Title: Just a Little Hole

Author: A.j. (Aj2245@yahoo.com)

Rating: PG

Spoilers: Pre Uncanny 300, and Time Tide and Trauma series up to and including

"Start

Spreading the News".

Pairing: Storm/Forge

Archiving: Feel free, although it's definitely going to Greymalkin

(www.1407greymalkinlane.com) and FF.net.



Notes: My second foray into writing for Time, Tide, and Trauma, and I've

apparently discovered my niche. Fluff. Oh, well. This actually takes off a line

in one of Timesprite's earlier stories about Forge writing Storm letters. Also,

I have no idea whether or not Forge's real name is George. Marvel's being cagey,

and I felt like naming him.



Also, while this *is* part of a series, I'd like to think it can stand on its

own pretty well. Knowledge of the previous stories (found at the Greymalkin link

above) bring greater depth to the situation, but isn't strictly necessary.

Enjoy, kids.

Big thank you's to Seldear and Timesprite.



Feedback and constructive criticism is welcomed at the above email.



***



Just a Little Hole

by A.j.



***



The first letter arrived almost six years to the day he'd left her crying in the

rain.



That she'd been surprised was a rather large understatement. It had come in a

common, legal-sized envelope, a stamp with a purple iris the only splash of

color. Her name and his were written neatly in black ink, precise and perfect in

the way that only engineers could manage.



She hadn't opened it immediately. She'd been too stunned, to tell the truth.

They'd spoken occasionally in the intervening years, a brief conversation at

social gatherings, or traded looks over a vidscreen. But this was different.

Intimate, because this was him and his thoughts and words and his neat and clean

writing that would tell her - just her - things.



She'd left it sitting on her dresser for almost a week before pulling it open

with shaking hands.



The paper of the envelope had torn unevenly, and she'd suppressed the petty

delight at making chaotic that which he'd given order. It was small of her, and

this...



Again, he managed to surprise her. She didn't know exactly what she'd expected

from the two sheets of graph paper, but it hadn't been what it was.



He wrote of Fort Peck and the beautiful colors of the sunrises in Montana. Of

his mother and father, and how moved he'd been when his mentor, Naze, had taken

him out into the great wasted plains and the Black Hills and shown him just how

wide the world actually was. He told her about magic and history. In those short

pages, she learned things about this man she'd never known. Never thought to

ask.



So after she'd read it a fifth time, it had been carefully tucked into a nook in

her desk. Out of sight but close. And when the next letter - speaking of his

grandparents and the gardens of his youth - had come, and the next and the next,

all were put in that place. None lost, none thrown away.



And when she found herself at the kitchen table one quiet afternoon in

September, she was only a little confused. Because it seemed natural to be

telling him, but not *telling* him, about running across the plains in Kenya, or

that the smell of roasting sausage always made her think of her grandfather and

sitting on his lap when she was two years old. The pen in her hand moved easily

across paper, letting everything out. Sparing nothing of her past, but almost

everything of her present.



And some time around the sixth month of this little ritual, a cold afternoon in

January, she figures out what this could be. The letters are his life up to that

day six years ago. They're the stories and memories that prompted his, and her

own decision. They hadn't known these things, then, despite the year on the

Earth that was Not-Earth, and the months of romance and adventure. These letters

are everything the other did not know. Could not know, because speaking them

seemed too close an intimacy. Beyond flesh.



And it's while she's sitting there, stunned at this realization that Nathan

comes into the room and rests a large, comforting hand on her shoulder.



"Are you okay, Ororo?" His voice is deep and scratchy, like scotch left to

mature maybe a bit too long. She smiles - just a twitch of the lips, really - at

it, an automatic reaction. She doesn't see him very often, with him living in

Oregon and her here in New York. Just when he comes to visit family, or is left

too broken to be alone. Happily, this time is the former.



"I'm fine, Nathan. Why do you ask?"



He shrugs and settles his large frame into one of the chairs opposite her, a mug

of coffee between his curled palms. She's amused by its presence for there are

some constants in life, and Nathan and his coffee is one. "Because, despite all

weather reports to the contrary, there's a rather impressive heat lightening

storm going on outside."



"Yes?"



"It's January."



"Oh."



"Yes." She can't see it, his mouth suddenly occupied with his cup, but she is

very sure he's snickering at her. Just as she knows that her cheeks are bright

red. Damn, evil man.



"You're married then?" She took some minor glee in the slight choking sound

followed swiftly by coughing. Yes, it had been something of a shock to receive

the wedding announcement; all gaudy and cheerful in a way she'd never ever

associated with either the bride or the groom.



Strangely, as soon as the liquid cleared his lungs, he's smiling again. Full and

wide, unguarded and joyful in a way she'd never seen him. It looked... good.



"Drug her kicking and screaming to the altar." If possible, his smile grew. "It

actually really surprised me that she said 'yes'."



"She doesn't strike me as the type of woman to put much meaning in ceremony."

She ran her fingers across the slightly rough surface of her letter. "We were

all rather shocked when we received the announcement."



"Yeah, Jean's yelled at me about that at great length." He winced slightly.

"Scott still thinks it's horridly amusing."



"Well, I suppose it's a rather interesting situation, all things considered."

She shifted, crossing her arms and resting her elbows on the table. "Mothers do

want to attend their children's weddings."



"True. But this wasn't really about my parents. This was about me and Domino."

He smiled again, his eyes going distant before shaking it off and focusing back

on her. "Dom and I have a long, strange history, Ororo. Some good, some bad.

This marriage was about that. Not the family, or the life, just her and me. Both

of us wasted a lot of time on things that seemed important while they were

happening, but rather stupid in hindsight."



Feeling slightly dizzy, she nodded. "Oh?"



This time, his eyes aren't distant, his smile not so soft. He reached over and

ran one metal finger over the creased paper, inadequately blocked by her crossed

arms. "Very, very stupid."



And then he's gone, moving deep into the house.



It took her a long time to pick up her pen again. When she did, her writing did

not flow, nor did her words paint pictures. She didn't speak of the past or

family. There, broken in the middle of the page, shaky and unsure she tells him

about her day. Of Nathan's marriage and that she needs a new bookcase because

her mystery novel collection is starting to pile up on her floor. And how little

Rachel enjoys jamming bananas into Scott's glasses and singing silly songs with

Hank. Little things, but not so little. Not really.



Present. Future. Things they never mentioned came flowing out of her onto the

page.



It is time.



***



Two days later, while she was playing blocks with Rachel, he called.



Bobby had come skidding into the den, all knowing smiles and socked feet to

announce it. He'd been very forgiving about the death glare, and if his hair

stood a little higher and socks shocked a bit, he didn't seem to mind. Nor did

he mind swinging Rachel up into his arms and blowing raspberries on her belly.



A small thing, but enough to let her know that her 'chore' would be seen to.



They'd spoken, quiet and awkward. Ill at ease with the sound of each other's

voices, but desperate for it, too. She'd missed it. She'd missed him. And so

when he'd asked, (stuttering on the first word,) if she'd like to meet him in

New York for lunch, she'd said yes.



Despite the sudden lead balloon in her stomach.



The call had ended not much later. Soft good-byes pregnant with current and

meaning. No one mentioned it later, but it rained the rest of the afternoon.



She'd managed to calm it to grey skies on the ride in to New York the next day.

They'd agreed on Reggio's as it served vegetarian cuisine as well as non.

Somehow, despite his near-compulsive earliness, she'd managed to beat him there.

Then again, the commute from Westchester was considerably shorter than from

Virginia.



The Maitre'd had seated her close to the windows that looked out on the busy

street. She'd been thankful as from this chair she could see the door, musing

silently on how much things had and had not changed. A black woman could get a

table in a fine New York restaurant, but if the same man knew she was

responsible for the weather? But that wasn't important now. No, her hands

weren't shaking because of everything. They were shaking because of the man she

could see walking down the street.



Sitting there, dressed in blue, she felt very stupid, and strangely very young.

Like a girl of fifteen waiting for her suitor rather than a mature woman well

past her thirtieth year. It was odd and terrifying and wonderful all at the same

time.



She rose as he approached the table.



He was still beautiful. His hair tied back in a way she remembered very clearly.

He was wearing a suit, which made it quite apparent that whatever else they were

doing, the government was paying him very well. Unconsciously, she fingered the

silk if her dress, ignoring the possibility that he'd dressed for her, just as

she'd dressed for him.



"You're early." Oh, she knew that smile. And she knew he knew she knew that

smile. And he was also quite aware what it did to certain parts of her.



"And you, sir, are a rogue of the finest order. It is good to see you, George."



His smile changed then. Less suave and more natural, it grew on him transforming

his face. "I never thought you'd start calling me that."



She shrugged. "Things have changed."



The smile stayed, and as he gently pushed in her chair his breath was hot on her

ear. It felt good. It felt right. It felt terrifying.



The waiter was polite and discreet; delivering the specials and wine list with a

professional flair that spoke of theater and auditions yet to be played out. The

ordering and preliminary meal chores were taken care of quickly, and almost too

soon, there's nothing but silence to fill.



It's strange, she thought. That she has no idea what to say, and he doesn't seem

to mind.



"I was surprised to read your letter, Ororo. I thought it was going to have to

be me to start this."



She nodded, and looked out over the street. People were moving to the

complicated rhythm that is singularly New York. A connective beat that governs

life and death and existence completely. "It was time."



He nods, still smiling. "Maybe. I'm glad. Would you like to hear about the

boring meeting I'm missing?"



And so he talked. Each word breaking down the blocks and bricks of walls she

hadn't even known she'd possessed. It hurt, to listen to this man. To his life

and what he'd created without her. She'd done the same without him. Built

something good and hers. But not precisely whole.



Looking across the table, she knew why.



"I missed you." The sound of her voice surprised them both. She opened her mouth

to say more, but was interrupted by the graceful waiter who slipped in,

arranging their salads perfectly and offering up their wine.



Outside, raindrops began to spatter the windows; their short staccato echoing

the clatter of the plates as the waiter settled them on the table. His only

slightly fake smile a goodbye before he disappeared between the long linen

tablecloths.



"I missed you too, Ororo."



"What is this?" She doesn't mean for her voice to shake like that. Or for her

eyes to sting and blur in the suddenly dim lighting.



But it was him, and the smile in his eyes was as it always had been. Soft.

Comfortable. So beautifully tempting. So when he shook his head, his lips

quirking and said, "Nothing you don't want it to be Ororo," she nodded and

picked up her fork.



And because it was her, and this was *him*, when their lips met over the red

checkered cloth and the remains of lunch, the sun was shining.



-fin-