FIC:: through like water, X2, R (L/R) [1/2]
- TITLE: through like water
AUTHOR: Macha (macha at healthinterest dot net)
ARCHIVE: WRFA. Others, please ask.
RATING: R (violence, language).
DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Marvel, Fox, and Brian Singer, who would probably be nicer to them than I am. :)
SUMMARY: you'll rescue me, right, in the exact same way they never did. Rogue unravels. ***Angst warning.
THANKS: To Em, Lulu, Philateley, and Meg for reading this numerous times and for the handholding. Extra tasty crispy thanks to Em and Lulu for saving my ass when my computer died and took this with it.
through like water
One year later, he still blames himself. On days when it's too much -- on days when he slits his own wrists and watches in despair as they heal too quickly to allow him death -- he lets himself blame the others. He has hard evidence that they contributed to her downward spiral, but he only ever blames them for a little while.
Because it always comes back to his own broken promise to take care of her.
He'd left New York after Jeannie's death, left Marie to fend for herself as a brand new superhero, despite her lack of training for combat. He'd told himself Scott would train her, and he'd agreed to carry a comm device with him, just in case she needed him.
No one called, and he didn't come back for nearly a year, not until Jean had somehow risen from the dead and made her way back to the mansion. No one could explain it, not even the Professor when he searched through Jean's memories, though Xavier seemed to believe that Jean had never died, despite the wall of water she'd let overtake her.
Either way, ten months of Jean's life (and possibly her death and resurrection) were simply... missing. And Logan, who'd always been a selfish bastard, was almost... *happy* that someone else could finally understand that a forgotten past haunts you more than any remembered bad deeds.
His shock and wonder at Jean's survival had, he realized now, kept him from really noticing the changes in Marie. True, no one ever bothered to tell him about Marie's close calls, about her resorting to her skin to survive a few particularly fierce battles and one very bad date. Later, when it was too late and the others watched him with sympathetic, understanding eyes, he'd expressed his displeasure at them for not telling him in ways that he suspected they'd not soon forget. But warning or no, he should've looked at Marie when he walked in the door and noticed her gaunt frame, her haunted eyes.
But he was, after all, a selfish bastard, and what he'd cared about at the time was Jeannie. Jeannie's inexplicable return.
And so he'd visited almost monthly at that point, staying a long weekend, maybe a week, before taking off for parts unknown. He'd walked into that house a dozen times and looked at Marie without really seeing her. It had been all about Jean then, as her friends and colleagues grew more and more worried about her, and were finally forced to admit that she'd come back... different. Altered.
When Jeannie had disappeared into Magneto's employ, Logan had returned to the mansion briefly before leaving again, unable to deal with the professor's broken spirit and Scott's piercing grief.
Selfishly, Logan had abandoned Marie once more, never wondering why she'd pressed him to teach her his dirtiest fighting tricks, never questioning her sudden fierce desire to be able to protect herself.
Logan would like to lie to himself about this, he would like to soothe his guilty conscience by telling himself he couldn't have known. But when that call came, the pieces slide into place with sickening ease. On some level, he'd known she was faltering. And he'd still failed to figure out what was wrong in time.
He'd seen what looked like fear in those big, brown eyes of hers, and he'd told himself it was grief. All so that he could give himself permission to leave Marie to her own devices. How could a broken man like him help a bright, intelligent young girl like Marie?
The question haunts him still, especially now that he knows the answer. He's seen it in black and white, in Marie's messy scrawl. He knows now that she'd needed a lifeline to hold onto. He knows she'd needed someone to notice her, to really see her pain and help guide her through it. Logan never experienced Marie's unique brand of hell, but he's skated a little too closely to the edge of sanity more than once, and he's always found his way back. He could've helped her. He *knows* he could have saved her, if only he'd noticed in time.
One year of living with his ultimate failure, and this damned healing ability condemns him to countless more. Maybe that's a suitable punishment.
He knows that no matter what, he'll never forgive himself.
The dreams never stop.
I tried to explain to the Professor once that the people in my head, the people I've hurt -- it's not like five different entities weigh in on my every decision. It's not like schizophrenia (I don't hear voices), or like multiple personality disorder (I haven't shattered into separate personalities). The personalities in my head, they don't stay separate and distinct. They don't sit on the sidelines sipping Pink Squirrel Susies and commenting on my life.
They become a part of me.
A sudden craving for cigars and an aversion to small spaces and a thick hatred of women and a sliver of self-loathing -- all gifts from the people in my head. Worse, it's lashing out in quick anger; it's cutting barbs and cruel remarks; it's violent impulses and fight against flight and the sickening urge to *hurt* people, to hurt women.
I think that I could probably handle the changes in my personality. I could buy a pack of Parliaments, drink expensive bourbon, get some serious therapy, and still be essentially Marie. Except for the dreams.
The dreams get past every last defense I can muster. The dreams make me think that Marie's drowning.
In the dreams, I'm held in an underwater tank while blades pierce my flesh. I stumble down a cobblestone street, the acrid stench of burning flesh gags me, the knowledge that I could be breathing in the ashes of my family breaks me. I struggle against metal cuffs securing me on a table while white lab-coated humans poke and prod. I cower under my Superman sheets as the terrifying cadence of my stepfather's footsteps grow closer.
Torture. Rape. Murder.
I've been through all of it in my memories, repeatedly, but I've experienced none of it. Except in my dreams.
I wake up screaming. I wake up curled up in a sweaty, shaking ball. I wake up growling with rage. I wake up in mute terror. I wake up crying. No matter how much I drink, it doesn't stop the dreams.
I'd do anything to make it stop. Anything.
Still, the first time, I think even I believed it was an accident.
It was pure happenstance that Scott discovered her in time. Or so he told himself. It was actually his suspicious, methodical nature, but he was too ashamed of that to admit it. The love of his life had inexplicably risen from her watery grave, and instead of being unreservedly happy, he was wary. She was Jean and she was alive, but she was also... different.
It was nothing major, nothing earth-shattering. She still laughed at his jokes, she still gave him smoldering looks over breakfast, and she still loved him. But something was not quite right; something was just a little bit different. He would normally have chalked it up to the ten forgotten months and the trauma she'd experienced, but she denied that there was anything wrong. She flatly refused to talk at all about her missing months or her suddenly acute abilities. And while she'd never been comfortable discussing things until she could explain them -- she'd always smiled and blamed it on her training in science -- she never used to give Scott that look of quiet anger when he pressed her for answers. She never used to walk away without uttering a word.
Scott told himself to accept it, told himself it was just an adjustment period, that she'd confide in him when she was ready, but something in him doubted it. And on one of the not infrequent nights that he found Rogue passed out in front of the TV, a small forest of beer bottles on the table in front of her, it occurred to him to wonder about Jean. Maybe Jean, like Rogue, was turning to alcohol or drugs to help her through the rough patches.
Scott shook Rogue awake, leading her upstairs to her room, steadying her stumbling steps, and told himself he was wrong. But doubt took hold, and so days later he watched Jean yawn and climb the stairs for bed, and then he descended to her lab. He just wanted to assure himself that there were no empty pill bottles, no evidence that Jean was bottoming out.
He'd found an empty bottle of pills all right, but it was on a stainless steel table beside one pale, lax hand. Rogue, ungloved and unconscious, breathing shallowly on the cushioned exam table.
*Jean*, he reached for her with his mind. Their telepathic link was active once more, but nowhere near as strong as it once was. He'd never sensed that she was alive all those months; he'd had no warning when she turned up, bruised and rumpled, at the front door of the mansion. Her powers were orders of magnitude stronger than they once were, but the link she'd reestablished was much, much weaker, and he wasn't sure she'd hear him from three floors away. He concentrated, focusing all his energy on Jean.
*Scott?* Startled, but awake. Their link... blossomed, and Scott could feel Jean's worry that something was wrong, that he was in physical danger. He felt a flush of guilt for doubting her, and hoped she wouldn't pick it up.
*It's Rogue,* he told her grimly, allowing Jean to see Rogue's pale skin, her slow breathing. *The lab.*
Then the professor's soothing presence in his mind. *Scott?*
The professor rarely had trouble establishing a link to his colleagues and students, but he wasn't one to eavesdrop. Jean must've woken him. *It's Rogue,* Scott answered, frantically shoving shaking fingers into latex gloves. He touched her cool skin, felt her pulse fluttering weakly against his fingertips. *I think she took some pills.*
"How many?" Jean asked, bursting in at a dead run. She flipped on a heart monitor and jerked it to Rogue's side, fastening the leads quickly. The beeps sounded uneven to Scott, and too fast, faster than his own racing heart. But even without the white coat, Jean projected such calm control, such *Jean*ness, that Scott felt sick ever having doubted her.
"I don't know," Scott admitted, his gaze once again on Rogue's pale face. He wondered why she would do this, why she'd been drowning herself in alcohol the past few months, and worse, why they'd all *let* her drink herself into oblivion without comment. "You don't think she--"
Jean cut him off with a look, then went back to working on Rogue's still form, sliding an IV needed into the crook of her arm. "Rogue," Jean said in a loud, commanding voice. She shook the girl's shoulders, repeating her name in that same forceful tone. "Rogue, wake up."
A slight groan, and Scott took a relieved breath, the vice around his chest easing up a bit. She was coming around. He'd be able to give her a fierce hug and then a stern talking-to, and she'd tell them what was wrong and they'd help her, and--
Jean gave him a warning look, telling him without words that he was way ahead of himself, that Rogue may not even survive, never mind recover.
"I need to pump her stomach," Jean said, her voice tight. "She won't like it." Jean grabbed a thin cotton sheet and snapped it into the air, letting it settle across Rogue's torso. "Hold her arms."
Scott nodded and leaned forward, grasping Rogue's upper arms through the sheet. He froze in shock, trying to remember the last time she'd worked out. Her arms were rail thin, nothing like the lean musculature she'd so proudly cultivated. He examined her more closely, really *looked* at her, and the changes were so obvious he couldn't believe they hadn't noticed. Her cheeks were sunken and hollow, dark circles shadowed her eyes, and her collarbones jutted obscenely under pale, pale skin.
Whatever was going on with Rogue, it was more than an accidental overdose.
"God," Scott muttered, and Jean agreed wordlessly, her fear ruthlessly tamped down.
Rogue struggled a little and he winced as Jean fed rubber tubing down the girl's throat. Moaning again, Rogue turned her head weakly from side to side to avoid the tube. Her eyes were still closed, but they were scrunched tightly now, and Scott knew she'd be frowning if Jean didn't have her jaw in a firm grasp.
"Rogue, don't fight it," Jean admonished, not unkindly. "I know it doesn't feel good, but you're going to be fine."
*Is she?* Scott asked without words.
Jean jerked her head up to look at him. *I hope so. But we're not very well prepared for a suicide attempt.*
*What do you need?*
Jean spared him a small smile, knowing he'd go haring off to the store for whatever she needed to save Rogue. *Activated charcoal would be nice, but I never imagined we'd need to keep that on hand,* Jean answered with a mental shrug. *We'll just have to hope that we're pumping her stomach in time.*
"The professor woke me," Ororo said from the doorway. Her white hair was tied up in a complicated knot, and she wore an elegant silk robe and a vaguely disturbed expression. "What can I do?"
Jean spared 'Ro a tense smile. "Glove up and then hold her head steady for me."
Ororo nodded and complied with easy grace, a slight frown settling on her features. "This was intentional," she said quietly, studying Rogue's face.
Scott wondered if 'Ro was as struck by Rogue's physical deterioration as he'd been, or if she'd been more observant all along. "How do you know?" He winced at the accusation in his tone, but Ororo simply looked at him. If he hadn't known her so well, he would've thought her expression too placid for the situation. But Scott could see the tightness in her lips, the slight furrow in her brow that, on 'Ro, signified full blown panic.
"She has been having nightmares. Many nightmares. And the drinking, it must be to anesthetize herself." Ororo's sorrowful gaze shifted to the still form on the exam table. "I suspect this is her latest attempt to achieve a dreamless sleep."
Professor Xavier wheeled into the room before Scott could ask 'Ro for clarification, before he could ask if Rogue had meant to sleep or if she'd wanted to die.
Xavier stopped several feet from the exam table and stared at Rogue, his face pale and drawn. "How is she?"
"I'm pumping her stomach," Jean answered with a grimace, stroking the girl's cheek compassionately. "Rogue, don't fight the tube."
Scott met Xavier's gaze. "Should we--?"
"Call Logan?" Xavier finished for him. "Perhaps. Do we know if this was," he hesitated for a brief moment, "intentional?"
Scott knew the professor chose the word carefully, just as Ororo had. Intentional could mean either of two things -- chemically enhanced sleep or death -- and the second was unthinkable.
"Yes," Ororo answered, as Jean shook her head and said, "We're not sure."
Xavier raised his eyebrows, but Jean was concentrating again on the girl on the table, checking the tube, checking the monitors.
Ororo sighed. "She has been slipping. She has been drinking quite a bit, and I think her nightmares are growing worse."
Xavier moved closer to the table, next to Scott, and placed one hand on Rogue's sheet-covered shoulder. He studied her profile for a long moment, the unforgiving fluorescent light showing the full extent of Rogue's decline.
"Can you tell if she...?" Scott let the question hang, still not able to finish it aloud. *Can you tell if she wanted to die?*
"I don't have her permission to enter her mind, Scott," Xavier reminded him. He sounded tired and defeated. "We'll have to wait until she wakes up."
Rogue's eyelids fluttered, and Scott leaned closer. "Rogue?"
She moaned again, struggling to lift her arms, no doubt to tear the tube from her mouth.
Jean checked her vitals again, then said softly, "Rogue? I'm going to take the tube out. You're going to feel like gagging." She glanced to Scott. "Can you roll her onto her side?" Jean pulled the tube out in one fluid motion, but it still left Rogue coughing desperately, her entire body in spasms.
Scott rubbed Rogue's back, and Ororo brushed her hair back from her face gently.
"Rogue?" Jean asked, dropping the tube into a stainless steel basin and pushing the table away. "Can you tell us what happened?"
Her coughing fit subsiding, Rogue collapsed flat onto her back, her eyes slipping closed. She looked exhausted, a smear of dark coal on her lips. "What?" Even her voice sounded fatigued. Scott fought the sudden, irrational urge to carry her upstairs and tuck her into her bed, treating her like he would a child. Rogue was no child, not anymore, but her fragility had never been more evident.
"You took pills," Scott answered. "Were you having trouble sleeping?"
*Don't give her an out,* Xavier warned sharply.
Rogue's eyes slid open, and she fixed a measuring gaze on Scott. After a long silence, she confessed, "It's the nightmares." Her gaze darted to Jean, to Ororo, to Xavier. "I can't sleep. I just -- I needed --" Her voice broke on a sob and her eyes slid closed. "I just wanted to sleep."
Later, Scott would blame himself for accepting her answer, for allowing himself to believe it was an accidental overdose. But that night, confronted with this pale, sobbing girl and her palpable despair and fear, it was easier to believe her than force a confrontation. It was easier for them all, Rogue included, to believe she'd made a mistake and not a decision.
Ororo met Xavier's gaze, and then said, "Rogue, would you like us to call Logan--?"
"No," Rogue answered sharply, her eyes wide and scared. "Please. Don't call Logan."
Jean watched the heart monitor. *Be careful with her.*
"I'm fine," Rogue insisted, her voice trembling. "I just need sleep. And I don't -- I don't want Logan to feel guilty." She closed her eyes against the tears, which left glistening tracks down into her hairline. "It's not his fault," she added brokenly.
"Rogue, why would Logan feel guilty?" Xavier asked, his tone gentle.
Rogue was silent for so long Scott thought she'd fallen asleep. Then she took an unsteady breath and said, "They're Logan's nightmares."
I managed to convince the Professor not to call Logan that first time, even though I could tell he thought he should. I tearfully confessed that Logan's nightmares haunted me, and I wasn't lying. I admitted that Magneto's childhood traumas weighed heavy on me, which was also true. I swore to him, and to Jean, that I hadn't been trying to kill myself.
That assertion was a more complicated combination of desperate hope and self-delusion.
The only reason they believed me is that I honestly hadn't been thinking clearly enough to be suicidal. I'd wanted the nightmares to stop, and I'd wanted a decent hour's sleep. And the idea that I was suicidal -- I think that scared us all into believing I wasn't. It was so much easier to believe my overdose was an accident, and we all simply ignored the unpleasant fact that I'd taken not two or three pills, but seventeen or eighteen. Accident, we decided, evidence be damned. I was exhausted and terribly upset, and I merely misjudged.
And so Xavier offered me an hour of his time each day, a daily chance to talk about what happened to me. Problem was, nothing especially traumatic happened to me. Sure, I lied and cheated and stole my way across half of North America at age seventeen, but aside from a few close calls, nothing truly tragic happened. Whatever little damage I did to the occasional lecherous trucker, I never held on long enough to trap them inside of my head. They were faint tickles, maybe, but nothing I couldn't handle.
Not until Logan and Magneto shared their nightmares with me.
I wondered, some nights as I came awake screaming in pain as molten adamantium was poured onto my bones, how Logan had retained his sanity. And I would never admit it to the professor, but some part of me understood and sympathized with Magneto's hardened opinions on human nature. Seeing what he'd seen, experiencing the gnawing hunger, the surety of approaching death, the stench of the camps in my nightmares chipped steadily away at my -- at *Marie's* -- natural optimism.
And the worst part was being too young for 'Ro and Scott and Jean to treat me as an equal, to understand that I was closer in experience to them than my peers. Hell, I was closer in experience to the Professor than to the X-Men. But they persisted treating me as a Junior Team Member. Maybe one with some psychological trouble, but a child nonetheless.
I couldn't talk to them, and another consequence of my narcotic mishap was sudden isolation from the students my own age. This wasn't completely new, since Kitty and Jubilee were Bobby's friends first, and our breakup had already caused a schism. But they were still friendly towards me, still included me in group outings. Until they learned I'd swallowed seventeen pills to escape the nightmares. Nothing scares youth more than death, because they believe they are invulnerable and refuse to see evidence to the contrary. I don't know if that knowledge came from Logan or Magneto or just from my own observations, but I knew it was true. And I understood when they avoided my eyes if at all possible, and sent me an occasional tight smile from several feet away.
Deadly skin *and* crazy. Who could blame them for not wanting anything to do with me? I could feel their fear, and as much as I knew it wasn't unmerited, it still hurt to be shunned.
I was mostly okay with my solitude. I spent more and more time in the city, learning the miles of sidewalk, adjusting to the smell of dirt and garbage and way too many people squashed onto one tiny island. The crowds made me nervous, but I bundled up despite the sweaty heat and kept my head down. And the longer I went without any accidental skin on skin contact, the more comfortable I was losing myself in the teeming masses. It's easier to be alone in a crowd and I loved the anonymity. I savored being a nameless face in the crowd, instead of the untouchable mutant, or the problem child who'd tried to kill herself.
I found a café in SoHo, where long skirts and opera gloves paled in comparison to rainbow-colored clothing and extreme piercings, and I began to spend more and more time at a table in the corner. Next to some of these people, I looked utterly normal. How unusual.
Even though I had begged the professor not to call Logan, not to tell him about the pills, I felt an absurd need to confess. Logan was many things to me -- the unattainable ideal man (despite his many, many flaws), my protector, my confessor. As much as I craved his help, I couldn't ask for it. I couldn't bear the disappointment I knew I'd see on his face, and I didn't want to become a burden. But I also felt guilty that he didn't know what happened to me.
So I bought a box of stationary in the Village, rough-hewn hemp paper, and I started writing to Logan. I explained that I felt like I was coming apart at the seams, that I was too young in years to be treated as an adult and far too old in experience to be treated as a child, that I was full to bursting with pain and tragedy, that the nightmares plagued me incessantly. I let all of my fear pour out onto the paper, and I had to buy another box of stationary after two weeks. I never sent the letters, of course, just hid them in a small box beneath my bed. They weren't letters I would ever want Logan to read, but the writing helped bleed some of the sickness out of me. For a while, that seemed like enough.
I was in the café, my latté growing cold beside my notebook as I described the strange, euphoric lethargy I'd felt after I took the pills, when a tall, lanky man with purple streaks in his light brown hair stumbled into my table. He blushed a little and apologized and complimented my hair, and two hours later, I barely made the train back to Westchester. And I had Tim's number tucked into my bag.
On our second date, I told him I was mutant and he narrowed his eyes, reevaluating me. Then he smiled and shrugged, and called me the next day for a third date.
The fourth date is when all hell broke loose.
END PART ONE
Healthy Interest. We're not obsessed. Really.
The Sticky Wicket