Four weeks later, Rogue found herself ready to join the team again in their daily training sessions without worrying about looking like an untrained idiot. Though, if she was really being honest with herself, four weeks was the amount of time it took her to finally trust herself to be around Wolverine without acting like an idiot. Looking back to the incident in the hallway with Wolverine, she couldn’t entirely blame the situation on the bourbon. No, she had finally admitted to herself that she was deeply attracted to him. Wolverine’s appeal was a kind of raw, animalistic attraction, which was completely different than the feelings Remy evoked in her. Remy was polished and smooth, he treated her like she was delicate and precious. And there was no question he was an experienced lover who knew exactly what he was doing. But there was a wildness she saw in Wolverine that was calling to something deep inside her. A part of her which she’d either ignored, forgotten, or never known existed. That part of her held something powerful and dangerous in its intensity, and it was that, Rogue reflected, that scared her so much.
In the four weeks since she’d been at the X-Men’s cabin in Canada, she had asked Charles if he’d been able to locate Rift every day. And every day, for four weeks, he responded with sad eyes and apologized that he’d not been able to sense his presence. Rogue wouldn’t let the lack of development in finding a way home get to her, though. She busied herself with continuing to delve deeper into the history of this world, convinced that she would be able to find some clue as to Rift’s whereabouts. She asked endless questions of the Professor, Jean, and Scott. And Kitty had been a veritable gold mine of information. But so far, Rogue hadn’t learned or discovered anything new that would point toward a way home.
One person she hadn’t sought out was Wolverine. In fact, she had gone out of her way to try and avoid him as much possible, a fact which he seemed to be far too eager to comply with after their encounter in the hallway outside of Charles’ office.
When she’d finally shown up for training with the rest of the team, at ten o’clock, sharp, Wolverine had only acknowledged her presence with a brief nod, and then gone about arranging the day’s training structure. She told herself she was fine with his reaction. After all, she was the one who’d told him to back off and stay away. He paired her up with Kitty and Bobby for a good deal of the day’s training, and they did a damn fine job in guiding her through basic defensive blocks and maneuvers under the ever watchful eye of Wolverine. He barked out a few words of guidance while Rogue repeated the same moves over and over again until Kitty and Bobby thought she’d mastered one of the techniques.
Rogue felt Wolverine’s eyes on her nearly the entire time, but he made no move to interrupt the rhythm she had going with Kitty and Bobby. He didn’t even address her directly, instead meeting her eyes only briefly at the end of the training session when he dismissed everyone for the day. She’d gone to the women’s locker room with the others and told herself she was happy that he was finally respecting her boundaries.
The first day after a full training session with Wolverine and the rest of the team, she thought she was going to die. Muscles, long since dormant, flared to life with the stress and strain of training. She felt completely out of her element, but she loved every minute of it. She finally felt as though she was fulfilling a purpose. Though she loved helping new mutants adjust to life at Xavier’s, she also felt as though she hadn’t been playing an active enough roll, hadn’t felt like she’d contributed to the team. The training she was doing now made her feel, finally, like she belonged with the X-Men. She knew she was still leagues behind the others, but day by day she felt herself getting stronger, more confident, and more sure of her movements. She was glad she hadn’t let her reservations about Wolverine prevent her from coming to training. And she understood now why the Professor hadn’t wanted her to leave. If the remaining X-Men trained like this every day, it had to be for a reason.
Another month passed and the weather grew colder. Snow fell frequently until the mountains surrounding them were buried under a thick layer of white, and soon Rogue fell into a pattern. Wake up. Eat a big breakfast. Avoid making eye contact with Wolverine. Get her ass kicked during training. Try to ignore Wolverine’s amazing physical presence. Shower. Lunch. Pry as much knowledge and history about this world from her fellow X-Men as she could before they got annoyed with her repeated questions. Follow up with Charles regarding any updates on Rift. Dinner. Meditate. Avoid thinking about what kind of sex life Wolverine and this Rogue had. Fall into bed and hope she didn’t have any nightmares. Even if she didn’t know how to get home, she at least knew what to expect every day.
Then, Wolverine mixed up the training schedule.
“Alright. Everyone, listen up. Today we’re going to do a round-robin.” The other team members around Rogue groaned, and she looked at them, confused. What the hell is round-robin? She thought.
“Everyone gets a go with everyone else for three rounds,” He paused and made eye contact with Rogue then. “Including me,” and she felt goosebumps break out over her skin. “Standard skirmish rules apply. No powers, no choking, clean hits only. All fighting styles are game. For each round your goal is to get your opponent to the mat. Team member that does the best two out of three rounds, wins. Two minute rounds, unless one of you gets the other down, then the round is over. The person that does best overall, excluding myself, doesn’t have to run the five miles on the treadmill after.”
Everyone groaned again, including Rogue, and he ignored them as he continued the instruction. “Everyone turn to your left. That’s your first opponent. Drake, you’re with me first.”
Rogue watched Bobby’s reaction to facing Wolverine first, and he seemed to pale a little bit. Rogue turned to her left and found herself paired up with Ellie. She gulped a bit at the thought. She’d been watching Ellie over the past month she’d been training with the team. Ellie was a really fast and smart fighter. She didn’t hold back at all, and seemed to have this explosive energy that she kept a tight rein on, though Rogue could sense it bubbling just beneath the surface. She rather liked Ellie outside of training. She was a few years younger than the rest of the team members, and was a bit sullen and broody at times, but it all seemed to fit her somehow.
Wolverine barked the start of the round and Rogue prepared herself to spar with Ellie. They faced off and circled each other for a bit, each looking for an opening. Ellie darted forward and Rogue immediately prepared for the appropriate defensive move. She planted her feet and was able to avoid Ellie’s tackling move. They continued to circle each other and Rogue moved next, opting for a low roundhouse kick to try and get Ellie down. She stepped forward and out on the ball of her left foot and exploded from her knee to make a solid hit against Ellie’s calf. Ellie grunted in surprise but was ready for the attack and only stumbled rather than falling to the mat. She immediately turned and reached for Rogue as she finished the pivot from her kick and was able to throw her to the ground.
Shit, Rogue thought. She should have been able to anticipate that counter attack.
The two minutes for the first round was almost over, and Rogue looked around at the others as she picked herself up. About half the teams were complete, someone having downed the other opponent. Wolverine was surveying the rest of those finishing he round, glancing at his watch as he counted down the remaining seconds. A quick glance at Bobby indicated he must have been downed in less than 10 seconds. He looked bored waiting for the others to finish.
Finally, Wolverine called time on the first round, and round two began. Rogue was determined to get Ellie down this round, otherwise, she’d lose the whole damn thing. She refocused and decided to take a different approach. Instead, she’d wait for Ellie to come to her and would only attack when she saw a weakness in her defenses. She didn’t have to wait long. This time, Ellie opened first with a swift punch right at Rogue’s abdomen. Rogue was able to side-step the blow and grabbed Ellie’s forearm with both hands. She twisted around with forearm close to her and forced Ellie’s arm back up behind her as she kicked out Ellie’s legs from beneath her.
Yes! She thought, triumphantly. Finally took someone down.
She heard a grunt of approval to her left and glanced over to see Wolverine watching her, having already dispatched Bobby to the ground in less time it had taken for her to take down Ellie. They made eye contact briefly and she could have sworn she saw his lip twitch in acknowledgment of her achievement.
Rogue helped Ellie up off the mat and they watched the others as the second round came to a close. Wolverine barked the start of the third and final round with their current opponents and once again, Ellie and Rogue faced off. They were both a bit more careful, more calculating this time, each having succeeded in downing the other already. Ellie opened first again, this time with a vicious kick aimed at Rogue’s head. She arched her back to avoid a hit to the jaw and rolled to her right, coming up in a crouch where she swept out one leg to attempt and get Ellie off-balance. Rogue made contact and Ellie grunted with pain, but didn’t fall and Rogue quickly leapt to her feet to block a swift counter attack designed to take advantage of her low crouch to put her down again. Neither of them down so far in round three and they continued to circle each other, each looking for a opening. Finally, Rogue registered Wolverine’s, “Ten seconds!” and noticed that she and Ellie were the last team still working on round three. Rogue saw the determination in Ellie’s eyes and felt her own desire to defeat her opponent surge to the surface. She saw the moment Ellie decided to attack, and Rogue acted purely on instinct. She brought her left forearm up to block Ellie’s punch and took the opportunity to punch Ellie’s undefended stomach with a hard blow from her right fist. Ellie let out a whoosh of air and Rogue moved her left arm down to Ellie’s thigh and pulled, throwing her off balance where she hit the mat hard.
“Nice one, Rogue!” Kitty called from her left. Rogue grinned at her in response as she helped Ellie off the mat.
“Alright?” Rogue asked Ellie, slightly concerned at how hard she’d punched her.
Ellie responded with a wheezy, “Hell yeah, Rogue. That was fuckin’ awesome. Way to not hold back.”
Wolverine noted the winners of the first sparring session and announced that the winners would move to their left, while the losers stayed put. And so the rounds continued, Rogue having paired up with Piotr, Kitty, Scott, Jean, Ororo, and Bobby. She was able to win her round with Bobby, but lost to everyone else. After having resigned herself to running the five miles, she realized that the only person she had left to face off against was Wolverine.
Her heart began to beat faster in anticipation of facing off against him. She knew she was going to lose. Wolverine was an amazing fighter and teacher. But she didn’t want to go down to the mat faster than Bobby had.
Wolverine growled the start of the first round and Rogue began to circle to her left. Wolverine matched her pace and began stalk her, step for step. A shiver broke out over her body as she glanced into his eyes. His was focused on her with an intensely animalistic gaze. And that part of her that was wild and dangerous was pleased at the way he was looking at her.
The seconds ticked by and neither one of them made a move to attack the other. Finally, Wolverine spoke in a low, rough voice. “I’m not goin’ first, kid. Show me what you’ve learned in the last month.”
Rogue shut down the part of her that was annoyed by him once again calling her “kid” and focused on her opening move. Wolverine was strong, so she’d be stupid if she tried to use force to get him to the ground.
She thought back over the past four weeks of training, trying to find the right move to take him down. She was going to have to get him off-balance, otherwise she’d be wasting her energy in trying to force him to the mat. Finally, the right move came to her and she smiled to herself. If she could pull this off, even if she lost the rest of the round against him, not only would she be happy with the outcome, but she had a feeling he would be pleased with her progress as well.
Rogue stepped forward as if trying to make a grab for his arm with her left hand. He responded exactly as she’d hoped by reaching forward with his left arm to try and get a grip on her shoulder. She let him step toward her and reached out with her right arm to take hold of the hand on her shoulder, and while she didn’t expect to break his hold on her, she did make two quick attempts at dislodging his hand. Then, she simultaneously stepped back with her left foot, grabbed his right hand with her left and pulled it across her body, and whipped her right hand around to grab hold of the very nicely muscled tricep of his right arm, forcing him to take a step into her. She heard his quick inhale of breath as she found her body flush against his and ignored the quick pulse of longing she felt deep in her belly as she took in his scent. Instead, she focused on the critical part of the move by releasing her grip on his arm, crouching deeper into a split squat, and grabbing the backs of his heavily muscled thighs. She dropped her right knee and shin flush against the mat, trapping his foot between her legs and drove forward into him, causing him to lose his balance and fall backward to the mat. Rogue continued to push her body forward so that she ended up directly on top of Wolverine.
He caught her eyes as she grinned down at him, and she noticed they flashed to gold briefly before returning to hazel. She let herself enjoy the brief victory by appreciating the hard feeling of his body beneath hers before pushing up off the mat and offering a hand to help him up.
“Nice kouchi gake, kid,” he rumbled as he stood back up.
She grinned again in response and waited for the round to finish, Bobby and Kitty being the last pair to remain standing. Finally, Kitty was able to get Bobby to the mat and round one was officially over.
To her complete lack of surprise, Wolverine was able to easily anticipate the other methods she’d identified for getting him to the ground in the next two rounds and had taken her down her easily. The first time he’d gotten her to the mat in round two, he’d feigned a punch to her gut which she’d stupidly tried to block with both hands. He then took the opportunity to step in close to her, wrap his arms around her, and twist around taking her down, but cushioned the blow by having her flush against his body. Rogue tried another offensive move to open round three, but he easily countered her high kick with a swift block and simply shoved her off balance where she landed on the mat with a hard bounce. He pulled her up and rumbled into her ear softly, “One outta three ain’t bad,” and she shivered at the closeness of his body.
Wolverine and Rogue watched the remainder of the teams finish up the last round and then he announced to nobody’s surprise that Scott had done best in the sparring sessions after Wolverine.
“Okay, everyone but Scott hit the treadmills. Five miles. No whining.”
She and the others moved to the treadmills, Kitty falling into step beside her. “Damn, Rogue,” Kitty said, a little breathlessly, “Nice job on getting Wolverine down. You and Scott were the only ones who got him to the mat at all.”
Rogue grinned at Kitty. “Thanks,” she said as she laced up her running shoes. “I couldn’t believe I actually won any of the rounds, seeing as you guys have been at this for years.”
“You’re a natural, Rogue. Really,” Kitty responded as she stretched out her quads before jumping on the treadmill.
Deep into mile four, her body drenched with sweat and muscles burning with exhaustion, Rogue held that thought foremost in her mind. She was stronger than she’d ever known, and it was this world that was teaching her that lesson. This world, and these people, she thought as she glanced over at her fellow teammates as they each continued their own runs. Wolverine was overseeing their progress while chatting with Scott in the corner, his body alert, his gaze constantly moving over her and her fellow runners.
One by one, they all finished their five miles. Rogue was panting right along with the others, her legs slightly wobbly as she took a few minutes to stretch her tired muscles.
“Nice job,” Wolverine called out to them. “Now hit the showers. You all smell terrible.” Rogue laughed with the rest of the team and she, Kitty, Ellie, Ororo, and Jean headed toward the locker room. She had a smile on her face as she cleaned up, thinking for a brief moment, that it wouldn’t be so terrible if she never found a way back home.
The following week, Rogue was headed down to training with the rest of the team when Charles’ voice echoed in her head. She tried to suppress the simultaneous feeling of anticipation and dread at the thought that he might have succeeded in locating Rift. But it became apparent as she looked around that Rogue wasn’t the only one Charles was speaking to.
Meet me in my office, I have news.
The team’s demeanor changed instantly from their normal pre-training easygoing camaraderie, to a tense charged atmosphere.
Rogue turned and headed toward the Professor’s office with the others, quickly making eye contact with Wolverine as he scowled and turned away from her.
Her stomach churned nervously as she thought of what news she might be hearing. Had Charles found Rift? Was Rift dead? Was there another way home? Did she really want to go home?
She shook her head hard as she processed her last thought. Of course she wanted to go home. Her friends were there. Her life. Her boyfriend.
A sharp pang of guilt went through her at the thought. She hadn’t given Remy more than a passing consideration in a week, at least. She’d been too busy thinking about the round-robin training session where she’d finally felt like she was making progress. She’d taken two people down.
She’d taken Wolverine down.
She’d taken him down and thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of his hard muscled body beneath hers as she’d pushed him to the mat. She could all too easily picture the two of them rolling together on the gym floor, limbs twined together, sweat gathering between their naked bodies as he pushed her down into the mat demonstrating his dominance over her. His eyes would be full on gold as he gazed down at her, clasping her hands above her head forcing her back to arch. Her breasts would be begging for his touch, her nipples aching to be licked, suckled, bitten. He would lean down, teasing one nipple with his warm breath as he used one knee to nudge her legs apart. He’d growl then, low and deep in his chest as his free hand reached between her legs to stroke her, spreading the wetness from her center over her clit with one finger, causing fissions of pleasure to spread through her and she’d moan, wanting more of him, wanting his-
A low growl to her left interrupted her from her thoughts. Oh, christ, she thought, mortified. Tell me he couldn’t smell the fact that I was getting turned on thinking about him. She wasn’t about to confirm her suspicions and avoided looking at Wolverine as she felt heat rush into her cheeks. Instead, she moved away from him to stand over by Kitty, awaiting Charles’ news.
Charles gazed back at the team in front of him, an ominous look on his face. “I have received intelligence that the F.O.H is in the process of developing a dangerous weapon,” he said, his tone grim. “Rather than continue their efforts at eliminating mutants by force, a process which costs them more money, time, and personnel than they would like to admit, they have chosen to invest those resources in a bioweapon. From what information I have been able to gather, this bioweapon specifically targets the X-gene and systematically begins the process of shutting down vital organs causing death in a matter of days.”
Rogue felt sick as Charles continued to describe the potential effects of the bioweapon. The bastards were manipulating the weapon to be airborne so that it could be released over major cities. They would be able to wipe out scores of mutants with the touch of a button.
“So, where are they developing this weapon?” Scott asked. The only sign of his anger was the clenching of his jaw. This Scott was good at controlling his emotions too, she thought. Just like the Scott from her world.
“There is a laboratory in Washington D.C., in one of the old science buildings at Georgetown, which they are currently using for research and development. We need to obtain and destroy not only all samples of the weapon, but eradicate all evidence and research on the weapon. Scott,” Charles said, turning his chair to face Cyclops. “I’ll leave it to you to organize the teams. The Reiss Science building has five floors, and I was unable to garner which floor the lab is located on.”
Scott nodded and barked out, “Everyone, downstairs. We leave for D.C. in thirty minutes.”
Everyone? Rogue thought, a mild sense of panic beginning to seep through her limbs. Did “everyone” include her? She’d only been training with the team for a month and Scott was asking her to go along with them on an actual mission?
She saw Wolverine’s head jerk around to face Scott, the echo of her own thoughts clearly visible in his face. “Everyone?” He growled out, glancing at Rogue.
Scott didn’t hesitate and didn’t glance away from Wolverine as he nodded. “Everyone.”
Luckily, Jean had a spare uniform to lend to Rogue, which fit pretty well except for the bust, which was a bit too tight. She was able to fasten the uniform over her breasts, but just barely. Jean’s boot size; however, was too big for Rogue, but Kitty had a second pair of combat boots that fit her perfectly.
She was the last one in the locker room, lacing up her boots with shaking hands, trying not to freak out about the fact that she was going on a real mission. Not just a mission to recruit a student. It wasn’t even a mission to promote mutant rights. No. This was the Real fucking Deal. Capital R, Capital D.
They would take the jet down to D.C., but would set a slower speed. Not only would arriving at a standard airline speed help them avoid unwanted detection by radar, but it would also put their arrival in the capitol after the sun went down. This time of year, sunset was well before 5:00pm, and according to Scott, traveling at the slower speed would allow them to arrive after dark. Ororo would cloak the jet in some low cloud cover which would hopefully grant them some additional security when they landed.
After they landed there would be pairing up in teams of two to make a sweep of each of the five floors of the science building. During the sweeps, they were to try and find any and all samples of this unnamed bioweapon, and destroy any files or records they could get their hands on. According to the intel Charles had shared with Scott, the building was supposed to be easy on human security detail since the electronic security system was supposedly impenetrable. That’s when Kitty had smirked and grinned at Rogue. “Yeah, sure,” she’d said, confidently.
Rogue wished she could share her confidence, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that her going on this mission was a mistake.
She’d just finished lacing up her left boot and stood up when she let out a gasp. Wolverine stood in the entryway to the locker room, leaning against the door frame, arms folded. He looked menacing in his black uniform, with his muscles bulging, hair combed away from his face, jaw rough and dark with a few days of stubble.
“Jesus,” Rogue said, holding her hand to her heart, willing it to slow. “You scared me. What are you doin’ in here?” She stood up and headed toward the door, but he didn’t budge as she tried to squeeze past him.
“I don’t want you goin’ on this mission,” he rumbled quietly.
His words rankled her. Even though she’d just been thinking similar thoughts, it didn’t make her feel any better to think that someone else was thinking the same thing. She stopped trying to push past him and glared up at him.
“If I’m gonna be here for awhile, I might as well get some field experience,” she said tightly, her accent becoming a bit more pronounced as she felt anger start to bubble up inside her.
“Well, I’d rather you were a little more experienced before you compromise the rest of us.”
His words hurt. It wasn’t anything she hadn’t thought of before. But the truth of the matter was, if she was going to be on the team, then she needed to get out there and start acting like a team member. Training could only get you so far before you had to rely on your instincts and put the practice to good use. Besides, she’d die before she hurt anyone else.
“So take it up with Scott,” she said as she tried to push past him again.
“I did,” he growled, louder this time as he glared down at her, still not budging.
“So what do you want then? Scott overruled you, so you want to make me feel bad enough that I won’t go?” Rogue crossed her own arms then, and planted her feet. She was prepared to fight him for this opportunity, even if he did kick her ass.
“Then what?” She cried, frustrated at his reluctance to tell her just what the hell he wanted from her.
“I want you to absorb some of me.” He said it so quietly, that Rogue was sure she’d misheard him.
“What?” She whispered.
“I want you,” he repeated through gritted teeth, “to absorb some of me. You’ll be stronger, have more knowledge of fighting. Know how to defend yourself.”
Rogue stared up at him. Stunned by what he was suggesting.
“Are you crazy?” she asked him, incredulous. “Are you fucking crazy? Did you hit your head on the way down here? Do you know what you’re asking me to do? With what you’re asking me to deal with in my head?”
Fuck, he thought harshly. She’s absorbed someone before. There was no way she’d react like that if she hadn’t. Wolverine had thought that without meeting him and going through the ordeal with Magneto she would have been spared the act of absorbing another mutant. But clearly that wasn’t the case. Suddenly, he was desperate to know what had happened to her after she’d manifested. His Marie had run away from home and eventually made her way up to Canada where she’d watched him cage fight, decided he must be a good guy, and hitched a ride in his camper trailer. What had this Marie gone through? He wished he could talk to her for more than thirty seconds without wanting to taste her or get her naked. There was so much, he realized, that he didn’t know about her.
“Yeah, I know what I’m askin’ you to do. And I know damn well what I’m askin’ of me, too,” He growled back at her, his voice suddenly rough with anger. Couldn’t she see that he just wanted her safe? Why did she have to make everything so difficult?
Rogue had forgotten that he would know first-hand about what exactly her mutation did. From what she’d gathered from Kitty and the others, not only had he saved her life on Liberty Island, but apparently he’d nearly killed her himself when she’d gone to wake him up from a nightmare shortly after they arrived at the mansion. It had been an accident, of course, but Wolverine had impaled her with his twelve-inch adamantium claws right through her chest. This Rogue had done the only thing she could; touched him, and taken his healing factor, leaving him seizing on the floor of his bedroom, Jean and Scott rushing over to help him. She wondered just how much of Wolverine Rogue’d had in her head after touching him so many times.
“No,” she replied heatedly. “No fucking way. I don’t want to go through that again.” There. That was as close as she was going to get to telling him that she’d done this before. It didn’t matter that she’d done it to escape the basement where she was held like an animal for more than a year. It didn’t matter that the people she’d killed were more than deserving of death. What mattered is that she couldn’t bear the thought of taking anyone else’s thoughts and memories into her mind. The sick, dark feeling of absorbing Father Emmett Knox and the other church members was always with her. The struggle she’d gone through, trying not to hate herself for being disgusting mutant filth, trying not to hate herself for killing people was still with her, even years later. She’d worked so hard to gain control of her mutation, for exactly that reason. She never wanted to take someone into herself again.
Wolverine stared at her for a long moment, jaw clenching with anger, fists curled against the desire to release his claws.
And Rogue stared right back at him, daring him to continue his argument. She’d never absorb him, nor anyone else again. Not even if she was dying.
“What happened to you?” He rumbled quietly, the anger having left his voice.
Rogue was silent for several long seconds as she contemplated if she should say anything else. Finally, she decided to give him something. He’d taught her so much in the last month of training, and he clearly just wanted to see her safe.
“I did what I had to. I just wanted to survive,” she said softly.
Wolverine looked into her eyes and slowly brought up one hand to cup her jaw. She inhaled sharply and tensed at the contact, but he made no further moves and she slowly relaxed into his palm. He tilted her chin up slightly and said in a low voice. “Then you did the right fuckin’ thing.”
He dropped his hand and Rogue found herself disappointed at the loss of his warmth. Abruptly, Wolverine turned away from her and stalked out of the women’s locker room.
At a loss, Rogue stood still, watching his retreating back. Had he accepted her decision? Was he okay with her going? Did she care if he was okay with her going?
“Are ya comin’, kid? Scott won’t hold the jet much longer.”
And she strode out after him, toward the jet, and her first real mission as an X-Men.