AN: Chapter 11 still isn't done yet, and my other works are lying neglected in the light of about 1,000 pictures to edit (I don't think I've ever mentioned my little free-lance photography business – I've had it for years; it makes no money)... Regardless, in a bout of insomnia (it seems tonight is not one to be spent in a half-empty bed) I thought I'd go ahead and share. Hope this holds you over until I can eek out a few more pages.
– The Park –
He couldn't account for the silence that settled over the car, or at least had settled over the car until the phone rang. She'd snagged it from where it had been charging, sitting in the cup holder and, unlike him, had managed to check the caller ID before answering. That left him trying to politely ignore the one-sided conversation beside him, it wasn't working.
"Hello, Storm... Fine... Honestly... Well I've got a lot of reasons to not like flying anymore but it wasn't so bad... How are Bobby and Kitty?... I know... I know that too... You'll call if there's any change, right?... Me?... I'm still cold but I feel solider again... None. A zero, just like before... I'm fine, really... I know he wishes I could've stuck around for him to keep an eye on... That's right... Just crossed into New Mexico... Meeting at ten tomorrow? We should be able to make it... I'll try... Right... We'll let you know how it goes."
The sign read 'Clayton Lake State Park -Next Right' and it looked like the invitation that he'd been waiting for. She didn't comment on the sign or the fact that he'd taken the turn. He turned into the park entrance and began searching for a quiet place where she could continue her story. She just sat quietly until he pulled into a parking spot near the lake and pointed toward a picnic table under an awning.
She smiled appreciatively and got out of the car, pausing to stretch for a moment. He hung back as she started toward the water's edge, watching her relaxed movements. He was relieved that she showed no signs of tension over his earlier outburst when she turned to him and gave him a pointed look that said, 'Are you coming or not?'
He followed her to the picnic table where she climbed up and sat with her feet on the seat and pulled his coat tighter around her. He stood nearby, leaned against one of the posts.
"So you waited til I was gone because?"
"Because I didn't want anyone to think it was about you," she said as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"It's not like they're not going to be talking now," he said, rethinking his plans for the first time since he'd seen her in the airport.
"I know, but that's not the point. When I'm upset you sometimes..."
"Overreact?" he offered.
"That's one way of saying it," she agreed. "I didn't want you threatening to tear the kid's head off when he'd done nothing wrong."
She just quirked an eyebrow at him.
"Alright, so Danger Room sessions might have gotten a little more intense," he admitted, hoping it wouldn't make her too mad.
She smiled. "But there would've been no need in that and it would've just made everyone else suspicious."
There were a lot of things about this conversation that he didn't entirely follow. "So you dumped him because he was... boring?"
"That's part of it."
He lowered himself onto the table beside her and added the fact that he was actually wanting to hear and understand things from her point of view to the list of things that she'd changed about him. "What's the rest of it?"
"We dated for over a year before I got the 'cure' and the whole time he was so careful, always adamant that I wouldn't hurt him, but always restrained. Never that one thing that might lead to another, you know? I don't blame him, mind you. Once I got the 'cure' he was still so careful. Like he was afraid he might hurt me or something. It was like he was starting over with someone new entirely. It took him a whole month to decide to kiss me. It was like 'you're not going to hurt me' turned into 'I don't want to rush you' overnight."
This surprised Logan, but he didn't say anything, just let her continue.
"We never... We never... a hell, you know... I really can't believe I'm having this conversation with you of all people."
"Don't worry about it. Just keep talking."
"We never had sex. Never got anywhere close. Okay? He finally stayed in my room one night, about two and a half months ago, but not for that, just to stay. He slept under the covers and I slept on top. He's cold to the touch; in retrospect, not someone you'd want to share a bed with in the first place. I had a nightmare: woke up screaming."
"One of mine?"
He pulled her in tight, "I'm so damn sorry, Kid."
He wasn't sure why she let the 'Kid' slide but he was glad that she did and continued. "He didn't know how to handle it. What to say. When he first woke up he tried to put as much distance between us as he could without actually leaving the bed. He didn't try to calm me down, just waited it out. He ended up off the bed completely. He had to put a little more distance between us. Once I finally got calmed down and quit swinging, he tried to get me to talk about it. Never reached out to comfort me, but for days he wanted me to talk about it."
"What did you tell him."
"I told him I couldn't. That it wasn't my dream. That it was something that was left of someone else in my head and that it wouldn't be right to share."
"Did you tell him it was me?"
"He just said that he thought the cure was supposed to take care of all of that. I had to explain that I got people's memories too, and that some things don't go away. As far as who's it was, I don't think he had to ask... I tried to stab him."
She reached for his free hand and traced lines between his knuckles. "Tried to stab him with claws I don't have."
She shrugged. "It happens. Sometimes takes you a little while to know where you are when you come around right?"
"Well sometimes it takes me a little while to know who I am. Or when it is. Anyway, I think I scared him. After that he claimed something about morals and values and from then on I slept in my room and he slept in his."
"You know you're making a case for the more intense Danger Room sessions."
"He's just a kid too, Logan, like the rest of them. And that was a lot of it."
"He was a kid. I've got a lot of memories rattling around up here. Pieces of him. Pieces of David, Maxine, Stu, Pyro... Of Magneto. Of you."
"Who were Maxine and Stu?"
"Maxine was an EMT who checked me over when they came to the house for David."
"Remember Laughlin City?"
He nodded. How could he forget Laughlin City.
"Stu was the guy with the knife. He tried to follow me outside when I was following you. I think he was really going after you but I don't know. He was just a short-lived flash. I didn't even get many memories from him, just stunned him."
"There's been others too. Most like Stu and Maxine are totally gone except for the few memories. Still, there's well over three hundred years of combined life experience that's been through my head. I could ignore it when we were younger, pretend that I hated it because it was part of my mutation, but after the cure I realized it was a part of me. Suddenly he seemed like a child to me. Everything he seemed to care about outside of what he was doing with the X-Men seemed trivial. I've got what feels like first hand experience of the Holocaust and several wars in my head. What the hell do I care about what movie's being released next weekend or what band's going to be in town?"
"The Holocaust?" he asked. He wasn't about to question her on the wars. He knew he'd seen at least two in his dreams.
"So as soon as I got the opportunity, I ended it. I tried to explain it at first but he didn't seem to get it. I ended up playing the it's-not-you-it's-me-card and telling him that he wasn't doing anything wrong it was just that I wasn't happy."
"How'd that go?"
"He sort of went off. He accused me of wanting someone else. Then he said I was weak," Marie admitted. Logan could feel a growl forming in the back of his throat, but he managed to tamp it down. "He said I always have been. That I ended up with a mutation that was worthless and inconvenient so I just got rid of it. Compared it to an abortion. Said no guy would want a girl with that tendency anyway."
The growl escaped, but he managed to keep the claws sheathed. "That little..."
"It doesn't matter. There's been times I've thought that myself. I was always a freak among freaks, the cure just made it worse."
Not entirely of his own violation, he gripped her tightly around the upper arms and held her at arms-length where she had no choice but to look at him. "Don't you ever say that," his voice came out lower than usual and through clenched teeth. "You hear me? Those kids have no damn clue what you've gone through. Not everyone gets to play with ice or walk through walls or float things across a room or live some fucking nice neat little life. They got no right to judge. None! And don't you forget it."
"Logan, I know that. That's why it doesn't bother me," she said in a soothing tone.
"Well it damn sure should bother you. Hell, it bother's me."
"I can see that. A little less grip, please?"
"What? Oh," he said, releasing his grip and gently rubbing his palms up and down her arms. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"
He knew the tone of her voice well enough to hear the little bit of the pain he'd obviously missed before. "Can I see?"
She rolled her eyes, pulled one arm out of the coat and pushed her sleeve up as far as it would go. An angry looking red mark showed between the top of her glove and her bunched up sleeve.
"Oh God, I'm sorry." The last thing he wanted to do was cause her pain.
She tugged he sleeve back down and pulled his coat back around her. "Don't worry about it. It'll be gone by morning. Doesn't even really hurt anymore."
"Marie, that's going to leave a bruise."
"No, it won't." He was confused, he knew noticeably so, until she continued. "I told you I heal faster now."
"How much faster?" he asked.
"It's not like I could start healing a bullet wound before the slug's the whole way through like you do if that's what you're asking. Now where was I?"
"You were giving me reasons to maim the Iceman."
"No. I was telling you what happened."
"Alright," he allowed, returning to his former pose of sitting beside her staring out over the lake.
"He steered clear of me for a few days and then the rumors we talked about earlier finally got around to him. I figured they already had when he spouted off that 'someone else' shit but I was wrong. He got a little confrontational but Kitty tuned him up. She's almost as much of a spitfire as Jubilee when she wants to be. She really gave him the what-for over the whole thing. She's smart enough to know how things really are. She even tried to get me to call you that night."
"But you didn't," he was surprised at how much that disappointed him.
"I told her that I thought you'd be home in a few days and I'd talk to you then. She went and got your itinerary to show me that I'd be waiting longer than I thought, tried to get me to call again, but I didn't want to bother you. Besides, he avoided me for almost a week. Until night before last, actually. I don't know if he decided he'd been a jerk or someone had pointed it out, but he came to apologize."
"He didn't have the right."
"Maybe not, but that didn't mean he deserved... Well... I turned in early. It was only about nine-thirty, I must have just fallen asleep, I ended up having to help with two self defense classes for the younger ones and I was worn out. Kitty was still awake, sitting in bed reading, I think. Bobby came into my room, sat down on my bed, and tried to wake me up. He grabbed my arm and shook it and when I woke up I grabbed his wrist to stop him. I was half awake and was going to ask him what he was doing there when I felt it. I pulled back, let go of him, but the muscles in his hand had contracted."
"And Kitty helped get him off of you?" He found the very thought of the entire scene heart-wrenching, but knew that she had to get this off her chest so he pushed her to continue.
"She saw what was happening, but I don't know if what she was seeing really registered. I kept shoving him away but he couldn't let go. I think she broke a couple of his fingers when she pried his hand loose, but it was like she was caught in the current in the process. He was already unconscious when she got his hand free. She was weak. She laid her hand on my shoulder and asked if I was alright: my bare shoulder. She just... wilted, and I screamed."
"Who came?" If he'd been at the mansion, there was no doubt who the first person to her door would have been, even if he'd been all the way down in the garage or the Danger Room. Still, he needed to know who was willing to take care of her in his absence.
"Peter. He was looking in on a couple of the younger ones a few doors down, helping with bed checks. Storm wasn't far behind him."
She took a deep breath and he was past the point of being able to resist pulling her closer to him. He rested a hand on the curve of her waist and waited for her to continue.
"Colossus took them downstairs to Hank. Storm talked me through the hysterics, gave me Kitty's robe to put on , and made me go down to see Hank too. He took care of Bobby and Kitty first, of course, and while he was doing that Storm took down my version of what happened. Hank put me through a full battery of tests: blood-work, blood pressure, reflexes, balance, MRI, some sort of a quickie memory thing with flash cards, even took a skin sample."
"I went up to my room. I paced. I screamed. I cried. I thought about running away. I finally broke down and called you."
"You can do that any time. I'm just sorry I wasn't there."
"I know you can't always be there," she said, inching a bit closer to him and laying her head on his shoulder, as though the retelling had worn her out. He almost thought that she as going to fall asleep when she spoke. "Thank you, Logan."
"I'm pretty sure you didn't bring me out here to listen to my left-over teenage drama. I didn't need to put you through hearing about everything with Bobby."
"Never thought a whole lot of the kid, but he seemed to make you happy."
"You should've said something."
"I'm not your dad."
"No, you're my friend. And an eerily good judge of character."
"Alright. Next time I'll tell you." She didn't respond and for once he knew what he'd said wrong. "You're going to get a chance. I don't know exactly how yet, but I promise we'll work it out."
"I believe you. I'm just not sure... I did a lot of thinking while I was 'cured'. These college classes I've been taking have been interesting and all but I'm not so sure that's the route I want. And once I'd figured it out I'd already all but removed the option."
"You're wanting back in one of those horrible black leather uniforms?"
"I think so," she admitted. He could hear the smile in her voice. "I want to do some good and the uniforms aren't all that bad."
"Well then we've got more work to do than I thought."