It's the same every morning. I have my routines. I wake up with the same hopes, thinking that just possibly, this day will be different. That it will change. It hasn't so far, but I keep waiting.
Everyone is watching. I can feel their eyes on me. I can sense their fear, both of me and for me. It's a strange combination of pity and wariness, like they think I'm going to lose it at any moment but they would completely understand it if I did. So they watch, and they wait. I know what that's like. I do the same thing.
This day is no different than the rest. I get up, make my way to the bathroom, get ready for class. There's another part of my morning ritual that no one knows about. I'm careful. If anyone saw what I did between brushing my teeth and getting dressed, they'd be even more concerned. There's no reason they should worry, but that wouldn't matter. The point is they /would/ worry. So I'm careful to make sure no one is around when I do what I have to do.
No surprises. I wasn't expecting a change today. I think I'll know when it happens, if it ever does. I pull my shirtsleeve down to my wrist. It covers up the fading traces of what I've done. It doesn't matter, though. The scar will be gone by the time I get to the cafeteria for breakfast. They wouldn't see it anyway.
I sit through class and try to concentrate. I can't help it if my mind wanders. There's more than just me in there, you know. Kitty and Jubilee help me on the worst days, when the voices in my head drown out the voices of my teachers. They walk me through the lessons I missed and share their notes.
Even the days I am able to contribute in class, it's not always me doing it. During Storm's lesson on World War II, I found myself raising my hand and describing a scene from the Holocaust in vivid detail. Everyone stared. I didn't know what to say afterwards. I didn't really understand what had happened until I spoke to the Professor. He told me that the past I had seen so clearly was a part of Magneto's life. On some level, I already knew that, so it didn't shock me as much as it might have otherwise.
I don't think I'd make it without them, all of the people at the school. They can't really know what's happening to me, but they know it's bad and they do what they can to get me through it. There are times it does help to have them there. Usually, it's no help at all. But I don't let them know that. It's not their fault that this thing consumes me from the inside. No amount of sympathy or well meaning comfort can fix it.
Today's been a better day than most of them are. I even took notes in physics class. The Professor noticed (when /doesn't/ he notice something?) and he smiled at me. These days, I'm most interested in my literature class. Hank has us reading works from the Existential writers. As I was walking out of class the other day, he called me back. In his large, blue paw he held a copy of Sartre's "No Exit". He told me that it wasn't assigned reading, but he thought that I'd like it.
I thanked him and took the book. He was right. I did like it. Read it in one sitting as a matter of fact, and I'm not one to get obsessed with a book. But this one was different. That Sartre' guy knew what he was talking about, at least partly - Hell /is/ other people. Take it from someone who knows.
It's a strange thing, having other people inside your head. Experiencing their memories and emotions first hand can be terrifying sometimes. Unfortunately, the bad stuff seems to have more staying power. Feelings of fear, pain, anger... Those are the strongest residues trapped inside. Sometimes I wonder if they feel me the same way I feel them. If a part of me is trapped inside their heads too. The idea scares me when I think about Magneto... but when I think of /him/, I almost hope it's true. I hope he feels me in his blood the same way he's in mine. It comforts me to think he's not completely alone.
That's the part ol' Jean-Paul got wrong. Other people can bring the deepest possible pain, but they can also bring the greatest pleasure.
In some rare cases, it's both.
After dinner, the other kids invite me to go to the rec room for a game of foosball. I thank them and say no. None of them look surprised. They have their rituals.
I have mine.
I climb the steps alone. I can hear their laughter floating up the staircase behind me. It chases me like a ghost. In a way, it is. It's the specter of what my life could have been, of what it was for a short time...
Now, I do what I'm compelled to do. To others, it probably looks like I'm punishing myself. The ones who know see it as some bizarre, self-inflicted torture. Scott pulled me aside one day and asked when I was going to forgive myself and start living again. None of them understand.
This is the only way I find peace.
I walk past my room and straight to Logan's door. I open it and slip into the darkened room. I walk to the dresser and open a drawer. I remove the flannel shirt and slip it over my arms. I curl up on the bed and hold the shirt to my face. I inhale his scent deeply and wait.
It doesn't take long. I've gotten good at it over these past few weeks.
*/Hello, darlin'. You're still hangin' on, aren't ya?/*
I hear him before I see him approaching through the darkness in my head. I see myself walking towards him, a smile drifting across my lips. He's always waiting for me, here in the dark. I can have him here. I can touch him here.
*/Of course. I'm not goin' anywhere. I'm keepin' you safe./*
Logan gives out a short bark of laugher. It's accompanied by a raised brow and the sly smile that belong exclusively to Logan.
*/That's a tall order for anyone, Marie. Let alone a slip of a thing like you./*
*/I'm stronger than you think, Logan. I'm stronger than anyone knows. I can do this./*
His smile changes. It's softer now, bittersweet. He runs a hand down my hair, tangling his fingers gently in the strands before letting them fall.
*/I know you believe that, darlin'. You almost got me believin' it too./*
In my mind, I gently touch his face with my hand.
*/I can believe enough for the both of us, until you believe too./*
I open my eyes. The flannel of Logan's shirt is damp from my tears and the perspiration from my forehead. The concentration takes a toll on me, but it's not a price I begrudge paying. In a way, I welcome it. I would do a lot more for the precious seconds when I can force myself inside my own mind to be with him.
The darkness of the room closes in around me like a shroud. This is the feeling I get when it's time to go. I slowly stand and remove Logan's shirt, carefully folding it and putting it back where I found it. My legs feel a little shaky as I walk to the door. I check the hallway and quickly walk out of Logan's room.
I head back down the staircase. I remember the day Jean first saw me coming out of Logan's room. I'll never forget the look in her eyes. The warring emotions of confusion, worry, and compassion eventually gave way to what I needed to see - Understanding and acceptance. Jean somehow knew that's what I needed. I don't think she read my mind either. She just /knew/. That helped me more than anything else had since that horrible night at the Statue.
I walk through the hall and go to the elevator that leads to the lower levels. I look around cautiously before pressing the entry panel. It's not that I'm forbidden to go down there, at least not anymore. But the other students aren't allowed to go below unescorted, so I can't let them see me going alone.
They tried to keep me out at first. It didn't work. I don't know if it was the futility of it that made the Professor change his mind or if Jean talked to him. All I know is that a few days after Jean saw me in that hallway, the Professor gave me authorization to be in the lower levels. He did place a few conditions on me, but I had no problem agreeing. I didn't like the means I had to use to get down there without permission.
The hydraulic whooshing that accompanies the elevator's decent always reminds me of the sound made by Magneto's machine. My teeth clench every time I get in the thing. That sound is the last thing I remember before I woke up in the infirmary.
They told me what happened afterwards, how Storm lifted Logan with her powers as Jean steadied him with her mind. How Cyclops hit Magneto with a stunning blast so Logan could disable the machine. How Logan pulled me free from the mechanism and purposely laid his bare skin against mine to save my life.
I still don't remember any of it. I pray every day for the memory to come. I long to feel Logan's hands pressed to my cheeks, his lips on my forehead. I crave the sound of his voice saying my name on top of that pile of metal. I asked the Professor to help me remember. He refused with kindness, saying that my mind was protecting me from remembering something I can't handle. Maybe that's true. It didn't stop me from getting angry and putting my fist through a wall, giving out a snarling growl that I think would have done Logan proud.
I'm at the door now. I gather myself, hoping that this time things will be different. I know instinctively there won't be a change. My instincts are a lot sharper now than they used to be. Still, I need to hope.
It's all I have left.
The door slides open in front of me. The chair is back against the wall. I slide it a few feet over to where I always sit. I can't blame Jean for moving it so she can work, but I always leave it in the same place. Jean knows my schedule so she's nowhere to be seen. The monitors will alert her to any changes.
I sit down and stare at his face, silently willing him to open his eyes and wink at me with a devilish smile on his lips. It doesn't happen. Instead, I have to be content watching the steady rise and fall of his chest as he breathes. He looks almost peaceful, except for the small furrow in his brow. I tell myself that it's a sign of him struggling to come back. Jean would probably tell me it's an involuntary muscle reaction. But I know better. I know Logan.
For what must be the thousandth time, I wish to have that night back. I wish that Logan had let go of my face before he fell unconscious. I wish that /I/ had recovered consciousness and pushed him away. But that didn't happen. They never told me to my face, but I overheard Cyclops talking to Jean one night. I heard him musing over how he'd had to pry Logan's hands off me. They'd gotten us both back to the infirmary as soon as they could. A few hours later, I woke up.
I stare at his still form. I pick up his hand and hold it between my gloved ones. "I'm here, Logan. I'm waiting for you. I know you have to be sick and tired of me coming in here every night pestering you to wake up. Well guess what? I'm not going to quit coming until you /do/ wake up. So why not open your eyes and tell me to buzz off?"
*/Buzz off, kid. You happy now?/*
I smile at the snarling comment that echoes from Logan's place inside my mind. "No. That's not good enough. You're going to have to tell me to my face. Otherwise, I'm not buying it."
*/You're harder to get rid of than crab grass./*
"You better believe it. So when are you going to come out of hiding and fight back?"
*/I'd like nothing better, kid. These little pep talks of yours give me a headache./*
"Tell me about it. You try having someone else living inside your skull and then we can talk about headaches."
*/I'm sorry, Marie. I'm trying./*
I feel the teasing smile fall from my lips. "Don't apologize to me, Logan. You know how much I hate it when you do that. And it's not so bad having you with me all the time. At least I know you're not getting yourself into trouble and..."
I swallow hard. It's times like this when the guilt threatens to choke me. "And... this is my fault anyway, so you shouldn't apologize for-"
*/That's not what you were going to say. I know you better than that./*
A tear slips down my cheek. He's going to make me admit it. "If you're in my head, I know you won't leave me."
*/I'm not going anywhere, Marie, whether I'm in my body or yours. I'm here for the long haul./*
I hate crying. It makes me feel weak and stupid. I don't know anymore if those feelings are mine or if they come from Logan rubbing off on me.
*/Besides, what would be the point in leaving? You'd just follow me... again./*
Logan's teasing has the desired affect. I smile and brush a kiss to my gloved fingers, then press them against his cheek. "I have to go train now. The Professor insists on it."
*/I know. Chuckles wants you to learn how to use my powers in case this turns out to be permanent./*
"I tried to tell him it was pointless, but he just gave me that look. He doesn't know that you're too strong and stubborn to lay in this bed forever. I know better."
*/The Professor knows who the stubborn one is around here, and it ain't me. You've held on to me all this time when I know it would be so much easier for you if you let me go. Why do you do it, Marie?/*
"Why do you keep asking me that, Logan?"
*/Because every time I ask, you don't answer./*
I stare at his beautiful face in silence. Then I smile. "Sorry, Logan. You have to figure that one out yourself."
I stand up to leave. They're waiting for me in the training room. As I turn to go, I hear him.
*/Give Cyke a good pummeling for me, would ya?/*
"I'll do my best."
I walk out of the infirmary and down the hall toward the training room. They can't train me the to do the thing I want most. I want to learn how to undo the affects of my deadly touch. I want to find a way to reverse the flow, to return Logan to himself, to feed him my life energy until he comes back to me. Training in martial arts and learning to hone instincts that don't belong to me is useless compared to that.
Logan asks why I hold on to him. I do it because I have no other choice.
Not until he wakes up.