A/N: After another extended absence, I come bearing an extra long chapter. More drabble of explanation at the end. Enjoy!
There was only so much staring at a door and waiting for it to open that one mind can take. For Remy LeBeau, it was about five minutes. He couldn't stay in bed forever, waiting for her, because there was the distinct possibility that she'd never return. The very thought terrified him, but if that was how it played out, he wouldn't blame her. If he was in her shoes, he wasn't so sure he wouldn't leave him either.
Unable to lie there any longer he got up and instantly walked over to the dresser. Lifting the duffle bag from the damaged surface, he went back to the bed, sitting right in the centre of it. Chaos, disorder; the clothing was in such disarray that it kept nagging him. He had never been anything resembling a 'clean freak' before, but now... a lot of things had changed.
When he had chosen to become Death, he had given up control completely. Control of his mind, his body; he had no ability to think, he was just a killing machine. Death by name, Death by creation, Death by his actions. Now he was back in control, of his body at least. His mind was still questionable. What if the damage was more lasting than they thought? Was it possible for Death to take over again? He could still see the image in the mirror, even if nobody else could. What if the bloodlust was lurking just below the surface?
He needed something he could control. He needed a task, one that he could focus on, one that he could complete. Then another. Then another. He needed to focus. He needed to be in control. Focus. Control. If he could take control of his surroundings, change chaos into order, maybe his mind would follow.
Tipping the duffle bag upside down, Remy gave it a shake, watching the contents spill all around him. The chaos was no longer confined to the bag. Things sometimes got worse before they got better. With one last glance at the door, he began sorting the items. His clothes, her clothes, random items she'd tossed in. Once everything was sorted, he started folding. Each seam was lined up perfectly, the creases from the folds made crisp. He tried to smooth out the wrinkles some of the fabrics bore with his hands, but some were too stubborn to obey. Nothing was perfect, he had to learn to live with it.
After what felt like hours, he caught a dark shadow moving by the window out of the corner of his eye, and his heart leapt. She had returned.
Lowering his head, he focused harder on his task, listening intently for the sound of the door. It took a moment longer than expected, but eventually Rogue entered the room with a flourish and then she stopped. Remy kept folding. Focus. Control.
Another few hours seemed to pass before she recovered and approached him. He kept folding. Only when she spoke to him and held out her hand did he cease his movements. She'd gotten him something. He had doubted her returning at all, and she had been thinking enough about him to get him a gift. It hurt.
Raising his head slightly, Remy peered out through his dishevelled hair at her hand, and the item she held. Sunglasses. Taking them from her without hesitation, he turned them in his hands, inspecting them. The lenses were dark and would hide his eyes perfectly; hide them from the world, and hide them from her. Had it bothered her that much to see his eyes last night that she was giving him the means with which to hide them? Slipping them on his face, he looked up at her. For a split second he saw something in her expression that gave him his answer.
No. She wanted to see his eyes; she wanted him to trust her with his deepest secrets, to share with her his pain. It was the rest of the world, it was he himself, that wasn't ready.
Then the moment passed and he saw something in her that he hadn't seen in a long while. He saw a hint of the playful side, the flirt, that had drawn him to her in the very beginning, before everything had gotten so deep, so complicated, and he smiled. It was mostly on the inside, but the hint was there. Oh, how he missed those days. And then she was gone, into the bathroom again. Couldn't think; couldn't think about what she had to clean up. Clean up his mess, what very little of it she could. Had to focus. Focus. Control.
He finished folding and packing. He didn't bother to change, instead just slipping his feet into some old trainers she'd packed. He made the bed, gathered the garbage, and then he waited. Time seemed to move so slowly. A few more hours felt like they passed before Rogue emerged from the bathroom. Watching her tie up the trash and move to the door with a bag in each hand, he reached out and took their luggage from her without a word and opened the door so they could pass. He didn't touch the garbage bag though he couldn't keep his eyes off it.
The neighbourhood was far from the high class end of town they were used to, so disposing of evidence wasn't a difficult task. Having tossed the plastic bag of fabric covered in blood and sin into a large dumpster, Rogue had set it ablaze and after a moment of watching, they'd simply walked away.
If only he could dispose of the memories so easily. He wished he could burn them from his mind, scorch them from his soul, but he knew they would remain until he died. He could not be cleansed by fire, it would only serve to bury the scars deeper, layers upon layers of scars until that was all that remained. Scars that would never heal.
The next task on their list was one that most men dreaded: shopping.
Like most men, this was not something he enjoyed to partake of. Being a thief by trade, it just seemed wrong somehow. But unlike most men, he found shopping with Rogue much more tolerable, even if his sole purpose was to carry the bags. He used to complain at Christmas time, and she would always tell him to hush up, but they both knew it was all for fun. He had to pretend to hate it to uphold his image, and she was determined not to make it easy on him. And easy it wasn't. It was hard to act grumpy and annoyed while she flitted about, squealing excitedly and talking animatedly about how much so and so would love this or that.
This would be nothing like that, though, he was certain. They weren't shopping for other people, but for themselves, and not because they wanted to but because they had to. They'd left everything behind. It was a chance to start fresh, but what they lacked in physical baggage they made up for emotionally in spades.
Fortunately, Rogue didn't drag him to the mall. They hopped the bus and instead chose to poke around some of the smaller shops that lined the streets. Less crowded, a fact that Remy was eternally grateful for. Also fortunately, Rogue knew what size clothes he wore, so he didn't have to do much more than stand there while she held clothes up against him and made faces.
It was almost like old times, and for a few moments here and there he found himself forgetting. Forgetting the present and remembering the past. During those times, if she could see his eyes, she would have noticed a certain spark in them that was long since missing.
"Ooh!" Rogue suddenly exclaimed, forgetting herself and grabbing Remy's hand, dragging him toward another part of the store. There it was, the excited squeal, the way her face lit up when she saw a gift she simply knew someone would love. He almost laughed. Almost. As it was, a genuine smile graced his expression for a brief moment, a moment she missed as she led him toward the coats.
It appeared the gift was for him.
Stopping when she released his hand, he watched in fascination as she fingered the sleeve of a leather duster, brown in colour. Running her gloved hands over it, she silently brushed the cuff against her cheek, closing her eyes at the feel of the soft leather against her skin. A wistful smile, a soft sigh; he could only imagine the memories that were drifting through her head. For a moment he wished that one article of clothing could transport them back in time before banishing the idea and its stupidity.
Then she was pulling the coat from the hanger and advancing on him.
His duster had always been his trademark, useful for a million reasons, a second skin. But now it was lost, just like him. He wished it was that easy, but he wasn't the man he used to be. He was different, changed, and wearing one so similar now would be a lie, a mask.
Oh, but what a comforting one it would be.
Comfort, security; this was why he didn't fight her, why he obediently assisted her as she helped him into the coat. Slowly turning back to face her, the expression she wore almost stopped his heart. It was impossible to describe and he quickly looked away, self consciously adjusting the coat. Self consciousness? Now that was new, but she was staring at him, still staring at him. Unsure what to do with himself, he remarkably found himself falling back on old habits he thought long since dead. Pursing his lips, he popped the collar on the coat with one slick movement. Thrusting his hands in his pockets, he turned his head to peer over the high collar at her with shielded eyes.
For a moment she only stared, her eyes wet, her expression... haunted? Hopeful? It was hard to tell, another fact that hurt. He used to be able to read her so easily. As the sales girl approached, he watched Rogue mentally shake herself.
"We'll take it," she choked out, unshed tears obvious in her voice.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. Rogue's excitement had diminished considerably and the trench coat made it a little harder for her to get a feel for the clothes she held against him. She didn't even bother to try on her own clothes, something she once loved to do. He remembered a time when she'd pick the wildest clothing just so she could see his reaction when she modelled them for him in the store.
And one time when things had gotten a little... out of hand in the changing room when he had insisted on assisting her to change...
Once the shopping was finished their final stop was a hotel, something more upscale than the hole in the wall motel they'd stayed in the night previous. They stumbled through the door of the suite, both weighed down with numerous bags and packages. Dinner was provided by room service and eaten in silence, and when Rogue had gone for her shower, Remy curled up on the plush chesterfield, flipping on the television for some noise to fill the silent room, to fill his head.
Still he wore the coat.
He refused to take it off. It was a comfort, a security blanket of sorts. He held it tighter around himself, seeking the comfort, but at the same time he loathed it and what it represented. It represented the life he had thrown away, the man he had once been and would never be again. He had done many horrible things in his life but even all those combined were overshadowed by Death. Death who destroyed all that was good, who lived in darkness and extinguished all that was light.
Remy hated what he had become, and he hated what he had been because he could never go back. But still he wore the coat, still he huddled into its warmth, into the distinct smell of new leather, as he finally drifted to sleep.
A/N: Alright, so this chapter is... odd. I wrote the first half before reading X-Men #187, and after a week or so of depression and whining, I wrote the other half just today. Not sure how I feel about this one, but I do know how I feel about Marvel right about now. Grrr... Anyways, I know it doesn't flow, but I hope the next one'll be better. I also keep gettin' ideas for more one shots, so we'll see how that goes. On to the reviews! Yar!
LoneRaven: I can't stay dark and depressin' all the time. Gotta give them a break once in a while, eh? ;D I really enjoyed writin' the lighter bits of this one. Some of the shoppin' parts just beg for elaboration in story form, hence another idea for a one shot I got.
mazdamiatta: good? That depends on your perspective. It's better than starin' at the wall, but depends on your feelin's on his thoughts behind it. I hope they came across the way I intended. One of those cases of knowing what I wanted to say, but not how to put it into words.
Tammy: Loved all your theories behind the folding thing. Good guesses, and it seems your first one was pretty close. ;D Wolverine? I kinda pictured him bein' in Africa at this point in time, but since he does have the mutant ability to be everywhere at once... you'll just have to wait for the next chapter. Methinks that'll be the one where said guest star pops up. ;D
Rogue14: Yeah, I work some Sundays. I work in maintenance in a factory, and Sundays are the one day a week when the machines don't run all day, so it's the one day we get to go out and get work done on said machines to prevent problems in the future, or to fix problems that have been reported. Sorry again for the wait. I'm still alive, yes, but I suspect my updates will be quite a bit slower than the twice a week I started out with, regrettably.
Anamarie: Poor guy, eh? So screwed up. pets Remy I hope he'll give up the shades soon as well, at least around her.
Rogue181: Aww, thanks hon! Always does an author's heart good to hear that their story manages to draw you in.
piccolajules: Thanks bunches, darlin'! Ya just made my day. Glad ya found the fic and you're enjoyin' it so much.