IX: CHOICES—OR THE CONVERSATION THAT WOULDN'T DIE
Well…here was the space she wanted.
Too fucking late for her to wanna accept it.
She resented him for the way he'd turned the tables, made her worry, made her defensive, seem the bad guy when it had started out so clear, so defined, with him squarely in the wrong. She resented how badly she'd expressed herself in the shock of it, how she hadn't been able to get him to listen. He could complain all he wanted about how he always decided, but that was the perfect example of how it was one-sided anyhow.
Well, FUCK HIM! How did this get to be her fault?! Stupid pansy. THICK ADAMANTIUM SKULL.
He was—he wanted her? Well, Christ, that might have been really nice to know! Before.
But…that was enough, enough to make her stay, enough to take this indignity, and the rest that were sure to come with him, enough to slap some sense into him. Just look! She was going to be with him, and that was her fucking choice!
So, shoot the messenger, she'd take the message. Thank Logan very fucking much.
Though, in wearily thinking about it, much of what he'd said was true. She did look to him to make decisions about them. She did follow his lead. She had followed his life here and not hers. And these past weeks, she hadn't been happy.
And, though this was tougher to admit, because she always thought of giving him everything, perhaps she hadn't let him in. With her skin, her leg, her dreams, perhaps other things, too. Trying to protect herself. And maybe, she'd always held back, because she'd needed it, because if she was ready to say yes to everything, she wanted a part of herself that was hers, too.
But she hadn't known. It had seemed natural that he should lead—more experience, older, more a part of every dealing in their relationship. She hadn't known he'd felt that way, and she hadn't wanted to push and lose him, with demands or unreasonable expectations or by trying to change him. She'd been young—and, yeah, compared to him, still was, that was true. And sometimes she felt like she'd loved him forever—but what was forever? Two years? Five since they'd met? Forever? She'd never really believed she'd get it.
He was Logan, she was Rogue. She'd thought it obvious—that she'd loved him, always had, that she'd take anything from him she could.
But, obviously, they were very bad at communicating with one another. And that was both of them. They'd relied too much on physical stuff, body language and looks and nuzzling and sex. It wasn't enough. Not for stuff like this. Interspersed with fighting, of course; and though, she had to admit to rather liking the 'clearing of the air' thing that happened at this last one, or any fight that involved much shouting, really…there must be better ways.
So she took some time, didn't follow him, thought about what it was she wanted, really wanted, and thought about how to say it.
And then she sought him out, expecting to find him in the garden smoking, or perhaps out on the bike, in the danger room maybe, doing something.
But he wasn't. He was in their dark room, sitting on the bed, face to the floor, hands to his head.
She turned on the light, and he didn't move. Took a moment, trod out carefully, skirted round to face him, careful not to crowd.
'We're very bad at talking to each other,' she observed, and he ran a hand through his hair, and she could tell he was calmer, calm enough, to listen. If he would. 'A lot of what you said was true,' she continued, and when he ran a hand through his hair this time, it was slightly shaky. 'But not all of it.'
She pressed her lips together, studied his down-turned head, almost despairing posture. 'Logan, I know I haven't been happy these last few weeks, and I shut you out because of it. And I'm sorry. That wasn't fair to you.' He might have been listening. He wasn't reacting. 'I was…jealous. And insecure. Bored. And physically, in pain. And I took it out on you. I'm sorry.'
'Jealous?' his head raised, he looked really baffled.
She sighed, winced—sure, go straight to that. 'For no good reason, nothing you did,' she clarified, trying to be fair. 'But…yes, jealous. Of—of Jean.' God, this was hard. No wonder they'd never done this. 'It was unfair. Stupid, I know.'
'Jean. From all that time ago?'
'You loved her, Logan,' she said softly. 'And I wouldn't have blamed you if—'
He reached out a hand, just touched her stomach, traced round to her hip. 'No.'
'It wasn't you, it was me. But I—'
'NO,' he stated more firmly, tugging her forward, craning his neck back to see. 'It was never Jean.'
She wasn't going to avoid this, look away from this anymore, but it was hard, the sincerity of his expression . 'I-I know. I know that now.' He was never like this, so still, so patient. 'I'm sorry I shut you out.'
'What else?' he insisted, one hand running up her side, then palming her stomach again, curling an arm round her. 'What else—you said insecure?'
Yes, insecure, still was, and it was…hard to admit to, and part of the reason she had trouble talking about it. She placed a hand on his shoulder, felt easier feeling the warm, sturdy reality of it. 'I had an injury, and-and poison skin and this distance between us—no job. I just…it felt—' Really not enjoying this.
She didn't want to offend him, or guilt him, or have him pity her—didn't want to relive it, either. But his eyes were searching, brow slightly worried, but not like before, when he was judging and unhappy with the conclusion—but open, questing, waiting for her to answer. She should, anyway.
'I felt useless, I guess, unwanted.' He let the silence hang there, and she was actually grateful, because she found herself suddenly wanting to explain more. 'And lazy, too. Bitter. Angry. Resentful. Easily annoyed.' She twitched her nose—that list didn't sound too positive, but it felt…true. Good to finally admit to. 'Sorry about all that,' she whispered low, and he traced, almost reverently her arm, her now-bare hand—reminded her of how he touched her years ago, before they'd ever been a couple.
'No, I'm sorry,' he eventually said. 'You don't have to be.'
'Well, you're not responsible for my feelings,' she demurred. 'Especially ones you didn't know I had.'
There was a heavy pause, before he said grimly, 'You weren't unwanted.' Never looked at her when he said things like that.
'I—I never said it was rational.' Small smile. He didn't find that funny. 'I'm just explaining why. It's not a good reason. It's just why.'
'Why—?' The lilt was so careful…
'Why I took it out on you. Pushed you away. Why I—' voice lowered now, 'why I didn't let you heal me. Didn't let you in. Had trouble talking to you, again and again. Why I yelled at you, many times.'
He was processing, processing—process already—and she nervously, 'Although I'm probably always going to yell at you. You piss me off sometimes, and I—'
'Rogue,' he stopped her—off-topic, that babbling. He was working himself up to saying something, and painful, the silence—spilling her guts here. 'I…I don't know how—I'm sorry. I—' he broke off, and she was a little concerned by how wrought he seemed to be by this. 'I don't know how to fix it.'
'I'm not asking you to fix it, Logan.' His grip loosened, fell away, and she pressed with more urgency, 'I should have trusted you more, should have…should have talked to you more. There are a lot of things I should have done before now that I didn't.' She promised, 'I'm gonna work on it.' And a complex emotion crossed his face—like he was getting something and losing it, and she wondered if she was shutting him out even there. 'But you could help me. I mean, you could let me in, too.'
He shot her an uncertain look, a guilty one. 'Like what problem, exactly, you have with my skin? You could try talking to me about it, instead of Scott or Xavier, Jean, even Hank.'
'Rogue,' very quiet, very serious. 'I don't have a problem with your skin. You do.'
'Well, yeah, of course I do. I have to cover up and be careful. And touching someone—plus, you know, the killing someone issue. But…I mean, it seems like…it's only natural that you may have some…feelings about it, too.
'It's fine. It's you.' So open his expression—he really wanted her to believe that, anyway.
'But Logan? All those comments about it, and going to Jean. Not wanting to discuss it afterwards…'
'I thought—' he swallowed, his touch became tentative, his gaze focused there—'I thought your skin was…might be…to keep me away.'
'No! No, it wasn't.' Was it? How could he— ? 'Not that.'
'I—ok. Prob'ly not,' he mumbled. 'I wanted… You said you wanted space. I tried to give it to you.'
'I didn't want that much. Just wanted you to stop hovering…treating me like a child, an invalid or something.'
'I wanted you to get better,' he whispered hoarsely, resting his forehead at her waist, wrapping arms around her more firmly.
'I'm better now,' she tried, and they held each other for several moments. But it felt more like comfort than together.
She drew back a little, lifted his head…and she really wanted to ask, thought she might be able to take the answer now. 'But long before, you seemed concerned about it. I came back from Ohio, and it hadn't turned off right away—you started interrogating me about it—' she could see his dawning comprehension—'—were upset about it, right before…the first time.'
'That was…' his throat was working—'a mistake,' he confessed guiltily.
Yeah. Yeah. That was hard to hear.
'I couldn't take it back,' he continued. She stared at something over his shoulder, focused on swallowing and breathing normally. 'It wasn't supposed to happen.'
'Ok,' she said tightly, could take it but didn't want to hear any more. It was in the past. He'd so recently said he wanted her, and that was now.
'I had been—I had wanted you for awhile, but I knew I shouldn't. Fuck, you were so young.'
'You had wanted me for awhile then?' News to her; she had always darkly suspected he had kissed her as-as part of the argument…and then, she had pushed it, pushed him into sex. 'So it wasn't my skin? A-a lesson? What I would be missing?'
'No, I wanted you to think about it. Be careful. It meant so much to you, being able to control it. But, no, I was…angry still, and touchin' you, wantin' you, and I—I'm sorry.'
'Logan,' she admonished, gripping his shoulders firmly, 'Don't be sorry.' He hung his head—must have misconstrued that.
'You were so young, too young,' he spoke absently, looked up, distant look, 'Still are.'
'Logan. STOP. I wanted you, too.' He remained obdurately silent, brooding, so she continued, in some impatience. 'I can't change my age for you. But I can tell you that I never felt like you were taking advantage. I can tell you that, even if you always made the first move, I always wanted it, too.'
He looked grumpy and guilty and determined to make the worst of this, and that was what she had to change if they were to ever… 'What do you want—for it never to have happened?' she persisted in exasperation.
'YES,' he hissed, ducking out and rising in some agitation to face her, several feet away. 'Not then. I—' He must have registered her look of pained shock, 'Ah, hell, I don't know. I shouldn'ta done it.'
Calm down, be logical about this—because he only…only half meant it. Shakily, 'You have got some massive guilt complex on, you know that?'
'Well, I should,' he answered shortly.
Frustrating, very stupid man; no winning in telling someone not to feel guilty.
'You seemed fine for two years. There was none of this guilt,' she challenged. 'What's so different about now?'
He became firm now, controlled—so strange how he could pull that shield down so quickly at times like this—'It wasn't working anymore. I always figured, when I couldn't go back and change it, that it was ok, it'd be ok, if it was working for you. But it wasn't anymore.'
'We've been over this. I explained that stuff was going on with me lately, and I can't be—'
He swallowed, pressed an anxious finger to her lips. 'And it wasn't working for me, either.' Fell away.
She sucked in a breath, told herself to concentrate on the argument. 'I thought you said you want me,' she challenged.
He shut his eyes. 'I do.'
'Well, then,' she plowed on, spoke with great emphasis, 'I want you, too.'
'Listen, just—I'm willing to take responsibility for how I acted, how we got here. I'm willing to accept that that I need to be more assertive, need to choose. So, I am. W-we both want each other—I choose you.'
'Marie,' he shook his head, fingering her white lock, and she—for the first time, she recognized it as a distancing mechanism. And for the first time, she could see that he thought it was over. 'That's not enough.' Let go the lock: trying to persuade her that she should think it over, too.
'Why not?' Trying very hard to keep that steady. 'What would make it enough?'
'This isn't about that,' he swiped in some agitation, seemed to check himself, calm himself. 'It's about you.' He stepped back entirely, and…the distance felt insurmountable. 'You have to stop letting it happen. I have to stop letting you.'
'Letting it happen,' she parroted stupidly. 'What, you mean—Us? What makes you think…' Something about the words, she frowned, 'You mean, like Jean, what I said? You think for two years, I was with you just—' His pained, guilty look said that's exactly what he thought, and…ugh, DAMNIT—who did he think she was? Who did he think he was?
'What—because you're so goddamn easy?!' That did indeed shut him up, wiped that martyred look off his face. 'Well, listen up, bub, 'cause I take a lot of shit from you. I think we've established—you take a lot of shit from me?' He'd turned away; she gave him a good tug. 'Well, what makes you think we'd take it, unless we wanted it, unless I wanted it, too?'
'Rogue—' deep growl, lotta confusion—no real response.
She crossed her arms, pushed back a step. 'No, really. Feel free to come up with alternate theories here, Logan. I'm dying to know…why I put up with greasy boots and smelly socks, your scowls and snarls and brooding silences, your casual commands and irksome demands, that possessiveness, fucking overprotectiveness. And your cigars, which I admit, I sometimes like—'
'—but the smell kinda lingers in the upholstery. Well?' Tapping her foot, and he looked close to bolting—never knew how to handle her like this, and she ran her hands through her hair, guilty and frustrated and itchin' to pace. Fuck, she was fucking this up. Grr, ready to throttle him!
Even keel, more even keel. 'Sorry,' sotto voce, 'sorry, but…it was kinda your turn.' She braved a look at him, and, shit, he'd frozen, more fucking distant than ever…and she'd probably hurt him there, too. Just—level with him. 'Look, I don't know have my life all figured out, don't know everything I wanna do. I just know, whatever it is, I want to do it with you.'
'Y-you want me.' Not really a question, but evidently just the knowledge could paralyze him.
'Yes,' indelicate snort, trying to suppress an almost disgusting display of tears. 'Yes, Logan, I do.' Just gonna to go up to him and just sort of cling for awhile, see how that worked. 'I want you, I choose you, I fucking love you, ok?' Much easier to say this to his shirt, and he wasn't flinging her away yet, either. All positive, non-negative signs. Thick, thick skull—goddamn thick, thick skull.
She felt a soft hand in her hair—and she hated being a girl: she was going to cry or hit him. 'We can make this work, can't we?' she appealed, and when she looked up, he looked uncertain, too, just overwhelmed…like he didn't know how to move forward, small tentative touches to her brow, her hair, her shoulder still. Torn and regretful and yearning, still.
'We can make this work, and we're gonna,' she grabbed him. 'Because you want me and I want you, and I love you. And I'm really good at saying no, and, no surprise, so are you, and we're going to talk more and tell each other things and decide things together.'
'So…that's what we're gonna do. And…I'm going to treat this as a unanimous decision, here, u-unless you object, or—or have something you wanna add or change or something.'
Long moment, and she hoped he couldn't—knew he could—hear her heart racing, and no one could mistake the uneven breathing, but he just said, 'No.'
'Good,' she huffed. 'Ok. Glad you agree.' She eyed him, and he eyed back. 'That's settled.' And then she stood there stupidly, absently clinging, the moment going on and on, and they eyed each other uncomfortably.
'Huh, well. That was anticlimactic.' She peered up at him. 'Wasn't it? That ended really, really quickly.' Not that she wanted him to object, but…
She backed up a few confused steps, trying to think: if that was it, then what did they do now? Just the whole of their lives, she guessed. Life, the universe, and everything, and now that she thought about it, there were a lot of decisions to be made. Like: what she was gonna do for work, what they would tell Xavier, what they would do with their lives, how much she would dare with her skin, what would happen politically in the next few months, and how they were gonna live. Really exhausting, being the decider, and she felt for Logan a bit more than she had. Although following a leader who was making it up along the way—no picnic, either.
But he tugged her back for a second, slight hesitation in his touch, his voice. 'You—you love me?'
She loved how he cut through the crap. 'Yeah,' the slow smile not something she could help. She was going to kiss him…
But he grabbed her arms firmly, forced them apart. 'How long?' so interrogative, so demanding, so…Logan. Always making questions sound like commands, since the beginning.
'Oh, weeks and weeks…and weeks,' she teased, just smiling, and distracted by his mouth, which, she realized after a moment, wasn't. Oh, yeah, the question, his eyes harder now and searching hers. 'Since the beginning, sugar.' She reached up on tiptoes to kiss him again, but he stopped her, a breath away from his lips.
'Which beginning?' Wh—how many were there? He was seriously cutting into make-out time, but he looked almost nervous about her answer, so if he really had to nail it down—
'Since you touched me, since you fucked me, since you kissed me. Since you picked me up in your trailer and asked me my name. Since you promised you'd be back and did. Since you trained me and healed me and put up with my shit and did your damnedest to send me away. Since the beginning.' His withdrawn look made her pause, ask, 'Is that ok?'
'Since the beginning,' he echoed, and his suddenly tight grip told her it was ok. 'You were young then.' Almost a question.
She grinned. 'I'm older now, and it just gets better.'
'Yeah. You'll just have to wait and see.'
Leaning in for the—
'I'll go with you,' he interjected, sharp step back, and she was left kissing empty air.
Rats. Fine. So the rest of the talk was now.
'If you ask me, I'll go with you,' he repeated, almost formally.
That 'if', the 'ask', the noble, martyred expression…she was very tired suddenly.
'No,' she sighed. 'I'm not asking.' And he faltered, closed down. Shit, they had more problems than she thought. 'Come here.' It was the first time she'd ever said that to him, and it threw him off, too, took him a few moments, and he was hesitant. She placed her hands lightly on his hips, just a link. 'I'm not asking because I thought we'd already decided that we're staying together, that we're deciding together. So I'm telling you, Logan, I'm operating under that assumption, but I need to know if you're doing that, too.'
His grip tightened fractionally, then relaxed. 'Yes,' he inhaled sharply. 'I am.'
'Good. Now. Do you want to go?'
God, they still sucked at this. 'Look, I'm not going to let you put this all on me, just reverse our roles. We're going to decide this together. So, I don't want to go. Do you?'
He eyed her with distaste. 'I don't want you to stay for me.'
'I don't want you to go for me.' He shot her a frustrated look. Maybe it was time to tell him what she did want. 'I want you to stop feeling guilty. I want you to stop feeling like you're walking all over me. Stop being so…so careful with me!'
He ran a hand through his hair. 'I have to be careful,' he gritted, speaking almost to himself. 'Have to be. Because I know—anytime I want I can get you to agree.'
She felt so many things in response to that: anger, yes, and wounded pride, disbelief, mystification. But the charge was so ludicrous. 'Oh, yes?' she stuck her tongue in her cheek, though she doubted he could see. He'd begun to pace. 'Well, let's see. Go ahead. Try your methods of persuasion out on me.'
'It's not funny, Marie,' he chided, still with the pacing.
'It's a little funny, sugar,' she maintained, but yes, it was a little less funny. She was growing offended. 'Your ego is bigger than even I suspected. And you also need your memory checked. I say no to you all the time. All. The. Time.'
'Have you forgotten my leg, my stupid fucking leg? I'm not saying I won't be stubbornly wrong when I say no, just that I can say no and mean it.' She yanked him back, tried to hold him still, and he was trying. 'You can trust me on this: if I mean no, I say it. And if I say ok, it means that, too: ok.'
'But it's never yes,' he accused, shook her off. 'It's hesitation or ok, sometimes no. It's never yes.'
And as he said it, her mind flashed…to the start of their relationship, moving in, becoming an X-men. Over and over again. And maybe this was why he didn't trust her, had reservations. He was wrong, but perhaps he had reason. Because if she'd never felt secure, she'd also never been quite sure.
'Yes,' she admitted finally. 'Yes, that's true. Sometimes I was unsure, or didn't know. Sometimes you pushed…But I never meant no.' She made a grab for him, 'Come here, ya big lug.' And he came, grudgingly now.
'How was I supposed to know?' he batted her hands away ill-temperedly.
'You weren't. My fault. I'm sorry. I promise to work on it from now on.' He eyed her dubiously. 'And if I don't, call me on it! Ask me, outright. Scowl and snarl if you must. I give you permission.'
'I thought you didn't like my scowling and snarling,' he scowled.
She gave a half-snort, but it held affection. 'Part of the package, sugar.' She held him loosely at the shoulders, waited 'til he was looking at her to make this point. 'I'm strong enough to take you. Ya know, if you're strong enough to take me?' she tried, but he didn't crack a smile.
'Sometimes…' he began in a strange tone, studied her. 'Sometimes, I think you are.' He sighed and turned away, sat rather wearily on the bed once more.
'I am,' she pursued, puzzled, trying not to worry. 'I'm strong, and I'm not scared of you. I've seen you kill. I've seen you wild. I've seen you wildly angry with me. Today, that mission—
'That's not the worst of me,' he interjected. Tiredly.
'I appreciate it. I haven't shown you the worst of me, either.' He shook that off, angry glare, and ok, maybe it wasn't the same thing. But she didn't get this. She knew him, she'd seen, and…couldn't he see HER?
'I—I could force you,' he edged out after a moment.
Something she saw in his posture, something like shame, moved her to ask, 'How much force are we talking?'
He jerked his shoulder, turned down and away—so that much force. She sighed and slumped beside him on the bed. Because if he was going to go there, what could she say? It was true.
'Well, if you're going there, you have to admit we're pretty even. I could always kill you, if I wanted.' She peeked up, and he was very still, very quiet. 'But I don't, and you don't, either.' She exhaled heavily, prepared to confess it all. 'Although I was prepared to. Wolverine. That the mission. I was prepared to drain you, anyway.'
She wanted to say she was sorry, wished she could. But she didn't know how, not when she knew she'd do it again.
'I know,' he said, arm creeping round her. 'I'm glad,' squeezing gently, and she squeezed her eyes shut. Because he forgave her too easily for that, trusted her too much with it. He always had. She supposed they were pretty even in that, too.
She slid onto his lap, straddled him so their eyes were even, to force him to see.
'Look, I'll take the worst of you, if you'll take the worst of me,' she smiled sadly, his eyes so dark and close, reflecting back at her. 'I'll take the worst because I'm getting the best, too. That best can be pretty wonderful.'
'Ok,' he finally agreed, and at her raised brow, his mouth quirked very slightly. 'Yes.'
Good, a joke even. And she loved him. Although he seemed to need telling, again and again. Maybe that was her fault. 'So what do you want? Do you want to leave?' she prompted.
Maybe he did. He'd been here a long time, actually. She was beginning to think that living with him, touching him didn't help her much at all.
He growled low, and she wondered if he'd ever tell her things without this hesitation.
'I don't want you to be an X-man anymore. I don't want you go out on missions anymore.' Ferocious glare, too.
Ah, she was beginning to understand his reticence.
'I don't like them for you, either. But I'm not going to tell you not to. And I won't let you tell me.'
He leaned in, he challenged. 'No?'
'No,' she pressed back, and when it took him so long to relax, she knew it hadn't been for show, not entirely.
'Damn obstinate,' he muttered, but a gritty smile. He did, in fact, prefer her that way.
'Goes both ways, sugar.'
She got a more natural grin back, but it faded slowly, and he found her hand, traced the fingers as he used to, before they'd ever been a couple. 'Not always. Not recently.' He looked up. 'What changed?'
She didn't know if she could explain everything, but at its heart, it was simple. 'I—it was up to me this time. You said I had to choose.' She curled her hands around his. 'I loved you. It was easy.'
He seemed to ponder that. Hesitantly, 'So I should leave everything up to you?'
'How well would that work?' she scoffed, and he frowned, looked away. 'No, I think it should work…by you calling me on my shit, and me calling you on yours. And you telling me what you want, and me telling you.' He regarded her steadily, and she gave a half-laugh, 'Actually, I think we're pretty good at the first part. It's the second part that needs work.'
He gave a half-smile back, and he was serious. It was exhausting being this serious. 'So what do you want?'
'You,' she answered, about all she was sure of now. 'I mean, maybe it's wrong, and you're right that it's bad. But the thing I want most, it's you.' She traced his brow, swallowed. 'I could live without you. But I don't want to.'
'I want you, too,' he returned, so solemnly she was in danger of crying again. She swallowed.
'I could stand to hear that more often, sugar. You know, without the yelling bit?' She smiled, but it wasn't really a joke. He cupped her head, a thumb making a swipe across her cheek, and yes, those were treacherous tears he was wiping away.
'Sorry,' he whispered.
She grabbed his hand, pressed it. 'Me, too.'
Ok, enough with the dramatic moments, the tears and declarations.
She blinked back, drew back, arranged herself more comfortably on his lap, a distraction. 'You realize nothing has been decided? Still!' she reminded him dejectedly. 'We suck at this. Why do you think that is?' Picking absently at the seam on his shirt.
'We're getting better,' he offered, hopefully.
God, that was so cute. She softened. 'Yeah, we are. We will. Can the rest wait, though? I'm exhausted.'
He smiled, and she buried her head in the crook of his shoulder, took a moment to breathe him in. She wished she had more energy; she'd do something about all this turned-off skin, for one. But there were compensations to just being held, too. Lovely circles he was drawing on her back. Mmm... 'I had a terrible day today. Up 'til now.' Yeah, that was a whine. But she was tired. 'How 'bout you?'
There was silence for a few moments, and then she felt it—rumbling, vibrations deep in his chest, and when she leaned back to take a look, he was laughing, really laughing. And suddenly she was, too.
They flopped back on the bed together, rolled over, smiled, and he reached out a hand, touched her cheek. 'We'll be ok.'
'Sugar, for all this work, we better be better than ok.'
He grinned, one of those slanted, amused ones. 'We'll be good, then.' Sexy smile there, too. He was gorgeous and hers, and she loved him. She was beginning to believe him, too.