Title: No Day But Today: Pain
Author: Victoria P. [victoria_p@...
Summary: Rogue and Logan are trapped in a cave-in.
Rating: PG-13, some language
Disclaimer: All X-Men characters belong to Marvel and Fox; this piece of fan-written fiction intends no infringement on any copyrights.
Archive: Lists, Muse's Fool. Please keep the pair of stories together.
Feedback: Is better than a stick in the eye.
Notes: Thanks to Jen, Pete'n'Melissa, Dot, and Meg. This is an answer to Meg's cave-in challenge on the Unfit list.
Dedication: To Khaki and Peggy, who chimed in with ideas.
< > indicates thoughts
No Day But Today
Logan was not a praying man, but he closed his eyes and wished to the God he didn't believe in that the X-Men arrived soon. He concentrated, hoping Jean or Xavier would pick up his thoughts, even if God didn't.
He muttered a curse in addition to the silent prayers, damning himself for being a moment too slow. The metal in his body ensured he'd never be quick, and not for the first time, he regretted what had been done to him.
This was supposed to be a quiet weekend in the mountains. A little fishing, a little hiking, nothing too exciting; just a celebration of her college graduation. He should have known things had been a little *too* quiet.
Rogue had wanted to explore the caves. They'd smelled all right -- no bears or other vicious beasties lurking -- so he hadn't been too concerned.
He *hadn't* expected the rockslide. If he'd heard it two seconds sooner, he could have pushed her out of the way, but now -- they were separated, trapped inside, and the cell phone wasn't working. He'd managed to connect with Storm for mere seconds before the signal winked out, and he hoped Chuck was in Cerebro, tracking them.
But there was no way to know for sure.
He'd tried to dig out, but that just brought more of the mountain down on their heads. So he was slowly resigning himself to waiting, pinned in the little alcove formed by the fallen rocks. He knew he could survive, but he was worried about Rogue.
He could smell her blood and fear, and it was making him anxious. The only thing that was keeping him calm right now was the need to reassure her. That, and the fact that he could hear her breathing.
"Kid, how are you doing?" < Please be okay. Please be okay. >
"I'm all right," she said, but he knew she was lying. He could smell the blood and hear the way she was laboring to breathe.
"I know you're hurt, Rogue. How bad is it?"
Heavy breathing, then, "Not too bad. My legs are -- hurt but--"
"But what? Can you get out? Go for help?"
"Uh, no. No getting out from this side. How about you? Can you dig out?"
He shook his head, then remembered she couldn't see him. The fact that she didn't recall his frantic efforts to get to her in the first seconds after the cave in disturbed him more than he was willing to admit. He told himself that it was only a concussion and the least of their worries. She was on the outside, closer to the mouth of the cave, but she must have been hurt badly if she couldn't leave to go for help.
"I wouldn't leave you even if I could," he answered. "We're in this together, kid."
More labored breathing from her side of the pile, and he cursed softly. If she was hurt, it was his fault. If he tried to get to her, it would only make things worse. He had to get to her, because she was hurt, and he could heal her. Round and round these thoughts chased through his mind, and he had no way to break free of them. He shifted slightly, ignoring the dust that rained from the ceiling, until he heard her gasp.
"Rogue. Rogue! Are you all right?"
"Just ducky, sugar," she answered, but she sounded terrible. "Things are still falling over here, though. I don't think the ceiling is stable."
"I'm so sorry. This is all my fault." She sniffed and he heard her trying to get herself under control. He raged silently, wondering what about her condition she was hiding from him.
"No, it's not," he said, his voice sharp. "I'm the one who should have known better."
"If I hadn't insisted on coming in here--"
She sounded miserable, and he wanted to forestall that. She had to stay positive; a good frame of mind was key to getting through accidents like this.
"It's not your fault, Marie," he said, softening his tone. "Shit happens, you know?"
"I just -- if you got hurt, I'd never forgive myself."
He gave a short bark of what might have been laughter. It sounded harsh and bitter even to his own ears. "I heal, darlin'. It's you I'm worried about."
"I'll be fine," she said, the weakness of her voice and her shortness of breath giving the lie to her words. "And just because you heal doesn't mean you don't feel the pain."
He felt the ache in his chest at her words. He wasn't sure he could tell her how he felt, but he'd never been more certain of anything in his life than that he loved her, and he needed to tell her, in case. Just in case-- Because he was a soldier, and he had to think in terms of survival, and he wasn't sure she was going to survive.
Her breathing was erratic, and he was starting to worry that she'd passed out when she said, "Logan, can I tell you something?"
She was conscious. Thank God. "Anything, kid."
"You know I love you, right?" she said, her voice soft and thready.
"Yeah." She'd always been able to read him, and now she was taking the onus off him to say it first, even though he should have been the one to tell her.
"'Cause, I mean, I always wanted to say it, but I didn't think you wanted me, wanted the bother--"
< What the hell? > "Of course, I want you. You're my girl."
"Well, I love you, Logan. And now, you don't have to worry about loving me back, because I won't be around anymore."
"Hey, hey, don't talk like that, kid. You're gonna pull through this." Maybe if he kept saying it, he'd believe it. Time enough later to prove how much he loved her. If there was a later. "Cyke and the others will be here soon. They'll dig us out, I'll give you the old healing touch, and we're in like Flynn."
"Stop trying to make me feel better. I know they're not coming. They'd have been here by now. They think I'm dead and they know you can make it out by yourself."
"No. No. You've never given me false hope before, Logan. Don't start now."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"I mean, you never pretended we were anything but friends. You never led me on. I really appreciate that. It would have been so easy for you to--" she broke off, coughing.
"I don't like the sound of that," he muttered, trying to ignore the voice in his head that identified her cough as a death rattle.
"It's okay, Logan. I'm okay. I just want you to know that you're free of your obligation to me. I know the only reason you stuck around was because of the promise you made. I know you always keep your word. I'm an adult now, and I don't need looking after, so you don't have to hang around anymore, protecting me."
He sucked in a breath, feeling like he'd been punched in the gut.
"Are you saying you don't want me around anymore?"
"What?" Another cough, this one more phlegmy than the last. That worried him. That meant there was fluid in her lungs that hadn't been there before. "What makes you say that?"
"You just did. You told me to stop hanging around."
"No. I said I didn't want you hanging around out of some sort of obligation. I know I've only been a burden to you."
He shook his head, then remembered she couldn't see him. He wished he could see her. "Come on, Rogue, stop it. That's crazy talk."
"No, it's not." Again, the cough that struck terror into his heart.
"Fuck this shit. I'm getting us out of here." He pushed against the barrier of rock separating them and heard her sharp intake of breath, then the sound of more debris falling on her side. "Fuck! Marie. Marie? You okay?"
The longest twenty seconds of his life passed as he waited for her reply.
Finally, she said, "Yeah."
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, baby. I didn't mean to make it worse," he said
"Not your fault, Logan." She was wheezing now. < Shit. > He scanned the pile of rock before him, looking for a large enough chink. He pulled his gloves off and forced a finger through the hole.
"Marie, can you reach my hand? I can heal you if you just touch me."
"No!" He heard her swallow hard, and smelled the salt of her tears. "You'll be too weak. It'll knock you out."
"I'll only hold on long enough to stop the bleeding. How's that?"
"But me no buts, Logan. I said, no."
"You're in shock, darlin'. You don't know what you're saying."
"I know that I'm going to die here, Logan, with you. And that's the way I want to go, so it's all right."
"Now, you're just being dramatic. You're not gonna die."
"Logan, I can't feel my legs." Her voice was edged with hysteria, and he closed his eyes against the scenarios now running through his brain. "Everything I *can* feel hurts like hell on fire. We're miles from anywhere, and I can't reach your hand. Whenever you move, more of the ceiling comes down on me. Plus, the phone didn't work. I know I'm done for."
"Don't talk like that," he pleaded. "Of course the phone worked."
"Don't start lying to me now," she snapped, anger giving her strength. "You pretended you were talking to Storm, but we both know there was no way the cell would work this far underground."
< Goddammit. > Logical in the face of danger, just like Cyke had taught her to be. "Just hang on, kid. I'll find a way to get over there."
"The ceiling's not stable," she repeated. "You'll just bring the rest of it down on our heads."
"And then I'll be able to reach you," he said doggedly, ignoring the fact that she would then be buried under the rubble, and he might not have time to get to her before she died. "I'm serious. I'm gonna heal you and then we're gonna dig our way out, regardless of whether or not the geeks show up."
"Now who's talking crazy?" she said, and he almost cried himself at her attempts to rally him and be strong.
"Better crazy than --" he stopped, unwilling to say the word out loud.
"Dead. Better crazy than dead. I don't think I'm gonna have the choice, Logan."
"Don't talk like that, Marie. You gotta have hope. We've been in worse situations and gotten out of 'em, right?"
"Yeah," she sighed. She was silent, and he heard her gathering her breath to speak again. "You're avoiding the point. Logan," she said finally. "I just told you I love you."
He felt his chest constrict and warmth flood his body at that. "Yeah. Yeah, you did." He couldn't stop the smile from sliding across his face. "I love you, too, kid." He'd never said it to anyone else, that he could remember, but the words tumbled from his lips more easily than he'd ever have believed. Because it was Marie.
She was crying now in earnest, and he was baffled. The sound of her trying to draw breath was physically painful to him.
"I'm not lying, Marie. I love you. Have forever, it seems like."
"No! You love Jean. I know. I have your thoughts--"
"That was five years ago. And it was never love. Not like I feel for you."
"Exactly! You love me like a kid sister, or the daughter you might have had --"
He swallowed uneasily. It was true, that was what other people had always thought about their relationship, but that had never entered his mind. He'd known she was an attractive young woman when they'd met, and he'd known she had a thing for him. He'd been impressed with her backbone and her courage, and she was the first person he'd let himself care about in a very long time.
More than anything, he needed to tell her how he felt about her. Now, before things got even worse. He'd put it off and put it off, telling himself she was too young, she needed time first to grow up, then to discover whether she truly loved him or if it had just been adolescent hero-worship. He hadn't seized the day, hadn't realized that no day but today was important; he'd spent too much time searching for the past and worrying about the future and now all he had left was the present, and not much of that.
He took a deep breath and said, "I loved you from the moment I saw you, darlin', though I didn't know it was love at the time."
"But my hair, my skin--"
He blinked. "Huh? What about them? I wish to God I could have gotten you out of the machine before Magneto fucked you up, and you got the streaks, but," he leaned in, almost purring, hoping she could hear the love and desire in his words, "I think they're kinda sexy. And your skin -- I hate that it makes life so lonely for you, that you can't touch the way other people can. But I love the way our mutations mesh, so that I can heal you whenever you're hurt. And I'm gonna heal you, just as soon as I figure out how to get over there without bringing the mountain down."
"I don't think you should, Logan. I don't think you *can* heal me, at this point."
He closed his eyes to the truth of her words. She'd been dead on the Statue and he'd healed her. He could do it again. "I'll beg if that's what you want, Marie."
It was her turn to be stunned. "What? Do you think I'm punishing you for something? This isn't about *you*. Do you think this is easy for me, Logan?" The sound and smell of her tears riled the animal inside him, made him eager to fight, but there was no one to fight in this situation. He had to keep control, or he'd do something that might wind up hurting them both, like bringing the rest of the ceiling down on their heads. "I don't want to die. There are so many things I want to do. But I don't want to hurt you anymore."
"Hurt me? When --"
"When you touch me, it hurts you."
"Well, yeah." He had to acknowledge that; it was the truth. "But when you touch me, I don't mind dying."
She gasped and he could hear her choking.
"But it helps you, and I heal fast," he continued in a rush. "I love you, and life without you isn't worth living."
"Don't say things like that," she managed. "You almost make me believe you."
"Believe me, darlin'. It's true. I love you. And I don't care if I have to feel some pain in order to keep you around. That's what life is, isn't it?"
She was following her own train of thought and paying him no mind. "I know they all think it's okay for you to get hurt, because you heal, but I don't think it is."
He closed his eyes against the sting of tears. "I know, baby. I know. And that's one more reason I love you." She sniffed and was silent for a long time. He concentrated on her breathing, timing his own to it, his heart seizing up every time it took more than a second for her to draw breath.
"It's cold," she whispered.
It wasn't, but he said, "Yeah, yeah it is."
He bowed his head and prayed again. He'd cheated death a thousand times if he'd cheated it once. But now all that was worthless, since the one time it meant something, his freakish capacity to heal from anything and her ability to absorb it, it was denied him.
He'd tried to ignore the shadow's approach, but he knew death -- knew its stench and taste and texture intimately, had dealt it himself a thousand times in vague memories he'd collected over the years.
He knew he was losing her.
And yet he could do nothing now, as all that was good and beautiful in his life died, mere inches away. With the wall between them, it might as well have been a thousand miles.
"I love you, Logan."
He swallowed hard. "I love you, too, Marie," he whispered. "Never forget that."
He waited in the dark, counting the seconds between her breaths as they stretched endlessly, like the empty days ahead of him, without her.
Finally, when the pauses were so long that he thought each breath was her last, he knew he'd waited long enough -- possibly too long -- to heal her. He respected her wishes, but he couldn't let her go without at least *trying* to save her, despite what she'd said.
He called her name. She didn't respond, and he knew he had to act quickly.
He pushed through the barrier between them, using his claws and relishing the pain, because the pain meant he was alive, and he could save her. The ceiling came down, crushing him. He blacked out briefly and lost track of her. When he came to, he scrabbled through the wreckage to find her again, dragging his broken and healing body through the rubble. Stone continued to rain down and he covered her with his body, protecting her from taking even more damage.
But she wasn't breathing, and her heart had stopped beating. A trickle of blood stained her chin and ran from her nose.
He kissed her forehead gently, willing his strength into her, willing her to heal, even if it killed him this time. But she was cold and clammy, and though he waited for the pull to begin, the connection between them to open, it never did. Random things flitted through his mind as he tried to concentrate -- the almond and honey scent of her shampoo, soft silken, a line from a movie they'd watched together about being only mostly dead and not all the way dead.
And that's what broke him.
She was dead.
And it was his fault.
He slipped her head into his lap and stroked her hair, howling in anger, in grief, too much the Wolverine to articulate his feelings in words.
He never knew how long they lay there, when he heard his name being called by a familiar voice.
He rose, cradling Rogue's body in his arms, and walked out to meet the X-Men, who had arrived too late to save her.
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