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"Life Less Static" L/R, R, 1/1

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  • Molly
    Life Less Static by Molly September 2000 juniper_36@yahoo.com Evolution may take millennia, but growth can happen any time. Logan POV; rated R. Characters
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 29, 2000
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      Life Less Static
      by Molly
      September 2000
      juniper_36@...

      Evolution may take millennia, but growth can happen
      any time. Logan POV; rated R.

      Characters portrayed within don't belong to me. List
      archives and those with previous permission; anyone
      else interested in archiving, ask first.

      And the kudos go to: Diebin, for keeping this, my
      first Logan POV endeavor, going through encouragement;
      and Elizabeth, for the nips and tucks of betaing, and
      for being fabulous to the woeful, word-processor-less
      me.

      ***
      stat�ic
      Function: adjective
      2: of or relating to bodies at rest or forces in
      equilibrium
      3: showing little change
      4: characterized by a lack of movement, animation, or
      progression
      ***

      Had anyone over asked-- and Xavier came close, but
      didn't, really-- if I was happy with my life, I would
      have said yes, no hesitations. Still would, even if it
      did start seeming a little less... satisfying. I had
      no complaints about roaming around; I like to drive
      and I'm not much for feeling trapped or attached.
      Doesn't take a genius to figure out why-- even the
      little bits of memory I've gotten from bad dreams are
      enough to clue me in on one hell of a reason to value
      being able to pick up and split, any time.


      And I've never really needed any more psychobabble
      than that. I didn't *want* Xavier poking around up top
      and figuring me out; I just wanted to get things taken
      care of there and get out. As things go, it wasn't
      that easy, but what the hell. I managed, and life went
      on. I went back to what I knew, what I was happy with.

      Except I did veer up to Lake Alkali. It was a deserted
      pit of a bump in the road, the kind of place the
      phrase 'blink and you'll miss it' was coined for.
      Having the government roll in once upon a time had to
      be the most excitement that little plot of the world
      had ever seen, or ever would again. It's like the
      frigid wasteland version of having fifteen minutes of
      fame.

      So I went, and at the very least I picked up on
      something new about my past: whatever the hell had
      happened, my dreams are rotten for a reason. The base
      hadn't stood up well to so many Canadian winters
      without maintenance, and I had to paw through a lot
      rubble and animal shit and packed ice to get a sense
      of anything.

      My sense was, it was just a miserable place. There was
      a lot of equipment left behind that must've looked
      shiny and pristine back in the day, all glittery
      surfaces and promises of a smarter future. Now it just
      looked like the trashed set of an old science-fiction
      show. I shouldn't have bothered reminding myself that
      it wasn't fiction. It was a waste of the few days it
      took to find the place.

      I could have gone back to New York then, back to
      Xavier and Jean and the righteous fight, whatever it
      was. Instead I just went back to my kind of fighting.
      I won enough money within a few weeks to put Scott's
      bike in storage and buy an old junkheap of a truck,
      and the months just kept passing. I thought about
      them, and the school; of course I did, but I didn't
      feel like going back. So I didn't. Easy, and life did
      its thing of going on. Even if I did wonder sometimes
      what was happening back in New York.

      ***

      The thing about fighting is that it's easy, and for
      someone like me, in a place like northern Canada, it's
      lucrative. I've made a lot of money fighting big dumb
      shits--and maybe one in every hundred realizes there's
      something a little *off* about my recovery time. The
      audience is the same way--they only see what they want
      to see. I used to expect them to catch on and start
      betting against the idiots I fought.

      But they never really did, and maybe they just didn't
      want to. I guess if you're in the mentality of
      enjoying watching people have the shit kicked out of
      them, you might also pray for that extra thrill of
      having the infallible fall and profiting from it.

      The money was nice because I did get sick of all
      sometimes, and I always had enough saved to just let
      it all go for a month or two. I spent most of March
      just loafing around out west, around Vancouver. And
      when I got sick of the city and its people and all
      their rushing and yelling and whining, I went back
      east. It's quieter out in the middle of nowhere; you
      can think what you think and be left alone with it.

      ***

      Then later in the summer I took off again, farther
      east this time to Ontario. I took Scott's bike; it was
      warm enough and I decided I should fix it up and
      figure out how to get it back to him. He was probably
      about ready to kill me over that, and in no way am I
      denying that knowledge amused the hell out of me.

      That should've tipped me off right there, the suddenly
      wanting to unload the damn bike. The thinking about
      Scott, which brought about thinking about Jean and how
      fun it was to make her look at me like I was beyond
      hope. Most people make that a bad look. She made it
      kind of rewarding.

      I shrugged it off, though. I wasn't ready to think
      about the school or anyone living there--or that's
      what I told myself, anyway. I had a dingy little
      apartment and found a place to play cards, and that
      brought some money coming in, and it was a
      distraction, anyway, which kept my mind off pointless
      things like wonderings and what-ifs. Sometimes I'd
      hear stuff about mutants and some new uproar in the
      States. Nothing ever too serious, though; but then,
      some things seemed so oddly toned down I had to figure
      Xavier and them had pulled some strings or snapped
      their fingers or whatever.

      I thought about Rogue a couple of times, just passing
      thoughts wondering if she was doing okay. I figured
      she was, since she seemed pretty resilient. First time
      she popped into my thoughts I was actually surprised--
      I was in a diner and glaring at a bunch of stupid,
      giggle teenagers and just suddenly wished they could
      all be quiet and show some intelligence like Rogue
      did. And after that, she was another of those things
      that came up once in awhile. I'd liked her, for all
      the time I'd known her, which wasn't much; she hadn't
      acted like a dumb kid.

      I hate kids. Another reason I kept telling myself I
      shouldn't go back.

      ***

      I did, though. By August I had to get moving. I'd
      stuck to a small town and it was actually pretty okay,
      and I wasn't sick of it, really, but finding myself in
      one place for more than two months made me nervous.
      Moving on was what I'd always done. Besides, the bike
      was back in top form, so it was time to get rid of it
      somehow.

      I didn't think too much about deciding to drive it
      back myself. I could have worked something else out,
      I'm sure, but there was a decision to be made and I
      just made it. That's just how I do things.

      First thing I remembered after I arrived was how
      Xavier has this way of seeming like he always expects
      everything that happens. Having personally witnessed
      him surprised, that kind of thing still seems out of
      place to me. I showed up with one foot still in the
      mindset that I wouldn't be back there for a long time,
      and he looked like he expected me yesterday. Hell,
      with his mental deal, he may well have. But just
      strolling in after being gone the better part of a
      year, a person expects some reaction. *Something*.

      But he just smiled and nodded and said he was rather
      busy at the moment, but that I should make myself at
      home in the same room and that dinner was in twenty
      minutes, if I felt up for it. Which I didn't, really;
      the drive from northern Ontario was long and I hadn't
      stopped for much other than meals.

      I went anyway. I figured I might as well go ahead and
      enjoy the look on Scott's face; maybe then I'd have a
      least a shot at amusing dreams that night.

      And the look was priceless, all right, and right there
      beside him Jean was as warm and pretty and soothing as
      I remembered. It was kind of nice to know I hadn't
      blown that up in my mind, because part of Jean's whole
      deal is how real she seemed, and reality just is what
      it is, no messing around. She smiled and squeezed my
      hands, and when she kissed my cheek I couldn't help
      but raise an eyebrow at Scott. He just glared at me,
      which I have to admit is a talent with those glasses
      he wears.

      Then he shook my hand, making all the pleasantries.
      Thing was, he was real, too. I don't actually have
      much a problem with Scott. I'm not racing to invite
      him out for a beer, but as far as nerds go, he's okay.
      He picks his battles carefully and only fights them as
      long as he's sure he's right-- I have to respect that,
      and even appreciate that he let his mind be changed
      about me.

      So I was standing around and forcing my way through
      small talk, which I'm not good at, when everyone
      started pouring in for dinner. Storm breezed in and I
      went through the whole shebang again before we could
      sit down and eat. And that was it; nobody else really
      knew me and I realized for a second what little impact
      I'd had around there-- that it was as small as the
      impact I'd had everywhere else. It didn't say much for
      my life, but I was hungry and didn't dwell on it.

      And I just noted, in the back of my mind, that Rogue
      wasn't there. I hadn't expected her to be; I knew
      she'd been in her last year of school when I left, so
      I figured she'd gone off to college, it being nearly
      September.

      But she came in while I was lamenting the stuff I
      found on my plate. Xavier and I have a pretty big gap
      between what we consider food-- he likes things with
      names I can't pronounce and exotic spices and strange
      cuts of meat. Me, I like to be able to identify three
      or fewer spices in my food, and two of them should be
      salt and pepper. And I'm sure as hell not used to it
      *looking* pretty. I'm not exactly sure what it was he
      was calling dinner that night, but it looked more fit
      for a museum than my stomach.

      So I was wondering if I had a shot in hell at finding
      some bread and sliced ham in the kitchen when Rogue
      slipped into the dining hall with her head ducked and
      eased herself into an empty seat at the end of the
      second table. Xavier came in right behind her and
      wheeled up to his usual spot, up where I was with Jean
      and Storm and Scott. And then he was all interested in
      being polite and friendly, so I gave him my attention,
      though I kept glancing at the back of Rogue's head.

      I felt like I should go tell her I was there, for some
      reason; she hadn't seen me and I kept wondering what
      her reaction would be. But I just kept getting
      distracted and forgot about her for awhile. I gave
      Xavier and the other three sketchy details of what I'd
      been up to, and they filled me in on life in the
      mutant world. It was a pretty boring conversation.

      Dinner finally ended and when I saw Rogue get up, I
      hurried to excuse myself, admitting that I wanted to
      catch her and say hi before I went to sleep. I caught
      her on the steps and snagged her sleeve, and when she
      turned and saw me, it looked like her eyes were going
      to fall right out. Which was a reaction, that much was
      for sure. For a minute, after I just sort of shrugged
      at her and couldn't seem to figure out what to say, I
      wasn't sure how she felt. Surprised, yeah, but it had
      been nine months and for all I knew she could have
      decided to be pissed about having all my rotten
      memories.

      But after a moment she smiled. It was slow, and it
      curled up her face like she'd made some novel new
      discovery. Then she looked a little hesitant but
      finally blew out this small sigh of exasperation and
      shook her head in a way I figured was at herself, and
      she stepped down a stair to give me a ginger hug.
      "Didn't think you'd be back so soon," was the first
      thing she said after she moved back.

      I'll admit, I was pretty much reeling from having been
      hugged. I don't really do hugs-- people don't want to
      hug me. They want to fight me, or fuck me, or tame me,
      but hugging... It was new, and a surprise, and I kind
      of liked it. My brain finally latched onto her words,
      and I blinked at her. "This is soon?"

      She shrugged and started up the stairs again, pausing
      long enough for me to get up to her side. "I dunno. I
      just sorta thought it would be awhile longer." She
      stopped for a second and glanced at me. "Not that I'm
      not glad to see you," she put in hastily. "I... I
      missed you."

      I really didn't know what to say to that. It wasn't a
      thing of not finding the words or being too surprised
      or anything-- I just really didn't know. I hadn't
      exactly missed her; I hadn't even thought of her most
      of the time. And in sixteen years I haven't had anyone
      I've met up with after an occasional absence say they
      missed me. So I *was* a little startled, and wordless,
      and she was veering off the steps and opening the door
      to one of the residence hallways.

      Which finally gave me something to say, because I
      realized where we were and that she was opening
      another door, to what I figured was her room. "I
      thought the students lived upstairs."

      "I'm not a student anymore, Logan. I live right here."

      "Aren't you going to college?" I was almost growling,
      I think probably because I get pretty set in what I
      expect reality to be like, and deviations just piss me
      off.

      And she just shrugged. "Not this year. I'm doin' the
      team thing for now, takin' some time out from school."

      "You're an X-Man." It wasn't a question. I'd
      understood perfectly what she meant, and I didn�t like
      it. I had enough misgivings about their entire hero
      deal ; I didn�t like the thought of her mixed up in
      it.

      "I'm more a junior member type thing," she replied,
      "but yeah. Scott and Jean and Ororo are teaching me
      all sorts of things, and I've been working with
      Professor Xavier on-- What's wrong?"

      I must've been scowling at her. "Why aren't you going
      to school? Is it the money? Because if Xavier won't,
      I'll find it for--"

      It just happens: people (and I'm no exception, Scott's
      opinion aside) just open their mouths and say stuff
      sometimes, without realizing it. And this was like
      that. All I was thinking was how she wasn't a dumb kid
      and how she didn't take shit for granted, and how if
      all the other brats around there got to go off and
      have lives, she should, too. I was *not* thinking
      about what I wasn't saying, or what it meant.

      So it was probably best that she broke in by saying,
      very softly and calmly, a slight smile on her face,
      "Logan. What would you do? Go break half the noses in
      Canada so I could do somethin' I don't really want to
      do right now?"

      I knew I was scowling again. "Well... maybe," I
      muttered.

      She touched my arm with a flash of gray cloth. "That's
      sweet, you know. But there was no problem with money.
      Sure, the Professor can't just pay for everyone here
      to go off to school, much as I know he'd like to. But
      I applied to schools, and it was do-able. I'm just not
      goin'. Not this year." Then she took a step back and
      fiddled with her doorknob. "Hey, I have some stuff to
      get done, and you look tuckered out. Go get some
      sleep?"

      I nodded slightly. "Right. Sleep."

      Then she flashed another big smile and suddenly came
      back forward to give me another quick hug, and this
      time I found myself actually returning it, if a little
      uncertainly. "I'm glad you're back," she said quietly.
      "Good night."

      Only a few minutes later, as I went to bed, I
      remembered how Jean had said, what seemed like a long
      time ago, that Rogue had some thing for me. I hadn't
      really known what to do with that information, and
      leaving was sort of a blessing. Now I felt vaguely
      relieved that she seemed to be over it.

      It made it easier to look forward to spending time
      with her.

      ***

      Going to sleep so early forced me up around the crack
      of dawn, and I went outside to smoke. I wandered off
      onto the grounds far enough that no random kid who
      might be up would run across me and my bad example;
      las thing I needed was for Scott to start blaming me
      for corrupting the younger generations, or anything
      like that.

      It was also just an excuse to look around on my own.
      Xavier had shown me all the buildings and such last
      time I'd been there, but that guy's got a lot of land.
      I walked about twenty minutes and found a small pond,
      and five minutes from there was the field where the
      horses grazed, and that was all only the land to the
      west of the mansion. I already knew that to the east
      were the gardens and sports areas.

      By the time I went back, breakfast was being served,
      so I went and filled a plate and snagged a chair
      across from Jean and Rogue. I had to cough slightly to
      get them to even look at me, they were yammering on so
      intently. Jean was explaining something I didn't
      understand that involved a lot of big words, half of
      them ending in -ology. But they finally looked over,
      and both smiled. "Good morning," Jean greeted.

      Rogue tipped her head to the side. "Hey," she said,
      and it was only slightly obvious by her froggy voice
      and puffy eyes that she both had just gotten up and
      wasn't exactly a morning person. "Save me? Jean thinks
      I can actually figure out physiology this early."

      I raised an eyebrow. "Jean. Teaching at breakfast? How
      dedicated."

      Jean just rolled her eyes. "Right, right. Logan, did
      you sleep well?"

      "Well enough." I shrugged. "Forgot how damn soft that
      bed is. Hard to get used to."

      "Do you still have that same nightma-- " Rogue had
      started to ask the question absently, but stopped
      short and blinked at me. "I'm sorry. That's none of
      my-- "

      "Not very often," I cut in slowly. I'd forgotten that
      she would know all about it; having her idly wonder if
      the dream still plagued me was a slight shock. "But
      sometimes, yeah."

      She was staring hard at me, and she said, softly, "I'm
      sorry," and this time I didn't think she was still
      apologizing for the question. "Oh, hey. I have this
      for you."

      She poked at the table, and I realized I hadn't even
      seen my dog tags lying there. I hadn't thought about
      them in a long time; after I got used to not having
      them, I just didn't dwell. It pretty much went
      hand-in-hand with not even thinking about Rogue much.

      It was kind of nice to see them again, just in a
      comforting way because of how things can just move
      back into your life. I picked them up and felt the
      almost nonexistent weight in my hand. "Thanks," I told
      her as I put them on and tucked them under my shirt.

      "Thank you," she tossed back, and shrugged. "I should
      start wheedlin' all sorts of promises out of you.
      You're pretty good at keepin' 'em."

      I couldn't help but grin at her. "Don't let that get
      around, huh?"

      She winked. "Well, naturally. If I let other people
      find out, you'll never have time to do anythin' for
      me."

      Groaning into my coffee, I glanced at Jean. "She
      always this much trouble?"

      "Every day," Jean agreed, and Rogue smacked her arm
      lightly and I laughed. It was nice to find myself in a
      good mood; right then I was having trouble remembering
      why I'd avoided returning for so long.

      After breakfast, Rogue said something about seeing
      Xavier and hurried off, and I wound up wandering
      through the halls with Jean, talking about a whole lot
      of nothing until I suddenly asked, "Why is she still
      here?"

      "Rogue?" Jean looked puzzled. "Because she wants to
      be. Why?"

      I shrugged, and I really didn't know why it was still
      bugging me. "She should be in school or something.
      Being a kid. Having fun."

      "We're no comedy act, but I don't think it's all that
      boring around here." Jean glanced over at me and
      smiled. "Logan, you don't have to worry about her. If
      this wasn't what she wanted, the Professor and I at
      the very least would be able to tell, and I can
      promise you, none of us would let her do what isn't
      right for her. She's happy right now. Believe that."

      "Yeah?"

      "Yes. Now listen, I have to get some work done down in
      the lab. Are you okay on your own?"

      Now there was a question. I just grunted at her and
      waved her off, and went and found a quiet room with a
      TV. I spent the rest of the morning watching stupid
      quiz shows and picking up incidental trivia, and
      thinking about where I'd go when I split. It wasn't a
      question of it I would or not; it was a matter of
      when, and where to.

      I figured I'd stick around for at least a few days,
      though, so I did. I ran across this new guy who'd
      apparently wandered in and signed on a few months
      before, Gambit. He was a few years older than Rogue,
      and he was pretty cocky, but I'm no one to fault a guy
      for that. He seemed okay, even if I did get my guard
      up the first time I noticed him drooling over Rogue.

      I guess it was protective hackles or something. I
      didn't see much of her, those days, but I thought
      about her, and finally decided Jean and everyone else
      were right and that she was okay. Still, I found
      myself idly concerned-- I remembered my promise to her
      the year before and figured I should still take it
      seriously. It's kind of important, to have at least
      *something* that matters in life.

      So Rogue was my own personal project, in a way, and
      once I reminded myself that I actually sort of liked
      Gambit, it was damn funny. He was falling all over
      himself because of her, and she didn't have the
      slightest clue.

      That became a source of daily entertainment for me,
      watching the drama unfold, and then one day I sat down
      at lunch and realized I'd been going about life in the
      mansion for three weeks, and that I wasn't feeling
      restless yet.

      So I went to Xavier and asked if there were any things
      I could do to earn my keep for awhile. The little
      smile he got, that damn 'I've been expecting this'
      smile, came close to pissing me off. As it was, when
      he set me up fixing some plumbing up in the boys'
      dorm, I nearly broke the stupid sink more than it
      already was. I relieved some tension by hitting on
      Jean and smirking at Scott over dinner, and then I
      noticed that Rogue and Gambit were sitting awfully
      close together, and that Rogue looked-- well, she was
      blushing, and smiling. Other than that, I couldn't
      really decipher her expression.

      I nearly laughed right there at the table, but instead
      just shook my head and wondered if I should let the
      poor guy in on that fact that if Rogue wound up hurt,
      he'd be damn sorry. Eventually I decided it would be
      better for my ripping his balls off to come as a total
      surprise.

      ***

      A few days later Rogue came and found me out in the
      stables, where I was fixing the gate on one of the
      stalls. "Hey," she said softly, fiddling with a saddle
      that was slung over a sawhorse for oiling.

      "Hey, yourself," I replied, and decided to take a
      break. I wiped some sweat and dirt from my face with
      my sleeve and leaned against a post. "What's going
      on?"

      "Nothin'." She glanced around and seemed hesitant. "I
      just had some free time and thought... Well, you've
      been here nearly a month and we haven't really talked
      at all-- If you just want to work, I could go. I don't
      want to--"

      "Stay," I insisted. "You're right. They keep you
      pretty busy, huh?"

      "I guess. I like it, though. And Professor Xavier
      thinks maybe... Never mind." She sighed. "I thought
      you might be leaving soon, so I should take advantage
      of you bein' here while I can."

      "What makes you think I'm leaving?"

      "I dunno. I just know how long you feel okay with
      stayin' in one place."

      It really had slipped my mind, how much she must know
      about me, and I told her so. She just shrugged. "It's
      not really like that. You know, how it works? I don't
      have your memories, or Magneto's, or anything. It's...
      it's like this big jumble of emotions and impressions,
      and then sometimes I just know things, like how
      fidgety you are about stayin' put for too long." She
      smiled slightly. "It was hard at first, sortin' it all
      out. I'd have these urges fillin' my head, and I
      didn't always know if it was me wantin' things."

      I stared at her, intrigued. "Yeah? Like what?"

      "Oh, like... Well, some things were easier. Like if
      you have paintings and keep puttin' one on top of
      another. Some things'll blend and get fuzzy, but some
      of the colors'll just look awful together, and you
      know they're on different paintings." She grinned at
      me suddenly. "Like how I was pretty sure thinkin' Jean
      was hot stuff for awhile was your fault."

      I had to laugh at that, and she went on. "And it was
      hard to talk to Professor Xavier for awhile. I felt
      like I had this old fondness for him, but a lot of
      bitter anger, too. And sometimes I crave pecan pie,
      even though I'm allergic, and cold coffee just makes
      me want to throw things."

      "That last one is probably my fault, too," I put in
      wryly. "But I'm gonna blame the pecans on Magneto."

      She nodded. "Professor Xavier says it was always his
      favorite," and then her face kind of deepened,
      saddened. "I knew things about when he was a child,
      horrible things. I knew what your nightmares are like.
      And I've made myself almost forget a lot of it, but
      some things come back up."

      "Yeah, sometimes they do," I muttered. "You seem like
      you've handled it okay, though."

      She shrugged. "Professor Xavier helped a lot. Once I
      could look him in the eye, that is." With a slight
      shake of her head, which sent all her hair flying, she
      perked up. "Hey. Can I ask you something?"

      "Sure."

      "What do you think of Remy?"

      "Who-- Oh, Gambit?" For some reason, I wasn't so
      amused at the thought of him and his hormones right
      then. "He's okay," I admitted. "Gets on my nerves
      sometimes, but hell, everyone does that."

      "Present company excluded, of course," she said,
      pretending to glare.

      "Of course." I winked at her. "He's a decent guy. That
      endorsement enough for you?"

      "How'd you know I-- "

      "Hey, if you're wondering, who better to ask than the
      guy who has to look out for you?"

      "You don't have to," she said softly. "You've done
      plenty already."

      "I want to," I told her, and it was true. Even with
      just passing, casual, day-to-day contact, she'd been
      growing on me more and more. I wasn't quite sure what
      I thought of that, but it had happened, and all I
      could really do was go with it. "So yeah, I do have
      to."

      She flushed a little and seemed to be biting back a
      pleased smile. "Thanks." She tossed me an odd glance.
      "Thanks," she repeated. "I'll let you get back to...
      to whatever it is you're doin'."

      "Yeah, okay." I watched her walk away for a minute,
      and then went back to work. But I couldn't really get
      everything she'd said out of my mind; I had to wonder
      how she could pretty much know me, inside and out, and
      still always look happy to see me.

      It just wasn't anything I would expect. I started
      finding it harder and harder to get my thoughts off
      her, after that.

      ***

      I have to admit to liking the pattern I fell into.
      There were always little repairs to be done around a
      joint that size, with so many teenagers running
      through it, and I liked doing them.

      Then one day some punk kid started hammering me with
      questions while I was working on one of the cars, and
      he seemed pretty interested so I explained a few
      things to him. Next time I was out there, he was back
      with a few friends, and I kind of growled at that but
      let them stay and watch and learn anyway.

      It somehow turned into this unofficial class type
      thing every few days, for about 15 or so kids. A few
      girls kept showing up; I practically snarled at Scott
      when he smirked at that.

      And every once in awhile Rogue would track me down, or
      I would track her down, and we'd just talk for awhile,
      and I liked that. She was interesting; she was
      something real and substantial. I was realizing more
      every day that she was the reason I was able to stay.

      Then early in November, after I'd been there over two
      months, she came stomping into the little lounge where
      I was watching TV and threw herself down on the couch
      next to me. Startled, I frowned at her, because it was
      pretty obvious she was upset about something. "What's
      wrong?"

      She stared at the television. "Nothing," she
      whispered, and her voice caught. "Everythin's exactly
      how it's supposed to be."

      I may not be into getting emotional and having weepy,
      long-distance-commercial type conversations, but no
      way would I just let that pass. Not coming from her.
      "Marie," I said, and it was the first time I'd ever
      used the name she confided to me up in Canada. Her
      head jerked at the sound and she stared at me with
      huge eyes. "What's wrong?" I repeated.

      She stayed silent for a long minute. "Do you trust
      me?" she finally asked.

      "Sure I do."

      I guess I was a little too casual, a little too
      flippant, because her face clouded even more. She
      wrenched off one glove and held her palm so close to
      my cheek I could feel the heat radiating from her
      flesh. "Do you trust me?" she asked again, and there
      was a glint in her voice that I recognized as far too
      similar to myself, just before I get really pissed.

      "Yes," I told her.

      I didn't. I didn't trust her. I didn't have the
      slightest fucking clue what she was doing, and I
      wasn't all that sure that she did, either. All I knew
      was that somebody, most likely Gambit, had probably
      just driven her close to tears by making the mistake
      of saying no, and I didn't want to make the same
      mistake.

      So I was both reminding myself that Gambit was due for
      some genital subtractions and telling myself exactly
      what kind of bastard I was for lying to her, when her
      hand fluttered and moved to gently rest on my cheek.
      Then things just got weird. Weirder than they already
      were.

      It took me a few seconds to catch up and realize that
      she had touched me, and was still touching me, and
      that I wasn't in a twitching heap on the floor. I
      wasn't even feeling a thing, except for the heat of
      her hand and the way her fingertips were moving,
      scraping lightly into my sideburns.

      And I don't really know why it happened. I looked at
      her and she was staring hard at her own hand, and now
      she really was crying, and her brow was crinkled in
      concentration. And she just looked so damned stunned
      and pleased, through it all, and I couldn't think of a
      single time I'd ever made anyone look like that, and I
      just suddenly twisted my head to the side and caught
      the heel of her palm with my lips.

      She gasped. Her eyes shifted the slight bit necessary
      to meet mine, and they were wet but astonishingly
      alive, and I just kept looking into them as I brought
      my hand up to hold hers to my face and moved my lips
      again, dragging them firmly across her skin. It tasted
      salty and sharp, exactly like a hand should taste
      after escaping the sweaty confines of a glove, and i
      couldn't get enough.

      I wasn't even thinking at all. I didn't realize until
      later how rough I must have been, shoving at her
      sleeve and mouthing her wrist, and she just let her
      eyes slide shut and kept letting out these tiny,
      hiccuping sighs.

      Then she suddenly tensed, and her fingers pressed into
      my neck. "Logan, stop," she gasped. "Logan, you have
      to stop, I can't-- " Her eyes flew open and she
      grimaced, and then yanked her arm away. And it was
      liking waking up; it was like opening my eyes and
      finding my claws in her chest all over again. She was
      staring down at her hand, glistening and wet in her
      lap, and then she looked up at me and her mouth
      trembled. "Logan-- "

      I've felt like an asshole before, but never such a
      huge one. I figured so much for actually enjoying
      being at the school, because this was my one-way
      ticket out. "I'm sorry," I ground out. "Marie, I'm
      sorry. I shouldn't have-- That shouldn't have
      happened."

      She went perfectly still, except to whisper,
      "Shouldn't have..." Her entire face crumbled. "Guess
      you're right," she mumbled, and she got up and ran.

      ***

      I was damn near tempted to just leave. To pack up and
      move on, like usual, before Scott got wind of things
      and killed me, before I found Gambit and made a big,
      stinking hypocrite of myself by killing *him*.

      I almost did. Leave, that is. I went to my room and
      started throwing stuff into a bag, but then I just got
      angry and things were getting way too clear to me.

      Jean was there when I stormed into Xavier's office;
      she jumped in surprise, but I ignored her and glared
      at him. "How long has she been able to touch people?"
      I demanded.

      He just looked at me, calm as ever. "So she decided to
      try. How wonderful."

      "Oh, yeah, just peachy," I growled. "Except I screwed
      it up!" I slammed my fists down, leaning against his
      desk. "How long has that been keeping her happy? How
      long has that been the only hope she's had to go on?"

      Xavier's eyes dulled to a glassy sadness. "She's been
      working towards control for nearly six months now."

      "Godammit!" I snarled. "Nobody said a fucking word-- I
      didn't understand." I straightened up and glanced at
      Jean, who just looked stunned by everything, and then
      back at Xavier. "I have to fix this. Can you tell me
      where she is?"

      He paused, then briefly closed his eyes. "She's in the
      stables. And Logan... this wasn't her *only* hope."

      I actually thought about his cryptic bullshit on my
      way out to the stables, and by the time I found Rogue,
      I thought I had a decent idea of what he meant. I
      still didn't like it; she should have been able to
      have more going for her than the pipe dream of touch
      and one friend she could count on for anything. And
      then I just hated myself even more, because I had
      screwed up her chance to have both at once.

      I found her feeding carrots to one of the horses,
      glove back in place. "Hey," I muttered, coming up
      behind her. "I'm sorry."

      "I heard you the first time."

      "No, this is for that first time. You misunderstood
      me, and I let you, and I'm sorry."

      She turned and gave me a hooded look, her eyes
      swollen. "Huh?"

      "I-- Dammit." I kicked at the dirt. "I screwed up what
      has to be one of the best moments for you in at least
      the past year. That's what I meant. That's *all* I
      meant."

      "You idiot." I blinked at her, surprised. "What if I
      thought it was perfect, just how it was, and what if
      that's what made it one of the best moments of my
      *life*? You big dumb jerk." She laughed bitterly and
      shook her head. "It took me a long time to stop
      dreamin' that maybe, just maybe if you *could*, you'd
      want to-- And you say you shouldn't have? You think
      you *ruined* something?"

      I felt absolutely lost. I hate that feeling. "Then
      why'd you only come to me after Gambit said he didn't
      trust you?"

      She sighed, deep and sad. "I never asked him that,
      Logan. I knew that answer already. He just told me
      that he didn't think that we'd last, that he'd last,
      with no touching."

      I was definitely going to have to track that rat down,
      hypocrisy of no. "Hell, Marie, how am I any
      different?"

      She looked at me like I was crazy, and I went right
      back to being lost. "How have you ever been anything
      but different? You nearly died for me, Logan, and you
      never wanted a thing. Tell me how you were anything
      but."

      I wanted to tell her. I wanted to tell her I wanted a
      lot from her, that I wanted damn near everything from
      her. There just weren't words to say it, and while I
      stood there just staring at her, silent, she fed the
      last carrot to the horse and sighed again. "I'm goin'
      to dinner. We can talk about this later."

      I stood there for a few minutes after she left,
      wondering what the hell I was supposed to do. This was
      part of the reason I kept my relationships pared down
      to random women in random bars. It gets too damn
      complicated when you care.

      Finally, having solved absolutely nothing, I went back
      in, to dinner. She was sitting in her usual place, up
      with Xavier and them, but I saw right away that she
      wasn't saying anything, just poking at her food. I had
      to wonder if she'd sat there purely to prevent me from
      bothering her.

      I'm not much of one to be deterred. I walked right up
      behind Gambit, who was next to her. "You," I said, low
      and right into his ear. "Move now, or I rearrange that
      face you believe is so pretty."

      He stood up and glared at me, but then grabbed his
      plate and moved, and I sat down. I stared at Rogue,
      and she stared at the table. "That wasn't nice," she
      finally mumbled.

      Perfectly aware that everyone in the near vicinity was
      staring at us, I clenched my jaw and spoke quietly.
      "I'm not nice. Why doesn't that bother you?"

      She jerked her head up to look at me. "Because it's
      not true," she snapped. "Why are you doin' this here?"

      "I didn't think you'd let everyone else see you run
      away." Her eyes narrowed and I nearly grinned at how
      she looked, full of pride and anger. "Can you do it
      again?"

      "If I wanted to," she mumbled, and I heard that
      warning in her words, loud and clear. "It's not that
      hard, now that I know that I was doin' somethin'
      right. I just have to work on keepin' it up with less
      concentration. Why?"

      "Just wondered." I glanced at the empty place setting
      in front of me and stood up. "I'm not hungry anymore."

      I caught the look Xavier was giving me as I walked
      out. It wasn't happy. I didn't give a damn.

      ***

      I stayed out of the way after that. I didn't want to
      know what anyone else thought, especially not Xavier
      or Scott. I didn't want to run into Gambit and butt
      heads. And I didn't want to go anywhere near Rogue
      until she gave me some hint that it was what she
      wanted. So I kept to myself, in quiet parts of the
      mansion, and I snuck in meals when the kitchen was
      quiet and deserted.

      I thought about leaving, again. But every time I got
      right to the point of thinking that maybe I should, I
      would start thinking about all sorts of things she'd
      said that made it pretty obvious that the first time
      around, I'd left her with a lot of shit to figure out
      and get over on her own. I couldn't bring myself to
      risk doing that to her again.

      So I just hung around and spent a lot of time
      wondering when I'd become able to be attached with
      outright panicking.

      After four days I was about ready to give up, and
      starting to think that maybe people just don't get
      second chances like this, that maybe while I was off
      hiding, she was off getting over me. Again.

      But then while I was watching TV, just like the last
      time, she came in and flopped right down and didn't
      say a word. I just looked at her-- her face was tense
      and serious, and she stared at the television.
      "Marie," I finally started.

      She cut me off by putting her hand on top of mine,
      where it was resting on my stomach. Her skin was cold,
      so cold I knew she'd been outside, and then I could
      smell the stables on her. And her arm was in an
      awkward position, so I took a chance and shifted,
      lifting her hand and enclosing it between mine, and
      when she didn't pull away,or even make the slightest
      twitch, I started rubbing slow circles into her skin,
      trying to warm it. "Rogue-- "

      "I kinda like Marie, comin' from you," she
      interrupted, and her eyes closed. "Tell me something
      about Canada, okay? Somethin' you haven't told me
      yet."

      I had to think about that for a few minutes; I'd told
      her most of the memorable stuff about my life,
      already. Finally I told her about the woman I'd rented
      the apartment in Ontario from. I told her how Mrs.
      Carron was old and tired and how her weathered face
      always looked on the verge of tears. I told her how I
      didn't she liked her daughter very much, despite how
      much she loved her. I hadn't liked the daughter much,
      either, the one time I'd run into her when I was
      leaving the building. All I could think was that she
      smacked her gum too loudly and wore too much perfume.
      I told her how when I went down to hand over the rent,
      Mrs. Carron's apartment smelled of cigarettes and the
      vague, withered smell of the last dregs of canned
      beer.

      All the while I was still massaging her hand, but when
      I stopped talking, her fingers curled around mine and
      held on. "Have you ever been to Alaska?" she asked
      suddenly.

      "Alaska?"

      "Yeah. That's where I was going, when we met. I never
      told you that?"

      "No. Why Alaska?"

      She shrugged slightly. "I wanted to go. Some people
      dream of Tahiti, or Rome, or Egypt. I thought Alaska
      would be amazing." She paused and her eyes squeezed
      shut a little tighter. "I really wanted to go there,
      especially after I realized my skin was bad. It was
      really important that I experience it. But I never
      made it."

      "It gets cold," I told her. "Cold, and dark, and there
      aren't a whole ton of women around. And yeah. It's
      cold."

      She smiled. "I like the cold. You can feel it, all the
      way down to your bones... Is it pretty? If you had to
      call Alaska pretty or ugly, which would it be?"

      I didn't feel like telling her that there wasn't much
      in the world that was all of anything, one way or
      another. So I equivocated. "It has a lot of pretty
      places. A lot of open space."

      "Yeah," she mumbled. "I hope I get to go someday."

      "You will," I told her, and I meant it. "I'll make
      sure you get there."

      Her fingers tightened around mine. "There you go
      again," she said, and her voice was light and happy,
      "makin' promises."

      "Still our secret?"

      She opened her eyes and smiled over at me. "Yeah."

      A few minutes later she said her head was hurting and
      she took her hand away, pulling a glove from her
      pocket. I could almost see her letting whatever focus
      it was she had, drop, and she looked at the clock.
      "It's time for lunch," she announced. "You comin'?"

      I shook my head. All I wanted to do was sit there and
      remember how warm and alive her hand had finally felt.
      "I'll be at dinner, though. Okay?"

      With a slight nod, she got up and left. I spent the
      rest of the afternoon staring at the television and
      not seeing much of anything. And I did go to dinner,
      and I saw that Gambit was pretty far down the table
      and that the seat next to Rogue was empty. I had to
      smile at that; it pleased the hell out of me.

      ***

      Things were pretty much like that for awhile. Quiet,
      and nice, and basically up to Rogue. She took to
      finding me every morning, whatever I was doing, and
      what I was doing would determine how it would go. If I
      was sitting around she would settle in a few feet away
      and I would just massage her hands while we talked.
      And if I was working, I'd just keep on working and
      we'd talk like that, and when she left me alone she
      would give me a tight hug that always pressed her
      cheek right up against my neck.

      Once I realized that pattern, I started balancing what
      I did with my mornings. Because much as I loved when
      she got so close I could feel the heat of her breath
      on my shoulder, I didn't want to lose the days I got
      to hold on long enough to almost convince myself I
      wouldn't have to let go.

      And that was it. Carefully innocent touches, and
      talking. We talked a lot, about everything *except*
      the touching. I didn't bring it up, and she didn't,
      either; we just did it. It went like that for a few
      weeks-- I thought I had her all figured out. I thought
      I knew exactly what was happening, and that no matter
      what she had said, she needed to build up her trust
      for me again. I was okay with that, too. I wasn't
      about to launch over the boundaries. Not again.

      But, in her own typical way, she yanked me right out
      of what I thought. We were in the garage and I was
      tinkering with one of the cars,and she was sitting up
      on one of the work counters, talking about how she
      wasn't very excited about Christmas. Then after she
      said something about how it was probably just one of
      the things too closely associated with home, and when
      she was normal, she fell silent for a few minutes.

      I was about to ask her to hand me a clean ran when she
      blurted, "I think you should get on with it and kiss
      me soon, or I'm just gonna explode."

      I straightened up so fast, it was a damn good thing I
      remembered the engine hood, or I'd have knocked myself
      out. "Say that again?"

      "I said," she stared determinedly, but she turned
      bright red and her knuckles were white where her fists
      clutched a wrench. "I said... Well, aren't you done
      feelin' like a jerk yet? I thought, you know, if I
      could make you *see* why you're important, you'd stop
      thinkin' I was mad, or upset, or anything... And I
      just can't do it anymore." She looked up and there was
      a defiant glint in her eyes. "Don't get me wrong, I
      like holdin' your hand and all, but that's not all I'm
      interested in."

      I really hate to think of what would have happened if
      I had laughed right then, which I almost did. Not
      because she was being funny, or because I was amused;
      I don't think she'd ever been more serious, and
      amusement was not high on my list of feelings. But
      everything she said sank in, and the immediate
      reaction was to either laugh, or kick myself. Really,
      really hard, either one.

      I didn't do either. I just stared at her, and that
      probably wasn't helping because she just got redder
      and redder. "Marie..." I said, and it came out low and
      rough as I stepped towards her. "I can't."

      Her eyes narrowed. "And just why not?"

      I felt really helpless all of a sudden. "Because," I
      growled, and I reached her and hoped she was
      concentrating. I didn't care how greasy my hands were;
      I wanted to touch her. I took the wrench away and took
      her hands and smudged then, and I reminded myself to
      show her the special soap, because I didn't like the
      thought of her making her skin raw. "Because we're in
      the garage, dammit."

      She swallowed so hard I could hear it. "So?"

      "So you couldn't have gotten pushy on me somewhere
      that doesn't smell like gas and exhaust?"

      She glared at my faint grin. "I'm not pushy."

      "No?"

      "No." And I'd never even thought she had it in her to
      get such a devilish look on her face. "Really, I'm
      not," she said, softer now.

      I really hate figuring out I'm in for it a second too
      late. And I was a goner, here. She twisted one hand
      from my grasp and caught the front of my shirt, and
      she started tugging me closer. "See?" she teased. "Not
      pushing."

      "Marie..."

      "Still not pushing." She got me so close our noses
      were nearly touching and then let go of my shirt and
      let her hand fall back into her lap again. "You gonna
      do this, or am I?"

      So I kissed her. Just a quick movement and there she
      was, right there, here mouth soft and dry against
      mine, and her fingers gripped mine tightly. I shifted
      a little and leaned in, and kissed her again.

      And I kept kissing her. She wasn't remarkably
      different from any other woman I've kissed, but there
      were little things, so many little things that added
      up to one big impact. The way all her courage seemed
      to be used up, so her grip on my hands got tighter and
      tighter; the way she drew in a sharp breath through
      her nose when I pulled her lower lip out and sucked
      gently on it; the way she tasted like hints of
      medicated lip balm because it was December and she'd
      told me once how her lips just didn't agree about the
      cold weather feeling nice.

      But the killer was when I untangled one hand to touch
      her cheek and nudged her teeth apart with my tongue;
      she started trembling and then that was it, as far as
      it could go. She pulled back and I nodded and took my
      hands away, and she smiled sheepishly. "Sorry," she
      offered, but just sounded dazed.

      Then I did have to laugh. Her cheeks were flushed and
      there was an echo of a greasy handprint on one, and
      her eyes were blazing and wide. I'd never seen anyone
      look so innocent and debauched at the same time. And
      she just watched me with that vague smile, and when I
      settled and shot her a lazy grin, she nodded in that
      tiny little way that was *mine*.

      And maybe it's a little narcissistic, but I could see
      how totally intertwined we were, how I'd affected her
      and how that affected me, and it just made me even
      crazier for her. When she slipped off the counter and
      wrapped her arms around me, pressing her face safely
      against my shirt, I took a long time letting her go.

      Then I showed her the soap, and later I laughed at
      imagining the looks people would have gotten if I'd
      let her wander around with my hand imprinted on her
      face. They just wouldn't understand.

      ***

      That's pretty much where we still are with each other,
      except that there's so much more. She'll look at me
      sometimes and chew her lip and I won't be able to find
      any sad hopes in her eyes. And now she's not fooling
      anyone; now it's not all hinged on longing and dreams.
      It's real now, and I believe more than ever that
      reality can actually be pretty damn nice.

      The actual touching is what's sort of the same. She
      got pretty good, pretty fast, at clamping down on
      whatever it was she identified as causing the whole
      energy-sucking deal, and soon if I surprised her by
      turning up somewhere I wasn't supposed to be, she only
      needed a second or two before I could get my fingers
      tangled in the hair at her neck and kiss her
      breathless.

      It's taking longer for her to figure out how to keep
      it all clamped down, though. Like water behind a dam--
      everything starts building up in her mind and
      eventually she breaks, and it takes awhile to be able
      to block it all off again.

      There was a point where I started figuring that maybe
      there wasn't a problem, that maybe she knew how to do
      it but needed that excuse to fall back on when I got
      to be too much for her and things were too fast. And
      that didn't bother me, thinking that; I've never found
      myself so willing to accept damn near anything from
      someone.

      But I stopped thinking it, because one day I went to
      her room right before breakfast and she grinned and
      pulled me inside, and a few minutes later she was
      pressed against the wall and I couldn't get enough of
      her. And I had my hands under her shirt, rubbing rough
      circles against her back, and I guess it was maybe too
      much-- I'd never been in her room before, and my hands
      were on her and her hands were on me and it was just
      all about being wrapped around each other. And so we
      were a little too wrapped, because she didn't realize
      her control was slipping until too late, and she got a
      third dose of me and my screwed-up head.

      She yanked her hands and mouth away as soon as she
      felt the connection open, but it took me a second
      longer to extract my hands, and that second was
      enough. My knees buckled and I had to brace myself
      against the wall to keep from falling, and when I
      looked at her, her eyes were wide and full of tears.
      She started bubbling apologies and the tears spilled
      over, and I hated myself for ever thinking she would
      use her affliction as an excuse.

      I cut her off by asking if she was okay. She nodded
      and I nodded back, and I was still pressing her
      against the wall. She felt flushed even through her
      clothes; I put my hand back on her, over material, and
      when she just trembled stiffly I started unbuttoning
      her shirt.

      "Logan," she choked out.

      "Hey. Trust me?"

      She hesitated and nodded again, and I knew she was
      lying like I'd lied to her. So I showed her we'd both
      been wrong and I showed her that the world didn't end
      with flesh. I pushed her shirt open and thanked God
      for flimsy underwear, and after I pulled her skirt up
      and found out that cotton tights have a good amount of
      give to them, she was still trembling but she wasn't
      apologizing anymore.

      We didn't make it to breakfast that day. She told me a
      little later, sitting in a slumped heap in my arms
      right there on the floor, "Me, too, ya know."

      I just grunted at her in confusion, and she rubbed my
      knee. "All that stuff you've got locked up inside, all
      that stuff you feel and can't tell me 'cause you don't
      know the words, and don't want to let it out any other
      way that perfect? Me, too."

      I burned with shame and pulled her closer. "I would've
      told you," I muttered.

      "No, not all of it." She twisted her head up to look
      at me. "But that's okay. There actually aren't words
      for some things."

      "But you get the picture?"

      "Yeah," she said softly. "And it looks just perfect."

      ***

      She told me the other day she wants to go to school
      next year. I think she was worried about saying it,
      worried about what I'd say. I just told that wherever
      she chose to go, there had better be a few decent bars
      around or I'd be pissed. When she understood what I
      was saying, she blushed and smiled and looked away.
      "Professor Xavier won't like that."

      "Planning on taking him along?"

      She laughed. "No."

      "Then so?" Then I got serious and made her look at me.
      "I won't be there all the time, you know."

      She sighed. "I know. You're gettin' restless now,
      too."

      "And if I leave?"

      "Then I'll miss you," she said simply. "And later
      you'll come back, and eventually we'll figure
      somethin' out that works for us both."

      So I'm gonna take off soon, for at least a few weeks.
      But she's right and I'll be back, because I have to be
      back, and after she gets everything worked out for
      school, I think I'll take her to Alaska. It'll be
      summer, but something I've never told her is that
      Alaska is beautiful all year round.

      **end**















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