Engines by englishmajor226
Summary: Somehow... this story got deleted. :( Chapters 1-18 are posted as chapter "one," and the rest follow as they're updated. There will be 30 chapters now in total.
Categories: X1, AU Characters: None
Genres: Dark
Tags: None
Warnings: None
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 5 Completed: No Word count: 95767 Read: 4421 Published: 01/06/2019 Updated: 01/07/2019

1. One through Eighteen by englishmajor226

2. Nineteen by englishmajor226

3. Twenty by englishmajor226

4. Twenty One by englishmajor226

5. Twenty Two by englishmajor226

One through Eighteen by englishmajor226
Part One: Education

Alberta, Canada, 2000


Chapter 1: One

Logan

The sweat. The spatter of red. His jaw knocked loose. No. That can’t happen. Almost knocked loose. Around him, the spitting and jeering of the crowd getting louder, smoke curling up into the stale air, filling him up with something he can’t come down from. He finds himself grinning through a bloody smile, viciously beckoning the large, hulking brute forward. The other man’s all fat, all flesh, dense, maybe, but he ain’t strong. Easy prey. And it’s all up and gut and rip and punch, the other man’s doughy body catapulting backward easily. Hit. Slam. Smack. Blood, blood. He’s out for it tonight. The animal leers. The other man’s begging now. Another swell of hate. Another looming moment. The loud mouths, the yellowed teeth, the low hanging lamps graves for flies and moths. And then, as he rams an elbow into the side of the man’s face just for good measure, the drug. That one, flailing moment of satiation. The hit, and then the promised release.

They take the guy out on a makeshift stretcher. Logan leans across the counter an hour later, waiting for another whiskey as the neon lights blink, dirty yellow advertising Molson. Fucking piss water. He can feel the icy blue eyes of the bar owner on him as the middle-aged man slides the greasy money across the table along with the liquor.

“You shouldn’t have come back here. You about paralyze all the men still willin’ to fight you in this shitty town,” the bar owner grumbles. Logan only growls. “You wanted a fucking show? You got one,” Logan sneers, before knocking back the whiskey with ease, the liquid burning as it sinks into him, heavy and warm.

“Another,” Logan murmurs.



--

The night is dark and quiet as he stumbles out into its embrace, ignoring the fact that he’s still blood stained and sweaty. The chill instantly bites at him, even through his leather coat and he curses under his breath. Snow, always the fucking snow in this country, falling gently in the pitch black of the night sky. He shakes it off, leaning up against the wall in the alleyway outside of the bar, lighting a cigar. He brings it to his mouth slowly, exhaling smoke, the hit of tobacco deep and fragrant as he waits. He had been told to meet her outside, and he knows she’s here somewhere. He had smelled her from the cage, and the scent had lingered. He lets her take her time though, although in his mind she takes too fucking long.

There.

She’s all legs. Miles of ‘em. Big tits too. He likes that. He’s still enough of an animal to get hard almost instantly at the sight of a woman who’s even remotely pretty, but he now knows better than to do anything about it. She’s got a grip on him, and he doesn’t need her to squeeze his balls any tighter. He’s about to throw the half-burned cigar into the snow, when a wild hair strikes him. Through a wicked grin and an arched brow, he slowly and deliberately snubs the cigar out with the palm of his hand, the burn slow and good. He doesn’t flinch. She watches him do this as she walks over to him, smirking widely. She’s wearing red leather. He’s all spark and ash.

“Don’t think this gets you off the hook,” she murmurs as he slides her the cash from the dingy bar. He snorts.

“What’s next?” he asks, ignoring her threats, grinning as he runs a finger down a loose lock of blonde hair.

“You think we’re gonna let you do another, after that display on the last fucking job?” she askes, and the way her bottom lip quirks makes him want to bite down on it, suck hard.

“You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t wanna,” he mutters, flicking a tendril of her hair playfully behind her shoulder.

“What if that’s not it? What if I'm just here to fuck you senseless? Would you be up for that?” she asks, a devilish grin on her red lips, a flash of impossibly white teeth. Logan grins, but doesn’t move closer.

“Always. But that ain't why you're here,” he growls.

“Well then. Drop off point’s next Tuesday. Estevan,” she says slyly.

“How’s the pay?” he asks.

“Two thousand,” she says cooly. He only gives her a gentle tsk with his tongue, before murmuring “Not near enough, if the job’s what I think it is.” She only shrugs those leather-clad shoulders, the slit in the suit making her supple tits rub together even more.

“Be there or be square. Up to you,” she mutters into his ear, and then she’s gone.



--

Logan growls before taking a pull of the plastic bottle of cheap whiskey he had plucked out of his jacket pocket, now stumbling over to his trailer. He’s still so fucking hard he can barely see straight. Just by being near one of ‘em. Fucking animal. He closes his eyes, focusing on the feel of his boots in the snow underneath him, but it’s all too much, and growling frustratingly, he decides to change his path from his truck to the lining of the woods just beyond, muffled and dark. It’s quiet, eerie, as he listens to the throb, the pulse and the thrum, the forest beckoning him. The lover he really wants, but he can no longer have.

He moved within her, mother nature. He had lived off of her. The feeling of the kill, hot wet blood in his mouth. The savor-ohthefuckingsavor -of such a thing. But he had begun worrying about the next frost, the next winter. And then it was the want of a lean-to, and then the next winter a hollowed-out trailer, and then even more. The man demanded so fucking much. Too much. It was the want to be around others. Socialization. Hanging around the edges or fringes of parking lots. Then wanting to go inside. Wanting to belong. Fucking tribalism. And then shoes. More clothes. And then he was fighting in cages for money, mere masturbation in comparison to how they had lived before. Then the bike, the trailer. The humanity clawing out a place inside the rest, even as the animal howled from the sting of betrayal.

Logan grumbles deeply, pushing the memories back down again. No story, no origin, no fucking clue. Just the black, starless sky. It is a blank, dark gaze, a loveless mother and an orphaned child. He stares up at it for a moment, simply blinking. No one’s there though.

He turns, stalking back to the shitty little trailer. He had been wrong. It wasn’t enough. Not near enough. One of the cage bunnies, then. He stares at the motel attached to the bar in the distance. The faded brass room numbers still etched in his mind. There’s a drunken rap on the door. A "just a minute." And then the little brunette is reaching for his leather jacket, pulling him inside, and he snarls, already hating her forwardness. A bunch of false fucking idols. He easily shoves her too-thin body back, and she falls onto the bed with a giggle. Again, he growls, his hold tightening around her wrist, hoping she’ll get the god damn hint.

“It’s my way or no way, so do what I say and spread those fucking legs for me.”





Rogue

It isn’t like they hadn’t tried before. She should know by now, she should have known with the way his heavy blue eyes had lingered on her body, even through the heavy green coat. It isn’t like she didn’t know that sometimes they expected more, but when she had decided to leave home she hadn’t known just terrible it all could be. To use her defenses and take someone in. Now, every time she gets in another truck she prays to God they don’t make a pass.

He still tries. A hand attempts to shove itself into her jeans, clawing at her shirt, and, even as she writhes, she kicks and screams, trying to stay away from his uncovered skin, trying to get the fuck away from him and his mind. She doesn’t want to kill anybody again. Even rapists…or men who think they deserve something in return. But he’s relentless and there’s nowhere to go. A brief touch then, Rogue murmurs to her, and instinctively she yanks off a glove and clasps his wrist, the influx of thoughts making her nauseous and dizzy, and then she’s opening up the heavy door of the parked 18-wheeler and vomiting outside. The stale pork rinds. The fat belly. The flannel. The cum-stained jeans. The price she pays, perhaps, but it’s too high tonight. Her body swims.

He shoves her duffle out nearly on top of her. She’s still on the ground, gasping for real breath. And then the giant monster is roaring to life, picking up speed and leaving her on the side of the black, forested road. She woozily sits up, closing her eyes, begging the memories to subside, and they are, slowly, she realizes. Maybe she’s getting better at this. She doesn’t know how long she stays like that, but by the time she really comes to, it’s somehow darker, too dark, and cold. She’s somewhere between Edmonton and nowhere. She finally wearily picks up the army duffle and clutches it to her shoulders tightly, realizing only then one of her hands is still ungloved. Fuck. Left behind in the truck.

She pushes down the fear. Just start walking, Rogue murmurs to the steadily fearful girl underneath. North, north. She needs north. The stars aren’t in the sky. Follow the truck’s path. They were only about five miles from the next pathetic excuse for a town. Ok. Walk. Just walk. North. Already her extremities feel cold, her toes and hands becoming numb by the minute. The temperature, it was below zero out here. She knows it. Just walk. Walking means life. Staying means death. A horrible, convulsing image of another girl the trucker had molested bubbles to the surface from his memories, and Rogue closes her eyes, swallowing heavily, before setting her jaw, determinedly making her way down the inky, wet street.


Chapter 2: Two
Logan

His eyes swim in the darkness of the cramped motel room as he wakes to the sounds of her shallowed breathing and the smells of polyester and pot. He sits up quickly, sweating, and before he understands where he is at, he groggily glances down at his hands. The typical ritual. No blood. He had managed to keep it together last night, then. Or, maybe not.

The sweat. The hastened breath. Around him, the spitting and jeering of the animal in his head, filling him up with something he couldn’t come down from. She was all bones and flesh, no fat on her. He had frowned, but still his grip tightened. Easy prey. Feel her up. Eat her out. Then it was all thrust and grip and bite and fuck, and she had fallen back on the bed, shaking. Arousal, her wetness. The animal had leered. She had begged. Another swell of hate. Another looming moment. The low-hanging ceiling tiles threatening to crush them both. And then he had held her wrists up as he filled her, and then, the one, flailing moment of satiation. The hit, and then the promised release.

Logan closes his eyes momentarily, swallowing hard as the memories inundate him, the shallow cloud of booze having long since subsided and offering little now in the way of comfort. He can’t bring himself to look at her at first, but then he does, quietly dragging his gaze over to her sleeping form, and she’s all teeth-mark-red and bruising-purple. Everything in him recoils. It doesn’t matter if she asked for it that way. Pled for it. He's still a fucking animal.

He already knows he’s not entirely human. Or, if he is, maybe he’s a sociopath. Or a schizophrenic. Would make sense, with the feelings and sensations in his head. Noises everywhere. The sounds of bitter fights three doors down, the steady hum of the ice machine, a trucker smacking on a bit of chew outside, spittin’ into a Styrofoam cup. Smells everywhere too. Cum, spit, pine, birch, hackberry, antifreeze, fuel exhaust, bourbon, body odor, sweat, arousal, blood. And if that ain’t enough, all those sensations all the time, there’s the louder voice. The monster inside even after all this time still tryin’ to tell him what to do. Hunt. Fuck. Kill.

The people ‘round here are on the fringes, yes, but it didn’t take him long to figure out they didn’t think that way. Maybe they are all animals, deep down and such, but the greasy son of a bitch that owns the bar and the woman in red seem to have a greater sense about ‘em, a higher calling. And the memories, too. He hadn’t known, hadn’t realized that you could have ‘em that far back, until he talked to enough of them to know that to remember was normal. Not for him. No memories. Parts of his brain, the parts that seem to inhibit the animal, not workin’. Or maybe missin’ entirely.

Insanity, maybe. A part of some sick sort of experimentation at some point, yes. There’s the healin’ from any wound, which is handy when it needs to be, but far from normal. And then there’s the metal. The metal in his hands, the way it explodes outward, making ribbons of the skin of his knuckles and leaving him with the ability to decapitate a man with a single swipe. That too. That’s not natural. Even the monster in him knows it.

Another chill down the spine, and now he’s lookin’ down once more at the little thing who's takin' to snoring, still sleeping and wrapped up in the bedsheet. She ain’t all that clean and she ain’t all that cute”when he can see the notches in their spines they’re too fucking thin” but she didn’t ask for this. It doesn’t matter if she was attracted to him, doesn’t matter if she voluntarily signed up as just another forgetful face. She’s cannon fodder, another desperate need to heal from the wounds he can’t grow skin over.

The first time he can recall fucking a woman, it was crude and rough and it practically undid him. Logan knows to assume there were probably many times before that time, but he hadn’t been around a woman back when the animal had full reign, and before that, well, any time before that might as well not exist. As he struggled for dominance inside his own head, he had started hanging around shitty little towns like this one, and he had spotted her on the edge of the woods, a blonde, plump little thing taking a heavy and slow drag off somethin’, his brain slowly and tiredly had summoned the word joint from the deep recesses of his mind. That was happening more and more”the forgotten words returnin’ to him. Still though, it had required everything in him not to take her right then and there. He had swayed on the spot, intoxicated with smell of her, the sweet honey between her legs. She’d come back to smoke ‘round the same place later, and then she had been in the bar he began frequenting when he scrounged up enough money for a drink or three. It hadn’t been long, a bit of flirtin’ like he had seen the other men do, and then he had it, her brief nod”that demanding human inside desperately requiring something his brain had begun to call consent”and once he had it he proceeded to quickly strip them both of their humanity in the alleyway, the blonde mewlin’ and spittin’ as she had been, easily yielding to his touch. He had been even rougher then, despite the fact she hadn’t protested. During that first time…he found himself shuttin’ his eyes tightly, that foreign and nascent man inside of him full of a strange, somber feeling he would become so well acquainted with, a term he would come later to know simply as regret.

That little honey blonde was partly responsible for creating that insatiable need inside of him. He realizes now it coulda been any woman, but it still had been her that had ignited the urge, this unending yearning for something…something more. Now bars, and fights, and money, driftin’ from town to town in a dilapidated trailer. He had merely survived for so long, and now…what? Is he running? Searching? Hiding?

Leaving things behind without explaining much is always easier. He knows he needs to get out of here. Skip town and replenish supplies before Estevan. Hell. Estevan. He’d agreed to that. As sure as fuck, he’d agreed to that. He knows he’s headed toward the edge of a cliff with that woman, with the red woman. In too fucking far over his head. But, at the same time, he can’t stop. The pay is appetizing, the thrill of the job even more so. So maybe now he’s outside of himself, he thinks. Yeah, outside of himself, watchin’ from somewhere far off, somewhere he can’t reach, watchin’ all these cards spill to the floor, all the little fucking mistakes fluttering from the air to the ground. Not giving a fuck; there’s the good old sociopath again. The sick, twisted part. You don’t care, and you don’t want to. Just keep telling yourself that.

Jeans, then. The wifebeater. A beltbuckle. Boots, where the fuck were his boots? On the floor, underneath her purse and shit, great. Drag ‘em out, pull ‘em on. He’s standing over her now, giving her one last look, knowin’ from the drugs she’s likely on that she won’t be caring less if he’s there in the morning or not. And he never is. Then he’s outside, stalking back over to the trailer, a new glaze of ice and snow over everything. He knows all of it, even the fucking bike, is a piece of shit, but at least it’s his. He climbs in slowly, fucking freezing as his breath visibly assaults the air. In the back, a few sets of clothes hanging up. A container of instant coffee, a spare pan, a couple of cracked mugs. Peeling vinyl, plastic paneling, faded curtains. A bed up top, with at least some sheets on it now.

He throws his leather jacket in the passenger seat before popping open the glove compartment, taking out a fat wad of crumpled, blood-stained bills. He undoes the rubber band with a snap and carefully takes out the rest of the cash from the jacket, consolidating the money, folding the twenties with the twenties, the fives with the fives. The spare loonies, always flung into the cup holder. And then in the coat pocket, the practically empty bottle. One swallow of whiskey left. Fuck. Not near enough. He polishes it off anyway, throwing the empty to the passenger floorboard in a mixture of frustration and fatigue.

Keys in the ignition, the start of the engine rumbling. It’s probably no more than four in the fucking morning, and he’s adjusting the rearview mirror when he sees it. Just there, a ripple of bright hunter green. But he knows there’s nothing that green in January this far north, even the conifers ain’t that green, and then he hears a small huff, the sound of breath being knocked out. A woman, a girl, falling in the road, just near the turn off, only around fifty feet from the bumper of his trailer. Just from her sounds, he knows she’s alive, but cold. Another stray tryin’ to find shelter, most likely.

The engine still rumbles, the heat finally sputtering on. His hand hovers over the parking break, as he stalls slightly. Someone will probably eventually find her, patch her up. But he also knows that ‘round this time of year the sun won’t be up for another six hours, at least this far north. And he’s the only one, so far as he knows, that can see in the dark.

Sputter. Stall. Hover. Go. Run. Wait.

Fuck.



Rogue

She’s floating, all snug and red. In a sea, a biblical river of blood, but without the violence. A womb, perhaps. Yeah, like that. A womb, sheltering her, keeping her safe. Safe like home. Safe like those long summer afternoons, the days when her mama would be out in the yard watching her play. She’d play in the billowing clothes her mama would string out in the back yard and hang on clothespins. A warm breeze. A sweating pitcher of sweet tea out on the back porch, thirsty parched lips coming in from hours of playing to take a long, deep taste of the sugary liquid out of a flimsy Dixie paper cup. And then, the lengthy summer light finally fading, the earth slowly sucking the sun back down into the ground. The fireflies in the twilight as she idly hung from the tire swing, knotted up on the old oak in front of their house. The long fat rope of the swing tethering her like an umbilical cord. But no, that can’t be right. Because umbilical cords eventually got severed…

A warm womb? A place of shelter? No, darker. Now tones of blues and greys. Colors without life. Colder too. So, so cold. The kind of cold that bruises, breaks bones. A cold as abusive as an angry, drunk father. And then blurred edges, as she comes around. She’s right about the clothes. Strung on hangers, dangling above her as her vision lazily comes into focus. Peeling vinyl. There's the blood at least, blooming on her tongue from chattering teeth. A cramped space, but not a womb, because it is cold, too cold.

Someone’s here, her instinct sharply whispers. You’re not alone. A man, just above her, reaching for her bare wrist, the one with the missing glove…

“Don’t!” she yelps, before she’s even fully conscious. Her heart explodes with rapid energy, as she scrambles backward, hitting the back wall of the trailer in less than two paces. Had he touched her? Had he touched her? She takes stock. No. No one new in the zoo in her head. Monkeys swinging from cages, caged lions pacing, all of it abnormal and terrible, but nothing new. Still though, as she gets a better look at him, she thinks he might as well be an animal. Wild hair. Sideburns. Willful, dark eyes. He’s on one knee in the trailer from where he had been crouching over her, now looking a little more pissed off than concerned by her disruptive tantrum.

“Fuck, kid,” he growls roughly as he leans back, throwing his hands up to show he’s not planning on going near her again any time soon.

“Who the hell are you?” she finds herself asking.

“Look, I- Hell. I think you were out there walkin’, kid, before you keeled over. Found you in the snow,” he chooses his words carefully as he stands back up, giving her space. Giving her space. Good sign.

Then she realizes there’s a blanket wrapped around her, even over her coat. The heat’s weak, but on. She can barely make him out in the dark, but he seems young, younger than the typical trucker or vagabond she’s encountered this far north. Thirty, maybe, she thinks. Somehow he’s willed his large frame into the cramped space of the kitchenette booth of the truck bed camper they’re both in. She stares at the man blankly for a few moments, too fazed to be afraid.

“I wasn’t walking,” she finally mumbles.

“You’re confused, kid. Hypothermic, prob’ly. You need a doctor,” he murmurs.

“No,” she hears herself saying. “No doctors.” He frowns, but doesn’t protest.

“Fine,” he mutters. “Although that probably ain’t the wisest course of action.”

“Does it look like I give a fuck?” she manages to spit out, brandishing all her strength like a weapon as she straightens, trying to sit up more and failing as a new bout of dizziness overcomes her.

“Gotta mouth on ya for such a young one,” he says, and unless she’s hallucinating things she watches his lips coil upward into a slight smirk. “Hell, maybe yer warmin’ up enough anyway,” he adds. At this, he moves to stand, and her body goes rigid once more.

“Don’t touch me,” she warns again.

“Wasn’t gonna. Jesus fuck. You ain’t worth the trouble anyway,” he grumbles, moving to a small cooler strapped to the counter with bungee cords, fishing out a bottle of water and throwing it to her. “Finish comin’ ‘round to your senses here then you can be on your merry fucking way,” he grumbles, before taking a seat once more. Rogue finds herself biting her lip defiantly, but still fumbles with the cap of the water bottle before taking it off and sipping carefully.

“Where’s here?” she quietly asks after some time, wiping the dark brown hair that’s escaped from its hold out of her face, momentarily becoming the victim of vanity. She’s gotta look like shit.

“My trailer. S’the only place warm I knew to put ya….” and when her lips turn downward into a disturbed frown he adds, “It’s not what ya think.”

“No, I know. I checked,” she trails off, tucking her hair behind her ear before taking another sip of water.

“Checked?” he asks, through an arched brow.

“Nothing. But, now that you mention it, why didn’t you?” she finds herself asking, a morbid curiosity overcoming her. For whatever reason, this man’s being honest. A touch of hypothermia, a lukewarm bottle of water, a missing glove, a dark trailer. Not much to lose.

“Why didn’t I what?” he says, through narrowed eyes, now looking increasingly bothered and uncomfortable.

“I’m young. I was comatose, even,” she cynically adds.

“Hell. Who the fuck do you think I am? You’re just a kid,” he retorts, moving to stand once more, it very obvious that he suddenly wants out of the goddamn trailer. She presses. She needs to know. These men. Are they all the same?

“I just turned seventeen a couple of months ago. Pretty far from jail bait. At least in this country.” And then, there it is, a shudder moving through him, and it’s her turn to lift an eyebrow up in surprise.

“That ain’t helping your argument none. Look, just for the record, I’m far from a picky son of a bitch, but I don’t fuck girls. Especially unconscious ones. Jesus. Someone must’ve done a number on ya, kid. We’re not all a bunch of necrophiliacs and rapists.” And, somehow, even though this is the answer she’s hoping for, the way his lips utter the word girl stings, and then she’s inexplicably angry.

“Sad to say you’re in the minority,” she spits bitterly, even as she’s not sure while she’s still arguing with him. He looks at her wildly, and she realizes she’s stoked the fire.

“Hey, I don’t know where you get off talking to me like that, but let me remind you I just saved your ass,” he growls.

“Well, aren’t you Captain Fucking America,” she retorts, before she can shut her mouth. At this, his frown deepens as she watches him cross his arms.

“Kid, I don’t think you get it. You were laid out on the road,” he snarls. Something about his tone shakes her awake, as she realizes what he’s insinuating. You would’ve died. She softens, clutching the blanket a little more tightly to her as a new wave of shivering threatens to overtake her.

“Look, I’m sorry. I just…I was walking for a long time. Well, first I was hitching. A trucker tried to feel me up, maybe had more on his mind, and he shoved me out of his truck.” Another ripple of something passes through the man, but Rogue’s not quite sure what.

“Where you going?” he finally grumbles.

“Huh?” she asks.

“You said you were hitchin’. Where were you headed?” he questions.

“North,” she says through narrow eyes. No details. She had learned this the hard way. She is surprised to find his lips turn upward into a true smirk at her defensiveness.

“Hate to break it to ya, little darlin’, but you might’ve made it there,” he mumbles.

“No. I mean further north. This isn’t far enough. Hopefully Alaska,” she says, and even before she finishes he’s already shaking his head.

“You ain’t goin’ to Alaska, kid. At least not for the next few months. Passes are all closed.” At this, her heart sinks. Part of her perhaps already knew this, but knowing it was one thing and hearing it was another.

“What? Did none of those grimy molesting bastards manage to tell ya that?” he adds for good measure. She can feel herself frowning again, and the look on her face must be a fucking sorry one, because something in him softens just infinitesimally as he stares at her.

“Look, I got places to be. A job comin’ up. The best I can do by you is take you to the nearest diner, get some coffee in ya and maybe a decent square meal, make sure you can stand on your own two feet, and then you’re on your way. I don’t take hitchers. They’re nothing but trouble. You understand me?” he asks her.

She stares at him. It’s the best deal she’s been offered in weeks, but for some reason she doesn’t want him to know that. She tries on a resolute, willful look instead, summoning a strength beyond her years, and nods quietly at him.

“Deal.”


Chapter 3: Three


Logan

The road is pitch black as the old truck drives through the snarl of dark wilderness, the pine trees hugging the highway so close at times there would be practically no way to tell if the sun started rising or not. The girl had taken to staring off into the thick of it for a while, but with the cabin of the truck now warm and cozy, her eyes begin to droop, and now she has a foot tucked up under her and those large brown lashes are gracing the tops of those pink cheeks and she’s snuggling up with that duffle like it’s a goddamn lover. She doesn’t snore. Other than the occasional, involuntary rumble of her stomach, she makes no sound at all. She’s in that deep sleep, the kind you don’t wake easy from. The kind he’s jealous of. Her scent’s muted too, whatever her essence is overlaid with too many days spent on the road. She’s all stale coffee and trucker smoke and breath mints.

His plan is to take her to the nearest town, something decent. Get her fed. Get her on her way. The closest town that fits the bill is Athabasca, and at least it’s on his way to Estevan. He thinks about how the town has a grocery store, a couple of pay phones, too. He thinks about the decent diner they have there. About how after that he can ditch her, take off, get back to his life.

He thinks about all that, and then she starts sighing in her sleep, and Logan’s grip on the steering wheel tightens. Of course, he’d been lyin’ to her, at least a little. She does look young, that’s for fucking sure, but she’s also got that other look on her. That wholesome look. No wonder a couple men tried to take a pass. It’s that kind of look you wanna bury yourself in and never uncover from. A look that makes men out of boys. And her body… ripe and ample and lyin’ just on the edge, right on the line between girl and woman, waitin’ there for someone to nudge her over the line, give it to her hard and good and…

Fuck. Now he’s thinking he shouldn’t have agreed to the diner. Now he’s thinking he should’ve stopped while he was ahead. Because now he’s got a fucking seventeen-year-old girl in his passenger seat probably lookin’ for a father or a lover or a wish on a fucking falling star, and that ain’t him. Can’t be. These people he’d come to know were always mistaking simple kindness for practically about anything else most of the time, because they ain’t seen much of the real thing. That’s why he usually stays the hell away from good fucking deeds.

And why now? Why’d he slip? She would’ve probably died, but Logan wasn’t typically keen on analyzin’ the difference between someone dying by his hand and someone dying by his negligence. He’s known for looking the other way. Leave the difference of whether they deserve it or not up to someone else, maybe that god they all yammer on about. They’re all probably damned, anyway. At least, he knows he is.

Those red, fuckable lips, twitching in her sleep. Hell. He swallows hard, pushes the monster down as deep as he can, and reminds himself that he likes ‘em easygoing and experienced, at least enough to know which way is up and which way is fucking down. He likes ‘em with enough knowhow and commonsense that they never gripe and groan when he leaves, too. No goddamn strings. No fucking entanglements.

Fifty miles, twenty miles, ten. Slowly, signs of civilization start cropping up here and there. A shuttered house with a chain-link fence. Barking dogs. Trashcans and mailboxes. Snow packed up and piled high on the sides of the roads, everything recently plowed and salted. It’s a turn off the main highway and then there’s the post office, still closed. It’s early, pre-dawn, but he knows the diner will be open. This one always is.

Knowing that he’s got the trailer to worry about, he turns off into the far side of the parking lot. He parks the truck, but doesn’t kill the engine. He’s hoping the noise and hassle of it all would wake her, but it doesn’t. He looks at her again, and he realizes she’s frowning in her sleep. He clears his throat. She doesn’t move. Logan’s lips mimic the same downward turn as he moves to tap her shoulder, but something deep down stops him right before he does so. Something instinctual.

Don’t touch me! she had cried last night. That cry, it was disturbing. It was the sound of a girl wantin’ the world to turn right around and go back from where the hell it came from. But also the sound of a girl somehow mournin’ its loss all at the same time, too. Logan sighs, settling back into his seat. Another hour then. Give the kid a bit of time to rest in a warm place, a safe place, before the world came at her with its teeth bared once more.

He flips down the driver’s side visor and fumbles with a spare pack of cigars strapped to it, the visor that’s also got advertisements and crumpled pieces of paper that he’s scrawled addresses for bars where he knows the fights will be happening. When he first had started picking up the pattern for where fights went down, someone had given him a bit of receipt paper and a short, stubby pencil to write the address down with. He remembers he was so desperate to get the information down he hadn’t thought about what he was doing, the flick of his wrist as he scribbled down the address involuntary and instinctual. After he had it, he had simply blinked at the shape and curve of the letters and numbers in shock. He hadn’t known he could even write. Read. Driving too, seemed engrained like muscle memory. The reflexes were all there, but it sure wasn’t something the animal had given him. That first time, it was like another man, a different man, had sat down in his body and taken over for him.

Logan stares at the visor for a moment, settling his gaze on a manila flyer advertising naked women for a shithole here just outside of Athabasca. It’s next on his list. It ain’t his favorite, but the bets get high there. And they haven’t seen him in a while, so his cover still isn’t shit. The number of those places were rapidly dwindling though, would’ve probably dried up by now, if it weren’t for all the drunks wanting to believe it’s real. The others think he’s got some sort of trick up his sleeve, like he’s payin’ people off to hit light and swing slow. Because a normal man can’t take a beating like that, spit out some blood and get back up on his own two feet. Hell, not even a normal man. Any man. Logan frowns at that last thought, before finally slipping a spare cigar out and fumbling for the zippo in his coat pocket. He rolls the window down. Lights the end of it, inhaling the thick, heady fragrance of tobacco, and settles in.

He lets her sleep for a long while. She’s still practically silent as he smokes the cigar and starts another. He’s almost done with the next before she begins to stir. There are more voices outside now, people coming in for a proper breakfast, now that it’s time for such a thing. It’s still dark, but the sky’s getting that tinge to it, that little bit of light that makes everything look metallic and blue. He had been watchin’ a truck get unloaded across the street at the Buy-Low Foods, and when he glances back at her, her eyes are blinking open, a look of tired confusion settled there.

“Mornin’ kid’,” he murmurs through a smirk, before snubbing out the cigar in the ashtray. She frowns, wheels still churnin’ in her mind, before she groggily mutters a “oh, yeah, you,” and he smirks again at this. She groans slightly, now sitting up. Her eyes are all over the place, enough light in the cabin now so they can travel over the loonies in the cup holder to the smoldering ashtray to the empty bottle of whiskey from last night in the floorboard by her feet to the two leftover cigars on the visor, along with the manila flyer behind that blatantly advertising Girls, girls, girls! Four nights only! Her gaze settles on this, and while the booze didn’t seem to faze her there’s a slight frown on her mouth now. He clears his throat and flips up the visor, growling as he moves to kill the engine.

“Where are we?” she asks, now glancing out the driver’s side window to also watch the rig get unloaded in front of the Buy-Low.

“Athabasca,” he says, and then she’s frowning.

“But that’s south,” she murmurs. He finds himself vaguely impressed she knows Alberta well enough to know this, even as she offers him another disappointed look. He ignores her, moving to open the truck door anyway.

“You wanna eat or not?” he asks. She frowns a little, before nodding slightly and moving to open her own car door.



--

The diner isn’t busy yet, but Logan notices the kid’s still awkward as she follows him into the place, head held high but eyes cast low, averting her gaze from anyone who looks surly or middle-aged. They take a booth at the far end of the diner, by the window, and she plops down tiredly just as a waitress, a stout, round woman with dyed brown hair-he can always smell the dye- comes over to them.

“Coffee?” she asks them. The girl nods.

“Yeah. And a menu,” Logan mumbles to the woman before she shuffles off. Meanwhile, the kid is looking at him like she’s seeing him for the first time, illuminated as they both are under the bright lights of the diner. As she gives him the once-over, her eyes intently linger on his hair, his arms, his frame. The booth’s small and he awkwardly takes up space in it, but he’s not put off by her inspection, if only because it’s the natural thing to do, and anyway she has just taken off her coat and his eyes inventory ample breasts, a small waist, a bit of baby fat in her face despite the fact the scared thing looks like she hasn’t seen a hot meal in a while. And then he follows her gaze to her hands, and he realizes she’s hesitating for a moment before finally removing the one glove she still had on, setting it alongside her coat.

“So how’d you know this place was here anyway?” she finally asks.

“I run the fight circuit. This is a stop,” he mutters.

“Fight circuit?” she begins to ask, but then the coffee’s here. The waitress hands the girl a menu but the kid doesn’t directly take it from the woman, simply blinking at her for a moment before the waitress rolls her eyes a little, setting it down on the table followed by two empty mugs for each of them, filling them both up with coffee.

So it ain’t just men she’s got this thing with, Logan idly wonders, and then he’s watchin’ the kid pour ungodly amounts of cream and sugar into the cup, stirring it idly with a spoon and now the coffee’s the same fucking color as her eyes as they peer through the steam lifin’ off the mug and now she’s sighing in a tempered ecstasy at its warmth and taste, and just as he starts thinking ecstasy is a good look on her, a real good look, he mentally chastises himself once more.

“So, what’s in Alaska you wanna get to so bad?” he finally asks, searching for a distraction. She swallows and sets down the coffee.

“It sounds like a place to… start over,” she says, and he can tell she’s not lying, even if it does like something a middle-aged woman with three kids would say over a girl with her whole life ahead of her.

“Little young to already be startin’ over, aren’t ya kid?” he can’t help but ask. Her eyes narrow at this, and the spice of anger suddenly fills the air.

“Old enough,” she says seriously, and their eyes meet, before she’s staring down at her mug again, adding a “What about you?”

“What about me?” he asks.

“Fight circuit?” she specifies. Logan only shrugs his shoulders in response.

“Cage fightin’ is for extra cash. Gotta make a living somehow.”

“Cage fighting?” The look on her face is nothing short of comical. It’s all naïve and innocent, although he realizes, through her shock, there’s a bit of judgement in her features too, maybe a bit of mild distaste. She grew up sheltered, maybe from a bit of money.

“I’m built for taking hits,” he says simply, and he knows she wants him to elaborate, and he no longer feels like humoring a fucking teenager, so he doesn’t.

“What’ll be?” the waitress is back, pad in hand, ready to take her order. She hasn’t looked at the menu, but she mutters, “scrambled eggs” at the woman standing in front of her.

“Add a shortstack to her order,” Logan grumbles to the waitress. She nods and is off again.

“The eggs are enough,” she mutters.

“Maybe,” Logan says. “But if they aren’t, it’s not pride that’s gonna keep you full in four hours.” She sighs, seemingly tired enough to be persuaded, even as she fiddles with the rolled up silverware in the paper napkin on the table.

“And only coffee for you then?” she asks.

“I don’t eat the day of a fight,” he mutters, and she arches a brow.

“How’s that supposed to help?” she asks.

“I got…other resources,” he mumbles.

“Other resources? What…like you pray a lot?” she asks. Logan can’t help but snort at this, amused by her question.

“In my experience, that’s a fucking waste of time, especially when no one’s listening,” he adds. Her eyes widen, but she doesn’t say anything, biting her lip instead.

“What? That kind of blasphemy shake you to your southern Baptist core or somethin’?”

“How you’d know I was a Baptist?” she questions wildly, and he smirks a little, knowin’ he has her goin’ pretty good. Logan offers an apathetic shrug. “A guess. Based on that southern drawl of yours. Dialects are easy. People give their whole world away as soon as they open their mouths.”

“Show a lot of Mississippi girls a good time then?” she quips.

“I went down on a blonde from Jackson once,” he says, and then he has her, because she’s got that telltale flush of outright embarrassment crawlin’ up her skin, making her cheeks look like apples. He smirks as he takes a sip of coffee, knowing he’s playing with fire but seemingly unable to help himself.

“That’s…uh, nice,” she stammers.

“Ya asked, kid,” he says through a wicked grin, as he watches her try to rearrange her face into something normal once more.

“So let me get this straight… You don’t eat. And you don’t sleep. You’re a cagefighter. Anything you do that is normal?” she asks. And that’s it. There’s that fucking word again. Normal. He can feel his face fall, his thoughts bristling.

“I eat and sleep,” he practically snarls, and now she looks taken aback at his anger, almost frightened, and even though he realizes she was only teasing him, he thinks about how he’s wasting his fucking time clowning around with this little girl.

“Look,” he says, downing the rest of his coffee and setting it on the table. “I gotta head out soon, but you got options here. Pay phone down the street. Enough people passin’ through, someone’s bound to take ya where you wanna go.” And then, there it is, a newfound panic in her eyes.

“Where are you going to go?” she asks before she can stop herself.

“I told ya. I gotta job down south, and I don’t take hitchers,” he says, as he reaches for his wallet. He flips through the money idly, before throwing eight twenty notes down, the crumpled paper now lying on the table between them.

“I don’t need your charity,” she mumbles through a new swell of anger, before staring up at him once more.

“Consider it a loan,” he retorts.

“Loans typically get repaid.”

“What did I tell ya about how useless that pride is? This is about survivin’. For now, go buy yourself another pair of gloves from the Buy-Low, fleece lined this time. You wouldn’t want to lose any of those pretty little fingers to frost bite.”

And then she’s staring up at him as he stands, and he realizes he’s got to get the fuck out of here. Kid’s willin’ him to stay with those big brown eyes, still lookin’ at him like he’s an answer to a prayer. No fucking entanglements.

“Be safe, kid,” he says, before he carefully and deliberately moves to pat her covered shoulder on his way past. “Don’t fuck up.”



Rogue

She watches the butter slowly slide down and off the lip of the plate, as the pancakes are set in front of her almost seconds after he leaves. For a moment, she simply blinks as the room begins to melt, the world spinning out, circling the drain. She can feel the panic swell, deep and hot, as she watches him now walk back to his trailer through the ice-covered window.

Shifty bastard. One of the voices.

He’s hiding things. Another.

I’d fuck him. And another.

No way in hell. Now that younger waitress with the fine ass who didn’t have the pleasure of serving us down at the far end of the restaurant, I wouldn’t mind bending her over that booth right there. Another.

“Please stop,” she whispers, closing her eyes tightly and holding her hands to her ears in a silent desperation, even as she hears the engine of his truck roar to life and slowly drive off, and when she opens her eyes the woman who had been waiting on them is staring down at her in concern, before glancing to the wrinkled twenties on the table.

“You…need anything else, sweetie?” she’s asking.

“No. Just…where’s your bathroom?” she somehow manages to say. And then she’s grabbing her coat and single glove before rushing to the end of the diner, down a narrow hallway and then into the washroom, trying to breathe, grasping for the handles of the faucet, flicking on the hot water. She splashes it in her face, and, for a wild moment, she’s scared when she lifts her head of who would be staring back in the mirror.

But it’s still her. Thank god, it’s still her.

She breathes, the water dripping off her chin, before her gaze focuses in on the bathroom stalls behind her, graffiti etched and marked into the paneling. For a good time call me. Jim is a fucking asshole. Sweetie, all men are assholes. Go fuck yourself.

She stares blankly at the graffiti as she puts on her coat once more, wrapping herself up tightly in the hunter green wool, before slowly walking out of the bathroom and lingering in the narrow hallway. Ahead of her, the booth with her pancakes still, the eggs getting cold. She doesn’t feel like eating anymore. Beside her in the hallway, a corkboard with flyers tacked up on it in different colors, advertising local businesses around town. Punch cards for the Buy-Low. Half-price Wednesdays at the 49th Street Grill. Kids eat free. The salon’s hiring. And then, under a bright blue flyer advertising rentals available at an apartment complex, there it is.

Girls, girls, girls! Four nights only!

Now that’s more like it, one of the voices in her head purrs.

Rogue's eyes darken as she rips the poster off the wall and stuffs it deep into her coat pocket. She quickly stalks back over to the booth and grabs her duffle, before swiping the bills off the table and walking resolutely out of the diner, food forgotten.


Chapter 4: Four


Logan

He starts the engine and for some reason he can’t focus. All the sounds are off, the noises discordant and raw. Fuel and air mixing, inducting into cylinders, the pistons compressing, the ignition, and then”internal combustion. The machinery churns and sputters, and the sound is grating as he bites down harder on his unlit cigar and pulls the trailer out of the diner and onto the main road. He runs his hand through his hair, and then he’s fumbling to light the tobacco. His finger grazes the metal wheel of the zippo, and it takes a couple of tries before it ignites. A stutter, then a desperate spark.

He doesn’t make it half a mile before he feels his hands turning the wheel, pulling the truck up into the Fast Gas Plus, one of the few serving stations before the town fizzles out. He doesn’t fucking need gas though, and he finds himself once more parking the trailer on the fringes. He sees that the shack they are calling a store is practically abandoned as he gets out of the truck, slamming the door shut behind him. He trudges through the snow that hasn’t been shoveled yet, intent on the pay phone that hugs the left side of the building. Logan fumbles in his coat pocket for loose change. Any change. He feeds a quarter and then another into the metal slot, before pulling out his wallet and a folded piece of paper nestled in the billfold with a number on it. The pads of his fingers make contact with freezing plastic buttons as he pecks out her number, while his breath hits the air in the still-grey light of mid-morning. He stares down at his boots as he paces back in forth in a tight pattern in front of the phone, as far as the handset cord will reach as he listens to it ring. Come on. Come on. Fucking answer already. He’s about to hang up when on the fourth ring her voice is in his ear. He’s back huddled near the booth now, cradling the receiver like it’s his fucking saving grace.

“Hello?” she says.

“I’m in town.” It’s more of a growl than a sentence, and he knows that means he’s in fucking trouble. The animal’s too close to the surface as it is.

“Hi there,” she says.

“What are you doing? Right now?” he breathes into the receiver.

“About to go to work,” she says. She should be pissed off, but she isn’t. He knows what she’s offering. No matter what time of fucking day it is.

“Where’s work?” he growls impatiently.

“During the day? The surplus store,” she mutters.

“Where?”

“South side of town, near the laundromat,” she says, and there it is. The hitch in her voice. The anticipation of a thrill. He called her, has her number written down on a fucking piece of paper and has slept with her more than once because she is one of those rare ones, the ones that love this as much as he does. An animal in a female human’s body, this woman. More keen on ruttin’ and mewin’ the day away than living up to the standards of civilized fucking society. Just his type. Just what he needs.

“Good. That’s not far from where I’m at. You got a storeroom?” he asks.

“Yeah.” Again, a breathy exhilaration.

“That’ll do,” he growls, then hangs up the phone quickly. He’s back at his trailer, intent on the motel close by to ditch the truck and let the bike have its day.



--

The hanging yellow light’s still swinging in the small storeroom from where she had yanked it on, as she rips off his clothes and he pays her in kind. Logan had stalked into the surplus store with a dark, brooding look, and her fiery eyes had lit up soon as she met him. She wasn’t a shy thing, and she had slipped off her red mesh vest of her uniform right then and there in the checkout lane, had grabbed his hand, and let him toward the back of the store. Her hair is dyed jet black, even though she was a blonde the last time he saw her. She’s tall and lean. Beautiful. She’s all wrong for this small, crappy town, but she says she’s too old to leave it. Now he’s gripping the shelves murmuring a steady stream of curses as she sucks on him hard, using that tongue in all the right ways, all the ways it’s supposed to be good. His body is lapping up the pleasure, but his mind is fucking miles away. It’s not enough. Why the hell is it not enough?

“Fuck!” he growls. What the fuck was happening to him?

She moves her lips off of him and smiles coyly before breathily whispering, “God, I’ve missed you,” mistaking his curse for pleasure instead of frustration. He only growls back, lifting her up and flinging her over a couple of stacks of packed cardboard boxes, taking her from behind in one swift fluid motion, closing his eyes as he enters her.

Those red lips, that pleading look. The depth of those eyes. Where was she gonna go from here? Kid probably wouldn’t last another day or two without some creep trying to put his hands on her again. Why had he left her there?

Fuck. He realizes he’s slowed his pace, and he doubles down on the experience of the physical, gripping her hips tightly for good measure as the cardboard boxes threaten to crumple under them both. Creamy skin, cherry lips, haunted brown eyes, the curve of her collarbone under that shirt, to put his teeth there, to bite down gently on that warm, throbbing pulse of her neck….oh god oh fuck.

He growls as he feels himself start to come, even though she hasn’t, his body involuntarily convulsing as he struggles to keep the animal at bay. He’s out and off of her in three more seconds, wiping the sweat from his brow, already grabbing his jeans. What a fucking mistake.

“Again?” she’s turned around, skill naked and lithe, unabashed and brazen, even as a trickle of his come runs down her leg.

“No,” he grumbles, pulling on his jeans and doing up his belt.

“But you always can,” she whines, and she’s trying to pull his waist in with her naked legs, but he steps back, determined not to feel the touch of her again.

“Doesn’t mean I wanna ,” he growls. She frowns slightly, but then lets it go, seemingly content on leaning back on the boxes in the nude, hair mussed and thoroughly strung out from the fucking. He usually likes this about her, her comfort with her nakedness. She owns her body, doesn’t mind using it to get her the pleasure she needs. Today though, he doesn’t like it. He can’t get dressed fast enough and he wishes she would put on a fucking shirt. Instead, she snakes a pack of cigarettes from her pants pocket, sliding one out and rolling it between two thin fingers. She stares up at him, obviously expecting something.

“A light?” she asks.

He sighs as he pulls on the wife beater, before fumbling in his pants pocket for the zippo and holding the flame close to the end of her cigarette. She grins viciously at him as she inhales the first hit.

“You know,” she says, as a puff of smoke is released in the air between them, “There’s been some talk about you.” He can’t help but stiffen a bit at that, his grip around his flannel shirt tightening.

“That right?”

“Yeah. Frankie told me he saw your truck this morning, when he was unloading boxes in front of the Buy-Low. He’s practically told everyone in town you’re here. Words buzzing you might fight tonight,” she said, through an arched brow, and with the flick of her wrist the ash falls to the floor at her bare feet. “People are already taking bets.” He snorts, but he can’t help feel uneasy as he pulls on the flannel and denim. He needs to fucking regroup. He needs a fucking shower. A shot or ten of whiskey.

“Word travels fast in small shitty towns like this,” he grumbles.

“That it does,” she taunts. And just as he pulls on his leather jacket, she adds, “Frankie told Marge you were with a girl, a young thing.” He truly freezes then, a cold predatory look in his eyes as he turns back to the naked woman in front of him. He can still smell himself on her, and he’s repulsed by it, by what they had just done, how desperate it had all been.

“Hitcher. Gave her a ride into town,” he grumbles.

“That right?” she says. Her eyes are still all mischief and envy.

“And what’s it to you?” he snarls back, rounding on her.

“Nothin’ sweetie,” she murmurs through a smirk, snubbing out her cigarette. “Nothing at all.”

“Good,” he said, and then he grabs a spare washrag from the shelf and throws it at her. “Clean up. You’re still on the clock.”



--

There are things people do that are civil, he thinks. Things that they don’t think twice about, that go like clockwork. They go to their job. They come home, most likely to a family. They pay mortgages. Sleep in beds. Take showers. Drink whiskey out of a fucking glass. He’s not built for most of that shit, but as Logan tiredly drops the keys on the chipped desk and his pack to the stained floor of the industrial grade carpet, he’s resigned to indulge in the last few for this afternoon.

Logan’s typical ritual often includes truck stops and the occasional motel when he can’t find a trailer hookup, even though he hates spending money on the shit. Today though, it feels right to fork over the extra fifty, even if the place is a bit of a dump. Showers, beds, fucking glasses of whiskey. This is what normal people had. What normal people did. Human beings.

He unwraps the bottle from the paper sack, and easily pops off the cap. Overturning one of the motel cups, he generously fills it. He’d sprung for the stuff in a glass bottle over the plastic, and now he’s grateful for that decision. The smell of anise and oak waft upward, and then he’s drinking heavily, the burn good and right as it hits his throat. Fuck. He needed this.

Fights didn’t get hot until about midnight, maybe one in the morning. He has time. A shower then, and some sleep. He brings the whiskey into the bathroom with him, sets it on the counter before flicking on the faucet and shedding his clothes. His muscles are ripe with tension, coiled and tight, even as the whiskey makes his head feel light. The steam billows up as he washes the traces of the last few days on the road off his body. He’d make some money, get supplies at the Buy-Low tomorrow on his way out of town, and then head south. He’d make it in time for the job , and then he could squirrel away some real cash. Start savin’ up, even if For what is a question he isn’t inclined on askin’ himself just yet.

And then he thinks of her again, that kid. All stubborn and pouting. Those eyes right near panicking when he got up to leave. And those lips. Red as they come. Her body, all supple and soft. When he’d been fucking that woman, all he could think about was running his tongue up her curves, making her tremble. He’d taste her, oh god the taste of her, would probably be sweet and luscious, it’d make him drunk alright. Drunker than a decent swallow of Canadian Club. He’d have her after a long day of fucking, up in a shower, nicer than this one, and maybe he’d take her from behind, showing her how it’s done, how to submit to him, and then he’d tear at her skin, mark her up and down her body, letting everyone know she was his and fucking no one else’s and…

Fuck. He’s hard again. Sick and twisted and rock fucking hard. He takes himself in hand anyhow, let’s himself have this moment even though it’s wrong. Besides, he’ll be off in the morning and out of this place and the kid will be nothing but a distant memory, a bad dream, something to jerk off to when nothin’ else works.



Rogue

The air is cold and biting as she makes her way across the street. She’s not entirely sure where she’s going yet, even as she waits for traffic. The flyer had an address, but she has no real way of knowing where the bar’s located. Besides, it’s way too early yet. It’s morning still, and she needs to kill time. For now, go buy yourself another pair of gloves from the Buy-Low, fleece-lined this time.

She stares at the grocery store ahead of her. He was right, but for the wrong reasons. But she does need gloves. Warm ones.

The problem is that we’re just going to end up back where we were.

Well, what the fuck should we do about it, woman?

Uhh, maybe we just need to go home.

Shut up, all of you, Marie needs to think.

“You need anything else, sweetie?” she hears the voice in front of her, and Rogue looks up to the woman across the counter of the checkout of the Buy-Low. The perm in her blonde hair frames her face, and the glasses do the rest of the job, the beaded cord dangling underneath her thick, pearly frames. Rogue looks down now and notices she is holding some cash and the crumpled flyer from earlier while the woman is checking out a pair of gloves. Rogue didn’t even remember picking the gloves out.

The cages to the zoo are all still open, and she’s just trying not to get eaten.

“Where’s this bar?” Rogue asks. The middle-aged woman glances at the flyer, and when she brings her head back up there’s a confused look on the older woman’s face that’s quickly turning more sour by the second.

“And why would a nice girl like you want to find a place like that?” she asks pertly. Rogue only shrugs her shoulders, but when the woman remains silent, Rogue searches for an excuse.

“I’m looking for a friend of mine,” Rogue finally murmurs. The older woman purses her lips.

“About five miles out of town. South.”

“Walkable?” Rogue asks.

“That’ll be $5.50” the woman says, ignoring Rogue’s question. Rogue frowns, but hands the woman one of the twenties the man left her with, and then she can feel herself sinking back down into the thick of it.

Marie, do you really think you’re gonna find him?

I told you, I’m not trying to find him.

Yeah, right.

Rogue blinks and suddenly she’s outside the store, looking down at a plastic bag in her hand that wasn’t there a minute ago. It’s cold outside and the woman’s gone. She glances around the parking lot for a moment before she abruptly sits down on the bench outside the Buy-Low. She’s still holding her change. In the bag are the gloves. Good, she didn’t buy anything else.

As she goes to put the cash in her coat pocket, however, her hands clasp around…something. What? She exhales slowly, pulling out a bag of Skittles and a slim three-pack of condoms. She holds them up, hands shaking. She doesn’t steal. But someone in her head does. Her money’s on the trucker, the one she’s lettered off as D. She’s assigned letters to them all, one of the only things she knows to do to keep them straight.

No, it was me. If you’re gonna get rowdy you need to stay safe, honey. C murmurs.

C’s the woman Rogue had brushed up against on the bus in Iowa four months ago. They both had been getting off the Greyhound, and the woman had accidentally bumped into Rogue, and then had grabbed her arm to steady the younger girl, an apology just beginning to form on her lips, before Rogue’s skin had sent her crumpling to the floor. That was early on, right after Rogue had left home. Right after she sent David, her high school boyfriend, now labeled B, into a coma, but before Rogue realized how important it was to really cover up. Every time. All the time.

My skin kills people. I can’t get rowdy.

Rogue closes her eyes abruptly for a moment, before she moves to put on the new gloves. Fleece-lined. Like he said. Then, she stares down at the purloined items, trying to decide what to do. Does she keep them? Return sheepishly to the store and confess to that middle-aged woman with the judging eyes? Rogue bites her lip for a moment, before putting the condoms back in her coat pocket. She opens the bag of Skittles, shakes out a couple. The taste is light and fruity in her mouth, all sugar and fizz. The artificial flavors of lemon and lime dance on her tongue as she glances once more across the street to the now-bustling diner. If she looks closely, she can still make out the tire marks of his trailer in the snow on the edge of the parking lot.

I still don’t trust him, B says.

She tucks a lock of hair behind her ear and sighs, before popping a couple more Skittles into her mouth, swinging her legs idly on the bench as she does so.



--

Rogue’s feet are numb inside her boots by the time she opens the front doors to the place. She had walked around town for the greater part of the afternoon, and by the time she had set out for the bar, it was well below freezing. The bar’s on the outskirts of town, and it’s a small, nondescript one-story building off the main highway, practically sunken in on itself. She notices there are only a handful of cars in the otherwise abandoned parking lot, and Rogue frowns. No trucks. No motorcycles. But it’s early yet. As she walks inside, a cloud of thirty years’ worth of cigarette smoke greets her. It’s seedy and lowly lit, even though it’s only past seven in the evening. It looks like it should just be a dive bar, but somewhere along the line it got the idea to try out topless women to pull in more money. Rogue is just barely able to notice that the poles look sloppily constructed, before her eyes are magnetized to a couple of mostly-naked women that are slinking around them. Her eyes widen as she watches their bodies, the stark nudity surprising and unsettling her. Even as she takes a seat at the bar on the far-end of the place, she can’t help but glance over to them every few seconds, eyes lingering on the fullness of their breasts and the maturity of their curves. Her body doesn’t look like that, doesn’t move like that. She wouldn’t know how to have her body move like that. Meanwhile, the voices in her head are all up in arms.

Holy fuck, D is saying .

Well that’s a bit lewd. C pipes in.

What the hell are you thinking, Marie? B asks.

Can you get closer? I wanna put my face between those tits. D again.

Rogue intentionally closes her eyes, exhales, and when she opens them a fully-clothed woman in a studded leather jacket and a drying cloth slung over her shoulder is staring at her from behind the bar. She’s maybe a decade older than Rogue, and there isn’t a patch of skin that isn’t adorned in an artful coil of a tattoo.

“Can I get you something?” she asks. Rogue bites her lip, before leaning forward a bit on the countertop.

“Do you know if there’s… cage fighting happening here tonight or…?” she mumbles. The woman smirks at the way Rogue asks the question, already grabbing an empty beer glass.

“Basement. That was always the usual entertainment until the boss got all… this in his head,” she flings her hand around the place. “But that doesn’t happen until later.” Rogue sighs, obviously perplexed as she throws a glance to the naked women once more.

“What time?” she asks.

“Around eleven or so,” the bartender responds as she fills up the empty beer glass with amber liquid from the tap, and then, seemingly picking up on Rogue’s downtrodden face, she adds, “You gonna wait here until then?”

“I don’t know what else to do,” she says. “Is that ok?” The woman only smirks, walking back over and setting the cold, sweating glass underneath a coaster on the counter between them.

“Here,” she says.

“I’m not old enough,” Rogue murmurs, and then biting her lip, she adds. “I’m also broke.” The woman only snorts.

“What are you seventeen, eighteen? The age is eighteen here, and even if you aren’t that, you’re here to see a cage match for some fucking reason, so you’ll need this. Besides, you keep staring at those girls, and we make double the money, so it’s on the house. In fact, take that coat off, show off that pretty figure of yours and move closer. Drink. Take in the… scenery,” she adds through a wink. Rogue blushes crimson, but still drags the heavy pint glass across the table toward her. She’s had alcohol before and has never liked the taste of it, but when she brings the glass to her lips, her stomach growls in agreement. She’s hungry. She’s thirsty. Maybe this is what she needs.



--

At some point, Rogue wanders over to a table to observe the women, since there’s nothing else much to do. Her eyes are wide and bottomless as she watches them dance, swaying in time with whatever music is playing. It’s all Green Day and Pearl Jam. She’s three drinks in, and it’s around that time that she realizes she’s aroused. Something in their looseness, in their unabashed sexuality, is breaking down her walls. The empty glasses keep magically disappearing at her table, being replaced with full ones. The voices in her head, too, have gone quiet, and Rogue suspects it’s the alcohol that’s done it. She breathes in the smoke of the place, grateful for the reprieve. It’s only her now, and it’s the first time all day, that she can think clearly, remember everything that’s happening to her all at once, despite the alcohol pumping through her system.

Nobody’s come up to bother her, and she thinks that might somehow be the bartenders’ doing. The place has become steadily more crowded, and she knows men are throwing glances at her, watching her watch the women, but she doesn’t care. She still hasn’t forgotten about the reason she’s here, and every time the front door opens she whips her head around to see who it is, but it’s never him.

By the time she realizes that it’s past the time the fights are supposed to start, she’s thoroughly tipsy. She follows a couple downstairs, and as the room opens up she realizes this crowd is just as sleazy, but rowdier as they crowd around a large metal cage in the middle. It’s horrible looking, something crude and shoddily fashioned. It looks like where they would put wild dogs they intend on euthanizing later. No one’s fighting yet, and she stands toward the back, away from the violent tangle of men and women desperate to see some blood. She’s clutching her mostly empty beer, her coat still slung over her arm. She still hasn’t taken off her gloves, and her hands are hot under the fleece. She ignores her discomfort, though; even tipsy, she knows she doesn’t need any of these people in her head.

The first round consists of two men who look like they do a lot of drinking and not a lot of fighting, but still one’s taller than the other. As they tumble into the cage, Rogue braces herself, but the first hit still takes her breath away. She watches as a tooth goes flying into the crowd. People cheer. The man taking the hit manages to keep standing, and he lunges at the taller one once more. He doesn’t last more than a few more seconds, and he’s on the floor. The fight’s over.

For a long while, Rogue watches men pound each other into meaty pulps. The music is nothing but a steady, constant base. There are so many people in here now she can’t breathe. The lights are darker, darker than she expected, and even though she’s hugging the wall, after a while she can’t tell where she ends and another person begins. She’s a part of something bigger than herself now, just one tendril of a teeming, living thing. It goes on and on, and sometimes a young kid comes into the cage to mop up the spatters of blood from the floor. Then another man is being drug out, and the shouting escalates. The room is combusting, she’s pure fire, and then they’re announcing the next fight, the word Wolverine on everyone’s lips. And then, there he is.

He’s shirtless. He’s all coiled muscle, hard and seething. Everything about his movements is animalistic and primal, his hair mussed and hazel eyes dark. A drunk looking dope climbs into the ring and she sees his lips curl up into a knowing, ferocious grin. He stands there for a moment, sizing up the other opponent, and then it’s a swift punch left and a kick to the head. She flinches with the sound of the crunch as the man drops to the floor, and then he’s cracking his neck and someone’s handing him a whiskey through the cage and he knocks it back. As he hands the glass back through the wiring though, he freezes. She can see his nose flair, and when he looks up again, he’s staring right at her, even though she’s huddled in the back in the dark almost fifty feet away. Their eyes lock. Everything in her is still, and she’s in his body and he’s in hers for one, electric moment. The corner of his lips turn upward once more as the effect passes, just as another man climbs in the cage. He doesn’t give him his attention at first though, now grinning savagely at Rogue and offering her the quickest nod of his head before finally turning to his opponent. He spits at the floor in front of his feet, snarling, before beckoning the sorry bastard forward.


Chapter 5: Five

Logan

It’s there suddenly. Through the jeers and screams and shouts, her scent, still muted, but constant and pure on the air. The whiskey’s still stinging his throat as he looks up and sees her hugging the back wall. She’s there, all frail and timid, but her eyes are on his and he can’t look away.

She’s here. How the fuck is she here? She’s followed him somehow, turning up again like a bad penny. Her coat’s off, and those beautiful breasts are full and they rise and fall as she breathes. She’s turned on by this shit. Fucking exhilarated. His blood thrums with the song of sex, of violence. Fuck, he can’t look away. She’s all doe-eyes and innocence.

He hears the sound of another fucking bastard climbing into the cage, drunk out of his mind, and Logan ignores him for a second, unwilling to let her go. And then the drunkard is shouting about something, so Logan turns to him, a grin on his face. He beckons the fucker forward, and ducks as he sloppily tries to swipe at his shoulder. The fight is a show, and for once Logan is acutely aware of performing, as he fucks around, moving slower, dancing and ducking, letting his opponent get some hits in, letting his own blood flow. And then it’s a quick jerk of his head, and he sends the idiot to the floor, unconscious. The crowd is jeering now. They’re getting tired of him. He just wishes someone would put up a real fucking fight. He glances in her direction again, but she’s moved. Where is she? She’s closer now. Fuck, she’s closer. Three rows in, between a couple making out and a woman who smells like smoke. The girl’s all lit up, like her insides are on fire, and he can’t help but bask in the light. The animal in him realizes he’s got her now. Won’t turn her lose again. She’s a fucking little girl, but he doesn’t give a shit. He’ll grow her up alright. Show her how it’s done. She wants it too, he can see that now.

And then he feels the hit to the ribs, he rounds on the threat, another opponent in the ring, this time some asshole who wants to play dirty. He turns on him, and realizes he’s now got a little competition. The man’s got a couple inches on Logan, and he’s built. Logan smiles, intending to make the modicum of competition last, also not to blow his cover too soon. He lets him get a hit in. Again. He feels his body hit the cage, and then the Wolverine is clawing to the surface. Quit fucking around. Take him down. And he rounds on the guy, salivating as he plants his feet and throws a quick uppercut. The man stumbles back, surprised by his strength, and he sneers. Logan’s already rounding on him again, quick to dodge left, swing back right, switch the dominant hand and now throw a punch with his left. That one sends him to the floor, although not for long.

Then, the glint of metal. So they hadn’t frisked shit, is all he has time to think before he feels the switchblade slide easily into his side, likely piercing a kidney, and he stumbles backward for a moment, claws itching under his skin as the pain blooms and he sees red. There’s a second’s worth of vindication on the fucker’s face, before Logan jerks the knife out of his side, rounding on him. The other man’s eyes go wide as he realizes the wound has already stitched itself back up, and then Logan’s pounding on him, snarling and knocking him into the wall. Someone’s shouting to get in the cage to stop it. No one wants to. Teeth fall to the floor, splatters of blood fly, the sound of bones crunching sickeningly resonates. Logan keeps going, sending another kick to the face for good measure before spitting at the floor in contempt. All the while he can feel her eyes on him. She’s probably fucking horrified. She should be. He likely just killed the sorry fuck.

For one singular moment, the room goes quiet.

He looks up, bloodstained and seething, as people stare at him through the wires of the cage, wide eyes and frowning mouths as they watch him. An animal. A freak. A fucking sideshow attraction. The hushed whispers are getting louder now and already turning foul, as shock and fear mutate into anger and hate. He snarls, spinning on his heel, and suddenly the cage feels small. Claustrophobic. He’s grabbing his jacket and flannel from where he had tossed them aside, snarling as he passes by the onlookers. He’d hafta cross this place off his fucking list now. He brushes past everyone, stalking through the crowd, and he sees her. Her eyes are wide and she’s pale as a sheet but that look of hate, of abject horror, is missing from her eyes.

He figures that’s enough.

He growls as he grabs her by the arm, roughly yanking her forward, muttering a “C’mon” and she stumbles along helplessly as he leads them down a dark, narrow hallway. Behind them. Footsteps. They want their money back. They always do, the greedy fucks.

Then, they’re out a back door, in the black swarm of night, the snow falling thick. He drags her over to the motorcycle before finally releasing her arm, and she yanks it back like she’s been burned, and he realizes she’s pissed.

“Don’t ever touch me like that again,” she sneers. He whips his head wildly around to her, issuing a low growl, before throwing a leg over the bike, already gripping the handles.

“Get the fuck on,” he barks.

She only looks at him and then to the bike, and he thinks she’s too smart to be this fucking dumbstruck. Behind her, he can see a couple people congregating to the still-open back door, pointing in their direction.

“Me or them,” he says. Logan watches her eyes slide back over to the greasy men with their guts hanging out of their pants, and then she looks back to Logan.

“Get on the fucking bike,” he snarls. She shoots him a defiant stare, but, after glancing once more to the steadily growing crowd, bites her lip and whips a leg over the motorcycle, straddling the machine that’s already howling with life. Still though, she feels miles away, and he turns his head to look at her sharply from behind him.

“Look, kid, yer gonna hafta hold on to me unless you wanna go flying off. You got it?” he shouts at her, and she frowns, but nods, her hands gingerly making contact with the leather of his coat. Something warm coils up within him, and he barely grounds out the word “tighter” as he pushes the choke and the machine blasts forward, roaring with life as they take off into the black pitch of night.



Rogue

It’s too much. It’s happening too quickly. The alcohol is still coursing through her veins, and while the voices are quiet, she still feels she’s free falling, lost in chaos. The only thing that seems to exist is his sturdy form, the way he smells as she clings to him, the cold air rushing past them in the dark.

She can feel the motorcycle already slowing as they turn into a drive in front of a little eight-room motel, practically sunken in on itself. Through the snow she makes out the parked truck and trailer, and soon they are sidling up alongside them. He’s already killing the engine and throwing out the kickstand, whipping his leg off the bike, fumbling in his pockets for the key.

“Stay here,” he mutters, as he stalks off to unlock and shove open the motel door. She moves off the bike but stays near it, helpless to do anything but stare at him. But she only has a moment to wonder what he’s up to before she realizes he’s grabbing his pack and a half-empty bottle of whiskey from the motel room and shoving the door shut once more. She thought this is where he was taking her. She’s wrong.

She knows he’s on edge, cagey, even as he’s fumbling with the passenger seat door to the truck, chucking the stuff inside before roughly muttering a “Get in.” She blinks once or twice and for some reason is frozen to the spot. The only thing she does is tighten her grip on her army duffle.

“ You followed me, kid” he finally snarls. “Don’t fucking pretend this is what it isn’t.” He’s only a foot away from her now, close enough to smell leather, tobacco, sweat. His eyes haven’t moved off her, and she thinks in this moment he seems darker somehow. She stares back, and the indecision that was just moments before crippling her suddenly falls away. He sees it happen, the shift, and he steps back, nodding his head slightly at the truck.

“In the truck,” he grumbles, before he moves to undo the kickstand, shoving the bike up the ramp and onto the trailer attached. She climbs back into the cabin she thought she’d never see the inside of again, and blankly stares down at the bottle of whiskey and his pack in the floorboard by her feet.

She hears the jostling of the motorcycle being tied down, and her heart pounds louder in her chest. She breathes out, and feels only limbs and lungs and body, mind somewhere far off still, adrift. The darkened landscape before her is still hazy, and she tries to ground herself, to focus, but she feels lost somehow, untethered to everything she’s ever known.

Then, he’s climbing in, throwing the driver’s side door closed and starting the engine. He puts it into gear and they’re off, the remnants and fading lights of Athabasca quickly disappearing behind them. She blinks, staring ahead at the black ink of night. She hasn’t thought about what she’s doing. She hasn’t thought about why he dragged her along with him. Hasn’t thought about where they’re going, either.

“Why are we leaving?” are the words she finally murmurs. He doesn’t answer her for a long time and doesn’t look at her, eyes forever fixed on the darkened road ahead of them.

“They saw shit they weren’t supposed to see,” he finally mutters. She looks up to him sharply, unable to help but do so, and studies his profile for a moment.

“You mean…” she murmurs, as her eyes can’t help but travel downward to his torso.

“It ain’t what you think,” he grumbles, frowning deeply before flipping down the visor and grabbing a cigar from the pack strapped to its side.

“Have you always been able to...do that?” she presses, curiosity getting the better of her.

“Yer still drunk, kid,” he mutters.

“I saw what I saw,” she says quietly.

Again, he doesn’t offer up an answer for a long while, inclined instead to simply light the cigar, one hand still keeping the wheel steady. It isn’t until he takes the first drag of the tobacco, breathing out sharply through his nose, that he humors her again with an answer.

“I told ya...I’m built for taking hits. I just take ‘em a little better than most,” he finally mutters.

“Stab wounds too, apparently,” she says, before she can stop herself. He frowns again.

“You weren’t supposed t’be in the bar in the first fucking place.”

“Not supposed to be there?” she interjects, and she can feel a new rumble of frustration unfurling within her.

“Thought you were headed north,” he grumbles.

“Thought you were headed outta town for a job,” she mutters, and, at this, he looks up to her sharply, unable to stop a low growl. It’s a threat to press him, so she doesn’t, inclined instead to simply lean back in the seat, grateful for the growing heat inside the cabin.

She stares down at her gloves, her breath still coming in heavy, her hands sweating. Then, realizing how she procured them, one gloved hand dips into her coat pocket, and, for a moment she blushes as they close around the condoms, before pulling out the rest of the money he had given her this morning.

“Here,” she says, slowly extending her hand outward toward him, the wadded-up twenties and few singles in her palm. “This is yours.”

“What?” he asks, taking his eyes off the road once more as he looks at her.

“The money you gave me, well, most of it anyway,” she says.

“Keep it, kid,” he grumbles, before his teeth clinch harder on the cigar.

“It’s yours ,” she says simply.

“I gave it to you,” he barks back, but she’s shaking her head.

“I can’t keep your money. Not now,” she says, and as he turns to her again, she realizes that look hasn’t left him…that dark look, like something smoldering under the surface. For one moment, she feels like prey, until she doubles down on her pride, willing herself to keep her hand extended, the money practically in his face.

His frown deepens, but he finally takes it from her, shoving it deep into his leather coat pocket, before his foot presses on the accelerator and the truck shudders, lurching more quickly forward.

For a while, neither speaks, and the black, wet night is only illuminated by the faded yellow sprawl of the headlights. She sits in silence, hugging the duffle closer to her, and she tries not to think. After a while, the heat, the lingering effects of the beer, even the vibrations of the engine lull her, and she finds her eyelids drooping.

“Stay awake,” he mutters finally, and his words surprise her. Her eyes open more fully and she looks at him.

“What? Why?” she asks.

“I’ve been up for over 72 hours, kid,” he mutters. “Haven’t eaten. Even I got limits. If I get drowsy I need ya to tell me.” She blinks at him, surprised by this honest admittance, and finds herself dutifully sitting up in her seat a bit more.

“Sorry...uhh...mister,” she mutters. Once more the cabin is silent for a long while, and it takes everything in her power to keep her eyes open. The sky is barely visible from the black line of tall pines, and everything looks like everything else. She imagines the sunrise must be soon, but it seems to be intentionally hiding, unwilling to shed light on the winding road before them. Finally, though, his voice cuts through the black.

“Logan,” she hears, and she looks up at him.

“Excuse me?” she asks.

“Logan. Name’s Logan,” he mutters. She blinks at him, once again caught off guard with the information, as if the name is a strange and fragile thing in her hands she doesn’t quite know what to do with.

“That all?” she finally asks.

“Yep,” he says. She pauses for a moment, wavering, deciding if it’s worth offering up a little piece of her own truth.

“Rogue,” she says. He blinks once, turning to her for a moment, before his eyes are back on the road.

“Huh. Rogue.….That all?” he adds through a smirk and another pull of the cigar.

“Yeah,” she says, her face falling somewhat. “At least, now it is.”

He throws her a look again, but says nothing.

Slowly, the hours pass, but he never drifts. She does several times, but forces herself awake. Smoke lingers in the the cabin from his cigars, and it should feel suffocating, but, for some reason, it doesn't, even as he flicks bits of ash into the built-in tray near the wheel. Finally, the cabin gets lighter, the early sun finding itself in the niches of the old truck, and she watches as the shafts of light begin to color his features.

“Here’s good enough,” he finally mutters, turning off the road suddenly. She looks around, realizing they’ve pulled up to a practically abandoned roadside park. But then, out of the corner of her eye, she sees it. Trailer hook ups.

“We’re crashing here?” she asks quietly.

“No, I’m crashing here. Gotta sleep. You can stay in the trailer where it’s warm, but yer stayin’ awake. Gonna keep a lookout. And yer gonna wake me up in three hours,” Logan mutters, as he pulls the truck up to one of the stalls.

“Look out for what?” she finally asks blinking at him. She doesn’t know what she’s expecting, but it isn’t this. No way any of those drunk men at the bar are on their tails.

“Anyone looking to give us a rough time,” he mutters. Then he’s moving into her space, and she can’t help but flinch as he does so. He pauses for just the slightest of moments, before fumbling down by her legs for his pack and the whiskey.

“Who would wanna do that?” she asks, blinking at him as he grabs the rest of this things.

“Let’s just say trouble has a way of turning up for people who ain’t normal, people like us” he says, before putting a fresh cigar between his teeth and opening up the driver-side door. She looks up sharply to him, a swell of panic in her chest.

“Logan…” she says, before she can help herself.

“ What?” he says, obviously irritated, now impatiently standing in the snow, staring at her through the still-open door.

“How you do you know I’m not...?” she trails off. He stares at her for a moment, cocking his head slightly as he throws his pack over one broad, muscular shoulder.

“Thought it was obvious, kid,” he says, eyes focused on hers.

“What’s obvious?” she whispers.

“When someone gets near enough to touch ya, you reek of fear. But it ain’t just because you were touched in the wrong way by one too many sick fucks. Yer afraid of... somethin’ else,” he says.

Rogue only blinks, mouth slightly agape.

“Yer a predator, same as me. I can smell it on ya,” he says simply.

“...smell... it on me?” she asks quietly. He frowns deeply, but doesn’t elaborate.

“Get out of the fucking car, kid. If not, I’m leaving you in the cabin, and, trust me, you don’t wanna still be in here when the heat wears off.”



Chapter 6: Six

Rogue

He’s gone for a little while, hooking up the water and electric. She waits in the cramped kitchenette booth, shivering in her coat, staring at his things. Ever since they stopped, everything seems worse. Her exhaustion is overwhelming. Her stomach feels all the more empty from not eating for the past several hours. The camper is old, the faded yellow tile reminiscent of the seventies, although everything now seems draped in a thin, impressionistic layer of the man she now finds herself with. The clothes that had been strung up to dry a couple of days ago have been taken down, but a couple of cardboard boxes still dot the floor, full of random odds and ends. A beaver pelt tacked to one wall. A pot for boiling water. A couple pairs of boots. Beyond that, a ladder up to a small loft where there’s a queen mattress, and, surprisingly, a made bed, plaid sheets and a thermal blanket tucked tightly in at the corners. For some reason her eyes settle on the bed, and she frowns.

Just then, she feels the heat come on and she realizes he’s hooked up the camper. She hears him walk around the side, and suddenly her heart thuds more heavily with anticipation as he unlocks the back and climbs in. He plops the keys down on the table in front of her, and things feel even more cramped as he navigates the tiny space with his large frame. As he sheds his coat, she can tell now how exhausted he seems, eyes dark and hair mussed.

Then he keeps going, stripping off his shirt and wifebeater, throwing them in the corner of the camper floor before undoing his belt. Rogue’s eyes dart this way and that, but it’s impossible not to look at him, and they both know it. Rogue feels her cheeks grow warmer as her eyes travel up the tight and coiled muscles, his shoulders broad and his stomach lean. But what catches her off guard the most if just how little mind he pays her, as if stripping before a stranger were nothing. He moves animalistically, primalcy coming off of him in waves, even as he’s rummaging in one of the smaller compartments for something. He then pulls out a canister of coffee and then sets a pot of water to boil.

“Water and this is all I got,” he mutters.

“Instant?” she asks, wrinkling her nose slightly, and he can’t seemingly help but throw her a small smirk.

“Look, I know it ain’t great, kid. And I know yer hungry. After this, we’ll stop somewhere more decent. Maybe a motel or somethin’.” Rogue can feel the warmth in her cheeks return but she says nothing.

He’s still half-naked, and all she can think about is how she’s never been this close to a man without his shirt on. Her mama and daddy were so uptight growing up, and she never saw them naked. Not even in summer, at the water. She had distinct memories of her father in a t-shirt, sunscreen pasted under his eyes, while her mother wore a coverall, fanning herself. And that was only the one or two times they made their way to Mobile on vacation. That was before her parents realized that the beach didn’t suit them. Bare skin, swimming, letting yourself just go, to be free of it all. The very idea of it all might as well have been a sin.

She thinks of the church, then. She thinks of the pastors, and the hundreds of sermons she sat through. We must deny our animalistic natures for they are sinful. That’s what her daddy used to say after bible study on Sunday afternoons. Baptists, they took the bible literally. During those long, summer days, Marie could do nothing but think about the pecan pie they might have for dessert, tuning her father out.

She settles her gaze back on the wild-looking man before her. Then, for the first time since it happened, she thinks of the cage and the things she saw. She thinks of the blood, and that man’s broken face. She wonders if the man really did die. Meanwhile, Logan is walking up the ladder to the loft with the bed, and she can no longer see him clearly, but she realizes he’s still muttering instructions to her.

“Stay awake but keep it down. And Rogue...three hours.”

“Ok,” is all she says.

A few minutes pass, and she’s quiet as she finishes making the coffee he started. Carefully, she takes the small pot of boiling water off the hot plate and pours a little into one of the cracked white mugs, a faded blue and red logo spelling out the words Hawkeye’s: Unfussy joint for drinks, grub and karaoke. She takes the plastic tube of instant coffee and pours a little in, unable to find a spoon to stir it. As she watches the brown powder dissolve into the steamy liquid, she can already hear his breath become more even and steady, and she knows he’s sleeping. She glances upward toward the bed, only to see one leg still hanging off the mattress. She frowns a little as she puts the mug to her lips, before grimacing as she drinks. It tastes awful, but the warmth of the liquid and pungent aroma cut through her exhaustion, and she thinks she might be able to stay awake.

Finally she sets down the mug and moves her duffle off the floor and onto the table, stretching her neck as she does so. She’s been in the same clothes for three days now, and she desperately wants to change. Her hair feels flat and limp and her limbs feel heavy, and she wouldn't mind taking off the bra that's cutting into her sides, either. Slowly and quietly, she unzips her pack, rifling through the few possessions she owns.

Three pairs of jeans. Four shirts. Two sweaters. Five pairs of underwear and socks, the no-nonsense kind. A gold necklace her mother gave her. A bag of toiletries. Four hair ties. A compass. A canteen. Three books. Two from home, Zora Neale Hurston’s Dust Tracks on a Road and Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, and a self-help book she picked up at a dime store in Montana on Dissociative Identity Disorder.

She takes her clothes off slowly, removing her coat, finally peeling off her rumpled sweater, unbuttoning her jeans. She’s down to underwear and a tank top, and quickly unsnaps her bra, finally feeling like she can breathe. Her bare skin is pale and her nipples go erect in the cold of the trailer. The heat’s on, but barely. She stands there, all skin, and walks into the tiny bathroom, compelled to wash her hair in the small sink now that the water’s hooked up. She runs a little shampoo in at the roots, sudsing it up before rinsing it. As she does so, she notices on the sink a straight razor. For some reason, she stops what’s she’s doing for a moment and reaches out a hand to run a pale finger or two down the dull edge of the blade. After she’s rinsed the soap out, she looks around, but can’t find a towel, so she wrings out the wet tendrils with her hands, twisting them back and forth to drain off the liquid. She runs her hands through it afterward, finally bringing up her face to the small mirror to stare at herself.

There are things she can’t think about. That she can’t admit to. She tries not to wonder how a man that’s been awake for three days only needs three hours’ of sleep. She tries not to wonder what this man in the bed has thought about her, if anything. She tries not to wonder if he’s expecting her to pay him back for his kindness the only way he thinks she can. Of course, he’d be at a loss on that last one. She doesn’t want to kill anyone else.

She moves back into the trailer, and slowly puts on a new pair of jeans and a clean white long sleeved cotton v-neck, but she leaves the bra off. She resigns herself to reading, and puts her bare feet up on the other side of the booth length ways, picking up the frayed copy of Rebuilding Shattered Lives: Treating Complex PTSD and Dissociative Disorders. Slowly, she sips the now lukewarm coffee, listening to his breathing and occasional growl in his sleep as she reads.

Psychological trauma is an affliction of the powerless. At the moment of trauma, the victim is rendered helpless by overwhelming force. When the force is that of nature, we speak of disasters. When the force is that of human beings, we speak of atrocities.

Rogue looks up from the book, biting her lip hesitantly, the taste of coffee still on her tongue, the fabric of her v-neck damp from her hair.

Yer a predator, just like me. That’s what he had said, wasn’t it? A swell of something that feels like dread courses through her, but she squares her jaw, set on forgetting. He seems a predator alright, but one who at least hasn’t yet tried to rip her pants off and rape her. Not that he’d get that far. So if he is a predator, he’s the kind that’s out for blood.

Traumatic events are extraordinary, not because they occur rarely, but rather because they overwhelm the ordinary human adaptations to life.

When she had watched it happen, the voices had been quiet. She had been quiet. It hadn’t upset her. In fact, it had steadied her, as if something shifted, deep down amidst the blood and guts, far from the mess that was her mind. Something shifted, and watching him do it, watching him exact bloody, animalistic revenge, felt good. Felt right.

Ordinary human adaptations to life.

Thing is, she isn’t ordinary. She’s starting to doubt she’s even human.


Logan

It ain’t his fault her scent’s all over the fucking place. Even as he hands over some of the rumpled cash she had thrust in his face earlier to pay for the hookup, he’s grateful to be out of the intoxication of that goddamn cabin of the truck. He should be halfway to Estevan by now, already stocked up on supplies, and instead he’s cartin’ around nothing more than a mostly-empty bottle of whiskey and some jailbait, half fuckin’ hard all the time because of her. The problem is that he can’t mind his own fucking business. He just had to get all tangled up in trouble once more. What the hell was wrong with him? Why the fuck did he pull her onto that bike in the first place?

Who is he kiddin’? He knows why, but he’s so fucking tired he can’t see straight and he doesn’t wanna face the answers. After he groggily finishes securing the hook-ups, he takes in a deep breath of clean morning air, before opening up the door of the camper. It’s no use. Her scent has already found its way into the niches, in every corner of the place, and it hits hard and heavy as he shuts the door behind him. He’s half inclined to turn right around and go sleep in the fucking woods, but he can’t help the urge of keepin’ her close to him, outta trouble. She’s shivering in her coat, but he can already feel the heat snapping on. He sheds his own jacket, then his shirt, not giving a fuck what she chooses to settle her eyes on. He can tell she’s tired, and he willfully forgets about the fact the only reason he’s having her stay up is so he doesn’t pull the little thing into bed with him.

I don’t fuck girls.

Problem is, somethin’ deep down suspects she might be a woman.

He feels caged, but he can’t fucking keep his eyes open anymore. He half-heartedly rustles up some coffee, barks a couple orders at her, outright ignoring that doe-eyed expression as she stares at him, ignoring how those lashes just barely graze those pale cheeks. He holds back a low growl and turns away from her, inclined to simply fall down onto the mattress, not even bothering to pull back the covers or take off his boots. He tries to block out the sounds and scents, but the exhaustion already has him in its grasp, and he easily falls into a disturbed and troubled sleep.


--


His dreams are uneasy. Not the horrific nightmares that usually plague him, but they are bizarre and restless, and at times he can hear her. The faucet running, her bare feet padding across the linoleum of the camper. And then he slips back into the dreams. He’s all animal now, and it’s bitterly cold. His limbs are barely able to move as he crouches low, snarling, desperate to bite the neck and taste the bloody pulse of any living thing, so he could stave off the immense, gnawing hunger…

He knows she’s there before he hears her, and even then the words are muffled, discordant.

“Uhhh...mister? I mean... Logan?”

He snarls, whipping up from the bed and grabbing the sleeve of her upper arm tightly. She gasps, and he’s covered in sweat and he seethes as she stares at him helplessly.

“Let go,” she says desperately, trying to yank her arm away. But he doesn't understand the words, not yet, and his grip on her arm tightens, yanking her roughly toward him. The animal’s still got his claws in him and he can’t understand, and only smells her, drinking in that sweet, fertile scent…

“Let go!” She’s shouting now, and something about her fear, her desperation, shakes him awake. He immediately loosens his hold, and one gloved hand flies to her arm, clutching it tightly, as she scampers away from him toward the opposite side of the bed. His vision truly comes into focus and he can only stare at her for a few moments, finally remembering. He sits up, breathing out steadily, running a shaky hand through his hair.

“Uhh, sorry. Sorry kid,” he mutters. She’s looking at him wildly for a moment, brown eyes drowning in confusion, before finally tearing her gaze away.

“It’s ok,” she mutters, staring down at her lap.

His eyes travel over her skinny frame then, as he tries to further regulate his breathing, eyes grazing over her nipples, just barely visible through the sheer white of her shirt. He stares at her prominent collarbones. Her damp hair. Her clean, pale skin, flushed just slightly from the moments that had just happened. He inhales her scent once more, and his hold on the animal slips just slightly. Then he’s off the bed, brushing quickly past her in one smooth, fluid motion. He can’t be on the bed while she is, and he stalks into the bathroom silently, turning on the faucet in the small sink and splashing water on his face. Afterward, he stands there for a long while, grilling the sides of the sink tightly, but it’s no use. The whole fucking place still smells like her. He realizes he’s gonna hafta get outta here and fast. Smoke a cigar. Knock back some whiskey. Rinse out that taste of her the animal was wild and crazy for more of.

And, later, he’d need to find some woman to fuck. It would need to be hard and rough, and it needed to be soon, to really get her out of his head.

He walks back out of the bathroom slowly, pulling on a fresh wifebeater as he does so, and he realizes she’s holding a mug in her hands. He looks at it quizzically, and she extends her gloved hand further, offering it to him.

“I...I made you fresh coffee. For when you woke up,” she says. Slowly, he takes the mug from her, sips the piping hot liquid, and his eyes dart back and forth around the place. Her things are now everywhere. The duffle bag unzipped, her coat strewn over the back of the booth, a couple of books on the table, one of them propped open. Rebuilding Shattered Lives: Treating Complex PTSD and Dissociative Disorder. She sees him tilt his head inquisitively at it, and then her cheeks are blooming red, as she gathers up the rest of her shit and chucks it into the bag.

“Uh sorry,” she says awkwardly. He’s already putting the mug down though, grabbing his leather jacket from the corner of the room where he left it earlier.

“S’ok kid,” he mutters, sloughing it on. He needs to get out of here. Now.

“I’m gonna go smoke,” he mutters, and she frowns slightly.

“Are we leaving?” she asks.

“Soon. You need to sleep at all?” He’s hoping she says no. He wants to get on the road. And fast.

“I’ll sleep in the car,” she says.

“Fine,” he mutters, opening up the trailer door. He’s about to step out, when he hears her again.

“It’s okay,” she mutters softly. He slowly turns back in her direction.

“What kid?” he asks.

“If you wanna ditch me here. I can find my own way,” she murmurs, looking down at the floor. He can only stare at her for a moment. The offer is tempting. He’d be free of this fucking distraction, of the trouble, which would only be a relief.

But no dice. He can’t. He won’t. Ours, the animal growls, before he shuts him up.

“Look Rogue. I’ll take you with me for a while, if you want. Till you... figure out which way you’re headed,” he mutters. She looks up to him sharply, and he realizes there are fucking tears in her eyes. Tears.

She ain’t a woman. She’s a fucking little girl. And yer fucking in for it. He sneers, shakes his head a little, coming back to the moment.

“Get your shit together. We leave in fifteen minutes,” he finally mutters.

“Why are you helping me?” she asks softly. He can’t help but lowly growl at that, hand still on the door to the camper.

“I…” he stops, staring at her. Best stick with the truth, much as you can. “I didn’t like you in that fucking bar. I didn’t like how those sick fucks were looking at ya.”

She stares at him, seemingly now all the more confused. He ignores this.

“Fifteen minutes,” he repeats himself, before stepping out of the camper, boots thankfully making contact with the gravel beneath his feet, the fresh air once more filling his lungs.



Chapter 7: Seven

Logan

The problem isn’t that he doesn’t notice. The problem is that he does.

The way she lingers in the fucking candy aisle. How she rocks on the balls of her feet, teeth toying with her bottom lip. She’s taking her fucking time. He’s up at the check out, waiting, a sweating sixpack on the counter and fresh pack of cheap cigars between he and the twentysomething clerk. The kid’s face is speckled with acne. He’s skinny with greasy blonde hair that keeps falling into his eyes, and Logan just knows the kid has a chip on his shoulder. Something smells off about the place, and all Logan wants to do is get the fuck out of there. But she’s takin’ her sweet ass time. Slowly, she finally strolls up to the counter where Logan stands, a bright yellow packet of peanut m&m’s and a bottle of coke in hand. She sets them down on the table next to the beer and tobacco and finally slides a glance up to Logan. She seems surprised when he frowns at her.

“What?” she asks blankly.

“Nothin’,” he barks, as he slides some of the cash across the counter.

The punk-ass clerk has already been making eyes at her, even though she seems largely oblivious. Problem is that Rogue had left her coat in the car, the midday sun making things warm enough to not warrant it, and now the kid’s eyes are tethered to the sight of Rogue’s breasts, all perky and ample under that thin fabric of her v-neck. Logan had been avoiding staring all fucking afternoon, but this kid, he hasn’t got the first clue. The punk licks his lip a little, and Logan can’t help but let a growl issue low from the back of his throat.

The kid quickly throws a glance at Logan, and Logan swears the kid gulps.

“So...uhh.. where are you headed?” the kid asks them, handing Rogue her candy after ringing it up.

“What’s it to you ?” Logan snarls, and just as a sneer travels across the kid’s face, Logan sees a middle-aged woman coming up behind the younger kid through a storeroom door.

“Hey Conner, I’m gonna need you to help with some of those boxes back there, I’ll finish... “ the woman, face hardened by tobacco, stops mid-sentence, eyes traveling from Logan to Rogue and back again.

“...ringing them up,” she mutters, through a deep frown.

“This your father?” she asks Rogue. Rogue blinks once, obviously caught off guard.

“Uh, yeah.” She lies terribly, and he anticipates what happens next before it does. The woman’s hand clasping around the cordless phone near the desk. She knows what he knows. What they all know. He ain’t her father. She doesn’t look a day over sixteen, but he doesn’t look a day over 30. Adrenaline suddenly floods his system, the animalistic urge fightorflight tearing through him.

“We’ll be on our way,” he growls, grabbing Rogue by the arm, leaving most of their purchase forgotten behind them on the counter. He drags Rogue out of the store and into the afternoon light, before she yanks her arm away.

“I told you… don’t touch me,” she snaps.

“Whatever. Get your ass in the car. Move it,” he barks, turing back to the store, a fresh swell of paranoia overtaking him. The kid’s come outside and is watching them get in, but Logan is already throwing the truck into drive, tearing out of the convenience store and on to the main highway once more.

“What was up her ass?” Rogue asks, hand still gripping the bag of m&m’s in her lap. Logan is already shaking his head, cursing the fact that he hadn’t snagged the cigars at least. He’d run out hours ago, as often as he’d been lighting one after the other.

“Yer underage. They noticed,” he snaps, jaw clenched and knuckles white.

“I’m not…” she begins to whine.

“You look it,” he snarls, not bothering to even throw a glance in her direction.

“So what? What would they do about it? You think they woulda called the cops or something?”

“Maybe,” he responds, instinctively glancing back in the rear view mirror. But no one’s following them. No cops. No nothing.

“Sorta ridiculous ,” Rogue mutters.

“That’s why I told you to stay in the fucking car,” he snaps at her.

“I had to pee ,” she says.

“You coulda held it.”

“Until when? We haven’t stopped for hours and hours,” she says, before crossing her arms and staring out the window dejectedly. Logan ignores her pouting and rummages in the floorboard between them for the half-empty bottle of whiskey he’s miraculously managed to hold off drinking until now. Rogue watches him pop off the cap and knock some of the liquor back, but doesn’t comment on his drinking while driving any further. All the safer for her. She’s giving him a headache, and he isn’t interested in taking any more of her childish bullshit.

“Listen, kid. I told ya. We’re stoppin’ soon. Little town outside Estevan. Know the owner of a motel there that won’t give us much trouble,” he mutters.

“I don’t understand how it’s anyone’s business anyway,” she’s saying, ignoring his last comment, finally fiddling with the yellow package, ripping the top open and popping a couple of brightly colored pieces of candy into her mouth.

“They got a right to think it is, if yer underage,” he mutters.

“I’m not ,” she says, after swallowing. Another piece of candy. Another swig of whiskey. Another bend in the road carving through the thick, Canadian forest.

“Comin’ from someone who’s been molested in the past, you’ve changed yer tune a little since last time we were on the subject,” he mutters through another swallow of whiskey.

“Who says I was molested ?” she says, whipping her head around to face him. He finally settles his eyes on her, brows raised in mild suspicion.

“You said. That greasy fuck who drove the rig. Before he kicked you out,” he mutters. A look of bitter contempt floods her face, and her gloved hand grips the bag of candy more tightly.

“He didn’t get that far,” she finally mutters.

“That right?” he asks. She looks down to the floorboard, to the mud on her boots, then upward to the thick swath of trees lining either side of the road.

“Predator, remember?” she finally says, so low under her breath normal ears wouldn’t have heard it.

For a long while, no one speaks. His anger begins to fade as he polishes off the whiskey, but he’s still stone sober, the remaining liquor doing shit to cut through his healing factor. Exhaustion is already once more biting at his heels. He needs more sleep. And he needs it to not be in the confines of the fucking trailer, with her so close. He feels caged, trapped, sick and tired of not settling his eyes and touching the little thing currently sitting in the passenger seat in all the places he wants to. Fuck. Tonight, then. He needs to fuck a woman, a real woman, rough and hard, and then sleep for twelve hours after he’s through with her. Only after that will be able to think straight, he realizes. Maybe then he can make a proper decision about what to do with the jailbait, who has, so far, caused him nothing but fucking trouble.

The next time she talks, it’s so soft again he’s almost sure he’s imagined it.

“Do you think...some of us are damned?” she says. He turns to her through furrowed brows. The light is now low in the sky, shrouding everything in tones of grey and deep blue.

“Damned?” he asks carefully.

“Yeah...like damned to go to hell?” she barely murmurs. He shifts uncomfortably in his seat a little.

“Depends on if you believe in hell,” he finally responds.

“I might,” she mutters, an odd note in her voice.

“That right?”

“You don’t?” she asks. He finally turns to look at her. She hasn’t slept; she looks like she hasn’t. She’s now wearing her coat like a blanket though, all balled up, the package of candy having long since been discarded. But her eyes. They’re bright and brown and earnest and pure, and he can’t fucking handle it. Fuck. Don’t look at her. Thirty more miles at most, bub. You can make it.

“I don’t know kid,” he finally mutters to the steering wheel in front of him. “Seems like just a way to get people to stick to some moral code. People wanna live forever. They’ll do about anything to guarantee it for themselves,” he finishes.

“So you….” she trails off.

“What?”

“You don’t believe in god, then?” she asks. He sighs, suddenly more exhausted than he’s felt in months. He needs a fucking cigar. More liquor. A pair of slick thighs to settle himself between, to drown in.

“I told ya I didn’t earlier,” he mutters, and then, against his better judgement he adds, “This gotta do with that book?”

“What book?” she asks, blinking at him.

“The one in the trailer.”

She goes red and doesn’t answer.

“One of the reasons yer starting over?” he prods, curiosity momentarily overcoming him.

“Yes,” she says curtly.

“You think yer crazy.” It’s not a question. He knows she thinks it. Or she wouldn’t be reading some fucked up crap about mental disorders.

“Maybe,” she finally says. He’s already shaking his head at this though.

“Yer not. Trust me. I know crazy,” he mutters.

“So you you’ve been with women like that?” she asks.

“Like what? Crazy?” he asks, clenching his jaw.

“No. Well, maybe. I mean… women who are different ,” she mutters under her breath. She uses this word, and it’s not the right word, but he knows what she means. She means the ones on the fringes, the ones who got all sorts of quirks and different things about them holding them up, paralyzin’ ‘em fear or sometimes making them sharp around the edges, so sharp they’re able to bite back. His thoughts fly to the red woman, and the way she smiled slyly as he snubbed his cigar out with his hand a few nights ago.

“Yeah, kid,” he finally responds. She blinks once more at him, the pale skin of her face contrasting sharply with the dark of the cabin, just when the lights of Estevan begin to twinkle in the distance.



Rogue

Rogue frowns as she watches the man who calls himself Logan walk back through the cold in the dark. He’s told her to wait in the car while he sees about the room, and for some reason she feels more juvenile than ever before. He’s gone for several long minutes before he stalks out of the office once more and is rapping on her window. She opens the door, grateful to get out and stretch her legs, despite the fact that the bitter chill is once more in the air.

“All set,” he says, thrusting a key and a thick plastic keychain with the number “7” etched into it. She feels confused suddenly, and only stares at the key dangling from his hands.

“Why you giving it to me ?” she finally asks. He blinks at her once, staring down at the number 7 between them.

“This one’s yours. Right next to mine,” he mutters. “Take it, kid.” Even as she does so, her frown deepens.

“You didn’t need to spend the money on two rooms. I coulda slept on the floor. No big deal.” Something in him stiffens before he shakes his head slightly and turns to walk around the front of the trailer to grab his pack.

“Nah. Not this time, at least,” he says. She frowns again, standing there for a few moments before she moves to grab a couple of plastic sacks from the convenience store they had stopped in outside of the edge of town. Food for her. Beer and whiskey and cigars for him.

“How long are we here for?” she finally asks, trailing him under the overhang where the motels room are crammed together in a long row.

“A few days, probably” he says. He’s already headed for room 8, and she stands there, staring at him.

“So...I’ll see you in the morning?” she asks.

He turns to her, shifting his weight back and forth. She can tell it’s physically hard for him to be standing there still, and she realizes in that moment, he wants to get away from her. That he’s putting as much space as he can between them. Her frown deepens.

“Yeah, kid. Sometime tomorrow,” he says, unlocking the door and kicking it open. Her own key is still in her gloved hand, the other tightening around the handles of the grocery sacks.

“Ok….” she trails off. He turns back to her and the fact she’s still standing there, and he sighs, his breath illuminated in the frigid cold.

“Get some sleep, Rogue. You look like you need it.” And then he’s inside, door slamming shut behind him. Meanwhile, she can feel a new panic, much like the one she felt after he had left the diner, rising within her.

Honey, you should lie down get some rest, C assures. At least go inside.

Doesn’t matter if he bought two rooms. You shouldn’t trust him, Marie, B says.

Take those clothes off why don’t ya girly? God, I need to get off, D has her cringing.

And just like that, the voices are back.



--

“Panic's a pretty sight, isn't it? We belong together, Scarlett. Let's get out of here together. No use staying here, letting the South come down around your ears. Too many nice places to go and visit. Mexico, London, Paris-”

“ With you?”

“ Yes, ma'am. A man who understands you and admires you for just what you are. I figure we belong together, being the same sort. I've been waiting for you to grow up and get that sad-eyed Ashley Wilkes out of your heart... Are you going with me or are you getting out?”

“ I hate and despise you, Rhett Butler. I'll hate and despise you till I die.”

“ Oh no you won't, Scarlett. Not that long.”

She’s exhausted. She should sleep, but instead she’s ignoring the voices in her own mind, reading over the underlined and marked-up passages of Gone With the Wind, and listening to him stalk about his room. The walls of the motel are paper thin, the smell of mildew thick in the air. The pilled blanket and sheet she’s shrouded herself in aren’t helping to make her warm. The fatigue is overwhelming, but she’s twitchy, unsettled. She hears the flick of the shower faucet from the room next to her, running water over a tired body.

“Burdens are for shoulders strong enough to carry them.”

It turns off. She hears footsteps padding back in the main room. The low groan of the television. The frantic pop of a bottle cap being snapped off.

“I'd cut up my heart for you to wear if you wanted it.”

He’s pacing his room as he downs the beer. She can feel the rhythmic pattern, heavy feet on stained carpet.

“That is the one unforgivable sin in any society. Be different and be damned.”

And just then...her reading is sharply punctuated by the jingle of a key, and then the quick opening and slamming of a door.

He’s leaving. Where’s he off to?

Who gives a damn?

Rogue drops the book, closes her eyes tightly, pulling the blanket closer to her. It’s true though, she can hear the roar of the bike, and he’s off. She exhales sharply in yellow light of the lamp. He’s left her there. God damn it, he’s left her there.

Don’t be silly, dear. C again. Not for good. He took the bike, yes?

Sighing, she moves to turn off the lamp, pulling up the blankets to her chin, closing her eyes. She’s desperate to drift. Desperate for her limbs to feel heavy. She tries to shut everything out. All the world. The wind has picked up outside though, and its stubborn, persistent howl haunts her. She lies there in the dark, and the voices are now quiet, and she waits. And waits. And waits.

And then, the loud rumble of the motorcycle returning and then being shut off. Voices murmuring outside, walking past her door. The giggle, higher register of a woman. His low growl. Stumbling, swinging open his motel room door now. The voices are inside now, to her back, only a a few planks of wood and a couple sheets of drywall separating them from her. More of his growls, the sound of her body being shoved backwards, and Rogue pictures hands everywhere, exploring and settling in places she can only wildly imagine. Then, a scream of pleasure, and Rogue’s eyes snap open and her breath catches her breath as she realizes what’s about to happen. The sound of the springs of the bed creaking, the headboard hitting the far wall, and then, their words. It’s all Yes, harder and more baby you can take more and oh god and Jesus fuck!

It goes on for a long, immeasurable amount of time, and now Rogue finds herself plastered to the sheets, no longer cold, listening to it all, wanting, yearning. It’s involuntary, the way her hand travels lower, gracing the edges of her underwear, already damp from her arousal. She touches herself then, face hot with shame and uncontrollable lust. It’s always been a sin, doing this.

They’re screaming now, but then…. it’s a different sort of screaming. It’s yelling. Rogue rips her hand away from herself as she listens to the release of the coils, weight moving off the bed. Another snarl, his leer, her disgusted scoff.

There’s a fuck you. There’s a get the hell out of here. And then the door opens, slams shut again. The click of heels stumbling off into the cold night.

Rogue doesn’t breathe. She’s frozen, because the sounds between her and the wall that separates them feel animalistic, wild. Heavy breathing, growling, pacing. He’s a predator tonight, but his time...this time he isn’t out for blood.

And then, his door opening once more, his footsteps outside, coming closer. She bolts upright, every one of her senses on fire, as her door swings open. She’s not sure how he’s gotten in. Maybe he’s got another key. Maybe not. But she scrambles backward, and she sees he’s only half-dressed, his beautiful and hardened body seething, a bottle of mostly-full whiskey swinging from one hand. Meanwhile, she’s dressed only in t-shirt and the underwear, fingers still wet from touching herself. He smells the air, then looks directly at her, eyes dark.

Be different and be damned.

Be different, be damned.


Chapter 8: Eight

Rogue

She can’t catch her breath as she watches him, his sweat gleaning in the slatted yellow light of the street lamp outside her window. Her back is flush with the hard wood of the headboard as she takes him in. He says nothing, and the way he moves is animalistic and fluid, even as he brings the bottle of whiskey up to drink, and then, she sees it, the fresh blood dripping from his knuckles. Alarm bells sound as she mentally scrambles to figure out why. Had he hit the woman? No, she would have heard it. Right?

He’s capable of it, B warns from the back of her mind. You need to get the fuck out of there.

Meanwhile, he’s pacing the tight space in front of her bed. She’s not sure what to do, if she should escape, to run toward the door, to shout for help. It doesn’t matter anyway, because even as she gently moves to lift the covers off her, he stops dead in his tracks, before he growls out something that barely contains the consonants and vowels of English.

“ Shower,” he manages.

She looks at him, half-afraid, half-curious, until he viciously sneers and the fear tips the scale.

“You heard me. Shower. Now,” he says much more clearly, even as he knocks back a swallow of whiskey.

“But-” she begins.

“ Do it,” he snarls, before whipping around to plop the bottle of Jack on the desk near the door, now gripping the sides of the frayed wood tightly. She’s quiet as she slips out of bed, realizing there’s no way she could sneak past him for the door, no longer sure if she even wants to.

The pads of her naked feet make contact with the cold linoleum, but he doesn’t watch her. He’s back to the whiskey, and she quickly slips into the tiny bathroom, shedding her t-shirt and underwear. She runs both hands over her forehead for a moment, trying to think, before realizing it probably is indeed in her best interest to wash the stench of arousal off her. She flicks on the faucet and pulls back the curtain, ignoring both the smell of mildew and the temperature of the water as the cold liquid stings her bare shoulders. It starts to feel good on her flushed skin, however, and she welcomes it. She tries not to think about how she’s probably lucky. Lucky that in this state he hasn’t raped her or torn her to pieces or…

He wouldn’t do that, C pipes up.

Don’t bet on it, B shoots back.

Meanwhile, D says nothing, has said nothing, and she hopes it’s because he’s fading from her mind. She didn’t kill him, after all. And, in her experience, the ones she doesn’t kill always fade. As she shuts the water off, she searches for a towel. Only one, and it’s small. She wraps it the best she can around her skinny frame, realizing she’s going to have to come out like that or put on the underwear once more. She comes to understand quickly she can’t do the latter for fear of the smell of arousal, and so, head held high, she pads out into the open part of the bathroom where the sink is and there’s a small patch of linoleum. She looks over to the bed, and she’s startled to find that he’s dumped all of her shit out of her duffle and on to the duvet, and he’s now rummaging through clothes and books and tampons and toiletries alike.

“Stop that!” she can help but react, but when he looks up at her, she instantly regrets it. His eyes thirstily travel up and down her towel-clad form, before he shakes his head slightly, tossing a sweater, a pair of jeans, and clean underwear at her, and they land on the floor by her feet.

“Get dressed,” he barks, before grabbing the bottle of whiskey once more.

Suddenly, the earlier fear as turned to anger. She’s mad. Mad he’s given her her own space only to invade it, mad for scaring her senseless in the process, mad for this violation of privacy, going through her things in the way he has. She glances at all the rumpled clothing and toiletries messily scattered on the bed, and her temper flares.

“Ok,” she spits, “I’ll get dressed.” And before she can fully understand the extent of her actions, she drops the towel to the floor at her feet right there in front of him. He looks up just as she speaks, and nearly spits out his whiskey. He doesn’t take his eyes away this time, but only growls low in his chest, as his eyes travel slowly down her frame, from her nipples going erect in the cold, down the planes of her stomach, to the curls between her legs. Suddenly, she blushes, realizing what’s she’s done and finally bends down to pick up the clothes, slowly stepping into a pair of underwear. He smirks a little at her sudden embarrassment, before taking another swig from the bottle and turning back to the things on the bed. He immediately plucks her book Rebuilding Shattered Lives: Treating Complex PTSD and Dissociative Disorders out of the mess, flipping it open and rustling the pages, before snapping it shut and waving it in her direction, even as she’s still working the jeans up her ass, still topless.

“This, by the way, this is bullshit, ” he snarls, before chucking the book into the plastic garbage bin lurking underneath the desk with remarkable aim.

“Hey!” she shouts, stepping over a couple of paces to where he stands. He practically bites the air in front of him as he growls loudly before shifting over to words.

“Don’t you dare come over until yer fucking dressed,” he snaps. She grips the sweater she has yet to don tightly in her hands, opening her mouth and snapping it shut, before frowning again. She glares at him as she finally slides the sweater over her head, not bothering with a bra. He hadn’t thrown her one anyway, probably on purpose.

His eyes never leave her as she finally pulls the sweater down over her torso, and after she’s finished she realizes he’s let himself exhale.

“Now...c’mere,” he slurs. Out of stubborn anger to show she’s not afraid more than anything, she stalks over to where he stands a few paces, but he’s the one that closes the gap between them. He’s inhaling deep then, moving in until he’s just lingering beyond her ear, and she’s so mad she doesn’t even think to recoil at how fucking close he is to the uncovered skin of her face.

“You’ve been a fucking pain in my side since the beginning,” he mutters. He hasn’t changed his proximity, and the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Out of arousal or fear, she isn’t sure. Probably both.

“But you -” she begins before he quickly interrupts her.

“Shut up. Did I say you could talk yet?”

He takes a breath in, and her eyes are locked with his, and she hasn’t quite noticed before how dark they look up close. Less hazel, more black, like when the last of the light is about to leave the pines.

“You’re scared. Talkin’ about all that religious bullshit. About how yer cursed or damned or whatever. S’fucking stupid.” He finally leans back a little and takes another drink from the bottle. Rogue only bites her lip in anger, aware he’s goading her. The only thing is, she’s not sure why or what to do about it.

“I just can’t seem to fucking shake you,” he continues, and at this, she retaliates.

“I gave you the chance,” she snaps, pointing a finger so close to his naked, sculpted chest a centimeter more and her ungloved hand could drop him to the floor. “You said no. Your mistake.”

He snarls, grabbing her wrist covered by the sweater, lowering her arm and leaning in close once more, so close she can smell the whiskey on his breath, see the sweat on his temples.

“Don’t you dare talk like that to me, kid. Listen, you needta know somethin’. If you were anyone else, and I mean anyone, I woulda either left you to die on the side of the road in the snow or fucked you senseless and then sent ya packing.” At these sordid words, a chill shoots down her spine, and she can’t help but suck the air in between them.

“So...why then?” she finds herself whispering.

“Why what? ” he barks.

“Why are you here still, wasting your time? What’s so special about me? ” she asks angrily. He cocks his head just slightly, seemingly befuddled by her question.

“Why are you here, kid? What is it that you want?” he murmurs. She looks at him more confidently, before pawing for the now half-empty bottle of whiskey. He offers it up easily enough, and he watches as she knocks some back. The lip of the bottle tastes good and rich and very much like she imagines the man standing so closely next to her would taste. It tastes so good in fact she tilts the bottle up again, more of the liquor burning her throat, although she manages not to cough.

“I want protection,” she finally mutters, before handing the bottle back at him. She’s surprised to hear him snort at this, even as he grabs the whiskey from her.

“Protection, eh? I’m not in the business of protecting anything or anyone. Now hurtin’ ‘em, in or outside the ring, now that’s what I’m good at,” he says bitterly, before finally stepping away, setting down the bottle and staring at the threadbare carpet beneath his boots. “And besides, kid, you can’t keep pretending that you or this transaction’s purely innocent. Not with what I smelled twenty minutes ago when I broke into this dump of a room.”

Rogue’s eyes go wide as some of her questions are answered by his whiskey-induced candor, but she’s shaking her hand. He doesn’t understand yet.

“You aren’t listening,” she says evenly. “I didn’t say protection from someone else. I- I want...protection... f-from myself. ”

At that, he lifts his head, his eyes now focused and intent.

“What ya saying, kid?” he manages to ask. She glances down at the floor, unable to speak, and she realizes he’s moved closer again, whiskey forgotten. For a long, unyielding moment, no one speaks.

“This about the voices?” he finally mutters to her, before gently moving a piece of her hair and tucking it behind her ear. The gesture is so strange, so uncharacteristic. She’s so scared now she can barely move, whether from the fact that he knows more than he’s letting on or how close he’s come to touching her, she’s not sure.

“You can’t possibly know about those,” she finally murmurs to him. To her surprise, he snorts once more, gesturing to the book still in the trash can.

“Ain’t hard to assume, from yer choice in readin’ materials.. Plus-” he stops, before looking up at her. “Takes one to know one, kid,” he mutters, once more reaching for her hair, running a rough finger through the partially-damp locks. She shudders slightly, unsure of what it means.

“ I got one of my own, too,” he finishes. She looks up to him sharply, unsure of what to make of this latest confession.

“You...you do?” she manages. He nods.

“Yeah, just the one, but it’s… loud.”

“What.. does it say?”

“It ain’t no good. Wants me to be something less than what I am.”

“And... are you?” she asks quietly.

“What?” he murmurs.

“Less?”

He exhales at this, turning back and snagging the whiskey once more. She thinks he’s about to down the rest of it, but instead he’s reached for two paper cups stacked on the desk, and he’s pouring what’s left in the bottle into two cups for each of them. He quietly hands her the cup, and she nods her head in thanks, before he finally answers.

“Most of the time, yeah,” he mutters. “Sometimes, kid, I’m nothing more than the sheer animal instinct. Sometimes, there’s not one conscious, coherent thought in my head.”

“Animal...instinct,” she echoes, playing with the words in her mouth before taking a sip of whiskey.

“You were touchin’ yerself to the sound of that, weren’t ya?” he asks out of nowhere through a wicked smirk. Instantly, she blushes, hiding her face in the cup as she finds herself suddenly drinking once again.

“You were...being loud,” she finally manages to say after swallowing.

“Only way I know how to do it, darlin’,” he mutters, polishing off his whiskey. Again, she blushes, until he adds, “That night I met ya even, and since, you’ve wanted me to fuck ya like that, haven’t you?” and then she’s coughing into her cup, before wobbly setting it down on the desk. The room is spinning, and she wishes that she’d snagged a slice of Wonderbread he bought her at the corner store before settling down for the night, before he had walked through the door, before all of this.

“That’s...not possible,” she finally manages to say.

“And why’s that?” he asks. His eyes are practically playful now, dancing, full of light when they had just been darkened with anger earlier. The sudden shift sits wrong with her, and her frown deepens. Best to tell the truth at this point, a voice says in her head. She’s not sure which one it is, and she finds herself not caring.

“I’d kill you,” she says flatly. At this, for the first time since she’s met him, he laughs, genuinely laughs, and even though she’s sure it’s coming from a cynical place, the sound is so rich and sweet on the air she’s not sure if anything will ever sound as good again.

“Unlikely, kid. Whatever yer hang ups, yer just a harmless teenager. Another skinny thing with doe eyes,” he says, gesturing to her up and down.

“I thought I was a predator,” she mutters bitterly, before finally moving to plop down on the bed, unable to stand anymore.

“I said that before to rile you up,” he says, although she watches his left brow cock, in what she hopes is curiosity.

“Liar,” she says through a frown. And then, with the brow still arched, he points to her.

“Well then...strip,” he says.

“What?” she asks, suddenly confused.

“I said fucking strip,” he commands of her again.

“You just made me get dressed,” she snaps, unable to quell the growing anger in her voice once more.

“Now I’m tellin’ ya to strip. Yer gonna prove it,” he says.

“Prove what ?” she asks.

“That yer more than another girl to fuck. Prove you’re worth more than that to me, and I’ll do it,” he murmurs, before crossing his arms stubbornly.

“Do what?” she asks, her voice just barely above a whisper.

“Protect you. You know, like you said, from yerself,” he finishes. She can only blink at him for a moment, and something in his stance proves that he means it. She also realizes that whatever is lurking inside him, that other voice, seems gone now, as if the alcohol has quelled it. He doesn’t seem as scary, even as he’s ordering her to remove her clothing. For some reason, she resolutely stands, a new confidence flowing within her. She takes the paper cup off the entertainment stand once more and downs the rest of her whiskey, before grabbing the hem of the sweater and moving it up off over her head, her mostly dry long brown hair falling down now across her naked back. She stares right at him, waiting for him to tell her what to do next.

“That it?” he says, still through an arched brow and small smirk of his lips.

“That’s enough,” she mutters. And then, setting down the empty paper cup, dares him with her eyes to come forward.

Marie, what the FUCK are you doing? B, losing his shit.

Honey, there’s hardly enough room in here for us, let alone another, C pipes in.

Just a little touch, guys, not enough to last, she assures them. Just enough to prove his ass wrong.

Marie, don’t do this, B begs.

Meanwhile, Logan hasn’t budged, and she realizes he’s waiting for her to invite him forward.

“Touch me,” she says.

“Why?” he asks, although his smugness has dissipated some. He seems more alert now, like an animal cautious of something brightly colored and red, something that signals poisonous.

“Because you have to,” she says through a shrug of her naked shoulders. “That’s how I’ll prove it.”

He smirks a bit then, slowly closing the space between them. And then… the sensation of him running a hand through the back of her hair, careful not to touch her scalp, and all of her senses are alight with the feeling of pleasure, until he gently tugs a little to the right, so that he has access to the pulse of her neck.

“Like this?” he breathes into her ear. She exhales shakily, knowing he’s toying with her, knowing, of course, she’ll get the last laugh.

“Sure,” she says through a small smile, and then his lips make contact with her pulse, sucking there, almost biting. She feels the warm slide of his tongue on her skin, and she tries not to melt, just as the pull happens, as the connection opens, and the mad dash of feelings from him, feelings of lustwantneedlustprotectfuckprotectkeepsafelust, flood into her, and then he lets go sharply, swaying on the spot as he looks at her with an odd sense of both betrayal and admiration.

“You... hell,” he manages to say, before promptly collapsing, passing out cold in the floor by her feet.

“Oh fuck,” she whispers, bringing her hand to her mouth, not sure if what she’s feeling is relief, or regret.





Chapter 9: Nine


Logan

He knows the perimeter is secure. It has been all fucking night. Most of the hours he’s spent in the dark, eyes traveling over the couple of abandoned buildings and battered and rusting TC-111’s, the Sinopec logo faded on the side of most of ‘em. Smart energy. Better life. Sinopec. Thirty tanks, 34,500 gallons each, all of them slowly being drained of oil. It always takes a long time, and exhaustion is now biting at his heels. He’s slept like shit every night since he demanded Rogue strip. She’s still back at the motel though, and now he’s eager to get them the fuck outta dodge as soon as the job is through.

He looks up from his post and glances over to the couple of trigger-happy fucks he’s been working with over the past few months. The one’s a fucking skinhead, he’s sure of it, and the other ain’t smarter than a brick, all dolled up with prison tattoos as he is. But they’ve both been hired for their aim and their discretion. Now they’re snubbing out cigarettes and getting restless, wanting this shit to be over as much as he does.

The job is simple. Survey the tracks and surrounding area until the shipment is unloaded. Keep it quiet, make sure no one fucks with the product, including the handlers. What was in those tanks was a lot of oil, and padded between walls, a lot of something else. From the smell of it, cocaine. There’s a reason he’s here, after all. Oil tankers pump oil into the pipeline every damn day and night. Surveillance that isn’t thinking twice before mowin’ down anyone looking to cause trouble ain’t the typical way you haul fuel.

But the two fucks he’s with? That’s his real fucking problem. The Fort McMurray job had been a clusterfuck. Everyone knew indigenous Cree tribes had started making trouble with Sinopec’s subsidiary. Sinopec just cut a pipeline that sliced Alberta clean in half, and the greater extent of the pipeline ran right through Cree territory. Protesters had known the oil was bein’ transported, and had decided to make their presence known in Fort McMurray. Well, not really protestors at all. Just a few angry native men looking to rough up somebody, angry with the indecency of it. The skinhead hadn’t hesitated. Took one of ‘em out of this world for good. Logan never carried a gun, but then, he hadn’t been hired to. Sniffing out intruders, that was his job. He smelled them a mile out, and informed the skinhead. But he might as well have pulled the fuckin’ trigger. Anyway, it didn’t matter who had done what. That day Sinopec made the fuckin’ news, because the man that had died had been a tribal leader responsible for some of the bigger protest initiatives. The red woman hadn’t paid Logan that night. A paycheck wasted. Damn shame, too. Two grand buys a lot of whiskey.

Tonight’s not like that though. He isn’t expecting trouble, hasn’t smelled it in the wind. They’re too far south. Estevan is in Saskatchewan anyway, a long ways off from any native land. And he wishes the handlers would hurry their asses up so he can get paid and get out of this crapfest town. Pack up their shit and drag that brat to whatever he’ll do until the next job.

They haven’t talked much after the first night. He’d come around pretty quick after it had happened, and his vision focused on her staring down at him with those chocolate brown eyes and red lips and pale skin.

“God. I’m so sorry. Are you ok?”

“You ain’t fucking sorry, kid,” he had groaned. “Quit lyin’. And yeah. Fine. How the fuck did you do that?”

“I...I don’t know.”

“Feels like you stole a bit of my goddamn soul. You can fucking kill people if you want, can’t you?”

She hadn’t said shit after that. Got real quiet. Asked him to leave. He’d been pacing his room since, downing whiskey and jerking off for the past three days. He’d checked on her routinely, but they hadn’t spoken so much as five words to each other since that night he went down like a rag doll, collapsing on the floor at her feet.

Past all the fuckin’ embarassment of the goddamn situation, the strange thing is he can feel a magnetic pull, a unfamiliar curiosity seeping into him. He’d been thinking a lot the past few days, more thinking than he’s usually keen on doing. He’s an aberration; he knows it. But this girl, she’s fucking lethal. And there was no way to explain it. Has she been experimented on too, like he assumes he’s been? Are they both just freaks of nature? He doesn’t know enough about science to understand the answer, but he knows power when he sees it. And the fucked up part is that the monster inside of him is still howlin’ with lust, wanting all the more to rut into her hard and deep, plant his seed inside her, show ‘em all that she’s his and no one else’s and….hell. He’s fucking insane. Not only is she seventeen years old, still a fuckin’ child, he knows there’s no way he could fuck her without killing himself in the process. One touch and he’d felt the hangover for days. Like being electrocuted, fried by lightning. Like his skin was about to split open. And that kind of power, that kind of threat, has him hard still, the animal impatiently hissing in his ear about Logan just letting him have a go at her. It’s beyond fucked up. Not to mention suicidal.

One thing he knows now for sure though is that, despite the fuckin’ blue balls, he doesn’t want to shake her. This girl, she’s carrying around a secret so deep and a power so strong he’s not sure she even realizes what she’s probably capable of, and that, that, makes her like him. In short, they were both thoroughly fucked over by the same shitty hand. Both probably victims of abuse, and both worse off for it.

Logan is pulled out of his thoughts as the dumb one with the tattoos begins beckoning him over. He blows cigar smoke through his nose and flings the stub to the ground, stomping it out with one muddy boot.

“You think we’re about done here?” the dumb one asks, taking a drink from a flask from the pocket in his leather jacket. He’s always drunk on the job. “It’s fucking freezing out here, and I have it on good goddamn authority the last tank was drained over an hour ago.”

Logan’s already shaking his head, even as he glances down the long line of TC’s. No one left until they got the call. Both these fucks knew the protocol.

“You know how this thing goes. You really wanna skip class after last month’s disaster?” Logan grumbles.

“What the fuck are they waiting for then? Train’s empty,” the skinhead says, sucking in the nicotine through dirty fingers and yellowed teeth. Logan’s eyes travel to the man’s other hand, which is always lingering restlessly on one of the glocks he’s packing. Logan lets out a low growl in annoyance.

“Smoke break’s over, assholes. Walk the perimeter one more time. You see any whiff of any trouble, you page me. I’ll walk up ‘round the front of the bullnose. You two fucks take the back.”

Then he’s in the dark, walking the long length of the train. Grateful to be alone once more, he notices new flurries speckling the pitch black sky. The air is heavy with the threat of more snow, a storm maybe about an hour or two off. Fuck. It was gonna be a pain to dig the trailer out of the motel parking lot if they were gonna leave in the morning. He’s rounded the other side of the train, idly wondering if Rogue’s too stuck up to help him shovel, when he finally gets the call. He’s been given a Nokia during these jobs, and the fucking thing suddenly beeps so loud he feels like his ears are bleeding. Goddamn technology.

“About fucking time,” he mutters into the little black receiver.

“We need you there another hour,” the voice of the red woman says calmly into the phone.

“Look, Red. The train’s empty. The handlers left. There ain’t no sign of life. It’s four in the fucking morning.”

“Another hour,” she says curtly.

“Do I get a reason why?”

“You lost the privilege to ask questions when you shot that Cree,” she says simply.

“I didn’t shoot nobody. And besides, alert the bossman and take out the threat, yeah?”

“Silently and stealthily take out serious threats. Not a couple of harmless native protesters. They’re the least of our worries.”

Logan only sighes into the receiver, his breath unfurling into the dark night. Looking back, he can just barely make out the other two taking their fucking time walking up the other side of the train.

“Fine. But I’m letting the other two go,” he says into the phone tiredly. “They’re useless anyway. And they’re all over my ass.”

“You wanna let your muscle go? Fine by me. But you stay,” she orders. He hates when she speaks to him like this. Like he’s a goddamn guard dog.

“I got more than enough muscle to go around,” he mutters.

“Don’t I know that. If something happens though, no claws. There’s liability to consider. Rough up anyone who wanders near the station, or call me if it’s Border Control. And that’s all.”

“Fine,” he mutters. And with that, the line goes dead. Logan sighs and motions toward the men that are steadily walking to where he’s standing. It takes too long, but they finally are within speaking distance when Logan starts dismissing them.

“Boss says you’re free to go,” he mutters.

“Thank fuck,” the skinhead mumbles.

And then, suddenly, sounds. Sounds off to their right, sounds of stumbling, of drunken laughter. Two or three distinct heartbeats.

The laughter is loud enough that the other men can hear it too, and the skinhead’s hand is on his glock once more.

Fuck.

“Stand down, bub,” Logan mutters, already walking toward the sound. “I said it already, boys. You’re dismissed.”

“Ain’t no way in hell you’re gonna let us miss this fun. A few drunken teenagers looking to get their asses handed to them.”

“They ain’t a threat. They aren’t carrying. Just stumbled into the wrong fucking place. I’ll scare ‘em off, and that will be that,” Logan mumbles, but the other two aren’t leaving. Logan grumbles but walks closer to the voices, and then the teens are rounding the corner. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Two boys, a girl too, jeans riding low on her ass, a goddamn ridiculous get up considering the temperature is only hovering around freezing. She’s no fucking older than Rogue. The boys ain’t older than eighteen.

“Well, what do we have here?” the dumb one purrs, and Logan growls in his direction again.

“I said stand the fuck down,” Logan orders. Meanwhile, the kids who were drunkenly laughing and passing a bottle in a brown paper sack back and forth just moments ago have laid eyes on the insidious men walking toward them, and he’s pretty sure the one of the boys has shit his pants in fear.

“Oh fuck,” that one says, looking back and forth between the three men. Logan notices out of the corner of his eye that the other boy has taken the girl’s hand, and Logan doesn’t miss the significance of the action. Logan sees the grip tightens in his.

“Yer trespassing on private property, kids. Gotta ask ya to leave. Go home, and sleep it off,” Logan says calmly.

“Yeah, it is private property. My dad owns all this land. So who the fuck are you guys?” says the one who’s got his hand gripped around the girl. Logan notices that the girl hasn’t taken her eyes off Logan, and it’s disconcerting as hell.

Come on, you entitled asshole. Shut the fuck up and go home.

Meanwhile, he can feel the bloodthirst coming off the other two goons he’s with. They’re bored, drunk as the kids in front of them. Too eager for a little fun. There’s a bitter taste in Logan’s mouth he hasn’t been able to shake since Rogue touched him. The whole situation reeks of danger.

“Go home, kids. Won’t ask again,” Logan threatens. Meanwhile, he can hear the slow metallic slide of the glock leaving the skinhead’s strap.

“Chris…” the girl finally whispers. “Let’s go.”

“Listen to your girl, bub. Scram,” Logan mutters. He doesn’t like the vibes he’s getting from the dumb one with the tattoos next to him. The way he’s looking at the girl. The uptick of his pulse, his breath coming in a bit heavier. The licking of lips. Meanwhile, the skinhead is playing with the glock slowly, twirling it around his finger.

“I’m leaving, Chris. Let’s not fuck with these guys,” the frightened one says, and starts to turn walking back from where they had come, before drunkenly tripping over one of the train tracks. The two fucks behind Logan burst out in laughter, and suddenly the one with the tattoos takes a step toward the girl.

“What the fuck do you think yer doing?” Logan asks, turning on him and grabbing his forearm to stop him. Just then though, Logan’s phone, ringing once again.

“Fuck!” Logan shouts, and just as he hesitates to look down at the phone still in his hand, the skinhead’s stalking over to the kid who’s still struggling to get up while the entitled punkass tries to take a swing at the tattooed one eyeing his girl. Logan drops the phone, snarling, ignoring Red’s advice and quickly and effectively unleashing the claws. The girl screams, which makes the skinhead turn around back at Logan.

“What the fuck?” the skinhead shouts, even as Logan slides the claws into the tattooed one’s foot. Chris scrambles backward, grabbing the girl’s hand and yankinger her away. Meanwhile, the dumb one screams in pain, just as Logan feels the telltale sting of a bullet in his left shoulder blade, mentally taking back what he said about either of them being able to aim. The kids are fleeing and Logan snarls, staring up at the skinhead once more as he easily pops the bullet out of his back, even as he feels the seeping wetness of blood.

“What the fuck are you?!” the skinhead wildly asks, even as Logan stalks forward, the other asshole on the ground still moaning in pain. In half a second, Logan sheathes the middle claw and has the other two up around the fucker’s face.

“Drop the fucking gun,” Logan mutters. Fear and hate swim in the fucker’s eyes as the glock hits the ground.

“Unless you wanna end up like yer buddy there, get the fuck outta here. Yer fired,” Logan grunts. But then, just as Logan sees the skinhead turn slightly to eye the fleeing teens, Logan rethinks his decision

“You know what? Nevermind,” Logan mutters, and just like that the middle claw sides up through the man’s chin and there’s a crunch as it makes its way through his skull and a squish as he can feel the claw sliding up through the skinhead’s brains. He watches the man die instantly, can see the whites of his darkening eyes, and Logan snarls as he retracts the claws and the man slumps to Logan’s feet. Instantly the image of Logan fainting in front of Rogue a few nights ago fills his mind before he shakes it, and turns toward the one still writhing on the floor.

He hears the newly intensified fearful shouts of the man with the tattoos, and Logan feels nothing as he pounces, swiftly unsheathing the claws once again into the man’s chest and tearing downward, deftly and quickly eviscerating him, ignoring his wild screams while he does so. He hears his heart stop quickly enough, and then Logan’s standing once again, seething, sweaty and bloodstained, as the Nokia rings from the place where he dropped it in the dirt once more.

“Fuck,” Logan grumbles, picking up the phone and wiping the blood off the receiver.

“What the hell do you want?” Logan snarls.

“I said no claws,” Red says cooly. Logan looks around, knowing he is probably being surveilled somehow, somewhere.

“It was a fucking necessity,” he snarls. “They woulda talked.”

“I know. They would have been disposed of had you not done us the favor.”

“Fucking worthless at the job anyway,” Logan spits into the phone.

“I know. Next time we’ll hire...more effective... colleagues,” she says, and Logan snorts.

“I don’t wanna know what the fuck that even means,” he mutters. And then, realizing the awful truth of the situation, his grip tightens on the phone as he whispers, “And the kids?”

“We’ll deal with them. Like I said, Logan, claws mean liability,” she says evenly into the phone. “Make sure to toss the burner. We’ll be in touch soon enough.” And with that, the line goes dead.

He closes his eyes bitterly, before shouting as he throws the phone back down in the bloody mess he’s standing in, crushing the phone violently underneath his boot. For a moment, he simply stares forward in the dark, the snow beginning to fall more quickly in thick sheets.

“Fuck,” he manages to breathe, before turning on his heel and stalking off toward the train, in the opposite direction of the teenagers, ignoring the powerlessness threatening to inundate him, knowing full well none of them would live to see the morning.

Rogue

The motel room is stuffy. She feels like she’s slowly going insane with how long he’s had her held up in here. She’s restless and cagey, and Logan’s been gone all night. He’d been licking his wounds all week, but he had, for the most part, been there, even if he was in the other room. It was nearly five in the morning, and he had left as early as five in the evening the night before.

Rogue had initially been furious with how childish he’d been acting. So she can hurt him, why the hell does that make him sulk? Has no one been able to hurt him before? It seems unrealistic, no matter how good he is at “taking hits.” She hadn’t touched him long enough to get a glimpse of his presence, or even to see memories. But she’s lying if she said she hadn’t liked it, because from his touch, a sudden fierceness, a surge of immense power, the suffocating feelings of lust. It scared her, as much as now her body now craves more of it.

But now that he’s gone, really gone, for hours on end, her frustration’s morph into something that feels more like pining. The truth is, she’s come to depend on her companion, more than she wants to admit. And now what’s stirring within her more akin to worry than hate.

He can’t get hurt. That’s what she’d been repeating to herself for hours on end, practically all night.

She’s not an idiot. There’s no way the jobs he’s taking are legal. There’s no application, no resume. It’s not Logan’s style. And they are at the border outside of Estevan, which stinks of illegal activity. He hasn’t told her much, other than he’s in charge of “security” for a “transaction.” But that can mean anything. Tonight, she has found herself hoping it’s drugs, and not something more insidious.

Don’t be silly. It’s obviously drugs, C pipes up.

The voices have been fairly quiet these past few days, usually only popping up in times of stress. But the stress of waiting until the early morning hours has got her blood pumping, and with every nervous bite of a fingernail, they seem to be louder than ever before.

But why? Why would he want to get mixed up with something like that? Rogue demands of anyone in her head.

I’ve been telling you all along, Marie. He’s not a good person. B again.

You’re just jealous, Rogue shoots back.

He’s alive. So yeah I’m fucking jealous. Rogue closes her eyes for a moment and stands impatiently.

Shut up, David, Rogue says.

She watches TV. She drinks one of the beers Logan’s loaned her. She drinks another. She reads Zora Neale Hurston until she knows every line. She washes the clothes from the past few days in the sink. She has another beer. She waits and waits and waits and…

Suddenly, the sound of his bike. Rogue nearly drops the beer bottle as she flits over to the window, trying to catch sight of him. She sees him stalk off the motorcycle, stumbling a bit, before walking past her room and to his. She frowns deeply, and with one more final breath, determinedly opens her door. He’s already inside and his door is locked, but then she’s banging on it.

“Logan,” Rogue says loudly. “Logan, you alright? Come on. Open the door.”

No reply.

“Logan I mean it. Let me the hell in,” she says, and then she almost falls inside as he whips the door open. She blinks at him once, taking in the spatters of red all over his wifebeater, his leather jacket in a bloody mess in the corner of the room. There are bullet holes in his shirt, but, of course, he’s miraculously standing, a mostly empty bottle of bourbon in his hand.

“Quit yer shouting, kid. And close the goddamn door,” he mutters. She turns to do so, and when she turns around he’s centimeters from her again.

“Logan, you’re scaring me,” she whispers.

He only growls, before rocking back on the balls of his feet, increasing the distance by a scant degree.

“What...happened?” she barely whispers. He says nothing, indulging again in bourbon.

“You’re shot,” she murmurs. Again, he says nothing, setting down the bourbon and choosing to shed his wifebeater instead, his hands and back still coated with drying blood.

“Did the fucking job,” he manages to finally growl out, before going back to the bourbon

“You killed people,” she states simply, staring once more at his bloody knuckles, his forearms so drenched it looked like he had been bathing in blood. She knows it, feels it deep down in her pores. “You stabbed them.”

He whips back around to her so fast, she barely sees it happen.

“I don’t know how the fuck you know that kid, but yeah. I did,” he says, before knocking back more bourbon.

She only silently blinks at him, unsure of what to say next. It’s the same uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach when she watched Logan bash the other man’s skull in during the cage fight. It makes her feel strange, uneasy, but…. less lonely somehow. Less...deserted. He turns to see her then, and he lets out a bitter laugh, an odd, dangerous look of amusement on his features.

“I’m a bad guy. I do bad things. You know how close I was to forcing myself on ya that night?” he spits. “Throwing all decency out the window and just taking you then and there, whether you wanted it or not?”

“You’re lying,” she can barely manage to say, a new sadness for him, for her, bubbling up in her chest. She hates her tears that follow. Every one of them.

“Fuck I am. People, kids, are dead because of me tonight. You wanna know how?”

Rogue only frowns as she crosses her arms around her, silently crying now.

“Because I’m a fucking animal. I might walk and talk and pretend I’m a human being, but I felt the insides of another man’s brains tonight. Ripped another one apart from neck to groin. And I liked it. I wanted more, ” he spits. The words are true, she can hear the candor in his voice, but his eyes are dark wells, and the ache is real, and the pain is real, and there’s something about what happened that’s...more...than just that.

“Logan….stop,” Rogue barely murmurs. With that, he lets out a savage growl, automatically mistaking her words for a different meaning.

“Why? You can’t handle it? That’s what I fucking thought. Then fuck off out of here,” he mutters before slamming the bottle once more.

“No,” she says, finally summoning up the courage to speak quietly, but clearly.

“What?” Logan asks.

“No,” she says again, more loudly this time. “I’m staying.” For a moment Logan only snarls, before setting down the empty bottle and rounding on her once more, so close she can feel his breath hit her neck, her ear.

“You listen to me, kid. If you don’t walk out of here tonight, yer in for a world of hurt. Yer gonna see things you’ll never unsee. And so god help me, I’m gonna have you. One way or the other, I’m gonna fuck you until you can’t walk for days. I’ll figure out a way. I will ruin whatever good’s left in ya. Consume it whole. And now, after tonight, if you don’t take off, you don’t ever get to leave my fucking sight ever again, you hear me? The same room, the same bed, all the goddamn time.”

She can hardly believe what he’s saying. It seems distant, impossible. But he’s there, and his hazel eyes are on her like he’s an answer to a question she didn’t know she’d been asking. And then, she’s acting instinctively, moving forward and pressing her lips to his. They’re rough and she can taste the metallic feeling of blood, his blood or someone else’s she’s not sure. Just as the pull starts though, she presses her hands to his chest, and pushes him back slightly. He’s barely standing; she feels more power than she ever has in her entire life.

“Fuck! Touching you fucking hurts,” he mutters, and then, something in his mannerisms change, and he moves in again, shoving her up against the door and groaning into her mouth as he deepens the kiss. They both break away weaker this time, sucking in breath like it might be their last. Her cheeks are hot and her lips are red, and he’s pale as a sheet, but then, in an odd, unending moment, he smirks at her, muttering an, “Ok, kid. Ok.”


Chapter 10: Ten



Logan

On the road in the early morning light, it’s cold, and the air around him feels thin. She sits with her legs drawn up, eyes out the window. No more than five or six words have come between them. He’s out of words, out of thoughts. He’s not inclined to take inventory. Not inclined to parse out the why or should of the matter, or even think too long on what he’s gonna do next. He’s blank.

Only a couple of hours ago he’d told her to stay. She was dead on her feet as it was. He hadn’t touched her again, and she had fallen asleep on top of the rumpled bedspread while he had taken a scalding hot shower, washing away the grit and the blood and shoving down the guilt. Then, a brisk knock on the door. Only once. Rogue hadn’t stirred. He was across the room in a moment, just as a crisp manilla envelope was slid under the door.

Three grand instead of two. No note, but there never is. Still, somethin’ ‘bout it hadn’t sat right with him. Sure, he’d taken out the other two fuck-ups. But there was going to be collateral with the kids. He assumes the extra is not so much from Sinopec communicating their gratitude as it is ensuring Logan’s discretion. They’re fools then. He never talks. Although, what’s an extra grand to international oil company in the thick of smuggling drugs across borders? Junk change. And just like the money, he too, is expendable.

Still though, now he’s got a wallet thick with cash and two weeks before they’ll need him again. That is, if he bothers to show up at all. He’d poked Rogue awake in the dark ‘round six, had mumbled something about needin’ to make scarce, and she’d groggily gathered her things and shoved them all in the truck, including that stupid-ass self-help book. She’d perked up a bit since then though, and now all this empty air is around them. He notices a couple times she’d turns to look at him, then turns right back ‘round, blushing like mad. He wishes she wouldn’t. Every decent part about him is still more than a little convinced kissin’ her was a mistake, but now he’s had a taste, he can’t go back. She knows it too. And that’s the part that scares him.

A few more hours pass like the first. She says nothin’, other than meekly asking ‘round lunch to stop for a bathroom. He finds himself impatient as he watches her stomp through the snow thick around her ankles and across the parking lot, ‘round the back to a rusted unisex bathroom. She isn’t in there for long, but, still, he doesn’t like her alone. Doesn’t matter if the kid can take somebody out if they’re looking for trouble. She’s still susceptible to all the ways the world can hurt a woman. And they ain’t far enough away from Estevan yet, ain’t far enough north. Plan is to take her past Fort McMurray, so long as the roads are drivable. He’s itchin’ to drive as far north as nature will let him, hole up in some place sturdy for a couple weeks, maybe rent out a cabin even, fuckin’ loft and all, so that they can figure this thing out.

That’s about as far as his brain lets him think, before she’s back in the truck, kicking snow off her boots, and pullin’ that green coat of hers more tightly around her body. The morning becomes the afternoon, and she’s still quiet to the point where she eventually falls asleep in the late afternoon sun.

It’s not until they’re thick in the Canadian rockies does the flight urge dissipate, and he starts feeling the fatigue, too. Finally, he sniffs out what he’s looking for, pulling up to the old campsite hoping it’s still in business. It is. He can smell a person or two down at the other end of the lot. The smell of pipe smoke. Stale coffee, too. As he puts the truck into park and kills the engine, he shakes her awake and she only blinks confusedly at him for a second or two.

“No motels up in these parts. Trailer hook-up is gonna hafta do,” he mutters, already moving to get out and get to work. He keeps his eyes off her as he sees about the water and electricity, and when he comes back around he realizes she hasn’t left the cabin of the truck, even though he’s sure the heat’s died down. The snow is a foot deep, the wind at this elevation bites. He rattles on the passenger side window, and she turns to him, frowning. He opens up the door, more than a little frustrated.

“What the hell are ya doin’? Go ‘round back. Heat’ll be on soon as I hook up electric,” he mutters. She blinks at him again, before slowly sliding out of the passenger and walking around while he gets to work.

A few minutes later, he’s inside as well, and he realizes she’s still bunched up in the booth of the trailer in her coat, looking real uncomfortable. He can’t help but growl low in his chest, hatin’ this silence that’s come between them, not knowing a damn thing to do to fix it. Finally, he speaks, exhaustion making him impatient.

“Listen, kid. You take the bed. I can take the floor-” he begins, but she’s already interrupting him. Her sudden infidelity to the silence she’s shacked up with all day startles him a little, and her question even moreso.

“What about last night?” she asks, arching a brow.

“What about it?” he asks gruffly.

“You said the same bed. All the time .”

He cocks his head a little, blinks at her. She’s passive, face unreadable, eyes bright and brown. Fuck. Had he said that? Whatever he’d said, his healin’ hadn’t caught up with the vast amount of alcohol he’d flooded his system with. Fuck. He thinks he did. Fuck. Fucking feral goddamn bullshit.

“Yeah, well, I was drunk,” he finally mutters, turning to shed the leather jacket he hadn’t been able to completely get the blood stains out of. He turns just a second too late though and catches something in her face fall, and the whole goddamn look has something inside him twisting up.

“So...you didn’t mean what you said?” she finally asks, almost pouting, like a fucking child. Like the fucking child she is, the wiser man he’s taken so long to cultivate murmurs in the back of his mind. The animal only snarls at him in return.

“Hell kid, I always mean what I say,” he says exasperatedly, running a weary hand through his hair as he does so. “But, uh... fuck -”

“I promise...I won’t touch you,” she interrupts him again, and the desperation in her voice is unnerving.

Holy fucking hell. She thinks this is about him gettin’ hurt. She’s got it all wrong, but he doesn’t have the words right now to fix it. He’s too fucking tired.

“Fine, kid,” he manages. “Let me sleep this drive off, and we’ll figure this thing out after. Ok?” he mutters, and he realizes then and there he’s just asked for her permission. Her fucking permission. How the hell has he gotten so mixed up in something he’s started pulling shit like that?

“Ok,” she says solemnly, and he’s already walking past her toward the bed, pulling off his shirt, kicking off his boots, and falling down on the double. He knows her eyes are on him the whole time, but he’s too tired to give a damn. She quietly follows him, taking off her coat, and laying it on the floor by the bloodstained leather jacket, before she quietly stretches her body out next to his. He’s stomach down, face in the pillow, and she’s on her back, staring up thoughtfully at the fucking ceiling. His vision is already going in and out of focus before he hears her murmur, “...Logan?”

“Yeah?” he asks.

She says nothing, and he sighs frustratedly.

“Spit it out, kid,” he mutters to the pillow more than to her.

“This feels safe,” she whispers. He snorts bitterly, but something inside rumbles in satisfaction.

“That’s some stupid shit to say, knowing what I’m capable of,” he mutters. He lifts his head to see her looking at him, face crestfallen once more.

“Don’t look at me like that,” he growls, but his body once again betrays him, and he’s snaking an arm around her waist, pulling her covered body closer so she’s lying on her side, flush against him. He hears her quick intake of breath at the move, and he growls low in his chest, partially annoyed by her restlessness.

“Sleep,” he whispers in her ear.

“Ok,” she breathes, and she might be murmuring something else, but his vision’s darkening, and the sound of her breath is loud in his ears and it’s in one final, fell swoop that sleep finally claims him.



Rogue

She’s floating again in a sea of red, and she’s safe. Safe like those summer afternoons, safe like warm rain and sweet tea left out on the back porch. Safe like clothespins and Dixie paper cups. Safe like fireflies and the long, fat rope of a tire swing, tethering her to that old oak outside mama’s house. Safe like summer, like thunder, thick clouds rolling, the sound rumbling... rumbling.

Rogue’s eyes snap open as she hears it again, and she sits up quickly. It’s dark, and she’s breathing heavily, but even as she gives her eyes time to adjust to the dark, for a moment she can’t remember where she’s at. Then, she hears it again, the sound. Thunder. In winter? She blinks again, shifting across the empty bed to the little window off to the right. Thick sheets of dark snow and then... crash. The sky lit up with all the light of the world. And then rumble. She swallows hard, coming back to her senses, as she fully realizes Logan’s no longer in bed with her. The bed he said he’d always share. For a moment she’s terrified he’s left, but as she slides off the mattress, she sees him a few feet below, nursing a beer in the cramped space of the camper’s kitchen booth, a single, yellow light casting shadows all around him.

“Logan?” she murmurs, rubbing one eye with a gloved hand as she pads into the kitchen. He looks up to her then, watches her walk up to the table, where she’s standing awkwardly beside him.

“Bad dreams?” he finally asks.

“No,” she says simply. “What time is it?”

“Late, kid,” he mutters. “Middle of the night.” With that, he takes another pull of his longneck. She suddenly wonders why he’s up if he was so tired. Then she realizes she knows the reason.

Again, the camper practically shakes with the sound of thunder. She skeptically raises her eyes to the sound, and looks back at him with a frown.

“Ain’t unheard of, you know. Thunder in winter. At least not up here,” he says again, before polishing off the rest of the lager and stretching as he stand. Rogue’s stomach grumbles, and she frowns at him.

He frowns back, glancing down at the empty beer bottle in his hand.

“Sorry, kid. Last one,” he mutters. “You want some Wonder Bread or something?” he asks, as he pitches the empty in a cardboard box in the middle of the peeling linoleum floor.

“How about that other bottle of Jack you’ve got hidden on the top shelf of the third cabinet, the one for emergencies?” she asks quietly.

Slowly he turns back around to face her, his eyebrow arched in that telltale, cautious way. He says nothing though, crossing the camper in front of her in a single stride and snagging the whiskey down from the cabinet.

She watches him as he twists off the cap, and just as she’s about to paw the bottle, he holds it back, shaking his head slightly.

“Let’s…try to behave like human beings for once,” he mutters, and he snags two mismatched mugs from the sink, washing them out and setting down the mug that she’s used before, the one that reads Hawkeye’s: Unfussy joint for drinks, grub and karaoke . He fills up the mug generously enough, does the same for himself, and gestures her to sit. He’s in the token wifebeater and jeans, the same dog tags he’s had on since she’s met him hanging around his muscular neck. Rogue takes the mug, sips, coughs a little, then sits across from him.

“Gonna snow for days,” he finally mutters into his mug.

“So we’re stuck here?” she asks quietly. He snorts a little and then drinks more.

“Welcome to Canada, kid. Once it’s through, we’ll try to head out, get a little further north. Gonna see about a cabin for a week or two. Someplace to hold up in. Until the next job,” he finishes quietly. She looks up to him quickly then, the fresh and sharp images from the night before once more flooding her mind. Claws in abdominal cavities. Bloody cellphones. The air thick with the smell of oil…

“You’re really gonna…” she says then stops, biting her tongue like her mother taught her to. Logan looks at her intimately now, studying her features, and it sets her on edge.

“Of course I am. It pays ,” he says coldly. Rogue can feel herself shiver, and it has nothing to do with the cold. Still, she wraps her gloved hands around her arms anyway for a moment, before relinquishing her hold to take a deep sip of whiskey. Already, the whiskey is warming her, the lack of food and sleep letting the liquor all the more easily slosh around her addled brain.

“What about the fight circuit?” she finally asks, but he’s already shaking his head.

“Too close a call in Athabasca. Gotta lay low for a while, maybe a month or two. Then start ‘em up again, maybe this time closer to home,” he mutters, before topping off both of their mugs with more booze. At his remark though, Rogue looks up to him sharply, suddenly confused.

“ Home ?” she can help but blurt out. He sets down the bottle carefully, once more eyeing her over his mug.

“Yeah. Why?” he mutters.

“I thought you didn’t…have one,” she finishes lamely. Again, skepticism in his features.

“Who says I don’t have one?” he asks, and suddenly she understands. He’s toying with her, fishing for something he can’t begin to catch. Suddenly she’s angry with him, and, doubling down, looks him directly in at him and says, “I know you don’t have one.”

He was in the middle of a swig of whiskey when she says it, and he puts his mug down slowly, a scowl on his face now.

“And how’s that, kid?” he asks carefully.

“When you…when I touched you,” she trails off. He closes his eyes momentarily, a slight shake of his head, before looking back to her.

“So that’s it,” he mutters to himself.

“That’s what?” she asks, suddenly annoyed.

“I knew you were takin’ something; I just wasn’t sure what,” he says simply. She frowns, impressed as she is with his ability to sense what had happened to him when he had pushed up against that door, deepening the kiss they had shared. Had it really even happened? Her mind begins to wonder, but then an ugly image of somebody’s intestines spilled out onto the darkened gravel near train tracks reminds her.

“I take memories. Sometimes more,” she finally mutters, before drinking again, staring down at her gloves.

“So you saw the job?” he finally asks. He doesn’t finish the question. He doesn’t have to.

She squirms under his gaze, but nods simply. “Yeah. Plus…well. Last night, you said you weren’t... human. You said you were an animal. I saw, well I think I saw a bit… bit of that,” she finishes lamely. She can practically feel him bristle in response to this, but he doesn’t actually move a muscle and doesn’t say a damn word. She bites her lip hard in thought for a moment, before finally adding after another swig of whiskey, “I don’t always feel human either…you know.”

Again, he says nothing. He drinks. She drinks. Thunder. Lightning. Rumble. Crash.

Finally, she exhales silently, realizing he’s not going to help her get anywhere tonight. He’s so different somehow, so much more reserved than the night before. Hot and cold with him, always. Realizing she has nothing to lose and her whiskey’s been drained, she looks up to him with new resolve and asks, “Can I see them?”

“ What? ” he asks a bit too sharply, and Rogue knows she’s gotten to him, somehow wormed her way a little further in. She only glances down at his hands, and she can hear the threatening growl escape his throat.

“Fuck no, kid,” he finally says, snagging the bottle and refilling both mugs. Rogue grabs the mug again immediately, drinking heavily.

“I showed you how I’m dangerous. Return the favor,” she says, slowly understanding her courage is more than just the liquid variety, and unable now to shut it off.

“Kid…” The word is a snarl, hardly English. But she ignores the warning, and pushes.

“Do it. Do it and shut me up,” she says softly, still staring at his hands. He scowls at her, but through an awful sound of skin splitting open, there they are, shining and beautiful and terrifying, and then her eyes travel downward, and she smells the tang of iron in the air realizes red is dripping all over the kitchen table top.

“You’re…bleeding,” she says quietly. He snorts cynically at this, and through a jerk of his hand they retract, and she watches the skin between his knuckles stitch itself up as quickly as the claws split it open, leaving only blood quickly drying as the only trace they were ever there to begin with.

“You...were experimented on?” she asks.

“Probably,” he mutters.

“You don’t remember,” she states. It isn’t a question. She knows this already. Not after the first kiss, but certainly after the second.

“No,” he barely whispers, and then he’s downed the whiskey, suddenly standing, pacing the cramped space of the camper. She can practically read his mind, even now. He wants out, but he promised he wouldn’t leave her. Who knew the man who fucks a different woman practically every night and takes blood money from his employer would be so resolute on keeping a promise?

“Logan,” Rogue says.

“ What?” he practically snarls, whipping around to face her where she’s standing.

“I want you to fuck me,” she says simply. He stares at her wildly for a moment, before he snorts, shaking his head back and forth like he can’t believe what he’s hearing, before brushing past her rudely to grab the bottle from the table.

“Not that simple,” he mutters.

“I don’t care if it hurts. That’s what I want,” she says, again too simply.

“You don’t know what the hell yer sayin’,” he spits, before knocking back more whiskey.

“You said you would,” she begins, before he abruptly cuts her off.

“I said we’d figure it out. Maybe wait a while until you, hell. Until we get the hang of it,” he snaps, rounding on her.

“No better timing. Storm’s here,” she says, and something deep down in her realizes it then. That something’s changed. That Logan may very well be seeing a glimpse of himself, and they both know it.

“ So ?” he’s asking her.

“So we aren’t going anywhere for a few days. Let’s get the hang of it,” she says a little more softly, trying to curb the sudden courage, the forwardness, and sheer primalcy practically flowing from every pore. She thought she had a handle on it. She’d spent all day containing him, fixing it. She’d done it. She really thought she had. But…

Too late now, a new voice growls in the back of her head. Welcome, E.

“You have condoms?” she asks. Logan growls at her, but says nothing.

“Because that might help,” she keeps talking. “Gloves, too maybe.”

“We ain’t doing this tonight, kid,” he says firmly, finally stopping his pacing and looking her in the eye once more.

“Why not ?” she asks rudely.

“ Hell , darlin’. Yer a presumptuous little spitfire, aren’t ya? First off, it’d be yer first time. And I don’t want to even begin to fuck that up,” he says gruffly. Again, he surprises her. It’s sweet, really, practically romantic, if it weren’t so goddamn pathetic. What a fucking sap, E replies, while the others keep quiet. Meanwhile, Rogue outwardly scoffs.

“It would not be my first fucking time,” Rogue spits. That gets him. He stops the swig of the bottle he’d been taking, and when he slowly lowers it to his side, his eyes are black pools. He’s furious. She can tell, he’s furious. But not at her. From somewhere in the back of her mind, she hears snarling. E again, making his opinion on the subject known.

“Who hurt you?” he asks, so quietly she’s not sure he’s even said it. She lets out a bitter laugh, shaking her head just slightly, trying to muster up her defenses.

“Who says I was hurt? I told you. The trucker never-”

“-I’m not talking about the goddamn trucker , Rogue,” he snaps, stepping so close to her she can smell him. Sweat and leather and whiskey and tobacco. She blinks once or twice, realizing it’ll do her no good to lie. She knows now he can smell a lie on her.

“A,” she says simply. He takes a step back almost as if he’s been punched, confused for a moment, as he tries to understand the answer she’s just given him.

“A?” he asks quietly. In an odd moment, she smiles, and she knows it puts him off, but she can’t help herself.

“The voices in my head,” she mutters. “I letter them off. It’s how I keep track.” Logan is stone still and entirely silent for several moments, before he finally moves closer to her once more to set the bottle down on the table behind her. He offers her no more extra space though, and it’s only because he’s so close, or maybe because she’s picked up a bit of his good hearing, that she manages to make out what he says next.

“Who’s A, Rogue?” he asks. Finally, a tear. She can feel it, hot and wet on her left cheek.

“You don’t get to know that,” she finally whispers. But he isn’t listening. He’s leaning forward, and just barely, presses a thumb to her cheek to wipe it away. It’s the briefest of touches, so light her skin doesn’t even notice, but it sends a shockwave down her spine, resetting her, steadying her slightly.

“Listen, kid, it’s not that I don’t wanna fuck ya.” His words are low and heavy in his chest. “But I also promised you I protect you from yerself, and you ain’t you right now.” She sighs heavily, wiping away another tear.

“Yeah, thanks to you,” she says bitterly. His eyes narrow before for a moment, before he seems to realize what she’s insinuating.

“You got a bit of me up there?” he asks carefully, guessing at the truth.

“A little, yeah,” she mumbles.

“Fuck, I’m sorry kid,” he mutters. “I’m sure he’s a goddamn bastard.”

“A goddamn horny bastard,” she corrects him, and to her surprise, he laughs genuinely again. The sound’s honest and bright, and it feels like what the world would sound like if it all weren’t so fucked up. She finds herself resting the side of her head carefully on the covered portion of his chest, and she knows he doesn’t know what to do. She knows he’s never been with the same woman for this long, at least as far back as he can remember.

“Please,” she says again, quietly. She feels him tense under her, but he doesn’t push her away either.

“That voice in yer head, it’s only gonna get louder kid, no matter what precautions we take. Some touchin’...can’t be helped,” he manages to say.

“I can handle it,” she pushes. He only growls in response, before putting both hands on her shoulders and pushing back slightly, causing her to look up at him.

“Listen, kid. I know yer life has been fucked up. I coulda guessed at that from the moment I dragged you into this camper the first fucking time. But... fuck. But yer so goddamn young, Rogue. So young. You don’t...even know what yer asking for. Doesn’t matter if you can drop me dead with yer skin, it ain’t gonna be pleasant with me. You understand?”

“I know. Trust me, I know.” She doesn’t mean this the way it comes out, and she can practically feel him shudder from the realization of the knowledge she must now have. Still, he clarifies.

“I’m rough with women,” he mutters.

“I know ,” she says even more quietly, moving to lean on him once more. As piercing as his words are, she doesn’t ignore the fact that his left hand has slid down her back and he’s running fingers over the cotton fabric of her v-neck in mindless, soothing patterns.

“I don’t...god. I don’t treat ‘em right. The way they oughta be treated. I don’t know how. I use ‘em up till they got nothing more to give. Then I toss ‘em aside,” he finishes. At this, she looks up to him once more, but says nothing, instead merely blinking at him. His eyes are careful and dark, and she realizes he’s holding back whole portions of himself. He feels tight, tense, coiled up. Meanwhile, he keeps talking.

“You got this special thing about ya. I’ve said yer like me, and, because of it, I’ve kept you around longer than most, but don’t you dare for a second think it’s gonna end well. I said that last night too, didn’t I? You’ll be like the rest in the end. Used up. It’s what I do. Don’t see that changing anytime soon.” At this, Rogue’s anger momentarily flares once more, and she steps back from him slightly, frowning deeply.

“Well this just in. I’m used to it. So stop treating me like a goddamn porcelain doll and fucking use me already. Fuck me, hurt me, leave me. Do whatever you have to. But what I’m asking you is to fucking flood the old shit away. Make it new,” she breathes, and she doesn’t miss the growl in his throat. She’s winning, she realizes. She’s got him now.

“Fine,” he barely grinds out. “Consider yourself warned.” Rogue can only smirk at him, although she’s not sure if she understands entirely why. Meanwhile, Logan steps in closer, so close she can barely breath.

“Gonna kiss you now,” he slurs, before adding, “And I know it’s gonna hurt like hell.”

“What, there’s not even one drop of masochism in you?” she teases, but then he’s snarling as he leans in, snakes his hand behind the back of her neck and presses his lips against hers, hard. For a moment, she’s not sure if the dizziness in her head is her powers turning on or simply him turning her on, but then she realizes it’s the latter. No pull, no spark, just a voracious kiss, and now he’s got her back up against the cabinets, hand running up the front of her shirt…and then images of...him licking, sucking biting, putting his mouth over everything, even... oh god.

He pulls away, stumbling backward a little, wiping his mouth as he does so. He’s less caught off guard than the night before, but he still looks a bit rattled. Meanwhile, the fire in her cheeks isn’t just from the way his tongue ran against hers or from the pull of her skin.

“You…. that’s…” she stutters.

“What?” he asks, looking up to her.

“You wanna do that to me?” she asks sheepishly. As the realization dawns in his eyes, he manages a bit of smirk for her, and she blushes again.

“Darlin’, there’s about nothing I don’t wanna do to that body of yers,” he mutters. “Although some things are probably... trickier than others.” She’s about to say something in response when she realizes he’s grabbing the liquor bottle once more off the table and handing it to her.

“Here,” he says, and she realizes she’s finally only now completely shaken off the kiss, most likely healed from it. She stares down at the quarter-full liquor bottle skeptically.

“What? Why?” she asks, confused.

“Because it took almost a minute. I think it’s because yer drunk,” he manages. Rogue frowns slightly at the bottle, and then looks back up to him.

“I’m already drunk. I don’t wanna...I mean...I want remember some of this,” she mutters. He shrugs his shoulders, seemingly impervious to her needs.

“Well, kid, I wanna live through some of this,” he manages to say. She can’t help manage to look a little crestfallen, and he notices.

“Sorry kid. I didn’t mean ta hurt yer feelings. Look at it this way, this won’t be the only time. So drink up. I’ll make sure you don’t get too sloppy.”

“O-ok,” she says, before taking a sip. He smirks at her meager attempt, especially since moments ago she’d been downing the liquor.

“You can do better than that,” he says, arms crossed amusedly. She gets the sense that he knows Rogue is more in control now, and not E. Has he gone?

I’m still here, darlin’. And he’s making a fucking shitshow of this. Doing too much damn talkin’, E says. He’s afraid of ya, a little.

Because of my skin?

No. Because of yer age, E responds. At this, Rogue scowls as her temper flares, and she tilts the bottle up high, a hefty and burning gulp of whiskey burning the back of throat, even though she manages to abstain from coughing.

That’s more like it, E compliments.

When she lowers the bottle, however, the room is spinning. Her head is dancing. Logan’s looking at her a bit hesitantly, and she decides she doesn’t like it. There’s no way he gives the other women this much time to mentally prepare themselves. He’s babying her.

Whatcha gonna do about it? E asks mischievously. Rogue then grins, and walks across the room, smirking as she lifts the hem of his wifebeater up and off him. He lets her, and then with a vain smirk he watches her watch him. Not to be outdone, Rogue reaches for her own shirt, when she feels his hand grab her wrist, still covered by her long sleeves.

“Uh uh,” he says. She frowns slightly, and lets her hand drop. But hope fills her chest once more as Logan carefully snakes a hand underneath her shirt, working his way around her side to her back, just barely not touching her skin. She’s suddenly floored by the agility and grace in his movements. So often the man seems hard, rough, as if everything is done with a slam or a crash or a thud.

And then, the subtle, smooth snap of her bra being unhooked, and he’s undoing the straps, fingers dangerously close to all that skin. He slides the bra down off her and tosses it to the floor. Her eyes stay on his hands, even as he’s watching her nipples go erect in the white v-neck.

“Get on the fucking bed, Rogue,” he manages to growl out, and something about how he says it has her following his directions like she has a thousand times, like she always has. Once she’s there, she edges backward and he follows her, eyes even darker now. He’s got one hand on either side of her, effectively pinning her, and his dog tags dangle from his neck practically on her chest because he’s hovering so close. She stares at them for a moment, before whispering “Logan.”

“Yep,” he says.

“That’s where you got it,” she murmurs. Again, this is not a question. She now simply knows this about him.

He doesn’t respond this time, but lowers himself to place his mouth on a nipple, sucking, oh god sucking through the sheer fabric of her t-shirt. Her skin is on fire. No boy, man, has ever done that before, and she’s surprised at the moan that escapes her lips.

He doesn’t stop, but switches, and now his rough hands run along her rib cage, his left--his dominant hand--cupping her other breast. She sucks in a bit of the stale camper air. Then he can’t take it, and his mouth is more desperately making contact with the side of her neck. Her breathing’s coming in heavy, she tries to focus, but a few seconds in and….she’s taking him again. He jerks away from her a bit, breathes in for a moment, then shakes the pain off.

“Fuck. Only seconds that time,” he growls.

“Sorry,” she murmurs in the dark of the campuer, and she watches as his brows furrow and his frown deepen. He quickly has a hand up to turn her chin to turn her head toward him before she can make him hurt again, and she can’t fucking believe what she hears next.

“Hey,” he manages to breathe. “Don’t you ever fucking apologize for what you got, kid. Understand me? To nobody.”

She looks up at him again, feeling shame and lust and anger, and then decides to attack him once more. Viciously kissing, running her hands through his hair, desperately yanking at his ridiculous belt buckle. He growls and responds in kind, hands all over her breasts. The spark takes hold. Release. They’re on each other again. Spark. Spark. Rogue’s flooded with memories of other women, of what he’s done to them, but she ignores it all, desperate to touch as much of him as she can for as long as she can.

“Stop,” he finally manages to breath, but just as she’s about to apologize once more, he’s also murmuring a “hold as still as you fucking can,” and then she doesn’t have time to think because a single claw on his left hand is winking in the light coming through the tiny camper window. She watches a drop of blood or two fall onto the white of her shirt and onto the white of her skin where the hem’s rode up a little, before he lowers it, effectively splitting the jeans at her crotch. She can’t help but involuntarily gasp, even as the claw retracts as quickly as it had been there.

“Oh...jesus,” she finally manages to breathe. “I hadn’t even thought of that.” He says nothing, and then she’s gasping because a finger’s just come in contact with the wetness of her underwear.

“That fucking smell,” he’s murmuring, as he puts pressure on her center. “Arousal. All the damn time on you.”

Rogue doesn’t answer, can’t answer, because what she’s feeling now she was sure she could only make herself feel. Something new, deep, building within her, because for the first time in her life, this man whose supposed to be an animal, who has killed people in cold blood, he’s giving her something, when all the others have only taken.

“L-Logan,” she’s murmuring.

“Shut up. Did I say you could talk?” he’s muttering, but it’s only half English now, and E’s doing some translating. Teeth on her neck. Spark. Tongue running up her ear. Spark. Her hands running down the hardened planes of his stomach. Spark. Spark. At one point, Logan growls out in immense pain and shoves her back onto the mattress. She doesn’t get her feelings hurt this time, and only lunges at him once more.

“Quit yer games and let me fuck you,” he finally mutters, holding her down in the bed by her neck. Spark. Spark. Spark.

“You sure you know what you’re doing?” she manages to say, as more memories, feelings, and strength flow into her.

“Yes….I fucking do,” he manages to grind out, although when he releases her, and she notices his skin is stitching itself up from where it has split open on his arm, along the side of his torso. She’s trying to rip him apart, but his body is stubborn, healing itself at every turn.

“C-Condoms?” she finally manages to ask. But he’s somehow magically procured one. She hears the snikt sound again, and she realizes the blade of one claw has come impossible close her as he tears through the panties too. She’s breathing heavy, the sheets are stained with his blood and her sweat, and just then, she feels hard and blunt at her entrance.

“When’s the last time you’ve done this, Rogue?” he asks through a low growl..

“I’ve never done this,” she manages. He manages through his lust to pauses, eyes sharp and alert as he waits for her to explain.

“I mean, I have. But not feeling like this,” she manages. And then another tear on her cheek, and she quietly and coldly adds, “Years.”

There’s something dark that passes over his face, but he seems to immediately will it away, and moves close to her ear.

“And you want this?”

“Yes,” she manages, already bracing herself. Not against him, but against how everything would suddenly change after him.

“Hold onto something, baby. S’gonna hurt,” he manages, and then the pain of the stretch, the slow slide is excruciating and pleasurable and most of all full. Full full full…. Her skin sparks and flashes, trying to get to him, trying to suck him in, but he’s too quick, too deftly fast in avoiding it now. She watches the way he grips the sheets, how his muscles tense, even as he plants kisses along her collarbone. And then another searing force of pain, as he pulls out and shoves back in again. Tears prick at the corners of her eyes, but she doesn’t have time to think about what she wants, what’s she’s told him, what she’s done. She can tell he’s trying to go slow, but soon he loses the steady rhythm completely and she reads in his skin that he’s angry. She can feel the anger seep into her, E is roaring in her ears, but she’s too busy trying to remember what an orgasm feels like because he’s speeding up now and she can’t hold onto him the way she wants to and how can it hurt so bad and be ohgodohgodohgod . And she might as well be him too, because he hates her and she hates him and they both hate how they’ve been cast aside, tossed out, manipulated, abused. And then he’s shuddering over her, and she’s in his mind and she knows he’s making it quick on purpose because it’s so much, and there are more tears, even as he quakes above her.

He’s next to her for a long while after, but even as she listens to him breathe, he isn’t with her. No one speaks. Rogue’s not so sure she can. Things are whole, and not. Right, and wrong. She’s herself, and she’s not, and that scared little girl, the one who was in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong life years ago, inside, she’s still crying.



Chapter 11: Eleven


Logan

He hears it before anything else. It’s how the air is a degree warmer, the scent on the wind. The prey’s pulse, its rapid heartbeat. Out here, it’s cold. Too cold. The dead of winter. And he’s gone too long without eating. The hunger’s gnawing at him. The immense, twisted feeling of hunger.

Hunt.

Four paces away. He leaps from the spot he’d been crouching, pounces. He’s all instinct as he grabs the rabbit, swiftly breaking its neck. Desperate for food and completely driven by instinct, bites into its side, frantic to taste warmth, but then his stomach is convulsing, and he coughs. A spray of red against the snow. His body rejecting it. Again.

Cook it.

He whips his head around wildly and sniffs the wind, even though he knows he’ll find nothing. That voice. The man. Growing more distinct every day, more decisive. Something in him is changing. Something he doesn’t quite understand, or trust. Warmth from blood or fire, what does it matter?

Cook it.

He snarls again in frustration, before throwing the rabbit carcass over his shoulder, stalking back toward the lean-to.



--



He wakes with a start, eyes snapping open. For a moment, he simply breathes, the dark shapes of the trailer slowly coming into focus. Outside, the quiet rumble of thunder. Inside, the steady, tempered breathing of a sleeping girl. He turns silently to take her in, eyes running along soft dark hair and white shirt stained with his blood. She sleeps with a pained expression on her face, the way he thinks he might sleep. As his memories of last night stubbornly trudge back to him, he frowns quietly, ignoring the sudden urge to run a finger down the length of a lock of her hair, just to make sure she’s in one piece.

He’d done it wrong. This much he knows. She had been such a little spitfire last night, and now he realizes most of it was simply bluster and maybe the animal she’d stolen from him, cloudin’ her judgement. She wasn’t ready for this, for him. He’d been as gentle as his body would allow, and if he’s being honest the reason he wasn’t rougher was because it felt like his body was being ripped in half every time he touched her. He’d given her pleasure though, and although usually he’d feel pretty satisfied with himself for seein’ that faraway look in a woman’s eye as he made her come, it wasn’t right this time. And that was it. His senses had burned white with both pleasure and pain, and only after he’d expended himself, only after the connection between them had broken, had he realized in that moment she’d been far off somewhere. Somewhere alone.

But the animal had been wrong. By not keepin’ control of the beast’s instincts and habits of startin’ fires, the man had fucked a girl who wasn’t ready, and probably sent her into a tailspin of depression, bringin’ up all sorts of repressed memories.

He knows the kid was probably raped. Maybe before her skin got dangerous. What had she said? Years ago. Suddenly, Logan found his fists clenched at his sides. The very idea of it made him white hot with rage, made something inside him twist up, something heavy in his chest. Something he can’t remember feeling before.

He looked back to the girl, and for a long while just listened to her breathe. She’d seen more than her fair share of hurt. And now Logan too, is now contributing to that. This time, he really does run a careful finger down a strand of brown hair, frowning once more. Then, he leans in close, mouth just beyond her ear, and whispers, “Sorry, kid.”




--

About an hour later, he hears the covers rustle. The muffled morning light has found itself inside the cabin, but the wind is still howling outside. He’s taken up residence at the cramped booth again--not much place else to go-- and between his palms he’s massaging a wad of cash. Fifteen hundred dollars to be exact. Rogue takes her time, slowly climbing out of bed and groaning as she stalks into the kitchen. She looks worse in the light. Blood dried on her clothes, jeans ripped, hair mussed. She holds her forehead like she’s nursing the world’s worst hangover, and simply stands there for a moment or two, before her eyes focus on him a little more clearly. He offers her a nod, then gestures to the hotplate.

“Coffee’s ready. Grab a cup, then sit down, kid. Rest,” he says, and she frowns, but quietly pours the coffee in the mug she’d been drinking whiskey out of the night before, and then takes a seat the side opposite of him at the booth.

“You look like shit,” he finally mutters over his own mug. She ignores this remark, and instead takes a sip off coffee, before mustering up the energy for a small smirk.

“So do you,” she finally grumbles. Then, taking a fresh look around the place, she adds, “Why didn’t you wake me sooner?” Logan only shrugs his shoulders.

“Snow’s a foot deep. Ain’t nowhere to go,” he grouses, the feel of the money rough and stiff in his hands as he passes it back and forth from right to left. Finally, Rogue seems to notice the wad of cash, and gestures to it.

“What’s that?” Logan sighs, finally placing it on the table between them.

“Your lunch money. Should hold you over till spring,” he mutters. Rogue only blinks at the money through the steam of her mug of coffee, before her brows furrow, then she’s bringing her gaze back up to him.

“What?” she finally asks. He ignores the question.

“Gonna give you my bike too,” he says, crossing his arms. “Figured with me in your head, you might know how to drive it now.” Again, Rogue only blinks, although the look of confusion’s now mixing with the look of hurt on her face.

“You’re leaving me?” she finally whispers. She’s grippin’ her mug real tight now, and Logan realizes this is the hard part. Still, he shakes his head slightly.

“No. But I figured I’d give you your last out. To leave me,” Logan responds quietly.

“Why?” she asks. “Because of- because of last night?”

Logan sighs, not feeling very much up for the task of explaining. He hadn’t much asked himself why either, other than it felt like the right thing to do. Exploring the reasons for it all, that wasn’t his speciality. In fact, it was downright dangerous. You start asking why? and you don’t tend to stop. One question always leads to another. Why was he more of an animal instead of a man? Why could Rogue kill people simply by touching them? Why didn’t they have answers? Why had he been running all this time, if simply to stay far, far away from the reality, the awful truth of it all? Askin’ why. Always dangerous.

Still though, he realizes he owes her a little slice of truth, and he sighs, leaning forward in the booth a little more as he does so.

“It was in your eyes, kid,” he finally mutters, reaching across the table to swipe a thumb across her lips, too quick for her skin to accost him. She lets him, and the glossy brown of her irises once more make his insides twist up.

“What?” she whispers.

“You were raped, weren’t ya? By “A”?” he asks carefully. Her eyes go wide, but she says nothing. Still, it’s enough to confirm his fears.

“How young?” he growls. She says nothing for a little while, instead drinking another sip of coffee. Finally, she answers, but doesn’t look at him.

“Fourteen,” she murmurs. “Before...the skin.” He can’t help the snarl that escapes his lips, and he stands, suddenly feeling caged, trapped. His claws itch in his hands, the animal whining in his head. Suddenly, he turns back to her, gesturing to the bed.

“So that’s your reason. I’m startin’ to think, knowin’ what I know now, maybe, that maybe fooling around with me ain’t gonna do ya one bit of good then,” he growls frustratingly. She surprises him by standing, choosing to face him head-on.

“You’re wrong,” Rogue retorts. He sighs, dropping his hands.

“Rogue. Just take a look in a mirror. You look... like a fucking murder victim right now,” he says quietly. She instantly wrinkles her nose at this.

“So do you. And besides, most of this is your blood,” she huffs, picking at her shirt for a moment.

“Still,” he growls. Then, a realization dawns on her face as she puts together the pieces he hasn’t let himself yet.

“Wait...are you...comparing the two? Are you suggesting what happened last night wasn’t...wasn’t consensual?” Her voice has that note of alarm in it now. “Do you really think I’m that stupid? That I wouldn’t know the difference?”

“And what is the difference, kid?” he asks, rounding on her. “I got ya well and drunk. You weren’t yerself. You had too much of me in yer head. I knew that. I still went through with it.”

Rogue simply blinks at him for a second. Finally, she responds.

“Logan, the difference was I asked. I wanted to. Sure, I was more forward than normal. And it was a lot, but only because, well...you’re…” she blushes for a moment, “you’re a lot to take. And maybe we’d gone slower without the whiskey, but uh…what you did felt….good. Right.”

He stops mid-pace, whipping back around to face her. She keeps talking.

“You keep saying you’re rough with women, that you use them up, but...I don’t think that’s as true as you think it is. And as for the rough part, I… I think I like it that way.” He stares at her wildly for a moment as she takes him by surprise, before sighing, running a hand over the scruff of his jaw, trying to sort out how to respond.

“Darlin’, you were still shakin’ like a leaf,” he finally says.

At this, Rogue snorts. “I was not. Give me a little credit. If my memory serves me correctly, I was all over you, too. You could barely heal with as fast as I went back in for more.”

“It was the end, kid,” he starts. “Like I said- yer eyes…”

“Yeah, my eyes. I was feeling my orgasm, your orgasm, also dealing with the flood of your memories,” she says stubbornly, crossing her arms.

“Wait. My...what ?!” he says, dropping his arms and looking perplexed. He looks at her, and she only arches a coy eyebrow at him, staring back resolutely.

“You cannot be fucking serious,” he mutters. When she smiles, he exhales, trying to deal with this information, running a shaky hand through his hair. “Holy fucking hell.”

For a second, no one speaks. Then Rogue bites her lip, and takes a step closer to him.

“I’m not taking your money. Or your bike. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Hrmmf,” Logan scowls, but he can feel himself relenting. “Fine. Like I said, kid, it was only an offer.”

“Well, offer declined,” she says, moving to gently brush a strand of dark brown hair off his forehead. She has to stand on her tiptoes to do it. He scowls, but lets her, before standing back, crossing his arms once more.

“You’re like a bad cold, kid. I just can’t shake you,” he mutters.

Rogue only smiles. “Well, from what I know of you, about time you finally caught something.”

Then, he can feel the real smile on his face, before shaking it off, taking her covered arm gently and leading her toward the washroom.

“Come on, darlin’. Let’s get ya cleaned up.”




--

The washroom was cramped with one person, let alone two. With no room for a shower, he usually used the sink and a bar of soap between motels. Nothing about the accommodations had changed for Rogue, but she’s still eyeing him a bit suspiciously as he runs a clean washcloth underneath the faucet before sudsing it up with a block of soap.

“Strip,” he says. She blushes a little, some of her youth coming back to her.

“Come now, darlin’. You wanna get clean?” She tilts her head at him slightly, but then sheds her shirt, his blood still smeared on her pale skin. He pushes down the need to flinch, and instead smirks at the sight of full breasts dipping below slender collarbones. Quietly, he holds up the cloth and presses it to her skin, careful not to touch her. She exhales shakily, as he runs it up her navel, along one breast, down the side of her neck.

“That’s…” she manages to say, eyes closed, but he ignores her, rinsing the cloth out, trying to ignore the red pouring down the drain. He realizes by the time he’s sudsed up the washcloth once more, she’s also staring at the sink and the remnants of blood. Now, she has a frown on her face.

“I’m sorry I hurt you…” she whispers. The honesty of the statement surprises him.

“You didn’t,” he mutters through a low growl. She meets his gaze, and holds it.

“Yes, I did,” she says, before gesturing to the sink. He stares at the blood-stained white for a moment, before looking back. He can’t help but smirk a little, before leaning into her once more, running the wash cloth over her now mostly-clean skin.

“Gonna take more than a little love-makin’ to do me in, darlin’. ‘Sides,” he leans in closer to her ear, “We’ll get the hang of it, eventually.”

His chest rumbles with something that feels like satisfaction, as he feels a new heat from the blush that’s filled her cheeks.

“I like this,” she finally murmurs, as his hands rhythmically pass over her body. “It’s like...you’re touching me,” she breathes.

“Gonna return the favor?” he teases. She smirks at him, but takes the cloth, running it carefully down his torso. He can’t help but suck in the air of the small space between them as she slowly wipes the blood away from his healed body. She runs the cloth carefully down one of his arms, and he notices she stops at his hand, right at the spaces between his knuckles. Suddenly, she’s frowning again.

“I know how much it hurts,” she murmurs. He shakes his head absentmindedly.

“S’nothin now,” he grunts.

“No… I mean the rest of it,” she mutters. With that, he focuses on her a bit more. “Someone…. hurt you too,” she manages. He growls, before quickly taking the cloth from her once more, before she can linger too long in the sensitive spaces of his brief vulnerability.

“We’ve both been chewed up and spit out by society, darlin’,” he says curtly. “Freaks of nature.”

“You’re no freak,” she whispers. He ignores her as he rinses the cloth again, simply staring down at the running water and his hands under it, before his eyes settle on the washcloth once more.

That was it. Quickly, he looks up to her, a smirk on his face.

“What?” she asks, cocking her head to the left so cute and innocent-like he almost chuckles.

“Maybe we’re doing this wrong,” he says, holding up the cloth between them.

“Yeah?” she asks, an eyebrow lifting in curiosity.

“Yeah,” he says through a devilish grin, before tossing the cloth in the sink. “But first, breakfast. I’m starved, darlin’. Think you can do something with powdered eggs?” At this, her eyes light up, before traveling back in the direction of the hotplate.

“If you have some hot sauce and a little butter, a whole lot,” she says through a grin.

“Well then get to it, woman,” he growls, and he knows he’s made her smile by givin’ her the dignity of calling her such.





Rogue

She had kissed boys. They had kissed her back. She had felt that flutter low in her belly, that feeling of needing more, wanting to take more in. She knew the landscape of her own body too, perhaps too intimately now that she was untouchable. Her imagination was overworked and underpaid, as often as she fantasized of something hard and powerful against her while she dipped her fingers between her legs, her mind wildly conjuring things she thought she would never have. Her body would writhe, her toes would curl, breath coming in faster and faster, but after, after... there was always a sadness, a desperate space that couldn’t be filled. That emptiness would sidle up next to her; the lack of something, the only thing for company.

“ Logan!!” she practically shouts. She’s squirming under him as she feels his tongue dip lower, running only over the thin fabric of a scarf they had rustled up from her bag. One sheer layer of cloth, damp from her moisture and his mouth. Again, a tongue sucking on her center, then diving deeper, and she’s not sure if that moaning is her or the roar of the wind outside.

She had touched herself. Taken someone inside her, willingingly and not. But never, never, had she experienced something like this. He is tasting her, and her mind shouts moremoremore. It’s like nothing she’s known, something she’ll never be able to get enough of.

Harder, now. Her legs are shaking. He growls low in his chest as he dives deeper, and she forgets he’s there, who he is, who she is. She loses her faith in everything, and lets go, and drifts.

After, he’s smug. He kisses her briefly, so all that she takes in is the taste of her on his mouth and a few faint feelings of his own triumph. He’s got a rough hand in her hair, though, drawing her closer. Her forehead rests on his chest as she tries to catch her breath, but then he’s swallowing it once again with another kiss. This time it’s rough and savage, and she can feel more of him seep into her. The blooming taste of iron on a tongue. A heartbeat shuddering. Blood pounding in her ears.

Only after a pained snarl does he let go.

“You’re mine,” he manages to say. She says nothing, scared it might be true, as his hurt, fear, and hope pulse through her brain like promises, like warnings.




--

After another day of being snowbound, they had finally left the roadside park and had begun to make their way north. Logan had talked about a cabin west of Fort McMurray that they could rent, both of them now sick of the tiny, cramped quarters of the trailer. Rogue was desperate for a real shower, and the promise of more space, as much as she liked being closer to Logan, had her excited, perhaps, for the first time in weeks. Because of it, on this drive, there had been more conversation. Rogue had talked about her daddy and mama, and the strict upbringing she had had. She confessed her love of pecan pie and her hatred of being forced to sing hymns. She talked about the days when she was younger, when she thought if she hoped hard enough she could fly and broke her leg jumping out a window. He had shared that he had a thing for Tom Waits and Nirvana, and she said she couldn’t get enough lately of Pearl Jam.

Things had quieted down again though, the closer they crept north. The air feels still outside, void of life, and Rogue starts to realize why. She hasn’t seen a sign of society in over two hours, and it’s obvious that they are in the thick of the Canadian rockies. It isn’t until the truck starts to truly slow, however, that she really begins to question the nature of Logan’s plans.

“Lo-,” she begins.

“Shhhh,” the car sits idling as he stares directly forward. She still looks to him, but does what he says. His eyes seem dark, and she realizes wherever they are, it means something. Finally, after several more long minutes of quiet, he speaks again, his voice deep and rough.

“Gonna show you something, I think. Something ya need to see,” he murmurs.

“What?” she asks. He quietly lifts up a finger to his lips.

“Shh. Get out of the truck, and follow me. And keep quiet. To find it, I need silence,” he says.

There is no sound but the trudge of their boots in the deep snow and the random, punctuated cry of a hawk overhead. Flurries are still falling softly, the last tapered bit of the storm flecking the snarl of black woods around them with white. They walk a long time, Rogue struggling to step into Logan’s footprints that have carved out a narrow path through the woods. Every once in a while, he stops, deeply sniffing the wind, his ears pricking at each and every noise Rogue can’t hear, but can only imagine. Something about him feels even more wild out here, as if the man is slowly seeping out of the frame to only leave behind the animal within. She watches the way the wind runs through his dark hair, and she hugs her coat a little closer to her.

After almost an hour--Rogue now cold and wet and tired-- Logan suddenly stops dead in his tracks. She stops too, blindly looking around for whatever he seemed to sense.

“Logan-” she begins.

“This is it,” he says roughly. Then he’s holding up a hand, gesturing to a space in the distance, and she barely makes out a few even pieces of wood, snow-covered, huddled up against an old oak.

“What?” she asks, even though she knows the answer. She wants him to tell it to her.

“That thing you said I didn’t have,” he mutters, before shoving his hands once more in his pockets. Rogue only blinks, looking over at the lean-to once again.

“You… started here,” she murmurs the truth.

“Yeah,” he grunts.

“This is what you first remember?” she asks carefully. She doesn't know what it means yet, him bringing her here, but she knows she’s a step closer to something she’s not sure either of them want her to see.

“Yeah,” he says again.

“Home,” Rogue says, before she can help herself. He bristles at the word, before bitterly turning away from the view of the lean-to, choosing to stare her directly in the eye.

“S’just a place you start, kid. You know, that place, it doesn’t have to define ya,” he says carefully. She keeps quiet.

“It doesn't make you who you are,” he says again, a little more forcefully, and she’s not sure if he’s talking to himself, to her, or to the falling snow around them.

“And what does?” she finally asks, desperate to know the answer. He blinks at her for a moment, before giving the dilapidated pieces of snow-covered wood one more hardened glance.

“Gettin’ away from it.”


Chapter 12: Twelve


Warning: Drug use occurs among minors in this chapter. It’s nothing I condone personally, but my characters have a long way to go. But you’ve been warned.)


Rogue

The logs crackle in the hearth across the small room, popping and snapping as she takes a long, slow drag of the joint, the smoke encircling them both. He’s impossibly close to her, and as the paper meets her lips, she’s staring into his dark, hazel eyes.

“Steady,” he murmurs. His voice is nothing more than a dry rasp. She breathes in, attempting to expel the smoke, but there’s a burning in her throat, and then she’s coughing, wheezing for air. He smirks, clapping her a couple of times on the back.

“Jesus, kid. Keep those lungs on the inside where they belong,” he says, taking the joint from her and putting it between his own lips and effortlessly inhaling, breathing out smoke through his nose.

Her throat is still burning as she watches him through a wave of jealousy, her cheeks still hot from embarrassment. She feels warm, stuffy, and she realizes just how hot the little cabin has become. The entirety of the place is only a single room, everything made of cedar, with the smallest of washrooms off to the side. But, it’s got a woodburning stove and enough room for both of them to stand in more than one spot. It’s only adorned with a table and chairs, a loveseat, and bed for furniture, but they’ve stripped the bed clean and have gathered the bedding in front of the fire, and now they’re sprawled out, Logan leaning back on his elbows, boots crossed, and Rogue with her feet tucked up under her. Between them, only a cheap ashtray and a few inches.

“Weed was a terrible idea,” she manages through another wheeze. He only smiles mischievously at her, before his eyes dart back to the fire. Logan had spent the majority of the day since they had arrived chopping wood on a block out back. Everything had been wet from snow, but miraculously he had been able to get a flame going. After he had stomped the snow off this boots, walking through the front door, breath visible in the cold, he had held out his hand, after procuring a joint from his pocket.

Wanna give it a shot?

She had blinked at him, shrugged her shoulders, and then smiled.

Sure.

So far though, all she has to show for it is a sore throat and a desperate, cloying need to get closer to the man who’s eyeing her so intently.

“Feel anything yet?” he asks, before taking another drag and steadily blowing the smoke out through his nose.

“Not really,” she mumbles, and then he seems to want to double-down on his efforts, and moves closer to her.

“Here,” he says gently handing the rolled up paper to her mouth. She takes it from him, blushing once more. His body radiates heat.

“For real this time,” he growls quietly, and then she inhales, let’s it sit with her a moment, as the drug clouds up her mind.

“Now...breathe out,” he says again, and he mimics how she should exhale and she does it. It’s slow and smooth, as she breathes out smoke.

“That’s it,” he mutters, and suddenly she feels light. Airy. High. And...in her mind, the voices are silent.

“I...that’s...wow…” is all she can manage to say. Again, he smirks at her, before taking the joint back and carefully balancing it on ashtray between them. Instead, he picks up a glass of whiskey he’s poured, nursing it.

For a while no one speaks, as Rogue lets the pot take hold. She feels light and heavy at the same time, warm and empty. She’s content for long moments to simply watch Logan’s dark eyes watch the fire as it begins dying in the hearth. So much time passes that the next time his voice hits the air it surprises her.

“Can I ask ya somethin’ darlin’?” he mutters to the fire, before looking at her. She only meekly nods, unsure if she remembers how to speak.

“Who were you talkin’ to, tonight?” he asks, his eyes settling carefully on hers as sets down his empty glass, before pulling out a cigar from it’s sleeve and lighting it for himsel, the smell of tobacco now mixing with the smell of marijuana.

“What do you mean?” she manages, searching for what he’s getting at.

“Before dinner, at the table, you were murmuring something to yerself,” he mutters.

“Oh,” she breathes, blushing a shade of pink. “I was, uhh, saying grace.”

“Grace?” he asks. She stares at him a little harder, and then she realizes the man’s probably never seen the inside of a church.

“You know, like...praying? Or...thanking god. Before a meal,” is all the explanation she can offer, and then her mind is floating with images of her mother clasping her hand over roasted carrots and meatloaf, her cold thin fingers awkward in Rogue’s always too-warm hands. And another image, too, of a younger version of herself peeking through a doorway as her mother, in her modest, mint blue nightgown, kneels with her legs folded at the side of the bed. And then… a memory of herself doing the same, tiny, warm hands folded into one another, resting on a Sesame Street patterned bedspread, reciting the same bedtime prayer. How did it go? Now I lay me down to sleep...

Meanwhile, Logan is considering her answer. He takes another long puff of the cigar, before he finally mutters, “Grace. Hmph. Never knew it was called that. Pretty.”

She says nothing, but only watches him for a while longer. Then he’s setting down the cigar and picking up the mostly-finished joint, lighting it again for her and extending his hand to offer it out.

“Take another hit,” he murmurs.

“I’m not sure if I should,” she mutters quietly, staring down at his perfect, capable hands.

“Darlin’, it’s a joint. Ain’t exactly black tar. And remember...we’re experimentin’,” he says, handing it out further. Finally, she gives, and she’s sure to do it right this time, exhaling slowly, letting the blast of chemicals take siege of her brain, falling further into the thick of it.

“This...how do I know if this is working?” she manages to ask.

“Voices still there?” he murmurs through his cigar.

“Well...uh no,” she says through a blush.

“Then it’s working,” he says.

“I thought this was about trying to touch me,” she mutters, looking down at her long sleeves, but gloveless fingers, and the mostly-finished joint still in her hand. She can feel his eyes on her as he follows her gaze; they feel heavy, needy, right.

“Nah. It’s about understanding what you got control over, and what you don’t,” he mutters. She only looks at him with heavy eyes and a worried expression, and then he frowns slightly.

“C’mere,” he growls, snubbing out the cigar and move the ashtray sitting between them. He’s collecting her in his arms now, and she lets him, his skin warm through the fabric of his flannel. For a while, no one talks, and they sit there like that. Rogue tries to match the pace of his breathing, as she moves just the slightest with the inhale and exhale of his chest. The next time he speaks, it once again takes her by surprise.

“You wanna know something fucked up?” he finally mumbles into the crown of her head. She doesn’t turn around to face him, but murmurs a content “Hmm?”

“I know Japanese. I know every goddamn word. But I don’t fucking know how,” he says. At that, she does sit up a bit more, curiosity getting the better of her as she turns to face him.

“Didn’t even know it was a language until I ended up in a game of poker with an old geezer from Toykyo ‘bout a year ago. He was rattling off explanations about his hand to a younger man watchin’. His son, maybe. And I understood every word,” Logan says, before slowly taking the finished joint she had still been holding from her and snubbing it out on the ashtray.

“How do you think-” Rogue begins, but he cuts her off.

“Don’t know. Not sure I wanna know. Pulled in a lot of cash that night though,” he grins devilishly.

Rogue’s still frowning, considering what he’s just admitted to her. Every memory she’s stolen, they have all been after, and now, more than ever, she wonders who he was before. Suddenly, an image of the little dark lean-to appears in her mind, a black smudge on a perfectly white canvas of snow. Rogue bites her lip, unable to help herself.

“So that place back there, the one you called ‘home’…” Rogue begins but Logan is already moving to pick up the discarded ashtray and glasses, and she realizes the conversation, however fleeting, is over.

“Doesn’t matter, kid,” he says, putting the glasses in the little sink. Rogue only has time to frown before he’s walking back over to her, kneeling once more.

“You ready?” he asks.

“What? Here?” she asks quietly. “On the floor?”

“Heh, not quite” he growls, and then he’s moving to pick her up, and she can’t help but giggle, as he easily scoops her up and the blanket she’d been nestled and walks them slowly over to the bed. As he lowers her, however, it’s only as it’s happening does she realize that his hand is gingerly wrapped around the nape of her neck to lay her down,, making deliberate and direct contact with her bare skin.

She gasps a little from the touch, but he doesn’t let go. Instead, he smirks, running a thumb along the care skin of her collarbone. It’s a caring and gentle gesture, the most tender he’s been. Her gaze follows his touch for long moments, until she looks up at him and they simply stare at each other.

As his thumb runs along the bare skin of her collarbone, she realizes it’s a caring and gentle gesture. Her gaze follows his touch. For a fleeting moment, they simply stare at each other, an odd smile on his lips.

“F-feel anything?” she finally whispers, because her mind feels outside of her body and she’s not sure what’s a pull and what isn’t.

“Not yet,” he growls, a triumphant note in his voice. “Let’s test that theory a little more though, eh?” and she only has time to smile at him as most of his primalcy comes back as he kisses her roughly, his tongue sliding up to meet hers. She moans into the kiss, nipping his bottom lip. He growls once more, all his muscle and weight and force hovering only a couple inches beyond her, covering her.

Then she’s getting greedy, fumbling with his belt, snaking a hand under his wifebeater, and she realizes she’s turning him on, because he’s breathing out unsteadily, barely managing to keep his balance, and then she feels the taught ripple of muscle, and she can’t understand, can’t fathom, how she’s here with him, and how he makes her feel so full so complete, so right and his hands are in her hair and her hips are bucking upward to meet his, even through their clothes still separating them, and he’s growling in her ear and then and then...

Spark.

He growls, pulling off her just slightly, but it’s too late. The floodgates are open and pornographic images of him with other women pour into her mind. She gasps slightly, a blush blooming in her cheeks and a rush of heat and lust unfurling at the sheer sexuality of his past experiences make themselves known. At first she doesn’t hear him when he speaks.

“You ok, darlin’?” he asks, running a hand through her hair for a moment..

“Y-yeah,” she manages, before muttering…”Y-you...fucked a woman on the hood of your truck in below-freezing temperatures?”

He stares at her wildly for one moment, before uncharastically letting out a bark of laughter, pulling her closer.

“Holy fuck kid,” he breathes. “Yer something, ain’t ya?”

She only blushes, but he can’t help but still smirk. And then he’s back on her, shedding her of her jeans. She watches him look down at her naked legs and the dark curls above, and she can her the approval in his growl.

“That’s a lot of naked skin,” she breathes.

“Like I give a fuck,” he says, and then he’s back on her with a growl, now between her thighs, and she feels his tongue fly up her center, nothing between them but the wetness of her arousal, before

“ Logan!” she shouts, her thighs harboring him as he tastes her thoroughly. It’s savage and vicious, what he’s doing with that tongue, all wet and hot. And then he’s got a finger inside her, than a second, while he sucks on her clit. She can feel that pressure building, her belly taut with it, Her body is crying out, neurons transmitting signals at a rapid pace. Ignition. Compression. Internal combustion. Still though, no spark. When was it going to happen? God, had it already?

“Nnngh! God!” she cries, just as the match is lit again, and he’s breaks contact effortlessly for just the right moment, and then he’s shoving himself inside her roughly, and she cries out, praying, begging to god or whoever will listen. He’s thick and it’s a lot, but the fullness, the pressure, as her already quaking around him, her own orgasm spiraling within her, but he’s not done yet.

“ Fuck. Fuck! God baby….” he grinds out through clenched teeth, as he bears down, moving against her harder. Everything slick and hot quaking and there’s no way of knowing if the pull’s happening anymore or not, because they are both each other. He’s inside her so far that it doesn’t matter. She’s writhing in pleasure, and then he’s coming undone and she’s gripping his muscles as he shudders over her, through her, and for a moment, there isn’t a spark, a catch, nothing but two people, two desperate people, finding solace in one another.




---

When she stirs, for a moment she is lost. In the last five months, there have been too many beds, too many lives. But as her eyes blink open and she sees the faint light through the far window, she is reminded. The cabin. It’s in this moment she also realizes the other side of the bed is empty, long since gone cold. She glances around the room, but he’s obviously not inside. Quickly, her eyes fly to his leather coat, his other pair of boots, a pack of cigars.

So he hasn't left her here for good, then.

After glancing out the window to double check he isn’t in the near vicinity and noticing his bike and truck are still in the drive, Rogue assumes he’s gone for a walk. Mildly put-out he didn’t ask for company, she shoves the uncomfortable feeling of abandonment aside, intent on taking care of herself this morning. The fire has long gone out, and although there is a radiator on the side of the cabin that acts as a tiny kitchen, it’s too far away and far too weak to produce any real heat like the fire can. She’d have to rekindle it. Perhaps a shower, too.

Accepting her fate, Rogue decides to get up from the bed, entirely naked as she crosses the room in only handful of strides. The cold air continues to nip at her, but she decides, she likes the way the air feels on her skin. For a moment, she wonders idly if this is how women always feel.

The shower is long, and she uses too much of the soap. She rubs shampoo into her temples, letting the warm water steam up the tiny washroom until she can barely see her hands in front of her face, and she savors it. After she’s toweled off, she slips on a thin sweater and braids her towel-dried hair. As she does so, she takes the time to get a better sense of just where they’re at.

She’s not sure how Logan had known of this place, if it was technically a rental or if they were indeed just squatting. She’s decided not to ask. It feels mildly lived-in, she noticed that the moment they arrived yesterday afternoon. The place is littered with old newspapers, advertisements for years-old specials for the grocery store in town. As Rogue takes a moment to poke and prod about the room, she finds a bookshelf, adorned with only a few musty books, but nothing of note. In the desk drawer Rogue finds a bible. A stack of old TV guides placed haphazardly on a tiny television on the kitchen table, one that has large, spindly antennae. She flicks on the TV to find only static. She messes with the antenna, giving up after a few half-hearted attempts. She turns it back off, and settles on coffee.

The cabin was a little outside of Fort McMurray, but they had stopped in town to rack up supplies. Logan had looked uncomfortable yesterday under the harsh fluorescent lights of the grocery store, as they purchased all the necessary things and a little food to eat. When they had passed by the ground beef and chicken breasts in the long, metal coolers, though, Logan had muttered a “no need.” Although she hadn’t quite taken his meaning, she hadn’t lingered on it, excited instead, for the potential for freshly ground coffee beans and real whole milk instead of instant and powdered creamer.

As she spoons out the coffee grounds and measures the water, she is was aware, on some level, that this time at the cabin is borrowed time. In a way, stolen. However, since that moment she closed the door to her parents’ home and skipped town by shoving a wadded-up pair of twenties to purchase a ticket for a Greyhound, Rogue knows having a real shower and a warm fire is something to be savored. And, when it comes down to it, no matter what he does, where he goes, she wants to follow him. She has to.

As if on cue, suddenly she hears the door being unbolted, and suddenly her stomach churns in unbridled anticipation. She lays eyes on him, and she can’t help but smile. He’s snow-covered in his workman’s jacket and boots, his skin rosy and cold, and, swinging from his hand, a plump, already-skinned and very dead rabbit.

“ Make this work ?” he asks brightly.

“Morning you to you, too,” she says, putting her hand on her hip. He smirks as he stalks more closely to her, brushing off the snow and flopping the dead rabbit in the sink as he goes.

“Sorry kid. Thought you’d wanna sleep in. Just needed to-” and then he stops just short of her, suddenly a pained expression in his eyes, his face falling. She frowns in response.

“What?” she murmurs.

“Guess I wasn’t paying attention this morning,” he mutters, running his still-cold thumb up the length of her neck, on a particularly sore spot where he had nipped her pulse, evidence of a bite mark and the primal nature of last night’s coupling.

“Well… it’s not bad as it would have been if the spark hadn’t-” Rogue blurts and then stops, realizing she’s already said the wrong thing. At this, his frown deepens even more, and he steps back from her a full pace.

“Sugar...I,” she mutters, and just as he’s about to walk off in the direction of the hearth, she catches his bare hand with her own. It’s just brief enough that she doesn’t hurt him and then she’s letting go, choosing to hold onto him through his still damp and snowy coat more tightly.

“I...I like it,” she murmurs into his ear. “You...on me.” And then he arches an eyebrow at her, obviously toying with the veracity of her statement. He stares at her for another long moment, before nodding to the hearth a few paces away from them again.

“Let me get a fire built, kid,” he says. “And you see what you can do with that rabbit for food. I’m starved.”



--

Dinner is better than she’d hoped, and the satisfied look on his face as he takes the first bite helps soothe her anxiety about earlier. He has surprisingly good manners, and she realizes it’s the first time she’s seen him eat a real meal since he had met him. Something here...something out in the wildness and the cold and the snow, colors him more honestly, as if all the lines are filled in now, and she might be able to see the entire man. He lashes out less and is prone to silence more, but in a way that is at rest, almost peaceful. At times, she can feel lonely in his silences, but during others, she feels content, free from worry, free from it all.

After dinner, he helps her clean up, and for a while she reads while he smokes a cigar, but something in him tonight, she realizes, is restless. She sees him eyeing the door several times, and she understands he desperately wants to be outside again. Moving to sit up a little on the old love seat, she closes her book, and gestures outside.

“Wanna go sit out there? Watch the rest of the sun set? On the steps to the porch or something?” she asks. He looks up to her, an eyebrow raised, and mutters a “If you want to, kid.”

A few minutes later, he’s bundled her up in her coat and boots and blankets, and they stare out at the quickly fading light of evening. There’s a bottle of half-empty whiskey between them, and every once in a while he takes a drink of it. She tries not to shiver too hard, and her arms are folded up tightly against her body. She has wondered, idly, why he spends so much time outside here, but as she watches the snow turn from pink to purple to blue, she’s thinking maybe she’s beginning to understand.

“When you’re out there,” she begins, nodding to the line of pine trees beyond, “How do you know how to find your way home?” He lifts his head up for a moment, as if surprised by the question, but then decides to indulge her with an answer.

“Track the scent, mostly, although you can always look, up, kid,” he murmurs. She cocks her head quizzically at him.

“Like, because of where the sun is in the sky?” she asks. Logan offers her a slight smirk.

“That, or…” he says, and lightly puts a finger under her chin, too brief of a touch for her skin to take him in, and then tilts her head toward the sky.

“ Oh ,” she murmurs, realizing, for the first time in over a week, the clouds have mostly cleared off, and now the deepening blue of night is pin-pricked with hundreds of points of light. It’s the same sky, the same stars as the one that little girl laid eyes on, sprawled out leisurely on the hot concrete of her driveway on warm Mississippi nights. It’s home.

“God, that’s beautiful,” she murmurs. For a moment, no one speaks, as the patterns of light become brighter, shapes and lines now more illuminated.

“I used to know the names so many of them, the constellations. I’ve forgotten most though,” she murmurs. Her eyes are still focused upward, but now she can feel his gaze on her.

“Do you know them? The names?” she asks. He tilts his head for a moment, taking a sip from the bottle once more, before answering.

“Nah. Not really. Didn’t have the words to give or even know their names for a long time. But...where they’re at, that I know,” he mutters, before slowly bringing up the bottle and taking a long sip. Meanwhile, she bites her lip, lost in the sky, before she breaks her stare, and turns to look at him.

“Do you ever think…” she trails off, unsure of how to say it.

“What, kid?” he asks quietly.

“I don’t know. It was all...so different back then.Back home. The sky...it used to make me feel safe. Like...I was staring right at God. But now it’s...” she attempts, and she realizes she’s never turned the feelings into words.

He’s silent, patient as she forms her answer.

“It makes me feel small. Alone,” she finally murmurs. His brows are furrowed as he considers this, before handing the bottle to her. She smiles as she accepts it and takes a large gulp.

“I don’t know, kid,” he finally says through a sigh. “Maybe that’s a part of growing up, eh?. But, in the end, maybe you come back ‘round to the beginning, yeah? It’s still the same, the world that made ya. Might be an apathetic one in the end, but it’s still….you know... yours,” he adds. She stares at him intently for a moment, realizing it’s probably the most he’s spoken in one go since they’d arrived here. It’s also, ironically, the most romantic thing he’s ever said to her, and he doesn’t even know it.

And then he adds, “Maybe instead of asking what it all means, you just start... feeling it, yeah?”

She bites her lip, before looking up once more. It makes sense. But that last part...that’s his answer, probably has always been. She wonders, though, if it could ever truly be hers.

“Maybe,” she finally mutters, casting her eyes downward, back to the cold glass of the liquor bottle between her hands.



--

Later, after they lay tangled in the sheets, sweaty and spent from sex, she lazily has an arm draped over him, only a thin sheet separating their bodies. They’re both high as hell, and her mind is feeling far off, untethered. Outside of one thigh she can still feel a trail of his seed, and she’s already made up her mind that she loves the feeling of him coming inside her. Everything they have done, everything he’s made her feel… she wants more of.

But that’s just it, isn’t it? She suspects, practically knows , he’s holding back. She’s not even entirely sure all what from, but she wants to find out. And she wants to find out soon. What had he said? It was part of feeling it, right? Part of what this world, and he, had to offer.

Almost as if he can feel her tension, he stirs from the light doze he had fallen into, and, after clasping her arm momentarily, he mutters a “everything alright, darlin’?”

She’s high, and there’s no use in lying anyway.

“You’re holding back…” she murmurs to him. At that, he truly wakes, even sits up a bit, as he stares at her incredulously.

“ What ?” He asks, and she smiles despite herself, amused suddenly with his vanity.

“With sex, you’re holding back,” she says simply to her again, and then he’s staring at her, seemingly unable to understand her blasphemy.

“Well, you are,” she murmurs into his chest, trying to hide her face. He doesn’t let her though, moving to sit up even more so, lightly grabbing her arms by her shoulders to sit her up as well. The spark, high as she is, doesn’t happen.

“Kid. I know yer young, but what I just did to ya-- multiple times over-- that ain’t something most men can do,” he says to her seriously. She smiles a bit mischievously, and teases him a little, with a “And how would you know?” He scoffs a bit, then growls slightly, leaning toward her and muttering a “Trust me, I know.”

“Well,” she says, moving just the slightest bit away from him to look at him more directly. “What if it’s not about what you can do, but what I can do?” she says, her eyes twinkling. That gets him. He’s now looking at her like she’s a jigsaw puzzle perhaps, one he can’t quite work the edges out on.

“What are you thinking, kid?” he asks carefully.

“Well, what else do you think we can manage to do with the pot?” she asks through flushed cheeks, but her stare is deliberate as she lays eyes on his sculpted chest, before dragging them even lower.

He cocks a brow at her for a moment and smirks a little.

“Tell me,” he orders of her. “What do you want to do?”

She blushes again. “Taste you,” she barely says.

“Hell,” he mutters. “What else?”

Now she’s a deep shade of crimson.

“I don’t...know. I guess I can… imagine a few things. But I know there’s more. And I want it,” she says, looking up at him expectantly. He sighs again, and she can see the high is already wearing off on him--it always does-- but she can’t help but press. Finally, he humors her with an answer.

“Yer right, kid. You know you are. Damn. If you want, I can show you a few more...things.” he mutters, before gently leaning in to kiss a spot behind her ear. That time, the spark is right there, and she feels like electricity running through her, a strong and vibrant current. And then he’s whispering something else, something real in her ear. “But, and this is the truth, darlin’, we might need a little more than pot to make it happen.”


--

He’s not gone long, only having put a pair of jeans on to go out to the truck. She’s still in bed, it’s still the middle of the night, but when he comes back, he looks a bit nervous, at least a little edgy. He easily downs the half-empty glass of whiskey he had been nursing earlier in the night, before staring back at her naked body sprawled out on the bed, eyes hungry.

“Aright kid. Before we talk about this, I want you to know. I don’t wanna force anything on ya. It’s yer choice, always.”

“My choice for what?” she asks, sitting up once more, a coy smile on her face. He gestures for her to hold out her hand, and in it he places a clear-looking, oblong casing. A pill.

“It won’t...hurt you. It’s an opiate, pretty much. My best guess is made from some natural stuff you could probably find on that mountain behind the cabin,” he mutters, moving to sit beside her in bed.

“What… will it do?” she asks quietly, staring down at the thing. For a drug, it looks so harmless. So small.

“Yer just... gonna feel real high. I’ve done it before. Besides a few other harder varieties of drugs, ‘bout the only thing that works for me.

“You’ve tried...other things?” she asks meekly from her spot on the bed. She can still feel his eyes linger on her breasts every other moment. She also knows he’s hard in his jeans again. She knows she’s wet, too, just from thinking of what they might do. What he might show her. How she might feel.

“Darlin’, I’ve tried everything,” he mutters, tearing his gaze away and fumbling in his pocket for another cigar. He finds one and snags the lighter off the bedside table, lighting it quickly. As he takes a draw, he takes his time to slowly blow smoke into the air.

“Listen, kid. Like I said, it’s yer choice. We can always stick with weed,” he mutters through another puff of his cigar.

“But, don’t you think...it might work? Give us more...freedom?” she asks quietly. He sighs, shrugging his shoulders slightly as he does so.

“Don’t know for sure. So far, drugs seemed to have helped. But, again, it ain’t worth nothing if you don’t want to do it.”

Rogue continues to stare down at the pill, before she closes her hands around it, making up her mind.

“I do. I want...I want to be closer to you,” she murmurs. “And if this is how I’m gonna do it, I’m game.”



--

It takes a while, but when the drugs do take hold, she’s not sure anymore of anything. There are places, dark places she hasn’t explored in her own mind, and she’s a little scared now that they might make themselves known.

Meanwhile, his pupils are shot as he holds onto her, onto her bare skin. No spark. No spark at all. They’d beaten it. At first, the touching’s slow. A cautious drag down her arm, her skin unused to his lengthy and deliberate touch. Then it’s more, him slowly leaning her back, her gasping as he slips more than one finger inside her, stretching her wide. She grips him, he licks the sweat from her neck, she feels all of him inside her, pulsing, filling her. And then she’s somewhere else, connected to him and somehow not, as if she’s more than this, more than now, more than it.

She wants to give him things too, though. She tries to flip him, knowing she can’t, but he helps her, and then she’s straddling his waist; again, nothing between them. It’s a long procession as she makes her way downward, and whatever fear or anxiety she has about it being her first time taking a man into her mouth falls away because the drugs have made it clear: she needs all of him. She needs to feel. And this is how.

At times, she gags, but slowly, surely, she gets the hang of it. She licks up the side of his length, and the way he shivers, loses his capacity to speak, has her feeling mature, powerful, for the first time, strong. She parts her lips again for him, taking him deeper this time, and she can tell he’s using everything in his power to not outright fuck her mouth, to drive into her, to use her for what he wants, needs.

She gives him what he needs anyway, deep throating him after a couple attempts at getting it right, and then his eyes are shut, and he’s cursing so rudely that just being in his vicinity is sending them straight to hell, and she wants to go there if it’s with him. Then he’s coming, and she can taste it, sharp and right, both his seed and the triumphant feeling- she’s done it, made him come from her mouth alone.

But then, he needs more. He’s spent himself inside her mouth, but he’s still voraciously hungry, and then, and only then, does she realize he’s not himself now. He’s something...else. There’s a gnawing hunger, a feral look in his eyes, and suddenly, those dark thoughts, those dark places in her mind come back.

He won’t hurt you, E suddenly whispers in her ear.

But his grip is tightening around her arms, and suddenly she’s not so sure.

He won’t, E says again. He’s practically “it” now, the animal, but it won’t hurt you either.

“You want more?” he barely is able to grunt into her ear. She doubles down on her courage, eyes ablaze, and whispers, “ Yes.”

He seethes, hovering over her. “I’m...losing it. Can’t...control,” he mutters, and then she squeezes his arms tightly.

“ Let go,” she hisses, and then he’s gone. Pounding into her hopelessly. He’s got his hands on her wrists holding her arms above, and then his teeth, mouth are on her neck, and he’s biting hard, hard enough to break skin, and she’s crying out, a mixture of confusion and pleasure and pain, and he no longer seems to speak and instead snarls as he fucks her, and suddenly a hand is on her throat, and she gasps as her air is limited.

Work through it. He’s still letting you breathe, E whispers. He won’t hurt you.

And then she realizes the constricted air, as dangerous as it feels, it’s making things feel more, feel better, and she’s starlight and he’s starlight and they become what they always were, what they are, and, maybe, one day, what they could be.

After he’s expended himself inside her, he’s still not himself. He’s practically whining, moving to clean her, then upward, toward the bite, soothing it with his tongue. He’s more animal still than man, and she doesn’t move, and she’s terrified and fulfilled as she runs a gentle hand through his hair, shushing him, cradling him, soothing him, as if now, finally, she is older and he is the young one, the lost one, with so very, very much to learn.




--

The rest of the days pass in a blur of glazed thighs and rumpled sheets and stoked fires and booze and drugs. They talk less than they fuck, and often, early in the morning he leaves for long stretches, but always comes back with freshly-cut wood and a skinned animal carcass of some kind. He doesn’t carry an axe. He doesn’t need one.

About a week in, Logan manages to situate the antennae of the small TV in the right contortion to get a weak signal of the local news. It feels odd, Rogue thinks, staring at the neatly pressed suits of the television anchors, so far away from the world she currently inhabits. It’s especially jarring when the clock hits seven, when the broadcast switches to national coverage. Still though, she’s taken to the habit of lighting a joint and suffering through ads for call-to-order hand cream and expensive knife sets before watching the news in the mornings when Logan is gone hunting so much so that in these past few days, she’s reminded herself of her mother. Apart from the drugs. With that cynical thought, she takes another drag of the joint before setting it in the ashtray.

But the truth of it all is that their time together in the cabin is coming to an end. It’s evident everywhere, from the dwindling food in the refrigerator, to the return of Logan’s edginess. It’s something she doesn’t want to think about. They haven’t spoken about what they will do next, or after at all really. But, already, images from last time, the way he looked when he opened the door to the motel covered in the blood of the people he had slaughtered as part of his last “job” are on the edges of her thoughts, and the trepidation deep down inside her, the fear of it all, goes away when she watches the morning news.

It’s on one of their last mornings at the cabin, however, when that changes. She’s rustling in the fridge for what’s left of the milk for her coffee, when the national news begins.

“And now CTV is back in collaboration with NBC with extended special coverage of last night’s breaking news segment: the mutant phenomenon. The genetically-gifted are confirmed now to be living among you.”

As soon as she hears it, she freezes, one handstill clutched to the handle to the refrigerator door, the milk cold in the other, eyes now glued to the television.

“At the top of the hour, more of the governmental conspiracy to withhold the information to the public. But now, an interview with renowned geneticist Dr. Rachel Argosy from Harvard and for the first time ever a telephone interview with Dr. Henry McCoy of Westchester, offering us insight into genetic breakdowns. In short: are they human?”

It isn’t until a half-hour later that Rogue even notices the milk she had been holding had fallen to the floor, a puddle of white blooming at her feet.




Logan

Only two hours ago, he’d been quietly stalking a buck through the woods as the sun had lifted itself up over the horizon. The softly falling snow, the random call of a wild bird, the light, dim and even. He had caught the scent of it for a long time before he laid eyes on it, and for a while he soundlessly stood there, watching it move about the pine and maple, almost as silent as he. He felt no guilt killing living things that were meant to be prey, but he also could understand and respect its place and purpose on this earth. The word Rogue had used when they’d arrived here... grace. Logan had begun to think that maybe the deer was grace, in it’s own simple way. Watching it steadied him somehow, as it silently moved through the snow.

The kill had been easy, seamless. Ethical, insuring it felt the least amount of pain as he took its life. He felt proud walking back, the buck easily slung over his shoulder. As he rounded the hill, something inside him thudded more loudly, noting the trace of smoke from the cabin, even though he was still miles away. Back there, Rogue, his Rogue, hopefully sleeping, and he wanted nothing more than to slip back into bed with her, saddle up against her warm frame, drink her in, nip her ear.

Instead, however, he found her awake. Instead of content, neurotic. Instead of warm and sleepy, high strung and pacing. Her eyes are glued to the grainy screen of the television, full For two straight hours, coverage of the “mutant phenomenon.” For two straight hours, a roundabout conversation with Rogue which always leads back to questions of how? and what? and why? Questions he doesn’t want answers to.

Genetic “ gifts ”, his ass.

“Just think about what it could mean,” Rogue was saying. She’s currently pacing the small space that acts as the kitchen, arms crossed over her chest, although sometimes she moves a hand up to bite a fingernail in nervous anticipation, eyes routinely flitting back to the twenty-four-seven coverage.

“It doesn’t mean it’s true. Could very well be a pack of lies,” he grumbles for the fifth time from his spot sitting in the kitchen chair. His boots are still wet from the morning hunt, his workman’s jacket at least slung over the kitchen chair. His coffee’s gone cold, his stomach not much liking the bitter taste of it. Rogue ignores his reasoning once again, choosing to instead ogle the rolling headlines underneath the talking heads. Friend or foe? Real live interviews with mutants on today!

“Logan, that man they just interviewed had purple skin,” she finally says, gesturing helplessly to the TV.

Logan can only shrug his shoulders immaturely. “Don’t know, kid. Something about the whole thing stinks of conspiracy,” he grumbles, deeply considering opening up the last pint of whiskey nestled in the nearest cabinet.

“But, don’t you see? It was a conspiracy. All this time. Mutated cells from evolution, resulting in genetic gifts. Gifts people have had for years. And if they were too obvious or dangerous the United States and Canadian government got involved to prevent widespread panic to protect the public .” Rogue practically quoted off the television.

Logan couldn’t help but let out a low, skeptical growl. “Widespread panic? To protect the public? From what?” he can’t help but grumble. “From a bit of purple skin? And what did the government do with the ones who stood out too much? Throw ‘em in jail? Sounds more like Uncle Sam’s been stepping on some civil liberties,” he snarls from his chair.

Finally, Rogue looks away from the screen for the first time in an hour, and stares him down, trying to will him to see it differently.

“But it could explain-” she begins.

“It changes nothin’, Rogue,” Logan snaps, before instinctively standing, now fully intent on the whiskey.

“We could receive...government protection,” she’s murmuring. At this, he stops from his trek to the kitchen cabinet and turns to her.

“Come on, darlin’. Yer not that naive. After they just spent the whole time making sure word didn’t get out? You think the government is gonna do anything but ‘round more of us up and then start poking and prodding us with needles? If they haven’t already?” he growls, and instantly her eyes fly to Logan’s hands. Taking her meaning, he can’t help but growl lowly, before popping off the cap to the last bottle of Jack and pouring a generous amount into his lukewarm cup of coffee.

“ Us,” she whispers so lightly he almost doesn’t catch it, even with his hearing. “So you do think it’s true,” she finishes murmuring.

“ What’s true?” he grumbles.

“We’re... mutants,” she practically whispers. “That’s why…we are how we are. How we can do extra.. things. How we’re alike. Like you said... predators.”

“ That’s…not what I meant when I said that, kid,” he mutters, unsure if he’s lying to her or not. If he’s being honest with himself, he’s not sure why the news is bothering him so much. But, for some reason, he can hardly bare to turn back to her and stare again at the hope in her eyes. All he understands is that he’s feeling something akin to jealousy, and maybe under that, fear

“Look, all I’m sayin’ is it doesn’t matter. We are or we aren’t, nothing about us is different than it was yesterday,” Logan grumbles, taking another large swallow of his spiked coffee and then standing. She simply watches him pace for a moment or two, mildly frowning, before she tries again.

“So…”

“So what ?” he snaps. She looks a little defeated at his surliness, but he’s not much in a mood to care if her feelings are hurt or not.

“Are you still gonna take that job? In Fort McMurray?”

It’s not the question he’s expecting, and, for a moment, he isn’t sure of his answer as he stares at her, stopping his pacing.

“I need the money,” he finally says exasperatedly, running a hand through his hair.

“But...don’t you think they know, then? About you?” she asks. He frowns, but says nothing. She’s guessing at the truth he can’t yet admit to. She’s seeing things he refuses to see, the things that evade him, that hide in the shadows of his mind.

“Maybe if we just head east. To maybe a “mutant-friendly” compound...” she starts again, but he cuts her off almost immediately.

“Stop it,” he mutters, and she suddenly looks crestfallen, almost heartbroken. He sighs, and then once more walks over to the table once more.

“Look. I know yer scared. Of what it means. But nothing changes. Nothing. And we don’t even know...we don’t know anything about it, ok? And we ain’t headed east, or to a “mutant-friendly compound” or whatever. Yer stickin’ with me, I’m doing this job, and afterward, we’ll see.”

She says nothing, only frowns and shoots him an angry glance, even as he moves to snap off the television with a flick of his wrist.







They’d exchanged only a handful of words between them since this morning, but he comes to her in the late hours of the night after hunting once again. He seeks her out, resting his head on her chest.

“I’m sorry,” he murmurs to her. She says nothing, only looks up to him with wide, brown eyes.

That night, even though once more they take the pills, and, even though once more they become something less, something far away from human, the way he fucks her is still slow and soulful. Desperate.

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the lord my soul to keep.

He’s better now at feeling the spark before it happened. He lifts off her quietly, quickly, lets it pass, and then he presses up against her once more. But even as he claims her, once, then twice, something feels off, something is missing.

And if I die before I wake,

He knows why he’s jealous now. She’s been looking this whole time for something to believe in, a tribe to belong to, a god to worship. That was him. And now, now. It might not be.

I pray the lord my soul to take.





He wakes with a start, a harsh inhale in the middle of the night. It’s cold all around him, even under a pile of thick blankets and another person by his side. He turns, and barely makes out the top of Rogue’s head. Her breathing is even and deep. She’s in that dead sort of sleep. But around them…

He sits up more alertly and sniffs the air, and there it is again.

Someone’s been here.

He’s silently out of bed in an instant, quick to throw on a pair of jeans. His claws itch in his hands, but as he throws open the door, the scent’s already so faint he realizes whatever it was is gone, and then, he doesn’t need to guess, as he nearly steps on the small black rectangle placed on the doormat with his bare feet.

God damn it.

He’s already frowning deeply as he picks it up. A Nokia. Paranoid, he glances around in the dark once more, but he shouldn’t feel surprised. Just like the envelope of cash a few weeks ago, it’s always how these transactions work. He soundlessly glances back to the still-sleeping form of Rogue in bed, frowns silently, before closing the front door from behind him. He paces on the porch for a few moments, impervious to his bare feet and chest still open to the elements. Finally, he exhales, and flips open the Nokia. He’s got the number memoized, the one he’s expected to call.

“Red,” he mutters into the receiver. On the other end, a voice, her voice, curt and detached.

“The shipment’s confirmed for tomorrow night. Your arrival time is 8pm.”

He says nothing as he closes his eyes, breathing out, his breath illuminated in the below-freezing temperatures of night. Quietly, he glances back at the door in the direction of Rogue, before staring out at the dark once more.

“Thinking of skipping this one,” he grunts into the phone. For a moment, a pause, before her voice is back again.

“It pays five.” Logan, once more, is quiet, as he considers this.

“What’s the classification?” he finally asks.

“Top-priority.” Fuck. That means extra precautions, even more reasons to be careful. It also means there could be trouble, potential threats, in the area. The next words on his tongue taste bitter and dry.

“How many tanks?”

“Ten.”

“For ten at top, I ain’t doing the job for less than six grand. And I work alone,” he mutters.

One more. He could do one more, take the money, and take Rogue some place safe. Some place permanent.

“We’ve hired-” she attempts.

“I said alone. And Red?” he barely murmurs.

“Yes?” she says quietly.

“This is my last one,” he growls. For a moment there is only silence on the line. He waits.

“Fine. 8pm. The yard. And James?” she asks.

“Yeah?” he mutters bitterly.

“Alone means alone. Leave the brunette behind.”



Chapter 13: Thirteen


Rogue

She’s everywhere at once, wrapped up in memories she’s stolen, sucked out of other people. She’s some younger version of herself, screaming in horror after dropping David to the floor. S he’s fourteen, watching her neighbor--the sad man-- tend to his teacup roses across the drive, and then later as he has his hand over her own mouth, as he forces himself on her. She’s her mother, hushed prayers pouring from her lips like a trickling stream, clutching her own daughter’s hand to save her from sin. She’s a woman in a long nightgown, drenched in candle light, holding a rifle to her temple. Then she’s the animal, and she can feel the cold, bone deep. Bare feet numb from the snow. Warm blood dripping from knuckles. She’s a soldier and a mother and a child and a monster. She’s fourteen and thirty five and one hundred and seventy…

Why does she think she’s alone? She’s never alone.

Is she even lost?

Rogue wakes with a silent gasp, sitting up quickly in the raw hours of early morning. Her breath is heavy and uneven and she clutches the sheets to herself, a cool sweat having broken out on her body. She brings her face to her hands, trying to press the images from her mind, trying to ignore the pounding in her head from the booze and drugs still pulsing within her, and then reminds herself.

You’re here. You’re you. You’re with him, she recites. She then wills herself to drag her gaze to Logan’s side of the bed, and she is only half-surprised to find it empty. She frowns a little as she draws her legs up to her, before she finally hears it, mumbling from just outside the door, where the snow is freshly falling.

“ For ten at top, I ain’t doing the job for less than six grand. And I work alone, ” his voice cuts through the dark. Rogue immediately frowns, shuddering a little as she realizes what’s happening. She tries not to breathe as she catches every other word, Logan’s voice low and gruff.

“This is my last one,” he says. There’s more silence, and then a harsh “ Fine” before he snaps the cellular phone shut, and is moving inside once more. She makes no move to pretend that she didn't overhear him, and he makes no move to pretend the conversation didn’t happen. He frowns as he stalks toward her, tossing the Nokia down on the bedside table along with the burned up joints and empty glasses of liquor. His mood is grim, cagey. Even for a man constantly at war with himself, his body is remarkably tense.

She says nothing for a moment as she watches him sit beside her on the bed. He’s moving to pull on his boots, even though it’s still dark, even though he is only half-dressed.

“So you’re doing it?” she finally murmurs. He says nothing for a moment, ignoring her entirely to lace his shoes.

“Plans are to take ya about an hour north of the jobsite, near Fort MacKay, hook up the camper. You’ll stay there until I come back,” he grunts, without looking at her.

“That far away?” she asks blankly.

“I want you clear of any trouble,” he grumbles, before standing, and she realizes he means for them to leave soon. He’s already plucking their shit from off the floor, procuring his pack from the corner. She frowns again as she watches him, gripping her bare shoulders more tightly.

Top priority. I work alone. Ten tanks. Six grand.

“...Logan?” she finally asks. He turns to her again, obviously annoyed, every trace of gentility, of caring, entirely gone from him as he sloughs on a wifebeater and flannel.

“You don’t have to do this,” she barely mutters to the sheets that still smell like sex she’s wrapped in. He says nothing as he stares her down, and she stumbles over her next words. “I mean...I don’t...I don’t think you should. It doesn’t feel...right.”

Logan only frowns at her, before dismissing her with a shake of his head. “Luckily I ain’t in the habit of taking orders from a teenager,” he finally grumbles as he shoves his spare pair of boots into his pack.

Her heart sinks. He’s so quick to dismiss her, like everything else since yesterday morning. The breaking news of mutants felt to her like a defining moment, like the explanation she is so desperately searching for, but Logan had only seemed sickened by it.

She knows he has also been searching. She thought this could be his answer, too. And yet, even after last night, even after she cradled his head and harbored him between her thighs, she can sense his growing anger, his despair.

She knows now, she doesn’t want him to take the job. Doesn’t want to see more blood on his hands. She was afraid to say anything before this moment. Now, though. Now...

“Those kids…from last time...” she murmurs. That’s all she needs to say. That does it. He rounds on her, practically snarling as he spits, “ What about them?”

“They’re...dead, right?” she says simply. For some reason, this gets through to him, as if suddenly the wind is out of his sails. He sighs, running a hand through his hair as he gets a hold of his temper. His next words feel desperate, pleading.

“Kid, listen. You knew what happened last time, and yer still here. I’ve made no pretenses about who I am. What I am,” he barely grinds out.

“Yes, but...you don’t have to be this ,” she barely whispers, before staring down at the blankets again.

“What?”

“Less than you are,” she manages. He instantly stiffens once more, freezes up. He stares down at her in the bed, his arms crossed over his chest. His next words are clipped and strained.

“That how you look at me, kid?” he asks. She glances back up to him, and from the look in his eyes she realizes he’s forgotten that she’s using his words. From before.

“ I got one of my own, too. Just the one, but it’s… loud.”

“What.. does it say?”

“It ain’t no good. Wants me to be something less than what I am.”

“And... are you?”

“What?”

“Less?”

“No...I just…” she finally stutters. “I know you hate it. The job.”

For a moment, he simply stares at her, before exhaling slowly, moving to sit once more on the bed beside her. He extends a hand, gently tilting her head up to look at him, and for a moment he’s himself again.

“One more. I told ‘em one more. I’ll get the money, and we’ll hole up somewhere real nice until spring,” he says, as if it’s decided, as if it’s already over, as if she never did, or never will, have a say in what happens to either of them.



--

The car ride is quiet and as still as the winter morning around them, the condensation already frosted over on the windows. She’s drawn up into herself, unsure of what to say, of how to change his mind. His jaw is laced with tension anyway, and he grips the steering wheel tightly.

She wonders, not for the first time, if he’s keeping his promise or not. About protecting her from herself.

She wonders if she even needs protecting.

She’s starting to think what’s different about her is good. That it’s what makes her special. That maybe she could find others like her, find a home. A place to belong.

She wants to find that with him.

Glancing back at Logan though, she frowns. He’s so adamant to be nothing like he is. He’s so much more than he thinks, but he refuses to to see it. To be it. To live it.

That’s pretty harsh, kid, E suddenly comments from nowhere. She frowns at the inner voice, but doesn’t respond.

The two hours’ drive goes fast, considering how often and long they had ridden together before this moment, but he pulls up to the trailer lot slowly, moving to put the truck in park.

“Stay here,” he barks at her once more. It’s the first time he’s spoken since they left the cabin, the two weeks’ they had shared of intimacy, of domesticity, obviously behind them. Ten minutes later the heat of the tiny camper is on. The little kitchen is slightly better stocked with provisions, and here and there are little hints of Rogue now. A postcard she’d picked up in Edmonton. A bar of soap with a bear etched into it she saw at a gas station outside of Estevan. Like always, she takes up her usual spot at the cramped kitchen booth, running her thumbs over one another, as Logan pays for the hookup. He finds his way in easily enough, but from his stance alone she knows he’s not staying long.

“Plan to take the bike,” he mutters, sloughing off the workman’s jacket and trading it out for his leather.

“Leaving so soon?” she asks quietly, and she realizes she’s now standing, her body revealing her restlessness, her unease. He frowns at her.

“Gonna head to a bar outside of town, drink a little. Get my head in the right place before this thing,” he manages to say.

“How long will it all take?” she asks quietly, staring down at the floor again.

“I’ll be back before morning,” he murmurs. She says nothing as she bites her lip.

“Hey….” he mutters. He places a hand gingerly on her covered arm, pulling her a bit closer. “You’ll be safe. I’ll be back before you know it, kid.”

But she’s already shaking her head, from a place she can’t stand, a place she can’t be.

“Stay,” she pleads, pressing her forehead to leather of his jacket. “Please, Logan. Stay.” He looks at her with dark, hazel eyes, something burning deep within them. Something, perhaps, he can’t change, can’t help. He’s stiff again, too hardened, but she leans in further to him anyway.

“Lie low. I’ll be back soon,” he finally mutters, moving to kiss the top of her head. Then he smirks at her, murmuring in her ear, “Smoke a joint or something, kid. Unwind. Plan to take advantage of that when I get back.” Then there’s a solemn nod of the head, a breath in, and then he’s gone.




--

It’s not long before she breaks into the stock of the newly acquired liquor. In these past few weeks, for the most part, more than any other substance she’s tried, Logan has been her drug. Day in and day out the voices have remained mostly quiet, and so of course it’s only a few minutes after he leaves she becomes neurotic, paranoid that she can feel them seep back into her consciousness.

Her pale hands shake as she lights the rolled joint, and as she puts it between her lips she sucks in deep, before exhaling. Then it’s a long drink of whiskey as she becomes intent on feeling…. less. Slowly, it begins to work. It drowns out the rest of the fear, the inability to understand him from her mind.

It isn’t long after that she decides to cook, and as the butter melts in the pan on the hot plate the drugs have her thinking that maybe they can make a life for them work. He’s right, after all. Just one more job. And they can’t keep running forever. Maybe if she just keeps telling him they can head south, back to the states, find a new home. They can be together, they can grow together. He just needs time. Just as the eggs between to fluff up in the pan, she hears a rap on the door. She smiles.

He listened. He came back.

She leaves her eggs for a moment, practically dancing to the door, throwing it open.

“I knew you’d-” she stops, as a man with yellow teeth and a balding scalp stares back at her wickedly.

She only has time to frown, confused, and then it’s a punch to the stomach and a knock to the head from the back of a gun. She can smell the eggs begin to burn just as her world goes black.



Logan

He knows a few things. He knows he’s been kept in a cage at some point, he suspects for years. He has nightmares of howling like an animal against a concrete wall, smellin’ blood and livin’ in muck and grime three inches thick. He knows the mechanism, the clickclickclick of that steel door. He knows blaring sirens. He remembers hallways flooded in red and yellow.

He knows he’s been born a couple times over. Nightmares of numb feet in thick snow, blood warm and dripping from his knuckles. Dead people all around him. Most of them dead because of him.

As the engine of the bike roars to life, he knows a few other things, too. He knows there’s nothing about him that’s right. That he ain’t meant for good. He also knows that his gas gauge is low. He frowns as he flicks the meter a couple of times with a gloved hand, and then he finds himself stopping just outside of Fort McMurray, where there’s a decent bar he hasn’t been seen at in a while. The tank gulps the gas up slowly as he freezes his ass off at the fuel station, and he’s trying not to think about how he can’t shake her words, the words he’s been trying to escape since he left.

Please. Logan. Please stay.

He swallows hard, before his fingers fumble for another cigar, desperate to get it lit in the harsh winter wind. Finally he succeeds, taking in a strong suck of tobacco, before topping off the tank and putting the nozzle back, intent on a lot of booze at Crisby’s, the joint just south of the yard where no one questions what you’re doing there or why.

It’s a cold but relatively short drive to the bar. Inside the light is low and yellow, and he stalks to the back of the place. Two locals are closer to the door, and they eye him as he walks by, but he ignores them as he takes a seat, gesturing unceremoniously to the owner of the joint for his usual when he’s here. A bottle of Jack and a glass.

You don’t have to do this.

He shuts his eyes tightly, and drinks. It’s not until after he’s on his second that he even bothers to listen up to the conversation between the two jack asses.

“What they callin’ ‘em? Mutants? Heh. You know, I’d seen a freak back in Calgary with six fingers on each hand. And hooves for feet.”

Suddenly, the hair on Logan’s arms bristles, as the other man grunts an answer back to his buddy.

“‘Bout time we knew about these folks. They’re all freaks. Government is gonna work quick to lock ‘em up and away for good.”

Without realizing it, Logan’s grip on his glass has tightened so much his fingers have gone numb.

“You alright there, boy?” the grizzled owner who had been drying glasses a few feet away from Logan asks, nodding in his direction.

“Yeah. Real good,” Logan growls back. The man frowns, before tilting his head toward the two yocals at the front of the bar.

“These folks, they ain’t payin’ for much. I can always kick ‘em out.”

“No need,” Logan grumbles, before downing what’s left of the whiskey.

Less than what you are.

They aren’t his people. Mutants. He has no people. The only one worth defending is Rogue. His Rogue. And he’s left her about an hour away in Fort MacKay, alone.

What the fuck is he doing?




Laughlin City, 1997. Three years earlier

This last round in the cage had almost been too easy. He’s sensing it now. Their weaknesses. The humans. He’s learning to move like they do, buck and weave like it’s hard. Less animal now, more acting like the man, even if he’s far from it. The night ends with him collecting over $800 and he’s got enough sense to know now that’s enough for a few good meals a couple bottles of decent whiskey. He collects his winnings, hoards it like he used to hoard his kills.

That night, he knocks a few back with some men from the bar. They’re far from his friends, but they bet on him tonight and he’s made them some money, so he knows they won’t bring him trouble. Still though, it‘s not until a few beers in that he notices a card’s been handed to him from the bartender. It’s made of crisp, white cardstock with a dark ink scrawled on the back, a handwritten note.

“Offer a lonely girl a beverage?”

His eyes lift to her, the woman in a red suit. She’s all legs and thin limbs and blonde hair pulled back into a high knot. She’s polished, clean, like she’s been plucked up from a city with skyscrapers and plopped down in this dirty, shitstained town. She doesn’t belong in a dive like this. Nevertheless, she’s taken up a spot at the bar, and as soon as he meets her eyes, the canucks drinking with him are hootin’ and whistling real low.

“Shut the fuck up, ya dolts,” he growls under his breath, before swiping his beer of the table and stalking toward her. Her red lips coil upward as she watches him walk across the place. Meanwhile, deep down, the steady uptick of his pulse. The animal rippling beneath the surface. He ain’t ever been this close to something so nice.

“Lookin’ a little formal for this joint, don’t ya think?” he mumbles.

“Just sit down,” she says, through that same sultry smile.

“Can I-” he begins, gesturing toward his beer.

“Already have one,” she smirks, just as the bartender places a martini in front of her. From the smell of it, gin.

“Then what do you need, ma’am?” he asks carefully, settling down on a stool next to her. Once more, she only smiles, but doesn't answer him right away, choosing instead to take a genteel sip of the gin, setting the glass down carefully. Logan stares at the red imprint of her lipstick on her glass, before looking back up to her.

“How about we start with a name?”

He blinks for a moment. That’s when the suspicion sets in. She ain’t here to flirt, even with as sweet as she smells. She’s here for something else.

“Name’s Logan,” he grumbles, taking another swig of his beer, ignoring how her eyes linger on his frame as he does so.

“Logan,” she finally says, before taking another sip of her drink. “Hmm. That’s more of a last name than a first name...isn’t it?”

He looks up at her again, mildly annoyed. He wants to get up, go back to the idiots he had been drinking with. Whatever she’s selling, he’s not so sure he wants to buy anymore.

“It’s the only name I got,” he grouses, gesturing to the bartender for another. She watches him closely, before taking another sip of gin.

“You know,” she says, setting down the glass again. “You’re not like them,” she finishes, gesturing to the other men across the way. Logan only snorts as he paws for the fresh beer, popping the cap off easily.

“That the reason you called me over?” Logan grumbles, taking a swig of the beer. She arches a brow at him, face impassive.

“No. I’m here to proposition you,” she says.

He stops mid drink, slowly setting down the beer.

“My company. We move product. We’re looking to advance our….” she stops, looking him up and down once more, “security measures.”

Logan can’t help but snort at that through another swallow of beer. Logan works the odd jobs sometimes, especially in the last couple of years. He’s logged in the summer before. He’d even done a stint at the electrical plant in Edmonton. And even when fightin’, sometimes men come up to him after, offering him an odd bouncer job here and there. He usually turns them down, intent on keeping a low profile.

“That right?” he mutters.

“Yes,” she says simply. Something about her enigmatic energy, the way she isn’t real willing to give up more information, has him asking his next question.

“‘Movin’ product,’ eh? What sort?” he says through an arched brow.

“Oil mostly. We’re a subsidiary for Sinopec,” she says.

“The Chinese oil giant?” Logan asks. She looks surprised that he knows this, but there are enough rail lines cutting up Canada to know who’s got the run of the place.

“And I’m sure security is just fine, then. So I’m guessin’ yer outfit is shipping more than just oil,” he mutters, before looking at her once more.

“Yes,” she says, staring at him directly in the eye. In that yes, he knows. There are rumors, sure, but it doesn’t take a high IQ to guess that drugs and people get trafficked across the borders illegally through transportation like railcars. Oil tankers too, apparently.

He says nothing for a moment, and then murmurs, “Lucrative product.. .oil .”

Another sip of the martini. Another smirk from those red lips. The men he’d been drinking with are stumbling out of the bar now, as late as it is. He watches them leave, before bringing his attention back to her.

“Look…” she murmurs. “I know you’re a man of.. high values-”

“What’s the pay?” he interrupts her. That’s got her lips spread wide in a sly grin.

“Two thousand or more, depending on the job.”

“And what’s that job, exactly?” he asks.

“When the tanks are unloaded and then loaded back up, you guard them. By any means necessary, James”

He stops, staring at her for a moment.

“What didja just call me?” he asks. She waves toward the bartender to get the bill, gathering a black leather jacket in her arm.

“Your new name. Consider it an alias. I don’t have to explain to you this is all done discreetly.”

“Course,” he says. “James, huh? I like it,” he adds as she moves to stand.

“So is that a yes?” she asks, as she places a hundred dollar note on the table.

“Guard the tanks?” he asks.

“Guard the tanks,” she responds.

“Well, Red,” he mutters, polishing off the mostly-empty beer. “I think you’ve got yourself a deal.”


Chapter 14: Fourteen


Rogue

Consciousness comes back to her in waves, and with each swell of awareness, the more agony she feels. She moans in the dark against a thick strip of duct tape. Pain. Plastic ties cut into her wrists. A sharp ache in her side. A throbbing wetness from her head. That was the worst. A horrid pounding, a sense of vertigo. Slowly, her eyes blink open, but still she only sees black. She’s blindfolded.

That’s when she begins to panic. She screams into the tape, writhes against the wall. Her ankles are bound with duct tape, too. Suddenly there’s a jostle, a rumble, and she topples over, head hitting the metal floor sharply. She moans, wants to gag, and then her breath is coming in heavy, a weight deep in her chest. She’s fourteen again, mouth covered, limbs tied, stung silent, dignity stripped. Ohgodohgodohgod.

Breathe, kid.

She turns her head for the sound, but then she realizes it’s coming from inside her mind. It’s a gruff low voice in the dark. E.

Now isn’t then. Don’t drown in it, the panic.

I’m going to die. Maybe worse, she thinks to herself.

No, yer not. Not if I can help it. But, first, you need to breathe.

It takes a long while, but slowly, it returns to her, that steady pace. That normal rhythm. In, and out. In... and out.

That’s it, kid.

What do I do? God, what do I do?

Use the senses he gave you. Sit up if you can, and get some clue as to where yer at.

Slowly, as she works her knees up under her, sitting once more, she racks through her still drug-addled and most likely concussed brain. Senses. Senses. Where would Logan start? What would he do?

Feel. She feels pain. She feels cold. She hadn’t been wearing a jacket when she had opened the door to Logan’s camper, nor gloves. She pulls once more against the restraints. Useless.

What about the rest, kid?

Rogue closes her eyes against the blindfold for a moment, and then contorts her bound hands so she can reach out with her fingers to make contact with a metal surface of something that feels like a utility box, just as the floor moves under her again.

Yer in an enclosed truck. Not big enough to be a rig. Military, maybe. What else?

Listen. Beyond the steady thrum of the engine and the rattling of the floor beneath her, she casts out her hearing. Through the partition she’s leaned up against, two voices. Men. She hears a grunt. Some muffled remark. She can’t quite make out what they’re saying, but other than that, she’s alone in the back. No one else.

That’s good. You could take two of ‘em if you can manage to get yer hands free. Alright. And last?

Smell. Cigarettes. Bad breath. Unwashed clothes. Instantly, the flash of yellow teeth and balding head come back to her, and she shudders as her head throbs in pain once more.

Try harder, E commands of her.

She sniffs the air deeply. Cleaning products. Gasoline. The faint scent of dried blood. Metal.

There might be weapons in here with ya kid. That’s a good thing.

How long had she been out? Where were they headed? And then...the panicked realization...Logan wouldn't be back and know anything was wrong for at least twelve hours, enough time for her to truly disappear.

It’s still daylight. It’s warm enough to still be daylight, E murmurs.

Just then, her heart pounds rapidly as she feels the truck beginning to slow.

Steady, kid. Don’t do anything rash.

She’s completely silent, as the truck slows to a stop, then is thrown into reverse, backing up into something. Then the driver’s and passenger’s doors of the truck open and shut again. Outside, now, the voices are clearer, and she can hear them walk around either side of the truck.

“Danvers better have a good explanation for all this fucking trouble,” one of them grunts.

“You heard her. No questions asked since the crack down. Haul ‘em and ship ‘em. Fast as possible,” the other voice grouses, and then the fiddling with the lock of the tailgate.

Oh, god. They're coming inside.

Steady, E murmurs again.

“Still though, lotta work for just one,” the other man is saying, and then she can hear the slide of the tailgate being pulled upward. Her heart’s pounding, limbs and body flooded with adrenaline. She’s helpless to do anything but press her back into the wall as she hears them walk toward her.

“Remember...bitch’s got poison for skin,” he mutters. Rogue’s breathing intensifies as she can hear a pair of footsteps come closer, while she hears the other rifle through one of the metal containers. Then, there’s no time to react, because one of them is grabbing her arm roughly, pulling her off the ground. There’s a slow slide of something, a knife. Panic freezes her, but then she realizes the other’s come over to cut the duct tape binding her legs together. As soon as her legs are free, she kicks- - Rogue, wait!!-- she’s flailing, careening forward for one fleeting moment, and then the man’s hand that’s holding her lower right arm jerks quickly, and there’s the telltale snap and pop of bone and tendons breaking.

She starts screaming.

Fuck! E curses in her mind, as she sinks to her knees, just as the blindfold’s yanked off her. Everything’s white hot with pain, even as a hardened face and yellow teeth scowl back at her.

“Try that again, bitch, you die. Now move,” he barks at her, yanking her up again, now by the other arm. She’s freely crying in agony, sobs muffled by the tape as she stands on unsturdy, shaking legs. Her right arm now dangles uselessly behind her, contorted at a strange angle.

Push the pain down, Rogue.

I can’t.... God, I can’t.

You have to, kid. It can be beaten, controlled. If you wanna live, you gotta fight it.

She’s barely listening though as the giant man with the yellow teeth prods her along, an AR-15 shoved right between her shoulder blades. She can only stumble forward out of the truck, and she realizes they aren’t outside at all, but now inside a loading dock. A small and empty warehouse greets her. Only a few piles of pallets and a handful of men standing around in a group looking bored are inside. Five or six, all big and bulky and carrying an array of firearms.

Dammit. Too many of ‘em, E growls. As they walk toward them, a bearded man nudges another, and both sets of eyes travel up Rogue’s curves. She can hear one snicker, lick his lips, and E is snarling inside Rogue’s mind.

“Careful boys, don’t touch,” the big man behind her barks. “Now get yer asses in that truck and unload the rest of the artillery.”

She’s expecting them to keep moving, but there’s no order to do so. She stands there awkwardly, gun still at her back, even as she continues to blink back involuntary tears. The man behind her seems to be waiting for something. They stand there for a few more moments, before a door across the warehouse opens. A long rectangle of the mid-afternoon sun fleetingly spills onto the warehouse floor, before the woman shuts it behind her and walks toward them. She’s in black leather, long blonde hair tied back. Suddenly, all the men stiffen and pause what they’re doing, as if standing at attention.

She must be in charge, right? Who do you think she is?

E?

No answer.

E?!!

“This her?” the woman is saying, thin arms folded across her chest, as she looks Rogue up and down. The man holding the gun nods, and then a sneer forms on the older woman’s face as she stalks closer to Rogue.

“ God,” she spits, grabbing Rogue’s hair close to the roots and yanking her head sideways to look at her more closely. “You’re a fucking child,” she says through disgust. Rogue only glares at her, as her terrified mind searches out Logan’s voice. Still, nothing.

“What do we do with her?” the large man with the gun to Rogue’s back asks. The woman rolls her eyes momentarily as she roughly lets go of Rogue.

“Put her back in the shipment truck. Lock it up and guard her until nightfall. She can move with the rest of product. Make sure she keeps quiet,” the woman says simply, and with that she spins on her heel and walks back through the door she came in.

Moments later, she’s shoved back through the tailgate, where her boots are bound once more. bound. She tries to control her breathing, her pain, as the hatch is slid closed. She continues, pointlessly, to search for someone, anyone within her own mind, but the voices have gone silent, and she realizes, for the first time in months, she’s entirely alone.




Logan

When he settles the tab, he’s so drunk he can’t see straight. His mind, for a few fleeting minutes, is completely shot. Even with the hundred dollars worth of booze he shelled out though, it won’t last, but for the moment he’s practically managed to forget about who he is, what he’s doin’, who he’s left behind. The bartender eyes Logan suspiciously as he sways on the spot but ultimately says nothing as Logan shoves the cash his way and stumbles out of the bar and into the snow.

It’s dark now, but he’s still got another hour until he needs to report. The snow’s falling again. It’s light enough right now, but the scent in the wind suggests it’ll pick up before nightfall. For a moment, he can only will himself to stand there in the empty parking lot. The forest is just beyond, dark and solemn. He stares back at it, exhaling tiredly, before bringing his eyes upward, choosing instead to stare up at the black, starless sky.

It makes me feel small, alone.

He growls at the memory before he stalks forward to his bike, wiping the fresh layer of precipitation off of it. He fumbles for the keys, suddenly desperate to leave. He’s got time. He’ll take the bike south for a bit, hug the forested turns of 63 until he can think straight. The bike roars to life, and the headlight casts a yellow beam, piercing the dark gaze of the forest as he grips the clutch and leaves the bar behind him.

For a long time, he simply drives. Few thoughts pass through his mind in the beginning, but, as his body quickly filters the effects of the booze, her voice comes back to him again.

You don’t have to do this.

One last time. It’s the mantra he’s clung to for the last few days, even as she looked up to him with those doe eyes, pleading with him not to go. His guilt for doing the opposite weighs heavy in his chest now, and even keepin’ friends like Jack Daniels and Paul Masson can’t lessen it.

He’s starting to think maybe he was wrong, about a few things. He’s starting to think maybe he’d been too hard on her about all the mutant shit. He’d been angry with how fucking naive she’d been about it all. The kid was so goddamn idealistic. He’d had the thought that she hadn’t seen enough life yet to know that all this news of mutants was gonna mean nothing but trouble. And yet…

Is it so wrong of her, to want to belong somewhere? To find a home? Family? He knows now, knows deep down, the longer he keeps dragging her around this godforsaken tundra, the longer he’s holding her back. But it’s what she had wanted, wasn’t it? She had as much as said so when he gave her an out a couple of weeks back. Right?

He realizes, as the cold bites at his face and the dark night roars in his ears, that he had never even asked what she planned to do once she got to Alaska. It hadn’t quite mattered to him at the time, but now... now. He wonders, what had she seen herself doing once she had arrived there? She talked about starting over. A new life. What did that new life look like? Who did she want to be?

The guilt feels even heavier in his chest as he realizes, along with her future, her past too, is mostly a mystery. She came from the deep south, she had stared up at the stars as a child, she had been raped, she still prays at dinner...but what else?

I want protection...from myself.

Rogue’s killed people. That, he knows. And never, once, has she spoken about it. He also never asked. For a moment, even as the bike flies down the empty highway, he closes his eyes bitterly. Here he is, dragging her around Alberta and treating her like a petulant child-- and for fuck’s sake she can sure act like one sometimes-- not carin’ much about who she is but more what she can be for him. All the ways he might try and fuck her. The ways he might drown in her. And, because of it, he’s not even close to scratching the surface of who she really is, because every time she pushes him to some sort of truth, to some sort of change, he lashes out, insistin’ on things to be as miserable in his sorry life as they’ve always been. God. He’s a fucking bastard.

But the question that lingers, the question that needs to be answered, is still simple. Plain as day. Does he want more? He wants his seed in her belly and her body warmin’ his bed, sure, but does he want all of her?

Yes, you fuckin’ idiot, the animal snarls from deep inside him.

Please. Please don’t go.

But he did. He needs the money. And then, he’ll change. He’ll leave with her. He’ll do whatever she wants, as long as she stays by his side. As long as she’s his.

Logan grips the handles more tightly, doubling down on his decision, turning the bike toward Lynton yard, toward Sinopec, toward the red woman, and toward the one last time.




--

The snow is coming down now in thick sheets and the wind is howling angrily as he stomps the butt of another cigar out with his heel. The train’s twenty minutes late so far, and the group of handlers that’ll unload the product are huddled inside, keepin’ warm... fucking pansies. Visibility, however, is still shit, so he’s taken to using his other senses to survey the area.

But it’s fucking pointless. Other than the handlers and a couple of shipping trucks parked out back, the place is deserted. The station’s no more than a quarter of a mile wide, only twelve oil tankards worth of storage and three loading bays for rigs, so it doesn’t take long to patrol the area. After asking around town, he knows the local authority’s been cracking down on Cree protests. They’re south of the municipality anyway, and with the weather as angry as it is tonight, there ain’t a soul out here who shouldn’t be. His thoughts fly to Rogue and the trailer he left her in. Hopefully she knows to keep her goddamn ass inside, he grumbles to himself. He puts his back to the wind to light another cigar, sucking in the tobacco as quick as he can before the wind inevitably puts it out, deciding to scout the perimeter again, if only out of boredom.

Since he ended the lives of the assholes working with him on the last gig and he’s now insisted on working alone, he’s got still three times as much ground to cover, but he’s already walked the area four, five, six times ‘round. The more time passes, the more restless he becomes. He idly kicks a thick layer of snow off his boot on one of the rails as he crosses the tracks, attempting, not for the first time tonight, to abstain from thinking about why this job is high priority if there ain’t a threat in sight, because if it’s not what’s outside the train, it’s what’s inside.

He doesn’t have to be Einstein to know they ain’t haulin’ oil, or even drugs, in those tanks tonight.

As if one cue, finally, he hears it. It’s a few miles off still, but the inevitable churn of machinery makes the rails sing with vibration, even through the wind. Quickly, he plucks the Nokia out of his pocket, and picks out the number.

“Yes?” she answers.

“Ten minutes out,” he says.

“Any threats?” she asks curtly.

“You know there ain’t, Red,” he mutters into the phone.

“Good,” is all she says, before hanging up on him.


--

During the unloading, he creates a wide berth around the job site. He always does during the few times he’s worked high priority. It ain’t his job to handle whatever’s inside those TC-111’s, and he easily steers clear of them. Whatever sounds he might hear, whatever smells he might sense are thankfully masked by the heavy fall of snow and the thick smell of diesel that punctuates the air. He’s grateful for it.

An hour passes. Then two. His patience dwindles as his anger grows. He’s run out of cigars, and the buzz of the booze has long since worn off. Finally, after what feels like forever, the Nokia rings once more.

“All set,” her voice says on the phone.

“Good. I’m out of here,” he says gruffly. Before he can hang up though, her voice is in the phone again.

“Don’t you wanna get paid?” Logan is silent for a moment, closing his eyes in frustration. Fuck. They never pay him at the jobsite, unless...

“You’re here,” he says. It ain’t a question.

“The product’s already loaded into the trucks. You’ve got five minutes to report to the loading bays at the back of the warehouse for payment,” she says, and then the line goes dead. He snarls, practically crushing the device in his hand.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. She ain’t gonna let him off easy. Probably the whole reason she’s here in the first place. Red’s been on the job site maybe once, twice, in the three years he’s worked for Sinopec’s subsidiary. It means something. She’s toying with him, most likely, making him pay for hanging up his hat. He closes his eyes tightly for a moment, before stalking off in the direction of what he typically evades, what he always dreads.



Rogue

She slips in and out of consciousness over the next several hours. The small cracks of light change from white to orange and then to blue, and in the moments her eyes lazily blink open in the near-dark, she can barely make out the plumes of her icy breath. She’s shivering hard, and the only good thing about the unbearable cold is that the pain in her arm has slowly dissipated, her extremities having gone mostly numb. She tries calling out for E in her mind several times, but he hasn’t spoken to her since her interaction with the woman. No one comes in or out of the now entirely-empty truck, although when she’s conscious if she focuses she can still hear voices. The occasional lighting of a cigarette. At one point another truck arrives and parks next to them.

There’s a growing fear in the back of her mind. It starts small, but as the night wears on it begins to eat away at her, growing like a tumor. She knows now, that the men, the woman, Rogue herself, they’re all waiting for something. And it’s not hard to guess what.

The smell of oil. Diesel. Steel.

It isn’t until the sound of the engine and it’s loud whistle in the distance cuts through the night wind that she knows for sure. It’s a train. They’re at a railyard, and they’re waiting for a train.

As the noise of the engine roars louder in her ears, she can feel herself sitting up, as she finally finds the courage to ask the question she already knows the answer to.

E…?

There’s a beat of silence, and then the voice is back in her mind.

Yeah, kid, this is it.

She can’t help the first tear that falls, running hot and stinging her chapped cheeks as she huddles close to the corner of the truck. There’s the hiss of steam. The shout of voices. She can’t stop crying as E sits with her in her mind. She can hear the clanging of metal, a scream. Her breath comes in erratically as she picks up at least five new heartbeats. Footsteps closer now, the sound of stumbling, a shout of “ get the fuck up!” and then the tailgate’s being opened once more.

“Don’t you dare fucking try anything,” one of the handlers shouts, and Rogue watches, eyes wide, as five people are walked at gunpoint into the truck to join her. Three women, two men. They’re filthy, clothing torn in places. One of the men is missing a shoe. And all of their wrists like Rogues, are bound. One by one they’re shoved down to sit on the filthy truck bed floor, and then their feet, again like Rogue’s are bound. Rogue makes a mistake of locking eyes with a woman much older than her with yellow irises and cat-like slits for pupils. Rogue immediately averts her gaze.

Mutants. Oh, god. They’re trafficking mutants.

And...he’s here. Somewhere. He has to be. And this, this, is what he does.

How...how could you? She desperately asks E.

Once again, the voice is silent.

Her mind is on fire, she barely has time to understand, to comprehend, when the last handler exits out the back. The tailgate’s still open when suddenly a spray is being released into the truck from the ceiling. Two of the women scream out of fear, and for one moment Rogue’s terrified it’s acid, but then she realizes.

Gasoline.

The handler with the yellow teeth and balding head steps back into the truck, gun still drawn. “We depart in five minutes. If any one of you make a single noise, if I hear so much as one scream, I take a match to this place and you all burn. You ain’t worth that much, anyway,” he spits, and then they’re closing the hatch, and someone starts the truck. It moves just slightly away from the loading dock.

She thinks they are leaving, but the truck only idles. And then, the blood in her veins goes ice cold. Even over the sputtering engine, she can hear him, feel him there. His boots in the snow, voice cutting through the bitter wind. He’s suddenly just outside the idling vehicle. She can barely breathe, barely think, as her ears pick up sudden conversation.

“Red…” Logan growls.

“James…” the voice of the woman from earlier.

“Well, pay up,” Rogue can hear him grunt.

“Absolutely,” the woman says smugly. “Six grand for top priority, as promised.”

Rogue’s stomach lurches. She wants to throw up, be sick, be anywhere but here. In the background, the other truck is pulling out a way from the dock, one driver shouts to another. She wants to drown out his voice, focus on anything else, but still she can’t help but hear them. There’s some rustling of some papers, a low growl from him.

“Count it if you like,” she hears the woman say. “I guarantee it’s all there. You’ve done fabulous work.”

“No need,” Logan snarls. She hears the shuffling of boots, both of them walking further up the length of the truck. And then...he stops. He’s standing there, right outside from where she sits, a metal partition and a gallon of gasoline drying on her skin are the only thing between them.

“Something I can help you with James?” the woman asks, obviously impatient.

There’s a pause. A deep sniff of the air. And then… “No. No, Red. Work here’s done, yeah?”

“Exactly,” she says, and then Rogue can hear the woman pat the truck twice and then climb in the front seat. The truck’s suddenly pulling away, and the panic inside her, the helplessness, the despair, is mutating. It’s evolving, swelling into something red, something angry, as a man she thought might have loved--no, not a man, an animal, a monster-- is left behind, most likely for good.

Chapter 15: Fithteen

Logan

He’s fucking pissed as hell as he stalks down to the loading docks in the dark after he tosses the Nokia in the snow, crushing it with his boot. That fucking woman. She can’t just let it go. Has to rub this shit right in his face. And as he approaches, he knows it. All he can smell is the acrid scent of gasoline burning in his nostrils, but he can hear them: six distinct heartbeats from inside the truck. The fucking product. He ain’t sure if they’re men or women, but there are at least no kids. He can tell from the way their hearts are beating. Still, they’re all terrified.

He’s never been this close before when he’s working top priority, has never let himself be this close.

The price he pays for quittin’.

“Red…” Logan growls. The trucks are already idling, about ready to leave. The woman, today, is dressed head-to-toe in black leather, a distinct departure from her usual red.

“James…” she smirks, stalking toward him with a fat manilla envelope. His ticket outta here.

“Well, pay up,” he barks at her impatiently.

“Absolutely,” the woman says smugly, closing the space between them and slowly extending the envelope. “Six grand for top priority, as promised.” He snatches the money from her, but just as he does so, suddenly something’s off. The animal growls lowly. Instinct hisses in his air. Something’s wrong. What?

The smell of gasoline. Six heartbeats. He looks down to the money in his hand, before gripping it more tightly.

“Count it if you like,” Red’s saying. “I guarantee it’s all there. You’ve done fabulous work.”

She’s hiding something. He looks around for a moment, takes in the empty tanks through the harsh wind, the bitter grey landscape of the rail yard.

“No need,” Logan finally snarls, brushing past her. He’s headed in the direction of his bike parked out front, when, again, the feeling intensifies.

He looks at the truck. Inhales deeply. Gasoline. Only fucking gasoline. And the people whose freedom, maybe even whose lives, he’s helped end inside. Thud. Thud. Thud.

“Something I can help you with James?” the woman asks. Finally, he looks up, stares her right in the eye.

He grips the envelope more tightly, shoves the feelings he doesn’t know what to do with deep down. He needs to get back to Rogue, now. He needs to get out of this fucking place, maybe out of Alberta entirely. He’ll drive all night, all the next day. Rogue could sleep in the car, but he needs out of here.

“No. No, Red. Work here’s done, yeah?” he says grimly, stalking forward once more.

“Exactly,” he barely hears her call after him. He doesn’t even watch as she climbs into the truck and it pulls away in the opposite direction.



Rogue

She remembers summer. She remembers hot, muggy afternoons and pages of thick novels sticking together. She remembers reading while lazily hanging on the tire swing under the old, knotty oak in their front yard. She remembers white shutters, blue trim. She remembers bubblegum and Crackerjacks. She remembers a pitcher of sweet tea on the front porch and long, winding afternoons where the clouds looked like fat, whipped dollops of cream. She remembers browning grass and wet bathing suits, running through sprinklers, staring at the mud between her toes. She remembers glancing across the street, to the neighbor’s yard, the one with the beautiful yellow teacup roses.

She remembers the basement stairs and being pushed down them. She remembers him forcing himself on her. She remembers blood on white cotton underwear. She remembers screaming. She remembers shame.

Shame. As if it had been her fault. As if, somehow, she only attracts misery.

Maybe five minutes have passed since the truck left Logan and the railyard behind. For five minutes, her mind red with anger, the sting of the word betrayal settled into every pore. He’d lied to her, and by letting them go, sentenced them all to death. Rogue stares at the guard with the gun pointed to her head, the truck rumbling underneath them, as she makes a decision.

Guilt. Shame. Weakness.

No more.

Home. He said you only become who you are by getting away from it. By evolving.

Save yourself.

No more voices, except her own. E can’t help her. Neither can Logan. But Marie can. That’s who she is, deep down, under all the other mess. The girl that was raped. The girl that ran. The girl that is stronger than this.

Another one of the mutants groans in pain, and the guard turns to point his AR-15 at them. It’s the moment she needs. The moment she’s clamored for.

Save yourself.

Without thinking, she lunges, throwing her body forward just enough that her bound, bare hands clasp around the guard’s ankle. The man starts screaming as she sucks the life force from him. Rogue clenches her teeth, bares down, closes her eyes in pain as his power, his soul, a lifetime’s worth of memories course through her. Images of a drunken father and fear of being hit. Images of military bunkers. Images of battered women. Images of forcefully taking them. Images of mutants being tortured, bound, thrown into the back of trucks, all by his hand.

Rogue doesn’t let go until he’s dead.

It takes all of three seconds, but chaos has already erupted around her. There’s screaming. The other guard is shooting. She can feel the truck already careening to a halt, and she knows she only has seconds. With the strength she’s just stolen, her left arm pulls against the broken right, easily snapping the plastic ties. She suddenly has the knowledge there’s a handgun strapped to the deadman’s other ankle. She yanks it out of its holster, acting purely on instinct. Military. She now owns all of his muscle memory, and aims with soldier’s marksmanship, shooting left-handedly thanks to Logan. She fires from where she’s still half-way lying on the floor, and the other guard drops, a perfectly round hole in his forehead. She jerks the duct tape off her legs and scrambles to her feet, before she realizes one leg doesn’t want to work. Looking down, she sees blood seeping from three bullet holes peppering her thigh. Around her, everyone dead. Everyone dead.

Then, a moan. The older woman with the yellow eyes, lifting a shaky, bloody hand. Rogue gasps, dropping to her feet again by the woman’s side. The woman’s been shot in the chest, and as Rogue carefully peels the tape off her mouth, droplets of ruby red speckle her chin from where she’s been gurgling blood. The knowledge from the soldier in her head tells Rogue she’ll be dead in a few minutes.

“M-Match….” the woman manages to say. Rogue frowns, confused, when the woman points to the floor, where a book of matches the handler was threatening them with earlier lies.

Suddenly, the jostling of the hatch. Rogue drops the handgun for a moment and grabs a utility knife off one of the dead guards with her good hand, and cuts the woman’s hands free, before quickly snatching the dropped match book, carefully placing the book in the woman’s palm without touching her.

“Shoot as many of those fucking bastards as you can, and I’ll-I’ll do the rest,” the woman hisses. Rogue nods, suddenly understanding. She turns to stand, but before she can the woman is murmuring something else, lifting her hand in the air slightly once more.

“Sh-Sharon. My name’s Sharon,” she says through a sad smile. Tears prick at Rogue’s eyes. She wants to touch the woman’s hand, extend some small, fleeting moment of closeness. Instead, Rogue offers her one of her closest secrets.

“Marie,” Rogue whispers. “Thank you.”

Just then, the sound of the hatch opening. Rogue shakily stands from where she was kneeling, plants her feet, her left leg screaming in pained protest, and grips the gun tighter just as the back door is yanked upward. They’re on the side of a forested highway, and as the moonlight pours into the truck bed, she’s face-to-face four men, guns drawn, and the tall woman in black leather.

“Drop the fucking gun!” the woman orders Rogue. Rogue only smirks. She knows they don’t want to kill her. She’s worth something, a commodity, and she knows now from the man’s soul she’s sucked out of his body that if they don’t deliver some sort of product to the pick-up point there will be hell to pay.

They won’t make it that far.

She’s a collection now, the impulses and instincts and neuroses and skill sets of several different people.

And she’s got excellent aim.

In four seconds flat, she fires bullets into the heads of the men who had leered at her earlier, smacking their lips with thirst. She savors the thud as their bodies fall into the snow. And then, slowly, she points her gun at the woman.

“You stupid, pathetic cunt,” the woman says, stepping forward, closer to the truck, her own gun now drawn.

Rogue only smiles sweetly, and then fires. The bullet pings off the woman’s chest, boomeranging back toward Rogue, whizzing by her ear. For a moment, Rogue’s eyes blink widely, and then she understands. Rogue practically laughs with the realization: the red woman isn’t entirely human either.

“Guess I’m not the only one with secrets,” Rogue snarls, tossing the gun to the ground and nodding suddenly to Sharon, who’s already poised to light the match. As the woman’s eyes flit to Sharon striking the match, she has enough time to scream “No!” as Rogue rushes toward the mouth of the truck, flying forward to tackle the woman just as the world is set ablaze.



Logan

Burned eggs stuck to a pan. A bashed-in door. A half-finished joint. A mostly empty glass of whiskey. A chipped mug of coffee gone cold.

He knows before he opens the door, and yet, for a moment he can do nothing but stand there. On the table, a propped open copy of Gone with the Wind. One of her sweaters hung up to dry. The postcard from Edmonton with the picture of a brown bear. Her smell, her essence, her things, but she’s been gone for hours.

Six heartbeats.

Six.

No.

He roars, snarls, no longer thinking like a man as he’s back on his bike, the engine roaring to life. The fucking sadists. He’d kill ‘em all. He’d disembowel the red woman and string her up by her entrails. He’d been so goddamn ignorant, so fucking blind. She had been on that fucking truck, she had to have been. He’d been right there, and he’d walked off, trying so hard to pretend he was something more than a fucking animal, a clueless pawn.

The bike shudders in protest underneath him as he tops 100. 63 is the only major road, and there are only two ways you can go on it. South. They were headed south. He can reach ‘em before the road forks into 881. The hour it takes to catch up to them feels endless, but the forest flies around him in the pitch dark of night nevertheless. He weaves around the occasional rig, mind solely focused on one thing.

Let her be alive.

He can smell it before anything else, but soon enough there’s an orange light several miles ahead, illuminating the plumes of dark grey smoke painted across the black of night.

God. Rogue.

He pushes the throttle forward, willing the bike to go faster than it ever has. Finally, up ahead, he sees it. One of the trucks tipped over on the side of the highway. The other down the bank of the interstate on fire, burning. He hits the break, climbs off the bike before it’s even stopped completely, throwing it down into a snowbank. His claws are ripping through the skin of his hands, and as his hot, wet blood drips into the snow, the telltale pain feels right. Deserved.

If she’s dead, he’ll do far worse to himself.

Bodies line the road. Even though the snow is falling, the still-burning carcass of the truck casts orange light reveals they have all been shot in the head. Every handler that had been at the jobsite tonight. He growls, stepping around them. A sense of trepidation, fear, descends on him as he turns his attention to the truck.

Peering inside, he finds charred bodies. At least five. He swallows hard, backing up and choosing to scout the other side when, finally, he sees it. The red woman, lying face down in the snow. Dead. And sitting next to her, balled up with her head in her hands, blood stained and tattered, Rogue.

Thank god.

“Kid...” Logan’s voice wavers unsteadily as he sheathes the claws. He knows, in a sense, what’s happened with every step he takes closer to her. He’s about to kneel at her side in the snow, when he hears her muffled voice utter two words.

“Carol Danvers.”

“Kid…” he can’t help but say again, quickly realizing that everything is still terribly, terribly wrong. She’s got a deep frown on her face, tears pouring from her eyes, clasping fistfuls of hair. He wants to grab her, pick her up and lean her head against his chest, but, instinctively, he takes a step back instead. She’s volatile. For a while he lets her sit there, waiting, listening to the fire eat at the smoldering wreckage.

“Carol Danvers,” she finally says again, more clearly this time. “Paid handsomely by the US government to force in the aid of trafficking dangerous mutants...well any mutant... out of the country,” Rogue explains. Her tone is even and clipped as she lifts her head up from her knees, bringing her eyes to meet his. They’re almost completely black.

“You killed her,” Logan states.

“Yes,” she says simply, blinking at him.

“You were in that truck earlier tonight,” Logan murmurs.

“Yes,” she replies again.

“You fought back,” he mutters, glancing to the bodies and wrecked vehicles. At this, she truly frowns, hands dropping to her sides, as she moves to stand on shaky feet.

“Are-are you hurt?” he asks. She seems taken aback by this question, and then immediately glances down at her right arm and then the bullet holes flecking her left leg.

“I was. Not anymore,” she says calmly, as if no other explanation is necessary. She continues on. “They were planning on getting rid of me so they could still use you. They thought I was too much of a... distraction.”

Logan growls at this, hands forming into fists at his sides, jaw clenched.

“How did they know?”

“You were bugged,” Rogue says simply.

“Since when?” Logan snarls.

“Since…” Rogue drops off, eyes distant for a moment before she glances back at him. “Since you started. They’ve been watching you for years.”

He says nothing as he takes in this information. Everything he’s known, everything he thought he knew, is wrong, unraveling. Suddenly, there’s a sneer on her face as she turns to the fiery truck.

“Your own people,” she whispers vehemently. At this, his anger flares.

“I don’t have a people. And you knew…” he tries to interrupt, voice low and dark.

“No, Logan. Not... this ,” she says, tears freely falling from her eyes now. “And I..I couldn’t save them,” she says through tears. Something deep in Logan’s chest aches as he watches her clutch her arms more tightly. She looks cold and alone, and so very far from him.

“Rogue..” he says simply, reaching for her instinctively. She sees the gesture and frowns, taking another step back.

“Marie,” she barely whispers.

“What?” he breathes.

“My real name. Marie ,” she mutters, glaring at him. Then to his surprise, she laughs bitterly. “You know, after the truck left, I thought all of it...what we had , was to lure me here,” she spits, gesturing once more to the smoldering vehicle.

“Kid...no fucking way, ” he begins, before she cuts him off.

“No, I know now,” she says curtly, tapping her head lightly with her fingers.

“And then I realized…” she says, staring at him with something that looks more like disgust than anything else, “It doesn’t matter if you didn’t. It doesn’t matter. You were still going to let them all die. For money. ”

She wields her words deftly, and each one feels like barbed wire being raked across his back.

“It wasn’t my business to get involved,” he barely grinds out. There are silent tears still falling as she holds her head with one hand as she shakes it back and forth.

“Don’t you know? Don’t you understand? Thousands of people have been tortured, held prisoner, r-raped, have died.. all with your help.”

He shuts his eyes bitterly for a moment, as she speaks the truth that he had not yet admitted to himself.

“I was trying to survive,” he growls.

“Well I wish you hadn’t,” she spits. He stares at her wildly for a second, trying to understand, trying to will the girl he had known back. Instead, all he sees is... hate. He stares at her for a moment longer, before stepping toward her. She backs up once more, and it takes everything in him to not wince. Still though, he digs in his pocket for the keys, extending his arm and handing them to her.

“Take the bike,” he murmurs. She frowns, then slowly reaches for the keys, plucking them from his open palm. She exhales, and then stalks forward to brush past him. But then, before he can stop himself, he instinctively reaches out a hand out to grab her arm as she’s about to pass. She stares down at it, then back up at him.

“Please. I need you, kid,” he barely breathes. She may not know it, but it’s the first time he’s pled for anything. The first time he’s asked for something without simply taking it. Anger seeps into her features as she stares at him.

“Let go of me,” she hisses, and his hand drops helplessly to his side. He can still smell the gasoline in the air, still feel the warmth of her as he hears the engine of the bike roar to life again, taking off into the swell of the dark, starless night.


Part Two: Dissembling

Sixteen

Westchester, New York, 2010

Rogue

As she slips out from behind one of the old, oak doors, the night is hot and thick around her. The humidity weighs heavy, even in the dark. Lately, the weather feels a little more reminiscent of the old Mississippi heat she hasn’t felt in over a decade. She closes her eyes for a moment, sighing, and the debriefing room instantly fills her mind. The meeting that had ended only moments before had been as intense, as claustrophobic as the midnight air she escapes into is.

There’s nothing that we can do.

That can’t be.There has to be something.

They’ve disappeared without a trace.

And still even further back, earlier on in the night. As the potential for success on the mission crumpled in her hands.

Faces of filthy children.

Once again, mutants in captivity. Dirty sideshow attractions. Illegal zoos.

Suddenly vanished without a trace.

It was the look on his face as his red and black eyes met hers. It was the lack of understanding, the guilt she saw there. It was how tense his body was as he looked away. It was seeing the children, and not being able to save them. It was the sessions with Xavier, which leave her sweating and seething, desperate to lock away the terrors in her mind. It was how hard she’s been training, only to be bested yet again by the danger room. It’s living in such close quarters with the people she had been fighting alongside against, the people she cares about, loves even. Ever since she had shown up here on that tired bike eight years ago after two years of wandering, sometimes it’s too much. Sometimes, it’s suffocating.

She opens her eyes once more, doubling down on her need to quiet the cloying, desperate thoughts from a night, and a mission, lost.

Don’t think. Not anymore. Not tonight.

The soles of her black combat boots make contact with the gravel underneath her as she hangs to the left, swinging around the side of the giant, sprawling mansion. The bike is stashed where it always is, tucked away in the store room at end of the row of stables. She never keeps it with the rest of the cars, nestled safely and far away from the typical comings and goings of the mansion. Xavier’s horses are presetinely cared for, but rarely ridden.

Along the back, she rips the cover off the black, hulking bike and tosses it aside. For a moment, she pauses, taking in the noises of the steady breathing and occasional shifting of weight from the horses, before she quietly walks the bike out of the stable and around to the front. She’s just about to snag the helmet from where it’s fastened on the side of the bike, when she hears it. Someone exiting the house from the front of the drive.Intentional jostling of the front door, feet crunching on gravel. For a thief, he’s making a lot of noise.

“We gon’ talk about dis, chère?”

His voice is rich and heady with that accent that calls back to her own childhood, on the few times she’d been to the french quarter with band trips. Eons, whole life times ago. His long, auburn hair falls in thick locks across his forehead as he approaches her, arms crossed, posture tense. The handsome dark stranger, relatively new and still not trusted by everyone on the team. One of Rogue’s recent and many conquests.

She frowns as soon as she sees him. He looks as his exhausted as she feels. He’s still in the black leather of his uniform. She is too, even though her outer jacket is cut on one side from a japanese star that had attempted to uselessly gouge her right arm.

“No,” she finally mutters, moving away from him more, kicking down the stand before snugly fitting the helmet she doesn’t need to wear over her head. Still though, he presses.

“Dis about the other night?” he asks quietly.

A memory of a small statue being thrown at Remy’s head flashes across her mind from two days ago, as if she had been the one who could hurl charged objects through the air and have them explode.

“No,” she partially lies. She knows she’s not being fair. They’ve been sleeping together on and off for months, but they’re not exclusive. She likes Remy because he has enough personality to match her own. Or, at least, that’s what she initially had thought.

“Where you headed, petit ?” he says, even though now it’s over the loud roar of the engine.

“Somewhere to think,” she can only mutter, before throwing the clutch. She’s lying. She wants the opposite. She wants to never think again, but she doesn’t tell him that as she takes off into the dark pitch of night.

--

It’s not that she can’t hold her liquor. It’s that she doesn’t want to.

It’s a few stiff drinks. Then a few more. A few more than the usual.

It’s the middle of the night, and she’s at a human club. It’s in the basement of a dark, seedy bar clinging to the fringe of this small college town. She passes for normal so she can get in, and now the music is pounding in her ears. It’s loud, and everything is shrouded in strobe lights. She’s shed the top of her leather uniform, and now she’s in nothing but a basic black tank and the same leather pants and combat boots. She doesn’t care. The music is throbbing, and she is nothing but rhythm. Pulse and flow. An hour passes. Then two. She’s plastered up against dozens of other young bodies, the way she never dreamed she would be able to be. They are almost one being now, a living seething thing. Half these people are on E or something like it; she’s just got a bottle of whiskey in her and heart full of guilt. She’s sweat and music. One woman she’s grinding against kisses her, Rogue kisses back. Then, a large hand of a man grabbing her arm, one she had been dancing with earlier, jerking her toward the back hallway by the bathrooms. The beat of the bass is still ringing in her ears, and the room’s melted away to nothing more than blurs and smudges.

She stumbles forward into his arms, and then he’s got her up against the wall. She doesn’t know him from anyone else. There’s too much grease in his hair and he’s a too short, but tonight she doesn’t care. He’s got his tongue in her mouth and a hand between her legs. She lets him think he’s in control, that he’s got some sort of power over her. She likes this game, how she toys with them. Men. Her, pretending to be what she isn’t: helpless.

He’s rough as he unzips her pants. Rogue’s thoughts fleetingly fly back to Remy, and she bites the man’s lip. Hard.

“Shit!” he mutters into her ear.

“Just fuck me,” she snarls back.

It’s hot and quick. She doesn’t come, but that’s not why she’s here tonight. She’s here to slip into something else. To forget her body. To feel weightless. To feel used. To feel nothing.

There’s nothing that we can do.

I...I couldn’t save them.

Less than an hour later, she stumbles out into the warm night. She bums a cigarette off a woman standing outside the front of the bar, but she doesn’t walk in the direction of the bike. It’s a silent slip around the corner. A snap of her fingers, and the cigarette is lit. She takes a long drag of it, the smoke curling upward, before she tosses it to the ground, snubbing it out with one boot. She throws a look over her shoulder, but the alleyway is empty and then she ascends silently upward, past the line of buildings and the dark swath of pine trees of upstate New York that lay beyond. The sky is a dark, morose canvas pin-pricked with faint dots of light, until she breaks through the clouds. The wind up this high is cold on her bare shoulders from the jacket she left behind, but she floats through the night like it still has promises it intends on keeping, ways of being that could make her remember that she used to trust it.

That she used to trust anything.

Orion. Sirius. Canis Major. Slipping in and out of starlight. This is who she is now.

Is it really, Marie? B murmurs inside her mind, before she dutifully and deftly locks the voice away, along with the dozens of others whose lives she’s taken for good.



Los Angeles, 2010, that same night

Logan

It’s raining. There’s that telltale metallic tang in the air, hot and damp and heavy. The window’s open, and droplets of water now collect on the screen, occasionally falling down in long rivulets. The small bedroom is practically dark in the muggy afternoon, settled and sagging with humidity.

He can’t help but stand in the doorway for long minutes, watching her. She’s on top of the sheets lying on her stomach, asleep, in one of his flannels and nothing else, all almond skin and dark hair. He watches her sleep for some time, her chest quietly rising and settling, even though she’s lying on her stomach. Finally, he can’t help it any more, and he slowly walks into the room. He leans over on the bed, softly running a steady hand down her back.

Instantly, she stirs. She lifts her head off the pillow and looks up at him through a quiet, lazy smile, turning to her side, her body a crescent moon waning.

“Kaettekita ne,” she whispers in Japanese. You’re back. When she’s tired, she always slips back into it, her mother tongue. He loves when she uses it. It’s the language she’s more comfortable with, the language he’s learned for her.

“Kaze ga watashitachi no soba ni atta,” he explains softly, running a hand through her hair. The wind was on our side.

“You look exhausted,” she murmurs, now in English, sitting up a bit more and taking clear and careful inventory of him.

“You know I don't sleep well on those damned things, Itsu,” he mutters, quietly shedding his shirt. Her hands are quietly massaging the muscles in his back now, her lean frame wrapped around his.

“Watashi wa kore o shitte iru,” she whispers playfully in his ear. This, I know.

“Least the season’s wrapping up. Don’t wanna go much of anywhere for awhile,” he mutters turning around to face her. She looks at him quietly, putting a gentle hand to his face. He breathes out unsteadily, leaning into her palm.

“Rest,” she murmurs through a small, faint smile, before kissing him gently.

He’s drenched in sweat as he jerks awake in the darkened, hot motel room. The cheap air being tossed around by a ceiling fan does nothing to mask the sense of mildew. There’s a police siren in the distance.

“God damn it,” he mutters to himself in the dark. He runs a shaky hand through his unruly hair and then his unkempt beard, and closes his eyes once more, cursing. The image of her is so real, so vivid, it’s all he can do but be victim to it, until, slowly, she fades. He growls lowly in his chest, before getting up on shaky legs, choosing a spot in the middle of the bedroom to sit down in. The carpet’s filthy, but he doesn’t give a shit.

He breathes. In, and out. In, and out. He focuses his energy on what he can control. Takes painful stock of his body, focusing everything on his breath. Slowly, carefully, his mind settles, and he centers himself. Meditation. One of the many gifts she gave to him.

The animal howls with grief, which he deftly ignores, more careful now in his focus.

After about an hour of remaining perfectly still, he finally breathes more regularly, moving to get up off the filthy floor. He silently pads over to the bathroom, snaps on the faucet. He doesn’t look up at his reflection in the filthy mirror as he lets the cool water run over his hands for long moments. Without thinking, he slowly releases a single claw from his left hand. He watches it as it snakes out between two knuckles, tendon and bone alike painfully shoved aside so it can break free of his skin. The signature of hot, wet blood instantly seeps from his fingers, but he ignores it. He stares down at the invasive, foreign metal, detached from all feeling, as he glides the sharp pointed end vertically down the inner portion of his right arm, skin splitting open from the crook of the arm to wrist. The blood pours. The pain radiates. He blankly stares as, once more, his skin begins to dutifully stitch itself up, skin cells regenerating, healing, fixing what he wants to stay broken. Even before he can fully heal, he rakes the claw over the skin again, once more mutilating himself.



--

It’s still dark when he turns the key to lock the motel door, shrouded now only in the light of a street lamp. He’s staked out in the San Fernando valley, and it’s a little past three in the morning. The city is overwhelmed in a viscous heat that the night can’t chase off, but he’s still donned a leather jacket, boots and jeans. He walks briskly, choosing to leave his piece-of-shit bike he’s bought off a pawnbroker two weeks ago behind. He’s got an hour, but he’s restless. The valley’s deserted, but every once in a while there’s another cop siren, a shout. A car backfires. Drunken laughter from inside a house.

The neighborhood becomes more dilapidated the further south he walks. Boarded up windows. A mattress with frayed springs propped up in an alley. Piss on the sidewalk. He loses his sense of time after a while, and it’s only after he reflexively sniffs the air does he realize he’s where he needs to be: a strip club that looks like it’s gone belly up in the seventies. The whole brick building has been slapped with black paint and flickering pink neon sign hangs haphazardly above a thick steel door. It’s a shit hole, but he knows it’s the right place. He again cautiously inhales the air, before brushing past the building to take inventory of the surroundings. An alley next door. A dumpster. No street lamp. Optimal.

Minutes later, he’s slinking inside and is immediately hit with the acrid smells of cum and sweat and booze, along with the immense sense of familiarity. Fuck. Something about the stench wafting in the air lets him know he’s been here before. That’s been happening to him more and more now. With the memories coming back, every once in a while, he’ll be standing on a street corner or along some highway and he’ll feel it. The recognition. He snarls, shoving his hands into his pockets and staking out a seat toward the back. A hispanic woman wraps herself around a pole. A tweaker shoves a wadded up dollar bill between her breasts. Logan sneers, just as a woman in nothing more than fishnets and a thong and tassels stuck to her nipples sidles up next to him.

“Can I get you something honey?” she bats her fake eyelashes at him.

“Whiskey,” he mutters. She totters off just as two men walk in from the back, unnoticing. One’s fat in an ugly pinstriped suit with a mustard tie. The other looks less clownish, and Logan’s claws suddenly itch in his hands. The man matches the mugshot Logan has folded up in the brown leather of his wallet. This is him. The lackey. The only man now standing between Logan and the General.

The whiskey appears at his side, and just as she opens her mouth to ask another question, Logan silently slips her a twenty. There’s a cock of one brow, her mistaking his meaning.

“Leave us, darlin’,” he mutters nodding toward the two men still talking with one each other near the stage. The woman’s face suddenly falls.

“If you plan to start shit-” she begins. Logan pulls out his wallet and sets five twenties down.

“I said get out of here.” She only blinks at him, before biting her lip and swiping the cash off the small table. She ain’t an idiot, because she knowingly heads for the front door. Logan growls, before picking up the whiskey and downing it in one effective gulp. As he brings the glass down, his grip is deathly tight on the glass. Snarling, he wipes his face, finally standing. Slowly, he stalks over to the two men, justy as the fat one lays eyes on him. Suddenly, he’s got a gun pulled on Logan. The dancer screams. The fat man shoots. Pain reverberates through Logan’s shoulder, but still he stocks forward. The man in the dark suit has turned around, and, noticing Logan, instantly draws a gun. But instead of behaving the way Logan might anticipate, the lackey aims the gun at the pinstriped man, shooting him square in the head. His heavy body falls with a loud thud to the floor.

Logan’s claws are out now, hot blood splattered across the sticky floor as he storms forward. The lackey tries to run, but Logan’s faster. He’s got his left hand and all three claws driven through the man’s chest in an instant, although Logan’s careful to miss his heart. The lackey screams, but now Logan’s dragging him by the claws through the club, and then out onto the street. He yanks him behind the alley way, retracting the adamantium to release him. The man drags himself backward to the brick wall, while Logan stands, seething wildly, above him. But something’s off. Something’s wrong. Because the man is smiling.

“Start talkin’, bub,” Logan snarls. But the lackey only shakes his head back and forth, a blood-stained, odd look of knowing plastered to his face.

“He...he said…” the lackey murmurs, before dropping off. Logan growls loudly, before popping the claws once more and deftly removing the man’s right arm from the rest of his body. The man screams in pain, but only through a manic, crazed laugh.

“Louder!” Logan growls. The man spits blood to the floor.

“He’s waiting for you. In New York,” the lackey smiles. Logan’s anger surges. He’s had enough.

Seconds later, he dumps the decapitated body in the dumpster, before wiping the blood from his eyes and stalking off once more into the dead of night.



Chapter 17: Seventeen


Rogue

Beads of sweat collect on her temple as she exerts controlled force, once more rounding on the punching bag. She’s trying to be mindful in her onslaught, but she still feels raw and vulnerable. But, unlike the Danger Room can withstand her strength, which has been off limits to her for the past few days due to extensive summer midterms for the students, in the gym she’s only permitted to use a mere fraction of her power, unless she wants to ruin a lot of expensive equipment. It’s an important lesson, one of the things she’s learned in the past few years here: controlling one’s strength and being able to select differences in force by varying degrees is much more useful than exerting it all at once.

Right now though, all she wants to do is smash things.

There’s guilt. She feels it bubbling under her skin for sneaking out the other night, even if she and Remy are not exclusive. She’d also been avoiding him for the past few days, which only intensified the feeling. There’s also restlessness. She can feel that even as she twists her body upward to kick the punching bag as hard as she’s allowed, so that it swings wildly back and forth on its hook.

Ever since Carol, it’s taken every modicum of strength Rogue has to accommodate that willful, dominant personality and not lose herself in the process. In the early years, before she showed up at the mansion half-starving, hooked on heavy drugs, and practically out of her mind, she was hanging on by mere threads, a shadow of her former self. Danvers’ selfish desire to survive was the only thing that had saved her at times. She’d worked odd jobs, moving around Canada without purpose or reason. She eventually got to Alaska, only to leave it suddenly after a few weeks there. There had been halfway houses and youth hostels. Days without eating and rummaging through trash. She then had dipped farther south as the first year ended and the second one had started, curiosity about the state of the world washing over her. She hadn’t liked what she had seen. When she had finally heard about Xavier’s it was only through word of mouth, and, willing herself and Logan’s old bike farther east, she had shown up at their door.

Thank god they had taken her in.

At Xavier’s, alongside calculus and history and economics, she had learned patience. Mindfulness. Tolerance, even, despite all the ways she had been used by humans in the past for their often malicious purposes. She had learned to control the forces within in her own mind, and learned how to control the toxicity of her skin.

And after she had graduated, so much older than all the rest, she had appreciated the lessons so much that, unlike most of her peers, including Jubilee and Kitty, she had chosen to stay behind. She was determined to give back in some way. She was, afterall, a valuable tool to the X-Men, one they used and relied on. Or, she had begun to hope that at least.

Still though, as much as Rogue considers the X-Men family, she still feels like an outsider. She knows she scares the younger mutants, and she is much more inclined to keep to herself. She had formed a few important friendships, of course, but considering she had declined to teach, deciding that really wasn’t “her thing,” she now feels a very solid barrier between her and the other leaders, Scott, Jean, Hank and Storm included. Rogue had argued she wasn’t an academic. She was a soldier, and a good one, pure and simple. They had accepted this readily enough, but it didn’t mean the choice wasn’t accompanied with consequences.

But there were bigger problems to worry about. The tensions between humans and mutants had grown. Much of it had been fueled more recently by toxic rhetoric by politicians, most insidiously so by House Majority leader of the humanist party Edward Adams. In the past handful of years especially, the missions had become more taxing, overwhelming, stressful.

There were only so many children she could watch disappear.

Grueling sessions in the Danger Room. Drinking herself into oblivion. Slinking off into night, risking her safety and those of others by sneaking into human clubs. Flying. All outlets for her to deal with the stress, and most of them not very responsible.

Another uppercut. Another hard hit. She screams in anger as she attacks again, and this time, this time, she forgets her strength as the hook fastened to the ceiling gives way and the bag comes crashing down.

Fuck, she thinks, as a shark “ tsk” suddenly comes from behind her.

“Again, liebling? ” she hears a voice from across the gym. She smiles widely, just in time to turn around to see Kurt strolling in. He’s in basic gym shorts and a Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters t-shirt. As impeccably dressed as he usually is, Rogue secretly loves seeing him look this at ease.

“You’re late,” she teases.

“ Nien, mein Fruend. I’m on time. You’re just early,” he winks at her. Since his arrival at the school six years ago, she and Kurt had formed a fast and solid friendship. Now, Kurt was easily accepted and loved by the Westchester community, but his so very different-looking appearance and German accent had been off-putting for many in the early days. It was one of the first times she had learned that even mutants, regrettably, could discriminate. Rogue hadn’t seen him as anything other than good-natured and kind-hearted. And considering the extreme amount of suffering Rogue had learned Kurt had endured, was truly miraculous. Here he was, solid and sturdy and whole, so very much unlike how Rogue felt most of the time. Still though, she had delighted in their many conversations about religion (she was questioning, he was a staunch Catholic, which Rogue found fascinating), philosophy (his views were liberal and forgiving), art and music (they had similar tastes.) And the final reason she respected Kurt was because he simply looked at her like he looked at everyone. Like a person, a nd not, as some of the other men here, and certainly some of the men of her past, simply as a sort of object of sexual lust. Yet another lesson she had learned the hard way. Mutant men could still be routinely, unforgivingly sexist. But not Kurt. Never Kurt.

“I’ve been practicing,” she grins. Kurt flashes her a smile of perfectly white teeth back, even as he adds, “Alright, bärchen, let’s see how fast you are.”

Kurt had been training her in agility. He’s a master of quick, unplanned movements, seeing as he could disappear into thin air. Exerting strength was one thing, but being able to track and strike a lightning fast target was quite another. As soon as Kurt disappears in a cloud of black and blue smoke, Rogue barely has time to register his reappearance as he quickly swipes her legs out from under her feet. She can only shout “hey!” before he’s gone again, and this time Rogue knows to fly upward to avoid another surprise attack that takes her to the ground. They dance back and forth like this, at quick speeds, and Rogue is happy to realize every once in a while she’s able to get a strike in. The swiftness drains Rogue’s energy quickly though, and less than thirty minutes in she knows she’s grown sloppy in her movements, unable to readily feel or sense Kurt’s presence before he appears. His next move takes her gently to the floor again, and she huffs, trying to catch her breath.

Before she knows it, a blue hand is extended, helping her to her feet.

“You’ve gotten better, liebling,” he smiles handsomely, and Rogue blushes a little.

“I’m never gonna beat you,” she says sheepishly.

“Ha! Fraulein, this is not about winning,” he says, before tilting his head toward the exit.

“Let’s clean up, ja? Meet me for breakfast,” he says welcomingly. Rogue only scrunches her nose.

“You know I hate breakfast,” she begins, but he’s already tsk’ing again at her.

“‘The most important meal of the day’ you Americans say, ja? ” he asks her teasingly. She rolls her eyes at him.

“I’d settle for coffee,” she grumbles.

“ Wunderbar, bärchen,” he says, and the matter seems settled.



--

Her coffee, however, is interrupted minutes later, before she has the time or enjoyment of taking the first sip. Fingerless gloves that she typically finds sexy appear before her on the table, and she looks up to see a disturbed and angry Remy LeBeau in front of her.

“Summers is calling us in a meeting in five minutes, vous deux,” he mutters. Remy looks miserable, stiff, so uncharacteristic of his typical charm it cuts through some of Rogue’s disconnected fear. This is what she does to the men she chooses to sleep with. Sucks their personality out through their pores.

She breathes out, deciding to stand while she presses down the guilt.

“Walk me there?” she asks Remy. She’s caught him by his surprise. He sighs, running a hand through his hair, before nodding his head toward the hall. Rogue turns and looks back at Kurt, offering him an apologetic smile. Kurt nods politely, but his eyes are wary and even. Rogue swallows, trailing after Remy.

As soon as they’ve exited the cafeteria, Remy turns around, stopping dead in his tracks. The morning light from the bay windows that line the first floor hall shroud him in golden light, but he still looks morose. His next words are even and clipped.

“Remy doesn’t take kindly to people givin’ him de cold shoulder, Rogue,” he mutters, staring her directly in the eyes. She holds his gaze, before sighing.

“I know,” she mutters. He simply blinks at her for a moment, entirely thrown off by this answer. When she doesn’t elaborate, he starts up again.

“You need time, I get it. Dis disturbing shit lately, if it rattle you to de bone, makes sense. But dis thing between us ...you gotta let me know when you need space, petit ,” he finishes. She says nothing for a moment, and he exhales exasperatedly. He’s about to turn on his heel, though, when Rogue instinctively whips out her hand and grabs his wrist, stopping him once more.

“Hey…” she says softly. He once more turns to her, and now she can tell he’s cautiously optimistic. Inside, something crumples. If she’d known Remy had such a big heart under all that charm and spark, then she would have never started fucking him in the first place. She’s not in the habit of leading people on. But he’s a drug right now. One she still needs.

“I’ve been off. I know,” she mutters. “But I...appreciate you. What we have. I’m sorry I made you doubt that.” She steps closer to him, looking him directly in the eyes. She knows, now, Remy was abandoned as a child for those eyes. They are what set him apart from the rest, and Rogue suspects Remy carefully, over time, constructed his grandiose and charming personality to compensate.

“You for real, chère?” he asks softly, his hands intuitively moving to encircle her waist.

“Yeah...I’m for real,” she murmurs, while her heart lurches a bit with guilt, while she shoves a flash of a memory of the random stranger fucking her in the hallway down deep inside her.

“Well then…” Remy murmurs, stepping closer. “That’s alright.” She lets him gently kiss her, and she tries, desperately, to squelch the swarming anxiety within her.



--

Most of them are standing, groggily sipping their morning coffee. The professor, she notices, is absent from this meeting, but as overworked as they all are, Rogue isn’t so surprised. She finds herself next to Remy, and she notices that he hasn’t let go of her hand from when he had grabbed it on their way into the briefing room. Rogue swallows hard as she watches Scott file in. He needs a shave and he’s just in a sweatshirt and jeans, not the typical look for him at all.

“Sorry to gather you all here so hastily on a Sunday morning,” he mutters, running a hand over the scruff of his jaw. “But there have been new developments.”

“The schools?” Storm begins, but Scott shakes his head quickly. Recently, there had been an anti-mutant sentiment surge, which had led to a new “Safe When Seperate” bill demanding that mutant children be removed from public schools.

“We’ve gained headway on the technology being developed for detecting the x-gene,” Scott says solemnly, and she can feel Remy’s anger flair.

“They gon’ track us all down. If they can’t use us, they don’ want us,” he grumbles.

“Does this have anything to do with the General?” Bobby asks suddenly. Several people turn to look at him severely, and Rogue swallows the bitter bile rising in her throat. Last week’s mission, foiled, because of the Army, the largest human rights group on the east coast, maybe in the country. Infamous for running illegal zoos and selling female mutants into sexual slavery, supposedly headed by the General, a myth of a man with deep pockets and a hundred connections on capitol hill, including lobbyists. There’s a reason people like Edward Adams are in office. Scott and the Professor had always been men of diplomacy. Rogue wonders often if the time for diplomacy is coming to an end.

“If he is, he’s behind the scenes. This company’s been paid off by the US government, so this is a federal issue…” Scott drifts off, to the looks of a dozen worried faces around him, he sighs once more. “Look. I know we’re fighting this thing on all sides, but we have to go step by step. We have a small bit of intel we have managed to obtain, and we have to do something with it. We’ve identified a lab in Queens that may be developing the technology, or at least part of it. Hank needs to get his hands on it. I want a team there tomorrow. Nightcrawler, Gambit, Rogue, and Storm. We’ve secured a five-story walk up across the street. You’ll stay there until you receive further instructions. I want this one done quick and right. Nightcrawler, Gambit. You’re in charge of procuring a sample of the technology. Storm’s going to provide cover. Rogue….” he stops, looking directly at her, and the fire licking her soul, the one that’s never quite extinguished no matter how much destruction in the name of mutant rights she leaves in her wake, grows brighter.

“You tear that place to the ground.”


Logan

The trip takes three days. He stops periodically, taking just enough time to fill up the bike and smoke a cigar, before he’s off again. The southwestern desert ascends into the Colorado rockies, which then erodes into the great plains of the midwest. He takes little note of the country's beauty, however, as marred as it is with anti-mutant sentiment. Shoddily constructed signs, plastered billboards, posters in store fronts. Human establishment only. Mutants keep out. The further east he travels, the worse it gets. Just in the last couple years had he started seeing this shit in San Francisco where Itsu and he had made a home, but it’s had about a five-year head start here. Luckily, however, he passes for normal, so he slips in and out of everywhere, albeit as quietly and as quickly as possible.

He knows New York like the back of his hand. He was here for a while, in his drifting days after Canada. He knows where to look and where not to look. He ain’t here to waste his time. He arrives by late afternoon on the third day, and it doesn’t take long. He stops in at his old haunts in Hell’s kitchen, in Harlem, asks the few in town he trusts in this godforsaken shit town. He learns quickly that most of New York’s politicians, like most of the country’s are corrupt, and a startingly few are specifically in bed with the General. At his doing, they’ve made headway in separating public schools. Logan’s stomach churns violently at that. Also, the word on the street is that the General’s here, somewhere, overseeing various “projects,” of which there are three: a sex ring in Brooklyn, an illegal zoo on Staten island, and a lab in Queens, for which Logan’s sure they’re cooking up something real dangerous.

He plans to dismember his way through all three.

Tonight though, he’s dead on his feet. After drinking a dozen beers at Josie’s in Hell’s Kitchen, calling in the last of his favors and obtaining as much as he can in the way of intel, He manages to stumble into a mom-and-pop and grab a bottle of whiskey, and then it’s back to walk-up in Hoboken until he can get enough sleep to stake out the addresses in the morning. He chains his bike, but leaves nothing valuable attached to it. The place he’s rented is a dump, and there’s only a fifty-fifty shot it would be around in the morning. It’s a piece of crap anyway. All he has, all he needs, is now in a duffle he carries with him and a smaller pack strung across his back: a couple changes of clothes, some cigars, and forty thousand dollars, all of their money they had saved emptied from their bank account before the feds could freeze it and seize their assets.

After fiddling with the faded brass lock, he stumbles inside, dropping the back to the floor and instantly shedding his jacket and flannel. It’s hot as fuck outside, and he’s happy to be in less clothing now.He pops off the cap to the bottle sloppily, takes a long, heavy swig, and closes his eyes.

Boozing. Smoking. Fucking. All the old ways. After the girl , he’d given it all up. He’d stayed there amongst the wreckage until the police had shown up. A man, surrounded by gunned-down security, a truck still smoldering with the charred remains of both women and men. He was instantly arrested. He wasn’t sure why at the time, but he’d let the cops have him. He’d let them snap those flimsy cuffs on him, and he’d let them shove him the back of a SWAT car. He’d let them plop him in a filthy prison for a while, he wasn’t sure how long. He rotted there, thoughtless, until before they were gonna process him to a federal facility. He’d easily sprung himself, and with some of the cash that hadn’t been plucked from this jacket pocket by the cops that he had managed to snag out of the repossessed trailer and truck, he had never looked back, assuming a warrant was out for his arrest in Canada.

Afterward, he’d gone everywhere. India. Saudi Arabia. China. Tajikistan. Germany. For months, and then years, he watched, listened. Took it all in. All those other ways, so many other ways, to be human. For the most part, he worked on boats, practically all jobs requiring manual labor. He’d picked up some Chinese and Russian and Arabic on his way. For over five years, he’d had a lot of conversations in a lot of bars, had gotten to know a lot of people, as he watched, distantly, as anti-mutant sentiments around the world grew, just as he had predicted.

He also hadn’t fucked a woman in half a decade. That’s when he had met her.

Logan snarls, once more drinking heavily from the bottle of Jack. He sits on the bed, claws itching in his forearms, as the thoughts he can’t shove aside anymore fill his mind.

The traffic is congested and the streets are bustling and brimming with people. Men and women sit on stoops chatting, long skirts and bright colors flecking the sides of the street. The smell of Ugali and beef stew waft from the dukas, smells he’s learned to appreciate. People shout, and a mixture of Bantuu Swahili and English simmer around him. A Dondai cuts off a Toyota. The sun, hot and full, bakes everything. He’s down to a wife beater and jeans, everything he owns strapped to his back.

Suddenly, a woman darts out into the street, chasing a small object that’s rolled onto the road. The sound of an engine sputtering from around the corner is all the warning he needs. She’s bent down to pick the object out of the road, unnoticing. Logan acts without thinking, moving at impossible speeds to shove her out of the way of the traffic. She manages to stay standing as he pushes her on to the sidewalk, but the car that can’t be bothered to stop clips his ankle. He pretends not to limp as he feels bone and tendon forcibly trying to form back together. He grits his teeth in pain, rounding on the woman in front of him.

“What are ya thinking, lady? You coulda gotten yerself killed!” he growls. She seems disconcerted as she stands, dazed on the sidewalk, clutching the procured apple, until she shakily hands it to a shirtless young boy, who nods at both of them and trots off in holey shoes. Logan watches him go, and stares back at her, still infuriated, as the final pop of his talus snaps back into place.

“I...I’m sorry. Kare wa sore o - uh, I mean... he dropped it,” she finishes, gesturing to the boy who’s disappeared in the swath of the busy crowd. “Are...are you ok?” she asks, trying to get a glimpse of his left leg.

“Yeah. Fine,” he growls, and begins stalking off in the other direction, when he hears a mixture of Japanese and English and feels a thin hand clasp around the crook of his arm

“Hey….hey! I’m still talking to you!” she says loudly. He automatically jerks his arm away, put off and somehow conversely captivated by this woman who dared to get so close as to touch him, even as he rounds on her stubbornly once more.

“What do you want, lady? Yer wastin’ my time. Unless you plan to run out in front of traffic again…” he trails off.

“I was not running in front of traffic. I was...ugh. Ā! Nevermind,” she mumbles. For a minute neither of them speak, the throngs of people moving around them on either side of the busy sidewalk. For some reason, he can’t walk away this time, choosing, finally to truly look at her. He takes in her lean frame and almond skin and jet black hair. She’s in a white linen shirt, and she’s sweating. They all are in this hellscape of a town. Finally, she tucks a damp black lock behind her hair and then crosses her arms.

“Can I...buy you a drink?” she asks suddenly. At this, he genuinely lets out of bark of laughter, shaking his head incredulously.

“Because I saved yer ass?” he asks grumpily.

“No! Because… well. I know what you are,” she almost whispers. At this, his face genuinely falls, and he grips the straps of his pack more tightly.

“You don’t know what yer talkin’ about,” he growls, before moving to walk off once more.

“Hey...it’s ok,” she says, stumbling forward, grabbing his arm once again.

“Where the fuck do you get off accusing me of that shit, lady?” he practically snarls, yanking his arm back from her again, which is easy enough since they’re both sweating buckets in the sweltering heat.

“Because I’m right. No way you get clipped by a car and walk it off. I….know how the body works,” she says boldly, staring once more at Logan’s perfectly healed leg. Logan must have thrown her a look because she rolls her eyes and adds, “I’m a doctor, ok? So... about that drink?”

“Why? You got a kink for us or something, lady?” he asks gruffly, realizing very clearly that he’s just outed himself. Fuck. What the fuck was with him today? He needed more sleep. And he’d have to get the fuck outta Nairobi soon. She tilts her head slightly, smiling, and he realizes, oddly, she doesn't have a bag on her. Just herself. Short and petite and smiling at him.

“No. I just. Want to say thanks,” she murmurs. He stares at her oddly, before making a split decision to pull her out of the throngs of bustling people and closer to a random street vendor.

“You got a place in mind?” he asks, finally budging. Her smile grows wider, and Logan notices there’s a small birthmark flecked under the outer corner of her left eye. She nods enthusiastically.

“Yeah. I do. Been a regular patron here for past few days. Cold beer,” she smiles.

“Well why didn’t ya say so?” he asks, and her face practically glows from the fact he’s taking her bait. He’s not sure why he has. Maybe because he’s starved for conversation. Playful banter, even, with a woman. Especially with a smart one. She, again, takes his hand, leading him through the busy sidewalk, headed south.

“Hmph. So what’s a Japanese lady doctor goin’ around outing mutants and sacrificing herself over dropped apples doing in Kenya anyway?” he asks with a cock of a brow as he follows her. She turns back around and shoots him an unimpressed look.

“I’m not a ‘lady doctor.’ Just a doctor. A pathologist, actually. Here with a team investigating bloodborne illnesses among the local tribes,” she says.

“So like…’Doctors Without Borders’ or somethin’?” he asks.

“Something like that,” she says again, the same smile on her face.

“Hey…” he says, pulling her to a stop. “You got a name?” he asks. She turns, blinks at him for a moment, then nods.

“Itsu,” she says simply. He stops for a beat, considering, and then gruffy responds with, “Name’s Logan.” Again, a moment’s pause they can’t seem to help, and then they start walking again.

“And what’s an American doing in Kenya?” she teases.

“Canadian. And I’m on holiday,” he grumbles.

“Holiday?” she asks, a little too skeptically for someone she’s just met. “ Utagawashī, ” she adds under her breath, just as they’re walking through the door of the nearest establishment. I doubt it. He smirks at her candor, but as soon as the cool air hits him he can’t help but stand there, inhaling sharply. It’s damp and dark and there’s a large oak bar that’s practically empty. His kinda joint.

“This alright?” she asks through a too-sure grin.

“You have no idea how right. Although… Zentei ni chūi suru ,” he manages, albeit in broken Japanese. You shouldn’t make assumptions. She whips around again, eyes wide with shock, just as they’re about to sit. He only smirks at her, and her eyes narrow.

“Logan, you said?”

“Yep,” he says again. “Nice to meet ya, darlin’.”



Chapter 18: Eighteen


Logan

The 45th floor of the highrise apartment feels like a relic from the past. Thick, maroon carpet lines the walls. Everything smells like mildew. He’s rented a cheap suit and has tried to tame his hair much as possible. It’s a flimsy cover up, but he doesn’t need the disguise for long. The women are being held in this high rise apartment complex in Washington Heights, and he’s been told from his intel they’ve all been carefully chosen for their mutations. None of their abilities threatening or powerful, but their appearances all horrifically jarring and fetishized.

These women, abducted and held against their will, because some John has a kink for the extraterrestrial. Even from the hallway, he can smell their fear, and he can’t help let out a low growl. They’re here, somewhere, held captive and waiting to be bidded on, and it’s some of the most hypocritical, disgusting shit even his sick mind wouldn’t dare dream up. Marriage, and even sexual relations, between humans and mutants was just made illegal in the early part of last year. Logan is all too fucking familiar with this particular fact. He also knows the General had a part to play in passing that legislation. And yet, here is facet of his Army, dangling women with some of the most unfortunate mutations in front of human men like pieces of meat in front of hungry, mentally deranged dogs.

He gently raps on the door, and a thin, blonde woman wrapped in a silk black dress answers, the inner portion of her left wrist marred with the same ugly tattoo they all bore if they were in the Army. He tries not to scowl as she arches a brow at him, but he quickly hands her a sheet of paper with a password written out in his blocky scrawl. He’s cashed in a decade’s worth of favors for this bit of information. The blonde arches a brow at him, but takes the paper and ushers him inside. Another long corridor, and then the space opens up to a large, black room where he’s seated in a row of folding chairs. The room is already packed with at least twenty men, and it takes everything in him to not throw out his claws and disemember them right then and there.

“A drink?” the woman asks quietly.

“Whiskey. Neat,” he mutters.

After she walks out, he throws out his senses to see what he can detect. This is why he hasn’t rampaged in here to decimate the place, as much as he wants to. He needs to find him. The General. Or, at least, he needs more information on where to find him. After that he’ll decimate the place.

The woman is already back with the whiskey, and he wonders about what he can pry out of her. Instinctively, before she turns to leave he gently grabs her wrist to stop her. She looks down to him, and a bit taken off guard.

“The show hasn’t even started yet,” she murmurs.

“Maybe yer the one I wanna lay money out for,” he says. She frowns a little. Shit. Wrong move. He rethinks his tactical strategy.

“Heard he would be here tonight,” he mutters. At this, the woman looks suddenly flustered, as if she’s hiding some embarrassing news.

“He was supposed to be,” she murmurs, suddenly looking over her shoulder, far more interested now in seeing if any more bidders have arrived.

“I’m disappointed,” Logan says, playing on her fear. Her heartbeat quickening. A fresh outbreak of sweat on her temple.

“He’s unexpectedly needed at the lab tonight,” she mutters. Fuck. Fuck! Wrong place, wrong time. He’d have to haul his ass to Queens. But first…

“Let’s just get this shit started,” he mutters, finally letting go of her wrist. She nods and scurries off, and Logan’s stomach churns. Save the captives, kill the rest.



--

Jugulars being split open. A spray of ruby red.

“Logan, I’m scared.”

Bullets uselessly puncturing his skin. The sound of metal clanking to the floor as his body pushes them back out again.

“They ain’t coming for us, baby. They don’t got shit on us. Besides, I’ll protect you.”

Scantily clad women fleeing down the corridor.

The front door of their apartment smashed in.

The woman with the tattoo screaming as he effectively and swiftly slits her throat.

Her body, shot several times over, bleeding out on their kitchen linoleum floor.

He scours the place, inch by inch, bloodthirsty. Savage. He looks for every last one of them, and he doesn’t leave until he’s absolutely fucking positive he’s gutted them all.

Everyone he loves leaves him, one way or another.

It looks as if he’s bathed in blood. As he finally collects himself, reigns the animal back in, still breathing heavy and seething, he peels his outer jacket from the blood-soaked button down. He’s down the elevator in an instant, plucking his bike from where he’s hidden it in the alley. He shrugs on his leather coat from the pack he had stashed, and throws the clutch, taking off quickly into the dark of night, towards Queens, towards revenge, just as he hears the police sirens beginning to wail.

He doesn’t look back.

Rogue

The tight, black leather of her uniform feels claustrophobic as Rogue paces the cramped, shitty little kitchen hungrily as the last of the summer light leaves the New York City streets. It has been three days. Three cooped up, listless, boring days of surveillance, transmitting the feeds they had set up back to Scott and the others, waiting for further orders. Scott’s plan for this mission to be quick and effective, unfortunately, had run into several snags. They realized early on the handlers inside never seem to leave. They had also realized that the lab’s own surveillance is heavy. The teleporter and the thief still had been, thankfully, able to map out the place extensively, but, in an effort to be careful, had not been able to procure anything of use.

They know now, though, that vials are being shipped in and out of the lab. That whatever is in those vials is being repackaged somehow, tampered with and then repurposed. This particular bit of intel was especially troubling to Scott, as they had all thought they would be working on some sort of nanoweapon or machine. Of course, the use of vials doesn’t rule out nanoweapons, Storm had stated grimly. Rogue had held her tongue for most of this squabbling, realizing, deep down, what would have to happen. Despite the roadblocks they had encountered, Rogue knows the time for stealthy tactics is nearing its end. Sometimes the only way forward is through.

Of course, once they’ve procured what they need, Rogue’s and Remy’s job is to destroy any and all evidence that they aren’t taking along with them. Ever the X-Men, there are strict orders, still, not to kill anyone preemptively. But if no one ever leaves the lab, Rogue knows there will likely be casualties, and if a pillar or steel beam accidentally crushes a couple members of the Army, after all, Rogue won’t particularly mind.

Just then, Remy stalks back into the room, followed by Kurt. They’ve both been as cooped-up as she is, and Rogue has it on good authority Remy and Kurt have made good use of the hole-in-the-wall bar that isn’t above selling alcohol to mutants two blocks north of this shit hole when they aren’t on stealth patrol. Things are not entirely settled between the Cajun and the Southerner, and if anyone is perceptive enough to pick up on this, it’s actually Storm, who, last night, somehow magically summons a bottle of whiskey and two nicer-than-the-apartment-would-offer glasses for the two women. Rogue’s still nursing a hangover from last night because of it.

“You talk it out yet?” she had asked.

“Sorta,” Rogue had grunted.

Storm had given her an all-knowing smile, one that unintentionally made Rogue feel small and naive. In the past few years, those were feelings she tried, at all costs, to squelch.

Now, Remy looks a bit intoxicated as he stumbles over to the worn couch and flops down on it. Kurt, on the other hand, looks relatively sober, probably not as prone for day drinking as his Cajun counterpart, and instead stalks over to the video monitors and computer system Storm has been hovering around for the last few days.

“Anything new, meine freunde?” he mutters to her, but Storm only solemnly shakes her head. Meanwhile, Remy is quietly moaning from across the room on the couch, and Rogue crosses her arms, scowling at Kurt.

“What did you do to him, Kurt?” Rogue asks, arching her brow.

“Nothing , liebling. Er grabt sich selbst sein Grab,” Kurt mutters, before turning back to Storm’s surveillance. Meanwhile, Remy is mumbling something from across the room.

“ Chère, come and snuggle up with Remy, eh ?” he mutters into the worn fabric of the maroon sofa.

“Keep dreaming, sugar,” she shouts at him from across the room, obviously annoyed. She can hear Kurt chuckle, and she rounds on him once more.

“This is ridiculous. We need to do something. Why hasn’t Scott given the word yet?!” she grumbles, once more retiring to the kitchen to pace.

“Have patience, liebling,” Kurt assures.

“We’re wasting time. Drinking,” she accuses, shooting another look at Remy, who’s currently clutching his head with a gloved hand.

“Casting some stones, aren’t we, femme de feu?” Remy moans. Rogue ignores him.

“Scott has all the knowledge we do, Rogue. And the final words comes from him,” Storm reminds her gently, typing something quickly into the laptop. Rogue bites her lip, staring through the window back out across the street, where the lab resides.

“I know. It’s just… all they have the audio and visual. What about the rest?” she asks impatiently. Kurt looks up to her sharply, crossing his arms in thought.

“How do you mean, bärchen?” Kurt asks. Rogue spins her wheels a little, trying to put it into words. What was different about today, or was anything? Was it simply her own growing restlessness, or was it something else, somehow, brewing in the air?

“I don’t know,” she finally says, looking down at her boots. “Just a feeling I get. Something’s...changed.”

“Oui. Je suis enclin à être d'accord avec Rogue,” Remy mumbles from the couch. He always slips back into French when he’s drunk. Rogue rolls her eyes, looking to Storm, the only one among them who knows a little French, for some help.

“He agrees,” Storms says through a slight smile. Rogue jerks her head back to Remy, unaware he was even listening, considering this. She’s surprised and yet somehow not. She knows Remy has empathetic powers, even if he hasn’t shared how they work with her.

“Feeling, liebling ?” Kurt asks Rogue, pressing for more.

“Something’s….different,” she says, once more strolling over to the video feed they have set up. So far, the same thing. Rows of workers, dutifully extracting liquid from vials. The same old, same old. And yet. As she stares at the grainy footage, Remy then sits up, eyes alit, suddenly much more sober than he was a moment ago.

“They’re scared,” he says. At that, his fellow X-Men turn to him, Rogue now staring at him with a sudden peak of interest.

“Why, Gambit?” Storm asks carefully.

“Don’t know, mon ami . Remy’s an empath, pas un télépathe . Should have brought Jean,” he says through a sigh, reaching now for a deck of cards he always carries in his jacket pocket. He shuffles them now rhythmically, the way he always does when he’s on edge.

Rogue crosses her arms uncomfortably once more. She always forgets about this part of Gambit’s powers, and idly wonders, not for the first time, if he knows more about her feelings, or lack thereof, than she lets on.

“We need to do something,” Rogue mumbles, and just as she does so, there is a horrifically loud explosion from across the street. The whole building shakes. Rogue instinctively looks to Remy, who only has time to shake his head, before turning to Kurt, who nods sharply before disappearing in a puff of black and blue smoke. Scott’s go ahead means nothing now; They all know it. The mission has started. Remy is on his feet, and Storm is already out the window, ascending into the air to provide cover. Suddenly, and without fail, it starts raining heavily. Kurt’s back just as quickly.

“The lab’s under attack. If we want anything, we need to go now,” Kurt breathes. Without thinking, they both grab either of Kurt’s wrists and with a dizzy pull through time and space they are suddenly inside another building. Everything is on fire, men in white lab coats are scattering in all directions. An alarm wails.

“Nightcrawler!” Rogue shouts, but Kurt has already disappeared and reappeared across the room, plucking things from the piles of debris. Suddenly, gunfire, and a series of bullets whizz past Rogue’s ear. She turns, noticing a large man with a semi automatic just in time for another round of them to bounce of her chest. Rogue snarls, stalking forward and yanking the gun from his hands, using it to quickly strike him in the back of the head, before easily snapping the gun in half.

“We got what we need?!” Rogue shouts into her comm, the plumes of smoke now making it impossible to see.

“ Ja, fraulein . Both of you, destroy the rest!” Kurt shouts in her ear. More gunfire. The building's being stormed with soldiers now. Where they come from or how they arrived so quickly, Rogue doesn’t know. She doesn’t care.

“Gambit!” Rogue shouts, and that’s all she needs to say.

“On it, chère!” he yells in her ear, and then another, smaller explosion sends men flying to the ground in front of them. The ones that manage to get past it don’t last long. A quick uppercut with her left before she shoves her elbow backward to the right, breaking a man’s nose from behind her. More useless gunfire reigning down on her. Around, a tumult of flying, fiery playing cards, Gambit swiftly destroying whole parts of the lab in a series of small explosions.

Noticing a crack in one of the main pillars, Rogue decides quickly to drive her shoulder into it, and part of the ceiling caves in a tumult of debris on top of the laboratory workspace.

“Nice work, petit!” Gambit shouts through the comm, although she can no longer see him. Just as she turns to try to make him out through the smoke and debris, she feels the wind knocked out of her lungs as a guard comes up from behind her at strikes her with the back of his gun, wisening up enough to realize his bullets are useless. She huffs, her training willing her body to duck before he can get to her again, when she hears it.

A snarl. A growl. And then, the soldier who had struck her falling dead to the floor in a puddle of blood. She quickly gets to her feet and whips around, only to see him , seeped in red, claws out, seething.

No.

Even in his rage, his eyes go wide as he looks at her, just before he intuits another attack from behind, shouting as he shoves his claws into the nearest guard once more, disappearing into the smoke. Meanwhile, Remy’s shouting in her ear. “ Chère! Where are you?! Dis place is falling apart! We need to get out of here! Il faut se dépêcher!”

She ignores him, dropping the last of the guards to the floor with a brick to the head. The lab is still on fire and is now littered with unconscious or very dead men. Logan’s nowhere to be seen.

Where is he? Why is he here?

Don’t let him get away. A voice in her head she’s unsure is her own.

Don’t.

“We’re here with the Blackbird. Meet at the rendezvous point so Kurt can extract you! You’re the last one left! Rogue, that’s an order! ” Scott’s voice now, screaming into her comm.

She ignores him, stalking forward into the smoke, now coughing and wheezing from inhaling so much debris. And then her world is thrown upside down once more as she’s knocked to the floor and a razor-sharp claw hovers millimeters away from the pulse in her neck, the bearded, bloody feral staring wildly at her.

“Why the fuck are you here?!” he growls. He’s got her pinned, thinking that’s enough, and oddly, before she can help herself, she laughs. He snarls in response, twisting her arm painfully with his free hand, barely growling out the word, “ Talk.” And that’s when she knees him roughly in the gut.

He has zero time to react, not anticipating the strength of his enemy, and now crumples to the floor as the wind is harshly knocked out of him. She’s on her feet in an instant, grabbing the nearest gun she can. He snarls as he shakily stands, and she can’t help but mutter, “Sorry, sugar,” before quickly and effectively delivering a numbing blow to the back of the head, rendering him unconscious. He slumps to the floor, and she knows it won’t be for long.

“Kurt, come get us,” she shouts into the intercom, before she easily grabs an arm of his heavy body and flies quickly to the extraction point at the mouth of the lab.

“Us?” Scott shouts back.

“Yeah,” she says, trying to regulate her breathing, staring down at Logan, who’s already beginning to stir. “Us.”
End Notes:
Sorry, sorry, SORRY for being in my thirties and forgetting how the internet works and accidentally deleting everything. Chapter 1 through 18 are painstakingly posted here in the "first" chapter, and everything else on will be labeled accordingly.
Nineteen by englishmajor226
Nineteen



Logan

His vision is blurry and his head is throbbing. There’s a weight, pulling from somewhere, or pressing down, but he can’t sort out what or how. In the background his ears pick up on voices that begin to grow sharper, along with the radiating pain in his skull.

“You bring some crazy feral mutant onto my jet...”

“He was there, Scott. Someone had to have initiated the blast!”

“How do you know he’s not part of the Army himself?”

“He’s a mutant, Scott.”

“How naive are you, Rogue? You know they attract more and more mutant sympathizers every damn day.”

Rogue.

Rogue.

And then the memories of earlier begin to float back into his brain, the last one of her slugging him. How the fuck had that happened? And fuck, it had hurt. Then, as if on some sort of masochistic cue, his eyes lazily blink open, and he realizes, very quickly he’s been restrained to a chair, his arms fastened to the arm rests with metal clamps, making his claws useless. He snarls, as the animal writhes from being caged, even as he wildly takes in the scene before him. He’s in...a fucking plane, and there are...four, five people around him, plus Rogue.

Rogue.

She’s three feet in front of him currently in a shouting match with a man with a visor. She’s decked out in all black leather, undeniably a woman in all her lethal glory. He snarls again, pulling against the restraints, and this time she whips her head around to look at him.

They lock eyes for a minute, and even through that scowl, for a moment, he think he sees a glimpse of the girl he pulled out of a ditch on an abandoned Alberta road. Then he remembers the rest. The General. The Army. The plan. All fucked. Because of Rogue and this gaggle of freaks.

“You fucked up everything, ya idiots,” he mutters under his breath at her and the others, and Rogue’s look turns sour.

“You’re welcome for me saving your ass back there,” she hisses, crossing her arms. He pulls once again against the restraints, growling, until one of the others steps closer to Logan.

“You wanna be a little kinder to the lady, homme,” the man in a ridiculous get-up and a cajun accent scowls, deftly pointing a bō staff in Logan’s face. Now everyone has turned to face Logan and he realizes he’s sorely outnumbered. He turns to look at Rogue, a sneer present on his features, playing the only card he has.

“Always wondered what became of ya, kid. Thought you might’ve ran off and joined a circus act like this, babe” he growls, catching eyes with the blue one with the German accent, who frowns deeply at him in response.

The cajun immediately whips around to look at Rogue, throwing her an accusatory look. Rogue only rolls her eyes, stalks forward, and squarely slaps Logan in the face. Hard. Harder than it’s possible for her to do.

“ Fuck! ” he growls. He suddenly remembers the knee kick to the gut from earlier, and this matched the pain radiating in his jaws ignites his anger once more.

“This circus act is my family. And we were on a mission to extract and study whatever it was the government was cooking up to hurt us, which you ruined with your stupid preemptive explosive device!” He can only cock his head at her for a moment, trying to sort out what she’s saying before it comes together.

“Sorry to break it to you, darlin’. Didn’t set off the fucking blast,” he mutters. She only blinks at him once more, before regaining her composure and doubling down on her anger.

“Do not call me darlin’,” she scolds. Logan’s eyes fly to Gumbo, who is watching the whole tête-à-tête cautiously. Finally, the man with the visor, who Logan assumes from his stance alone is the leader of the gang, stalks forward.

“My name is Scott Summers,” he says formally, and Logan almost wants to fucking laugh.

“Nice to meet ya,” he growls. “Now you think you can let me the fuck out of here?”

“Not yet. Rogue says she knows you, but we’re still suspicious of your... motives. Why were you at the lab?” Logan’s eyes fly to Rogue once more, who has retreated to the corner of the plane, arms crossed and eyes pointed downward.

“None of yer business,” Logan snarls, turning back to one-eye.

“That answer is not going to suffice,” Scooter says bluntly. Logan growls, before trying to reign in his temper, pulling on the chain of the animal. He hates being caged, and he can barely stay human when it happens.

“Listen,” he grounds out. “I got a shitty bike and some money stashed at a place in Hoboken I gotta get back to, so if you’d be so kind as to drop me off,” he begins, until Gumbo interrupts.

“Sounds like a good idea. Let’s push him out of de plane,” the Cajun grips his bō staff more tightly.

“You know how to use that thing, bub?” Logan goads, glaring at him.

“You mean have I trained my whole life in Savate and Bojitsu and could thoroughly lay you out on your ass? Why, oui, homme poilu,” he spits, pressing the bō into the side of Logan’s neck.

“ Savate, eh? Watashi wa itsumo nihon'nobudō ga sugurete iru to omotta ,” he spits. He can sense that Rogue’s once more staring at him, even though he keeps his eyes on the cajun.

“Both of you quit your pissing match,” Summers butts in. “Sorry, pal, but until we get some more answers out of you, you’re sticking with us.” At this, Logan can only help but chuckle.

“Hate to break it to ya, Slim, but as soon as you let me outta here, I’m gone,” he snarls, popping both sets of claws, even though they jut out uselessly at his sides. “And yer lucky if I don’t slice off the dirty cajun’s hand as pay back for wasting my fucking time.”

“ L'animal a des griffes ,” Gumbo taunts, and Logan decides a hand’s not enough and he’s gonna gut this guy as soon as he has the means to.

“Uh huh,” Scott says, ignoring this exchange and instead walking toward the front of the plane. He’s gone only momentarily and comes back with one of the two woman operating the jet: this one a tall, thin redhead, dressed in the same ridiculous black leather. Instinctively, he retracts the claws, but keeps his guard up.

“Meet Jean. She’s a telepath, and my wife. She won’t poke around too much, but she’s going to take what she needs,” Scott bristles.

“Scott…” Jean trails off, looking cautiously at Logan once more.

“Just do it,” Summers mutters. She sighs, and then Logan’s headache triples. He snarls as he feels a presence invade through his fucking eyeballs, but just like that, it’s gone again. He watches the redhead closely as her eyes go wide and she puts a hand to her mouth, but then she shakes it off, and looks to Scott once more. Rogue, of course, is watching all of this, a passive, unreadable expression on her features.

“672 Washington Street,” she practically whispers to Scott. Hell.

“The fuck?!” Logan snarls, but Summers is already communicating with someone else through what looks like a comm.

“Bobby I have an errand for you. Retrieve…” Summers stops, and looks to his wife once more. “What’s his name?”

“James Howlett,” Jean murmurs. At that Rogue lifts her head up again and stares directly at Logan. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

“Retrieve Mr. Howlett’s things from the address I’ll text you and report back to the mansion. Yeah. I don’t care you don’t know who he is. Just do it.” One-eye ends the call, and then looks to Logan again. “We’ll be holding your money for you in a secure place until you answer our questions. Doubt you wanna leave without it,” he says curtly.

“Why don’t ya just have the redhead zap it out of me if you want answers?” Logan growls, but Scooter is already shaking his head.

“I wouldn’t ask Jean to use her powers unethically,” he says. Logan snorts.

“But you’d stoop to a little extortion?”

“Yes. Yes I certainly would,” Summers mutters. “We protect our own. Now, relax. We’ll be landing in Westchester shortly. And in the future, Mr. Howlett, might I suggest a bank account?,” he says through a smirk before he walks off to the front of the plane once more. Logan is still seething, and throws the girl he once knew as Rogue a bitter look.

“You’ve come a long way, kid,” he spits. “Real fucking proud of ya.” She goes red for a moment, then the look is replaced with one of anger, before she stalks off towards the front of the jet as well, leaving him behind.


--

The grandfather clock ticks loudly in the background and a large, mahogany desk sits between Logan and an aging bald man who has just introduced himself as Professor Charles Xavier. Considering the fucking mansion he had just walked through to get here, the office is modestly sized. The walls are lined with bookshelves with thick, leather volumes, the kinds of books you would assume a guy like this would read. It’s the middle of the night, and Xavier is in a full suit and tie, complete with pocket square. Meanwhile, Logan’s still in the bloody, tattered remains of the suit he rented, and the exhaustion of the evening is finally settling in. Between the highrise, the lab, getting the shit kicked out of him by Rogue and dealing with the clown show on the jet, he’s spent.

“You look exhausted, Logan. Can I offer you some tea?” Xavier asks, and Logan is surprised to see a spare yunomi mug and the smell of ryokucha , as he settles into a chair across from Xavier. It’s a traditional japanese green and a staple of his diet up until a few weeks ago. Something deep inside his chest lurches.

“No….uh... thanks,” Logan mutters, before staring at the steam rising off the gold-etched japanese mug. “Real nice fucking place you got here,” he mutters to his boots.

“Thank you,” Xavier murmurs, still staring intently at Logan, but doesn’t continue on. Logan growls lowly, before adding, “So Slim says yer a telepath too.”

“I am,” Xavier responds simply. Logan’s level of frustration spikes. He ain’t at his best to engage in whatever mind games the Professor has in store for him, and that’s a bad thing.

“So we done here? Got what you need?” he asks bluntly.

“Excuse me?” the older man blinks.

“You just read my mind, find out I’m not part of the fucking Army, and let me be on my merry fucking way,” he mutters. Despite Logan’s foul mood, Xavier offers a slight smile and takes a sip of tea before responding.

“I already know you’re not part of the Army, Logan. Simple observation and a little research can tell me that,” Charles says politely. Logan can’t help but be impressed by Chuck’s poker face. Even with a deep sniff of the air and throwing out his hearing, he can’t tell what game the old man’s playing.

“Research?” Logan asks, through even eyes. Another slight smile from the old man, and, despite himself, Logan picks the spare mug and takes a sip of tea. It’s the best fucking thing he’s tasted, and he realizes he hasn’t eaten in days. Xavier continues talking.

“Well, for starters, there were reports of a clawed mutant on a murder spree in a New York high rise earlier in the evening,” Xavier says. Logan sets down the mug carefully, suddenly feeling trapped. It’s a feeling he hasn’t been able to shake since being strapped down to that chair on the jet, even though his circumstances have somewhat improved. He stares at Xavier, who continues.

“Your vendetta seems deeply personal….”

“It is,” Logan can’t help but snarl.

“And also, might I add, sloppy,” Xavier says curtly, and Logan frowns through a sneer.

“You must have already have guessed we do things differently around here, Logan.”

“Yeah, might’ve heard about yer ‘high standards’,” Logan growls. He hasn’t forgotten about how fucking patronizing Summers was or the way Rogue looked at him, altogether disgusted.

“We don’t often encourage revenge-” Xavier begins, before Logan cuts him off.

“-Spare me the lecture. I got a few years on ya, pop,” Logan growls, and Xavier raises his eyebrows in suspicion.

“You have regenerative capabilities, a healing factor,” Xavier says simply. It’s not a question. “And...if you would let me finish, I was saying I am willing to make an exception in regard to helping you seek it.”

“And why would you wanna do that?” he asks narrowly. Xavier sighs, and pours himself more tea from the Kyusu.

“I don’t pretend that I am not motivated by my own reasons, obviously,” Xavier says carefully. “The General is an illusive, toxic presence for us right now. And it’s not just the secret laboratories that are popping up all over the nation. It’s the legislation. The recent federal intergenetic marriage ban troubles me greatly. The X-Men have a right to be concerned.

“The X-Men. Huh. Clever, Chuck,” Logan retorts, to which Xavier smiles once more. “So this is what you do, work to quietly take out threats against mutants?”

“We are first and foremost a school, Logan,” Xavier points out, and Logan raises his eyebrows in surprise.

“School, eh? And how is it that Adams hasn’t shut a place like this down?”

“Obviously we operate rather covertly,” Xavier murmurs.

“Heh. We’ll that’s fucking obvious. Don’t know if yer aware, Chuck, but you got a jet underneath yer basketball court,” Logan mutters, and, to his surprise, Xavier laughs slightly. There’s a beat of silence, and Logan gets to the point.

“You know I plan to kill ‘em, right? The General,” Logan says simply.

“Looking at your brief history since we’ve crossed paths, yes I would assume that,” Xavier murmurs, when there is a brisk knock on the door. Logan instinctively stands.

“Come in, Bobby,” Xavier says, and then a young man, no older than early twenties, walks in carrying all of Logan’s shit. The duffle and the pack.

“Sorry it took me so long, Charles. He’s a messy bastard,” Bobby grumbles, plopping the stuff in the floor. Logan growls slightly, but Xavier interrupts. “Thank you, Bobby. That will be all.” Bobby nods once, and he’s gone as soon as he’s arrived. Charles gestures to Logan’s bags.

“Your money, your things, returned to you,” he says simply. Logan’s already rifling through the bags. The thick manilla envelope with all of he and Itsu’s savings. Two spare changes of clothes. His cell phone. And a couple of personal items Logan doesn’t pull out, but secretly thanks the God he doesn’t believe in, are there.

“So you ain’t holding me hostage no more, Chuck?” Logan asks, zipping up the pack once more.

“Of course not. Scott acted...rashly. Although, he was put in a difficult position considering Rogue’s...unexpected actions. I would, however, invite you, Logan, to stay here not as a hostage, but as a guest,” Xavier finishes, and Logan can’t help but snort.

“Sorry, pop, but whatever kool-aid yer selling, I ain’t drinking. And I work alone,” he finishes, grabbing the duffle from the floor. He wants the fuck out of here, and quick.

“The door is open for you to leave. And I wouldn’t ask any of the X-Men to accompany you to kill anyone anyway, even the General. But ...there are many ways one might offer help..” Xavier trails off. Logan turns back to Xavier slowly, considering. The old man’s smart, maybe too smart, because he’s waited this long, finally, to dangle the carrot.

“You’ve got intel,” Logan says. Xavier nods.

“On the zoo in Staten Island, yes. The last place on your list?” Charles asks carefully. Logan suppresses a growl, but finds himself seated once more.

“You sure you ain’t reading my mind?” Logan mutters. Xavier shakes his head.

“No. Our team recently tried to extract and save the children, and we failed. The zoo has been moved. And we’re not sure where or for what purpose,” he says solemnly.

“And you wanna spring those kids,” Logan guesses.

“Of course.” Logan crosses his arms, considering.

“You think the General is with them?” Logan asks. He’s skeptical at this point, especially after the clusterfuck at the lab. Xavier sighs.

“Honestly I do not know, Logan. You’re tracking a man that seems impossible to find. But there is a great likelihood of it. And if that is a dead end, I encourage you to at least stay until Dr. McCoy tests what we were able to extract from the lab. It may provide us more clues…” Logan sighs, his hand gripping his pack, as Xavier presses.

“A warm bed, a couple of decent meals, and more information on the man you seek...” Charles says, clear blue eyes staring at him.

“Two days,” Logan finally snarls. Xavier smiles again.

“Excellent,” he murmurs. “I’ve just sent a message to Kurt. He’ll escort you to a guest room. I’ll have some dinner sent up too.”

Logan nods, and then stands once more, just as the blue Elf materializes in the office.

“ Fuck,” Logan mutters under his breath.

“My apologies for startling you, Herr, ” he says, nodding to the Professor, before opening the door to show Logan out.

“Oh, and Logan,” Xavier says, and Logan once more turns to the man he knows has just bested him in this battle of mental wills. “If what you say is true, and I sense that it is, as a younger man, I do not have to tell you that revenge will not make up for whatever it was you lost,” he murmurs to his tea. The Elf turns and looks with wide, yellow eyes to Logan, and Logan clears his throat.

“I know, Chuck. I know that better than most,” he mutters, nods, and lets the blue one show him out. The hallways are dark and the place feels abandoned. The silence between the two mutants is awkward as they slowly climb the stairs in what Logan assumes is the main foyer. It has to be a little past three in the morning, and his exhaustion is now pressing down on him like a weight.

“So you’re staying?” the Elf asks, turning to him as they make their way down another long corridor.

“Couple days,” Logan grunts, and Kurt sighs exasperatedly. There’s a moment’s silence, before curiosity gets the better of Logan.

“Where you from, Elf?” he asks. Kurt whips around to him in response to the nickname, but chooses to answer him nevertheless.

“You would not know it, Herr. Winzeldorf, mostly, in the Bavarian Alps,” he says simply.

“ Ich weiß es. Ich habe dort einige Zeit verbracht, ” Logan mumbles, plucking out words from the elementary German he knows. I know it. I’ve been there. Kurt stops, and turns to him slowly.

“Listen, Fremder,” he says quietly. “I am not impressed by your Deutsche. And Rogue is a dear, dear friend of mine. Your...intentions. They have nothing to do with her, ja?”

At this, Logan snorts, shaking his head bitterly.

“Trust me Elf, nothin’ at all, ” he says. Kurt just stares at him, before unlocking and opening a door.

“I will send up food and a bottle of wine,” the Elf mutters. Logan is about to walk in, when a wild hair strikes him.

“ Any way I could get something stronger?” Kurt narrows his eyes, pauses for a moment, and suddenly disappears in a puff of black and blue smoke. He’s back in an instant, and he’s cradling a full, unopened bottle of very expensive scotch.

“A welcoming gift,” he mutters, handing it to Logan.

“Hrmph,” he says through a wry smile. “Seems more like a bribe,” Logan mutters.

“ Ja, Fremder,” Kurt says, his voice even and clipped. “Stay away from Rogue.” Logan’s already shaking his head.

“Trust me. That chapter’s over,” he mutters. Kurt only blinks at him, before frowning.

“Sleep well, Mr. Howlett,” Kurt says.

“It’s Logan. And Elf…” Logan murmurs, and Kurt turns back around.

“Sorry about the circus comment earlier. Life’s shitty enough without hearin’ slurs,” Logan mutters. Surprisingly, at this Kurt smiles, almost genuinely.

“ Mache dir nichts aus, Logan. As once literally being a part of one, you are not wrong. Gute nacht.”


`

Rogue

The faculty women’s locker room quickly fills with plumes of steam that seep into her pores. She scrubs shampoo into her long hair until everything is soap and froth, then stands under the spray for a long time, trying to mentally detach from the evening. So far, she isn’t succeeding.

She hasn’t spoken to Logan since she’d slapped him on the jet, and, miraculously, after they had landed Logan had agreed to go and speak with the Professor. At the time they’d landed in the basement of Westchester and taken off the restraints, she had half-expected Logan to stab Scott in the chest and flee down the hallway, but the money seemed to be enough of an incentive for Logan to comply. And that made no sense. The Logan she’d known wouldn’t have cared about the money, especially if it meant risking his freedom.

At least, she didn’t think so.

It had been ten years since she had left him behind on his bike, and she hadn’t looked back. She shouldn’t care, wouldn’t care, but things had not necessarily gone over the way she had wanted at the lab or on the jet afterward. However, if she was being honest with herself, she hadn’t known how she wanted them to go. She isn’t sure if she rescued him from a burning building or was trying to hold him hostage, and now she’s not so keen on finding out which it was.

Remy had tried to ask her more about him, but she’d just shot him a look. As late as it was, the debrief had been put on hold until the morning, leaving Rogue with little to do and no hope of sleeping. Ever since Logan had disappeared into the Professor’s office, she felt uneasy and more than a little guilty. She had put them all in this situation with a split-second, rather foolish decision. After only a handful of minutes, she decided to hit the showers, exhausted as she was from being cooped up in a tiny apartment for the last three days. But now, it’s obvious to her she’s hiding out in here. Hiding from Remy. From Scott. From Kurt. Maybe even from Logan. How pathetic.

She frowns and flips off the faucet, padding over to a stack of thick, fluffy white towels, all embroidered with the Xavier logo. She shivers as she bundles up in one, wrapping her hair up in another. Slowly, she walks over to a line of sinks, and wipes one of the mirrors clean. A woman with a thin, hardened face and clear brown eyes stares back.

She gets dressed in a simple white tank and black shorts, headed back to her room on the far wing of the second floor of the mansion silently. The hallways are deserted, and she’s grateful for it. She silently slips inside the place she’s called home for almost eight years. Aside from a small desk and bookshelf that’s neatly organized, there are only a few touches that distinguish the same wood paneled walls and thick lush carpet from anyone else’s room. A map of the places she’s been to, a journal she uses to plan and update her training, a collection of postcards she had started in the early days, most of them faded and water logged, strapped together by a couple of rubber bands. Rogue sighs, running her hands through her still-damp hair, and decides to pour herself a generous glass of wine from one of the half-empty bottles she keeps on the desk.. She has no way of knowing if Logan is still here or not, and this unnerves her. She takes a large swallow, unsurprised to find herself pacing in the tiny room.

Why the fuck is he the same? Mean and brooding and secretive, although considering the situation she had just plopped him in, maybe he had the right to be. What’s even more unnerving, though, is that he looks exactly as she remembers him, save the full beard he’s sporting. It had done a number on her, seeing him like that. It had flooded her with memories, making her feel volatile. Logan was tied to everything, and was the catalyst for the worst part of her life. He’d used her, over and over again, for sex. He’d hooked her on booze and drugs, an addiction so bad that when she had shown up to Xavier’s she had endured hellish withdrawals to come back to herself. And of course...he was the reason she had Carol inside her head now, forever. He was a selfish, foolish bastard who for most of her life she had desperately wished she hadn’t met...

Just then, the mostly-empty wine glass she’s holding shatters in her hand. If her skin wasn’t impenetrable, she’d need stitches. Instead, she blankly stares down at the pieces of shattered glass over the floor. Carelessly, she steps through the shards and fetches another glass, this time topping it with a half-bottle of gin she’s got in a desk drawer. It bites and burns as she swallows it, just as a gnawing fear that’s been growing in the back of her mind makes itself known.

What if you’re still that little girl, that can’t let go of the first man you fell for and that’s why you dragged him here?

She frowns deeply, before carefully setting down the glass on the desk with a shaking hand.

She had, for a fleeting amount of time, viewed him as a sort of god. She had idolized him, thought that he was the answer, when all along the answer was inside of herself.

Rogue frowns, walking over to the vanity in the far corner again staring into the mirror. A woman, again, stares back.

She’s being silly. She’s being irrational. The only reason she’d chosen to pluck his ridiculously heavy body off the floor of a burning building is the same reason Scott chose to hold Logan here until further notice. Logan knows something they don’t. He’d been killing guards left and right, but why? She hardly saw Logan as the type to become some random vigilante for mutant rights. The man she’d briefly known had shown little or no interest in idealism. Why had he infiltrated the lab? What incentive did he have in doing so? And, if he wasn’t lying about not setting off the initial explosion that had thoroughly complicated the mission, who had?

The gin bottle’s empty in ten minutes. She flops down on her bed then, letting her mind float and drift, until, finally, it settles back on Remy. She’d been awful to him, distant. And none of this, none of it at all, is his fault. She hazily decides to pick herself up. It’s a short jaunt down the hall in bare feet, and even though the Monets and Rembrandts hanging in the corridor are spinning, she still manages to rap on Remy LeBeau’s door anyway.

Remy LeBeau , she drunkenly thinks. His name sounds like someone made it up.

Another knock. There’s a muffled groan from inside, and suddenly a freshly showered man in just a tight black t-shirt and boxers opens the door. His too-long hair falls across his forehead in thick auburn pieces, and his black and red eyes burn as he stares down at her. She sways on the spot.

“Someone’s been hitting the bottle, oui?” he asks, although his voice doesn’t contain one drop of judgement.

“I want you to fuck me,” Rogue says fairly loudly, even though she’s still standing in the hallway. Remy exhales a bit, running a hand through his hair tiredly.

“It’s late, petit,” he mutters. This is an all-out first for Remy. He never turns her down. Never. And he’s good in bed, exceptionally so. There’s a reason Rogue’s chosen him to sleep with most nights.

She says nothing and simply stares at him from the hallway. Finally, Remy adds, “Dis about him ?” Rogue looks down for a second, feet sunk into the plush Persian rugs that line the hallway.

“No,” she mutters, hugging her arms for a moment, before letting them drop.

“He an old flame though, oui ?” Remy asks through narrow eyes.

“Hardly,” Rogue mutters. “And this isn’t about that. I want...I want to say sorry.”

He says nothing, running a hand along his five o’clock shadow.

“Please,” she finally murmurs, and that does it. Something in his eyes changes, and he mutters, “I’m a fool for making you ask twice, ma belle femme .” He pulls her inside and shuts the door quickly, and in moments he has her up against the wall, kissing the side of her neck. She moans loudly, over a stream of heady cajun french he’s whispering in her ear she doesn’t understand: “ Je suis tout à toi. L'oublier. Je te veux pour toujours, ma chérie.”

He’s got a hand under her shirt and another snaking down her shorts, and she moans louder. Knowing the guest rooms are across the hall, she wonders, idly, if he can hear.

She hopes he can.
Twenty by englishmajor226
Twenty



Rogue

She wakes up suddenly, her head throbbing. Everything is shrouded in pre-dawn light, and her eyes dart back and forth wildly before she realizes where she’s at. Beside her, Remy still sleeps, the long lines and hard planes of his naked chest rising slowly up and down. She clutches her head and moans slightly, realizing the severity of the hangover she’d likely be nursing all day. Her mind desperately searches for th e details o f last night, the images fuzzy and disparate, before finally summoning the memories of her pleading with Remy in the hallway, and the shouts of lovemaking that had followed suit.

And then and only then does she remember why.

“ Fuck,” she whispers to herself, eyes helplessly darting past the Miles Davis and Duke Ellington posters and random stacks of playing cards to Remy’s door. She had no way of knowing if Logan was still here or not, wasn’t sure now if she wanted to know. She glances down guiltily at Remy’s sleeping form once more, just as Xavier’s voice pops into her head.

Pardon the early morning wake-up call, but there will be an incredibly important debriefing in fifteen minutes in the War Room. All staff must be accounted for.

Just then, Remy moans from his side of the bed, flops over and puts his face into the pillow and groans.

“Dat some sadistic sort of alarm clock, eh?” he mutters, rubbing his own forehead in exhaustion before turning and settling his eyes on Rogue. She watches as he frowns slightly, groggily sitting up a little more in bed.

“You ok, petit?” he asks cautiously, moving to run a hand over her naked shoulder.

“Sure, sugar,” she murmurs, hugging her arms to her body more tightly, staring off through the faint light in the window.

“You seem miles away from Remy,” he mutters. At that, she turns back to him and attempts a smile. Rogue’s not entirely aloof, and is able to appreciate the view. He looks delectable like this, thin sheet barely covering his waist, all tan and toned, with the those burnt russet locks of hair falling across his forehead. Remy has always reminded Rogue of fire, and with all that literal kinetic energy always surging through him, she’s not far off the mark. She quietly moves closer to him then, brushing a lock of hair off his forehead, and cradles the line of his jaw for a moment.

“You need a shave,” she murmurs, before brushing a thumb over his lips and then adds apologetically, “And thank you, for last night.”

He smiles devilishly at her, before easing her to lie against him, and kissing the top of her head. For a long moments, they stay like that, both of them knowing they need to get up and both of them not feeling very compelled to. After a few minutes, however, he’s speaking once again.

“So...tell Remy,” he murmurs into her hair. She smiles at his continual use of the third person, and turns to look at him with a coy smile.

“Tell Remy what?” she asks playfully, but his look is serious as he adds, “About him.” Rogue’s smile instantly falls as she bites her lip, casting her eyes downward.

“Remy’s no fool, mon chéri . You loud in bed sometimes, especially when Remy does your favorite things, but you not that loud. And besides, you always forgetting, Remy’s an empath. Tu jouais avec le feu,” he says carefully, and Rogue can’t help but blush a deep shade of crimson.

“He was...uh. I mean, I was...young,” she finally manages to say, and his mood turns on a dime. He’s instantly angry, so much so his eyes are practically smoldering with heat.

“How young, petit ?” he manages to ask. She bites her lip, but doesn’t say anything, instead choosing to put pressure to her head to quell the ache that’s just doubled in intensity.

“If de chien sale took advantage of you-” Remy starts before Rogue immediately interrupts.

“No! Well...maybe. I mean, I agreed to... everything,” she mutters, looking down for a moment. Rogue suddenly doesn’t like this conversation anymore, or the way it’s making her feel, because she feels young, unsure of herself, blind. In fact, she’s felt that way ever since she regrettably ran into the miserable feral bastard. And she’s done it all to herself.

“Why’d you bring him here den, chere?” he asks carefully, practically reading her mind. Rogue blinks at him once more, before sighing. She feels the need, the want, to be as honest as she can with her lover, and with herself. And Rogue’s starting to get the feeling that, if she’s not, Remy could probably suspect it. So, she tries.

“I...I don’t know. But he knows something, babe. And as soon as we find out what he knows, I want him gone,” she mutters, finally moving away from Remy, peeling the sheets off her and standing to stretch in the morning light.

“Remy could easily arrange that ,” he mutters. He’s magically procured a playing card from the desk where they’re scattered and is now flipping it deftly back and forth between his lithe fingers, even as his eyes stay settled on Rogue’s curves. She turns back to him and smirks.

“I appreciate that. But there’s no need to go to the trouble, sugar. Who knows if he’s even still here,” she says, before padding onto the cold marble of Remy’s washroom.

“Rogue…” Remy mumrus, still from bed. She pops her head out of the door, raising one eyebrow at him

“You done with him though, oui ?” he asks. She sighs, biting her lip once more before cocking a brow and sauntering back into his room. His attention is now solely focused on her.

“ Yes ,” she says, before touseling his hair and leaning downward to kiss him deeply.




---

Ten minutes later, every single X-Man looks miserable and exhausted as they wait in the War Room, and it’s the first time Rogue notices everyone is accounted for. Kurt and Beast talk hushedly in the corner, Bobby has his head down on the table like a hungover teenager, and Storm is rubbing her temples tiredly. Jean and Scott sit together, but aren’t speaking, at least not vocally. A few of the other junior staff members, Hisako, Megan and Sam, sit further to the back as Remy and Rogue are some of the last to file in. Rogue plops into a chair, still very aware of her cloying headache, as Remy sweetly hands her a mug of steaming hazelnut coffee he had made her on the way out, and she shoots him an appreciative smile as a thank you. She sips it idly, her attention flitting to what she can make out of Kurt and Hank’s conversation, but she only catches every third or fourth word. Kurt must sense her eavesdropping, because gives her a friendly nod from across the table, until his smile falls, catching something and behind Rogue. Rogue frowns too, as she turns around just to watch the Professor enter, and, trailing behind him, brooding and dark, but also freshly showered and shaved, Logan. Rogue’s fingers grip her mug of coffee more tightly as her stomach clenches. Now, especially, he looks exactly like the man who had fucked her in the back of his trailer all those years ago. The tension must be pouring off Rogue, because Remy clears his throat, shooting her a look. “So apparently not gone, petit ,” Remy barely whispers, and instantly Logan’s harsh, hazel eyes glance over to the pair of them fiercely. Rogue grimaces, before attempting replacing the look with one of confidence, even as her head throbs all the more violently.

You owe him nothing, a voice whispers to her in her own mind, and she realizes, surprisingly, it’s Jean that’s telling her this. Rogue shoots a look at the older woman, her privacy feeling suddenly very violated.

Sorry, but he’s projecting. A lot, she mentally murmurs, as she shoots Rogue an apologetic look. Rogue frowns even more so, and sinks down in her seat, wishing she could phase through the floor like Kitty used to, just as the Professor starts speaking.

“Thank you all for joining me so early this morning. Scott, if you’d like to start the debrief,” he gestures to the team leader, but Scott, just as surprised as everyone else in the room, is eyeing Logan suspiciously, who has taken a seat next to the professor and is scowling in everyone’s general direction.

“So, Charles. Our hostage is...staying?” Scott asks, and Rogue hears Logan audibly growl, even as the Professor clarifies.

“No longer a hostage. Everyone, this is Logan, and he’s our guest. I’ve offered him a room and have returned his belongings. He will be staying with us for a couple of days on his own volition, as I provide him assistance on some personal matters,” Charles explains. Something once more clenches inside of Rogue, and she can do nothing about the chagrin radiating off her. She feels Jean still staring at her, and she wishes she wouldn’t. As if on cue, Jean looks away, suddenly very interested in inspecting her nails.

“So is our... guest staying for the meeting?” Scott presses.

“Seems like it, Slim,” Logan growls, and Scott throws him a look that’s remarkably clear what he thinks of this decision, even through his crimson glasses, before quickly typing something into the computer at the front of the room and summoning marked-up blueprints of the lab from the previous night.

“After three days of carefully planned recon, we somehow missed the set-up and detonating of a large explosive blast near the perimeter of the building. Along with Mr. uhh Logan’s presence, there seems to be a third party at work here. We’re not sure who intervened or for what purpose, but most of the product that was being distributed via Shanghai Petrochemical was destroyed before we ever made our way inside,” Scott finishes.

“It was the General,” Logan growls and every mutant in the room suddenly is staring wildly at the stranger.

“Excuse me?” Scott asks.

“The explosion. Pretty sure that was him. He got wind of you all. Sloppy recon. Destroy the evidence,” he mutters into a mug of coffee he’s drinking that currently sports the Xavier’s logo. For some reason, this puts Rogue off immensely, as she swallows the bile that is currently trying to rise in her throat.

“We don’t have evidence that the General was behind the lab,” Scott says curtly, but Logan is already shaking his head.

“He’s got his hands in all the cookie jars, Scooter. The lab workers, they were all Army. Didn’t your folks notice the tattoos?” he asks, shooting a accusatory look in Rogue’s direction. “Shanghai might be supplyin’ them, and the government might be condoning all this shit, but it’s Army-sanctioned, that’s for fuckin’ sure,” he says smugly, and Rogue’s anger spikes at his hypocrisy. Shanghai Petrochemical is a subsidiary of Sinopec. Every mutant knows that. The Sinopec that Logan, so many years ago, was employed by.

“And why do you care?” Rogue blurts out before she can help herself, and his eyes are burning into her in an instant. Remy’s got a hand on Rogue’s own, but she swats it off quickly. Remarkably, it’s the Professor who speaks next.

“Logan is here to learn more about the General and his potential whereabouts, Rogue. If the General has something to do with this, we need to know,” Charles states calmly.

“But why would the General want to destroy his own product?” Bobby asks suddenly, and Logan only snorts in response.

“Kid, don’t be naive. There are hundreds of these fucking labs all over the world. Ain’t gonna hurt him one bit to give up one of ‘em to make sure the product ain’t gonna fall into the wrong hands,” he says once more.

“And at least we’ve made some headway on that front, thanks to Kurt,” Scott butts in, once more taking control of the conversation. “Hank, would you care to enlighten us?”

Hank sighs, running a large paw through the blue fur of his hair. “I’m afraid this is far worse than we fear. I’ve been running tests on the materials all night, and I do not have much for you yet, but this seems to be nothing like the detection devices we believed them to be making.” At this, a chill shoots down Rogue’s spine, just as Remy once more is whispers, “ Chere” to her. She looks up to him, only to follow his gaze back down to her hand, which has squeezed the metal of the table so hard she’s made permanent dents in it. She immediately withdrawals it as if she’s been burned, and, taking a quick glance at Logan, she notices his eyes are also staring at the ruined edge of the table before he looks her directly in the eyes once more.

Fuck.

For the rest of the meeting, Logan is mainly silent. The typical debriefing protocol follows, along with the basic housekeeping matters related to both the upcoming school week and any proposed missions. Luckily, matters on the agenda were blessedly brief, as Scott gives the orders all missions will be held off until Hank can further inspect the product they managed to secure from the lab. As soon as the meeting is adjourned, Logan trudges out quickly, and Rogue feels her anger spike again. The way he’d been drinking his coffee, throwing out suggestions, at times even giving orders, it more than irked her. This was her refuge, her home, and she’d be damned if she was going to let him stroll out of the War Room like he fucking owned the place.

“Excuse me,” she mutters to Remy, and before he can stop her she gets up quickly and stalks toward the man who had betrayed her, who had ruined her, who had turned her life into a living nightmare. It was time to talk.




Logan

He knows it’s gonna happen before it does. It ain’t hard to hear those feet plod down the hallway, gaining speed, and he’s in no mood for whatever shit she plans to fling at him. He’s no idiot though; he sees the inevitable when it’s starin’ right at him. Anticipating the blows before they happen, he darts into his guest room easily enough, as he’d be damned if the whole gaggle of freaks heard the shouting match that was bound to take place. And after last night’s stunt, the harlot had whatever was comin’ to her.

He has time to barely turn around when she’s fuming in his doorway. He can’t help but snort, turning on his heel once more to paw at the mostly-empty bottle of brandy the Elf had bribed him with last night, before she starts spittin’ profanities at him.

“Listen, you hairy, good-for-nothing, sadistic asshole bastard,” she begins, before he rounds on her. She doesn’t flinch as he gets close and then moves past her to shut the door behind the woman who’s lookin’ to give him hell.

“Proceed,” he grounds out, downing the glass of brandy in one single gulp. She looks at him with disgust, still fuming.

“I see you’re still the same goddamn alcoholic you always were,” she spits, and he can’t help but bark out a laugh.

“Seein’ as I can still smell the gin on your breath, kid, you might check yer hypocrisy at the fucking door,” he snarls, stalking past her again to grab the bottle once more.

“ My hypocrisy?!” she hisses. He only blinks at her, before willing himself, with every inch of control he had learned in the past few years, to slow his breathing. To calm the fuck down. If only so he didn’t do anything he might faintly regret.

“Listen, kid. Before you keep running that foul mouth of yers, how about I remind your forgetful ass that you dragged me here, yeah? And I ain’t fuckin’ interested at all in whatever shit you wanna blame on me,” he mutters, quickly and effectively polishing off the bottle. She’s got her thin arms crossed in front of that same-as-ever ample chest, and he can’t help but growl. He hadn’t wanted to go to that fucking meeting as much as she wanted him to be there, but Chuck had insisted, and after he had learned how fuckin’ clueless they all seemed to be, he had decided it was best if he schooled ‘em on a few important issues.

“I-” she stammers, before exhaling deeply, letting her arms drop. Her anger is still smoldering, but the point he’s made has taken some of the wind out of her sails, thank fuck.

“I only brought you here, James Howlett, because I want information. You know things we don’t,” she mutters, before grimacing slightly, clasping her head in what looks like pain. Serves her right, with how loud she was fucking that cajun swamp rat last night and how much she was slurrin’ her words. Hope she has the fucking hangover to end ‘em all.

“Well that’s for fuckin’ sure,” he spits, scrounging around for a pack of cigars on the desk and shakilly lighting one, seeing as he had run out of his typical vice.

“ Why are you staying? We let you go. Why do you care about any of this? And why the hell were you gutting Army members practically alongside us last night?”

Logan sighs, breathing out a puff of tobacco smoke as he does so, before he turns to her once more.

“Listen kid, my business is my business. And don’t you dare think for a second that you know me well enough to guess at my intentions or doubt my reasons for havin’ ‘em,” he mutters, snubbing out the cigar forcefully on the ashtray.

“You… ugh,” she manages, suddenly plopping down exasperatedly on his freshly-made bed. Fucking wonderful, he thinks to himself. Now the whole goddamn room is gonna smell like this crazy, deranged woman.

“Trust me,” he retorts. “As soon as I get what I need, I’m gone. I can’t fucking stand this place. Stuck on lofty ideologies and empty promises, catering to a buncha self-entitled, renegade purists ,” he snarls, taking up to pacing the tight space Rogue’s given him. He should really just pick her up and haul her ass out of here, even if he has it on good authority she could likely do the same.

“ Purists?” she snaps. He holds his tongue from continuing down that path, sighing once more.

“Look, kid. I’m not interested in diggin’ up the past if that’s what you’re-” At this, Rogue snorts and interrupts him.

“ Of course you’re not. Why would you own up to all the deranged, stupid shit you put me through?” Rogue hisses, and at this Logan pauses and carefully turns, as something deep inside his chest lurches.

“Is that...is that what you actually fuckin’ think , Rogue?” Logan asks truthfully, before he can stop himself. His question immediately puts her off, leaves her tongue-tied as he struggles with the conception of himself she’s just laid at his feet.

“You...you used me,” she murmurs defeatedly, and he watches as she wraps her arms around her thin frame. Any trace of baby fat, of youth, has been erased from her features. She’s lean and hard now. He’s careful with what he says next.

“I recall you sayin’ you wanted to be used,” he barely growls out.

“And you took a frightened, impressionable seventeen-year-old girl at her word,” she whispers viciously.

“Only because I thought she wasn’t so stupid that she couldn’t understand a basic warning when she heard one,” Logan snarls. And that’s it...something changes, something breaks, and she blinks her glossy eyes, standing stubbornly.

“Get what you need out of this place, and leave,” she says vehemently. “And don’t ever fucking come back,” she mutters, turning on her heel to leave. He growls, but says nothing, as he lets her walk out of the door and past the three or four kids who had gathered around it. He snarls, stalking forward, and glares at them.

“Get the fuck out of here unless you wanna lose a limb,” he barks, before slamming the door in all their faces behind him.




--

The rain’s nothing but a soft pattering outside, and the muted light casts shadows on her skin, even as he leans down to take her mouth once more.

“No,” she manages to say after the passionate kiss, and he growls, before moving to her neck and nuzzling into it, finding solace.

“Once more,” he barely is able to communicate, but he already feels her shaking her head at him.

“Absolutely not. I’m a human being, Logan. I need sustenance. Rest,” she mutters, cradling the side of his head in her palm, even as he hovers over her. He growls at her gently, but she only smiles, and he lets her turn him so his back is flat on their messy, rumpled sheets. Outside, the rain picks up. Always, everyday, in San Francisco, the rain.

She gently draws circles into his chest, as he breathes out, understanding that maybe he deserves this kind of physical torture she’s inflicting on him.

“But yer on call tonight, darlin’,” he mutters, and she only smiles at him, albeit a bit sadly.

“And you’ve been off on a fishing boat for the past four weeks,” she mutters, before kissing the side of his jaw once more.

“Tis the season,” he jokes, but as he looks at her again, he notices something in her eyes has gone dark. He sits up a bit more, putting his face into her neck, before gently placing his teeth at her pulse and biting down slightly. She gasps a little, and he growls in satisfaction, but even as he lifts himself off her, the look remains.

“What is it, babe?” he asks quietly.

She bites that full lip of hers, before murmuring, “Were you ever in love...before?” His faint grin fades and his brows furrow as he considers her question, and wonders what made her ask it.

“This life or the past one?” he mutters, and she frowns, once more bringing her lips up to gently press them to his. They both know what he means. In the last two years, a tumultuous swarm of memories have returned to him, along with the knowledge that he’s likely closer to two hundred years old than not.

“The one...you remember best,” she murmurs, lying back on the pillow once more. Logan blinks at her, as something deep inside of his heart quivers. The pitch dark black of the Canadian wilderness. Snow so deep at times it would pass the windows. A spread of brown hair on a thin, cheap pillow. The tinny hum of the camper heat coming on.

“Yeah, darlin’,” he finally murmurs. “Yeah. I think so.” She frowns slightly, running a soft hand through his unruly hair, before whispering, “What happened?”

Once more he frowns, before lying completely back down on the mattress and exhaling steadily.

“What always does. I fucked it up,” he admits, and he realizes his hands have formed into fists at his sides.

“Did she love you?” Itsu’s voice is barely above a whisper, and he wonders why she needs to know this. Maybe so she can see you as more human, the cynic in him ponders, and he frowns more deeply before responding.

“I...don’t know,” he grumbles, before adding, “Enough of this…” He once more kisses her deeply, his tongue rolling over hers. She moans in response. But still, she pulls back after it’s over, looking at him intently.

“It is ok... to have a past,” she says simply.

“Or several lifetimes’ worth,” he mumbles before he can help himself, casting his gaze downward.

“N“,” she says, getting his attention, threading her fingers through his, slowly dragging them over the outline of his hands, pressing her fingers tenderly between the sensitive places between his knuckles, just as a chill runs down his spine.

“Just because we are different, does not make me afraid,” she lazily whispers in his ear. He offers her an indistinct growl, before glumly adding, “Maybe you should be.” She squeezes her hand tighter around his.

“Stop this self-pitying. It’s not like you,” she says firmly. He sighs, realizing, of course, she’s right, before his mind flits to another source of trouble that’s been lingering in the recesses of his brain.

“Listen darlin’, these laws they’ve passed,” he begins, before she cuts him off with a frown.

“I don’t want to talk about them,” she interjects, but he brings a finger to her chin so she has to look him in the eye once more.

“You know I’d marry ya if I could,” he murmurs. She blinks at him through a soft smile.

“Anata wa watashi no ottodesu, hōritsu ga nani o itte mo, Yūkan'na,” she whispers in his ear, and he growls contently in response. The last part’s a nickname she’s only given to him. He knows, now, that this is one of the most profound signs in her culture of love. He gives in, then, and sighs, moving to sit up in bed.

“Ok, darlin’. Sustenance. Tea?” he asks.

“Please,” she smiles coyly, and he can’t help but grin at her once more.



--

He meditates for hours to calm down. He stays for long, unwinding stretches deep in his own mind, rooting himself to the earth, grounding himself in all the concrete, sturdy things he’s always placed his faith in. The natural order of things. The simple flow of life and energy through time. When he finally comes to himself, he can breathe again, although the sun has long-since set in the sky. He sniffs the air curiously, wondering what he’s missed, as he slowly gets up off the floor. His stomach grumbles in hunger, but he deftly ignores it, intent, instead, on booze.

He plucks out a google search on his phone and finds only human bars in a close radius.

“ Fuck ,” he mutters to himself, before deciding that it would have to do. It only takes another sniff of the air in search of the stench of oil to navigate himself to the expansive garage, and his eyes easily settle on what he needs. A brand new, sleek Davidson Electra Glide. He practically salivates at its beauty as he easily shoves a claw into the ignition, jerking upward to hotwire it. It howls to life quickly enough, and he’s hightailing it into the dark as easily if the bike had been his own.

A handful of minutes later, he gives the bouncer a fake H-ID number, one of several he’s recently used, and slides into the bar easily enough. The music is loud and pounding and it’s not the sort of joint he would choose, but as long as the fuckin’ booze is flowing, he’s more than satisfied. And it is. He orders a double whiskey and effectively puts it away before ordering another, easily pawing for a hundred dollar bill out of his leather jacket pocket. He nurses the second, taking a glance around the club, when his nose dutifully picks up the scent.

Her scent.

He sniffs the air again, and this time he follows it to the center of a crowded, sweaty dance floor, to see Rogue, up against some human woman, dancing as if her soul was on fire. He should be angry, he should be pissed he managed to pick the one bar in town she’s at, but, instead, he smirks. He watches her lithe form move fluidly in time to the music, his left brow arched in curiosity as he downs the second drink. Another’s been replaced, along with a bottle, and Logan passes another hundred to the bartender, intent to stay settled in for the night. There’s no way, in this packed and seething place, she would ever notice he’s there.

For over an hour, she dances. The sweat pours off her, and her scent is sweet and thick and wanting. It’s a scent he hasn’t smelled in a decade, and it makes him want to drink. He’s finally able to appreciate her, and the woman she’s become, mainly because she doesn’t know he’s here and also because she’s not hurling expletives at him, and he’s smart enough to shut up and be grateful for the experience.

It’s only until she starts kissing some random stranger, hard, that he gets agitated. He watches, helplessly, as a woman and a man grab her by the hand, lead her off the dance floor and into the hallway. Logan can’t help the snarl that escapes his lips. He deliberately turns down his hearing, deciding he doesn’t wanna listen to her fuck another person or more two nights in a row. He takes his time, polishing off the entire bottle to receive just the faintest of highs, before he decides he’s had enough. He pays up, and stalks off in the opposite direction Rogue and the others had gone. He’s outside to be greeted by the warm, summer air, but, to his surprise, he sees her, unaccompanied but smelling like sex, fiddling with the keys to a bike. His bike. The bike he left her with.

That was fucking quick, he thinks bitterly, even as he stand only a few paces away from her. She’s intoxicated, and probably high, and he watches as she drunkenly drops the keys, and then he decides he doesn't want to hear the news in the morning that her body’s been wrapped around a tree trunk, so he steps forward, quietly.

“Hey, kid,” he murmurs, boots crunching on gravel as he walks toward her. She hazily stares up at him, confused, until her eyes fly open wide.

“ You,” she spits, before hoisting her leg over the body of the bike. He whips out a hand over hers, realizing purposefully he’s just touched her bare skin for the first time without feeling like his insides are being ripped out of his body, before yanking the keys from her hand.

“Hey!” she grouses, but he’s already shaking his head at her.

“Nobody needs to die tonight, darlin’, even the likes of you,” he growls, flinging them around his finger. She stares at him hard for a few minutes, before she practically loses consciousness, swaying on the spot. He has an instinctive hand to her shoulder to steady her, which she easily shrugs off, spitting a “Let go of me,” and he immediately does so, knowing full-well she doesn’t realize that those were the last words she’d spoken to him over ten years ago.

“You need a ride?” he still manages to ask, and then, remembering the events of the past two days, bitterly adds, “I’m sure I can sneak ya past Gumbo’s room, if he doesn’t know yer out fuckin’ random strangers. Humans, no less. What would yer precious X-Men say?” She shoots him a foul look, but says nothing, before, silently and without any effort at all, lifts herself up into the air a few feet.

Fuck. At some point, Rogue’s killed someone who can fly.

“Impressive,” he snorts, and she rolls her eyes at him. “Why take the fuckin’ bike at all, then?” he asks with an arched brow. She frowns and says nothing, before deftly disappearing into the black night, silent as can be. He sighs, dumbstruck by what he’s just witnessed, now staring at the set of keys still in his hand, before glancing down at the old Harley Rogue’s somehow managed to keep runnin’ all this time.

“Hello again, you piece of shit,” he drunkenly grumbles to the bike, and decides, against his better judgement, to rev the engine, kick the throttle, and take off onto the winding, black roads of upstate New York.
Twenty One by englishmajor226
Author's Notes:
The paragraph describing the mountain is adapted from a heartbreaking scene from the comics (Wolverine, vol. 4 (2010) no. 15) that I wanted to pay homage to.
Twenty one



Logan

A day passes. Then another. Then another. Three days of pacing, waiting, growing more impatient and frustrated. One of the telepaths Logan doesn't know had been dispatched to New York City to see what intel they may be able to find for him, and they hadn’t yet heard back. For most of this time, he’d been keeping to his room mostly, drinking and largely avoiding the students and other adults. And if he’s being entirely honest with himself, he’s especially kept out of Rogue’s way, particularly since, after much thought about it, he’d realized he’d acted like a fucking asshole that night outside the bar. He’s still sore over her forcing his hand here, but, if it does turn into a lead for the General, then he’s got no right to hold it against her, whatever her own motives, whatever crackpot crew she’s hitched her wagon to nowadays.

And speaking of that wagon, Logan is starting to realize that there are many things about the school that more than irk him. He had largely avoided the news in the most recent years with Itsu, especially as things grew worse, but sometimes she would tell him snippets of stories, tales of mutants’ rights groups and their “it’s-us-or-them” politics. He’s startin’ to think this place might be like that. Every once in awhile when he’d cast his hearing out and listen in on a lecture, and based off the few briefings he’d been to, he’s startin’ to suspect there’s some real ideological grooming going on here, like puttin’ lipstick on a pig and callin’ it something other than what it is. Westchester might be a safe haven, but it ain’t immune to speciesism; the slurs for humans he sometimes hears from the young ones in the hallways right outside his fucking door that make his blood run cold tell him as much. And while he knows that the adults don’t outwardly condone that sort of behavior, it’s the narrative they’re spinnin’, the distance they’re creating, the walls and trimmed hedges that got put up between us and them. Logan doesn’t know a lot, but he knows, in all of his fucking experience, that shit’s toxic. You spend too much time alone in a bunker with Malcolm X and you forget the ways of MLK. Separation is separation. Hate is hate.

Something inside of Logan quivers, and he shuts his eyes tightly, intent on pouring more whiskey down his throat. Hate is hate. She’d say that sometimes, especially toward the end, when shit got bad. To remind him, to soothe him. Absolute hate, even of evil, leads to nothing but sorrow and bitterness. Itsu had been a pacifist, and pretty much had made Logan into one late into their relationship. But hate is what killed her. And hate is what’s fueling him now.

Another slug of whiskey. Another wasted hour. Another empty moment without her.

And then, a foreign voice in his head. Fuck this school and its fucking telepaths, Logan thinks, just as he gets the message.

Noted, Logan. But, despite your sentiment, would you care to meet me in the sub-basement in Dr. McCoy’s lab? First door on the left. We have news you might find intriguing.

Logan lets out a low growl as he polishes off the bottle, setting it down roughly on the desk of his room, and shrugging on a red flannel he’d removed to meditate and later on drink. He reminds himself, as he slinks out the door and pass the throngs of students that are moving between classes, of why he’s here. The only reason.

His first attempt to deal with the beast’s howling grief was to throw himself off a fucking mountain up north in Yosemite. He’d still fuckin’ dream about it, even months later, and it feels as real now as it did then. He would climb. Day. Night. He hadn’t noticed the difference. In the thick of it, he didn’t know how long, how many times he’d been up on that mountain. He hadn’t known anything but the cut of the rocks on his hands and the taste of blood on his tongue. He didn’t know anything but the need to climb. It would take hours to reach the top, and yet, every time he had paused there, only a moment. Just long enough to remember why he was there. And then…. down, down, down. There was a moment after he had hit the rocks and his brains had turned to pulp, there was a moment where everything went black. And for three, sometimes four whole seconds, he had been without pain. Without despair or shame, without thought or feeling of any kind. But then, like always, his brain started to reknit itself, his guts slithered back into his belly, and his lungs once more filled with air.

After her death, he’d done it for weeks. He had hoped, maybe, if he’d done it long enough, he would have starved to death. Or his body would have finally just given up and stayed broken and unhealing on the forest floor. But other than those three or four seconds, he had found nothing but the pain he knew he deserved, but, after a while, the pain he could no longer take. So he’d moved on and had concocted another plan.

Rippin’ out the jugular of the kingpin’s throat is sure to bring him no solace, but it might, finally, quiet the animal’s howl of grief.




--

It doesn’t take too long to find the lab, as easy as it is to sniff out McCoy. He ain’t seen a mutant so feral-lookin’ and yet, by the sound of him, he might as well be some fancy to-do from an Ivy League get-up. Through a steel metal door, his hair is already standing on end. It’s a medical facility, and the stench of rubbing alcohol burns his nose. There ain’t nothing natural in this room, and he tries to quell the growing anxiety in him. Ever since the fucking memories of Alkali had returned, he hates this fucking shit. Even Itsu’s lab had made his skin crawl, and most of the time if he ever had to pick her up after work she’d walk out to meet him.

Over some paperwork at a desk on the far end are the two, talking lowly. He doesn’t bother to be polite and rudely interrupts them both, suspicious and uncertain of why he’s down here alone.

“Chuck...Blue…. What is this?” he mutters, and at the same time both mutants glance upward to him. Blue has a mild scowl on his face; the Professor forces a smile.

“ Dr. Hank McCoy has isolated the virus and has been able to extract vital information concerning its infrastructure,” the Professor murmurs, gesturing to a glass slide under a microscope. Logan shoves down the memory of sets of clean ones that sometimes littered he and Itsu’s small apartment in California. He had shelled out some serious cash to buy her a decent microscope for Christmas two years ago.

Thank you, Yūkan'na , she had said.

“That so?” Logan mutters through another shake of his head, coming back to the moment. “What shit is the Army cookin’ up, then?” he snarls.

“In a term, it’s an attempt at a gene drive,” Hank states clearly. Logan only blinks at him, even as he racks his brain for some of the medical knowledge he’d picked up over the years from Itsu. Still though, nothing.

“Gonna have to give me more than that, doc,” he mutters through crossed arms. McCoy shoots a look to Charles, and Charles offers him a small nod, before Hank elaborates further.

“Essentially, gene drives propagate a particular suite of genes throughout a population. They have, in the past, provided an effective means of genetically modifying specific populations, and, at times, entire species,” McCoy explains. Logan lets out a low, sarcastic whistle.

“Gene modification eh? Modifying ‘em to do what?”

“Sterilization, mostly. I myself developed and engineered the initial protocol during some post doctoral work. It began with altering the genetic code of mosquitos,” Hank explains.

“But ain’t mosquitos extinct?” Logan asks. At this moment, the blue mutant practically grins, and Logan can’t quite get the bad taste out of his mouth.

“Now you know why,” McCoy states proudly. Logan can't help but let out a low snarl, fully intent to let whatever animal deep inside McCoy know what he thinks of that smug attitude and god-like ego.

“Doesn’t seem right, messin’ with nature like that,” Logan grumbles, turning to Charles. The old man hasn’t said a word since this back-and-forth started, and still says nothing as he raises his eyebrows at Logan, before silently turning to Hank once more.

“We saved half a million lives, human and mutant, developing that prototype,” McCoy almost growls. So the Beast is in there somewhere, Logan thinks smugly.

“And how many mutants are the there on this rock the humans are lookin’ to sterilize? ‘Round 30 million?” he snarls, looking to them both. Hank sighs, running a hand through his blue fur before once more looking over to Xavier. Xavier again says nothing from his chair, which further frustrates Logan.

“So. This seems like some big fuckin’ news.

You mind telling’ me, Chuck, why you’re sharing this shit with me, and not Cyke and the rest of your team?” Logan says through a scowl, arms even more tightly folded across his chest. Finally, Xavier speaks, his voice even and careful.

“Logan, this information changes everything . In ways, it is the last piece to the puzzle, and, in others, it is something we never could have anticipated. The point is we have reason to believe, based off of intel from our former mission, that the children from the Staten Island zoo are being injected with test versions of these very gene drives,” he finishes, his hands folded together closely in thought, almost as if the man’s praying to some sort of invisible god.

At this, Logan can feel the physical reaction of his body. Something deep in his gut feels rotten at the injustice of it all, even as his blood sings and his claws itch in his arms at the thought of finding the General.

“And you found the new location?” Logan asks tersely.

“Yes. It’s been relocated to one of their main bases,” Charles says curtly.

“And you want me to infiltrate it,” Logan finishes the unspoken request for Xavier. Charles only nods.

“We have reason to believe the General could be there.”

“Yeah, no shit. But that’s not all you want outta me,” Logan mutters.

“No,” Charles says.

“You want me to save those kids…”

“Yes,” the Professor says once more. And then Logan tastes the meaning on the air, and once more his body is pulsing with the promise of murder.

“And you want me to kill every single one of those fucks inside that hurt ‘em. That’s why yer telling me and not Slim,” Logan growls.

Charles only blinks at him, before shooting a silent look to McCoy and then turning back to Logan. When he doesn’t say anything again, Logan finds himself losing a bit of respect for the old man. He won’t agree to the truth of what he wants. He fucking can’t.

“Doesn’t that fly right in the face of some of those lofty X-Men morals, Chuck?” Logan presses in his anger. Xavier frowns for a moment, before continuing on carefully.

“These are desperate times, Logan. And we both benefit from your...service,” he adds, once more folding his hands in front of him. Logan snorts.

“This ain’t the first time I been used for somethin’ like that,” he grumbles. At this, Xavier nods.

“I know. But I would like you to think of this as a quid pro quo. You get your revenge… and the school provides a haven for the children,” Xavier finishes. Logan finally uncrosses his arms, suddenly desperate to hightail the fuck out of the foreboding smells and sights of the lab.

“Well, Chuck,” Logan murmurs, looking once more around the place. “Seems like you got yourself a deal.”



--

Of the few things he owns, most of it is carelessly tossed into his pack after his meeting in the lab. He downs what’s left of the whiskey, makes the bed. He laces his boots up quickly enough, and walks over to the nightstand to grab his wallet and watch. It’s then that he frowns, as he looks down at the small carved wooden turtle that he had placed on the bed stand a few nights before, the first night he had arrived and made careful inventory of his things after reaching his room. He picks it up slowly, as polished, cherrywood eyes stare back at him blankly. He simply grips it tightly for a moment, running his thumb over the grooves of its wooden shell, before murmuring to himself, “I ain’t sure what I’m doin’ anymore, baby.”

Just then though, footsteps right outside his door, and he’s realized, in his haste, he’s left it wide open. Rogue clears her throat from where she lingers in the doorway, and he quickly shoves the rest of his shit, including the turtle he normally handles with care, into the pack and zips it up.

“You’re leaving,” she mutters. She’s adorned in a black long-sleeved top, grey cargo pants, and combat boots. She looks like she’s about to jump out of a fucking plane.

“I got what I need,” he murmurs, before turning to snag his leather jacket from where he’s hung it on the back of the desk chair.

“That right?” she asks, moving into the room a little bit more, an unreadable expression on her features. He sighs, even as he slings his pack over his shoulder. Maybe it was the feeling of being caught in an intimate moment, or perhaps the feeling of the guilt from earlier, or maybe it’s just the goddamn way she’s looking at him, but he finds himself speaking once more, his tone terse, but polite enough.

“Listen, kid. It wasn’t right, what I did or the shit I said the other night. Outside of that shithole of a bar. A person like me’s got no right judging anyone on their business,” he mutters, hand tightening on the bag. She only blinks at him, still expressionless, and his legs move on their own accord, walking to stand square in front of her.

“You got every right to hate me,” he mutters. At this, Rogue sighs frustratingly, uncrossing her arms with the need to fidget.

“I don’t...I mean… I-” she stammers, before he cuts her off.

“-You do. I can see it smoldering in yer eyes. I can smell it on ya,” he says, and, before he can think better, he rests a heavy hand on her thin shoulder. “And maybe you should. Either way… the last thing you need is me commentin’ on the state of yer affairs . ”

Something about how he says this, even though he meant it as genuine, has her snapping out of the trance he had unintentionally put her in, and she immediately shrugs off his hand with one sharp jerk of her shoulder.

“No. No, I don’t,” she mutters bitterly. He can’t help but smirk at her fire for a moment, before letting it go and walking toward the door. Just then, though, a thought strikes him. There was somethin’, even with all the bullshit, somethin’ he’d been meaning to tell her, and he stops in the doorway, looking back in her direction.

But...what he finds is a woman that looks relieved. Relieved he’s leaving. Relieved he’ll once more be out of her life. The way she’s always wanted it. He frowns deeply, and she looks annoyed as she mutters a “What? ” at him. Another defeated expression, and then he’s muttering, “S’nothing, darlin’. Take care, kid.”

He’s down the hallway and about to reach the stairs in the foyer when he hears her quietly murmur back to him, “You... too.”




Rogue

Rogue watches him go, jaw clenched and feet frozen to the floor. Her thoughts are inundated with confused and mixed signals-- from the weight of his hand on her shoulder to using the word “darlin’” to the simple and honest apology he had given her to the quiet thing she had caught him murmuring under his breath as she had approached his room. I ain’t sure what I’m doin’ anymore, baby.

Who had he been talking to? And where was he going? Still unable to move, she stares at the room, which she finally notices, perhaps for the first time, is meticulously clean. She had always thought Logan a slob, but as she stares at the bed, carefully made, her mind pulls her back into a memory that had noticed the same thing about the bed in the camper so long ago. All relics of booze and cigars, too, have been cleared away, although, if she took a deep breath in, she can tell it still smelled like him. Like tobacco and good bourbon and leather. She inhales again, deeply, savoring the scent, before she realizes she must be fucking crazy for doing so.

Quickly, she shakes herself out of her coma, choosing, instead, to stalk back to her own room across the hall. She had been so angry at him. So angry for calling her out for her transgressions, and accusing her of being some sort of dirty sinner for sleeping with humans. She isn’t sure where he got that load of garbage, but it had her fuming for days. It hadn’t sounded like the Logan she had known at all. He had hated all that mutant rights stuff, at least, in the short time she was with him and they had known about it. But that was ten years ago, a gnawing voice reminded her from the back of her mind. Nevertheless, she had deliberately avoided him, and most men, for the past few days in a desperate attempt to quell the growing insecurities in her own head.

As she makes her way back in the room, she finds herself biting her lip and pacing, before sloppily opening a bottle of Merlot and indulging heavily. For a while she simply exists like that, pacing her room and occasionally refilling her wine glass. When one bottle is empty she opens another, until her anxiety spikes, and she can do nothing for a moment but set down the wine glass and flop backward on her bed, exhaling exasperatingly.

He’s gone. That’s what you wanted, she reminds herself, just as there is a steady rap on the door. She groans, turning over so her face is in the pillow

“Go away,” Rogue mutters, before a woman’s voice fills her mind. Rogue, it’s not Remy. It’s me. Please let me in, just for a minute. I have news.

Jean.

Rogue blindly shuffles off the bed, realizing it’s still rather early to be as quickly intoxicated as she is, and opens the door to an older woman, bright red hair pulled back, a tired, concerned look on her face.

“Logan’s left,” she murmurs, even as she stands in the hall.

“Shhhhh,” Rogue whispers, grabbing Jean by the hand and pulling her inside. Jean stumbles forward, before straightening as Rogue slams the door shut from behind her.

“Rogue, I-” Jean begins, but Rogue is already stumbling toward the desk, reaching for a spare wine glass, now filling both up generously.

“I already know,” Rogue murmurs, handing Jean the second glass. Jean frowns, but takes it from Rogue, taking a rather large gulp.

“So he told you?” she asks calmly.

“Well….I ran into him. As he was leaving,” Rogue mutters, as she takes a spot on the bed. Jean awkwardly clears her throat, and Rogue encourages her to drink with a hand gesture. As long as she’s known Jean, the older woman has always seemed to be the perfectionist, forever spot-on, the equal of Scott Summers, certainly, but never one to unwind.

Rogue tipsily pats to a spot beside her on the bed, and Jean finally decides to sit. Jean seems restless, fidgety, even as she takes another sip of wine. Then, carefully and out of nowhere, she asks, “So you two were….lovers?”

It takes everything in Rogue to not spit her sip of wine out across the room. She coughs through the swallow, before sipping more wine, and looking to Jean with she’s sure is a flushed face.

“Yeah, uh, a long time ago,” Rogue murmurs, through another sip of wine. “Well….sort of more like...he took advantage of me.”

Jean’s eyebrows shoot up at that, and Rogue realizes she’s misspoken.

“Oh no! Not like..not like that. It’s just… I was young, and he wasn’t.”

“That’s not the way he sees it, you know,” Jean murmurs into her glass, before drinking once more. Rogue jerks her head over to the older woman, feeling both simultaneously helpless to plead for more information and angry that Logan wouldn’t fess up to the truth.

“Yeah, well, the perpetrator never does,” she grouses, turning once more to face forward, staring at a random spot on the thick, expensive rug that stretches across her room. Meanwhile, Jean is clearing her throat once more.

“I think…. Well. I think he thought you could... handle yourself. He...saw you as a woman,” she mutters, and Rogue’s eyebrows rise to her hairline. How the fuck did she know all this?

Rogue says nothing, but instead, stands, walking over to the bottle to refill their glasses. As she does so, Jean keeps talking.

“Rogue… you know Logan is… very old,” she murmurs. Rogue stops pouring at this, staring at Jean wildly, before setting her wine glass down, forgetting to refill it.

“What do you mean?” she asks carefully, suddenly remarkably sober.

“I… I shouldn’t say. But I saw memories... memories of a man from several decades back,” Jean stammers, clutching her wine glass with her thin, white fingers.

“He never….” Rogue begins, slowly sitting down once more beside her, wine glass forgotten.

“He didn’t know when he knew you,” she murmurs, and Rogue can’t help arch a skeptical eyebrow.

“You got all this from him projecting a little?” she asks carefully. Jean blushes as red as the wine she’s drinking, before answering quietly.

“Well, no. W-When Scott asked me to read his mind on the jet…. How do I put it? Ugh. Ummm, typically a person’s mind is fairly organized, with the most shallow and recent information, information they don’t particularly mind people seeing, presenting first. But… but Logan’s mind is a mess. I barely looked, and it was like an onslaught of an amalgamation of memories from every time in his life. Sort of like a cross between a child dealing with newly formed memories and an older person with dementia forever swimming, lost in them…” she finally trails off.

“How old is he?” Rogue breathes, practically unaware she’d even asked the question. Jean looks at her carefully, before shakily setting the glass down on Rogue’s bedside table.

“I….I saw memories of the civil war,” she murmurs, before looking up to Rogue once more.

Rogue blinks at Jean, unable to speak. Meanwhile, Jean keeps talking.

“He was... is ...an honorable man, whatever your opinion of him,” Jean practically whispers. Rogue is already shaking her head, looking down at her pale hands.

“Jean...if you knew what he’d done,” she hisses, before Jean interrupts.

“I...have an idea. But I also know, just by glancing in his mind...he’s saved….” she tapers off, closing her eyes for a moment, and when she’s opened them again they’re glossy. “He’s saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Rogue once more can’t speak for long moments, as her mind refuses to process this information. Logan had admitted to Rogue that his earliest memories were of living in a lean-to, practically as an animal, in northern Canada. When he’d touched her, the visual slideshow of his mind confirmed that. But if what Jean was saying was true...something... something terrible... must have happened to him to make him forget…. whole centuries.

Rogue shakes the thoughts away, suddenly grateful, perhaps for the first time, for Jean’s presence.

“You know…” Rogue trails off, finally looking at Jean. “This is the most we’ve ever spoken.” Jean once more blushes, before awkwardly adding, “Well...I do have a few years on you.”

“Jean...you’re like maybe only ten years older,” Rogue begins, but she’s interrupted.

“You always had Kitty, Jubilee, and I wasn’t in your class,” Jean murmurs. Rogue frowns, thoughts of her absent friends weighing heavily on her mind.

“You know...I’m here if you need me. Even if I’m the mom of the group…” she’s saying, but Rogue’s thoughts have suddenly jumped back to Logan and the way he hesitated in the doorway, and the way she heard him stride with purpose down the hall.

“Jean….” Rogue murmurs, looking up to the older woman once more.

“Yeah?” she asks cautiously.

“I need you to do me one more favor.”




”-

The stables are quiet in the pitch dark of night; only the occasional rustle of a horse punctuates the silence. Still though, she slips into the stables quietly and a couple of Xavier’s mares stir. She makes a gentle shushing noise to them, being sure to stroke one’s nose, before quietly walking the length of stalls, making her way to the back.

After waking up from the bar incident where she had encountered Logan, she remembered she had flown off without the Harley, and, the next morning, she had hurriedly flown back to the bar, careful to keep her cover, only to find it missing. She had been about to panic, when she noticed Scott’s Electroglide was there instead. Realizing what must have happened, she delivered Scott’s bike back to Xavier’s garage, and, curiosity getting the better of her, she had gone back to the stables to find the old bike right where it had been. God knows how Logan knew where she had stashed it, but there it was under its cover in the corner of the stables with the horses. Now, two days later, she’s grateful he’s returned it, because she needs it to leave in a way that doesn’t call attention to herself to track him down. Eerie, Pennsylvania. That’s what Jean had discovered with her subtle use of Cerebro. It wouldn’t make sense, not to a normal person. But Rogue knows, along with the other X-Men, that Eerie is supposedly home to a nondescript but sprawling underground hub of the Army. And if that’s where Logan is heading, she knows why. As she closes the distance between her and the bike, she hears a noise and sees an explosion of blue and black smoke, the form of Nightcrawler suddenly deftly perched on a rafter right above her head.

“Jesus fuck!” she exclaims, much to the disagreement and huff of the stallions and mares in their stables, but then realizing it’s Kurt she’s just cursed to, blushes and adds, “Uhhh. Sorry. The Lord’s name and all.” Kurt looks serious, eyes forever alit and bright, even as he fluidly drops from his perch and stands between her and the bike.

“All is forgiven, liebchen . I frightened you,” he says, before glancing the way of the covered bike.

“Where are you headed so late?” he asks through a raised brow. At this, Rogue’s temper flares at his nosiness, and she shoves past him, closer to the corner where she’s got the bike stashed.

“I don’t report to you, Kurt. But if you have to know, the bar,” she lies, making sure to keep her eyes to the ground, certain he could sense she was lying if she held his stare. Meanwhile, she can hear Kurts tsk from behind her.

“ Lüge nicht. You’re not dressed for such a place. Not near enough skin showing,” he says rudely, and, at this, she whips around to face him once more.

“Are you serious? How could you say such a thing? To me?”

“Take no offense. I don’t mean… it’s simply you’re dressed more like you're about to head out on a mission, rather than dance to music,” Kurt stammers, his hands up, looking as if he’s blocking during one of their sparring sessions. Finally, he drops them, bringing one up to run through his dark blue hair, before running it through his equally blue beard he’s been sporting these last few months.

“Is this about der Vielfrass ?” he asks finally. She doesn’t quite take his meaning, but she can infer what he’s saying.

“You mean Logan?” she asks simply.

“ Ja, bärchen,” he adds, and something about the nickname has her heart hurting. She’s betraying everyone right now, had lied to Remy in a note she left him and snuck past his room, was now lying and being awful to Kurt, her best friend since Kitty and Jubilee had left, just to chase a man down that she rightfully hates.

“Yes,” she chooses finally to be honest with this statement, and she can see Kurt’s face fall.

“You shouldn’t concern yourself with him,” he mutters bitterly, and, once more, her anger spikes.

“If he’s going where I think he’s going, he’s in way over his head,” she says.

“I’m sure he’s fine operating on his own,” Kurt retorts. Rogue bites her lip stubbornly, before, in a rush of emotion, she starts speaking again.

“Fine. Maybe….maybe this is about me . Our last mission. We failed , and it was my fault,” she spits. Kurt only blinks solemnly at her, before offering her a blue, only three-fingered hand, placing in gently on her shoulder, in just the same fashion Logan had done hours earlier.

“It was no one’s fault, liebling, ” he mutters. She only shakes her head though, once more on the verge of tears.

“Those children are gone, and we couldn't find them after, because of me . Because I couldn't absorb the ringleader in time,” she hisses. Kurt only blinks once more, before dropping his hand.

“So Logan is headed to the zoo,” Kurt says simply. Realizing what she’s just admitted to, she curses inwardly, before nodding quickly.

“Swear to me...Kurt, if you’ve ever valued our friendship, swear to me you’ll tell no one,” she murmurs. He blinks at her with those bright yellow eyes, before once more sighing.

“ Am Grab meiner Mutter. I am right though. You’re ein bär , Rogue. You fight like one. And in that, you can take care of yourself,” he mutters, and, before she can respond, he has disappeared once more in a swell of smoke.

“ Shit,” she says underneath her breath, but still stalks blindly over to the draped form of the bike. She pulls it back with one desperate tug, and she finds, unlike two days ago, only a stack of hay bales.

“ Fuck!” she says, whipping around wildly. Fuck you Logan, she thinks, before quickly walking out the stables, closing the door silently behind her and lifting into the sky. Riskier, for sure, but a damn lot quicker.
Twenty Two by englishmajor226
Twenty Two



Logan

He doesn’t have a good feeling about any of it. Somethin’s off in the air, especially as the light begins fading from the late summer sky. He’s currently on top of a five-story office building downtown, sweating his ass off, crouching with binoculars as he stares across the street at another old, abandoned office building. He had checked the address Charles had given him four fucking times, and this dump was it. It didn’t make sense, and it sure as hell didn’t look like anything he’d seen so far in New York or Los Angeles This part of downtown was a shithole, empty office buildings reminiscent of the overblown architecture of the nineteen nineties, now in disarray and neglect. Taped up windows. Scars of where garish signs had been drilled into the building’s exterior. But no Army. No fucking sign of any life leaving or entering the building in four fucking hours.

Again, he pricks his ears and sniffs the air deeply, and that’s when he catches it. It’s a scent, had the last few fucked-up days not happened, he would have thought he’d imagined it. But he can hear the rustling of clothing too, and her heart beating as well. He doesn’t move, doesn’t look up, but it doesn’t take much to sense Rogue is suddenly hovering several feet above him, clumsily spying on him from her perch in the sky.

“I know yer there, kid,” he gumbles loudly enough, and he can hear her “ fuck” in response. He only grunts, not even bothering to look up as he sits back from where he had been kneeling, still careful that no one can see him from the building next store, not that anyone's there to look, as he grumpily adds, “And get out of the fucking sky. Yer blowin’ my cover.”

She slowly descends, her feet silently hitting the gravel of the roof, immediately crouching next to him. She’s in a jet black tank, bare arms, hair tied up high, with the same military pants and black combat boots. He finally shoots her a look, unsure if he’s expected this, or not. Somehow, nothin’ surprises him when it comes to Rogue, especially now. Anything is fuckin’ possible.

“There’s no one around to blow a cover for. And you took my bike,” she grumbles, as she peers over the lip of the building, taking in the abandoned business complex.

“It’s technically my bike, and you weren't using it,” Logan mutters. At that, Rogue turns back to him, biting her lip for a moment before asking the obvious.

“What are you doing here, Logan?” she says.

“None of yer business,” he barks, instantly annoyed as he brings binoculars up once more to eye the front door of the dilapidated office park.

“Sorry. Wrong question. It’s painfully obvious what you’re doing. But why are you here?” she adds through an annoyed tone, but he ignores this particular question.

“I ain’t seen one person go in or out of this fucking place for four hours,” he responds instead, putting down the binoculares finally and wiping the sweat from his brow. “Ain’t that strange?” he adds.

Instead though, Rogue only rolls her eyes, crossing her thin arms more tightly around her chest. The last of the sunlight is running out, and now she blends in more with the backdrop of night behind her.

“For someone so desperate to find the General, you don’t know a lot about the Army,” she grumbles, and at that remark he throws her a look. He shouldn’t care, doesn't care, but he still asks, regardless.

“You fly all the way here to offer me a running critique?” he asks. Her eyebrows furrow as she frowns, before letting out a tired sigh.

“ No. Well, maybe. Not because I care. Or, it’s not about you. It’s just you’re about to fuck this all up, and I’m here to tell you you’re in over your head,” she mutters.

Logan, despite himself, can’t help but let out a bark of laughter at this. He’s lived in a fucking ditch in France during trench warfare, has stormed the beaches of Normandy, has survived entirely from raw, animal instinct for years. This ain’t nothing like being in over his head. But Rogue keeps on.

“I mean it. We’ve drawn up schematics on this place,” she says, gesturing once more to the empty building, before frustratingly pulling out a blocky device from a utility belt that’s a little too large to be a cell phone. A quick numerical entry and she’s showing him blueprints. “There are at least a dozen entry points to a series of underground warehouses. This place is sprawling… massive,” she finishes, willing him to understand through the use of pictures.

“You’ve got fucking schematics on this place and you haven’t infiltrated or bombed the fuck out of it it yet? Why?” Logan growls, staring at her wildly once more. Again she exhales frustratingly, shoving the device back on the belt when she notices he’s not all that interested in looking at her intel.

“The X-Men don’t bomb things. And infiltrating a base like this takes time. It takes planning,” she mutters, and he detects the patronizing tone in her voice, and, despite himself, he throws her a smirk and a cocked brow that she’s lectureing him. Of course, he knows this, but this is an extenuating and time-sensitive circumstance.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Rogue mutters, before continuing on. “Listen, I want to bring this fucker down as much as you do, but it’s not this easy. You can’t just waltz in there and mow them all over. There might be hundreds of Army members down there. We don’t know how-”

He cuts her off, as suddenly a noise off in the distance has him listening hard.

“Shut up,” he barks, throwing up a hand up to silence her. She’s smart enough to stop talking, but throws him a nasty look for being shushed, as he strains to make out the sound.

“I can hear it. Freight elevator in the southwest corner of the building. Movin’, three floors below.”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Rogue grumbles. “It’s in the fucking schematics.”

“That’s the way in,” he ignores her. “And the closer we get, the easier it will be to find those kids. Children’s heartbeats, they’re different,” he mutters, moving to stand from where he had been kneeling, shoving the binoculars back in his pack.

“I thought you were here to kill the general,” she hisses, even as she also stands.

“ I am. Yer gonna save the kids,” he mumbles, zipping up the back and slinging it over his shoulder

“I’m not doing anything,” she spits, crossing her arms in such a childish way his memory instantly takes him back to when he had known her last, as a scared, stubborn girl-almost-woman who he had pulled into the back of his camper so she didn’t die of fucking hypothermia.

“You sayin’ you gotta chance to save lives and yer not gonna take it?” he taunts, and at this her eyebrows raise to her hairline in skepticism, before she lets out a scoff and a laugh.

“I’d just be ripping out a page from your book,” she shoots back. He holds back a snarl, and tries a different tactic.

“Listen. The kids are here. I have it on good authority they are. Charles--” he begins, and silently curses himself for being an idiot and instantly shuts up.

“What?” she asks, eye going wide. He says nothing as she stares at him.

“What did Charles say?” she presses, but he’s already moving on.

“Nothin’. Listen. How strong are you?” he asks, changing the subject.

“Excuse me?”

“Maybe three people in my life have been able to knock me unconscious darlin’, for however brief, and yer one of ‘em. Congratulations. How strong are you?” he asks again.

“Strong,” she says, through narrowed, even eyes.

“How strong?” he presses, throwing a glance back over to the building. It was near dark now, thank fuck. They’d have to move and soon.

“I can throw a car across a football field,” she says, and he grins. Not only is this knowledge useful, he also knows he has her. She’s giving in. He can feel it. He humors her with a low whistle, and she rolls her eyes at him.

“And you can fly,” he adds.

“Obviously,” she grumbles. He nods, and grips his pack more tightly

“Meet in the southwest alley next to this building in an hour. I need a fuckin’ drink, and then we’re doin’ this,” he says through a savage grin. At this, Rogue frowns, clutching her shoulders in a way that tells him she’s not done talkin’.

“Logan-” she begins before he cuts her off.

“LIsten kid. You followed me, so you might as well pitch in a little,” he eggs her on, and finally she drops her hands before wiping the sweat collecting on her temple.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” she mutters.

“That’s more like it,” Logan says through a smirk.


--

He paces the tight space in the alley where he’s stashed the old bike and his belongings. He’s consumed a ridiculous amount of whiskey, but the effects are already fading. He isn’t sure, still, why he had been so fucking intent on gettin’ Rogue’s help, but now that he has it, if she shows up, he knows it’s gonna be fuckin’ invaluble, no matter how much she might be a pain in his ass. The truth is, his plan was simply to mow down a bunch of deranged fucks, but beyond that, he hadn’t thought much about how to spring the kids, in accordance with the deal he made with Xavier. He couldn’t fucking very well throw ‘em all on the back of his bike, and Westchester was a long way back.

The truth is he hasn’t been thinking clearly about any of this shit. He just needs his claws in the General’s chest, as soon as possible. The animal wants to taste his goddamn blood, bring him down, make him pay...

And then…

Then . He hasn’t thought of then. He hasn’t let himself. Because, likely, all then means is a drifting, desolate nothing. Then means he will be without purpose, without meaning.

Suddenly, he hears her behind him. He’d been in his head too much, and he hadn’t sensed her. He snubs out his cigar with the heel of a black boot, trying to shake off the feelings he had almost succumbed to. He has to get a fucking grip, if he’s gonna do this right. He turns, looking with a blank stare at the woman once more descending from the sky, even as she starts talking.

“The only reason I’m here is because the last botched mission was on me. I failed to extract those kids on Staten Island during the raid on the zoo, and god knows what’s happened to them since. And you’re right. Whatever you do with the General is your business. I’m here to right my wrong, you understand me?” she says sternly. For a moment he only blinks at her, this very, very different woman he doesn’t know at all, never really knew. The woman he knows, the woman he loves , is dead.

“Yeah, kid. Got it,” he grunts, before turning back to face the empty building.

“Stealth in the beginning. We need to get to the kids first, make sure they aren’t in the line of fire,” she hisses, nodding toward another dark alleyway that looks like a utility entrance across the street. He nods at her slightly, realizing in a quick moment that he’d benefit from her tactical strategy, along with her powers. Truth is he’s rusty at all this shit. Incredibly rusty. Damn you and your pacifism, baby, he sends a quiet thought to Itsu.

“We know this entrance is rarely used. That’s probably why Xavier gave you this address. We can probably take the freight elevator down,” she says as they both silently make their way across the street in the dead of night.

“Xavier didn’t-” he begins, but she cuts him off.

“Come on, Logan. You don’t have to protect the Professor. How else would you know about this place?” she asks as they reach the alleyway.

“I woulda found it eventually,” he mutters, as they now both stare up at the heavy steel frame of a utility door.

“Should I do the honors or do you wanna?” he asks, but he watches as she steps up to the door and easily pulls it open..

“It’s unlocked,” she says knowingly, before looking to him once more. “Schematics.”

He only lets out a stubborn growl as he follows her inside. The place looks dank and unlit, but small. In the corner is the exact thing they’re lookin’ for. The freight elevator.

“You think you can hot wire that thing to work somehow?” she asks him through a devilish grin and an arch of her brow, but he finds himself frowning as he stares back at the elevator.

“We’ll see. If it’s hydraulic, we won't need to. Just needta unlock it somehow. And you sure we ain’t gonna be noticed, using this hunk of junk? Aren’t there any fucking stairs?” he turns, asking her frustratingly.

Rogue’s already shaking her head as she’s shoving the grate open easily, gesturing him to follow her. “Not at this entrance. So… get to it.”

He sighs as he lets one claw slide completely out on his left hand, as warm drops of blood fall to the floor at their feet. He shoves it through the locking mechanism, jerking upward quickly, figuring he should start by dredging up an age-old memory of gettin’ old mid-century elevators to work without a key, and suddenly the elevator creaks to life.

“Fuck. It worked,” Rogue hisses triumphantly, but then he notices she’s staring down at the adamantium still extended, with wider eyes than he would expect before he quickly sheathes it. As the elevator slowly starts to descend, he’s not sure why she was starin’ at ‘em like she’s never seen ‘em before. Hell, he’d cut her own clothes off her with the same claw over a decade ago so he could claim her. Suddenly, an image of that first night in the camper, the night he learned some other fucking man had not only touched her, but had fuckin’ raped her, fills his mind. He clenches his jaw suddenly, willing the memory to leave, as he grimaces at all the fucking noise the goddamn thing is making. As it settles on the ground floor, Rogue expertly waits to open the door so that Logan can first take lay of the land.

He takes a deep sniff of the air, tries to listen, throwing out his hearing as far as possible. But... nothing. Logan gives her a nod, and Rogue finally shoves the door open. They’re met with practically pitch black darkness. He’s sure he can see better than Rogue, and intuitively he grabs her wrist, pulling her along. He half-expects her to yank her arm away like she had so many times as a teenager, but she doesn’t, realizing as much as he if she doesn’t want to end up lost in a fucking hallway she’d better stay close. They turn down this empty corridor and that, practically relying entirely on his instinct alone, until he senses a change in the atmosphere. Long before he can possibly see anything, he smells the scent of mercury-vapor. Fluorescent lighting.

“Be ready,” he growls, as they turn down another hallway. The further they walk, the more the smells he can detect. Chemicals. Rubbing alcohol. Dried blood.

“I don’t know what this place is, but it ain’t no zoo. Smells like another fucking lab to me,” he mutters, and she nods, before, finally, he makes out bright light flooding from an adjoining hallway. He offers Rogue one quick look, dropping her arm. She nods curtly at him, and he realizes he’s impressed. Whoever this woman is, she has seen battle. She fuckin’ knows how to be ready.

He pauses at the turn to the lit hallway, and listens. And then, he hears it. Heartbeats, some quicker than others, some of them definitely children. His senses color in the details of the map he’s quickly drawing in his mind, before he murmurs, “At least eight closed-off rooms. A kid or two in each. Don’t know where the fuck the adults are... wait,” he whispers, straining his hearing. There . “The first door on the left. A kid’s unconscious, but alive. Two adults with him.”

“Fuck, that’s a useful skill set. I’ve forgotten,” she mutters, and he realizes she’s talking about the time before, when he would fuck her and she’d take him in. He shoots her a look for a moment, arching a brow in the darkness, before waiting a few more moments and finally turning the corner into the lit hallway.

Just as he’s stepped into the light though, he can hear the door opening.

Fuck.

He yanks Rogue back around the corner again, and they both breathe silently as he hears the footsteps disappear down the hall.

“Now,” he whispers, and once more they enter the hallway flooded with fluorescent light. He’s at the first door on the left in an instant, and once more with a slow slide of one claw, he easily pops the lock open. He’s waiting for a fuckin’ alarm or something to buzz, unsure of how savvy the Army’s tech is down here, but nothing happens. What they find is a small surgical room sloppily littered with medical supplied and a small body of an unconscious boy, hooked up to an IV, although the pump doesn’t seem to be on. As they approach, Logan quickly realizes the kid’s missing a leg and an arm that are bandaged at the knee and elbow, obviously having been freshly amputated.

“Oh G od ,” Rogue murmurs, her hand flying over her mouth.

“ Jesus ,” Logan mutters under his breath as Rogue carefully walks over to the boy.

“What...happened to him?” she asks, her hand hovering just over the boy’s brown locks sweatily pasted to his forehead, the boy’s brows furrowed in distress.

“Looks like they were experimenting on more than just their genes…” Logan growls. Rogue shoots him a sharp, suspicious look.

“What do you mean their genes?” she hisses, and as Logan stalks about the room, looking for any clue, any fuckin’ sign of anything, Rogue touches the boy’s forehead gently, and that’s when everything changes.

The boy’s eyes shoot open. And he starts screaming. It’s a pained scream, one that tells Logan immediately that whenever these fuckers sliced him up they didn’t bother using any kind of painkiller.

“Rogue! Shut him up!” Logan hisses, but when he turns to her she’s white as a sheet, staring at the boy helplessly a few feet away from him as he sobs.

“Rogue!!”

Just then though, hurried footsteps coming toward them, somebody shouting orders and then, an alarm wails. The room is suddenly drenched in black apart from an emergency light that illuminates everything in red every few seconds.

“Fuck!” he curses. Logan can barely hear anything apart from the boy’s sobs and the sirens, but he knows they’re out of time.

“Behind me, Rogue!” Logan commands, as he plants his feet on the floor, putting himself in between the door and the boy, in what will be the direct line of fire in mere moments.

“ No,” she says, and suddenly she is springing forward to get in front of him, just as the door is being thrown open.

“Rogue, BEHIND ME,” he shouts. “What the fuck are ya-”

And then there’s an onslaught of bullets. He grits his teeth as he catches one in the shoulder, and another in his right thigh as, meanwhile, most of the bullets pour off Rogue’s body, falling uselessly to the floor.

Jesus fucking Christ, is all he has time to think, before he roars, quickly shoving his claws into the chest of the first guard, pulling them out only to effectively slice the throat of the second guard. The two men he must have heard earlier behind the dead men at his feet simply gawk at the scene before him, unarmed and soft, one with a greasy comb over in a lab coat and the other in scrubs. He shoots a glance at Rogue, and she nods fiercely, already throwing one in scrubs across the room, as Logan springs for the other. As the man in scrubs struggles to get up, Rogue’s mangled the handle to the door, inhibiting anyone else to pass through, at least temporarily.

Smart fucking woman.

The kid’s still sobbing behind them, and Logan fleetingly hopes he ain’t shot as well, as he pins the labcoat fucker up against the wall, easily shoving his claws through the guy’s arm where it’s connected to his chest. The man lets out a choked scream, and meanwhile, Rogue’s picked the man in scrubs off the floor and has a hand around his throat easily pinning him to the wall as well, waiting for Logan’s next move.

“Where is he?!” Logan barely grinds out, but the man is muttering nonsense under his breath that makes no goddamn sense.

“We are the one species. The one race. We shall inherit the earth. And mutilate the abominable.” Logan growls loudly at all the bullshit he’s hearing, and shoves his claws deeper through the man’s arm and into the plywood and drywall. He knows he’s severed the fucker’s arm by now. All he has to do is rip the claws out and this creep’s halfway to being like the kid he’s probably tortured and maimed crying on the bed still behind them both.

“Goddamnit, shut the fuck up and tell me and maybe you won’t lose a leg. Where the fuck is he? The kingpin, the motherfucking man in charge? Where’s the General?!”

“We see the future, we are the past. The one species. The one race,” he keeps blubbering on through tears. It’s then Logan loses his patience, yanking his claws out of the wall, effectively severing the man’s arm from his body, before using the other set of claws to quickly detach the man’s left leg at the fucking knee.

“Logan!” he hears Rogue’s shout of protest at his method of torture, but he isn’t listening. The man will bleed out in minutes, and he needs more information.

“We are all the general. We are one,” the man’s still muttering.

“The fuck?” Logan snarls, just as he hears the telltale crunch and sizzle of acid. Fucking cyanide pill

“God DAMN IT,” he roars, and quickly he rounds on Rogue and the other fucker squirming against the wall. Rogue is giving him enough air to breathe, but Logan can see the bruises forming on his throat regardless. Meanwhile, the boy is still screaming. The alarm is still sounding. Outside the door, pounding, gunfire. The man is trying to say something through wheezes and gasps.

“Let ‘em talk,” Logans snarls, and Rogue loosens her grip slightly.

“Oh god. Please...please. I can’t tell ya, I can’t tell ya where. Besides, you’re wrong, man. There ain’t no General. It’s a myth, a mindset. A way to distract crazy fucks like you. Jesus. I’m new ok, just recruited me into this. They’re a fucking cult. They’re crazy. Let me go and-”

“Move, Rogue,” Logan growls insidiously, while inside his mind a white, hot rage begins blurring his vision.

“... Logan, ” she breathes, looking at him sharply.

“Move. Now,” he’s barely able to speak, and just as she steps aside he effectively drives his claws through the man’s forehead and pulls them out again, spraying them both in a fresh spatter of red, and the man slumps to the floor, lifeless.

Rogue stares down at the body in disbelief, and then jerks her eyes up to him. He stares at her for one moment, then another, seething all the while, as the last human thing he does is force out a nod. And he hopes she understands.

Everyone in this place dies, but the kids.



Rogue

In the weeks she had briefly known Logan, she had experienced an intense, all-consuming relationship with him. She had witnessed him feral and bloodstained after the Estevan job. She’d seen the sweat pour off him in the ring, knocking teeth out of drunk, sorry excuses for men. She remembered his eyes go dark and savage with lust as he claimed her over and over again amidst the dying light of the fireplace in the cabin they’d shared for two fleeting weeks. She’d even seen his claws, remembered the blood dripping from his hands that one fateful night when he had extended them for her when she had asked.

But she had never, not once, seem him murder. Slaughter. Maim. Tear apart.

As she stares down at the dead man who pled for his life but Logan did not feel enough mercy to spare, she feels Logan’s humanity run out the drain. The news of the General, if it was true, had done it to him. She watches as he carves down the door in an instant and takes a round of bullets to the chest, and she can hear his roar intensify as he easily plunges his claws into guard after guard. Through the open doorway, she watches, frozen to the spot, as he bucks and weaves, intimately ripping out jugulars, ending life after life, his body painted in blood. She stands transfixed for long moments until he disappears down the hall, and she hears the muffled cry of the boy again. She wipes the blood out of her eyes and stumbles over to him, delicately yanking the IV out of his hand and lifting him up into her arms.

She’s not a mother. She has no idea what to say. He can’t be more than six years old, and the nagging question of - how did they know he was a mutant- gets shoved down as she murmurs the only thing she can say over and over again in his ear. It’s ok. It’s ok. You’re safe. You’re safe.

As she carries the crying boy into the hall, it’s a bloodbath. It’s dark except for the red flashing lights, but the corridor is drenched in entrails and severed limbs. She hears gunfire ahead of her, Logan’s wild snarl. She wants to help, wants to go to him, but she realizes very quickly that the animal, the man, whoever he was, had deftly carved a path through the narrow hall, pushing guards back and clearing it for her to get into the rooms. She swallows her own bloodthirst and holds the boy close to her for a moment before setting him down gingerly.

“I’ll be back. Let me save the others,” she says quickly, and he only nods at her through tears. As she throws her weight against the next door with her shoulder, it easily gives way she wildly hopes more of these kids can walk than not and that most of them are awake, and she finds that they are. Door after door, room after room, she finds children strapped to hospital beds or huddled in cages, children will gills and tails and paws, all severely mutated. They seem to understand though, or somehow know, and it’s only after a couple of desperate pleas on her part as she smashes locks and rips the straps off hospital beds, they follow her. She can’t see Logan anymore, turned down another hall as he is, but once all the children are free, ten in all, she intuitively snags the sat phone from her utility belt with shaking, bloodstained hands. It’s a one-button call, and it connects immediately.

“Cyclops,” she breathes, as the leader of the X-Men answers the emergency line.

“Rogue, where the fuck are you? And why the hell did you turn your GPS locator off?! The whole fucking place is up in arms-”

“The Eerie base. We...stormed the facility. We’ve got the children.”

For a moment, he doesn’t answer, and she can feel the intense, burning disappointment at her breaking ranks, overlaid with the relief that the children are safe, in his silence.

“ Scott!” she yells desperately into the phone.

“The Bird will be there in ten minutes. Get them above ground if you can. And Rogue?”

“Yes?”

“Are they all dead? The Army combatants at the Eerie base? The scientists?”

She stares again down the drenched corridor, but she can’t see anything but the faces of the children huddled around her and the dozens of dead bodies that fill the hall. She can no longer hear shouts or gunfire, but the alarms are still wailing.

“I...I think so. Scott, hurry. Most of them need medical attention.”

“Hank will go with me. We’re leaving now.”

She hangs up, clutching the phone in her hand, as she stares wildly at the children staring back at her in fear. Two are missing limbs Some are sporting acid burns. One’s been blinded. But enough of them can walk and they’ll be able to manage the freight elevator. She stares back down the corridor wildly, and that’s when she sees him. He’s still snarling, limping his way back, tramping over dead bodies as he does so. She can see the bullet holes in his chest still healing, his eyes completely dark, and as he sees them he stops, keeping his distance, swaying slightly from the spot he’s planted himself in.

“Logan…” she says clearly, trying to understand if he’s come back to himself, but the first little boy who’s been amputated and had witnessed Logan gut the guards begins to cry wildly again, and this seems to shake Logan out of his fog.

He clenches his jaw, finally sheathing the claws, his eyes clearing as they begin to dart back and forth, assessing the situation before throwing a glance over his shoulder.

“We needta...move. Here...they’re dead. But...they’ll...send back-up,” he mutters, then finally moves forward to the children, some of whom cower in fear at the sight of him.

“Who can’t walk?” he growls, and Rogue nods at the first boy who’s silently crying, while she gathers a little girl who’s more catlike that human who’s also missing a leg into her arms.

The boy cries a bit as Logan approaches, and Logan, almost as if he was approaching the wild animal he himself had just embodied, holds out a steady hand, inching closer.

“Hey bub. S’ok,” Logan mutters, but the little boy still whimpers in fear. Still, Logan closes the space between them. “You gotta name?”

“T-Todd,” he barely manages through tears.

“Alright, Todd. Look...name’s Logan. I’m like you, alright? And I ain’t gonna hurt ya. But this place, we needta get out of here, yeah?” Finally, the boy nods meekly, and Logan easily collects him in his arms. The boy clutches the man then, resting his tear-stained cheek on Logan’s broad, bloodstained shoulder.


---

The jet ride back is almost entirely silent. Hank is on board, attending to those with the most dire medical needs, but he’s administered shots of morphine to any child who appears to need it. Rogue sits across from Logan in the back of the plane with the kids, exhaustion biting at her heels as she stares at the man who has single-handedly succeeded at what the X-Men could not accomplish only a week before, but by the look of utter defeat on the man’s face, you wouldn’t know it. The boy who Logan slowly carried onto the jet has not let go of Logan, but the morphine has made him sleepy, and now he dozes in the older mutant’s arms. Logan cradles the back of the child’s head with a heavy hand, but there’s a dead, blank look in Logan’s eyes.

It’s only a handful of minutes until the jet has safely arrived in the black of night under the mansion, and Jean, Hisako and a couple others are there with gurneys ready to meet them. Still though, the boy won’t let go of Logan, and the older mutant tiredly stands, stalking off the jet with the kid still in his arms.

“Logan…” Rogue hears herself murmur, but he mutters a “not now” as he slowys treads forward, following Jean and the others to the medbay.

Rogue helps where she can, but all the children need some form of medical attention and most of the med staff takes over. Every muscle in her body aches and seems in desperate need of sleep and a shower, but she can’t seem to leave the hallway right outside the medbay, and she realizes she desperately wants for Logan to reemerge.

Finally, after what feels like an hour, the sliding doors of the mess bay open, and the man, clothes in tatters from what seems like a hundred bullet holes and still painted in dried red, stalks through into the hall. She can tell he’s also dead on his feet. He simply stares at for a moment, maybe confused why she’s still here, before letting a grunt of acknowledgement and turning left down one of the empty hallways that sprawl underneath the X-mansion.

“Logan, wait,” is all she can manage to say.

He stops, sighs deeply, and turns once more to face her. A few feet and ten years apart stand between them.

“I’m sorry….about the General. I know you’re...disappointed,” she manages to murmur, wringing her hands with a sudden swell of anxiety. Somehow, she wants to soothe his pain, undo the news. Right what’s been made wrong.

“ Disappointed ,” he mutters under his breath, shaking his head warily. She frowns deeply, before she takes a step closer to him.

“You have to understand though. News like this was probably inevitable. Even if the General was real, the Army is like a hydra. You cut off a head and two grow its place. Killing him won’t kill the collective. But what you did tonight, how you took down, god, more than fifty of them, that’s how we advance mutant rights--”

“-- Shut up ,” he hisses through a snarl, his body instantly laced with tension. She’s shocked by this interruption, but tries to clarify.

“But you need to know-”

“I mean it, kid. Shut it,” he growls again. She’s quiet for a moment, trying to stifle her hurt demeanor along with her anger, and again tries to double-down on her courage.

“But...sugar,” she murmurs as she walks a step closer to him, lifting a steady hand to touch his shoulder in understanding, but as soon as she does he grabs her wrist roughly, pulling her close to his face.

“You needta quit talkin’ about things you don’t understand, Rogue. Don’t you get it? I don’t fuckin’ care about the collective or about ‘advancing mutant rights’. I don’t even give a fuck about all those miserable, sorry children. That wasn’t what this was about,” he snarls, finally dropping her wrist in apparent disgust, taking a couple of steps back to pace the tight space in front of her. She can’t believe it when it happens, but, for some reason unknown to her, a hot tear falls down her face. And she hasn’t cried in years.

“Then what is it about?” she asks blindly. He ignores her, still pacing wildly about like the caged animal he is.

“Logan...then what was it about?” she demands of him again. He stops in an instant, and then all the anger is suddenly gone from his face. Instead, what she sees in his eyes, what she’s never seen before is profound guilt. Crippling sorrow. All-consuming grief.

“My wife,” he whispers harshly. She stares at him wildly, blinking back tears as her mind tries to apply these foreign words to the man she thought she knew. But she’s lost her will to speak, and he takes to pacing again.

“Those Sinopec fuckers were tracking me for years. I can’t set a fuckin’ foot in Canada, Rogue. I hid all over the fuckin’ world. Changed names, came up with aliases, but they found me, eventually,” he growls, turning to look at her once more.

“We were tryin’ to get to Japan, especially after all that anti human-mutant marriage shit was passed. She had family there.”

“She... was human?” Rogue asks gently, but at that comment her viciously rounds on her, once more inches from her face.

“There a problem with that?”

“What? No. No. I just…”

“Just what? Didn’t think I was capable of somethin’ like that? Or that I just didn’t deserve it?”

She bites her tongue, and says nothing. The truth is, most of the past ten years, she probably thought both, as embittered with her past as she was. But that was before, and this is now. Whoever is standing in front of her, whoever had saved those children tonight, is different than the man she knew before. When she says nothing, though, he lets out a bitter laugh and begins to pace once more.

“And you know what the real joke is? You’d be right. I’m not. I don’t. ‘Cause I got greedy. That was it, wasn’t it? Wanted too much outta my fucked up, miserable life. I knew, I knew I was putting her in jeopardy by...by stayin’ but I just had to keep gettin’ my fill, insisted on keepin’ her with me, makin’ empty promises about how we’d be safe. Thinkin’ I was owed a home, a family….”

Rogues uncomfortably clutches one arm, tears now drying on her cheeks as she tries to understand what he wants from her, what he needs. Right now, she’s simply trying, for the first time in a long time, to listen.

“I was was at the fucking bank ,” he spits, running a shaking hand through his mussed hair. “Emptying our accounts, gettin’ passports forged, and while I was gone, s-she….she took eleven bullets. Eleven fucking bullets cause of me.”

He stops again, and she can tell the fight’s left him. He’s breathing hard, tearless, but full of more misery than she’s ever seen in one man. She wants to apologize for asking, at the very least, but there is still so much animosity she harbors for him, and she doesn’t know how.

“Sugar…” she finally manages, but he isn’t listening.

“I gotta get out of this shithole. I gotta...gotta…. “ he stammers, looking this way and that along the cold, desolate hallways, before she instinctively whips out a hand and stops him.

“Just…. wait,” she whispers, and everything changes as he pulls her toward his tall, warm frame, in one moment savagely taking her mouth in his in a fervent, all-encompassing kiss. Her brain barely has time to process what’s happening as he backs her to the wall, hand gripping the back of her head, threading his fingers through her hair, as his tongue slides across her own before he bites down on her bottom lip.. She’s stunned, then gives into the fucking savergy of it all for a moment, as her neurons fire and ignite, all cylinders alit, before she truly realizes what he’s doing, who he’s replacing her with, all the pain he’s caused. Coming to, she snakes a hand between them and gently presses it to his chest to break the kiss. He stumbles back a step, and both of them breathe heavily for a moment, as something in his face falls. As he realizes what he’s just done.

“ Jesus . I’m- I’m sorry,” he mutters, and his eyes dart wildly once more back and forth down the hall before he begins to stalk off once more to the elevator.

Wait, she thinks. She’s sure she’s said out loud, but then realizes she hasn’t found her voice yet, and she tries once again: “Wait!” she says hoarsely. He pauses once more, throwing her an annoyed, hurt look over one shoulder.

“Don’t...leave,” she mutters. “You need to get out of the mansion? Fine, but don’t leave. Not yet.”

“I don’t take orders from anyone anymore,” he spits bitterly at her. She frowns through the hurt, trying to keep her own anger at bay, as she tries to explain.

“I’m not ordering you. I’m asking,” she whispers. And, at that, something in his eyes goes cold. What he says next is barely more than a whisper.

“Once... I recall askin’ you for the very same thing,” he mutters. The sting of his words has her closing her eyes momentarily in defense, before she breathes in sharply, unable to respond and still waiting for his answer. He stares at her for a moment more, and then offers her a brief, resolved nod.

“There’s a shitty motel two miles north of here. Find me there until the end of the week. But Rogue?”

“Yes?” she asks blankly.

“I ain’t stepping another foot in this fuckin’ place ever again,” he breathes vehemently, before stalking off again down the hall.
End Notes:
Whew! Ok! I caught up with this website! Three more chapters, folks!
This story archived at http://wolverineandrogue.com/wrfa/viewstory.php?sid=4192