HE/WE/THEY/I

By Yahtzee

**

The tea party had one host and three guests.

Charles Xavier did the honors, pouring steaming water into china cups so that the acrid scent of Darjeeling curled up through the air. His guests watched him with varying reactions.

Rogue remembered etiquette classes she'd taken in ninth grade; they were antiquated, even by Meridian standards. Even the mothers laughed at them, but sent their daughters anyway to give the grandmothers something to cluck proudly about after church on Sundays. She could see that Professor X was doing absolutely everything correctly - the pauses, the placement, even stirring so that his spoon didn't clank against the side of the cup. Her etiquette teacher (a woman with bottle-blonde hair and lipstick that was always brilliant, stop-sign red) would have said he was a perfect gentleman.

Erik remembered a cafe in Edinburgh. They'd traveled all around Western Europe that summer, in an era that fell after the splendors of Young Men's Grand Tours but before the modern mode of scruffy backpacking. He and Charles had worn sport jackets and ties, most days. They got their shoes shined. Without ever explicitly discussing the matter, they did not venture any further east than Switzerland. For Charles, it had been two months of discovery; as a boy, he'd scarcely left London. Erik had been surprised to rediscover beauty and grace through Charles' eyes - but more surprised how deep the shadows still fell. They dimmed the stained-glass windows of Chartres; they clouded the skies at Calais. Despite everything he had been through, Erik had still been young enough then to

think that the shadows might go away, someday. Never had the darkness been further away than on that evening in Edinburgh, when Charles, greatly daring, let his hand rest on Erik's wrist, right there in the cafe, in front of the whole world.

Logan wished they were having coffee instead of goddamned pansy-ass tea again.

"We should talk about what's happened to you," Professor X said. "About what you're going through."

"I'm all right," Rogue said quickly. "I swear. It's just - weird, right now."

Erik thought Charles was far too intelligent to believe such nonsense. Logan figured that, seeing as how Xavier was psychic and all, intelligence didn't even come into it; you lied to Xavier, he knew it.

"Judging from the accounts you gave us of your earlier experiences, it is reasonable to assume that your present confusion is temporary," Professor X said.

"Though the -intensity -- of your encounters on Liberty Island suggests that your recovery period may last longer than usual."

Way to cheer her up, Logan thought. While you're at it, why don't you just tell her there's no guarantee this is ever gonna stop? Because there ain't one.

Erik thought that, really, there were times when Charles' gift for tact could genuinely be useful. Rogue was calming down already, thinking of this as normal, instead of abnormal. Which for her, perhaps, it was.

"I want to do all this stuff I don't normally want to do at all," Rogue said. "Like - like smoking. I tried it one time in tenth grade and it made me sick. But now I want a cigar just about every day. And good ones, too - I know all the brand names. They don't sell them in the U.S."

Logan knew the name of a guy who could get her some Cohibas. Erik wondered idly if his own smoking habit, defeated and discarded twenty years ago, played any role in this.

Rogue knew that smoking was the least of her worries - it was just the easiest thing to talk about. She wanted things darker and richer and stranger than that. When Dr. Grey walked down the hall, Rogue noticed the sway of her hips, the way her red hair swung from side to side. Logan wanted to do things that Rogue's body didn't have the equipment to do. Logan wanted to touch her, but Rogue's hands were covered with gloves.

Even wanting Dr. Grey was easier than picking up a newspaper or watching Dan Rather on TV. When angry people held up anti-mutant placards, Rogue didn't get mad right back, the way she always used to. She became calm. She made plans. She imagined that she had the right to do murder, and remembered what it had been like to act on that. Rogue remembered what it was like to look at herself - at Rogue, at Marie, at all her memories and hopes and feelings - and consider her life a small price to pay.

Erik thought Rogue shouldn't be so na´ve. Logan couldn't see Rogue the way Magneto did, and he'd be damned if he'd even try.

"The desires are part of the personalities you've absorbed," Professor X said. "They'll pass. So far you've done a good job of controlling them."

"Except for punching Mr. Summers in the jaw," Rogue said.

The smug, self-righteous fool, Erik thought. He won't lecture about Mystique's "psychosis" as though he really knew her, not again.

That was fun, Logan thought, and he grinned. Rogue tried to stop the smile.

"Mr. Summers understands, as do we all, that your extended exposure to both Magneto and Logan on Liberty Island has left you, shall we say, not wholly in control of your actions for the time being." More gently, Professor X added, "He's not angry, Rogue. You can be sure of that."

Rogue did feel better - if anyone would know, Professor X would. But that brought up other issues, ones that worried her more. But could she talk about those out loud?

Oh, please do, Erik thought. Charles loves nothing more than to play Father Confessor.

Logan thought this all came back to the psychic thing again; you might as well say whatever was on your mind with Xavier, because he already knew what was on your mind in the first place.

"I don't just have their personalities," she said. "I have their memories."

"Ah," Professor X said. Erik studied his face very carefully.

Rogue stalled for time, taking another sip of her tea. Logan wished for more milk. Erik wanted less sugar. She added more milk and more sugar. Finally, she said, "I have memories I shouldn't have."

"You mean - memories of me."  Professor X didn't look angry, which was a relief to Rogue. He didn't look sad either, which confused Erik more than he would have liked to admit.

Holy shit, Logan thought. They're gay.

Quickly, Rogue said, "I thought maybe I would have Logan's memories - the ones he lost, you know? Maybe whatever block he has, I wouldn't have. I can't remember anything right now; there's some stuff from the labs - what they did to him was so horrible, Professor - just, it was horrible. I was thinking, maybe, while this is still going on, you or Dr. Grey could try and probe into my mind instead, and -"

"We won't do that," Professor X replied. "The content of Logan's memories may be important, but ultimately, they are most important to Logan himself. Merely telling him the information about his past without the emotional context - without the reality of memory - would solve very few of his difficulties."

Logan thought some answers would be helpful, no matter what the hell they were. Erik wasn't so sure about that.

Professor X continued, "As for the memories - they will become part of you, over time. I am sorry that you have some of Magneto's darker memories; they are burdens no one should have to carry."

Rogue looked down at her arm for a tattoo that wasn't there. Logan had tried to get a tattoo once, but his body absorbed the ink as quickly as the needle could etch it. Erik tasted ash on his tongue.

"But if you're worried about invading my privacy, please don't concern yourself about that any longer." Professor X gave her a little smile. "Given my abilities, I am accustomed to - unbidden intimacy of the mind. And I should have the strength of character to endure the scrutiny I ask everyone around me to endure every day."

"How do you stand it? Having other people in your mind all the time?" They all wondered about this, for different reasons.

Professor X sighed. "I try to learn something from them, when I can. Sometimes, I admit, it is a burden. But sometimes, the richness of it - it goes beyond any other form of beauty I have ever known."

What had their experiences given her of beauty? Erik thought Auschwitz had little to teach her there. Logan remembered the Canadian Rockies and the way the Northern Lights painted the sky gold and green; that seemed like the kind of thing Rogue would like.

Rogue whispered, "When Logan found me on the Statue of Liberty - he really didn't know if he'd survive or not, but he took off his glove anyway. He didn't care whether he lived - no, that's not right. He did care. But he cared more about whether I lived."

Rogue thought that was love - unbound to the kind of feelings Logan had for Dr. Grey, but love, all the same. Erik informed her that agape was the name for the illusion of such selflessness, but that she shouldn't confuse a suicidal impulse with Greek mythology.

Logan told her that was love, though he was grateful not to have to find the words for it. Damn, this was embarrassing.

Whatever else it was, Rogue thought, it was beautiful.

"You need enough separation in your mind to have control over your actions," Professor X said. His words had the weathered tone of a lesson hard-learned. "But it isn't a bad thing, this knowledge that human beings are not so separate from each other as most people like to believe. You simply have to learn how to carry the knowledge."

Erik and Logan both thought that was a crock, for different reasons. Rogue knew better, and for the first time she realized that she was beginning to get the upper hand in her own mind. About time, she thought. Professor X smiled, and she knew he understood.

"Can I go see Logan this afternoon? I know he's still unconscious, but Dr. Grey says his vital signs are getting better. Maybe he could hear me, if I talked to him."

Professor X said, "I'm not sure of that, but it couldn't hurt."

Wonder just what "vital signs" Jean's checking out, Logan thought. I got a few ideas about that.

I cannot wait to be reabsorbed into Rogue's consciousness and therefore be rid of you, Erik thought.

"Thanks, Professor," Rogue said. "For everything." All three guests set down their cup of tea and went into the hallway, where they gave in to Rogue's impulse to run.

Professor X looked at the one empty chair and sighed. He sipped his Darjeeling and thought of Edinburgh. He'd never realized Erik was so moved by that one simple touch, by his hand on Erik's wrist.

THE END


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