Disclaimers etc. in Part 0
The evening of Logan's return, Scott sat down next to Rogue at dinner. There
was nothing weird in that; it was the look he gave her that made her tense.
There was going to be A Talk. She could feel it.
"Do you like philately?" he asked, surprising her.
Her eyes widened. "Fella -- what?"
He had the grace to look sheepish. "Stamp collecting. Philately. Alex likes
He was still trying to set her up with his brother. She sighed internally.
"Kinda geeky, ain't it?" she asked, putting on the tough girl persona that
most people thought of as the real Rogue.
He nodded. "Yeah."
"And for you to say that, it must be *really* geeky," she teased.
"Well, you know you're the leader of the X-Geeks," she said, "the geekiest
geek of 'em all." She couldn't hold the straight face, though, and the two
of them burst into laughter, causing all heads in the dining room to turn
Most people thought it was sweet, the way Rogue and Scott had become close
friends. Logan was not most people. He watched from the doorway and then
stalked out, preferring a beer and a cigar to watching his girl fawn all
He didn't get it. He knew, from painful experience, that Jean and Scott were
as solid a couple as he'd ever met, but Rogue seemed hellbent on falling for
Scott and getting her heart broken.
He sucked on the cigar contemplatively, watching the twilit sky darken and
wondering how to intervene without making her hate him.
After a cheeseburger deluxe at the local diner, and a few beers, he decided
they needed to have a little talk.
She was curled up on the couch in the living room, dozing, when he found
her. Normally, he'd have let her sleep, but he had a burning curiosity --
strictly platonic, of course -- to know what she and Scott had been so
involved in at dinner that she'd ignored him completely, even though it was
his first day back in three months.
"What were you and Scooter talkin' about?" he asked grouchily.
"Hmm?" Why was he waking her up to ask these stupid questions? "Philately,"
she mumbled sleepily.
Logan's face got grimmer, if that were possible. "What?"
"Philately. Scott asked me if I like it."
He fought back the red haze that threatened to consume him. What the fuck
was Scooter asking her questions like that for? "One-Eye asked you if--" He
couldn't finish the sentence. He was close to losing control.
"'Cause Alex is into it," she confirmed. "And --"
He growled fiercely and stormed off to find Scott.
Rogue went back to sleep, confused.
Logan tracked Scott down in the garage. He picked the younger man up by his
shirt and slammed him into the wall.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" he snarled.
"Changing the oil on the Jaguar," Scott replied. He was rewarded with
another shove against the wall. He remained calm, knowing it would only piss
Logan off more, and enjoying that, even though his back would be sore later.
"With Rogue, asswipe."
Scott gave him a puzzled look. "I'm not following you here, Logan."
Logan leaned in close and extended three inches of one razor-sharp claw.
"Philately? With your brother?" he growled. "What kind of sick fuck--"
"I don't like it much either," Scott interrupted calmly, "but I don't think
it's sick. Boring, maybe, or nerdy, but sick?"
Logan blinked and growled again. He was obviously missing something. "What?"
"Stamp collecting," Scott responded. "It's Alex's hobby. Isn't that what we
were talking about?" He fought back a grin. The last thing he wanted to do
was get gutted for laughing at Logan at the wrong time. But, oh man, when he
told Jean, they were going to howl.
Alex Summers was tall, blond and blue-eyed. He had a degree in music theory
and played bass in a band. He was currently charming Jean's mother, not an
easy task, but the old battleaxe was giggling like a schoolgirl at something
Rogue sighed. There was nothing *not* to like about him, except Scott was
pushing her at him as if he were her last chance on earth to fall in love.
And he wasn't Logan.
She scanned the dance floor, easily finding the object of her thoughts. He
stood, beer bottle in hand, holding up the far wall, the scowl on his face
enough to discourage even the bravest of souls from approaching him.
Except for her, of course.
She picked a glass of champagne off a passing tray and headed over to him.
"Hey," she said. "You're doing a great job."
"Keeping the wall from tumbling down," she teased.
Logan's mouth quirked into a half-grin. "You know I hate these shindigs."
She nodded. Of course, this was not the typical Xavier fundraiser. This was
Jean and Scott's engagement party. She figured that's why he looked upset,
though it wasn't like they hadn't already been through two previous versions
of the same event. He'd stood in the same corner and scowled in the same way
both times, and she'd teased him out of his sulk both times.
Third time's the charm, she thought, taking a deep breath. She noticed his
eyes falling on her cleavage and couldn't suppress the shiver of
anticipation that ran through her.
Following the numerous dating disasters, she'd decided to take one more shot
at Logan. After all, she was older now, and more experienced. Maybe this
time he wouldn't flee into the night after kissing her. God, she almost
laughed out loud at the hungry expression on his face as he eyed her
"Dance with me," she said, holding out a black-gloved hand.
He took it and pulled her in close, his other arm encircling her waist. It
didn't matter that it wasn't a slow song. When Logan danced, he danced
close, regardless of the music.
It felt so right to be in his arms. Her eyes drifted closed as he stroked
lazy circles on her back. She heard a soft purr and her eyes popped open at
his rumble of laughter in response. She looked up at him, searching his face
as they moved slowly, away from the other dancers, who were moving furiously
to the sounds of "Dancing in the Street."
"Rogue," he began, just as she said, "Logan--" They laughed a little
awkwardly. She felt the nervousness in the pit of her stomach mutate into
something more, something that felt like desire. For the first time, he
seemed to be looking at her like an equal, an adult -- a woman.
"You go first," she said with a little nod of her chin. She just wanted to
enjoy this moment; it seemed like she'd been waiting for it forever.
His gaze shifted suddenly, looking over her left shoulder, and she could
feel her stomach drop, the desire that had been building a moment ago
transformed into a sick feeling with which she was all too familiar. She
heard Jean's laughter behind her and closed her eyes against the stab of
Of course she couldn't compete with Jean. How had she ever thought she
could? She scolded herself for imagining things that weren't there.
The silence stretched between them and, instead of being fraught with sexual
tension, as she'd believed, it was now filled with a sick sort of
anticipation, that he would finally come out and tell her that he loved Jean
and that she had no shot at all. It was like watching a train wreck, she
thought. She tried frantically to think of some excuse to break away before
he said the fateful words, but her mind was frozen at the realization that
she truly had no shot; she never had and apparently never would.
Finally, his voice broke into her panic. "Are you okay with this?"
She blinked rapidly. <No! No! I'm not okay with it, Logan. I love you,
dammit. Why don't you see that you're killing me, here?> "With what?" she
"Scooter and Jeannie. I mean, I know--" his grip on her waist tightened and
he still couldn't meet her eyes. "It's hard, to be alone when--"
<Oh, God,> she thought. <Don't say it. Please don't say it.>
"Rogue, there you are!" Scott's cheery, slightly slurred voice broke the
bubble surrounding them and she turned toward him in relief.
"Scott!" she said, a mite too effusively, but she didn't care. "And Alex."
For indeed, Alex was behind him.
"May I cut in?" Alex asked, with a charming little bow.
Logan growled and said, "No way, bub. Wait your turn."
But Rogue overrode him. "Of course. It's been a while, Alex. How are you?"
she asked, pasting a bright, false smile on her face as she maneuvered out
of Logan's grasp and into Alex's arms. Logan looked as if he were about to
release the claws right there on the dance floor, but Jean floated over and
put a hand on his arm.
"Come on, Logan," the bride-to-be invited, "let's show the youngsters how
it's done." And she swung his unresisting form back out onto the dance
Rogue blinked again, willing the tears to stay unshed. Alex watched her
closely, and she tried to be cheery, but after the third time he called her
name without an answer, he pulled her outside, into the chilly January
Coming to a stone bench outside the ballroom, he said, "Sit."
"What am I, the dog?" she snapped.
"At least it got your attention," he said mildly. "I told Scott you two were
involved in something, but he's a little tipsy and you know how he gets."
She looked away, and let out a tiny huff of air, praying he'd believe it was
the sting of the wind making her eyes water. "Yeah."
"So, you two *were* involved in something that shouldn't have been
"Yeah." She shook her head. "I mean, no. No! I mean, yeah, I know what
Scott's like when he gets an idea in his head." She crossed her arms over
her chest and tried to warm up.
"If you say so." He removed his suit jacket and draped it over her
She pulled it close around her. "Thanks."
"For the jacket or for... the other?"
She shrugged, unsure. "Either. Both. I don't know."
"He really twists you up in knots, huh."
"Let's not talk about Logan," she answered brightly. "How's the music thing
He gave a half-grin. "Not too bad, actually. I'm coming to New York for a
few months, to do session work with some guys I know. You should come see
"Oh, I'd bet money Scott will make sure I do."
That made him laugh outright. "We should do it, Rogue."
"What? Do what?"
"Go out. Just to get him off our backs. Then we can at least say we tried
and it didn't work. And hey, maybe you'll like me, and I'll like you, and
everybody will be happy."
She turned it over in her mind for a moment or two. He was right. She would
get Scott off her back, and maybe now that she'd had her epiphany regarding
Logan, she could get over that as well. Decision made, she said, "So, I hear
you like philately."
"Doesn't every guy?" he responded wryly.
Her eyes widened. "Scott said --"
He laughed. "Stamp collecting. Yes, when I was *nine*. I don't do it much
"Whew," she said in relief. "I don't think I could fake interest in that for
He looked at her seriously, his eyes boring into hers; she thought she could
see right through the clear blue, so different from the guarded hazel that
confronted her whenever she tried to read Logan's expression. "I don't want
you to have to fake interest, Rogue. We'll see how it goes, and, if we like
each other, we can do it again. Don't feel some sort of strange obligation
because I'm Scott's brother."
"Okay. So, when--"
"No time like the present, I always say. Let's get the hell out of here. I
know a little jazz club in town that should just be starting to swing."
She smiled genuinely for the first time since her realization, and nodded
her agreement. "Let me run upstairs and get my coat."
He raised her hand to his lips and pressed a light kiss on her gloved
knuckles. "I'll be waiting."
She hurried into the house, slipping in between people so she could avoid
Logan and the return of her depressing thoughts about him, and decided that
she was going to make this work, one way or another.
And when Rogue put her mind to something, she usually succeeded.
About a week after that first date, when it was clear that he and Rogue were
hitting it off and would probably be spending a lot of time together in the
future, Alex found himself cornered in the locker room by his older brother.
The rank odor of sweat and used towels that never seemed quite clean
assaulted his senses for a moment, taking him back to his freshman year of
high school, only months before Scott had blown the place apart on the night
of his senior prom and both their lives changed forever.
Scott put a hand on his shoulder and indicated the bench that rode the floor
between the two rows of lockers, and they sat.
"Consider this the obligatory 'If you hurt Rogue, I'll kill you' speech,"
Scott said, only half-joking.
Alex looked askance at him. "I figured it'd be Logan giving me this talk.
Shouldn't you be saying this to her? I *am* your little brother, after all."
Scott gave a short bark of laughter. "You're my brother, but Rogue's --
she's ... fragile."
"There is something about her," Alex agreed. "Sometimes I get the feeling
she's not completely -- there. I mean, like she's not with me. I don't know
where she goes, and I -- I don't know if she'll ever let me in wherever it
"You have to understand," Scott interrupted. "When Greg left her, she was
devastated. It was really, really ugly. It took us a long time to convince
her to start dating again and --"
"I'm not talking about Greg."
Scott's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Then what--"
Scott snorted. "She's--" He shook his head. "Logan's never going to have the
balls to admit he loves her, even if he eventually figures it out."
"That he's in love with her?" Scott asked. Alex nodded, frowning. "Of
"I didn't think you'd noticed."
"I'm not Team Leader because I'm good looking, Alex."
"That's a relief, 'cause you're not."
Scott ignored the sarcasm. "I know what's going on around me. I just don't
feel the need to get involved in other people's personal lives."
"Unless it affects the team, of course," Scott continued, still ignoring
It took a few minutes for Alex to stop laughing. When he did, he said, "Like
you didn't hound Rogue and me into dating?"
"That was a special circumstance."
"You're such an old woman, Scotty, I swear."
"Fine. I just don't like him, okay? I mean, he's all right, but I don't
want to help him out."
"You're still upset about his thing for Jean?"
"What? No." Alex raised an eyebrow at this denial, and Scott relented.
"Okay, yeah, a little. Did he have to be so -- blatant about it? As if Jean
would even be attracted to his brand of machismo." Scott shook his head,
disgusted. "But that's not the point.
"The point is this. Rogue's been hurt badly, and I don't want to see it
happen again. She may believe she's in love with him -- God knows she pined
publicly for almost three years. But he'll only hurt her in the end."
"I thought you said he loves her."
"He does, but he's too much of a loner and a vagabond to ever really make
the kind of commitment she needs."
Alex stood and began pacing in the small space available. "And I can? I
travel just as much, if not more than he does."
"You know who you are," Scott interrupted sharply. "You travel because you
love it, and your job requires it. But you have a home -- here, and in San
Diego. You've put down roots, and we know you'll always come back because of
"Logan can't. Not until he finds his past, or whatever it is he's really
looking for, or he decides to focus on the future instead.
"And Rogue, as much as she loves traveling and having adventures -- and she
does, which is another reason I think you two will be great together -- she
needs a home, a place of her own. Something that's not going to disappear
when things get rough."
Alex nodded, stopping to stand before his brother, and looked down at his
hands as if they were the most interesting things he'd seen in ages. He was
going into this thing with Rogue with his eyes open. All either of them
really wanted was some fun, and a respite from Scott's constant matchmaking.
If more came of it, well, he'd worry about that later.
He smiled when Scott jumped up, a bewildered look on his face.
"Shit. Jean's going to kill me. We were supposed to meet the video guy at
He rushed out of the locker room, leaving Alex to his thoughts amid the
dirty towels and smelly socks.
While Alex showered, he turned Scott's words over in his mind and filed it
all away. He never had been one to borrow trouble.
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