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Language of Goodbye, The

by Victoria P.

Subject: [glass_onion] FIC: (XMM) The Language of Goodbye: 1/1 Date: Friday, June 28, 2002 3:43 PM

Title: The Language of Goodbye
Author: Victoria P. [] Rating: PG-13
Archive: Lists, Muse's Fool.
Feedback: Feed the monkey!

Summary: This is how it happens. You meet a girl in a bar, and your entire life is turned upside down.

Disclaimer: All X-Men characters belong to Marvel and Fox; this piece of fan-written fiction intends no infringement on any copyrights.

Notes: Thanks to Jen, Pete/Melissa, Dot, and Meg. Also, thanks to everyone who made suggestions on the draft in my diary.

That sound you hear is me eating crow, because I loathe 2nd person POV, and yet, here I am writing it. The story demanded it, and who am I to argue?

The Language of Goodbye

This is how it happens.

You meet a girl in a bar.


You see a girl in a bar. You don't meet her until afterward, unless her saving your life can be counted as an introduction. Well, she didn't really save your life, but she didn't know that at the time. You figure you can be generous, even if it's only in your own head.

Anyhow, you're not Emily Post, but you think that might count as an introduction, but maybe not.

You see her and you know she's looking at you, and that's no surprise. Women have been looking at you for as long as you can remember, and generally, they only want one thing.

And you're only too happy to give it to them in a blur of hair and scent and slick, wet heat, bruising hands and raking nails. It's the closest thing to heaven you can bring yourself to believe in, and it's over before you can savor it.

But this one is too young. Young and scared and fragile. You shake yourself mentally, because you can't look at her that way, and you can't be who you are with her watching.

So when the asshole steps to you, you don't gut him, because somehow, what she thinks about you matters. The fact that she tried to help you, when no one tries to help you -- when you don't even need the help -- means you have to live up to her expectations.

And she may be a young and dirty runaway, but she has, in those few seconds, shown you more humanity than you've experienced at the hands of others in a long time.

So you walk out and resolve to remember her big, liquid eyes, full of concern for you, some random mutant she's never met. You resolve to be a better man. For the time it takes to walk to the trailer, anyway.

Then you remember, as if you could ever forget, what those fucking doctors did to you, and the thought of being a good man crumbles in the face of what you know you are.

But she won't leave you alone. You repay her by saving her -- once, twice, three times in the end, though the last two are simply you fixing up your own mistakes. It's not like you've come to care.

No, because caring means being hurt, and you don't get hurt, you put the hurt on others. That's who -- what --you are, and every time you try to forget that, life kicks you in the balls with a reminder.

You leave her -- the first goodbye.

She doesn't want you to go -- she even says as much. You can kid yourself that you don't care, you can flirt with the redhead, but you know that this girl is more than a random fuck in a backwoods bar, so you make a silent promise to come back. You give her the only thing that matters; you give her your past as she gives you your future.

But you haven't figured it out. Not at this point. All that comes later.

You wonder for the next six months how this slip of a girl wrangled two promises out of you in as many days, when you hadn't made one in almost fifteen years.

You find yourself heading back to her, unconsciously drawn east by some invisible star only you can see.

So it goes for the first few years. You've got all the time in the world. You're not growing old, and she's becoming a woman, a beautiful, caring woman who will always remain for you, at some deep level, the girl who cared enough about a stranger to save his life.

Because now you can look back on it and see so clearly how she is there at every crossroads, every turning point in your life. Each decision you made after she sneaked into your trailer (and into your heart, though you wouldn't put it quite that way, even if it does sound like the country songs you spend so much time listening to) has been affected by her presence and each decision from now on will be affected by her absence.

You come and go, each time leaving a bit more of yourself in her small, gloved hands, bits and pieces that make you who you are. At first, just the dog tag, the symbol of your stolen past. But then it's a bit of advice about not telegraphing her punches. Next, a shared joke, a love of beer bad movies, Hank Williams, and the smell of the grass after the rain. And finally, your heart.

Though you can't quite bring yourself to believe it, let alone say it.

A time comes when you can't imagine who you'd be without her -- the man in the bar, lost and lonely, full of hurt and willing to share only that with other people.

You've got all the time in the world, and you forget that she doesn't, that she'll grow old and die before you turn around twice, it seems, except that, in the business you're in, growing old is seldom in the game plan.

You watch over her, heal her when she needs it.

One day you even manage to work up enough of that famed courage to tell her out loud, in words, how you feel.

She smiles and the world stops for a moment; your heart beats in time with the soft whisper of her breath as she says, "Yes." And "I love you."

You touch her gently and you learn all the lessons of her body; she teaches you about yours. You never knew it was possible to feel both joy and dread, and each day is a mixture of both because each day you live with the fear that she will somehow realize that you are that man in that bar, lost and lonely and full of hurt. Unworthy of her love.

But she doesn't. She still sees something more, and you love her for that in addition to everything else. You love her so much you feel like there's no room for anyone or anything else, and yet there always is.

Once she opens the door, you suddenly find yourself up to your neck in people to care about, and you find they have a way of sneaking in, much as she did, and caring back.

And amidst all that caring, you forget the most important thing, the one lesson life has taught you again and again.

You are nothing, and no one -- nameless and rootless and not worthy of all the good things she's given you, so of course, they must be taken away.

Home and freedom, safety and peace are the first to go. You knew better than to trust those government fuckers, but she bought into the dream, and you wanted to believe in something, so you believed in her. You still do, even as you watched the flames engulf the place you'd been thinking of as home for the past few years.

You'd forgotten that you have no home, but they reminded you by taking away even the illusion that you'd built.

A life on the run is nothing new for you, but you wanted better for her. She seems happy just to be with you, but you can see the lines of care etching themselves into her skin, even as you touch her at night, while she's sleeping, trying to heal the woes that go beyond the merely physical.

But the physical is your realm, your comfort zone, and you know it better than most. You keep her with you for a long time, longer than even you expected, when you come right down to it. X-Men aren't known for dying of old age, and you have the silent hope that this time you'll buck the odds. But you never say it. You try not to even think it, to bring her to Fate's attention. Because Fate is a bitch with an axe to grind, and while you're used to her taking it out on you, you don't want Marie to bear that burden in addition to everything else.

You know she's not the type to run from a little trouble (or a lot of trouble, if you're honest about it, and a liar is the one thing you've never been), but part of you is always waiting for that other shoe to drop, for her to realize that there must be something, some*one* better for her out there.

But she doesn't leave you.

No. Not yet.

Friends fall, some in battle, some from illness, and still she stays.

Until now.

You let your guard down, started to believe you'd get away with it, until you heard the screams.

It's all a haze of red, one memory you don't want, yet can't seem to shake. Blood and fire and the odd color of the night sky reflecting the flames. Her dark hair is fanned out on the snow blanketing the ground, the way it covers your pillow at night.

You can smell them on the air, the ones who have done this to her, but healing her is more important. You slip and slide in snow and blood, enraged almost beyond sorrow.

She's too weak even to take your hand as you clutch her to you, and you finally hear the other shoe drop.

It is her turn to leave, and your turn to say, "I don't want you to go."

But you know it makes no difference, because you can't save her, can't force her to stay.

She smiles, and it's never lost its affect on you. The world still stops, and your heart still beats in time with her ragged breathing.

"I love you," she says, and you kiss her, trying to force the healing into her, but she's so weak, has lost so much blood, that all she gets is your fear and desperation. Her tears fall like rain, even as she smiles and you strip off her gloves and kiss her hands tenderly, safely.

Even in this bleakest of moments, you feel a thrill of joy at touching her, finally, without pain.

"I love you," you say, "don't leave me."

She strokes your face with a bare hand, and you can tell from her heavy-lidded gaze and the rasp of her breath that she'll be gone in a moment.

You pour into her every bit of love you can summon, every thought of how she's made you the man you are today. She gasps, and even in death she's the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. The snow clings to her lashes and melts on her lips as you kiss her for the last time.

This is the last goodbye.

Her time has run out, and you've got nothing but time. You get the irony, but don't find it funny.

You've spent the past ten years learning the language of love.

But in these final, fleeting moments, you speak the language of goodbye.

You speak of her to strangers in bars, on cold, lonely nights spent hunched over a bottle of scotch.

This is how it happens, you say. You meet a girl in a bar, and your entire life is turned upside down.

In the telling, you can almost feel her touch. You remember all she taught you, all you've learned, and you wouldn't change a moment, but for the end, the one thing you wish you'd left unlearned.

You can never forget the language of goodbye.




The Muse's Fool: read my diary:

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Victoria P.

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