Part IV: Under the Moon
The property was nearly featureless and heavily wooded, and Marie counted
on that. She also counted on seven years of training to be a superhero and
the instincts she'd gotten from her rummage in Logan's mind, faded but
treasured and never forgotten.
But she did run--and she put her whole mind and body into it. She'd
trained in snow and woods and the desert and the plains under the
supervision of some of the best fighters in the world, imported by Xavier
to see to their education. She'd practiced in bad weather, in good, in
rain and sleet and God-forsaken hail and bad wind and snowstorms.
And Logan had taken her on personally one long-ago summer when she was
twenty, one of those times that he'd seemed relatively content to stay in
one place, and she'd come to the gym to find him waiting and looking over
her evaluations and telling her that she didn't know shit.
It was one of the best summers of her life.
There were few that could match her, even fewer that surpassed her. But
she'd never competed against anyone that came close to his level of
expertise, no one with an unremembered military background and the
mutations that made him a perfect weapon in stalking and hunting.
He might win, but she'd make it damned hard.
So she dodged trees, crossed that charming brook that had so fascinated her
when she'd first seen it, covered her tracks, and counted the minutes in
her head until she knew he'd started and knew also the fall of snow had
made it impossible for him to be sure where her tracks were. She avoided
drifts and kept off the trails and twisted through the forest using every
scrap of knowledge she had from her instructors, muddling her trail.
Even he couldn't follow her scent if it was covered in snow.
Finally, she timed herself a break and collapsed in a shade of rock and
trees that made her practically invisible if you didn't know what to look
for and considered the mess she'd made.
She'd asked the question and still didn't have an answer. Which sucked
beyond words to describe, and she had no idea what he was thinking, which
was even worse.
What the hell did he think he was doing? Whatever point he was trying to
make was lost in translation.
Time was up. She stretched her chilled legs and did quick visual
reconnaissance of the area. There was *no* way he could find her yet--no
way he could have gotten this far.
But then--well, how much could she count on that, really?
What did she want? She knew she could settle when she stepped into the
car, knew she'd settle now if that's what it took, because she'd waited and
tried other things and other people and there just wasn't a comparison.
He'd never have Jean, not as long as Scott lived and Marie would make it
her personal mission to assure he did if that kept one obsession from
becoming reality--not to mention she liked Scott a lot.
Beside the point. She started moving, checking her surroundings
But what she wanted--she wanted to wear her own clothes and see him look at
her like that. She wanted him to want her with that same heat and
intensity she'd envied Jean, and she wanted to know in her own head that
there would never be anything to complete against, even in his fantasies.
She wanted him to have a glove fetish.
She wanted ownership, because he'd owned her for a damned long time and
turnabout was fair play.
But she could settle, because he wouldn't have Jean, ever, and he could
have her, free of any entanglements except something to protect his skin.
She could settle.
"Shit." She twisted, saw him at fifty feet, and broke into a dead run.
It wasn't a real contest--he had the height, weight, strength, and speed,
and all she had was sheer dogged determination and the desperation of a
rabbit that just noticed the wolf, and instinct took over before she could
even think about maybe giving up and declaring defeat. She dodged between
the trees, trying to regulate her breathing but it wasn't working, because
she wasn't really Marie being chased by her lover she was a small animal
being hunted by a predator and that changed everything.
It wasn't enough to win but it was enough to lengthen and that was the best
she could hope for.
It wasn't enough, or even close. Even for hope.
He brought her down five feet from the last tree and she spun onto her
back, bringing up her knee.
"God, Marie, I *trained* you to do that! Why the hell did you think it
would work on me?" He knocked it aside, getting hold of her hands and
pinning them above her head, balancing his weight between not crushing her
and keeping perfect leverage.
It worked, and she pulled up every remembered profanity and then some,
yelling it in a language she didn't even know and he shook his head and
jerked her onto her stomach when she kicked him, pinning one arm behind her
"Give?" He sounded amused, damn him.
"Not in your fucking life."
"You've never been easy."
"Yeah, so you'd think, huh?"
Silence--she heard the bitterness in her voice and so did he, and he leaned
close over her back.
"You want the answer?"
Did she? God, she hadn't even considered that far--did she want it or not,
did she want confirmation of what she'd accepted already?
"I waited three hours for him to leave your room."
She stopped struggling but he didn't let go of her arm and she turned her
head, wishing she could see his face.
"Took an hour rummaging through the office to find the address and another
hour to find the car keys--whoever organized that place is going to hear
from me damned soon. Left a message on Xavier's desk so he'd know you
weren't dead and another on your door so your roommates wouldn't raise the
entire fucking school when they realized you weren't there. Ten minutes to
get Ororo to keep her mouth shut until we were gone and an extra fucking
four hours of driving in case Cyke got it into his head I was taking you
against your will and Xavier couldn't keep him under control."
"Now you fucking tell me why you're here."
Marie shut her eyes.
"You're angry." She could feel it in every muscle against her body.
"And you're a bright girl to figure it out so damned quick. Give me an
answer--why are you here? And why do you wear these?" He picked the chain
from her neck and she swallowed hard, biting down on her lip. "If it's
just for sex, we could have done it in your room and been done with it, not
crossed half a damned continent. Why come here?"
"You like to run."
"I also like cheeseburgers but that doesn't mean I'll go into fucking
northern Canada to get a good one."
She had to laugh at that, and it slipped out and maybe, just maybe, she
felt him relax.
"I'm getting cold." The snow had worked into her jacket and lay damply
against her sweater
"I'll let you touch me so you don't die of frostbite. Answer the
"I wanted you."
"I've heard that before, and much as that helps my ego, I don't think I'm
so good in bed that you'd follow me to Canada to find out how I compare."
She'd need a standard to compare against. He'd always been that standard.
Damn, damn, damn.
"I thought you didn't like heart to hearts."
She breathed into the snow.
"And that's *much* better."
Her eyes widened when she realized what she'd said. His grip had loosened
enough for her to pull away and she turned on her back, staring up at him.
It was well after nightfall and if she hadn't opened her mouth she could
be--well, she could try on a few more of Jean's clothes and see which ones
would work for what she wanted to be doing.
Instead, she was sitting--laying--in snow staring up at eyes she couldn't
read at all, with nothing in her head from him to help her through this
moment--and wow, she'd just told him the wrong thing in such a spectacular
"That's not what I meant."
"Good to hear. Try again." He crossed his arms over his chest and she
belatedly realized that he was perfectly willing to wait as long as it took
her to give an answer.
She searched his face, trying to find something, but he wasn't giving away
a damned thing.
"I can be second best."
He considered for a minute, then slowly nodded, almost to himself.
"Should have guessed." Before she could come up with a response, before
she had time to hurt, before she even had time to absorb what he'd said and
what it meant and how incredibly thoroughly she'd managed to wreck
everything, he leaned close and stared into her eyes.
"There's no second best."
For a moment, he didn't say anything at all and Marie didn't either. Then,
in a single moment, he stood up, pulling her unceremoniously to her feet
before turning away briefly, fingers clenched into his palms.
"What the hell were you thinking?" It was low, soft, and dangerous, and
Marie caught herself taking a step back.
God, she hated this. Hated that she'd said anything, hated that for once
she couldn't keep her tongue still--hated that he could do this to her,
when she wasn't a seventeen year old kid with a crush but a grown woman who
had the memories of three men pattering around in her head.
And she had to get out of here.
She would have, too, but there was a sudden and extremely embarrassing
realization that she had no clue where the hell she was and that slowed her
down--she had response before she thought better of it.
"That's what you do. I learned from the best."
"Tell me what you want."
She wanted to be in the cabin, in the bedroom alone, and she wanted to lock
the door and cry, but the difference between seventeen and twenty-four
wasn't so great after all, that at seventeen, she would have told him--
--and at twenty-four, she did too.
"I don't want to be her substitute."
"But you'd settle for it. And you think I'd settle with something less
than what I actually want."
She took a moment to think through that, then turned around, leaning
against the tree beside her--trying to work out what he said, what he
meant--because damn it, it couldn't be as simple as that. And he was
stalking her, slowly, approaching her as if she'd run--and maybe she would,
she didn't know.
"I know what you taste like, what you smell like, I know what sounds you
make when I touch you and I know what you look like when you're asleep. I
know your favorite foods and I know your favorite color and I know how your
hands feel without your gloves." He stopped, three inches away, and she
caught her breath. "I know what it takes to make you smile and I know what
it takes to make you scream--I know you."
"Tell me you love me." One hand rested beside her face and he leaned
close. "Tell me it wasn't a mistake, tell me that we didn't drive for
twenty-two fucking hours so you could stop being a virgin and I could learn
to like apples."
Her hands were shaking and maybe he noticed, because he took one of her
hands, rubbing his thumb distractingly along the palm. And she tried to
find words, tried to think of something that wouldn't come out sounding
fifteen and dramatic and--God--
In his Logan way, he said he loved her.
"It wasn't a mistake." She could barely get the words out and just left
them there, unable to really elaborate--
--because this part had never been in her fantasies at all.
"Now wasn't that easy?" He took her hand, turned her in the opposite
direction--apparently the way home--and pulled her unresistingly along
behind him. "Let's go."
It had been easy.
"If you had a cow and an apple tree, and if you tied the apple tree in your
stable and planted the cow in your orchard, with her legs up, how much milk
would you get from the apple tree or how many apples from the cow?"
Take a guess
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