"If you haven't the strength to impose your own terms on life, you must accept the terms life offers you." -- T.S. Eliot
When you get on the road, you stay silent for over an hour. Logan has abandoned the entire concept of a motorcycle, and you feel wrapped in the soft leather of one of Xavier's luxury sedans. The seats remind you of the uniform you'll never wear again, and really, it's closer to two hours before you speak.
"How far is it?" you say softly, staring out your side window. Trees flash by, bright in their autumn colors. They look so vibrant to you, and you smile to yourself, knowing that soon, all those leaves will be dead. It can happen to anything, given enough chill.
"Pretty far." He hates this car. Hates the new smell, the soft seats, the air conditioner silently circulating filtered air from outside. Hunched over the steering wheel, he never glances over at you, and you're glad.
You're not sure you can take whatever look might be lurking in his eyes.
He never lets you drive. The first night you stop somewhere in Virginia, and he buys you fried chicken that tastes like it always does up north: nothing like you remember from lazy picnics on the fourth of July when you were seven, eight, nine, getting older and noticing how Jackson Maloy from down the block was nice, and nice to look at, too. The mashed potatoes need salt, but Logan forgot to pick up packets of it.
"Wanna watch TV?"
"No," you say. You lean against the wall, shifting carefully when the wheeled bed moves beneath you and threatens to roll away. You don't want to fall, not now.
"Not especially." You look straight at him, the first time all day. "But okay."
"What are you doing here?"
As if you knew. "You asked me," and it's true, but leaves gaps a mile wide on either side. Still, there's nothing else for you to say; he asked you, you came, you feel dead since he came and brought you back to life. The first time or the second, doesn't really matter, and telling him any of that wouldn't make a difference. "I didn't have any oth... you asked."
"I couldn't stay," he said carefully.
"I didn't ask you to. I just said I'd come."
"Four years ago." You look up again, at his correction. "I couldn't, and you couldn't come with me. It wasn't really a choice."
"So stop thinking I cut you off for some stupid reason. There were other things, Marie, other... things."
You curl up on your side, feeling the scrape of the rough polyester bedspread across your arms, your shoulder, your cheek, everything exposed because you have no need of caution now, not with your health. "Things that took four years?" you ask dully.
"Things that took long enough that I knew.. I didn't. You didn't need me, kid, never did. I wasn't going to roll back in and play into your ideas that maybe you did, not again. I was never your savior."
"Did an awful lot of saving to just sit there and deny the label."
"Fat lot of good it did. You turned into a headcase."
"You could have let me die, either time. Some things are choices, Logan. And some of them aren't a case of right and wrong." You close your eyes and see the orange-y black shadows of the room lights, filtering in through the thin flesh of your eyelids. You squeeze them tighter, but still can't escape. "Sometimes you can't ever do the right thing. You just have to live with being fucked."
"Yeah, I'll keep that in mind, Buddha," he says, his tone biting. "You try it, too. Especially that living with it part."
You hear a soft sigh escape your lips, but keep silent. "Go to sleep," he finally says. "We'll leave early tomorrow."
"What do you think of fate?" you ask, somewhere that's still Virginia.
"Load of crap."
"why do things ever happen, then?"
"The world keeps turning, shit happens. Why bother figuring it out?"
"Look, Marie. You live life as it comes to you. Questioning the why's has never gotten me anywhere except some God-forsaken pit in Canada looking at burnt out buildings without a scrap of evidence to be found. Forgive me if I've decided to just go with the flow as best I can, now."
"You never found anything? About your past?"
"Found out it's pretty confined the past."
"Why'd you stop looking?"
"Didn't find anything."
"So how do you know who to blame?"
"How do you know blame is what made me go searching?"
"What was so special about Jean?"
"Then why'd you love her?"
"I didn't and you know it, Marie."
"Okay. Why'd you want her? *Her*?"
"What the hell is going through your head, kid?"
"I'm not a kid anymore, Logan."
"You... No, you're not."
You sleep through the rest of Virginia and all of Tennessee. Being on the road makes you drowsy, always has, and you've been on that stretch of I-40 more times than you can remember, road trips from childhood, but you've always, always slept through it. You wake up in the middle of the night and Logan is stopping in Little Rock, barely letting his fatigue show. You wish you'd been awake for Tennessee; it's all too familiar and comfortable to wake up and realize you've done what you always used to do.
And it's the same as last night, him leaving you in a motel room and going in search of late night fast food. You tell him you want pie, any kind, and he comes back with hamburgers and a huge slice of cake. "All I could find," he mutters.
You just nod and eat everything, saving the crumbling bits of coffee and cinnamon for last. "You've been to Mexico," you say quietly. He shrugs in that way that always means yes for him, leaning against the TV stand and chewing the last bit of his dinner. "What's it like?"
"Alaska was cold." You sit cross-legged in the middle of your bed, your hands in your lap, head bowed. "I went last winter, and it was like the sun had died. Always night, and I couldn't see how white the snow must have been."
"Sounds like Alaska."
"You ever dream about something for years, and when you finally go to find it, you hate it?" You suddenly laugh ruefully. "Of course you do."
He takes three steps and sits next to you, and you can feel him watching you carefully. "Mexico's hot. You'll like it. There's plenty of sun, and you can see everything."
You want to correct him, tell him you can't like any place if you don't make it there alive. Always a question, these days, of just how far you'll get down whatever road you travel. Instead, you ask, "What if I'm sick of being able to see at all? What if it's all a disappointment, whether I can see it or not? What if I just don't want to risk finding out anymore?"
"Then we turn around. Go back to New York, where you know everyone and everything, and you live your sheltered life and do absolutely nothing with it. And eventually you curl up and die and just have to deal with the fact that you may regret wasting everything that was ever handed to you."
He starts to get up, but you shoot out a hand and stop him. "Logan." His eyes are dark, angry, and you wince at the sight. "You..." You give up, but don't let him go. Instead, you push forward every ounce of control you've ever learned and lean forward, and he smells like ketchup and onion and grease and you're afraid he won't let you in enough to taste.
The flick of his tongue across your lower lip is an answer, the only sort you need. You love him for that, and hate him for it, too, and somewhere in between that paradox, you shift into his lap and you're crying. "I grew up," you whisper against his mouth. "And you never saw it."
He answers with a groaning sigh and stands, and when you land on your back on the other bed, it's too small, and too sideways, and he has to slide his palm under your head to support it. But he does it, kissing you so roughly you're not sure what you've gotten yourself into.
He seems to know, though, and that was always enough to get you through the moments where you might have died without him. You just go with it, as you have every time before. When he mumbles things you can't hear into the damp curve below your breast, you don't bother straining to listen. When he touches you everywhere, you're not sure you really feel it. And when he's inside you, and you can't help but feel that, you catch his mouth and wish for a moment that you were better at being who he wants you to be.
You pull a sheet around your body, whispering, "You can't... not while I'm asleep." He still wraps an arm around you and your cotton barrier, and you didn't know he snored until he slept right next to your ear.
You open your eyes in the hazy light of mid-morning and slide against him, waking him with well-placed lips and hands. You think you could get used to this, to replacing words with simple motions, with things you used to dream about that first year, with him, beneath you and above you and only speaking to say, "What do you want for breakfast?" when you both go still.
You sit up and twist around to touch his cheek, his neck, play with his ear and smile sadly. "We can get something on the road. I'm gonna shower."
In the bathroom, you rummage under all your clothes and your hand closes over the bottle that lies at the bottom of the bag. One hundred tablets of aspirin, and a straight razor taped to the bottom. You glance at the bathtub, imagine as you have so many times your blood, thinned by pills and warm water, making cloudy streaks of color like water in milk. Blood in water. All the same to you, who could never remember if you poured the acid or poured the water. They're all distinctions you don't need, and never have.
You always made sure to use a dry bowl of cereal. You hate the sight of water in milk, and you were never good at any other part of chemistry, either. You tuck everything safely away, and all you do in that bathroom, that day, is shower and brush your teeth.
He touches your arm as you swing your duffel into the trunk. "Okay?"
You turn your face away and blink into the sun that's to his right, your left. He's taller than you, seems to tower over you, and all you can think is, mismatched. "Yeah. Let's just stop and get biscuits. They're best in the South."
"Take the girl out of the South, Logan, not the South out of the girl," you mumble, and head around to get into the car.
"Never been to Texas," you tell him at the state line.
"Just one of fifty," he mutters. He's tense and you know it's your fault. You haven't been talking much today. Or, realistically, you haven't been talking at all, not since telling him you wanted plain biscuits, nothing on them.
"Doesn't that just make Mexico one of a couple hundred?"
"You can be pretty damn literal at times, you know that?"
"What am I doing here?" You turn steady eyes to his profile, catch his scowl from its very beginning.
"You asked. I want to hear your answer. Why'd you ask me to come with you?"
"You needed to get out of there."
"Bullshit, Logan. The only time that was ever true was in Canada. You don't do charity. In fact, you only do things for other people when you feel guilty, like you owe something."
"I don't owe you shit. Never have."
"No? Oh, gee, stabbed Rogue in the chest and now she's run off. Better go get her. Well look at that, promised to take care of her and Magneto beat me down. Better go save her life. Soon as I was safe and sound, you were out the door."
You can practically feel the anger rolling off his body. "And after four years? Tell me what the hell I must have owed you to come heal your fucking suicidal ass when I hadn't been anywhere near you."
"You owed me you. You knew I was only on the team because you'd left without me. You knew I was hurt because I was on the team. You knew-- did you know you killed me inside?"
"I didn't do anything to you," but his voice isn't so strong, nor so angry.
"But you thought you did. So what is it, Logan? You came, you saved me. I'm alive. Why go that extra step and finally take me away from there? Why are you finally doing everything - *everything* - I wanted four years ago? Why now?"
"You're right, I don't do charity. I just do what feels right, when it feels right. You could not stay there, and I was the only one willing to do something about it. Xavier would have let you stick around and mope and you'd probably have been dead within the year. You're here because I didn't let you freeze to death in Canada, and I wasn't going to let you rot your life away in fucking New York."
You open your mouth and words that don't quite seem your own come out. "Did you fuck me because it just felt right?" you whisper.
He pulls over on the side of the interstate and brakes to a halt so fast you slam forward against your seatbelt. "Say that again," he growls, glaring at you. "Say that to my face."
You can't; you can't even look at him. So you stare at your hands and eventually close your eyes against tears, and after what seems a very long time, he starts driving again.
Neither of you say anything until you stop in Austin. He goes inside the motel to get a room and then comes out, hands you the key and pulls your bag from the trunk. "Second floor, 241. I'll be back later."
"I'll be back later, Marie," he snaps. "Go inside."
He does come back, hours later. Hours you spend running a bath five different times, spend opening and closing and reopening your bottle of aspirin, spend calculating how long he'd have to stay gone to be absolutely sure you would be dead. Hours you spend sliding a razor edge down your arm, tracing out a path between the major veins and watching the tiny abrasions appear on your offended skin.
He comes back and you're not sitting on the edge of the tub anymore, but on the edge of your bed, and somehow from the way he closes the door and just leans against it you know he's only been sitting in the car for all those hours, thinking. About you.
You wonder why your life always has to be spinning out of control to make him think about you.
You speak first, breaking a dooming silence. "You care." It's not a question, not an accusation, and it's also not anything you're sure enough about to make a statement of fact.
"Give the girl a prize."
"I don't understand, okay? Why do you bother?"
"You think I like this? Think I haven't spent four years running away from the fact that someone got under my skin and I didn't want it to go any further?" He stares at you like your mutation might have been reversed, like he's got you in him instead of the other way around. "None of this feels right, Marie, and don't you dare let yourself think I'm comfortable with finding myself doing it anyway."
"I don't want to go to Mexico," you say suddenly, and he doesn't even blink.
"Where do you want to go?"
"Nowhere." You hold out your fist and see his eyes lock on the faint scratches, the best you were able to do. The best you'll be able to do, you know. "I don't want to go anywhere."
"You have to."
"I know." You stay perfectly still, and eventually he comes over to you and lets you press your cheek to his stomach. His hand takes several long moments to come up and touch the back of your head, but when it does, it's gentle. "I don't speak Spanish."
"You don't have to."
"What if I hate it there?"
"Then you'll go somewhere else." He pulls back and looks down at you. "We'll go somewhere else. Or maybe we'll both learn to speak Spanish."
You leave a small bottle and a slip of sharp metal in a tiny motel bathroom in Texas, and decide to give Mexico a fighting chance.