|Fri, 8 Dec 2000
"Parau na te Varua ino" 1/1 [Gauguin Series: Wolverine, Phoenix]
Disclaimer: The X-Men aren't mine. No copyright infringement is intended. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money is being made.
Notes: This is the sixth story in The Gauguin Series, taking place immediately after "Wrestling With The Angel." All of the other stories in this series can be found at The Itty Bitty Archives and Fonts of Wisdom. And you get more language lessons with this one! Yay! "Parau na te Varua ino" translates as "Words of the Devil." Wrestling with angels, speaking with devils... curiouser and curiouser. :-)
Dedication: To Dandelion. Just because. *wink*
Many thanks to Lise and Pebblin for being mighty fine beta readers.
The Gauguin Series
Parau na te Varua ino
When I walk into Harry's Hideaway, she's got her back to me, dancing to the Stones' "Honky Tonk Women" blaring outta the jukebox like she don't have a care in the world. From the way she tosses that mane of red hair and swings those hips of hers, I know she knows I'm here. Or I could just be foolin' myself. She might not be showin' off for anyone in particular. She might just be tryin' to have some fun for a change. But I know she knows I'm here. 'Cause I'm me and she's her and well, there's just certain things that don't ever change.
I make my way to the bar and order myself a longneck, sit on a stool and just watch her move... me and nearly every other red- blooded man in the room. And I can tell from just a glance that most of 'em who've come unattached are mesmerized and a lot of them who are attached are still staring at her slack-jawed despite the scornful looks from their dates. They can't help but look because they think an angel plunked herself down from heaven and decided to grace them with a dance... but I know better.
Near the end of her song, she finally turns to look at me. She winks and smiles as her partner dances stiffly next to her with all of the rhythm and grace of a one-footed duck. Poor guy probably has no idea how foolish he looks. Jean's always had a habit of turning people into fools despite themselves, myself included. Then again I doubt anyone, not even Jean, is paying him much mind.
She hasn't paid attention attention to much of anything in the last few weeks, what with the soap opera that's been goin' on with Betts and the fact that she's still mournin' Scott. And though she hasn't said a peep, I know the fact that Betsy shacked up with Warren is gettin' to her. That and the realization she'll never be over Scott. His death's just not the kind of thing she's ever goin' to be completely over. And though she ain't wearing her grief and frustrations out in the open, I can tell all the ghosts here in Westchester are wearin' her a little more than thin.
"Hey, you." The song's over and she's leaning over me as I take another pull from my beer. She smells like smoke and jasmine and musk and sweat and a hundred other things all rolled up into one breath. I try to ignore it.
"Hey, yerself." I say.
She grabs my beer and takes a slow sip and I nod my head at her dance-partner as he walks past us with a hint of a grimace on his face. "Who's that?" I ask as she hands me back my longneck.
Looking over her shoulder at him, she shrugs. "John Stanbridge. 1494 Sandstone Terrace. Paralegal who hates his job. Ex-wife I'm the polar opposite of and an eight-year-old son who's way too into Pokemon. He thinks I have a nice ass."
I raise an eyebrow at her and she smiles. "Nobody, Logan. Just some guy."
She sits down on the stool next to me and flips her hair over her shoulders as she props her elbows on the bar behind us. Glancing at her out of the corner of my eye, I watch her as she surveys the room. Everything seems to buzz quietly around her, like she's the queen of the ball and everyone's trying not to notice. I wonder what she's up to as I finish off the last of my beer.
When the music from the jukebox ends, the chattering of the small, but die-hard Thursday night crowd fills the bar and Jean fidgets in her seat next to me. Before I have the chance to order another beer or reach for a cigar, she slides down from the stool and waves a shiny quarter near my face as she grabs for my hand.
"Come on, old man. I've got a song I want to hear." She smirks at me.
I shake my head. "Ya know I don't dance, darlin'."
She pretends to pout, knowing full well that I'm lyin' to her. She always knows when I'm lyin' to her. "Since when?"
"Since now." I mutter.
It ain't like Jeannie to be so needy. Woman like her is used to getting her own way all the time and doesn't quite know how to act when her world falls to bits around her. Not that she's sheltered or spoiled by any means. She's just used to being loved... immediately and unconditionally. People just want to make a gal like her happy because it makes them happy, too. And right now there ain't much in this world that will do that. And the one person since Scott passed on who made that beautiful face of hers light up and be the Jean we all know and love again walked out on her... on all of us.
Funny thing is I know she's just as miserable. It's while I can't bring myself to be too angry with Betts. I know she's bein' hard enough on herself without my help.
"Come on, Logan. I'll make sure it's a slow one so all you have to do is shuffle your feet."
She looks at me with those green eyes that are almost the color of the ocean after a storm and blinks. And I know she just wants to forget her troubles for a while, just be a gal on the town with no worries itchin' at the back of her skull. I know that look, because I've been there. More than once. At least with her, there aren't a pile of bruised rough-necks on the floor because she wants to blow off some steam.
Tugging on my hand, she says, "If you don't dance with me, I'll just have to ask someone else."
So I give in and go with her to the jukebox and she puts in her quarter. Like I said, she has a habit of making men into fools. Especially me. Another Stones' song cues up and we're stepping into the middle of Harry's tiny, parquet dancing floor. The same one used for karaoke on Tuesday nights and open mic on Fridays. And damned if the whole bar ain't staring at us as Jean puts her arms around me while them English boys start in with "Memory Motel." She don't even seem to care that we're the only ones dancing.
"So it's the Stones tonight?"
Tilting her head, she plays with a button on my shirt and says, "Seemed appropriate."
She releases a deep sigh and her breath tickles across my cheek as one, then two other couples take to the floor, their bodies a few inches apart, their steps fluid and repetitive. She smiles as she squeezes my shoulder. "I thought it would make you more comfortable."
"To have other people dancing with us. So you wouldn't be so embarrassed."
I'm sure she can feel my back stiffen as I realize she's playing mind games with the folks in the bar, planting suggestions with her telepathy on a whim. I growl quietly under my breath and then ask her, "Why'd you ask me here, Jean?"
She puts her hand on the side of my face, studies me for a minute and then puts it on my back as we shuffle around the floor in tiny circles. "I wanted to have a little fun. Cut loose. I never have fun anymore, Logan."
"And this is fun?"
From her expression, I know she knows exactly what I mean. "They..." she waves her hand toward the bar... "have nothing to do with it. They're just here. And I'm tired. It's easier not to shut them out for a while. It's easier to be them instead of just me."
She leans her head against mine and hums quietly with the song, her voice hushed and slurred. If I didn't know otherwise from the smell of her breath and the color of her skin, I'd think she were drunk. "Their lives are so simple, Logan. They're so different from you and me. But not really. You know, where it matters. I guess extenuating circumstances have made our lives so much more difficult than theirs. But they don't know how beautiful life can be. They're a lot like me, too, you know? Sometimes I forget to stop and look at it."
"Jean. What're ya doing?"
"Stopping to look." She reaches out her hand and waves her fingers at the couple closest to us, a tall, lanky guy holding a fairly attractive gal with blonde hair. Suddenly they begin to tango across the floor, clumsily, like their feet have trouble keeping up with the rhythm in their heads.
In my arms, Jean giggles to herself as the couple goes back to swaying in place to the music. "You know, they're really in love. They won't admit it because they both have this strange idea of what love should be. She's probably seen 'Pretty Woman' one too many times and he's having trouble getting the whole love and lust thing straightened out. Typical."
"Who ya talkin' about?"
"Jessica and Stan. If they don't figure it out soon, they're going to lose each other. But he's more worried about his career right now anyway. If Tom doesn't get that report to him on Monday morning, he's going to have a lot of explaining to do to the board. It could set the merger back by at least six months. God, it makes his stomach churn just thinking about Mr. Greene's reaction and how he's going to smooth it over in time for that budget overhaul meeting. That man really is way too hard on him."
She stops talkin' and smiles. I feel her thoughts and the thoughts of everybody around us skitter across my mind and then suddenly grow quiet. She's decided to leave me out of whatever game she's playin' and for a brief moment, I wish she wasn't. Because then maybe I'd know what she was up to.
A long time ago, I asked Jean what it was like to be a telepath. What it was like to have an open window into the mind of anybody in the whole, wide world. Outta every thing she said to me to answer that question, two words stuck out the most. She said it made her both terrified and hungry. For a telepath to keep themselves from goin' insane, they have to spend most of their lives concentratin' on not lookin', not doin' what comes most natural to them. Something I've always known more than a little bit about. From then on out, I understood Jean. And she understood me.
So as her eyes wander behind the bar and she smirks at no one in particular, I can see that she's losin' control. That she's losin' herself. Forgettin' her own troubles by taking on everyone else's. I grab her face with both my hands and force her to look at me. "Jean. Stop it. Now."
The song stops on the jukebox and as the notes fade away, the bar grows eerily silent as her eyes bore right through me. Standing there in the middle of the dance floor, my hands still on Jean's face, I turn my head and see the eyes of every customer, every server and every soul in Harry's on me. I drop my hands and they all tilt their heads like Jean has a habit of doin' and ask in unison as the same words come outta her mouth, "Why, Logan?"
As she stands in front of me, her expression vacant and challengin' at the same time, I know it ain't one of the strangest things I've ever seen. But it sure comes damn close.
I reach out and hold her by the shoulders. "This ain't right. Yer gonna hurt some people if ya don't watch yerself."
I carefully touch a handful of her thick, red hair and she releases a sigh and squeezes me tight as the rest of the bar falls back into chatter and the clinkin' of glasses. I don't know how many minutes we stand on that dance floor with our arms around each other just breathin'. It don't matter, really. I've seen all her demons before and they don't scare me. So we don't need to say it. Any of it. I know and she knows I know. And that's all that matters. For now anyway.
After somebody skirts past us to get to the jukebox, Jean says quietly, "Let's get out of here, Logan."
And she takes my hand and we head out the front door to my bike. As I hand her an extra leather jacket the one helmet I have, she stares at them for a few seconds before she turns to look at me. "I need to get away for a while, don't you think?"
I nod my head and take the helmet from her hands as I help her into the coat.
She zips it up herself. "I mean, I shouldn't be acting like this. This isn't normal."
"You've been through a lot."
"This wasn't about Scott and you know it." I raise an eyebrow and she continues, "It wasn't about her either."
"Then what was it about, Jeannie?"
She plays with the visor on the helmet and looks down at the gravel in the parking lot. Things worked out okay tonight, but I can smell the worry and fear on her and we both know she's got a lot of thinkin' to do when I get her home. She looks at me for a minute and chooses her words carefully. "Me, I guess. And the fact that I don't know how to be alone anymore."
She's right and she knows it, so there's nothing left to say as the door into Harry's swings open, shining a sliver of yellow light towards us. It glints against the black of Jean's helmet as she adjusts it on her head. I swing my leg over the bike and Jean slips in behind me, her arms warm and something a little less than familiar. As I start the engine and roll slowly out of the parking lot, the sliver of light cuts wider and I hear the last bits of another Stones' song, "Sympathy For The Devil," before the engine drowns it out and we cut onto the road while I up the gas.
Always was a Dylan man, myself. But damned if those boys didn't know a thing or two about rock 'n' roll.