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"Counting Backwards" R; Rogue (Logan); 2a/5

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  • Molly
    Counting Backwards (2a/5) by Molly January 2001 3. “It’s not too soon, he said, It’s not too soon at all. You might as well be dead, he said, If you’re
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 9, 2001
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      Counting Backwards (2a/5)
      by Molly
      January 2001

      3. �It�s not too soon, he said,
      It�s not too soon at all.
      You might as well be dead, he said,
      If you�re afraid to fall.� -- Throwing Muses

      She leaves and this time she gets farther than the
      train station. Seattle, she whispers, silent mantra of
      far, *far* away hope. Seattle where she�s never been,
      Seattle that�s an adventure but that isn�t Alaska.�

      Alaska isn�t on the agenda anymore. She doesn�t know
      why.�

      She expects someone to have beaten her, expects Scott
      or Ororo to be there, waiting, on the train to the
      airport. She expects them to take her home and almost
      wants that, but nobody is there and she leaves.�

      And Seattle yawns with foreign fright. She spends the
      first night in the airport, because she looks clean
      and good and jesus christ *innocent* and they don�t
      kick her out. When she finally leaves it�s cold, but
      there�s a taxi and she goes where she�s planned to go.
      To Lindsay�s, to the aunt she�s never met and to the
      only history free of attachments she can think of.
      Lindsay and her mother never got along, and when Rogue
      tells her the story-- minimal, but still a story-- she
      lets her in and lets her sleep and still, nobody
      comes.�

      After a week she lets herself relax. Lindsay likes to
      take her picture-- �That darling streak just *
      screams* to my lens, dear.�-- and so she goes about
      her life with occasional flashes of light as she cooks
      dinner or reads a book, and she only makes Lindsay
      promise they never go in an exhibit. Not without her
      permission.�

      Lindsay nods and she comes and goes, and she gives
      Rogue a key to the place. They work well together: no
      noise, no fuss, no holler. Rogue has a circus in her
      head and it�s good for them all; everyone just shuts
      up.�

      She gets a job in an accessory boutique, just the sort
      of place where gloves and scarves are nothing more
      than a fashion statement, and then she gets another in
      a diner because the nights turn out to be too long and
      silent. She dies a little inside and puts her real
      name down on the tax forms, and Marie Dutton has a
      little life in a big city that gets to be almost--
      normal. Work then dinner and then work then sleep, and
      Lindsay says she can stay as long as she wants for
      minimal rent, because lord, it�s been forever since
      the floor was vacuumed regularly.�

      ***�

      She meets a man in the street one day, a man with
      piercing blue eyes that remind her, in a way only she
      could understand, of herself. He has a face that�s
      younger than he is, and he smiles at her at the bus
      stop.�

      She smiles back. Funny, how it doesn�t seem so hard
      these days.�

      He says he has a daughter, years younger than her
      ancient twenty, who want to do crazy things to her
      hair, too. She tells him some things happen by
      accident, but if it happens, it happens, and she
      thinks he�d even learn how to like it.�

      He pays for her bus fare and she goes to work
      wondering what will happen to a stranger�s head of
      hair. She takes a break at three and goes across the
      street to buy a cigar. It tastes good; she almost
      cries.�

      Lindsay asks her, once and only once, if she ever
      thinks about calling her parents. No, she says,
      playing with a refrigerator magnet. She can feel the
      tiny field around it but can�t control it, and she
      puts it down. She admits that she used to, but says
      that things change and leaves it at that.�

      But then she does think about them. Shewon�t call; the
      voices are still too angry and powerful to let her
      call, but she watches the new about mutant legislation
      and mutant causes and she wonders, a little, what they
      think about those stories. If their nerves have calmed
      and if maybe they feel differently now.�

      She doubts it. She makes herself doubt it, because she
      has to.�

      ***�

      She stops mid-swipe and holds the dishtowel tight in
      one hand, and the ketchup bottle in her other almost
      slips and falls. She sets it down carefully and
      swallows hard.�

      Three months in Seattle and seven before that: it�s
      been nearly a year since she�s seen him and always,
      always he looks the same. �What do you want?� she
      asks. She�s proud that her voice sounds steady and
      strong.�

      �Coffee.� He hitches the legs of his jeans and sits on
      one of the counter stools, and it�s deja vu all over
      again. �You know how I like it.��

      She gives him a nod, glad the coffee�s fresh because
      that *is* the way he likes it. Setting a cup in front
      of him, she stares hard. �That�s not what I meant.��

      �It�s all I wanted.��

      �You�re full of it. Do they think you�ll have a better
      shot at getting me to come back?��

      He raises an eyebrow. �It�s been three months, from
      what they tell me. You still don�t believe they
      willing to leave you alone?��

      �No.��

      �Believe it.� He glares at the chipped Formica
      countertop. �Xavier said to tell you you�re always
      welcome, but that he wishes you happiness here.��

      �Great,� she mutters, and Magneto used to think
      something about eternal optimists being the most
      insufferable of all. �How long have you known?��

      �A week.� He shrugs at her statement. �Car broke down,
      or I�d have been here sooner.��

      �They told you and you came straight here?� She
      doesn�t know if she should believe him, except she
      knows he isn�t a liar.�

      �Pretty much.� He nods to his mug and she refills it.
      �This coffee is crap, by the way.��

      �Tell the manager. Why?��

      �Why what?��

      �Why did you come here? He could have told you
      anything you wanted to know-- He obviously told you
      exactly where to find me.��

      He pauses at her bitter tone. �I didn�t want to know
      anything.��

      �Why, then?� she demands. She�s getting angry and
      that�s him, right there, lacking patience for useless
      answers.�

      �Why the hell do you think I showed up at that joint
      in the first place? Why I ever do?��

      �I know perfectly well why.� Oh, and there�s the
      bitter edge again.�

      His eyes narrow. �You don�t know shit.� The look
      passes and he glances at her nametag. �Back to being
      Marie, huh?��

      She wants to say things to him, so many things, but
      she can�t. Instead, she nods. �It�s my name.��

      He mirrors the gesture. �That�s true.��

      A group of girls comes in and she sighs. �I have to
      get them. I�ll be right back.��

      The girls take forever ordering and by the time she
      gives the slip to the cook, Logan�s finished his
      coffee and is glaring at the half-full pot just out of
      reach on its burner.

      �Here,� she mutters in good humor. �Tell me you didn�t
      drive 3000 miles without sleeping.��

      �I didn�t.� He winks. �Only the last thousand or so.��

      �Insane,� she says under her breath, leaning against
      the counter and fiddling with her gloves, which are
      damp from holding wet towels.�

      He looks at them. �Don�t people think it�s odd, a
      waitress wearing gloves?��

      �Anybody asks, I say I�m a hypochondriac and terrified
      of the germs in this place.� He laughs a bit and she
      finally cracks a small smile. �Nobody�s ever said
      anything. I don�t think anyone cares.��

      �Oh.��

      �I like it like that,� she adds, and the cook beats
      his bell. �Fuck.��

      Logan shakes his head and stands up. �I�ll let you
      work. How much for the-��

      �No,� she says. �It�s crap, you�re right.� And she
      looks at him and he�s going to walk out, and she�s not
      too happy about the knot in her stomach but it�s
      there, nonetheless. �I get off in an hour. You
      could-��

      �I�ll be here,� he promises.�

      She hopes he will. She can�t tell him, but she�s glad
      he�s there.�

      ***�

      He�s sitting on the hood of his car-- beaten down old
      Mustang that makes her wonder if the model T really
      was the first car-- when she waves to the night staff
      and steps out into the parking lot. �Hold these,� she
      says, and strips off her dirty wok gloves and hands
      them to him. His eyes follow her bare hands, which
      disappear into her purse and emerge with a clean set
      of gloves. She tugs them on and reaches out.
      �Thanks.��

      She takes him down the street to where there good
      coffee, and when he asks if she knows where he can get
      decent cigars, she pulls one out of her bag. He just
      raises an eyebrow. �At least you have good taste about
      it,� he finally says.�

      She asks if he has a place to stay and he says no, so
      she says he can stay in Lindsay�s apartment. Lindsay�s
      in Tasmania, anyway, trying to get good photos of the
      curlew sandpiper. He hesitates, but eventually gives
      her a curt nod, and she feels bad that the sofa is
      about a foot shorter than he is. But he just tells her
      to go to sleep and he�ll deal.�

      She doesn�t sleep a lot that night. He�s just too damn
      close.�

      ***�

      She used to like the things that come automatically,
      the things she never has to think about. Hitting the
      snooze button exactly once, locking the door behind
      her when she comes home. Reaching for the hot water
      handle first and looking both ways, even on a one-way
      street.�

      And she still likes them, she supposes, but some of
      the new things that are now second nature make her
      angry. Like yanking on gloves before she steps out of
      her room, or steering clear of cops and soldiers alike
      whenever she happens to see one on the street.�

      Like staying out of arm�s reach of a sleeping Logan as
      she quietly cleans the living room. He�s sprawled on
      his back with his legs propped on the arm of the sofa,
      and the blanket she gave him is on the floor in a heap
      so she can see every detail of his chest and torso
      whenever she steals a peek.�

      Which she does often, and they aren�t so much peeks.
      Suddenly he shifts and mumbles, eyes still closed,
      �Didn�t your mother ever tell you it�s rude to watch
      people sleep?��

      �I think she forgot that little lesson of etiquette,�
      she tells him dryly. �You get that out of Emily
      Post?��

      �Who the hell is that?� he grumbles. He squints at
      her; she relents and goes to pull the curtains.�

      �Nobody you�d know, obviously. You want breakfast?
      I�ve got sausage and eggs.��

      �That your plan? Kill me with kindness?��

      She allows a small laugh. �You don�t seem to go for
      the more traditional methods. There�s a new toothbrush
      in the medicine cabinet and the shower takes a minute
      to heat up, so be patient, okay?� She picks up the
      blanket to fold. �And don�t take forever. I have to go
      to work in an hour.��

      �Another job?��

      �Food, rent?� She shrugs. �Much as I�d like to have
      more than the memory of cage fighting, I�d go down in
      an instant if I tried that as a living.��

      He groans. �Shit� that�s pretty generous, giving
      yourself an instant.��

      �Shut up and go shower.��

      There�s an ease to making the same breakfast she
      always does and knowing he�ll like it, and yet she
      flushes when he comes into the kitchen, hair still
      wet, and sniffs appreciatively. �You�re good.��

      �Lucky me, I�ve discovered my talent in life.��

      He takes the plate she offers and sits down. �I�m
      buying you dinner tonight.��

      �I only have an hour between shifts.��

      �So I�ll buy you a fast dinner. You always work back
      to back?��

      �I get weekends off. And the diner is only four hours
      a night.��

      He nods. �Good. Don�t overdo it, huh?��

      �I�m fine, Logan,� she says with a sigh. �I�m fine.��

      ***�

      True to his word, he comes to the boutique at five and
      hauls her to a small Chinese restaurant, and the
      waiter doesn�t appear to even consider disobeying when
      he growls that they�d �better be quick about it.� She
      stifles a giggle and he frowns. �What?��

      �Nothing. I just wish I could get away with that
      without being called names.� She feels relaxed in the
      dark corner booth and pulls her thin scarf off, and
      after a brief hesitation, her gloves, too. �You�ll
      snarl or something if anyone comes near my hands,
      right?��

      He grins. �Sure,� and he seems more pleased that the
      gloves are off than at her light teasing. �Work
      okay?��

      �It was boring, but yeah.� She plays with her fork,
      tries idly, knowing she�ll fail, to bend the tines
      with a thought. �When are you taking off?��

      �You want me to split?��

      �No! I� no.� She blows out a long breath and stares at
      him. �I was just curious. If you�re around this
      weekend, I could show you some neat things in the
      city.��

      He shrugs. �Guess I�ll be here at least through the
      weekend, then. I�ll go when you tell me to, Marie.��

      She feels herself turning red. �Okay.��

      They eat quietly and as they walk to her diner she can
      feel him watching her. �What?� she finally asks.�

      �Why did you come here?��

      �Because it�s where my aunt lives.��

      �No. Why did you leave?��

      She bites her lip. �I don�t want to talk about it.�
      They reach the parking lot and she quickens her step.
      �I get off at ten, okay? I-Actually, here.� She fishes
      her keys out and tosses them to him. �You can watch TV
      or something. Detergent�s in the cabinet over the
      washer if you want to do laundry. Good night.��

      She has a bad night. She�s on edge and frustrated, and
      part of her wishes she could have answered his
      question. But she couldn�t and she didn�t and so she
      just gets angry, and by the time she gets home she has
      to be glad Logan�s fallen asleep in front of the TV
      because she just doesn�t want to talk. She locks the
      door and goes to bed, and it�s been a long time since
      she last cried herself to sleep.�



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