Please read the Author's notes – thank you! :)
Title: Permanent Scars
Email: see profile
Disclaimer: Not mine, never will be... Now there's a depressing thought. Oh, also, as this fic was written about four years ago, any similarities between it and any other fic written between then and now is purely coincidental (I don't know of any, but I figure I'll cover my bases). And the lyrics at the beginning are from Train's song "Drops Of Jupiter", which also makes them not mine.
Feedback: Pretty please? (Honestly? It'd be really appreciated and I'll try my absolute best to reply to anyone who sends me any)
Summary: "It was night when he came back."
Archive Rights: DDFH. WRFA. Everyone else, ask and ye shall have.
Notes: This is a sequel to my previous fic, Hazard To Herself, which can be found by clicking on my personal profile and scrolling down. Since this is the sequel to that, you should probably read it first (if you haven't already).
As stated in my disclaimer, I've had this fic sitting on my harddrive for the better part of four years. I wrote it at the same time I was writing Hazard To Herself (both being the first fics I'd ever written at that point), but was putting off posting it because I'd originally planned for Hazard to be part one of a six part series, with this being part three. However, since part two remains unwritten, and the two really do work well on their own, I figured I should just put it out there and see the response. To be honest, I haven't had much time to just write lately, so my drive to do so has been lacking... I guess maybe I'm hoping that posting this might bring that back. Ah well, we'll see how it goes. :)
Dedication: Thanks to Heather and Taryn for all their wonderful feedback way back when... As well as Katherine, Kelly and Stephie, who read it later on (but still a while ago). Hope it's still as good as you remember it! ;)
Tell me, did you fall for a shooting star? One without a permanent scar? And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there...?
It was night when he came back.
I'd never really thought about the time of day he would return. My daydreams accounted for numerous scenarios of his inevitable arrival, but they almost always took place in the light of day. Only the ones not fit for children's eyes took place in the moonlight – or in the darkness of my bedroom doorway, to be exact.
But that is neither here nor there.
I was curled up on a bench in the front hall, absently sketching one of the more elaborate plants that Ororo tended to, when one moment I looked up and at the plant, then to my book, and the next moment I looked up and into his eyes... and dropped my book.
And then I was on my feet and I can remember saying something, and hearing him say something back in that voice of his that's echoed through my dreams for so long... but for the life of me, I can't remember any of the words involved. All I know is that one moment I'm inches away from him, hands halted midair in case he – like the others – doesn't want me and my skin anywhere near him... and then there's a look from him, just a look, but it's enough to make me forget myself and I'm in his arms, and we're holding each other as if we'll never let go.
I'm careful though, always careful. Ducking my head so that my hair forms a barrier as I press my face into the crook of his neck, having checked earlier to make sure when my arms wrapped themselves around him they were no where near any available skin... But even with all my carefulness, with the needed preparation before something as simple as a welcome home hug... it stills feels so incredibly good, like something I haven't felt in so long... like nothing ever before.
I don't know how long we stayed like that, neither of us willing to let go first... Or maybe I just wasn't willing to let go of him, and he didn't want to try and pry my arms from around his shoulders. Yeah, that was probably it.
Whatever it was, we were still holding each other tightly when the sounds of approaching footsteps intruded on our moment together, and I disentangled myself from his arms, taking a step back as Jean, Scott, Storm and several others flooded the front lobby. I guessed that the Professor had alerted them to the new arrival, or maybe Scott had just sensed his baby coming home – by the look in his, well... somehow that guy manages to show a glare even with the protective glasses, but anyways. The expression on his face made it clear what was foremost in his mind. I couldn't help being slightly surprised – and slightly disappointed – by the sudden turnout. It was, after all, after midnight... and a school night at that. Not many people frequented this part of the house at this hour... which was probably the reason I was here, come to think of it. But no matter.
I stepped back further as the others went up to Logan, casting him a shy smile and wrapping my arms around myself, careful to stay out of arms reach of all the others. They didn't seem to notice, they're all so used to it now, and I frowned in confusion as I saw Logan's eyes narrow at me right before Jean arrived at his side, a welcoming smile on her face.
I wasn't listening to the exact words she was saying, but I saw her raise her left hand to show off the glittering golden band that now adorned her ring finger. She had been Jean Grey-Summers for exactly three weeks now and had, in fact, just returned from her honeymoon a few days ago. Both she and Scott still wore the deeply tanned, bursting smiles of all newlyweds, and it made me ache just to be that close to true love and happiness. What would it do to Logan, to see the woman he wanted so badly already bound forever to another man?
I couldn't help being angry with Jean in that moment, even though I knew she wasn't purposefully trying to hurt him – she was just so happy these days, and wanted to share her happiness with everyone she knew. I get that, I do. I'd probably be the same way if I ever got the chance... and she'd never taken Logan's interest in her seriously, she'd said as much one time in a misguided attempt to comfort me. But I couldn't help but worry.
My fingers climbed up my chest and pulled out the tags hanging around my neck of their own accord. It was almost reflex now – scared? nervous? worried about something? Clutch the tags. It had become instinct in the past... nearly a year. I fingered the cool metal as I watched the redheaded doctor show off her wedding ring – only to freeze in place as he looked over and caught me directly in his gaze, my action plainly revealed to him and everyone else – though everyone else was as used to it as they were to my skin by now and paid it no mind, the look in his eyes made it clear he had taken everything in.
My hand fell away and I averted my gaze from his burning eyes, thoughts racing as I only barely listened to Jean continue to speak. He had seen them, the tags, still around my neck after all this time. He had seen them... and now it was only a matter of time before he took them back.
I knew it was always only a matter of time before he took them back from me, and for the most part, that was a good thing. It meant he would be back to take them, he would be here, so I wouldn't need them anymore. I would have him here with me, which was so much better then any little inanimate object.
And it was, it is, it will be... it's just that... those little inanimate objects have been my lifeline so many times over the past few months. The physical reminder of his promise, something of his to hold on to... I had come to depend on the familiar weight around my neck, the comforting chill of the metal on my bare skin, something to hold and touch and study as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted. It made me special, it made me his – even though I knew I never would be, it let me pretend a little when I needed the charade.
And now, even though I wouldn't trade him being back for anything in the world, I was dreading having to give them back to him all the same.
Shaken from my thoughts as Jean finished talking with a grand welcoming embrace, I watched in subdued amusement as Scott started forwards in what looked like would have been a menacing way – had Jean not pulled him back at the last instance, shaking her head at him and gesturing at her watch. Glancing down at my own, I saw that it was indeed pretty damn late, and so wasn't surprised when the two of'em started ushering the little ones back up to bed.
They didn't say a word to me, however, but I noticed a little smile playing at the corners of Jean's lips as Logan closed the distance between me and him, and I knew it was time. Best to get it over with quickly... that was usually best.
I slowly pulled the tags over my head, biting my lip and pasting a small smile on my face as I self-consciously patted my hair back in place and held them out to him, hoping he wouldn't notice how my hands shook just the slightest bit. "Thank you for leaving these with me," I whispered, not sure my voice would go any louder then it was at that moment, "For coming back for them..."
He studied them for a moment, and I fought to keep my hand steady, wondering what he was thinking. Finally, he took them from me and held them up by the chain, alternating between looking at them, and looking at me. I shifted nervously under his scrutiny, desperate to know what was going on in his head, but finally, he just smiled that almost-smile of his and slipped them back over my head. "You took good care of'em," He said gruffly, though his eyes were soft as he looked at me, "You keep'em safe for me, Marie." He added, and my eyes fell shut with a little sigh at the sound of my name falling from his lips. The first time I'd heard it from someone else in... forever.
There are some cultures that believe that knowing someone's name means that you possess their soul. It seems somehow fitting that I gave my everything to Logan the first day we met, considering everything he gave me afterwards. It also makes me happy that I never shared it with anyone else, no one will ever inhabit me the way that he does.
I felt a real smile light my face as I basked in the sensation of finally being with him again, of standing so close to him, without him taking a step back like anyone else would. It was small at first, but slowly started to grow as I inhaled lightly, breathing him in for the first time in too damn long. My eyes were still closed, though, so I couldn't help a surprised gasp from escaping as I felt his hands land gently on my shoulders.
My eyes flew open and I stared at him in shock, tensing reflexively even though I knew there was no threat involved, "You're touching me," I breathed, amazed, even though I shouldn't have been.
The look on his face was one of cautious surprise, as if he wasn't sure why I was reacting the way I was. As if it wasn't obvious. "Yeah, so...?"
"I-I forgot..." Was all I could say, though I knew he'd probably understand. I had forgotten. Forgotten what casual touch was like, when physical contact happened just because someone felt like touching you. No one ever felt like touching me, but then, not many people have a death wish. "I-I..." I stammered, and his hands tightened on my shoulders as the oddest look crossed over his face, and I felt my breath catch, though I couldn't say exactly why...
But as quickly as it had happened, he loosened his grip on my shoulders once again and told me he was tired. I nodded, understanding completely. I didn't know what he'd been up to, but it was real late and he'd only just gotten back, of course he'd need to get some sleep.
I picked up one of his two bags despite his protests, and lead him up to the wing that held our rooms. Our rooms. Dropping the bag gently at the door, I took one last look at him before saying an awkward goodnight and reluctantly heading off towards my room. As always, my steps slowed and I couldn't help being hesitant and scared about what visions the night would bring to me. It was a rare event that nothing came.
When Logan was away, I would go to his room whenever I had a nightmare. So that basically meant nearly every night I would bolt upright in my bed, silent – or not-so-silent – screams tearing through my throat as I left the images in sleep where they belonged. I would sit there gasping for a moment before lunging across the room, fingers scraping ineffectively at the door in my haste to get out of there before I would finally find the knob and yank it open.
I would stumble out into the hall and make my way silently – or as silently as I could – towards his room, my shoulders shaking with stifled sobs. The hall always seemed to stretch endlessly in those wee hours of night, even though his door was barely two away from mine.
Once I'd made it there, I would press the door open slowly and scamper inside, closing it again behind me lest anyone trace my whereabouts come morning. I was the only one that went in there when he was gone, aside from the people who came in to dust all the rooms every once in a while, but I didn't want people to know. It would just feed their ideas about me, after all, and I don't need that.
After making sure the door was closed – something that was simply programmed into me, no matter how incoherent my thinking usually is after waking from my nightmares – I would carefully make my way to the bed. I would creep up to it, almost as if someone were in it and I wanted to be careful not to wake them. Maybe, in my mind... someone was.
I would pull the covers back, and slowly climb onto the mattress before laying back and pulling the blankets over me. After that, I would close my eyes and sink into the bedding, breathing deeply. I would always breathe deeply, even after the keen senses he'd given me had faded away. I would bury my face in the pillows and snuggle down deep and pretend I could smell him in the sheets, pretend I could feel his warmth surrounding me, comforting me, lulling me back to sleep. In those moments, as a dreamless sleep finally claimed me, I would feel so safe, protected, taken care of... If I concentrated hard enough, I would actually feel his hand rubbing gentle circles on my back as the darkness came.
In morning, I would awaken and slip from the bed, smoothing the covers so as to leave no trace of my nighttime forages before tiptoeing back to my room to get ready for the day.
Though I tried my best to keep it hidden, I had a feeling the professor knew what I did those nights. No matter how many new people came to the mansion, Logan's room remained empty, the bedding remained intact, and the soft looks he gives me at breakfast after each of those nights are proof enough for me.
I'm sure he wonders why I never actually moved in there, aside from what people would say to that. But the thing is... it's his room. It needs to stay his room for me to be able to be safe in it. If it's my room, I'd just have nightmares in it and I wouldn't have a haven to go to for protection when I wake up screaming before dawn. With it being his room, it carried his presence, his essence, not mine. It can keep me safe and protect me in ways he can't... or wouldn't want.
But that was before he was back.
That first night after he came back, I crawled into my bed in my room and curled up tightly, reminding myself over and over again that if I was to wake up in the middle of the night, I had to remain there, in my room. Logan's room was his, and stealing into it in the pre-dawn hours while he occupied the bed had not gone well in the past.
I fidgeted with the ends of the sleeves of my nightgown – the same one I'd been wearing that night, come to think of it. Kitty had told me later that I'd looked like an angel as I'd stood in the lamplight, my hair down around my shoulders. I'd smiled and thanked her at the time, though inside I'd been cringing. An angel? The Angel of Death, perhaps. I probably should have burned it, but it got the job done, covered me well enough, and one learns on the road that one should not burn useful things.
I have matching gloves now, though. Thin cotton, for sleeping comfort.
Maybe it was just the knowledge that he was there, but that first night he came back was my first restful night of sleep in a good long while.
The next day was pretty uneventful. I woke up late, barely making it in time to sit in on the junior art class like I usually do. I have a feeling the professor is grooming me to teach it, because lord knows Scott is not the best judge of colour schemes, and Ororo already teaches most of the more advanced ones. I don't mind though, University correspondence doesn't take up a hell of a lot of time when you're not working towards a degree. I know my place in life, and even if it's not what I've always dreamed of, it's better than a lot of other things.
But back to what I was talking about.
So class passed slowly, and afterwards, as Scott and I were walking down the hall I finally saw Logan. Unfortunately, Scooter had seen him too and decided that now was the best time to pull him – or, direct him – out to the garage for a "talk" about "borrowing" things without asking. I knew it had been coming, I'd seen the look in his eyes as soon as Logan had stepped through the door the night before, but it seemed like I'd had barely been in the same room with Logan since he'd arrived, and people were not being very accommodating.
You know, for something they all wanted – and were sure they were going - to see happen so badly, they weren't doing anything to assist the process. Not that I wanted what they thought I wanted... but I did want to at least get a sentence or two out without an audience around us sometime soon.
Even if I had no idea what I'd say.
But since that was impossible at the moment, I went to get my lunch and spent most of the afternoon sketching in the garden, having the most unsettling feeling that I was being watched. I looked all around me though, and even sniffed the air once – though that was obviously no help and probably looked pretty amusing – but I couldn't find anyone, so I shrugged it off to my infamous paranoia and finished my sketch with a few more strokes.
After that, I had just gotten back inside the mansion when Kitty and Jubilee called me on my promise to go shopping with them for formal dresses for the social next week – the reasoning behind which, while I can understand, don't care to think about. It surprised me that they still wanted me to go with them though, since they were the loudest supporters of mine and Logan's blissful future together and I figured they would abandon me at the first sight of him last night. I looked up to see Logan walking down the hall again – apparently finally free from Scott, and almost declined, appearances be damned... but before I could, Jean showed up beside him with a warm smile.
I couldn't help the slight stiffening in my shoulders at that, but she was a married woman now, and he wasn't mine to begin with, and... well, needless to say, I was mall-bound a few minutes later. Bright side of it is that I wound up with a beautiful dress that has see through gauze in all the right places, and matching opera gloves, scarves, shoes and undergarments by the end of our expedition. Kitty and Jubes may be a lot of things, but one thing they definitely excel at is shopping – put them together and it's amazing I don't wind up with a whole new wardrobe every time we go out.
When we finally got back, it was after dinner, so we grabbed leftovers from the kitchen before I went up to my room to email my correspondence homework in by the due date and hang up my dress so that it wouldn't wrinkle. That done, I sighed and glanced at my sketchbook, debating whether or not to start another work before bed. My fingers inched up my chest and grasped the tags around my neck, fingering them idly as I surveyed the room.
The noise at the door startled me.
It was a grunt, more than an indistinguishable noise and I knew who it would be even as I spun to face him. His eyes traveled over me, pausing at my hand, still clutching the tags and I debated offering them back again, but he only nodded to me and cocked his head the other way, gesturing for me to follow.
So of course I did. We left the mansion and went for a walk around the forest at the edge of Xavier's property. We didn't talk, not much anyway, but it was a comfortable silence. I wasn't really used to that. When he was away and I was quiet with someone, the silence was usually charged with them trying to figure out what to say to me. I liked this kind of quiet. It was... peaceful. Calm. Nice.
We walked side by side, his arms at his sides and mine wrapped lightly around myself, not touching... but that was comfortable too. That was what I was used to, after all. What I wasn't used to, though, was when I tripped over a stray branch or something, and his arm came out of nowhere to grasp mine, keeping me from falling. I looked up at him gratefully for a moment as I steadied myself, but once I was ready, he didn't let go. We just started walking again, arm in arm this time. And in a weird way, that was comfortable too. New and different as hell, but... okay, at the same time, because it was with him.
But don't get any wrong ideas, this was purely platonic arm linking.
Once it was too dark and too cold to continue (and I let out a little accidental yawn, damnit), we wandered back to the mansion, taking our time in getting there. When we stepped in the door, our arms slowly dropped, though for the life of me I couldn't tell you who pulled away first. We said goodnight in the hall between our rooms and I changed into my "angel" nightgown once again – pajamas are on a two-day laundry rotation for me, thank you - before climbing into bed to sleep.
That night, the nightmares that plagued me were combinations of the most severe ones of my 'collection'. Possibly to make up for my night of actual rest, though the proximity to next week was certainly another possibility.
I was being torn away from a man and woman. Parents, my mind supplied, Erik's - though by now I recognized them easier than I would recognize my own. Either way, they were mine in that moment, and I was being taken from them. Ripped out of my mother's grasp, I was thrown to the ground and then lifted roughly into the air as something exploded nearby. I was being yelled at in a foreign language, and though I didn't understand the actual words, I knew the sentiment behind them. Keep moving. Work. Obey. The shovel that appeared in my hands flew out of my grasp and I was pinned down to the ground as punishment, vicious blows falling over my back and legs as vicious words fell into my ears.
And then I was being lifted up again, a syringe of unknown liquid injected into my aching arm, doing nothing to soothe the pain that spread through my entire body. It wasn't powerful enough for my capabilities. Pure agony ripped through my form, burning up my limbs and freezing my heart. I tried to move, to fight my way free, but I was tied down, and none of the numerous watchful eyes around me were lifting a finger to help.
Closing my eyes tight, I shrieked in anguish as another bolt of electricity tore my insides out, and my eyes flew open to take in the brilliant white light that surrounded my spinning metallic prison. I pulled helplessly at the binds around my wrists, screaming for help as new power and a new personality surged through me.
And then suddenly, Logan was flying over me, to my rescue. He would make it. He would save me... He would stop it. He would-
-freeze. Midair. Held in Magneto's grasp onnce again.
I was in the train again, but no, I was still dying atop the Statue of Liberty. Both and neither as I watched Magneto twist and torture my poor Logan, his face a mask torment, lips pursed, unwilling to give his capture the satisfaction of a scream. The white light blurred my vision and my cries echoed in my ears as I was dying... dying... his pained expression the last thing I saw, dying... dying...
I was up and out of my bed before I was even fully awake, my vision blurred by tears as I ran silently down the hall to the familiar door. Soundless panting and shivering wracked my frame as I pressed the door open and closed behind me, my thoughts racing incoherently as I stumbled over to the bed. I actually had the corner of the covers pulled back and my knee up on the mattress before I realized I wasn't alone, and remembered that I couldn't do this anymore.
I don't know how he was still sleeping, but I carefully backed off the mattress and eased the covers back up to their previous position before turning to face the door.
Which is where I froze, cringing and whimpering as quietly as I could as a harsh shudder wracked it's way through my body.
I couldn't go back to that room. Not tonight. Not in the dark where my nightmares lived and flourished, threatening to pounce on me and beat me into submission the second I stepped over my threshold.
I still must not have been thinking too clearly, because the next thing I knew, I was curling up on the floor beside his bed, burrowing into the carpet in the same way I'd burrowed into the sheets in times past. I closed my eyes and fisted my tears, breathing in the resurgence of his scent and listening to his breathing as I slowly drifted off to sleep.
When I opened my eyes past dawn the next day, I was greeted with the sight of Logan peering down at me from his place in the bed, an impossible to determine expression in his eyes. His face and hair were mussed with sleep and I could feel my eyes turning soft even as a blush crept it's way up my neck to blossom over my face. I opened my mouth to apologize, but he held up his hand and shook his head, reaching down to grasp my shoulder - which is when I realized that sometime during the night a blanket had been draped clumsily over me. He squeezed my arm and nodded to me and I found myself suddenly mesmerized by the tenderness in his gaze. So much like on the train all those months ago... but maybe... a little more?
I snapped that thought down the second it appeared in my head and the moment was broken when he let go and made his way into the washroom. Once I heard the shower turn on, I gathered the blanket up and folded it, leaving it on his bed before making my way back to my room. Luck was apparently on my side because no one was in the hall as I slipped through my bedroom door and got ready to face the day.
I saw Logan only briefly that day – even less than I had the day before. I heard from Jean that he was called away by the professor to have a talk about something. Probably his status on the X-Men, which would be interesting to say the least. I was actually sort of surprised Chuck didn't talk to him about it the first day he was back, but no matter. I spent the rest of the day covered from head to toe in oil paints that only a long hot shower can fully wash away, depicting the horrific visions of my latest nightmare, so we didn't really have time to discuss what had happened the night before – which was fine with me, I didn't want to burden him with the results of my past ordeals.
Late that night, however, as I made my way to my room after returning the oils to the art studio, once again inwardly reminding myself that Logan's room did not currently have a vacancy, I noticed that he'd left his door open. An inch only, two at the most, but for a man like Logan, it sent an obvious message to me and my steps lightened as I walked the rest of the way to my room, secure in the fact that my sanctuary wasn't being taken away... it was being solidified – and enhanced.