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FIC: Jus Ad Bellum Part IV: MA: 8/9: Rogue, all

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  • Jenn
    8/9 * * * * * Hank was shifting uncomfortably on the couch--I wasn t sure if his sensitive nose had picked up what Logan and I had been doing only a half
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 9, 2001
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      8/9

      * * * * *

      Hank was shifting uncomfortably on the couch--I wasn't sure if his
      sensitive nose had picked up what Logan and I had been doing only a half
      hour before, or the fact that the news he carried was less than hopeful.

      "I don't know why it happened," he said finally, and he handed me the
      folder, full of equations I had no idea of the meaning of, scribbled notes
      in Hank-specific shorthand that might as well have been a foreign language
      for all the sense the made to me. Blankly, I turned the pages, looking at
      the strings of numbers and letter combinations that didn't resemble any
      math I'd ever heard of.

      "Nothing?" Logan asked from behind me. Something warm was placed in my
      hand and I took a drink of coffee without taking my eyes from the papers.
      I felt him sit down on the arm of the chair, arm pressed to my shoulder as
      he looked over the notes spread over my lap.

      "I think I understand the--connection," Hank said slowly, and both Logan
      and I looked up instantly. He almost drew away, and I wondered why, before
      the big hands settled in his lap, twitching with suppressed energy. "The
      machine is the original, not the rebuild we thought it was."

      I looked up at Logan, who was staring at Hank as if the bigger man had
      grown wings and proposed flying to the moon.

      "I cut that thing into pieces, Hank."

      Hank shrugged a little.

      "The elements it was composed of--titanium and platinum, amongst other
      common metals--are rare but not difficult to locate with Erik's resources.
      I checked several times--the seam lines on the machine are invisible to the
      naked eye, but not impossible to detect. I would guess that Erik's
      associates returned to retrieve the pieces. It is the same machine, and
      Rogue--the Rogue who died here--was the only person besides Erik to use
      it's absorption properties. I suspect that this has something to do with
      it."

      "You mean--you mean it's attuned to me?" I shut my eyes briefly, then
      looked back down at the notes. Once I figured out what they meant, there
      was a good chance they'd make more sense than Hank's strange hypothesis.

      "Yes. Or not to you--but to your counterpart, who died here. Who you are
      a perfect duplicate of, if the blood tests Logan allowed me to run are
      accurate, and they should be." Well, I'd expect nothing less from Hank.
      "It absorbed you--"

      "It absorbed Magneto's power through me," I said shortly. "It was--"

      "You. Your power and Magneto's power. Which goes far to back up my
      hypothesis that it was your power that the machine needed to complete the
      changes--a mutant's DNA who was flexible enough to incorporate the changes
      that Erik's machine forced on human kind."

      Logan and I, I was certain, had identical dog-watching-Jeopardy expressions
      on our faces. Hank sighed a little, running a hand through his hair before
      settling down again with a determined expression.

      "Think of the machine as a form of what you do yourself, Marie--absorbing,
      storing mutation, but in the way of a large battery. It converted Erik's
      magnetism into a controlled wave of forced DNA mutation. When you were
      added--"

      "When I was added, I--what?"

      "Sent a second part through, allowing the human DNA to accept the changes,
      as your body accepts the changes that occur to you when you touch another
      mutant. In your world and in our world, Senator Kelley died because his
      body could not remain stable with the change in basic DNA. Your power,
      when added to Magneto's, gave those humans exposed to the wave your ability
      to absorb mutation without physical damage."

      Dear God.

      "But I don't keep it. It--the borrowed mutation--fades, without the death
      of the host--" I stopped, drawing in a breath sharply. "My death. I was
      the host."

      Hank nodded slowly, dark eyes fixed on mine. Slowly, I let out my breath,
      letting everything that could mean run through me and trip off the edges of
      my brain. I snapped the folder shut.

      "And how does this--any of this--explain me here?"

      Now Hank was fumbling again, looking for words that were found in a normal
      dictionary and not the Dictionary For Geniuses. Finally, he gave up and let
      out a sharp breath.

      "I think--" he stopped, frowning now, and I got the feeling this was the
      part that worried him most. "The split occurred the moment of Rogue's
      death on the Statue. We have to assume, unless you can tell me otherwise,
      that all things were equal to that point. Apparently, it--it's existence,
      the machine's--caused a rift." Hank's eyes were on me, steady and sad.
      "Rogue, I think that you should not have survived the Statue."

      Something fell free inside me with nowhere to land. I heard Logan's low
      growl and reached out blindly, feeling his hand slide through mine, warm
      and firm.

      "The machine was stopped before the wave reached New York." It'd stopped.
      I knew that much, seen through Logan's eyes. It'd stopped in the middle of
      the water.

      "If you had died, the power of your addition would have boosted it enough
      to reach New York easily. It needed everything of you, Magneto's power and
      your own, with the power of your actual death, which is an enormous amount
      of psychic and electrical energy. When Logan touched Rogue here, she was
      dead, and could not absorb his healing gifts to make up for the damage done
      to her brain when the machine drained her." Hank's eyes were fixed to my
      left now. "From what you've told me, the only actual change was the fact
      you were not dead when Logan removed you from the machine. That is the
      only one. If you had been dead, the wave would not have been stopped with
      Scott's destruction of the rings."

      I tried to absorb that, but nothing would emerge.

      "My life's a mistake?"

      "I examined your body after Jean was finished," Hank said softly. "The
      brain damage was severe. Your mutation was burned out of your grey matter.
      There was nothing to draw Logan's power with. You should not have
      survived, Marie."

      "Magneto survived it," I snapped. "Twice."

      "He didn't set it either time to reach the point of death. He controlled
      how much it took and how. When you were set into it, it was set to kill
      you. And there is no reason that should have changed. There is also no
      reason that it should have drawn you into our dimension--"

      "Because my world isn't even supposed to exist," I whispered. "I'm not
      supposed to exist."

      Hank raised both palms in a helpless gesture. God. This wasn't--this
      wasn't something I needed to hear, needed to know.

      "Marie, you may not be able to go back." He drew in a deep breath, letting
      it out slowly, evenly. I didn't like that. "It is possible that your
      dimension no longer exists."

      Dear God. Dear, dear God.

      "I don't accept that. I don't accept that--that Magneto's machine pulled
      me from my own world and my world no longer exists." Somehow, I found my
      feet, pulling free of Logan's hands. The world was twisting dizzily and I
      grabbed for the edge of the couch, almost falling on top of Hank. "Why the
      fuck am I *here*?"

      "For that, I have no answer. If we understood what made that moment Logan
      touched you on the Statue different so that you survived--then we would
      know why you are here as well."

      "You think they're related," Logan said from behind me as I lowered my head
      into my hands.

      "Yes. It is the only thing I can find that fits nothing in my equations or
      observations. Rogue survived there and flourished. The machine, when run,
      cut across dimensional borders and pulled her here, to us, from her own
      world."

      "My world isn't a mistake," I whispered. God, was it though? Was this the
      future as it was meant to be? "I'm not a mistake. I'm not."

      "No, you aren't. This world is the mistake, Hank." Logan's hands were
      light on my shoulders, sliding to the back of my neck, rubbing gently.
      "This entire--this place--is a mistake. You know it, Hank, or you wouldn't
      be fighting it so hard."

      "The only way to know would be if Marie allowed herself placed in the
      machine again and let it run its course," Hank said softly, and I jerked
      up, heard Logan growl behind me. "Logan, there are no laboratory
      experiments I can run--this is almost purely a matter of mathematics and
      physics. And observation of the events in question. I have read and
      re-read all available data. Other than this, there is nothing I can do.
      If running the machine with Polaris was all it took, it could be that it
      will send her to her world. On the other hand--"

      "My world no longer exists."

      "It is possible. So there would be nothing to go back to."

      I nodded numbly, lifting my head and taking the cup of coffee Logan placed
      in my hands.

      "Do you need anything else, Hank?"

      Logan and Hank retreated to the other side of the living room, and I curled
      my feet up under me, thinking through what Hank had told us. Told me. I
      couldn't--wouldn't absorb it. It was just--just wrong. No way in hell.

      I heard the door shut and Logan was beside me, pulling me into a tight
      embrace.

      "Marie--"

      "I can't--I can't deal with it, Logan. I don't want to anymore." Everyone
      had their point of saturation, and I'd reached mine. This was all I could
      bear. No idea how I got here or why, except that fucking machine was
      somehow attuned to me, to Rogue, that it had me killed once and maybe
      wanted a second go-around.

      He picked me up easily, brushing my hair back from my face, wiping away the
      tears. I turned into him, letting the large, warm body lull me a little.

      "What am I going to do?"

      "Hank's getting another night with the machine." Logan paused, before
      continuing steadily. "And we record Polaris in it--what happens." His
      finger covered my lips at my protest. "Not kill her. Run her in it. Just
      one night--for Hank to observe."

      "How?"

      "There's a second trial scheduled in a couple of days. The first one that
      Lensherr ran was to make sure it was operational with her. This time,
      it'll be to make sure the modifications are functioning" Brushing his
      hands through my hair, he tilted my face up, meeting my eyes. "We record
      what happens and send it to Hank."

      "Hank'll never agree to that."

      "He already did, provided no humans are put in its path." Holding my eyes,
      he waited until I was nodding. "Good. We'll handle the rest later. I'll
      talk to Scott about recording the trial run--shit, I'm surprised they're
      not doing it already."

      I nodded again, and Logan took the empty coffee cup from my hand and
      brushed a kiss across my forehead.

      "Let's get some sleep."

      I tried to smile, then gave up and wrapped both arms around his neck.

      "You want me to carry you?"

      He sounded amused. I looked up, nodding slowly, and felt him shift an arm
      under my knees, holding me close. With a breath, I let everything else go
      and concentrated on the man holding me. Just trust, Marie. It'll happen.
      Just believe.

      I shut my eyes against the fact that somewhere inside me, a part of me
      wasn't unhappy with the turn of events. If it didn't work--I'd never go
      home. Or there might not be a home to go to, if Hank's theory was right.

      Question was, how badly did I want to get back. Shit if I knew.

      *****

      "Marie?" I put down my book on the picnic table and looked up at Jean, who
      had emerged from what appeared to be nowhere to sit down across the table
      from me. Sixteen hours of sleep and sex (mostly sex) and a long bout of
      Danger Room *sans* safety protocols had done good things for my mood, but
      my body twitched as she sat down, wide brown eyes fixed on me with nothing
      more threatening than friendly interest.

      I could like this Jean Grey a lot, truth be told. Too damn easy.

      "Hi Jean." It didn't seem so odd, to feel that light tingle around her.
      It was almost soothing--a subliminal buzz that crept just below the surface
      of my mind, not invasive so much as softly warming, and I smiled as I lay
      down the book. "Anything you need?"

      "I was checking out the Danger Room logs--you're running some of the more
      dangerous programs without supervision." Ah yes. Well-- "I know you're
      invulnerable, but that doesn't mean you're immortal."

      I shrugged a little, slightly uncomfortable--how many times had I heard
      this speech before?

      "I don't--"

      "I read your evaluation--I am not suggesting you aren't capable of taking
      care of yourself." She looked into my face, brown eyes filled with
      concern, and I felt a stab of conscience that I'd added to her worries.
      Grrr, her worries. Keeping upward of twenty-thousand frightened norms
      in-line. Grrr twice. What the hell was I thinking? "But I'd prefer you
      had a companion to observe, at very least to assure that you don't break
      the equipment."

      I smiled at that and she smiled back.

      "All right." I studied her face. "Is something wrong?"

      For a second, she hesitated, then the soft lips tightened.

      "I'd like to run your medical exam soon." The words came out in a rush.
      "I understand your wariness, Marie, I do, but none of the procedures are
      invasive. A quick scan, a little background information--"

      "I wasn't experimented on," I said, and my voice was harder than I
      expected, remembering Kitty. "They weren't trying out find out anything--"

      "I know." The soft voice dropped, and I remembered suddenly what she had
      gone through. "And I know that physically, you were undamaged. But--"
      her voice trailed off. "It's difficult, for all of us, to talk about it,
      but it does help, Marie. I promise you, it does help."

      I paused for a moment, feeling it come together--she didn't really give a
      flip about the exam, though her researching soul wanted it and badly. That
      was Scott's paranoia, wanting to find out what I was hiding. This was Jean
      alone--she was worried about me. She wanted to help me, try to work
      through my post-camp trauma. All my behavior had been tailored toward
      that, to cover the fact I couldn't be touched. And she was worried.
      Letting my shields weaken just a little, I felt it melt into me--and I
      found myself nodding slowly in understanding.

      "I--I can't yet." Hopefully never, but her worry was so real, so powerful,
      I couldn't help reacting to it, my mouth going dry. "S-soon, okay?"

      Jean reached out and patted my hand on the table, and for a second, the
      familiarity of it washed over me. I could remember laying my head in her
      lap and crying after Bobby and I broke up, whispering how there was
      something wrong with me, that I couldn't love someone as wonderful as him.
      And she'd stroked back my hair and stayed with me for hours, only leaving
      when Logan had shown up unexpectedly--as he always tended to do--and did
      his own form of post-break-up therapy, which was a night on the roof with a
      bottle of stolen whiskey, a box of good cigars, and a thoughtful discussion
      on who among the Brotherhood we'd most like to have an hour alone with in a
      small enclosed room with some serious weaponry.

      I liked hacksaws and Sabretooth, personally.

      Jean Grey-Summers, the mother and sister I'd never really had, and that
      this woman wasn't quite. In a way I could barely admit to myself--this
      Jean could be so much more.

      "All right." Her voice was soft--then the delicate head tilted and I felt
      that frisson of power running back under my skin, stronger this time. "I
      spoke to Scott this morning-" oh my, what was this? "--and he thinks, if
      you feel ready, you can start training for the beta team."

      The beta team--Bobby, Kitty, Johnny. I blinked, trying to hide my
      shock--there had been mutants here for several years that hadn't been asked
      yet to join up. Hell, in my world, it had taken the absorption and
      assimilation of Carol before I'd been permitted field work--habit, I
      supposed, from the days when I couldn't defend myself at all unless I was
      acutely desirous of a schizoid episode. And Logan's absolute promise to
      Scott and Co that he'd be with me on those first few missions.

      It had seemed odd at the time--I knew it was a shock to Scott, that Logan
      was one of my biggest supporters in pushing for team membership. It seemed
      weird to Scott, I supposed--the idea that Logan, who had always been
      slightly paranoid (okay, really, really, really paranoid) about my safety,
      was willing to let me risk my life on a daily basis. In fact, it made up
      most of Scott's arguments with Logan--my age, my inexperience, my idealism,
      a thousand other things that boiled down to his worry about my ability to
      handle the job.

      The arguments had gone on and on for weeks while I waited and trained and
      wondered when Logan would finally make Scott understand--that this was more
      than something I wanted; it was something I needed. This was what I was,
      what I was supposed to do. I fought for the same reasons Logan did, and he
      understood, even better than Scott, what moved inside me. He'd understood,
      setting aside his own objections, his own prejudices, his absolute terror
      of losing me, because this was something I needed.

      I'd never, before that moment, appreciated that Logan thought of me first.

      I blinked, looking into Jean's eyes--here, I'd never been her younger
      sister and friend, someone to be protected and cherished and watched. I
      was just a young woman who came here, someone she chose to offer friendship
      to, and--and--

      "Thanks, Jean," I heard myself say finally, my eyes burning. "I'd like
      that."

      --and, somehow, it made what I was almost a betrayal of both Jeans. I'd
      loved my Jean for being everything I needed in a mother and sister; this
      Jean, however, had called on the woman in me, the one that wanted to go out
      for coffee with her and discuss our sex lives and our clothing choices.
      The woman who could laugh with her over stupid jokes and be the equal that
      little Rogue could never, never be.

      This Jean and I could be friends, no strings attached.

      "Hey." I felt every inch of my skin instantly turn on--no no no, not like
      that, it's *always* on like that. A slow warmth that spread through me as
      a hand rested lightly on my shoulder. "You ready?"

      Jean smiled up at Logan--a radiant smile, lighting her up from within that
      made me catch my breath, made me wonder what had happened between them in
      the camps, that the dynamics had changed so much between them.

      "You're not staying for dinner?"

      I looked up at Logan, who shrugged slightly.

      "Got some errands to run--be back in the morning." A little grin. "I'll
      be at the lab on time, darlin', don't worry." Instantly, his hand slipped
      beneath my elbow and I stood up as he grabbed my book from the picnic
      table. Jean shook her head in what appeared to be amusement and rose as
      well.

      "Marie agreed to join the beta team--we can set up a schedule tomorrow for
      training. Scott will want her in tactics for mornings."

      Logan gave me a slight grin I couldn't quite interpret.

      "Any way you want it's fine, Jeannie. I'll talk to you later." A slight
      tug and I stepped over the bench quickly.

      "Bye Jeannie," I said and the hand on my elbow slid down to my back,
      resting lightly on my neck as he led me to the car, looking down at the
      book.

      "What the hell are you reading?"

      "Just from the library," I answered. "I thought Mag--Mr. Lensherr needed
      you until later tonight. I was resigning myself to meatloaf again."

      "That's not food." Logan had specific ideas about what constituted food
      and meatloaf had never made the top ten list--or even upper bottom ten
      list. "And you said you'd join the team, huh?"

      I winced at that.

      "She caught me off-guard."

      "I'd say." A pause. "Marie--"

      I shook my head quickly, not really wanting to explain how I'd felt when
      she asked me, the words that had stumbled out of my mouth without bothering
      to check by my head. With a sigh, I leaned against him, felt his arm rest
      over my shoulder, squeezing lightly.

      "Never mind--it's not important." But it was. It was. And I couldn't
      pretend it wasn't, that it didn't make me think more than I had in a long
      time. I was getting used to not being the baby, the child with the scary
      skin, the girl they remembered rescuing and seemed to often forget that
      there was nothing innocent left in her head. Just--just Marie, a mutant,
      who appeared and they accepted.

      And I was seriously getting used to being touched and watched and wanted,
      and that probably wasn't a good sign either. I lifted a hand, lacing my
      fingers through his resting on my shoulder, and thought about the fact that
      I was getting into some serious trouble now.

      "Marie?"

      "Yeah?"

      A pause--he was thinking again. Logan thinking was never necessarily a
      good sign. Like me, he tended toward brooding or violence when he couldn't
      work a problem out--violence winning usually because it was so very readily
      available and to be truthful, it certainly did wonders to clear the head.
      Me and the Danger Room had become up close and personal during the Rogue
      Joins the Team debates.

      "You know we can't stay here."

      We?

      "We?"

      He gave me an impatient look.

      "You think I'm sending you off alone?" A snort. I hadn't really thought
      about it--but it was true. I couldn't stay here much longer. As soon as I
      could get Polaris deprogrammed or whatever, my ass was gonna be on a flight
      to anywhere that wasn't here. Anywhere at all. But--it tickled me, the
      possibility Hank could figure out how to send me back home. If I ran and
      disappeared--even with Logan--I'd never find a way. And granted, the odds
      were very much against me, but still--

      "Where to?" I kept my head down, not wanting him to see my expression.

      --but still...I'd lose Logan. I'd lose this.

      "Brazil. For awhile, anyway." I blinked a little in thought, trying to
      dredge up some of Logan's memories, since his personality had taken some
      sort of weird hiatus in my head. He and Carol both, come to think of it--I
      peered inside, checking out the interior weather.

      --Logan?--

      No answer.

      --Carol?--

      Carol had never stayed so silent for so long before in my association with
      her. They were *there* I could feel their presence, but internal radar was
      showing *nada* activity. Frowning, I pulled back out into the real world,
      getting in the door Logan opened for me and leaning back into the seat.

      Of course, Inner Logan wasn't exactly thrilled about my most recent
      behavior either. Never a reference to it, not even when I came back on
      after the first time, still shaking in Logan's arms, his body pressed to
      mine. But unspoken mental disapproval was disapproval all the same, mixed
      up with far too many threads of emotion that were too Logan-specific for me
      to really identify. Even if I wanted to.

      And I didn't. I wasn't masochistic.

      "What d'you want for dinner?"

      "Steak." Automatic response, and the visualization of something rare and
      cooked on some sort of open fire appealed to me. "Do you really think--do
      you really wanna go with me? If-If I have to leave?"

      "Yes."

      Maybe it was the simplicity of the statement, the way he erased all doubts
      with the absolute matter-of-fact way he said it. I bit my lip, turning my
      head away. He could always make the strange seem commonplace.

      "Logan--what would I do on beta team anyway?"

      Another hesitation, then he shrugged.

      "When the FoH was here like last time you were out with beta--basically the
      same thing. Scooter'll want you for tactics and start you on a regular
      training schedule."

      All things considered, until I left, it wasn't a bad cover.

      "Who would train me?"

      A smile.

      "I would, baby." The gates passed us by and I saw Johnny and Bobby walking
      in the distance. They didn't see me. All was good. "Scooter saw the
      evaluation and the Danger Room logs--he was pretty damn impressed. Wants
      to know where you got the training."

      I groaned and Logan chuckled at my expression.

      "Don't worry over every damn thing--he's getting busy again and won't
      micromanage day to day crap for much longer. He's restless. Under normal
      circumstances, he doesn't have nearly this much interaction with new
      recruits--that's usually my job."

      I gave Logan a curious look.

      "He's taken a lot of interest in me."

      "He has. He's wondered about how well mutations breed true, under what
      circumstances, if you and Carol had identical mutations, unique mutations.
      He also noticed your skill and your--"

      "Involvement with you." That got me another chuckle and I almost threw my
      book at him. "Logan, don't even try to deny it--he watches me because he's
      worried 'bout you."

      A half-hearted growl was my first response and I giggled a little to see
      the expression of half-amusement, half-discomfort that crossed his face.

      "He gets like that." It wasn't the first time I'd been curious about the
      very different relationship between Scott and Logan. This was the first
      time, however, I felt comfortable with asking Logan about it, and he
      seemed--well, for Logan--pretty damn open.

      "You two--" I paused, thinking about what I was going to say, trying to
      word it just correctly--alternate Logan or no, the similarities on what is
      and is not to be considered discussible was a fine line that really
      depended on how you approached the problem. "You're very close."

      Logan gave me a curious glance.

      "Yeah."

      Hmmm. Not very informative.

      "Was that--because of the war?"

      There was the slightest tensing of all the muscles of his body, before he
      relaxed, obviously thinking about my question.

      "A little," he admitted, and I let a breath out in relief. "Mostly
      though--" he hesitated, then plowed in. Very Logan. "Mostly, though, it
      was sort of necessary. I was here and he was here, and it wasn't like
      either of us were planning on taking off anytime soon." A shrug. "And
      Jubes." The slightest trace of a nostalgic smile, but not an absence of
      pain, and I looked away, forcing down the jealousy that always seemed to
      rear its nasty head at the mention of Jubilation Lee, ever since I'd first
      understood the unique relationship between them. In my world, they
      were--well, friends, and yeah, he was all older-brotherish, but I sensed
      that if there was a good parallel to make, it was the similarity between
      this Logan and Jubilee's relationship and my relationship with Logan in my
      world.

      Not comfortable thoughts. Desperately uncomfortable thoughts, that woke up
      every possessive instinct in my body. The very idea that anyone had taken
      my place--it hurt, even if I didn't have the right to feel hurt, even if I
      knew, from our only brief touch, that he'd mourned me--

      --he'd moved on and found a new protegee to protect and love and care for,
      and somewhere in the back of my mind...somewhere, I thought about how very
      replaceable I really was. In this world, in Logan's life, in people's
      memories.

      For once, no Logan or Carol emerged to reassure me, and I sighed to myself,
      forcing the uncomfortable thoughts back into the depths of my mind and
      caught Logan's sharp glance.

      "You okay?"

      And smart, Marie, make Logan wonder. He would *push* for answers and I
      couldn't deal with that.

      "Just tired," I said quickly, and we pulled into the apartment parking lot.
      Getting out, I grabbed my book from the seat and got out the keys Logan had
      given me, taking the stairs two at a time and dropping on the couch as soon
      as I got inside.

      Logan moved more slowly, shutting the door behind him and that look was
      there, and man, was *this* going to get some examination. Shit.

      "You don't smell tired."

      Did I mention his sense of smell can be inconveniently specific?

      "Just--not body-tired. Just--" I let my eyes widen, because another
      thing--Logan was pretty damn good at catching lies. How, I didn't know and
      one day, I had to ask him about that. "It's nothing."

      The sharp glance didn't diminish, but oddly, he didn't push the
      point--instead, he simply nodded and went into the bedroom. Stretching out
      on the couch, I shut my eyes and, hearing him turn on the shower, decided I
      was allowed to indulge my wounded feelings thoroughly, and hadn't Hank
      always told me that facing your emotions was much more productive than
      repressing? Or so he said after every time I went to the Danger Room to
      work it out at home, and maybe he had a point, because two recent sessions
      hadn't done anything to cool down that strange pain that accompanied every
      mention of Jubilee's name.

      Sure as hell didn't say much about me, being jealous of a girl who'd died
      painfully in the camps, another girl that Logan had been unable to save.
      And maybe I should try thinking about someone other than myself, because
      that was two girls that Logan ended up losing, two girls he'd protected,
      and that had to hurt him in ways I couldn't even begin to comprehend. I
      remembered Jean's tone that day when she told Logan that she was happy he'd
      found someone.

      Since Jubes. If I got home, I wondered if I could ever look at her the
      same way, as other than a potential rival for my place with Logan. Funny,
      I'd never felt threatened by Remy, or any of the other kids he'd dragged
      home at random intervals (how he managed to attract strays was a standing
      joke at the Mansion), never felt the least bit of jealousy--but then, I'd
      never been in direct rivalry with Jubilee, who was pretty and perky and
      could *touch* and lacked the entirety of the massive Magneto-Statue trauma.
      Logan had chosen Jubilee, not had her thrust on him along with massive
      amounts of responsibility and guilt and pain, and I rolled on my side and
      dug my fingers into the couch angrily. Here, I was his lover and his
      friend and he protected me, but I'd lost the specialness of being his first
      and dearest, and--and somewhere along the line, I'd never realized how much
      I'd depended on that, how much I'd taken for granted. How much I missed
      it, missed the absolute security of knowing that no matter what else I was
      or was not to him, I was the first he'd stopped for, the first he'd cared
      for, and the first he'd loved, the one he would do anything for.

      I should be ashamed of myself.

      "Marie."

      Some things didn't change, and one of them was my instinctive reaction to a
      wet Logan wearing nothing but jeans. Almost relieved, I pushed the
      self-pity back and away, sitting up to enjoy a view that was worth money,
      damn it.

      "Hey."

      There was the slightest trace of a smile on his face--he knew damn well
      what he did to me when he looked like that, and, all unwitting, I stood up,
      almost falling over the coffee table and grabbing the collar blindly,
      locking it around my throat before two skipped steps and tackling him to
      the floor.

      Th soft rush of my power coming under control dizzied me, and I braced my
      hands on either side of his shoulders and gave him a smile.

      "Missed you."

      "So I see." The slightest hint of a grin. "What's bothering you?"

      Crap.

      "Nothing," I replied easily, grinding down slightly--got a reaction and
      allowed myself to feel smug, before both hands closed over my hips and
      brought me to a screeching halt.

      "Uh-huh." The sharp look was back, and Logan sat up, standing up without
      much regard to my weight and I quickly wrapped my legs around his waist to
      keep some sort of control. "Something's wrong and you try to fob me off
      with Jeannie, I'll know you're lying. You were fine in the car, then you
      weren't. Wanna make this easy and explain?"

      Not particularly, no.

      "I'm fine."

      "You're lying." In an easy movement, he dropped me on my back on the bed,
      pinning me neatly under him--not necessarily a bad position and one I could
      definitely enjoy under the right circumstances. I pushed ineffectively and
      he sighed, sitting up and pinning my arms under each knee before
      reallocating his weight and giving me a smirk.

      "I could throw you." You know, if I could pull the collar off without the
      key, recover from collar shock, and then get some decent leverage.

      "Uh-huh."

      Something. Had to make up something.

      "The statues."

      For a second, something flickered through his eyes that I couldn't
      define--then it was gone. His weight shifted.

      "I can get it taken down at the school," he said slowly, and I
      frowned--there was a level of distance suddenly between us and I had no
      idea what to do about it.

      "It's okay--it's just creepy to run across my face all the time." Still
      looked oddly expressionless, and I wondered suddenly if it had been an open
      wound, to see me all the time like that. He'd never been allowed to
      forget. Who would order something like that anyway? Forcing myself not to
      shiver, I half sat up, absently bracing a hand on his shoulder. "Could we
      really leave?"

      "We can go now."

      I looked up to see the absolute sincerity of his expression, and felt a
      sudden wave of warmth for him.

      "You have a good life here, sugar. You know, before I showed up to screw
      around with it."

      "Nothing better than you." Before I could think of an answer to that, he
      licked the corner of my mouth, and lifted a little, letting my arms free.
      I wrapped an arm around his shoulders, pulling him down toward me as I
      tilted my head to kiss him. His hands tightened on my waist and he sat
      back on his heels, drawing me into his lap.

      "It's gotta be soon, baby," he murmured into my hair.

      "I know." Breathing out when his lips traced across my shoulder, twisting
      my hair back. "After Hank comes back--"

      "If he says we can't fix this, we go." A hand on the small of my back
      pushed me closer, aligning our hips, and he turned my head so he could look
      in my eyes. "I'm not losing you again, Marie."

      Wide-eyed at the emotion written so clearly in hazel, I nodded.

      "Okay."

      * * * * *

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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      *****

      On Published Versus Fanfic (simplified)

      Q: Why do I do this? I'm a junkie.

      A: And fanfic writers are... what? Slightly scuzzy methadone addicts, as
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