A/N: So, I'd forgotten that I'd written this until just yesterday. I think it's because I posted it on the Wolverine and Rogue Fanfiction Archive when I did write it and then Puck The Muse moved on from the X-Men fandom and I just totally forgot to post this onto here. Oh, well. Enjoy now, yes?
The quotes that divide each section are from the song, "Cup of Coffee" by Garbage.
I didn't change anything substantive to post it onto here, except I made a few tweaks here or there in terms of grammar and such.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or the world in which they live. I am not the creator of the song quoted. I make no money or profits from the posting of this writing.
Cup of Coffee
"You tell me you don't love me over a cup of coffee / and I just have to look away..."
Her momma once told her she was too direct for her own good. For a small town southern lady, being direct was worse than anything. (Except, maybe, being a mutant). But Marie had never figured out what was so wrong with saying what she felt and being clear with what she thought.
Still, being a mutant sort of overshadowed even that, and for a long while, she lost herself (and not just because she had the imprints of five males rolling around in her head). She just lost herself, in everything that she was becoming and in her new life and new feelings. Those first few years after she 'manifested' (as the professor had put it) she felt, most of the times, like she was being dragged along through her life, with little input of her own and all she could do was try to keep up and in the mad dash she felt like pieces of who she was, who Marie was, went falling off like loose pieces of a house during a hurricane.
Her directness fell off somewhere between Meridian, Mississippi and Topeka, Kansas. She got it back, though. Round about the same time she started getting used to the idea of what she'd become (not accepting, mind, but used to) and as safety and good food filled out the hollow places in her body and in her soul.
So, come her 18th birthday, she was about as direct as ever she had been -- maybe more so, because she wasn't a little girl with big dreams stuck in a small southern town anymore. And although part of her understood what her momma had meant about subtlety and knowing how to put things, she still held firm to the belief that sometimes (most of the times) the direct approach was best.
So, the morning after her 18th birthday, sitting in a 24 hour greasy spoon off the I-278 Eastbound as the sunrise turned from pinks to oranges, with steaming mugs of coffee between them, she told him.
"I love you."
And she should have known better than to think he would do anything but be just as direct with her. They had been dancing around this issue for years, not because he wasn't the kind to be direct about it (even blunt, truth be told), but because he seemed to be taking her lead about it.
There was an apology in his eyes, but she was infinitely grateful he didn't vocalize it. She wouldn't be able to stand it if he apologized for not loving her. But she found she couldn't look at him anymore and looked away, at the spot on the Formica table-top where some long forgotten thing had burned the top layer, leaving it brown.
"Okay," she said her voice tight, but otherwise normal. She expected this, of course; it was within the realm of probabilities (likely, even) so she wasn't so shocked she forgot her pride.
Her momma had also always taught her to carry enough money with her to get herself back home from anywhere by taxi if she had to, and she was glad suddenly that lesson -- if not many more-- had stuck with her, because she was able to grab her bag, say, "Thanks for the coffee," and "I'll see you at home" and walk away to the street outside, where cabs were plenty. She didn't know whether he watched her as she hailed one and got inside -- she couldn't look at him, even as the taxi made a u-turn right outside the window where she'd just been sitting.
"…so no of course we can't be friends / not while I still feel like this…"
It had been days (weeks? months?) since she'd last seen him, and that had been fine because she wasn't certain she was ready to see him and if anybody had suspected anything when they heard she came home from her birthday celebration in the city (the one he was supposed to pick her up from) in a taxi, no one said anything to her and she was thankful for that too. Like good friends, they asked no questions, but helped her pretend nothing was wrong and that everything was the same, even though they had to notice how she never seemed to be in the same room with him anymore, and how his name never left her lips.
All in all, it wasn't until she came home one afternoon and looked up and he was there, on the stairs, looking at her and it occurred to her that it had been months, because she was in college then, just rounding out her first week of classes. She stood frozen for a few moments, one hand on the doorknob, another on the wide strap of her bag where she'd been about to slide it over and off.
She exhaled, her eyes shuttering in on themselves and for what seemed like eons, they stared at each other.
Then, Jubilee's voice called out to her from the rec room, breaking the tension, even if Marie hadn't really heard what she said. When Jubilee's footsteps sounded, she tore her eyes away from him to watch her friend stand in the entrance to the rec room.
"I thought that was you, chica," Jubilee said, smiling, because she hadn't noticed him standing still on the stairs. "Are we going running or what?" she asked, then, looked absently at the stairs and froze, slowly turning back to look at her. "Uh..."
But Marie was used to pretending now, so it took her only a moment to slip into a smile, close the door and finish pulling the bag off her shoulder. "I'll be right down," she told her friend. "It'll take me five minutes to change," she said easily walking toward the stairs. "I promise!" she called back as she took the stairs, two at a time, ignoring the fact that he didn't move an inch out of her way and she had to squeeze slightly passed, even though the stairs were usually wide enough to climb four people across.
"I'm counting!" Jubilee called back.
She had reached her room, dropped the bag on the floor by the door and kicked off her shoes by the time she heard the door open. She stopped in the middle of unbuttoning her blouse and turned around to find him taking over the doorway.
"Marie--" he spoke.
"I've gotta change," she interrupted him.
He shook his head. "We've gotta talk."
"No," she said. "No we don't."
"Enough, Marie," he said, and his tone had an edge of anger that grated on her nerves, dragging up the anger she had settled on as easier to deal with than the pain.
"I agree," she said, and her tone was hard. "Leave, please."
"No," he said, coming inside and closing the door behind him. "Not until we settle this."
"There's nothing to settle."
"You've been avoiding me."
She took a moment to gaze disbelievingly at him. "Yes," she answered, as if it should've been obvious. "So?"
He raked a hand through his perpetually messy hair and shook his head again. "I don't want you to."
She sighed. "I can't help that."
And she almost laughed. Was he really so oblivious? "What do you want from me?" she asked.
"I want you to not be mad at me," he answered.
She still wasn't meeting his eyes, was hardly looking at his face. "I'm not mad at you," she admitted softly.
"Then what the hell's all this about, Marie?" he exploded. "Are you punishing me or something for your birthday?"
She was angry again, but not really at him. "This isn't about you, Logan," she said, exasperated. "This is about me -- the way I feel and the fact that I can't look at you right now without thinking that you can't love me."
He opened his mouth, but she stood and stopped him by speaking first. "No, Logan," she insisted. And she knew, the way she always tended to, what he was trying to say, what his concerns were, even without his saying them aloud. "We can't go back to being friends, not right now, not while I still feel like this." She went to her door and held it open. "I know it's not your fault and I don't blame you, but…" she trailed off for a moment, then sighed. "Just please go."
As he walked out, she knew that it wasn't his fault, she really didn't blame him for not loving her, and she knew one day she'd prefer to be his friend, she'd prefer for things to be the way they had been instead of having him so completely out of her life as he was, but she also knew that it would have to wait until such time as she could look at him without remembering that she would never know what it felt like to be loved by someone who she loved that much.
"...I guess I always knew the score / this is where our story ends ..."
He was gone within the hour, and although she had asked him to leave, she hadn't really thought he'd leave the Mansion entirely. If she had thought about it, perhaps she would have, but she didn't. She didn't quite know how to feel about it, because a part of her was glad he was gone -- glad she'd have time away from even the threat of running into him, or seeing him while she was unprepared. She also knew that ultimately, it wasn't healthy because all she was doing was pushing her feelings aside instead of dealing with them, but she was tired of always doing the right thing; of always thinking of others first and she wanted to be selfish for once. And another part of her was sadder than she'd ever been in her life, because she knew letting him leave had been it, that they'd reached the end of their story, and that things would never be the same between them.
"…a million miles between us…"
It didn't hit her until later, with the force of a punch to the gut, that she had done this – that he had tried to talk to her, and she tried to feel guilty, but a part of her was glad that, in this at least, she'd been the one with the power – that she hadn't whimpered or begged like a child – that he hadn't even seen her cry. And although she swore she hadn't been trying to punish him for not loving her, she couldn't make herself care if he felt as if he'd lost a friend (or, whatever she had been to him in his mind) because in the end, even though she was mature enough to know she couldn't blame him for something he had no control over, she still wasn't mature enough to forgive him.
He was gone for a long time; days rolling into weeks, and weeks into months, until one day, unexpectedly, she realized she hadn't thought of him for more than two days put together and she suddenly felt the pang of missing him. Not the ache of an old wound, but the emptiness of a space too long void. She wanted to talk to him, to just sit and hear each other speak about the thousand things she hadn't been able to talk about with anyone else, and which they had always been able to talk about – before she ruined it all.
And for the first time since the morning after her 18th birthday and that dingy diner off the I-278 Eastbound, she longed for the friend he'd been more than she hurt for the lover he'd never be and she thought that if he could forgive her for ruining their friendship, she would very much like to see him again.
Nearly a year passes before the Professor calls her into his office and asks her to sit down.
No one had spoken to her about him, or asked what she knew of his reasons for leaving, and after a while, she thought her initial suspicion that he had left because she asked him to had been a foundless conceit; one more way in which she fancied herself more important to him than she had been, and she had been aware enough at the time of her potential for cruelty that the thought soothed the remorse she felt of the reactions she had indulged in at the time.
The Professor asks. He is every bit of subtlety that she herself never would even know how to be, and doesn't ask her what she knows of his reasons (perhaps he doesn't have to) but he lets her know that he's needed.
She's convinced herself that it wasn't because of her that he left, and asks the Professor what he might expect her to do to bring him home, but the Professor just looks at her and she knows she'd been lying to herself.
"I know where he is, Rogue, but I do not believe anyone else can bring him home."
And she grows defensive, as she usually does and lashes out even as the tears sting her eyes. "I never asked him to leave the damn Mansion," she says angrily, but the Professor knows she's not angry at him. "I just needed some space," she looks at the Professor and knows he understands, even though she doesn't deserve any understanding. She digs the apple of her palm into the sockets of her eyes, sitting on the Professor's comfortable leather couch. The stitched seams of her gloves bite harder than her naked palm would have, but she doesn't care if it'll stop the tears from falling. "I couldn't look at him," she whispers it because she's ashamed again.
"Go to him."
She shakes her head at his quiet words, knowing above anything else that she shouldn't go to him; that going to him would be the absolute worst thing she could do. "I can't." She shakes her head again, more emphatically. "He tried, but I was a selfish bitch," she sighs. "Why would he listen to me? He'll just kick me out, slam the door in my face."
"If you think you're as bad as all that, then isn't it his prerogative?"
Her palms come off her eyes and she blinks back the lights and the tears and stares blearily at the Professor's kindly face. "Yes," she admits, nodding. "Yes, it is." And with another sigh, she stands.
"…you left behind some clothes / my belly summersaults and I pick them off the floor…"
She's learned a few things over the years, and it isn't any great hardship to pick the lock of the ramshackle motel he'd chosen for the last few days. She knows he's at a nearby bar and probably would be for hours yet, but she doesn't want to confront him there, so she settles in to wait, sitting in the lone chair and sipping from a paper cup filled with too sweet coffee she'd bought in the vending machine in the corner.
She finds it ironic that after all this time, it isn't the finding him or picking a place to confront him that is difficult, but the waiting that nearly does her in.
She doesn't know what she'll say to him because she knows that apologizing won't make a dent. She understands that about him, just as he does about her, but it leaves her with a dearth of words. She is half afraid she'll lose her courage and leave before he comes, and sits instead, looking at the empty room he'd come back to for days, noting the scent of him in the air, the bed the motel staff hadn't bothered to remake. A pair of jeans, a t-shirt sprawled near the bed. She's up and picking them up off the floor before she can think, her stomach summersaults unexpectedly at the smell of him on them and she's holding them a little tightly for a few moments, until it passes and she folds them on top of the bed.
It occurs to her after she's been waiting for a good hour and a half that this isn't the best laid plan; he can probably smell her even from the other side of the door. He could leave and she'd never know it and end up waiting there all night. He'd just turn around and go if he was pissed enough, he wouldn't need any of the few things he had in the room, he didn't have to come inside at all…and why should he, she wonders?
Still, when she hears the footfall on the hallway outside, she goes utterly still, holding her breath, and is grateful that the people in the room next door had shut off the damn TV and that there was only silence so she could listen. She knows he's sensed her inside, but couldn't tell anyone how. She thinks she might do best getting up and opening the door before he could decide this isn't worth his trouble and walks away, but for what seems to be the longest time, she can't move.
Finally, she thinks she hears him taking a step away from the door and that spurs her to stand, to take a step toward the door, but she hasn't raised her foot to take another before the door is suddenly open and she's staring at him silhouetted by the garish fluorescent lighting in the hall.
"…I want to ask where I went wrong / But don't say anything at all…"
She can't speak, though her lips are opened and her tongue is working and there are too many words swirling in her mind to pick the right ones, and even in the unnatural light she can see his eyes change, can see that he's wondering if all she's doing here is nothing and the only thing that comes is the truth she never thought of speaking.
"I missed you."
And her voice is breathy, as if she'd just run a marathon, and it's so much more vulnerable than she ever thought to be, and she doesn't know what else to say.
She can feel it, that it's not enough, that he's thinking of reasons other than what she meant, and one part of her isn't surprised because she had told him they couldn't be friends, she had told him that she couldn't look at him, or she had thought it, she couldn't remember which suddenly, and she knew she had to say something else, but she didn't know what.
"I didn't want you to go."
He walks into the room and a quick flick of his wrist has the door closing behind him and in the weak light from the bedside table, she sees the blood on his shirt, the rip in his jeans, and she knows it's been a tough night, but her eyes drink him in anyway, and for a moment, she feels the tug of desire tear through her, but she fights it back because now she's mature enough to sacrifice her desire on the altar of friendship.
"You're lying, kid."
And she doesn't know if he's talking about her decision to stamp out her desire or what she'd actually spoken aloud. "No," she argues. She sees it in his eyes and she shakes her head. "Okay, maybe I did want you to go, but I never wanted you to—"
"What?" He's walking through the room and she's turning to keep him in sight, the way she would a wild animal, and he's dropping things like his saddle bags and jacket along the way.
"To leave forever," she finishes. She sees the disbelief in his eyes and suddenly can't stand it anymore. "God, Logan, what?" she asks, exasperated. "What do you want me to say?" She shoves the hair away from her eyes and can't stand still suddenly. She walks to the window and looks out at the desolate parking lot. "I was wrong," she admits, "I was a stupid brat, and I was wrong."
"You were wrong," he echoes and she can't read the inflection, whether he's surprised or agreeing, or disbelieving and it occurs to her just what he might think she was talking about so she turns to face him again.
"I won't take back what I said," she says. "I won't," she reiterates, as if there had been any doubt he heard her. "I won't take back that I love you," she insists. "But I was a stupid immature kid and I didn't know how to deal with the fact that you didn't love me back." She turns her back on him again, looks back out at the window where a mangy dog is sniffing around a discarded paper bag. "I don't know if you left because of me," she admits on a whisper. "But if you did…" she trails off and sighs. "Don't." She lowers her head to rest her forehead on the window and it's cool. "I'll pretend I don't," she whispers and her breath fogs up the glass. "I won't say a word," she assures him, her eyes opening and searching for his reflection in the glass. "I'll even understand if you don't even want to be friends anymore, or if you won't give me a chance to show you I can be happy with just that." She sees him standing just over her left shoulder, but she can't tell how close. "Just…" she turns around, meets his eyes. "…come home."
"Is that it?" and his jaw is tight, his fingers twitching, as he stands across from her, seemingly waiting.
"I don't know what else to say," she confesses. "What more do you want from me?"
"Do you really think we can go back to being," he falters for a moment, "whatever we were, just like that?"
She's angry suddenly, angry that he's questioning her, expecting something from her but not telling her what. She wants to ask what she did wrong, because she feels that it was more than just pushing him away when he was trying to make things normal between them almost a year ago, standing here in front of him, she finally realizes that it has to be more than that. She wants to ask how he would expect her to have told him she loved him, how the scene could've played out any differently and not had her offering him false smiles and pretending like she was fine and nothing had changed. But she can't say a word.
She sits on the chair she'd vacated with the force of her epiphany, because she finally realizes that if she was selfish about something, if she was protective of something it wasn't her pride, it was the fact that she loved him at all. She had known (some part of her had known) that the only way to make it better had been to pretend it never happened, but that would have meant minimizing her love, sweeping it under the rug, and she hadn't been ready to do that then.
She still wasn't.
But she would pretend. If he'd let her.
His voice, her name, and the tears were stinging her eyes, but she couldn't keep from looking at him. "If not like this, then how," she said her voice tight with the effort of keeping back the tears.
He sighed. "Marie."
"Stop saying my name, damnit," she exclaims, "and just tell me what I have to do to fix this," she demands. "If not like this, then tell me how. Tell me what you need, Logan," she looks up at him and she's surprised by how close he is suddenly. "Just…"
But his hands are burning through the cloth covering the skin of her shoulders and he shakes her just a little and she sees the anger in his eyes. "You push me away, you leave me alone to face the fact that you love me for nearly a fucking year, Marie, and now you want to fix this?" he demands. "A year," and he shakes her a little again and she can't fight him, even if she thought she would win, because she's looking in his eyes again and he's talking to her again and she knows its messed up, but even this is something she can't resist. "of knowing I couldn't have you the way you wanted me to and that you wouldn't have me the only way I could have you, and now you're—"
His words finally make it through her consciousness and she frowns at him, confused. "Logan—"
"No, Marie," he insists. "You said it," he reminds her. "We can't be friends," and although she winces at her words flung back at her, she still doesn't struggle, still only looks confused, not hurt. "Not after you make it so hard to pretend and then throw me away—"
"I didn't--" she tries, but he doesn't let her finish.
His lips are on hers, his hands gripping her shoulders, and although she panics with the skin to skin contact and her hands flex with the need to push him away, she relishes in the way his lips are bruising hers, the way his tongue invades her mouth, the taste of him rolling through every one of her senses until she feels the tug of her mutation, the first press of his conscious and she fights him, pushes at him.
"Stop it, Logan!" she exclaims, breathless when their mouths part.
And although he's stopped kissing her, he hasn't let her go. "No," he says, breathless himself with the effort of keeping conscious from even such a small touch of her power. He brings her close and she's ready to fight him again, but he rests his forehead on her hair. "I won't," and she can feel his breath on her skin, the way his hands holding her arms aren't holding her tight enough to bruise anymore.
And despite the fact he almost killed himself to kiss her, despite the fact he's just said such a thing and is so close, she says the first thing that occurs to her. "But you said you don't love me."
"I lied," he admits.
She can't get away fast enough, the tears coming to her eyes no matter what she tries to stop them, but they're from anger this time and she wrenches herself out of his hands. She pushes at his chest and he's still weak enough to stumble onto his knees and she turns to the door. "You bastard," she exclaims. "All these months, this whole year and you –" she turns back to him, unconcerned with the fact he's still kneeling on the ground. "You bastard!" she repeats for lack of a better word.
She turns back to the door, yanks it open and is halfway down the parking lot before he's behind her, vice like grip on her forearm this time, and although she tries to wrench herself out of his grasp again, he recovers quickly and he isn't weak anymore and he stops her.
"No more running, Marie," his voice is gruff and he turns her to face him before she can say anything. "You wanted this," he tells her. "You love me," he flings it like an accusation, "and you wouldn't let me pretend otherwise," his eyes are stormy and his face is tight and she's breathing hard and she wants him to kiss her again, but she doesn't know that she doesn't want to be angry with him more for putting her through it all.
"Why'd you put me through all that, Logan?" she finally asks. "Why? A year!"
"Do you think I want to love you?" he demands hotly. "Do you think I want to watch you age, or know that you're hurting when I can't? Do you think I want to leave you behind?" he insists. "Do you, Marie?"
The tears are running down her cheeks, and for once she hadn't felt them coming. "So don't," she says. "Don't even worry what I feel," she's still angry and it shows. "Don't worry that I'd be willing to be whatever you'll accept just to spend time with you, even if I will grow old and you won't." She glares at him. "Stay here and don't grow old all by yourself for all I care," she writhes to get out from his touch, but he isn't letting her go.
"It's too late for that now," he says and his voice is low and softer than she'd ever heard it. "You might come to regret this," he warns. "I know I will," he admits. "But it's too late now," he finishes and before she could say another word, he's kissing her again, so gentle and soft she can taste her own tears on his lips, stopping before her mutation kicks in. "You've got me now," he whispers against her cheek, his arms wrapping around her to anchor her firmly in place. His hands cradle the back of her head and angle her head to look up at him. "Do you understand?"
And she does. She finally does.
"...it took a cup of coffee..."