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Fic: Alter-Eighteen: The Inescapable X: 2/3: NC-17 [L/R]

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  • victoria p.
    Disclaimers etc. in part 1 *** indicates thoughts ~ ~ indicates telepathic conversation // // indicates dreams *** When they arrived at the mansion,
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 3, 2001
      Disclaimers etc. in part 1


      < > indicates thoughts
      ~ ~ indicates telepathic conversation
      // // indicates dreams


      When they arrived at the mansion, Rogue followed Jean and Hank into the
      med lab, and had to be forced out while they examined the comatose

      Ororo walked her to the showers, where Rogue stripped off her torn and
      bloody clothes. She stepped into the hot spray and felt her body relax.

      As she washed, she became fascinated with the skin on her belly.

      No scars.

      She had seen her insides ripped out, had felt her lung deflate when a
      rib punctured it, and two hours later, she stood in the shower, fully

      It brought home to her, once again, how fragile life is. All those
      organs and systems silently working away underneath her deadly skin --
      it was so easy to damage them, and so hard to put them back together
      again. Didn't people realize that? she wondered, thinking of the myriad
      ways she'd seen people abuse their own bodies.

      She'd been amazingly stupid -- and the Logan in her head growled his
      agreement with that -- and then amazingly lucky that he'd been willing
      to give so much of himself to save her. For the first time since her
      mutation manifested, she was grateful for it. It had saved her life.

      Now she just had to make sure it hadn't taken his.

      Hopping out of the shower, quickly toweling off and pulling on clean
      sweats, she made her way back into the med lab.

      Logan was stretched out on an exam table-cum-bed, covered from neck to
      toes with a sheet. Jean was adjusting one of the numerous machines
      hooked up to him, while Hank sat at the computer.

      "How, how is he?" she asked fearfully. She could see his chest rising
      and falling, and while that had been enough to soothe her back at the
      Lion's Den, she needed more concrete reassurances now.

      "He'll be fine," Jean said. "How are you?"

      "Fine. Good." She lifted her shirt, exposing her fully-healed stomach.
      "Not even a mark to show for it."

      Jean nodded her chin at an exam table and pulled on a pair of latex
      gloves. "Hop up and let me take a look."

      "I'm fine, Jeannie," she growled, her eyes widening as she realized that
      it hadn't been she who'd responded.

      Jean bit her lower lip thoughtfully, then removed her gloves. "Yes.
      Well. Hank -- Hank will give you a quick once-over, okay?" And, tossing
      the gloves into the garbage, she quickly walked out.

      "I'm sorry," Rogue whispered, "I just --"

      "She knows, my dear," the furry blue doctor replied. "Logan's presence
      brings back unpleasant memories for all of us."

      "Storm told me. And, and, it's here now." She tapped the side of her
      head. "Some of it, anyway. He was so sad -- so angry he couldn't do
      anything to fix it." She felt tears welling up in her eyes at his old
      sorrow. "I think that's why he had to fix me. I -- it's confusing," she
      finished, dropping her head and letting her wet hair fall and hide her

      "I'm sure it is, Rogue. But Charles and Jean will help you assimilate
      Logan's remembrances much as they have done with Magneto. No need to
      worry," Hank said, and his matter-of-fact tone was very comforting.

      He listened to her heart and lungs, felt her abdomen for signs that
      anything was wrong, and when he found nothing, pronounced her in good

      "Can I--" she nodded toward the bed where Logan lay.

      "Of course. I'll be in my office if you need me."

      She pulled a chair over to Logan's side and sat down, amazed that she
      could hear his heart beating. She concentrated, and in a few minutes,
      regulated her own heartbeat to match his. It was even more comforting
      than Hank's kind words.

      Slipping the sheet down to his waist, she ran gloved fingers over the
      perfection of his chest and stomach, taking advantage of the opportunity
      she knew she'd probably never get if he were awake.

      She was aware of his inexplicable feelings toward her, and his conflict
      over them, but she wasn't quite sure what it all meant. She wasn't sure
      how much was simply wishful thinking on her part and how much was really

      She pondered her shower-thoughts. Life was precious, fragile. <Even the
      mighty Wolverine can be brought low,> she thought, looking at her hands,
      encased in blue cotton, against his olive skin. <And I'm the thing that
      can do it.>

      She pulled the sheet back up over him to protect him, then laid her head
      down on his chest and cried.

      Jean found her asleep in that position later that morning.

      "Rogue. Rogue wake up," she said.

      "What? Huh? Oh, Jeannie. I mean, Dr. Grey. I mean--"

      "It's okay, Rogue. Go get some rest. We'll let you know when he's
      awake," Jean said gently. She understood the younger woman's need for
      contact with the man who had touched her. Having someone else in your
      head was difficult, and Jean promised herself that she wouldn't let her
      own feelings for Logan -- whatever they might be (and even she wasn't
      sure at the moment) -- get in the way of helping Rogue.


      It was late afternoon. He woke slowly, to the familiar scent of
      antiseptic and Jean Grey.

      He was surprised. He thought he'd never come back to Salem Center, and
      certainly that he'd never see Jean again, but when he opened his eyes,
      there she was.

      She looked good; older, certainly, but more serene than when he'd seen
      her last. He wondered if he was dreaming, but then it all came flooding
      back when Jean said, "That was a very brave thing you did."

      Marie. "Did it work? Is she okay?"

      A smile. One that he thought he'd never see again. "She's fine. She's
      picked up a few of your more -- charming characteristics, but other than
      that, she's as good as new."

      He grunted in satisfaction. "Told her she would be."

      "How are you feeling?" A question rife with meaning.

      He went with the literal. "Fantastic."


      "Seriously. Best sleep I've had in ages." He didn't say it but she knew
      what he meant -- no nightmares. He sat up, pulling the sensors off his
      chest, before she could stop him.

      "I need to examine you," she said in what he always thought of as her
      "doctor" voice.

      "Is that what they're calling it these days?" he answered without
      thinking. It was so easy to fall back into old habits.


      And that was the "I'm annoyed so don't think your charm is going to win
      me over" voice. He was almost home free.

      "Fine, Jeannie. You wanna play doctor, let's go." She opened her mouth
      to say something and then snapped it shut. He remembered that things
      were different now, and suddenly felt uncomfortable. <God, what a stupid
      thing to say.> "I-- I'm just gonna get dressed and check on Marie,


      "The kid. Rogue. Whatever she's calling herself. Marie."

      "Marie," Jean repeated, this time in a whisper. How was it that, in less
      than an hour's time, Logan had gotten Rogue's real name from her, when
      they'd known her for more than two years and she'd never revealed it?
      She could feel the headache beginning behind her eyes. She couldn't deal
      with the romantic wreckage Logan would most certainly leave in his wake.
      She would have to have a talk with Rogue, and soon.

      "Yeah." The silence stretched again and he slipped off the table. "My

      A pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt came floating at him. "The blood
      wouldn't come out," she said, forestalling his question. He nodded,
      anger rising again at the thought of Creed spilling Marie's blood so

      Jean turned her back to him and he dressed quickly. The awkwardness was
      palpable now; he could feel it against his skin, almost taste it on the
      roof of his mouth. A million things raced through his mind. He wanted to
      apologize for everything, wanted to start over, get at least some
      indication that she didn't hate him.


      She spoke at the same time, still facing away from him. "Logan, Rogue is
      very young. I know she seems quite mature, but she's only nineteen.
      She's very shy and somewhat lacking in self-confidence. I don't think

      "Would be good for her," he interrupted grimly, all hope of salvaging
      some vestige of their former friendship gone. "Of course not. I'm not
      good enough for anyone, am I, Jean?"

      She was taken aback by his vehemence. She turned. "I didn't mean that,
      Logan. I just -- you need to be careful with her. I don't know if Ororo
      explained how her mutation works--"

      "She absorbs mutations."

      "She absorbs much more than that," Jean said sharply. "She has a mind
      full of your thoughts and memories. She manifests some of your
      personality traits, as well. You're in her head now, Logan."

      He stood, stunned at the revelation. Storm *hadn't* told him that. "I'm,
      I'm sorry. I didn't know," he choked out. "I need to see her."

      He walked out, leaving the doctor staring after him, rubbing her


      <God,> he thought. <Now I remember why I didn't want to come back here.>
      His guilt at the way his relationship with Jean had ended surfaced, and
      he could tell she wasn't reacting well to his feelings for Marie. Not
      that he'd even mentioned them, but that lecture hadn't been for nothing.

      He thought then, about what she'd said regarding Marie's mutation, and
      had to work to stifle a grin. That meant she knew how he felt.

      Which would have been more comforting if he'd been able to figure it out
      himself. He'd never been one for examining his feelings, though, and he
      was willing to go with his gut on this one.

      He wanted Marie and she wanted him. There was something between them
      that needed to be explored.

      Everything else was secondary.

      The mansion was much as he remembered it. He found a pair of black
      leather gloves that looked like they'd fit in the locker room, and then
      he set off to find Marie.

      Using his nose, he tracked her to a room on the second floor, where the
      older students, the ones who didn't go off to college, lived.

      He knocked and she called, "Come in."

      Her eyes widened when she saw him in the doorway, and before he knew
      what hit him, she'd flung herself into his arms and hugged him tightly.

      "You're okay. Thank God, you're okay. I was so worried that I'd killed

      He stroked her hair gently. "Takes a lot more than that to kill me,
      Marie," he rumbled, enjoying the feel of her body pressed to his. Then
      he pulled back. "How are you?"

      She smiled brightly and, without the slightest hint of
      self-consciousness, took off her shirt.

      She wasn't wearing a bra.

      He stared at her full, high breasts and felt his mouth water and his
      groin tighten.

      "Good as new, just like you said," she answered. "See?" And she unzipped
      her jeans to show him her abdomen.

      She wasn't wearing any underwear either. He wondered if that was one of
      the traits she'd picked up from him or if she always went without. It
      was highly arousing to think that there had been nothing between them
      last night but two layers of denim and leather.

      He reached out and put his hand on her belly. His fingers splayed out,
      covering the soft flesh that looked as if it had never been touched, let
      alone ripped open less than twenty-four hours earlier. He felt her
      breathe in sharply as he slowly caressed her, mesmerized by the contrast
      of black leather on pale skin.

      His other hand snaked around her, cupping her bottom and pulling her
      closer as his fingers continued to trace lazy circles on her abdomen.

      Her breathing was ragged now, and he could smell her desire as he dipped
      lower into her jeans, tangling his fingers in the dark curls of her sex.

      Her eyes and her head dropped as the sensation of being touched
      overwhelmed her; she leaned back into his hand for support, her hands
      pushing her jeans down over her hips to give him better access.

      "Logan," she hissed, licking her lips. "Please..."

      He walked her back to the bed and gently eased her down upon it, his
      eyes feasting on the flush spreading down her breasts. She raised her
      hips, urging him to do more than simply rest his hand on her groin.

      "Marie," he whispered, sinking down on the bed beside her, pushing her
      hair off her forehead. He stared down into her eyes, glazed with desire,
      and saw her complete and utter trust in him.

      He jerked his hand away as if he'd been stung.

      She was young, innocent, and he was about to take advantage of her
      newfound hero-worship for him.

      He really was the despicable jackass everyone thought he was.

      "Logan?" She reached for his hand and he pulled away. She flinched at
      that, and he realized that he'd just hurt her again. She rolled off the
      bed and quickly donned her shirt and a pair of gloves.

      He hadn't even noticed her hands were bare.

      "It's okay," she said dully. "I understand."

      He jumped up and cupped her chin, so she had to look at him. "I don't
      think you do, kid. I don't want--"

      "Me. It's okay. I get it. You don't have to spell it out."

      His hands went to her shoulders. He wanted to shake her. "I thought you
      had me in your head," he said. She nodded. "And what am I saying?"

      She snorted. "Mostly just, 'Mine.' You're not real clear up there,
      Logan. It's not like you're a whole other person. It's more like I know
      how you feel about things and I can see some of your memories. You're
      not talking to me, or anything. That'd just be *weird*."

      "Marie, this whole thing is weird." He sighed. "I do want you. Really. I
      wouldn't have -- I wouldn't have touched you if I didn't. But you're
      young and--"

      "And I have deadly skin and could hurt you." She sounded tired, a one
      hundred and eighty degree turnaround from when he'd walked into her
      room. "I understand. I've heard it before." He just stood and looked at
      her. "I think you should leave now."

      He wanted to say something, do something to make her feel better.

      "Out. Now."

      He sighed and left the room. She closed the door and he settled on the
      floor outside, the sound of her sobs tearing him up inside.


      Rogue dropped onto the bed and sobbed hysterically. <Stupid, stupid,
      stupid,> she told herself over and over. She'd flung herself at him and
      he'd rejected her. Whatever this "Mine" shit he kept feeding her in her
      head was, it obviously wasn't what he was really thinking or feeling. Or
      maybe he thought of her as a *daughter* or something. "Oh, God, no," she
      groaned, covering her face with a pillow, wondering if she'd just
      recreated a scene out of a Greek tragedy.

      She tried to sort him out in her head, but her own emotions were
      clouding everything, and she knew she wouldn't be able to meditate as
      the Professor had taught her.

      <He probably still loves Jean,> she thought darkly, just before drifting
      off into sleep, where she dreamt that her room was invaded by mice and
      she wasn't able to run away from them.


      He was still sitting outside her door when Xavier found him.

      "Come with me, please, Logan," the Professor said, evincing no surprise
      that the Canadian had camped outside Rogue's door.

      Logan unfolded himself from the floor and said, "Storm said you have a
      proposition for me?"

      Xavier nodded. As they moved down the hallway to the elevator, he said,
      "Yes. Regardless of whether you agree, though, I want you to know this.
      I've found what I think is a solid lead on the people who experimented
      on you. I have the file in my office."

      Logan felt the excitement jolt through him. He'd given up the search
      five years ago, when he'd first joined the X-Men. He tried to hide his
      eagerness, knowing that trying to hide things from the telepath was
      usually futile. "And?" he asked nonchalantly.

      "And, while you are searching, I'd like you to make contact with some of
      my people, possibly forge new connections out in the field."

      Logan raised an eyebrow. That wasn't too much to ask, he admitted to
      himself. <I could do that.>

      ~Yes, I rather thought you could,~ came Xavier's amused response in his

      "You know how I feel about that," Logan growled.

      Xavier simply smiled. "You are willing to help us?"

      "I suppose."

      "Once an X-Man, always an X-Man, Logan," Xavier said.

      "Like the Mafia, huh?" Logan thought of Michael Corleone and quirked an

      "Or the Catholic Church," Xavier replied with a chuckle. Then he became
      serious again. "That was a very brave thing you did, with Rogue."

      They reached his office and Xavier rolled behind the desk, while Logan
      paced in front of it.

      "Why does everyone sound so surprised at that?"

      "Not surprised. Just -- concerned. Rogue is a very special young

      "Who's too young and too good for the likes of me. Yeah, Chuck, Jeannie
      already gave me the lecture. I'm waiting for Scooter to pipe up, and
      then this day will be complete."

      "I'm not going to judge your romantic choices, Logan, nor Rogue's.
      However, just be aware that her mutation is severe, and its effects on
      her can be traumatic."

      "You mean having me in her head."

      "You, Magneto, other people she's touched. Jean and I have been training
      her, over the years she's been here, to deal with their presences. But
      as she's working through the memories and personalities -- learning to
      store them away -- she grows very attached to the person she's

      "So you're saying that this thing between us isn't real? It's just her
      mutation? What about--"

      "I am saying nothing of the sort, Logan. If you would permit me to
      finish?" Logan nodded. "I *am* asking you to be careful of her. We care
      for her deeply. We were unable to protect her when she first came
      here -- Magneto got hold of her, and she almost died."

      Logan nodded. He'd heard about the incident at the Statue of Liberty
      that resulted in Magneto's capture. He figured the X-Men had been

      "It took a long time for her to recover, and she is rather special to
      all of us. She was on the run when we found her -- Scott and Ororo saved
      her from Sabretooth. She has become a younger sister to them, and to
      Jean as well. They're very protective of her, as am I."

      "And not real fond of me," Logan interrupted, his voice dry. "I don't
      know, Chuck." He sat down, pulling a cigar from his pocket and sticking
      it in his mouth for a moment, taking the time to think through what he
      wanted to say. Removing the cigar, he said, "Do you believe -- This is
      going to sound nuts, but, do you think people ever just *connect*? I
      mean, before that prick Creed showed up, Marie and I -- there was this
      *thing*, Chuck. I never felt anything like it before. I mean --"

      "Bells rang and angels sang?"

      Logan growled. "You're not funny." He stood and resumed pacing. "I'm
      serious. I'm outta my depth here."

      Xavier took pity on him. While Logan had left under a cloud, their
      friendship had never suffered because of it. "I can't tell you what
      you're feeling, Logan, but I believe you once told me that your gut is
      rarely wrong. Having seen that proven in action, I can only give your
      advice back to you. Follow your gut -- or your heart, my friend. Just,
      please, be wary of hurting Rogue."



      Rogue woke around midnight, her eyes heavy and swollen.

      Craving a cigar and a beer, she headed down to the kitchen. She knew
      Scott kept some fancy import in the fridge, though something --
      Logan? -- told her she'd be happy enough with a Labatt's Blue.

      She made it to the darkened kitchen without meeting anyone, and had just
      settled down with a bottle of Heineken and a cigarette stolen from
      Johnny's secret stash when Jean arrived.

      "Couldn't sleep either, huh?" Jean asked sympathetically.

      "Slept too much."

      "Those things will kill you," Jean ventured, after Rogue let the silence
      stretch out between them. "If 'Ro doesn't get you first for smoking in
      the house.

      Rogue shrugged. "I'm feeling lucky." And she was, overall.

      "Cheating death is a heady experience," Jean said.

      Rogue raised an eyebrow, a gesture that was painfully familiar to Jean,
      though the girl had never done it before. "That's rude, don't you think?
      Looking into my head like that?"

      "I didn't have to look, Rogue. You're projecting quite strongly."

      "Oh, so now it's my fault?"

      Jean rubbed her forehead. She had a feeling her headache wouldn't be
      going away any time soon.

      "Look, Marie--"

      "Don't call me that!" Rogue jumped up, knocking the beer over and
      catching it just before it spilled.

      "Fine, *Rogue.* What you're feeling now -- it isn't real. It's, it's
      part of your mutation. Remember how you felt about Magneto after the
      Statue of Liberty?"

      Rogue had walked around claiming she was going to join the Brotherhood,
      because Charles's dream was foolish. She'd also flirted coyly with the
      Professor, creeping out the younger students.

      "This is different," Rogue insisted.

      "No, it's not. You identify with whomever you absorb," Jean said,
      slipping into doctor mode to keep calm. "It's just manifesting
      differently this time. The mechanism is the same."

      Rogue's eyes grew crafty. "Then wouldn't I be hitting on you, instead of
      him? "

      "Excuse me?"

      "With Erik, I relived his attachment," she made air quotes at the word,
      "to the Professor. So, wouldn't it follow that, if my feelings for Logan
      were the result of absorbing him, I should really be crushing on you,
      not him? Hmm?" In her eagerness to make her point, Rogue felt no shame
      in admitting her feelings for Logan.

      Jean flushed. "Are you saying Logan is still in love with me?" Her voice
      was a mixture of disbelief and sadness, tinged with regret.

      "Look, I'm sorry about what happened with you guys. I really am. But
      that was five years ago. Logan is sorry too, though he'll probably never
      say it. This thing with him and me -- it's got nothing to do with you or
      my mutation."

      "I know you believe that, Rogue, but when he leaves, you'll see that I'm
      right." She laid a sympathetic hand on Rogue's arm. "Please think about
      what I'm saying. You're only going to get hurt. Logan is older and much
      more experienced. A girl like you--"

      Rogue shook the hand off her arm. "I don't know where you get off
      telling me this shit, Jeannie. You've got a lot of nerve. You don't know
      what you're talking about, so I'd really appreciate it if you stayed the
      *hell* out of my business." She stomped to the door. "And out of my
      head," she said, firing a parting shot over her shoulder.

      Jean slumped over the table, her headache worse than before.


      The next morning found Logan once again closeted with the Professor, and
      Rogue catching up with her friends, some of whom had known Logan during
      his first stay at the school.

      "Christ, his combat training class was worse than most of the fights
      we've been in," St. John noted.

      "But damn, he looked hot," Jubes said. "He'd get all sweaty and take off
      his shirt..." She trailed off, lapsing into memory as Kitty and Dani
      nodded in agreement.

      "He'd take his shirt off at the drop of a hat," Dani said. "It was
      almost magical, the way his shirts just disappeared."

      Jean overheard them talking in the rec room and walked away, looking for
      someone who wasn't interested in discussing the Wolverine.

      She found Ororo out in the gardens, overseeing the staff, who were
      preparing for the spring planting.

      "You look troubled," the weather goddess observed.

      Jean grinned ruefully. "Nothing gets by you, 'Ro."

      Ororo smiled in return. "It perpetuates my image as an all-knowing
      goddess." That won a laugh. "So, do you want to talk about it?" Ororo
      sat down on a bench and patted the seat next to her.

      Jean sighed. "It's nothing... It's everything."

      "It's Logan."

      Jean shook her head. "No. It's Rogue." She ran a hand through her
      perfectly coiffed hair, ruining the look it had taken her thirty minutes
      with the blow dryer to achieve. "She was sitting in the kitchen last
      night, with a cigarette and a beer. We argued -- It could have been

      "It will pass."

      "Yes, but until it does... I know he'll be leaving soon, and it will
      break her heart. She thinks there's some sort of bond between them, 'Ro,
      some mystical love connection. She's going to get hurt -- badly -- and
      she won't listen to me."

      "Would you have listened, at her age?"

      A brief, mirthless chuckle. "I guess not."

      Ororo bit her lip, obviously choosing her words carefully. "There was
      definitely a spark between them, before Creed interrupted," she said at

      "Et tu, Ororo?" Jean was irritated. "She's nineteen years old, for God's
      sake. Granted, she's very pretty, but there's *no* way she'd be able to
      hold him, if he even is interested, which I highly doubt."

      "Are you still in love with him?"

      "What? Of course not! I --" Jean leaned forward, resting her head on her
      knees, for a moment reminding Ororo of the teenager she'd been -- they'd
      both been -- when they first met. Then she sat up and, once again, was
      the poised, confident Dr. Jean Grey. "No, Ororo. I realize I sound
      childish, but it's not because I want him. He and I -- we couldn't give
      each other what we needed. We had an attraction, nothing more, and that
      burned itself out." She swallowed. "I just don't want to see Rogue
      broken when he leaves."

      "Maybe she is stronger than you think."

      Jean shrugged. "Maybe, but I doubt it. He's -- he's all-consuming when
      he wants you, and then, when he's not interested anymore, it's as if you
      don't exist. It's, it's very hard."

      "He isn't one to play games, Jean. He won't lead her on."

      "He won't have to," Jean replied darkly. "He shows his appreciation for
      a woman by flirting. You said yourself he was chatting her up at that
      bar. But it doesn't mean anything." She stood and flung her arms wide.
      "You or I would understand, but Rogue -- she took it seriously.

      "Despite what he thinks, I know he'd never take advantage of her. But
      she'll see that as a rejection. *That's* what I'm afraid of. There's no
      good way for this to end for Rogue."

      "You don't need to worry, Jeannie. I already fucked it up."

      She whirled to see Logan standing on the grass. "'Ro?" she said in a
      dangerous tone.

      Storm held up her hands. "I didn't see him until just before he spoke,
      Jean." She stood, as well. "I imagine you two have much to discuss.
      Jean, don't worry so much. Logan, follow your heart, but know that all
      of us love Rogue dearly, and do not wish to see her hurt." And she
      strode off toward the house, regal as a lioness.

      "The goddess has spoken," Logan muttered.

      Jean looked at him, then at the bench, feeling awkward. They had made
      love there once, she recalled, blushing, back when the air between them
      crackled with lust and they could barely keep their hands off each
      other. It had been a short affair that burned hot and fast; it had
      cooled quickly in the face of reality, leaving her hollow, alone, and
      grieving for her baby. Ashes were the only thing left of that
      all-consuming passion.

      "He'd have been five this summer," Logan said, his voice subdued.

      She'd forgotten how perceptive he was. He hid it beneath the badass
      persona, but he knew people as well as anyone she'd ever met. He was a
      hunter, and had thoroughly studied his prey.

      "Yes." It was little more than a sigh.

      "I'm -- dammit, Jeannie, I'm sorry about the whole thing. I was an
      asshole. It was-- I never thought of myself as a father before, you
      know? It made me wonder if I had kids out there that I never knew, and
      that just made me angry. And I'm, I'm sorry I took it out on you. You
      didn't deserve it. You needed me, and I fucked up.

      "Just like I did with Marie."

      "I don't think I want to hear this, Logan," Jean said, resignation
      evident on her face. "But you should probably tell me what you did."

      He dropped his eyes. "You're right. She's too good, too trusting for
      someone like me."

      "So you *are* interested in her?"

      He gave a sharp bark of what might have been laughter. "Interested?
      Jesus, what a freakin' understatement. I think I've found the woman I
      wanna spend the rest of my life with, and you ask if I'm *interested*?"

      "Okay, first off, stop it with the melodramatic crap. I can't take it,
      especially not from you." She ran a hand through her hair again. "And
      secondly, are you *insane*?

      "Certifiable, Red." He shrugged. "Look and see if you don't believe me."
      He grabbed her hand and brought it to the side of his head.

      She inhaled sharply. The fact that he was willing to let her read him
      was statement enough, but she closed her eyes and opened her mind to

      She jerked her hand -- and her mind -- away, overwhelmed by the tumult
      of his emotions. Love, lust, a strong desire to protect Rogue and make
      amends to her, shaded with regret at his behavior the night before and
      five years prior.

      Mostly, though, there was a strong sense of connection, completion --

      The animal in him had chosen a mate.

      Jean collapsed onto the bench, her legs trembling.

      "God," she breathed, and it was both an exclamation and a prayer.

      He nodded. "I'm in over my head."

      She could see the tension in his overly casual stance. "No shit,

      That wrung another chuckle out of him, this one less harsh than the
      first. He shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, shoving his hands
      into his pockets and hunching his shoulders. "So--"

      "Just give her time, Logan. If it's not her mutation, her feelings for
      you will still be there when you come back. Just explain why you have to
      go and see how she reacts."

      "I wasn't planning on coming back."

      "If you want to find out the truth about this -- thing between you, I'd
      say you have to."

      "Yeah, I suppose," he replied, but he didn't sound convinced. He stood
      silently for a moment, staring off into the distance. "Thanks, Jean," he
      said finally. "I mean it."

      She rose and smiled, pressing a gentle kiss to his cheek. "I know. Good

      She returned to the house, still confused by the feelings flowing
      between Logan and Rogue, but some of the tension had left her body and
      her headache had eased.

      With a firm nod, she decided to be decadent, and spend the rest of the
      day in bed, with a book. She deserved a break.




      "There's nothing I won't do, but some things are gonna cost you extra."
      Mike Kellerman, _Homicide: Life on the Street_


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