A very correct triple-tap at the door of my room.
I closed my book and placed the essay in a folder before I turned to the
Scott always asks. Sometimes annoying, sometimes not, it's him and I even
began to think I understood him.
He shut the door behind him with impeccable courtesy and took a seat on
Jubilee's desk chair. He's always so neat--hair perfectly cut, clothes in
perfect order like he just stepped out of the proverbial bandbox. He could
pose for a Fearless Leader doll--that's the air he emanates. You instantly
trust and respect what you see before you.
I also took a moment to notice he was wearing boots. Riding boots,
recently polished to a dull shine.
"Did you go riding?"
He grinned--a comfortable grin--and I noted that he had his gloves on, well
worn--and his glasses were more securely fastened than normal.
"I'm about to. I didn't see you at downstairs and thought you'd like to go
I remembered, suddenly, that it was Tuesday, when he usually goes. I knew
he hadn't gone riding on Tuesday in a long time. As I sat there and did
some reflection, I realized he always used to go with Jean.
So I can replace her. We're not a healthy bunch at the Mansion. But on
some sick level, it appealed to me and I nodded, pushing from the desk to
go to my closet.
"Give me five minutes."
* * * * *
Scott helped me mount Bender (I didn't name the horse), then followed me on
Trickster (still not my idea). Nervously, I adjusted my gloves and tried
*not* to remember the Riding Incident that left me with a broken leg a year
or so ago.
I'd grown. And this horse was famous for its sheer boringness. I
He turned a little in the saddle, letting me catch up.
"You okay?" His eyes followed my slightly weaving form as I adjusted to
horseback after a year of studious avoidance. Ah, he remembered too. I
appreciated that even more.
"Fine, thanks." I adjusted my seat again and absently ran my fingers
through my hair before getting my death grip back on the pommel. "You
haven't ridden in awhile."
"No, I haven't." No explanation. None needed. Relaxing, I let Bender
break into a comfortable trot and blanked my mind out, enjoying the feel of
the breeze and the steady, even, comfortable lope of Bender under me.
"Rogue, she's not what you think."
Blanked it would not be. I slowed Bender and half turned in the saddle to
look at him.
"You're going to defend her too?" I couldn't even find it in myself to be
Scott didn't answer for a moment, readjusting a strap on the horse's
shoulder, then checking his glasses to make certain they were secure.
"No." Quiet, and he took hold of the reins again, pressing Trickster to
catch up with me.
I waited. Maybe that was all he would have said, if I hadn't brought
Bender to a screeching halt--almost knocking myself out against his neck in
the process. And Scott, being Scott, stopped as well, giving me a curious
"Go ahead." I set my feet in the stirrups and waited.
"Go ahead what?"
I shifted uncomfortably.
"Tell me I should understand or something. Tell me how I should just
accept it. Defend her. Go right ahead. You fucking know you want to,
Scott, so go right ahead."
How any human on earth manages the calm Scott does is beyond me.
"No. I'm not." He shifted and his horse took off in a comfortable trot
and I heeled Bender before I could think better of it and followed.
"You can't do that."
I struggled to put it into words, and he shook his head slowly, bringing
Trickster back to a walk.
"You want to see things in black and white, Rogue. It's not that
easy--trust me, I've learned the hard way that blank categorizations like
that are comfortable, but extremely inaccurate."
"Don't you hate him?"
Scott looked genuinely surprised by my question.
"It doesn't matter."
"Then what the hell *does* matter?"
It was so sudden, so completely unexpected, that I gawked a little when
Scott dismounted, leading the horse to a tree and sensibly leaving enough
length for Trickster to roam. I didn't have any better ideas, so I
followed him down, and he steadied me as I touched my feet on the grass.
Then he tied my horse and took me by the arm, gently leading--not pulling,
leading--me into a walk.
"Why'd you ask me out here?" I asked softly. "Replace Jean?"
"No, though I can see why you would think so." He glanced back at the
mansion, then at the trees surrounding us. I wondered what he was
searching for. "Jean moved out of our room---I should have done it, but I
wasn't really--thinking clearly when it happened. I'm two doors down from
Logan." He stopped and I thought I saw him bite his lip, but his voice was
casual. "I wanted to get out for a little while."
The image of Scott calmly dressing while listening to the crap going on in
Logan's room was enough to shut me up for a few seconds. It hurt, almost
as much as seeing them together hurt me. And I was surprised.
"I'm sorry." And I meant it. Scott shrugged slightly. His hands were
clasped neatly behind him and I took in the image of him in his plain shirt
and jeans, the carefully polished boots, the gloves that were worn and
faded from use. "It's just--sometimes I forget that--"
"That I'm a man as well, not just the guy that made you rewrite your
English essays three times before you turned them in?" I could see the
slight smile turn his lips. "Yeah. I sometimes forget that too."
It was suddenly disconcerting to be walking with him--because he wasn't the
Leader or my teacher or--well, anyone I was vaguely familiar with anymore.
Just a man, walking with me on the estate. And maybe he felt the
difference too, because he turned to look at me again.
"I know you're angry. It's not easy to sit back and watch someone you love
make a mistake."
I started, looking up at him.
"But it's not something you can do anything about, either."
"Talk to them." Yell at them. Plan dirty tricks. Whatever worked. I
"And tell them what?" He shook his head slightly. "That I love her? She
knows that, he knows that. It's not a secret."
No secret at all, really. Which made it all so damned unforgivable. And
what would he say, exactly, that hadn't been said in the privacy of their
bedroom the day she moved out? That hadn't been looked or thought or
yelled during those nights that seemed like a dream, nights before I knew
that this was more than a squabble with a good happy ending. That stumped
me too--after all, I hadn't found the words either. Even if Logan had been
around to hear them.
"It's--" I stopped, realizing where this was going. That if I continued, I
wouldn't ever be able to look at Scott and sit him in the category of
Leader and Annoyance. He was letting me see someone else completely.
"It's getting cold."
I wasn't ready for that yet.
He didn't answer and we walked back to the horses.
* * * * *
"I'm busy, Logan."
I fingered my chain, saw his eyes fix on that a little and wished I'd taken
it off. But I hadn't---maybe I wouldn't have even if I'd expected to see
him, but I can't be sure of that. Hell, I couldn't be sure of anything
"We haven't talked since I've gotten back." He shifted slightly and I took
in the view of him--a little thinner than I remembered, even more restless
if that was possible--or was he nervous?
"Yeah." I'd been avoiding him--but not exactly. I'd been avoiding with
the half-hope he'd find me. Or at least make the attempt. Of course, he
had better things to do, if the look on Jean's face in the morning was
anything to go by.
I was beginning to resent Scott's ability to compartmentalize his life so
well and avoid black and white.
"Let's go for a ride."
Something in me twisted--it was an old treat, candy offered to the little
kid that followed him around with worshipful eyes. Take me for a ride,
show me how to hold the handlebars, look infinitely amused by my
uncertainty. He'd taught me everything he knew, directly or indirectly.
Remy was a testament to just how well I learned my lessons. It was enough
to make me wince.
"I'm busy." I twitched my gloves back into place--not that they'd moved
much more than a millimeter since I put them on--and looked around, hoping
desperately for someone to show up and give me an excuse to leave. "I have
to meet someone for lunch." Remy, usually.
I couldn't go with Logan now. I wanted it too badly.
"Marie--." He took a step toward me and I wanted to pull away--there was
the smell of Logan, of Jean, of--oh shit.
Go fuck your girlfriend, I wanted to tell him, yell at him, suddenly hating
him for coming here still smelling like her. And I didn't want to go,
didn't want to be anywhere near him. "Look, maybe another time--"
"Fuck it, Marie! You've been fucking avoiding me for long enough!" A
tightening of all the muscles in his jaw that denoted his own private way
of cooling down. A pause, then finally, voice low, "Okay, I'm sorry,
Marie. I know I've been distracted--but--"
"Now it's suddenly convenient? Sorry--*Wolverine*--I don't live for your
convenience." I turned on my heel, skirt swishing with possible dramatic
effect that I probably would have appreciated more if I hadn't been so
A hand caught my elbow and swung me around--and I should have sort of been
prepared for that, but you see, having my interesting condition means that
when you storm off, people are sort of wary to try and touch you to drag
you back. Up to and including Remy. But not Logan. He wasn't scared of
me--hell, I have no idea if he's scared of anything. But my skin? Pshaw.
He's survived it twice and Logan is the ultimate risk-taker.
"I'm sorry." His voice was lower and he kept that grip on my arm.
"Look--" Again, a pause, and if I'd been able to pity anyone except
myself, I would have acknowledged how hard this was for him. "You're my
family, okay? More than anyone else in this goddamn place. I've missed
I swallowed in a dry throat and tried to keep my expression neutral.
Everything in me acknowledged what he said was true--and in a way, it felt
good. Felt really good, and it felt like hell, because that's what I was
to him--not a potential lover or a woman, but family, little sister,
surrogate daughter, niece.
Stale bread. Not what I wanted. But something.
"Logan, I have to--"
"Please, Marie. I just want to talk. Anywhere you want to go."
And I know that what I was seeing was right on the edge of pleading--hell
and damn, with everything in me melting at the look on his face, the clean
sincerity--the fact that he was taking time out of his busy sex life to
find me and argue with me and practically beg--damn, damn, damn.
"All right." So I'm a weak female--I'd live with it. I needed to change,
and pulled away from his hand. "I'll meet you down here."
* * * * *
"So how're classes?"
Logan made small talk and I tried not to notice that light scent around
him--I could recognize Jean anywhere, and there were days almost forgotten
that the scent would arouse me and I'd hated the feeling--but I'd give
almost anything to have that again, even arousal over the sick envy and
It was awkward where it'd never been awkward before--between us.
Uncomfortable as we began our search for old footing under new
"Okay." I picked at my jacket and felt him pace me as we left the bike
against a tree--apparently, I'm a bigger fan of nature than I ever believed
possible; I seem to be spending the majority of my time with trees.
That's something he gave me.
"Is anything wrong?"
Okay, admittedly, that shocked me out of silence and self-pity, because I
do love him, but I also know him. Logan just isn't perceptive under normal
circumstances. And having Jean had lowered the quotient even
further--hell, he probably wouldn't have noticed the mansion being attacked
by Magneto in a pink tutu at the beginning. And maybe it was a sign that
the intense early heat was diminishing and maybe he was getting bored or--
--I'm perfectly willing to admit right now that denial is my specialty.
"Everything's fine." I kicked a stone and wondered if I told him the
truth, would it change anything. Well, yes, it would. And so I wouldn't.
I had my pride.
He taught me that too.
"You're quiet." He kicked something in his way--rock, small animal, who
I used to chatter to him about everything. That's true. About Bobby,
about Remy, about school, about my frustration with my inability to control
my powers, about how great it was to graduate, about the fucking grass if I
couldn't think of anything else--anything to keep his company, anything
that would qualify as conversation.
Anything at all. But I ran out of words this time and he hadn't been
around to hear them anyway.
"Are you and Remy okay?"
No, not really. At least, not on my side, but it was dandy on his, and if
he noticed that I shut my eyes and I didn't say anything when I came
because something in me knew I'd say the wrong name--well, he wasn't
talking about it. Maybe getting laid and laid thoroughly on a daily basis
Maybe you and I could compare our lovers. You tell me how Jean screams and
I'll tell you how Remy begs in French and I get distracted trying to figure
out exactly what it is he wants me to do.
He mused on that. He didn't believe me, but as I said, Logan isn't the
type to start some sort of Deep Conversation.
"Are you happy?"
Dear God, the entire earth must have shifted, because Logan just *isn't*
this type of guy. He's a normal guy--feelings aren't discussion topics.
Feelings are a murky place you avoid whenever possible and when you get
stuck in the swamp of them, you try to figure how to get the hell out, not
the whys and wherefores.
This is Logan channeling Scott. Rather disturbing, truth be told. I liked
black and white--putting in colors just messed up the mix.
"Yeah." And I tried--with some success--to channel some enthusiasm into my
voice, make it bright and happy and utterly not-caring about him or Jean or
what they were doing behind his closed door so loudly until two in the
damned morning every night.
He stopped me, another surprise, and his fingers on my shoulder turned me
and I winced without meaning to--and he pulled back and maybe there was
hurt in his eyes, I didn't know.
I didn't care either. I didn't fucking care.
Somewhere, I found something to talk about, and I started rambling--to this
day, I have no idea what I said or how he responded or even if he did--but
time passed and I could still smell Jean on him and it screwed with my head
worse than anything else. And finally, I could look at my watch and act
surprised it was time for dinner and he took me back and if he noticed that
I bolted off the bike on the pretext of extreme starvation, he didn't say
anything--or maybe I just didn't give him the chance.
I didn't know. I didn't fucking care either. So screw it.
* * * * *
--When I watch that scene I do not think "Oh, he's such a good father