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Interlude, With Bullets and Lime

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When the man shoots her, she almost doesn't believe it.

It seems ridiculous to have lived through as much as she has - the superhuman powers, the plotting for world domination and bigger than life super villains, the jetting around the world in leather outfits just begging for trouble - to find herself here, in a small town in New Mexico, incognito and playing tourist, staring at her hand clasped over her stomach with blood seeping out around the edges.

She is wearing a pair of old jeans and a scooped-neck black t-shirt, a scarf and a pair of thin brown opera-length gloves. She had gone to the corner market to pick up some toothpaste and a pack of mint gum. The plastic bag lies on the ground by her feet.

She looks up, astonished, at the man who has just shot her. He is young and brown-eyed and is stammering apologies and looks like he wants to cry.

"Rogue? Marie!" she hears, and she turns around, stumbling at the rotation, to see Logan sprinting toward her, his claws extended, and that is the last thing she sees before she loses consciousness.

---

"Marie, you've got to push me away as soon as you feel you can. Marie!" She feels his hands on her shoulders, feels him shake her. "Do you understand me?"

She is lying flat now, on some soft surface. She concentrates on the muscles of her neck, manages to leverage one to pull her head downward in a nod.

Then he is kissing her. It's nothing like her fantasies - for one thing, she is never dying from a stomach wound in them, and the sensation of him kissing her is only enough to shock her focus away from the supernova of sensation in her gut for a split-second. The kiss is rough and desperate and hard, pressed against her teeth, but it is also chaste. His lips and eyes are both closed.

Then she feels the pull start between them, and he gasps against her mouth. Her skin starts to itch and crawl with the life of him, and she can feel him, strong in her mind again, drowning out her own sense of self with his restlessness and focus and his lips are soft against her own and -

She pushes him away from her, frantic, and he collapses next to her, breathing fast.

They are on her bed in their motel room. She feels a sensation inside her, a vague, tickling feeling moving around, like hundreds of tiny robots are stitching her together, tugging flesh here and there to make ends meet, spinning new bone, rearranging her insides to make everything fit again. She raises a hand to her belly, and touches firm, newly healed flesh under the slipperiness of the still warm blood coating the skin.

Next to her, Logan's breathing has slowed and evened out, and he's slipped into a deep, coma-like sleep.

"God damn it," she whispers, and turns to punch a hole in the plastered drywall.

---

When she's able, she gets up and takes a shower, putting on clean clothes and brushing out her hair. She goes to ask the motel manager for another night's extension on the room - she's not sure how much time to give Logan, but she hopes it's no more than a day, otherwise she's going to have to figure out how to deal with other, more practical concerns of hiding a comatose man in her motel room - and she rubs her knuckles through her gloves the whole time she is dealing with the man. She tells herself that's because her hand hurts from where she punched the wall.

That evening, she watches sports on the television, and holds his hand as she recaps the more exciting moments for him, as well as filling him in on the stupider commercials. She feels the old craving for a drink - for anything - in her again, and compromises by chewing the end of one of Logan's unlit cigars, rolling it between her teeth and trying not to think about that spot on a woman where the ass dimples and curves into the long, straight muscles of the back.

She falls asleep, still holding his hand and lying on top of the covers, and wakes to darkness and a sound of rustling beside her.

"Logan?"

A moan. "Yeah, kid. I'm still here."

"Oh, thank God," she says, instantly awake. "Are you OK?"

"Feel like I got run over by a truck, but I'll make it." More rustling, and she feels the bedsprings dip underneath her. "I gotta piss like there's no tomorrow, though."

She reaches the light switch and flips it just as Logan is closing the door of the bathroom. She squints into the sudden brightness and goes to lie back down on the bed. When he comes back out, he sees the spot where she put her fist through the wall and pauses to examine it.

"Nice decorating," he says finally, and lays back down beside her on her bed.

She shrugs. It's nothing she feels like discussing right now.

Logan takes a deep breath and reaches up to touch his temples, briefly. "What day is it?"

"Same day," she says, then sits up to look at the alarm clock next to the bed. "Actually, no, it's four thirty the next morning. You've been out around nine, ten hours."

"You did good, kid, pushing me away when you did."

"I was scared."

"Still did good." He turns his head to examine her. "How's the gut?"

She lifts up the hem of her shirt to show him the results. "Good as new."

"That's good." He settles his head back, closes his eyes again. "I'm gonna crash again."

"You sleep," she says. She pulls a blanket back up over him, wraps herself in the sheet next to him. Logan is silent for few minutes, and she's not sure if he's fallen back asleep already. "Logan?"

He speaks vaguely, without opening his eyes. "Yeah?"

"What happened to the guy who shot me?"

He sighs. "I stuck 'em. Don't think I killed him, I just got him through the shoulder. He kept babbling, kept saying he didn't mean to, and then he ran away. I would have chased him down, I wanted to, but... had to take care of you."

She's silent for a moment, thinking about this. "Logan?"

"Yeah?"

"Thank you."

"Couldn't have done anything else," he says.

---

She can tell when he wakes up - he shifts slightly, his breathing quickens - but he lies there for several silent minutes and watches her. She is pacing the length of the motel room and irritable flexing her hands, bare of gloves, cracking the joints and arching her fingers outward with a crabbed sort of tension which pops the tendons on the back of her hands out. It reminds her of Wolverine's claws.

He seems to find it all amusing. Finally, she ends a lap at the foot of the bed and faces him down, hands on her hips.

"What." She makes it a statement, not a question.

"You."

"What about me?"

He shrugs, and mercifully doesn't point out the fact that is obvious to them both. Rogue feels the wind come out of her sails, and sits down on the edge of the bed, feeling suddenly a little lost, a little less like Logan.

"What are we going to do about the hole in the wall?" She's never punched a hole in the wall before, isn't sure what the protocols are.

"Not a big deal. We just give the guy some extra cash when we check out."

"You sure?"

"Yeah. Don't worry about it." He hesitates, then asks, "What do you want to do about the guy that shot you?"

She considers the question. "I think... I think I just want to get out of this town. I don't think that guy had anything to do with you or me. I just want to leave." She stares out the window. "I need a drink," she says finally.

"You and me both, kid."

---

The bar is stale and dim, with the door wedged open to let the cooling evening air in, circulating the heat of the day in swirls of atmospheric currents. The television behind the bar has rounded corners and rabbit ears and shows a baseball game that disintegrates into horizontal lines whenever anybody sits on the stool in front of it. A cow skull hangs over the door, and from a corner she can hear the clanking noises of a slot machine amusing itself, the screen lit up in cherry-red and blinking, excited logos.

Logan starts to order two beers, but she stops him and asks the bartender for a bottle of tequila and a pair of shot glasses instead. She doesn't get carded anymore, not with the white stripe in her hair. He throws in some lime slices and a cardboard salt shaker, and smiles kindly at her.

They both throw back their first shots straight, and Logan sprawls back in the booth and gives her a measured sort of going-over. "So how long until you got me out of your head?"

She pours herself another shot and tips the bottle over his glass as well. "I don't know. Usually it'd only be a couple hours, maybe a day. But after the Statue of Liberty..." She takes the second shot and closes her eyes, wincing a little at the burn in the back of her throat. "You're still fairly strong in my mind right now, and it's been about a day already, so it might be that you were still stuck up there somewhere from before and this just jogged you loose again."

"I suppose I don't remember a lot, after the Statue of Liberty."

They don't really talk about this much. She finds the whole memory embarrassingly intense and difficult to discuss, even with the person who was the other half of the event. Especially with Logan, if she is being honest. She used to lie awake at night and think about it, trying to recapture the part of that moment that made her feel bottomless and consumed and burning. She used to sleep with his dog tags around her neck and dream that she was submerged in a tank with metal running through her bones.

So she just says, "Yeah. By the time you woke up I was more like myself. You were out for a while."

"Jean told me a little about it. Said you took on some of my more charming personality traits."

She snorts. "She was nice sometimes." Logan nods, but gets an odd look and presses his lips together, and Rogue thinks again how strange it is to talk about Jean in the past tense. The part of her mind that is Logan feels distantly like punching somebody with the wrong sort of face now.

She leans forward. "Hey, hold your hand out."

Logan gives her a suspicious look, but Rogue grabs his hand and licks the flat part at the base of his thumb, quickly. She holds his wrist level and sprinkles a bit of salt on the exposed skin, and then pulls the small dish of lime to the center of the table.

"I don't do shots like this," Logan says mildly.

"Suck it up, darlin'. You do when you're with me." She grins at him and licks her own hand.

"I think you're one ahead of me, anyway."

"You'll have to double up next time, then. Ready?"

They lick and down the shots in unison. Rogue sticks the lime wedge in her mouth and smiles sweetly at him, and Logan laughs despite himself and does the same, but draws his lips back in a candy green snarl.

---

She is watching a younger woman at the bar, with brown hair like a curtain down to her ass and an easy smile. The woman's hands are wrapped loosely around the stem of a beer bottle and when she laughs, she wrinkles her nose up.

"Too young," Logan says, and Rogue looks back to realize that he's watching her closely.

"Huh?"

"That woman at the bar? Too young for me."

Rogue scowls, and pointedly stares at the man in front of her, who looks insufferably smug. "Oh really."

"Yeah."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh, come on. You haven't been able to keep your eyes off of her since she walked in." Logan's expression is now sincere and pointedly earnest and bland.

After she'd kissed Bobby (and after he'd had time to get over it) he had asked her how attractive she had found her own body was while he was in her head. He had been disappointed when she pointed out that she had hardly had time to think about the matter before he was fading out of her head, so she'd thrown him a bone and said that she had thought that her breasts had seemed awfully nice, at the time.

"You can hardly blame me," she says finally.

"I suppose not. It's kind of interesting. Didn't think that this whole situation would have this kind of effect on you, but it makes sense."

She raises an eyebrow (at least, she hopes she is - she's had rather a lot to drink at this point, and her face is starting to feel strangely distant from the rest of her body).

He shrugs, and looks rather pleased with his deductive reasoning and observation skills again.

She pours them both a new pair of shots. "Cheers." She waits until he up-ends his drink, and then leans forward and says in a confidential whisper, "You know, I tried to kiss Jean after the Statue of Liberty."

He manfully manages not to spit his drink, and puts the glass down a little too quickly. "What?"

She grins. "I asked her not to tell anybody about it, after I had a little more sense again. It was real embarrassing."

She considers her shot glass then, circles her finger around the rim, and adds, more slowly, trying to sound casual, "Sometimes... sometimes I dream I'm in the concentration camps again. Sometimes I know the names of the parts of a car engine, but only when I don't think about it too hard." She pauses again. "And you don't think the woman at the bar is too young. She just reminds you of me."

She takes her own shot, and sets the glass down carefully. Logan seems to be staring at something just past her right shoulder, but he's tapping his finger on the table and looks thoughtful.

She stands up. "Ready to go?"

---

The next morning, the air on the road is sweet and she swears she can taste the light from the sun as they drive down the deserted highway. The rising sun is wavering, streaky, in the sky and the wind is cool on her face. She lets her tongue hang out for a while, tasting the oxygen hitting the back of throat, feeling it dry out her tongue like she has a hangover. (Which she doesn't. As Logan pointed out, what good is super powered healing if it doesn't get you out of a night of drinking?)

She pulls herself closer to Logan, wrapping her arms tighter around his middle and feeling the solid heft of him, and moves her legs up to touch his, relishing the warmth of the contact.

"I love this!" she screams, aiming the comment in the general direction of his left ear.

He doesn't say anything that she can hear over the roar of the wind, but Rogue's pretty sure she doesn't need a response, anyway.