Title: broken images (the developing snapshot remix)
Summary: What comes after “X3” – for the cure, for the dead. Rogue/Bobby, Rogue/Logan, Rogue.
Warnings: Het? Kissing? Time-jumping?
Word Count: 1,800 more or less
Spoilers: X-Men 3
Title, Author and URL of original story: a heap of broken images by musamea.
Thanks: to my awesome beta readers; brighteyedcat, curt_tone, and everyone else who I can’t remember because my brain has melted.
Her fingers are coated in leather.
Her fingers – covered – touch the vial, careful not to be too rough and break it, careful not to be too hard and send the liquid dripping from a forced crack. She touches the vial. “Mission accomplished,” says Storm, looking tired. Rogue wonders if the lines around her mouth were there not three weeks before. Rogue senses the liquid moving inside the small plastic container as they take off. She nods. Mission accomplished.
She knows Storm can’t make sense of it, the vial in Rogue’s hand. Why – knowing everything – would she want to do this again. Do this to herself. “Why?” she asks, unable to stop the distain from seeping through her tone. And she can tell from the tiny shake of Rogue’s head that the girl doesn’t know either. She’s holding this vial like its going to save her, somehow, and she doesn’t know.
“Because I want the choice. Even if I don’t choose to take it, I need to know that I can,” Rogue says, finally, her voice quiet. Storm just shakes her head. Choice is fine, choice is good. But this. She sets her jaw. Turns the controls for home. She doesn’t need any cure. Rogue doesn’t, none of them do. Not when the air is clear and the stars shine through the clouds.
They enter the Blackbird with a rush of cold air and rain, puddles collecting at their feet. Buckle in, two by two. Rogue’s up front next to Storm, feeling the purr of the engines just picking up, touching her seat where it hugs her leg, leather on leather. It’s warm.
Rogue stops, after the order to get moving, she stops. Hesitates. Only a moment, but a moment is enough. A moment is too much. The vibrant blue under low lights, the fluorescent, the steel. She’s hypnotized, drawn in. Drawn up. A moment’s glance tells that she’ll be left behind if she doesn’t act quickly. So she does. A lightning-fast motion of leather fingers against the glass. It opens far too easily, really. No struggle. She has no pocket to hide it in, so she unzips an inch or two. Slides it in. The vial is cool against her skin, drawing a chill through her body. Then after the cool, she imagines it bubbling. The heat from her body, from her fingers. It will explode.
It seems too easy; a few buttons pushed and the virus loose in the system. A few keys typed and the registry gone. The future saved for another day. Perhaps. And of course, it is too easy. But personal battles, like an unguarded touch. A guard. Names and families and that rush into her that she doesn’t have the name for. Touch. She supposes she calls it touch. He’ll call it, later, a strange thing. How he saw her eyes, her mouth shape “I’m sorry” and then everything rushed to fade. He’ll tell his wife, always, how the attack happened, how he remembers it; how he wasn’t the bad guy, how they weren’t the bad guys, details from the others; the broken glass, the computer system. He won’t tell his young sons a word. He’ll kiss their foreheads and his hand will shake when he pulls up the covers. Touch, she thinks.
The lab isn’t on the blueprints.
Jean would know. Jean doesn’t know anything now.
Rogue starts counting time in moments. Two weeks-worth of moments since the paralyzing sting of her powers. Two weeks-worth of moments since she raised her gloves from retirement. Two weeks of moments and she’s co-piloting the Blackbird. This time without Cyclops. This time, without so much.
It’s Mystique, or the strange guise of what remains of her, who tells them – her – that Worthington Labs isn’t going to stop. That the Mutant Registry from cure-takers is frighteningly complete. Frightening.
“Clever girl,” she says, and Rogue wishes that she could see even a hint of blue in her skin. But it’s not there. Instead, there’s a smooth palm against her cheek and a smile. Lips the wrong color, but lips just the same.
Rogue looks into the mirror afterwards, struggling to find an ideology in her eyes. A cause. But all she sees is skin. Skin that, in time, will be touchable no longer. Her eyes swim in it.
She’s only going to the bathroom, so finally, he lets her go; Logan lets her go. Fingers leaving their rough taste on her arm. She sets her jaw, shoulders the woman’s room door and tries to catch her breath. The room is grimy, coated with an almost indiscernible layer of filth. But its something she can feel, seeping into her bones. Like her powers aren’t gone after all. Like she’s sucking it all in.
The lights do something to her. Bring out the circles under her bright eyes, leech the color from her skin. She stares at the faucet as it runs, sputtering at first. Hands under the water, then splashing against her face, sending a shiver down her spine. Still. The heat between her thighs remains.
Logan kisses her. Her lips, upwards like a beacon, and he the shore she crashes against. But it’s gentle. Gentler than she expected, wanted, like the way they slid across the dance floor, hardly making a sound. He doesn’t follow her lead.
Instead, forcing her to slow, to stop. His hands moving down her back like he doesn’t know what tomorrow means. Like he’s never heard the word.
She wants to taste the whiskey on his breath on her tongue. She wants him rough, against her, right here amidst the crowd.
She wants. She wants.
The beat is ridiculous, but he soothes it. He’s warm. Against him, following. “Jesus, woman,” he growls, and lowers his eyes. There’s a shock of heat between her legs and she bursts into sobs, covering her face in his chest. Crying for herself. Crying for the millions. The newscast won’t stop playing in her mind and it aches.
It’s no Laughlin City. But then, Rogue thinks, that’s probably a good thing. Some crap local band on the stage, caged there, waiting for the sling of claws from flesh. Plunking out a beat for the youth to crash against. Riding each other like they don’t know the way home. She watches Logan survey the place. “Pool or drinks?”
“Drinks, please.” He leads the way, and she watches his back. Thinking. He might be the only friend she has.
He knows her too well.
By the time she reaches the foyer, intent on a slow, self-depreciating walk around the grounds, he’s there. Guarding the door. Arms crossed, scowl etched in his lips. “Runnin’ again?”
They could have this conversation for eternities. Only this time he doesn’t call her kid. He says, “Marie,” instead.
Jones is flipping through the stations – because he can, because he can’t stop – but it doesn’t matter. Because this time, they’re all the same. The cure. Failing. Failed. Conjugated in present and past tense. It’s already happening.
Eyes are on her now, but she doesn’t see them. Only her cornered king on the chessboard, only her shaking fingers. She shakes her head in an almost imperceptible movement and pushes back her chair with a scrape that can be heard down the hall, even over the top-volume television set.
She stays silent. She knows they’ll never understand. Not the moment when the cure seared through her veins, under her skin, rendering her useless, useful. Not the moment when the doctor said “Congratulations” in a chill tone. Not the moment when she signed her name across that dotted line and slipped into a paper hospital gown. It will never be simple, she thinks. It will never be easy. So, she stays silent.
Logan offers to “gut the Popsicle” and she just shakes her head, instead inviting him in. They play poker on the floor of her room and sip at beers she doesn’t want until sun peeks through her curtains. She finally falls asleep. She doesn’t cry, but he didn’t think she would.
Bobby’s kisses are like taking notes on a war. A war before this one. Advance, retreat. Sending scouts before the army. She isn’t one to be conquered, but she wants him to take the plunge. His hands are cold and his lips are cold and they’re touching her, darting in for touches and then pulling back. After awhile, she doesn’t want him to try anymore. Because he still tastes like fear.
Sometimes, she doesn’t even believe herself when she thinks that it wasn’t just about touch.
“Have you seen anyone else yet?” She can’t see his face, blocked from the sun.
“Not yet.” Seeing him was frightening enough. His shadow. Making her shiver.
“They’ll want to see you.” They’ll want to touch. They’ll want to know.
“How many of them are mad?” What she’s wondered since she bought the train ticket home.
“I don’t know.” He does.
“I’m ready.” She’s not.
He tells her of scattered ashes, of gathered warm bodies to remember buried cold ones. He tells her of a shifting bridge, of rescuing Jimmy, of terror, of rebirth. Some of it she knows, from the newscasts, from the tremors that hit the ground and traveled outwards, leaving her weak in the knees. He has questions, of course. Questions he doesn’t ask. He looks in her eyes and doesn’t think she has the answers.
She wasn’t sure what she would find when she got back. Returned; somehow whole and somehow broken. Bobby’s fingers are cool. Like a gentle promise that he’s trying not to break.
He takes her to see the memorials.
It hurts when it happens, though she expected it to. Jogging by the lake, the comfort of one foot in front of the other and her arms pumping at her sides. The comfort of sweat dripping down her neck, of the rhythm of her ponytail slapping her back. And suddenly, all of it broken, broken by a lightning strike inside. No one hears her cry out, falling hard to the path, her hands twitching against the sharp gravel and she wants to rip if off of herself, the tingling, like a limb long-asleep coming back to life. It’s flooding her insides, her outsides. She can feel the hunger rolling off of her in waves, in crashing, roaring waves and she sees Jean under her eyelids, her tall body awaiting the thundering lake.
The gloves she’d started insisting on since the news broadcast fall from her pockets as her body finally sags. Left hand, right hand. She stands, knowing that she’s finally been swallowed up.
Naked fingers on naked fingers. Her fingers. Gloveless.