1. the first appearance of light in the sky before sunrise.
2. the beginning or rise of something
1. to begin to be perceived or understood
I've been wandering the grounds all afternoon. Rogue still isn't back yet. There's a lot going through my mind; all the things the Professor said about her and how she took a different path to get here. So much of our shared history gone. Not just the big things, like how we met, or the night I saved her life on the Statue of Liberty. Little things. Things I never gave much thought to because they just...were.
The easy way we could always talk to each other, natural as breathing. The way we could be together and not talk at all, and that was ok, too. I'd watch the game on TV and she'd lay on the floor of my room and study all evening. Or sometimes we'd both be itching to get out of the mansion, so we'd spend the afternoon wandering the woods. Found a secret spot that way, an old weeping willow tree by a bubbling stream. She'd climb up to sit on a low branch, leaning with her back against the trunk, legs swinging while she softly hummed a song to herself, and I'd lay at the foot of the tree with a cowboy hat over my eyes, dozing off to the sounds of the stream, the birds, her voice.
I remember the pranks we used to play on people around the mansion; Scott and Kurt were our two favorite victims. God, the shit we used to pull, I still can't believe we got away with that stuff.
I remember all those mornings she would drag me out of bed and up to the roof at the ass-crack of dawn to watch a sunrise with her because nobody else would. She always made up for it by bringing a basket with all my favorite foods for breakfast. And a good cigar.
I wasn't always around, but when I was, somehow we always ended up together, like two peas in a pod. Yeah, I chased after Jean any chance I got, and I did my share of running around with the barflies and fight groupies when I wasn't out hunting for my past. But when I came back, she was the one who made it feel like coming home.
My thoughts are interrupted when I catch Rogue's scent and realize that I've ended up outside of her door. I don't even remember returning to the mansion.
I wonder if she's in there. If she is, I wonder if she'll let me in, or even talk to me at all. I take deep breath and raise my hand to knock.
"She's still not back yet, brah," Jubilee informs me as she breezes by. "Haven't seen her since dinner yesterday." I watch her hop down the stairs and disappear around the corner.
I drop my hand to my side and look at the door again. I've never been in her room before, I realize; she has always come to my room. It feels kind of strange standing here, almost like I'm...intruding or something, even though I'm on the outside. I should just go back to my room for now, but I can't seem to make myself move from the spot.
There's a part of me that wants to go in, even though she's not there. Just for a minute. Maybe get a little peek into her life, and then leave. I know I shouldn't, but my hand is already reaching for the doorknob. I'll look around without touching anything, just for a few minutes, I tell myself.
I walk in and close the door quietly. The room is filled with her familiar scent, enveloping me like a warm blanket, and I close my eyes. After a moment I open them again and take in my surroundings.
Bed is made neatly, with the standard issue linens that the school provides; nothing frilly or fluffy, or piled up with pillows like some women like to have. No pictures on display, and only a few personal items lying around, just necessities like a hairbrush and some toiletries. The room is actually pretty sparse, almost like it's barely lived in.
I walk over to the closet and slide open the door. Like the bed, it's a neat, no frills closet. Some familiar outfits hang in the front, but not enough to even fill half of the space available. In the bottom of the closet, a couple pairs of shoes and a pair of leather boots. And that's pretty much it. I reach out my hand and brush my fingers across Rogue's clothes hanging there, remembering the morning that I dressed her, and for a moment, I can almost imagine feeling the warmth of her breast as I buttoned her shirt.
I'm about to turn away when I spot something tucked in the back of the closet.
Crouching down, I reach into the dark corner and pull it out. An old green duffle bag, similar to the one she had when I met her. The familiar sight of that duffle bag takes me right back to that day, and my heart twists a little in my chest. (Where am I supposed to go?) I don't know. (You don't know or you don't care?) Pick one...
I run my fingers along the olive green fabric, remembering. Everything she had in the world was in that bag. So alone, just like I was.
My fingers find the zipper, and slowly pull it open. Inside, the bag is stuffed with clothes and all the essentials that one would need to hit the road at a moment's notice. Packed and ready for running, just in case. My heart sinks a little, knowing that she still feels the need to keep a bag ready like this. That she still doesn't feel safe enough. That she doesn't feel like she belongs.
I sigh and close the zipper. I'm about to stuff the bag back into the closet, when I hear a faint metallic rattling sound from somewhere inside the bag. My curiosity is piqued; I shouldn't look into her personal belongings any further...but I'm in it now, I rationalize. If I'm going to do something wrong, I guess I might as well do it right.
After opening the bag again and rooting around, I find a hidden pocket. I reach inside, and as I slowly pull out the object and hold it up to the light, I realize what it is and almost choke. It's a set of dog tags...just like mine. Only they're not mine. Mine are tucked away in my dresser in an old cigar box, where I found them after I woke up in the new timeline. Where did she get these?
I lower the tags into the palm of my hand, and stare at the names. One tag is etched with the name "Danvers". Who the hell is Danvers? Was he a boyfriend? Then I look at the name on the other tag, and my heart stops. "Rogue". What the fuck?
How did she get these tags? Were they issued by the Canadian military? That's not possible, since Rogue isn't a citizen. I know what they resemble, but--no...I don't want to believe it. I shake my head; it can't be. There is only one place where she could have gotten tags like these. The implication hits me like a ton of bricks, and suddenly my head is swimming with a hundred different questions.
I don't know what to think. I feel numb as I tuck the tags back into the pocket and zip the bag closed. How do I even begin to approach Rogue about this?
Just then, I hear a stumbling sound coming from the window. I quickly shove the bag to the back of the closet and close the door. Rogue is back. She wobbles as she climbs in through the window and almost loses her balance before finally planting her feet on the floor. She doesn't even flinch when she sees me.
"How sweet," she says with a smile. "You been waitin' up for me, sugar?"
She throws her jacket onto the chair and saunters closer to me, her body very loose and relaxed as she sways her hips. She's drunk. She smells like whiskey, Southern Comfort to be exact, but not like she's been hanging out at a dingy bar. More like fresh air, with a faint scent on her clothes that almost smells like...copper?
"I was worried about you."
She cups my face with her hands for a moment, pouting and then smiling at me like I'm a puppy or something. "Aw, now that's just adorable." She slides her arms around my neck as she presses her body against me and begins nuzzling my neck.
I take her arms off my shoulders and hold her hands to my chest. "Where did you go?"
"Out," she replies.
"Just out." I raise my eyebrow at her. "Care to elaborate?"
She says nothing for a moment, but then to my surprise, her eyes change color...and now they're green.
"Flying has always helped me clear my mind," she answers. Her southern drawl is gone, replaced by something resembling a New England accent. "Rogue, on the other hand, likes to fly, but when it gets really bad, she adds her own way of dealing with things, if you catch my drift." She holds an imaginary bottle and makes a drinking motion with her hand.
I'm taken aback by the sudden change in her voice and mannerisms. "Rogue?"
"The name's Carol. And I've got my eye on you, bub." She pokes my chest with her finger to emphasize her words.
I stand there, mute. Clearly the person talking to me is a personality that Rogue absorbed somewhere along the way. Before I can fully process this new piece of information, Rogue is back.
"Mmm, I missed you, sugar. Did you miss me?" She glides her hands up my chest and then plays with the collar. I look at her for a long moment, searching her face, and I wonder if she remembers what happened last night.
"I did miss you," I admit. "And...I need to apologize."
"Apologize for what?" She asks as she slips my jacket off and tosses it aside. She doesn't seem to remember what happened; that or she's pretending she doesn't remember. Either way, I need to get this off of my chest.
"For last night...for the things I said. The way I acted. I shouldn't have forced myself on you like that."
She pauses for a moment, her eyes downcast, and I can see the flicker of a memory pass over her face. She gathers herself quickly and looks up with a smile.
"Aw, that's all right, sug. Don't worry about it. I kinda like it rough sometimes." She winks at me coyly.
"Listen to me," I say softly as I take her face in my hands. "Rough can be good. But not when it's done out of anger. I was wrong to treat you that way, and I'm sorry." Her eyes lift to mine, and for a moment it seems like I've gotten through to her. There's hurt in her eyes, but there's also a hint of something else; she looks...touched. I stroke her cheek with my thumb, wanting so much for her to know how much I truly mean it. Suddenly she seems uncomfortable. Almost like the sincerity is too much to bear. She puts on a forced smile, and just like that, the moment is gone.
"You know what the real problem is? People get too wrapped up in emotions all the time. They confuse sex with love; it makes them say and do things they don't really mean." She begins unbuttoning my jeans. "It's best to keep things simple and uncomplicated."
"Rogue, darlin'---wait." I still her hands. "What are you doing?"
"Accepting your apology," she replies, pushing my hands aside and going for my jeans again. "Besides, you were right. This was what I came for that first night."
"I don't believe that." I still her hands again, but she simply moves them up and begins unbuttoning my shirt. "Darlin' stop...I know that's not true."
She pauses to strip off her shirt, then grabs my hand and places it on her breast, pressing her fingers over mine to knead her warm flesh. Instinctively my thumb brushes over the lacy material, sweeping over the hardened bump of her nipple, and she moans softly.
"Mmmm, it is true." She leans in, nuzzling my neck again. "You know I want this," she whispers in my ear. "Can't you smell it on me?" I feel a prick of pain when I hear my own words coming back to me from her mouth. But she's not lying.
I try not to take in her scent, but I can't help myself; she smells so damn good. The scent of her arousal goes straight to my cock, and I'm instantly hard.
I need to get hold on this, because it's not the right time. I close my eyes, exhaling with a rumble, trying desperately to tamp down my own arousal. By the time I open my eyes again, she has her pants off. She grabs my hand again, pressing it in between her legs, and God help me, her panties are soaking wet. Shit.
"Rogue, baby stop..." I put my hands on her waist and hold her back from me a few inches. "This isn't what I came for."
"Hmm, are you sure, Logan? I may not have your enhanced senses, but this doesn't lie." She puts her hand on my erection and presses it firmly. She begins stroking me through my jeans, and God, I nearly rip the rest of her clothes off to take her right then and there. Yes...Wait, no. Fuck!
"Darlin', please. This isn't the right time. We really need to talk right now."
She gets down on her knees and opens my jeans, and fuck, I realize that I'm still going commando from last night. She takes my aching cock in her hand and strokes it eagerly, and my eyes roll back from the sensation.
"Darlin'," I stammer. "You don't have to do this."
"Mmm, yes I do," she says with a smile, licking her lips.
God, I am so tempted to just let her take me into her mouth. To watch those beautiful lips wrap around my cock and suck it until I come so hard I'm seeing stars.
The temptation is strong; it would be so easy to fall back into a physical relationship with her...but where would that leave us emotionally? We had a deep friendship in the old timeline, but not a physical relationship. Now, we have a physical relationship...but is that all we have? I think there's more to us than that, but it needs time to grow. I want more than just the physical. I want it all.
"Rogue---stop. Please..." I manage to gently push her hands away and tuck myself back into my jeans.
She looks up at me in surprise, and suddenly her eyes turn green. She looks pissed.
"You've been fucking with her all this time, Logan. Why stop now?" It's Carol again.
"Just...not like this," I say quietly. I help her up onto her feet, then pick up my jacket and place it gently over her shoulders. She watches me with uncertain eyes as I tuck a white lock of hair behind her ear.
"When did you become such a boy scout?" Her words are meant to be sarcastic, but the tone of her voice doesn't quite carry the harshness to match.
"I'm no boy scout," I grumble. "And I've been fucking her, but not fucking with her. There's a distinction."
She raises her chin. "Not when you're pretending to love her."
Her words are like cold water thrown on my face. I stand there, looking at her with no response.
She closes her eyes, and when she opens them, they're brown again. Rogue is back. She begins to sway a little, and as she steps toward me, she stumbles into my arms.
She looks up at me with a tired smile. "Hey sugar."
"C'mon, darlin'. Let me take you to bed; you need to sleep now." I pick her up and carry her over to her bed.
"Don't leave me here alone, Logan," she mumbles. "Stay."
"I'm not going anywhere, darlin'."
I kick off my boots and climb onto the bed with Rogue still in my arms, then sit with my back against the headboard. Rogue curls up in my lap and tucks her face into my chest.
She sleeps quietly, but after a few minutes, she lifts her head. "What time is it? I have things I need to do," she says sleepily. She tries to get up.
"Shhh...they're not important. Just let me hold you," I say softly, pulling her closer.
"I'm so tired, Logan."
"Sleep baby. I've got you."
I rub her back until she closes her eyes and drifts off. After a few moments I feel her stirring again.
"What did you mean when you said we've known each other since Laughlin City?"
My hand stills. "I...made a mistake. In the heat of the moment, I just...I was all mixed up inside, darlin'. It was only a dream."
She looks up at me with sleepy eyes. "You dream about me?"
I look down at her beautiful face, so innocent and trusting, and for a moment, I'm painfully reminded of the Marie I held so long ago on that train the night she ran away. I swallow and nod.
"All the time."
"Yeah?" She smiles softly, then lays her head on my chest and sighs. "I dream about you, too." Her eyes slowly close and she drifts off again.
"Don't hurt her, Logan," warns Carol. "She's had enough heartache for one lifetime."
There's a little twist in my heart when I hear her words. I look down again, but Rogue's eyes are still closed.
"I won't hurt her," I say finally. "I'm going to take care of her."
Everything is quiet for a moment, and then I hear it.
"You promise?" The words are spoken so softly, I can't tell this time if it's Rogue or Carol talking. But it doesn't matter. I'm making a promise to Rogue, to Carol, and myself...and this time, I'm keeping it.
I kiss her head softly and press my lips to her temple. "I promise," I whisper into her hair.
. . .
. . .
The light of dawn filters in through the window, and I look down at Rogue; she looks like an angel resting peacefully in my arms.
We made it until the morning. We've never done this before, just holding each other all night. We've fallen asleep together after making love plenty of times, and I would always hold her for a little while, but she never stayed the night. And we've never gotten together without it eventually leading to sex.
This is something different, and it makes me feel...hopeful. Like maybe we can start all over again and build something even stronger than we had before.
She's beginning to stir. I watch the slow flutter of her eyelashes as she opens her eyes.
"Hey," she says softly, a little smile touching her lips.
"Hey." I smile back at her. This is nice; I could definitely get used to waking up like this every day.
We say nothing for a moment, our eyes locked in an intense gaze, until she bites her lip and looks away shyly. This...this is definitely something different.
"Um, did I...sleep on your lap all night?"
Her forehead wrinkles as she recalls the events from last night. "I was totally drunk, wasn't I?
"Did we..." She bites her lip again.
She looks down at herself, noting her bra and panties which are still intact, then realizes she is wearing my jacket. She suddenly looks embarrassed.
"But I totally threw myself at you, didn't I?" She searches my face as I try to keep my expression neutral. "No...more like I forced myself on you. You were just trying to talk to me, and..." She covers her mouth with a little gasp. "I ripped your pants open and grabbed your..." Her face scrunches up in embarrassment. "Oh God..."
"Hey, hey...don't worry about it. It's ok." I lift her chin with my finger. "It's ok." She hesitantly meets my eyes. I tuck a white lock of hair behind her ear and caress her cheek. "I know the effect I have on women. They can't help themselves," I say with a serious face.
She gasps in surprise and lightly smacks my arm. "Oh, you!" I smirk and she rolls her eyes. "The arrogance," she mutters.
"Hey, I'm not arrogant. I'm just stating the facts."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. You're God's gift to women, blah blah blah," she says with a wave of her hand. I raise my eyebrow at her, and she smirks back at me before sitting up for a stretch. "Mmm, what time is it anyway?"
"Don't know. Why, you got more things and stuff waiting for you?"
She narrows her eyes at me and huffs in mock indignation, but there is a little smile tugging at the corner of her lips. "Maybe."
"Too bad," I rumble, pulling her closer. "You're mine now. I'm not letting you get away this time, so whatever they are, they'll have to keep waiting."
"Is that so?" She says with an amused smile.
"That's so," I say, smiling back at her. We gaze into each other's eyes for a long moment, and I don't know why, but it's almost like a sort of calm washes over us.
My smile fades and I look at her solemnly. "I'm sorry about the other night."
A flash of regret passes through her eyes. "Me too."
I shake my head. "Darlin', don't apologize. You have nothing to be sorry for."
She nods, then drops her gaze for a moment. "Well...I did trash your dresser. And the mirror," she says with a sheepish smile.
We both start chuckling at that. "Yeah, you did. Ok, you're right; you need to apologize for that."
"I'm sorry," she says, still smiling.
"Damn straight you are. Don't let it happen again."
"Ah won't, sugar, just as long as you don't go pissin' me off again," she replies in an exaggerated Southern accent. We both chuckle again, but then the laughter fades to an awkward silence as we remember our conversation that night.
"I'm not sorry for saying that I loved you." I look into her eyes without hesitation or apology.
"I'm not sorry," I say firmly. "But, maybe it was too soon." She looks at me, uncertainly mixed with longing in her deep brown eyes. "I do care for you a lot, though, so maybe we can just...slow things down a bit. Take things one step at a time."
She releases a breath and nods. "Ok. One step at a time sounds good."
She lays her head against my shoulder and I pull her closer.
"I've been thinking about it, and maybe slowing things down a bit means more than just the...I don't know, the emotional part of it I guess. Maybe we ought to slow things down a bit in the physical department, too."
She looks up and stares at me, her eyebrows furrowed. "Are you saying that we should...stop having sex?"
"I don't know. Maybe." I shrug my shoulders. "Maybe we kind of put the cart before the horse, you know what I mean?"
I can't believe I'm saying this, even as the words leave my mouth. But I have to keep reminding myself of the end game, here. I want it all--love and sex and friendship, and everything we had in the old timeline on top of what we have now; and the only way I'm going to get Rogue to understand that I love her is if she realizes that there is so much more to us than the sex.
"Uh huh. So you're saying you want to court me properly now, like maybe you want to make an honest woman out of me someday?" She giggles and bites her lip.
"I'm saying maybe we need time to let things grow without the distraction of sex in the mix." God, what am I saying? This is so un-Wolverine-like, telling a woman that we should hold off on sex. End game, Logan. Remember the end game...
"You're really serious about this," she says with a tone of disbelief.
"Yeah, I guess I kind of am."
"You think you can actually...go without...while we start dating for real?"
"Well, I didn't say that I'd be going without," I reply with a 'well duh' kind of tone. "I just said that maybe we should stop having sex for a while." I look at her with a serious expression and wait for it.
"Oh! You arrogant bastard!" She smacks my arm again. "Be serious!"
"Alright, alright," I chuckle. "I'm just teasin'. But yeah, I can go without."
"Really. And for how long? A day? Two days?"
"As long as it takes, darlin'." I flash a cocky smile at her.
"As long as it takes for what?"
"Just as long as it takes. That's all I'm sayin'."
"Hmph. You know what I think?" She crosses her arms and looks me directly in the eye. "I think you're all brag and bluster."
"Is that so?"
"That's so, Sugar. I think you wouldn't last through the weekend, is what I think."
"Oh, is that what you think?"
"That's what I think."
"Well you would be wrong. I'll have you know, missy, that when it comes to sex, my self-control is unparalleled."
"Oh really?" She replies with an eyebrow cocked. "Unparalleled? That's a pretty strong word."
"Yeah, really. I can be damn sex camel if I need to be."
She laughs at that. "A sex camel? Oh Lordy, now I've heard everything."
"That's right, darlin'. I bet I could outlast you; in fact, if we do this I bet you'll be beggin' for it before I do."
Her chin drops and she huffs as she stares at me. "Oh, now see there? Now your mouth is writing checks that you can't cash. There is no way that would ever happen."
"No? Well why don't just start today and find out, if you're so sure."
She pauses for a second, with just a hint of hesitation in her eyes. "Alright, mister sex camel, you're on," she says finally. "We'll see what's what when all's said and done."
"All right then. Good," I say with a nod.
We look at each other for long moment, saying nothing. As we sit there thinking about what we've just agreed to, the reality sinks in and it's apparent that we've stumbled into new territory. The silence becomes awkward, and she looks away, suddenly shy again.
"Hey," I say softly, caressing her back. "You ok?"
She looks up at me and nods. "Yeah...I think so," she says with a slightly hopeful tone. "Are we really doing this?"
"I think it's worth a try. Don't you? It might be a good thing."
A little smile pulls at the corner of her mouth. "Yeah...I think it might be a good thing."
I smile back at her, and we go quiet again. Suddenly, her stomach growls loudly, breaking the silence. We both chuckle at the interruption, and she blushes.
"I guess we should probably go to breakfast," she says sheepishly.
"Heh, yeah, I guess so." She moves to get up, and I reluctantly let her go.
"Wait," I say, and she turns around. I stand up and take her hand, pulling her back to me. "I have an idea. You stay here and just relax. I'll be right back."
She smiles, curiosity written on her face. "Ok..."
"Give me 10 minutes. Don't go anywhere." I kiss her chastely on the lips, then slip on my boots and head for the door.
"Logan?" She calls after me.
"Yeah, darlin'?" I pause in the doorway and look back.
"I...I care about you, too." I stand there, stunned by her admission. She fidgets and bites her lip nervously. "I just wanted you to know that. It...it goes both ways..."
She looks like she's ready to bolt again. But I don't give her the chance. Striding over to her, I take her face in my hands and kiss her with all the tenderness and passion that I can show her. She makes a small sound of contentment in her throat as her fingers curl into my shirt. I finish by nibbling on her lower lip before pulling back to look into her eyes.
"Wait here, darlin'," I say softly. "I'll be back for this."
. . .
. . .