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FIC: Altruistic V: Comfort Zones: R: 1/1: Logan, Rogue

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  • Jenn
    Title: Altruistic V: Comfort Zones Author: jenn (jenn@igg-tx.net) Codes: Logan, Rogue Rating: R Summary: Logan gets used to domestic life, in a manner of
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 26, 2001
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      Title: Altruistic V: Comfort Zones
      Author: jenn (jenn@...)
      Codes: Logan, Rogue
      Rating: R
      Summary: Logan gets used to domestic life, in a manner of speaking.
      Author Notes: To Colleen, Bonnie, Allison, and Beth. You make my life
      miserable when you catch me on AIM. See, I'm posting. <g> Thanks to
      Colleen for the read-through and suggestions. This would have gone the way
      of version 1 without you.
      Archiving: XMMFC, WRFA, others ask
      Disclaimer: Not mine. I know this.

      *****

      Logan didn't really consider himself any slower on the uptake than anyone
      else as a general rule--after all, his lifestyle pretty much depended on
      him being both observant and capable of leaping to the correct conclusions
      relatively quickly. He took a certain amount of pride in the fact that he
      was, in general, pretty damn good at reading people, whether or not he
      wanted or even cared to. It gave him a decided advantage in dealing with
      both his employers and his targets that he ruthlessly exploited.

      However....

      "Kid?"

      Marie was the exception to the rule.

      He had a sinking feeling that it wasn't because she was more unreadable
      than any other person he'd met, because she wasn't. Anything and
      everything she was feeling showed up in her body language and her face--she
      couldn't lie if her life depended on it, not without every muscle in her
      body giving it away. He suspected, though, that sometime in the last
      couple of months, living day in and day out with her, he'd lost whatever
      objectivity he'd had with her, and he hadn't had that much to begin with.

      That worried him.

      "Logan?"

      Closing the front door, Logan took in the alterations that a month and a
      half had brought to a place that had been little more than a waystop in his
      life. It still startled him, and it wasn't just the change in furniture
      either, though that was definitely a part of it. He could smell and feel
      Marie's touch everywhere, and it was more than a little dazing. For
      example, left to his own devices, delicate earth-toned wool rugs wouldn't
      have been on the decorating agenda, though he admitted, if only to himself,
      that he liked the soft brown leather couch she'd picked out, and she had a
      good eye for what would be both comfortable and functional and
      non-annoying. He was comfortable here. God help him, he felt at home.

      That worried him more.

      "I'm in here." Her voice was muffled, coming from the small gym he'd had
      built during his last extended residence here. Whatever the function of
      that room was originally--and the soundproofing and padding on the wall had
      given him some uncomfortable ideas on the subject--its size and the number
      of large windows had appealed to him. It was one of the only two rooms in
      the apartment that Marie had yet to feel the urge to redecorate.

      The other was his room, but that was only because she hadn't spent enough
      time in it to improve anything. Yet. He would be gone four days and she
      had access to the internet and credit cards. He had no doubt that if she
      got bored, he would return home to a redecorated bathroom and that amused
      him more than he'd ever admit.

      And that worried him most of all.

      Faintly, he could hear her stereo in the background--she worked out to
      music. Always. Something whiny and sickly sweet, but the beat wasn't that
      bad, come to think of it, and Logan grunted softly as he took the grocery
      bags into the kitchen and checked the time.

      She was almost done. He'd timed this just right. Almost on cue, the music
      turned off and he heard her start cleaning up.

      He was done putting things away when she skipped in, looking so remarkably
      normal and teenageish that it was faintly startling--long hair pulled back
      in a messy ponytail, sweat drying around her hairline, spandex clinging a
      little too much to far too many interesting places. Strangely--er,
      domestic. She ducked by him into the fridge to get the bottled water and
      paused to check out what he'd bought, coming out with the bottle and her
      personal post-work-out addiction, popsicles.

      Sitting at the new kitchen table, she rested a bare hand on the surface and
      unwrapped the popsicle, licking the tip before turning her eyes on him with
      that intensive concentration that never failed to make him want to move, do
      something, anything, to distract her.

      "You got a lot of groceries," she observed, opening the bottle of water and
      taking a sip. She'd learned the hard way to drink slowly after training.
      "For when you're gone?"

      "Yeah." Here it was, what he couldn't quite read. Her scent gave off
      muted fear, reluctance, and intense worry beneath the normal Marie-scent
      and sweat, but he couldn't pin down the cause. He was pretty sure by now
      it wasn't him--at least, it didn't intensify if he was closer to her, but
      appeared with seeming randomness at the damndest times. He'd say it was
      the fact that he was leaving, but that really didn't make much sense. She
      had to know she was perfectly safe here--much safer, in fact, than if he'd
      decided to take her with him, as he'd originally been tempted to do.
      "Enough for at least a week, and the take-out menus are in this drawer,
      along with money if you need anything." And a couple of credit cards,
      because she really did have a passion for on-line furniture.

      She nodded, and the brown eyes dropped, fixing on the red popsicle with an
      intensity of expression he'd have thought more appropriate to deciding how
      to disembowel with the least mess or fuss. Frowning a little, he leaned
      back against the counter, studying her carefully.

      She was still wary, granted. She still hated to ask for anything for
      herself, which made shopping for her a merry nightmare, trying to
      anticipate what a girl needed when he had absolutely no idea.
      Basics--food, clothing, shelter. He got those down okay and she seemed to
      have accepted that he'd get her whatever she needed or wanted. Acceptance
      and actual getting, however, were very two different things--shaking his
      head, he went to the fridge, finding a beer and returning to his space by
      the counter to watch her. Luckily, saleswomen were God's gift and he'd
      never, ever cease being grateful to the tall blonde at the mall that had
      taken one look at a reluctant, still-dressed-in-oversized-clothes-Marie,
      caught his desperate expression, and started recommending things so fast
      that they'd ended up with a wide and disturbing variety of bags to carry
      home.

      And she'd been a damn good lay too, so it had definitely been a win-win
      situation. With a little smile, he took a drink of his beer and tried to
      figure out what was going on in his girl's head. Despite her weird
      reluctance, she really did like to shop, and it was the one and only time
      she actually seemed to act her age. God knew, most of the time, she seemed
      incredibly old, older even than him, and it made him wonder more and more
      about what she hadn't told him about her time alone.

      "Marie--" He stopped short and took another drink of his beer. Asking
      flat out hadn't worked the last time he'd tried to bring up the subject--in
      fact, asking anything flat out rarely worked. She just got
      embarrassed--take, for example, the very practical trip to the grocery
      store to get those monthly things that women always needed. He'd been
      worried she was going to hyperventilate she'd gone so red when they'd
      reached the correct aisle. Finally, he'd given up and left her with the
      cash, going to stand just inside the front door to let her finish alone and
      pretending that he had no idea what she was buying. That had made
      everything easier. Weird, true, but then, he'd never dealt in the day to
      day reality of a young girl before. Maybe they were all strange about that
      crap. Who knew?

      Her head came up as he spoke, fixing that gaze on him again and he took
      another drink of the beer. That spandex didn't cover much. Maybe he
      shouldn't be so grateful to the blonde after all.

      "Yeah?"

      Think, think, think. Figure out what's bothering her. Without asking
      right out, because she'd say 'nothing', and she'd know he'd noticed again.
      She was doing her best to appear blase about whatever it was, and he really
      did appreciate her attempt. Her next lesson would have to be in lying. No
      question.

      "Did the full two hours?"

      She blinked, then nodded slowly. She'd taken to Tai Chi pretty damn
      well--he figured that the memories she'd gotten from him had helped her
      body to know what to do, and she did it best when she wasn't thinking too
      much about it. The second she noticed, she stumbled, every time. Which
      was the reason, he supposed, for the music, to shift her focus off her
      body. Her meditation still sucked. Explaining it was almost impossible,
      so he simply did it with her in some half-hope she picked it up through
      observation.

      So far, it wasn't working. Oh well.

      "Yeah." She licked her popsicle before taking the tip in her mouth. Logan
      wished he'd bought something else. She wasn't trying to be suggestive, he
      was sure. God, he hoped not. Please. "Did it, stretched, looked idly out
      the window, meditated." She sighed a little. Yes, he knew she wanted to
      do more than just strengthening and flexibility exercises. Her afternoons
      were basically given over to that, her mornings to studying, and Logan
      wasn't quite sure what she did with her evenings when he wasn't
      here--watched TV, he'd guess, or read. Something, anyway. She never
      complained of being bored--but then, she never complained period. He had a
      half-thought of seeing what it would take to break her of that reluctance
      too, but set it aside for now. She was getting secure. No need to rock the
      boat when she was adjusting so very easily.

      Not for the first time, and probably not for the last, he wished he hadn't
      stacked jobs like this. Not that he'd known when he set this up that he'd
      be bringing someone back with him, true, but it was damn annoying anyway.
      Though, on the upside, it had given him an opportunity to see Marie's
      reaction to his career choices. He'd pegged her with a Southern Baptist
      upbringing early on, extremely conventional. How she'd react to knowing he
      went out performing assassinations on random occasions was rather important
      to know up front. She'd studied the dossier he'd received, and he'd
      patiently explained what he'd be doing. She'd taken it well, all things
      considered. At least, she hadn't run screaming. He supposed that,
      considering their first meeting was during the process of kidnapping her,
      his general line of work wasn't exactly that much of a shock. Granted, she
      hadn't been terribly enthusiastic, but he'd definitely caught her interest
      with the technical aspects of it, and she'd asked some interesting
      questions. So he was cautiously encouraged. This wouldn't be impossible.

      "When I get back, we'll start hand to hand." Now that she didn't look like
      she would keel over in a high wind. She'd gained something approximating
      her healthy weight and he'd be willing to swear she'd grown an inch--either
      that, or she was wearing those damn platforms she loved way too damn much.
      She really was a pretty girl. She was edging close to being a very pretty
      woman.

      He spent a lot of time carefully not thinking about that, either. The
      spandex, thank you very much Blondie, wasn't helping with that either.
      Shit. More beer.

      "Okay." Her hands were bare, and he noticed she'd polished her nails
      again. She kept them very short, and he approved of the practicality when
      she wore gloves so often. As she continued her consumption of the
      popsicle, Logan knew he'd have to figure out what was bothering her before
      he left tomorrow morning. Not much time to do this. Damn.

      "I'll be back by Friday," he offered, and there it was, that scent again.
      Lots of apprehension. "Marie, what are you worried about?"

      Her head jerked up and a fake smile splashed across her face, about as real
      as a soyburger. Shit. He was narrowing in on it.

      "Me?" She blinked as if he'd spoken Greek. "Nothing. Everything's fine.
      Did you leave a list of instructions anywhere?"

      Crossing the kitchen, he sat in the chair directly across from her and
      reached across the table, catching her face in one hand. She fixed her
      gaze somewhere near his ear with something very like defiance and he almost
      sighed. Teenage rebellion. Dear God.

      "I don't really need to repeat the rules again, do I?"

      "I'm willing to stay alone."

      Bingo.

      "But you don't want to."

      Her eyes were instantly fixed on the table, studying the polished wood as
      if she was looking for dust. There weren't any. Logan was depressingly
      anal about cleanliness. Didn't make him particularly happy to know that
      about himself, but there it was. Extended time in one place without much
      in the way of outside activity had taught him that he hated clutter and had
      an intensive dislike of all things messy. He shuddered at the memory of
      the cleaning products now stacked in the cabinets and flipped his attention
      back to Marie.

      There was something just plain weird about being that damned worried about
      dust.

      "I'll be fine." She waved the popsicle stick at him for emphasis, before
      putting it back down in the wrapper and taking another drink of water.
      Trying to put him off. "I'm--"

      "I'll be back in four days." Three, maybe. He didn't like the look on her
      face or the scent he was picking up now. Letting her go, Logan sat back in
      his chair and realized that this was the first time he'd left her alone for
      any significant length of time since they'd left Erik's.

      It was simple good sense, to keep her close, preferably in physical range.
      Perhaps three inches or less while outside the apartment. Sabretooth was
      wandering around free and clear, and in any case, Marie was just--well,
      vulnerable. In every sense of the word. Back her in a corner, you had
      trouble, sure, but it wasn't reflex for her to defend herself yet, and she
      had nothing in the way of a decent defense against someone determined
      anyway. Her skin, granted, gave her some partial help in that department,
      but by Logan's estimation, it wasn't the kind she'd want to use. She had
      enough of him and Erik in her head.

      Thinking about it more, it began to dawn on him that it wasn't just him--it
      was Marie herself. When they left the apartment, she *never* willingly
      moved more than a few inches away. That time in the grocery store--he
      remembered how she fumbled out the money to the cashier, her eyes on him
      the entire time, and the way she'd relaxed the second she was close to him
      again. Well, granted, he could rest assured she was perfectly comfortable
      with him, so that was good to know.

      And absolutely not interested in being somewhere he wasn't. Damn. Well,
      to be honest, it wasn't that big a shock. She hadn't exactly had some
      great alone-life experiences and Creed was out there, presumably still
      meandering around looking for them, or trying to escape Cyclops, or both.

      "Marie?"

      She was playing with her water, taking an unnecessarily large drink, and he
      thought about how to go about this. Delicate. Careful. Subtle.
      Definitely not among his strengths.

      "I'll have the phone with me, so you can call me anytime." The number was
      on the refrigerator for easy location. "You're gonna be fine."

      "I know." She put down the water, frowning at the tabletop. "I'm not--I
      mean, it's just--nothing important."

      Huh. He didn't believe that for a second. Before he could think of
      anything else to say, she got up, her hands going to her hair, stretching a
      little. Shit, that was a distraction, and he'd bet this time she was doing
      it on purpose. Logan took his last swallow of beer and decided that, no
      matter what else happened or didn't happen in Chicago, he was getting laid.
      Immediately. This was just getting ridiculous. Standing up, he carried
      the bottle to the trash can and ducked back in the refrigerator for
      another. Or three.

      "I'm gonna go take a shower. What's for dinner?" There was a desperate
      quality to her voice that made him look up, catching the briefest
      expression of fear cross her face, matching the flare of her scent. Shit.

      "Don't know yet. I'll figure out something."

      "Okay."

      She grabbed her water bottle and walked out of the kitchen without a
      backward glance. and Logan tried to decide how to handle this.

      Surprise, surprise, he didn't have a fucking clue. As if by inspiration,
      he heard the apartment phone ring and stiffened briefly--the number was not
      only unlisted, but the name on the account was not the one that belonged to
      any living being. Second ring. Third ring. Then it stopped, and Logan
      waited a second, then it rang again.

      Well, hell, he should have guessed.

      "Raven." Putting the cordless receiver to his ear, he shook his head and
      almost smiled. "Something important?"

      "Rarely." Her voice was husky. "I see you're still in Seattle."

      Well, what could be expected? He couldn't drag the girl from fight club to
      fight club between jobs, after all.

      "I'm surprised you called."

      "Erik's leaving for Israel this week. He wanted a status report on your
      little protegee."

      Shit. Logan twisted the cap off the beer and took a drink before
      answering.

      "Comfortable, relatively quiet, and with good taste in furniture," he
      answered flippantly, then braced a foot on the table. "He's not looking
      for me, is he?"

      "No. Busy with another project entirely." Raven's voice was smooth. "He
      wanted to know how to contact you, so I offered to do so. Is that what you
      want me to tell him?"

      "It'll work."

      Over the phone, he could hear her sigh.

      "I'll think of something more encouraging, then. How is she?"

      This time, he would guess the question wasn't on Erik's behalf, so he
      answered honestly.

      "Easy to get along with. She seems okay, anyway." Hell if he knew how to
      explain the whole shopping thing--and it occurred to him that having
      another woman around couldn't be anything but good for that, and for
      several other things, and began to brighten a little. "How long?"

      "Next week," she answered, and he heard her shifting in her chair. "You're
      having problems?"

      "No." Logan thought about that, then qualified the statement. "Not
      exactly."

      "She's a young girl, Logan. She can't be that much trouble."

      Heh. Right. He would have agreed with that several weeks ago, but now he
      knew better.

      "Logan, have you--"

      "No. I am not fucking her."

      Mystique's laugh was telling. She did understand, though. Just as surely
      as he did, she had lines that she would not cross. He just wasn't sure
      what they were yet.

      "Very well. How much training have you given her?"

      "Nothing important yet. I'm trying to get her healthy and maybe a little
      more secure before I start throwing her into walls on a regular basis."

      "Wise decision." He would swear she was mocking him. "You're enjoying the
      company?"

      Weird thing, he was. He did enjoy her company. After the first week, when
      she'd circled the apartment, and him, as if she'd expected him to turn on
      her at any moment, she'd been pretty damn chatty, actually, and her energy
      level was still just a little awing. She also liked football and hockey,
      which made the games on Saturday afternoons damn interesting and
      even--well, normal. He'd never had normal in his life before, and he liked
      it.

      "She's not hard to be around." Except when wearing spandex. He wondered
      if he could tactfully suggest sweats, but on the other hand--on the other
      hand, he knew she liked being able to wear whatever she wanted. Outside
      the apartment, she bundled up like she expected a snowstorm, but she
      trusted him enough, and herself enough, to forget gloves and shoes inside.
      He'd caught her wearing a pair of denim shorts once, and it was a sad thing
      to remember those had later starred in a damned interesting dream.

      Shit. Logan took another drink of beer.

      "You're not going to last 'til her birthday, Logan."

      Sometimes, he suspected Mystique was a closet telepath.

      "Don't start, Raven."

      There was a short pause.

      "Did you inform her I would be visiting?" she asked, and Logan took a
      moment, trying to remember.

      "I don't think so."

      Another pause, a little longer, and Logan finished off the bottle as he
      waited her out.

      "You might consider telling her, so she doesn't panic when I arrive."
      There was a strange quality to Mystique's voice that Logan couldn't quite
      figure out, but before he could think of a question to frame, she was
      talking again. "Don't forget, Logan."

      "Won't."

      Mystique hung up, and Logan caught the sound of Marie's shower, and a dozen
      thoughts chased themselves through his head, instantly pounded down and
      stuck somewhere safe and quiet in the depths of his mind.

      Cooking. Right, he had to cook something. Anything.


      *****

      Logan woke with an ache in his neck and back and tried to figure out why.
      He began to sit up--

      --and realized he *was* sitting up. In fact, sitting up in front of the
      television, which was showing a dark blue screen. Blinking, he tried to
      re-orient himself into the here and now. Couch, living room, movie Marie
      had picked out after he'd gave into consumerism and got her a television
      and VCR. Marie. He glanced down, seeing a tangle of dark hair spread
      across his legs and the faintest hint of the pale skin of her face on his
      thigh, one delicate bare hand curled into a fist by her face. He checked
      to make sure he was wearing gloves, then gently pushed some of her hair
      back. Her slim body was boneless in deep sleep, and he let himself simply
      watch her for a few minutes.

      She slept as badly as he did, he knew, remembering the times he'd woken to
      hear her footsteps cross the living room on her way to find a book, or
      simply to watch television for a few hours before dawn finally sent her to
      shower and get ready for the day. Not every night--but enough nights,
      enough that he no longer immediately went for the door to check on her when
      he heard her, though he always woke at the first sound of her leaving her
      room.

      She looked peaceful, for once, and he hated to disturb her. Shifting
      carefully, he slid an arm under her shoulder, getting the other under her
      knees and, checking his balance, carefully stood up. The brown eyes
      half-opened, checked location, found it good, and drifted back closed.

      Yeah, she was comfortable with him.

      "I don't want you to go," she whispered, and he looked down, trying to
      catch the expression on her face. Thick dark hair blocked it completely,
      but her sleepy scent was picking up tension.

      "Nothing'll happen to you here." Shifting her a little higher, he turned
      toward the bedroom door, and it was only after he'd pushed back the
      blankets and carefully deposited her sleepy weight that he realized he'd
      definitely chosen the wrong bedroom.

      Well, in his own defense, he'd never carried anyone to bed before--at
      least, not here, and not like this. Right. Sure, that was the reason.
      Crap. Her hand reached out, grabbing at his when he straightened.

      "I--" The brown eyes opened completely, stripped of everything she'd been
      hiding, and the face and scent were pure fear. Logan sat down beside her.
      He had to get this right the first time. "I don't--"

      "Marie, I promise, you're safe here. Completely." God knew, he'd updated
      security on this place to the point where a roach couldn't crawl through a
      crack without him being aware of it. Not that roaches got in this
      apartment, but still, the principle was the same. The fear scent wasn't
      diminishing, and he tried to work it out. "Darlin'--"

      "What if--something happens?" Half sitting up, the brown eyes met his and
      held them, hiding nothing at all. "Not to me. To you. When--when you're
      doing this, what if something goes wrong?"

      The chances of that happening were just about slim to none, and Logan bit
      back an instinctive desire to laugh. Probably not a good way to handle
      this. Very carefully, he squeezed her hand, and maybe he was even more
      tired than he'd thought, because it really was cute that she was worried
      about him. Well, him as in her only current source of protection, shelter,
      and money, true, but still. It was cute.

      "Nothing goes wrong, baby." Gently, he cupped her face, feeling her lean
      into the touch. "Marie, I'll be fine, you'll be fine." He paused, letting
      that sink in. "It'll be the last job for awhile, okay?" See, this was why
      he should have just canceled this thing. Made things damn complex.

      "Okay." Her voice was soft.

      "I'll be back in four days and then, it'll be just you and me for awhile."
      Combat, weapons training, gun education, lockpicking, everything he knew,
      he was going to get into her head. On some level, he was looking forward
      to it, which in itself was disturbing enough for him not to linger too much
      on that thought. He'd worked with some of the most highly skilled
      professionals in the business, including Mystique, but there was a certain
      appeal in training someone from scratch, someone he'd know inside and out,
      that he could feel total confidence in.

      Damn. This was getting more appealing by the second. Gently, he pushed
      her back down on the pillow, giving her a smile. She didn't relax much,
      but the fear scent was receding just a little. Pulling the blanket over
      her with a gentle rub to her head, he went to the bathroom.

      And stopped at the sink, because, there she was, falling asleep in his bed.
      Okay. Hmm. He'd deal with it when he came out. Perhaps she'd wander off
      on her own. Hopefully, she wouldn't.

      Crap. Logan looked in the mirror and faced facts. He slept much better
      when she was here. She slept much better when she was here. The five
      different nights that he'd shared a bed with her since they'd moved in had
      pretty much proved that. But there was that line--and the fact that no
      matter how he justified it, it was every kind of wrong to take advantage of
      that. There had to be lines. He couldn't do what he did and not draw them
      and keep them sharp. She was a seventeen year old girl, and while he had
      few scruples in re-educating her to a more compatible mindset, something in
      him did not accept, would not accept, taking advantage of his role in her
      life. He was quite literally all she had. It wasn't consensual, it
      couldn't even be considered fully consensual, if she thought that sex was
      part of the bargain.

      Ten minutes later, Logan got into his own bed, hearing a soft snore from
      her as he shifted her over a little more, and he drew in a deep breath. A
      sleep hand brushed against his arm and he drew in another, reminding
      himself of every single promise he'd made.

      Dear God, he'd be glad when Mystique got here.

      The End

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

      On Published Versus Fanfic (simplified)

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