* * * * *
The basic rules of a successful infiltrator--or whatever I qualified
as--included avoiding those who are a threat to you. Say, paranoid
Fearless Leaders who seemed to be *way* too interested in your existence
for anyone's peace of mind.
I blamed it on being tired. Johnny had run me through sims before and
after lunch, and a late afternoon snack hadn't done much more than add to
my general state of exhaustion. I wanted to curl up on a rug in some
sunlight and forget the world existed.
In short, I wanted a nap.
The back porch, in retrospect, probably wasn't the best place to hang out,
though technically, late afternoon really *was* a good time for
semi-privacy there. Kitty was in her room with a few other mutant girls,
including Betsy, and Johnny had wandered off to find Bobby. The X-Men were
training or planning things in the sublevels, and most of the others seemed
to have left early in the day for whatever it was they did off-campus.
It was blessedly quiet, a tiny shaded corner with a wicker loveseat and a
nice view. Freshly showered and redressed in a school t-shirt and sweats,
a clean pair of gloves covering my arms, I fell into its cushioned depths
in a frenzy of sheer relief and shut my eyes.
"Marie. I didn't expect to see you out here."
I opened one eye and got a sideways view of Scott through the curtain of my
hair, leaning up against one of the porch supports. Automatic reflex
wanted to drag me straight upright, but even my reflexes were tired. They
compromised by letting me lift my head a little.
Meeting the clear gaze behind the red glasses, I decided he was lying.
He'd expected to find me. Because he'd been looking for me.
"Hey, sir--Scott." Slowly, I levered myself up on one arm. Without
asking, he crossed the porch, dropping carelessly into the chair across
from me with all the grace of a cat and twice the suspicion. Very Scott.
Pushing myself fully upright, I tried to clear my foggy head enough to
figure out what he wanted. Bye-bye, nap. The very thought made me even
"Johnny sent your sim reports to my office." Oh? "You're really quite
good. Where were you trained?"
Well, see, that was a good question. Where *had* I trained?
--Prevaricate.-- Carol's hiss was soft.
"Different people taught me different things," I answered evasively. "It
wasn't safe being alone and not know how to get outta a situation, you
"Yes, I do."
The thing about Scott, the overriding decider of his personality, was his
control. He liked control. Perhaps the term "control-freak" wouldn't be
too harsh. It had manifested itself in a thousand ways at home--his
obsession with detail, his famously cold temper, self-confidence that could
be easily mistaken for arrogance. He had to control everything, even
And his team. God help you if you were on his team.
To put it in a personal perspective, if Logan had been the overprotective
older brother that growled at my dates, Scott was the one that interrogated
them. Got their name, social security number, driver's license, family
history, criminal record, and at least three reference numbers. Logan
would make sure they knew he'd kill them--Scott just let them know that
he'd make sure Logan knew where to *find* them.
It was something of an accomplishment, in retrospect, that I ever lost my
It wasn't just me, though--Jubes, Kitty, Paige, all of us were victims of
Scott's need for control. And fighting it was like fighting a cold--cute
to try, but you just have to let it happen and deal with it. In all
honesty, while Scott approved of Remy far less than Logan did, Remy had a
point in his favor because he lived at the Mansion and therefore was always
under Scott's eye. And while he had a very nice criminal background,
nothing had ever gotten through even a grand jury, and when he became an
X-Man, he had another point in his favor.
Sitting back against the cushioned wicker, I knew exactly what this was
about. This wasn't Leader Scott looking at a possible infiltrator right
now; this was Brother Scott interviewing Logan's lover. Dear God. Dear,
dear God. I didn't know whether to laugh hysterically or just acknowledge
completely that this could *not* be a very complex hallucination, because
even my wildest flights of fancy had *never* included Scott interviewing
Logan's lover out of a concern for her intentions.
"Is there anything in particular you want to talk about, Scott?" I asked,
trying to keep the smile from fighting its way across my face. Would he
ask for references? Proof of citizenship? My future plans? Sexual
history? Blinking, I tried to think of how on earth Scott was going to go
about this subtly.
Okay, so not subtle.
"Oh," I answered weakly. Clean and neat in jeans and a maroon short sleeve
shirt that did good things with his complexion, Scott was the very epitome
of Mutant All-American Male. Concerned Mutant All-American Male. Geez.
"I'm not going to ask you personal questions about your relationship,"
Scott said calmly, crossing an ankle over his knee and apparently settling
down for Serious Inquiry Time while flashing a thousand watt smile. Many
dates had relaxed when they saw that.
They'd learned differently. Real damn quick.
"I'd rather not--"
"What made you decide to come to New York?"
I wished I'd gotten some coffee from the kitchen. My muscles were
screaming things about pain and exhaustion and my brain couldn't quite
manage to sort out those messages from my desperate inquiries of what to do
about the situation.
"I was tired of being alone."
--Carol? Carol? Get up, get out here, help me out. And tell me this
isn't actually happening. Scott is NOT about to give me the third degree
about me and Logan.--
Carol only laughed and sat back to enjoy the show. Inner Logan, however,
--Your call, baby. You wanna play this way, you gotta deal.--
--Your alter-ego got me INTO this mess!--
--Noticed that.-- Okay, that was strange. Logan hadn't exactly been
enthusiastic about this little masquerade, but the resentment in his voice
was above and beyond that. No, not resentment. It was something else.
And damned if I had time to figure out what.
"How did you know Logan was imprisoned with your sister?"
I blinked, jerking back into reality. Crap. Well, I'd said it, and I had
to have a reason for it. Okay, logic. How would I--
"Another former prisoner, when I got out." Whew. Elaborate? No, that
looked guilty. Well, did it look guilty anyway? Shit if I knew.
"Yeah." I wasn't sweating. I wasn't tense. Forcing my mishandled body
under strict control, I lowered myself back down as casually as I could, as
if I had people asking me questions every day. I knew Scott. Sort of.
"I--I didn't know she was dead, so I asked around. And that one--he--told
me that she'd been with Logan in--" Where had Logan been imprisoned?
Miami? Boston? Daytona? Palm Beach? Chicago? I should *know* this
stuff. "--the camp. And that she'd died."
Scott nodded slowly and I tried not to blow out a breath in relief.
"So you never met him before you came here?"
Was Scott insinuating I was a slut? Okay, practically speaking, running
off-campus to move in with a guy the first time I met him *might* be a
little *risque*, but hey, it was the new millennium and all that. Maybe I
was just *really* decisive.
"Hmmm." Scott crossed his arms neatly over his chest. "From what Logan
said, I thought you'd met before."
--Okay, darlin', this ain't good.--
The rat-bastard was back, but he might help. I took a breath, keeping my
quizzical smile firmly pasted across my face. I hoped it didn't look as
fake as it felt.
--I think he's fishing.--
--No shit, Marie. Keep calm. I don't think he knows anything.--
Logan had always been obsessively private about his relationships, that
much was true. I met the lucky chicks when I couldn't avoid them, but the
X-Team did *not*; at least, not until what's-her-name that I had *really*
disliked just on principle. Anyone Logan had around more than three months
was just *not* going to be on my top ten list. But anyway, Logan was
To reiterate to myself, the two Logans had the same basic personality. I
just couldn't see even this close Scott-Logan friendship descending into
private confidences like an alternate universe episode of "Sex and the
"Not before I got here." Casual. Oh so casual. Look how very unworried I
am, Fearless Leader, I'm stretching my legs in complete unconcern, and not
only because they are trying to cramp up. "He had information I didn't."
"Ah. I'm glad you got the information you wanted." He didn't sound glad.
Abruptly, he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and fixing all
that dark red gaze on me with an intensity that made me stiffen. "I was
surprised to learn of Logan's and your relationship." Somehow, he made
relationship sound like 'sex scandal' or 'poisoned dinner'. I was
metaphorically rocked back on my heels--but it was still cute as hell, no
way around it, that for once, it was me being the suspected party. Me,
being the one that couldn't be trusted. "Are you planning to stay long?"
Oh, was *that* a loaded question. 'No, I'm trying to get the hell off this
alternate timeline and get home Real Soon Now, but thanks for asking?'
Scott was actually testing my commitment--he wanted to know if I was going
to lead Logan on and then cut and run. At another time, in another place,
without so damn much riding on this moment, this entire conversation would
have been desperately touching, a true Mutant Hallmark moment. Just, you
know, not now.
"I'll be here for awhile," I answered, weighing each word. "It's--nice."
Me and nice. I had to upgrade my vocabulary
Scott smiled--a pretty smile, the smile you give right before you say
something that could be unforgivable, but that 'oh-shucks' smile is
supposed to make it all better. It worked too--Scott was the past master
of being able to state in bald terms what would be insulting under any
other circumstances and manage to look justifiably hurt when you
"Logan and I have been friends for a long time, Marie," Scott said. "I
won't pretend I'm not worried about his relationship with you." Heh.
Scott worried about Logan. God, I had to remember this. SUCH a cool
anecdote. "He's had a difficult time since the war. I hope you understand
"We've all had difficult times, sir."
He frowned at the honorific but didn't comment.
"Marie, has he talked to you about Jubilee?"
Something in me froze just a little, and I found myself leaning forward
without meaning to and earning a screech from my back.
"No," I answered, watching his face carefully. Scott was too good at
controlling his expression--but the slightest tension in the set of his jaw
gave it all away. He didn't like this.
"She and Logan were extremely close, Marie. She was killed in the Daytona
camp the first year of the war" A pause. "Logan couldn't locate her in
time to buy her freedom. He recovered her body after the war and brought
her here. So he could stay close to her."
I bit into my lip.
Scott's head tilted a little, and his body reflected nothing but tired
acceptance and remembered pain.
"When she died--" Scott paused, and it dawned on me--I didn't want to hear
more. I really didn't. Getting to my feet, ignoring the scream of my
muscles, I gave Scott a quick smile. I knew it was bad and almost didn't
"Thanks for telling me, sir." Gotta go, gotta run, gotta get out of here.
That's what Johnny meant about the tags being with a dead girl--they were
buried with Jubilee. All the evidence, and as usual I didn't pay a damn
bit of attention. I should have known this, should have guessed this part.
Of course, Jubilee. They'd been damn good friends on my world too. "I
gotta run--get something to eat." I doubted I'd ever eat again. "Thanks
for the heads-up, Cyke. I'll see you later."
Before he could say another word, and very much aware how very silly I
looked, I took off for the door, pushing the screen back and plunging into
the cool air-conditioned darkness of the Mansion kitchen. My eyes weren't
adjusted to the interior lights yet, but a quick glance around the room
confirmed that I was alone. For a frightened second, I worried that Scott
would follow me when his footsteps sounded on the porch, but they trotted
down the stairs and away. He'd made his point, I guessed.
Leaning into the door briefly, I tried to shut out the myriad thoughts
floating in my head. Jubilee. Made sense, of course--the reason he stayed
at the Mansion after the war, the reason he became a true member of the
X-Men. It made perfect sense. And why was I jealous, anyway?
I bit into my lip. I wasn't just jealous. I felt betrayed. I'd been
* * * * *
The X-Men had some sort of meeting, which kept us on campus later than I
really wanted to be. Worse, it kept me intensely unoccupied. The
sublevels were sealed off to all non-team members and everyone I knew even
vaguely was planning more nefarious crimes against humanity.
Or hell, maybe they were just negotiating next week's menu. How would I
Angry at myself, I paced most of campus, keeping my distance from the other
mutants. I caught a glimpse of young Lucas and his buddies in the distance
and did my best to stay out of his way. I still wanted to hurt him, just
on principle, so deliberately meeting up with him could be considered
premeditated assault. The thought appealed to me far too much to trust
myself near him.
Retreating to the far side of the soccer field as more kids came outside to
enjoy the warmth of early evening, I found a comfortable tree and sat down
against it, clutching my coat and the bag Logan had given me to carry my
weapons around in, turned so I could keep a eye on both the foresty area to
my left and the clean sweep of the grounds to my right. Never hurts to be
It was beyond surreal to know I was packing enough firepower to take over a
good size building and take hostages. I was Rogue, she who needed no
weapons, she who was invulnerable to all weapons. She who--well, okay, so
not invulnerable to the really uncool little red ray guns that the current
Somewhat Bad Guys were sporting, but still. Mostly invulnerable. I
belonged to a gun control lobby, for goodness sake. I voted Democrat.
That I was packing was just a little too much to really absorb.
I didn't even try to justify the fact that I was pretty damn good with
--You okay, Marie?--
I sighed and leaned my head into the bark of the tree, feeling Logan fill
--Aren't you still mad about my little pretend, sugar?--
I felt a strange wave of emotional struggle before he finally answered.
--You do what you have to.-- His voice was grudging, but at least no
longer pissed. I was going to have to figure him out one day. --I
Yeah, he should. Idly, I opened the zipper of the bag and looked down at
--Logan, when did I learn to use a Glock? Three days ago, I was doing good
to identify them. But it felt--familiar--to hold one. Down in the ghetto.
That's not me, but it doesn't feel completely different either, like some
of the stuff from you and Carol.--
--Probably this Logan passed it with the touch, baby.--
I would never understand my mutation. Never. This New and Very Different
Logan seemed to have left only the barest trace in my mind--vague,
unfinished scenes that I couldn't quite put together. From Kitty, I'd
gotten considerably more--but then, Kitty had held on longer before I could
knock her away. My Logan was still quite vivid despite it being two-three
weeks since we'd touched last. Carol, of course, would never go away.
Erik Lensherr from the Statue was almost entirely gone, but then, I'd never
kept him as alive as I'd kept Logan either.
--Weird skill to pass on. I didn't get anything really useful but some
weird dreams and an ability to use a gun. I don't understand him, Logan.--
--You're thinking about Jubilee.--
I frowned, mulling that.
--Yeah. I mean--why didn't I pick up more of that? Now that I know, I can
trace some of those images, and I'm pretty sure if I meditate, I can find
out more.-- I sighed. No one understood how my mutation worked, why it
worked, or what exactly it did, besides the obvious.
--You don't wanna find out more.--
--You remember how well I got along with Christy?-- Inner Logan
inced. --Yeah, well, see, at least she was only fucking you. I feel even
more territorial when someone's walking on my specialness turf.--
Logan laughed at me and I growled into my hair, flexing my fingers briefly
before moving my hand down to the projector on my hip, hidden safely under
the line of my underwear. It really was easy to get used to. Staring at
the blonde strands that trickled across my eyes, I pushed them back and
--Do I look good as a blonde?--
--You're always pretty, darlin'.--
See, the thing was, he meant it. Sad, but true. I could look like shit
after a mission, covered in dirt and blood and my hair an absolute
windblown mess, and he'd never notice. I was Marie, therefore I was
pretty. How nice.
--Sometimes, sugar, you are really useless.-- Sighing, I checked the sun's
position in the sky. --He said they'd be done by seven. It's getting
close--I'm going to go wait for him in the foyer and try to avoid dinner.
I smelled liver casserole and you know, I really wanna avoid that. I don't
care how good it is for me.--
--It will never cease to amaze me that you never got my liking for liver.--
--Raw or cooked, sugar, it doesn't do much for me. Still bleeding only
makes it less attractive.-- Pulling my jacket on, I threw the light bag
over my shoulder and thought about requesting Oriental tonight. Surely,
somewhere in New York, there was some sesame chicken. Surely.
I fixed my bag over my shoulder again, smiling up to see Logan approaching
from the direction of the school. He was good at finding me, always had
"Smelled me out?"
That got me a full grin and he paused while I crossed the stretch of
velvety green grass and fell into step beside him. Questions about Jubes,
all thoughts of Scott's talk, were dismissed. No effect on me. So there.
"I could find you anywhere." His hand brushed across my back, pausing when
he didn't feel the line of the shoulder holster. "They in the bag?"
"My arsenal?" I gave him a glance and shrugged. "You said off-campus."
"So I did. Prefer you wore them when you go outside this far from the
Mansion." He brushed my hair back from my face with gloved fingers. "Just
for safety, baby. I don't like this second attack."
Tilting my head, I really couldn't exactly disagree there. Wished I could,
but the hell of it was, it was real now. These were what I needed to be
safe. That was absolute fact.
"Okay." His hand settled on my far shoulder and I watched the students in
the shadow of the Mansion, fewer now. Getting ready for dinner, I
supposed. Liver. Eww. "Are we leaving?"
Oh, a suspicious pause. I didn't like that and turned my head up, coming
to a stop when Logan didn't answer immediately.
"Okay, this isn't good. What's wrong?"
Under my gaze, Logan shifted uncomfortably, then sighed.
"Scott wants us on campus tonight."
"Why?" There had to be a good reason. Somehow, I didn't think the request
was normal. Logan was too big on personal space and privacy.
"The FoH cell we cleaned out was funded overseas--government support. Full
support. Campus security is fine--but Scott and I are flying out early
tomorrow morning and Scott wants us on campus."
His eyes evaded mine. Heh, good trick, sugar. But didn't work on me. I
reached out, catching his chin.
He sighed again and folded his fingers over mine.
"You're pushy, you know that?"
"What a revelation. What's Scott worried about?"
Well, should have expected that. I felt myself stiffen, but Logan
tightened his grip on my hand, not letting me withdraw.
"What's he think?" After our little discussion--well, I supposed I hadn't
done much to comfort him on that score.
"He knows you were in the restricted area the other night and he knows Hank
was in town." The muscles in his jaw clenched. "Your little buddy Lucas
decided to go to Summers after I tossed the report."
"Because you restricted him to campus?"
A tiny smile turned up the corners of his mouth.
"Heard about that, huh? That, and the ripping of his throat you promised
if he went into the restricted area again." Logan shrugged. "I told Scott
you had permission from me to go and he wanted to know why you wanted to go
there and why you threatened Lucas." Logan shifted his grip on my hand,
pulling me along to walk again, but our angle was a little different,
giving us a longer time before we got back in the Mansion's vicinity. Ah,
he didn't want to look suspicious. Got it.
"What did you say?"
"You wanted to check up on someone who knew Danvers and that Lucas annoyed
you." Logan shrugged slightly, but there was something on his face that
worried me. The lightest edge of strain. Shit, he and Scott were
close--hadn't I noticed that before? Logan wasn't the type to like this
sort of subterfuge--it wasn't in his nature to betray his friends. Looking
down, I hated that I was making him do this.
"I'm sorry," I said softly.
"Nothing to be sorry for. Scooter's tense right now, with Polaris and the
attacks and Mags riding his ass about getting the younger mutants trained.
Mags doesn't quite understand why Scott doesn't want to rush all the kids
into uniform now and get them on the front lines."
"The front lines?"
Logan nodded slowly and I watched the sun play off the short dark hair,
bringing out the rich mahogany and traces of sun-bleached blonde on the
tips. He spent a lot of time outdoors.
"Camp control. The beta and gamma class are trained for that. We're
strapped for personnel and we don't put anyone out who's not completely
trained. The restricted zones are run by the humans themselves, but not
I thought about that.
"I didn't realize--"
"That we did that?" Logan's smile twisted a little. "When I got here,
before the war, I taught every kid how to defend themselves, but I never
taught them how to kill. It was the line we drew in the sand, that we
would go this far and no further. During the war, that's the only thing I
taught them to do. Control of their powers be damned--just make sure they
could survive the field. Bobby was one of my best students, and on the
field humans were scared to death of him. It's one thing to die from
Scott's direct hits with the visor or from Jeannie's dropping things on
them--but a whole new level of hell to freeze to death in the middle of
summer under one hundred degree heat. He was good--better than good.
"What about Johnny?"
Logan winced a little and I wondered where that came from. Looking up, I
saw the hazel eyes were fixed on a distant point in the far field.
"It was a long time before John--before I trained John."
"But he was responsible for a lot of the destruction during the war, on the
The expression that crossed Logan's face stopped me. I remembered Kitty's
voice, clear in my head, telling me how long it'd taken for St. John to
emerge from his mental distance.
"That was John's power, but Jeannie's mind. They broke him in the camps."
Logan paused and I shivered. The usually warm voice was absolutely flat.
"We needed him. We had to separate Bobby and John when we split our fronts
up and Kitty wasn't enough to keep him stable. Jeannie would feed through
him and direct his power. It was hard on both of them, Jeannie especially.
She hated that we had to do it and hated what happened to John after."
Logan's hand tightened in mind. "But Scott gave the order."
"And no one disobeys when Scott decides?"
Logan's glance at me was telling.
"Not when he makes the right call. We needed Pyro--we needed most of the
kids. With Kitty to give him familiarity and Jeannie to control him, we
got more done faster. And it had to be fast--when we started the war, the
experimentation camps became death camps. We had to get them out fast or
there wouldn't be anything left but bodies."
The raw, simple words hurt me more than anything else he'd said. Without
meaning to, I leaned into him, lacing my fingers through his.
"It was a long time ago."
"Not to you." The strong fingers squeezed mine and I smiled up at him,
trying to change the subject. "So, where's your room on campus?"
Ooh. Interesting reaction. On any other creature on earth, that would
have been a flush. But not Logan. Of course not.
"Marie, I know that the situation has been--but you know, you don't have
Oh. Yeah. Right. Situation.
"It's a big bed," I answered. Was I pushing for this? Yes, yes I was.
This was necessary. That was it. Gotta keep the cover. "And anyway, it'll
look weird otherwise, you know?" Hurry on to new subject. Got it. "Can
we run get some clothes first though? I need something to wear tomorrow."
Maybe change into pretty underwear tonight--oh *shit*, Marie, what the hell
are you *thinking*? With an excess of virtue, I shut down all those
thoughts and concentrated on logistics. "And get some Chinese food or
something? I can't face liver for dinner."
Logan laughed and I realized we were nearly to the back porch. No Scott in
sight. This day was seriously looking up.
"Whatever you want, baby."
See, I liked the sound of that.
* * * * *
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