Is it possible to both love and hate so much that neither love nor hate is fulfilled?
This fic takes place just before the last scene in the Gambit Annual 1999 and refers to the Mary Purcell/Green Mist Lady arc.
In an ideal world, pain would lead to all the things it doesn't in their world. Understanding, progression, compassion. Instead they bask in pain, hold it, relish it, swirl it round in their mouths like acrid red wine; and for all its bitterness somehow they derive some sweetness from its aftertaste. This is the thing that pulses through their veins and quickens the beat of their hearts and draws them so helplessly to one another. It isn't hard to see it in their eyes as they sit there, one across from the other, caught in the pretence of talking over cups of lukewarm coffee. They have been here before, on a path well-trodden; each knows instinctively where the sum of their fears now leads, yet neither is willing to accept. There is a silence, cloying, indomitable. Either could suffocate the other in it. But, for the sake of ritual, it is easier for the both to draw knives.
He reaches out with two hands, clutches onto the now tepid heat of his cup for a lack of any other comfort. His face is mirthless, his eyes even less so.
"I killed her," he states with brutal quietness. There are daggers in his words, turned inward and out, in blame and self-pity.
"She was usin' you."
She is motionless. Her eyes are focused solely on him, but her body is stiff, uncertain. Her tone is measured and doled out like a spoonful of ill-tasting medicine.
"Like I used her," he says. "Like I used her b'cause I was desperate, b'cause there were no options left. What was I, chere, crazy? I shouldn' have killed her."
"Then she would've killed you." Her voice is quiet, even. She's told him this before. He remembers. The words seem useless. What he needs are actions, to feel the truth that words only serve to mask. No furtive glances, no side-stepping. He wants none of it. Anger twists through him, contorting his face. He slams one fist into the table. A passing waitress glares.
"Don' you get it, Rogue?! What choice did I have? She was de only t'ing dat kept me alive out there. The only goddamn thing! If she hadn't come along I woulda been a dead man!"
He draws first. One blade, delicate, shimmers momentarily in his hand. He pauses, suddenly calm. For one instant, he makes no move. She hangs her head. A lock of hair falls down across her cheek, concealing the expression of her eyes.
"But you ain't dead, Remy. Would you rather be? Would you change the way things turned out, the way they are now? You can't. You can't change any of the things you did. Not the right. Not the wrong."
The last word snakes out, bold, unequivocal. He looks at her. He can see the fleshy glint of her eyes through the strands of her hair. The knife he holds is now mirrored by her own.
"Better if I had died, that it, Rogue?"
His tone is cold. Each icy note replays itself on the edge of his blade, as he trails it gently over the jagged tract of old scar tissue. He finds a place, like a chink in some armour, weak and malleable. He stabs softly at first, penetrating into smooth skin only a fraction of the depth he could go. A bead of blood forms on her skin, like a tear-forming in the corner of her eye. Her face hardens.
"Better for me, or for you?"
She knows he is not expecting it. While his eyes are on her discomfort she lifts the knife lightly to his throat and presses. The edge nicks him, ever so slightly. It is an almost joyous thing to see him bleed as he does, for him, for her, for them. She looks up into his eyes. It would be the easiest thing to stop, while the pain is so blissfully delicious.
"I would be absolved," he says, "Of all the wrong I ever did t' you, an' t' de others. I'd never come back to give you anymore grief. You'd mourn me for ten minutes, lap up de sympathy an' move on. I'm sure Joe would've been more n' willin' to comfort you."
She blanches. The colour runs from her face and downward, joining the tip of his blade and running out of her body in a thin stream of deep crimson. This is the colour of Rogue as he slices downward from her collarbone to her breast. She might almost have crumbled as she watches the action of blade plunging deep down to the core of her; but she holds onto him weakly just as he has one hand on her shoulder, both embracing and repelling her. A tremour passes through her naked flesh. Exposed, she feels no shame; there is only anger.
"Bullshit," she seethes, "You know that if you'd died out there all the guilt you'd ever had would be passed onto me. How can you be so damn selfish?"
The wound she deals is not so delicate as his. Deep and ragged, it is the fruit of cruel instinct, born from nothing more than self-preservation. He feels her pierce his chest, in the place that once was hers and hers alone. Is that what she thinks of it? Of the suffering he went through? Of everything he would have forsaken for the sake of her? He bleeds quietly, unbelieving.
"De guilt would've been yours, Rogue," he replies softly. "You were de one who left me there."
"That's right." Her voice is bitter. "Left you b'cause you wanted me to, b'cause your thoughts an' your mem'ries an' your entire bein' screamed at me to do it."
"An' does that make you feel better, chere?"
"No, it makes me realize how damn pathetic you are!" she explodes vehemently.
The blood gushes out now, thick and free-flowing, and for a moment both revel in it, excited by the feel of it, of the pain mixed with pleasure, of the swimming sensation of being bathed in one another's essence, the thing that makes them both entirely human. They can almost smell the taste of it, of the thing that pulses through their veins and quickens the beat of their hearts and draws them so helplessly to one another. It is almost unbearable to both, to see the source of all their love running dry.
"Pathetic enough t' want t' die," she continues slowly, voice broken, eyes moist. "Pathetic enough t' let yourself be takin' in by that madman and subject yourself t' that insane trial."
"I guess it does make me pathetic," he murmurs, looking at the contents of his cup. One hand curls about her shoulder. The other trembles as it holds her heart to ransom.
She looks away, eyes dull. "It makes you stronger than ah ever was," she says.
"For not bein' able to admit that 'unconditionally' was just a lie?"
He feels it then. The pain he's given her. Just as she feels the pain she's given him.
"No. That it was a promise ah wasn't strong enough t' keep."
They are humbled, quieted. They touch one another's wounds in silence. Salvage what they can of the red, red blood that mingles on their fingertips.
"I killed the only thing that understood me," he murmurs. "I always thought that love an' understanding went together, that love an' sacrificin' yourself was the noblest t'ing a man could ever do. She would've done it for me. I just couldn' do it for her. D' you know how much it hurts? To find someone who understands how it feels, and then to turn them away?"
"She didn't understand that just b'cause you felt pain didn't mean that you wanted to die," she answers softly. He pauses. For all their violence, for all their bitterness, now they find that aftertaste of sweetness.
He half smiles. Searching and pining for something lost, he now finds his answer in her.
"You're right. Livin's better."
They have reached the limitation of their intertwined purpose. Both blades are sheathed. They can go no further for fear of breaking the boundary of their love and their hate. Humbled now he reaches out, and lightly touches her gloved hand. The action is imprecise yet delicately executed – now rough nylon reaches out and covers his own fingers, fingers already touching rough nylon. Wounds are staunched. All that remains are scars. But the taste of blood is in their mouths, both bitter and sweet. If one were to kiss the other, they would taste the thing that pulses through their veins and quickens the beat of their hearts and draws them so helplessly to one another.
But they cannot, and so, for a while, they let it be.
"Do you want to go now?" she asks him. Her smile is as light and pink as wilted roses.
He glances through the window. Outside the cemetery is grey as ash.
He rises, and she follows, and now he takes her arm as they cross the two-toned tiled floor.
Black, white, black, white, black, white…
And outside the world is grey; but for the two of them, and the red, red blood of the red, red roses that he carries.
- END -