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towards temperate

Towards Temperate
by Molly
August 2000

"Snow whispers promises as it melts..." -Jody Azzouni, 'Wings Come In Pairs'

The wind in Bismarck was bitter, and it whistled in Rogue's ears and made her long for the customary heat of late fall in Mississippi. It was the final straw; in the hundred northern miles since she'd last stepped out of Fred's - his name was Fred, this time - truck, the fierce cold had become too much for her layered sweaters.

Bismarck was glittering, even early in the evening, with the promise of warm restaurants and stores, and so she smiled at Fred and thanked him for the ride. He'd been nice; he'd been quiet. He hadn't asked her where she was running to, or why, or if she had a boyfriend crying over her back home. He'd just asked if north was the direction she wanted to go, and later he'd asked if she'd be too embarrassed to let him buy her dinner.

She'd said no. The hamburger tasted good, and two hours later they were in Bismarck, yet another end of the line. It seemed, sometimes, that nobody was going where she needed to go.

She was searching for an all-night diner, somewhere she could carefully dole out money for coffee until morning, somewhere warm and well-lit that would maybe provide a small corner of safety, when the snow started, and she stood still on a curb, watching it, mesmerized. She'd seen snow before; she'd gone to Iowa one year for Christmas with her parents, on the farm where her father had grown up, and there had been snowdrifts that towered over her five-year-old form. She remembered that, though they'd never gone back, at least not in the winter.

But then, it had been all white and sparkling; partly the pristine cleanliness of rural snowfall, and partly the purity of childhood memories, it had stayed in her mind as something perfect, and always, always, had she imagined getting to Alaska and having mile upon mile of that blinding sheen.

This wasn't Iowa, and it wasn't Alaska. This was a quiet street in the gray darkness of Bismarck, North Dakota, and as the snow turned to dingy slush almost as soon as it stuck to the pavement, she realized how cold she was. She went into the first appropriate store she passed, and spent one of her last five twenties on a used coat, a heavy green wool blend with a hood.

The woman behind the counter was friendly and talkative, the kind of old lady that seemed happy enough in her loneliness but would never turn away company. She said this was the first snowfall of the season, and that it only got worse from here, and Rogue wondered if anyone else had ever felt like they'd just walked head on into winter.

She stopped thinking so much about home that day.

***

Three days and five truckers later was Butte, Montana, and she stood out on a stretch of I-15 going north, shaking in the dry wind. Her boots weren't waterproof; she hadn't known that two weeks ago. She hadn't known it seemed harder to get a ride this close to the border; she hadn't known she could ever be vaguely glad that the guy by the jukebox in the diner last night had grabbed her by the neck, near her ear, instead of by her safely covered shoulder.

He had three kids at home, she knew, and he lived in Great Falls. She wondered if anyone had called his wife. She didn't seem the type to be sorry to hear her husband had collapsed.

The first car that stopped was an ancient station wagon, rusted nearly off its wheels and reeking of vanilla air freshener when she opened the passenger door, which screamed a loud metallic protest. And the woman was probably only sixty but looked ninety, and she wore blue eyeshadow and bright pink lipstick on her papery lips.

Within ten minutes Rogue realized she wasn't entirely there, mentally. It was liked she might have touched the woman, this Amelia, with all she knew in that miniscule span of time. She prattled on about growing up in Texas, how her daddy had worked on the oil pumps until "the accident" and how there was nothing like a man in cowboy boots to make her happy. She talked about her husband and she was smiling fiercely when she told Rogue he'd run off the previous year with a woman in her thirties; she talked about going to Canada and looked distantly sad when she said she thought things might work out up there.

And Rogue thought about all that information, about the mismatched heap of knowledge it placed in her head, and she couldn't sort it all out so she just stared out the window at the bleak landscape. It hadn't snowed in Montana, like it had in Bismarck; she wondered what that meant.

But it changed quickly. By the time they reached the border, she could see long stretches of the unmarred white that she had longed for, spanning out on either side of the interstate; she felt a roll of nausea and closed her eyes. It was clouded, corrupted. She knew, after Bismarck, that snow, like so much else, wasn't exempt from being stained by the world.

***

She left Amelia in Lethbridge, Alberta. Or Amelia left her-- with all the new information rattling around in her head, Rogue wasn't so sure who was doing what anymore. All she knew was that the woman was going to Medicine Hat, which was very much the wrong way.

She met Hank in a truckstop after nearly a day of slowly sipping the sludge they called coffee. And he wasn't going to Calgary, which she had figured on being her next stop, but she was tired and she was nearly out of money, and she didn't really know anything at all about Loftlin City but it couldn't be that bad if there were at least people there.

Hank wasn't a talkative type; he left her alone and she eventually tired of watching the landscape. It made her furious and desperate to see how the gray, sludgy snow on the roads blurred so easily into the illusion of perfection higher up on the banks.

She closed her eyes and went to sleep, unable to look at it any longer.

***

Her eyes caught the glint of his heavy silver belt buckle as he sat down at the bar, and then she looked up, into his face. He looked at her like her mother looked at stray cats; she turned her attention back to her water and fought to understand everything she'd seen that night.

Comprehension was too wispy a thing to grasp, at least about anything so heavy and blunt as violence. When the newscast came on and mentioned mutants, she felt like cringing, and when he looked over at her it was so careful and veiled and guarded, she wondered how she hadn't noticed before that he didn't bear a single mark from the fighting.

And after the claws came out, and they gleamed in the smoky, filthy light of the bar, and he looked at her again-- after that, she thought about the snow, and how it was never so pure as she had thought. Beneath the unmarred surface was dirt and grime so that all it was, was cold, and as she hurried out of the bar she hoped she wasn't wrong in thinking it didn't work the same way for him.

***

Logan. He said his name was Logan, and she liked that it wasn't so blunt and normal as Fred or Hank or Bob or Jeff. But he didn't seem to care so much that she didn't have an everyday name, and that made her consider that maybe to some people, encountering normalcy was a brief blessing. She wondered if he'd ever been somewhere it didn't snow in early October.

And she wasn't so sure about telling him her real name; part of her wanted to keep that safe, locked inside, firmly attached to Mississippi and her mother, who had shared her middle name with her daughter. She was glad when his steady eyes seemed to flicker, and she thought maybe there was something special about being a Marie after all.

She noticed, as they went north, that the roads weren't used so much, and the snow that had been packed down into thick ice lanes still seemed white. It seemed to mean something that she first noticed that with him.

***

She couldn't bring herself to think of Ororo as Storm; there was simply nothing turgid or harsh about the kind, quiet woman who sought her out after her first long and lonely day at the school.

Ororo found sitting out on a stretch of lawn, staring at the school,, and she just seemed to know that Rogue was thinking about Logan. And she was, thinking about him, thinking about the still form slung over Scott's shoulder as Ororo led the way back to the jet, thinking about the smears of red that washed out into pink across the snow where he'd finally stilled after being thrown from the truck.

Rogue could smell hints of a soft perfume as Ororo settled down beside her, and she smiled slightly. And Ororo didn't say anything, just sat with her, until eventually Rogue asked if the what she'd heard was true, and Ororo could make it snow.

And Ororo told her it was true, was very true, but she never would unless it was necessary, and when Rogue asked why not she said things about balances, and how it snowed when it was supposed to snow and there was a reason it wasn't snowing in New York yet.

She said, too, that she liked the weather this time of year, and then she asked if Rogue wanted to see if Jean would allow a visitor for Logan, who hadn't woken up yet.

Rogue didn't know what to say to that. The 'yes' wouldn't come to her lips, and so she thought maybe there was also a reason for that. And not knowing the reason wasn't so bad, because she was getting used to letting things just be. Be, as they were, and she liked Ororo even more.

***

There were surprises, certainly, that came with having a man like Logan inside her head. There was the knowledge of how it felt, smelled, *tasted* to nuzzle under the curve of a woman's breast, and the distinct preference for beer over anything else, when she'd never had more than a glass of wine at Christmas dinners. And there was the way she could almost feel the weather deep down, in her bones; when she'd first walked into the train station, she could almost smell a small snow flurry, 50 miles north.

And as she stared out the window she wondered at how she'd chosen to go north, towards that tiny storm, when a train for New York City had been leaving at the same time. She'd thought she'd maybe had her fill of the harsher climates, and it would have bothered her, this new tendency to go against the grain, against the storm, but Logan came and he said, "Hey, kid," and it was kind of strange how his voice was so familiar it seemed to come from inside her head even as it was behind her.

She found herself absently pleased that he could put his arm around her at all; somewhere behind the shame at crying in front of him and the clinging guilt for ever having touched him in the first place, she remembered, or just knew, that he didn't like to put his arm around *anyone*. He liked to stay away, and only got close to hit or fuck, and she couldn't help but be glad that she, and she alone, had so far gotten through his protectively cold demeanor.

And he wanted to protect her. She knew he didn't think of himself as protecting anyone, save himself, but she also knew he was wrong. Because he hadn't left her out in the snow, and he'd healed her, however involuntarily, and here he was, and she felt reassured for the first time since leaving Mississippi.

***

Jean said she thought it would be best if she didn't see Logan, and Rogue didn't press the issue. He slept for days, and then for two weeks, and every day Jean came to tell her that a little more healing had been done. And Jean helped her, guided her through letting Rogue push most often to the front, and pushing Magneto to the back.

And Rogue knew why Jean was right in not letting her into the medlab, and she knew that she wasn't helping the matter any. Jean said she needed to do it, needed to push Logan to the back, too, and then she could go see him, when she was herself, by will and by choice, but she refused to do it. She let him sit, within her; she let him be for as long as he would.

And though the presence was inert, was just a jumble of personality and memories and the parts of the mind that sit still and need a spark to engage them actively, she sometimes imagined that he was *really* there, talking to her, that they had created a telepathy like Jean's or the professor's.

She lay in bed at night and listened to him tell her stories about what permafrost was like, how the ground never thawed out, and every time, she realized she was imagining it when she asked him what it must be like to be frozen all the time, and he never had an answer for her.

And for a few moments, every time, she would be disappointed at recognizing the illusion, but then it would be okay. Because of course he wouldn't have an answer, he who had promised to protect her. She didn't think she wanted to know the person who could answer that question.

***

The day after he left, it snowed for the first time in Salem Center, and the school was dusted with just enough snow to remind her of her mother, and the powdered sugar on French toast that appeared for breakfast every Sunday.

She walked in it for a long time, until the cold penetrated even her heavy sweater and chilled the slip of metal that lay against her chest. And she felt the icy burn and she smiled, because this time, winter had come to her.

**end**