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venn: in the overlap

Venn: In The Overlap
by Molly
November 2001 ***

Her hair was blowing in the wind, a casually implicit acknowledgment of her place in nature. He watched it and remembered a hood that had blocked so much out and kept so much in, but how her eyes had come through, and had seen what she shouldn't have seen.

She laughed at him and then seemed embarrassed; her face went quiet and her eyes grew serious. "Tomorrow, right?"

And he nodded and wanted to see if her control could withstand surprise. He doubted it, and so he kept his hands to himself. His claws itched to come out, without good reason.

She smiled sadly. She'd mentioned, once, how even knowing he always came back didn't make it easier to believe he always would. She'd been careful, admitting that, and he'd imagined he could taste the trepidation on her tongue when he kissed her.

The words came from nowhere, and from every instinct of greed he had in him. "You could come."

She didn't look surprised, and she tilted her head. It threw the flow of hair and wind off balance; strands began whipping about her head. "I could," she said, trying the words out even as she seemed to agree. "I couldn't, could I."

She'd said it. He nodded and shrugged. "It'll be short this time. A month or so."

And she smiled again, but seemed to feel it. "Or so." She tapped his cheek lightly and he wished she weren't wearing gloves that day. "I'll miss you."

"Yeah," and he pressed his hands to the ground to stand up. Brushing bits of grass from his palms, he stared down at her and the wind had stopped. She was still. "Gotta get packed."

*

She sometimes wondered if Xavier understood the inventory in her head. He must; she suspected that there was coherency behind any semi-conscious plan. And it was a plan she clung to: four shirts, three pairs of pants, a dress, underwear, shoes, toiletries. The canvas duffel she hadn't yet bought to replace one lost in fire, snow, and metal debris. Gloves and scarves, but not so many, and not for constant use.

She reshelved books in the library in between her hours of self-imposed training, and she planned during it all. A week of being gone and he was still there.

She'd realized long ago that she'd never truly allow him to go.

On darker days she looked up at cloud and sky and missed the brilliance of evening snowfall that had been too many miles north and west. Too far in the past to remember, and since when was twenty-three supposed to feel so tattered? She whispered the words against the window, felt them pass her lips into empty air. "You could come."

She wondered when she'd started turning down invitations to the rest of her life.

Xavier said she should reconsider a life away from the school, now that accidents were less likely-- he knew she wasn't fully happy on the team. Jean said she could take Rogue on as a special science student, and Scott said she was so good with the younger students she should teach and Ororo said she had a knack for art.

Logan came back when she was twenty-two and didn't say a word, just showed her in the library, at midnight, against a bookshelf, that she didn't look the part of a kid anymore and that she could be the very embodiment of a five-year-old dream.

She figured her enjoyment of reshelving books started then. The same night as the inventory.

*****

He had trained himself for years in the skill of walking away, and he was good at it for a simple reason: he understood it was an action born out of pretense. He could pretend that his past didn't matter in order to get through each day of not searching, of not trying to remember, and he could pretend, so easily, that when he touched people, when people touched him, they left no mark.

It worked, until she came along with a touch that threatened to scar and a cautious honesty that made it a lot harder to pretend. When he left it was with a backwards glance, given three hundred miles down the road; he dreamed about static and pull and the only pain that had ever lasted long enough to become a harsh memory. His ribs ached sometimes where metal had sliced cleanly through bone.

Staying away became a struggle, a five-year countdown to failure.

*

The night before she left, her father sat on her bed and stared at the floor as he laid out the options. The option, of home-schooling and online courses for college, a lifetime of removing herself from a world she could only injure.

He'd planned her out, right into the grave; he always was the organized one, and her mother gave her weak smiles but never got too close. She realized he was looking at the floor so he wouldn't have to look at the map, wouldn't have to remember that she once had plans of her own.

She packed a bag and left and hoped they would understand. Leaving was never intended to be goodbye, or forever.

Just the only way she ever knew to keep her hopes alive.

*****

He stopped somewhere in British Columbia, somewhere with little more than snow and trees, and cheap beer and men ready to fight their money away. He didn't know why so far, only that it was a distance he needed.

"I couldn't," she had said, and the first few fights were easier than they should have been when he was so out of practice. Line Ćem up and knock Ćem down; he wondered if she would be bemusedly proud.

He liked to think that she would still look at least slightly shocked to see it, even with his memories.

He wanted her to see it. He wanted to see her face and know he wasn't wrong.

The waitress was in her forties and clinging to the worn youth she needed to believe she still had. He softened his look to a neutral stare for her and she flirted; he managed a smile and interested small talk before going back to the small motel where the bed squeaked in a way that was never so satisfying when he was alone.

He didn't know how much of that sound he could take.

*

He was three days early of the month mark and she was slamming her fists into a punching bag when he grabbed her from behind. "Doesn't matter how long you practice," he growled into her ear. "You'll never take me down."

She relaxed back into his chest, then shot back a leg to snake behind his calf, and she fell with him but liked the way he still held on. After a quick diatribe that involved religious figures and less-than-biblical acts, he laughed. "Doesn't count."

She wriggled until his arms loosened and she could roll off him to her side. "Just why not?"

He smirked. "You're here too, aren't you?"

And she quirked a wry grin and smoothed a gloved hand over his forehead before kissing him as long as concentration would allow. "Kinda prefer it this way, then," she finally mumbled. "That wasn't a month."

"Felt it." He was looking at her and she wanted to tell him it had felt much longer, but instead bit her tongue and hoped the bitter smoky taste of his mouth wouldn't fade right away. "You know, I'll never get used to it."

She loved the way his eyes could suddenly darken, go from hazel to murky depths within instants. He was telling her something important, she knew; she was ready to listen. "Used to what?"

"Missing someone." He almost touched her face-- almost. She could feel the heat of his palm, hovering above her cheek. "Come with me next time."

She thought of Xavier, saying she might want to leave if only for awhile; she thought of sitting in a cold truck and how Logan would turn the heat on for her. She thought of his face, scowling in fury when he learned of her miseries, and in macho concealed delight when she was happy. She thought she saw desperation there, now.

"Logan," she said, and then stopped. "Like a vacation."

And he relaxed a bit. "Yeah, like a vacation. Heading out into the real world, for a change."

"This is all pretty real," she murmured. "So real, that I'm here... Next time, I'll go with you."

**end**