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Never Again

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Logan prowled the halls, moving surely through the dark. What had begun as a night's insomnia had soon become a ritual. He knew whole school by heart now and no longer needed his heightened senses to navigate. He did check for the scents of others though. Those he knew, he avoided. Those he didn't… well, that hadn't happened. Not recently, at least.

As he neared the kitchen, he thought about getting a drink, a soda or something. He meant to buy more beer but hadn't gotten around to it yet. His last stash had run out three nights ago. But no, a light glowed from under the door. Someone else was up. He didn't get close enough to smell who it was. He didn't care.

Choosing a different path, he headed up the stair to the dorms. The corridors felt small tonight. Odors crowded in on him from every side. Ordinary things, carpet cleaner, polished wood, the sweat and tears of a hundred people, choked the air. But they didn't quite hide the strange, which lurked just under the surface. Tonight he could detect sulfur, an odd musk and singed feathers.

He felt a sudden urge to bolt. This place had become too much for him, too many smells, too many feelings. If he wanted to, he could escape. Take the bike and ride until Canada. Or run, down these halls, out the door and swift and silent through the woods. No one would be able to find him. Except ol' Charlie, of course, but he wouldn't try to bring the Wolverine back. Why would he?

Logan had almost made a break a bunch of times. Once, he'd even gotten out the door, but found that he couldn't go any farther. Something still held him here. He knew it didn't have anything to do with his missing memories. He didn't want to know remember anymore, wished he could forget what he had already learned.

Perhaps it was her. Her presence felt so strong in these old buildings. Sometimes he still caught a whiff of her, a scent lingering on something she had touched. What had she told him? "Good guys stick around"? Something like that anyway.

Well, he'd stuck around. She was the one who had left. Besides, no one had ever called him good. So why…

"Shit," he snarled. He was staying and that's all there was to it. He didn't see why but no longer cared.

He felt a sudden rush of rage and frustration and without thinking extended his claws. Pain shot through his hands and arms, something he never got used to. Sometimes, it made him angrier, but now it sobered him a little. As did the thought of what Charlie would do to him if he slaughtered an innocent hallway. He paused, looking down at his hands, watching the gleam of moonlight on adamantium. He growled and retracted them. Heading back downstairs, he decided to take it out on a bag. His pace increased as he moved and he almost ran into the gym.

A strange noise stopped him short. Someone else was there. Snikt. He fell into a crouch without thinking, claws raised. Shuffling sideways, he put his back to the wall. A careful sniff found nothing out of the ordinary. No intruder then, but the gym reeked of the school's occupants. It was hard to tell the old scents from the new. He couldn't see anyone, but shadow hid much of the room. Even his enhanced sight could not make everything out. He was about to write it off as his imagination when he heard it again. Now that he listened, he could identify the sound: a muffled sob.

He almost left then. He'd seen enough tears in these last months. Whoever it was probably didn't want company anyway. Why else would they hide out in the gym at two am? Then an air current carried her scent to him. "Aw shit," he muttered, "Marie."

Logan worked his way through the jungle of equipment, dodging weights and treadmills by feel. When he got close, he squeaked his boot on the tiles. No sense scaring the girl, he thought.

He heard a hasty sniff from behind a bench-press. He still couldn't see her, but her scent now filled the air. "Who's there?" asked a faint voice.

Logan smiled. "Jus' me, kid," he said, sinking onto the bench. Neither spoke, not asking questions. The answers were obvious. He peered into the shadows, just making out a dark form in the corner. She huddled on the floor, arms wrapped around her knees. He couldn't tell what she wore, but whatever it was had sleeves at least. Good.

"Are you cold?" she asked at last.

Logan shrugged, absently running a hand over his bare arms. The air did feel a little chilly, but not enough to wear a jacket over his tee. "Nah," he said. "I'd think you'd be, sittin' on the floor like that." He patted the plastic beside him. "C'mere, kid."

Marie dried her eyes on her sleeve and crawled over. She sat next to him, not quite touching but close enough for him to feel her warmth. Enough moonlight shone to see here, with his eyes at least. Blotches covered her swollen face, and her hair had enough tangles to conceal the white streaks. For a moment, he thought someone had hit her. But no, he'd seen Cyke like this some mornings. 'Roro too, though it didn't show as clearly on her. Marie caught him staring but didn't say anything. The silence suddenly became uncomfortable. "You look awful," he said, for lack of anything else.

She almost smiled. "Oh thanks, Logan, what would I do without you?"

He shrugged. "You manage all right." And she had, he thought, she'd done just fine without him.

Marie shifted on the bench, moving a little away. "Only when I have to," she said; "Only when you leave me here." She had tried to keep her tone light, but it didn't work all that well.

Logan looked down. Her stare raised the hair on the back of his neck. "Yeah, I know," he muttered. "Sorry 'bout that." She couldn't seem to think of anything to say to that. Perhaps she was trying to decide if he meant it or not. He took the time to sneak another look at her. She had wrapped her arms around her again and seemed to be studying her knees. Over her nightgown, she wore a dark robe that he hadn't seen before. It smelled of another woman. He brushed its satin shoulder with his fingertips. "That's hers, isn't it?" he asked without thinking.

Startled, she looked down at his hand. She moved her own slightly, as if to put it over his, but stopped before they touched. She wasn't wearing gloves. Instead, she rubbed the fabric where he had. "Scott gave away most of her things last week," she said. "I think he knows she's not coming back now."

Logan nodded. Cyke had spent two days locked in his room after that. He hadn't even noticed when his former rival snuck one of her scarves. Logan would never wear it, but it smelled like her. "That why you're cryin'?" he asked.

Marie nodded then shook her head then shrugged. "Kinda," she said in the end. "I know she's gone, but I keep thinking of things to tell her. And now I can't. And everyone else is so..." She hesitated, unsure how to describe the mood these days. In the end, she gave up. "They aren't very social. I don't have anybody to talk to anymore. I need to…" She stopped, dropping her head. When she spoke again, the passion had left her voice. It sounded dead and flat. "It doesn't matter," she said. "I'll manage right?"

"Bullshit, Marie," Logan snarled. He tried to make her meet his eyes, but she wouldn't look up. Bracing himself, he grabbed her chin and turned her face towards his. He let go quickly, but even that short contact drained him. His hands hurt. "Look at me," he snapped. Marie stared at him, eyes wide with shock. Before she could say anything, he rode right over her. "It matters to me. And I'll wager any money that I'm not the only one. But if you don't think that, we can leave."

"Leave?" she echoed.

He grinned. "That's right, darlin', leave. Jus' you an' me. We can steal One Eye's bike an' be in Alaska before these freaks know we're gone."

"Don't joke about it, Logan," she said, sounding a little angry.

His smile faded. "Dead serious, Marie," he said, looking it. "You say the word, and we're outta here."

She even thought about it, but after a minute, shook her head. "No," she said firmly. "This is my home now."

Logan ruffled her already messy hair. "Thought you'd say that. But if you change your mind…"

"Thank you, Logan," she said, "But what about you?"

"I'm good wherever," he lied.

He suddenly found himself caught in a fierce embrace. Rouge leaning over, with both arms wrapped around him, her face against his chest. "You're so sweet," she murmured into his shirt.

He chuckled and scooped her into his lap, carefully returning her embrace. "Sweet, eh?" he said. She nodded. "There's somethin' I've never been called before."

Marie snorted. "Now why is that do you think?"

Logan shrugged. "No idea, kid," he said, trying to sound gruff. It was a difficult with her in his arms. They fell back into silence. Logan's mind drifted lazily over what she had said. He felt a bit guilty for not spending more time with her. But he had been busy lately. Charlie had him teaching self-defense, PE and Japanese, which for some reason he spoke fluently. And then there were still missions. With one member down, everyone spent more time on them. He only saw Marie a few times a week, usually in class. She was always with Bobby. Logan thought she had looked happy. But now he could see that he should have paid more attention. He should have...

"Logan?" she asked suddenly, interrupting his thoughts.

"Yeah?"

Marie pulled away a little, looking up at him. "Do you love me?" she asked

The Wolverine smiled and kissed her forehead, ignoring the pain. "Always."

She didn't say anything, but buried her face in his shirt and started to cry. She clenched handfuls of the cloth, as sobs racked through her. Logan rubbed her back, rocking her back and forth and whispering to her, not real words, just making noise. He was extremely grateful that no one else could see them. This might finally do in his reputation. Not that everyone didn't know how he felt anyway. But now at least he could pretend to be the tough guy.

Eventually, her sobs faded into tears and those turned to sniffles. Her hands relaxed their grip, but still clung to him. "How you doin'?" he asked softly. No answer. "Marie?" He listened to her breathing. Soft and slow, she'd fallen asleep.

Logan laughed and gently freed himself from her hold. Cradling Marie in his arms, he picked his way out of the gym and down the hall. The night air felt cool on his damp tee. Whoever had been in the kitchen had gone to bed. The light was out anyway. He didn't hear anyone else around. He carried her up the stairs, wondering what had happened to that half-starved waif he'd met.

She shared a room with a couple of other girls on the third floor. He'd considered taking her down to his own room, but decided not. He didn't want to think about the rumours that would start. He had enough shit to deal with. Fortunately, the others slept soundly.

She stirred when he slid her into bed. "Don't leave me," she murmured.

"I won't," he said. Pulling up the blankets, he sat by her until she drifted off again. She slept peacefully, untroubled by dreams. They both knew he would keep his promise.