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Independence Day

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This fan fiction is not written for profit and no infringement of copyright is intended. Unbetaed so all mistakes are mine. 

INDEPENDENCE DAY

Jesus it was bright in that garden. Logan fought the urge to loosen his tie (well, he fought the urge to tear it off and throw it into the damn lake) and tried to remind himself why he was here, let alone wearing a goddamn monkey-suit. Oh yeah, he thought darkly: Graduation. The baby mutants of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters were takin’ their first little steps into the world of being grown-up super-heroes and he was here to encourage them. He’d promised Storm, and Hank, and everyone else that for once he’d mind his table-manners like a good little wolverine and play nice for the parents. 

“You’re scaring the soccer moms,” a voice whispered conspiratorially at his elbow. He turned around to find a slightly amused Ororo Monroe, one trade-mark eye-brow cocked, her short white hair pulled slickly off her lovely face.

“You’ll make a good enough impression for the both of us,” he dead-panned, shooting her an eye-brow salute of his own. “You scrub up nicer’n I do anyway.”

“I don’t know, my hair doesn’t take product nearly as well as yours does,” she whispered back. She was getting a sight too damn cocky these days, he thought. All that power must be goin’ too her head. Of course, it was kinda nice to have someone in charge who had a sense of humour, however suicidal and ill-advised it might be. Scott was one humourless pain in the-

Was being the operative word here, bub. Mentally he winced. He hadn’t liked Cyclops, not even one bit, but the man was dead at the hand of the only woman he’d ever loved and that was a tragedy, a real tragedy. The woman who had killed him and so many others had loved this school, devoted her life to it while she was in her right mind. He’d only seen Jean at Graduation once before, and she had clearly been proud of her young pupils. The Jean Grey he’d seen the last time he was here for Commencement hadn’t had glowing eyes or universe-altering powers, (and she hadn’t really loved him in the end), but she had been one class goddamn act. And here he was jokin’ about the man she’d loved, a fallen member of his unit…

Storm laid a careful, elegant hand on his arm. “It’s okay to still be able to laugh, Logan,” she said softly. “I knew Scott, and Jean, and the Professor for a lot longer than you did. I feel their loss.” She paused, smiling sadly. “This year’s class will be the first not personally congratulated on their success by Charles Xavier. This is the first year he won’t make the Commencement speech. When I realised I would have to make it I felt like I was stabbing him in the back, stealing his place. But we go on.” Logan frowned, unwilling to be comforted and more than slightly ticked off that she’d read his reaction so easily. He was The Wolverine, dammit! He wasn’t a pack animal, wasn’t a member of a team.

And yet, he was an X-Man.

“I know plenty ‘bout goin’ on, Snowflake.” His voice turned hard, uncompromising. “Just don’t goddamn ask me to like it.”

The smile this time was sadder, yet understanding. “You do best when you don’t goddamn like the situation, Logan.” She punched him lightly in the arm, apparently trying to move off the subject, for which he was grateful. “Oh, I almost forgot: Rogue’s here to see you.” 

As she spoke of the young woman, Logan registered the flicker of disapproval and anger which passed through her. Storm, it seemed, was still unable to forgive her former pupil for her decision to take the “mutant cure.” Logan really didn’t give a rat’s ass whether Storm approved or not: to his way of thinking the decision was Marie’s business and nobody else’s. Maybe this attitude showed on his face (hell, it wasn’t like he ever tried to hide his opinions from anyone, least of all his supposed superiors) since Storm pointedly stepped away and pointed him towards the front steps of the mansion, shaking her head slightly as she did so. He caught her eye and gave her his best “Do we have a problem?” look. “I know better than to interfere with you two,” the weather witch muttered cryptically, before heading off to look for Hank.

The corridors of the mansion were buzzing with kids, though thankfully the students were still so intimidated by him that they parted like the Red Sea to let “Professor Logan,” through. All the way down all he could think was that he hadn’t seen Rogue in nearly three months. Almost as soon as she’d been cured she’d packed up and headed back to Mississippi on some secret mission which she wouldn’t discuss with anyone, not even Jubilee. She’d missed her final exams, her SATs, which was why she wasn’t in a cap and gown grinning like an idiot right about now. Logan suspected that she’d gone to see her folks, trying to mend some fences, but he hadn’t pushed. One of the reasons he hadn’t fed her to Sabretooth or kicked her out of his truck the day they met was that she seemed to get the whole privacy thing. She got that he didn’t want to talk about his feelings, unless by “his feelings,” she meant the latest hockey results. Least he could do was cut her the same deal…

He found her on the front steps, talking to two of the kids in her year. A couple of students made a show of turning their nose up at her as they went by (though he noticed with pride that not one of them dared say or do anything really in-your-face) but Rogue ignored them. He drew up behind her, wanting to surprise her 

“You didn’t get arrested,” he drawled in her ear. 

“Maybe Ah made bail, y’evah think of that Professor Logan?” She turned around, a wide smile on her face, hands on her hips, the perfect image of the worldly-wise young woman. She had her hair down, the white streaks glinting against a host of new colours, (pink, plum and blue). She seemed taller, and he belatedly realised that was because she was wearing heels. Then two things struck him at once.

Firstly, her ears were pierced.  

Secondly, she was wearing a sun-dress. 

The first was simply a surprise; he hadn’t noticed that they weren’t pierced before, and therefore the presence of the dangly silver earrings seemed kinda jarring. It was nice, he reflected, that she’d been able to go out and do something so very normal for a kid her age. But the sundress, the sundress… irked him.

Marie had spent the entire time he’d known her covered up as much as humanly possible. The kid had a hood on her night dress, for cryin’ out loud. And yet here she stood in a simple cotton dress. It wasn’t particularly revealing; it had small straps and came down to her knee, and she wasn’t wearing a push-up bra (which was more than young Emma Frost could say, he thought sourly). In fact the effect was demure, pretty. So why the hell was the sight of the Kid, wearing the same kind of dress as hundreds of other girls her age on a hot sunny day, grating on his nerves? And then he realised: people were staring. In particular, every teenaged boy in the Xavier Institute was staring so hard he was surprised they hadn’t burned a hole in the dress already. 

As he was coming to this slightly disturbing epiphany, he noticed that Rogue was peering up at him strangely. “Ah didn’t really get arrested, Logan: yah don’t have to come up with some plan t’get me out of it,” she laughed. 

He immediately snapped to attention. “I was just wondering whether you enjoyed your trip,” he muttered. She looked at him quizzically. The problem with her having his personality inside her head was that she knew precisely how weird that answer sounded.

“Jenny, Lakshmi, could Ah just borrow the Professor here for a tick? Ah have some news for ‘im,” Rogue said suddenly. The two girls nodded in understanding and waved goodbye to Logan before wandering back into the mansion. As soon as they were out of earshot she punched him in the arm. “What the hell is wrong with you Logan? Why you bein’ so doggone weird?” She frowned, and for one reassuring second she looked like his Marie again. “Aintcha happy to see me?”

“Course I am, Kid,” he said automatically.

“Then why you starin’ at me like Ah just grew another head?”

“I’m just, just surprised to see so much of you is all.” 

He would’ve punched someone else out for sayin’ that to her.

She frowned for a moment, not understanding, and then her eyes widened in outrage. Without thinking twice she balled up her fist and punched him in the arm again. He’d never have admitted it in a million years but the blow actually hurt, and he felt a surge of pride that she could hit that hard. “What kinda stupid-assed thing is that t’say t’me?” she hissed. “What Ah wear is none of your goddamn business Logan! You’re NOT mah daddy!”

“No, I know I’m not-” (I am not sputtering an explanation, X-Men do NOT sputter) “-I’ve just never seen you in a dress like that before and I’m a little-”

“Shocked? Horrified? Disgusted? You no good-”

“LET ME FINISH DAMMIT, MARIE!” She rocked back on her heels, arms folded across her chest, head cocked defiantly. “I’m sorry I stared Kid, and I’m sorry I said that. I’m just…”

“Just what?”

“Just surprised. Marie, that’s the least amount of clothes I’ve ever seen you wear.” He held up a hand to cut off her protests. “I’m not sayin’ it don’t look good; I’m just sayin’ it makes you look grown-up, is all.” She closed her mouth with an audible snap. He let out a frustrated sigh, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand. Jesus he hoped he said this right. “Everyone is staring.”

Thankfully he saw her mouth quirk slightly with a smile. “And by “everyone,” Ah take it you mean the boys in school.”

The look he shot her was unamused. “Yeah, I mean the boys. And I can’t start disfiguring every teenage dirt bag who’s droolin’. It’s one of the things about bein’ a teacher.”

She shook her head, snickering a little. “Ah suppose the PTA might have a problem with that.” She gestured to one of the benches in front of the house. The rest of the kids were trooping inside to get into their gowns, and they would soon have the place to themselves. “Want to sit down Logan?”

“You gonna attack me again?”

“You gonna keep on vexin’ me?”

“Probably.” He began to walk towards the benches and Rogue followed him. They sat down. “When the hell did you get so touchy?”

She cocked her eyebrow again. “That really how you wanna play this?”

“Ok, so maybe this isn’t about you.” He gave in to temptation and finally tugged at his tie. “How did Mississippi go? You see your folks?”

“Ah didn’t go up to see mah family, Logan. I went up to talk to… an old friend.” A pause. “The first boy Ah ever kissed, you remember me telling you what happened to him?” Logan nodded. “Well Ah went up to talk to him and his parents. Try to explain what happened, say Ah was sorry.”

“How’d it go?” If that sonofabitch had hurt her-

“His Momma wasn’t so thrilled to see me, though she did me a great kindness when it first happened, calmed me down and rang the doctor. David was cool though; he’s married now, has a little baby girl called Colette.”

The thought sobered him. “He’s awful young, isn’t he?”

“That’s the way they do it where Ah come from. My Daddy wanted me to settle down right out of high school, just like him and Momma. Wasn’t so hot on the whole college thing.” She shrugged. “David seems happy, and Ah’m mighty thankful ‘bout that. He was always a good guy.”

“So you back in Westchester for good, or just for Graduation?” he asked casually. It had suddenly occurred to him that this reunion might not be permanent. It was okay when he kept disappearing; he always knew he would come home to her. But if she moved away, would they lose contact? 

When exactly had Marie come to mean “home,” to him?

Again she shrugged. “Ah’m not really sure. Ah promised Jubilee Ah’d come, but Ah don’t think Ah’ll be stayin’ on. Professor Monroe aint exactly happy with me. And I can’t really be an X-Man now, can Ah?”

“Storm can be as unhappy as she goddamn wants,” he growled. “You want to stay, you can stay.”

“That might not be so easy.” She wasn’t looking at him now, and belatedly he remembered Bobby. Or, more accurately, he remembered Bobby and Marie and Kitty. Dumb-ass boy! Seeing his look she rushed on. “Ah’m not talkin’ ‘bout Bobby ‘n’ Kit. Ah saw that comin’ long ‘fore the rest of y’all did. But the cure has split the mutant community Logan; you’ve seen the looks Ah’m getting. Ah don’t know how welcome Ah’d be long term.” She ducked her head. “Truth is, only reason Ah came was you and Jubilee. The rest of ‘em don’t mean much t’me, but Ah had to see you.” Again a pause, this time awkward. “Can Ah do something Logan?” she asked suddenly, her voice nervous.

“Depends on what it is, Kid.”

“Can Ah… touch you?” 

“What?” The PTA will definitely have a problem with this.

“When you came back from San Francisco, you were hurt. Ah wasn’t sure the cure’d worked, and Ah was afraid if Ah tested it out on you Ah’d hurt you worse’n you were before.” She said all this in a rush, and it sounded slightly rehearsed. “But now Ah know it’s ok, Ah’d really like to touch you. Not, y’know, in a nasty way, but just cos, cos… Cos you’re probably the most important person in mah life and Ah’ve never even really shook your hand.” 

Still he stared. Get your mind out of the gutter, Logan, it’s perfectly innocent.

“Ah mean, if it freaks ya out you don’t have to…”

“No, Marie. It’s ok. I’m just…” Now he was at a loss for words. “I’m not used to makin’ skin to skin contact if it’s not beatin’ the shit out of someone. I suppose I’m…” What was the problem, anyway? “I’m just a little nervous, is all.” And uncomfortable that a teenage girl is makin’ me nervous. If Sabretooth could see me now… “But it’s not a problem. I’d be happy to let you… shake my hand.”

“Well Ah was hopin’ Ah could do something else actually…”

Maybe she was actually trying to give him a heart-attack.

“Ah was hopin’ I could give you a hug. A proper one. One where Ah haven’t just saved the world an’ you aint  tryin’ not t’pass out, y’know?” She giggled. “You look white as a sheet! You really that scared of lil ol’ Marie?”

“No! I’m just wondering what people’ll think…”

“Since when d’you give a rat’s ass what people think? They don’t like it, they can take it up with me.” She shrugged at his reaction. “The days of mah sittin’ back and takin’ other people’s bull’re long gone, Logan. Ah got you in mah head telling’ me ta start breakin’ balls anyone even looks at me funny.” She scuffed her shoe in the dirt at her feet. “Besides, they wanna say anything, Ah can point out that Ah am over the age of consent for every state in this great nation of ours, and Ah’m no longer your pupil.” She looked up at him sharply. “So whattaya say?”

“Now I’m afraid to say no. To anything.” She laughed, delighted. “I’ve created a monster.”

“You shouldn’t’ve said that, Logan. Now Ah’ll be absolutely power-crazy, knowin’ Ah’ve scared the great Wolverine inta submission!” It was good to hear her laugh like that, like she hadn’t a care in the world, he thought. He could get used to it. 

She looked around; the lawn and steps were deserted. Everyone was inside. She raised her eyebrows questioningly, and Logan made a show of sighing like a martyr. Her smile widened, and he tried to decide whether he was pissed or relieved that she could read his reactions so easily. There was a moment of awkwardness, since he had to reach down for her: she was too short to get a good hold on him without his cooperation. Her little skinny arms went round his neck, and he put his arms across her back (not her waist, cos that would’ve been… Just no). Her feet left the ground as he straightened up, taking her with him. For a second he felt an unreasonable shot of panic, like he was gonna crush her or something, but then he felt a muffled, contented sigh against the crook of his neck, where her head had nestled. She didn’t say anything for a minute, though he could feel the tap of her heart against her chest, slow and steady like the beating down of the sun. He felt her face pull into a smile against the skin of his neck, those small arms pulling him tight, like she never wanted to let go. He thought maybe she smelled him as she breathed in, though since he did that to almost everything and everyone he ever met he didn’t take it personal. The hair on her head tickled under his chin. Her fingers scratched slightly at the back of his neck. But all in all, this was a wonderful feeling. 

He felt… still.

He felt at peace, for the first time that he could remember. 

“Logan, y’can put me down now,” she breathed after a moment. Immediately he bent down, awkwardly depositing her feet back on the ground. She slid her hands from his neck down his arms, coming to a stop at his wrists and gripping them. She was smiling, her eyes almost closed. Without thinking about it he twined his fingers through hers, squeezing gently, trying to communicate this feeling without opening his big damn mouth and sayin’ something stupid. Her smile grew wider, happier. She opened her eyes, looked up at him. “Thank you Logan,” she said simply. 

He stepped back, pulled his hands away, suddenly feelin’ awkward as a bag of cats yanked into a washing-tub. His hands automatically went to pull at his tie, and he stopped himself just in time, forcing them to smooth down his jacket instead. Marie grinned in amusement. “What you lookin’ at, Kid?” he growled threateningly. 

“One uncomfortable sonofagun,” she dead-panned.

“You feel lucky today? Well do ya, punk?” he glowered.

She openly laughed, sidling up to him. “Yeah. Ah. Do.”

He opened his mouth to retort, when suddenly he heard “Rogue, Professor, is that-?”

He turned around to see a confused (and slightly annoyed-looking) Bobby Drake, hand and hand with current girlfriend Kitty Pryde. Jubilee was standing behind them, present (as ever) for gossip and mischief. “Professor Monroe said you were out here-” Bobby began.

“Bobby, Kitty, hi,” Marie smiled. She looked over their shoulders. “Heya Jubilee, how y’all doin’?”

“Not as well as you!” Jubilee exclaimed, before smacking both her hands over her mouth, having realised that Logan was not a teacher to make that kind of crack about. That kid’s mouth was always getting’ her into hot water, Logan thought sourly.

“Ah just stopped by to say hi,” Marie continued, stepping artfully away from Logan. “Had some unfinished business.” She nodded to Kitty. “Ah really like your hair, that colour really suits you.” The girl’s hand went self-consciously to her bangs, smoothing them down. 

“I like yours too, it’s really unusual, all those colours.” Kitty sounded very close to babbling, and Logan fought down a small smile as he realised the cause. The massive smile on Jubilee’s face at this development made him forgive her for her earlier crack. 

“You look good,” Bobby said quietly.

For one second awkwardness descended, and Marie seemed to lose her focus, nodding mutely at his observation. But just as suddenly it was gone, and her smiling, pre-Bobby self reappeared. “Well, Ah’m doin’ fine. Ah just got back from a vacation. Spent some time in New Orleans, might be goin’ back.” Her eyes flicked momentarily to Logan. “Haven’t decided yet.”

“What’s in New Orleans?” Bobby apparently looked very earnest when he was nervous, Logan observed. 

“Maybe a job. Ah met this guy-”

“What guy?” both Bobby and Logan asked sharply. 

She grinned at the memory of “this guy,” an action which did nothing to reassure the two. “Name’s Remy, Remy Le Beau. He’s an… independent contractor, ya might say. He’s been tryin’ t’deal with some heavy family business.” She shrugged noncommittally. “Ah can sympathise. He was thinking’ ‘bout takin’ the cure, asked me ‘bout it. We got talkin’ and…” She trailed off.

Did she have ANY idea how uncomfortable that trailing off was making him? thought Logan. Because the slight smile which now played about her lips suggested to Logan that he should leave the mansion right now and set about tracking down and pistol-whippin’ “this guy,” post haste. 

“He said he could use a partner. Ah said Ah’d think about it.” She flicked her hair airily over her shoulder. “Might not want t’be tied down yet. Might do want t’do some more travelling, y’know?” She grinned at Logan. “Open road seems t’be callin: can’t imagine why.” 

“Well, it’s good to see you again,” Kitty broke in, clearly wanting to be finished with this conversation. “But we have to be getting back in: they’ll be getting people into order by now.” She stepped forward and made to shake Marie’s hand, though at the last minute she seemed to think the other girl would pull away. Marie however grinned and shook it anyway. She reached out her hand to Bobby too, and while the boy seemed uncomfortable and grave he took it, giving it an extra squeeze as he mumbled that it was “good to see her again.” Then, with one more look back at Marie, he let himself be led inside. Jubilee looked like she wanted to say something, but then a loud bellow  of “Jubilation Lee!“ (which sounded suspiciously like Storm ) drew her inside with an apologetic smile.

Logan peered at the Kid, feelin’ awkward but knowin’ he needed to ask the next question. “You okay, Marie?”

She smiled tiredly, and he thought once again about how grown-up she now looked. “Yeah, Ah’m okay. The thought of meetin’ ‘em both again was way worse than the actual thing itself. Life’s funny that way.” Noticing how worried he still looked, she gave his arm a little squeeze. “Like Ah said, Ah saw it comin’ long ‘fore y’all did. Ah think Jubilee took it harder’n me.” She drew herself up. “Two down, one to go,” she muttered to herself. At his look she explained “This might be the last time Ah evah come here, Logan. There’s a few things Ah wanted to do today, and facin’ those two again was on mah list.” She smiled slightly shyly. “So was… what we just did.”

“Ya hugged me, Kid; you are allowed use the “H,” word. It sounds less…”

“Dirty?” she inquired innocently. He shot her his death glare. “Ah just can’t imagine telling’ anyone Ah hugged the mighty Wolverine.”

“Try,” he gritted out.

“Ah will,”  she retorted sweetly.

“You do then.”

“Fine.”

“Fine.”

A beat  of silence.

“So is this really the last time you’re going to come here?” he asked carefully.

Following his lead they headed back to sit on the steps. 

“Might be.” She studied her (for once) gloveless hands. “Ah want to talk to Professor Monroe. Ah have to talk to Professor Monroe. And once Ah have that talk Ah’ll know, one way or the other.”

“You want to ask can you come back?”

“No. Ah want to ask why she acted the way she did when Ah got back from New York.” At his look she explained “Ah thought at first it was just shock and grief over losin’ Professor Xavier and Jean, and if Ah gave her some time she’d come around. But she hasn’t.” Logan frowned; he’s known Storm disagreed with Rogue’s decision, but he hadn’t know anything had been said. Within he heard the bell tolling which signalled the students to begin taking their places in the hall, and raised his head. Storm’s speech probably wouldn’t  last that long: Ororo would be out soon. Whether or not Rogue would come back to him or not would be decided soon…

“Well, ya need someone to fight your corner, I’m here Kid,” he said quietly. They shared a smile. 

“You’ve always been here, Logan. Ah know you always will be. But thanks t’you, Ah can fight mah own battles these days. Ah’m not a lost little girl in Laughlin City anymore. Ah have to do this on my own.” She looked over her shoulder. “Ceremony’s startin’. You comin’, Professor?” She grinned as she stood up.

“Kid, I-” He wished he could say a million things to her. He wished he could force this to come right. He wished… He wished their relationship was still simple, that he could still fight her battles and her demons for her. Somehow fighting for her always seemed easier than fighting for himself. 

Part of him wished she wasn’t wearing that goddamn sundress, and things were still right with their world.

But the part of him that cared about her knew that this was right for her, and that he was one of the reasons that she could now do this. She was quite a woman, and he was at least a tiny bit responsible. That was a good thing. Course, didn’t mean he had to completely like it. But as Storm said, he did best when he didn’t goddamn like the situation. “Try not to get arrested,” he said softly.

She nodded. “You’ll come’n break me out if Ah do though, won’t you?”

He grinned slyly. “I’ll think about it, Kid.”

Another smile and she headed into the mansion. He watched her go, aware that this could potentially be a very difficult situation. Or a very entertaining argument. Rogue would be fine, he thought; Marie would be fine. 

He just hoped Storm knew who she was dealing with.

He found her sitting on the lawn, eating a piece of chocolate cake. She’d taken her shoes off, and she was busy playing with the grass at her feet, kneading it with her toes. “Ah know you’re there,” she said without preamble.

“Well bully for you,” he muttered in return, taking the seat beside her. “So how’d it go?”

She didn’t look up at him, just continued to smile down at her cake. “Ah didn’t know Professor Monroe could swear in that many languages. Neither did Professor McCoy.”

“Didn’t go well then, huh?”

“Ah took a leaf outta your book on diplomacy, Logan.” He winced. “Asked her straight out what the goddamn problem was. She said this was the wrong forum, bad timin’, blah blah blah, but eventually Ah got her talkin’. Well, yellin’ Ah should say.” The grin grew wider, maybe a touch smug. “Eventually the, uh, gloves came off so to speak. She said that Ah’d betrayed mah own kind, that Ah’d let the normal community make me ashamed of who and what Ah was and that she had no time for people who had so little back-bone.” Logan repressed the urge to go high-tailin’ after the Snowflake to see if she’d say that to his face. “Ah think Hank was a little shocked. Ah didn’t think Professor Monroe could get that steamed.” She daintily took a small bite of her cake.

“And?” She was doing this on purpose, he thought irritably.

“And then, when she’d yelled herself hoarse, Ah asked her whether she’d finished, and then Ah… delivered my counter-argument.” Logan nodded. She’d probably given Storm a lot of well though-out and articulate reasons for her decision. “Ah asked her who’d died and made her God.”

Despite himself an amused grin split Logan’s face. “You said what?”

“Ah asked her who made her God. And then Ah asked her whether she’d ever been unable to control her powers, or to pass for normal if she really wanted to. She said it wasn’t the same thing, and Ah told her that was absolute, grade-A horse shit, which it is.” Another dainty bite of cake. “Ah told her that for three, no four years Ah’ve been completely shut off from human contact, and that she has no idea what that’s like, whether she wants to admit it or not. Ah couldn’t touch anyone, not even the boy Ah loved (and Ah did love Bobby, even if we were only kids) without puttin’ them in danger. When Ah first came here, Ah used to sleep-walk into your room, didya know that Logan? Ah once went nearly three weeks without sleep because Ah was terrified Ah’d walk into your room and touch you in your sleep, poke ya or something. That takes a toll, no matter how tough y’all are.” Another bite of cake, bigger this time. “And then Ah told her that she could accept that this was my decision and get on with the business of livin’ or she could keep this bullshit up and Ah’d walk away, but that the choice was up to her.” 

She finished off the last piece of cake.

“And?” Logan prompted.

Now she smiled at him. “And Ah start back in the fall, as a teaching assistant. Ahm gonna re-sit mah SATs and then we’ll think about college.” She poked him gently in the ribs. “Ya proud of me, Logan?”

He couldn’t help the wider grin which now split his face. “I couldn’t get any prouder of ya if ya’d gone one-on-one with Mystique and kicked her ass.”

Just for a second the old Marie was back, and she grinned shyly at the praise. “Believe you me, this was scarier.” She put her plate down and once again, he realised she was staring at her hands, examining them it seemed. He’d often wondered what it would be like to be stuck inside your skin like she was, unable to ever touch anyone. He’d pitied her, and marvelled at her resilience, marvelled even more when she’d started going out with Bobby. He’d thought at the time that the two were the bravest pair he’d ever seen, walking headlong into certain heart-break like that and doing it with a smile on their face. Course it hadn’t worked out, and even back then he’d suspected that Marie knew it wouldn’t. She’d just done it anyway, without having to be told that this was a risk worth taking. 

She understood risk.

“So you’ll be here next year then?” He asked hesitantly, to clear the air of its heavy silence. 

“Looks that way.” She shot him a slanting, sideways glance. “You?”

“Yeah.” He looked around him. “Home is where the heart is, or so they say.”

“And this is home?”

“I’m lookin’ straight at it,” he said with a grin.  

“Well, Ah won’t be your pupil anymore, Logan. You ready for that?” She grinned back at him sceptically. 

“I think I’ll survive.”

“Ah think we’ll survive. Whatever life throws at us, we’ll survive.” She made a  show of sighing dramatically. “Now all Ah have to do is make the trip to New Orleans and break the news to Remy.” Again she glanced sideways at him. “Y’all up for a road trip?” She was smiling at him, his Marie. His home. He’d be up for a trip to Hell and back if she’d asked. This was right, this was peace. This was the way things were supposed to be.

There was only one thing he could say.

“You told him I carry a shot-gun, right?”

“Why spoil the surprise?”