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"Counting Backwards" R; Rogue (Logan); 3b/5

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  • Molly
    Counting Backwards (3b/5) by Molly She finds her way to the attic, to the only part of the mansion that isn’t pristinely clean. Boxes clutter every corner
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 10, 2001
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      Counting Backwards (3b/5)
      by Molly

      She finds her way to the attic, to the only part of
      the mansion that isn�t pristinely clean. Boxes clutter
      every corner and she sees immediately that this, at
      last, must be where Xavier tucks his personal life
      away. It�s all cardboard and labels and dust, and she
      edges through it all and stares out a tiny dormer
      window. Twilight is settling as it does in spring,
      creeping in with a hazy stillness that can�t be missed
      for all its stealth.�

      After two long hours of sitting among the packed-up
      remains of Xavier�s life, a life traded for something
      else, she slips back downstairs and into her room,
      where Logan is pacing. �Hi,� she murmers.�

      He stops and fixes alert eyes on her. �Marie?��

      �Yeah.� She wearily strips off her gloves and scarf
      and curls up on the bed. �Logan, I think maybe you
      should go,� she says, her voice muffled in the
      blanket.�

      �What?��

      �I said you should leave.� She lifts her head to see
      him and her eyes hurt from trying too hard, too long,
      not to cry. �For a few weeks or so.��

      �Okay� why do you think this?��

      �I don�t think I can do this with you here.� She
      swallows hard, captivated by a twitching muscle in his
      neck. �I can pretend, but only until the next little
      thin sets me�sets him off. And I�ll use you to be
      okay, and he�ll use you to mess it all up, and� I
      think if I don�t do this alone, I won�t do it at
      all.��

      �Are you sure?��

      �Sure enough to have said anything at all.� She sighs
      and closes her eyes. �You�re not just angry at him.
      It�s me, too.��

      She feels the bed sink as he sits on the edge. �How
      the hell am I supposed to separate you when you do�I
      look at you and I see * you*, Marie, and most of the
      time I know you�re in control. But what happened at
      dinner� Fuck. I don�t know.��

      �See? This is gonna get ugly, I can feel it. And I
      don�t want you to ever start seeing him when you look
      at me.��

      Logan is silent for a long time. �I�ll go, then. I�ll
      give it a month.� And she feels his hand settle in the
      small of her back and rub gently. �A short month. A
      February month.��

      She stifles a laugh. �Leap year?��

      �Hell, no.� He lies back behind her and breathes
      against her neck. �You�re stronger than he is, got
      that? You can get yourself back to being that
      presumptuous kid that crawled into my truck.��

      �You didn�t like her.��

      �Well, I�m an idiot. But I learn fast, don�t I?��

      She thinks about three long years and about how maybe
      there never was anything to learn. Only to understand,
      and to wait through. �I guess you do.� She sits up and
      crawls under the blanket so he can get his arm safely
      around her. �I still have your tags.� �

      �I figured.��

      �You never asked for them.��

      �I never planned on staying away. Didn�t need �em.��

      �Oh� You know, I could never wear them. I wanted to, a
      lot, but the metal�I couldn�t stand it.� She sighs
      sleepily. �I�m gonna get them out and I want you to
      take them with you.��

      �You do.��

      �Yeah,� she says. �You�ll come back, I know it. I
      don�t need them.��

      ***�

      The sun isn�t yet up when they creep down to his car.
      �You gonna go fight?� she asks, playing with the
      zipper on his jacket. �

      �Probably,� he admits. �Why? You don�t want me to?��

      �Nah. Just wish I could see it.��

      Laughing, he kisses the top of her head. �I bet you
      do. You�ll talk to Xavier today?��

      �I�ll try.� She hugs him quickly and steps back.
      �Okay. You should get goin�.��

      �Yeah� Look, if anything happens, if I need to come
      back���

      �I�ll tell Xavier. But I�ll be okay.� She smiles
      wanly. �Eventually.��

      He just nods and that�s it; he leaves. And she goes
      inside and tries to get back to sleep, but all she can
      do in the dark emptiness of the room is worry.�

      She forces herself up for breakfast. Slipping into the
      crowded room, she takes a seat in a corner and can
      feel four sets of eyes watching her, waiting. But she
      simply eats and then leaves, and she�s waiting in
      Xavier�s office when he rolls in. �Are you busy?� she
      asks nervously.�

      He watches her carefully. �No, not for an hour or so.
      Is Logan still sleeping?��

      �He left.��

      �Did he?��

      �I asked him to,� she adds. She bites her lip for a
      moment. �I�m sorry. I shouldn�t have let�I�m sorry.��

      Xavier just sighs. �I feel quite the same way, Marie.
      For rather a few reasons.��

      �Yeah?��

      �Yes. Perhaps Magneto won�t allow you to understand
      it, but I am able to admit by failings. And I failed
      you, to be sure, and I have never sufficiently
      apologized.��

      She nods slightly, then suddenly says, �I�m tired,
      Professor. I�m tired of it all.��

      �I�m sure you are. Erik�s passion and zeal can take a
      good deal of energy.��

      �Yeah� I never know when he�ll pop back up. I don�t
      even know why I�why * I�m* the one talking to you
      right now.��

      �Ah,� and Xavier smiles slightly. �He�s quite good at
      lying low when he feels it necessary.��

      �Can you help me?� she whispers.�

      �I hope so. The easiest option would be for me to
      isolate and suppress what there is of him in your
      mind���

      �Stay out of my head, Charles,� she snaps abruptly.
      �Haven�t you learned your lesson about meddling with
      me?��

      �Marie,� Xavier says, calm and deliberate. �He isn�t
      there. What he is, who he is, is all in your mind, but
      * you* are the only one truly there. You have to
      control him.��

      �You�d like to think it�s that easy, wouldn�t you?�
      She stands up and wanders around the office, slides
      her fingers over leather-bound books. �Perhaps she
      doesn�t want control, Charles. Perhaps there�s a
      reason I�ve been able to stay with her for three years
      now� Perhaps she knows I�m right, and just can�t admit
      it.��

      �No. You�re using her, the same as you used her
      before, the same as you once tried to use me.��


      �Don�t fool yourself, Charles. People only let
      themselves be used if it benefits them in some way.
      It�s true for her, as it was always true for you.� She
      goes to the door and opens it. �Careful, old friend.
      You�re losing your touch.��

      ***�

      She keeps to herself for nearly a week. At night, she
      lies awake and wishes Logan hadn't left, and during
      the days she wanders the halls and avoids speaking to
      anyone. Jean smiles at her as usual, and Scott gives
      her friendly nods whenever she passes, but nobody
      pushes her.�

      After six days she shows up in Xavier's office again,
      and asks him to get her into the prison to talk to
      Magneto. He watches her silently for several minutes,
      then nods slightly and says he'll arrange it.�

      And two days later she's standing in front of a guard,
      who examines all her clothing for any metal, and then
      walking down the plastic hallway that reminds her of a
      toy that she once had as a child, a snaky tube that
      served no purpose other than to crawl through, and
      reach the other end.�

      Magneto looks older, older than she could ever have
      imagined. He's pale and thin, and the chess set is
      gone, replaced by books and playing cards. He smiles
      at her when she comes in. "Rogue. How lovely to see
      you."�


      She stands nervously near one plastic wall, and
      doesn't correct the name. "Did they tell you I was
      coming?"�

      "They did. It's been quite a bit of time since I had a
      visitor."�

      "What about the Professor?"�

      "He hasn't come in months. I do believe he's given up
      on me." He laughs softly. "A shame, really. I could
      surprise him, yet."�

      She frowns. "You could?"�

      "Old dogs can learn new tricks, my dear." He looks sad
      and gazes around his transparent confinement. "It's
      quiet here, you've noticed?"�

      "Yes. I envy it. Do you know why I came?"�

      "I don't. You were here before; I remember wishing
      they would let you come down."�

      "It was different, then." She ventures closer and sits
      gingerly on the second chair. "You're killing me."�

      He frowns, surprised. "How so? You can see I'm quite
      helpless, here."�

      "You're in my head and won't get out. You won't leave
      me alone."�

      "Ahh... how dreadful for you. I'm sorry, I can be
      tenacious." And he laughs again. "I don't suppose it's
      a comfort that you weren't meant to live long enough
      to experience the after effects of my touch."�

      She smiles despite herself. "Not exactly a comfort,
      no."�

      "So why have you come here?"�

      "I think I was hoping it would-- settle something.
      That you could help me get rid of you."�

      "Oh, to be so unwanted," he says, but looks amused.�

      "Yeah," she mumbles, embarrassed. "What did you mean
      about learning new tricks?"�

      "Merely that old men are still capable of change.
      Don't worry yourself about it. It's between Charles
      and I."�

      "You hate him."�

      "I once believed I did. But hate is such a strong
      word, Rogue. It can overcome you."�

      "Then you don't."�

      "There is a certain amount of resentment, still. But I
      loved him too much to truly hate him. I'm sure you
      understand."�

      She frowns. "I left for awhile. I couldn't be near
      him."�

      "Did you?" Magneto sighs. "A shame, again. Tell me--
      how is it I have such influence over you? You strike
      me as rather strong-willed."�

      "I don't know. You seem to think it's my decision,
      that I want you to stick around for some reason."�

      "Perhaps you do. Has Charles tried to help you, in his
      own special way?"�

      "You won't let him."�

      "*You* won't let him, child. Keep in mind that I'm in
      prison. You're free to fight me." He sighs again as
      the tunnel extends with a whirring sound and a guard
      enters. "They seem so determined to keep me alone."�

      "Would you do it all again, if you could?" Marie asks
      suddenly.�

      "I don't know, Rogue," he replies quietly. "Let him
      help you, all right? Let something good come of his
      lofty intentions."�

      She nods slightly and gets up. "Good-bye, Erik."�

      "Farewell, my dear. And good luck with the world."�

      ***�

      She takes a day before seeing Xavier again. She goes
      back up to the attic, skims her fingers through dust
      so she can read the box labels. She finds one labeled
      'New York, 1975' and she smiles, knowing what kinds of
      photos, mementos, must be inside.�

      She tries hard to absorb everything Magneto said. It's
      hard; it's all a blur of things she didn't expect. For
      him to have changed; for her to have to realize she
      might be the one not letting go. That's the thing that
      scares her, because when she thinks back she knows
      Logan only settled when she got an idea she didn't
      need a substitute for the real thing anymore.�

      And she wonders what she could need Magneto for. She
      can't begin to imagine.�

      She makes sure she's calm when she goes to Xavier. She
      has to wait in the hall until his calculus class gets
      out, and then sits quietly in front of him until he
      smiles cautiously and asks, "How did your visit go?"�

      "It was fine," she replies. She fiddles with the edge
      or her skirt and darts nervous eyes around the room.
      "You don't go see him anymore."�

      "I don't, that's true. I last saw Erik the week after
      you left."�

      "Why?"�

      "I believed I saw signs of change in him, and feared
      that my presence was igniting old anger. And I-- I was
      angry about you, Marie, to be perfectly honest.
      Despite what I told you, it's not easy even for me to
      distinguish between the real Erik and what has evolved
      within your mind."�

      "I don't understand."�

      Xavier smiles gently. "Three years ago, you survived
      what he attempted. And yet, when you left, I felt he'd
      finally destroyed you, and I couldn't continue facing
      him. We all pin our blame somewhere, Marie. It simply
      took me quite a bit of time to be able to blame him,
      whether I was right or wrong. That's always been my
      problem with Erik."�

      "Oh." She finally brings her gaze to his eyes. "Maybe
      you should go see him. It's strange, Professor... he's
      not the person I know, and I can't pinpoint how he's
      different. I think-- I think he was trying to tell me
      he's lonely."�

      "I will consider it. However, perhaps we should
      concentrate on you right now."�

      She shakes her head. "But I think maybe that has to do
      with me."�

      "I'm afraid I don't follow."�

      With a frustrated sigh, she searches for words. "He
      seemed to think what I said was true, or could be,
      that I'm keeping him around for some reason."�

      "Do you believe it?"�

      "I think... I think it's something I don't want to
      believe, but maybe I should. If I-- if I'm honest
      about Logan and how I lost him, *when* I lost him, I
      have to admit I was probably clinging to that for as
      long as I though I needed it."�

      Xavier frowns. "And what might you need from
      Magneto?"�

      And she squeezes her eyes closed because things are
      becoming all too clear and the sight of his gentle
      face is bruising to her mind. "He never really wanted
      me to leave here," she whispers. "Logan did... I
      did."�

      "You did."�

      She feels something snap within her; she suspects if
      she hadn't been distracted she would have felt the
      same thing when Logan fell silent. "Oh, god, I did.
      And it's so stupid, so childish-- "�

      "I don't think anything you've gone through is
      childish, Marie."�

      She shakes her head violently. "I didn't want to hate
      you. I didn't want to hate anyone... I let him do it
      for me."�

      Xavier takes a minute to find his question. "What is
      it you want to tell me?"�

      She opens her eyes and blinks at him. "I don't think
      it matters anymore. It's... it's that blame thing,
      Professor. It's old bitterness, and it's all mine.
      Because you didn't see that he was after *me*, and I
      almost died and Logan, too, and I forget that he hurt
      you, too, through it all." With a sigh, she stands up.
      "I'm sorry, I need to-- to go think through this. I'm
      sorry."�

      ***�

      It's Scott who makes the move she's been waiting for,
      twelve days now. Difference is, now she can appreciate
      it, resentment free, and when he finds her in the
      garden after breakfast the next day, she smiles at
      him.�

      "Hey."�

      "Hi," he replies, matching her statement as he watches
      her run her fingers over the newly budding leaves on
      stalks. "I hear you made a breakthrough of sorts."�

      Her smile fades fast and she stares at the mulch,
      moves her foot against where some of it has spilled
      over into the path. "Some breakthrough. I get rid of
      Magneto just to figure out *I* was the really screwed
      up one all along."�

      Scott grabs her arm, gently. "There's nothing screwed
      up about how you feel, Marie. None of us think that."�

      "I do." She sighs and feels a light breeze, holding
      chilly remnants of winter, catch her hair. "My mother
      told me once that if you can't forgive someone even if
      you wind up okay in the end, then you're probably not
      admitting what's really making you mad."�

      "Sounds feasible."�

      "I'm still angry, Scott. Only difference is, I know
      it's me and not him."�

      "What do you think it could be over?"�

      She wrinkles her brow. "I don't know. But I don't
      think it's just over the... Magneto stuff."�

      "No, me neither." He sits beside her in silence for a
      minute. "You did know the professor built my visor,
      right? He figured out how to let me see again?"�

      "I think I heard that, yeah," she answers, waiting to
      see where he goes with that thought.�

      "I was pretty grateful," Scott adds. "I was-- amazed.
      I'd hit this point of just accepting it. Okay, that's
      it, no more opening my eyes. Then the professor came
      along."�

      "He has a way of doing that, doesn't he?"�

      Scott grins momentarily. "He does, actually. Anyway...
      you know what one of the first things I noticed was,
      when I could see with this thing?"�

      "No."�

      "The looks people gave me," he says softly. "The
      people who understood what I must be to have it be
      necessary. I used to really wish he would have warned
      me about that."�

      She remembers those looks. She remembers petty sneers
      on her classmates' faces, mingled with fear; she
      remembers bruised (literally) pride and words that can
      still make her blood run cold and her legs itch to
      run. "I know what you are."�

      She remembers envying Logan's control right then, the
      fierce nonchalance and low-toned threat that he'd
      almost carried through. She looks up at Scott and
      bites her lip nervously. "What are you getting at?"�

      "I don't know. I just keep thinking... that first
      night at dinner, you took off your gloves to eat as if
      it were the most natural thing ever. You never once
      did that, before."�

      She swallows hard suddenly. The glint of sun off
      Scott's visor hurts her eyes, but she can't look away.
      "I-- I stopped being so goddamned *careful* around
      Logan, you know?" she whispers. "It just felt so
      normal... "�

      "And maybe it should. But still," he says, getting up,
      "it's hard having to figure it out all on your own,
      isn't it?"�

      ***�

      She goes to lunch that day. Willingly, anxiously, and
      she slides into the seat next to Xavier breathless,
      glad it's empty. "Hi," she says nervously. "You told
      me you felt guilty over it all."�

      "Indeed."�

      "Then how about... how about you let go of that, and I
      let go of old anger, and we try to start this whole
      deal over without interference from Magneto this
      time?"�

      The smile that spreads across Xavier's face is warm
      and fond, and she feels herself automatically return
      it. "I'd like that, Marie. Very much, in fact."�

      She picks up a fork and plays with it, shaking her
      head in amusement when the tines don't bend to her
      will. "Could you tell me one thing, as a favor?"�

      "What do you want to know?"�

      "About New York, in '75. Was it-- Do you remember it
      as perfect, like Erik does?"�

      "Ahh... " Xavier leans back in his chair, his eyes
      clouding in peaceful nostalgia. "That was, yes,
      probably the best of the years we ever spent as
      friends. No arguments, no bitterness. Just us, and New
      York, and long talks about the world."�

      She nods gratefully. "Thanks. I just-- I needed to
      know, for some reason."�

      "Anytime you want to ask something, feel free. I can't
      promise to answer, but... at times it can be rather
      nice to have someone else understand what things were
      like for us."�

      And Marie shrugs and thinks absently of starting to
      wear jewelry again. "I think that can be nice for
      anyone. Being understood, you know?"�

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