FIC: Into the Fire (1/1, PG-13)
- Title: Into The Fire
Category: angst, I suppose
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Archive: list, Disquieting Muses (www.wolverineandrogue.com/muses)
Thanks: Diebin, Nancy, Donna - love ya guys. Thanks for looking, and
approving (at least to what you saw... Hope you don't hate the rest of it.
Into the Fire
You sit at the kitchen table, dropping ashes into a heart-shaped crystal
ashtray you had to buy yourself because no one else at the mansion smokes.
It is still dark out, but the sun will be coming up soon, and you feel it
is only right to stay up to greet its arrival. You are tired, of course.
Sleep has eluded you the past few nights and you resort to spending your
time watching television, old movies only suited for 2 am play. This
morning you believe you might be able to close your eyes and drift off, if
only because the bone weariness is getting to be a bit much. Never in your
life have you been this tired.
You suck in a lungful of smoke and hold it, feeling it burn your chest and
throat, make your eyes water. You used to wonder what attracted people to
the vice, what made them addicted. You exhale slowly, watching the stream
of particles exit your body, capture the small amount of moonlight
illuminating the room.
You lean back in your chair � wooden, elegant but simple, tasteful is the
word, like everything else in this place � and you put your feet up on the
one beside you. If it wasn�t for smoking, you think, you�d be sitting alone
in the dark, doing absolutely nothing. You smoke down to the filter and
discard the cigarette, think about starting another one. Instead, you take
the ashtray and dump it�s contents in the trash, rinsing out the residue in
the sink. One more hour, tops, before the sun is out. Then, you�ll go to
The outside, you realize, is a lot more interesting at night, when the
shadows play tricks on your eyes. You walk to the window and stare out,
wondering what lurks through the foliage, what hidden dangers or pleasures.
Not that there isn�t pleasure in danger. You�ve come to realize this too.
Seventeen, alone and � why not? � afraid , you came to understand the
pleasure in simply surviving, in being able to fend for yourself.
Briefly you wonder if he�s asleep, wherever he is, or if he�s taken comfort
in an anonymous woman, too drunk to care that she isn�t more than a
ten-dollar hooker waiting to score her next fix. You shake your head. For
all his faults, he�s not a degenerate, and you don�t think he�s one to
engage in meaningless sex with anything that crosses his path. He�s more
picky, you remember, more deliberate. Until a few days ago, you�d believed
him the second coming. Now that you know better, now that he�s fallen from
his pedestal, you have to figure out what to do with him. He�s just a
mutant, you say. Just a man. Something inside you rebels against that
notion. He�s not your savior anymore, but he�ll never be just a man.
You wait and when the sun comes up, rays filtering in through the blinds
you�ve just closed, you walk back to your room. You know what you�ll find
inside; everything is just as you left it. The bed hasn�t been made,
clothes litter the floor, there�s a small gash in the nightstand - the only
lasting physical evidence he was ever there.
You go into the bathroom and wash your face, watching as the dark circles
underneath your eyes appear as the makeup disappears. You look just how you
feel. The eyes, you�ve been told, are too old for the rest of you. What
does that mean, anyway? You gaze at your reflection and wonder what he saw.
Did he like it? Did he like the deep, brown eyes, and the long hair with
that sliver of silver � a reminder of what held him to you once? Or did he
see an impossibly young girl with old eyes and deadly skin, destined to be
alone, a freak among freaks? You think it was a combination of the two, a
paradox that kept him at bay and kept him from leaving all at once. He
was, Jean put it well, if sarcastically, confused.
The sheets are cold when you finally crawl into the bed. You should change
them, you think. No point in holding on to something this way, ridiculous
in fact. Your muscles sigh in relief as you lie down and pull the blanket
over yourself. The pajamas you usually use are on the floor, by the
dresser, once hastily discarded. You didn�t change. You still wear what
you�ve been wearing the last few days: old sweats and a cotton shirt, the
first things you found to put on as you ran after him. You cringe at that.
What he must have thought of you, begging him not to go.
Scott pulled you back, you remember, and hugged you to him, as his favorite
motorcycle once again disappeared down the highway. He hadn�t worn any
smugness on his face. He�d been expressionless, in fact. Only Jean showed
any emotion, the anger bubbling beneath the surface, the pity obvious in
her eyes. She had warned you of course, as she always tries to do when you
confront danger. She wants to be your older sister, the sister you never
had. You appreciate the effort, but have came to resent the way she
addresses you, have come to resent the fact that she thinks you need her
advice at all. You saw the way she looked at him, and came to resent that
most of all. Ororo merely looked on, impassively, waiting to console you
in her own way, which was only judgmental if you let it be. She has a way
of tempering her comments that make you wonder if it isn�t she who is
really the telepath. Xavier stayed out of it completely. He knew of
course, and probably disapproved, but he never made a comment, which suited
you just fine. Charles Xavier is a disconcerting man.
The sunlight filtering in through your curtains is keeping your eyes open,
and you begin to believe you will never be able to sleep again.
The events have been replaying themselves in your head these past few days.
You hope it will stop soon
He lived with you for several years, a casual friend you loved and admired
from a distance. You held him in deepest esteem; he had saved your life.
You loved him as you love a savior, as you love an older man who sees
nothing when he looks at you. You dreamed about him as you dreamed about a
movie star: the unattainable. Because, even when he lived a few feet away,
he was never very close.
You try to pinpoint the exact moment it changed. That�s difficult. In
fact, there was no abrupt change as much as a gradual shift. As time
passed, he began to see you as more of a teammate, less like the little
girl he saved. There was the easy camaraderie, someone to hang out with
after a hard day. Your perception of him changed, too. He became less and
less unattainable in your eyes, and you didn�t even see the danger in that,
had to be warned when Jean saw it. She saw the flirtation, the way your
body reacted when he walked into a room. If he saw it, he enjoyed it, had
fun, because he liked flirting too. It was a natural part of him and he did
it as easily as breathing. He chuckled when you told a joke, winked when
he teased you, hugged you close when you greeted him.
You close your eyes and try again. Sleep isn�t easy, you think. It used to
be too easy.
In the afternoon, you awaken, come to the conclusion that you have slept,
even if fitfully. You don�t feel very well rested, but that doesn�t matter
as much as being able to get away for a few hours, though it felt like a
You�re picking up clothes from the floor when there is a knock at your
door. You consider ignoring it, but in the end you toss the pile back onto
the floor and move to open the door. Scott is standing on the other side,
fully uniformed, his mouth set in a thin line. You notice his eyebrows
peeking up from above his visor. �You didn�t hear?� he asks.
You�re about to explain that you�ve been sleeping when he interrupts. �Come
on, get dressed. There�s been a disturbance in Washington.�
It�s been a while since you�ve seen any action, and the thought of donning
your uniform is at once thrilling and terrifying. You nod to Scott and
he�s walking away before anything else is said.
When you reach the hangar everyone is already there, waiting. You finish
pulling on your gloves and follow the team silently into the jet. You sit
next to Jean, strap on you belt, and ask, because the tension is giving you
a headache, �What�s this all about? What happened?�
She glances at you briefly and shakes her head. �It�s not clear,� she says.
�There was an explosion near the Capitol Building a few minutes ago.
Beyond that, we�re not sure.� This wasn�t unusual. Often, the X-Men were
sent on missions with minimal information. It made their jobs all the more
dangerous. You look around the jet - the Blackbird as Scott often jokingly
refers to it, his pet name for the inanimate object that�s saved your lives
on more than one occasion - and think about how small the team is, how weak
it appears to be, on the surface. Scott is piloting, as usual, and Storm
sits beside him, eyes set dead ahead. You and Jean round out the team,
which suddenly seems all too inadequate. Something is missing, you know.
Someone. Not that it matters. The four of you have the destructive power
of a small army. You can handle it, whatever it is. You wish you could
have a cigarette.
Landing in the middle of Washington D.C. is difficult, but Scott is up to
the challenge. There is no pointing in trying to hide your presence; you
are here very clearly to stop whatever problem has arisen. That, as they
say, is your job, one mandated by God or the fates or the randomness of the
universe. Whichever, it was now your duty to use your �powers� for the
greater good. Even when the greater good was never very clearly defined.
You learned that fairly early on, as well.
Scott lands the craft in a large expanse of grass and you grip the armrest
as it lands hard. You smile when you hear Jean chuckle. �He�s never
grasped the subtleties of it, has he?� you offer. She shakes her head, no.
She is with you only a second longer and then is gone, trying to gauge the
magnitude of the situation, trying to find some presence that can provide
some clue as to what is going on. You all gather around her and wait. When
she returns, eyes clear once again, she gives you the name that makes your
stomach turn in fear and revulsion: �Mystique.�
It is not clear if the Brotherhood is entirely involved. You know that
Mystique is prone to act on her own, even when there is never any
conclusive proof it is she that has been involved. Never any security
camera capturing a blue woman walking into a federal building, never a
fingerprint in a senator�s ransacked home to match anything, because she is
not in the National Database, and never a single iota of DNA around a dead
prison guard, because Mystique�s changes at will.
�What do we do?� you ask, knowing there is a trace of someone else in your
tone. �Sniff her out?� You all know she could be anyone, and probably long
gone. It is one of the few times you wish to suggest you all pack up your
bags and head back to Westchester. Nothing more to do here, folks, move
Scott isn�t one to take things lying down, however, even when that�s all
there is left to do. �We�ll spread out and look around,� he decides. �Keep
in close radio contact. I don�t want anyone caught off guard.�
You�re the last one off the jet and as soon as you step out the strong
smell of smoke and sulfur hits you. The heat coming off the fire is intense
and you feel for the firefighters trying their best to control it. You
wonder if any of them are mutants, and whether their coworkers know, or
want to know. You make your way through the panicked crowd and examine
peoples� faces. They all, one way or another, appear to be shell-shocked,
victims of some unknown assailant, although the word slips from some mouths
as you pass: �Mutie.� You can�t blame them too much, although it still
causes you to tense considerably. After all, it is a mutant, isn�t it?
He used to call you that sometimes, and he would say it was a term of
endearment. That�s what you are, he would say, as if that made it all
right. It�s what I am too, he always added. Mutie. The Brotherhood of
Mutants, you sneered. Sure, he would reply. Or Sisterhood, �cause I know
you wouldn�t want to be excluded. Brotherhood is all-inclusive, you would
tease, all too aware of the switched roles. Too many games, you thought in
those moments. Nothing we say makes any difference.
A woman grabs at your arm and you lean back on impulse. Her eyes are
glazed and when you tell her to let go you realize she cannot hear you.
She was deafened by the blast. You free yourself from her grasp and take
her by the arm, leading her to a place she can sit. The paramedics are
working to capacity. More units are on their way, you know, some from
outside the city. As always, in these cases, the injured far outnumber
those who can help them.
Across from you, a family of Asian tourists � cameras are a dead giveaway �
sit huddled together, speaking rapidly to a woman � the mother? - who is
crying inconsolably. Has she lost someone? Are the other family members,
her husband and two boys, trying to keep a stiff upper lip? Or is she
merely amazed, stunned by what has happened to her, what she never thought
in her wildest nightmares could ever happen to her? It could be anything,
you decide. Grief takes so many forms, for so many reasons. It�s almost
always best not to try to understand.
Crying, he used to say to you after you had, is a way of releasing stress.
What about sadness, you would counter. Doesn�t that mean anything? That�s
what I meant, he said. Sadness is stress. You make it sound like it has
nothing to do with people�s emotions. Like it�s just a physical
manifestation. That�s what emotions are. You didn�t try to argue with
him. Instead, you stewed in the juices of your anger, perplexed by his
seeming lack of understanding. He was so good at comforting, so many
times. Others, he would stare blankly, unable to puzzle out just what was
wrong with you that time. And you would remain silent, because explaining
would be a whole hell of a lot more difficult than simply being angry.
Angry was easy.
You wonder, as you walk through the crowds, if there are more onlookers
than actual injured. Probably. Being a spectator at such an event has
infinite value. �Do you know where I was? You�ll never believe it,� they
would say to their friends later, at a party, or a casual dinner. �Very
exciting and scary. Lots of injuries.� Or to their families when they went
home: �It�s all so sad. So many people dead. And for what? They should lock
them all away, throw away the key. Just get rid of them.� Kill them, is
what they really meant, wipe them off the face of the planet. And, again,
you can�t really blame them. You want to get rid of the likes of Mystique,
too. Only, you know the difference.
That last night, before he took off, the night he made that horrible gash
in your nightstand, you told him you wanted everything to go back to the
way it had been, by which you meant uncomplicated, easy. Things had
quickly spiraled out of control, and the one thing you are keen on is
control. But you�re getting ahead of yourself.
Things had changed gradually, so that you saw each other not as friendly
comrades in arms as much as simply friends. You liked his company and he
seemed to like yours, so much that you began spending much of your free
time together. He liked to say that you were the one person in the mansion
he didn�t always end up arguing with, you understood him. That made you
feel good. The idea that you were the one he felt most comfortable with.
There was power in that. Not that you would ever dare wield it. Not then.
Weeks turned into months turned into years. Two years, more or less,
because there are no exactitudes in your life. More or less, two years it
took for the friends to become more than. It wasn�t discussed in great
detail, but it certainly wasn�t a spur of the moment thing. When you wound
up in your bed one lazy Saturday afternoon, it was a surprise to neither of
What was a surprise, to you at least, was the seriousness with which he
took the whole affair.
You, the untouchable girl with the old, old, old eyes did not want more
than you had offered. He wanted everything he didn�t have to give. So,
while you lent him the place in the bed next to you, and allowed him the
use of it whenever he pleased, he wanted a permanent spot, one in which he
could inscribe his initials and mark his territory.
Which brings you right up to the present, or at least that night. You made
the fatal error of telling him the truth. You told him that things � that
was the word you had used, and horribly regret now � had gotten out of
hand. How clich�d and sorry when you replayed it, as you have nonstop for
the last couple of days. He didn�t know what you were talking about, at
first. Then you began talking about how complicated your lives already
were, how inconvenient it was to add another complication to the list. And
wouldn�t it be best for you both if you were friends, like you had been for
You stop to stare at the flames licking at the sky, growing in intensity
instead of diminishing the way they should be. The noise coming off the
crowd is deafening. People who can�t hear themselves talk louder than they
should. Scott�s faint voice comes through the receiver in your ear, and
you hear him say something to Storm about rain. Of course, you think, and
wonder why she hadn�t done it earlier. The sky darkens immediately as
rain-filled clouds form out of nothingness. How magnificent, you think, to
have that control, that absolute control over nature. The rain comes down
all around you, meant to put out the flames, but getting everyone wet in
the process. You should move to do something, perhaps, but you don�t. You
stand in the rain and watch as it douses out the flames, leaving trails of
Mystique is gone, you decide. If not, it is not for you to find her: a
piece of hay in a haystack.
Scott is still looking. He won�t stop until Jean pulls him away, gently
assuring him there is nothing left to be done. Jean is helping, no doubt,
a doctor is needed, even a mutant. You know some will refuse her
treatment. You try to blame them, but it�s hard. Storm is busy
controlling the elements, careful of the wind and the rain, gauging and
monitoring, all seeming effortless.
You hear a faint click next to you and turn to see a man frantically trying
to light a cigarette, hands trembling, the spark dying in the rain. You
move slowly to take the lighter from him, which he lets you do. You place
a hand above the it and watch as the bluish flame burns the paper and the
man inhales. �You got another one?� you ask, gesturing at the pack in his
hands, and sigh when he nods and produces another crumpled cigarette. You
light it carefully and inhale.
�Where�d this rain come from?� he asks, although probably more to himself
�I don�t know,� you reply, although he probably can�t hear you.
�Good thing, I guess,� he mumbles. He�s drenched, and you realize you are
too. Standing in the rain does that.
You start replaying it again, just the end: He moves mechanically, picking
his clothing off the floor, pulling it on. He doesn�t answer you when you
ask where he�s going. When you ask again, louder and more demanding, he
turns violently and smashes a fist against your nightstand. It wasn�t what
you wanted, this anger. Of course it wasn�t. What were you expecting,
though? When he moves to the door, you grab at him. This isn�t what I
wanted, you say. I didn�t want you to go. He leans his forehead against
the door and you feel some of the tension inside of him dissipate. Maybe
it�ll be fine, you think. I don�t want to stay, he says. The pain in his
voice is clear and it surprises you; you never expected it from him. He
pulls away from you and opens the door. You follow, unaware of the
commotion you are causing, that you are practically screaming at him for
being unfair, for twisting your words. You watch as he continues to move,
silently packing his belongings. (He leaves many things, you realize now.
He had accumulated quite a wealth of things during his residency. He�d
planned on staying.) You�re still talking, although you�re not even really
listening to what comes out of your mouth. You hear him say, �Just shut
up� and it stings even though there is no venom behind it. He walks and
you follow, still talking, shouting until the bitter end. When he gets on
the motorcycle, you hear yourself scream, �How can you leave me, you piece
of shit? I thought you loved me�, even though you didn�t mean it and he�d
never said it. A pair of arms wraps around you and you let yourself sink
back as he drives away. You see Ororo and Jean and a group of others you
know followed out of sheer curiosity. How tragedy attracts a crowd.
You don�t know how much time has passed when you hear Scott again, giving
the signal to head back to the jet. You make your way through the
ever-thinning crowd, the rain having displaced many of the onlookers.
Scott is already there when you arrive, looking grim and defeated. He was
expecting to find Mystique. Jean and Ororo arrive a bit later, looking
tired. You all board the jet and buckle in. You resolve to clean up your
room when you arrive: pick up your clothes, change the linens. Make the
bed. You wonder if you�ll be able to sleep in it tonight. You hope so.
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