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FIC: Every Purpose Under Heaven - Reawakenings (2/2) post-X2 [L/R] R

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  • Macha
    Disclaimers, etc. in part one. *** Loving someone is a fucking nightmare, Logan thought, watching Marie s small form until she disappeared into the house. He
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 13, 2003
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      Disclaimers, etc. in part one.

      ***

      Loving someone is a fucking nightmare, Logan thought, watching Marie's small form until she disappeared into the house.

      He was pissed off and hurting and scared and he hated it. He hated the tightness in his chest when he considered the possibility that she'd be taken again, that she'd be killed this time. He loathed the helpless dread he felt when he thought maybe she'd leave him.

      This, he thought, this is the reason I don't get attached.

      Fuck.

      He started moving, trying to outpace his thoughts. It never worked, but that didn't stop him from trying. He found himself at the garage and swiped the keys to the bike, roaring away from the mansion. Away from her.

      Knowing he wasn't at all in the mood for fucking tourists or city traffic, he headed down backroads, out west towards the hills. The leaves were starting to bud on the trees, and the grass grew greener every day. The sun beat down on his leather jacket, warming him even as he urged the motorcycle faster.

      Falling for Marie had been surprisingly easy. Especially for someone with no past and a long track record of brief, unemotional flings. He'd realized that he'd wanted to protect Marie, *and* he wanted her, which was an entirely new combination. But she'd been so young and it worried him that he was taking advantage of her crush.

      Then all hell had broken lose and it was clear her feelings weren't some adolescent fantasy. Hell, no matter her technical age, she wasn't an adolescent. She was Marie and she wanted him and she loved him, and it was easy enough to move her into his room and have her all to himself.

      It was more than easy. It was fucking perfect. And that should've worried him, because there's no way a man like Logan could suddenly be in a serious relationship, could suddenly, yes, be in love and *not* have some kinks to work out. Relationship kinks. Other kinds of kinks weren't really what he'd consider a problem.

      Logan veered off the road and into the gravel parking lot of a small, roadside bar. It was the kind of place with a handmade wooden sign and a tin roof, small and dark with country music on the jukebox. Perfect for brooding.

      After ordering a Tanqueray and tonic, Logan retreated to a booth in the corner and stared moodily at the scarred tabletop. He should've known it couldn't possibly be this easy.

      The sex was fabulous, the companionship was surprisingly enjoyable, but now all of a sudden Marie wanted him to sit by and watch while she put her goddamned life in danger. Repeatedly. How the fuck was he supposed to give her a kiss and send her off to face all manner of sociopaths, armed only with serious attitude and deadly skin?

      He kind of wished he'd thought to invite Cyclops along; he'd watched his fiancee suit up and never seemed particularly worried about it. Back then, Logan hadn't really understood this love crap -- well, he still didn't profess to understand it, but he had a better idea -- and he hadn't thought twice about Jeannie and Scott going on missions together.

      Now that he was facing the very same situation with Rogue, he couldn't fathom it at all. Not that his girl couldn't handle herself in a fight; she could. It's just that bigoted assholes didn't tend to fight fair. Neither did sadistic government types. And he'd really, seriously lose it if someone dared hurt her again.

      If they killed her--

      Logan took a deep breath and forcibly relaxed his hands, resisting the urge to destroy the beat up table with his claws. He tossed back the last of his drink and signaled for another.

      But if he didn't agree to Marie's ridiculous plan, she'd leave him and join the team anyway.

      Shit.

      Logan couldn't manage more than a vaguely threatening growl when the bartender placed another drink in front of him. Fuck. He knew Marie well enough to know she *would* leave him if he didn't trust her to join the team. She was stronger than anyone he'd ever met, and while he knew she loved him, he also knew she didn't *need* him, not like he needed her.

      Which seemed to leave him with two options: Stay with Marie and keep an eye out for her when they went on missions, or refuse to agree with her decision, get his ass dumped by Marie, and then keep an eye out for her when they went on missions. He couldn't think of a plausible scenario in which Marie *didn't* end up back on the team.

      Fuck.

      Logan worked his way through two more drinks, and still nothing. What it came down to was whether he'd be more miserable with or without Marie in his bed.

      Sighing, Logan rose and dropped some bills on the table. It wasn't even a question.

      When he got back to the mansion, however, Marie was MIA. There was a note on the desk in their room, and the sight of her handwriting made something inside of him twist painfully. He couldn't seriously consider giving her up, but what if she'd made a decision of her own while he'd been off drinking?

      She was out with Storm, and it looked like he'd have to wait a few hours to find out. The afternoon passed damn slowly, even after an impressive hour in the Danger Room. When she wasn't home by seven, Logan sighed and left a brief answering note:

      Poker game.

      Logan

      Logan dropped into his customary seat at the conference table and raised an eyebrow. "Nice cloth." Their semi-regular poker games were always played in the conference room, but the green felt was a new addition.

      Jubilee grinned at him. "Thanks!" She leaned over to lay her cheek against the table. "It's a birthday present from you and Rogue."

      Logan furrowed his brow, telling himself that warm feeling in his gut was not pleasure at hearing their names linked so casually. "It is?"

      Laughing, Jubilee sat up. "Nice to see how much thought you put into my gift." She rose and fiddled with the lights until only the few panels directly overhead flooded the table. The girl had a flair for the dramatic.

      "I gave you a bottle of brandy," Logan pointed out. He could do this. Really. He could sit there and play poker with Kitty and Jubilee and Scott and not worry about the situation with Marie. He could.

      Kitty, who'd arrived bearing poker chips, rolled her eyes at him. "That was a Loganapology for being a jackass and scaring off Jubilee's date."

      Logan shrugged and reached for the deck of cards, completely unapologetic. "Guy was too old for you."

      "Says Father Time," Jubilee muttered, rolling her chair out of his range.

      Before Logan could reply, Scott arrived with a six-pack of beer. He set it down in the corner, grabbed two bottles, and handed one to Logan. "What are we playing?"

      "Poker," Marie announced from the doorway. Her amused grin wavered a bit when she met Logan's gaze. He wasn't sure how to answer her unspoken question with an audience, so he just dipped his chin in acknowledgment. She was nervous; he could smell it on her, but she hid it so well he doubted any of the others could tell.

      Or they might possibly have been distracted, as Logan was, by her snug shirt and leather pants. She knew his weaknesses, all right.

      "Very funny," Scott opined, handing Kitty some crisp bills in exchange for poker chips.

      Slowly, Marie circled the table, cashing in, grabbing a handful of pretzels, and settling next to Logan. "Hi," she said softly, snagging his bottle to take a swig. Under the table, her fingers touched his thigh.

      Logan wasn't much for apologizing, and he'd never had an actual relationship involving fights and making up before, but he was pretty sure he was supposed to say something here. Something apologetic. Something heartfelt.

      He slid the deck of cards towards her. "Your deal." He really sucked at heartfelt and apologetic, but Marie squeezed his thigh and he thought maybe she understood what he meant.

      Marie shuffled a couple times, showing off as the others cashed in, then played up her accent when she said, "All right, boys and girls, Texas Hold 'Em, $5 minimum, no limit on raises."

      She dealt smoothly, and Logan leaned back to watch her, his beer-drinking, poker-playing, leather-wearing woman. Damn. He was not letting this thing end. He wasn't much for public displays of affection, either, but he'd always been better with actions than with words. When she finished dealing the first round of cards and shot him a proud smile, he expressed his appreciation for her by looping an arm around her neck, hauling her close, and kissing the hell out of her.

      Much to the amusement of the others, if Kitty's laughter and Jubilee's cheers were anything to go by.

      When Logan pulled back, Marie was flushed and beaming at him. Then she laughed and reached up, running her thumb over his lips. "That's a good color on you, sugar." It took a moment for him to notice her smudged lipstick. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, setting her off into a fit laughter.

      Scott tossed a couple chips into the center of the table. "Are we playing or what?" he asked, but where Logan would have expected to hear exasperation, there was only amusement and an undercurrent of melancholy in Scott's voice.

      Without glancing at his cards, Logan tossed in his own blind bet. He was still staring at Marie, who still seemed nervous. He had the sinking suspicion that one kiss wasn't going to be enough. She glanced at him again, gave him a shy smile, and tapped a finger on his cards. "Play," she instructed quietly.

      So he did. Within five hands, Logan had a nicely sized pile of chips and Jubilee was muttering threats under her breath.

      "What's that?" Logan asked pleasantly.

      "I said I'm going to toss you off a cliff," Jubilee repeated, exasperated.

      Beside him, Marie stiffened and he knew she was remembering him falling off that damn roof. Across the table, Scott had gone very still, and Logan knew his attention was on Marie as well. Which would piss her off again.

      Logan would've been cranky as hell about Jubilee's slip, except she hadn't been there that day, and she had no way of knowing that it still haunted Marie.

      Logan put down his beer and dropped a hand onto Marie's knee. "You could try," he told Jubilee, "but I recover from anything."

      Jubilee snorted. "Ego."

      "Not ego," Logan answered. "Why do you think I hate flying?"

      Marie's head jerked around and she stared at him for a long moment. "Someone threw you out of a plane?"

      He nodded slowly, trying not to remember the sickening, unending fall, trying desperately to block out the memory of Marie being blown out of the damn Blackbird.

      "Jesus," Jubilee said. "That's really..."

      "Scary," Kitty offered with a little shudder.

      Logan shrugged. "Shit happens." He gave Marie a significant look. "*I* heal."

      Marie's expression hardened and Logan could've kicked himself for emphasizing the pronoun and reminding her of their unresolved argument. She shifted in her chair, pulling it a few inches away from him, which left his hand clutching the edge of her seat.

      Irritated, Logan reached for his beer and drained it.

      Kitty held the cards, half-heartedly shuffling as she looked back and forth between he and Marie. "Should I--?"

      "Deal," Marie ordered softly, drumming her fingers on the table. Belatedly, the cloth seemed to register, and she started to smile as she rubbed her fingertips on the felt. "It fits the table," she said, looking over at Jubilee, who nodded happily.

      "It's perfect, Rogue. You rock."

      "I'm glad you like it," Marie answered with a grin. Then she scooped up her cards and studied them slowly, brow slightly furrowed.

      Logan had a pair of queens, but the rest of his hand and the common cards in the center were of no use. But he was nothing if not a good bluffer, so when the bidding reached him, he raised $10.

      Kitty folded with a grimace, Jubilee looked indecisive before matching his bid, and Scott stared impassively at his cards when he followed suit. Or maybe he was staring at the wall. Hard to say with those damn glasses, but they certainly helped Scott at the poker table.

      Marie matched Logan's bid, then tossed in another $5 chip. "Raise."

      "Fold," Jubilee snarled, tossing her cards down. "This sucks."

      Kitty laughed. "No, *we* suck at poker."

      "No," Jubilee countered with an annoyed look, "Bobby sucks at teaching poker."

      Logan choked on a laugh. "Ask Gambit to teach you."

      Kitty tilted her head. "He can play?"

      "He's a con man from New Orleans," Logan answered. "What do you think?"

      Jubilee tossed her hands up in exasperation. "If he can play, why isn't he in our game?"

      Scott folded. "Because he's a con man from New Orleans."

      With a chuckle, Logan turned his attention back to Marie, who was studying her cards again, gnawing absently on her lip. He'd been trying to teach her how to play poker. Or, more precisely, how to bluff, but even after he'd listed her tells -- staring at her cards when she had a questionable hand, chewing on her lip when she was considering bluffing -- she didn't seem to be able to stop.

      Logan reached for his chips. "See your five. Raise five." Better she learn an expensive lesson from him here than at some later date with someone less willing to let her pay off her debt in installments. Or by other, more enjoyable methods.

      Marie cut a glance at him, considering. She was many things, his Marie, but a good liar wasn't one of them. That beautiful face of hers gave everything away.

      She grabbed her chips. "See five. Raise ten."

      Logan held her gaze as he tossed more chips into the pot. "See. Raise ten."

      "Wow," Kitty muttered. "That's $70."

      "Shut up," Jubilee ordered.

      Logan didn't spare either woman a glance. He and Marie were locked into some sort of staring contest. She didn't even blink when she flipped more chips onto the pile. "Let's make it $80. Raise ten."

      "Raise twenty," he countered immediately. "$100 bet."

      Kitty made a muffled squeaking noise, and Jubilee whacked her arm.

      Marie just grinned at Logan and said, "Call."

      Logan laid down his cards. "Pair of queens."

      Marie dipped her chin once, then tossed her cards down one by one. "Trip nines."

      Jubilee whooped. "You totally rock, chica!"

      "Nicely done, Rogue," Scott said, and Kitty nodded her agreement.

      Marie never looked away from Logan, leaning closer to whisper, "First rule of offense: Use your opponent's weaknesses. Do you get it?"

      Before he could think of an answer, she stood and walked out.

      "Rogue," Kitty called after her, "Don't you want your--" the door slammed closed-- "money?"

      ***

      Rogue ignored her grim sense of satisfaction in favor of melancholy. Well, that was nice, she thought. Always best to go out with a bang.

      Her relationship with Logan had actually lasted longer than she'd sometimes thought it would. They were very different, and maybe he really wasn't the kind of man who should tie himself down.

      She inhaled slowly, refusing to let herself cry, and headed for the music room. The piano was beautiful. A Bösendorfer that the Professor had always kept tuned, even though he didn't play. She sometimes wished she were a better pianist, so she could've taught the students.

      It was soothing, losing herself in the music when she was too upset to sit and brood. Like, for instance, now.

      The keys cool beneath her fingers, Rogue waited for inspiration. Instead of launching into one of the few pieces she knew by heart, she sat, immobile, hands poised over the keys.

      What the hell did I do? she thought with a strangled groan. Delivered an ultimatum to Logan, then kicked his ass at poker to prove a selfish, childish point. God. Way to convince him that she was an adult and should be treated accordingly.

      "Dammit." She dropped her hands to the keys, wincing a little at the loud, discordant sound echoing off the walls.

      "That's lovely, darlin'."

      Shit. Rogue swiveled on the bench, ambivalent. She really, really wanted to run away, lock herself in an empty room until he packed up and left. She wasn't sure she could stand to hear him say it to her face.

      She considered apologizing, except that she wasn't sorry. Not exactly. She might not have handled things in the best possible way, but she really *did* need Logan to trust her.

      Turning back to the keyboard, Rogue slipped into the first few bars of Für Elise. "This better?"

      "Nice," he commented, sauntering toward her.

      She didn't turn, her fingers stiff on the keys as he approached. She paused, letting the notes fade into the silence of the room. Then she started a slow, melancholy dirge. She thought it was Chopin, but couldn't remember the name; it always reminded her of that first month on the road. Alone.

      Eyes closed, she swayed a little with the rhythm, her playing better because she wasn't *thinking* about it.

      "Marie."

      Her eyes snapped open, fingers hovering over the keys. "What?"

      "You're going to go back to the team no matter what I say."

      Okay. Not the opening she'd expected. Curious, Rogue turned on the bench to look up at him. Damn him for being so unreadable, anyway. He was standing legs slightly apart, arms crossed over his chest, slight frown, brow furrowed. The Disapproving Wolverine.

      "I see how proud that makes you," she said, not quite able to keep the bitterness out of her tone.

      Logan froze, not even breathing, then he turned abruptly away from her. She studied his back, his angry posture, and cursed herself for being so stupid.

      He took a couple deep breaths and turned back, closing the distance between them. "Scoot," he ordered, and Rogue complied so that he could join her on the bench.

      It was small, the bench, but upholstered. Her Mama's had been your typical wooden piano bench, not great for long practice sessions. But this one was really quite comfortable. Plush, almost, and she was going to go crazy if he didn't say something soon.

      Logan stared impassively at the wall, seemingly ignoring her presence, and Rogue fought the urge to pinch him.

      Finally he sighed. "That's not it," he said, and it took her a minute to figure out what he was talking about. She supposed that was his roundabout way of saying he *was* proud of her for having the courage to go back to the team. She was so busy telling herself that wasn't all she needed from him that she nearly missed the rest.

      "You've been through hell," he said, his voice low and strained. "I know it's not exactly the same, but I've been there, too, and getting back..." He shook his head. "I've done some things I'm not proud of. Bad things, and I didn't give a shit at the time, I was that fucked up."

      "I know, Logan," she protested softly. "But I'm--"

      "You're fine," he interrupted with no small measure of irritation. "I know. And you *are* fine, as far as that goes, but it's a damn long road back, Marie. The stuff in your head, the rage -- it doesn't just go away."

      Rogue stared down at her hands. At her bare fingers tangled together in her lap. He was right, of course. Being able to touch was... she didn't even have words to describe how amazing it felt. But too often she'd catch sight of her own bare skin and a sudden, paralyzing panic would hit. Hit hard. Her chest would constrict so tightly that her breath came out in small, desperate gasps, and every muscle in her body would tense for flight.

      "Marie?"

      She startled badly, and his arm came around her shoulders, the heavy familiarity calming her a little. "I know it doesn't just stop," she said slowly. "But I can't just sit around doing nothing while I wait for perfect sanity." She gave a quick, humorless chuckle. "I think sanity may be an unrealistic goal, all things considered."

      "Don't say that," Logan bit out. "You *are* sane."

      "Doesn't feel like it some days," she admitted in a whisper. Some nights, really. Waking up unsure if the mansion, if *Logan* was real or another torturous illusion.

      "Any time you need it, darlin', you just touch me to remind yourself that you made it out."

      Rogue reached up, threaded her fingers through his hair, and tugged his head down to kiss him silly. Not that Logan ever really got *silly*, but he did get breathless and grope-y and growl-y. Like now.

      "Marie." He broke away. "I think it's dangerous."

      Honestly, she didn't know what the hell he was talking about at first. The team. Right. Dangerous. For her, the little girl. "I know it's dangerous," she said flatly. She realized her hand was still clutching at his shirt and released him, sitting up straight and fixing her gaze on the oriental rug. "But I couldn't live with myself if I stayed on the sidelines because I was afraid."

      She couldn't bear to look over at him, even though she could feel his gaze on her face.

      "You're afraid?" he asked, his tone careful.

      Rogue very nearly rolled her eyes. "Yes, Logan. It scares me. Us mere mortals--"

      "I get scared," he countered gruffly, and now he was the one staring fixedly at the floor.

      Rogue touched his knee, a wordless gesture of thanks. "Yes, but you don't fear for your life."

      He shook his head slowly. "No," he agreed, catching her gaze. "Not for my life. For yours."

      Rogue cursed the tears, because it meant his beautiful face was blurry. "Logan." Damn, her voice was high and shaky.

      "Marie, I..." He frowned a little. "I..." He made a frustrated little noise and she actually started to laugh. "What's so damn funny?"

      "You don't have to say it," she told him gently. "I already know."

      He still looked incredibly annoyed with himself. "I should be able to tell you."

      She shook her head. "I don't need the words." She glanced away, gathering her courage. She'd never really understood before when people said love wasn't always enough. She'd always thought that if two people truly loved each other, the rest would just sort of... work itself out.

      Sometimes she ached for her lost idealism.

      She understood, now, with sharp clarity that love without trust wasn't good enough. Not even with Logan, whom she loved more than she'd really thought possible. And the worst part was, she knew he loved her, too. But she couldn't be with him if he wouldn't accept her as an equal.

      "Logan." She cleared her throat and his hand landed on hers. She held on tight and tried again. "What I do need from you," she said slowly, her voice shaking with dread, "is for you to trust me. I know my limitations and I'll be cautious, but this needs to be my decision." She made herself meet his gaze, and it was so damn hard to force the words out. "Do you trust me?"

      His beautiful hazel eyes were so close, and he stared at her for a moment, then dipped his chin once. She held her breath, not letting herself believe it until--

      "Yes," he said, his words tripping over each other. "I trust you, Marie."

      She blinked. "You do."

      "Yes."

      "Enough not to argue if I rejoin--"

      "It scares the living hell out of me," he ground out, "but it's your decision."

      She studied him, every familiar line of his face, the slight stubble on his chin, not quite able to believe it. "Really?"

      "Really."

      Wow.

      Rogue felt herself starting to grin and couldn't contain it. Damn, what an amazing feeling. Kind of like... home. "Wow," she said, unable to control the ridiculous smile on her face.

      "What?" Logan asked, fighting a grin himself.

      Rogue threw her arms around him, burying her face in his shoulder as his hands warmed her back. "No wonder there are so many bad poems about this," she told his collarbone.

      The feel of him laughing her arms -- wow. She really loved him. Her hands curled into the fabric of his shirt, pulling him closer. His muscles shifted under her fingers, and she leaned into his solid chest, and she really, really wanted him.

      Logan being Logan, he sensed the shift in her mood immediately. Smirking, he pulled back and looked down at her, the arrogant bastard. "Right here?"

      She arched one eyebrow in her best imitation of his look. "Why not?" she shot back, reaching for the hemline of her shirt.

      Logan stood, pulling her to her feet beside him. "C'mon."

      She was still smiling like a lunatic. "The bed?" she said, with a forced air of disappointment. "Again? Who'd've thought our sex life would be stale after a few months."

      He snorted. "Not the bed," he told her with a leer, leading her into the hallway. "We're going to take a bath."

      Rogue jerked to a halt in the middle of the hall, stunned for a long moment before she ended up bent over with uncontrollable laughter. Because she may have pulled Logan into the tub a couple of times and persuaded him to stay long enough for some aquatic sex, but for him to suggest it? The Wolverine?

      She made the mistake of glancing up at Logan, who stood two feet away, arms crossed, trying to look menacing. She had to brace a hand on the wall so she didn't fall over.

      "Just what is so damn funny?" Logan demanded.

      Rogue tried, but she couldn't get 'The mental image of you in a bubblebath with a yellow rubber ducky' out. Which was probably for the best, considering what he'd probably do to her. Hmmm...

      "What in God's name is going on out here?" Jubilee asked, standing in the archway to the kitchen, two beers dangling from each hand.

      Rogue pointed at Logan and took a deep breath to explain, and suddenly she was upside-down over Logan's shoulder.

      "None of your business," Logan grumbled.

      "Ahhhh," Jubilee answered with a saucy grin. "This is a sex thing, isn't it?"

      Rogue put a hand on Logan's hip and pushed herself up enough to give Jubilee a little wave. "I'll explain later."

      "Explain?" Jubilee called after them. "I expect detailed diagrams."

      "Say goodnight, Jubilee," Logan hollered back.

      "Good night, Jubilee," Jubes chorused sweetly.

      Rogue pushed herself upright and shimmied a little, curling her legs around his rib cage until he lowered her and pressed her against their door. Damn, he was good. "Hi," she whispered.

      His hands squeezed her ass, and he kissed her with serious intent, then pulled back and grinned. "Hi."

      "Now," she ordered, tightening her thighs, "draw us a bath."

      ***

      Marie giggled all the damn way into the bathroom, where Logan deposited her unceremoniously on the vanity. She brought her legs up underneath her to sit cross-legged, and Logan was momentarily transfixed.

      She was so incredible. Beautiful as anything, but that was only a small part of her allure. Mostly Logan found himself in awe of her spirit. Sounded like something some jackass would put in a greeting card with a picture of flowers in soft-focus, but it was true. She'd been brutalized, mentally and physically, for weeks on end, and yet here she was. Laughing at him.

      Which, yes, should really irritate him, but he found that he kind of... enjoyed it.

      He looked away before he actually turned into a woman and reached for the bubble bath. Of course, running a bubblebath with lavender scent was probably not the manliest thing he could do, but it was more than worth it for an armful of wet, naked Marie.

      Who was *still* laughing at him.

      Logan stalked towards her, stopping inches away to peel off his shirt. Her giggles stopped abruptly, and she straightened up to watch him unbutton his fly. Logan pushed his pants down over his hips, smirking just a little as her breathing quickened.

      He stepped out of his jeans and turned to test the water. Satisfied, he twisted the handle to turn the water off. When he turned back, Marie shrugged out of her shirt, and his gaze dropped to those satin-encased breasts. Instead of reaching for her, he stepped into the tub and settled down, holding her gaze the whole time.

      Marie gave him a knowing smile and slid down from the counter, her movements languorous. Five feet six inches of black leather and ivory skin. Logan tried to remember how to breathe.

      She reached for the zipper at her hip, twisting enough to do really good things for her chest. Logan's gaze slid down the pale curves of her abdomen as she shimmied her hips to get the tight leather pants to release her. She stood up straight again, sexy as hell in green silky lingerie.

      Logan growled a little and reached for her. "C'mere."

      She sauntered closer and stopped when he got a hand around her thigh. "Shouldn't I do this first?" She reached back and unclasped her bra, throwing it towards the counter. His hand scrabbled at her hip, tugging her panties down, down, down. Marie laughed, then stepped gracefully into the tub, planting one foot on either side of his thighs.

      Goddamn.

      The view was fucking amazing. Logan mentally added bubblebaths with Marie to his mental list of things to do often and well.

      She beamed down at him and moved, allowing him to pull her down to straddle his hips. Impatient, he yanked her closer and kissed her with all the emotion he couldn't seem to put into words. Her arms slid around his shoulders, pressing her breasts to his chest.

      His hands traced her curves, drawing the water up over her skin, delving underneath to reach her hips, her thighs, her center. She moaned into his mouth, fingernails stinging against his shoulders. Her hand slid over his chest, over his abdomen, and wrapped around his erection, then she lifted up to take him inside.

      He growled and she pulled back enough to nip at his jaw, his throat. Warm water lapped around them as they moved, churning up more bubbles. Their slick skin slid together, drawing groans from them both, groans that echoed in the tiled bath. She tasted like lavender and soap and Marie.

      Then she arched her back, biting her lip, her heated gaze locking onto his. He reached down, down, into the water, his fingers sending her over the edge. She convulsed around him and took him with her, his free hand gripping her hip tightly, holding her in place as he thrust one last time into her warm depths.

      She collapsed forward, damp skin sticking to his, and he hugged her close. Logan eased them further into the water, and she bit his shoulder lightly. "Told you you'd like bubblebaths," she said when her breathing began to slow.

      Logan grinned and ran a hand through her hair, still mostly dry. "Wasn't the bubbles I liked, darlin'."

      Laughing softly, she sat up, moaning a little as she slid off of him. "Bubblebaths are definitely more enjoyable with your active participation."

      "Where are you going?"

      She leaned forward and pressed an open-mouthed kiss to his chest. Then she turned and settled between his legs, leaning back against him. Logan shifted a little, bringing his knees up to give her more room. Happily, he clasped his hands together just beneath her breasts. The combination of warm water and wet, naked, satisfied Marie was actually kind of nice. Yes, he could really learn to like bubblebaths.

      Not that he'd ever admit it. His reputation would never recover.

      He rubbed his thumb gently against her skin, savoring the slight shiver the movement produced. And to think he'd nearly fucked everything up.

      "I wasn't worried about me," he said. "Before," he added, because she probably had no idea what the hell he was talking about.

      But he'd underestimated her again. Her hands landed softly on his knees, her thumbs rubbing in small, soothing circles. "I know."

      "If anything happened..." Why the hell was he bringing this back up? Now? "I would..." He blew out a frustrated sigh, glaring at the innocent tiles. "I couldn't stand it," he admitted roughly, tightening his grip on her. "But that's not why I'm worried."

      "I know," she repeated.

      "I don't want anything to happen to you," he said. "Not because it would kill me, but because it's *you.*" He shrugged. "You deserve good things."

      She sniffled a little, but didn't reply aloud. He knew she understood what he meant. He knew she honestly didn't need him to say it out loud. Maybe that was exactly why *he* needed to.

      Fuck it. "I love you," he said gruffly.

      Her hands tightened on his knees, and Logan glanced around suspiciously, but the world didn't come crashing down around them. And once he got the words out, his reticence seemed completely stupid. He closed his eyes and nuzzled her hair, pressing a kiss to the silken strands. "I really do love you." Nope, not hard at all, now.

      Marie's voice was shaky when she answered, "I know." Then she turned her head and stretched up to kiss him.

      Yup, Logan thought, I'm definitely enjoying the bubblebath. Feeling oddly peaceful, Logan let himself enjoy the feel of her body. Crazy that a nineteen-year-old girl figured out this love shit before he could. Damn good thing she didn't give up on him.

      Marie shifted against him. Wriggled, actually, and did it well enough to draw a groan from him. "This water's cooling off," she observed.

      Logan read her tone of voice and unclasped his hands, sliding them up over her gorgeous breasts. "Yes, it is."

      She arched into his touch. "Maybe we should get out."

      "Thought you said the bed was boring."

      Laughing, she moved out of his grasp slowly enough for his hands to trail down her body as she stood. She stepped out onto the fluffy bathmat and glanced at him over her shoulder. When she reached the vanity, she turned, slowly and sensuously, and raised an eyebrow.

      Logan traced the lines of her body with his gaze, and when he looked back up at her face, she was positively smirking. She slid up onto the counter top. "Who said anything about the bed?"

      ***

      Rogue woke feeling pleasantly sore. She rolled over to find Logan calmly reading the New York Times beside her, clad only in pajama bottoms. He glanced over at her. "Morning."

      She rolled closer and slung an arm across his thighs. "Morning." She thought absently about peeling his pajamas off with her teeth, but she probably would need to walk normally today.

      Plus, he really didn't look like he was in the mood, his brow slightly furrowed, his mouth tight with tension. Though she figured she could probably change his mind pretty quick. "What time is it?"

      "Ten."

      "Ten?" she squeaked, sitting upright. She flushed a little when his appreciative gaze slid down her torso.

      Logan grinned and met her gaze. "We were up late."

      Her blush deepened as images of just what kept them up so late came back to her. Logan was an incredibly creative and enthusiastic lover, and maybe she wasn't *that* sore. She nuzzled her face into the skin just below his jawline.

      Logan growled a little, his hand stroking her hair. "Love to, darlin', but we've got a meeting in a half hour."

      Rogue stilled. "Meeting?"

      "Potential lab in Virginia," Logan answered neutrally. But he was watching her very carefully.

      Rogue nodded and slid out of bed. "I'll be ready in twenty minutes." She showered quickly and left for the meeting with her hair still dripping lazily. When she reached the conference room, Logan, a blueberry muffin, and a cup of coffee were waiting for her. Rogue brushed a hand over his shoulder, and Logan grumbled something unintelligible.

      Then Jubilee said, "Awwwwww..." and Logan glowered at her. With a fearless grin, Jubilee shrugged and turned an innocent expression Rogue's way. "Why, Rogue, you're positively glowing this morning!"

      Flushing, Rogue tossed a bit of her muffin at Jubilee. "Shut it."

      Kitty and Bobby wandered in, arguing as usual, and Remy followed behind them carrying a beignet. Rogue frowned puzzled. Where the hell did he get a beignet in New York?

      Remy caught her look and smiled rakishly. "It's a secret, chère. But if you'd like me to bring you one some morning..."

      "Thanks, Remy. That'd be nice." Logan muttered something under his breath, but refused to repeat it when Rogue elbowed him.

      Scott and Ororo swept in and ran through the details quickly. Relatively small facility, well-guarded. The usual. Rogue paid careful attention to the plan -- they'd go in in their usual pattern, with Rogue joining Remy as the second wave, moving in after the others had secured the facility.

      She glanced over at Logan, but he had on his unreadable expression.

      "Any questions?" Scott asked, the room, but Rogue knew it was mostly for her. She shook her head and he gave her a grim smile. "We leave in an hour."

      Logan brushed her thigh under the table, but left without a word. A little worried, Rogue followed Jubilee downstairs to pick up their uniforms. Of course, she didn't have much time to worry about Logan she was so busy fending off Jubilee's unending questions about sex with the Wolverine.

      "Please," Jubilee groaned, "at least tell me you were literally carried off to your room for *good* sex."

      Rogue cracked a grin. "Amazing sex."

      "I knew it!" Jubilee shouted triumphantly. "He's all untamed and wild, right?"

      "Actually," Rogue said, fastening the sterling silver buckle on her belt, then smoothing the leather carefully, "he can be really sweet."

      Jubilee blinked. "Sweet."

      "Yes."

      "The Wolverine."

      "Yes." Rogue stifled a laugh and slapped Jubilee's shoulder. "Let's go."

      Jubilee was still muttering, "Sweet. Unfuckingbelievable," under her breath when they reached the hangar. Ororo and Kitty were in the midst of their pre-flight, and Ororo asked Jubilee to complete it.

      Ororo turned to Rogue and clasped her hand briefly. "It's good to have you back on the team."

      Rogue ignored the butterflies in her stomach. "It's good to be back." Her uniform felt odd, constraining. She wondered how long it would take her to get used to the feel again.

      Ororo's piercing gaze held Rogue in place for a moment. "You know how to do this," she said kindly.

      Rogue smiled as Scott appeared in the doorway. "Yeah."

      "Two minutes," Scott announced, waving Remy towards the jet. He rested a hand on Rogue's shoulder. "Logan's in the hallway. Could you get him moving?"

      Impulsively, Rogue leaned forward and hugged Scott. Startled, he laughed and hugged her back. "Thank you," she whispered.

      "You're welcome."

      She pulled back and flashed them a smile. "I'll get Logan."

      He was in the hallway, his back to her, staring at the small memorial on the wall. The memorial to Jean. Months ago, Rogue would've been hurt to find Logan there; she would've assumed he loved Jean and was still mourning her.

      Which was true, actually, in its own way. Jean was one of the first people Logan had allowed himself to care about, and she'd died. Her death represented all the reasons he shouldn't let himself love people.

      "Hey," Rogue said quietly, announcing her presence though he already knew she was there. She moved to his side, studying the picture of Jean smiling softly into the camera. Rogue missed her with a dull ache that never quite went away.

      Logan glanced down at her. "Time?"

      She nodded. "Yeah. You ready?"

      "Yeah. You?"

      She thought about it for a moment. She was nervous, worried about Logan, about their teammates, about herself. But it was good fear. Healthy fear. Reasonable fear.

      Rogue nodded. "Yeah. I'm ready." She smiled and turned towards the hangar.

      "Marie."

      She stopped, turned back to him.

      He stood there in head-to-toe black leather, all badass Wolverine except for the look on his face, which was an odd mixture of worry and love and pride. He watched her closely, his gaze intense. "Please, be careful."

      Rogue took two steps, leaned up and kissed him. "I promise." She tangled her fingers in his. "You, too."

      The edge of his mouth twitched upwards in amusement. "Do I have to?"

      She grinned up at him. "Can you try?" she asked, amusement in her voice. "For me?"

      "Yeah," he answered, grumbling a little with faux irritation. "I promise."

      "Good," she said, using her best innocent voice. "I don't even have to threaten to expose your bubblebath habit."

      He growled for real this time, and Marie laughed, backing away. "C'mon, sugar," she said, holding out her hand. "They're waiting."

      Logan's gloved hand clasped hers. "Let's go."

      THE END

      Feedback cherished at macha@...

      AUTHOR'S NOTE: Title and summary taken from Meditations Divine and Moral, by Anne Bradstreet.
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