A few hours later the bedroom door opened slowly, both teens looked up from where they were sprawled on the bed reading a webpage on Logan's laptop.
"I've got to go, mission, dinners cooking, you two put yourselves to bed by curfew okay, don't want to have to kick your butts when I get back," Victor told them.
"Sure, how long are you going to be?" Logan asked, quashing the feeling of unease that always came with an announcement of this sort. Ever since he was little, he had hated his dad disappearing off on missions, even though there really was nothing to be worried about, he always came back unharmed, always had, most likely always would.
"I'll be back by morning, don't wait up," Victor added, though he knew Logan usually did.
They gave up their studying a half hour later, Marie could tell Logan was distracted and she didn't think it was fair trying to push him to study. She'd never been worried about her parents when they would disappear off, sometimes for weeks at a time, often without even saying goodbye. Logan and his dad were a lot closer than she was to either of her parents though, and he had already lost his mom, so her empathy kicked in. She wasn't going to leave him to sit and worry on his own either though, so she stuck around and they hung out.
"So, what else happened over summer?" Logan asked. So far, he knew Marie's parents had called her home for a while to attend some fundraisers with them, he had seen her on TV, looking bored, when he and Victor had stopped at a diner one night while on their own camping trip. Marie had gotten back to the school before he did but she hadn't really gone into detail about what she'd done.
"I spent most of my time with Uncle Charlie once I got back, with no classes he had more time to spend working with me to try and control my mutation," Marie replied.
"How's that going, any luck?" Logan asked, handing her a plate of pizza as they settled down on the couch, they were going to watch a movie but this conversation was more interesting now.
"It's not going, Uncle Charlie thought it was like a calm thing I needed, like my emotions need to be centred or something, but I am calm and centred and it doesn't seem to make any difference. Then he thought maybe it was like a memory thing, like I had a bad memory about being touched or something that made my mutation go haywire, I mean, I have plenty of bad memories but there doesn't seem to be any one in particular. Then he thought maybe there might be something physical so I spent three days in the lab with Hank, running every test imaginable, nothing out of the ordinary. So, I don't know what to do, or think, maybe I'm just supposed to be stuck like this forever," she shrugged sadly.
"No, you're not, and you're not going to be, one day, it'll just click and everything will be back to normal," Logan said.
"I don't know, some mutations are just like that, Scotty can't control his lasers, you can't control your healing… Well, you can't," she repeated when he looked at her incredulously, "Turn your healing off, go on, make it so you don't heal and give yourself a papercut, I dare you."
"... Point taken, guess I hadn't thought about it like that before," Logan admitted.
"Maybe my skin is just like that," Marie replied. "Just one of those things that is, I think I can live with that," she added with a sad smile, "I mean, I can still have friends, right, I can still sit here and hang out, and talk, so what if I can't touch, it's not the end of the world..." she suddenly began to sob.
Gently Logan took her plate, depositing them both on the coffee table as he pulled her toward him, tucking her tightly against his chest. As he held her, rubbing her back soothingly, an idea popped into his head.
"What if... it's not a bad memory about being touched... what if it's no good memories of being touched?" he asked, as she sniffled the last of her sobs away.
"What do you mean?" she asked, her voice muffled where her face was buried in his chest.
"Well, you said your dad never hugged you, and your mom only did for show, what if, your brain, or your skin, or some combination of both just decided, all touch was bad because no one has ever touched you in a way that made you feel... safe, cared for. Maybe, if you want to be touched, by someone you trust, you can retrain your brain. Have you tried, really touching someone?" he suggested.
"No one's really been too keen to volunteer for that," she replied with resignation, "I think I'd be too scared anyway, what if I hurt them?"
"If it's someone you trust, who wants to help you, they won't mind if you slip up a little, you're learning, mistakes are going to happen, it's not the end of the world," Logan encouraged. "If there was one person you'd trust, to have your back if anything went wrong, that you want to touch, who would it be?" he asked.
Marie pulled away from him, moving to the other end of the couch where she sat uncertainly. "Anyone? ... You," she replied, blushing as she timidly explained, "You make me feel safe, you make me feel like I matter to someone, I'm not a trophy, or your job, you just like being with me because I'm me, because you lo-like me I guess, and you watch out for me, and..." she faded off, staring at the feet of her tights, her face blush pink, as she smiled shyly.
"Yeah? I'm glad you feel like that, I do, I do like you, and I like being around you, you do matter to me, I care about you and I like taking care of you. I'm also not that easy to put down, so, if you want to practice touching sometime let me know," Logan replied, before picking up the remote and starting the movie.
After a few minutes Marie shifted, until she was sitting right next to him, she fidgeted nervously for a few more minutes before she slowly slipped one glove off. She was wearing long sleeves and short gloves, so it didn't take long for her to have her hand uncovered. Nervously, without looking at him, she reached for his hand, Logan turned his hand over, palm up, as she paused uncertainly.
"You can do it," he murmured encouragingly.
Taking a final deep breath Marie moved her hand the last few inches, laying her hand on top of Logan's. For a few seconds nothing happened, then she saw a thin blue vein appear on his skin, immediately she panicked.
"What was that for? You were doing it Marie," Logan offered, leaving his hand where it had been as he encouraged her to try again.
"It- it wasn't hurting you?" Marie asked.
"Nope, didn't feel a thing, except your bare skin on mine," Logan replied, "Try again."
Gingerly Marie returned to her previous position, slowly sliding her hand into his. Again, nothing happened, this time for almost a minute, until she felt the prickle of her mutation.
*'You can do it Marie, this is good, you're safe,'* she heard Logan's voice, though when she turned to him he wasn't speaking. She kept her hand where it was, forcing herself to calm down. Nothing was wrong, she was touching and it was okay, Logan wouldn't hurt her.
After several minutes she felt Logan's hand shift, until his fingers were laced through hers as he sat beside her, a small smile on his lips as he watched the movie hand in hand with her. With a content and happy sigh, Marie sank down closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder as she too tried to turn her attention to the movie. How long would she be able to retain the contact, she wondered, absently stroking her thumb against his hand. She really didn't watch much of the movie, or remember it at least, too focused on the first human contact she had had in months.
She fell into a light doze toward the end of the movie. *'God she's beautiful'*. She jumped as she turned to Logan, "Did you say something?" she asked curiously.
"Nope," he replied, looking uncertain.
"Did you think something?" Marie asked teasingly, Logan's uncertainty turned to embarrassment. "Did you think I was beautiful?" Marie asked with a smile.
"... No," Logan answered, watching as Marie's face fell slightly before he sucked up his own nerves and replied, "I *do* think you *are* beautiful." Marie relaxed almost immediately, her face lighting up as she smiled brilliantly at him, finally releasing her grip on his hand so she could throw her arms around his neck. After a moment Logan shifted, wrapping his arms around her and tugging her to a more comfortable position sitting in his lap as the held each other.
"Thank you," Marie said, as she pulled away a few minutes later, wiping away the tears that had leaked down her cheeks. Her phone had beeped to let them know it was curfew. "I should go, and you should get some sleep, don't worry so much, your dad will be home, safe and sound, before you know it," she hugged him again, once they were on their feet.
Logan walked her to the door, though he stayed at his own door as she made her way down the hall. "Goodnight," she whispered, as she waved back to him then slipped into her own room and shut the door behind her. She leaned back against the door, sliding down it until she was sitting on the floor, a beaming smile on her face. Not only did she manage to hold her mutation at bay for over two hours but Logan liked her, not just liked her, he *like* liked her, maybe even loved her. She felt like she was going to burst, as she jumped back to her feet and giddily spun around her room as she got ready for bed.
The next morning Marie made her way down to breakfast, still smiling happily, though she tried to smother her grin when she entered the cafeteria. She looked around as she got her breakfast, trying to spot Logan, he wasn't there. Shrugging it off, assuming he stayed up the whole night until his dad got home, and was now catching up on sleep, she took a seat tucked into a corner by the window, watching raindrops racing each other down the glass.
Half an hour later Logan wandered in, a dark scowl on his face, scaring off most of the other teens. If she hadn't been so worried about what made him upset, she would have found it funny how the crowds parted before him. She smiled at him as he approached, noting that his scowl softened a little as he caught up to her and sat down.
"Are you okay?" Marie asked gently.
"Dad's still not back," Logan murmured, as he stirred his food around half-heartedly.
"Oh... has anyone told you anything about what's going on?" Marie asked. Logan shook his head, lips pressed together tightly as he tried to hold his worry in. "Come on," Marie said, immediately pulling him to his feet, he obviously wasn't going to eat his breakfast anyway. Dragging him out of the room Marie marched directly to her Uncle's office, knocking twice she walked right in without even waiting for an answer.
"Marie, what a pleasant surprise, what can I do for you this morning," Charles asked, eyeing Logan standing behind her, as he dismissed the staff member he had been meeting with. As soon as the door closed, the bright smile on Marie's face and the banal chatter faltered as she turned back to her Uncle.
"Mr Creed went on a mission last night, he said he would be back by morning but he doesn't appear to be back yet, is there an update?" she asked, gesturing minutely to Logan.
With a grim frown Xavier sighed, eyeing the two. "He shouldn't have told you where he was going."
"I'm not a child, where else would he have been disappearing to, if my father has taught me anything in my life it's that honour is the highest value a man can have, and part of being honourable is being honest," Logan stated plainly.
"Fair enough," Xavier replied, his features softening. He had watched this boy grow into an impressive young man, one his father was right to be proud of, despite the boys... challenges. "There has been a delay, the jet was damaged in the evacuation, and several members of the team are injured which is delaying repairs. Sabretooth acted as a decoy to draw fire away from the jet so the team and survivors could escape, he is making his way back across country until the jet can return to pick him up," Charles advised.
"You left him behind!" Logan exploded in fury, "How could you do that!"
"It was your father's order, the jet couldn't take much more, if they had doubled back to try and collect him, they could have lost everyone. Victor is safe, I am monitoring the situation, I spoke with him earlier this morning he is making good progress. He knew it was the only way to get everyone out alive, Logan, you trust him, you respect him, that means you have to trust and respect his decisions," Charles explained. Truth be told, he hadn't liked leaving Victor behind any more than Logan did.
With a tense sigh Logan's shoulders sagged as he nodded agreement, his scowl still firmly in place. "Can you keep me updated, let me know if anything changes?" Logan asked.
"I will," Xavier assured him, "Now the two of you should run along, your classes are about to start."
With a grateful smile to her Uncle, Marie took Logan's hand in her tiny gloved one, and they walked out of the room together.
With a grimace Xavier scanned both their minds as they left, Logan's was purely worry for his father, and gratitude to Marie for helping him get the information he needed. Marie was worried for Victor too, and Logan, with a deep, jumbled mess of emotion characterized by the thought, 'I wish I was that close with my parents'. With a sad sigh he left them go. He had long held concerns for Marie, while her parents were an asset in their political positions, the girl had obviously been neglected emotionally to a significant degree, and he couldn't help the worry that that may be the cause of her mutational issues.
Later that evening, as Logan and Marie were again, sitting on the couch in Logan's apartment, unenthusiastically watching a movie, they were disturbed by the soft click of the door opening.
"Hey kid," Victor said, stepping into the room. Logan threw himself at him a moment later, hugging him tightly. Neither said a word for several minutes as they embraced, until a movement behind them drew their attention.
"Don't mind me, I'll just be going," Marie smiled at them, relieved herself that Victor was home safe and sound.
"No, you won't, come here," Victor said, pulling her into a hug too. "Thank you, for sticking by this guy today, he needed it," he grinned at Logan, who just chuckled in response.
They called in dinner and ate a late meal together, the first Logan had managed to eat all day, before they blew off curfew and sat down together to watch a movie. By the time the movie was finished, all three were asleep on the lounge floor.