The OutsideTheLines
Feature of the Month

Self-Insertion Challenge

"Interlude at a Train Station"

By Indigo

Matt Nute's Self-Insertion Challenge:

Write yourself into a fanfic where you interact with your favorite character. Conditions:
  1. You need not be a superhero/mutant/whatever.
  2. You must, however, have a logical reason for associating with the character.
  3. Don't have the story just involve the two of you. Use other elements of your character's world, or your own, or both.

DISCLAIMER: The only recognizable character in this story is the property of Marvel. He's used without permission, and for entertainment purposes only. No challenge to or infringement of the copyright should be inferred.

FEEDBACK is okay too, as long as it's polite, can be sent to


January 19.

Two years to the day I'd met the man I had hoped to spend my entire life with.

Our anniversary. January 19.

Two years to the day since we'd met -- that he'd chosen to finalize the breakup -- after yo-yoing my heart through November and December.

Worse? My parents had sensed it happening before me...before Christmas. When my mother hadn't been teasing me about it, she had been demanding to know whether she should buy Robert a Christmas present.

"Your mother is your best friend," she had told me time and again when I was little. "You can always come and talk to me. Anytime. About anything."

But once I hit 13, anytime I wanted to talk, I got told to shut up; Jeopardy was on.

When I hit 18, and told her the guy I liked was still having hangups over his last girlfriend, who had died in a drunk-driving accident, she slapped my face for saying it was none of my business.

Now that I'm 24, she is busy all the time with 'The Business.'

Mary freakin' Kay.

And anytime I try to talk to her, she's either working 'The Business', or avoiding my father and doesn't want any stress. Yet she wonders why I don't talk to her. My mother --the definition of ironic.

But when I confronted her about going behind my back and asking my best friend about my problems with Robert, she protested that I never talk to her.

~Can't do anything right, then, can I? Not to my father, who's called me abnormal since I was 13. Not 'streamlined' enough to get a man, too messy, too bookish. ~

~Not to my mother: I don't care enough about how I look -- I know I'll never look like her... like I fell out of the pages of Cosmo.~

~I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't swear. I made it all the way through high school and two years of college before they decided they didn't want to pay if I wanted to major in Art, or couldn't make straight As. I've got a job in the city and still that's not good enough.~

In fact, the only reason I could even get myself out of bed and go to that job was because calling in sick and staying home meant being around my parents and listening again to the litany of what kind of failure they considered me.

~I don't fit in with my family. I don't even fit in with my beloved anymore. I've never fit in with the rest of the world. There is a hole where my heart belongs, and the winter wind is blowing through it, freezing my soul.~

~Do I want to live with a frozen soul?~


I glanced at my watch. 7:17 a.m. The next train would be the 7:19. But there's a 7:29 express that doesn't stop at this station. ~I could catch that one.~

7:28. I leaned over the edge of the platform. The Freeport station is a bit too far away to see from here, but if you lean over just so, you can see the train approaching once it comes around the bend.

~Got to make sure it's not going slow because of the snow,~ I thought,with a vague, brittle amusement that I was so matter-of-fact about it. ~If the train's creeping, I might just get my neck broken. It'd be great fun to spend the rest of my life quadriplegic in my parents' company.~

~I can see the lights of the train.~ I took a deep breath. ~I didn't leave a note,~ I thought as the wind strikes cold against my eyes, drawing tears. ~Like my writing mattered to anyone anyway. They'd probably just assume I 'ran away' and laugh again.~

The train's approach became audible in a handful of heartbeats, and people began moving back, away from the yellow line to avoid the breeze kicked up by the commuter train's passage. Everyone except me.

I took one step forward in the obnoxiously high-heeled winter boots my mother had bought me. I recalled the dread I felt when she handed me the box, like that which was within was precious. I recalled the knot in the pit of my stomach. I could barely walk in high heels, and winter boots, made for walking on the ice generated in a Long Island winter, were just not supposed to have heels.

~Good. Maybe someone will just think I slipped. That will make it easier for my aunt and my sister.~

Another step forward. The yellow line was beneath one boot.

[~Nuh, gel. You don't want to do that. It's not so bad as you think.~]

I didn't realize the words were directed at me, until I felt two hands close over my elbows and pull me back -- away from the brink of a permanent decision.

My head swam - I was angry; angry at being thwarted. I was terrified; I had nearly jumped in front of a rush hour commuter train. I was appalled; how inconsiderate to inconvenience all those commuters! I was despondent; ~now I'll just have to keep existing...~ I had long since stopped calling it 'living.'

And then...I was shocked.

Someone had stopped me.

Someone had cared.

~That's not possible.~

[~'Course I care,~] said the voice which had spoken before. To my shock, I realized the voice was in my head, not out loud. [~I know how it hurts sometime. But that's no solution.~]

"How would you know?" I demanded hotly, angry tears springing into my eyes. Who was this impudent stranger who professed to know the timbre of my pain as well as I? Who presumed to tell me I couldn't end it in the manner I had chosen.

I looked up into his eyes and found them brown, deep, bright, and full of a pain that made me stop and catch my breath. ~Maybe,~ I allowed, ~He does know a little something about pain.~

[~No mebbe about it, luv. I do know a thing or two about pain.~]

I frowned. No mistaking it that time. The voice was definitely in my head. "Yeah?" I demanded, angry all over again. "And so you go around ...what? Telling people you know about pain? So what?" My voice shrilled a little, but the wind carried my words away before the other commuters huddled in the shelter could hear and look away with pity or disgust in their eyes. "So you think it's your right to act like some kind of ... of... God-complex-havin' guy and force me to continue in an existence that is nothing but me telling myself 'make it through this day and see if tomorrow's any better'? I got news for you, okay? Tomorrow is never any better!" I had gone in the span of a few words from angry to furious; while the pain still lingered at the back of my spirit, I was able to ignore it for the moment.

[~Think.~] he said, looking at me with those piercing eyes. The snow whipped through his brown hair.

"I did," I whispered, finally unable to meet that intense gaze any longer. "I thought it'd be better this way. Everyone wants me to be something I'm not. No one wants me for myself." The pain rallied against the anger, washed over it like a wave washes over a levee. The tears threatened; years of 'don't cry or I'll give you something to cry for' from my father made me fight letting them fall from my eyes.

The man who had pulled me back gently took my elbow again and led me to the escalator. [~C'mon. You're not goin' to work today.~]

I've always been trusting. Too trusting, really. I've ended up in trouble that way more than once. But something about this guy made me certain he wasn't going to hurt me. Logic said he hadn't prevented me from jumping only to hack me to pieces with a Swiss Army Knife. So I went with him. If he did want to kill me, I'd still be dead, even if I hadn't been the one to do the deed.

We were waiting at the light to cross Sunrise Highway so we could go to the little diner across from the Baldwin train station when it really hit me. This tall, black-clad stranger who had grabbed me by the elbow was speaking in my head!

"What are you?" I asked him, turning to regard him again. He was tall, skinny. Looked to be between seventeen and twenty. Tousled mop of silky brown hair. And bundled up against the col--

No, that's not exactly right.

He was wearing a black turtleneck, jeans, black boots, and a black leather jacket; no earmuffs, no hat. No gloves. I wondered how he was managing. The weather had said it was 19 with a wind-chill factor of -5. The only thing he conceded to the weather was the black scarf he had wound around his the lower half of his face and his neck.

[~Just a bloke,~] he replied, with a shrug. I got the impression of a faint, wry smile.

" 'Just a bloke,' " I repeated. "I'm not stupid," I said, wounded dignity sharpening my words a little. "I don't ordinarily run into telepathic Englishmen."

He raised one brow, perhaps in surprise. ~Score one for me.~

"I read a lot," I informed him with a shrug. ~Escapism.~ "Come on!" I bolted out into the street the second the light turned green. Sunrise Highway was brutal to pedestrians. You had about 20 seconds to make it across six lanes of traffic, and the signal began flashing DON'T WALK about 10 seconds through. Unless one ran, one would get trapped on the island between the eastbound and westbound lanes when the light changed.

Without a word, my telepathic benefactor loped along beside me, long-legged strides easily keeping pace with my sprint.

We stepped into the Baldwin Harbor diner, and got a table in the no-smoking section. The hostess looked askance at the guy in black, but she found her smile again and brought us menus. I ordered tea with lemon.

"So?" I asked, once establishing my new companion wasn't going to order anything, "What is it you stopped me for? Do I have a bright future waiting for me? Do I finally rise above all this and make some kind of triumph for myself? I'd settle for a writing job at Marvel Comics."

To my shock, all he did was shrug. [~Can't tell the future, luv. Telepathy an' big bloody rows are about all I can manage.~] In response to my uncomprehending and slightly indignant stare of response, he gave me a soft mental 'chuckle'. It was short-lived, though, and he let his shoulders rise and fall as if in a heavy sigh. [~'Ere. 'Ave a look, then, an' then you can talk t'me about pain, hm?~]

He lifted his slender right hand and pulled down the scarf binding his face. To my surprise, there was no face beneath his nose. There was just emptiness...! Emptiness filled up by a glowing, incandescent light like a million candles burned inside him. It was beautiful. Were I the religious sort, I'd call it almost holy.

"Does it hurt?" I asked him.

[~Not in the sense you mean,~] he responded. [~I don't feel pain, no. An' technically, I've no 'eart. But... still. It hurts anyway.~]

~This is all a dream,~ I thought. ~I'm still at home, in bed, dreaming this. In five minutes, the alarm will go off and I'll wake to the same empty existence and...~

[~Yer not dreamin',~] he insisted with a note of amusement in his voice. [~I often find meself wishin' it, though. That I was the one dreamin', I mean.~]

"You're a mutant," I said suddenly, careful to keep my voice low. I had never seen one before. I'd always sort of half-seriously considered myself one.

He nodded. [~Yer still think yer life's so bad you wanta bring it to an end, then? Yer the lucky one, you are. Normal. Cute. You've not half a face an' no chest a'tall.~]

I smirked over the teacup. "No one would miss me if you hadn't stopped me..." I said, pausing. I realized I didn't know his name.

[~Jono,~] he said in response to my unvoiced realization. Then, shrewdly, he asked, [~No one would miss yer?~]

"Okay, my aunt and my sister. But that's it."

[~Isn't that enough?~]

I stopped to consider the question. I realized he was right. I honestly didn't care what my parents would think. They'd weep on each other's shoulders for show; because it was expected of them. But my sister. My aunt. Their tears would be real. ~I can't do that to them.~

[~Didn't think so.~] Jono's 'voice' held a vaguely smug note. [~See, doesn't it feel better knowin' they care?~]

"A little," I admitted begrudgingly over my teacup.

[~Well, there's always the fact that givin' up would mean the bad guys win.~]

My eyes widened. "You have a point," I said.

For the first time in recent memory, my lips curled into a smile.

[~Decided to stay with us, then?~] Jono asked, elbows propped across the back of the booth.

"Yeah," I confirmed. "The ones who've hurt me don't deserve the satisfaction. The ones who care don't deserve the grief."

[~Then me work 'ere is done,~] Jono said with playful sarcasm. He unfolded his tall, lanky frame from the booth, bent over me, and pressed the scarf against my forehead -- the next best thing to a kiss.

[~Good luck. It's not a lovely world, but if it 'elps to know it -- you're not alone.~]

He paid for my cup of tea and walked out. I ran after him, but he had disappeared. I wondered if he cloaked his mind from mine like in the comics. There was no other way he could've vanished so fast.

I called in sick to work, and went to a movie instead. Doing something for myself helped; it was the right way for me to have spent the day after my dark-clad angel had given me a good talking-to.

I never saw Jono again after that day at the train station. I wasn't especially thankful at the time, but I am now.

My life still is no great picnic, but it's improved a lot since that day...and I would never have lived to tell about it if not for him.

I still don't fit in.

But I don't mind so much anymore.

The End

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"Interlude at a Train Station"
©David D. Amaya

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