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by Molly
August 2000

"That's all you wanted... We share this skin..." -Throwing Muses

She was a young twenty-five and had spent eternity in a hazy backwoods bar.

And in a little patch of mountains in British Columbia, where civilization wasn't so much a word as a rumor, she liked it against the bathroom sink. She liked it all halfway-- half-undressed, half-obscene, half-seated on the dingy discolored porcelain as he pressed one hand to the mirror where his face would have shown up and wrapped his other arm around her waist.

She was the one Logan came back to, time and again, and her name was Anne; she was the one who, for a year, had made life no longer than three months at a time. Because it kept happening; three months and he would roll back off 95 into Sicamous, telling himself it would just be beer this time, a beer and a warmer place to smoke a few cigars.

But she would taunt him throughout the night-- she was a master of lewd innocence, and it wasn't her intention but he could smell her bleach-blonde curls every time she eased past, coated in gel and spray. And when the room started to clear, she would come and call him sug and she would ask him if he'd broken any hearts lately.

And always, always the bathroom. Logan hated that room, hated how it stank worse than any pit he'd ever frequented and hated how the mirror was the cleanest part about it. But he would try to ignore it, and the routine was about getting her skirt up and his jeans open, and she would make all her noises low, right in his ear.

They never even locked the door, because who the hell cared, anyway.

"The best in us, the beast in us..." -Throwing Muses

Nearly two years in, it was the seventh time - seven, that meant something to some people, he told himself - when she found out. She had her ankles twisted and crossed behind his back and her arms laced under and around his shoulders, and his shirts were on the floor because it was hot and she said she liked his chest.

And he was rough, like she liked it, which was maybe why she fit because he didn't think he could have backed off, not there, not with her. The sharp pain of her fingernails clawing across his skin lasted only moments before they were gone, healed, would be forgotten if she hadn't seen and stiffened and gasped.

Then she laughed in his ear and whispered, "Freak," and her nails dug back in, and he suddenly wanted to hurt her. But he just kept on, harder, angrier, and afterwards he left her wet and messy on the dirty bathroom sink.

He avoided the Sicamous exit after that.

"You find a sad-eyed girl, all darkened to the marrow..." -The Blue Up?

The girl was all about necessity; he could see that from the first chill moment he took to watch her, ramrod still at the bar and staring at him. There was nothing else she could be, not being just a kid and somehow hurtled by life into the sort of place frequented by hicks, rapists, thieves, and the convenient overlaps. This one had it in her to do what needed to be done.

And that came close to disgusting him, until he really saw her eyes. He was silently accusing her of doing all sorts of things just for a ride to the next town when she looked at him, really looked at him, and his imagination was killed just in time to fight.

Later, when he glanced over at her and noted how she avoided sinking into the seat of his truck, avoided getting too comfortable, he couldn't help but think again, necessity. She did what she had to do, all right, but she did it without bowing down. He noted that, and berated himself for nearly leaving her on the road.

She had pretty eyes, he thought, and natural hair. She knew what he was, and he knew about her, and she wanted to keep her hands to herself. And she must have been in a decent truckstop recently, because she was clean beneath the grubby shell of her clothes.

He was suddenly sure she got even cleaner on the inside.

"I could fly open anytime..." -The Blue Up?

He could have snapped Jean's neck with more ease than he did most things in his life, and yet she forgave him the temptation. She gave him gentle smiles and agreed that he was worthy of help, not scorn, and lurking in his mind was the knowledge that she wasn't 16. But she had a ring on her finger; he tried but wasn't so good at ignoring the little details anymore.

And the kid turned out to scrub up real nice, at least, so he could almost forget the alluring contrast real life had made against her wishful eyes. Until he nearly killed her, and she looked something close to sadly grateful.

The look made promising to protect her easy, even if the doing proved less so. With his arm around her and her head tucked into his frame, she smelled only of soap and honesty, and he wanted to make her smile, just once. He wanted to make her happy; he wanted to thank God that touching her could kill him, because otherwise, he might just go ahead and try.

He thought he might go crazy when hell broke loose and swallowed her whole.

"I shed all my layers of you, I breathe you out and start anew..." -The Blue Up?

Walking away was an acquired skill, at which he seemed to have gotten better. She was looking at him like she'd take the freezing cab of his truck over all her new friends, any time, and he told himself, she had to stay.

And Alkali Lake was a pit of town on a pit of a road, and there was nothing there worth finding. He left it behind, all of it behind; Ontario was looking more appealing every year, though he tried to stay west.

He traveled and fought and his life was out of the new, into the old, except sometimes he woke up and he itched to touch something, anything. But then again, not just anything and so he clenched his hands together and hated how familiar he was with his own skin.

He discovered, after a long time, that Hamilton was a nice enough city, and a comfortable drive from Niagara Falls. And consequently, New York.

"With your bright silver grin, you own sin..." -Throwing Muses

The school was one of those things that withstood time and absence, he realized, like the flash of a woman's eyes or the first breath of warm air, walking in from the snow. He came back and it was the same, all perfectly manicured and ordered and still, and Xavier met him at the main entrance, seven years older but still staid and warm.

Inside, Jean came out of an office and she was as beautiful as ever, smiling at him like he really was a long-lost friend. He appreciated that, and she smelled like vanilla and Scott when he hugged her.

He didn't ask; he couldn't, and it turned out not to matter. He tossed his bag in the room Xavier provided -- the same, but he could smell remnants of other guests, different guests, this time -- and he was walking out again to go back and talk some more, when he saw her come out of the last room at the end of the hall and pause to pull the door closed.

The jut of her chin, the sweep of her hair into a low ponytail-- her profile screamed to him that he was no longer allowed to think of her as a kid. And he opened his mouth because she was turning away, towards the back stairs, and he said, "Hey. Kid."

She stopped and her head tilted like she thought she could hear strains of a song she maybe hadn't heard since she was a child. And then she turned, and her hand came up help her hair slip loose even as she walked towards him, and her smile was brilliant and pure and so much older just before she stepped into his arms, her hair thick and damp and freshly washed against his cheek and neck.

She smelled like she'd begun to use perfume.

"I don't know, I don't know... Can I be stupid for a minute?..." -Throwing Muses

Sitting on her bed across from her, he used curtains of her hair to run his palms over her curved skull and angled jaw. She laughed when stray ends tickled her neck, and when he felt he'd memorized every nuance of change, he let her lie back with her head on his lap, staring up at his face staring down.

She said things about missing him, about wondering how he'd been. She said things about it being such a long time and she wasn't the same girl he'd known.

And he told her at last, that she had nice eyes, and he put a possessive hand on her shoulder, where he could feel bone beneath tight cotton. He leaned over and the touch of his lips against her temple was grazing, too fast for her body to react.

But she felt it, and she smiled, and it wasn't something she had to do.