|Fic: Eating Cherries in the Snow, for atrata
||[Jul. 1st, 2005|08:32 pm]
Title: Eating Cherries in the Snow
Author: tigerlady (shetiger)
Disclaimer: Fox and Marvel own them. I make no money off of this.
Summary: Rogue looks for something, Logan waits. There is a beginning for every decision in everyone's life.
Written for: atrata
Pairing/scenario requested: Charles/Erik Specific request: The beginning of the end. (Angst!) 2: Logan & Rogue Specific request: I love reading about the two of them having adventures, going on road trips, that sort of thing. Doesn't have to be shippy, but shippy would make me happy.
Notes: Well, I tried. Hope this works for you. No explicit pairings, but hints of Logan/Marie, Charles/Erik, John/Bobby. Thanks to chopchica for the quick beta.
It started like this.
Logan hefted the box of groceries onto his shoulder as he slammed the sticky door of the old Ford pickup. He was in such a good mood he didn't even mind the second shove he had to give it. Hell, nothing could ruin his mood today. He'd finally found her, after two months of searching. Two months of desperate worry, tracking her north and west through all the snow-covered small towns he could find. She was safe and sound, and that was all he cared about.
She drifted out the front door of the tiny little shack she'd been calling home. He was going to have to have a talk with her about what deal she'd worked out for the rent, but for now he'd just make sure she got home safe. She smiled softly at him as she stood up on tiptoes and reached into the box, squealing a little bit when she saw the small bag of cherries. They were puny and wrinkled, and expensive as hell, but they were worth it for that reaction.
He watched her tear into one, small teeth stripping the flesh away from the pit in two quick moves before she spit it out into the snow. She closed her eyes with pleasure, then popped in another. A bit of dark juice trickled over her glove, but she didn't seem to mind.
He didn't understand what was happening at first, just thought she was being careless when she dropped the first cherry. But then the bag crashed to the ground, the bright red fruit scattering like ruby pellets in the snow, and she started to crumple.
Logan managed to get an arm under her before she hit the ground. He eased her down gently, then tugged off his right glove with his teeth. He pressed it to her hair-covered neck, holding his breath as he waited for the gentle thudding beat. He bent close to feel her breath on his face, warm and very much alive. He relaxed enough to take a breath himself.
"Don't do this to me, Marie," he whispered, but she didn't respond. Carefully, very carefully, he eased her into his arms and lifted, leaving the groceries scattered where he'd dropped them. He carried her through the open door and to the small bed, settling her as gently as he could.
"Marie," he called, tapping her cheeks with his gloved hand. She stirred, moving away from the stimulus, but didn't wake up. "Come on, Marie!"
God, he hadn't come all this way to lose her. He wondered if this had something to do with why she had run. Rage bubbled away inside of him, trying to bury the sense of powerlessness, but he brushed everything aside as he focused on her.
"Rogue, wake up," he tried again, shaking her by the shoulders this time. Marie whimpered, her eyelids scrunching together, and Logan hoped. "Rogue!"
"Charles," she whispered, and then her face went slack.
Logan sat back on his heels, uncertain of what to do. He sighed and slid his phone out of his pocket. He watched her breathe as he dialed up his only real option.
It started with the red-gold flick of sunlight on the lighter, then the flame itself as it sparked and was extinguished. Bobby didn't think much of the kid beyond that; kind of scruffy in a worn bomber jacket, the kind of mouth that screamed attitude without ever saying a word. Something about him made Bobby itchy, though, and so he kept watching the guy, even though he was verging on staring rudely.
He got caught. The guy smirked and started across the room, flipping his zippo open and closed the entire time. The itchy feeling got worse, but when the guy stuck out his hand Bobby didn't have much choice. He extended his own and they shook.
Something flashed between them. Bobby felt like melted snow, like frost sublimating into the air. He shook his hand as he took a deep breath, eyeing the guy warily.
"Dude," guy said. "What was that?"
Bobby shook his head. "I don't know. I thought maybe it was your power?"
The guy shrugged, his jacket slipping down his shoulders like it couldn't be bothered to stay on. "Nah," he said. "Not really. What's yours, then?"
Bobby glanced around, but no one was looking. He held his hand out, cupping his palm, and a small snow ball grew inside.
"Cool," the guy said. "I guess that explains it."
Before Bobby could ask, the guy was flipping open his lighter again, and then a stream of flame shot out of his hand. Bobby yelped and dropped the snowball as it steamed away. He stared for a few seconds, then he grinned.
"That's cool," he said. "I'm Bobby."
"John," the guy said, grinning back.
Charles sighed and rolled back from the bed. He had feared this very thing when she had disappeared from the mansion, her presence merely a flicker on Cerebro when he tried to track her. Yet there was reason to hope. The worst of his fears had not been realized.
"Well?" Logan asked impatiently.
"I don't know," he said, then held up a hand before Logan started his protestations. "Yes, I do know what is happening to her, more or less. I simply am unsure as to her prognosis."
"Well why don't you explain it to me in small words."
Charles sighed again, reminding himself that Logan's growling aggression was simply his way, as much a part of him as the regenerative powers. "Rogue has absorbed several powerful personalities over the past few years, chiefly yours and Magneto's. At times, these personalities become more active, to the point where they compete with her own. We had been working together to achieve some measure of control, but it was a difficult task." Her own personality was very strong, but trying to navigate through the jumble of others had been extremely difficult even from the outside. "The last time we met, there was an accident."
"An accident," Logan said flatly.
He nodded. "Yes. I'm still not sure exactly what happened, but something startled me enough that my physical self responded, jerking away from her. I touched her skin for the briefest instant. As soon as Rogue noticed she pulled away, but it was long enough for her to receive some of my personality."
"That's great," Logan spat. "So you're saying this is your fault."
"More or less," he agreed. He'd already accepted the responsibility and acknowledged the fact that it had been unavoidable. He didn't need to argue the fact with Logan.
"But what's happening? Why did you push her over the edge?"
Charles shook his head. "I believe that, while she no longer has my telepathic ability, the momentary gain of that power was enough to link the personalities to some extent. Her mind is even more confused now than it was previously, and I believe that it is because there is some question that one or more of the personalities is focused on finding the answer to. Whether she will find what she is seeking, and return to us on her own, I cannot say."
"Can you stop it?"
He looked over at Rogue, the stillness of her body at odds with her tempestuous mind. "I have already tried. I will continue to monitor her, of course, and provide assistance as I can, but it's all up to her now."
It started with scarlet dripping into blinding white; only sight at first, the ruby darkening into russet over the shining metal of the blades. Then there was sound: a drip drip drip; wailing wind; ragged, panting breaths. Then sensation: pain, fear, cold–anger.
His sense of self returned with everything else that rushed in, but no memories came with it. Logan knew something was very, very wrong, and it didn't take the blood or the claws protruding from his hands to tell him that. He was naked in an evergreen forest blanketed in snow, with no clue how he got there or where to go. Panic and hate sat at the back of his throat so strongly they overrode every other scent and taste, but he didn't know why they were there.
He did the only thing he could think of. He ran.
He felt stupid, talking to her like this, like every cliche out of every movie he could remember and probably some that he couldn't. His eyes wandered, looking for some inspiration, something to latch onto. The room itself was bare except for a map taped to the wall and a rail-back chair next to the bed. Her duffle bag sat at the foot of the bed, but he wasn't so low yet to go through it. Anyone else, maybe. But not her stuff, not unless she needed him to.
Logan made himself look back at the bed. She was paler than usual, the white of her bangs almost yellow against her face. She didn't smell sick, though. Just...diluted.
"The professor says that you're kind of lost in there. He thinks it might help if we remind you of who you are."
She didn't move, didn't blink. Her eyes were moving, but they'd been moving since she'd collapsed. He wondered what she was seeing. He wondered if she was the one seeing it.
"Hell kid, I don't know what to say. You probably know everything there is about me, but what do I know about you? You just sort of latched on, little green riding hood with the big bad wolf. You got a nose for trouble, don't you?"
He snorted, but it was a wasted effort. He wasn't amused, and she wasn't coming back with some smart-ass remark that would put him in his place.
"Don't know why you like to hang out with me, I really don't. I'd say you need to get out more, but look at where that got you. A crappy room in a crappy town in the middle of bum-fuck Canada."
He stood up and paced the small area beside the bed, kicking at the wall before he made the turn. "Christ, this is stupid," he muttered. "Look. You've got friends back at Xavier's, a whole gaggle of girls you hang out with. I don't know what's going on with you and Bobby, but he's decent enough. Seems real smitten with you."
He stopped and looked at her. No sign of any change. He growled and spun on his heel, and headed back out to the front room.
It started with a low-cut maroon blouse and brown hair streaked with white. It started with blue-ice roses and yellow daffodils. It was a jealousy so green it made him want to throw flames everywhere, to burn everything down and then pull it back in to melt the ice inside. It started all at once and over a long period of time; he never could decide.
John just knew that friends didn't feel like that. He didn't have anywhere to go with those feelings, though, so he kept it all inside until he could find a way to go somewhere else.
"Okay, here's the deal," he said even before he was all of the way into the room. He stopped at the foot of her bed, staring up the length of her body to her pale face. "I don't know what to tell you, but I figure maybe you'll get tired of listening to me, then you can wake up to tell me to shut it. So that's what we're going to do. Got it?"
He paced around to the edge of the bed, hesitating before he squeezed into the bare space near her waist. He lifted her small, limp hand; maybe touch would help as much as him talking to her.
"You know, I didn't get it at first. Don't laugh at me, I'm not working with a full deck. I thought maybe it was a reference to how you got by back then, shoplifting food or whatever. Thought maybe it gave you a little thrill, playing the rogue like in one of those romance novels."
He snorted and laced his fingers with hers. "But it's how you think of yourself, isn't it? God, Marie. That's not all that you are. Hell, you didn't ask to take people's powers. None of asked for this. It just is."
Logan leaned forward and carefully brushed her hair away from her face. "It pisses me off like you wouldn't believe, Marie. I promised to keep you safe, but I can't do that if you stay locked up inside yourself."
He let go of her hand and stepped as far away from the bed as he could get. Then he unleashed the claws, relishing the burn as the skin tore open.
It started with a red haze growing before his eyes before his muscles felt frozen. It only lasted long enough for him to acknowledge the sensation, and then it was gone. Erik looked down at the young man he'd had by the lapels only a moment before–except he was no longer there.
He looked over at Charles, understanding dawning with the look of sorrow and guilt on his face. Erik waited for the fury, but he only felt a cold, sinking grief.
"Why, Charles? Why? Did you truly think I would harm him?"
He didn't wait for the answer; Charles could no more hide his feelings from Erik than the other way around. Erik spun away, thoughts reeling as he strode from the room.
Logan was nearly asleep when it happened, but he snapped awake as soon as the rustle on the bed penetrated the fog of encroaching dreams. Her fingers twitched against the covers, and her mouth was moving like she was trying to say something.
"Marie," he called softly, taking her hand. "Wake up, Marie."
Her eyelids fluttered. He squeezed her hand, and she opened her eyes.
"Hey. Welcome back."
Her lids dipped, but she opened them again. Her eyes darted around the room, and Logan still wasn't sure if she was aware.
"Why?" she rasped, and closed her eyes.
"Why what, Marie? Hey, you still with me?" He squeezed her hand again, but she stayed quiet. He started to stand, a bit panicked, but then he heard the rolling squeak of Xavier's chair. He turned to see the professor staring at Marie, concentration creasing his brow.
"She's still looking," he said after a long moment. "But she's back in control, I believe. The worst has passed."
Logan sank back down on the edge of the bed. "Good," he said roughly. He cleared his throat. "That's good."
Xavier smiled at him. "Yes, that is very good indeed."
It started with a horrifying flash of blood, chilling him so thoroughly he couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't think. Blood all over Erik's hands, dripping from his fingers, gathering along the cuticles, painting the fine lines in his skin.
"Are you all right, Charles?"
And he could breathe. The first came out shuddering and shaky, so he took another. He blinked and Erik's hands were clean again, clean except for the small spray of red juice running down his thumb. Erik scissored open another cherry with that sharp nail, scoring it cleanly to the pit.
He blinked and looked up into worried eyes, then smiled reassuringly. "Fine, fine. Just lost in thought for a moment."
Erik studied him for a moment, the skin around eyes still crinkled with thought, before he smiled knowingly. "Trying to gain an advantage in our argument, dear friend? Look to your heart's content, there's nothing there you don't already know."
Charles smiled, but it was fake, reflexive, an old response to their pattern of teasing. He rarely had precognitive spells, but he would bet everything he owned that his vision was just that. He set the thought aside; there was nothing he could gain from it now.
"That would be cheating," he chided with a smile, "and your debating skills are not such that I must stoop to that level."
Erik plucked another cherry from the bowl. "We shall see."
Rogue sat at the head of the bed, her knees clasped to her chest as she leaned against the window frame. The sun was setting over the snow-capped mountain, blood-red washing away the details of the tree line and the town below. She stared until it burned, but the images she saw had never been before her eyes.
It started like this.
It never ends.