Running To Stand Still
by Victoria P.

She runs.

She stays out all night -- for days, even, sometimes.

They're used to it now; they worry -- both that they missed all the signs in the first place, and now that they accept the consequences as if they were inevitable. And maybe they were.

She doesn't know about inevitability. She doesn't care.

She does know they worry, but she can't think of them, can't think of him. It's his fault.

It's Logan's fault. He didn't come back. One year turned into two turned into four and Goddammit, how long was she supposed to wait?

She's always had the urge to run -- that's how she'd met him, after all -- and having him in her head just intensified it.

Problems at home? Run away.

Problems at school? Run away.

Problems that run away from you? That took a little longer to figure out.

Because a handful of postcards and twice-yearly conversations about nothing in particular were enough to drive her out into the night, looking for something to scratch the itch that lived just beneath her toxic skin, the sting of being lost, rejected, left behind.

And that something is far too easy to find, in the local clubs Jubes and Kitty dragged her to on the nights she wanted to stay home and wait for his calls. On street corners in the Bronx when she's feeling adventurous. From a friend of Remy's who's never visited the school, and who'd probably find his ass kicked back to the Big Easy if Remy found out about their little trysts.

She doesn't think about it anymore. Doesn't care about him anymore. All that matters now is the next score.

She uses the credit card Xavier gave her. He never questions her exorbitant expenditures -- local motels billing at hourly rates. She knows he knows -- they all know. But they haven't been able to reach her for so long. They tried and she tried; she promised to do better and did, for a week or two. And then the cycle began again. Even the expensive sanitarium Xavier sent her to couldn't hold her; she ran from there and lived on the street for a week before Scott and Storm found her and brought her home.

She made a show of trying to behave and they pretended to believe it. The relentless grind of failure has eroded the good intentions on both sides, the good intentions that paved this road to hell. Now they're all complicit in the little charade she's got going, and somehow the running is easier when she knows she can run back.

Jean makes sure there are always clean syringes in an unlocked closet down in the lab. Scott makes sure she comes home in one piece, watching over her, resigned, ashamed... guilty.

They all feel so guilty and she's tired of their looks and their shame. So she runs. Taps the needle. Hits the vein. Rides the rush down into blissful lethargy, waits for the drum of her heart to slow until she thinks she's dead.

It's the only time she stops running, the only way she's found to stand still without the pain.

This time, though, it's not Scott who brings her home.

She looks up and after four long years, he's there. He reaches for her, but she jumps to her feet, unsteady in the unfamiliar motel room.

"Don't touch me!"

He says something, but it's lost in the pounding of her blood in her ears.

"You promised," she screams, "and I hate you! It's your fault!"

She sees it in his eyes -- the same guilt and fear and resignation she's been running from for years.

But he's not Scott and he doesn't do guilt, regret or shame. Not where anyone can see, anyway.

He hauls her out of the motel and dumps her into the passenger seat of a trailer that could be the same exact one he had when she first met him, except that one blew up. And she wonders for a moment if Manny laced her stash with something else, because past and present are colliding and it's ruining her high.

"You running again?" he says mildly. He buckles her in, eyebrow raised and daring her to question, then starts the engine.

She tries to hit him, but he evades her easily.

"If you're going to run," he says, "you better learn how to do it right."

And he pulls out of the motel parking lot.

Her life is in motion again, and she's not sure where it's going. But for the moment, it's all right. She'll ride it out, and if things get rough, she can always start running again.


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