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Fic: Time (Clock of the Heart): 1/2: L/R

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  • victoria p.
    Title: Time (Clock of the Heart) Author: Victoria P. [victoria_p@att.net] Summary: There s no present like the time. Rating: PG-13 Disclaimer: All X-Men
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 23, 2003
      Title: Time (Clock of the Heart)
      Author: Victoria P. [victoria_p@...]
      Summary: "There's no present like the time."
      Rating: PG-13
      Disclaimer: All X-Men characters belong to Marvel and Fox; this piece of
      fan-written fiction intends no infringement on any copyrights.
      Archive: Lists, Muse's Fool.
      Feedback: Is a gift I gladly accept.
      Notes: Thanks to Jen, Pete/Melissa, Dot, and Meg. And to Devil Doll for
      nudging me out of seriousness when the story took an odd turn. Summary
      comes from, er, I think it's Citizen that uses that slogan in their ads,
      and the title from my favorite Culture Club song.
      Dedication: For Devil Doll, and her watch and buckle obsession.
      Begun: August 12, 2002
      Finished: April 23, 2003


      Time (Clock of the Heart)

      Rogue came down to breakfast one morning, and Logan was there.

      She hadn't seen him in almost a year, though they'd spoken on the phone
      a few times, and he looked exactly the same. She didn't know why she'd
      expected anything different, but she had. Maybe because she felt so
      different herself. Having him and Erik in her head had aged her quickly,
      and she sometimes couldn't remember if she was eighteen, sixty, or a
      hundred and twelve, depending on whose nightmares and memories had kept
      her up the night before.

      But last night, it had been a different sort of dream that woke her, one
      in which she and Logan had been entangled on the grass, skin-to-skin.
      She'd woken with her heart racing and her body aching for satisfaction.

      Seeing him in the dining room made her heart race again, and her palms
      sweat. She was glad for once of the gloves that covered her hands,
      though he'd probably be able to spot her reaction, regardless.

      He was sitting in her usual spot in the back corner of the dining room,
      away from the crowd of teenagers who acted as if their express purpose
      in life was being as loud as possible.

      She was not a morning person, and talking to her before her first cup of
      coffee was often a dangerous enterprise. The bad nights and nightmares
      had just added to that tendency. And not even the thrill of seeing him
      again could quite overpower her distaste for being up before eight a.m.

      She spared a stray curse for Scott, who had them on a ridiculous
      training regimen, even though it was summer.

      Logan didn't rise when she approached, though she knew he knew she was

      She crossed her arms over her chest and raised an eyebrow. It was a
      posture she'd adopted from him, and when he turned to look, she could
      tell he recognized it.

      "Hey," he said.

      "You're in my seat."

      "I know."

      Which sent blood rushing to her cheeks. Because that meant he'd sniffed
      her out, and well, there were all sorts of interesting ideas suddenly
      tumbling through her head like dice on a craps table.

      She needed to sit.

      It was too early in the morning for those kinds of thoughts, though the
      version of Logan in her head disagreed, flooding her mind with memories
      of all kinds of early morning behavior that was inappropriate in public.

      "We could share," he offered.

      "Uh--" He grinned at her obvious discomfort and she felt the need to
      wipe that smile off his face. "Okay."

      And slid into his lap.

      She smirked at the startled look in his eyes, but he wasn't disconcerted
      for long. He slipped an arm around her waist and leaned in to sniff at
      her hair.

      "Did you miss me?" he asked, voice pitched low.

      She shivered at the feel of his breath on her ear, only partly from fear
      at the danger to him. With his other hand, he traced the chain of his
      dog tag, still hanging around her neck. She'd put it there in the
      moments after he'd left, and hadn't taken it off since.

      "A little," she said, breathless.

      "Just a little?" There was a hint of teasing in his tone she thought she
      could get used to.

      "Well, in some ways it's like you've been here all along." She tapped
      the side of her head, and he frowned. She could feel him withdraw, even
      though neither of them moved. "It's not a bad thing," she continued. "I
      mean, you know, in the grand scheme of things, being alive with you in
      my head is a hell of a lot better than being dead."

      He snorted. "That's comforting."

      She bit her lip, then, "It is."

      He opened his mouth, and she held her breath, hoping she'd conveyed the
      truth -- that she really was okay with him in her head, that he had
      helped more than hurt her, but he said, "Jean."

      And there Jean was, resplendent in red silk and black linen.

      "Welcome back, Logan," Jean said, smiling.

      "Good to be back," he answered.

      "I can tell."

      His hand tightened on Rogue's hip, and she squirmed, causing him to
      inhale sharply. She bit her lip again, as she felt him tense.

      "What's that supposed to mean?"

      "That you look happy to be back."

      They stared at each other for a moment. It wasn't flirtatious. Rogue
      could tell from the set of his jaw and the slight narrowing of his eyes
      that he was angry.

      Jean looked away first, but Logan didn't relax.

      "And we're happy to have you back," Rogue said, snaking a hand around
      Logan's neck and stroking the hair that curled over his collar.

      He swallowed hard, and Rogue felt a little thrill that she could affect

      "Speak for yourself, Rogue," Scott said, joining them. "Is my bike still
      in one piece, Logan?"

      Logan laughed, and she was silently thankful for Scott's interference.
      She didn't quite understand what had just happened, but she'd get to the
      bottom of it when they were alone.

      "She's in the garage, Cyke."

      "Come on, Jean." And Scott hurried away, dragging Jean with him, to see
      what condition his bike was in.

      Logan squeezed Rogue's hip again, and then smacked it. "Why don't you go
      get me some coffee?"

      "Why don't you go get *me* some coffee?" she said.

      "You're on top. No need for both of us to get up."

      She held his gaze for a moment and she realized he was trying not to
      laugh, which made it hard for her to stay angry at his demand.

      "I like it on top," she replied, holding his gaze before she slid off
      his lap to her feet.

      "I'll keep that in mind," he murmured, and she laughed as she walked
      away, exaggerating slightly the sway of her hips, knowing he watched.


      After breakfast, she took him up to the room he'd stayed in when they'd
      first come to the mansion.

      "I made sure nobody else took it," she said.

      He nodded, nostrils flared. She shifted from foot to foot. She'd spent
      the better part of the last year sleeping in this room, because her
      nightmares made her a lousy roommate, and she knew he could smell her.

      "It's your room now, eh?"

      She shrugged a shoulder, which made the dog tag visible in the valley
      between her breasts. She recalled the warmth of his bare finger tracing
      the chain earlier, as close to her skin as anyone had come since he'd
      gone, and grasped the tag.

      She held it out to him, still on the chain around her neck. "Do you want
      this back?"

      He walked over to her and stood near enough that she could feel the heat
      radiating off his body. Again, her heart and her breathing sped up. He
      took the tag between his forefinger and his thumb, rubbing at the
      engraving of his name.

      "Looks better on you," he said, once again running his finger along the
      chain. His hand hovered mere millimeters from her cheek. She held her
      breath; fear and longing kept her still.

      His eyes darkened, focusing on her lips, which tingled as if he'd
      touched them. She inhaled sharply; he dropped his hand and turned away,
      the moment broken.

      He unzipped his bag and pulled clothes out of it.

      "I guess you need to do laundry," she said, after the silence stretched
      so long it seemed as though he'd forgotten she was there.


      "I can show you where the laundry room is--"

      "Maybe later."

      "Oh. Okay."

      "Don't you have class now?"

      She blinked. It was on the tip of her tongue to remind him that she'd
      graduated high school a month ago, and that the only reason she was up
      so early was that Scott had insisted on double training sessions for all
      the "new recruits." Otherwise, she'd have slept until noon. But she knew
      when she wasn't wanted, so she said, "Yeah. I'll see you later."

      He didn't even turn to watch her go. "Sure, kid."


      Logan collapsed onto the bed in relief.

      While he'd been away, he'd managed to forget how young she was. Even
      their occasional phone calls hadn't been enough to stave off the fevered
      fantasies of her that he'd concocted to pass long, cold, lonely nights
      camping out in the wilds of northern Canada.

      Reality hit him hard upon seeing her.

      She was beautiful, but she was young -- too young for the likes of him,
      even if he was only as old as he looked.

      Add onto that his lack of a past, and his fucked-up present, and he knew
      that not only was he too old for Marie, he was no good for her.

      He buried his face in the pillow, inhaling her scent -- Marie, youth,
      and jasmine. God, he couldn't live like this. He knew he was going to
      fuck it up, make her hate him, and he didn't want that.

      She'd flirted with him all too easily in the dining room, and up until
      Jean showed up, he'd forgotten that it wasn't all right. It had felt
      good -- *natural* -- to have her in his arms, until Jean's remarks
      reminded him that it wasn't. It couldn't be.

      He tortured himself by sleeping on the bed without changing the sheets
      that first night, but his dreams of her were so vivid that he almost
      wished he'd had nightmares instead.

      After that, he stripped the bed and tried to air the room out.

      He knew she knew what he was doing, and that it was hurting her, but he
      couldn't help it. He couldn't live like that.

      He spent the next few days avoiding her, and was successful for the most
      part. He had meetings with Xavier to take up a good deal of his time,
      and since Scott had shown him the Danger Room, he'd spent hours in
      there, taking out his frustrations on simulacra.

      When he wasn't in the Danger Room, he was out in the woods surrounding
      the mansion. While the kids liked to tell tales of bears and other
      dangerous predators, he knew the biggest animals this close to
      civilization were deer. They knew what he was, and kept away.

      He was lying on his back in the woods, trying to forget the hurt looks
      Rogue had been throwing his way the past two days, when he caught her
      scent. He could hide from her without difficulty, but the idea of being
      chased off his own turf by a slip of a girl with sad eyes and a bright
      smile stung his pride.

      He tracked her progress easily, and sat up when she finally arrived,
      leaning back against the trunk of an old maple tree. She nearly tripped
      over his booted feet, so he drew his legs up and rested his elbows on
      his knees.

      "You sound like a herd of elephants, tramping around like that," he

      "I didn't want to startle you," she replied, her chin lifting.

      He raised an eyebrow. "Darlin', I could smell you from a mile away.
      You'll never be able to startle me."

      Her mouth opened in a silent 'oh' and she blushed.

      He let the silence stretch, knowing she'd break it eventually.

      She slipped to the ground next to him and met his eyes. "I know you've
      been avoiding me," she said finally. "But I don't know why."

      He dropped his gaze. "Been busy," he mumbled, feeling guilty.

      "Please don't lie to me. I won't ask you for anything else, but please,
      never lie to me."

      He looked up to see her eyes darken with pain and her forehead crease
      with worry.

      "Sorry, kid." He stretched his legs out again and hunched a shoulder.
      "I'm just not used to living with so many people."

      She nodded, an expectant look on her face. "And?"

      "And what?"

      "And-- that's it?"

      "Yeah. That's it. I'm just getting used to all these kids and stuff."

      She gnawed at her lower lip for a moment, not content with that answer.
      "Is it me? Did I do something?"

      He winced at the worry in her voice. "Nah, kid. It's just -- it's me."

      "We're friends, right?"

      He ran a finger down the white streak on the right side of her face,
      hating that he had made her doubt even that. It was easier to convey his
      feelings with a touch than in words. "Yeah."

      'And that's all,' he told himself firmly.

      She rose up on her knees and pulled something out of her pocket.

      "Here," she said. She held a small, lumpy package wrapped in garish red
      and blue paper.

      "What's this?"

      "A gift."

      "Rogue, you don't have to give me anything."

      "I know I don't have to, silly. But I want to." She leaned forward,
      holding it out to him again. "That's why it's a gift."

      He took it reluctantly and slipped it into the pocket of his shirt. He
      had to get away from her, or he didn't know what he'd do. Her scent was
      intoxicating, her warmth, nearly overwhelming. She was so close, so
      touchable. So -- kissable. He weighed the prospect of being knocked
      unconscious against the possibility of tasting her again, while she was
      awake and alive. A third possibility, that she would never speak to him
      again, was rapidly being drowned out by his hormones.

      "Aren't you gonna open it?" Her voice broke into his thoughts. "Please?"

      He grumbled but took it out and tore the paper.

      "It's a watch," she said helpfully.

      "I can see that." It had a black leather band and a bulky bevel, with a
      black face and all sorts of doohickeys on the dial. It looked like the
      kind of watch he'd seen on some mercs and black ops guys -- the kind
      that was water tested to two hundred meters and counted down how much
      oxygen you had left in your tank. He knew it must have cost a pretty
      penny, which made him shift uncomfortably.

      The corner of her mouth twitched, but she managed not to laugh at his
      grumpy response. "I heard this commercial, 'There's no present like the
      time,' and I thought of you.

      He blinked, a warmth he'd never felt before flooding his chest. "You
      thought of me?"

      She nodded, her hair bouncing like a living thing. He recalled the
      silken texture of it against his fingers, and listened to the soft
      whisping sound it made as it moved. "Yeah. See, you're searching for
      your past. It's a present, and it'll help you in the future--"

      That caught his attention.

      "The future?"

      "The future." She nodded decisively. "I know time must get away from
      you, when you're all alone and you know, you don't -- well, you don't
      get older, really, so it's hard to notice the time passing. So this
      watch can remind you that you're not alone. You have friends. And I'd --
      we'd -- like to be involved in your future."

      "My future?" She'd really put a lot of thought into this, he realized.
      And she seemed to know somehow that his future was here, with her. But
      she shouldn't know that. She couldn't know that, because he couldn't
      tell her, not until she was older, ready to make those kinds of
      decisions. "My future?" he repeated.

      "Uh huh." She scooted closer, still on her knees. "C'mere." She took his
      right hand in both of hers, and strapped the watch onto his wrist. It
      was heavy, but the weight felt right, as if he'd once worn a similar
      watch. "There," she said. "Now you can keep track of how long you've
      been away, and the last time you called me. And, well, you'll show up on
      time for your classes." It all came out in a rush and he had trouble
      absorbing it. His mind was stuck on the idea of the future, a future. A
      future with Marie.

      He'd lived day-to-day, hand-to-mouth for so long, searching for the
      past, that the future was just another meaningless word. But now -- now
      he had one, and he looked forward to it. 'She won't be eighteen
      forever,' he reminded himself.

      "Logan?" she asked, and he could smell her anxiety. "Don't you like it?"

      He squeezed her hand. "It's, it's great, kid. I just never --" The other
      thing she'd said suddenly penetrated. "Classes? What classes?"

      "What?" It was her turn to look confused. "Didn't the Professor tell

      He shook his head. "No."

      "Oh." She stuck her lower lip out, lost in thought, and he swallowed
      hard, reminding himself that he couldn't just reach out and nibble on
      it. "They want you to teach self-defense. Fighting. Boxing. Like that."

      He nodded absently, mesmerized by the way the sunlight, filtering
      through the leaves, dappled her skin, highlighting the arch of her cheek
      and the slim, white column of her neck.

      She seemed to be expecting a response, so he said, "I could do that."

      "That's what I thought." He raised an eyebrow. "I mean, they asked me
      and the you in my head -- well, it seemed like something you'd be good
      at, and maybe even like."

      She leaned forward, closing the distance between them even more, and
      allowing the dog tag to dangle freely. It dawned on him that not only
      was she giving him a gift, she was marking her territory, the way he'd
      marked her as his with the dog tag. He found he didn't mind at all.

      She pressed a soft kiss to his mutton-chopped cheek, where it was safe,
      and he inhaled sharply.

      She pulled back, but not far enough. He could taste her breath. He
      slipped a hand around her gloved wrist, pinning her in place, and leaned
      forward. His lips hovered over hers, breathing her in. A shiver ran
      through her, drawing his eyes down to her chest, which rose and fell
      rapidly. The chain of the dog tag shone dully against her skin, and
      again he traced it with the tip of a finger.

      Then he slid his lips along the white streak in her hair, close, so
      close to her skin. She gasped in shock, and froze. He could smell fear
      mingled with her desire.

      "It's all right," he murmured against her ear, but he moved his mouth
      away from her bare skin, pressing kisses to the tops of her breasts
      through her tee shirt. Her hands slid through his hair, mapping his
      skull as he caressed her with his lips and tongue. She arched into him,
      offering herself without a second thought. And he took what she had to
      give; his hands cupped her breasts, thumbs rubbing her peaked nipples
      before he brought his mouth to them.

      Her breathing was ragged now, and she made soft, wordless sounds that
      spurred him on. Sucking eagerly at one breast, he used one hand to lift
      her into his lap, settling her legs on either side of his. His hands
      roamed her body, learning the feel of her, loving the way she
      responded -- the sounds she made under his eager touches, the way her
      body moved against his. He was working on instinct now, rational thought
      lost in the rush of feeling. So many sensations to absorb -- the silken
      fall of her hair over his hands when he stroked her back, her scent as
      arousal replaced nervousness, the husky tone of her voice, and the
      warmth that had nothing to do with their bodies and everything to do
      with his feelings for her.

      She rocked into him, and the feel of her against his groin made him
      growl. There were too many layers of clothing between them. He wanted to
      touch her, to be inside of her. He *needed* to be inside of her. He
      fumbled a little at the fly of her jeans, hands trembling like a
      teenager on his first date.

      "God, Logan," she whispered, his name rising like a breathless prayer in
      the late afternoon stillness.


      He only called her that in his fantasies, and this was playing out like
      one of the better ones.

      And that thought hit him like cold water in the face. He leaned back
      against the tree trunk, and she followed, pressing kisses to his chest.

      He swallowed hard and gripped her shoulders; summoning every scrap of
      willpower he could command, he pushed her away.

      This wasn't a fantasy. It was reality. And he couldn't do this to her.
      It wasn't right.

      "Mar- Rogue." That was good. He was in control, reining in the beast
      inside. He pushed the hair off her forehead, hesitating at the hurt,
      confused look in her eyes. "We can't do this."


      "No buts." He lifted her off his lap, gently, and deposited her on the
      ground. He got up before she could do anything else. "You're just a

      And he walked away.


      Rogue blinked at Logan's retreating back, as if unable to believe what
      had just happened.

      He'd touched her, *kissed* her, and then walked away.

      Tears burned behind her eyes, but she forced them back, refusing to cry.

      Instead, she got angry.

      She strode back to the house, fuming. She was mumbling to herself when
      she brushed past Jean in the hallway.

      "Rogue, are you okay?"

      "Who the hell does he think he is, anyway? " Rogue growled, doing a fine
      impression of the man she was cursing.

      "Did he not like the watch?"

      "Oh, he liked it all right. Liked it so much he--" she broke off, the
      anger draining away as she felt the other woman's concern wash over her.

      "What did he do?" Jean's voice held a militant note that usually crept
      into it only when Scott had pissed her off. She took Rogue's arm and led
      her into the kitchen.

      Rogue leaned back against the big, stainless steel refrigerator, trying
      to cool off her still-raging hormones. "He just -- he kissed me and he
      walked away! Just like that. 'You're too young, Rogue. You're just a
      kid, Rogue.' Bah!" She crossed her arms over her chest, hugging herself
      tightly, embarrassed by the wet spots on her shirt.

      Jean settled into a chair at the table. "I was hoping that wouldn't be a
      problem. "

      Rogue pushed herself off the fridge. "What do you mean?"

      "He's -- he's leery of the age difference, Rogue. He has every right to
      be. You're only eighteen, and--"

      Rogue laughed bitterly. "Look, I realize that I look like a regular
      teenager, but I'm not. I mean, deadly skin? Not to mention a few decades
      of memories that I'm not going to forget anytime within this lifetime."
      She slumped into a chair next to Jean. "I've seen things that no one
      could see and stay a child."

      "I understand." Jean reached out and patted Rogue's hand. "I'm not the
      one you have to convince."

      "You don't think, you don't think I was wrong about him, about his
      feelings, do you? " Rogue asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.

      "He kissed you?" Jean asked. Rogue nodded. "Well, with all those years
      of experience in your head, was it the kiss of a man in love, or the
      kiss of a man thanking a friend for a gift?" Her eyes dropped to Rogue's
      chest and Rogue felt the blush flare in her cheeks. "I see. Well, then,
      we're correct in our assessment of his feelings. It's just a question of
      whether he'll admit them or not."

      "Logan? Admit to his feelings?" Rogue snorted. "That'll never happen."

      "Well, we already know how he feels--"

      "Do we? " Rogue pushed her hair out of her face and blushed again,
      recalling some of his less -- nightmarish memories. "I mean, this is
      Logan. He's just as likely to have sex as he is to shake hands with a
      woman. Maybe--"

      "He wouldn't have stopped if he didn't care," Jean said confidently.

      Rogue opened her mouth and closed it again, thinking over that
      statement. "How's that work?" she said after a few moments passed.

      "He doesn't want to screw things up. He's -- afraid that he'll lose your
      friendship if he pushes you. He's afraid people will call him a cradle
      robber at best and a pervert, at worst. He's afraid that it's just a
      crush on your part, or that you'll meet someone you like better when you
      go back out into the world--" Her eyes took on a faraway look and Rogue

      "That's what happened with you and Scott."

      "Something like that, yes," Jean confirmed. "So, I understand why he's
      hesitant. You have to give him some time, and he'll come around."

      "And if he doesn't?"

      "Then we'll move to Plan B," Jean said darkly, rising from her chair.

      Rogue stood as well, trying not to get her hopes up. "There's a Plan B?"

      "One thing you learn as an X-Man, Rogue, is that there's *always* a Plan
      B." Jean put an arm around her shoulders and gave her a comforting
      squeeze. "If we can't figure it out, there's always Scott." Rogue opened
      her mouth, but Jean wasn't finished. "And if Scott can't do it, we'll
      call in the secret weapon."

      "Secret weapon?" Rogue was almost afraid to ask.

      Jean nodded decisively. "Jubilee."

      "Oh, God."

      "Exactly. But let's hope Logan comes to his senses, so it doesn't come
      to that."


      Logan spent the next two days avoiding everyone in the mansion. He
      devoted himself to conquering the Danger Room and beating the heavy bag
      in the gym. That's where he was now, arguing with himself over what he
      was going to do about Marie.

      Every thought was punctuated with a hit on the bag.

      He reminded himself that he didn't have to stay. He'd come back, as
      promised, and Rogue was safe now. She had Cyke and Storm and Chuck to
      protect her. She didn't need him looking out for her, complicating her
      life. She was only eighteen. She'd get over it. Him. Whatever.

      Maybe if he kept telling himself that, he'd eventually believe it.

      He shied away from memories of the way her body felt pressed against
      his, the taste of her in his mouth. He tried not to think about his
      future, and hers, and the little thrill that ran through him when she'd
      made it plain that she expected him -- them -- to have a future, and
      have it together.

      She was leaving him alone, and he was grateful for that, but he knew it
      wouldn't last. She was persistent and brave, and all sorts of great
      things that he loved but couldn't have.


      The word brought him up short, knuckles stinging at the abuse he was
      heaping on them.

      He loved beer and sex and fighting and the Canucks (though God knows,
      they sucked this year). He didn't love people.

      But he loved Marie.

      It was the first time he'd articulated it, even in his own thoughts.


      Not only did he love her, he was in love with her – with the scared but
      brave girl she'd been, and the strong, confident woman she was becoming.
      He wanted to know every side of her, be with her through everything that
      happened in her life.

      He growled and let loose with another flurry of punches.

      This was all kinds of bad.

      It meant he couldn't walk away. And since walking away was one of the
      few things he did well, he was shit out of luck.

      Of course, he *could* walk away. Nothing was physically *stopping* him.
      But the thought of the look on Marie's face if he left was a more
      powerful hold on him than anything anyone else had ever tried, up to and
      including strapping him down and cutting him open.

      They'd fucked with his body and stolen his mind, but his will had never
      been broken; he'd always been his own man, answering to no one.

      If he followed his gut, and his gut was usually right, he'd stick around
      and play this out, because his gut was telling him that this was
      important. In fact, his instincts were screaming at him that this wasn't
      a trap at all, but a good thing.

      It was his brain getting in the way.

      But for once, he was willing to let his brain be in charge, because he
      was afraid this time that his instincts had settled down around his
      crotch and he didn't want to be led around by his dick.

      He wanted Marie.

      He couldn't deny that, and he was going to give up trying. It was
      hurting both of them.

      His knuckles split, from the last round of hits to the bag, and he let
      the pain wash over him. Pain had a way of throwing everything into sharp
      relief, making him see what was real, and what was not.

      This thing with him and Marie was real.

      Now he just needed to figure out what to do about it.

      He flexed his fists, knuckles already healed, and threw another round of

      He was losing himself in the physical, having come to at least a partial
      decision, when he scented Scott.

      "Save some of that for Sabretooth," Scott said, entering the gym.

      Logan glanced at him in the mirror and growled.

      Scott didn't take the hint. "Look, I know you don't much like me. And
      frankly, when we first brought you here, I didn't like you either."

      Logan snorted, and continued punching.

      Scott ignored that and continued, "But you came through in the clutch,
      and it's obvious to anyone with eyes in his head that you care a lot
      about Rogue."

      'Great,' thought Logan. "Shut up."

      Scott shrugged. "Not talking about it isn't going to make it go away."

      Logan growled again. That was true, but saying it meant you had to deal
      with it, and he hated dealing with feelings -- his own or other
      peoples'. Especially when there was a woman involved.

      "Anyhow, I just wanted to say that Jean and I hope everything works out
      for you and Rogue."

      Logan swung around to stare at him. "You're giving me your blessing?" he
      asked incredulously.

      Scott looked sheepish, a slight blush staining his cheeks, but he
      nodded. "We understand how hard it can be when there's a big age gap in
      a relationship, and--"

      "Why don't you just mind your own damn business, One-Eye? I don't--" He
      stopped, unable to complete that particular lie. "I don't need advice
      about women, and I certainly don't want it from you."

      He pushed past the younger man; he needed to get the hell out. Now.

      "Okay," Scott called after him as he stalked down the hall, "but don't
      blame me when they put Plan B into effect."

      That stopped him.

      "Plan B? What the hell is Plan B?"

      Scott shook his head. "I like to think I'm as brave as any man alive,
      but even I know not to cross the women when they get up to something."

      Crap. Scott was right. Nothing was worse than women on a mission. "The

      Scott nodded and joined Logan at the end of the hall, by the elevators.
      "And I think they've enlisted Jubilee."

      Logan thought about the kids he'd met one by one, matching names with
      faces and mutations. "The gum chewer? Always in yellow? Big earrings?"

      "That's her."

      "Crap." That one had trouble written all over her.

      Scott nodded again and Logan found himself thinking of those stupid
      bobble-head dolls that people -- women, really -- always wanted him to
      stick on the dashboard of his truck.

      "That's what I'm saying, man. It's easier to just give in now and tell
      Rogue how you feel."

      Logan ran a hand through is hair, considering it. But there were two
      things stopping him. He didn't like being manipulated, especially not by
      a bunch of women (and Cyke), and he still thought he was bad for Marie.

      That was the bottom line. He didn't want to hurt her, and that's what
      would happen in the end, because that's what *always* happened. He
      growled at the circular path his thoughts led him on. Thinking never did
      anyone any good. And talking -- he wasn't sure he could ever actually
      *tell* Marie how he felt. And certainly not when he was being pushed
      into it.

      "No. Let them do their worst. I'll be out of here in an hour."

      But it was a lie, and they both knew it. He'd caught a glimpse of the
      future -- his future -- and despite everything, he was going to hold
      onto it. He felt the weight of the watch on his wrist. He hadn't taken
      it off yet, had even begun sleeping in it, because it had come from her.
      However, he wasn't about to be roped and collared like a bull being
      taken out to pasture. He still had his mind and his will, and he would
      make the decision in his own time.


      "Tell them to bring it on."

      And he walked away, leaving Scott staring after him, a frown on his




      "What, do you want to tempt the wrath of the...whatever, from high atop
      the thing?" Toby Ziegler, The West Wing


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