked against the table. One night she struck harder than usual and pieces of glass flew everywhere, sparkling under the lights of the kitchen, and they both thought of snow and the way cold could cut through you better than glass ever could. She pulled a sliver of it out of her finger and gaped at it, stupidly, for they'd both forgotten that her hand was smaller; that her skin wouldn't close over and heal. She peeled the fabric of her glove away from her skin, looked at the white feebleness of it, so powerful and yet so nothing looking. She remembered who she was, and wept.
She would go to see Scott once in a while, pick a fight with him over any stupid little thing she could think of just to relieve the pressure in her head. Logan and Erik both resented Scott for different reasons, a million of them. Stiff, unknowing, bland--they both agreed on that and David, mostly pushed down because he didn't care all that much, because he was a long time ago and he didn't feel the need to chain her to him, would usually chime in and agree. David always was a follower. Sometimes she had a hard time believing that she used to think she could love him.
Scott could always guess who was talking to him and she watched his hands as she spoke. He was always doing something--working on the jet, fixing a car, repairing something for Jean. Once, when Erik was out, grousing about mutants who lived in fairy-tale worlds, who'd forgotten what humans once did and would do again, she said, "Don't you ever want to do nothing?" He looked up at her then, and smiled. "Hey, Rogue," he told her and in that first startled moment where she realized she'd spoken in her own voice, thought her own thought, she thought of the cabinet. A big one, with secure drawers. Erik went in, laughing at her.
But he still went. And it was something.
Six months after New York City. Still alive, and maybe a little wiser. The voices were less, or she just didn't chose to always listen to them. As a child, she'd never been able to sleep unless she could hear her parent's voices, low and soft, coming from a room nearby. But she'd forgotten that, now slept with a roommate who played cds of frogs croaking. Adaptation didn't only work for mutations, it worked for everything and sometimes she was able to have her own thoughts, and keep them private. Just hers, and she liked that.
Stepping out of the shower one morning, she dripped water on the floor and rubbed a towel across her face. Padded back to her room and stood, naked, in front of the mirror that Kitty had stuck on the back of their door. There was a note, telling her to hurry up, that she was late for a study session in the library. She liked to sleep late and all of them had gotten used to it. Even Logan learned that it wasn't good to make her crabby.
She was startled by her own reflection-she hardly thought of her skin anymore, instead viewed herself as a series of long nerve impulses, gathered together and stuck inside a crowded vessel. Erik winced at her imagery-overblown, he muttered-and said he certainly wasn't interested in her skin. Not in that way. Sometimes he did like to brush her hair though. His own hair was thick and full like hers, although considerably shorter (neater, he said) and he liked to remember running a brush over his scalp in the morning, his hair springing under the pull of the bristles, and Charles' eyes half-closed from the pleasure of seeing the straight line of Erik's back and hair that he'd tangled his fingers into in front of him.
Logan thought of places he could touch, mostly, and out of her eyes she saw remembered curves a little larger or smaller than her own. He was almost chivalrous about the whole thing, really and although he didn't like the sound of that, he could admit it was true; he had no desire to hurt her. Sliding her fingers onto her skin, she rested them under her breasts and he pushed his way to the front, over his own memories and shaped her hand, learning the texture of her skin. There was a brief twinge between them, an almost something, but then he vanished, gone.
He was always good at running.
David was the surprise. She'd almost forgotten about him. He was quieter and had no agenda, was mostly tied to her memories of Marie, who she could hardly remember anymore. But he liked her skin, the pale glow of it, the angles and planes of it, and didn't leave or scorn her. He stayed and asked and together; his memories and the faint hiss of her own curiosity combined, they learned. She wondered, as they both touched her, about the David of that moment. She had the David of past tense, of previous, and she wondered if maybe he had finally met a girl, liked her, and really touched her. She wondered if maybe he'd learned how to make flesh arch up into his touch. She figured he probably had and the David she held blushed a little and placed the feel of her skin and the look in her eyes into his top five memories. That was something, wasn't it? Something good? Something positive, as Jean might say? She figured that since she thought it was, it could be.
She looked in the mirror at herself not much later, dressed, a faint glow on her face, and went into the hall. Jean was waiting for her and her hair was down. Nice, she thought and she knew who that word belonged to. Scott stood by Jean's side, gazing at her, and even though Rogue could only see the red tint of his glasses, she knew that there was nothing but adoration in his eyes.
What was that like, she wondered, and when there was no reply she realized that it was a question that only she asked, that only she wanted answered. Her, and no one else. Jean was talking to her and Rogue heard nothing. Scott smiled--he knew she wasn't listening. He squeezed Jean's hand and she watched them communicate by a simple touch. He told her to have a nice day and he and Jean walked down the hall, their shoulders almost touching.
She knew he meant what he said, that he wanted her days to be as happy as his were, and wondered what it felt like to have love simply be a part of who you were.
Love, of course, was an issue that has to be dealt with. Even if you had skin that couldn't be touched and so many voices in your head that half the time you didn't know whose eyes you were seeing out of. She knew that--and though David was quiet on the subject, (love for him was more of a curiosity, something that he was pretty sure he was waiting for--she hoped he'd found it) Erik wouldn't shut up about it. He hated Charles on general principle, but loved him for a million complex reasons that she didn't really understand. If she tried to think about them, he cut her off by reminding her that he certainly didn't see any reason for her to live, so why in the world would he ever want to explain himself to her? Brutal, but effective and very Erik. Once, she tried to ask Charles why he loved Erik so much, but it came out all garbled and mostly as an accusation. Erik was better at stealth and they were both much happier once she accepted that and stopped asking questions.
Sometimes, when Charles rolled down the hall in front of her, she felt a softening inside her, a longing for a series of drafty rooms with gray walls and views of post-war change in a Europe that was long gone. Sometimes, when Charles looked at her, she knew he was remembering the same things and she wondered how it would feel to know that the ghost of someone you loved was always right behind another pair of eyes.
She was a voyeur but she was used to the view at that point. That's what she told Erik anyway and sometimes he almost believed her.
He liked to dig around inside her and root out her own leanings, as he termed them. He dismissed the Jean thing out of hand (she'd eat you alive, was his contribution. Well, that and wry cruel quips about Logan wanting her if perhaps she grew six inches taller and put a red rinse in her hair and then she wouldn't need Jean at all, would she? ) and found her interest in movie stars with capped teeth and strings of romantic comedies absurd. She couldn't touch anyone, anyway, he'd point out, so why not dream of someone more accessible?
She'd go find Scott when Erik got like that, and he'd let her help grade papers with him. And sometimes, if things were really bad, Scott would talk about his dreams for the world, about how he felt mutants and humans could all live together, and Erik would always forget her in his fury over Scott's plans, in his fear that no one could see how evil humanity could be. Erik hated showing fear and when he did, he always left. She'd lean against Scott's side when he was finally quiet and Scott would ask her about her day. No one else ever did that. No one real, no one inside; not even Logan.
Logan and love was something else altogether. He kept that part quiet and it was all covered with a film, could only be viewed as if it was under glass, in a museum somewhere. He wanted to keep it special. She liked that and the corner of her heart she kept just for him burned a little brighter once she knew that.
But then time passed. And he didn't come back and when she pressed him, trying to see if he knew when he'd return, all his memories would yield were departures and arrivals. He didn't have many returns.
She was a lot of firsts for him actually, or at least ones that he could remember. First person he'd wanted to help. First person he'd made a promise to. First person he'd wanted to save. Left unspoken was the 'and why isn't that enough for you?', but she had the rattle of his tags around her neck to ask that question for her. She took them off once a year had passed and realized the corner she'd kept so brightly lit had always been lit with her wishes and not his.
It wasn't that he didn't care for her--that was maybe the hardest part of all. He wasn't cruel, not like Erik could be, but it was a million times worse because although he felt a sort of casual intensity for her, it was of totally the wrong kind. He wanted her to live, to be happy, to be safe. He wanted her smiling and tucked inside classrooms, her head in a book, wanted her to go back to the girl she was before. Before him, before she almost died, before she knew how horrible the world could be.
Jean was the one he burned for and she had to live with watching Jean walk down the hall, with watching the swing of her hips and imagining that she didn't want to read his mind at all, that she wanted to push him down into a soft guest bed and read his body, her fingertips writing a new history for him, one that he would always want to remember.
She sat outside the garage one afternoon right after she finally realized that Logan was never going to come back for her and looked at the road, thought about how it led to other roads that led to more roads that led to everywhere. She thought about how you could start at one point and end up at any of a million different ones and wished she could cry neatly and quietly, the way Jean probably did. Scott was working in the garage and he came outside, wiping his hands on rag. She rubbed her hands over her eyes and sniffled, said "I can't even ever leave a fingerprint on anyone. Not even a ghost of a touch. I'm nowhere, you know?"
He shook his head at her. "You're always somewhere. And it's not what you leave, you know. It's what you do." She told him to shut up and that was just her. She'd finally gotten her head to herself and even she didn't want to be there.
He didn't say anything for a moment and then he sat down beside her. "Here," he said and held a rag out to her. She looked at it and grimaced--it had oil all over it, and oil was impossible to get out of clothes; she'd ruined several pairs of gloves during mechanics class.
"I'm not touching that...." she started to say and then stopped. He'd taken hold of her right arm and was peeling her glove off. When her hand was bare he took the rag and rubbed it over her fingers then took her hand in his. "You'll probably have to wash your hand for about ten minutes to get this stuff off," he told her. "But now you can definitely leave a mark for a while. Better?" He smiled at her and she smiled back, felt the pressure of his fingers against her own.
The sun was finally setting and light was reflecting off his glasses and into her eyes. Everything she saw was tinted red but she didn't mind at all.
She finally figured she was ready to live her own life on a Tuesday. It wasn't a special Tuesday or anything; it was just that she was in class and she looked over at the calendar Ororo had hung on the wall and realized that she'd been at the school for longer than a while, that it was starting to feel like home. And that when she thought that, no one came forward to say anything. Not to mock, not to congratulate, not even to just watch. She figured that meant something.
Bobby walked her to their next class. He usually did; he was nice that way. Some of the students still avoided her--her penchant for extreme quiet punctuated by periods of conversation with herself (sometimes in German or French, Erik was prone to thinking in languages other than English) made her notable and since Logan and Erik weren't afraid to lash out at anyone they didn't like, (which was most everyone) it kept everybody at a distance.
She was over hating everything or even anything about her situation. It was too much effort and she was more used to it than she felt comfortable admitting to anyone. Maybe it was that comfort that made her speak to Bobby. Maybe she'd realized that when she'd looked at the calendar, she waited for one of them to say something. Maybe she even felt a little hurt when they didn't.
Or maybe she just decided to take a chance on building her own life.
She asked Bobby to the movies. He blinked at her and then smiled, told her yes, and she thought how much cuter he'd look if he had dimples--but only for a moment. He bumped her shoulder with his own and didn't even notice. That made her sure she was doing the right thing.
The movie was fine. Bobby was really nice. He held her gloved hand during the movie and put his arm around her when they were walking home. She told him she had a great time and he said "Me too."
Fine. Nice. Great. Tepid words, and she knew it.
She went to her room and told Kitty and Jubilee almost everything that happened and then said she was going to get a drink. She went to the roof instead and looked up at the stars.
She'd waited the whole night for a comment. Something. Anything. From anyone. Instead, all she'd heard were her own thoughts. And she didn't know what they were. She didn't know if she was having a good time. She was so used to her thoughts filtering through multiple consciousnesses that having them funnel through her own felt incomplete. Strange.
She was afraid that she wasn't anyone anymore.
But she wasn't a quitter. She'd never been one--she'd taken her own life into her hands once, left all that she had known and set out on a new path. She could do it again.
She cried for a while first though. Maybe because she could.
There were footsteps behind her and she turned around. Scott motioned to the area where she was sitting. "Room for me?"
She shrugged, noticed that he wasn't wearing his visor, just his sunglasses. With them on he looked merely like a man who'd forgotten to notice he was outdoors. At night. "I was just thinking."
He sat down next to her. "Been pretty quiet recently, huh?"
"Yeah. Did Jean tell you?
"No, I could just tell. Miss them?"
She drew an imaginary line on the ground with the toe of her shoe. "A little."
He sighed. "It's good that they're fading away. You deserve a life of your own. And just think, you won't have to tell any more stories of heroics in the great outdoors--you know, killing bears with your bare hands and all that." He paused for a moment. "Anything?"
She shook her head.
"Huh," he muttered. "Logan usually would have been out and snarling insults by now, wouldn't he?"
She shook her head and pulled her legs in close to her, wrapping her arms around her knees. "It's just so...quiet. And now I think things, and no one says anything and I sort of wish..." She took a deep breath. "I almost wish there was something I could do to bring them back."
"I once lost my powers," he told her. "Oh, it was just for a while--the jet got hit with some sort of strange solar blast--don't ask, it's a long story-- and for whatever reason it deadened everyone's mutation. I was thrilled. I could see, I mean really see. I got to take off my glasses and look at Jean and the school and...well, everything. It was fantastic. At first. And then, after a day, I started feeling really strange. Out of it. Lost. And then I realized what was wrong. Everything looked funny. There wasn't red everywhere. I kept forgetting to blink often enough--you don't need to as much, with glasses. And by the time my powers came back, well, to tell you the truth, I was relieved. So even though I do think that what's happening to you is good--I can sympathize."
"Yeah. And see, I can tell you that because I know no one is going to pop out and give me shit for it. So you're already reaping benefits. Extra Scott stories."
She laughed. "Funny. You know, you are really lucky Logan isn't around."
He smiled at her and she reached out one of her hands, rested her gloved thumb in the crease made by one of his dimples. He took that hand, held it, pressed a light kiss to the back of it. "I'm gonna go, but if you ever want to talk...."
"Sure. Hey, and Scott--thanks."
He walked back inside and she stood up, looked after him for a moment.
The next day, she introduced herself to Remy. She'd seen him before, of course--his arrival at the school had been notable. She knew what was whispered about him--that he had been a thief, that he was from the South, that he had saved Ororo's life, or that maybe she'd saved his. She knew he came to class when he felt like it and that his hair fell over his face, curls hanging into his eyes. She knew he was tall, taller than she was and that he spoke French.
And when she talked to him, looked at him, really turned her gaze to him, she told him her name. Told him she'd heard a lot about him. Smiled when he said he knew who she was, smiled more when he told her she had beautiful hair.
Looked into his eyes and saw nothing because she was listening for other voices. She forgot to listen for her own. Maybe she wasn't quite ready to see.
Maybe she didn't want to.
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