Chasing Chronos by Ransom
retired featured storySummary: A movieverse AU with some comic elements, in which Logan travels back in time to make sure Rogue takes the right path.
Categories: AU Characters: None
Genres: Shipper
Tags: None
Warnings: None
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 17576 Read: 3765 Published: 08/17/2007 Updated: 08/17/2007

1. Chasing Chronos by Ransom

Chasing Chronos by Ransom
Author's Notes:
This story was begun prior to the release of X2 and T3, and does not take those two sequels into account. I read the first book in the Chaos Engine Trilogy right around the time I re-watched the first two Terminator movies. This is what happened. Yes, this is the "Terminator/chess" fic I've been talking about in my journal forever. :) The time travel plot was borrowed from the Terminator films. Roma, the Omniverse, the chessboard, and the Starlight Citadel were borrowed from the X-Men novel "The Chaos Engine Trilogy: Book One."
Warning: Potential squickiness due to age issues. Thanks to Magaera for the beta. Huge Thanks to Katherine for stepping in and being my pinch-hit beta reader. *hugs* Date Completed: December 28th, 2003. You can see the beautiful graphic EyeMelodius made for this story here:
"Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The Terminator would never stop, it would never leave him. . .it would always be there. And it would never hurt him, never shout at him or get drunk and hit him, or say it couldn't spend time with him because it was too busy. And it would die to protect him." -- Sarah Connor, Terminator 2

The Starlight Citadel was a beautiful place--huge, gothic, and ornate. Full of sculptures and fountains and classic architecture, like a palace from a movie set. Despite the fact that it looked like something straight out the Medieval age, it possessed technological wonders and luxuries beyond imagination. Things that seemed to make sense only in science fiction books.

Logan hated the damn place.

He wasn't that fond of Roma, the Supreme Guardian of the Omniverse, either. As far as looks, he actually thought she was a pretty fine looking. . .whatever she was. But she had absolutely no sense of humor at all. And that pompous title of hers didn't help matters any.

Maybe what she needed was a nice, long--

"Wolverine, I'm awaiting your response."

"I know," he said, then made no further comment. Which would irritate Her Supreme Pompousness even more, he knew. He didn't particularly care. He wasn't impressed by the fact that she had a fancy title, and he certainly wasn't impressed by the fact that she was an immortal. As far as he knew, so was he.

He'd been summoned to Roma's base of operations rather abruptly, and he was none too happy about it. One minute he'd been standing next to his truck outside the liquor store, and the next minute he'd found himself here, in the Citadel. Outside the boundaries of time and space.

Which was a concept that had never really made sense to him, so he tried not to think about it too much. The last time he had been here, he and the Professor had stood on one of the Citadel's observation decks and looked out into the. . .whatever it was out there. It reminded him of being in outer space, or at least what outer space looked like in the movies.

The Professor had pointed out two imaginably huge silver streams, like rivers made of stars, that merged into one massive, twinkling ribbon that flowed away from them into the never-ending void that surrounded the Citadel. Xavier had told him that one of those sparkling currents was Time, and the other was Space, and where they came together was where all life--human, plant, animal, alien--existed. The Omniverse.

That in itself was unsettling enough. When Logan reminded himself that, while in the Citadel, outside of those two streams, he was technically *nowhere*. . .

Well, that kind of information could seriously screw up a guy's mind.

As if just being here didn't screw him up enough.

The X-Men had been here several times back in the day, and had righted a wrong or two for Roma when it was necessary. Sometimes on their world, sometimes in one of the alternate realities that existed in the Omniverse.

Which was another concept Logan preferred to not think about. There may well have been hundreds of other Logans running around out there on hundreds of other worlds, but he was happy enough to pretend he was the only one.

Roma was in charge of all the realities in the Omniverse, and it was a job she appeared to take very seriously. There seemed to be an endless supply of them, and how she kept them all straight, he had no clue. But she always seemed to know who was doing what where, and when she felt she had no other recourse, she called on the X-Men to help her avert disaster.

And that was another reason why Logan was none too happy to find himself in the Citadel's throne room. Roma wasn't prone to yanking people off their worlds for a cup of coffee and a gossip session. He'd known immediately, as soon as he recognized where he was, that he was in for a giant headache.

And he'd been right. The situation she'd presented him with was not something he wanted to deal with. At all.

Roma delicately cleared her throat, reminding him that she was still waiting.

He looked down at the chessboard on the table in front of him. He was familiar with it, having seen it on previous visits. The polished black and white squares were made from what looked like ivory and onyx, but could have been something completely different, from some other world, for all he knew. He was going to stick to the ivory and onyx theory, just for his own mental well being.

The figures on the chessboard were not the familiar knights and bishops and kings the Professor had had on his chessboard at the X-mansion. Roma used this one--he wasn't too clear on how--to observe and influence the happenings in the realities under her watch. Right now, the chessboard was set up to display the status of Logan's reality, and a select group of people who lived there.

The black figures on the board were miniature representations of people he was quite familiar with: Magneto, Mystique, Sabretooth, Quicksilver, and others. The white pieces were people he was even more familiar with: Xavier, Storm, Cyclops, even a tiny version of Logan himself. The black hats and the white hats. Literally.

For the first time in his experience, though, the piece representing Rogue was not on the board. It was off to the side, with a few other figures that had been removed from the game. Even more troubling was the fact that the miniature Rogue was black, rather than white. It had always been white in the past.

And that was why he was here.

"Wolverine. . ."

"I don't know what you expect me to do," he said, finally. "I didn't even know her then. I can't help you."

"Yes, you can. You're the only one who can. Someone has altered the history of your Earth, and altered it enough to turn Rogue to the side of the Brotherhood. The events that transpire because of this will be catastrophic, and cannot be allowed to occur. Do you understand?"

He glanced at the chessboard again, at the collection of figures that occupied the black squares. Colossus and Nightcrawler were also among them.

Roma was right, someone had altered things tremendously.

But that didn't mean he could fix it.

And he wasn't even sure he cared enough to try. Logan didn't care about much at all anymore.

He knew that Roma was counting on him to agree to help, though. He also knew that she knew he'd say yes, because she was offering him the one thing he could not refuse: Marie.

That didn't mean he had to give in right away. He'd always resented the way these celestial overlord types expected him to jump when they told him to.

"What about Colossus and Nightcrawler? How'd that happen?"

"Their affiliation with the Brotherhood is a result of Rogue's defection. If you prevent that from happening, everything else will take care of itself." She gave him a look. "I did take the time to research the problem before calling you here, despite what you appear to think."

He suppressed a smile, amused by the way she'd scolded him. "Point taken." He stared at the board some more, thinking. "If things are so different, how come I didn't notice?"

"If I had left you on your world for another minute, you would have."

He was impressed. If Roma'd nabbed him that quickly, she was even more on top of things than he'd ever imagined.

"So what happened?"

"Someone violated the timestream, entered your world shortly before you and Rogue became acquainted, and convinced her to ally herself with Magneto. By sending you into the past shortly before the first anomaly occurred, we may be able to counteract it."

Logan tipped his head back and stared at the ceiling--which was so high above them he couldn't actually see it--and considered the problem. "Why can't I just go kill the guy who fucked this up to begin with?"

"The consequences would be even more detrimental to the state of your reality, believe it or not." He noticed she was being very careful to not mention the guilty party by name. He wasn't sure if he was offended or flattered by the implication.

"So why don't you just send him back to fix it?"

"He is currently. . .indisposed," she said, and he could have sworn he saw a flicker of mischief in her expression before she was all business again.

"Huh." Interesting. Maybe she did have a sense of humor after all. A really small one.

"You must make a decision, Wolverine. Conditions on your world are extremely unstable, and if the situation continues to deteriorate, your reality will collapse completely."

Logan had heard the lecture on unstable realities many, many times. It was a standard warning she gave anyone before sending them on one of her errands, so they wouldn't go mucking things up, being stupid. "Collapse" was a pretty name for what would happen, he thought. Everyone and everything in his reality would blink out of existence. Even him.

Roma took Rogue's chess piece and held it up. "I've examined all the changes that have taken place on your Earth, and they can all be traced back to this one event, this one person. Your Rogue."

Before he could protest that she wasn't exactly "his" Rogue, Roma set the chess piece down on the table in front of him. "Make sure she stays with the X-Men, Wolverine."

He tapped the table with his thumb, looked down at the piece of sculpted onyx. He knew he was only delaying the inevitable.

"Once I get there, how much time do I have?" he asked, making no attempt at all to cover the sigh that carried the question.

"Five days."

Marie didn't even realize she'd dozed off until a particularly loud explosion on the television woke her up. Bleary-eyed and feeling like her teeth hadn't been brushed in days, she reached for the remote and turned the TV off. As much as she was relishing her complete and total control over the television, she was obviously not going to be able to stay awake to see the end of the movie.

She stood and stretched, then stumbled toward the kitchen, leaving her empty ice cream bowl on the coffee table. Her parents wouldn't be home for days; she'd worry about the bowl later. She couldn't remember ever being alone in the house for an extended period of time, and she was planning to take full advantage of it.

She checked to make sure the back door was locked, then headed upstairs, rubbing the back of her neck. It stung a little, and she instantly thought of sunburn, then realized that she was still wearing her swimsuit under her shorts and T-shirt; the strap had chafed her skin while she'd been sleeping.

She certainly hadn't had time to get sunburned on the abbreviated camping trip she'd taken with her friends. Nothing like a broken arm to wreck what could have been a really fun spring break. Why did boys always have to do dumb stuff like climbing trees, anyway?

And they'd never have another chance to hang out as a group like that again, she knew. In a few weeks they would graduate from high school, and then it wouldn't be long before they scattered to various colleges. This was supposed to be the last hurrah.

It had turned out to be a big, fat bust.

On the upside, Marie's family was still visiting her grandparents, which meant that even though she and her friends had been forced to return home early, she could still enjoy a few days of independence. It was better than nothing.

After a quick stop in the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth, she stepped into her room and flicked the light switch, then stopped just over the threshold when the lamp failed to come on. Great. Burned out. And the spare lightbulbs were downstairs in the kitchen. Tired and irritated, she decided to worry about it in the morning. There was enough light coming in through the window to find her way, and she was too sleepy to read before bed anyway.

She took one more step into the room before a big hand shot out from behind the door and clamped down over her mouth, and she realized that she wasn't as alone in the house as she'd thought.

For a few blissful seconds, Marie didn't remember a thing. And then she did.

She forced herself to stay still and not open her eyes. Instead, she played possum and tried to get a sense of her surroundings.

She was on something soft, probably a bed. Had she been taken somewhere? How long had she'd been unconscious? And who would do this? Crazy serial killer? Mad rapist? She wasn't tied up or blindfolded, which seemed strange. In the movies, the hostages were always tied up and blindfolded. Maybe she'd had the good fortune to get snatched by a really inept kidnapper. Maybe she could get away.

Or maybe it was one of her friends, playing a really bad joke. She mentally crossed her fingers, hoping that was the case.

Then a gruff male voice she didn't recognize said, "I know you're awake," and that hope was dashed. "You can open your eyes," the voice added. "I'm not going to hurt you."

Sure. She believed that. Because men who snuck into your house and attacked you always had the best of intentions. Yep.

It took her a few seconds to work up the courage to look, because she wasn't sure she wanted to see what awaited her. Her attacker seemed perfectly content to wait her out, though, and her fear eventually gave way to curiosity, as the uncertainty of her situation became too much to bear. She opened her eyes just a crack.

Even in the dark, she recognized she was still in her bedroom. Which was a relief. Kind of. She turned her head, looking for the source of the voice.

He was sitting in her desk chair, which he'd placed between the bed and the door. Expecting her to make a break for it, maybe. There went that plan.

She could tell he had dark hair and dark clothes, but everything else about him was lost in the shadows of the room. Even so, she could feel him watching her.

"I suppose you want to know what's happening," he said.

Actually, she really didn't, she realized. In fact, if at all possible, she'd rather never find out what was going to happen next.

He got up and moved toward her, and she thought she should try to get away, but she couldn't make herself move. Not one inch.

He reached for the lamp on the table next to her bed. "The lightbulb's bur--" she started to say automatically, because apparently she was helpful and polite even to murdering rapist kidnappers. Before she could finish, he stuck his hand down into the top of the lampshade and turned the bulb. The light came on.

"The lightbulb's fine," he smirked, and she realized he'd unscrewed it. Ambushed her. For some reason, that realization scared her even more. He'd planned this, checked out her room, and set a trap for her. How long had he been in the house, waiting up here for her?

And who in the hell *was* he?

She squinted at him in the sudden brightness, and what she saw didn't make her feel much better. He was tall and big, with broad shoulders under his leather jacket, and a grim expression on his face. He looked a little dangerous. Of course, any strange man in her bedroom would probably look a little dangerous.

She'd never seen him before, though, that much she knew. She had no idea why he'd snuck into her room, or what he planned to do with her. All she knew was that she was scared, and that nothing good could possibly come of his presence in her house.

He sat down on the bed and looked at her.

"My name is Logan," he said. "And I'm going to tell you an amazing story."

"Amazing" wasn't quite the word for it, she decided. "Unbelievable" or "totally fucked up" seemed like a better way to describe it. She made him repeat the whole thing twice, just so she could be sure she heard him right.

He was here from the future, he said. To protect her. To save her from another guy, also from the future, who was going to try to kill her.

And why did some guy want to kill her? Because she was going to grow up to be a superhero.

No. Way.

He insisted that they knew each other in the future, that he was a superhero, too, and that he'd come back in time to save her.

No. Way.

It wasn't possible. What he was telling her wasn't possible. He had *not* come from the future, and she had no plans to be a superhero.

But he seemed convinced, and her attempts to persuade him that he was imagining things had been impressively unsuccessful. He was sold on the idea, and he was doing his damnedest to sell her, too.

That wasn't so bad, she decided. If he thought it was his job to protect her, it seemed unlikely he'd hurt her. She could go along with it for a while, and wait for a chance to call 911, or crawl out the window, or bash him over the head with a vase. She'd seen enough movies to know she had lots of options.


Hey, wait a minute. . .

The jig was up. "You know, I saw this in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie," she said. In two of them, actually. Only in the first one, the big, scary guy had come from the future to kill the girl. Which this big, scary guy insisted he was not going to do.

She was being cautiously optimistic on that point.

He nodded, and appeared to be pleased that she'd made the comparison. "And the guy wasn't crazy," he pointed out.

"No, he wasn't."

"But you think I am."

Smart guy. "Very much so, yes."

"I'm not, Marie." For some reason, hearing him say her name was total and complete weirdness.

"Then why are you here?"

He raised an eyebrow at her. "I thought you said you saw the movie."

She sighed. He wasn't going to back down.

"Prove it," she said. "Tell me something you couldn't possibly know unless you know me in the future."

He seemed to like that idea, because he nodded and shifted around, getting more comfortable on the bed. "I can tell you a lot of things."

She scooted away from him a little, which she was sure he noticed, but he didn't comment on it.

"Go ahead. Tell me."

". . .and you've got a scar next to your bellybutton because you *ran with scissors* as a child, which I didn't think anyone actually did--"

"Okay, okay. Stop." She was having a hard time digesting it all. He really did know a lot of things about her, including some things *she* didn't even know yet, but which sounded completely plausible. Things she was going to do in the future, places she was going to go. Things that at this point in her life were nothing but wishes and dreams.

It was hard to ignore the fact that the pieces of his story all seemed to line up. In a weird, dream-like, this-isn't-really-happening way. But they still lined up.

For now, she decided to accept that part of his story, at least until she found a way to prove that it wasn't true.

Moving on, then.

"Someone's really planning to kill me?"

"Yep." He didn't seem that upset about it, which left her feeling vaguely offended. She wondered how he'd feel if he were the one targeted for assassination. On the other hand, he *had* gone to great lengths to make sure that wouldn't happen, so she supposed she could let it slide.

"Wow." It was a scary thought, but it was kind of exciting to think that she was that important. She must be a pretty big deal in the future, she decided, if the fate of the world depended on what she did. It was an intimidating realization, and she quickly decided to focus on the present. "And you're not that guy, the gonna-kill-me guy?"

He shook his head emphatically. "Nope."

"So you're here to. . ."

"Protect you. Yes." He sounded a little exasperated that she kept making him repeat it over and over, but that was just too bad. It wasn't her fault he'd showed up here with this crazy story, expecting her to just go along with it.

"For how long?" Because she was fairly sure her mom and dad would eventually figure out that there was a strange man living in her bedroom. Parents tended to notice things like that.

"Just a few days." His eyes had repeatedly darted to the window while they talked, and now he got up, cracked the curtains with a finger, and peered out. "He can't stay here for long, so if we can wait him out, you'll be fine." He turned away from the window. "By the time your parents get back, everything will be back to normal."

"Right. Normal." He'd return to the "future" and she'd just go on with her life like nothing out of the ordinary had taken place. Like a possibly-time-traveling-but-more-possibly-psychotic man hadn't camped out in her room all week to "protect" her.


"You have anything to eat?" he asked as he took off his jacket and hung it on the back of her chair. His arms were heavily muscled, the sleeves of his black T-shirt stretching tight around his biceps. He could squash her like a bug, she thought.

"That was a yes or no question," he prompted, then dropped into the chair, which creaked pitifully under his weight. He didn't seem to notice.

The crazy man who was holding her hostage in her own home wanted to know if he could have a snack. There was no end to the weirdness.

"It's two in the morning," she pointed out. Which was probably the least of the strange circumstances, but that was what she was going with for now.

He shrugged. "I didn't eat dinner before I left."

"Maybe you should have planned ahead."

He regarded her with a slightly amused expression, crossing his arms over his chest as he stretched his legs out in front of him. "You're pretty sassy for a girl who has nothing standing between her and a painful death but a hungry guy with a short temper."

"Or a crazy guy who needs medication and a straitjacket."

He sighed and closed his eyes, rubbing his forehead with his fingers. "I don't know why I didn't realize how hard this was going to be. I should have remembered you were like this even when you were just a kid. You always--"

He stopped mid-sentence as he opened his eyes and saw her staring at him. He looked away.

Something about the look on his face drew her attention, though. He looked like a person who was talking about fond memories, not a man who was crafting an elaborate lie.

"I always what?" she asked, curious to know where he'd been heading with that story.

"You always gotta argue with me," he said. "Drives me nuts." He looked at her again and smiled. It was a small smile, but it was a smile.

"Really?" It was a little difficult to picture herself arguing with this man about anything. But then again, that was pretty much what she was doing now.

"Yes, really. That's how I got stuck with this job. No one else wanted the hassle."

She gasped, horrified by the idea that she was going to be so unpleasant in the future. Then she noticed the way the corner of his mouth was twitching. He was *teasing* her. Jerk.

She glared at him. "Ha ha. Very funny."

"You *are* a huge pain in my ass in the future, though. That part's true." He sounded like he kind of liked that about her, though. She wasn't fooled by his mock frustration.

"I'll have to remember to redouble my efforts once I get there," she said, and they both smiled a little.

They almost seemed to be getting along, his kidnapping tendencies and delusional fantasies aside. Maybe she could just wait him out and he'd leave without killing her or something.

"So. . .about that food," he reminded her.

And if all else failed, she could bribe him with meals.

She stood up and beckoned him with a hand. "There isn't much. Mostly stuff that my mom bought me for the camping trip," she said as she passed by his chair. "You're welcome to rummage through the kitchen."

"You know, in the future, you cook all my meals for me," he said as he got to his feet and followed her.

"Pffffft. I *know* you're making that part up."

The first thing he grabbed out of the fridge was not one but three bottles of her father's beer. He checked the label with a look that plainly said he wasn't happy but couldn't afford to be choosy, and cracked one open. He began to drink it down in big gulps.

"Hey! They're gonna think I drank that!" she protested.

He kept gulping.

"If I'm not dead when you leave, I will be when my parents get home," she grumbled, digging a bag of potato chips out of the pantry. Some protector he was turning out to be.

He finally stopped to breathe, wiping his mouth on his arm. "I'll replace it before I leave. Promise."

"You better. Hand me a soda."

"Still bossing me around. That hasn't changed either," he muttered, but he reached back into the refrigerator and snagged a root beer.

He managed to build a couple fairly decent sandwiches out of some lunchmeat he sniffed and declared edible, and they sat down at the kitchen table with the chips and their drinks. She gave him a chance to eat one of the sandwiches before she got back to the topic at hand.

"So you're just gonna hang out here the rest of the week?"

He nodded and took another huge bite of his sandwich.

"And you're not gonna do anything weird, or hurt me?"

"Nuh uh," he said, around a mouthful of bread and turkey. "You got any pickles?"

She retrieved the pickles and set them on the table in front of him. He took another bite and then looked at her, gesturing toward the jar with his sandwich.

"My God," she said, rolling her eyes. "Are you this spoiled in the future?"

"I'm worse," he said, after he had a chance to swallow. More sandwich went into his mouth.

"*That's* gonna change," she told him as she fished a pickle out of the jar and put it on his plate.

He gave her a look that told her he very much doubted that. "Two, please."

She added another pickle to his plate. "Are you sure you didn't just sneak in here looking for someone to wait on you hand and foot?"

He shook his head. One of the pickles disappeared in two bites. "If that's what I was looking for, I'd have picked someone a lot more agreeable."

She giggled and reached for some more chips. She was starting to like him a little, which seemed like the wrong thing to do, but she couldn't help it. Having never been visited by a big, scary guy from the future before this, she wasn't sure if that was a normal reaction or not.

By the time they were done eating, she was yawning again, and he was looking a little drowsy himself. She got up to put away the chips as he pushed his chair back from the table and stifled a burp.

"I suppose in the future I do the dishes, too," she said as she gathered up the empty beer bottles.

"Nah. We don't have to do dishes in the future."

"Really?" Wow. She was really looking forward to that.

"Our robot maid does them," he said, with a totally straight face.

"Cool!" she blurted, before her brain caught up with her mouth and let her know that he'd completely suckered her again.

Whoever he was, he enjoyed giving her a hard time. Of that she had no doubt.

"Smartass." She smacked him on the back of the head, and the table rocked under his arm as he unsuccessfully tried to avoid the blow. He looked down and frowned at it as he rubbed his head.

"Table need to be fixed?" he asked, putting his hands on it and wobbling it, leaning back to look down at the legs as it tilted back and forth.

Uh oh. He had that look on his face. That "I-know-I-can-fix-this-with-six-or-twelve-power-tools" look her father always got right before he ruined something.

"It's the floor, not the table. This is an old house. The paper must've come out." She ducked beneath the table to look for the folded piece of paper they kept under one leg.

Her father kept saying he was going to make the table crooked to match the floor, but he hadn't gotten around to it yet. She could see Logan was having the same thoughts. She didn't care how persuasive he was, she was *not* setting him loose in her parents' house with any type of cutting instrument.

She knelt down next to Logan's chair and opened the paper up on her knee. As she folded it into a triangle, she felt his hand settle on her back. Her own hands slowed as they creased the paper, and she waited, wondering what he was doing. His hand felt heavy, but not uncomfortably so, and his thumb began to slowly move back and forth, gently rubbing her back.

It was a simple and affectionate gesture, and when she snuck a glance over at him, she realized he didn't even know he was doing it. His head was turned, looking at the collection of school calendars and lunch menus and report cards that hung on the refrigerator. His hand appeared to caress her all on its own.

It wasn't until his fingers slid down her back and brushed the strip of bare skin between her shirt and her shorts that he realized what he was doing. He jumped a little, and seemed surprised to look over and see that he was touching her. He quickly snatched his hand away.

"Sorry." He cleared his throat and sat up a little straighter in his chair, eyes darting around the room. Looking everywhere but at her. "I guess I forgot that you don't really know me."

"That's okay," she mumbled, stuffing the paper under the table leg. It hadn't bothered her so much as surprised her, and she'd been oddly touched by the way he was so affectionate with her.

He abruptly slid his chair back and got to his feet, and she had a suspicion that it was partly to put a little more distance between them. He stretched and yawned, T-shirt riding up to reveal a stomach rippled with muscle and bisected with a line of dark hair. If he made a habit of consuming multiple beers at one time, his belly didn't show it. His torso looked like it belonged to a movie star, or a male model.

It was with effort that she turned her attention back to the table leg, jamming the make-shift wedge into place. She stood up and tested the soundness of the table.

"All fixed."

"Bedtime," he said, the word deformed by another yawn.

"I agree."

He went straight to her bedroom. She hadn't thought about it until that moment, but they hadn't discussed where he was going to sleep, and from the looks of it, he had decided it would be in her room. In fact, he was already emptying the pockets of his jeans onto her desk.

"Um. . ." Sharing a meal was one thing, but sleeping in the same room was quite another. She was suddenly very aware of her situation, the ease with which they'd interacted downstairs vanishing completely as her mind was flooded with numerous unpleasant possibilities.

He moved the desk chair out of the way and gestured toward the floor. "You got a blanket and a pillow I can use?"

That made her feel a little better, as it implied no dastardly intentions, but she still wasn't happy about it.

"You're sleeping in here?"

He nodded as he went to the window and checked outside again. "Probably won't sleep much, though, since you snore like a buzzsaw."

"I do not!"

He sat down on her poor chair and began to take off his boots. "You used to keep the bears away from the tent all by yourself with that racket, darlin'."

Darlin'. The endearment came out with an easy intimacy, and she suspected he didn't even know he'd said it. He was just used to calling her that, much like he was used to touching her the way he had in the kitchen. He seemed to be slipping into familiar habits, and the only reason she noticed and he didn't was because they weren't familiar to her. Not yet.

Maybe he was telling the truth.

Maybe she was starting to believe him.

But that didn't mean she was totally comfortable with him.

She changed into her pajamas in the bathroom, hurrying from one set of clothes to the next behind the locked door, feeling incredibly vulnerable for the few seconds she spent nearly naked. When she opened the door, half-expecting to see him waiting there, she was relieved to find the hallway empty. She retrieved a few blankets and a pillow from the hall closet for him, then watched with dismay as he appropriated one of her pillows as well.

"Two pillows?"

"You'll live," he said, making himself a comfortable spot on the floor.

"Well, that is why you're here, isn't it?"

"Funny. Now get snorin'."

"I don't snore."

"It's like a dump truck rolling down a cliff. Swear to God."

Realizing it was useless to argue, she reached over to turn off the bedside lamp, prompting an annoyed comment from him, and mutterings about having to fumble around in the dark. Good enough for him, she thought, remembering what he'd done to her. At least she wasn't going to grab him and. . .

"Hey!" She propped herself up on her elbows, indignant. "I've got a bone to pick with you, mister. Why'd you knock me unconscious? That was kind of uncalled for, you know."

There was a snort of laughter from somewhere on the floor next to the bed. "I didn't knock you out. You fainted."

"Oh, God," she groaned, completely embarrassed. She rolled over and buried her face in the blankets. Some world-saver she was turning out to be.

A few seconds later, she poked her head out and asked him, "Are you *sure* I'm going to be a superhero?"

He laughed again in the dark, and she wondered a little just why it felt so good to make him do that.

She woke up once during the night, and at first she was sure that she had dreamed the whole thing, but then she saw the wallet and the keys on her desk, and the jacket hanging on her chair, and she knew that it was real. She leaned over to peer down at him on the floor.

He was still there, curled on his side, facing the bed. He'd taken off his shirt, and was clutching one of the pillows to his bare chest as he slept. It was cute, and strangely innocent, like a child snuggling a teddy bear, and she had to stifle a giggle.

He wasn't nearly as intimidating when he was asleep, and she decided that he wasn't as scary-looking as she'd first thought. He had an intense way about him, but once a person got used to it, it was easier to see his other qualities. Despite his size and attitude, he wasn't mean. Actually, he was handsome in his own way, and had a sense of humor.

And he really seemed to like her, or the future her, anyway. She scooted back down under the blankets, wondering how long she would have to wait before she met him for real. She was sort of looking forward to seeing him again later in life, even if he was a pillow stealer. She made a mental note to ask him when that would be, and then drifted off to sleep again.

It was the garbage truck that woke her up in the morning. Actually, it was the realization that it had passed her house without stopping, because she'd forgotten to put the bin out on the curb the night before. She'd wanted to get rid of those empty beer bottles before her parents came home.

She rolled crossways on the bed and pushed herself toward the edge with her toes. Logan was still asleep, on his back this time, one arm flung over his head. The pillow he'd been cuddling with during the night lay on the blanket next to him.

His jeans were in a heap on the carpet, and she was pretty sure they hadn't been there when she'd looked at him before. She wondered how he got any sleep if he kept waking up to take off his clothes.

Then she wondered if he was completely naked under the blanket.


She'd never seen a naked man, but everyone had to start somewhere, and he looked like he'd be a pretty decent choice. He had a lot of muscles. More muscles than the boys at school, that was for sure. His hair was a little weird, and muttonchops had apparently made a big comeback in the future, but it all seemed to suit him. She could feel her face getting warm, embarrassed by simply thinking about male nudity. God only knew what would happen when she was confronted with the real thing.

The sound of his voice made her jump. "It's not polite to stare, Marie." He hadn't moved at all, and for a second she thought she was imagining things. Then he opened his eyes. His hair was all messed up, sticking up in some places, mashed flat in others. He didn't really look scary at all now, just silly and sleepy.

"I'm just making sure you aren't drooling on my pillow." She looked at the clock, because she was afraid that if she kept looking at him, he'd figure out what she'd been thinking. "I thought I'd sleep later, because we went to bed so late."

He sat up and scratched his head, yawning noisily. The blanket slid down around his hips, revealing the waistband of his boxer shorts. No naked man today, she thought, and she was sure her face got even warmer. It was probably turning red, too. She had to fight the urge to touch her cheeks. If she was turning red, rubbing would not help.

As if channeling her urge, Logan scrubbed at his face with a hand. "Any place around here we can get some breakfast food? I'm not sure I can face another turkey sandwich."

"You're hungry again already?" She marveled again at how flat his stomach was, given his appetite.

He nodded and stretched his arms above his head, joints popping.

"We have ice cream," she volunteered. Nice, cold ice cream. She wished she had some, so she could stick her face in it.

He grimaced. "I'll pass. We'll go buy some real food. Get in the shower." He lay back down and sandwiched his head between his pillows.

"What about you? Aren't you getting up? I can't go out by myself. What about that guy?"

"I'm going with you," he said, words slightly muffled by the pillows, "but it'll be at least an hour before you're ready to leave the house."

As she crawled out of bed and trudged toward the bathroom she heard him add, "And don't use all the hot water."

It was getting really annoying that he knew so much about her already.

She was positively paranoid for the first few minutes after they left the house. Everything and everyone seemed much more sinister than usual, and she couldn't stop checking the road behind them as they drove to the grocery store. Logan seemed unfazed, almost relaxed, but she supposed he was used to dealing with danger. She supposed she was going to get used to it, too, eventually.

They were in the cookie aisle when he called her "Rogue."

She stopped the cart and turned back to look at him. "What did you say?"

He was studying the Pepperidge Farm cookie selection. "I asked if you still like Mint Milano cookies," he said, then frowned. "Or if you started liking them yet, I guess, since--"

"No, what did you just call me?"

He managed to tear himself away from the cookies long enough to give her a confused look. "I don't know. What--"

"I think you called me 'Rogue.'"

"Oh." He looked surprised by the news. "I guess I just said that automatically, because we're in a public place."

"Okay." That didn't make any sense to her at all. "And that means what?"

He grabbed a bag of Mint Milanos and headed her way. "That's your, uh, other name," he said as he put them in the cart.

"Other name?"

He lowered his voice. "You know…for that thing we do?"

"Like a codename?" She must have said it a little too loudly, because he winced and gave her a stern look.

"Yes," he said as he looked around, as if checking to see if there was anyone in close proximity.


Apparently satisfied that the coast was clear and she hadn't blown their cover, Logan grabbed the cart and headed for the dairy department.

Marie trailed along after him, absorbing this latest bit of information.

She had a codename. Cool.

They returned to the house with enough groceries to last a month, and she made omelets for them, which happened to be the only breakfast food she could make with any reliable accuracy. He ate two, both of them packed full of vegetables, and nearly half a loaf of bread went through the toaster and into his stomach. Just *watching* him eat made her feel full.

By the time they started washing the dishes, she was wondering if that month's worth of food would last the week.

He replaced her father's beer, as promised, and put in a supply of his own. Marie moved her father's brand to the back of the refrigerator so Logan wouldn't accidentally drink it. She might turn out to be a world savior later in life, but right now she had a healthy fear of her parents.

As they settled in on the couch to watch a movie, she realized that at some point she had completely accepted his explanation for being in her house, and stopped questioning his motives and his story. She'd had a perfectly good opportunity to get away from him at the grocery store, and it hadn't even dawned on her to try.

It made her feel a little foolish and gullible, but she had to admit to herself that she was caught up in the excitement and romanticism of the whole thing. She'd always loved the "Terminator" movies, especially the first one, and a part of her badly wanted to believe it was all true, that the story he'd told her was real. She knew it was still possible he was nuts, but she couldn't help the fact that his obvious fondness for her was over-riding all caution and common sense. And she was sorta developing a crush on him.

That didn't mean she enjoyed sharing the couch, though.

Marie's parents each had a recliner they called theirs, and her brother preferred to stretch out on the floor, which left her in sole possession of the couch. And she was used to using every inch of it for herself.

Logan didn't appear to be interested in the recliners or the floor. Even worse, he immediately claimed the end where she liked to rest her head, and when she tried to use the other side it was all wrong. She had to bend her legs to keep her feet out of his lap, and the angle of the television was strange.

Finally, she stacked a couple throw pillows next to him on the couch so she could prop up her head and lay down. It still wasn't quite right--the pillows were much squishier than the arm of the couch, and her feet hung off the other end--but it was the best she could do under the circumstances.

"Am I in your way?" She knew even before she looked up at him that he'd have that left eyebrow cocked.

She looked. He did.

"Yes." She glared at the TV. "I'm glad you find my frustration entertaining."

"Always have, darlin'."

She was starting to like it when he called her that.

He touched her twice during the movie.

The first time, when he began to twirl her hair around his fingers, she wasn't sure what to do, and that discomfort must have transmitted to him, because he quickly let go and apologized. The second time, when she came back from the kitchen with drinks and he held up an arm so she could cuddle against his side, she pushed the pillows out of the way, sat down next to him, and let him put his arm around her.

And it was nice. He was warm, and felt good next to her. He smelled good, too. Like her soap and his leather jacket, and a little hint of beer. She leaned into him a bit, and he gave her a little squeeze, then seemed to notice what they were doing and took his arm back.

"Gimme a little room, would ya?" He nudged her leg with his, prodding her to move over, as if he hadn't been the one who had invited her to snuggle in next to him. He slouched down a little and put his feet up on the coffee table, eyes fixed on the TV screen.

Men were weird, she decided. Even weirder than teenage boys, maybe, which hardly seemed possible.

The movie was entertaining enough, but after a while she started to get restless. Truthfully, she was more interested in the man next to her, and it seemed like a waste to sit in silence and stare at the television. She could watch a movie any time, but Logan would only be here for a few days, and she wanted to ask him so many things.

She pulled her feet up onto the couch and turned to face him. "Where did I get my codename?"

He shrugged and didn't look at her. "I dunno. That's what you were calling yourself when I met you."

"Oh." She'd made a pretty unspectacular choice, in her opinion, but there must have been a reason for it. Maybe she could do something about that, now that she knew in advance she'd have to pick one.

"Do you have one?"

"Yeah. Wolverine." Wow, his was cool.

"So tell me more about us."

He gave her a startled look. "What do you mean?"

His reaction to the question gave her pause, but didn't discourage her. "You know. What do we do? How do we find the bad guys? Are we famous? Do we have a bat signal thing that they light up when they need us?"

He took another drink from his beer and concentrated on the television. "Uh. . .not really."

"Do we have a cool headquarters? Where do we live?"

"New York."

New York. Wow. She'd never been there. They had winter there, and snow. She'd never seen snow in real life.

"Is it just you and me, or are there a bunch of us?"

"A couple more."

She waited for him to elaborate, but he didn't. Hmmm. He didn't seem to want to talk about the superhero thing. She switched topics.

"Is this what we usually do when we hang out? Watch movies?"

He shifted uncomfortably, obviously not eager to discuss that with her either. "Sometimes. We. . .um. . ." He picked at the label on his beer bottle with his thumbnail. "You know, it's kind of weird talking about this with you."

No kidding. As if there was anything about this little visit that wasn't weird. "It's pretty weird for me, too, in case you can't tell." She tried not to sound irritated about it, but she couldn't help being a little annoyed by his reticence.

"Yeah, I guess it is," he agreed. He stared at the coffee table for a second, tapping his thumb on his knee, obviously weighing his decision. Finally, he said, "I'm not sure how much I should tell you about the future. You probably already know more than you should, and I don't want to mess things up."

She had to admit he had a point. "I guess you're right," she said, looking down at the shoelace she was twisting around her finger, so he wouldn't see the disappointment on her face.

"Hey." Logan reached over and cupped her cheek with his hand, making her look at him. His thumb ran back and forth along the curve of her cheekbone. "I'm trying to do the right thing here. I don't want to make things worse instead of better."

Feeling a little guilty for pressing him, she did her best to smile and act like it was no big deal. "I know. Plus, if we screw things up too much, you'd probably have to come back *again*," she teased.

He didn't smile back. His thumb traced the curve of her lower lip. "That wouldn't be so bad," he said softly.

She suddenly felt like she couldn't move. Like the air in the room had gotten heavy, and was pressing down on her, making her feel drowsy and slow. She stared up at him, waiting for whatever was coming next, aware that her sorta-crush was rapidly becoming full-blown infatuation, and she was loving every second of it, even if it seemed like an incredibly bad idea.

His hand slid around to the back of her neck, raising goosebumps along her arms. "Marie. . ." he said.

And then the phone rang.

They both jumped, and he let go of her. He looked, she thought, a little guilty.

She looked at the phone and then him, unsure what she should do. "Should I answer that?"

He wouldn't look at her. "Uh, no, I don't think so."


Neither of them said anything for a moment. He stared at the coffee table some more. Brooding, it appeared. The phone rang a few more times, then went quiet as the voicemail picked it up.

She wanted to ask him what he'd been about to say to her before the phone rang, but instead she asked, "Should we watch another movie?" She flipped through the pay-per-view guide, because it gave her something to do.


"There's that new Harrison Ford movie," she said, holding up the book so he could see the ad. "Have you seen it?"

"Yep. About a million times. And the sequel."

"There's a sequel?" she asked, baffled, then remembered. "Oh." She'd forgotten that he lived many years ahead of this time. "Is it any good?"

"Better than the first one. More action."


Much to Marie's relief, the awkwardness between them began to dissipate a few minutes into the movie. Not too long after that, their late night began to catch up with them. When they were both yawning, on the verge of nodding off, Logan reached for the remote and announced that it was naptime.

She followed him up to her room and sat on the bed while he tortured her desk chair some more so he could take off his boots.

"So what kind of superhero am I?" she asked, kicking off her shoes. "Don't superheroes need superpowers?" She suddenly wondered if she was going to get bitten by a freaky spider, or doused with gamma rays. She really hoped not.

He took off both boots before he answered her, lining them up carefully on the floor beside the chair. "We do have superpowers," he said. "We're mutants."

There it was, she thought, with a pang of disappointment. The detail that blew his whole story wide open. "I'm not a mutant," she said, not as relieved as she'd thought she would be.

"You are. You just don't know it yet. Your power is going to show up soon, though."

"Really?" Mutant powers. That was a sobering thought. "What is it?"

He came over and sat down next to her on the bed. Took a deep breath, let it out. As if she couldn't already tell by the way he was acting, he said, "This isn't going to be easy to hear."

She cried for a long time. He held her and stroked her hair and didn't say a word. Just made small comforting sounds and rocked her back and forth in his lap. Even when she got angry at him and called him horrible names and told him she wanted him to go away, he just held on to her.

He didn't say much until she told him that she'd rather be dead than have such an awful mutation. The movement of his hand on her back faltered slightly, then resumed.

"You don't mean that."

"I do. It's not fair!" And it wasn't. It really, really wasn't. She didn't want to be a mutant and she didn't want to have some crappy skin thing.

"I know, darlin'. But you'll be okay. You're not going to let it stop you from having anything you want."

"Oh, sure." She laughed bitterly, half-choking on her tears. "Anything I want. Except a boyfriend or a husband or babies or--oh, God. I can't touch anyone. Ever. Oh, God."

"That's not tr--"

"It is true! You just said so! You said that I'll kill people if I touch them."

"Listen, I know it sounds bad, and I won't try to tell you it's not going to be hard, but I swear it's not the end of the world. You don't let your skin stop you from having what you want." She felt him drop a kiss on the top of her head. "And I don't either," he whispered against her hair.

She went totally still in his arms, turning his words over in her mind.

He didn't really mean what she thought he meant. Did he?

The shock and grief retreated a little bit, and she was suddenly aware of close he was, that his arms were around her, that she was leaning against his chest. That he was rubbing his hand up and down her back, just like he'd done in the kitchen. Touching her. Touching her like he had a right to do it, anytime he wanted. And like he did it often, mutant skin be damned.

"Do you--are we…" She wasn't even sure what to ask.

He didn't make her finish the question. "Yes."


That was probably the most shocking thing of all, which, on a day like this, was really saying something. That was the surprise, the most unbelievable part. That somewhere in the future, this man was hers. She was untouchable, and deadly, and it didn't seem to matter to him. He still touched her, he still wanted her. He still. . .loved her. Yes. He did. That explained his demeanor, why he acted like he did toward her. He loved her.

She didn't even know him yet, but he loved her.

"What's your mutation?" she asked, after things had sunk in a little. She didn't want to think about her own situation anymore.

He smiled a little. His mutation was obviously much more pleasant than hers, and she hated him for it a little bit right then.

"I heal from anything. Really fast."

Oh. That didn't sound very impressive to her, but he was obviously quite pleased with it.

"So you can't really hurt me," he added, and he sounded like he was waiting for her to catch on to something, but. . .


She wasn't sure she dared to ask. "So. . .I can touch you?"

"Yeah, a little." That wasn't the answer she'd wanted to hear, but it was better than nothing, she supposed.

He gently brushed her hair away from her eyes. "Even better, I can heal you," he said softly, and the tenderness she saw in his expression was startling. It changed his face, made it more open, and she suddenly saw a completely different person in him. Not cocky, and not dangerous.

"You've done that? Healed me?"

"I sure have." His fingers trailed down her cheek and cupped her chin, tilting her face up to his. "And it was worth it, every time."

Worth it? What did that mean? "Did it hurt you?"

"Not as much as losing you. I would have done it a thousand times."

His voice was turning her insides to jelly, or maybe it was his hands that were doing it, but either way her body felt warm and her head felt fuzzy. She wanted to make it last as long as possible, because she'd never felt so loved and so important as she did right at that moment.

His face dipped toward hers slightly, and her stomach did a roller-coaster flip. She felt her eyes widen as she realized he was about to kiss her. The look on her face must have registered, because he lifted his head away and tightened his arms instead, tucking her under his chin and holding her close.

She let him hold her, a little disappointed and a lot overwhelmed.

"How long?" she asked, when she thought she could do it without sobbing.

"How long what?"

"How long until it happens? Until my skin. . ."

"Not long. A few weeks."

"That's all?" A few weeks. Not even enough time to grow up. God, it kept getting more and more awful.

"I know. I'm sorry, darlin'. So sorry."

"And you don't care that you can't really touch me?" It seemed impossible to believe.

He shrugged. "Not really." He dropped his gaze to her lap, where her fingers were nervously twisting around each other. He gently took her hands in his and stilled them. "Eventually, you're going to learn how to control it pretty well." He turned one of her hands over and traced the lines on her palm with a fingertip.

"Pretty well? Not totally?"

He shook his head as he brought her hand up to his mouth and laid a soft kiss in the center of her palm.

"Enough, though. Enough."

"The sun's coming up," she said softly.

"Mmmhmm." He hadn't said anything in a while, but he'd been running his fingers up and down her arm, so she knew he was still awake. It had a hypnotizing effect that she found soothing, and feeling him cuddled up behind her was soothing, too. It didn't change things, that he was there, but it made things just a little bit better. She had a feeling he was really good at that.

"It really doesn't bother you? That you can't touch me?" She'd already asked him that a dozen times at least, but she couldn't help it.

"Not really." His hand slid down over her stomach and pulled her back against him a little tighter. She fit perfectly there, nestled under his chin, and it made her wonder if they slept like this a lot. "There were a lot of things I agonized over," he said. "Reasons I thought we shouldn't be together. But that wasn't one of them. Ever."

Rather than reassuring her, that bit of information had the opposite effect. "You didn't want to be with me?" She was caught off guard by how upsetting that was, by how much value she put on it, how much she was already depending on it. On him.

"It's. . .complicated. There were a lot of things going on with us."

"Oh." She wasn't sure she wanted to know, and he didn't volunteer any further information, so she let it pass.

He gave her another squeeze. "Go to sleep."

"I should brush my teeth."

"You can do that in the morning."

"It is morning."

"Shhh. Go to sleep."

He didn't make any effort to move, and she didn't suggest it. The blankets and pillow on the floor went unused, and the next morning she put them back in the hall closet.

Logan made breakfast the next morning, but Marie was barely aware of what he put on her plate. After taking a few tasteless bites, she put her fork down and left him at the table. He let her go without a word, but she could feel his eyes following her as she slipped from the room.

Her grief and shock made her restless, unable to stay in one place or concentrate on anything, so she spent the better part of the morning simply moving from room to room with no purpose. She had moments of normality, when she would briefly forget what lay in wait for her, just a few weeks into the future. Then something would remind her, and her stomach would go hollow and the tears would return.

Only once did she try to tell herself that she had no real proof he wasn't crazy, that this wasn't some elaborate lie. The look on his face as he watched her grieve was proof enough. He was telling the truth, and it hurt him almost as much as it did her.

Lunchtime came and went, and still she didn't feel like eating. She stood on the back porch and looked at the swing set in the yard, the sandbox that was slowly collapsing in on itself, the sunny spot by the flower bed where her father used to set up her little plastic swimming pool.

Things she'd always assumed she'd have for herself one day. Simple things: a house, a flower garden, babies in the backyard. A normal life.

She turned and looked into the house, and found Logan leaning in the kitchen doorway, watching her through the window. He was her future now. Him, and a cause she didn't really understand all that well. No babies, no backyard.

Logan disappeared from the doorway, retreating into the house somewhere, and she was thankful he knew her well enough to leave her alone.

She was a few weeks from graduating from high school. A few more weeks from turning eighteen. And just fifteen days from losing her entire life as she knew it, and everything she'd hoped it would be.

Never in her life had she felt older than she did at that moment, when she stood on those familiar creaky boards, staring at the vestiges of her childhood. Preparing to face her future.

Logan was in the family room, checking out the framed photos on the piano. He seemed endlessly fascinated by her house and everything in it, and she often found him simply looking at things, an unreadable expression on his face.

Now that she thought about it, sometimes he had that same expression on his face when he looked at her.

She slid her arms around his waist and pressed her face between his shoulder blades. His hands closed over hers, fingers sliding between. "How ya doin'?"


He turned in her arms and hugged her tightly. "Hope it wasn't my cooking."

It was nearly impossible, but she managed a laugh, and he gave her another squeeze for her efforts. He didn't let go when he was done squeezing, and she was glad.

"What should we do today?" he asked. "More movies?"

What did she want to do today? Make it last forever, she supposed. Make it so she wouldn't have to face what was going to happen. Make it so the things he'd told her would never come true.

In lieu of the impossible, all she really wanted to do was curl up on her bed like they'd done the day before. Stare at the tree outside her window and let him tell her over and over again that everything was going to be okay.

It wasn't, but there'd be plenty of time to face that later.

"We still haven't watched the rest of that Harrison Ford one," he reminded her.

She hesitated only for a moment. Only long enough to remember that time mattered so much more now than it had two days ago. Only long enough to recall that she couldn't afford to not ask for what she wanted while she could still have it. She burrowed into his chest a little more and said, "Let's go upstairs."

He didn't say anything, and she thought that maybe he hadn't heard her, or worse, that he was going to say no. Then he took her hand and led her up the stairs, and she tried to forget that in a few days he would be gone.

Marie looked at the stripes of sunlight on her forearm, highlighting every hair and freckle. Staring at her harmless flesh, at the same unspectacular skin she'd had all her life, it was hard to believe that in a few weeks it would capable of killing people.

Logan's hand slid across her belly, fingers sneaking beneath her T-shirt. His hands were strong and confident in a way that was new to her, and the thought that there wouldn't be any more touches like this after he left was enough to make her want to cry again. It wasn't fair that she was going to have to give up this pleasure just when she was starting to learn about it.

She thought about all the things she'd taken for granted about her life, things that were rapidly slipping out of reach. And she thought about the hand on her stomach, and the way he hurt for her, watching her go through this. She thought about that sandbox in the yard, and the tiny plastic pool, and that little girl who hadn't known back then just how cruel life could be. She thought about the future, and how, as scary as it was, knowing the man next to her was in it made the knowledge almost bearable.

The strip of sunlight on the bed grew narrower and softer, and after a while she stopped thinking about the future so much, and thought mostly about Logan's presence next to her, big and warm and close.

He couldn't seem to stop touching her, and she couldn't stop wanting it. He kept catching himself, and politely pulling away, but after a few minutes his hands would be back, and she found herself wishing more and more that he wouldn't stop.

Part of it was the knowledge that this was her last chance, that she had years and years ahead of her where this simple pleasure would be denied, but she also knew that it was partly him. She could already see how easy it was going to be to fall in love with him.

His hand slid beneath her shirt again, one fingertip gently tracing the dip of her navel. She put her hand on his, through her shirt, and pressed it flat against her belly. His hands were so big, and so heavy. Strong hands, but they could touch like a feather.

They could touch her, period.

She closed her eyes, feeling like she was sinking under the weight of too many thoughts.

Logan stiffened next to her, misinterpreting her reaction. "I'm sorry. I--" He tried to move his hand, but she held it, wouldn't let him.

"It's okay."

He was silent for a moment, then sighed. "I can't stop myself. I just want to touch you a little. That's all."

The hint of pleading she heard in his voice, the way he seemed to be seeking permission, shored up her courage. She freed his hand, letting him rub small circles into her belly.

"I want to touch you, too," she said quietly, because she wasn't brave enough to say it any louder.

His hand slowed, then stilled. She could feel him looking at her, and it took a lot for her to turn and meet that look, but she did it. His gaze was intense, and she could feel something in her responding to him, to the way he looked at her.

She turned on her side, facing him. "Can I?''

He closed his eyes and nodded, his face creasing into something that looked almost like a grimace when her fingers trailed down his neck and brushed the collar of his T-shirt.

He didn't say anything, just watched her through hooded eyes as she ran her hands through his hair, over his face, down his arms. She was desperate to memorize how it felt, to learn it all before she began a life encased in gloves and long sleeves. She knew she couldn't do a lifetime's worth of touching in just a few days, but she was damn well going to try.

His hand tightened on her hip and pulled her closer to him, until they were pressed together from head to toe. His body was so solid, muscles like twisted iron, and she wanted to feel them all.

He shivered and buried his face in her neck when her hands slid under his shirt and played across his back. "I shouldn't be doing this," he groaned.

"I won't be able to again for so long. . ." She knew she was playing dirty, but she didn't care. If he let his conscience stop him. . .

"We'll do whatever you want." His voice was hoarse, and it felt like the hand that crept up her side beneath her shirt was shaking a little. "Whatever you want."

And even though it was a little scary to think about what they were going to do, she knew that she wanted it. If she didn't do it now, she'd never have the chance again. It was okay, she told herself, because they were together in the future, and he loved her. It was okay.

He didn't object when she pulled his T-shirt over his head, and he didn't try to pull away again, didn't try to stop himself, or her. The sun went down and the room got dim and the pile of clothes next to the bed grew.

She felt shy and awkward, but he was slow and gentle, and everything he did to her felt so good. The second time, he wasn't quite so slow and gentle, and it felt really, really good, and she said things that made her blush later when she remembered them. The third time, she was already learning a few things herself, and she made *him* say things that made her blush later when she remembered them.

The next two days flew by, two more hash marks on the mental tab she was keeping. It seemed like everything was a blur of hands and skin, and all she wanted to do was touch, and touch, and cry.

No matter which one she felt like doing, Logan obliged.

"I feel kind of bad about doing this."

He raised his head and looked at her, alarmed, and she put her hand on his cheek to soothe him.

"It kind of feels like. . .like I'm the other woman. But I can't be the other woman to myself, can I? It kind of feels like. . ."

He flopped back down on his pillow and sighed at the ceiling. "Like I'm cheating on the other you," he finished for her. "I know. It's not, though. Cheating." He sounded like he was trying to convince himself as much as he was her.

"Do I know you're here?" She wasn't sure she wanted to know. She was a little jealous of the other her, the one who had him all the time. In a few days, she was going to have to give him up. Not forever, but for a while, and she could already tell it was going to hurt.

He lifted her hand to his mouth and placed a small kiss on her palm. "No."

"But you feel guilty, too, don't you?"

He rolled up onto one arm and looked down at her. "A little," he admitted. Under the sheet, his arm hooked around her waist and eased her toward him. "You're so young, Marie. I--"

"But if we're together now, in your time, it's okay," she insisted. She was already kicking herself for bringing the topic up in the first place.

He gathered her a little closer, sliding one bare leg between hers. "Yeah, I guess it's okay."

"How will I know what to do?"

She wasn't even sure if she was asking a question, or simply giving voice, finally, to what had been worrying her for days.

"What do you mean?" Logan's voice, a drowsy murmur, vibrated through his chest and tickled her face. She rubbed her cheek against him as his hand slid down her waist and lazily stroked her hip. He had a way, she thought, of making it hard to concentrate on a conversation.

"What if I do something to screw it up? What if I stop to eat at the wrong place or buy the wrong pair of shoes or something, and we never meet?"

"That won't happen. It'll be fine."

She lifted her head to look at him, wanting him to see how serious she was, how scared she was she would do something to separate them. Logan looked sleepy, and not nearly worried enough.

She shook her head. "You don't know that, Logan. If you can change things on purpose, then they can be changed on accident."

He took her face in his hands, held her still. "Darlin', all you need to do is find me. I already told you where I'll be, and when. Don't worry about everything else. Just find me." He sounded so confident. She wished a little of that confidence would rub off on her. So far it hadn't. Not at all.

"But how will I know I'm not screwing it up?" If she didn't get there at the right time, if they didn't meet. . .

He tilted her face so he could kiss her mouth. "Follow your instincts."

"Do you know when it's going to happen? When you're leaving?"

She hated to even think about it, and had been avoiding the topic, but with their last day looming ever closer she'd begun to worry that he'd suddenly disappear before they had a chance to say goodbye. They were on the couch again, eating pizza, and it seemed like a nice, non-emotional time to ask.

"'Bout the same time I got here." Logan concentrated on his pizza, and she could tell it bothered him to talk about it, too. "Late. Around ten o'clock."

She thought again of that first night, when she'd wondered how long he'd been in her room, waiting for her to come upstairs. Now she knew.

"Will there be any warning? Before it happens?" She forced some pizza past the lump forming in her throat. So much for non-emotional.

"Little bit, yeah," he said. "They usually let you know before they yank you back. Just in case you're in the bathroom or something, I guess." She thought he was trying to be funny, but she wasn't sure. "I don't know if you'll be able to hear it, though. It's usually just the people making the trip."

"At least you don't have to go back and forth naked, like in the movies." Her own attempt to be funny, before the mood in the room got any more morose.

"Nope. Woulda been kind of interesting, though. Showing up here in the buff." He lifted his eyebrows suggestively.

"I probably would have fainted twice. Hey, do my boobs get any bigger?" She held her pizza out of the way and arched her back a little, inviting him to look.

Logan eyed her chest. "Don't think so."


"I've got no complaints." He gave her an utterly male grin and helped himself to another slice. "I can do a more thorough investigation after we're done eating, though, if you want."

"I'm not sure I can take much more investigating tonight, but we'll see. I bet Sarah Connor didn't have nearly this much sex with *her* guy from the future." She could almost say "sex" without blushing. Almost.

"Guess you got lucky."

"Just as long as you aren't here to get me pregnant."

Logan looked terrified at the suggestion. "Jesus, I hope not."

Whoops. Bad joke. "No, no, I'm sure it's okay. I --"

He waved off her explanation. "I know. Saw 'em in the medicine cabinet."

She was shocked. "You snooped in the medicine cabinet?"

"Everyone snoops in the medicine cabinet when they're in someone else's house," he said with a shrug, then stuffed the rest of his pizza in his mouth. "And I needed to use your toothbrush anyway," he said through the pizza.

That was true, on both counts. He was just so much larger than life, it was hard to imagine him doing something as human as peeking around in her bathroom, or brushing his teeth. She pictured him using her bright pink toothbrush, and that made her giggle.

Logan raised a questioning eyebrow and kept chewing.

She told him what she'd been thinking, and he swallowed and said, "Even tough guys gotta brush their teeth." He set his plate down and pulled her into his lap, pizza and all. "Especially if they want to get the girl." One hand slid under her shirt and headed for her breasts.

She paused mid-chew and gave him a disapproving look. "What are you doing?"

"Investigating?" His fingers crept up her ribs, and he shifted a little beneath her.

He didn't make it difficult to focus on a conversation, she decided. He made it *impossible*.

"Can I finish my dinner?"

The hand retreated and curled around her waist instead, snugging her in a little closer. "Yeah, you'll probably need the energy." He reached for his beer with his other arm as she rolled her eyes at his bravado.

"Maybe you really are here to kill me. You're just doing it in a roundabout way." A much more pleasant way, that was for sure.

"Damn, you figured me out."

"You would make a pretty good Terminator, though."

Logan laughed at the suggestion. "I don't have the right accent."

"No, but you're very Terminator-y." She picked the last of the cheese off the sliver of crust. "You're big and strong, you glower all the time--"

"I do not," he said, and then glowered a little.

"Okay, most of the time."

Seemingly pacified, he checked the beer level in the bottle and took another drink.

"You're indestructible," she continued, "and you said you have a motorcycle. The only thing you're missing is the sunglasses and the metal skeleton."

Logan choked on his beer and coughed, and she nearly fell off his lap. Her pizza crust disappeared into the couch somewhere as she grabbed his arm and held on.

"What?" she asked. "What'd I say?"

He coughed some more, or maybe it was laughter. It wasn't pretty, whatever it was.

She pounded him on the back, and he wheezed, trying to get some air. Laughing. He was definitely laughing.

She thumped on him some more. "Geez, it wasn't *that* funny."

His last day with her dawned clear and sunny, which came as a surprise to Marie. If this really had been a movie, she thought, it would have been gray and overcast, probably raining.

The sunshine didn't make a difference. Everything had gloomy overtones anyway, despite the beautiful day outside, because everything was the last time. The last time he'd crowd into the shower with her and slide against her, soapy and grinning. The last time they'd eat breakfast together. The last time she'd feel him moving inside her, skin on skin. It was all too soon and all too sad, and she couldn't imagine how she would live without those things in the years to come.

They spent most of the day curled around in each other in her bed, both of them alternating between checking the clock and trying to pretend their final day together wasn't fast approaching its end.

The sun went down, and ten o'clock came, and they couldn't pretend anymore.

"It's time," he said, and she tried not to cry as they got dressed and stood next to the bed, waiting. She sniffled and pressed her face into his shirt, the dread making her stomach twist so bad she thought she might throw up.

"It'll be okay," he said, stroking her hair.

"I know," she said, though she found that the closer it got to him leaving, the less she believed that. She sniffled again as a few tears got away from her. "So. Guess I'll see ya in a while, huh?"

She felt him nod. "Yeah. Don't forget, Laughlin --"

"I know. I'll be there." She made an effort to pull herself together and look up at him, because she wouldn't see him again for a while. He looked like she felt. "Tell the other me I said hi, okay?"

Something in his eyes changed, just for a second, and he looked down at her hands, clutched in his. "I will," he said, and it sounded like he was choking.

Maybe it was the way he sounded, or maybe it was the way he couldn't seem to look at her, but something about that moment made it all fall into place.

Logan sleeping on the floor that first night, curled around a pillow. Every night after that, curled around her.

The way he sometimes talked about the future her in the past tense.

What he said when he talked about healing her.

~"Did it hurt you?"~

~"Not as much as losing you."~

That look she kept seeing on his face, in unguarded moments.

She knew what that look was.

It was loneliness.

It was misery.

She knew then that in his time, there was no Marie. In his time, she was already dead.

Before she could ask him how and when it happened, she heard a faint humming noise that seemed to originate from no specific direction, like it was coming from everywhere in the world at once, and she knew it had to be the warning he'd told her about. He pulled her up onto her toes, crushing her against him. One hand groped at the back of her head, turning her face up to his, and he kissed her, hard and frantic.

"I hear it. Is that it? I hear it," she said against his mouth, and he made a noise that she took for a yes. The kiss got more desperate, his hold on her tighter.

God, he was really leaving. As soon as she thought it, she wondered if she could go with him if she held on tight enough. He broke the kiss and leaned his forehead against hers, and she didn't try to stop the tears anymore. When he opened his eyes, she saw naked pain.

His thumbs brushed away the tears on her cheeks. "Don't cry. It'll be okay."

That was a lie, she knew. It wouldn't be okay. Not for him. He was going to be alone. It wouldn't ever be okay for him.

She dug her fingers into his shoulders. "I don't want you to go. Don't go." She'd vowed she wouldn't beg, but that had been before she knew what he was going back to, before she realized what this was for him.

For her, this parting was temporary. For him, it was forever.

"I have to." He kissed her again, softly, and whispered against her mouth. "I love you, Marie."

God, he did. So much. He hadn't uttered the words until now, but she'd seen it on his face, felt it in his body. She was lost to him in his other life, but he had never stopped loving her.

And this was his last chance to hear her say it back. "I--"

Before she could get the words out, everything around them flickered and stuttered for an instant, like a worn-out film, and he was gone.

Logan stumbled, nearly fell, as the floor of the Citadel jolted into place beneath his feet.

He looked down at his hands, a little stunned to find them empty. Not even one strand of her hair. He could still smell her on his skin and clothes, every in-drawn breath like a punch in the heart, but even the little wet spots her tears had left on his shirt were gone. Like it hadn't even happened.

But it had. Dear God, it had.

It hardly seemed like it was true, but he'd done it. He'd gone back in time to see Marie, and he'd manipulated her, lied to her. Told her a bullshit story he'd taken right from one of her favorite movies, and she'd bought it, because he'd made her trust him. He'd let her see how he felt about her, and then used those feelings to make her believe in him.

And then he'd slept with her, and let her think he as doing it for her, giving her something she wouldn't have otherwise.

And it had all been for him, and for Roma.

It was the most cold-hearted, calculated thing he'd ever done, and he'd done it to the person he loved most. Using the weapon he'd known would be most effective--physical contact. If it had felt almost sacrilegious at the time, that was nothing compared to how it felt now.

The thing that bothered him most, though, was the suspicion that he would have maybe done it anyway.

The sight of her had been overwhelming. He'd known and cared about Marie as a teenager, but he'd certainly never been attracted to her, so he'd been taken aback by his reaction. Seeing the younger version again, there in front of him and very much alive, had been a shock he'd been ill-prepared for. And once she woke up. . .God, it had hurt.

It had taken every ounce of his will hide the fact that she was killing him just by *existing*. He could see the adult Marie in her, here and there, and it tore at him. The same sense of humor, the same sassiness, everything he loved about her was there. Not yet fully formed, but he could see it. She wasn't exactly the woman he missed so fiercely, but she was closest thing he'd had in a long time.

And she was touchable.

Pressed up against her in that bed, breathing her in, it had been so easy to close his eyes and imagine they were back in their room at Chuck's. The room where they'd whispered and touched in the dark, making plans for a future they'd never have. Marie had talked about a house with a big backyard, the kind they could fill up with kids, and he'd been giving it some serious thought.

And then he'd lost it all.

Just for a moment, a few short days, he'd had a small part of it back again, and he hadn't been able to resist the pull. He'd been prepared to manipulate her feelings for him in the most brutal and unbreakable way he knew, but he hadn't been prepared for how easy she'd made it for him.

He could justify it ten different ways, but he'd never convince himself that he hadn't violated the cardinal rule of his relationship with Marie: her welfare came first.

Not this time.

This time, she'd taken a back seat to his broken heart and Roma's priorities. Even as he was whispering to her, stripping her bare in the bed, telling himself he was doing it for her, giving her something she'd never have otherwise, he'd known it would only cause her more pain in the end. And it had been way too easy.

What really bothered him was that it didn't bother him enough.

He'd done what he wanted and what Roma needed, and probably broken a young girl's heart in the process.

He had bound her to him in a way he'd known would be successful, but also incredibly painful for her, in the years to come. She'd been half in love with him when he blipped out of her time, and she was in for a long, difficult wait. He hadn't told her that it would be twelve long years before he returned her feelings, and that they'd only had a short time together before she died.

And that she'd never learned to control her mutation at all, not the slightest bit.

So many lies, so much deception.

He could only hope she didn't end up hating him too much for it.

And that it would be worth it.

He made his way over to the chessboard on shaking legs. Roma was bent over it, several of the figures in her hand, in the process of rearranging them to her liking.

"Did it work?" His voice was shaking almost as much as his knees.

She nodded and placed the Nightcrawler figure, now back to its normal white color, on a square. "Yes. Thank you."

"Good. Now I want you to do something for me." He searched the board. Marie's piece had changed back to white, too, but it was still off to the side with a few others. He picked it up. "I want you to send me back to when Rogue. . .so I can. . .so she doesn't. . ."

Die. He didn't want her to die, and Roma could make it so it never happened. She could send him back again, to that awful day, and he could stop it.

Roma glanced at him briefly, then returned to her chess pieces. "I cannot--" she started to say.

"Yes, you can," he snapped, impatient, pain-stoked rage flaring in him. He didn't want to hear her excuses. He'd done what she wanted. Now she could damn well do what he wanted.

"I must return you to the point at which you exited the timestream."

His fist clenched around the chess piece in his hand, and he wondered what would happen if it broke. Did it matter at all, if she was already dead?

"Bullshit. You owe me this. I did what you wanted, now you can do this for me."

The look she gave him was one of curiosity, with a touch of amusement, and it rankled. "Is that what you think? That I owe you something?" She turned back to the chess pieces. "It's my impression that you already got what you wanted."

His blood boiled at the jab. His guilt over what he'd done was an easy target, and she'd gone straight for it without hesitation. God, he hated her.

"I saved the fucking planet! Give her back to me!" He was shouting and he knew it, but he couldn't make himself stop. He was hurting and furious, which was a rare but deadly combination for him, and he had let her push him way beyond the point where he could rein himself in. He knew it, and didn't care. "I want her back! Give her back!"

She didn't even flinch when he screamed at her, didn't even look at him. "Goodbye, Wolverine."

The claws slid out with a surge of satisfaction, and he roared as he swung at her. "You fucking --"

"-- bitch!"

The word rang out in the darkness, and there was no one to hear it but him. He sank to his knees on the wet grass, his anger deserting him completely, leaving him only with despair.

He opened his fist. The chess piece was gone.

And so was his chance to save Marie.

All he'd wanted was one chance to save her. That was the main reason he'd agreed to the whole twisted mess in the first place. His life now meant little to him, and he'd had precious little interest in guaranteeing it would go on. Yes, he'd felt the old pull of the greater good, still inside him somewhere, from all his years with Xavier, but that had been secondary.

What he'd really wanted was a chance to change what had happened, to get her back. In a way, he had, temporarily. Which had hurt far more than he'd imagined it would, and his imaginings had been brutal.

He clenched his fists, fingers tearing at the grass. As he retracted the claws, he tipped his head back and howled, and he hoped that somewhere Roma heard him, and winced.

God, what had he done? He had lied to and hurt the person he loved most in the world, all for a chance to change the past, and it hadn't worked. All he had done was prove to himself that he was willing to give up everything for her. And that was something he'd already known.

He should have told her, he realized. He should have told her how she was going to die, but it had seemed counter-productive. He was supposed to convince her to stick with Xavier, and telling her that being an X-Man would kill her wasn't exactly a selling point. He had hoped that his success in getting her to remain with the X-Men would persuade Roma to give him the chance he wanted, and he hadn't been willing to gamble with that. In the end, he'd decided not to risk it.

Now he wished he had. Fuck the world. He didn't want to live in it without her anyway.

His throat burned, tightening to the point of pain. He buried the heels of his hands in his eyes, smelling grass and dirt and worms, and all he could think about was Rogue's grave, and how that was all she would smell forever.

Tears welled behind his eyelids for the first time in years, and he wanted to crawl into that grave with her and die.

And then behind him a voice said, "Logan?"

His head snapped up and around so fast it made him dizzy. Before he could formulate an answer--or a question, because he certainly had a few--she spoke again.

"What are you doing out here? Are you okay?"

"Marie?" His voice broke in the middle of the word, and she noticed, hurried to him. Very much alive.

The world around him tilted, and he was sure he as going to fall right off, but she was there, kneeling in front of him, putting gentle hands on his chest. "What's wrong, Logan?" Then, before he could answer, her eyes searched his face, and she said softly, "You remember."

"Remember?" he croaked. God, he was shaking, and he didn't know what to do.

Touch her. He needed to touch her. She was here now and he wanted to touch her, but his arms wouldn't cooperate. His whole body seemed stunned.

"You remember that you went back to see me," she said, and tears spilled down her cheeks.

The tears finally got him moving to get his arms around her. She cried into his jacket, and he kissed the top of her head and wished like hell he had a pair of gloves on him. He'd stopped carrying them years ago.

"You do remember, don't you?" she said between sniffles. "That you came to Mississippi?"

"Yeah, I do." It hadn't been that long ago for him.

"God, I missed you so much."

He pulled back and looked at her, almost afraid to ask. "Missed me? Where was I? Aren't we. . .?"

Together. They had to be.

He couldn't finish the question, but she must have seen the panic in him, because she nodded, reassuring him. "Yes, yes. We are. Of course we are."

He hugged her again. Thank God. Oh, thank God.

"Was I gone a long time?"

She shook her head and wiped at her damp cheeks, settling down. "No. That's not what I mean. You were here the whole time tonight, as far as I know. We had dinner and then you came out here to smoke and then all of a sudden you started making all this noise and I. . ."

She bit her lip. He waited.

"You've been here all these years, Logan, but it was different. *You* were different. I can't really explain it, but I remembered *this* you, always. And I always wished that I could stay with you, make you happy." She bit her lip again, and looked down. "I knew when you left that you were leaving me for good, that in your time I was--"

"But you're not." He didn't want to hear her say that word. In fact, he didn't want to hear it or say it ever again. "You're not."

"But I was, where you came from. Wasn't I?"

He couldn't bring himself to say it, so he nodded. He'd never been a superstitious man, but this terrified him. He wouldn't be able to live through losing her again.

"So we changed that, too."

"I think so." Dear God, please. Please. "I don't know how, but we did." He swept her up in a hug again, unable to believe this was real.

They stayed like that for a little while, not saying anything, and then she asked, "There was no guy trying to kill me, was there?"

Now they were getting into territory he didn't want to visit. "No." It was probably useless to hope she'd leave it at that, but he hoped a little anyway.

"So why were you there?" Hope dashed.

"Someone else messed with the past and convinced you to join the Brotherhood, so I had to go back and make sure you didn't."

She looked up at him, and he wished she hadn't, because it was harder to talk about what he'd done when she was looking at him. "So you used the plot from a movie?"

His eyes skated away from her, despite his best efforts. "Uh, yeah. . ." he mumbled, remembering all the lies, and suddenly feeling about two inches tall. Here with her now, the awfulness of losing her apparently averted, it was already getting harder to convince himself it wasn't the lowest, most pathetic thing he'd ever done.

She laughed, and the sound drew him back to her. She didn't look upset, and that was a small bit of relief. "You're just lucky I was so gullible back then, and didn't know you well enough to tell when you were feeding me a line of bullshit. You never could look at me when you were lying."

He winced, knowing there were more confessions to come. She'd probably waited and hoped all these years, wishing for the day when she would finally be able to control her mutation. A day that would never come.

"Marie, I lied about something else--"

She cut him off with a kiss. Maybe it was because he'd spent the past few days kissing her with no barrier, or maybe he was just too overwhelmed to think straight, but it took him a moment to realize that they were touching skin to skin and nothing was happening. Nothing bad, anyway.

He pulled back, reached to touch her face, then hesitated, unsure. "Can you. . .?"

She grabbed his hand and pressed it to her cheek as she nodded. "Yeah. For a few years now. Ever since I touched Nate."

"Nate?" He had no idea who Nate was.

"Nathan. Cable. The guy from the future."

There was another guy from the future? Christ, the place was crawling with them. "I don't know that guy."

"He's a telepath and telekinetic. He was raised by Jean and Scott, but. . .oh, never mind. I can tell you all that later." She kissed him again, and slid her hands into his hair.

It had only been a few minutes since she'd last done that, but it felt like forever. He kissed her back and then let his own hands wander a little, until she laughed against his neck and hopped up.

"Let's go inside."

"Is this our house?" he asked, looking around as she pulled him to his feet.

"Uh huh. You don't recognize it?"

He shook his head, dumbfounded. He'd never seen it before in his life. "I guess a lot of things are different now." He found it hard to care, actually. The one thing he wanted to be different was, and he could deal with everything else as long as that was the case. "I hope those cigars are still in my truck, though. Those were some good cigars."

She laughed and gave him a flirtatious look. "I guess this means you haven't seen my lingerie collection," she said, leading him toward the house.

Hmm. There was a thought. "I'm prepared to dedicate a lot of hours to catching up on everything I don't know," he assured her.

"Lucky me."

Lucky him, too.

"So who tried to get me to join the Brotherhood?" she asked casually as they made their way across the lawn. Too casually.

"I don't know. Didn't tell me," he said, watching her.


He stopped, bringing her to a halt with him. "What?"

She chewed her lip for a second, then shook her head. "Nothing. I can tell you later."

He thought about pushing a little, but she leaned into him and he felt her fingernails against his stomach, scratching him lightly, and decided it could wait. Her mouth brushed against his ear and she whispered, "Welcome home."

The first few days were strange ones for Logan. He lived in a house that he didn't recognize, full of things he didn't recognize, with a woman he sort of recognized, but wasn't quite the same one he'd loved the first time around.

As the days passed, though, he found he began to remember bits of the life that he hadn't really lived, and began to forget things about the five days he'd spent with Marie back in Mississippi. When he mentioned it to her, Marie said she barely remembered their time together in her parents' home at all, and that she often forgot he was not familiar with this new and improved future they shared.

Roma had to be behind it.

Roma. Her name brought out a mixture of feelings in him. "You already got you wanted," she'd said, and now he realized that perhaps it hadn't been a jab at all, and he felt a little silly for how he'd reacted. She could have *explained* that, he sometimes grumbled to himself, but without any real anger. He didn't have it in him anymore, or, if he did, he didn't remember it. More and more what he felt towards her was gratitude.

Roma'd given him what he wanted, and now she was apparently restoring the natural order of things, blotting out what they weren't supposed to know and replacing it with things they were.

Logan was notoriously prickly about anyone messing with his head, but he found he was simply too happy to care about it much. An added bonus of the fading memories was the fading knowledge that things were much, much better than he had the right to hope they would be, and with that went the paranoia that it might be taken from him at any moment.

Plus, he had all that lingerie to keep him busy.

He and Marie settled into life together, and did lots of normal, non-superhero things, like re-finishing the woodwork in the kitchen and buying a new television. Marie started mentioning babies, and backyard jungle gyms, and spending summer days chasing after little mutants instead of killer ones, and those were all things he thought were excellent ideas.

Even after their memories of those five days in Mississippi were completely gone, Logan sometimes lingered over the chess set in the den, drawn to the heavy playing pieces on the board, even though he'd never played the game. But he liked to look at it sometimes, and turn the little figures over in his hand, because it made him feel like the luckiest, happiest man on Earth.

And he didn't care that he couldn't remember why.

The End
This story archived at