“Heard tell I could find ya out here.”
Scott Summers bolted upright, grabbing at his slightly-askew glasses. Still over his eyes, thank goodness. He must’ve dozed off in the grass.
The new girl—Rogue, he remembered, ex-Brotherhood, steals powers with skin contact, reliability promising but still undetermined—stood over him in a flannel shirt and worn jeans he’d bet money were cast-offs of Logan’s. She planted her hands on her hips. “I’m goin’ fishin’. Ya wanna come?”
He blinked. “What?”
“Ah don’t like ta intrude on yer grief.” Rogue indicated the tombstone behind him with a jerk of her chin. “But ah reckon there comes a point where it ain’t so much mournin’ as drownin’.”
“I’m paying my respects,” Scott snapped. Never mind that after almost a year he still saw Jean around every corner...
Rogue met his glare without flinching, but her voice was gentle. “She ain’t goin’ anywhere, sugah. Come fishin’ with me for a little.”
She didn’t offer him a hand up. Didn’t walk away, either.
He settled his glasses more firmly on his nose before he got to his feet.
She led him through the woods, to a bend in the little river that fed the lake. A battered cooler and pair of fishing rods sat on the bank. “Bait’s there,” Rogue said—“there” being a soup can half-buried in silt. “Grab a pole.”
He did. She took the other.
“Now, fish an’ grubs don’ mind, but you keep your hands off!” With that, Rogue peeled off a glove—her left hand, Scott noted, the one farther away from him. That hand had to cross her body to pluck a grub out of the can, but she had it on the fishing hook almost faster than he could follow. Almost. Good thing he was used to breaking down motion in a hurry. Rogue drew her arm back and flicked the pole. The baited line flew out over the river. Splash!
Now it was his turn. Not hard. After fighting the Shi’ar Imperial Guard (almost winning. Damn it, almost winning!), worms were nothing, right? Ugh. He winced at the way the grub felt in his fingers. Easy. Get the hook with your other hand, put it through. It’s just a worm. Just a—
“Yow!” He dropped worm and hook both. A drop of blood beaded up where he’d jabbed his hand.
“Uh.” He looked. The cut was already scabbing over. “Yeah. Fine.”
To his surprise, Rogue chuckled. “I shoulda thought. You’ve never been fishin’ before, have you?”
He hadn’t. “I...”
“No shame in it, city boy. Here.” She caught the swinging hook in her gloved hand. “I’ve got it steady for ya. Try it again.”
“I don’t really understand why you invited me.” He reached for another worm.
Rogue shrugged. “Makes two of us, sugah. I keep myself t’ myself.”
He’d noticed. “And why’s that?”
“Y’think I’m a fool? I hear how the room goes silent when I walk in.”
The hook was baited. Rogue scooted away.
Cyclops scowled, concentrating, and whipped his line out into the river. Splash. In the corner of his eye, Rogue nodded slightly. He smiled.
She reached for the cooler. “Now it’s just watchin’ an’ waitin.”
The can of beer she handed him looked suspiciously like something from Logan’s personal stash. “Are you even old enough to drink this stuff?”
“Ah take my joys where ah can get ’em, city boy.” Snap-fzzzt. She took a swig. “And yo’ mama shoulda taught you how rude it is to ask a lady her age.”
She was teasing him, he knew that, but he still said, “I grew up in an orphanage, Rogue.”
Silence. Then her hand, the gloved one, slipped into his and squeezed tight. “Ah’m sorry.” The hand withdrew.
What the hell am I supposed to say to her now?
Jean would’ve known.
Scott cracked open his beer.
Toward the bottom of the can, it dawned on him that the silence wasn’t awkward. Rogue sprawled on her belly beside him, swirling her uncovered hand in the water and humming to herself. The sun dappled through the trees. The river burbled. It was... soothing. His fishing rod hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary, but sitting and doing nothing here was somehow better than sitting and doing nothing alone with his grief.
The beer was empty. “Have any more of these?” he found himself asking.
“Cooler,” she replied without moving. “Get it yerself.”
He chuckled. “Yes, ma’am.”
There was indeed more beer, as well as soda pop and a couple of apples. “I hope I don’t have to stop Logan from tearing you apart later.”
“I’d like to see ’im try!” Rogue snorted. “Nah, Wolverine’s all right. Ever since Japan ’e treats me like a kid sister or somethin’.”
“And he lets you raid his beer stash?”
A pause a tad too long. “I’ll make it up to ’im.”
He thought better of being tipsy when he got back to the mansion and took a Coke. “Nothing seems to be biting.”
“Gotta have patience, city boy.” Rogue tugged off her other glove to dip both hands in the water. “What d’you do with your lazy summer afternoons, anyhow?”
“Danger Room training,” he said.
She made a sound like a gasp caught halfway. Their eyes met, and she buried her face in wet hands and guffawed.
“What? What’s so funny?”
Rogue shook her head, hooting with laughter.“Trainin’,” she wheezed, “is what ya do fer fun? Mah God, city boy, you gotta get out more!”
He stared at her, with her fishing rod and dubiously legal beer. A slow smile spread over his face.
“That’s… that’s what Jean always told me, too. You have no idea how many times she dragged me out of the DR ’for my own good.’”
“Good on her. Y’ got a bite.”
“Huh?” His fishing rod strained toward the river. “Geez!” He grabbed at it, cranking the reel. The line seemed to have taken on a mind of its own—a piscine one, no doubt. It mightily resisted his efforts to pull it back in. Until it didn’t. The tension vanished. He reeled in an empty hook. “So close...” he muttered.
“Don’ worry, there’ll be others.”
But not that one. A familiar wave of loss swept over him. So much effort expended to hold on, and yet. “I miss her, Rogue. I miss her so much I don’t know what to do with it.”
She watched him from the corner of her eye. “You musta loved her a whole lot.”
He nodded. There was a long silence. He shut his eyes long enough to lift his glasses, wipe away the moisture that had collected.
“We got more bait,” Rogue said softly. “An’ I got all afternoon.”
“Okay,” he said, and it was, sort of. “I guess I’ll try again.”