Jus Ad Bellum: Part IV: Collateral Damage
Author: jenn (jenn@...
) or (jenn@...
"Means are ends in the making. Where the means are bad, there can be no
Scott surprised me the next morning by appearing at our breakfast table,
where I'd taken up a quietly unobtrusive seat in Logan's shadow, trying to
eat my eggs in peace. That I knew all eyes were fixed on me was an
understatement--I was as aware of them as I was the color of my shirt
(blue, by the way) and the fact I was gloved and people wondered about that
still. As if they had nothing better to do with their time.
Logan's presence, however, discouraged others from approaching, and I
supported that wholeheartedly. Even Bobby--hell, most *especially* Bobby.
I couldn't take another sad, disappointed glance.
After getting home the night before, exhausted and practically floating in
the door of the apartment, I'd gone almost straight to sleep, stretched out
on the couch with dinner half-finished on the plate in front of me. No
time to think of ways to see Polaris or figure out how on earth I could use
the knowledge that St. John and Hank weren't alone in their opposition to
the Polaris project. Bringing the two groups together seemed theoretically
a good idea--but every time the thought popped into my head, I shrugged it
Inner Logan agreed and interrupted my egg-eating as I turned the idea over
in my mind for the umpteenth time.
--You don't know enough about what's going on here, darlin'.--
No shit, Sherlock. I was lucky to figure out who I could trust. If that.
--Not worth the risk, Marie.--
"Cyke's on his way, baby," Logan murmured as he speared a sausage with
beautiful unconcern. I lifted my head just in time to see The Fearless
Leader drop into the chair across from us, a friendly grin spreading his
lips and suspicion written into every line of his body. I pasted on a
smile, checked the fit, and threw it at him with all the casual charm I
could muster. Hey, Fearless Leader, here I am, corrupting your favorite
henchman. Nice to see you again.
He might not have gotten the humor of the situation. Frankly, I was pretty
iffy on it myself.
"Noticed you weren't at the main table." A slight jerk of his head toward
the seated X-Gods and Logan nodded agreeably, still focused on
breakfast--he was one of those happy people for whom appetite was never
diminished by outer or inner turmoil. I admired him for that.
Unfortunately, that was one specific characteristic he'd never managed to
pass on to me, no matter how many times we'd touched.
--It's food, baby. Don't see the issue.-- Inner Logan had often wondered
about my connection between emotional equilibrium and hunger as well, and I
pushed my eggs around on my plate and concentrated on the outer world.
Inner convos directly in front of the Leader just didn't seem like the
brightest idea, especially when the Leader was on the suspicious side.
"I need you on campus today," Scott said, and I kept my eyes trained on my
eggs, piling the sausage links like little logs on the edge of the plate
and forking an egg piece on top. Aesthetically pleasing, yellow on brown.
"You too, Marie." Huh? I jerked my gaze up, but Scott's gaze was fixed on
Logan, not me.
Logan was looking back and a thousand questions flashed through his eyes
that I wanted answers to as badly as he did.
"Why do you need Marie?"
"St. John wants to run her through a few more simulations. She's already
worked with the beta team, so she might as well get familiar with
procedure." A slight glance at me now, amused indulgence rich in his
voice. My Logan would have broken his jaw for that alone. This Logan just
raised an eyebrow. "Her evaulations were good, Logan. It'll just be a few
hours. I think she can leave your sight for that long."
Hmm...so it was that obvious. I tried not to flush, thanks to Logan now
perfectly aware of the reason for all those glances in my direction so
often. Everyone thought we were--well, we were a 'we'.
And it wasn't exactly an idea I was fighting too hard either, and not just
because of convenience. My fantasy life had scenes like this one, though
usually he ate the food directly off my stomach and put the syrup to
creative uses not mentioned on the bottle. Spearing an egg, I nodded and
glanced up as someone took an empty plate away--a girl, though all I saw
was a cropped blonde head and a flash of blue at her wrist when she reached
by me. I'd automatically pulled a little toward Logan to allow her to get
to the plate, and blinking, I wondered when I stopped noticing things
around me like that.
Or rather, stopped noticing the norms. How odd.
"You done, baby?" I jerked my gaze up, now aware of two sets of eyes fixed
on me, and swallowed the egg hastily, pushing aside the uncomfortable
thoughts. No need to worry about it now.
"Sure." I half rose and Logan and Scott followed--old gentleman
conditioning. In Scott, it was a perfectly understandable part of his
oh-so-anal-retentive nature. In Logan, it was relics of a completely
different life and time, and it never ceased to fascinate me when that
conditioning took effect. His gloved hand rested on the back of my neck as
he and Scott exchanged a few more words that I wasn't really listening to
as our plates were cleared. Looking around idly, I saw Bobby and Kitty at
the far table--not that either was looking at me, but there was a turn to
Bobby's mouth and stiffness to the wide shoulders that told me he was very
aware I was there.
"Marie? You ready?"
I nodded, swallowing in a dry throat as we walked with Scott toward the
door. The interested gazes of the mutant population were fixed with rapt
attention on us again. I wasn't being paranoid.
--It is paranoia, and it's rather cute, Rogue.-- Carol's snicker filled my
head. I tried to tune her out. To my own surprise, it worked. I was
getting better at it.
"So when is Erik arriving?"
I blinked, focusing on Logan's voice. Information. Always good.
"He'll be back this week with Polaris. Jean should have everything ready
by Friday." There was a tightness to Scott's mouth that didn't bode well.
His next words told me why. "Hank was in town. Have you--"
"He left, Scooter." The hand on my neck tightened in warning--what, did
Logan think I was going to blurt out everything? Please. "Awhile back.
He's not going to help, you know that. So I don't see why you're still
tryin'. Just give it up, let him live his life."
Scott didn't answer, but the sharp gaze rested on me, as if my presence
alone was responsible for Hank's intransigent devotion to wanting norms
equal. I kept my blank expression carefully in place. After a few more
words between them, Logan led me outside, and I took a long breath as he
pushed me gently onto a bench.
The air tasted cleaner than inside, or it could have been the fact I was no
longer bracing under the pressure of all those eyes and all that
speculation. Straightening, I looked around the garden and had to smile a
It was gorgeous weather--all pretty bright-sunlight,
perfect-for-family-picnics, let's-play-a-pick-up-game-of-football sort of
day that I'd looked forward to at home. Not too hot, not too windy, let's
get a kite and have some serious fun in long sleeves without sweating to
death. I could feel Logan gazing at me in an almost smothering worry, and
that seemed normal too.
"He has good instincts. Try not to look so guilty."
I frowned up at him, and most especially at the sensible advice he gave.
Scott had always had a nice paranoid streak running through him, but in my
world, it'd been rigidly contained. The only thing that surprised me now
after days of observation was that he hadn't ordered me into the sublevels
and let Jean and Betsy double-team me until he got some answers.
That I was walking free sure as hell showed where Logan stood in the Trust
Hierarchy. He'd gut me if I was a threat, and that's all Scott needed to
"I'm trying to look neutral." I'd seen him gut a deer once, during
survival training with me, Kitty, and Paige. Paige had taken it pretty
coolly with a slight moue of distaste, Kitty had vomited into the bushes,
and I'd watched with unwilling fascination, my fingers flexing in time with
his as if claws would protrude if I only got the right muscle combinations
to work. It'd been one of those rare moments we'd been in such perfect
rapport we actually twitched in unison when Kitty's noises from behind the
bushes reached us.
He could mutter whatever he wanted about feeling vaguely parental about me,
but the truth was, and a part of him knew it, that you didn't get our level
of sexual tension from random Jacosta complexes. Those moments he would
never admit to were all the proof he needed. Both of us got off on
violence and we liked it better together than apart. Being X-Men, in
retrospect, could be considered our version of safe sex.
"There's no such thing here. Either for us or against us." A shrug as he
lowered himself down beside me, glancing around automatically, checking for
surveillance or people too close. I wondered a little vaguely who would
possibly have the nerve to follow Logan around. He was twitchy at the best
of times--I'd bet money no one walked up behind him for any reason without
*a lot* of advance warning, olfactory superiority or not.
"You draw the lines that sharp?"
"Yeah, we do." A pause, before he tilted my chin up. "Hank'll figure
I could lose myself in eyes that utterly sincere. It was nice to know I
had the same effect on him, as the gaze lingered longer than necessary and
the thumb on my chin unconsciously stroked my skin.
"I can't stay here much longer," I said finally, and it frightened me when
he didn't disagree. "They're gonna push one day. I can't--"
"If it fails with Polaris, it won't matter, baby."
"Sure it will. I don't think anyone would take the resurrection of Rogue
well." Especially when they'd fucked around so beautifully with her
Logan's shrug beside me was telling.
"Don't worry about it. We'll think of something."
I didn't want to have to think of something. Lifting my head, I gazed
around the garden and took in the smells of flowers in bloom. It was home
in a way that was starting to make me more comfortable than I should be,
and I suddenly missed the rampant cases of deja vu I'd experienced those
first days. I shouldn't be comfortable here.
"You don't have to hover, you know. I'm fine on my own." Show that
independent streak, Marie-baby. There we go.
"You want me to leave?"
Slightly surprised, a little intrigued. This Logan wasn't as familiar with
Rogue, she who needed no one and nothing--or did a kick-ass imitation,
anyway. No, I didn't want him to leave--what I wanted was for both of us
to leave and let me hide on his sofa under a blanket with a good book until
Hank returned with a miraculous solution. Failing that, I wanted to duck
quietly into his shadow and hope no one noticed me.
Funny world, this was.
"No--but I don't want you to--you know, feel obligated to hold my hand
through this, you know?" I'd never wanted his obligation, though God knew,
I'd gotten it, full measure. Logan took duty seriously. Very seriously.
Obsessively, some might say. And while I'd never *wanted* it, in this
world or mine, I'd never been one to look at gift horse in the mouth and
check out the dental issues within. When someone takes up seventy four
percent (and I'd done the calculations, so I knew) of your fantasy life,
you took what you could get, no matter what form they came in, no matter
the condition of the teeth.
"No problem." Of course not--this was something intrinsic to him. Jean
had once hypothesized that he had the single most active paternal instincts
ever found in a single male. I'd have to agree--it jumpstarted him into
fatherhood without a single child of his blood, just the children of his
heart and soul and choice. Me and Remy, Kit and Jubes to a lesser extent.
The kids of the Mansion, who always knew who was most likely to let them
off easy when they broke curfew, or ignore the beer parties in the boys'
dorms, who would growl in frustration but still pick them up from clubs at
two in the morning if they overindulged and couldn't drive. Bitch them out
in colorful language, though, but that was sort of entertaining and
certainly gave us all an education in selective profanity.
We had Logan's cell phone memorized and his private extension in the
Mansion on speed dial. He belonged to me, to us, in ways he'd never
belonged to the X-Men themselves, even Jean.
"I've been reading," I told him, dismissing the thoughts completely, and
the hazel eyes fixed on me in interest. "About the war--about what you
went through, all of you. I'm sorry." The memories from Kitty I just kept
under wraps. No need to advertise my unauthorized use of powers on an
An eyebrow cocked and I shifted uncomfortably on the bench.
"For--for some of the things I said. You--you were right, you know." When
we fought, before I knew he wasn't genocidal, merely insular. I'd hit him
with words that probably still slithered about in his mind, and even if I'd
been right--somehow, it wasn't fair to do that to him. I owed both Logans
far too much to do that. "I wasn't here--I can't understand what you went
Another shrug, but I sensed the tension under it.
"Sometimes," he said, and it surprised me, since I didn't expect a
response. "Sometimes, I was glad you didn't live to see it." He paused.
"We lost a lot of people."
"I'm sorry about Jubilee," I said, and received confirmation when every
muscle in the body beside me tensed, completely reflexive, utterly
unconscious. Damning as all hell. "Kitty--" Don't tell him about the
absorption. Don't know how he'd take that. "I heard that you--you and she
The hazel eyes refused to meet mine and something in me twisted abruptly--I
hadn't really thought about it before, but it occurred to me to wonder....
"She died early on," he said shortly. "I got Kitty out, but I was too late
He got a lot of people out. Kitty, Scott, St. John, Bobby. Questions
floated to the surface of my mind even as I began to seek out Kitty's
memories--vague impressions of a birthday party before the war and Logan
disgusted when Jubilee threw cake at him, long nights downstairs in front
of the television watching registration becoming inevitable and Logan
telling them they'd be fine. Graduation gowns and Logan scooping Jubes up
and throwing her over his shoulder while she laughed and beat at his back
while Scott fell against the punch bowl laughing and Jean snapped pictures.
How strange, that I could superimpose the memories of Rogue over those and
get such a perfect match. My breath caught a little and I felt Logan's
sudden gaze at me when my scent changed. I wondered if I smelled like
"I'm going to go look for St. John," I said suddenly, getting to my feet,
trying with movement to wash away the memories. "I'll see you later, okay?
He didn't follow me. And you know, in my world, he would have.
* * * * *
"Where's St. John?" I asked of the first person I saw. Vaguely, I
recognized her--green eyes, Sarah, that was the one. She skittered to a
stop, turning so quickly she almost dropped the grocery bag she was
carrying, and winced back when I took a step forward. Shit, I hated when
people winced like that. What the hell did she think I was gonna do to
"Yes." I answered, a little sharply. "Have you seen him this morning?"
She pushed her hair back from her face nervously, and I almost growled.
The second wince was just icing--I wasn't going to hurt her, for God's
"Never mind. I'll find him myself. Go--do whatever you were doing."
A quick bob of her head and she took off in the direction of the kitchen
while I made for the stairs. Try his room, then do some interrogation.
Bobby was absent (probably still eating) when St. John crankily answered my
knock on his door, and he let me in without much in the way of conversation
as I snatched the collar out of my pocket and thought about putting it on.
"Something wrong, R--Marie?" he said sleepily and I almost kicked him as I
dropped onto his bed.
"Be careful." I snapped, suddenly worried. "Marie."
St. John nodded, still not fully awake, and shut the door, turning the lock
automatically before brushing a hand through his short hair and glancing
briefly at the collar clenched in my hands.
"You like that thing?"
Considering what I knew of his experiences with it, I understood his
"It keeps others safe." I paused to let him go in the bathroom--St. John
Allerdyce was useless before brushing his teeth, a habit he'd picked up
from Bobby. Shower too--I heard the water come on and lay back on his bed,
curling my legs up beneath the discarded covers and staring up at the
If I got obsessive about the relationship between Jubilee and Logan, I'd
scream. That was all there was to it. I didn't need to worry about
this--I had more to worry about than a past that was irrelevant to me and
with so many other far more pressing issues. Would Hank find a way to get
me home? Would Scott get more suspicious and send Jean after me? Would
Magneto figure out who I was? Would the Polaris Project go on as
Had Logan replaced me with Jubilee?
Fuck. So irrelevant. I rolled onto my stomach and was glad to see St.
John had a nice, large, firm, fluffy pillow. Because I wanted something to
Ten minutes later, St. John walked out of the shower and his pillow had
lost something in the way of fluffiness.
"I see you're feeling good this morning, babe." His eyes narrowed on the
pillow in thought. Dressed in nothing but a towel, he crossed to the
closet, pulling open the door. He was smirking. Narrowing my eyes, I
considered my options.
"You know I almost had sex with you once in my world?" I told him, and he
dropped both towel and t-shirt. Amused, I averted my gaze and fixed it on
the door while he dressed with jerky motions I could see from the corner of
"That's nice." Pretty good attempt at normal conversation mode. I was
impressed. "Why almost?" He emerged into my line of sight in jeans,
pulling the t-shirt over his damp blonde head. I hid a grin.
"Let's say your interest in me was purely--proxy."
"Oh." Slightly amused, more than a little surprised, shades of
embarrassment. Pure St. John, and he flashed me an uncertain smile.
"Yeah," I answered easily and rolled on my side, giving him a long look.
"Why aren't you and Bobby--you know--here?"
A shrug as he settled the shirt at his waist and went hunting for his socks
in the dresser. "No reason--never came up. Not since high school, anyway,
and after Cecy died--"
"Cecy?" I'd heard that name before.
St. John turned with tube socks in hand, crawling across the carpet to dig
under his bed. He didn't have a habit of putting his shoes in the closet.
"Bobby's fianc�e. Met her our first semester in college--before we were
discovered." Johnny shrugged again. "She died in the camps for being
a--collaborator. Or fucking the enemy, so to speak. I suppose when her
parents turned in me and Bobby, they didn't expect her to be arrested with
us, for sleeping with a known mutant."
I shivered a little--he could say it so casually, and I wasn't used to that
"So was Bobby." He came up for air with one shoe clutched in his hand, a
frown creasing his face. The other shoe was being recalcitrant,
apparently. "They were engaged--God, I swear, they decided on the second
date." A strangely nostalgic smile curved Johnny's lips and he sat back on
his heels briefly, head tilting. "She was a carrier of the X-gene, not a
mutant herself though. She was targeted as much for that as for her
relationship." Johnny ducked back under the bed again. Emerging with the
second shoe, he gave me a long look. "Her mother and both her sisters were
taken too. Even though her father was FoH."
I thought about that, my mind turning over the implications.
"FoH required gene tests after that to join the party."
Whoa. I sat up straight.
"They became a *political party*?" And didn't that just spook me in ways I
didn't want to be spooked? Dearest God. Not good.
Johnny's eyebrows arched briefly in confusion, before he belatedly
remembered who I was.
"Yeah. Got a full Congress and a President elected. Problem was, a third
of them ended up having mutant family members. Lots agreed to
sterilization to assure that their possibly corrupt genes didn't continue."
Another smile that could have doubled for an animal's bared teeth. "Very
interesting, how many suddenly turned up without families--sent them
abroad. 'Specially their daughters--required sterilization on the kids who
came back with a x in their chromosomes. We won't even cover the latents
who didn't even know they *were* gamma class and found out at the ripe old
age of fifty that their neat ability to always convince people with their
speeches and their excellent luck in poker was low-grade psi ability."
I'd never thought of that and pondered the implications.
"What's the requirement to be considered mutant?"
"Good question. Magneto makes the rules--he's partial to alpha/beta
class." A shrug. "The way we wiped through the human gene
population--norms outnumber us, but you know, most mutant kids come from
norm parents. And some breed true every time; those have special
privileges, a weird sort of second class citizenship, like Sam's family.
Work visas, can operate heavy machinery without supervision, less
restrictions on travel." Viciously sarcastic. "It's the ones who started
executing their own kids that Mags targets--those and the collaborators.
Mutant or not."
I could see that.
"So what do you need, babe?"
I wondered if he'd know anything about Jubilee and Logan and dismissed it
from my mind.
"Scott said you were running me through sims this afternoon."
St. John blinked, considering my statement from all angles.
"Yeah, I mentioned to Scott I needed to--I guess he forgot to tell me." A
shake of his head. "Weird. He usually doesn't forget stuff like that."
"Probably meant to tell you this morning." Before I saw you, so I wouldn't
know he was deliberately separating me and Logan. I wondered why, but St.
John sat down on the bed beside me and the blue eyes looked into mine. In
their depths were so many questions--I knew what he'd ask before he said
it, before the blue eyes left mine and fixed on the far wall.
"Me and Bobby--you asked about that. Is it--different? I mean--"
"You and Bobby graduated from USC; you teach journalism at the school and
freelance for a few magazines. You've been together for over two years," I
said softly, and I heard his breath catch. I could tell him this. It
wouldn't hurt anyone. "After Bobby broke up with me, you took him to Malta
for awhile. When you got back, I was with Remy and Bobby was--I don't
know. Weird about it. And then--well, something happened, I don't know
what, but you got together." I smiled a little. "You're happy, I'll tell
St. John grinned a little, something lighting up his eyes.
"You know Remy and 'Ro--"
"Yeah." I almost sighed to myself. "Remy and I broke it off after what
happened with Carol--it was hard for him. I made it hard, and I
couldn't--" Couldn't stand to be touched, to be near anyone I could ever
hurt again. Remy got angry about it--Logan just pushed me until I gave up
trying to keep him away. I remembered them fighting outside the Mansion,
when they thought I couldn't hear, remembered Logan ripping into Remy for
abandoning me. Logan never quite understood I'd abandoned Remy a long time
before. "He and 'Ro have been pretty good friends since Logan first
brought him home. I think they're developing into more." Another sigh,
and I flicked a finger over the blanket--it was strange, that it didn't
hurt to think about anymore. It once had. "Surprise, surprise."
His hand was gentle on my shoulder.
A pause, longer, before he spoke again, and my luck should have figured out
where he'd go.
"Is the--are the Professor and Jubilee--"
He felt my wince and drew back in surprise.
"She's fine," I said, fixing my eyes on the far wall. "Everyone is.
Everyone, you know, is fine. Mostly." Leave out random episodes of mutant
violence and sundry, and I turned my head a little, knowing my face would
show too much.
"You and Logan in your world--you were very close."
--He's a quick one. Told you, honey.--
--Shut the *fuck* up, Carol, before I decide to figure out a way to *burn*
you outta my mind.--
Her laugh was malicious--Xavier and I had discussed the option early on,
but the sheer difficulty of rooting through my mind and removing Carol
neuron by neuron and memory by memory was a task fit for perhaps *six*
telepaths of Xavier's caliber, not just one. And the dangers of losing my
own memories, my own self--in balance, the risks were too great. At least
in Xavier's opinion.
But rethinking the situation...
"Yes," I mumbled, wondering how I could change the subject.
"It was hard for him--after you died." I looked up. "He stayed at the
school--Jean thought it was because of the girls, you know? He saw you in
all of them."
I had to find some level of amusement in the fact that Logan couldn't even
escape me when I was dead.
"It's no biggie," I said, seeing him ready to say something else. "Do you
think you can see Polaris when she gets back?"
St. John shrugged.
"She's with Lensherr--never leaves his sight. I'll try, but--" he shrugged
meaningfully, and I understood, at least a little. People with
martyr-complexes didn't want to be saved.
"Makes sense." Magneto was good at what he did--he'd learned from that
unfortunate incident with me, I had to guess. Twisting short blonde hair
through my fingers, I gave the room a cool once-over before finally turning
to face Johnny.
"Scott is the epitome of paranoid. He doesn't like how you've shown up so
close to the execution of the Polaris Project."
"He doesn't believe in it, you know." Usually, I didn't think before I
spoke--this was one of those times. St. John leaped on the words before
they'd finished finding space in the air to hang meaningfully, grabbing my
shoulders and spinning me around.
"Where'd you get that idea?"
It seemed sensible, on the surface, to start spilling--but I bit my tongue
and shook my head. I didn't want to trust my instinct to tell him. I
couldn't pretend to understand everything that was going on, and even if
Scott wasn't a cheerleader for the project, it didn't mean that he would
actually bring it to a screeching halt either. In fact, I'd guess from
what Logan said, they weren't going to do anything yet. They'd learned the
rules of sacrifice and ethical compromise far too well.
"Just--observation." The intense gaze wasn't lessening and I wondered if
this Johnny could read when I lied as easily as the other one. For a
second, I thought he could, but he let me, go, sitting back to stare at the
far wall with an intense expression. "Johnny--"
"Sorry." His face turned down, hiding his expression from sight. "You
wanna go look at the sim programs now?"
With a quick nod, I stood up, glad to end the uncomfortable moment with
some action. But I did notice that St. John's eyes didn't meet mine for
the rest of the morning.
* * * * *
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