Chapter 1: Prologue
It wasn’t supposed to have happened like this.
Well. To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t supposed to have happened at all. Routine mission, the Professor said. Simple pick up job, he’d assured them. He hadn’t counted on the delegation from the Brotherhood arriving at the same time as the X-Men crew. Nor could he, Rogue supposed, have anticipated the truly unpredictable nature of the mutant they’d been sent to recruit, genius or not. It certainly wasn’t the Professor’s fault that the mutant had been so startled by the near-simultaneous arrival of delegations from both the X-Men and Brotherhood that his mutation had been triggered. Definitely wasn’t the Professor’s fault that she, Rogue, had been closest to the mutant when the bright blue wall of energy had exploded around her and sucked her through, the cries of shock from the lone teammate she’d brought with her, echoing in her ears.
Rogue and Gambit had come to the mutant’s house in a mid-sized sedan and street clothes, not wanting to intimidate him or his family with the leather of their uniforms. After his parents had warily invited them into the house, they’d sat in the living room making pleasant conversation, trying to put the boy at ease. She and Remy had been making slow but steady progress in learning more about him and his mutation, and had been about to broach the topic of Xavier’s school with the boy and his parents. The teenager had been nervous as he finally explained what happened when his mutation was activated, said it was triggered by his emotions. It was really too bad the mutant had panicked once Toad, Mystique, and Pyro had shown up.
And it really didn’t appear that Michael McMahon, or Rift, as they’d found he’d taken to calling himself, had intentionally done this to her. It wasn’t his fault he couldn’t control his abilities yet or that fear brought about his mutation. At least, that’s what Rogue was telling herself as she hurtled through the silver-streaked blackness, stomach in her throat, blinded by the pain that seemed to come at her from every angle. And the noise. The noise. Such a sound, she’d never imagined was possible. The only thing that scared her more than the noise, more than the pain, was the possibility of what she might find once the pain stopped.
And then, as abruptly as the blast of energy had engulfed her, it expelled her with a final wrenching, pain-wracked crushing sensation. An ear shattering high-pitched noise came to a screeching crescendo and then abruptly ceased as Rogue suddenly found herself existing again. Her body, in a prone position, fell onto the rough terrain several feet below her. She had no time to process the situation or brace herself for the impact and she crashed onto the dusty ground below, her head landing on a large, sharp-edged boulder that appeared to have dislodged itself from the structure behind her. She swore loudly as pain shot through her right temple and she felt the warm wetness of blood oozing down her face. Spots danced before her eyes as she struggled to push herself up, her body reeling from the impact of the ground as well as the pain of being absorbed by Rift’s wall of energy.
Slowly, she rose to her feet and brushed off the dust from her dark tight jeans and blue silk blouse before raising one shaking hand to the throbbing in her skull, fingertips sticky with her blood. Her brown hair whipped across her face in the sudden chilly gust of wind and using the same hand, she impatiently ripped the strands away from her eyes.
Her high heels wobbled on the uneven ground and the pounding in her head intensified. She felt faint, her blood pounding in her ears as she took in her surroundings, mouth agape.
Where the hell was she?
Chapter 2: One
She must have fainted, because she didn’t remember falling to the ground. Rogue groaned as she pushed herself up and felt a burning sensation in her arm. Huh. She didn’t remember slicing up the underside of her forearm on the wicked length of broken glass that was jutting up from the pile of debris she’d fallen into, either.
She didn’t know how long she’d been unconscious. Though the blood which stiffened her blouse sleeve seemed to indicate at least a few hours had passed. Of course, she’d never admit to any of her teammates she’d fainted. It just wouldn’t do for them to think she’d been so - well, fragile.
Maybe she had a concussion. Maybe that blast of energy, or whatever the hell it was Rift had produced, had knocked her into the wall at his parents’ house, and she was hallucinating. That was a perfectly reasonable explanation for what she was seeing. Because the reality of what she was seeing was too painful, too awful, too impossible for her to comprehend.
Rogue walked forward towards the destroyed structure in front of her, high heels teetering unevenly on the rubble beneath her feet. She swore in exasperation as she nearly turned her ankle for the dozenth time. If she wasn’t worried about needing a tetanus shot, she’d have shucked off her heels and chanced wading through the debris. But she didn’t like the look of some of that rebar, and she’d already cut her arm and banged up her head, so she’d be dammed if she gave this place anymore of her blood.
She’d never been so unprepared to be in the field before, and it was making her anxious. She didn’t like feeling anxious. Feeling anxious made her feel as though she wasn’t in control. And she liked feeling in control. Neededto be in control. Control was critical for her. The lives of her teammates depended on her maintaining control over her skin. If she weren’t careful, if she slipped up, even a little, it could mean the end of one of them, and lifetime of guilt for her.
So now, as she carefully moved through the remains of the ruined building in front of her, she desperately clung to the hope that this was all just a sick vision pressed upon her by damaged brain, and that she was safely back in the mansion’s med bay by now, Hank or Jean monitoring her vitals as her body worked to regain consciousness.
Rogue stopped her ambling and took in the scene in in front of her. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters lay in ruins. The beautiful stone mansion had been ripped apart by some unknown force, though Rogue strongly suspected explosives had been involved. There was simply too much rubble strewn about for it to have been destroyed by anything else. Jagged chunks of charred wood stuck out here and there at odd angles, any traces of fire long since extinguished.
But even as disturbing as the image of her home having been blown up was, the worst thing about the image in front of her was that none of the debris looked fresh. It looked slightly weather worn, with no evident attempts to rebuild or even clean up. A chill settled deep in the pit of her stomach, and her throat swallowed convulsively as she pondered what could have happened to the X-Men in the short amount of time she’d been on her recruiting mission with Remy.
She shook her head suddenly, trying to ignore the stab of pain that pulsed through her temples at the motion, forcing that thought away. Concussion, remember? It’s not real. She told herself. She tried to calm her stubbornly rising panic by taking a few deep breaths in through her nose. After several moments, her heart rate began to return to normal and she closed her eyes briefly to center herself again, reminding herself that this was all just some bizarre concussed dream she was having, that nothing here could hurt her.
The sudden sound of skittering debris to her back caught her attention and she jerked around to see what had caused the noise. Her heart leapt with fear as she saw the towering form of a man emerging from one of the shadows of what used to be the south wall of the mansion.
“Hello, frail,” the huge man said as he emerged into the late afternoon sunlight. “What’re you doin’ here? This place is off limits.”
The sight of Victor Creed made her sigh in relief. Here was something familiar, at last. An occasional teammate of the X-Men, Sabretooth had become a reluctant ally over the years, proving himself to be a reliable bit of muscle when some of their more interesting missions required it. Rogue didn’t know him too well, as he would come and go as he pleased, always restless, always searching for something outside the mansion that seemed to elude him. But she did count him as a friend. And in her current situation, she’d take what she could get.
“Victor,” Rogue said, her voice voice full of the relief she felt. “It’s good to see you. Although what you’re doin’ in my addled brain is beyond me. I’d just as soon fantasize about my actual boyfriend if we’re talkin’ about men making an appearance in a hallucination.”
He tilted his head to the side, a puzzled expression on his face. “If you want somethin’ to fantasize about, pretty one, I’m more then willin’ to make your dreams come true,” he growled as he stepped forward, a cruel smile appearing on his face.
A chill ran down her spine at his expression and she unconsciously took a step backward. “Cut it out, Victor,” Rogue barked back at him.
“Don’t know how you know my name, don’t really care,” he sniffed the air as he continued to stalk her. “Mmm, you smell good, pretty one. Let me have a taste.” His dark eyes were fixed on her, eagerness etched in every line of his face.
She was seriously brain damaged. Why the hell would her mind come up with this shit?
“I don’t think so Creed, you know I’m with Remy,” she was pleased that her voice didn’t betray the nervousness she felt, though that was countered by her attempts to glance down at the wreckage for a weapon of some kind. Of course all that helpful rebar and broken glass she’d spied earlier was nowhere near her current surroundings.
Creed’s face had flashed at her mention of Remy and he momentarily stopped his slow press toward her. “You know the Cajun.” It wasn’t a question.
Rogue looked him straight in the eye, willing him to back down. “Don’t be stupid, Creed. You know I do.”
He shook his head, quick to dismiss her. “I think you’re lying. See, ‘cause I’ve never smelled you anywhere near the Cajun before. And I’d never be able to forget your sweet smell,” and he began to resume his stride toward her.
She was drastically unprepared and outgunned for this fight, the uneven ground beneath her feet was proving an unavoidable obstacle. She knew what Creed was capable of and her own combat skills were wildly inadequate to face him. Her only chance would be to somehow get a grip on his skin, a task made more difficult by the long trench coat he wore. Not to mention, he was a hairy mother, and getting in an unobstructed touch would be close to impossible.
Shit. She was in seriously deep shit.
He charged her without warning, though she would swear she’d been looking in his eyes for any sign of his decision to pounce. She turned to run, but let out a frustrated yell as her right heel snapped as it was caught on a piece of stone and she stumbled as she fell forward, scraping her palms as she went down. She scrambled, trying to gain a foot hold but Creed was on her, pinning her painfully to the hard ground.
His hot breath panted against her and before she had a chance to react, had licked a path from the nape of her neck to the temple that was pasted with her dried blood.
“Mmm, you taste delicious, pretty one. You’re gonna be fun to explore.”
“Fuck you, Creed. Get the hell off me! What is wrong with my brain!” She cried out, her panic starting to overcome her again.
“Don’t care about your brain, I’m more interested in this sweet body that’s wriggling beneath me.” He had begun to stroke her through her clothes and he thrust crudely against her back.
Rogue ceased moving immediately at his words, nausea roiling in her stomach. If he was going to rape her, she’d at least have a chance at dropping him with her skin. As abhorrent of the idea of Victor Creed’s diseased mind rattling around in hers forever was, she’d take it over the thought of him violating her.
“Let her go, Creed.”
A low, rough-edged voice had come out of nowhere and Victor had ceased his groping at once. Rogue heard him sniff the air but she was unable to turn her head to see who had spoken since Victor’s hands kept her body immobilized.
“Finders keepers, runt,” he pressed down hard with his body and Rogue couldn’t help but let out a cry of pain as her sliced forearm dug into some sharp object beneath her.
“The Brotherhood raping girls now?” The stranger asked, disgust and loathing evident in his tone.
“Get your own puppy. This one’s mine.”
“This one doesn’t look too willin’ to participate. Think I’ll fight you for ‘er instead.”
Rogue heard the sing of metal and a loud popping noise and then let out a sigh of relief as she felt the weight of Sabretooth moving off her.
Creed stood in front of her, facing the stranger and blocking him from her view. She scrambled and got to her feet to back away from Creed as swiftly as possible, but after a quick glance at the stranger was more concerned with getting away from the fucking twelve-inch metal blades coming out of his knuckles of his gloved hands. If he was about to fight Creed, he was obviously another mutant, but she’d never seen anyone who could take Creed on before. It was one of the reasons the X-Men had been so glad he was on their side.
Creed didn’t wait for a signal but attacked the man, going at him with his own set of claws. The man was ready for him, however, and met his charging body with a fist full of metal through Creed’s right shoulder. Creed howled in pain but quickly recovered and grabbed the man by the forearm that was flush against his chest and ripped out the metal claws embedded in his body. He used the momentum to throw the man backward into one of the still standing walls of the mansion. The man hit the wall face first with a surprisingly heavy sounding clink. He dropped to the ground and shook his head as the gash that had appeared on his forehead instantly healed.
Holy shit, Rogue thought. He’s like Creed.
The stranger growled as he charged Creed, this time slicing both claws into Creed’s abdomen, the impact of which forced Creed to step back a few paces. As Creed was forced backward, he lost his footing over one of the larger dislodged stones and fell. The man took advantage of the opportunity to slam Creed’s head back into another stone, over and over again, until he was breathing hard, and Creed ceased moving.
Rogue was panting heavily, the adrenaline of the fight pulsing through her veins making her jumpy. “Is he dead?”
At her voice, the man froze. He shook his head in response to her question and stood up, his back to her.
“Shit. Thank you. For helping me. Fucking hell, are those knives comin’ out of your hands? Never seen a mutant who could do that before,”
And before she had a chance to breathe, the stranger, who had been staring at Creed’s unconscious form, jerked back to face her and charged forward, slamming her backward into the half-crumbled wall behind her. Her head hit the stone and she resisted the urge to groan from the fresh wave of pain and spots that swam in front of her. She forced herself to look at his face and memorize every feature so she’d be able to find him and kick his ass later. Once she wasn’t in such a fucking ridiculous weakened state.
The man’s scruffy face was frozen in a look of acute distrust. One leather gloved hand held her by the throat, the full weight of his body forcing her back into the hard ruins of the building by the forearm he had pressed against her chest. She felt the heat of his body through her thin silk blouse, even from a distance and she shivered slightly in the crisp air.
“Who the fuck are you?” He asked, his lip curled in a snarl. He sniffed deeply and then his eyes widened, an infinitesimal degree. “How are you doing this?” he asked again, this time his voice slightly hoarse with some unknown emotion.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Rogue gritted out through clenched teeth. If she was confused, it seemed to be nothing compared to how the man holding her by the throat was feeling.
He leaned forward and sniffed her again. First, her hair, then down the column of her throat. “How do you smell like her? What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything. Get your hands off me!” She rasped out as her airway was slowly constricted by one of his large, rough hands. At his look of incredulity, she gave up on waiting for some semblance of logical thought to return to the man. Rogue quickly raised up both arms, clasped her hands together and brought them both down and to the left, breaking his grip on her neck. She must have surprised him, because she didn’t think she’d been able to get the jump on him otherwise. This was a man who’d taken down fucking Victor Creed, after all. Free from his grip, she didn’t hesitate, and began sprinting away from the man before he could detain her further, as fast as her damaged high heels would allow her.
Her heart was pounding with adrenaline as she stumbled away from the crumbled walls of what had been her home, and she chanced a look back over her shoulder to see if he was pursuing her. To her surprise, the man had not moved from his position.
“Marie.” He spoke her name softly, her name barely more than a whisper on the air.
But she froze at the sound, and slowly turned back to face the man, his face suddenly haggard with a grief-stricken expression as he gazed at her.
“How do you know my name?” she said quietly, her brown eyes staring into his hazel ones.
“’Cause you told me,” he growled out, impatience seeping into his voice.
Rogue shook her head, spots swimming before her eyes. She was starting to feel really nauseous. “I’ve never told anyone my name. Not even Remy.”
A flash of anger crossed his face. “LeBeau?” he spewed the name as though it were some vile object. “What does that Cajun rat have to do with anything?”
Rogue raised one eyebrow at the man. “How do you know Remy?”
The man countered her question with another one of his own. “How do you look and smell like Marie when she’s been dead for two years?”
Rogue felt the blood begin to drain out of her face and she felt perilously close to losing consciousness. Again. “Who - ,” she started as her voice broke. “Who are you?”
The man jerked his head to one side and held up a hand silencing her. He sniffed the air, once, twice, and jerked his head to one side, as if straining to hear something. He must have heard whatever it was he was waiting for turned back to her, his face once more impassive.
“Time to go, kid.”
“Kid? I ain’t a ‘kid’, buddy. ” Rogue said, her accent becoming more pronounced with her anger at being so addressed.
She could have sworn she saw a hint of a smile on his face before he closed off all emotions again. “We’re goin’.”
Confused by the abrupt change in his mannerisms, Rogue planted her feet as firmly as she possibly could on the ground beneath her and put her hands on her hips. “What do you mean, ‘we’? Who the hell are you?”
He didn’t respond, but a dark, predatory look entered his eyes and he suddenly charged her. Panicked by his sudden movement, she tried to turn and run from him again. But her legs were no match for his long ones and he caught up to her easily, especially since he was clad in much more appropriate footwear. Too dizzy and shaky from the stress of the past several hours, she couldn’t prevent the man from grabbing her by the waist as he ran and draped her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. He ignored her screams of fury and the pounding of her fists into his kidneys. All it earned her was a hard smack on the ass and a few grunts from him as he continued to tear away from the remnants of the mansion.
“A word of warning,” he said. “Never run from a predator, Marie,” his voice a low growl that vibrated against her thighs.
She shivered as his words registered in her brain and she tried to ignore the tingle of pain from his brief assault on her buttocks. “Don’t call me that,” she said, each word punctuated with the jostling of his muscular shoulder into her stomach. “My name is Rogue.”
His only response was a single grunt, which left her to interpret his monosyllabic animal noise however she wanted. His gait slowed after several minutes, Rogue becoming more and more disoriented and dizzy in her upside down position. The man finally stopped and she felt his head look up toward the sky.
Unable to crane her neck around to see what he was looking for, she suddenly heard the familiar whine of the Blackbird engines and she let out a sigh of relief and relaxed her tense body. The destruction of the mansion had not been the end of the X-Men. Just the end of their home base. Which really, hadn’t happened, because this was all related to her concussion. And with that thought foremost in her mind, Rogue relinquished control and succumbed to the pulsing darkness at the edges of her vision. Hopefully, she would regain consciousness and would find herself back at the mansion, safe in Remy’s familiar arms, rather than those of the strange man who currently held her. And with that final comforting thought, her body went limp.
Rogue didn’t see the pained expression on the man’s face as he felt her lose consciousness. Didn’t see him gently shift her body to his front so he could cradle her in his arms. Didn’t feel his hand lightly come up to run his fingers through her stark brown hair, wondering at the absence of her characteristic white streak. Didn’t see the look of fierce tenderness on face before he clenched his jaw in stout resolution as he boarded the jet, the woman he’d loved, the woman he’d been unable to protect, unable to save, clutched tightly in his arms.
Chapter 3: Two
Rogue felt herself rush toward consciousness. Her head was swimming and her stomach was roiling with nausea. She bolted upright from the hard surface she found herself lying on, and promptly vomited all over the shoes of a red-haired woman. Her face was vaguely familiar, but the pounding in Rogue’s temples was too intense to allow her to think clearly to place her accurately.
She groaned as the pain her her head was fully realized and let out a small noise that sounded like, “Sorry,” but was almost unintelligible to anyone within hearing distance. She laid back down as she felt the lure of unconsciousness pulling her back down into darkness. She willingly began to submit, wanting to escape the pounding pain in her head, the unsettled feeling in her stomach. But she was shaken gently, and she groaned as the soft touch of a hand at her shoulder urged her to sit up.
“I don’t want to,” she whined. The pain in her head was making her weak and irritable.
“You’ve suffered a moderately severe concussion. You cannot go back to sleep right now. We need to keep an eye on you, make sure you don’t have any severe bleeding.”
“’Cussion,” Rogue said, her voice stumbling over the word. “Knew it,” and her eyes began to flutter shut. “Knew it wasna real.”
Jean Grey stared down at the young woman on the metal table in front of her, feeling the others on the jet projecting their utter shock and disbelief at her sudden appearance. The woman was the spitting image of her dead friend, barring a few minor differences. Her hair, for one. The scars on her back, for another.
After Logan had boarded the jet with the unknown mutant in his arms they’d been sent to retrieve, his face closed off in an unreadable expression, Jean had forced everyone - with the exception of Logan who failed to comply - back to their seats as she gave the woman a cursory examination. She needed to ensure the woman didn’t have any severe injuries, and the presence of blood on the woman’s head, arm, and clothes had prompted her to quickly check for any major trauma. She’d run her hands down the woman’s legs and arms, pressing gently, feeling the bones for fractures. Finding none, Jean moved on. The cut along the woman’s forearm, though deep, was clotting nicely and was no longer streaming blood. The same for the gash at her temple; it appeared to be worse than it really was. What troubled Jean was the woman’s unconscious state. It seemed as though she’d hit her head hard enough to sustain a severe concussion. Her fingers itched to be at the controls of an MRI or CT scan machine to see what type of damage they might be dealing with, but she had no chance of that anymore. She hadn’t had access to that type of equipment since the Mutant Registration Act was passed and the mansion was destroyed.
As the woman’s blouse also had signs of blood, Jean had gently turned the woman on her side and lifted up the blue silk shirt to ensure there were no additional injuries. She drew in a sharp breath as she caught site of the woman’s back. It was covered in thin white scars which crisscrossed the length of her, from hips to shoulder blades. But seeing no fresh injuries there, Jean had quickly pulled the shirt down and gently laid the woman back down on the table.
The sight of the woman’s back made Jean sick to her stomach. The woman had clearly been through some sort of trauma in her past; the scars were not new, but had faded to a silvery shade of pink. Jean furrowed her brow as she realized the marks must have been inflicted by a person. The lines were spaced in deliberate patterns, carefully covering the entire expanse of what must have at one point been a lovely back. The Rogue that Jean had known had never borne any such scars; and any evidence of such an injury would have been erased after any of the times that Logan had given her some of his healing ability.
At the thought, Jean glanced over to where Logan paced. His jaw was clenched and he hadn’t torn his eyes away from the woman since he’d boarded the Blackbird with her. She saw him turn back towards her and she caught a glimpse of his eyes as they flashed deep gold. Shit. He was perilously close to losing control then, and unless they wanted a rampaging Wolverine on their hands, someone was going to have to calm him down. Jean couldn’t imagine what he must be going through, and she didn’t want to risk losing him walking away from the X-Men again. He’d only recently agreed to come back to work with them, and that battle long fought and hard won.
After Rogue’s death, Logan had stayed on with them for nearly three months. Lost in his grief, he became an animal, lashing out at anyone who tried to comfort him. Soon, he began to withdraw from the team entirely, disappearing for days and weeks on end, until finally once morning he left the mansion without a word. The Professor had spent nearly a year afterward tracking him down, and then another six months trying to convince him to rejoin them in their renewed fight to take down the Friends of Humanity. Scott was convinced that the only way he would rejoin them was for a chance at revenge. Turns out he’d been right. Logan had made it very clear that the only reason he’d come back was to destroy the Friends of Humanity.
Jean moved away from the woman who, though groaning and holding her head, was sitting upright under her own power. She walked over to where Logan was pacing and gently reached out to stop him, her hand resting lightly on his forearm. He stopped reluctantly and looked down at her, eyes narrowing, glinting dangerously.
“Let me touch her, Jeannie. I can fix her.”
“No, Logan,” Jean said shaking her head as she removed her hand from Logan’s arm. “We don’t even know if she is Rogue, or even capable of the same mutation, for that matter. Didn’t you say that she was being attacked by Sabretooth?” Jean waited for a response and after a moment he jerked his head in acknowledgment of this fact. “The Rogue we knew would have been able to know how to handle herself against Victor Creed. We don’t know what’s going on, and until we can get this woman to the Professor, I’m not letting you touch her.”
“Rogue?” The woman asked giggling, having apparently overheard their hushed conversation. “Not m’name. Not really.”
“Fuck it, Jeannie. It’s her,” Logan growled. “She can’t fake her scent.”
“I don’t smell. I showered today.” The woman frowned as she spoke, then scrunched up her nose apparently deep in concentration. “I think it was today.”
“I think you smell just fine, darlin’,” Logan said as he strode towards the woman, his intentions clear on his face.
Jean couldn’t let him touch her. Not until the Professor could figure out what was going on. She reached out with one hand and concentrating, forced Logan to stop in his tracks.
“That’s enough, Logan. You don’t know who she is, or what she’s doing here. You heard her; Rogue’s not her name.”
His claws released with a metal twang and growled. “Jeannie, you’d better cut that shit out before I gut you.”
“Ooh, you have knives in your hands!” The woman said, excitement in her voice. “I remember you from the mansion.” Then she frowned again as she remembered something. Something bad. “There was somethin’ wrong with it. It was all broken.”
“Stand down, Logan.” Scott barked out as he turned his attention from the controls to the rising tension in the back of the jet.
“Make me, Cyke,” Logan said as he popped the joints of his neck in anticipation of a fight.
“I don’t have to, Wolvie,” Scott retorted, derision edging his voice at the moniker. “Jean’s doing just fine without me.”
“Shouldn’t fight. Be nice,” the woman mumbled shaking her head at the childish display.
Logan clenched his jaw and rumbled deep in his chest. But his eyes darted quickly toward the woman, and he retracted his claws with a heavy sigh. Sensing the lessening of Logan’s tension, Jean let out a shaky breath and released him from her hold.
Scott spoke up from the cockpit, breaking the silence. “We should be touching down in five minutes.”
Jean tentatively reached out to touch Logan again, this time, at his shoulder. He jerked away from her touch though, and strode over to where the woman sat, guarding her.
“The Professor will be able to tell us what’s going on, Logan,” Jean said softly. “She’s not in any danger from us, and she’s not going to keel over before he has a chance to see her. Her injuries are mostly superficial. She’ll heal.”
A growl of annoyance issued from Logan as he took in Jean’s words. But before he could react further, the woman spoke up again. “You’re very growly,” she muttered, narrowing her eyes at Logan. “Remy’s not so growly. He’s pretty, though,” she sighed, a wistful expression crossing her face as she twirled a strand of hair between her fingers. “And his eyes turn red. And he likes me. My head really hurts. Are you taking me back to Remy?”
Logan clenched his jaw at her words and shifted his body weight away from her slightly. He didn’t answer her as she continued to ask question after question, but he didn’t leave her side as the jet descended.
Professor Charles Xavier sat in his wheelchair, at a loss for words. The woman sitting in front of him was practically identical to the Rogue he had known.
When the woman had walked into his room of their the X-Men’s new headquarters, accompanied by Logan, Jean, and Scott, she appeared to be close to tears as she started toward him, relief spreading over her face.
“Professor! I’m so glad to see you. Jean and Scott and this hairy knife man are being really confusing. And I don’t know what happened to Remy after we went to pick up Rift. Do you know where he is? Did he come back with Rift? I really want to go lay down because my head is killin’ me, but Jean told me no. She said I had a concussion and I knew I did, but I don’t know how the mansion got destroyed or how I landed on it, or why Victor was bein’ such an asshole. And how did I get all the way back to the mansion from Rift’s parents’ house?”
Scott, Jean, and Logan were all silent at this outburst, having apparently, from their facial expressions, already been subjected to this barrage of questions.
Charles had cleared his throat and patted her lightly on the hand. “My dear. I am sure we can figure out the answers to your inquiries. If you would be so kind as to take a seat?” He asked, motioning toward the empty chair across from him.
The woman moved somewhat awkwardly, seemingly lacking the grace Charles had associated with Rogue, but sat easily enough, a look of attentiveness on her slightly unfocused gaze. Seeing this, Charles glanced at Jean for confirmation. Concussion? He asked silently.
Yes, Jean replied. She was unconscious when Logan brought her on board, but was awake within ten minutes or so.
Very well. I hope it doesn’t interfere with what I’m about to attempt.
“My dear,” he said turning back to the woman. “I wonder if you will permit me to explore your mind? I am sure it will help with your questions.”
The woman wrinkled her nose in confusion at his words. “But,” she began. “Why would I have the answers to my own questions?”
Charles moved forward and placed one hand at his temple. “All will be made clear. Just relax.”
The woman let out a shuddering breath as Charles closed his eyes and concentrated. The woman followed suit and the room was quiet.
Logan stood watching the silent display, arms crossed at his chest, knuckles itching. He had to trust that Charles knew what he was doing and that this was the quickest way to find answers. Logan concentrated on the even sounds of her breath, the delicate scent of her on the air, the subtle pulsing of her heart beat which was just visible at her throat. It was killing him; being this close to her, seeing her, smelling her. And not being able to touch her. He clenched his fists, fighting the urge to release his claws, desperate to act somehow, desperate to help her anyway he could.
After what seemed an interminable length, Charles opened his eyes and dropped his hand from his head.
“Well?” Logan asked, impatiently.
The woman raised her eyebrows at him as she glanced his way and Logan’s heart stopped. He couldn’t count the number of times he’d seen that same look on Marie’s face right before she gave him an earful about one thing or another. Usually he’d made her forget whatever she had been upset about by distracting her with more interesting physical pursuits. She had never seemed to mind. And hell, he’d started to look forward to that expression on her face. Maybe even purposefully done something guaranteed to piss her off, just to endure the consequences of his actions.
Charles cleared his throat and turned his chair to face Logan, Jean, and Scott. The woman turned her attention back to the Professor, and waited, a hopeful expression now on her face.
“This,” Charles began, “is Rogue.”
Jean and Scott looked at each other, their faces a mirror of the other’s confusion.
“How?” Jean asked. “How is it possible, Professor? Rogue,” she hesitated, looking at the woman, a look of apology on her face. “Rogue, well, died two years ago.”
“Our Rogue died two years ago,” Charles corrected.
“I didn’t die. Definitely not dead,” Rogue said.
“Chuck,” Logan ground out through gritted teeth. “Please get to the fuckin’ point already.”
“Very well, Logan. This is Rogue,” he repeated. “Rogue, as she is, in an alternate dimension.”
Scott, Jean, and Logan all turned to look at Rogue as one.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Rogue said, chidingly. “I didn’t do anythin’ to your Rogue. Seems like you’re the ones who didn’t take too good of care of her, if she’s dead.”
Jean winced as she took in Rogue’s words and looked at Logan to gage his reaction. He visibly stiffened and clenched his jaw, but made no further reaction to the accusation in Rogue’s voice.
Scott shook his head. “Professor, it doesn’t make any sense. How is this possible? How is she here?”
“Yeah! Why am I here? And why isn’t Remy here?” Rogue asked.
Charles sighed and closed his eyes for a moment, rubbing his temples with both hands as if a headache was looming. “It is difficult to put into words, exactly what happened. But I will try to explain as best I can. Essentially, in this other dimension, my,” he hesitated, “counterpart, for lack of a better word, sent Rogue and Remy - ”
Logan’s growl interrupted the Professor’s explanation.
“Honestly, Logan, if you continue to growl every time I refer to Remy LeBeau, we will be here for a very long time, indeed. If you can keep the interruptions to a minimum, I will be able to enlighten everyone in a much shorter time span.” When Logan said nothing, Charles continued. “My counterpart sent Rogue and Remy to retrieve a newly manifested mutant, whose power appeared to be creating portals between dimensions.”
“Holy shit. So that’s what that blue light was,” Rogue breathed, comprehension dawning.
“What, so her interrupting you is just fine and fuckin’ dandy?” Logan rumbled.
“It appears,” Charles continued, glaring at Logan, “that Rogue was inadvertently sent through one of the portals this individual - “
“Michael McMahon,” Rogue supplied. “Or, Rift.”
“Rift,” Charles agreed, “created.”
“So why doesn’t she know me? But she knows you and Jeannie and Scooter?” Logan asked.
“Because she has never met you,” Charles responded. “She knows Scott, and Jean, and me because she has met us, or our counterparts, in her dimension.”
“So, there are other mes?” Scott asked, confused. “Other Jeans, other Logans, other yous?”
Charles nodded. “Yes. Though it’s hard to fully explain or understand, there are an infinite number of dimensions. Each one is slightly different than the next, based on he untold number of possibilities that exist within it. The mutant in this Rogue’s dimension, has apparently developed a mutation which allows him to open a doorway or portal between these worlds.”
“So,” Logan said, turning to Rogue, a note of accusation in his voice. “The words, ‘Laughlin City,’ ‘Liberty Island,’ and ‘Friends of Humanity’ mean nothing to you?”
If he hadn’t been watching her so intently, he would have missed the slight widening of her eyes that occurred right as he’d said Friends of Humanity, before she shook her head quickly, then grimaced as the motion appeared to hurt her.
“Logan,” Charles cautioned, “This Rogue may have had some experience with these places or groups, but she did not experience them with your counterpart, if he exists, in her dimension.”
“How did you not know it was her?” Logan asked, eyes flashing a dangerous gold as he turned toward the Professor. “When you asked us to go pick up this new mutant you detected?”
“Logan. All mutants have a certain characteristic that sets them apart from other humans. While I am able to distinguish some similarities in the brain waves of mutants, no two are exactly alike. I was sure that I had made a mistake when I sensed this Rogue’s presence. That the mutant I had detected just displayed a similar brain wave as Rogue. But -.”
“You haven’t answered my question about Remy,” Rogue interrupted apparently not caring for the content of Charles current topic. “Is he,” she swallowed hard, “Like me? Is he dead here?”
Logan was itching to release his claws at the longing and fear evident in her voice. To have her be concerned about such a fucking piece of filth as Remy LeBeau enraged the animal within. That on top of the possibility that this Rogue didn’t know him, didn’t share his memories was a real kick to the fucking stomach.
“No,” Charles said softly. “He’s not dead here. Rogue, I must caution you though,” his voice suddenly stern as he met Rogue’s eyes. “The Remy you know, the Remy from your dimension, does not exist in this dimension. This Remy works with the Brotherhood of Mutants, and is a very, very different and dangerous man. You experienced the vast differences of our two dimensions already when you encountered Victor Creed this afternoon. But you must remember. Neither man shares your memories, or loyalties. They will likely harm you if you encounter them again, Victor, certainly, for no better reason than you are with us.”
“And where are the rest of the X-Men? Why was the mansion destroyed? Where are we now? Where’s Jubilee? Why is this hairy knife man so angry with -”
“It’s Wolverine,” Logan interjected.
Rogue scoffed, “What kinda name is ‘Wolverine?’”
Before he could stop himself, Logan retorted with the first words that came to mind, “What kinda name is ‘Rogue?’” And he tried to ignore the stabbing pain that went through his heart as he realized what she’d said. And what he’d said. Fuck. She was so like her.
Charles held up his hand. “Please. Both of you. Stop. Rogue, I promise I will answer your questions in time -”
“You have been through quite an ordeal in the past day. Your body needs rest. I insist you go with Jean and take some time to recover.”
Jean started toward Rogue, taking the very loud psychic hint that Charles was sending her. She held out a hand to help Rogue up and she took it, standing up with a slight wobble. As Jean started toward the door, Rogue stopped just before she exited the room and turned back toward Charles.
“But, Professor,” she said, her voice tight with unshed tears. “How do I get back? How do I get back to my own place?”
Several seconds passed as Charles contemplated whether or not to tell her the truth. It was better she knew now, he supposed, than to find out later. A sympathetic look was on his face as he stared at her. “I’m afraid I don’t know.”
Logan breathed a small internal sigh of relief. Chuck hadn’t been lying. He didn’t know how to send Rogue back.
And as far as Logan was concerned, that was the way it was going to stay.
He wouldn’t lose her again.
Chapter 4: Three
Marie woke and found herself back in the cage. A cry of despair escaped her as she tried to turn around in the cramped space. Fear rose up from the pit of her stomach and she taste bile at the back of her throat. How was she back here again? She had sworn she’d never be back here again. She was locked in the cage, the ceiling of which wasn’t tall enough to allow her to sit up and barely allowed her to turn around. She spent most of her time on her hands and knees as a result, like an animal. Which was just as well since the most recent whipping she’d endured prevented her from putting even the slightest pressure on her back. The thin blanket at the foot of the cage did nothing to soften the feeling of the hard grid of bars that dug unto her shins and hands. Her legs were one big bruise, marred a constant shade of purple and green from the constant pressure and slow healing of her body.
As best she could figure, she hadn’t eaten in at least four days now, and her limbs felt weak and shaky. She leaned down toward the water bowl and tried to bring it up to her mouth. But the movements caused agonizing pain in her back and she cried out as she dropped the metal bowl with a loud clang. The scant amount of water left sloshing out almost entirely.
She felt the barely healed skin of her back crack open and felt the fresh oozing of blood. She could tell it was infected. Her skin felt hot nearly all the time, and even the slightest movements were excruciating. She let out a sob as she leaned down and licked up the precious remaining droplets of water in the bowl, desperate to ease her thirst, shame staining her cheeks red. She was amazed that she could still feel shame after all these months in here. By this time she had lost track of exactly how long she’d been locked in the cage. The days and nights ran together in a miserable blur of pain, shame, and despair. Her time was interrupted only by the all too often appearance of Father Emmett Knox or one of his other psychotic Church of Humanity followers.
Marie curled up to one corner of the cage, moving as delicately as possible to try and limit any pain the movements might cause to her back, and started crying. She could smell herself, she was starving, thirsty, uncomfortable, and in so much pain.
Her tears fell faster as she relived exactly how she’d become locked in this damned cage. She could only blame herself for her current situation. If she hadn’t tried to run away from home, this never would have happened. She should have listened to her mama and stayed put. But she’d refused the help her parents had offered after the incident with David in her bedroom.
The stigma of what had transpired tainted her, marked her as different. She couldn’t go to school anymore, couldn’t go shopping, couldn’t go out in public at all, without being subject to the cruel words of the normal humans around her who feared her.
After their initial freak out of finding their only child was a mutant, her parents finally realized what had happened to David and they had done countless hours of research, trying to find a cure, or other ways to remove the unclean mutant manifestation from her body. After many weeks of trying to convince her of the latest nonsense they’d discovered on the internet, Marie had told them she wanted to leave. Despite this, her parents wanted her to stay. They’d fought for days about her decision, the arguments becoming more and more heated, until Marie had stormed up the stairs, slammed her bedroom door behind her and yelled that she would be leaving the following day.They were convinced they would be able to help her, but Marie had made up her mind, and six weeks after she’d kissed David, she packed her bag and headed out into the dark of the night, intent on setting down her original path toward Anchorage.
She hadn’t made it past the end of her street.
She’d quietly closed the front door of her house behind her, green duffel bag slung over her shoulder, and headed out on foot down the street toward the nearest bus terminal. Her street was quiet at this time of night, and she took the time to inhale the deep thick scent surrounding her. She trailed one gloved hand over a bunch of wild hyacinth blooms, and the mulberry bushes of Mrs. Barnhill’s front yard. She was going to miss the sounds of a Mississippi summer night when she was up in Alaska.
The sudden screech of tires made her jump, and before she’d had time to realize what was happening, a black van had sped up along side her. Two men jumped out of the sliding door and grabbed her with gloved hands before she could react. They had masks on which obscured their features, and Marie felt fear bubble up inside her as she realized the danger she was suddenly in. She opened her mouth to scream, but one of them had a syringe and jammed it into her thigh through her blue jeans. He depressed the plunger and Marie felt an instant calm flood her body before she fell unconscious.
When she’d woken up, she found herself in an unknown, unfinished basement, locked in a cage wearing a hospital gown. That’s when her nightmare had truly begun.
The sounds of footsteps coming down the basement steps roused her from her unpleasant memories and she found herself looking up into the hated face of Father Emmett Knox. His short gray hair was parted on the right, and slicked tight against his head. His standard black suit was pressed into neat lines, his white shirt crisp with starch. He never had a hair out of place, never a speck of lint on his suit, never a scuff on his impeccably shined shoes.
“You’re awake,” he said as he rapped the shock stick he always held when he visited her against his black trousers.
Marie said nothing as she wiped the tears from her face using the edge of her stained and filthy hospital gown. She’d learned it was best not to speak to him if she could help it. And she was too weak to want to start anything with him today.
His cold blue eyes took in her grimy state and his nose wrinkled in disgust. “You smell,” he said, his voice thick with scorn.
Marie couldn’t help the words that issued from her mouth. “Maybe if you didn’t treat me like an animal and let me clean myself, I wouldn’t smell so bad!”
“I treat you like an animal because you are an animal,” Father Emmett said, his voice going cold with rage.
“I’m not an animal! I’m just a girl,” she retorted, already regretting her outburst.
“I beg to differ, you mutant filth. Only man alone was created in God’s image. How many times must I tell you this? How many times must you be reminded of your lessons? How many times must I beat the impure filth from you?”
Marie felt feverish and sick. She never would be so reckless otherwise, she was sure of it. Again, she couldn’t help the stream of words that escaped her mouth. “Maybe God was a mutant. Ever think of that? Otherwise, how’d he do all that stuff in the bible?”
“Blasphemous filth!” Father Emmett reached through the cage with a shock stick and struck Rogue hard in the shoulder. She grimaced as lightning bolts of pain raced through her body. It was pure agony. Her back was on fire and her bones ached.
“You will repent and accept the healing light of Jesus into your damned soul! Only then will the abomination of your abnormality leave you. Only then can you rejoin your brothers and sisters in the light!” He violently retracted the stick from the cage and smoothed back a stray strand of gray hair that had come loose from its plastered confines with his rough movements. “No food for you again today, I think.”
Marie hunched in the cage, breathing hard, nerves on fire, determined not to let him get to her, determined to have faith in herself to make it through this. “My parents will find me” she muttered quietly. “They’d never give up lookin’ for me.”
Father Emmett walked back up the stairs of the basement, polished shoes echoing off the cold cement floor. He turned back to face her from the top of the landing, a cold smile plastered on his face. “Your parents were the ones who gave you to us, you stupid mutant filth.”
Rogue jerked upright, drenched in sweat, borrowed pajamas plastered to her body. Her shallow breathing failed to normalize as she took in the unfamiliar surroundings of the bedroom she was in. The unfamiliar scent of the sheets, the strange shadows cast by a half-moon shining its blue light in through the window, all causing a deeper sense of panic as flashes of yesterday came back to her, along with a low-grade headache which was pulsing in time to her racing heartbeat.
“Oh, God,” she muttered as she threw back the sheets and ran toward the window. She fumbled with the lock and then threw open the window, gulping in lungfuls of the cold fresh air that raced in. The harsh scent of pine trees seared her nasal passages, wiping the remembered stench of her own stale fear-soaked sweat from her mind.
She hadn’t had any nightmares about the Church in several years now. Not after the hundreds of hours she’d spent with the Professor, leaning control, learning to empty her mind before bed. She could only imagine that due to the events of the previous day with the Professor combing through her memories, and the fact that she’d collapsed into bed after Jean had showed her to one of the spare bedrooms without practicing her nightly meditation, that the unpleasant memories of her past had taken the opportunity to surface.
Rogue shivered as her sweat-soaked clothes became chilled with the rushing of the outside air. She tried to calm her breathing and the racing of her heart. “I’m free, I’m safe,” she repeated the mantra several times and stretched out her arms at her sides to their full length, taking comfort in the fact that she was able to move about unencumbered by the metal bars of a cramped cage. Though her immediate panic eased somewhat, she realized that she would not be able to calm down enough to fall back asleep. With the fear of her nightmare slowly ebbing away, the memory of her conversation with the Professor and all of the events of the previous day came flooding back.
She was alone in another dimension. Though their faces were familiar enough, she didn’t know this Professor, this Jean, this Scott. And they didn’t know her. It was unbalancing, and disturbing to think that there an infinite number of dimensions out there, an infinite number of Rogues/Maries that existed with only slight differences between them.
She wondered what this dimension’s Marie had been like, and how she’d come to be with the X-Men.
She wondered, a shudder running through her at the thought, how she’d died.
The one that called himself Wolverine seemed particularly upset at her appearance. When they were speaking with the Professor, he hadn’t taken his eyes of her, a constant scowl on his rugged face. Back at the site of the destroyed mansion, he’d called her by her real name. How had he known that about her? He’s said that this Rogue had told him. But she couldn’t fathom how any version of herself had trusted that man enough to confide in him. She’d never told anyone her name once she’d left Mississippi behind. Would never trust anyone enough again to let them truly know her. She thought briefly of Remy and felt a twinge of longing. Not even him.
She wrapped her arms around herself and decided to explore her surroundings. The Professor had not said where they were, but she could tell by looking out into the night they were somewhere in the mountains, somewhere isolated. She couldn’t make out a single light shining back through the darkness.
She left the window open and grabbed a blanket from the bed to wrap around her shoulders. She was chilly now that her damp pajamas had evaporated in the cool night air. Padding quietly toward the door, she hesitated as she reached for the handle, convinced for a moment that she would find it had been locked from the outside.
Her fear was misplaced though, and she let out a shuddering sigh as the handle turned easily in her hand. She headed down the dark hallway, past a number of closed doors until she found an open one that led to the bathroom. She quietly closed the door behind her and moved to the sink to splash some water on her face, removing the last traces of her nightmare.
As she looked back into the mirror, she noticed the cut and dark blossoming bruise at her right temple where she’d first struck her head. Jean had cleansed her wounds as best she could before she’d sent Rogue to bed. She’d determined the laceration on her head hadn’t needed stitches, and had used two butterfly bandages to help seal the wound. Her arm hadn’t been as fortunate, and Rogue grimaced with the remembered uncomfortable pinching of the needle as Jean stitched up the four-inch long gash. Looking down at her arm, she found its hasty wrapping had come undone in her sleep and hung loosely off her arm exposing the coarse black thread of Jean’s neat stitch job. She sighed as she tried and failed to re-wrap the wound, ending up only having loosened the bandage further.
She flung off the gauze in frustration and disposed of it in the trashcan next to the toilet. Placing the blanket back around her shoulders, she left the bathroom and continued down the hallway.
So far she’d only seen Wolverine, Jean, Scott, and the Professor. She was uneasy at the thought of where her friends from her own dimension might be in this world. Given that Remy and Victor were apparently the bad guys here, she was desperate to know the whereabouts of Ororo, Kitty, Jubilee, and Bobby. The house she was currently exploring wasn’t tiny by any means, but it wasn’t nearly as large as the mansion back in Westchester had been. She’d not seen any students since she’d arrived, and she went cold as she thought of what might have happened to all the children at the mansion.
She quietly walked down the stairs and looked around at her surroundings as she reached the bottom floor. The house was fairly rustic, its log walls having been hewn from what appeared to have been decently large trees. But the place still had an air of sophistication, and warm comfort that she associated with the mansion. The furnishings were slightly worn, with a lived-in look that Rogue found herself liking. She wondered just how long the X-Men had been here, exactly, and whether or not the worn look was due to their presence, or the previous occupant.
She continued through the downstairs space to the kitchen which was illuminated by a single night light next to the stove. Her stomach gave a sudden rumble and she realized it had been close to 24 hours since she’d last eaten. There was a glass bowl of fruit on the counter and Rogue picked out a shiny pink apple and bit into it eagerly, letting out a small sigh of satisfaction at the tart juiciness of the fruit. Polishing off the apple in record time, she found herself still hungry and opened the fridge to find a wedge of cheddar cheese calling her name.
She broke off a large piece from the wedge and placed it on the counter while opening the cabinet doors looking for a cup. Finally finding what she was looking for in the door to the left of the fridge, she filled it with water from the kitchen tap and gulped down several glassfuls before stopping suddenly as she remembered something she’d seen in the fridge. She set down the glass in the sink and tuned back to the fridge, pushing past a couple cans of soda until her fingers curled around the cold bottle of what was unmistakably a beer.
She pulled out the bottle and found a handy magnetic bottle opener stuck to the side of the refrigerator. She popped the cap off the bottle, and smiled as she tugged the mouth of the bottle to her lips and enjoyed several chilled hoppy gulps of the brew. She let out a sigh of contentment as she grabbed the cheese from the counter and continued through the house, nibbling from the hunk of sharp cheddar every now and then. It wasn’t sweet potato pie and Mississippi punch, but it would do nicely.
Rogue headed to the far end of the living room, where a pair of wooden French doors appeared to lead out to a patio or balcony. Curious to get another view of her surroundings, she turned the round door knob and stepped out into the chilly night, cheese and beer clutched in one hand.
The wooden deck was large with a hodgepodge of outdoor seating strewn across the surface. She started out toward the railed edge, wanting to see exactly how the house was situated in the mountains, and stopped dead in her tracks seeing the glow of a cigar rise out of the moon-lit darkness. Turning away before whoever it was could spot her, she was startled by a low, deep voice that reached her across the deck.
“Might as well come on out. I ain’t gonna bite ya, kid.”
Her spine stiffened at Wolverine’s words and she couldn’t help the response that tumbled from her lips, “I am not a kid.”
He made a scoffing noise but didn’t speak further as he waited for her to make up her mind.
Frozen with indecision, she was torn between wanting to join him on the balcony and pick his brain for every bit of information she could glean from him, and running back up to the temporary safety of her room. His words from the mansion suddenly came floating back to her at the thought of running and she shivered with the memory of him saying, “Never run from a predator, Marie.”
Straightening her shoulders and drawing the blanket tighter around her, she walked out onto the balcony toward where Wolverine sat, determined not to show him how nervous she was around him. She continued past him to the railing and stared down at a deep canyon of pine and aspen trees. There were rocky mountains shooting up across the canyon and off in the distance, the even higher peaks had a dusting of snow at their summit. The aspens were turning golden, and she could see her breath on the air. It must be fall here, then. It had been early spring yesterday when she and Remy had left for Rift’s house. She found herself suddenly dizzy with the thought and backed away from the edge of the balcony. She turned around and sat in a comfortable looking chair, across from Wolverine, sipping her beer in silence.
“Couldn’t sleep?” He asked after several uneventful moments passed between them.
She couldn’t bring herself to tell him any details of her nightmare, so merely shook her head instead. She noticed he had a beer of his own, which currently sat untouched on the arm of the deck chair he was occupying.
He took a drag from his cigar, letting out a puff of smoke as he grunted. “Me neither.”
Several more seconds passed as she sat across from him, not knowing how to start asking him questions. If it were Jean sitting out here, she might at least have an idea of where to start, or how to approach her. But this man was a stranger, and she knew next to nothing about him other than the fact that he knew enough about fighting to take down Sabretooth, and had foot-long metal claws that he could release from his knuckles. She found herself unconsciously looking at his hands, curious if experienced any pain when he extended them.
“Nightmare?” He asked softly, and Rogue jerked slightly at his voice. She looked up at his eyes, which were fixed on her with an intense focus.
“How’d you know?” She asked quietly, startled at the accuracy of his guess.
He shrugged, unconcerned at her reaction. “I heard you.”
She frowned, completely confused by this statement. “What, from out here? How?”
He raised one eyebrow at her, and she couldn’t help the fluttering deep in her stomach as she looked at him. This man’s face was fierce, ruggedly handsome, with an animalistic edge to it. He wasn’t built like Remy at all. Remy was long and lean, his musculature compact and graceful. This man was tall and broad-shouldered, and practically bulging with muscles. She could see the lines of said muscles beneath the red flannel shirt he wore as he moved the cigar back between his lips to chew on it. His jean-clad legs were stretched out in front of him resting on a table, crossed at the ankles. The glint of a silvery belt buckle winked with the light of the reflected moon and she struggled to tear her eyes away from the sight, back to his face.
“Part of my mutation. Heightened senses, hearing, sight, smell -”
He grinned at her as she found herself blushing somewhat. “Yeah, smell.”
Wolverine removed the cigar from his lips and picked up the beer from where it rested on the chair’s arm. “Hell’s Basement Brewery. Polly’s Pale Ale”, he said as he glanced down at the beer bottle in his hand. “I guess Scooter couldn’t find any Molson’s in town. Don’t know how that’s possible given our current location.”
Rogue looked down at the label of her own beer in mild shock. She hadn’t read the label before taking the bottle from the fridge, and shuddered as she took in the words. She suddenly found the taste souring in her mouth and she set down the beer, no longer interested in its formerly comforting taste.
“I say somethin’?” He asked, frowning at her reaction.
She shook her head quickly. She was quiet for several minutes until she was confident her voice wouldn’t betray her emotions.
“Nothin’ you did. Just made me think of -” she stopped abruptly, shocked at what she’d been about to say. Wolverine carried a certain degree of confidence about him. She didn’t know what it was exactly, but she ground her teeth as she realized she had a sudden urge to confide in him. Tell him all about the Church and her year of imprisonment and abuse.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said as she failed to elaborate further. “I won’t pry.”
His voice was rough and gravelly and Rogue closed her eyes for a moment as she wrapped the blanket more securely around her. The temperature was dropping with every minute and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could stand the chill in the air, despite having the blanket. She swallowed past the lump in her throat and turned her attention to more pressing matters.
“So where are we, anyway?” She asked Wolverine. She was determined to get at least a few more answers before the night was over.
Logan sat across from her, trying desperately not to take her in his arms and warm her. He could see her shivering from where he sat, and he clenched his jaw, fighting to retain his control over Wolverine. Wolverine was going berserk with the smell of her. He’d never expected to inhale the unique scent of her again, and here she was. So close he could reach out and touch her, feel the silkiness of her hair, kiss the small freckle in the hollow of her left cheek, bury himself deep inside her, marking her as his once more. With an effort that went unnoticed by the Rogue in front of him, he wrenched his thoughts away from that path and focused on her question.
“Huh,” she said, a smile entering her voice. “Always wanted to go to Canada.”
He frowned at this admission and he realized this Rogue must never have made it up to Laughlin City. Never found him in the dive that was the Lion’s Den Bar and Grill, never seen him in the cage fight, never stowed away in the back of his camper. Was that where their different lives had started? Or had something else occurred prior to that that caused her to lead a different life than the Rogue he’d known?
Seemingly encouraged by his one-word answer, Rogue apparently decided he was in a talking mood and asked him another question. “Can you tell me what happened to the mansion?”
He grunted. Of course she would ask that. Though to be fair, he understood her interest in finding out the answer. If she’d spent any time at the mansion in her own world, he could imagine it would be more than a little upsetting to come across it in its current state. Maybe he could tell her the bare facts, just to satisfy her curiosity, without going into some of the deeper, more troubling details. He nodded to himself and prepared to deliver a bare bones explanation.
“Blown up. Friends of Humanity nut jobs decided they’d had enough of our meddling. Dropped explosives on it from a military plane.”
Rogue’s face drained of blood as she processed what he’d said. Spots danced before her eyes and she heard a ringing in her ears.
Alarmed at her appearance, he exploded out from his chair and reached her in two strides where he gripped her by the back of the neck and forced her head down between her legs, the blanket she’d had clutched around her shoulders falling to the deck floor from her limp hands. “Jesus, kid. Breathe!”
Rogue focused on inhaling deeply through her nose for several moments before she felt well enough to push back against his hand. She could feel the warmth of him, even through the veil of her hair and it troubled her to realize that she liked it. She needed to remind herself that she was still Remy’s girl, even if she didn’t know how she was going to find her way back to him yet.
He stepped back, releasing her from his hold at once. “You alright?” he asked her, his voice low with concern.
She could not speak yet, too disturbed by what he’d said, but nodded her head jerkily. Apparently, the Friends of Humanity were just as bad in this dimension, as they were in her own.
She exhaled a shaky breath and looked up at him, staring into his eyes, which she could now see were hazel. He was still too close to her for her to feel comfortable and she shuffled back in her seat, putting a few more inches between them. A deep frown was carved into his face. She didn’t like him being this concerned about her. This, along with his declaration that the other Rogue had told him her name, led her to think something might have been going on between the two of them. The thought left her somehow both intrigued about any relationship they might have had, and jealous of her other self at the same time. And she had absolutely no reason to be. None at all. She had Remy. She didn’t need anything else.
She dropped her eyes from his, unable to withstand the intensity she saw within them and looked back out into the darkness, seeing the pale moonlight reflect off the snowy capped mountains in the distance.
“You should get back to bed,” he said gruffly after several minutes had passed. “Jeannie’ll have my balls if she finds out I let you sit out here all night.”
She nodded her agreement and stood up, feeling suddenly very, very tired. She didn’t look back at him as she headed inside, but jerked as she felt him return the blanket to her shoulders. He was careful not to touch her directly though, and he followed her inside, closing the door to the deck quietly behind him.
They silently headed up the stairs of the house, which creaked under the weight of his body, and Rogue felt a tingling at the back of her neck as he followed close behind her. When they reached the top of the landing, she turned left intending to head back to her room, but stopped and turned when he spoke again, his low gravelly voice causing her skin to break out in gooseflesh.
“Need help wrappin’ that back up?” he asked, jerking his head toward her arm.
She hesitated, but decided that she should actually have the stitches covered before she went back to bed. Since she’d already found herself to be inept at the task, she supposed she should accept his offer of help.
“Sure,” she whispered back. She didn’t know why she was being so quiet. It wasn’t like they were being overtly noisy or doing anything wrong. She went to follow him as he headed down the hall to the bathroom.
She stepped in the room behind him, and he flipped on the light switch at the wall. Her eyes squinted at the sudden brightness and she jumped as he reached past her to shut the door. The bathroom suddenly seemed much smaller than it had earlier and she fought to control the claustrophobic feeling that began to creep over her.
He must have sensed her growing panic, for he spoke low but urgently, drawing her attention back to him. “Hey, it’s okay. I can open the door again if it bothers you.”
She nodded quickly and he quickly opened the door halfway, to prevent the light from spilling too far into the darkened hallway.
The feeling of being entombed started to leave her and she blew out a shaky breath to move some of her hair out of her eyes.
“Careful,” she said as he moved one hand toward her exposed arm. “My skin,” she said as he looked at her puzzled. “I don’t usually have problems with focusing on maintaining control, but the last day has been a bit - stressful,” she finished lamely.
He jerked his head in understanding, but continued his slow movement toward her arm. “You don’t haveta worry about me, darlin’,” he said in a quiet voice. “Super-healer.” His touch was soft and warm against her skin, but she inhaled with a slight twinge of discomfort as he turned her wrist to examine the gash on the underside of her forearm.
“Like Victor?” she asked, suddenly recalling some of the details from the fight she’d witnessed at the mansion.
He clenched his jaw, but nodded. “Yeah. Like him.” He released her arm from his inspection. “Looks okay. Jeannie did a good job with the stitches.” He cleared his throat and turned his back to her. “So, you’re able to control your mutation?” He asked as he rummaged in the medicine cabinet for a fresh roll of gauze and some medical tape.
“It took me a long time,” she said, hesitantly. “But, yes, for the most part.”
Rogue allowed her eyes to follow the strong lines of his shoulders as he moved things around in the cabinet.
He didn’t ask her anything else, and she didn’t offer any additional information as he continued to search for the supplies he needed.
“Ah.” He said finally, after locating the bandages and tape that were tucked behind a bottle of mouthwash. He took her injured arm back in his and turned her body so that the light from above the sink shone directly onto the dark stitches. He reached past her, back into the mirrored medicine cabinet and grabbed a small bottle of antiseptic spray “This might sting a little,” he said as he aimed the nozzle at her arm.
Rogue hissed with pain as the spray came into contact with her raw skin. Wolverine let out a low growl at the sound of her pain and she noticed his eyes briefly flash a deep golden color. Interesting, she thought to herself as found herself staring at him. There must be more to his mutation than he’s letting on.
“Sorry,” he muttered thickly at her reaction. He brought her arm close to his mouth, and Rogue watched, fascinated, as he gently blew over the stitches, easing the pain somewhat as the antiseptic began to evaporate. “Don’t move,” he said as he grabbed the roll of gauze from the counter behind her and gently began to re-wrap her arm.
He was so close to her that she could smell him. And he smelled good. Really good, if she was being honest with herself. Remy smells good too, a part of her brain quipped. She blinked rapidly as felt herself blushing again and a ripple of shame ran through her at the path her thoughts had taken.
Wolverine ripped off a length of tape using his canines and Rogue suppressed a shudder at the sight of his teeth and lips. He sniffed the air suddenly and dropped his eyes back down to meet hers. Her eyes were wide with surprise as he made a rumbling noise deep in his chest. He quickly and expertly taped the gauze so that it would remain secured. When he was done, he didn’t move to release her, and Rogue found herself unable to draw her hand away from his.
“I always knew you’d learn how to control it,” he said softly, brushing a calloused thumb over her knuckles.
Heart hammering in her chest at his deliberate touch, she realized what she was allowing to happen and slowly withdrew her hand from his. She was intent on ignoring the slow, deep fluttering in her belly as she looked up at him to see an intense look of longing on his face.
“What was she to you?” She found herself whispering, unsure of whether or not she wanted to know the answer.
His face began to close off and he stepped back from her, seeming to come back to himself.
After several tense moments, he responded in a growling, tortured voice, “Everything.”
He was breathing hard as he looked down at her, fists clenched at his sides. “Good night, Rogue,” he said and he turned and left the bathroom. She didn’t see which room he disappeared into, which was just as well.
After a shaky minute alone leaning against the bathroom counter, she flipped off the light and headed down the hall towards her room. She gently closed the door behind her and moved to the still open window to shut out the cold air streaming in.
Heading to the bed, she realized she’d dropped her blanket somewhere between the downstairs deck and her room. She didn’t want to go back into the hallway and sighed as she shivered beneath the cool sheets.
Where she’d been exhausted just moments ago, she now found herself wide awake once more, mind racing over what she’d learned that night.
She tried not to panic as she thought of being stuck here, away from her friends and everything familiar to her. As her thoughts tumbled about in her head, she realized she needed to meditate. There was no chance she was going to risk another nightmare.
Rogue sat up in bed and crossed her legs, allowing her hands to rest softly in her lap. And she began to focus on her breath. In, and out. In, and out. Eventually, she laid back, her mind temporarily calm, and finally felt the pull of sleep claim her.
Chapter 5: Four
Rogue woke late the following day. After her meditation session in the early hours of the morning, she’d been able to sleep through the rest of the night without any further dreams, good or otherwise. Stretching her arms above her head, she groaned as her stiff muscles protested at the sudden movement. She felt like she’d just had a tough training session in the Danger Room. Though her training wasn’t all that frequent anymore, not since she’d taken on some of the more low risk mission tasks such as recruiting and counseling the new students.
Seeing as her mutation really wasn’t all that useful in most combat situations, the Professor and Scott hadn’t seen the merit of engaging her in further combat training, therefore, her training need not be as strenuous or frequent as the Alpha team’s schedule. As a result, Rogue would usually participate in weekly sessions with the junior team members who were just starting their training, in order for her to keep up on the basics.
A part of her was disappointed in the Professor and Scott’s decision; she really enjoyed the hand-to-hand sparring sessions she’d begun with the Alpha team, especially Jiu-Jitsu. The fundamentals of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which focused on grappling and ground-fighting, really came in handy for someone like Rogue, who, while not exactly a petite flower, wouldn’t be able to get much leverage or force over someone say, Sabretooth, otherwise.
She understood the risks that came with someone accidentally coming into contact with her skin, even if she did cover herself head-to-toe in flexible workout gear. Hell, she lived with the risk every day of her life. She knew she had control over herself, but also accepted others’ fear of her mutation. She supposed, if the shoe were on the other foot, she’d be afraid of someone like her too.
Rogue threw back the sheets from the bed and rolled her head to relieve some of the stiffness in her neck. Her headache was nearly gone, but it was still there; a constant nagging ache behind her eyes. But at least it was better than it had been yesterday. She felt for the edges of the butterfly bandages at her temple and winced at the tenderness of her skin. Raising up her arm to examine the bandage, she grimaced as she felt the uncomfortable pull of the stitches in her arm. She was pleased to see the bandage Wolverine had applied late last night remained secure while she slept. She felt herself flush hotly as she remembered the stroke of his thumb against her knuckles and let out a sigh of self recrimination.
It was easy to see why this dimension’s Rogue had been interested in him. Wolverine had a certain raw primal quality that was undeniably attractive. If she hadn’t been with Remy, she could easily see herself wanting to get closer to him. As it was though, she shook her head as if to clear the temptation of getting physically close to Wolverine from her mind, she had to focus her attention on how she could find a way back home.
As usual, she felt much more serene after meditating. While she was still anxious and upset at finding herself in a different world than her own, with her mind calm, she was able to think there might be ways for her to get home. After all, if Rift had existed in her dimension, it was very possible he existed here as well. It was just a question of finding him.
Glancing out the window, she saw a bright blue sky which was unmarred by even a single wisp of cloud. The sun was nearly at its peak, making it close to noon by her best guess. She glanced around the room for some spare clothes to change into, but finding none, decided her borrowed pajamas would have to be good enough for her to head downstairs and get something to eat.
She left her room, bare footed, and made her way down toward the kitchen. The warm thick scent of freshly brewed coffee was hanging in the air and Rogue found herself suddenly taking in a deep breath in, enjoying the familiar aroma. At least this world has coffee, she thought. She hesitated a moment before stepping into the kitchen, nervous at who she might encounter there. But she steeled herself for the unexpected and let out a sigh as she walked forward.
Kitty Pryde, apparently taken off guard by Rogue’s sudden appearance in the kitchen, abruptly lost her grip on the mug of hot coffee she’d had part-way to her mouth, and it dropped to the counter with a loud crash.
“Shit, Kitty! I’m so sorry!” Rogue exclaimed as the burning liquid splashed on Kitty’s exposed arm.
Kitty hadn’t moved from her position at the counter stool since dropping the mug. Her mouth was hanging agape, and her face appeared to drain of blood as Rogue rushed toward her, intent on inspecting any damage done to Kitty’s arm by the hot coffee. But Kitty jerked her hand back away from her and Rogue stopped in her tracks, one bare hand outstretched.
Rogue had learned long ago the look of fear that took over her friends’ faces if she got too close to them. Though that had been before she had learned control over her mutation, Kitty’s face echoed that look perfectly now at the sight of Rogue’s bare hand. Slowly, she withdrew her extended hand back toward her side and waited for a few moments for Kitty to realize she wasn’t going to touch her.
Finally, the stark look of fear faded from Kitty’s face and Rogue took the opportunity to speak. “So. I guess they didn’t tell you about me?”
“They said - yes. They told me about you,” Kitty hesitated, “But I didn’t think you’d be, so, well, like her.”
“Hmm,” Rogue said quietly. She was at a loss for exactly what to say at that. “So I guess I kinda look like her then?”
Kitty nodded in agreement, eyes wide. “Not just kinda like her. You’re the friggin’ spit of her.” Kitty paused for a moment and took in Rogue’s appearance, frowning slightly. “Except the hair.”
“The hair?” Rogue asked, curious to hear more about this alternate version of herself. “What did she do to her hair? Was it a weird cut or somethin’?”
“Nah,” Kitty shook her head. “I guess you could say it was a different color. Rogue - that is, she, had a platinum streak, here,” Kitty said as she pointed to her own widow’s peak. “But she didn’t always have it, she got it after I first met her.”
“Huh. Wonder why she wanted to dye it like that,” Rogue mused under her breath.
“Oh, she didn’t dye it,” Kitty offered quickly. “It happened when she almost died.”
Kitty said the last part so nonchalantly, that Rogue almost missed it. When she processed what Kitty said, she exclaimed, “What?”, instantly forgot about getting her own cup of coffee, and sat down next to Kitty eager to hear more of the story.
Kitty got up from her own stool, and knowing that Rogue was a captive audience, moved to clean up the spilled coffee from the counter top without any sign of continuing the tale anytime soon.
“Well?” Rogue said impatiently, as Kitty carefully mopped up the coffee with a damp paper towel, a smirk at the corner of her mouth.
Kitty tossed the paper towel in the trash can next to the island and retrieved two mugs from the cabinet and filled them both from the nearly full coffee pot. Without asking her how she took her coffee, Kitty grabbed a container of cream from the fridge and set it next to Rogue’s cup. Clearly, she knew how she preferred her coffee; with a splash of cream and no sugar. That thought left Rogue slightly troubled, and she looked back at Kitty, anxious for her to continue the story of this Rogue’s near demise.
“You have a Magneto in your world?” Kitty asked Rogue as she slowly sipped her own black coffee.
Rogue nodded. “Yeah, he’s the head of the Brotherhood of Mutants.”
“Here too,” Kitty added. “Well, he was. After he tried to turn a bunch of world leaders into mutants at the Statue of Liberty, he was locked up for awhile. He tried to use Rogue to power this weird machine, at least, that’s what I think happened. I wasn’t there, just heard bits and pieces of it later on.”
“The Statue of Liberty?” Rogue frowned, trying to think if she’d missed something like that happening in her own world. It was possible it had occurred during the year she’d been held by the Church of Humanity. But she was pretty sure she would have heard about something like that. “When did this happen? How old was she?”
“Hmm. About eight years ago, I think. Rogue was sixteen? Maybe seventeen,” Kitty frowned as she tried to remember. “I mean, she was really just a kid when the whole thing went down. And she pretty much died at the effort it took to make ol’ Metal Head’s machine to work. Any of this ring any bells for you?” Kitty asked, glancing over to take in Rogue’s reaction.
Rogue was hooked. Her pulse was elevated, and she could feel the low-grade rush of caffeine and adrenaline running through her body. She was anxious to hear more about this world’s Rogue. She shook her head quickly, eager for Kitty to continue. “She died?” Rogue said quietly under her breath, her body breaking out in goosebumps at the thought.
“Yeah,” Kitty answered after another sip of coffee. “Wolverine said she was gone when he got to her.”
“Wolverine? What did he do?” But the hair on the back of Rogue’s neck was standing on end. She knew what he’d done. The conversation they’d had in the bathroom late last night came back to her. “You don’t haveta worry about me, darlin’,” he said in a quiet voice. “Super-healer.”
“Healed her,” Kitty added unnecessarily. “Rogue wasn’t all the way dead or something, because she was able to suck almost all the life out of him.”
“Holy shit,” Rogue muttered.
“Holy shit is right. He was unconscious for a few days. Not that he’d admit to Rogue almost killing him.”
Rogue was left pondering this thought while Kitty sipped her coffee.
“Okay. So it’s your turn,” Kitty said finally after several minutes.
“My turn?” Rogue asked, confused at what Kitty was implying.
“Yeah. Your turn. Dish. What’s your world like? Are we friends? Am I evil? Are the X-Men a thing over there? Are you and Wolverine a thing? Are Bobby and I a thing? What about Scott and Jean and the Professor?”
Rogue couldn’t help but laugh. Kitty sounded just like her when she was asking Wolverine questions on the jet after she’d regained consciousness.
“Slow down, Kitty. I only asked you how I almost died. What do you want to know first?”
Kitty hesitated as she pondered what information was most vital to her.
“Am I evil?”
Rogue laughed again and shook her head. “No," she said, a smile plastered on her face. “You’re not evil. You’re with the X-Men in my world too, who are a thing there, by the way. And yeah, Kitty. We’re pretty good friends where I come from,” Rogue offered with a smile.
“Well, darn. I was hoping I’d be evil, or at least have done something a little crazy.”
“Well look at it this way. If what the Professor said about dimensions is true, then there is bound to be at least one evil Kitty out there, somewhere.”
“Hmm. Good point. Okay, next up?” Kitty looked her, eyebrows raised.
Rogue nodded. She was fine with Kitty asking a few more questions. It would allow her some time to think about what she wanted to know next. “Shoot.”
“You and L-” Kitty abruptly stopped whatever it was she was about to say, and Rogue wondered if she might have been about to reveal Wolverine’s real name. It could hardly be Wolverine, after all. Unless his parents had been particularly cruel.
“You and Wolverine,” Kitty continued.
Rogue felt her pulse jump at the statement, but let Kitty continue without further interruption.
“You guys a thing there?”
Rogue shook her head, feeling absurdly relieved at the way Kitty had asked the question. “I don’t know Wolverine in my world. I’d never seen him before yesterday when he picked me up at the mansion.”
Kitty looked stunned. “No kiddin’. You never met him? Never heard of him?”
Rogue shook her head again. “Nope.”
“Wow,” Kitty said. “That’s so weird to think you’d never met him before yesterday. Here, you guys were all over each other. Especially once you two became like, a thing.”
Rogue couldn’t suppress the shudder that went through her at the thought of her and Wolverine being together. She had to hand it to her alternate self for jumping at that opportunity. An image of Remy’s smile rose up in her mind and she berated herself immediately for the stray thought and turned her attention back to Kitty.
“So who are you with, then? I mean,” Kitty raised her eyebrows briefly as she gave Rogue a once-over. “Look at you. You can’t be single.”
“Ha. No,” Rogue answered smiling again at Kitty’s boldness. The similarities between this Kitty and the Kitty she knew were nearly indecipherable. “I’m with Remy.”
Kitty nearly spat out the sip of coffee she’d just taken while waiting for Rogue to answer. “What the holy hell? Remy? LeBeau? What the hell are you doing with that scumbag, Rogue?”
“He’s not a scumbag, Kitty!” Rogue responded, a little heat in her voice at the accusation. She already felt guilty for applauding her alternate self for being with Wolverine, and for allowing him to touch her so intimately last night, and felt as though she needed to defend her relationship with Remy.
“Sorry,” Kitty said in a softer voice. “I forgot for a second that you don’t know about this Gambit. Gambit his codename there too?” she added as an afterthought.
“Yeah. Gambit. He’s not a bad guy there. I mean, sure,” Rogue hesitated, wondering how much she should tell Kitty about Gambit’s less than respectable past in the Thieves’ Guild, but she shrugged, figuring it didn’t really matter what she told her. “He definitely has an interesting past where I come from, but he turned it around a long time ago. He’s a sweet guy,” Rogue insisted, “And he thinks the world of me.”
Kitty tilted her head as she considered Rogue’s words, whatever thoughts she had about Rogue’s relationship with Gambit weren’t visible in her normally expressive face. “How long have you two been together?”
“A year and a half.”
“Wow, that’s great, Rogue. Really. I’m happy for you,” Kitty said with a smile. “Okay, next-”
But Rogue cut her off. “Nope! My turn, missy. You asked plenty of questions.”
Kitty laughed. “Fair enough. Just one more question though?” And before Rogue could protest, Kitty blurted out, “You hungry?”
“Hell yes,” Rogue replied emphatically. “What’ve we got to cook?”
“There’s some bacon and eggs in the fridge. You interested?”
Rogue nodded and the two of them began to fry up breakfast, working companionably, their talk touching on nothing more serious than the spectacular autumn weather Canada was, apparently, experiencing. The work of preparing food and light chatter allowed Rogue time to formulate her next real question. After they’d finished cooking up a half-dozen eggs, several strips of bacon, and brewed a fresh pot of coffee, they both sat back down at the counter stools and ate their late breakfasts in affable silence. After finishing her second fried egg and fourth strip of crispy bacon, Rogue washed it down by polishing off her second cup of coffee and pushed back her plate.
“Alright, Kitty. My turn. What the hell happened here?”
Kitty let out a deep breath and pushed back her own plate. “That’s a long story, Rogue. Not sure I’m the best person to tell it.”
Rogue tried not to let her disappointment at those words show. To say she was interested in what had happened to the X-Men in this world was an understatement.
Kitty must’ve known her pretty well in this world because she spoke softly as she put her own hand on Rogue’s. “Hey, I’m sure the Professor would be happy to speak with you about everything.”
Rogue gently squeezed Kitty’s hand before standing up from the kitchen stool and reaching for their empty plates.
“Holy crap!” Kitty said as she just realized she’d been touching Rogue’s bare hand. “You can control your skin? That’s fucking incredible!”
Rogue grinned at the abrupt change in topic. “She couldn’t control hers?” She loaded the dishes into the dishwasher and turned on the faucet to the sink to wash the skillet and other items they’d used to make breakfast.
“Nah. Our Rogue never quite got there. Seemed like she was getting close, but then…” Kitty trailed off.
“Wait. If your Rogue couldn’t control her skin, then how did she and Wolverine -” Rogue abruptly stopped speaking, embarrassed by the train of thought her mind had taken and her mouth followed without hesitation.
“Don’t know, never asked. But I’m sure they figured something out. Wolverine seems like the kinda guy who could get creative.” Kitty answered with a shit-eating grin as she took in Rogue’s red face.
“Kitty,” a deep voice barked suddenly.
Kitty jumped at the sound of Wolverine’s voice and rushed to stand up from her own seat. Rogue felt the blush in her face deepen as she realized the words they’d just said within definite hearing distance of the man with heightened senses.
“Oh, shit,” Kitty muttered under her breath.
“Oh, shit, is right,” Wolverine said as he strolled into the kitchen and fixed his eyes on Kitty. He was dressed in a tight fitting black t-shirt that showed every single sculpted muscle beneath it along with a pair of black tactical pants and combat boots. Rogue thought he might as well not be wearing a shirt at all, for all the modesty this one offered.
“Any particular reason you’re late for training today?” he growled out.
“Just having breakfast with Rogue here.”
Rogue noticed his gaze flicker over her for a moment, with no trace of the kindness she’d seen in his eyes last night. The lack of warmth was oddly upsetting, and she frowned as she turned her back to the two of them and began washing dishes.
‘“Not sure that’s really an excuse, given that training started an hour ago. You been eating bacon and eggs for an hour straight? Or did you just wake up late. Again.”
“Erm,” Kitty said, struggling come up with an answer that didn’t sound like complete and utter bullshit. “I plead the Fifth.”
Wolverine scoffed. “That doesn’t mean shit anymore. Get downstairs. We’ve got work to do today.”
Kitty hurried past Wolverine, and turned back to Rogue before exiting the kitchen and winked as she caught Rogue’s eye.
Rogue focused on scrubbing the last bit of crusty egg off the edge of the spatula and did her best to ignore the man at her back, not sure she could look him in the eye after what she was certain he’d overheard.
“You wanna join us for training?” Wolverine asked after several moments of tense quiet. His voice was slightly less harsh than when he’d been speaking to Kitty, but Rogue could practically feel the tension he was putting off. “Chuck should be down there later if you wanna pick his brain.”
Rinsing the last of the soap suds from her hands and draining the sink, Rogue contemplated her options. Hadn’t she just been thinking how much she missed training? And here she was, being given the opportunity to join in with the team. A team that didn’t seem to be afraid of her skin. If nothing else, it would certainly be a way for her to pass the time until she could find a way home.
She wiped her hands on a dishtowel and turned to face Wolverine, feeling suddenly very vulnerable in her pajamas. “Yeah. That’d be good.”
He nodded and turned on his boot heel to exit the kitchen. Assuming she should follow, given she had no idea where the entrance to “downstairs” was, Rogue started to walk after him. But she stopped in her tracks as he suddenly turned back toward her and looked her over. His eyes slowly and thoroughly taking in what she could only assume was her sleep-mussed hair, long teal-colored flannel pajama bottoms and dark gray baggy t-shirt. She felt her skin prickle where his eyes lingered and she resolutely kept her arms at her sides, though she desperately wanted to fold her arms over her breasts, which suddenly seemed all too eager to point out the exact position of her nipples.
“Yer gonna need somethin’ else to wear,” he growled.
“Oooof!” Rogue uttered a strangled sort of noise as Piotr once again tossed her easily to the mat. She was drenched in sweat and breathing hard as she ignored Piotr’s good-natured gesture to help her up. She was frustrated and getting cranky at the ease at which Piotr could take her down.
“Pay attention, Rogue!” Wolverine snarled at her from the corner of the room. He was overseeing the team’s last round of sparring and found himself continuously watching Rogue, mostly silently critiquing her obvious lack of even the basic defensive techniques. Though once in awhile, he couldn’t help but barking out a criticism.
“I am payin’ attention!” She snapped back, her accent becoming more pronounced as her level of frustration rose. He didn’t need to tell her to pay attention, it was all she’d been doing. Noticing the advanced skills of the others around her for the past two hours only heightened her awareness of her own inexperience. Clearly, the Scott of her world hadn’t done her any favors in denying her the opportunity to continue her training. She slowly got to her knees and stood up, preparing herself to face Piotr once more. She wiped the sweat off her forehead with one hand and tucked a few loose strands of hair back behind her ears. This time, she was not going to let him get her on the floor.
“Ready?” Piotr asked her kindly. She could tell he felt bad for continuously besting her, but she absolutely did not want him to go easy on her. She’d never learn that way.
Rogue jerked her head in acknowledgment and waited for him to make his move. But before she could blink, he’d grasped her by the thighs, lifted her up and thrown her to the mat.
“Ugh!” This time, Rogue stayed down. Who was she kidding? She was not at all prepared for this level of sparring. She’d barely mastered basic skills in her previous training sessions. She didn’t know how she’d expected to compete against Piotr or the other remaining X-Men, who were clearly much more advanced than her. At first she’d been paired up with Kitty, but after awhile they’d switched it up so that Bobby and Kitty, Kurt and some girl Rogue didn’t recognize by the name of Ellie, and she and Piotr were paired up. She’d been hoping to spot Jubilee when she’d joined the others for training, but after noting her absence, and the absence of so many other familiar faces, began to have a bad feeling in her stomach when she thought about it.
Logan took in Rogue’s sweaty defeated form as she remained on her back on the black gym mat. He hadn’t thought she would be so inadequately trained. It just didn’t make sense. He couldn’t understand why, as one of the X-Men in her world, why she wasn’t able to perform basic defensive maneuvers. Before he’d taken over as combat instructor, the X-Men, while certainly trained to use their powers, had definite room for improvement in their fighting skills. Scooter had done a decent job with them, but if they were to have any chance of defending themselves against some of the very real threats out there, he’d known he would have to ramp up their training, and fast. Guerrilla tactics, street fighting techniques, and martial arts had all been incorporated into the team’s standard training sessions once he became the instructor. The team that remained was a highly trained group of smart, tactical fighters.
Even as underwhelmed as Logan had been after assessing their fighting skills, the X-Men had at least been able to block a basic tackling move. Rogue couldn’t even do that, even though Piotr had been going easy on her. He’d seen Piotr’s own surprise when he’d easily taken Rogue down the first time, and while he was sure Rogue hadn’t noticed, he could see that Piotr had adjusted his level of force down several notches. Logan tried to calm himself at the thought of her being so defenseless against a physical attack. It did not please his inner animal to think of her without the knowledge of proper defense techniques.
“Alright,” he barked out to the team. “That’s enough for today. I’ll see you all back here tomorrow at ten o’clock sharp.” Logan looked at Kitty as he emphasized the word and she unabashedly grinned back at him as she packed up her gear.
The small team began filtering out of the underground training area and toward the locker rooms, whose entry ways were right next to each other at the far end of the room. The area beneath the house was a no-frills kind of place. Concrete walls and floors were decorated only with a section dedicated to weight training, a few treadmills, with the biggest area being dedicated to hand-to-hand combat practice. There were a couple of heavy bags and BOBs for the team to practice their punches and kicks on, as well as the floor space that was decked out in gym mats.
Rogue slowly pushed herself up from one of said mats, her legs wobbling with exertion, the stitches in her arm throbbing in time to the ache in her head. She put her hands on her hips and purposely avoided looking at Wolverine as she caught her breath. The borrowed workout gear was uncomfortably damp with sweat. Moisture wicking, my ass, she thought bitterly as she remembered speaking with Jean about needing to find something to wear for training.
“I thought you said you’d had some training.” He snapped at her without warning.
It was the wrong thing to say. Rogue was in no mood for a lecture. Not after the embarrassing performance she’d just had. She immediately bristled with anger at his tone. “I have,” she responded through gritted teeth.
“Didn’t look like it. Piotr had you on the mat at least a dozen times. Even Kitty was able to take you down.”
“Ya don’t have to tell me how bad I am at this, Wolverine. A blind man could’ve seen it.”
Logan watched as she ripped out the elastic hair tie she’d borrowed from Kitty and began twisting up the fallen strands into a messy bun. A wave of her scent hit him and he clenched his jaw and his fists simultaneously, fighting the urge to run his hands through her hair and down her sweat-soaked body. She’s not her, he reminded himself for the dozenth time since his inappropriate behavior last night. The beast growled disapprovingly at those words. She looked and smelled like her. He’d be willing to bet she’d taste like her too. All salty from exertion, but with the unmistakable sweet taste of Marie just beneath it. He could picture it all too easily; jerking her close to him and tilting her head back to lick the skin on her neck, gently nipping the sensitive tendon with his teeth, not hurting her, but biting down just hard enough to let her know who was in charge. She’d submit easily, and he could almost smell the scent of her arousal as she grasped him by the back of the neck, forcing his lips down to hers -
“…so I don’t need you to lecture me. Believe me, I’m way more pissed than you are about this.”
Logan mentally shook himself out of the pretty picture he’d just painted for himself. Shit. He hadn’t even known she was still talking. Not while he’d been imagining his hands and lips on her body.
“Doubtful,” he muttered under his breath.
“What was that?” She asked sharply.
She narrowed her eyes at his quick response, but continued on. “Look, I don’t know why Scott and the Professor chose not to train me further. I guess I didn’t really need it in my world. I didn’t go on a lot of missions.”
Logan could hear the bitterness in her voice. He ran his hands through his hair and sighed loudly. He shouldn’t offer. But he couldn’t help himself. He didn’t want her to be so defenseless. Particularly in this world. “Look. You wanna get better? Keep showin’ up every morning at ten. We’ll get you up to speed.”
Rogue was silent for a moment as she contemplated his offer. She was furious at her lack of knowledge. And if Wolverine was offering to train her with the others, she could hardly say no. She’d seen the level at which the others were fighting. If he was the one behind their skills, then she wanted in. If her brief encounter with this dimension’s Sabretooth had taught her anything, it was that she wasn’t equipped to deal with this place.
“You sure?” she asked him slowly.
“Yeah. Now go hit the showers, kid.” Wolverine turned away so she wouldn’t see the expression on his face.
“Hey!” She exclaimed. “What did I tell you about callin’ me ‘kid’?”
He didn’t answer as he stalked toward the men’s locker room, his lips turned up in the ghost of a smile.
Kitty was waiting for Rogue in the women’s locker room, her hair freshly damp from the shower.
“So. You get an earful from Mr. Cheery?” Kitty asked her
“Ah. Don’t worry about it. Wolverine’s just off his game right now. He’s usually a lot meaner in training.”
“Ha,” Rogue responded with a smile. She turned her back to Kitty and began stripping off her damp exercise clothes. She couldn’t wait to get in the shower and wash off the sweat from her body. It felt like an eternity since she’d been clean. “Oh, hey,” Rogue said as she looked down at her bandaged forearm. “Can you get stitches wet? I’ve never had stitches before.”
There was no response from Kitty, and turning her head back to make sure that she was still there, saw the pale expression on Kitty’s face as she caught sight of the scars on her back.
“Rogue,” Kitty breathed softly. “What happened to you?”
“Nothin’” Rogue said as she chastised herself for forgetting about where she was. It was so easy to slip into familiar habits and routines with this world’s Kitty, who was basically indistinguishable from the one she knew in her own dimension.
“That’s not nothin’! That’s a definite something.”
“Don’t worry about it, Kitty. It happened a long time ago,” Rogue said stiffly.
“But, Rogue -”
“I don’t want to talk about it, Kitty. Just drop it.”
Rogue grabbed the closest clean towel and headed toward the showers without looking back at Kitty. She wasn’t prepared to talk about her back. Not so soon after her latest nightmare. Not ever.
Pleased that there were a few supplies in one of the shower stalls, she pulled the curtain shut behind her and turned on the water until steam began so billow up around her. She stepped into the spray and sighed, enjoying the feeling of water coursing over her skin. Mindful of the cut at her temple, she began to gently shampoo her hair, lathering up twice, and using the excess suds to wash the sweat from her body. She closed her eyes as she found a bottle of conditioner and worked it into the long tangled mess of her hair. She was rather enjoying the feeling of being clean and not worrying about what to do next. After several more minutes of allowing the conditioner to do its job, she looked around for a spare razor. She let out a sigh. Apparently she’d have to forgo shaving her legs. Rogue finished rinsing and turned off the water, wrapped the towel around her, and headed back into the locker room area.
She found herself relieved that neither Kitty nor Ellie were waiting for her in the changing room when she emerged from the shower. Though looking around she saw that someone had taken both her borrowed pajamas and workout gear.
“Well. Shit,” she said as she looked around for any spare clothes. Finding none in any of the lockers, she realized she was going to have to head back upstairs, in nothing more than a towel.
“It’s just not my week,” she said walked out of the locker room back to the underground training area, her head looking down to make sure she wasn’t exposing any more of her skin than was possible. As she exited the entryway to the locker room, she looked up and found herself staring up at a freshly showered Wolverine.
“Ack!” she shrieked as she jumped and lost the grip on her towel. She quickly bent down, scrambling to pick up the damp towel from the floor, her heart hammering in her ears, her face red with embarrassment.
As she grappled for her dropped towel, Logan’s vision clouded with red as he caught a glimpse of her back. It was covered in scars. The thin white lines overlapped the entire length of her, from shoulders to waist. He knew what kind of a weapon had left those marks. She’d been whipped. Repeatedly. Now, he needed to find out which soon-to-be dead fuck had dared to mark her so. Logan felt the burn of his claws between his knuckles as they released with a metallic twang.
“Who the fuck did that to you?” His words were barely intelligible as he struggled to rein in Wolverine.
“None of your business,” Rogue said, gritting her own teeth as she avoided his eyes and concentrated on wrapping the towel tightly around her. She was beyond pissed. She’d just exposed her back to two people in the space of a few minutes. She’d never told anybody about how she’d gotten those scars, and now there were two people who would be pestering her for more information. It was the last thing she wanted to talk about.
“Marie. I need to know who the fuck did this to you so I can kill them.”
“Don’t call me Marie, Wolverine,” she said, her temper flaring. “You don’t know me. And I don’t know you. I don’t need you to fight my battles for me. You don’t need to concern yourself with my business.” She turned her back on him, intent on brushing past him and heading back upstairs. But she heard the sing of metal as he retracted his claws, and she felt the warmth of his hand on her shoulder, stilling her.
“Wait. Please,” he said, a noticeable strain in his voice.
She stopped, and inhaled a shaky breath. “What. What do you want?”
He moved around to face her and slowly withdrew his hand from her shoulder. They stared at each other for several moments, neither of them speaking. She saw his eyes were deep gold, with no traces of hazel in them. Just as Wolverine opened his mouth to say something, he jerked his head around to face the front of the training room, his body tense once more.
“I’m sorry. Am I interrupting?” Charles said lightly, his chair making no more than a faint humming sound as he entered the room.
Rogue and Wolverine had spoken at the same time, and Rogue glared at Wolverine as he raised one eyebrow back at her.
“No,” Rogue said again, more firmly this time. “Did you want to talk to me, Professor?”
“Kitty mentioned you were down here and that you might be up for a chat. If you’d care to meet me back upstairs once you’ve had a chance to dress, I believe Kitty was in the process of finding some more comfortable clothes for you.”
“Yes, thank you Professor. I’d like that,” she said, as she forced her gaze away from Wolverine.
At that same moment, Kitty came thundering down the stairs, a stack of clothes in her hands. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she froze at the sight of Rogue in a towel, facing off with Wolverine, with the Professor looking on, a neutral expression on his face.
“Um. Clothes,” she said weakly, unsure what else to do to break the tension in the room.
Rogue whirled away from Wolverine, stalked over and snatched the clothes from Kitty’s arms, and headed back to the locker room to change without a word. She was going to have to avoid Wolverine for awhile, even if it meant not showing up to training for a few days. After pulling on a pair of underwear and a bra that almost fit her, she jerked on a pair of form-fitting dark jeans that Kitty had procured and threw on a dark purple vee necked sweater. Wolverine needed to calm down and get over this weird protective urge he seemed to have around her. He needed to realize that she was not his Rogue, and she wasn’t sure he could do that if she was constantly around him.
Maybe he’d be better off if she left. Maybe there was another place she could go, away from the X-Men, where she would have a chance to look for a way back home.
By the time she zipped up a pair of brown leather knee-high boots, she’d made up her mind. She was going to have a lot to talk to the Professor about.
Chapter 6: Five
Rogue turned the door knob and stepped inside the room the Professor was using as an office. As she turned and closed the door behind her, she quickly took in the space around her. It was nicely furnished, though not nearly as richly appointed as his office at the mansion had been. Still, like the rest of the house it had a warm, comforting feel to it.
“Please,” Charles said, motioning to a rather cushy looking chair across from his desk. “Sit down, Rogue.”
She moved to take her seat and felt a somewhat awkward silence come over her as she contemplated where exactly she should begin. With what had happened in this world? With Wolverine’s behavior? With how to find a way home?
Charles sensed her inner turmoil and cleared his throat gently. “Would you like something to drink?”
“Got any bourbon?” She asked dryly, one corner of her mouth turned up in a smile.
“As a matter of fact,” Charles responded, an answering smile on his face as he motioned to a small wooden cabinet she hadn’t noticed just behind her.
“I always knew I liked you, Professor,” Rogue said as she stood up and retrieved a bottle of Hudson Baby Bourbon and two glasses. She set the glasses on the desk in front of the Professor and poured each of them two fingers. After handing him a glass, Rogue raised her own in salute, “Cheers.”
He nodded back with his own glass they each took their time inhaling the fragrant golden liquid in front of them. Rogue closed her eyes in bliss. The familiar scents of honey, vanilla, and oak met her and she slowly sipped at her glass, enjoying the smooth burn that warmed her belly.
After taking his own sip, Charles put down his glass and studied Rogue as she savored the drink in front of her.
“Rogue, I understand that after everything that’s happened, you must be overwhelmed.”
She snorted at this statement and looked up at him, one eyebrow slightly raised. “You might say that.”
“I want you to know, that whatever is in my power to help you with, I will certainly make every effort to assist you.”
“Professor…” she trailed off as she took another sip of bourbon. Questions and thoughts were whirling in her head and she closed her eyes briefly as she let out a sigh. “I don’t know where to start.”
He smiled kindly at her. “Usually, the simplest place to start is at the beginning. What is troubling you the most?”
“Wolverine,” she blurted out without thinking.
Charles frowned at this admission. He did his best to maintain his colleagues’ privacy, but he could tell she was conflicted about her thoughts regarding Logan. He could sense feelings of guilt, as well as the inner conflict she struggled with as she fought a burgeoning attraction. Charles knew all too easily Logan’s feelings about Rogue; he’d been projecting strongly since they retrieved Rogue from the ruined mansion yesterday. Logan was continuously fighting the Wolverine inside, who was howling and raging against his restraints, insistent that they claim their mate, whom they’d thought dead and gone. Charles could feel the effort it took Logan just to be under the same roof as Rogue without acting on Wolverine’s instincts, so he wasn’t surprised that Rogue had been experiencing some of Logan’s more intense feelings as a result.
“Yes,” he nodded sympathetically. “Wolverine is an - intense individual. When his Rogue died, it nearly destroyed him.”
Rogue inhaled sharply. She hadn’t known. Hadn’t really understood the depths of his feelings for the other Rogue.
Charles continued. “You must know, he blamed himself for her death. Though, of course there was nothing anybody could have done to prevent the tragedy that occurred at the mansion. Wolverine left us for a time afterward. So great was his pain at her loss that he was not safe around others. He had enough insight to remove himself from those that cared for him until he was able to restore his self-control. After some time, we were able to convince him to come back. Though,” Charles added as he paused to stake a sip. “ That in itself was not an easy undertaking.”
“Professor,” Rogue began.
“Please, Rogue. Call me Charles.”
Rogue hesitated. It seemed somehow disrespectful to call the Professor by his given name. She had never felt as though she’d earned the right to call him so. From her perspective, only his closest colleagues and friends called him Charles, and in her world she wouldn’t be so bold as to count herself amongst them.
“I insist, Rogue. Really, it seems odd to have you call me ‘Professor’ after your counterpart had called me Charles for so long.”
“Really? She called you Charles?” Rogue was surprised. Maybe this Rogue had a closer relationship to the Professor than she’d had with her own.
Charles nodded. “Yes, and you should as well.”
“Charles, then,” Rogue said as she lifted her bourbon glass to him and drank once more. He smiled warmly and took another sip from his own cup. Rogue moved to pour herself a refill before continuing.
“Can you give me any advice about how to deal with Wolverine? I understand that he and Rogue were together, and that I look just like her. It’s just - ,” Rogue hesitated, unsure how to say what she wanted to.
“You’re not her,” Charles suggested softly.
Rogue nodded and took another sip from her glass. “Yes. If things were different, maybe - no. I don’t know what I’m saying,” She mumbled into her glass. The warmth of the bourbon had spread to her limbs and she felt a little too relaxed to keep speaking about Wolverine. She might say something she would regret.
“Rogue. Wolverine would never force himself on you, nor would he hurt you in any way. He knows you are not the same as the Rogue he lost. But for him, instinct is quite a difficult thing to overcome. You are aware that Wolverine is a feral mutant, yes?”
Rogue jerked slightly in her chair. No, she hadn’t known. But she should have. She’d realized there was more to his mutation than he’d let on after their encounter last night on the balcony in the crisp autumn air. His heightened senses, the golden eyes, the claws. It all came together and she found herself appreciating the restraint he’d demonstrated. The only knowledge she had of feral mutants was of the Victor Creed of her own world. And while she was glad he was working with the X-Men, she had witnessed his animalistic side enough to know that he did little to contain his baser instincts. If Wolverine was a feral mutant, he had enormous self-control, a fact which she could only commend, given the amount of discipline required to keep her own mutation securely in check.
“Part of that inherent feral characteristic involves the man controlling his instincts. And in this case, his instincts insist that you are the same woman he lost. He is doing his best to battle that drive. I hope you will be patient with him as he works through it. But if it makes you uncomfortable to be around him, I can speak with him, see if he would be willing to leave for -”
“No!” Rogue interrupted, feeling guilty at the thought of Wolverine leaving his home because of her. Charles raised an eyebrow at the exclamation. “No,” she said again, more calmly this time. “That won’t be necessary, Prof-Charles, I mean. I don’t want him to have to leave because of me. I’ll deal.”
Charles observed her flushed cheeks and nodded kindly at her. “As you say.”
Rogue cleared her throat, eager to change the topic of conversation. She took another sip of the bourbon and her next question came easily to her lips. “What happened when the mansion was destroyed? Wolverine said the Friends of Humanity blew it up using military planes?”
Charles sighed deeply and raised his own glass to drink. “That, Rogue, is a very long story.”
She smiled and quirked one eyebrow up in amusement. “That’s what Kitty said.”
“While tardiness may be one Kitty’s faults, no one who knew her could possibly consider honesty among them.”
“Well put, Charles. Now, ‘usually, the simplest place to start is at the beginning,’” She quoted his earlier words to her and was relieved when he smiled at her, if a bit tiredly.
“Indeed. Well then. I hope you will forgive me, but when I briefly scanned your mind yesterday, I saw several differences between your world and this one. Differences which are important enough to go back further than you might think would be necessary to tell you what became of the mansion.” He paused, and glanced at Rogue for permission to continue.
She nodded and sat back in her chair, taking yet another sip of bourbon. She had a feeling that she was about to need it.
“Our worlds both have a common thorn in their side; the Friends of Humanity.”
Rogue couldn’t help the revulsion that ran through her body at the mention of the words. But she inhaled deeply as she replied, “Yes. Bastards.”
Charles nodded and continued. “Here, the Friends of Humanity took advantage of one of the more high-visibility near disasters involving mutants and began their slow, but eventual rise to power. It was an incident that involved your counterpart and Magneto that began it.”
Her body broke out in chills as she thought of this Rogue’s death. She took several more sips of bourbon as Charles explained the incident on Liberty Island in much greater detail than what Kitty had briefly gone over this morning in the kitchen. She found herself both enthralled and shaken by the story as he described the destruction of Magneto’s machine and her subsequent resurrection at the hands of Wolverine.
If what he and Kitty said was true, that meant her counterpart had absorbed Wolverine’s memories and thoughts, and it sounded as though, even a few of his more animalistic traits for a time. She wondered if she’d had claws for a time and wondered what it felt like if they came out. She shuddered at the thought and brought her attention back to the Professor.
“Now,” Charles said after a moment’s silence where he allowed Rogue to regain a bit of composure. “Are you familiar with the Mutant Liberation Front? In your world?”
Rogue thought for a moment, frowning. “Doesn’t ring any bells.”
“Well, here, the group recruited some of the more extremist followers of the Friends of Humanity to pose as mutants. Using both technology-enhanced suits and several dangerous chemical agents, they appeared to the world to be mutants who were engaged in acts of terrorism.”
“What the hell?” Rogue blurted out. “They impersonated mutants? For what? To give us a bad name?”
“That’s precisely what they did. And they did it extremely well,” Charles added somberly polishing off his own glass. He set it back down on the desk with a clink and clasped his hands together for a moment as he considered what to tell her next. Rogue refilled his glass without asking and he nodded his thanks as he continued.
“For several years, this group planned and executed several deadly attacks on the most innocent of humans. They attacked schools, hospitals, and community gatherings. They killed scores of people, not caring who was harmed, as long as mutants were held accountable. These actions, along with blatant propaganda promoted by the Friends of Humanity, and taking into consideration the events that transpired on Liberty Island, succeeded in turning the tide of public opinion against mutants. Despite our best efforts, the Mutant Registration Act was signed into law over five years ago now.”
Charles paused for a moment, taking in Rogue’s reaction. While she was certainly projecting her distress at the events he’d relayed so far, he could tell she didn’t fully understand the ramifications that accompanied the passage of such a law. He braced himself for what came next in the story, and continued.
“Along with the passing of the MRA, the formation of the political wing of the Friends of Humanity took root and spread across the country like wildfire. They were well funded, and they began even more intensive propaganda efforts. Various extremist splinter groups formed, among them Humanity’s Last Stand, and the Church of Humanity.”
Rogue clenched her jaw and drank again from her cup. Those bastards had already done enough to her in her own dimension. To hear they’d somehow made their mark here as well was more than distressing.
“Despite our best efforts, the MRA moved ahead and compulsory mutant registration began. Several mutants complied with the law willingly, believing the government would never abuse nor take advantage of such information. Others, including the X-Men, resisted the mandate, certain that no good could come from such a law. Then, the following year saw incredible political upheaval.”
Charles paused and rubbed his temples, as if the memory caused him physical pain. After taking another sip of bourbon he sat back in his chair and continued.
“We had split our priorities between trying to protect those individuals who might be in danger from the extremist groups, and simultaneously continuing to attempt to influence the political minds who appeared, at any rate, to be influential in the policy making decisions. We seemed to finally be making headway with several members of Congress, and had convinced them to reinstate the Committee of Mutant Affairs, which previously had been dissolved under the previous administration’s instruction. Those members of Congress even attempted to censure the President and others who were supportive of removing mutant’s right altogether. However, there was a huge upset when the mid-term elections took place that November. The members who were voted into power in both the House and the Senate were overwhelmingly associated with the Friends of Humanity, or their various splinter groups, thus, shifting the balance of power against us.”
Rogue shifted uncomfortably in her seat at this and raised her glass to her lips once more. She didn’t like where this story was headed. But if sitting through it meant understanding what had happened to the mansion, then sit here and listen she would. So long as there was plenty of bourbon to soften the blow she could feel was coming.
“After the new members of Congress were sworn in, disturbing rumors reached my ears. Rumors of registered mutants disappearing, of cruel new anti-mutant laws being drafted, of government-funded laboratory research on mutants. Then, the unimaginable became reality. A coup d'état was staged by the Friends of Humanity and all branches of the military and government were effectively taken over.”
“Oh, God,” Rogue muttered into her glass. “Prof-Charles, I mean. Is that when they blew up the mansion?”
Charles sighed and took another sip of his own bourbon. “No. The coup caused extreme chaos within the government. The Friends of Humanity took several months in which to solidify their agenda, and we made no attempt to slow our efforts at subverting them in the meantime. We were focused on the continued protection of innocent lives and working on supporting restoration of the government. Since then we’ve done a certain amount of work aimed at rebuilding our former resources, but it’s been very slow work given our current circumstances.”
“What circumstances are those?” Rogue asked as she leaned forward in her chair and setting her glass down to refill it. Her head was beginning to swirl pleasantly, which was numbing the affects of hearing the disturbing events that had happened to this world.
“We’ve been trying to rebuild our numbers,” Charles said. “But it’s been slow and dangerous work. The United States is a hostile place for mutants, and those supporting mutants. They have developed impressive technology that allows them to track mutants, and we are constantly racing against the clock when I am able to detect a new mutant’s presence. You have no idea,” he paused to look at her quite soberly. “How please I am that we were able to retrieve you before you were detected by other means, though it was certainly a close thing if Victor was there.”
“Why would Victor be interested in finding new mutants?” She asked, brow furrowed.
“Our rivals in the Brotherhood have their own set of priorities which are primarily to install a mutant-controlled government. They believe that every mutant they find can be convinced to join their ever-growing army. The X-Men; however, are dedicated to restoring the government as it was. Many mutants have gone deep into hiding and we have very few human allies anymore. After the damage done by the Mutant Liberation Front, it was difficult to regain the trust of a lot of the population. And nearly all those who supported mutant rights were systematically hunted down and killed or imprisoned.”
Chills ran the length of her body at those words. The situation Charles was describing was just a little close to her own world. A few tweaks here or there, a different thread pulled, an influential person’s mind changed, and she too would be living this reality. “So. The mansion. How did it happen?”
“We had received intelligence that there was an attack planned on the Capitol building. Some of us went to stop it. Others, including Rogue, volunteered to stay behind to watch those few children who could not return home, whose families were not receptive to their return.
“Who on the team survived?” Rogue asked hesitatingly. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer.
Charles looked at her, his own clear blue eyes looking back at her, quite soberly. “We lost only a few innocents.”
Rogue swallowed hard past the lump in her throat. It felt entirely odd for her to talk so causally about what was essentially her own death. “Who died?”
After pausing for a moment, Charles spoke softly. “You, of course. Jubilee -”
Rogue took in a sharp breath as the pain of hearing those words entered her heart. God. Jubilee. Dead. It was unthinkable to think her dear friend was no more in this world because of such senseless hate and fear. She downed the rest of her bourbon in one gulp and shakily reached to refill her glass yet again and slammed down another mouthful of bourbon. Not even the taste of the alcohol was able to soothe her despair at hearing this news.
Charles rocked back in his chair at the explosion of grief that Rogue had experienced upon hearing that Jubilee had perished at the mansion. He casually reached for the bottle of bourbon as she tossed back another mouthful. Based on what he’d garnered from her mind, she wasn’t much of a drinker, and she’d had several glasses in the short time since they’d begun their conversation.
After allowing her a moment to recover, Rogue spoke again, her voice tight with unshed tears. “Who else?” she asked as she braced herself for the answer. It was difficult to remember that her Jubilee was still safe, still alive in her own world.
“No one else you knew, Rogue. I assure you. There were a limited number of team members who remained with us after the take-over of the government. Many had opted to return to their families or go into hiding when things appeared to be headed for disaster, and I encouraged them to do so,” he finished softly.
Rogue ground her jaw at his words, both reluctant to press for more details and eager to know more. She held herself back from asking additional questions as she fought to try and focus on her ultimate goal; finding a way home. Back to Remy. Back to Jubilee. Back to everything that she knew.
“I understand this is troubling for you, Rogue,” Charles said after several minutes of sensing Rogue’s internal struggle.
“Troubling?” She scoffed derisively. “Troublin’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. I just -” she paused, trying to sort through the bourbon haze for the right words. “It could have been me. It could’ve been my friends, my world. It’s not so different from this one,” she mumbled softly into her glass as she tipped back the last few droplets of bourbon.
Charles allowed her another few moments to gather her composure. Finally, she looked up him, her large brown eyes full of shadows.
“I don’t think I should stay.”
“Rogue. Please don’t make any hasty decisions,” he said, a slight note of alarm in his voice. If Rogue were to leave their protection now, she would find herself easy prey for those in The Brotherhood, or other even more dangerous enemies. “The recent history of our world is a lot to absorb and though some things are the same, it is also very different from your own. I would hate for you to go, especially if you are not adequately prepared to deal with the dangers this reality presents.”
“It’s just,” Rogue paused, uncertain how to put her thoughts into words that would adequately explain the completely foreign feeling she was experiencing. Everything was the same, and yet not. Everything was different, but not really. And then there was the matter of Wolverine. She didn’t want to be the cause of anyone’s pain, and it sounded like he’d experienced more than his fair share of it. She could only assume that her presence would be yet another burden on him, and that was the last thing she wanted. “You, Scott, Jean, and Kitty. You’re all so similar to the ones that I know. It’s hard -” her voice cracked and she cleared her throat. “Hard to separate youfrom them."
“Please, Rogue,” Charles urged her. “Stay. I believe I can help you to find out if there is a way home for you. I will do whatever I can to determine if Rift exists in this world and try and locate him if possible. And you would be a tremendous asset to the team in the meantime.”
Rogue scoffed again at this statement, having witnessed exactly how useful she could be at training earlier today.
“At least consider it,” Charles said kindly.
Rogue didn’t want to turn him down now; not when he seemed so eager for her to stay. Instead she nodded and rose from her seat. The room spun for a moment and she suddenly realized just how much bourbon she’d had.
“You should get some rest, my dear. Why don’t you head to your room for a few hours? I’ll ask Kitty to fetch you when dinner is ready.”
“Thank you, Charles. I appreciate it. I appreciate everythin’.” And she turned and stepped out the door.
Rogue turned the corner of the hallway after exiting the Professor’s room, her head reeling from both the knowledge overload and the bourbon, and found herself facing the impressively large form of Wolverine, who was striding toward the office she had just exited. The undignified noise escaped her lips before she could stop herself and she mentally smacked herself for the ridiculousness of the phrase which she had uttered. What kind of an X-Men said, “Eeek!”?
One eyebrow shot up as he registered her reaction and Rogue suppressed the sudden surge of attraction she felt as she watched him step toward her, one heavily muscled, tightly bound jean-clad leg at a time. His boots echoed in the corridor as he continued toward where she stood, frozen, and her eyes caught sight of that same damn silver belt buckle he’d worn last night. She felt her face flush as he caught her staring directly at the area of his crotch and she cleared her throat, unsure of what else she should do.
He stopped in front of her, leaned forward slightly, and sniffed her, frowning. “Jesus. How much bourbon didja have, kid?”
“Dunno. Kinda a lot I guess,” she said as she felt a bubble of laughter rise up unexpectedly and an honest-to-god giggle escaped her.
One corner of his mouth twitched. “Not much of a drinker, are ya?”
“Nope.” She shook her head but quickly stopped as the room spun wildly.
“I wanted to -” he broke off and clenched his jaw.
Rogue felt her heart begin to race as he gazed down into her eyes. He seemed calmer than when she’d last seen him downstairs when his eyes had flashed dangerously with rage after seeing the scars on her back. She nervously bit her bottom lip and she saw his eyes flicker there briefly as he took a deep breath.
“I wanted to apologize,” he continued in a deep voice, forcing his eyes away from her mouth. Nothing good could come of staring at her soft, pink lips. He would only start to imagine kissing her, tasting her, seeing if she tasted as sweet as he remembered. No, it was best that he didn’t think of that low moan she made when he ground himself against her, or the way she would wrap her legs around his torso as he drove into her. Definitely wasn’t wise to think of her lips making their way across his chest, downward-
“You’ve got nothin’ to apologize for, Wolverine. I’m the one-” Rogue paused and frowned up at him. “Man, Wolverine,” she muttered under her breath. “That just can’t be your real name. How come you know mine but I don’t know yours?” She asked him, her voice suddenly accusatory.
He frowned back at her, jaw working hard as he tried to remember the whole reason he’d come after her. “Look. I just wanted to say I’m sorry for gettin’ so angry. Before. You're right. It’s not my business what happened to you. From now on, I’ll leave my nose out of it. Alright?” He barked out the last word more harshly than he’d intended, since being so near her was testing his damn restraint again. He didn’t know how he was going to continue to be around her, when even though he knew she wasn’t the same person as his Marie, the sight and smell of her was so familiar, it made his heart ache.
“Well, fine, captain grumpy. Don’t tell me your name. I didn’t want to know it, anyway.”
Rogue abruptly turned away, intent on showing him how little she cared, and promptly tripped. She blamed it on the unfamiliar boots she was wearing.
Wolverine reached out lightning quick to catch her before she hit the ground, one arm wrapped tightly around her waist. He couldn’t help himself. He took advantage of the closeness of her body to lean in and sniff deeply at the skin of her neck. Fuck, that scent. He couldn’t help the low growl that issued from his chest. She felt so right in his arms.
A low rumbling sound met her ears, and maybe it was the bourbon that caused her to be so reckless, but Rogue tilted her neck to one side, allowing him greater access to her skin, unaware of what it meant for her to do so with a mutant like Wolverine. He jerked his head around to meet her eyes and she inhaled sharply as she registered the animalistic desire she saw there. She felt a warmth spreading through her that had nothing to do with the bourbon and felt a shiver break out over her body at the sensation.
Wolverine quickly dropped his arm from around her waist as quickly as if her skin had been turned on. A long, tense moment passed between them, until finally Wolverine spoke. “Don’t mess around with somethin’ you can’t handle, Rogue.”
And he spun away from her and stalked down the hall to the Professor’s door where she could hear a brief knock, then the sudden sound of a door wrenching open and being firmly shut.
Rogue leaned against the hallway and closed her eyes, her heart beating like a trip hammer in her ears. “Shit. What the hell am I doing?”
Chapter 7: Six
Marie arched her back, forcing the peak of her nipple further into Logan’s mouth. He accepted her offering with relish and sucked hard as his tongue circled the raspberry red tip through the fine layer of silk. He was rewarded for his actions with a moan and Marie’s hips thrusting against his erection, which was pulsing almost painfully with the force of his desire to take her. One gloved hand raked through his hair and she pressed his mouth even tighter to her breast.
“Now?” She asked, her lips close to his ear. She took advantage of her position to suck briefly on his lobe tongue and bite down gently. The brief contact didn’t allow her mutation to kick in, but did allow Logan to feel his cock pulse in time with her bite.
Logan growled deep in his chest. Did she really think she was the dominant one here? He clearly had no choice other than to prove to her who was really on top. And he knew exactly how to do it, too. His inner beast growled his agreement and Logan twisted them around so that Marie was beneath him. He grabbed her gloved hands, encircling both wrists with of his hands and held them above her head. He looked down at her through golden eyes and saw her smile knowingly, with anticipation. He was ready to indulge her. After all, it was her birthday, and he was the one who’d picked out the silken body stocking for her. Wasn’t this exactly what he’d pictured when he bought it? A nearly naked, writhing Marie. Her sex wet and soaking through the silk, the scent of her skin smelling of warm citrus and sweat, beneath him, ready to do whatever he wanted.
“Now,” Logan murmured. He carefully released one metal claw and slit the body stocking around her moist heat. She sucked in her breath as she felt the cool air caress her newly exposed skin and Logan rumbled his approval as he saw how wet she was. He could almost taste her. She’d be sweet, salty, and fresh. He imagined the honeyed taste of her on his tongue as he drove into her and made her shudder and clench against his mouth. And suddenly, he couldn’t stand imagining how she might taste any longer. He bent his head down and inhaled deeply, his beast approving of her earthy clean scent. And before she could protest, he thrust his tongue against her, and licked hard, pulsing his tongue briefly against her clit. Her body jerked under his with the sudden pleasure and he smiled against her as he moved away before her mutation could react to his presence. Fuck. She tasted even better than he could have imagined.
“Oh, God. Logan. What are you doin’?” She moaned, her voice breathy with pleasure. “For God’s sake, be careful. I don’t wanna kill you on my birthday.”
“Relax, darlin’ ,” he said lifting his head to look up at her. “I know what I’m doin’, Marie.” He released her hands and moved to grasp her thighs, spreading her wide so that he could see her and access every inch of her. “Now. Be still,” he said glaring up at her from between the juncture of her legs.
She nodded once and watched him as he moved forward to inhale the unique scent of her sex. He couldn’t get enough of the way she looked, of the way she smelled, of the way she turned him on. If the man were in charge, he would also say he couldn’t get enough of how complete she made him feel, of how he was home with her in a way he never thought possible. He drove forward with his tongue again, sucking hard directly over her clit. She cried out with pleasure and arched her back off the bed. He stopped his movement immediately. “What did I tell you about bein’ still?” he warned, mock serious as he pressed her thighs back down to rest on the comforter.
“Sorry, Logan. I’ll behave.”
“See that you do.” He bent to taste her again and continued his assault with his tongue, his teeth, his lips. Each time the contact lasting no more than a few seconds to prevent her mutation from jump-starting, each time bringing her closer and closer to her peak. He could feel she was nearly there, the muscles in her legs flexed and she curled her toes several times in quick succession. He desperately wanted to feel what she felt like when she came against his bare skin, but he compromised at the last second and reached over and grabbed one of her scarves that was hanging over the footboard. He sheathed one finger in the smooth silk and thrust inside her, simultaneously taking her clit gently between his teeth. She hurtled over the edge and screamed his name with her release, her inner walls contracting in pulses around his finger, making him ache to be inside her. He slowly eased his finger out and retrieved a condom from the nightstand. He couldn’t wait any longer. The sound and feel and scent of her orgasm had unleashed his deepest, most feral need to dominate her.
“Hope you’re ready for more, darlin’,” he ground out through gritted teeth.
“Oh, yes. Yes,” she murmured, her face flushed with pleasure.
“Good.” He lifted her up off the bed and she immediately wrapped her legs around his waist. He smiled as he took in her tousled hair and sleepy eyes. She was his, finally, after all these years. And soon she’d bear his mark and everyone would know it. The thought make him growl with pleasure and he slowly entered her. Inch by inch, he moved into her and groaned as he felt the tight walls of her sex clench against the sudden invasion. Pressing her back against the wall. He was breathing hard as he allowed her time to adjust to the feeling of him as he suddenly prodded against the last barrier between them.
“You sure?” he managed to ask her thickly. Though he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to stop now, even if she said no. The Wolverine inside was desperate to finally claim her. And the man wasn’t too far behind.
She nodded. “God, yes, Logan. Don’t make me wait any longer!”
And he drove through her hymen in one smooth thrust. The slight scent of blood on the air had him feeling both concerned and victorious. He forced himself to pause and he leaned forward to breathe in the scent of her skin. He licked down the column of her throat briefly and she shuddered in response. He couldn’t help but kiss her, exploring her mouth for just seconds before her skin could react. She moaned and moved her hips as if to indicate she was okay, and he needed no further encouragement. He rocked his hips causing him to sink deeper inside of her, and they both groaned at the sensation. Supporting her buttocks with both hands, he began a slow, driving rhythm.
“God, darlin’. You’re so incredible. So beautiful,” he growled as the feeling of her tight inner walls clenched down on him. He leaned down and took her nipple into his mouth and laved it to a hard point in his mouth before rubbing his teeth against the peak. She moaned again and her breathing increased, along with the responsive rocking of her hips. She opened her eyes and stared into his, challenging him.
It was if something in him snapped. At once, he withdrew from her, ignoring the sound she made at the loss, and walked back to the bed, tossing her down. She bounced slightly on the mattress and looked confused as he began to stalk forward toward her. “Logan, what-?” But she didn’t have time to ask any more questions. Effortlessly, he turned her around until she was on her hands and knees. “Oh, God.”
To his pleasure, he saw that she was not alarmed at this sudden change of pace, that she seemed excited, willing even, for what he was about to do. He spread her legs roughly so that she was entirely exposed to him. He brought her backside against him and one hand reached toward her front, circling her clit through the silk as he entered her tight wet heat from behind. “Fuck, Logan. God, yes,” she screamed as he stimulated her from an entirely different angle. She raised her hips to meet his with every thrust, the smell and sound of his Marie filling his head as he brought her closer and closer to the edge, his own cock pulsing hard with every heartbeat. Every stroke, every thrust had him getting closer to his own orgasm, and he felt the pleasure spark deep at the base of his cock. Finally, he felt a deep shudder go through her body and her entire body shook with the force of her climax. Her hands dug themselves into the sheets as she writhed against him, and it was enough to send him over the edge. He reached up to bring her entire body tight against his as he roared with his own release, unable to prevent himself from biting down forcefully at the juncture of her neck and shoulder. His. She was finally his. She cried out as she felt his teeth close down on her skin. The sound was a combination of pain and pleasure as he held his bite down for a moment too long and felt the hum of her mutation begin to pull against his lips. He quickly jerked back as he continued to slow his thrusting.
“Fuck, Logan. That was close,” she said, a smile in her voice as she collapsed against him. “You said you’d be careful.”
He gathered her close, mindful of any further contact with her skin. It sure as hell didn’t bother him if she accidentally knocked him unconscious because of his own carelessness, but he’d made her a promise to be safe with her. It was, after all, her birthday.
“Happy birthday, my Marie,” he rumbled against her breast, the sweat between their bodies smelling of him and her and sex.
The scene changed then. The bedroom fell away and the warm skin of Marie turned cold against his body. He jerked away from the chill of her skin and looked down into her eyes. They stared vacantly up at him toward the starry night sky, all life, all humor, all warmth gone. He shook her body once. Twice. And screamed with loss and rage as he realized she was gone. His fury at his own failing engulfing him and allowing the beast to emerge, the chains no longer in place to keep him restrained. His voice erupted in the sudden darkness until he was hoarse, but then his fucking body healed the damage done to his vocal chords and allowed him to continue his bellows. His claws were released and he thrust them into the dirt around Marie’s body. He stopped his grief-stricken wild baying only when he spotted a strange shape materializing to his right. He whirled around and his eyes widened in shock as he registered who stood there.
“You couldn’t save her, Wolverine. You serve no purpose to anyone but me.” The cold, soulless voice of William Stryker rang out across the darkness, and Wolverine charged forward, determined to gut the bastard once and for all. But despite the swiftness of his attack, his claws went through Stryker as if he were no more than a projection. Stryker smiled cruelly at him as Wolverine continued to swipe at him over and over, his adamantium claws reflecting the crescent moon with every thrust of his arm. He roared in frustration as Stryker stood there, laughing at his efforts.
After what seemed like an eternity, Stryker reached out and effortlessly grabbed his forearm in mid-swing, his grip an iron vice, unbreakable, painfully crushing, as he slowly forced Wolverine down, down, down into the bubbling green tank. He couldn’t move, couldn’t fight as he found himself underwater, unable to breath, strapped down to a metal rack. He screamed, but only bubbles issued from his mouth as he saw Stryker standing over him. His dead gray eyes triumphant as he pushed a button that began the injection of molten metal.
“You’re mine, Wolverine.”
And fire erupted beneath his skin as he screamed in agony.
Logan bolted upright with a guttural cry, claws extended and ready to kill. He was covered in sweat, though he slept naked, and the night air around him was chilly since he’d left the window cracked. He closed his eyes and willed himself to calm down, to give himself time to remember where he was, and that it was just a dream.
But it wasn’t just a fuckin’ dream, he thought. Marie is dead. And he went cold inside as he came fully and completely awake.
He threw back the sheets and began to pace the floor, trying to rid himself of the memory of her 21st birthday. He looked down and found he was still painfully hard and scoffed in disgust.
He could still smell her, could still taste the honeyed sweetness of her on his tongue, still…hear her? He cocked his head to one side as he registered the sounds of Rogue’s distress from down the hall. He clenched his jaw as he started to move toward the door and see if she was okay, before he stopped dead in his tracks. He rolled his neck, enjoying the feeling of popping his joints as he tried to figure out what he should do.
It was the fourth time in as many weeks that he’d heard her having a nightmare. Every time he’d refused to leave his room, determined to honor is word at keeping out of her business. Partially because he was determined to keep this promise, but also because he wasn’t sure if he would be able to prevent himself from touching her. But tonight, with the scent and taste of Marie still so fresh in his mind, he couldn’t help but wrench open his door and stride down the hall toward the noises of distress she was making.
He was half way to her room before he realized he was still naked, raging hard-on sticking straight up. “Fuck,” he ground out as he turned back to put on a goddamn pair of pants. That was the last thing she needed, for a rampaging Wolverine to force his way into her room, his dick preceding the rest of him, as he charged forward with the intent of comforting her.
He grabbed the first item of clothing he could find and carefully zipped up as he headed back out into the hallway. As he neared her room, he could hear her mumbling, mostly unintelligibly words, punctuated every now and then by a, “No, please,” or a grunt of remembered pain. The scent of her fear leaked out through the cracks of the door into the corridor making him twitch. He hated that scent. It made him crazy to think of her in any kind of pain. Even though he knew she wasn’t the same person as his Marie, he couldn’t help wanting to comfort her. I mean, fuck. She’s in another fucking dimension for christ’s sake. She was alone, surrounded by strangers, trying to fit in and find her way home.
He frowned as he leaned his head against her door, trying to decide if he should go in or not. She hadn’t absorbed his memories, or lived through the hell on Liberty Island. What could she possibly be having a nightmare about, anyway? He could only assume it had to do with the scars on her back, and he bit back the growl of rage that uttered from deep in his chest at the thought of someone harming her and marking her so.
He heard her distress increase as she cried out again, louder, her voice full of even more pain, and he knew if he went in there, he wouldn’t be able to keep his promise to leave her alone. He’d want to hold her and let her breathe in his scent to know that she was safe and protected. But he couldn’t risk that. Instead, he settled for helping her the only other way he could think of.
He slammed his curled fist into her door four times and barked out, “Hey! Keep it down in there! Some of us are tryin’ to sleep.”
He heard the ruffle of her sheets as she sat upright in her bed, her breathing shallow as she came to terms with being awake, rather than whatever hell she’d been deep into. A muffled, “Fuck” met his ears and then the repeated litany, “I’m free, I’m safe, I’m free, I’m safe.” He lifted one lip in a snarl as he thought of her being anything but free and safe.
Logan heard the shuffle of Scott getting out of bed a few doors down and rolled his eyes as he stepped away from her door, preparing himself to deal with a cranky Cyclops. He was already heading back toward his own room when the sleepy form of Scott emerged from his shared bedroom with Jean. He rolled his eyes again as he tried to avoid the sight of Scott in nothing but a pair of boxer shorts.
“What the hell, Logan?”
“Ah, don’t get your boxers in a twist, Scooter. She woke me up first.”
“So you had to go and wake the rest of us up while you were at it?”
“Go back to bed, Cyke.” He paused and looked over Scott briefly. “Clearly you need your beauty sleep.” Logan strode past Scott and slammed his door shut behind him, enjoying having gotten in the last word for once.
He heard a muttered, “Dick,” from Scott back in the hallway before he re-joined Jean. Glad that at least something fun had come out of tonight, he headed toward the window and stared up at the crescent moon. It was the same moon from his dream. The same moon that had been out the night she’d died.
“Fuck it,” he muttered as he reached for a cigar from his nightstand drawer. He wasn’t going to be getting back to sleep tonight.
Chapter 8: Seven
Four weeks later, Rogue found herself ready to join the team again in their daily training sessions without worrying about looking like an untrained idiot. Though, if she was really being honest with herself, four weeks was the amount of time it took her to finally trust herself to be around Wolverine without acting like an idiot. Looking back to the incident in the hallway with Wolverine, she couldn’t entirely blame the situation on the bourbon. No, she had finally admitted to herself that she was deeply attracted to him. Wolverine’s appeal was a kind of raw, animalistic attraction, which was completely different than the feelings Remy evoked in her. Remy was polished and smooth, he treated her like she was delicate and precious. And there was no question he was an experienced lover who knew exactly what he was doing. But there was a wildness she saw in Wolverine that was calling to something deep inside her. A part of her which she’d either ignored, forgotten, or never known existed. That part of her held something powerful and dangerous in its intensity, and it was that, Rogue reflected, that scared her so much.
In the four weeks since she’d been at the X-Men’s cabin in Canada, she had asked Charles if he’d been able to locate Rift every day. And every day, for four weeks, he responded with sad eyes and apologized that he’d not been able to sense his presence. Rogue wouldn’t let the lack of development in finding a way home get to her, though. She busied herself with continuing to delve deeper into the history of this world, convinced that she would be able to find some clue as to Rift’s whereabouts. She asked endless questions of the Professor, Jean, and Scott. And Kitty had been a veritable gold mine of information. But so far, Rogue hadn’t learned or discovered anything new that would point toward a way home.
One person she hadn’t sought out was Wolverine. In fact, she had gone out of her way to try and avoid him as much possible, a fact which he seemed to be far too eager to comply with after their encounter in the hallway outside of Charles’ office.
When she’d finally shown up for training with the rest of the team, at ten o’clock, sharp, Wolverine had only acknowledged her presence with a brief nod, and then gone about arranging the day’s training structure. She told herself she was fine with his reaction. After all, she was the one who’d told him to back off and stay away. He paired her up with Kitty and Bobby for a good deal of the day’s training, and they did a damn fine job in guiding her through basic defensive blocks and maneuvers under the ever watchful eye of Wolverine. He barked out a few words of guidance while Rogue repeated the same moves over and over again until Kitty and Bobby thought she’d mastered one of the techniques.
Rogue felt Wolverine’s eyes on her nearly the entire time, but he made no move to interrupt the rhythm she had going with Kitty and Bobby. He didn’t even address her directly, instead meeting her eyes only briefly at the end of the training session when he dismissed everyone for the day. She’d gone to the women’s locker room with the others and told herself she was happy that he was finally respecting her boundaries.
The first day after a full training session with Wolverine and the rest of the team, she thought she was going to die. Muscles, long since dormant, flared to life with the stress and strain of training. She felt completely out of her element, but she loved every minute of it. She finally felt as though she was fulfilling a purpose. Though she loved helping new mutants adjust to life at Xavier’s, she also felt as though she hadn’t been playing an active enough roll, hadn’t felt like she’d contributed to the team. The training she was doing now made her feel, finally, like she belonged with the X-Men. She knew she was still leagues behind the others, but day by day she felt herself getting stronger, more confident, and more sure of her movements. She was glad she hadn’t let her reservations about Wolverine prevent her from coming to training. And she understood now why the Professor hadn’t wanted her to leave. If the remaining X-Men trained like this every day, it had to be for a reason.
Another month passed and the weather grew colder. Snow fell frequently until the mountains surrounding them were buried under a thick layer of white, and soon Rogue fell into a pattern. Wake up. Eat a big breakfast. Avoid making eye contact with Wolverine. Get her ass kicked during training. Try to ignore Wolverine’s amazing physical presence. Shower. Lunch. Pry as much knowledge and history about this world from her fellow X-Men as she could before they got annoyed with her repeated questions. Follow up with Charles regarding any updates on Rift. Dinner. Meditate. Avoid thinking about what kind of sex life Wolverine and this Rogue had. Fall into bed and hope she didn’t have any nightmares. Even if she didn’t know how to get home, she at least knew what to expect every day.
Then, Wolverine mixed up the training schedule.
“Alright. Everyone, listen up. Today we’re going to do a round-robin.” The other team members around Rogue groaned, and she looked at them, confused. What the hell is round-robin? She thought.
“Everyone gets a go with everyone else for three rounds,” He paused and made eye contact with Rogue then. “Including me,” and she felt goosebumps break out over her skin. “Standard skirmish rules apply. No powers, no choking, clean hits only. All fighting styles are game. For each round your goal is to get your opponent to the mat. Team member that does the best two out of three rounds, wins. Two minute rounds, unless one of you gets the other down, then the round is over. The person that does best overall, excluding myself, doesn’t have to run the five miles on the treadmill after.”
Everyone groaned again, including Rogue, and he ignored them as he continued the instruction. “Everyone turn to your left. That’s your first opponent. Drake, you’re with me first.”
Rogue watched Bobby’s reaction to facing Wolverine first, and he seemed to pale a little bit. Rogue turned to her left and found herself paired up with Ellie. She gulped a bit at the thought. She’d been watching Ellie over the past month she’d been training with the team. Ellie was a really fast and smart fighter. She didn’t hold back at all, and seemed to have this explosive energy that she kept a tight rein on, though Rogue could sense it bubbling just beneath the surface. She rather liked Ellie outside of training. She was a few years younger than the rest of the team members, and was a bit sullen and broody at times, but it all seemed to fit her somehow.
Wolverine barked the start of the round and Rogue prepared herself to spar with Ellie. They faced off and circled each other for a bit, each looking for an opening. Ellie darted forward and Rogue immediately prepared for the appropriate defensive move. She planted her feet and was able to avoid Ellie’s tackling move. They continued to circle each other and Rogue moved next, opting for a low roundhouse kick to try and get Ellie down. She stepped forward and out on the ball of her left foot and exploded from her knee to make a solid hit against Ellie’s calf. Ellie grunted in surprise but was ready for the attack and only stumbled rather than falling to the mat. She immediately turned and reached for Rogue as she finished the pivot from her kick and was able to throw her to the ground.
Shit, Rogue thought. She should have been able to anticipate that counter attack.
The two minutes for the first round was almost over, and Rogue looked around at the others as she picked herself up. About half the teams were complete, someone having downed the other opponent. Wolverine was surveying the rest of those finishing he round, glancing at his watch as he counted down the remaining seconds. A quick glance at Bobby indicated he must have been downed in less than 10 seconds. He looked bored waiting for the others to finish.
Finally, Wolverine called time on the first round, and round two began. Rogue was determined to get Ellie down this round, otherwise, she’d lose the whole damn thing. She refocused and decided to take a different approach. Instead, she’d wait for Ellie to come to her and would only attack when she saw a weakness in her defenses. She didn’t have to wait long. This time, Ellie opened first with a swift punch right at Rogue’s abdomen. Rogue was able to side-step the blow and grabbed Ellie’s forearm with both hands. She twisted around with forearm close to her and forced Ellie’s arm back up behind her as she kicked out Ellie’s legs from beneath her.
Yes! She thought, triumphantly. Finally took someone down.
She heard a grunt of approval to her left and glanced over to see Wolverine watching her, having already dispatched Bobby to the ground in less time it had taken for her to take down Ellie. They made eye contact briefly and she could have sworn she saw his lip twitch in acknowledgment of her achievement.
Rogue helped Ellie up off the mat and they watched the others as the second round came to a close. Wolverine barked the start of the third and final round with their current opponents and once again, Ellie and Rogue faced off. They were both a bit more careful, more calculating this time, each having succeeded in downing the other already. Ellie opened first again, this time with a vicious kick aimed at Rogue’s head. She arched her back to avoid a hit to the jaw and rolled to her right, coming up in a crouch where she swept out one leg to attempt and get Ellie off-balance. Rogue made contact and Ellie grunted with pain, but didn’t fall and Rogue quickly leapt to her feet to block a swift counter attack designed to take advantage of her low crouch to put her down again. Neither of them down so far in round three and they continued to circle each other, each looking for a opening. Finally, Rogue registered Wolverine’s, “Ten seconds!” and noticed that she and Ellie were the last team still working on round three. Rogue saw the determination in Ellie’s eyes and felt her own desire to defeat her opponent surge to the surface. She saw the moment Ellie decided to attack, and Rogue acted purely on instinct. She brought her left forearm up to block Ellie’s punch and took the opportunity to punch Ellie’s undefended stomach with a hard blow from her right fist. Ellie let out a whoosh of air and Rogue moved her left arm down to Ellie’s thigh and pulled, throwing her off balance where she hit the mat hard.
“Nice one, Rogue!” Kitty called from her left. Rogue grinned at her in response as she helped Ellie off the mat.
“Alright?” Rogue asked Ellie, slightly concerned at how hard she’d punched her.
Ellie responded with a wheezy, “Hell yeah, Rogue. That was fuckin’ awesome. Way to not hold back.”
Wolverine noted the winners of the first sparring session and announced that the winners would move to their left, while the losers stayed put. And so the rounds continued, Rogue having paired up with Piotr, Kitty, Scott, Jean, Ororo, and Bobby. She was able to win her round with Bobby, but lost to everyone else. After having resigned herself to running the five miles, she realized that the only person she had left to face off against was Wolverine.
Her heart began to beat faster in anticipation of facing off against him. She knew she was going to lose. Wolverine was an amazing fighter and teacher. But she didn’t want to go down to the mat faster than Bobby had.
Wolverine growled the start of the first round and Rogue began to circle to her left. Wolverine matched her pace and began stalk her, step for step. A shiver broke out over her body as she glanced into his eyes. His was focused on her with an intensely animalistic gaze. And that part of her that was wild and dangerous was pleased at the way he was looking at her.
The seconds ticked by and neither one of them made a move to attack the other. Finally, Wolverine spoke in a low, rough voice. “I’m not goin’ first, kid. Show me what you’ve learned in the last month.”
Rogue shut down the part of her that was annoyed by him once again calling her “kid” and focused on her opening move. Wolverine was strong, so she’d be stupid if she tried to use force to get him to the ground.
She thought back over the past four weeks of training, trying to find the right move to take him down. She was going to have to get him off-balance, otherwise she’d be wasting her energy in trying to force him to the mat. Finally, the right move came to her and she smiled to herself. If she could pull this off, even if she lost the rest of the round against him, not only would she be happy with the outcome, but she had a feeling he would be pleased with her progress as well.
Rogue stepped forward as if trying to make a grab for his arm with her left hand. He responded exactly as she’d hoped by reaching forward with his left arm to try and get a grip on her shoulder. She let him step toward her and reached out with her right arm to take hold of the hand on her shoulder, and while she didn’t expect to break his hold on her, she did make two quick attempts at dislodging his hand. Then, she simultaneously stepped back with her left foot, grabbed his right hand with her left and pulled it across her body, and whipped her right hand around to grab hold of the very nicely muscled tricep of his right arm, forcing him to take a step into her. She heard his quick inhale of breath as she found her body flush against his and ignored the quick pulse of longing she felt deep in her belly as she took in his scent. Instead, she focused on the critical part of the move by releasing her grip on his arm, crouching deeper into a split squat, and grabbing the backs of his heavily muscled thighs. She dropped her right knee and shin flush against the mat, trapping his foot between her legs and drove forward into him, causing him to lose his balance and fall backward to the mat. Rogue continued to push her body forward so that she ended up directly on top of Wolverine.
He caught her eyes as she grinned down at him, and she noticed they flashed to gold briefly before returning to hazel. She let herself enjoy the brief victory by appreciating the hard feeling of his body beneath hers before pushing up off the mat and offering a hand to help him up.
“Nice kouchi gake, kid,” he rumbled as he stood back up.
She grinned again in response and waited for the round to finish, Bobby and Kitty being the last pair to remain standing. Finally, Kitty was able to get Bobby to the mat and round one was officially over.
To her complete lack of surprise, Wolverine was able to easily anticipate the other methods she’d identified for getting him to the ground in the next two rounds and had taken her down her easily. The first time he’d gotten her to the mat in round two, he’d feigned a punch to her gut which she’d stupidly tried to block with both hands. He then took the opportunity to step in close to her, wrap his arms around her, and twist around taking her down, but cushioned the blow by having her flush against his body. Rogue tried another offensive move to open round three, but he easily countered her high kick with a swift block and simply shoved her off balance where she landed on the mat with a hard bounce. He pulled her up and rumbled into her ear softly, “One outta three ain’t bad,” and she shivered at the closeness of his body.
Wolverine and Rogue watched the remainder of the teams finish up the last round and then he announced to nobody’s surprise that Scott had done best in the sparring sessions after Wolverine.
“Okay, everyone but Scott hit the treadmills. Five miles. No whining.”
She and the others moved to the treadmills, Kitty falling into step beside her. “Damn, Rogue,” Kitty said, a little breathlessly, “Nice job on getting Wolverine down. You and Scott were the only ones who got him to the mat at all.”
Rogue grinned at Kitty. “Thanks,” she said as she laced up her running shoes. “I couldn’t believe I actually won any of the rounds, seeing as you guys have been at this for years.”
“You’re a natural, Rogue. Really,” Kitty responded as she stretched out her quads before jumping on the treadmill.
Deep into mile four, her body drenched with sweat and muscles burning with exhaustion, Rogue held that thought foremost in her mind. She was stronger than she’d ever known, and it was this world that was teaching her that lesson. This world, and these people, she thought as she glanced over at her fellow teammates as they each continued their own runs. Wolverine was overseeing their progress while chatting with Scott in the corner, his body alert, his gaze constantly moving over her and her fellow runners.
One by one, they all finished their five miles. Rogue was panting right along with the others, her legs slightly wobbly as she took a few minutes to stretch her tired muscles.
“Nice job,” Wolverine called out to them. “Now hit the showers. You all smell terrible.” Rogue laughed with the rest of the team and she, Kitty, Ellie, Ororo, and Jean headed toward the locker room. She had a smile on her face as she cleaned up, thinking for a brief moment, that it wouldn’t be so terrible if she never found a way back home.
The following week, Rogue was headed down to training with the rest of the team when Charles’ voice echoed in her head. She tried to suppress the simultaneous feeling of anticipation and dread at the thought that he might have succeeded in locating Rift. But it became apparent as she looked around that Rogue wasn’t the only one Charles was speaking to.
Meet me in my office, I have news.
The team’s demeanor changed instantly from their normal pre-training easygoing camaraderie, to a tense charged atmosphere.
Rogue turned and headed toward the Professor’s office with the others, quickly making eye contact with Wolverine as he scowled and turned away from her.
Her stomach churned nervously as she thought of what news she might be hearing. Had Charles found Rift? Was Rift dead? Was there another way home? Did she really want to go home?
She shook her head hard as she processed her last thought. Of course she wanted to go home. Her friends were there. Her life. Her boyfriend.
A sharp pang of guilt went through her at the thought. She hadn’t given Remy more than a passing consideration in a week, at least. She’d been too busy thinking about the round-robin training session where she’d finally felt like she was making progress. She’d taken two people down.
She’d taken Wolverine down.
She’d taken him down and thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of his hard muscled body beneath hers as she’d pushed him to the mat. She could all too easily picture the two of them rolling together on the gym floor, limbs twined together, sweat gathering between their naked bodies as he pushed her down into the mat demonstrating his dominance over her. His eyes would be full on gold as he gazed down at her, clasping her hands above her head forcing her back to arch. Her breasts would be begging for his touch, her nipples aching to be licked, suckled, bitten. He would lean down, teasing one nipple with his warm breath as he used one knee to nudge her legs apart. He’d growl then, low and deep in his chest as his free hand reached between her legs to stroke her, spreading the wetness from her center over her clit with one finger, causing fissions of pleasure to spread through her and she’d moan, wanting more of him, wanting his-
A low growl to her left interrupted her from her thoughts. Oh, Christ, she thought, mortified. Tell me he couldn’t smell the fact that I was getting turned on thinking about him. She wasn’t about to confirm her suspicions and avoided looking at Wolverine as she felt heat rush into her cheeks. Instead, she moved away from him to stand over by Kitty, awaiting Charles’ news.
Charles gazed back at the team in front of him, an ominous look on his face. “I have received intelligence that the F.O.H is in the process of developing a dangerous weapon,” he said, his tone grim. “Rather than continue their efforts at eliminating mutants by force, a process which costs them more money, time, and personnel than they would like to admit, they have chosen to invest those resources in a bioweapon. From what information I have been able to gather, this bioweapon specifically targets the X-gene and systematically begins the process of shutting down vital organs causing death in a matter of days.”
Rogue felt sick as Charles continued to describe the potential effects of the bioweapon. The bastards were manipulating the weapon to be airborne so that it could be released over major cities. They would be able to wipe out scores of mutants with the touch of a button.
“So, where are they developing this weapon?” Scott asked. The only sign of his anger was the clenching of his jaw. This Scott was good at controlling his emotions too, she thought. Just like the Scott from her world.
“There is a laboratory in Washington D.C., in one of the old science buildings at Georgetown, which they are currently using for research and development. We need to obtain and destroy not only all samples of the weapon, but eradicate all evidence and research on the weapon. Scott,” Charles said, turning his chair to face Cyclops. “I’ll leave it to you to organize the teams. The Reiss Science building has five floors, and I was unable to garner which floor the lab is located on.”
Scott nodded and barked out, “Everyone, downstairs. We leave for D.C. in thirty minutes.”
Everyone? Rogue thought, a mild sense of panic beginning to seep through her limbs. Did “everyone” include her? She’d only been training with the team for a month and Scott was asking her to go along with them on an actual mission?
She saw Wolverine’s head jerk around to face Scott, the echo of her own thoughts clearly visible in his face. “Everyone?” He growled out, glancing at Rogue.
Scott didn’t hesitate and didn’t glance away from Wolverine as he nodded. “Everyone.”
Luckily, Jean had a spare uniform to lend to Rogue, which fit pretty well except for the bust, which was a bit too tight. She was able to fasten the uniform over her breasts, but just barely. Jean’s boot size; however, was too big for Rogue, but Kitty had a second pair of combat boots that fit her perfectly.
She was the last one in the locker room, lacing up her boots with shaking hands, trying not to freak out about the fact that she was going on a real mission. Not just a mission to recruit a student. It wasn’t even a mission to promote mutant rights. No. This was the Real fucking Deal. Capital R, Capital D.
They would take the jet down to D.C., but would set a slower speed. Not only would arriving at a standard airline speed help them avoid unwanted detection by radar, but it would also put their arrival in the capitol after the sun went down. This time of year, sunset was well before 5:00pm, and according to Scott, traveling at the slower speed would allow them to arrive after dark. Ororo would cloak the jet in some low cloud cover which would hopefully grant them some additional security when they landed.
After they landed there would be pairing up in teams of two to make a sweep of each of the five floors of the science building. During the sweeps, they were to try and find any and all samples of this unnamed bioweapon, and destroy any files or records they could get their hands on. According to the intel Charles had shared with Scott, the building was supposed to be easy on human security detail since the electronic security system was supposedly impenetrable. That’s when Kitty had smirked and grinned at Rogue. “Yeah, sure,” she’d said, confidently.
Rogue wished she could share her confidence, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that her going on this mission was a mistake.
She’d just finished lacing up her left boot and stood up when she let out a gasp. Wolverine stood in the entryway to the locker room, leaning against the door frame, arms folded. He looked menacing in his black uniform, with his muscles bulging, hair combed away from his face, jaw rough and dark with a few days of stubble.
“Jesus,” Rogue said, holding her hand to her heart, willing it to slow. “You scared me. What are you doin’ in here?” She stood up and headed toward the door, but he didn’t budge as she tried to squeeze past him.
“I don’t want you goin’ on this mission,” he rumbled quietly.
His words rankled her. Even though she’d just been thinking similar thoughts, it didn’t make her feel any better to think that someone else was thinking the same thing. She stopped trying to push past him and glared up at him.
“If I’m gonna be here for awhile, I might as well get some field experience,” she said tightly, her accent becoming a bit more pronounced as she felt anger start to bubble up inside her.
“Well, I’d rather you were a little more experienced before you compromise the rest of us.”
His words hurt. It wasn’t anything she hadn’t thought of before. But the truth of the matter was, if she was going to be on the team, then she needed to get out there and start acting like a team member. Training could only get you so far before you had to rely on your instincts and put the practice to good use. Besides, she’d die before she hurt anyone else.
“So take it up with Scott,” she said as she tried to push past him again.
“I did,” he growled, louder this time as he glared down at her, still not budging.
“So what do you want then? Scott overruled you, so you want to make me feel bad enough that I won’t go?” Rogue crossed her own arms then, and planted her feet. She was prepared to fight him for this opportunity, even if he did kick her ass.
“Then what?” She cried, frustrated at his reluctance to tell her just what the hell he wanted from her.
“I want you to absorb some of me.” He said it so quietly, that Rogue was sure she’d misheard him.
“What?” She whispered.
“I want you,” he repeated through gritted teeth, “to absorb some of me. You’ll be stronger, have more knowledge of fighting. Know how to defend yourself.”
Rogue stared up at him. Stunned by what he was suggesting.
“Are you crazy?” she asked him, incredulous. “Are you fucking crazy? Did you hit your head on the way down here? Do you know what you’re asking me to do? With what you’re asking me to deal with in my head?”
Fuck, he thought harshly. She’s absorbed someone before. There was no way she’d react like that if she hadn’t. Wolverine had thought that without meeting him and going through the ordeal with Magneto she would have been spared the act of absorbing another mutant. But clearly that wasn’t the case. Suddenly, he was desperate to know what had happened to her after she’d manifested. His Marie had run away from home and eventually made her way up to Canada where she’d watched him cage fight, decided he must be a good guy, and hitched a ride in his camper trailer. What had this Marie gone through? He wished he could talk to her for more than thirty seconds without wanting to taste her or get her naked. There was so much, he realized, that he didn’t know about her.
“Yeah, I know what I’m askin’ you to do. And I know damn well what I’m askin’ of me, too,” He growled back at her, his voice suddenly rough with anger. Couldn’t she see that he just wanted her safe? Why did she have to make everything so difficult?
Rogue had forgotten that he would know first-hand about what exactly her mutation did. From what she’d gathered from Kitty and the others, not only had he saved her life on Liberty Island, but apparently he’d nearly killed her himself when she’d gone to wake him up from a nightmare shortly after they arrived at the mansion. It had been an accident, of course, but Wolverine had impaled her with his twelve-inch adamantium claws right through her chest. This Rogue had done the only thing she could; touched him, and taken his healing factor, leaving him seizing on the floor of his bedroom, Jean and Scott rushing over to help him. She wondered just how much of Wolverine Rogue’d had in her head after touching him so many times.
“No,” she replied heatedly. “No fucking way. I don’t want to go through that again.” There. That was as close as she was going to get to telling him that she’d done this before. It didn’t matter that she’d done it to escape the basement where she was held like an animal for more than a year. It didn’t matter that the people she’d killed were more than deserving of death. What mattered is that she couldn’t bear the thought of taking anyone else’s thoughts and memories into her mind. The sick, dark feeling of absorbing Father Emmett Knox and the other church members was always with her. The struggle she’d gone through, trying not to hate herself for being disgusting mutant filth, trying not to hate herself for killing people was still with her, even years later. She’d worked so hard to gain control of her mutation, for exactly that reason. She never wanted to take someone into herself again.
Wolverine stared at her for a long moment, jaw clenching with anger, fists curled against the desire to release his claws.
And Rogue stared right back at him, daring him to continue his argument. She’d never absorb him, nor anyone else again. Not even if she was dying.
“What happened to you?” He rumbled quietly, the anger having left his voice.
Rogue was silent for several long seconds as she contemplated if she should say anything else. Finally, she decided to give him something. He’d taught her so much in the last month of training, and he clearly just wanted to see her safe.
“I did what I had to. I just wanted to survive,” she said softly.
Wolverine looked into her eyes and slowly brought up one hand to cup her jaw. She inhaled sharply and tensed at the contact, but he made no further moves and she slowly relaxed into his palm. He tilted her chin up slightly and said in a low voice. “Then you did the right fuckin’ thing.”
He dropped his hand and Rogue found herself disappointed at the loss of his warmth. Abruptly, Wolverine turned away from her and stalked out of the women’s locker room.
At a loss, Rogue stood still, watching his retreating back. Had he accepted her decision? Was he okay with her going? Did she care if he was okay with her going?
“Are ya comin’, kid? Scott won’t hold the jet much longer.”
And she strode out after him, toward the jet, and her first real mission as an X-Men.
Chapter 9: Eight
“Absolutely not,” Rogue said through gritted teeth. Her fists were clenched at her side and she glared at the direction of Scott’s eyes, through the ruby quartz visor.
“It’s either this, or you stay in the jet,” he replied calmly.
Rogue was furious. She’d actually thought she would be going on this mission as a real member of the team. To demonstrate how useful she was, how much she had to offer by helping to look for the bioweapon and destroy it along with any files on it. But she’d been mistaken. Instead of being taken seriously, she was to be given a babysitter.
Rather than having teams sweep each floor of the science building, Scott had announced he would have half the team maintain a secure perimeter outside the building, while others would be going in to sweep the lab floors to locate the weapon. Everyone going inside the building had their own floor. Everyone, that is, except Rogue.
No, Rogue was to be paired up with Wolverine.
“Why only me?”
Scott tilted his head as he considered her. “Because you’re the most junior one here, Rogue.”
“But -” she began, feeling immediately hurt at the statement. She’d thought she had been doing so well during training. After all, only she and Scott had succeeded in getting Wolverine to the mat during the round-robin sparring session.
He held up his hand to stop her protest. “It’s not meant to be an insult. It’s a fact.”
Rogue grudgingly ceded his point. She’d only been training with the team for a month, which was a far cry from the years the other X-Men had been honing their skills.
“You’re the most junior,” Scott continued, “And Wolverine is the toughest, meanest, best damn fighter we’ve got.”
“Aw, shucks, Scooter. I didn’t know ya felt that way about me,” Wolverine rumbled from the corner of the jet.
“Can it, Wolvie,” Scott said without any heat in his voice. “None of us want anything to happen to you,” he said turning back to Rogue.
Rogue took a moment to think about what Scott had said, trying not to let her temper get the better of her. She certainly didn’t want anything to happen to her either. And hadn’t she just been thinking that her going on this mission was a bad idea while getting suited up in the locker room? Her anxiousness had begun to dissipate over the last several hours as they made their way toward Washington. But when they were nearly there, Scott had announced the mission protocol and Rogue’s nervousness had rebounded with spectacular speed.
She knew Wolverine was a bad-ass, she’d seen enough of him in action during training over the past month to squash any doubt about his skills. But the fact that she was the only one who was getting a partner on this mission, because of her junior status, still stung her pride.
Watching her mental struggle, Logan spoke up. “Look at it this way, kid. The more missions you go on with me, the better trained you’ll be, and the sooner you can go solo.”
Rogue let out a deep sigh. “Fine. I’ll consent to a babysitter.”
Logan cringed internally at her words. The last thing he’d ever wanted to be to Rogue was a goddamn babysitter. “I never was much into sitting. How about a partner?” He asked in a low voice as he came to stand next to her. He couldn’t lie to himself. The thought of partnering with Rogue excited him, and at the same time soothed the inner beast’s panic to a degree. While Summers hadn’t acquiesced to his initial request of forbidding Rogue to come along on the mission altogether, he had offered to ensure that Wolverine would be able to keep an eye on her during the excursion by teaming the two of them up. Logan told himself his excitement had nothing to do with him wanting to take in more of the tantalizing scent she’d been giving off in Chuck’s office just hours ago. If he hadn’t known better, he would have sworn that she’d been aroused. She had the same sweet, clean, slightly citrusy scent that his Marie’d given off whenever she’d been turned on. Rogue had even blushed when he’d growled as he was overcome by memories all the while struggling to keep Wolverine chained the fuck up.
But why had she been aroused? What the fuck had she been thinking about? It’d better not have been that swamp rat, LeBeau. Just the thought of the two of them together made his knuckles itch. He could picture it all too easily, that slime bag’s glittering red eyes raking over Rogue’s lithe and strong body, curves enhanced by the slightly too-small uniform she was wearing. Her mahogany hair would be freed from her high ponytail by that bastard’s hands, and it would cascade down her back in waves as her legs wrapped around his scrawny torso. And that Cajun dickweed would smile coldly as Rogue’s head fell back, exposing her neck to his lips and teeth. Logan was momentarily stunned by the clarity of the vision. He’d pictured her hair. Her plain, lustrous, brown hair. With no platinum streak. Fucking fuck, he thought violently as he realized what he’d done. He’d truly been picturing Rogue. This Rogue, and not his Marie. The pain of that realization cut through him and he winced. Glancing at the others, he was glad that nobody had noticed his momentary weakness. Scooter had been looking over his shoulder at the cockpit and Rogue had been staring in the opposite direction. He shook himself and focused back on the mission.
Rogue looked up at Wolverine, considering his words. He was offering her an olive branch, trying to make her feel less inadequate. She wouldn’t deny that she was looking forward to working with him so closely. Hell, maybe she really wanted to work with him. Seeing Wolverine in action without the restraint of holding back against his teammates might be pretty damn exciting. And hot. Damn hot. She was tired of feeling guilty over what she felt when she was around Wolverine. She’d already been in this world for just over two months, and still had no way home. She might not ever see Remy or her world again. And while the thought saddened her, she was also starting to appreciate the friendships and bonds she was forming here.
The rest of the team had started to stir, double-checking their equipment for the mission. Storm had begun their descent, and at the same time started to produce the fog-like cover they would need to remain undetected. They only had moments before touching down.
“So kid,” Wolverine rumbled low in his chest as he moved closer to her. “What’s it gonna be?”
Rogue shivered nearly imperceptibly at his closeness. Turning her head to face him, she grinned slightly. “Let’s do it, partner.”
“Where is everyone?” Rogue asked in a whisper. Her experience of the D.C. in her world was a far cry from the quiet abandoned campus she found herself in. There were no students, no demonstrations, no fliers announcing a Friday night kegger at the Sigma Phi Epsilon frat. It was an eerie feeling, like something terrible had happened on the college grounds and everyone had left in a hurry.
Wolverine glanced at Rogue from the corner of his eye, forgetting for a moment that she wouldn’t know. “Mandatory curfew. Nobody’s allowed out after dark, ‘cept the MPs.”
“MPs?” Rogue asked while wrinkling her forehead in thought.
“Military Police,” Wolverine responded in a hushed tone. He wasn’t comfortable out in the open like this, and didn’t want to be distracted until they were inside the Reiss building. The fog that Storm had helpfully provided as cover for the jet made him uneasy. While he’d easily be able to hear anyone coming, the swirls of dense clouds skewed his perception of potential foes. Every goddamn building, tree, and shrub seemed to be morphing into the shape of an enemy. His senses were on overdrive, trying to compensate and picked up every cue Rogue’s body was putting off as a result. She was nervous, excited, and more than a tiny bit scared. He tried not to let her nerves affect his and focused back on Kitty’s progress on bypassing the security system.
“C’mon, Shadowcat,” Wolverine rumbled quietly. “We’re gonna get caught if you can’t hurry the hell up.”
“Now, now, Wolvie,” Kitty replied softly as she continued her work on the security panel. She had some sort of electronic key pad connected to the exterior panel and was rapidly punching in several combinations of numbers in an attempt to override the controls. “Nearly there, don’t get your panties in a bunch.”
Rogue watched this display with her heart beating loudly in her ears. She wasn’t about to say it, but she was feeling pretty damn anxious. It felt like they were sitting ducks out here in the fog. Even though she knew that Cyclops, Storm, and Jean were somewhere out there in the darkness, she couldn’t help but feeling like there was something else out there. Something that was waiting for her.
Rogue shook herself out of her thoughts as Kitty uttered a small cry of success. There was a series of electronic beeps and a green light shone from the box. Then, Rogue heard the click of a lock disengaging and the door to the science building whooshed open.
Cyclops came striding out of the mist. “Great work, Shadowcat. Now take up position at the eastern perimeter of the building.”
Kitty gave a quick two fingered salute and disappeared into the darkness.
“Jean, you’re on the first floor, I’ve got the second, Colossus, you’re on three, Ellie, you take four, and Wolverine and Rogue are on five,” Scott reminded them. “Let’s make this quick and quiet. Make sure any signs of this weapon and all its files are destroyed, or, if you can’t destroy it, bring it with you on the way out. There’s not supposed to be any physical security, but keep an eye out regardless. Keep in contact on your comms, and alert us if you find the weapon, or run into any trouble.”
And with those encouraging words, the six of them quietly entered the building. Wolverine and Rogue broke away from the others and turned left down the first hallway to locate the stairwell. As she looked around the first floor, Rogue frowned. She thought the building would be more, well, lab-like. Instead, from what she’d seen of the first floor before heading up the stairs had appeared to be mostly abandoned classrooms. There was a fine layer of dust hanging in the air, and it began to swirl around them, illuminating the low level after hours lighting in shafts. For a government-run research facility, Rogue found the whole place entirely underwhelming. She’d heard rumors of labs running horrific experiments on mutants back in her own world, and had pictured buildings of concrete and steel, along with highly advanced lab equipment and tight security. It’s not that this place was a unsatisfying, but well, it was rather a disappointment.
“You know,” she said to Wolverine as they hustled up the concrete stairs. “For a government lab I’d thought this place would’ve been a lot scarier. Just seems like a quiet college building after hours, when everyone’s gone home.”
Wolverine rumbled low in his chest in agreement. Something felt off about this whole thing. Would the Friends of Humanity really be developing a weapon to exterminate all of mutant-kind in an old college science building? His own experience with labs was about as far as you could fucking get from this building. There was hardly anything here, and he didn’t think for one second that they would find anything on this weapon Chuck had told them about. The hair on the back of his neck was standing up and he felt the Wolverine rise to the surface in anticipation of a fight as they neared the last landing.
Without pausing, Rogue opened the stairwell door to the fifth floor and started down the hallway.
“Rogue!” Wolverine called to her. “Slow down, somethin’ feels off about this.”
“Calm down, sugar,” Rogue murmured as she tested the handle of the door nearest to her. It turned easily in her hand and when she poked her head inside, she sighed with disappointment. The room was completely empty, just bare walls and floors, with a row of windows on the far side of the room that needed a good cleaning. She closed the door behind her and turned toward Wolverine. “There’s nothin’ goin’ on here. We’ll be lucky if come across a rat, let alone some bioweapon.”
“Exactly,” he rumbled as he ignored her casual endearment. He was sure she wasn’t even conscious of what she’d called him. She was too busy continuing down the empty hallway. “Why are we here if there’s nothin’ goin’ on.”
She paused then, one hand on the next classroom door and turned her head towards him, appraisingly. “You really think somethin’ is off here? That we got bad information?”
He didn’t hesitate as he nodded. His instincts were screaming that something was wrong with the whole scenario. He cursed Chuck and Scott for sending in the entire team on whatever faulty intel they’d received. His earlier feeling of being a sitting duck in the fog didn’t feel so wrong now, and he was itching to turn around, head back down the stairwell, gather the others, and get the hell back to Canada.
“I think we oughta get out of here, kid.”
Rogue ignored him and continued down the hallway. She wanted to do more than run up five flights of stairs on her first official mission. She at least wanted to check out the rest of the floor, make sure there really wasn’t any information on this weapon before they turned tail and got the hell out of there. She was actively suppressing the fear that was bubbling up from her chest, convinced she just needed to tough it out.
“Cyke, you read me?” Logan barked into his comm. He needed alert the others and get the okay to pull-out. His bad feeling was rapidly becoming worse, and Wolverine was getting more and more impatient for them to get the fuck out of there.
“Scott. Come in, Scott.” Wolverine frowned and tapped the ear piece twice to reset it. Maybe he’d jostled it slightly and it had turned off. A few seconds later, a quick beep signaled the comm had been restarted and he tried to raise the others again. “Scott, Jean, come in. Rogue!” He whisper-shouted at her as she stalked away from him. An alarming smell had just reached him and he needed her to stop in her tracks before they were detected. He could detect the slightly sour body odor of a man around the corner. The man’s aroma mingled with the overpowering aroma of pine-scented floor cleaner and the scent of a recently cleaned gun. Fuck.
“Goddamn it,” he muttered under his breath, and he charged after her.
Rogue strode ahead and turned the corner into the next hallway, determined to put some distance between herself and Wolverine, and abruptly froze. There wasn't supposed to be anyone on this floor. She panicked at the sight of him. All the intel Charles had gathered indicated there wasn’t supposed to be anybody on this floor. In fact, there wasn’t supposed to be anyone patrolling the building period, just the security system which Kitty had already disabled. But there, at the far end of the corridor, blatantly mocking the inadequate intelligence they’d gathered, was a single armed guard, his back turned toward them as he patrolled for intruders.
The guard reached the end of the hallway and after adjusting the automatic weapon slung around his shoulder, began to turn around and come back toward her end of the hallway, where her very much unauthorized access self was visible. She did an about-face, intending to turn back the way they had come and ended up with her face in Wolverine’s shoulder. She hadn't realized he was following her so closely, but she willingly burrowed her face into the leather of his uniform, trying to avoid detection by the guard.
Catching sight of the guard’s movements, Logan immediately twisted them around so that her back was against the wall around the corner, obscuring them both from the guard’s view entirely. He could hear the steady drum of her heartbeat pounding steadily in her chest, its pace increasing slightly with fear and awareness. He leaned down and sniffed deeply. He inhaled the scent that gathered at the crown of her head and he heard the tempo of her pulse jump. Fuck, that scent. It made him crazy. He then gently took her jaw in one rough calloused palm. He was tired of denying what he wanted, tired of walking on fucking eggshells whenever he was around her. He was tired of acting like a fucking uncaring dick whenever he was close to her, when all he wanted to do was be with her, touch her, make her smile. And he was beginning to think that she wanted more from him too. Logan gazed down into the deep chocolate brown of her eyes where she reluctantly met his intense stare. Maintaining eye contact with her, he bent down and deliberately brushed his lips over hers. Once. Twice. Her breath caught in her throat but she didn’t stop him. Didn’t make a move to prevent his actions.
Rogue was dizzy at the rapid change of events. The initial shock of seeing a guard, the gun, and knowing their intelligence may not have been as accurate as they’d been led to believe, then Wolverine’s quick action to prevent them from being seen, now the hot and fast feeling of arousal deep in the pit of her stomach at the feeling of his lips against hers.
She shouldn't want him to continue. Shouldn't want to feel the warmth of his body against hers. Shouldn't enjoy the hot feeling of lust spreading through her. Shouldn't crave the touch of his mouth, his hands.
But she did.
Still holding her eyes with his own, he inhaled sharply, seeming to detect the change in her scent that signaled her acquiescence. Her acceptance of her desire for him.
They stared at each other for a long moment, unaware and uncaring of the precarious position they were in. All that mattered was what Rogue could feel blossoming between the two of them.
Wolverine felt the animal inside him roar with satisfaction. His mate had acknowledged them, had allowed him to touch her, kiss her. He felt the instant desire to claim her surge up which Logan denied with extreme difficulty. He wanted to mark her, to sink his teeth into the junction of neck and shoulder and lave away the pain of his bite. He wanted to taste the salt of her skin, and allow her to rake his back with her nails. He could smell her arousal thicken the air around them and felt himself inhaling, greedily. Forgetting the danger he sensed for just a moment, he slowly moved his hand to cup the back of her head. Her chest was moving up and down rapidly with her breath, but she didn’t resist as he moved closer.
“Ah, I’m sorry to be interrupting such a tender moment,” a low voice said out of nowhere. “But I must insist upon it.”
Rogue felt her body jump at the sound of the voice. Quiet as it was, goosebumps ran down the length of her spine as she recognized the speaker without turning from Wolverine’s arms.
“What’re you doin’ here, Cajun?”
Wolverine’s voice was low and cold. It was a tone Rogue had never heard from him and she wondered exactly what caused him to feel that level of animosity for Remy. He slowly released her from his embrace and he turned toward the voice.
“Ah, mon ami. Maybe we have some similar business with the things inside of this building, n’est-ce pas?”
At that moment, Wolverine sniffed deeply and let out a growl as Sabretooth appeared from behind them and joined Remy. Rogue couldn’t help the shudder that ran through her at his appearance. She hadn’t forgotten their previous encounter, and she clenched her fists at her sides as she remembered being pinned in the rubble of the mansion, his crude thrusts against her back, and the tasting of dried blood crusted on her temple.
Remy grinned as he caught sight of Rogue. “Tsk, tsk. You have been lying to Gambit, Wolverine. Ma petite-fille is alive and well. Very well,” he said as he took his time looking her up and down.
Rogue couldn’t help the small step she took toward Remy as he addressed her. His voice, his words, his actions were all so familiar to her. Was he really the bad guy everyone was making him out to be? He certainly looked exactly the same as her Remy and she couldn’t prevent herself from moving towards him. Wolverine let out another low growl at her movement and she stopped herself from moving any further.
“She ain’t yours, Gumbo,” Wolverine gritted out through clenched teeth. “Never was.”
“Gambit is not so sure about that,” he said as he cocked his head, clearly appraising her actions. “She seems awfully glad to see me. Ain’t that right, chère?” he asked as he winked at Rogue. She felt a familiar tingle run through her body and she heard Wolverine’s reaction to her response in the form of a low growl.
“Monsieur le chat,” Remy continued in a low voice without looking away from Rogue. “S’il vous plait,” as he motioned with one hand toward the guard around the corner.
Without any hesitation, Creed took two steps forward to stand out into the hallway, held up a pistol with a silencer, and shot the guard straight through the back of the head. He crumpled forward instantly, blood and brains splattering the dark floor as he fell.
Rogue sucked in her breath at the carelessness with which the man had just been murdered. Wolverine growled and released his claws with a sharp metallic twang. Her adrenaline spiked and she felt her limbs go weak with the simultaneous desire to fight or flee. She didn’t know what to do. In an instant, she felt all the training she’d learned over the past month vanish.
“What the fuck,” Wolverine barked. “That wasn’t necessary.”
Remy gave a Gallic shrug and took a step closer to Rogue. She shrank away from him, thoroughly horrified at what he’d just instructed Creed to do. Why hadn’t he just knocked the guard out? And why had he used a gun? Both Remy and Creed were more than capable of dealing with a guard without using firearms.
“Gambit don’t really need to explain himself to you, mon ami,” Remy said nonchalantly as he continued to stare at Rogue.
“I ain’t your goddamn friend, swamp rat.”
“Ah, your words, they do wound me. And after Gambit has been so courteous to mademoiselle and monsieur,” he said smiling.
“Courteous?” Rogue asked, her voice high with shock. “That’s what you call murdering that guard? Courteous?”
“He was surely a bad man, working with such scoundrels as he was,” Remy replied smoothly.
“That doesn’t mean you get to decide whether or not he lives or dies!” She said heatedly.
“Hmm, ma chère,” Remy murmured. “You seem different than the last time we met so long ago,” he continued, not reacting to her comment. Instead, he frowned and looked her over again, his eyes lingering on her breasts, then her face, finally her hair.
Rogue moved closer to Wolverine, feeling as though she had just been exposed somehow, that somehow Remy had discovered that she wasn’t exactly who he thought she was. She suddenly wondered how the other Rogue had interacted with Gambit. How she had reacted to his flirtatious ways, his blatant attraction to her. Had she just done something out of character?
“Whaddya want, Cajun?” Wolverine said, stepping forward slightly to shield Rogue.
“Likely the same thing you do. One hears such rumors about the goings on of the world, and has to investigate, oui?”
“Get to the point before the rest of the team shows up and has to clean up your bloody remains.”
“Ah, but I don’t think the rest of your X-Men will be joining you anytime soon,” Remy responded, a sick grin on his face.
Rogue felt her stomach drop. “What did you do to them?” She whispered.
“Gambit has his secrets, and Gambit’s secrets they will remain,” he responded, a cold smile on his face.
“I’ve had enough of this,” Wolverine said through clenched teeth. And he charged forward with a roar, his claws outstretched. Remy let out a bored sigh and reached into his pocket. A small aerosol can appeared in his hand and with a quick depression of the nozzle, a sickly sweet smelling mist issued form the can, and Wolverine dropped to the floor with a heavy thunk.
A small amount of the mist hit Rogue’s face and she felt herself sway on her feet. Whatever was in that can was no joke. It was potent and dangerous.
“What the hell did you do to him?” she said falling to her knees beside Wolverine. She tore off one glove with her teeth and checked his neck for a pulse. She let out a small sigh of relief as she felt the reassuring thumping of his blood beneath her fingers. Now that her hand was bare, she’d waste no time in using her skin to fight Gambit and Sabretooth. Even if it meant having them rattle around in her head, she wouldn’t let them get away with whatever the fuck they were planning. Not if they’d hurt the rest of her team, not after what Gambit had done to Wolverine.
“Ma chère,” Remy sighed with exasperation. “I’ll not explain anything more to you. The Wolverine has been dispensed of, for now, at any rate, and I must insist we depart. Now.” He said as he flicked his eyes at the prone form of Wolverine.
“Tell me,” Rogue said, her voice shaking slightly with anger and fear as she slowly rose from her position next to Wolverine. “Why would I willingly leave here with a psychopath and a rapist?”
Creed growled menacingly at her answer and backhanded her roughly without any warning. Rogue was thrown to the floor by the force of the blow as pain exploded in her right cheek.
Remy clicked his tongue. “Tsk, tsk, monsieur le chat. None of that, s’il vous plait” and he reached down with one arm to help her up. Rogue glared up at him through the strands of hair that had fallen over her face, unsure as to whether or not she should take his hand. She decided against it, as she felt the deep throbbing of pain in her cheek, and slowly pushed herself up without his assistance.
“Such passion, such fire, ma petite fille. I admire you for it, but I do believe it will be detrimental to you in the end.”
And without warning, Remy raised his arm and sprayed Rogue directly in the face with the can, and the world went dark around her.
Chapter 10: Nine
It wasn’t the pounding of her head that awoke Rogue. Nor was it the bone-deep cold of the icy surface she found herself lying face-first against. No, it was the long, languid strokes of a hand making slow and easy patterns against her back. The cold floor she found herself on was both at once causing an uncomfortable ache in her bones, as well as soothing the pulsing of her bruised right cheek from where Sabretooth had struck her. Her cheek felt as though it had split open, as an uncomfortable stinging now accompanied the throbbing. Rogue realized with a start that the hand was tracing the whip scars on her naked back. Whoever it was knew better than to touch her with their bare skin though, she could feel the fine, supple feeling of leather as it continued to swirl against her.
Rogue took a swift inventory of her body and surroundings prior to opening her eyes. The room she was in felt…cavernous and slightly sterile. There seemed to be only one person in here with her; the person who was currently molesting her back. She was relieved to feel she was still clothed, though her uniform appeared to have been cut open at her back. Her hands were strapped together at the wrists with what felt like duct tape and stretched above her head. She could feel a tingling in her shoulders which signaled her arms had likely been asleep for some time. She grimaced internally as she realized the feeling would be surging back into them soon enough, the unpleasant sensations of pins and needles prickling her from the inside out. Her skin broke out in gooseflesh as the fingers on her back suddenly drew close to close to one breast and she unconsciously tensed her body.
“Ah, ma chère,” a smooth low voice greeted her. “Remy knows you are awake.”
For a moment, her body wanted to respond to his touch. His hands on her body was so intimate, his voice so reassuring and familiar. Then, the image of the guard’s brains spilling over the tile floor of the science building came flooding back to her, and she didn’t bother to suppress the shudder that rippled through her body. She rolled away from Gambit’s hands and struggled to sit up, without the full use of her hands. She glanced down at herself and was relieved that her uniform was intact at the front.
Gambit had been sitting next to her, legs folded casually beneath him. He propped his hands beneath his chin and studied her with a warm smile.
“Bonjour, chère,” he murmured as he took in the sight of her.
Rogue, rather than respond to or stare into the eerily familiar eyes of Gambit, took the opportunity to look away from him and inhaled swiftly as she realized where she was. Her brief experience of her current location back in her own world had been accidental. She’d only been passing by when the entryway had opened and she’d seen inside. She’d been slightly awed at the vast expanse of silvery-plated panels which made up the structure of the room, but had quickly averted her gaze as the Professor had made his way outside, his eyebrows raised quizzically at her.
The narrow aisle she’d seen then had been expanded slightly at the center of the room, the controls that she’d seen previously were gone, replaced by a marginally larger surface area. There were still no rails or barriers to prevent one from falling a precipitous distance below to their likely death, and Rogue felt herself trying to scoot further away from the edge, and closer to the center of the cold platform.
“I see you recognize where you are?” he asked her, a small amount of curiosity seeping into his otherwise casual tone.
Rogue nodded. “Cerebro.” Her voice sounded small in the vast space of her surroundings. She now understood why she’d encountered Creed after she’d first arrived in this world. The Brotherhood appeared to have taken up residence in the former X-Men’s underground headquarters.
“Hmm,” Gambit said, his answer giving her nothing.
“I thought it was destroyed when -” Rogue broke off, realizing she was allowing herself to convey information about herself and what she knew, simply by engaging in conversation with Gambit. She needed to learn to shut up and analyze the situation before responding so easily. He’s not him, she thought to herself angrily. Stop acting like this is the Remy you knew. What would Wolverine say if he saw you giving up information so easily to an enemy? Her thoughts then strayed to what had happened to Wolverine and the others. If the rest of the team had been sprayed with the same chemical she had, then they were likely alright. Aside from a throbbing headache and pain in what she could feel was her swollen cheek, she felt fine, physically, at any rate. And seeing as she knew Wolverine had been hit with the same agent, he’d likely regained consciousness well before any of the others. Oh god, she thought closing her eyes briefly, let them be okay.
At that last thought, Rogue steadied herself for what was to come. Then, the feeling in her arms suddenly returned and she grimaced uncomfortably at the weak and painful sensation running up and down both arms, from shoulders to fingertips. She tried to restore the feeling as best she could by rapidly shrugging her shoulders and wiggled her fingers, restrained though they were by the duct tape.
“Are you well?” Gambit asked, smoothly.
Rogue said nothing in response, but looked back at him coldly.
To her intense surprise, Gambit stood up smoothly from his position on the floor and began laughing. Rogue continued to glare at him, thoroughly annoyed at his reaction to her discomfort.
“Ah, chérie, I did miss seeing your lovely face these past several years.”
Rogue gave away nothing, but continued to stare up at Gambit as his laughter echoed through Cerebro.
“Really?” Gambit asked her, wiping a tear from one red eye. “Nothing? No reaction from the lovely mademoiselle at my blatant fishing for information? Tsk,” he said shaking his head in disappointment. “I am saddened by this, of course.”
Rogue continued to glare at him, willing herself to betray nothing. Whatever this Gambit wanted couldn’t be anything good. Though what part in his plans she could possibly play was beyond her.
“Such a shame, ma chére. I was hoping you would be more cooperative with Remy and at least tell him a little something about yourself willingly. The other alternatives are,” he paused then, and a slow smile played over his face. “Not so pleasant.”
After several seconds of her silence, he spoke again, this time, completely absent of all warmth and humor. “No?”
And she shook her head in response.
“You did have another choice,” Gambit said, his voice low and cold as he leaned down and whispered in her ear. “Remember that, ma chére.”
As he strode away from her down the long, narrow aisle, Rogue swallowed convulsively at what she saw. As soon as Gambit had left the platform where she sat, the metal walkway had retracted behind him, leaving her alone, suspended on an island. She tried to repress the fear she felt, the feeling of claustrophobia rising up as the reality of her situation hit her.
No matter how elaborate, nor how impressive it was, she was back in a cage.
Logan felt a not so subtle push from his psyche and frowned. What was going on? Why was Wolverine bothering him?
They took her, jackass. Wake the fuck up and bring ‘er back to us. I’ll take over yer sorry excuse for a body if you don’t. Get. Up. NOW.
Awareness slammed into Logan as he finally understood what had happened. Wolverine was screaming at him to wake up, that Rogue was gone.
“FUCK,” he roared as he sprang up, claws extended, his chest heaving.
‘Bout time, bub. Now move yer ass, they just left.
Rather than questioning how Wolverine had known what had happened while Logan had been unconscious, he stormed down the hall and flew down the stairwell. He sniffed the air and he simultaneously jerked his head and let out a growl of rage as he detected one scent in particular. He could still smell the acrid stench of Creed, the slick cologne of the swamp rat, and the sweet clean scent of Rogue. It was accompanied by the barest hint of her blood and he tore down the hall as he followed those particular molecules. He couldn’t have been unconscious for more than a few minutes. The scents were still so fresh and if he stretched and strained his senses, he could just hear the thud of heavy footfalls several flights below him. He could detect the pulsing of Ellie’s heartbeat as he passed the fourth floor landing, the thumping of Piotr’s as he rounded the third, and the steady sound of Scott and Jean’s breathing as he reached the bottom of the building. They were alive. The Brotherhood wasn’t interested in killing them, which meant he could focus on his first priority; Rogue.
Fuck, fuck, FUCK! He thought, panic racing through him. He couldn’t lose her. Not again. It would destroy him. His adrenaline was blazing through him, his senses hypersensitive. Thoughts raced through his mind, he calculated the possibilities for the bastards’ escape. How had they arrived? How were they getting away? He hadn’t heard any other vehicles approach while they’d been inside. Had they already been here? Waiting?
Bingo. Took ya long enough, Wolverine rumbled inside his head.
Shut up. Unless ya got somethin’ useful to contribute, keep yer goddamn mouth shut.
Wolverine snorted, then responded. They’re gonna leave on somethin’ that will get ‘em the fuck outta here in a hurry. They knew that shit wasn’t gonna keep us down fer long.
Logan tore out into the courtyard, Storm’s earlier fog still hanging heavy in the air, obstructing his view and hindering his senses. He spun around, sniffing the air, extending his awareness.
But he didn’t need Wolverine to tell him. He’d seen it too. A shadow of movement to the west, and the familiar acrid sweat of his enemy reached him. He growled quietly in his chest and surged forward into the fog, claws extended. An unconscious Rogue was slung over Creed’s right shoulder, her hands swinging limply at his back. Her hair had been freed from its earlier high ponytail and hung loose, obstructing her face. Wolverine flashed briefly back to the image he’d unwillingly pictured of Gambit’s hands running through her high ponytail as he freed it from its confines and hot, boiling rage filled him as he imagined the scene coming to life. “Put ‘er down, furball,” he growled.
“Toldja it wasn’t gonna keep him down as long as you thought,” Creed remarked softly.
Logan heard the swamp rat sigh loudly. “Give her to me then. Finish this. Quickly. Monsieur Wolverine,” he said to Logan. His voice was louder, but strangely muted in the fog. “It has been such a lovely reunion, but Gambit will be leaving with his girl now,” and he disappeared further into the fog, Rogue cradled in his arms her head thrown back over one of Gambit’s arms, exposing the slender column of her vulnerable throat.
Wolverine roared in his head at the fucking gall, the audacity of trying to stake his claim on their mate. We should have marked her when we had the chance.
Marking her was never gonna keep a scumbag like LeBeau away from her. Now get yer ass in the game and help me with Creed.
“Runt, I’m gonna make your girl scream.”
“Over my dead body, Creed,” Wolverine snarled.
“Happy to help with that,” Sabretooth mocked, lip raised as he bared his fangs.
The fog was a definite hindrance. The usual cues and hints he was able to read from Creed’s body were obstructed and the first slice of claws into his neck surprised him. He felt the warm rush of blood drip down inside his uniform and ignored the swift burning pain as he retaliated by thrusting both sets of claws into Creed’s unprotected thighs three times in rapid succession. He’d been hoping to reach deep enough or at the right angle to pop his kneecaps off, but Sabretooth had twisted away from him too quickly. He smiled in satisfaction though at the grunt of pain and smell of Creed’s blood hitting the air. Wolverine didn’t waste any time, but surged forward as Sabretooth turned away from him to plunge his claws into his kidneys and roared in triumph as Creed dropped to his knees. He let out a vicious kick to the back of Creed’s head and he dropped to the cobblestones of the courtyard.
Wolverine wasted no time, but rushed past him frantic to reach Rogue before LeBeau vanished with her. He could hear the whine of helicopter rotor blades starting, smell the fuel seeping through the air and growled. He tore through an opening in the fog which had been cleared by the whirring of the blades and stopped, frozen by the blasting of pain that had exploded through his upper right trapezius. He looked down, frowning, shocked to see the gaping exit wound in his chest. His skin and musculature had been ripped apart from the force of the bullet.
Fuck, Wolverine thought, and Logan echoed the sentiment. He whirled around and saw Creed, holding the same gun that he’d used earlier on the guard. The whisper of the silencer hissed again and again, as his body was riddled with bullets, each leaving a gaping hole, each shredding through a strategic portion of musculature which had little to no adamantium protection. He grunted with each impact and lost count of the number of times Creed continued to fire the pistol.
Blood gushed from his wounds, soaking his uniform. His vision began to go dark with the blood loss as his healing factor struggled to keep up with the rapid damage of the bullets.
No, no, NO. Get up goddammit! Wolverine roared. Logan couldn’t respond though as the world went gray around him, in agony with the thought that he’d failed to save Rogue. The last thing he felt was Creed’s presence behind him as he pressed the muzzle of the gun directly into the base of his skull.
Rogue had lost track of the hours she’d spent inside Cerebro. The place was chillingly cold, and she had sat on the floor, legs crossed beneath her, as she tried to meditate and calm her fear and ignore the shivering of her body. She focused on the positive; she could at least stand up in this cage. The fact that her hands were still bound was deeply troubling to her, it brought back the immediate claustrophobia of the cage she’d spent more than a year of her life in, where she hadn’t been able to stretch them apart further than the length of her elbows.
During her deep breathing exercises, she heard the smooth whoosh of the entrance to Cerebro and opened her eyes. Remy was back, red eyes blazing in the semi-darkness. He strode forward and the walkway advanced beneath his steps. She stood, not wanting him to have any additional advantage over her. He continued to approach her until he stood less than two feet away from her. His coat billowing behind him as he stopped. While Remy didn’t tower over her, he was taller than her, and Rogue moved her eyes upwards to stare into his.
He smiled down at her, the warmth she was used to seeing from him, back in his eyes.
“Ma chére,” he said smoothly. “I hate to see you so miserable in here. I do wish you would let Remy comfort you.” He used the same tone as her Remy whenever he was feeling particularly amorous, and she forced her mind back to her current circumstances. He was not the same man, no matter how similar they appeared. He raised his hands to rub her shoulders briskly, forcing some warmth into her skin through the leather of her uniform. She forced herself to be grateful for the heat, while ignoring the shudder of revulsion she felt at his touch. “You are chilled!” he exclaimed as he ran his hands down her arms to her fingers.
Rogue tried not to snort in disgust. Obviously she was chilled. He was the one who’d left her in here without any blankets or heat source, the circulation in her hands partially limited by the duct tape that bound the together.
“Remy would much like the opportunity to warm you,” he murmured as he bent close to her ear. One leather-gloved hand rose up to tangle itself in her hair and then moved down to thumb over her earlobe. She shivered, though not from pleasure or longing, but from revulsion. God. If she ever got home, how was she going to be able to stand the touch of Remy’s hands on her ever again?
“So beautiful, and so cold,” he sighed as he moved away from her. “You are much the same as her.”
Rogue’s interest was piqued, and her eyes which had been averted as he stroked her, flew back to his. She wondered exactly what he meant by that.
“Remy has decided to give you a second chance, ma chére. You were likely so traumatized by the events at the campus that you were not thinking so clearly before.”
Rogue cocked her head at him, curious to see where he was going with that line.
“May I assume you are more open to a dialog with Remy at this time, ma petite?” He asked her, smiling.
Indecision raced through Rogue’s brain. What should she do? She didn’t want to give away anything, but she was loathe to contemplate what Remy had meant earlier by other alternatives not being so pleasant. Deciding to be cautious in her answers, she swallowed and nodded, pretending not to feel the sick feeling of cowardice that ran through her body as she chose the easier path.
He grinned at her as he brushed his knuckles against her uninjured cheek and in one smooth swirling motion, withdrew his arms from his coat and placed it on her shoulders.
Fucking hell, she thought darkly. Even his coat smells the same, as she tried to ignore the pleasant sensation of warmth seeping through her skin.
“Now,” Remy stated as he stood facing her, arms folded at his chest. “Remy has only a few questions for you.”
Rogue nodded at him, warily, as she waited for him to continue.
“Are you Rogue?” He questioned, his tone casual as he studied her.
Frowning at the absurdity of his first question, she nodded her head. “Yes.”
“Ah, you misunderstand,” he drawled slowly, a slight chill entering his voice. “Are you my Rogue?”
Rogue was unsure how to answer. Clearly he suspected something was off about her. And just why the hell had Remy and Creed taken her in the first place? Come to think of it, she’d thought they were at the science building for the same reason as the X-Men; to retrieve and destroy the weapon being developed by the Friends of Humanity-run government. Was she the reason they’d been there? If that was the case, why go after her at all? What could she possibly have to offer The Brotherhood?
Rogue remained silent as she thought about how to respond. She certainly used to be his Rogue. But she wasn’t now. Not in this place, not in this world. But why did he need to know? Had there been something going on between this Rogue and Gambit? She swiftly discarded that idea. She couldn’t think that would ever be a possibility, not when she knew what she did about Wolverine and Rogue’s relationship. Deciding that the truth of her response wouldn’t necessarily give up too much, she shook her head. “No.”
Remy smiled at her, “Yes,” he whispered. “I thought as much. Tell me,” he continued, dropping his arms and beginning to circle her. “Just who are you then, ma chére?”
It was her turn to shrug. “I’m still Rogue. Just not your Rogue.”
“Then whose Rogue are you?”
Wolverine’s was the immediate reply she heard inside her head. Somehow, the thought of answering that she was Wolverine’s Rogue didn’t seem like such a good idea, no matter how appealing or comforting the thought was. The memory of the moment where she’d finally submitted to her feelings came surging back. She’d wanted so badly to lean into him, to feel his lips against hers in a savage kiss, to feel his hands running through her hair and down her body. Then, Remy had come in and fucked it all up. Now she was here, alone, a fucking prisoner again. She was going to have to figure out a way to get herself out of this.
“My own,” was her quiet response.
“You are angering Gambit now, chére,” he ground out. “But maybe I should ask you in a different way. Where did you come from?”
He knows, she thought, panic racing through her. How does he know?
Gambit was clearly upset at her delayed response and he ground his jaw together once before asking her again. “Remy will not ask you again. I know my Rogue died years ago. So,” he paused as he glared into her eyes. “Where did you come from?
Rogue could feel the rapid beat of her pulse throughout her body. She felt sick, like she might throw up. But she never had been able to demonstrate good sense when being held against her will. And instead of answering his question, shot back with one of her own.
“If you knew she was dead, why did you make such a show of bein’ so happy to see me at the Reiss building?”
Rage flew over Remy’s face for a moment before he paused and looked her appraisingly. “Remy never could pass up an opportunity to rile up the Wolverine when it came to you.”
Pushing her luck, Rogue probed further. “So you weren’t there to destroy the weapon.”
He raised one shoulder in a noncommittal shrug.
“Were they even developing a weapon?”
Remy shrugged again. “Who can say? But I know that the information we planted must’ve held a kernel of truth. Your Professor never would have sent your team otherwise.” He paused then, and shook his head. “So naive. Even after everything that has happened.”
Rogue felt herself flush with anger at those words. “At least they’re tryin’ to do good in this world. Can’t say the same for you and The Brotherhood, can you?”
“’This world,’” He quoted back to her, eyes narrowed in suspicion. “And does this world matter to you, ma petite?”
“Of-of course it does,” Rogue stammered. She could feel the conversation escalating out of her control.
“But why? Why does it matter to you?” He mused, clearly confused by the vehemence of her reaction.
Rogue didn’t trust herself to respond anymore. She clenched her jaw and looked away from his commanding red eyes.
After several strained seconds, Remy’s sigh echoed through the cavernous empty space. “I thought you would have made a better choice. Though you’re not Remy’s Rogue, I still would have thought you’d have more sense than this.”
She was terrified at what was going to happen to her. The remembered pain of her previous imprisonment at the hands of Emmett Knox and the Church of Humanity was foremost in her mind as she responded. “The others, Wolverine, they’ll come.”
“Ah, had I not shared the news with you, ma petite? Wolverine is dead,” he confided with a cruel smile.
Shock blasted through her. No. It’s not possible. Rogue rejected the thought, violently.
“You can’t kill Wolverine,” she said, her voice shaking.
He shrugged, unconcernedly. “As you say. But I saw for myself as Creed put a bullet in his head.”
An unexpected grief ripped through her at the thought. Could he be killed with a bullet to the head? Surely the adamantium that covered his skeleton would protect his skull as well? Doubt swirled through her, but desperation made her act out. She had one avenue left to her. It was unwise, surely, but she wasn’t going to go down without a fight. She knew Wolverine hadn’t.
“Maybe you’re right,” she replied softly. “Maybe he’s dead. I suppose I should thank you.”
Gambit jerked his head toward her, his eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Thank me?”
“Yeah,” she replied, trying to smooth over the tremors in her voice. “Thank you. Ya know,” she continued, laying on the accent extra thick. “Ah always did think he was such a brute. He was so,” she hesitated, trying to find the right words. “Hairy and wild,” her mouth pursed in a moue of distaste.
Gambit’s demeanor relaxed slightly as she looked up at him, her expression changing to a flirtatious smile. “Is that so, ma chére?” he murmured back at her, taking the opportunity to cup her jaw.
“Mmm hmm,” she lied smoothly as she repressed a shudder of revulsion at his touch.
“So who did you prefer instead?” he murmured as he drew closer to her.
“Well,” she said as she fluttered her lashes. “Ah always did think you were kinda sexy.” Her heart was thumping so loudly she thought it would explode out of her chest. Once he kissed her, she’d drop him with her skin and would find a way out of there.
“Mmm, chére,” he whispered into her ear. He was so close she could feel the warmth of his breath against her skin. She steeled herself for what she was about to do, prepared her mind for the invasion, and turned her face into his. Suddenly, his hand flew to the back of her head and took her neck in a cruel grip. “You think to make a fool of Remy?” he asked in a low and dangerous voice as she grimaced with pain. He swiftly twisted her body around until he hung her over the edge of the platform. She couldn’t see through the darkness to the bottom, but she knew it was a long way down. Fear gripped her body and she thrust her weight into her heels, forcing herself into Gambit’s body and away from the edge as much as possible.
With his free hand, he ripped his coat away from her shoulders and gripped her by the hip. He ground himself forcefully against her as he whispered into her ear. “Not even the promise of your body will save you from my anger now. You will be responsible for the additions to your collection of scars. Not Gambit.”
He threw her violently to the platform floor. As she was unable to brace herself, she landed painfully on her right cheek which pulsed so brightly with pain that she nearly passed out.
As Gambit’s footsteps echoed through Cerebro, she felt the familiar overwhelming wave of hopelessness crash down upon her.
The next several days passed in a blur of pain and fear. Rogue continued to keep her mouth shut about who she was and was met with varying degrees of abuse by both Gambit and Sabretooth. At first, they had tried a sort of good cop, bad cop angle on her. At her continued refusal to answer their questions; however, Remy, who had been acting as the good cop began screaming at her to tell them what she knew. Despite the overwhelming terror of his temper, she shook her head, denying him. Then he had slammed his knee into her unprotected abdomen, and kicked her several times in the ribs while she’d been down. She’d blacked out with pain shortly afterward.
After that, Rogue gave up trying to remember all of the ways they had tortured her. If whatever she would tell them about herself was this important, it couldn’t be for anything good. She clung to that belief, and to the believe that Wolverine was alive, and that the others were looking for her. They would find her. They had to.
Now, as Remy wiped her blood from one leather-bound hand, Rogue spit out the excess of coppery saliva next to the chair she sat in. She was breathing hard, pain wracking her face. She wondered how bad the damage was, thankful that she didn’t have a mirror to see how badly she had been disfigured. A twinge of regret ran through her. She knew she’d been pretty. She likely wasn’t anymore.
“Gambit is at his wits end with you,” he hissed at her. “You will tell me who you are.”
Rogue couldn’t help it. This had been going on for days. She laughed at him.
“Shut up,” he commanded her, fury engulfing his features.
His response only made her laugh harder. Then, the pain in her ribs forced her to stop.
Remy glared her, clearly enjoying her pain, and signaled Sabretooth. Creed had been standing at the entryway to Cerebro, watching her beating with a sick grin on his face. But at Gambit’s signal he exited the room, only to appear a moment later, a struggling form in his grasp.
“I think you will tell Gambit what you know now, n’est-ce pas?” Remy crooned at her, coldly.
Rogue felt the blood drain from her face as she saw who Creed had grasped in his hand. The pale blond hair and icy blue eyes of Michael McMahon came into the dim light of Cerebro. Rift. He was alive. He was here. Oh, fuck.
Seeing that Rogue recognized Creed’s captive, Remy nodded his head at Sabretooth. He immediately thrust Rift’s body over the edge of the walkway until he was dangling entirely over the empty cavernous space below by one of Creed’s enormous hands. Michael’s cries of distress echoed loudly in Cerebro and Rogue broke, immediately.
“No!” she cried out, unable to stand it any longer. “Don’t hurt him, please.”
After a quick nod from Gambit, Creed yanked back his arm from over the edge and threw Rift roughly to the floor. His sobs had quieted, but small sniffling noises reached her from across the walkway.
“And why should we not hurt him, ma chére?” Gambit spoke quietly to her. He’d knelt down next to her and her body jumped involuntarily as he raised one hand to gently brush a blood-stained strand of hair from her eyes.
Her voice trembling, she closed her eyes as she gave in. “I need him,” she murmured thickly through her swollen lips.
“And why do you need him?” Gambit responded, soothingly, continuing to stroke her hair away from her face.
“I need him,” Rogue said, closing her eyes, feeling the sick feeling of guilt wash over her. “To go home. To my dimension. To my world.”
She didn’t see the look of triumph on Gambit’s face, but she opened her eyes at the sound of his laughter.
“You were right, monsieur le chat!” Gambit cried out across the walkway.
Creed shook his head as he rumbled in appreciation of the apparent compliment. Rogue observed the scene, thoroughly confused.
“Their kind can’t stand for someone else to be hurt on their account,” Creed called back to Remy.
And then, Rift began to change. The smooth skin rippled and changed to a vibrant blue. A sinking feeling entered the pit of Rogue’s stomach as she realized what had happened. She’d been played. She was so stupid. How could she have fallen for this?
The striking form of Mystique rose up from Rift’s position on the floor and her golden eyes flashed at Rogue with barely suppressed merriment.
“You bastard!” she cried at Gambit. “You utter bastard!”
“I never said I wasn’t a bastard, chére,” he said, grinning down at her.
She felt broken, hollow at what she’d admitted to them. “What are you going to do with me now?”
“You’ve confirmed what we needed to know, ma chére,” Gambit said, shrugging casually. “We have no further use for you.”
He motioned Creed forward, toward Rogue this time and she threw herself forward out of the chair. She cinched backward on her butt and feet, whimpering, trying to get away from Sabretooth. But she had nowhere to go, and Creed advanced on her, his lips twisted in a sick smile. It was the last thing she remembered before the first blow fell.
The place was abandoned. He felt it the moment they entered the underground tunnels. Though the various scents of LeBeau, Creed, Mystique, and St. John still hung in the air, they were slightly stale. Not fresh at all. He ignored the roar of desolation echoing in his mind as Wolverine scented the air, desperate for a hint of Rogue.
Logan thought back to their briefing with Chuck just minutes ago.
They’d been meeting in Chuck’s office to get an update on his search for Rogue. He’d announced sadly that he still hadn’t been able to sense Rogue. Nor LeBeau, Creed, or any other members of The Brotherhood for that matter. Logan had seized on that bit of information and interrupted Scott as he was about to discuss whether or not the weapon they’d been in search of had actually even existed.
“Wait a minute, Scooter,” Logan broke in. “Chuck, we know that Gumbo and the Furball were the ones who took Rogue. Why can’t you sense any of them?” A thought had just come to him, and the smallest hint of hope flooded him for the first time in days. Why had Creed been at the mansion when they’d first intercepted Rogue? Why couldn’t Chuck pick up a hint of any of the Brotherhood scumbags?
“What are you implying, Logan?” Chuck questioned frowning at him.
He sighed in frustration. Why couldn’t Chuck see it?
“She’s at the mansion,” he growled. “Underground. In Cerebro,” he clarified when Chuck and the others looked blankly back at him. Charles was the first to understand.
“Of course,” he murmured. “I would be unable to detect anyone’s presence if they were shielded by the walls of Cerebro.” He frowned then. “Why wasn’t it destroyed in the bombing?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t care, Chuck. I’m leavin’. Now.”
He’d fought against Chuck’s insistence that he take a small team with him. But the offer came with use of the jet, which meant he would be able to reach Westchester in minutes, as opposed to hours. And Wolverine was insisting that he do anything to get to Rogue as soon as possible. It had already been four days since he’d woken up on the jet, the whisper of the pistol echoing in his ear as pain pulsed through his skull. The team had been backed away from him, fear and pity in their eyes as he’d roared and demanded to be taken back to the Reiss building, pissed beyond reason that they’d left Rogue behind.
Logan knew now they’d done the right thing. Rogue had been long gone by the time the rest of the team had regained consciousness, and they needed to regroup after what had happened. It didn’t mean he had to like it, though.
He ignored Cyke and Jeannie as he tore through the halls of the former headquarters, following the stronger scents he found along this passage.
Turning the next corner, he saw it. The entryway to Cerebro. It no longer required Chuck’s retinal scan to open it, that feature had been removed. Instead, a makeshift handle had been attached to the center of the door. Logan didn’t waste any more time, but swiftly turned the knob.
The scent of Rogue’s blood and pain slammed him in the face as he opened the door to Cerebro.
"Oh, fuck. Goddamn. Fuck, Marie. What did you make them do to you?" He ran down the length of the walkway, which already lay extended out to the center platform, ears straining for the sound of her heartbeat. He exhaled in relief as he heard it, faint and slow as it was. He felt the shock of Cyclops and Jean behind him and dimly heard Jean’s plea of, “Logan, wait,” but shut her out. He could only concentrate on getting to Rogue.
When he reached her, his guts constricted with pain. She lay unresponsive on the metal island, one arm dangling at an odd angle over the edge. Her face was nearly unrecognizable with blood, bruises, and swelling. Her uniform had been ripped away from her, revealing several deep gouges and swollen skin, and the sharp white edge of one collarbone stuck up from her chest. Some of the bruising he saw appeared to be three or four days old, meaning she’d likely withstood several days of torture and abuse. The scent of both LeBeau and Creed was thick upon her, stifling her own unique clean scent with theirs and the potential implications of the combination of smells nearly broke him.
“M’rie,” he rasped, his voice hoarse with the pain of seeing her so battered.
She didn’t respond.
“Turn it on, goddammit!” he roared as he frantically roved his hands lightly over her damaged body. He didn’t want to cause her any more pain, but he needed to touch her skin, needed her to absorb his mutation so she would live. He didn’t care if this time she killed him. He wouldn’t lose her again. Not when he could save her. “Don’t you fuckin’ die on me again, Marie. Wake up and take it!”
Slowly, tortuously, Rogue rose up through the red haze of pain that engulfed her entire body. Something was rousing her, though she didn’t like it. She didn’t want to be aware. Where she was now was quiet, and peaceful, and free of pain. But the thing was continuing to annoy her, and she felt the darkness begin to disappear. As she became more conscious, she realized just how broken her body was. Her skin was raw, her bones, shattered. Her mind was aware of only one thing besides the unbearable throbbing, burning, and stabbing pain in her body; Wolverine was there. He was saying things. But she couldn’t make out the words, only the frantic, desperate tone of his voice. She smiled at him through cracked and bleeding lips. She was so glad he was here with her. She didn’t want to die alone. “Wolv-” she began before a deep bubbling cough stopped her.
Fuck. Wolverine thought. Blood in her lungs. Fix her, goddammit!
“Don’t talk, damnit,” Logan said, ignoring the internal dialog of Wolverine. “Just turn on your fucking skin, Marie.”
She shook her head a tiny fraction of an inch, but he noticed it and fury ran through his body. Fury that she was unwilling to accept his help.
“I’m gonna keep callin’ you ‘kid’ and ‘Marie’ over and over again until you stop bein’ an idiot and turn on yer skin.”
Another smile from her as she closed her eyes.
He shook her shoulder roughly, alarmed at her expression and her eyes fluttered back open. They were clouded with pain and unshed tears. And despite his order to keep quiet, she opened her mouth again.
“Don’t-wanna-hurt-” she got out haltingly.
“I don’t give a shit if you kill me. I’m not losin’ you again.” And he leaned down and kissed her, ignoring the coppery taste of blood on her lips, ignoring her quick inhale that sounded as though he’d hurt her, though he was trying to be gentle. At first, she didn’t respond, whether or not it was a combination of pain, or shock, or both. But then, after what seemed like hours, he felt her move her lips back against his.
She didn’t want to die alone. The thought, muddy and sluggish though it was, began to churn over and over again in her mind. She didn’t want to die alone. She didn’t want to die alone. Wolverine was here. He was kissing her. Oh, god, he was kissing her. She didn’t want to die alone. She wanted him to keep kissing her, for him to taste her skin with his tongue, use his teeth to scrape against the column of her throat. She didn’t want to die. Period. Full fucking stop. She didn’t want to die. She wanted to kiss Wolverine back. She wanted to live. She began to respond, just a little, and her body was in agony. And the touch of his lips seemed to soothe the pain, if just for a moment. Then, when she had gathered the little strength she had left, she let go of her wall of control and turned on her skin.
The pull was barely noticeable at first. A slight tingling against his lips. Then the force of her mutation hit him like a ton of bricks as she took more and more of him into her. She began to shriek with the pain of healing and he took her screams of agony into his mouth as he continued to kiss her, despite the blackening edges of his vision, despite the screaming of Wolverine in his own mind as he felt himself pouring into her.
She felt the overwhelming rush of Wolverine’s feelings, thoughts, memories. She saw herself - yet, not herself, in a green cloak in a smoke-filled bar. She saw how close her own path had followed that of this dimension’s Marie, and how, if she’d only run away from her parent’s house at 16, just one day sooner, then the entire events of her life would have been different. Regret and relief and pain flowed through her mind as scenes from Wolverine’s - no, Logan’s, his name is Logan - life flooded her. She focused on the flashes of memories as they continued to surge into her mind. It was better than focusing on the excruciating pain of her body healing and knitting itself back together.
Suddenly, her senses flared to life as she felt the force of Logan’s mutation hitting her. She could smell everything, hear everything. She felt his strength surge into her muscles as they were repaired and she felt herself flex her forearms, the phantom feeling of the slice of metal erupting out of her knuckles.
Rogue broke the kiss abruptly, breathing hard. Logan had fallen to the ground beside her unconscious, but alive. She could hear his heartbeat, smell his scent. Oh, fuck, his scent. She wanted to rub it all over her, feel him on top of her, inside her. She wanted to feel the mark of his teeth against her neck and feel the hardness of his body against hers. The wheels that had been set in motion were moving too fast now, and she felt herself swept away with the instincts that were screaming inside of her. Wolverine, Logan, his memories of the other her, everything was swirling in a massive whirlpool of need and memory.
She could feel Wolverine prowling about in her head. She knew was content to be with her. But his thoughts were occupied with other matters. Namely, finding and killing the fucks that had harmed her.
Hunt them, he whispered to her and she shuddered with longing and at the rightness of hearing him inside her head. Kill them.
“I will,” she growled.
Chapter 11: Ten
Jean viewed the scene in front of her with a feeling of helplessness. Logan had been practically all Wolverine once they’d finally located Rogue. The animal snarling and snapping at everyone, pacing the length of the jet the entire way to Westchester, a low growl constantly emanating from his chest. Neither she nor Scott had been able to talk to or console him, and a not so subtle mental hint from the Professor indicated they shouldn’t try to any further. He’d said that Wolverine had taken over, and would remain in charge until he saw Rogue.
Jean recalled a similar incident to this one several years ago. Then, a 17 year old Rogue, newly arrived at the mansion, had still been standing as she’d used Wolverine’s power to heal the claw wounds in her chest. That alone had been enough to cause Logan’s body to start seizing. Now, as they’d entered Cerebro, Jean was sure that Rogue was dead. Even from the door, she could see just how battered and bloody her body was. The arm dangling at an impossible angle had caused her stomach to turn as she imagined the horrors that her friend must have endured over the past several days.
Her heart broke for Logan as he tried to convince Rogue to turn on her skin and take his healing. For whatever reason, Rogue had refused. But Logan was as stubborn as Rogue, if not more so, and had leaned down to gently kiss her, refusing to let her slip away from him again. Jean blinked back tears and reached for Scott’s hand as she heard the sickening sounds of Rogue’s body healing; the crack of bones righting themselves, the squelching of flesh mending. Logan had collapsed then, his body spent with the cost of his gift to her.
Jean wasn’t sure what had happened between the two of them, but until the botched mission at the Reiss building, this Rogue seemed to want nothing to do with Logan, physically at any rate. A fact which Logan seemed to have struggled with, but accepted over the last few months. Jean couldn’t imagine what he was going through, though the pure sexual frustration rolling off the man had been palpable, telepath or not.
She hurried down the walkway, determined to check Logan’s vitals after he’d collapsed. She wanted to ensure he wasn’t in danger of seizing like last time. But before she could touch him, a feral snarl erupted to her left and she was shoved roughly aside. The strength of the push stunned Jean and she slowly turned toward Rogue.
“Don’t you fuckin’ touch him,” Rogue growled at her. She was crouched down in front of Logan, arms extended to prevent Jean from reaching him.
“Jesus,” Scott muttered beneath as he joined Jean on the platform and caught sight of the nine-inch bone claws extending from between Rogue’s knuckles. Her eyes were a deep golden color as she glared at Jean, a menacing growl continuing to issue from her throat. “Careful, Jean,” he cautioned. “I don’t think Rogue’s all there right now.”
Jean nodded and tucked one loose strand of hair back behind her ear. She slowly extended one hand to check Logan’s pulse, but jerked it back as Rogue took a vicious swipe at her.
Rogue snarled at the woman who’d been approaching her mate. She could smell the concern coming off her, and it enraged her. Only she was to touch him, she would not permit another female to put their hands on him. The woman’s scent had spiked with fear as she’d taken a slow swipe at her, designed to scare her off, but hadn’t moved otherwise.
“Rogue,” the woman said in a soft voice. “I won’t hurt him. I just want to make sure he’s alright.”
Rogue growled again as she responded. “You don’t touch him, Red. You don’t go near him.”
Scott, having witnessed similar behavior from Wolverine on multiple occasions in the past, slowly approached the pair of women. He looked at Rogue and then deliberately moved his eyes downward, showing he wasn’t a threat to her. Her stance relaxed slightly as he stepped closer.
“Scott -” Jean started, but he quieted her with a quick jerk of his head. He knew what he was doing.
“Rogue,” Scott said, his voice pitched low and quiet in an attempt to continue to calm her. “Can I touch him?”
Rogue studied him for several seconds, clearly weighing the possibilities of him being a danger to Logan, her golden eyes were narrowed in indecision. Then, she nodded once, lowered her arms, and stood upright. Scott moved slowly past Rogue and knelt down to feel for a pulse at Logan’s carotid artery. The slow reassuring thump of Logan’s heart pulsed against his fingertips and he sighed in relief.
“He’s alive,” he assured Jean, and he saw her visibly relax.
Rogue ambled past Scott and Jean and headed down the walkway. She knew the male was no threat to Logan, and that he would prevent the female from touching him. Wolverine was whispering in her ear, his instincts were flowing through her body, and she scented the air as she processed what Logan had detected on his way into Cerebro. Detected and ignored, Wolverine said to her. His sole focus had been on getting to her and her face erupted in a feral smile as she recognized and appreciated his commitment to protecting her. But now it was her turn to protect him.
Logan had thought the place was abandoned. Not abandoned, Wolverine hissed at her. Temporarily absent of enemies. But the pungent scent of Sabretooth had grown stronger the closer Logan had gotten to Cerebro, and even Wolverine had insisted they reach Rogue before destroying their enemy. Now that she had been healed, it was time to eliminate the threat of Creed.
“Rogue, where are you going?” Scott called, startled to see her heading out of Cerebro.
“We’re not alone,” she growled. “Protect him,” she pointed at Logan. “I’ll be back when it’s over.”
She ignored the cries of protest from the male and female as she closed the door behind her. Using Wolverine’s strength, she wrenched the handle in her grasp, mangling the metal to prevent them from leaving, and to delay anyone else’s possible entry.
She scented the air again, turned toward the hallway, lip turned up in a snarl. She was going to destroy the fucker for touching her.
Logan woke as abruptly as if a siren had gone off right in his ear. He bolted upright in his bed, chest heaving as he came awake. He wasn’t surprised to find himself in his own room. He’d had the talk with Jean and Chuck several times over the past few years; that unless he was truly fucking dying, they shouldn’t let him wake up in any kind of medical setting. It was better for all of them. Safer. He threw off the sheets and prowled around the room, pacing back and forth.
Fuck, he thought. Did it work? Is she alive?
Welcome back, Logan. She’s alive.
“Thanks, Chuck,” he muttered as he located a pair of jeans to step into. Where?
Isolation, Chuck responded. Sub-basement.
Why? He growled back, furious that she wasn’t in the comfort of her own room.
She- Charles hesitated.
What! Logan called back loudly as he pulled a clean smelling white tank top over his head.
Scott and Jean reported the underground remains of the mansion were not quite as abandoned as you’d initially thought. Sabretooth was still there. She fought him. She absorbed him. Almost killed him, but Scott and Jean managed to prevent that at the last minute. She’s been out of her mind for nearly two days and I’ve been unable to reach her. Her thoughts are absolute chaos.
Logan tore out of his room and down the steps to the training room. He punched in his access code to the sub-basement and flew down the next series of steps until he saw her. She was behind the isolation wall, pacing. She was still wearing the shredded remains of her uniform, still soaked in blood and the filth of her imprisonment. He punched in another series of numbers to open the isolation door and she turned and smiled at him as she left the room to head toward him.
The roll of her hips was noticeably different. Animalistic. Raw. Carnal. He felt the animal inside scream awake into sudden awareness and rise up to take notice of the new saunter in her step, and he found himself unable to tear his eyes away from the liquid movements of her body. Her eyes glinted full on black as she noticed him noticing her, and she cocked her head to one side as she appraised the feral look he knew must be shining out from his own golden eyes. Wolverine had surged to the forefront of his psyche, and he felt himself shoved aside as the feral’s instincts took over.
Wolverine could feel the dominance of Creed in her, could see her struggling to contain the other alpha personality. He wanted to immediately stomp out any traces of the other male, felt his desire to show her who the dominant one really was take over. Wolverine hoped the animal she’d absorbed from him was giving Creed hell inside. He wasn’t so sure his own Marie would have been able to handle the massive influx of alpha that Rogue had taken into herself in such a short span of time.
“What’re you lookin’ at?” She said in a hoarse voice. “See somethin’ you like?” Her tone was mocking, full of Creed’s syntax, rhythm, and cadence, and he hated it.
“Listen to me,” Wolverine growled at her. “You need to fight this. Creed is strong, but you’re stronger. Rid yourself of him.”
“Why?” She rumbled deep in her throat.
“’Cause,” he replied, his body instantly hard. “There’s only room for one of us in you. And it sure as shit ain’t gonna be Creed,” he growled roughly.
“Dream on, runt,” she growled, “This sweet one is all mine.” And she ran her hands down the length of her filthy, shredded, blood-stained uniform to cup her breasts. She rolled her nipples between her fingers as Creed’s dark eyes glinted back at his, mocking, as a low moan met his ears.
The scent of her arousal hit the air and Wolverine threw his head back, inhaling greedily, overcome by the surge of wild lust that coursed through him. His claws released instinctively as he processed something mixed with her essence, though. Something that made his blood boil. The scent of the Cajun and Creed. She still bore their marks on her clothing, hair, and skin, and Creed’s foulness was more prominent, likely due to his presence within Rogue’s mind.
“This one doesn’t want you,” she scoffed with disdain, her hands continuing to pinch her nipples through the torn and bloodied leather.
Wolverine felt himself mesmerized by the fingers on her body. He knew it wasn’t Rogue, but he couldn’t look away from the sight of her touching herself. He knew it was wrong to want to watch her, knew it was really Creed who was touching her, but it still sent a lightning bolt of pleasure straight to his cock. He was going to have to get through to her, to Marie, and soon. His dick wasn’t going to be able to take much more of this.
“Her thoughts are all about the Cajun,” she continued, smirking as she glanced down at the bulge in his jeans. “‘Oh, Remy,’” Rogue’s voice mocked in a high falsetto. “‘Yes, there. Harder!”
Wolverine couldn’t help the snarl that left his lips. He knew Rogue wanted him. She’d as much as said so, with her body at any rate, when he’d kissed her in the science building. He had smelled the acceptance of her body, seen her pupils dilate, noticed the tightening of her nipples beneath her uniform, smelled the sweet thick scent of wetness beginning to pool between her legs. But it didn’t mean she didn’t still want Remy, the Remy from her own world. He hated that she might still be committed to that dick after everything that had happened. He wanted to kill the fuck, even if he wasn’t the same man as this dimension’s Gambit.
Of course, he wanted to kill anyone that put their hands on what was his.
She let out a dark laugh as she watched him struggling. “You don’t even know what they did to her, runt. Those scars she has on her back won’t compare to the marks I’m gonna leave on her.” She began moving closer to him, slowly, one step at a time. “I’m gonna rip her apart, and laugh while doing it. I’m gonna lick the blood off her fingers as I slice deeper.” She looked directly into his eyes as she sucked hard on her right index finger. “And I’m gonna come as I twist my fingers inside her still warm guts.” She clenched a fist at her abdomen and let out a fake cry of release.
“Fuck off, Creed. Yer not gonna hurt her.”
She snickered at him, black eyes sparkling with amusement. “And what’re you gonna do about it? You can’t fight me. Not when I’m in here,” she said as she pointed her temple with her index finger.
“You sure ‘bout that?” he ground. The sight of Creed’s characteristic long claw pointing at her head, yet another physical sign of Sabretooth’s inhabitance in her body, was the last fucking straw. The edges of his vision crowded with red and he exploded forward. He felt a deep satisfaction at the slight surprise in her eyes, but it didn’t take long for her to react. She had access to all of Creed’s instincts, as well as his own, and she spun away quickly, while at the same time lashing out with a vicious swipe of her hands and clawing him across the face. He felt the sting of her nails rake him, felt the quick hot droplets of blood roll down his face before his skin closed, and he resisted the instinct to lash out in retribution. It was exactly what Creed wanted him to do. And he wouldn’t do anything to her that would harm her.
She whipped back around to face him, lip raised in a snarl as they stalked one another across the cement floor of the sub-basement.
“You’re not gonna hurt me,” she smiled back at him. “Not when she might get hurt.”
Wolverine said nothing, but began to analyze her movements while they continued to circle each other.
“Aw, the little runt doesn’t know what to do!” Her laughter echoed across the room. “C’mon, make your-”
She didn’t have time to finish her sentence. Wolverine had charged forward in a feint and she reacted exactly as he’d hoped. She moved to block the strike he’d aimed at her head with both hands and he ducked at the last second to head butt her in the chest. She was off balance with her attempt to block him, and stumbled backward giving him the opportunity to grab her hands as she flailed, trying to maintain her balance.
He snarled with satisfaction and pleasure as he pinned her hands behind her back and thrust forward. She let out a whoosh of air as he pressed hard into her midsection, but she was otherwise incapable of escaping his iron grasp. The weight of his body was pinning her to the wall, his hips pressing into her belly, his thighs trapping her legs against him. And despite her borrowed strength she was unable to wiggle free, though she kept trying, her body twisting and muscles straining with the force of her struggle. She grunted with her efforts, and roared in his arms. Creed was pissed. Good, he thought to himself.
“Rogue,” he rumbled into her ear. “Marie. Come back to me. Fight him.”
Unable to contain himself any longer, his tongue darted out to trace the sensitive outer shell of her ear. He tasted the tiniest hint of her blood, and a dark primal pleasure pulsed through him as he felt her shudder in his arms. He bent forward to inhale her scent, and this time his tongue caught the sensitive skin of one taught tendon in her neck. He could taste the salt of her sweat, small flecks of her blood, and still the scents of his enemies. He growled as he rubbed the roughness of his beard against her throat, trying to remove their scents and replace them with his own. At the same time he worked one muscled thigh so it rested in between her legs, gently working back and forth at the apex of her thighs.
He smelled the honeyed scent of her gradual arousal filling the air, though he knew Creed was still there. He could still feel the claws extending out of her fingertips behind her back.
“Get. Out!" She roared suddenly as she threw her head back. It was as if she was trying to throw something off her, physically, and Wolverine grinned. She was winning.
“C’mon, Rogue,” he murmured against her neck. “Give him hell. Tell him to fuck off, beat the shit out of him, and lock him away.”
Her eyes cleared for a moment and turned their usual shade of warm chocolate brown. She looked directly into his eyes and said through gritted teeth, “For fuck’s sake, Wolverine, help me.”
He didn’t know if she was talking to him, or the him in her head. But either way, he was more than willing to oblige. He grated his teeth along her exposed throat and was rewarded with a low groan of pleasure. He felt the tension in her muscles wane slightly, but he wasn’t giving over yet. Not in the off chance it was a ruse by Creed in an attempt for him to loosen his grip. He could still smell the fucker in the air, meaning her fight to regain control wasn’t over yet.
He kept both her wrists in one hand while he used the other to run through her tangled hair to force her to look up at him. “You’re mine,” he said as he ground his erection into the softness of her belly. Her eyes flickered from brown to black, then brown again, and her body physically shuddered. He could practically taste her need on the air and he pulled her hair back, tilting her face up to his, and claimed her lips with his own. His tongue demanded entrance and she hesitated a moment before complying. His teeth nipped and sucked at her full lower lip as he released her hair from his hand and moved it down the length of her body to cup one full breast. She arched into his body then, and he took the opportunity to roll her nipple between thumb and forefinger as he simultaneously left the pleasure of her mouth to bite her. Hard. He didn’t let go with his teeth as she bucked against him, trying to grind herself against his hardness. He increased the pressure of his mouth against the junction of her neck and shoulder, until he felt her body go slack in his arms. He laved and sucked the tender spot, tasting the smallest bit of fresh blood, and moved his head back to study his work. To his immense satisfaction, his mark stood out darkly against the paleness of her skin, and his cock pulsed at the sight. He’d finally marked her.
“Oh, fuck,” Rogue moaned, his Marie’s tone back in her voice. She shook her head and frowned. “Logan?”
He scented the air and looked down into her eyes. They were clear, molten brown, eyelids heavy with arousal, and Creed’s stench had lessened.
Then, she seemed to snap out of the haze of pleasure and pushed him away from her, violently. He didn’t try to restrain her further though, he could tell Rogue was in control.
She looked down at herself and let out a half-sob as she breathed in. “Get this shit off me. Get it off!” She cried as she began to rip the tattered remains of her uniform.
“Rogue,” he rumbled back at her. He was confused at the abrupt change in her mood. But then she spoke again and he understood.
“I can still smell them,” she said in a hoarse voice. Tears of rage were forming in her eyes as her shaking hands tried to rip away the leather.
He stepped forward and wordlessly helped her out of her uniform, undoing the fastenings at her sides as she unzipped her boots and stepped out of them. Finally, she stood before him, naked and shaking. She looked up at him, shadows in her eyes, and he said nothing as he gently took her in his arms. He wrapped his arms around her now unmarked back, encircling her body with the protection of his own, feeling his guts rip apart as he felt her shake with the force of her sobs.
Chapter 12: Eleven
Rogue’s body and mind were exhausted. She could feel the warmth of Wolverine’s arms encircling her, could smell the salt of her tears dripping down her face, heard the rustling of his beard against her hair. She could still smell the stench of Remy and Victor on her skin, but it had lessened somewhat once she shed her uniform and found herself in Wolverine’s embrace. His scent was wild and calming all at the same time, and she took immense comfort in it, even as she could tell her borrowed senses were beginning to fade. Her eyes were swollen, her nose dripping from the force of her sobbing. She hadn’t completely processed the events of the last few days, but she did know that she was naked and in Wolverine’s arms. And it was Wolverine’s arms who held her now. Not Logan. Though she’d had him in her head for only a few days, she knew enough about the two different sides of his psyche to know the difference.
Wolverine had brought her back to herself by calling to that dark, wild, primal part of herself. When he’d touched her, she, Rogue, had wanted to respond and call back to him somehow. Creed’s presence had been like a thick oily blackness, seeping into the recesses of her mind, taking over every part of her. Wolverine’s call had pierced a hole in that stifling darkness, allowing a light to shine through and reach her. The feeling of his lips on hers, his hands on her body, the feelings he roused in her, had brought her back to life. When he’d bitten her, marking her as his - oh, god, his mark - she’d nearly come right then and there. Being branded like that had driven Creed batshit insane, and that, along with the Wolverine prowling in her head, had been enough to regain control and force him into the temporary confines of her mind. She knew was going to need help from Charles to contain him further. Creed’s personality was nothing like the simpler human personalities she’d absorbed during her escape from that hellish basement years ago and she could tell his current cage needed additional mental reinforcement. But it would hold. For now.
When Logan had kissed her, coaxing her out of the numbing darkness in Cerebro, she’d been wholly unprepared for the feeling of absorbing a mutant. Not only a mutant, a feral mutant. A feral mutant with a fully human mind, powers, and instincts for her to sort through. She had a feeling that Wolverine had made it easy on her; that he’d wanted to help her. But still, there was a mass of memories just beneath the surface of her mind that she knew she was going to have to confront.
Creed, though also a feral mutant, had fought literally tooth and nail against her. And in the end, she’d been unable to control him. He’d taken over, and she’d felt herself shoved aside, a prisoner in her own body. She didn’t even have the comfort of Wolverine prowling around with her, as he had somehow been kept separate from her for days while Creed controlled her.
She didn’t even know how she’d gotten back to their base in Canada. She had no clear memories of her own from the moment she’d grabbed Creed’s face during their fight and his sick blackness began to seep into her, until Wolverine had brought her back to herself. Oh, jesus, she thought, struck by a sudden thought. Tell me I didn’t hurt anybody.
“C’mon,” Wolverine rumbled into her ear. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”
She nodded numbly, and felt herself led up the stairs of the sub-basement toward the showers of the women’s locker room. She didn’t know what day it was, what time it was, if anybody was around, and she didn’t care.
When they reached the showers, Rogue looked up at Wolverine. She wasn’t surprised to see his golden eyes staring down at her, but was startled to hear a deep rumbling of warning coming from deep in his chest as she continued to stare into his eyes.
Don’t test him right now, darlin’.
Rogue recognized the echo of Logan’s voice in her mind. Why not? She asked him, unable to help herself, even as she reflexively lowered her eyes from Wolverine’s.
He’s dangerously close to losin’ control. He almost lost you. Again. You smell like his enemies, and -
He cut himself off and she frowned, wondering what he could possibly have to say. What? She prodded.
And, Logan continued, yer naked. The last word was said in an approving growl.
Oh, she said in a small voice as she felt herself blush.
Christ, stop blushing, Marie. Yer makin’ him want to rub himself all over you.
Rogue found herself pondering just how you stopped yourself from blushing as Wolverine started into one of the shower stalls with her and roughly twisted the shower handle to start the flow of water. Rogue instinctively knew that if he was in here with her while she was naked and wet and ridding herself of the smells of Remy and Creed, that the physicality of what they’d started earlier would quickly escalate. And Rogue wasn’t ready for that. Not yet. Not after everything that had just happened. She needed to process the events of the last week, to sort through Logan’s memories of her and ensure that he knew she wasn’t the same person as the Marie that he’d lost. She needed to come to grips with the fact that The Brotherhood had needed her to confirm something about Rift. And that her way home might still be out there. Even if she wasn’t so sure she wanted to go home anymore.
“I can wash myself,” she said to him, her voice echoing off the tiled walls.
He gave a terse jerk of his head in response, turned his back on her, and began to pace the length of the shower room.
It was the longest shower of Rogue’s life. She stepped into the warmth of the water and increased the temperature until she felt her skin stinging with the force and heat of the spray. She washed herself again and again until she was sure that she no longer bore the marks of her capture. Then, finally, she turned off the faucet and stepped out of the stall, feeling slightly more put together. The shower had helped to calm and clear her mind somewhat, but she knew she desperately needed to sleep. As she came out of the shower, Wolverine had turned his back to her, and she saw that he’d retrieved a clean towel as well as a pair of gray sweatpants and a tank top for her to change into while she’d been showering.
“Thanks,” she said as she began to towel off. She quickly dressed herself, threaded her fingers through the tangles of her hair and moved to stand next to him.
“You need sleep,” he rumbled as she neared him.
They headed up the stairs to the main floor, and passed the kitchen on their way toward the second floor. Scott, having just caught a glimpse of Wolverine and Rogue, stepped away from the counter where he’d been enjoying a cup of coffee with Jean, a look of pleasant surprise on his face. “Rogue -” he started, but Wolverine had growled a warning and Scott immediately backed off. Rogue didn’t have the energy to explain, but then felt a spark of memories appear in her mind. Scott had backed off without argument because he knew what to expect when Wolverine was feeling possessive. Then, another flash of memory as she saw herself, bone claws extending from between her knuckles as she stood over Wolverine’s unconscious body, swiping a warning at Jean for getting too close. She shuddered at the strength of the emotions the memory stirred within her, but she also felt herself too tired to care about Scott or Jean’s feelings at the moment, and continued following Wolverine past the kitchen.
As they reached the top of the landing and Wolverine turned to the left, she stopped in her tracks realizing where he was headed.
“No,” she said emphatically as she folded her arms. He was leading her to her own room. There was no fucking way she was going to be alone right now. If Creed somehow escaped his confinement, she needed to be in a place that he hadn’t liked. Logan’s bedroom would smell like him, and she, in turn, would be surrounded by his comforting scent. Until she could ask Charles for help to reinforce the bars of Creed’s mental prison, she wanted to make her body as uncomfortable as possible for Sabretooth. And that meant being immersed in an environment that he hated. Namely; Wolverine’s den.
“What do you want then?” he growled back at her.
“Take me to your room.” There was no room for argument in her tone and she stood toe to toe with him, daring him to turn her down.
Marie, her internal Logan cautioned. Careful.
I know what I’m doing, Logan. And if he really wants to protect me, he’ll take me there.
He had no response to that, but she could feel him stepping back to watch how Wolverine would react to her demand.
Wolverine was silent for several moments, his fists clenching at his sides as he stared at her, his chest rising and falling with every breath. Finally, he nodded once and turned to step in the opposite direction toward his room.
Rogue let out a small sigh of relief. She didn’t want to have to argue about this. She was too exhausted to fight.
Wolverine turned the door knob to his room and stepped aside for her to enter. She inhaled deeply as she moved inside, feeling some of the lingering tension leave her as the scents of his space surrounded her. There was the warm smell of leather, cigars, woods, and something else. Something she couldn’t quite put her finger on, but liked nonetheless.
She immediately headed to the bed, her eyes bleary with fatigue, and she pulled back the covers and slipped beneath them. “Stay,” she said softly when she saw he had turned to leave the room, one hand already on the door knob. “Please.”
She saw him swallow and clench his jaw, but he didn’t protest as he turned around to sprawl in the worn leather armchair across from his bed, his golden gaze watching over her.
Rogue knew she was going to have to process everything that had happened. But right now, she couldn’t care. She felt safe and warm in Wolverine’s room. He was here, watching and protecting her. With that last comforting thought, she let the lull of sleep claim her.
Logan wasn’t surprised to find himself startled out of his light doze by the sounds of Rogue tossing restlessly in his bed. It had been seventeen hours since she’d demanded he take her to his room. She’d hardly moved at all for the first twelve hours, and if he hadn’t been able to hear the deep, even sounds of her breath and the steady beating of her heart, he would have been worried. And as the hours passed, and the immediate threat to Rogue’s wellbeing lessened, Logan found Wolverine calming somewhat. She was safe in his territory, in his bed, with his mark on her, fading slowly though it was, and Logan had been able to resume control. But he could still feel Wolverine’s heightened awareness, determined to prevent anything else from happening to her.
During the last five hours, however, she’d become increasingly more restless, turning and mumbling frequently in her sleep. And Wolverine in turn, had begun to pace and snarl. He didn’t like the sound of her distress, and he was pushing at Logan to do something about it. Logan found himself agreeing with the beast and rose up out of the chair and rolled his neck to work out the kinks, enjoying the sound of his joints cracking.
He strode over to his bed and leaned over to gently rub the back of his knuckles against one smooth pale cheek, appreciating the feeling of her silken skin between his knuckles. Her hair, which had been damp when she’d fallen asleep, had dried in a tangle of curls around her face. Her skin was flushed with the warmth of sleep and she’d partially kicked off the covers sometime during the night so that her sweatpants clad legs were tangled between his sheets. The sweet, sleepy, and clean scent of her was drifting through the room, mixing with his. Fuck, he thought. She was all over his bed meaning he wouldn’t to get a decent night’s sleep again until he claimed her. Fully.
He resisted the urge to snarl in satisfaction as she unconsciously turned into his hand. “Rogue,” he murmured determined to keep his animalistic urges in check, “Marie. Wake up.”
She slowly roused from her restless dreams and blinked rapidly as she focused on his face, a slight frown marring the fullness of her bottom lip. He regrettably withdrew his hand from her cheek and straightened up. They were going to need to sort out a few things between them, and he wasn’t sure what her first thoughts would be upon finding him standing over her.
“How are ya feelin’?”
“Jesus,” Rogue said running her hands over her face briskly as she sat up.
His stomach sank as he assumed she was upset to herself with him and in his room. He stepped back further, determined to stay away from her if that was what she really wanted.
“Goddamn,” she groaned, her voice husky from disuse. “I’m starving.”
He was instantly relieved and let out an unexpected snort of laughter. Logan recalled his own immense appetites after a fight where his healing factor worked overtime to keep him alive. Usually copious amounts of food, a quick fuck, and a nice long sleep had him feeling relatively normal again in no time. He wondered if she felt the same aftereffects from her own experience, and found himself preoccupied with the thought of rough sex with a slightly feral Rogue. The animal inside was rumbling with approval, convinced that it would happen soon.
He cleared his throat, trying to force his imagination away from the thought of her snarling at him and his answering growl as they writhed against each other in his bed. “Yeah. Healin’ factor will do that to ya. Wanna go downstairs and grab somethin’ to eat?”
“God, yes,” she responded as she scooched forward to the edge of the bed and stood up. She rolled her shoulders and sighed as she popped a couple of her joints. “Tell me you’ve got some spicy boiled crawfish, collard greens and bacon, and cornbread downstairs.”
“Nope,” he said brusquely as he followed her toward the door. “But I think there’s some leftover pot roast and bread.”
“That’ll do just fine. Mind the drool,” she said with a grin pointing to the corner of her mouth.
The house was quiet as the made their way down to the kitchen, all of the other remaining X-Men having gone to bed several hours ago.
“What time is it?” She asked him as she hunted around in the fridge for the leftover pot roast.
“Dunno,” he rumbled back, “Late though. Get the butter while yer in there,” he told her as he grabbed the bread from the counter.
She nodded and headed back to the counter, arms full of food. He grabbed glasses for water and a couple of Molsons from the fridge as she went about the process of heating up the food. Soon the only noises in the house were the faint creaking of settling wood and the sounds of the two of them eating. He could tell she was enjoying the meal and, he realized with a slight frown, he was too. It felt like the first time in a long time that food had held any real appeal for him. He found himself savoring the tender beef, chunks of potato, baby carrots and onions in red wine gravy, wiping up the remains of the sauce with a hunk of crusty buttered bread.
“This is good,” she muttered, continuing to help herself to another portion. “Who’s the chef?”
“If you can believe it,” he said as he reached for another hunk of bread, “Bobby.”
She snorted at his answer. “At least he’s good for somethin’.”
He grinned at this, enjoying the thought that this Rogue didn’t seem to overly care much for the iceprick.
They continued eating, and Logan grabbed another beer for each of them from the fridge as Rogue drained the last few drops of hers and set it on the counter, then pushed her plate back.
“God, that’s better,” she said as she took another pull from the fresh beer. “Is it always like that?” she asked shifting around toward him, her face abruptly serious.
“Like what?” he rumbled back at her, suddenly nervous.
“The hunger,” she responded quietly, clear brown eyes turning to focus on the beer she held between her palms.
Fuck, Wolverine growled. Dangerous territory. Tread lightly, bub.
No shit, Logan barked back at him.
“Yeah, sometimes.” He gulped down half his Molsons and stood up, feeling suddenly restless. “Listen, kid. We should talk,” he rumbled back at her as he began to put their dishes away. He desperately wanted to clear things between them, talk her through what had happened, and learn more about her. He knew he wanted her, and knew at least a part of her wanted him too. But after the words that Sabretooth had spoken from her mouth about Remy, he needed to be sure that she really did want him, and that he wasn’t just a matter of convenience.
She sighed, but didn’t protest as she sat back in her chair, running one hand through her tangled hair.
“One day,” Rogue said softly, looking up at him, her face serious.
“What?” he frowned back at her, utterly confused at what she was referring to. One day until they talked? One day that she would allow him to touch her? What the hell did she mean?
“One day,” she continued, “Was the difference between her meeting you, and me not meeting you.”
“Jesus fuck,” he muttered dumbfounded by this statement. “How do you know that?”
She quirked one eyebrow at him. “She talked about when she left her parents’ house with you. You had the memory of that, and now I know it too,” she said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“So. We really never met in your world?”
She shook her head. “No.”
He hesitated, feeling somewhat vulnerable as he asked the next question. “Ya ever hear of me? Of The Wolverine?”
“No,” she repeated. “Sorry,” she added softly as she looked at him.
“Nothin’ to cry over,” he said clearing his throat. He wondered if there really was another him in her world. Wandering aimlessly, looking for threads of a past that was long gone, without the comfort of having someone like Rogue with him. Fuck, he thought as he was suddenly struck by a million other thoughts. Had the other him ever even been experimented on? Did he have adamantium lacing his skeleton? What if he didn’t have his mutation and was dead and gone, buried a hundred years ago? He shook his head once determined to stamp out the thought. That line of thinking was a veritable fucking rabbit hole of depression, if ever there was one.
Logan sat back down next to her and they continued to sip their beers in a slightly uncomfortable silence. Deciding he’d had enough of the quiet, he finally asked the question he’d wanted to know the answer to for well over a month. “What happened to your back, Rogue?”
Wolverine had injected a bit of a snarl into his voice, and Logan roughly jerked back the chains that held him. He was hell-bent on approaching this conversation as calmly as possible. He knew she’d withdraw from him if he was too rough. That’s what had happened last time he had tried to find out.
“Good lord,” she muttered into her beer. “You don’t start with the easy questions, do you?”
He didn’t say anything else, but waited for her to decide what she wanted to do.
“It goes back a ways,” she said quietly. “Back to that one goddamn day.”
He said nothing, determined to wait her out until fucking next week if that’s what it took for her to tell him the entire story.
Finally, she took a deep breath. As she started talking, he noticed her peeling back the white label of her beer, just like his Marie had always done if she was troubled about something. An unexpected pang of loss hit him and he clenched his jaw, trying to focus on the Rogue in front of him.
“You already know about how I manifested. It’s the same as her. David and I were kissin’,” she continued looking up at him, “In my bedroom.”
He nodded curtly at this. He didn’t want to hear anything more about her kissing some teenage prick, even if it had been close to ten years ago.
“My parents, after their initial freak out, wanted to try and help me. They looked up all sorts of information on the internet, convinced they’d be able to rid me of my mutation.” She scoffed then as she finished ripping the remains of the label off her Molsons, leaving a couple of strands of adhesive covered papery strands. She took another slug of her beer and placed it back on the counter with a loud clang. “They were real religious, my mama and daddy. I used to be too, I guess,” she added darkly. “When I’d finally had enough of them tryin’ to change me, or cure me,” she said inflicting the word with a world of bitterness, “I told ‘em I was leavin’.”
Logan noticed her accent becoming more pronounced as she continued the story. The markers of her origins coming forward as she relived her past.
“They convinced me to stay,” she continued, “‘Just one more day!’ My mama said. ‘Don’t go yet, Marie.’” She shook her head and drained the rest of the beer.
“Another?” he asked quietly, not wanting to disrupt her train of thought.
“No,” she responded. “Thanks.”
He grunted once as he moved to obtain another beer for himself, convinced that he was gonna need it before she was done.
“I agreed to stay one more day,” she began again. “They had a special dinner for me with all my favorite foods, tellin’ me they wanted me to write them from Anchorage and tell ‘em all about my adventures. I almost didn’t leave. But I couldn’t stay. Not with how everyone else acted around me.” Rogue stood then, and began to pace the length of the kitchen island.
“Can we go outside?” She asked abruptly.
“Sure, kid. But it’s about ten fuckin’ degrees outside.”
She shrugged. “I don’t care. I want to smell the fresh air. You got any coats or blankets around?”
He nodded and jerked his head toward the living room as he pushed back from the counter. She followed him out, and he moved to the coat closet by the front door, retrieving his own worn brown leather jacket. Adamantium covered bones didn’t feel too good when it was this fucking cold out.
Rogue picked out a plush navy blue down coat, stepped into a pair of Kitty’s snow boots, and they headed out the double French doors onto the balcony.
Logan thought back suddenly to her first night here. She’d come out to the deck, spotting him with a cigar between his teeth, clearly hesitant to come out and join him. That was almost three months ago now. Tonight the deck was covered in several inches of freshly fallen snow, the storm having moved out several hours previously. Now the night sky was clear of clouds, and the stars shone back brightly in the inky darkness. Logan clenched his jaw as he saw the moon. It was that same goddamn crescent.
The snow crunched under their boots as Rogue took in several deep breaths, her exhalations forming a dense cloud of condensed breath.
“I’ve never told anyone this,” she said softly as she brushed some of the freshly fallen snow off the railing with the edge of one coat sleeve. “Though I suppose the Professor likely knows.”
“What? What is it that you haven’t told anyone?” He asked, stepping closer to her as he noticed her shivering. She closed her eyes briefly and then stared out at the snow-covered mountains.
“I decided to leave my parents’ house in the middle of the night. I suppose it’s ‘cause I’m not good at saying goodbyes and I didn’t want to see my mama’s face covered in tears.” She folded her arms across chest and turned around to look up at him. “I was on my way to the bus terminal, thinking about how different a summer night would be up in Alaska, when this van pulled up.”
Logan couldn’t help the rumble of anger that sounded in his chest. She turned her head to glance at him from the corner of her eye. He didn’t like where she was headed. But he only nodded at her, encouraging her to continue as he clenched his fists deep in his jacket pockets to prevent the release of his claws.
“These two guys in masks grabbed me, stuck a needle in my leg and drugged me. When I woke up, I was alone. In a basement. In a cage.”
“Fuck,” he ground out.
She nodded in response to his single-word reaction and continued. “I was there for over a year. Made to eat and drink out of a metal bowl like a dog. That is,” she scoffed bitterly, “When they felt I deserved to be fed. I was beaten, whipped, shocked, and starved. All because Father Emmett Knox of the Church of Humanity had convinced my parents that the healing light of Jesus would purge the mutant filth from my body.”
Logan couldn’t help it. He wrenched away from her side as his claws exploded from his knuckles, shredding the pockets of of his jacket to extend down to brush his jean-clad thighs. He was breathing heavily, trying to focus on regaining control so that she wouldn’t stop sharing this with him. Even if it was painful for him to hear, he knew it was worse for her to have lived it. But to think that her own fucking parents had done that to her, went against every goddamn protective instinct he knew and made him furious.
To her credit, Rogue didn’t appear to be surprised by his reaction. She merely waited patiently, arms hugging herself for warmth, until he calmed down. Logan turned back to her, grinding his jaw together. “How’d you get out?” His voice was low and deep, edged with violence.
“When I found out my parents were the ones who’d done that to me, I decided I was gonna have to save myself. Nobody else knew I was in that basement. The few friends I had left thought I was going to Alaska, so why would they come lookin’ for me? I waited,” she said, so quietly that he almost didn’t hear her, heightened senses notwithstanding. “Waited until that bastard slipped up. I pissed him off. Though I never had to work too hard to make him angry, I stepped it up one day until he started raving. He got too close to my cage, and I reached through the bars and touched him.”
He saw her shiver again, though this time he knew it wasn’t from the cold. Logan felt rage burning through his veins, but knew that it was important for her to keep talking. If she’d never told anyone about this in almost ten years, it must be a huge fucking relief to finally get it out.
“After he fell down, after I -,” she swallowed hard, “Killed him, I grabbed the keys from his pocket and unlocked my cage. I ran into two others before I got out. Turns out I was in a fuckin’ church basement just two streets down from my parents’ house. I was so close to them. For over a year. And it’s like they just stopped caring about me. Like I was dead or somethin’.”
He wasn’t sure she had realized her voice had begun to take on a monotonous quality, and he realized she may not be fully aware of what she was saying.
“I stole some clothes out of the church donation bin, took the money from Father Knox’s wallet, and ran. I decided to head up to Alaska anyway since it was as far as I could get from home without a passport. But I never did make it. I was in bad shape after I escaped. My back - it was infected. I made it to Missouri, walkin’ and hitchin’ rides before the X-Men found me a week later.”
She paused for a moment, shaking her head as though clearing it. “It’s why I worked so hard to control my skin, you know,” she continued, anger beginning to lace her voice now. “To hear that son of a bitch, rattling around in my mind day after fucking day, telling me how useless I am, how I’m less than scum, how I’m not even human, how -” she broke off suddenly and he smelled the salt of her tears on the cold air.
“God. Rogue,” he said quietly. “I-” But he was cut off as she suddenly whirled around, eyes blazing, and launched herself against him, pressing her lips against his, wrapping both legs around his torso. The hard rubber of her snow boots, damp with cold were digging into his back, and he didn’t give a single fuck. One of her hands wound itself in his hair to moved down to his neck and rake her nails across his skin, while the other moved down his chest, moving the worn leather of his jacket aside to grab at the hard muscles of his chest above his t-shirt. The fucking animal in him roared with satisfaction and pleasure at her actions. He felt the push of Wolverine, felt the desire of the animal to take over. But he’d be damned if he lost control now. Not when she was finally trusting him.
He growled into her mouth and demanded entrance to hers with his tongue. She didn’t hesitate, but opened her mouth and stroked her tongue against his. He didn’t want to rush this, and at the same time he wanted to shove her down on the snow-covered deck and plunge himself inside her taking her rough and hard underneath the eyes of the stars. He wanted to enjoy every second of this and have it last a thousand years as he slowly stroked the length of his cock inside her soft and warm and wet walls.
He was finally alive again. He felt his blood pump through his veins, smelled the dampness in the air, the decaying leaves underneath the new snow, and felt the warmth of Marie’s body reaching right through him to touch his damned fucking soul. He couldn’t get enough of her, of the feeling of Marie against him, the slick warm wet of her mouth, and he took his time as he re-learned the feeling of her lips against his tongue.
Logan could smell the rapid heat of her arousal thickening in the cold air around them and he moved his hands down her back to cup her ass through her sweatpants, grinding the length of his erection against her through his jeans as he turned and took them back inside the house. He didn’t break away from the pleasure of her mouth as he strode up the stairs back to his room, the soft pants of her breath echoing in the quiet dark of the house. He slammed his door behind them and shoved her back against the wall, moving one hand up from her ass to rip the coat off of her shoulders. She arched against him, eager to speed up the process of removing the now unnecessary garment, and he threw the coat to the floor. She reciprocated by shoving his leather jacket down his arms and moved her hands greedily over the warm skin of his biceps before he tilted her jaw back to take her lips again.
He thought about stopping. He knew she was feeling vulnerable after opening up to him. He knew they needed to talk about her absorption of both him and Sabretooth, about what she wanted from him, about what that fucking Cajun bastard had done to her, and about the Remy of her world.
“Logan,” she breathed into him. “I want you.”
And then he didn’t fucking care about any of it. All he knew is that he never wanted to stop tasting her, smelling her, feeling her. He growled again, and moved his hands down to the plane of her stomach to lift the edge of her tank top over her shoulders to expose her breasts. He bent his head and raked the side of his jaw down her throat as he continued downward to the warm fullness of her breasts. He took one reddened tip into his mouth and sucked hard, enjoying the feeling of her hips bucking against him as she gasped with the sudden pleasure of it. He moved to her other breast while gripping both hips in his hands and rocking against her at the same time he bit down, nipping the warm fullness of her between his canines. The sound of her moan was like a goddamn symphony to his ears, and he moved back up to trace the edge of her jaw with his tongue.
“Fuck. Marie,” he said into her ear as he bit the skin just below it and rubbed the roughness of his beard against her throat, pleased to see the instant reddening of her skin. Whatever healing she’d borrowed was gone now after nearly three days. And he was glad of it. It meant that this time, his mark wouldn’t fade from her skin for fucking days.
She pushed away from him suddenly, panting, seemingly trying to bring herself under control. Confused, he released her from his hands and she slid down his body.
“I’m not her,” she said softly, a bit of hurt mixed with pride in her voice. She looked up at him, eyes slightly glazed with passion, chest moving rapidly as she struggled to catch her breath.
He looked back at her, his own eyes blazing now with a golden light. “I know that. Fuck. I know!” he roared. “She’s fucking dead!”
The air around them snapped with tension as they stared at each other. Finally, she spoke, her voice low and hoarse.
“Then who do you want, Logan?”
His mind was racing. Who did he want? Was he just chasing a fucking ghost? Did he only want her because she looked and smelled and tasted like Marie? He rejected the idea immediately. Maybe he’d wanted her for that reason at first, but he wanted her now. This Rogue. Her discipline, her history, her vulnerability, and her humor, were all different than the Marie he’d known. He wanted to know more about her, learn what made her tick. Find out what had happened to her after her idiot fucking parents had nearly destroyed her by giving her to the Church of Humanity. And fuck his soul, he wanted her body. Wanted to crawl inside her skin and fill her up so completely that she saw stars and yelled his name as she came, her body shuddering and clenching around his as he roared and marked her from the inside, his arms wrapped around her holding her tight against him.
“You,” he growled. “I want you, Rogue. And who do you fucking want then? Me? Or Remy?” he practically snarled the word at her.
He saw her body shudder at the mention of his name and smelled just the tiniest bit of fear edging her scent. She shook her head and her hair rippled over her naked breasts. “I want you, Logan,” she said roughly. “You andWolverine.”
She stepped away from him, kicked out of her snow boots, and thumbed the edge of her sweatpants over her hips until she was completely bare and exposed to him. Jesus fuck, he thought. He knew she’d be bare underneath her sweatpants. He was the one who’d purposefully avoided getting her any underwear when she’d been showering. The apex of her thighs was glistening with her arousal and he couldn’t wait any longer as he dropped to his knees in front of her to thrust his nose into her warm damp center. He inhaled deeply, feeling the sweetness and salt of her fill his senses. He drove his tongue into her and felt her body jerk in response as he pressed hard against her clit. His hands kneaded her ass, holding her in place as he dragged his mouth over her tasting her, saturating himself in her.
She gripped his hair in one hand pressing him harder against her and he slowly slid one finger inside her, feeling the impossible slickness of her against his skin. He then sucked hard on her clit as he slowly began to thrust his finger inside her.
“Oh God,” she moaned as her free hand rode up the skin of her stomach to cup one of her breasts.
The sight of her trying to bring pleasure to herself while he had his tongue buried in her folds stirred the beast within. He wrenched the hand that had been inside her to her lips and growled with satisfaction as she instantly slicked her tongue over his fingers, tasting her own wetness. He inhaled sharply at the sight and met her eyes, now as wild as he was certain his own must be. He lost his control then and felt the snap of the chains as though it was a physical thing inside his mind.
With a growl, he rose from the floor and quickly shed his remaining clothing. One of her smooth pale hands reached out to run itself down the rugged muscles of his stomach to grip his erection in her hand as she leaned in to kiss him. Every nerve ending was hyper aware, his hips bucking into her touch.
And then, he couldn’t stand it anymore. He needed her. Every fucking inch of her. He grasped the hand that had been wrapped around his cock in his hand and crowded her body back against the wall, pinning both her arms above her head.
“You’re mine, Rogue,” he growled against her throat. He pressed himself hot and heavy between her thighs, feeling the slickness of her coat the aching tip of him and she wrapped one long leg around him, allowing him to press into her. He was surprised at the discipline he showed as he slowly worked inside her, moving in and backing out, allowing her wetness to spread around both of them. She tried to arch against him to force him deeper, groaning with need, but he denied her. He would take her and mark her when he was ready.
“Who do you belong to?” he asked as he stared down into her eyes. He was going to make her say it, make her admit that he owned her, body and soul. He moved himself deeper, jaw clenched with the force of his restraint.
“Fuck. Logan, please.” Her breath was shallow, her skin flushed, her dark hair tousled around her face, and she looked fucking lovely.
“Not good enough,” he rumbled in response. His chest was heaving, “Who do you belong to, Rogue?” and he bent his head to grate his teeth over one taut tendon of her neck.
“Christ,” she murmured, throwing her head back to allow him easier access to her throat. “You, Logan. I belong to you!”
And he slammed himself home inside her, the satisfaction and truth of hearing her words pulse through him. He felt the tight slickness of her body surround him, and he loosened his grip on her hands. She immediately lowered her hands, one to wind itself in his hair, the other to grip one of his biceps as she held on.
He fucked her then, hard, wanting to bury himself so deep inside her that she felt the imprint of him forever. He growled things in her ear with every thrust. About how he wanted her, about how he wanted to mark her body, and about what he wanted her to do to him. He didn’t hear her shouted responses, he didn’t have the ability to comprehend words anymore. The friction between their bodies was building into an inferno, blazing white hot and he felt her body begin to shudder against him, the walls of her sex clenching as she screamed into his ear, her body bucking, slick and hot against him. His own orgasm slammed into him and he roared as he felt himself explode inside her, dipping his head down to bite the tempting pale skin of her neck. He rocked his hips back and forth, pumping the last of himself deep into her with a shudder.
She’d thrown her head forward so that she rested limply against his shoulder, her leg sliding down his back to rest against his leg. He gathered her close against his body and strode to the bed where he pulled her against him, sweat beading instantly between their skin as he gripped one smooth hip in his palm.
“So,” she panted as she backed herself tighter against him. “Is it always like this? The hunger?”
Chapter 13: Twelve
Damn. The last five months of my life have been utter insanity. Tons of work travel, huge stressful project to tackle, packing and moving for the third time in 6 months, the biggest writer’s block I’ve ever encountered before in my life, the holidays, and yet more travel for work. I must thank englishmajor226 again for all of the amazing encouragement during this time, as well as her beta work on this chapter.
Without any further ado: Aaaaaaaall aboard! The smut train is leaving the station.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A deep rumble in her ear. The feeling of warm bunched muscles pressing her knees up and legs apart, forcing her into a willing and pleasurable submission. The wild, dark, and primal scent of a man’s mark on her body. Between her thighs. On her belly. Inside her.
“Oh, fuck,” Rogue moaned, feeling Logan’s tongue rove smoothly over her. She gripped the sheets in her fists and shoved her heels into the mattress as a white hot flicker of pleasure spiked through her. She was lost to the sensual haze she had surrendered to. And she didn’t care. It felt good. It felt right. It felt like coming home.
Logan’s mouth was between her legs lapping at her sore and over-sensitized folds, cleaning her, soothing her, tasting her. The thought of him taking her essence, his mark, and the mixture of both of them into his mouth sent a warm lightning bolt of fresh desire straight through down to her belly. She flexed her thighs in longing at the gush of renewed wetness, slippery and warm, that trickled out of her and shuddered as sheer need for him rode through her again.
She could feel him smile against her in approval of her reaction to his ministrations as he licked the fresh desire from between her legs. He then let out a chuff of air cautioning her to remain still. But she couldn’t help the bucking of her hips against his mouth as he slowly drove one finger inside of her, the smooth full friction causing her hips to buck wildly. He slowly slicked his fingers in her several times, and she threw her head back and drove her hips up to meet his thrusts as a wild keening cry left her lips.
Rogue felt him remove his fingers from her and slide his body up against hers. She groaned as the fullness inside left her and the empty throbbing of her womb was all that remained.
“Taste,” he demanded of her. His voice was low and dark with a hint of a growl. The idea of denying him never crossed her mind. She opened her mouth eagerly, enjoying the feeling of his warm and slick fingers entering her mouth and tasting the combination of the two of them, nearly as much as the feeling of the dark and wild part of herself rearing up and sinking down over her. It settled like a blanket in her mind. Warm, comforting, and truer than anything she’d known about herself before.
Rogue sat up and wrapped her tongue around his finger, sucking hard as she looked into his flashing golden eyes. The taste of the salt and sweet brine of her arousal mixed with the musky dark salt of his seed coated her tongue, and she felt her mind wrapping itself tighter in the blanket of wildness that his presence inspired in her. She licked his finger clean and smiled at the raw look he was giving her.
Apparently, her smile was all the impetus he needed. He shoved her back down onto her left side and twisted himself behind her so that his body was tight against every inch of her skin. He reached down to raise one of her legs up at the knee, and he slowly, excruciatingly, entered her from behind. The exquisite fullness of him stretched her gently, and she moaned with the feelings of pleasure and fulfillment coursing through her.
Logan brushed the scruff of his beard against her bare shoulder, and her body shivered with the slight sting of it. She didn’t have to wait long for him to ease the discomfort though, and threw her head back against his as moved his lips against her shoulder. Kissing. Nibbling. Tasting. And then biting. Jesus. The feeling of his teeth against her skin just fucking did something to her. It was passion. Wild and unencumbered by rules or order. And goddammit. she fucking loved it. The pain of the bite was soothed by his tongue and his hips thrust slowly in time to the movements of his mouth. Rogue reached back and grabbed one firm buttock and tried to urge him to increase his pace, wanting that moment of exquisite pleasure so badly it almost hurt. She felt him smile against her back as he continued the slow and deep pumping of his cock inside her.
“Dammit, Logan,” she groaned. “Move faster!”
“No,” he growled in response.
That one word was full of power and authority. And it pissed her off as much as it turned her on. Her walls involuntarily clenched around him and he rumbled with pleasure. She tried to increase the rocking of her hips, but he merely pressed her knee tighter into her chest and slowed his pistoning.
“No,” he said again. “Slow.” He nearly withdrew himself entirely from between her legs and she groaned as the pulsing beat of pleasure increased with the cessation of movement.
“Smooth.” And he slowly, so fucking slowly, eased himself forward, his cock sliding easily to the hilt inside of her, the slickness of their combined arousal easing his way. He moved that way, hips rocking bath and forth, for several minutes, the fissions of smooth sensation building with every stroke. Rogue gripped the pillow at her head and gritted her teeth against the pleasure building inside. Not yet. Not yet…
“Hard,” he growled roughly as he slid out and then rammed himself so hard inside her that her entire body jolted with the impact. The smooth and concussive thudding of his thrusts were causing a coiling tightness to build inside her. The throbbing and pulsing thrill of pleasure was growing, threatening to consume her entire body in a blinding explosion. She wanted to give in to it. And she wanted to stay balanced on the precipice of something that almost frightened her with its intensity. Rogue slowly became aware of the low growl that was issuing from her throat. And she didn’t care. She didn’t care that she sounded wild. She felt wild. She was wild.
“And deep.” The last word was uttered through his bared teeth as he continued the slow, smooth movements that reached all the way to her womb. Each stroke that pressed inside her spun the coil of pleasure tighter and tighter, and she whimpered as she felt him shove into her again as the world finally yet suddenly exploded inside her. The agony of pleasure burst through her body causing her to shake with the intensity of her orgasm. Her walls clamped down on his cock as he continued that same damn maddening pace. He roared in her ear as his own orgasm overtook him, and she felt the hot pulsing of his release spurt deep inside her.
He didn’t withdraw from her afterward, and she felt the ghosts of his pleasure pulse along with her own heartbeat. As the intensity of the moment subsided somewhat, she shoved back the sudden surge of guilt and awareness that rose up. She refused to feel guilty about enjoying herself with Logan. And the rest, well, the rest could wait.
She smiled to herself as he slowly released her knee and occupied his hand with her breast instead as they fell into a contented doze.
“Logan, I need to tell you something.”
Rogue’s tone was serious, and Logan found himself struggling to pay full attention to her. His face was buried in between her thighs, and he was drunk on the taste of her. They’d been held up in his room for the last half a day, at least. Pausing only occasionally to eat, they’d continuously gorged themselves on the others’ body; learning, tasting, and touching. It was as close to a divine experience as Logan could imagine, and he was loathe to burst the pleasurable bubble they had wrapped themselves in. He lapped at her again, determined to remain cocooned in the warm pleasure of her body where the realities of the outside world could not reach them.
“Remy -” she hesitated, and Logan froze at the sound of the fucker’s name falling from her lips. He couldn’t help the growl that issued from his chest and he moved away from her, suddenly one-hundred percent sober, the world outside his bedroom returning with a ferocity that pissed him off. Surely she wasn’t about to tell him she regretted her actions. Her body couldn’t lie to him, and he’d be able to sniff out any hint of falsity in her words. So far, every action and word she’d expressed had been completely truthful. She wanted him. So why the fuck was she bringing up the Cajun?
“What?” He snapped at her, more harshly than he’d intended to. He instantly regretted his tone as she visibly flinched and sat up, arms folded across the fullness of her naked breasts.
Rogue took a deep breath and used one hand to finger the tangled mess of brown hair out of her face. “He and Creed. They needed me to confirm for somethin’ for them.”
A bad feeling was growing in the pit of Logan’s stomach. He wasn’t going to like whatever she said next. He knew it.
“The whole time I was there, they kept tryin’ to make me tell them who I was.” She paused and looked up at him. “Where I came from.”
“Fuck,” he growled as he left the bed. He stood at the foot, looking down at her, his mind beginning to churn over what she had just said. There were disturbing implications to The Brotherhood knowing how Rogue had appeared in this world. The Cajun and his crew knowing about the existence of a mutant who was capable of creating doorways to other dimensions couldn’t lead to anything good. “How did they know?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. But I didn’t tell them anything. No matter what they did to me.” And she shuddered again, though this time in remembered horror, rather than pleasure.
Logan felt like the world’s biggest dick. He’d been selfishly enjoying the sudden change in their relationship, so fuckin’ victorious that she’d wanted him, that he had forced the realities of her week of hell to the back of his mind. He remembered suddenly they needed to talk about what had happened to her and felt a surge of dark guilt. Fuckin’ animal. One hint that she’d wanted him and he’d let go of every shred of discipline that held him on this side of humanity. Just for a chance to taste her, feel her skin against the rough pads of his palms, fuckin’ drown himself in her scent.
“But then Logan, the last day.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “They made me - I couldn’t help it.”
Logan felt the rage of Wolverine pulse out hotly in his mind, his imagination in overdrive as he envisioned what Creed and LeBeau had forced Rogue to do. How they’d hurt her. The memory of her condition when he’d found her came flooding back and he struggled to rein in the sheer rage of the animal inside him. He clenched his fists, forcing back the desire of the animal to rip, to kill. To bury its claws in the warm innards of the assholes who had threatened her safety.
“Sabretooth had Rift. He was gonna hurt him. And he’s just a kid.”
Logan knew she wouldn’t have been able to stand being the reason that an innocent was harmed. It just wasn’t in her nature, no matter which goddamn dimension she’d come from.
“But they played me, Logan.” She stood up from the bed then and began pacing back and forth, from the side of the bed to the far wall.
He didn’t like seein’ her so worried. It made the beast twitchy, anxious for a fight or for a chance to comfort her by slidin’ deep inside her, and makin’ her forget all about what was bothering her.
“It wasn’t Rift. It was Raven.” Rogue had stopped pacing and had stopped by the window, looking out over the mountains covered in early morning sunlight.
“Mystique.” He spat out the word, as though it had left a bad taste in his mouth.
She nodded. “I don’t know why they needed me to tell them what Rift could do. I don’t. But I know I don’t like it.”
Logan agreed and frowned as he turned over the implications of The Brotherhood using Mystique for their deception. Either they hadn’t wanted to hurt the real Rift, or they didn’t have him. Neither possibility sat well with him. It left the animal feeling edgy. Restless. Knowing somethin’ bad could be comin’ for them. They oughta have put down The Brotherhood a long time ago. It might’ve saved them all some grief.
“Logan?” she asked, turning back to face him. “What should we do?” Tension was etched into every slender line of muscle.
He turned the question over in his mind for several seconds. They would have to tell the others, and soon. Chuck might know what to do with that information or figure out what it meant. His gut instinct, though, was to keep Rogue next to him. Safe and sequestered in this room. He wasn’t going to make the same mistakes again. He couldn’t let anything happen to her. There was no way he’d survive the loss again. It had almost killed him losin’ Marie before. And if anything, he felt even more strongly for this Rogue, now. There was a different element to her. Something intangible that just drew him to her.
He exhaled sharply and turned to face her as he crossed his arms over his chest. “We gotta tell Charles and Scott about Rift. I don’t like what it might mean if The Brotherhood knows what he can do. Too fuckin’ dangerous.”
Rogue nodded, but she didn’t relax. Her shoulders were tight, and she was clenching her fists at her sides. Almost like she was waiting for something to happen.
Logan could feel something brewing inside him. A question that was spiraling up from the dark recesses of his mind. Wolverine growled as the thought solidified and shot through him like a fucking bullet. He had to ask the question. He fucking hated that he had to. But he would hate himself even more if he didn’t. It would sit and rot, deep within him, until it spread throughout his soul, and tainted any real trust they had developed between them.
“Do you want to go back?” he growled the question suddenly, before he could lose his nerve. Or, he thought darkly, before Wolverine could rip control from him and stop him from askin’ the question at all.
He could tell he’d caught her off guard. She blinked rapidly and frowned at him, clearly not understanding what he meant.
“What do you mean? Go back? To the mansion?”
“No,” he barked. Logan never wanted her to have to face that kind of torture ever again. He had to force himself to soften his tone. He was going about this all wrong. Shit. “Back. You know. To your place.”
Rogue sighed and ran one hand through her hair. It’d become tangled and messy after so many hours of being in bed with him. And he fucking loved the way she looked with it down around her face. He’d almost gotten used to the lack of his Marie’s platinum streak, though he was more than glad Rogue hadn’t had a similar experience that had caused that same scar.
“I -,” she hesitated, looking at him with those huge brown eyes. “I don’t…” Rogue trailed off then, and she turned her back to him, staring back out the window again.
His guts twisted and the Wolverine howled as her silence stretched between them. Jesus. What was he gonna do if she said yes?
Finally, she spoke, though it was so quiet he almost didn’t hear her.
“I don’t know.”
A desperate feeling tore through him. Anger and confusion and lust all swirled together and he clenched his jaw as he tried to sort everything out. But the anger won out, and he exploded. “Fuck! Why’d ya kiss me the other night, Rogue?” He was breathing hard as he stood there. He wanted to lash out, berate her for taking that step that had pushed them both over that line they’d been treading. And he wanted to reach out and grab her, plaster her body against his and make her forget everything about where she’d come from.
She stayed by the window, her back still toward him, and every moment she didn’t respond ratcheted up his frustration by several degrees.
He couldn’t take her silence any longer and growled out in a low, dangerous voice as he started stalking toward her. “What made you do it?”
Hearing his approach, she whirled to face him, eyes blazing as much as they had been the night she kissed him. “You want to know why? Jesus, Logan! It’s because I’ve never wanted anything so much in my goddamn life!”
A snarl of satisfaction left his lips at her words. He knew she’d wanted him.
“But if you think for one minute that I’m not conflicted about being excited about the possibility that I might be able to go back. To the friends and home that I know.” She shook her head at him once, and all the fire and warmth had gone from her eyes. “Then maybe this thing I started between us wasn’t such a good idea.”
And before he could stop her, she’d stalked back over to the bed, grabbed a sheet, and tossed it around her shoulders as she slammed his bedroom door behind her.
Wolverine’s thought echoed through him, and he snarled as he slammed a fist into the wall.
Jesus, bub. What the fuck did you just do?
I certainly don’t intend for another ridiculously long time between updates, but in the meantime, be sure to check out Striking Dissonance, which englishmajor226 and I are collaborating on. And come on over to Tumblr. We like to have a good ol’ Rogan time whenever possible.
Also, thank you all so much for your amazing comments and feedback. It means the world! Until the next chapter! Cheers! ;)
A spray of blood.
A swipe of claws.
A howl of pain.
Rogue dodged the heavy outstretched arm of Sabretooth just in time. She did a quick shoulder roll to her right, came up in a deep lunge, and bared her teeth at him as he whirled around to face her again. She was breathing hard, the exertion of the long fight finally getting to her, even with the borrowed strength and endurance of Wolverine humming inside her.
She knew she needed to put an end to the struggle. She could hear the bangs and shouts of Scott and Jean from behind Cerebro’s doors and knew it wouldn’t be much longer before they managed to get out. It would be quick. A blast from behind Scott’s glasses, or a carefully directed thought from Jean and they’d be on her in a minute. And she didn’t want that. Didn’t want them getting in the way and interfering with what she wanted, no - needed - to do.
Gotta surprise him, catch him off guard.
The instructions came from inside her mind with a growl and she nodded, agreeing with Wolverine ’s advice. He knew more than her about Creed’s fighting style, knew how to take him down.
As she slashed and spun avoiding a vicious kick aimed directly at her head, she began to view herself as an instrument. Her body was singing, led by the instincts running free inside her, in tune with the master who was playing her. She rolled again as Sabretooth continued his relentless pursuit, claws and fangs bared as he drove her back down the halls beneath the former headquarters of the X-Men. She had an odd sort of double vision of these halls. There were minor differences she spotted from the halls of her own world, and they were sort of overlaid onto Logan ’s memories of this place. She could see the other her, Marie, in these halls. She felt baffled by the flashes of Logan’s memories of what was essentially her.
But still. His presence itself inside her mind didn ’t feel foreign, and was not at all like absorbing the memories of Emmett Knox. No. When she had finally let down that last barrier of restraint and allowed Logan to heal her, she’d been stunned at the smooth feeling of his body pouring into hers. Maybe it was because he’d wanted to help her so badly, but the first brush of his mind against hers was almost unbearably gentle. A light, feather touch of his presence, then more and more until she could feel him filling her up with his warmth and concern and memories.
Rogue twisted her body to avoid another hit and grinned as she shoved her claws into Creed ’s exposed side. He roared and backhanded her so hard she was ripped away from him and found herself slammed head first into the metal wall behind her. If she hadn’t had the good fortune of having access to a borrowed healing factor, she was pretty sure she would have had been knocked out.
As it was, she just shook her head to clear the blood from her eyes and whirled to face Sabretooth one more. He was closer than she ’d guessed. She found herself staring up at him as he towered over her and gripped her throat with one hand, while the other trapped her hands against her body. The incredible bulk of his body was pressed against her and she could feel the panic of claustrophobia beginning to envelop her.
Don’t panic. Make him think yer a goner. Then. Make yer move.
She found herself struggling against his grip, could feel her body starving for oxygen, and could feel her body fighting to keep her conscious at the same time, trying to replenish oxygen to her brain. Still, she could see her vision beginning to darken and it wasn ’t hard to feign falling unconscious. It was harder not to wince as Creed threw her to the cold hard floor. She could feel his breath close to her neck, no doubt trying to make sure she really was out. When she felt a puff of air against her cheek, she struck. She whipped out her arm, grabbed at the scratchy skin of his neck with her bare hand and held on.
She was barely able to process the shock on his face before the pain began.
It was nothing like Logan. Creed was kicking and screaming as she pressed her hand to his face, then froze as she gritted her teeth and began screaming as the fight ceased being physical and instead changed to an entirely mental one solely inside now entered her mind.
It didn ’t stop.
There was growling and yelling and swirls of thought and memory mixing together. Too much. Too much! Animals and people and emotions. And anger.
Fuck. Ahh jesus. No! I can’t hold on,
You can. Put him away. Like the others.
You can’t. You’re weak. Nothing. Tasty though. Sweet girl.
She kept her grip on Creed, unable to let go now as she focused on the mental battle of wills taking place inside her. It was her and Logan and Wolverine and Sabretooth. And Emmett Knox. Oh fuck. How? He’d been gone for so long. She’d had control for so long that she was utterly unprepared for the onslaught of hatred and evil coming from the man. Sabretooth laughed inside her mind as he felt the other presence emerging. She could feel him growing stronger as she took more and more of him inside her. She knew she needed to break contact now, but she couldn’t move. She was frozen, paralyzed by the storm inside her as her she tried to control the minds that warred for dominance. The swirling of personalities was causing an enormous pressure to build and she found herself swung from one end of the spectrum to the other.
She began to scream then, and barely noticed the blast of red light that struck the back of her hand forcing her to break contact with Creed ’s skin.
Rogue rushed into consciousness and bolted upright in bed.
No. A memory.
She shuddered and tore off the covers as Victor’s growing presence sent her tearing out of her room. Her breathing was shallow, her body soaked in sweat.
I need Logan.
No. You don ’t.
Yes. Need him to help shove back Creed. Creed hates him.
Just go find the Professor. He can help.
She found herself vacillating between what she wanted, and her damn pride as she paced back and forth down the corridor outside her room. She’d been avoiding Logan for an entire day now, ever since their confrontation about her indecision about wanting to go home. She was still seething. Furious that he was upset with her. Why couldn’t he understand that she might want to go home? Back to her friends, her home. Back to a Jubilee that was alive, and her Kitty, and…
She swallowed convulsively as she fought the sudden urge from her stomach to purge its meager contents. Her thoughts shifted to Remy and she found her feet glued to her current position in the hallway, halfway to Logan’s room. Her hands were at her sides, clenching reflexively into fists. She’d purposely pushed Remy out of her mind. Ever since that moment in Cerebro when she’d chosen to live.
When she’d chosen Logan.
God. Remy. If she ever got back, how would she explain what had happen? What she’d done? But then an image of Gambit’s screaming face, red eyes blazing with rage, and his closed fist smashing into her already bruised jaw surfaced in her mind.
Forget telling him what she’d done. How would she ever able to look him in the face again without seeing what this world’s Gambit had done to her?
A sudden low purring echoed in her mind and she shivered as Creed’s words enveloped her.
Just you wait, sweet girl. Remy ain ’t done with you yet. Not by a long shot. He an’ I are gonna rip you apart, piece by piece.
A growl then and she felt Wolverine’s presence growing stronger as he tried to fight back Creed’s occupation. She tried to focus on Wolverine’s confidence rather than Creed’s fear, but could feel herself slipping. Could feel the oily blackness descending and she fought back sheer panic now, fought the blood roaring in her ears as she took off toward the Professor’s quarters. It was late, she knew, but she couldn’t hold Creed back any longer. Not without help.
Rogue saw a small sliver of warm light coming from beneath Charles’ door, and didn’t bother knocking. Not if he was already awake. She burst in to his office, mouth stuck on the words Creed was trying to choke back, stunned to see Logan sitting across from the Professor.
Logan didn’t appear to be surprised to see her, and no wonder. She hadn’t exactly been trying to sneak quietly on her way there.
He frowned at her, his muscled forearms crossed at his chest, one boot-clad ankle propped casually against his opposite knee.
Jesus, he looks good. I wanna strip that gray t-shirt right off him and lick my way up his chest. The thought rose up without warning and she felt Creed’s displeasure at the thought.
See? Ya need him.
The Professor spoke kindly, but forcefully. Shit. Had she been projecting? Her thoughts were in so much turmoil, she hadn’t given any thought to shielding them.
“Professor,” she was panting slightly, panic still too close to the surface, “I need -”
“Yes, of course.” Charles murmured. Rogue found herself grateful that she didn’t need to explain her predicament any further. “Logan? Perhaps we can continue this conversation at a later time.”
Logan nodded and rose from his seated position without uttering a word. He hesitated as he passed her, and as Rogue looked up at him she saw his jaw clench. Like he was stopping himself from speaking to her. A pang of unexpected hurt rose up inside her. What had he been doing here in the middle of the night? Had he been talking to Charles about what she’d said? Betrayal stung sharply then. She had assumed they would tell Charles about Rift together.
How exactly didja plan on doin ’ that if you were avoiding him?
Shut up. She hissed back at Wolverine.
While she’d been busy with her internal dialog, Logan had strode past her and quietly closed the door behind him. She turned back and stared at the closed door, feeling strangely cold and alone.
“Rogue, please sit down.”
She turned back to the Professor and saw he had a calm and kind smile on his face, as he gestured to the chair where Logan had been sitting just a moment ago.
“Let’s see what we can do about Creed.”
Logan closed the door behind him quietly and exhaled with frustration as he wrestled with Wolverine’s instinct to rip the door back open and haul Rogue off to his room. Logan hadn’t wanted to leave either. But his fuckin’ pride wasn’t having it. The fact that Rogue hadn’t sought him out - in fact had been outright avoiding him - since their blow-up the other night pissed him off. He’d been waiting for her to come around, for her to realize she wanted to stay. But she hadn’t. She’d stayed away from him, moping, or hiding. Not showing up for meals or training. He’d hoped that she’d turn up the next morning at ten o’clock with the others, ready for a sparring session. But she hadn’t.
In her absence, he’d been tough on the rest of the team. Mean. Surly. He’d pushed them farther than he should have. He wanted to punish every last one of them for showing up when she hadn’t. But even after round after brutal round of sparring, miles on the treadmill, and grueling weight sets, he wasn’t satisfied. He’d been even more pissed off when not a single member of the team had called him on his shit. They’d all fuckin’ taken it. Like they knew. Like they understood. And that just made him even angrier somehow.
After he’d yelled at everyone announcing training was over with a casual, “Get the fuck out!”, he’d worked out his frustrations on an unsuspecting BOB. Punching. Kicking. Shredding. Impaling. And finally, putting it out of its misery as he wrenched it up from the bolted plate in the cement floor and hurling it across the basement with a roar.
The full meaning of the conversation he and Rogue’d had started to eat at him. Rift was alive. He was out there. Either in the hands of The Brotherhood, or the Friends of Humanity. And Logan didn’t like either of those options. Neither one would lead to anything good. Rift was a threat to his relationship with Rogue, either way. If she chose to stay, or chose to leave. That realization had taken it out of both him and Wolverine, and he’d trudged out of the gym to the showers, letting the warm spray run over his suddenly exhausted muscles. Healing factor couldn’t do shit for that type of hurt.
Later, he’d been tossing in his own bed, unable to sleep, surrounded by the scents of sex that still clung to the sheets. Remnants of Rogue were everywhere after having spent two straight days in his room. He ripped off the sheets and stuffed them into the closet, hoping that would diminish that fucking amazing scent of hers, but all it accomplished was swirling that scent around in the air. Logan wrenched open the window as a last ditch effort to calm the air. But as he looked down at the deck below, all he could think about was that moment two nights ago when she’d launched herself against him, and kissed him like she’d never be able to get enough of him.
That was the last fuckin’ straw. He couldn’t take anymore of it and stormed out of his room, determined to tell Chuck about what Rogue had revealed. He had to tell someone, and if she wasn’t gonna talk to him and work things out, he’d find someone who might be able to help. If only a little.
He’d found himself outside the Professor’s office one hand poised above the solid wood door when he heard a quiet, “Come in, Logan.”
Snorting slightly at Chuck’s consistent habit of calling people into his office before they had a chance to knock, he smoothly turned the knob and stepped inside.
“It’s late. Wasn’t sure you’d be awake.”
Charles smiled tiredly at Logan as he shuffled the mass of papers on his desk into a neat pile. He was still dressed in yesterday’s clothes, but the usually immaculate suit was looking a little worse for wear. The suit jacket was thrown carelessly over the back of his chair, and Logan was wracking his brain for another time in which he’d seen Charles’ shirtsleeves rolled up. “I find it difficult to sleep when the world is in such chaos.”
He didn’t elaborate further, and Logan didn’t push. He trusted Charles to confide in him when necessary. And if he was bein’ honest with himself, he didn’t want to know what else was comin’ their way. Not just yet.
“I could take a guess at what’s brought you here in the middle of the night, but that would be rude of me.”
Logan raised one eyebrow at him and exhaled sharply. He knew what Charles was thinking. That he needed to talk about Rogue. And in a roundabout way, he was right. But Logan knew Charles had no idea what he was about to reveal about what Rogue had told him. There would have been no way for him to garner that from her mind when she’d been brought back to their headquarters. She’d been out of her mind. Or rather, trapped inside it. “Nah,” he responded with a grin. “Go ahead, Chuck. Take your best shot.”
Charles met his eyes and studied him for a moment before Logan cut in. “Hey. None of that. You wanna guess what I’m here about? You gotta do it the old fashioned way.”
A small laugh escaped Charles and he nodded. “Very well.” He narrowed his eyes and clasped his fingers together as he appraised Logan’s posture. “I would assume this visit has something to do with Rogue.”
“Chuck, that is the equivalent of me takin’ a look at you and guessing you can’t walk.”
Charles surprised him with a quick burst of laughter before resuming his study of Logan. He took a few more seconds to formulate his guess, his brief-lived amusement vanishing quickly.
“I can only assume that you have news regarding The Brotherhood or Friends of Humanity.”
Logan nodded, a terse jerk of his head. “Yeah, but that’s the thing. I’m not sure which one.” And he proceeded to tell Charles what Rogue had told him about Rift. About The Brotherhood’s interest in her confirming what he was capable of.
When he finished, Charles sighed tiredly and rubbed his forehead with one hand. “Unfortunately Logan, you’ve just provided me with the missing piece of the puzzle I’ve been working on.”
A bad feelin’ was rising in the pit of Logan’s stomach and he could feel the restlessness and guarded alertness emanating from the Wolverine inside as he waited for Chuck to enlighten him. Whatever it was, he knew he wasn’t gonna like it.
“Earlier this evening I was made aware of a disturbing piece of news regarding The Brotherhood’s future pla-”
Charles broke off with a sudden turn of his head and Logan tensed as he jerked his own head in response to a sudden noise coming from outside the hallway. He sniffed and relaxed. It was Rogue. He could detect a tinge of fear in her scent, along with, he realized with a barely restrained growl, the sour smell of Creed. Fuck. She’s havin’ trouble containing the bastard.
The door to the office flew open and Rogue stormed in, her hair flying behind her with the speed of her entry. Her eyes were slightly wild as she took in the sight of Logan sitting across from Charles. He wouldn’t be the first one to talk.
Yer bein’ an idiot, came the sudden low growl from Wolverine. Shove yer pride and take her back to bed. Show ‘er how sorry ya are.
The thought was too appealing. And Logan forced his eyes away from her with difficulty and looked back at Charles. Whatever he’d been about to reveal was gonna be bad. But it could wait.
Logan found himself cringing inside at the plea that issued from Rogue’s lips. She needed the Professor. Why didn’t she need him?
He got up without a word to either Rogue or Charles and let himself out, closing the door softly behind him. Sleep, he told himself. Gotta sleep it off.
A snicker echoed inside his mind. Since when were ya able to sleep off yer thoughts about her, bub?
Fuck, Logan thought as he changed course and strode downstairs to the basement instead. It was gonna be a long night.
Thank you all so much for the love on this story. I love writing this and wish I could devote all my time to it, but sigh, Real Life finds a way to get in the way. Thanks are also due to the amazing @englishmajor226 for her beta work, as well as head canon discussions about this story. Still a lot left in this story, so I hope you’re hanging in there with me! Cheers.
The next morning, Rogue found herself coming awake with a slow cautiousness. She kept her eyes closed as she became aware of her surroundings. The slight roughness of the sheets beneath her. The soft weight of the comforter. A small ache in her neck from sleeping at an awkward angle. The bright morning light peaking through the curtains she’d drawn closed last night.
And then. With a cautious poke, she analyzed the contents of her mind.
She waited anxiously, breath held, for the dank and greasy feeling of Creed to surface.
Nothing but quiet. The peace and stillness of her own thoughts.
Her late night session with the professor had worked. Sabretooth was contained.
But then Rogue felt a slight jolt of panic as she realized that she couldn’t hear Wolverine. Couldn’t picture him. She sat upright and threw off the comforter, a mild panic beginning to course through her. She hadn’t realized that in the short time she’d had him inside her, how much she’d come to accept his presence in her thoughts.
I didn’t go anywhere. Came the sudden low quiet growl of Wolverine. Ya needed some peace. I gave it to ya.
Her heartbeat slowly resumed a normal pace as she let out a breath. He wasn’t gone. No matter what happened, he would still be with her.
An ominous growling echoed inside her at that thought. Yer gonna leave.
It wasn’t a question.
No! Yes. I don ’t know!
This wasn’t a conversation she was ready to have. Not with the Wolverine inside her head, and not with the very real one just down the hall. She didn’t know what she wanted yet. No. That wasn’t true. She knew what she wanted. She wanted the best of both of her worlds. She wanted that fierce new connection with Logan, and she wanted the comforts of her own world without any of the horrific past of this one. She was selfish. She wanted the best of everything, without any of the pain her decision would cause. Goddammit. How was she supposed to choose? Pain for others. Pain for her. Either way, her choice was going to gut someone.
She felt Wolverine withdraw as her thoughts bounced around from one world to the next. And she let out her own growl of frustration at the overwhelming choice in front of her. With everything that’d happened over the last week, she needed some time to weigh her options.
“Okay,” she said to herself as she left the bed and began to pace the length of her room. She stopped to throw open the curtains to let in the morning light and then resumed her stride. “What do you know?”
As she tried this logical approach to her problem, she realized she didn’t know a whole hell of a lot. All she really knew was that The Brotherhood knew about Rift, and thanks to her, what he was capable of. Rogue shoved down a fresh surge of guilt as she pondered that bit of information. She still wasn’t comfortable with what she’d done when she’d thought the real Rift had been threatened. She’d caved and given into the easy choice.
She continued to analyze the situation as she walked alongside the eastern wall of her room. First, she didn’t know exactly where Rift was. Sure, The Brotherhood had used Mystique to coerce her into telling them what Rift’s powers were. But that didn’t mean they had him. It also didn’t mean they knew where he was. But their interest in his abilities seemed to indicate that he was alive. After all, what would be the point in having Rogue confirm his abilities if he was dead?
That led her to one of three possibilities. Either Rift was free and in hiding like the other remaining mutants, he was being held by The Brotherhood, or he had been taken by the Friends of Humanity. Though she really hoped it was the first possibility, Rogue decided that it wasn’t very likely. Odds were, he was being held captive by one of the two opposing groups. She exhaled with frustration. At this point, it didn’t matter where he was. Neither The Brotherhood or Friends of Humanity were likely to give up either information on his whereabouts, nor would they be inclined to turn over Rift should she somehow manage to request it.
So where does that leave me? She thought as she stopped her pacing to look out the window. The sky was full of heavy dense clouds, and the snow was thick on the mountains. Though it was nearly February, spring was still a long ways off this far north.
Rogue forced her thoughts back to the topic at hand. She still wanted Logan. Jesus. The desire running through her as she thought of him was wild. Electric. All-consuming. His words from two nights ago came roaring through her mind. “Who do you belong to, Rogue?” and her immediate response, “You, Logan. I belong to you!”
It was true, she reflected. Even now she wanted to seek him out, grab him, and yank him close to her. Grind herself against him, have him use his teeth against her throat as he gripped her ass and thrust against her in response.She’d given into those feelings he’d awoken in her almost from the first moment she’d met him, because she didn’t want to deny herself any longer. She’d gone after what she wanted and taken it. And she’d been mad at him for his reaction to her indecision because, if she was being brutally honest with herself, she was mad at herself too. How could she even think of leaving? Being with Logan had awoken a part of her she hadn’t known she’d been living without. It was a glorious, heady feeling. The animalistic connection between them was laying the groundwork for something even deeper and more meaningful, she could feel it. And maybe she was afraid of that. Maybe she felt she didn’t deserve it. That she should punish herself for wanting something that made her feel so good, when she wasn’t a good person. She’d done things she couldn’t ever undo. She’d hurt people. Killed them. Why did she deserve happiness after everything she’d done?
Maybe that was one of the reasons why being with Logan was so appealing. He understood. He’d done things. A low growl of caution filled her head as flashes of past violence flashed through her mind. Wolverine was uneasy, on edge as the memories filtered through her. He didn’t want her seeing those things. Didn’t want her to leave him because of them.
No, she said in response. I understand.
And it appeared to be all the reassurance Wolverine needed. She felt him sinking back into the recesses of her mind, a contented watchfulness emanating from him.
It was then, with another defeated sigh, that she came to her decision. Which was not to decide. Not now. Not yet. It was too hard, and she didn’t know the actual extent of her options anyway. Rift was alive. For now, that would have to be enough.
After a quick shower, Rogue decided she did know one thing. She didn’t want to waste another minute brooding alone in her room and resolved to getting back into a routine and resuming training. She steeled herself for a confrontation with Logan, as well as her first encounter with the rest of the team since the failed mission almost two weeks ago. Rogue felt a blush bloom in her cheeks as she realized that ever since she kissed Logan on the balcony almost three days ago, she hadn’t seen anyone but him, and the professor for a brief stint last night.
Did they know? The thought flitted across her consciousness briefly as she imagined seeing Kitty again for the first time, and a grunt of amusement from Wolverine followed.
They’d be the stupidest buncha people that existed if they didn’t know.
Rogue let out a snort of laughter as she pulled on her training clothes. Kitty would make some sort of ridiculous joke to let her know she approved of her actions, and then would beam with happiness after she realized what Rogue had been up to for the past several days.
Only thing was, how would the rest of the team react to their fight? She didn’t know if the others knew about what had happened between her and Logan other night. But if they had any brains, or ears, they were likely to have noticed.
It doesn’t matter, she told herself. You’re gonna have to deal with some uncomfortable stuff if you want to enjoy your time with him.
She glanced at a clock as she laced up her shoes and swore. It was just a few minutes before ten o’clock. She was going to have to hustle if she wanted to grab a quick bite and be on time for training. Logan didn’t hold class for anyone, and even with the change in their physical relationship, she was sure she would be no exception.
He had a rigid attitude toward rules and order when it came to running his training sessions. You didn’t like his approach to sparring? Tough shit. You dealt with it, or you left. Rogue could only assume this hardened attitude was a result of what had happened in this world. The attacks on mutants, the incalculable cost of pain and loss they had endured. Logan hadn’t always been so dedicated to the X-Men. She’d seen it in those flashes of memory. He’d disappear for months, sometimes years at a time after he’d first met her doppleganger. Always searching for his past. Always running from or to something. It wasn’t until the world started to go to shit that he’d settled back at the mansion. Wanting to keep safe the things that really mattered to him.
She flew down the stairs, and headed into the kitchen. Just as she thought, the place was deserted. And though the scent of fresh coffee still hung in the air, a quick glance at the pot told her she’d arrived too late to enjoy some pre-training caffeine. Instead, she resigned herself to a glass of orange juice and a banana, which she quickly scarfed down as she hurried down the basement stairs to the training room.
The sparring session was already in full swing, though she couldn’t have been more than five minutes late. Logan’s back was to the stairs as she came down, but she had no doubt he knew she was there. The subtle tensing of his shoulders was all the information she needed to know that he was aware of her presence.
The team was split into two groups. Half of the team was pounding out miles on the treadmill, while the other half practiced sparring on the mats at the far end of the gym. Logan was drilling the sparring group, who were split into pairs practicing escaping choke holds.
Unsure of what she should do, Rogue squared her shoulders and strode over to Logan.
“Yer late,” was his surly greeting as she stood next to him watching the pairs squaring off in front of her. Kitty caught her eye and frowned slightly, which didn’t give Rogue the confidence boost she’d been hoping for.
“Yeah,” she said in response. “Sorry.” She glance up at him and saw his jaw was clenched, the muscles working as he kept his gaze on the work in front of him. Her stomach was in knots, and it wasn’t because of the hastily downed glass of juice. She didn’t like that he was upset with her. Didn’t want this awkward awareness to continue any longer. Not that she knew what his touch felt like. She wondered briefly if she’d get to pair up with him. Have him run his hands over her body as she tried to work her way out of his hold. Truthfully, she wasn’t going to be trying very hard if that was what happened. Maybe she’d try to work him up so that he kicked everyone else out of the gym and she could show him how sorry she was for walking out on him the other night.
Before her thoughts could get too carried away however, he barked out an order at her.
“Get on the treadmills and see if ya can catch up. Ten miles.” He folded his muscled arms across his chest and didn’t turn her way. The rejection had her feeling as though she’d been plunged into a pool of ice water.
A low growling filled her head and she felt the anger of Wolverine leeching through her. He didn’t like how Logan was acting. Didn’t like how he was treatin’ her.
She turned away quickly though. Rogue wouldn’t let Logan or the others see how his words had affected her. Maybe he’d decided he couldn’t risk getting in any deeper with her. Maybe he was gonna end it.
She sucked in a breath as a deep pain lanced through her at the thought.
Rogue hopped on the treadmill and after a brief warm up, increased her speed to a run. Her thoughts turned dark as she continued to run, mile after mile, her legs burning with her efforts, lungs working hard to keep up with the punishing pace she set for herself.
It wasn’t long before she’d caught up with and then outpaced the others on the treadmill, Scott included. He looked over at her, as he finished a few minutes later, the expression on his face unreadable. His reaction was another indicator that whatever had happened between her and Logan was definitely public knowledge. But it wasn’t causing the reaction she’d hoped for. She’d thought their relationship would have at minimum caused some sort of deeper acceptance of her among the team. But the tension she was picking up on had her doubting her place here. Doubting her choice to be with Logan.
Sweat was pouring from her as she gradually slowed her pace to a walk and recovered her breath. By the time she’d stepped off the treadmill and done some deep stretching, Logan had announced it was time for the groups to switch.
Good, she thought. She hated running after sparring. It was too difficult to push herself into long distances after a brutal strength training session.
Looking around at the group heading over to the mats, Rogue felt her spirits lift a little again. They had an odd number of people, so she would have to pair up with Logan if he wanted them to drill in pairs like he normally did.
She wiped the sweat from her brow as she took a minute to grab some water before moving over to stand next to Scott. She’d been aware of Logan the entire time on the treadmill, wondering if he was watching her while instructing the others. She’d felt him. Standing behind and to her right just out of her sight. Now he stood in front of them, arms still crossed at his chest, feet planted in a rigid stance, and Rogue was so caught up in the urge to touch him, that she missed the first part of their drill instructions.
“…and then move to the BOBs for ten rounds of ten burpees and twenty hook combos.”
Rogue glanced over to the BOBs at the far corner of the underground gym and noticed one was missing, the place where it had been marked by four bolt holes in ripped concrete. She turned back to face the others in her group and noticed that everyone was avoiding eye contact with her. Especially Logan. She felt the start of angry tears forming at the corners of her eyes and clenched her fists together. The reaction and rejection from those who she’d started to consider her friends hurt more than she’d thought it would, and for a moment she seriously considered walking away right then and there. Stealing a car, and driving south toward New York. Toward Washington. She’d find Rift eventually, and if she left now, she wouldn’t be hurting anyone further.
The voice startled her out of her thoughts and she realized that everyone had paired off and was beginning their choke hold drills. Her eyes flew around the room to locate Logan. He was back over by the treadmills, barking out less than motivating comments to the other half of the team. He hadn’t moved to pair up with her. He’d left without so much as a word to her. She felt utterly alone.
“Rogue, come on. Pair up with me and Jean. We can take turns with the drills.”
It was Scott. He was being nice to her. And she couldn’t stand it. Couldn’t stand the calm tone of understanding that was in his voice. But she wasn’t about to let anyone see what she was feeling. What she was dealing with inside. She’d go through the motions, do the drills, take her second shower of the day, and figure out her next move. The earlier excitement she’d felt at the prospect of making up with Logan had vanished. Now she just felt cold. And empty.
She found herself nodding automatically as she moved to join Scott and Jean. The moves were easy now. Second nature. She’d learned a lot with her training since arriving in this world, in addition to having the instincts and knowledge of Wolverine at her disposal. He offered them up easily if she found herself unsure of how to move next, but even that left her feeling hollow. The Wolverine in her head cared about her. Wanted her safe. The one in front of her didn’t seem to want anything to do with her. She moved from one exercise to the next, taking turns escaping holds and blocking hits. And before she knew it, Logan was growling out that training was over and to get out.
Rogue found herself trailing behind the other women on their way to the locker room. There wasn’t any of the normal banter or chatter. The atmosphere was hushed and expectant. Like everyone was waiting for someone to throw the first punch. Against her will, Rogue searched out Logan and found him leaning against the wall which had once been occupied by the now missing BOB. His jaw clenched as she caught his eye and she turned away before he could see her reaction to that single telling gesture. She stiffened her spine and kept her pace with the others. It seemed as though her decision was getting easier by the minute.
Heading automatically to her locker, she kicked off her shoes and grabbed the small caddy containing her own shampoo and conditioner. She kept her head down as she threw her sweaty clothes into the hamper, trying to get through the next few minutes without looking anybody in the eye.
It was Kitty this time. Her voice was quiet and Rogue’s feeling of discomfort grew as the rest of the women disappeared toward the showers.
“I think we should talk.”
She didn’t need for anyone to tell her what was going on. It had become crystal clear to her over the past few hours. Her presence was only making the situation here worse. And at this point, Kitty explaining this to her was entirely unnecessary. “It’s fine, Kitty. I get it.” She grabbed a clean towel from the stack by the sink and turned toward the showers.
“No. You don’t.” The sudden vehemence in Kitty’s normally easygoing voice had Rogue stopping in her tracks. Was it possible she’d missed some undercurrent? Something else that’d happened since she’d been out of commission?
Kitty sat down on the bench opposite from Rogue and motioned that she should do the same. Wrapping the towel tightly around herself, Rogue hesitated before conceding. If Kitty wanted to talk, she’d listen to what it was she had to say. It wasn’t likely to change her mind though. At this thought, Wolverine let out a low growl of disapproval. He didn’t like any of this. Her thoughts. Her teammates reactions. Logan’s attitude. None of it.
Kitty let out a shaky sigh and moved up her hands to remove the elastic hair tie that held her hair in a high ponytail. “I know what’s going on between you and Logan.”
Rogue merely raised her eyebrows at this. This wasn’t news to her. Everyone knew. Their reactions during today’s training had told her that much.
Kitty saw her reaction and frowned. “No, hear me out. I know, everyone knows, that you and him, erm…got physical. We uh, heard you.”
“Jesus,” Rogue muttered, feeling the warmth of embarrassment flood her face. She thought back over some of her more vocal moments from a few nights ago and cringed as she realized the team had heard them.
“Yeah. Didn’t leave much to the imagination.” She paused and looked at Rogue. “But I’m not sure you understand what you’re doing. To Logan. Not…with the other thing. You sounded like you knew what you were doing-”
“Kitty,” Rogue interrupted. “Please. Get to the point.”
“Right. Sorry. When Rogue died, our Rogue died,”
There it was again. Something that told her she didn’t belong. She wasn’t their Rogue.
Kitty continued without noticing how those words had hurt her, “Logan, he couldn’t deal with it. He stuck around for a little bit, but in the end he took off. Left us and disappeared.”
Rogue remembered Charles saying something similar to her several months ago, that Logan hadn’t been safe anymore. He’d been so lost in his grief that he couldn’t control the animal, so he left before he hurt someone. Guilt was creeping in now to join the cold aloofness she’d started to embrace.
“It sucked. Losing Rogue. Losing Jubilee. Losing our freedom and our home. And we lost Logan too.”
Kitty looked her right in the eye and Rogue noticed the remnants of her pain shining through. The guilt inside Rogue intensified as she really thought about what Kitty and the others had endured. Their lives hadn’t been easy. They’d lost everything. She sometimes forgot that this world was all they’d ever known. They hadn’t had the luxury of a life without the MRA, or without the Friends of Humanity coming into power.
“It took a long time for him to come back. And when he did, he wasn’t the same. He was tougher. Harder. And then you showed up and everything changed again.”
Rogue’s breath caught in her throat and she had to look away from Kitty. She uncrossed and recrossed her legs on the bench, the feeling of anxiousness growing.
Kitty was combing out her hair with her fingers as she continued. “He started to, I dunno, act like his old self sometimes. He was a little less of a dick in training, and I swear I saw him smile once. But the thing is Rogue, we’re worried about him. If you leave, we’re worried he’s gonna be hurt again and that this time he won’t be able to recover. And he’s not the only one.”
Rogue was startled to see tears in the corner of Kitty’s eyes.
“God, Rogue. Having you here…it’s like you never left. It’s been like having my best friend back. And I don’t want you to go either.”
She swallowed hard, forcing back her own tears now. She was causing everyone so much pain.
“I’m not trying to tell you what to do, Rogue. I just, I dunno, needed you to know that the thought of you ever leaving sucks for everyone.”
Rogue nodded and stood up. From Kitty’s words, it didn’t seem as though she and the others knew about Rift. No, it seemed more that they were worried about what would happen if Rogue did leave. If she was reading between the lines, if she stayed then presumably they would all be okay, because she wouldn’t be leaving a hole in the team again. But if she left now, then maybe it wouldn’t get any worse for anyone. They were already closing themselves off, trying to protect themselves. She saw what they were trying to do, and she didn’t blame them. She’d probably do the same thing in their position. Cut yourself off, protect yourself.
“I understand,” she said to Kitty. “I’ll think about it.” But she knew she didn’t have anymore thinking to do. She strode over to the showers and twisted the handle letting the water come to a scalding temperature.
She knew what she was going to do.
Don’t shoot me. “Angst” is in the categories for this story…But seriously. Thank you to everyone for your comments and love on this story. I'm really in the groove right now and think I'll be able to push out another few chapters relatively quickly, which means more shippery goodness soon.
I must thank @englishmajor226 too for her lovely and thoughtful beta work on this. Make sure you've read her work. You won't be sorry.
Until next time, cheers!
Over the next two weeks, training continued much as it had on Rogue’s first day back. The remainder of the X-Men kept a polite but distant attitude toward her. And Rogue didn’t know if that, or Logan’s reaction, or lack thereof, was worse.
The low growling filled her head before she could stop it.
His is worse. He’s bein’ an ass. Should shove his pride and grab ya and make sure ya never leave again.
While Rogue certainly couldn’t disagree with Wolverine, she also couldn’t blame Logan for his attitude. He didn’t speak to her, either in training, or otherwise, and he went out of his way to avoid her, which sent her a clear message. He wasn’t interested in pursuing anything else with her. He needed to protect himself. Protect the others. And that meant not getting too involved in something that was only temporary.
What she did know was that she’d come to her final decision. She would have to leave. She didn’t want to be the cause of anymore pain, and if Logan wasn’t going to risk something else with her, then she wasn’t going to force him into it. Her decision was based on a realization. If Logan didn’t want her, she couldn’t be around him. Now that she knew what being with Logan was like, how he made her feel, she didn’t want to face this world without it.
She’d been forming her plans, late at night when most of the other members of the team were sleeping. She knew she wasn’t the only one awake during those late nights, and while a part of her was dying to seek out Logan and make him say something, anything to her, the other part of her knew it was for the best.
Cut off contact. Leave before you hurt anyone else.
Rogue didn’t know if her decision was obvious or if Kitty and the others were merely waiting for her to make an announcement saying, “Sorry to screw you all over and bring back a load of painful memories, but I gotta go. It’s been real,” but that wasn’t her style. No. The sneaking out in the middle of the night. That was her. Taking the easy way out.
She sighed as she rolled over in her bed, unfolding the worn map she’d found in Charles office three days ago. She’d felt ridiculous. Sneaking into his office when he was sleeping for information on their whereabouts.
“So where are we, anyway?”
She snorted at the unbidden memory of that first night on the balcony came flooding back. Canada was a big fucking place, and the knowledge that she was here didn’t exactly help her figure out how to get from Canada to New York.
It wasn’t until yesterday when Bobby and Kitty had come back from a grocery run that Rogue had been able to figure out exactly where they were. She was tired of walking around the house, having nothing to do between their daily training sessions and dinner, so she’d volunteered to put the food away. Bobby had looked relieved as he handed over the bags without question. She hadn’t been actively trying to look for her exact location just then, but as she emptied the last bag, there it was. The receipt from the store. Besides showing Rogue exactly how many dozens of eggs, packages of bacon, and six-packs of Molsons they’d come back with, it also provided her with the name of the store where they’d made their purchases, including an address.
Rogue had crumpled the receipt in her hand and shoved it in her back pocket before anyone spotted her. She wasn’t a prisoner. She wasn’t being forced to stay here. But she didn’t want to think about how someone would react if they knew she was actively planning on disappearing. She was guessing almost anyone on the team would try to dissuade her from being impulsive and leaving. Try to tell her that she didn’t know what she was doing, that she didn’t know enough about this world. But that wouldn’t work on her anymore. She wasn’t that same helpless person that had arrived here nearly four months ago.
On the other hand, she knew that if Logan discovered her plans, he’d react one of two ways. Either he’d blow up at her and force her to stay. Or worse; he wouldn’t say anything at all. Based on his behavior over the last week, Rogue had no trouble believing it would be the latter.
The receipt for the M&M Food Market told her that they were close to Hinton, Alberta. It took her ages to find it on the paper map. Her fingers had itched for the swift results from a computer, but this would have to do. Finally, she found it; a small town northwest of Calgary. Once she’d realized how far west she was, she’d thrown the map across the room in a fit of frustration. How the hell was she going to make it from Alberta to New York?
From what she knew about the current political state, Canada was much more tolerant and accepting of mutants than her home country. And if that was the case, she’d be better off driving as far east as she could manage until having to cross over into New York. Navigating the border would be dangerous. Kitty had mentioned the patrols at the border crossings so she’d have to cross over illegally. She didn’t have a passport, Canadian or otherwise, so she’d have to sneak across.
After she retrieved the map and smoothed it out across her bed, her finger traced the line of the Yellowhead Highway right across the map until she reached Winnipeg, after which she moved across to the Trans-Canada Highway. It wouldn’t be until she reached Ottawa that she thought she should cross over into the United States.
The motions of her hand reminded her briefly of the time spent in her bedroom with David as she planned out the route she’d take to Anchorage. She closed her eyes tightly against the sudden wave of homesickness. That was another life. A different world. One that she would hopefully make her way back to soon.
She’d need food too, or money to buy it. It was likely a three or four day drive to the border, depending on how often she had to stop. She’d have to eat and rest as she went. It wasn’t going to be an easy trip, and she had to prepare for it, all without arousing any suspicion. She wondered what would cause less notice; stealing food or trying to get her hands on some money.
As she folded up the map, she started thinking about the next obstacle in her path; getting a car. She didn’t think she’d have too much difficulty in taking one of the cars in the small garage adjacent to the house, but she’d have to ditch it and hotwire another as soon as she could. She had a feeling that both Scott and Logan would want to be able to track any of their vehicles at any time. Which also meant she was going to look at leaving in the middle of the night. She’d give herself as much of a head start as possible. Not that they’d come looking for her. She’d leave a note, and that would be that.
The next morning Rogue ate her breakfast in silence with the rest of the team and made sure she was the last one downstairs. Logan was already there, looking at the watch strapped to his wrist. Rogue knew they weren’t late, but he seemed upset with them all the same, if the ever present scowl on his face was any indication. She followed her normal routine and avoided looking at him any longer than was strictly necessary, and she’d stopped trying to make eye contact. Her insides ached whenever she was around him, she missed his touch and his company, and looking at him only made it worse.
Today was no different. She stood behind the others, letting their bodies shield her for the most part while Logan briefed them on their training instructions for the day. But before Logan could bark out exactly how many miles they would be running, the Professor had shown up and all talk of their morning drills vanished.
“Training is going to have to wait, I’m afraid.”
Rogue’s stomach dropped out from under her as Charles began to speak.
“After months of searching, I regret that I must confirm the rumor regarding the bioweapon the Friends of Humanity have been developing.”
A low rumble came from the direction of Logan’s chest, and Rogue felt herself shivering as she remembered the last time Charles had sent them in pursuit of information about this weapon.
But she didn’t have to verbalize anything regarding her skepticism about Charles’ announcement. Logan said it for her.
“You sure about this, Chuck?”
Charles nodded. “Yes, Logan. I have multiple confirmed, trusted,” Rogue didn’t miss the minor emphasis he put on the word trusted as Charles raised one eyebrow in Logan’s direction, “reports that the weapon is nearing completion. My sources also indicate the current United States government has plans to execute a strategy which involves widespread dispersement. I fully admit that the last mission I sent you on I did not take the time to confirm the rumors that had reached me.”
It seemed as though Charles was offering an apology for what had happened to Rogue. And in a roundabout way, she wasn’t upset at this revelation. He hadn’t taken the time to confirm whisperings of a weapon that had the potential to wipe out mutant kind, and after what the Friends of Humanity had managed to accomplish here, she couldn’t blame him for his impulsive decision. He’d done what he thought was best to protect the rest of mutants, and her being taken had been an unfortunate consequence of a failed mission. Yes, she’d endured pain. She’d suffered. But it had also led to a few of the most fulfilling days of her life with Logan. She’d felt comfortable in her own skin. She’d felt wanted and whole. And she would never blame Charles for that, no matter what her relationship with Logan was like now.
As Charles continued, Rogue’s thoughts couldn’t help but stray to her own plans for escape. She couldn’t help but think what an opportunity this would be for her. The X-Men would be planning a covert breach of the Friends of Humanity’s lab in Washington. Rogue would be in the enemy’s territory, searching for the weapon, and would potentially be able to search for Rift at the same time. And if she didn’t find him in D.C., she would at least be close enough to where he was likely to be, that she could just sneak off, leave the rest of the team -
Her thoughts were cut off by the sudden awareness that Rift wasn’t just a topic for discussion in her head.
“…planning on using Rift to open a portal. And disperse the weapon.”
“Jesus,” Scott said under his breath. “A portal to which world?”
Rogue felt her face heat as the attention shifted toward her. This was the last thing she wanted. For her to be front and center of attention while she’d been thinking of abandoning them. She couldn’t help but shift her balance so that she could see past the shoulders of Piotr and Scott to catch a glance at Logan. His eyes were locked with hers, a flare of gold in his normally hazel eyes, and she knew that he was using all of his strength to leash the emotions of Wolverine. She could see it. He was furious. Pissed. The one thing he’d never wanted to happen, was unfolding right in front of him. His fists were clenching reflexively while his arms were crossed at his chest. She looked away, ashamed. She’d done this to him. She was the cause of his anger, his grief.
“A portal to as many worlds as they make him open,” Charles said. “Their intent is to wipe out mutants. All mutants. Everywhere.”
A stunned silence rang out as the realization of the Friends of Humanity plans hit home. They were planning a mass genocide. They had Rift. They knew what he was capable of. And the hypocrites were planning on using his powers to achieve their goal.
“However,” Charles continued after a moment. “There is one final piece of this puzzle which I have not been able to confirm.”
Dread was settling in Rogue’s stomach as she waited for his next words. She shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, unable to stay still.
“I have not been able to discern if the Friends of Humanity actually have Rift, or if they are actively looking for him. At this point, the state of the weapon as I understand it, is that all research and testing has been completed, and production has begun. It may only be a matter of days before they execute their plans. With or without Rift.”
Rogue shuddered at the thought of the F.O.H testing the weapon. If testing was over, that meant they’d been able to confirm what it would do; target the X-gene and cause a slow and excruciating death for any being unlucky enough to have been born a mutant.
“We must stop them. Our lives, and our world, are not the only ones at stake.”
The next several hours passed in a blur of planning and preparation. Scott had immediately formed the teams that would infiltrate the lab late tonight. When Rogue had been told she was to be paired up with Kitty, and that Logan would be moving through the lab solo, she felt both disappointment and relief. She knew that it wouldn’t be smart for her to be paired up with Logan. Not when he could barely stand to look at her. No. She would just be a distraction. It was better that she would be teaming up with Kitty. Easier. Shaking Kitty would be a hell of a lot easier than getting Logan off her tail.
Though she felt conflicted about the circumstances that were leading her here, she’d be stupid if she didn’t recognize the opportunity in front of her. This was going to be her moment, her chance to make a break for it. Back to her life, her friends, her world. Even if the Friends of Humanity didn’t have possession of Rift, she’d still be close enough to branch out on her own and search for him.
Rogue finished zipping her her uniform and stepped into her combat boots. Kitty had insisted that Rogue get her own uniform and pair of boots a few weeks ago, just days after she’d pulled her aside and explained to Rogue about Logan. Though Kitty stated her reasons were strictly, “So that your boobs actually fit inside the damn thing and Logan will stop growling whenever he catches sight of you while we do drills in our uniforms.” Kitty had also murmured a quiet, “You know, just in case,” when Rogue had finally conceded.
Shoving down the small fluttering in her stomach as she thought of the last mission she’d gone on, she headed out to join the rest of the team who were already assembled on the jet. As she strode onto the jetway, her boots clanging loudly on the cold metal, Scott started the take-off sequence and the ramp closed behind her as the engines of the Blackbird started its familiar whine. Rogue caught sight of Charles through the front window as they rose into the air, his right hand raised in farewell.
Rogue made her way to the open seat at the back then, as far away from Logan as she could get. She found herself next to Ellie, who was appraising Rogue out of the corner of her eye.
“You ready for this?” She said, her voice charged with excitement.
Rogue swallowed hard as her head jerked in a nervous nod. Was she? She hadn’t been able to take anything obvious with her. The map she’d taken from Charles’ office was carefully folded on top of a pile of non-perishable food items she’d been carefully hiding in the back of her closet. But now she wouldn’t need them. Not if the jet would be crossing over the border into the United States.
Charles had said the lab was located in the former Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, not at Georgetown like they’d previously been led to believe. The museum, closed to the public since the Friends of Humanity-led coup d’etat, not only had the tools they needed to develop and test the weapon, but also secure vaults in which they could house their research. Secure vaults in which, Rogue thought with a shudder, they could imprison mutants for the purposes of testing their weapons.
The already violet sky continued to darken as they headed southeast. Rogue felt her apprehension rising as Scott went over the plan again They would move in on the lab late tonight, when security personnel patrolling the lab was at its thinnest. Kitty would take care of security, both the external and the individual vaults on the ground and second floor. Storm, Colossus, Iceman and Ellie would be maintaining the secure perimeter. Cyclops, Phoenix, and Wolverine would be covering the east and west labs on the ground floor, while Shadowcat and Rogue would be heading to the second floor research areas. Security would be lighter at night, but they still expected armed guards on every floor.
Rogue forced herself to keep her eyes focused on the seat in front of her, rather than the forbidding sight of Wolverine in his black leather uniform. His face had been frozen in a scowl, ever since Charles had informed them of the news. No, she thought suddenly. Strike that. It had been frozen in a scowl ever since their fight a few weeks ago. She remembered admiring the bunched muscles of his thighs when they drilled in their uniforms, and the clenching of his jaw when he’d caught her looking at him. She closed her eyes in resignation. She’d made her choice, and it wouldn’t be long before he didn’t have to deal with her presence anymore.
The jet began its descent, and Rogue was startled to realize they had arrived. The front window of the Blackbird showed a clear dark sky, with no clouds in sight. The Washington of this world wasn’t illuminated by nearly as many streetlights or traffic lights, resulting in a brilliant display of stars. But even as she stared upward at the unusual sight, Storm had begun to provide a bit of ground cover.
Rather than land directly on the National Mall, Scott was putting them down on the southern tip of East Potomac Park. They’d make their way to the museum on foot, less likely to draw attention to themselves than if a huge black military jet landed just outside the White House lawn.
The entire team disembarked and silently trekked toward the museum, Rogue’s breath coming slow and deep as she tried to keep her nerves under control. She and Kitty hung toward the back of the group, the others leading the way toward the museum. The fog provided by Storm was heavy enough to hide Logan from her sight, since he was leading the team forward, ensuring the way ahead was clear. A few minutes later she heard someone just beyond their group, the sound of a gun being cocked, and then the quiet song of metal being unsheathed. As she continued forward, she stepped over the armed guard, three neat dark, wet holes in his chest. She swallowed hard and hurried to catch up.
Rather than head up the steps to the main entrance to the museum, the entire team moved up the west side of the building. The first of two labs on the ground floor could be accessed from the outside. Rather, it could be accessed from the outside by someone with the appropriate credentials, or Kitty.
Rogue, Scott, Jean, and Logan all waited against the side of the cold stone wall while the others moved to establish the perimeter around the building. Kitty was working at the black keypad, having lifted the regular panel up and connecting some sort of contraption to the now exposed wires.
Several minutes passed in tense silence. Not a single word was spoken as they waited for the steady red light of the keypad to turn green. Rogue glanced at Logan who was keeping watch at the corner of the building. He hadn’t so much as looked at her since Charles had informed them of the news. That was hours ago. Even though his constant rejection of her was like a dull blade in her side, she clung to the idea that she was making the right decision. She didn’t belong here, and soon, she’d be gone.
“Shadowcat,” Cyclops said in a low voice. “Where are we at with this door? We’re going to get noticed soon, fog or no fog.”
“I know, I know. It’s being -” she grunted as she ripped off the back cover which revealed a second set of complicating wires. “-Difficult.” She sighed as she examined the configuration. “Just need a few more minutes.”
“We ain’t got minutes,” Wolverine growled out as he closed in on their position. “I can hear someone comin’. Need ta get inside. Now.”
“Kitty,” Rogue urged in a harsh whisper. She noted the beads of sweat beginning to form on her friend’s forehead and knew that if this were her Kitty, she’d need a little encouragement right about now. “You can do this.”
Kitty’s face was screwed up as she continued working on the key pad, until finally, she let out a sigh of relief when the light blinked green and the door lock clicked loudly.
“Inside,” Scott said unnecessarily as Kitty pushed the door open.
Rogue managed to avoid brushing up against Logan as she slid inside the room behind Jean.
“Keep alert. Keep quiet. Keep your comms on, but maintain radio silence unless you find the weapon, or you’re in trouble,” Scott added as almost an afterthought.
Kitty eased the door shut behind them and Rogue took in the vast room they’d entered. This was more like it, she thought. White walls, stainless steel tables, sets of microscopes, spectrometers, vials and other lab equipment littered the surfaces, with several computer monitors scattered about on the far north wall.
“You two,” Scott said as he motioned toward her and Kitty, “You’ve got the labs on the second floor. Stairwell is outside this lab and northwest of here, at the top center of the building. The security system disabled, Shadowcat?”
Kitty nodded, “Yeah. It’s disabled, but each individual vault and lab will have additional access panels. Here,” she said as she handed Scott a second set of the equipment she’d used to disable the exterior access. “This should override the access for the doors. Just pull back the key pad and connect this to the wire port on top.”
“Should?” The one word grunt from Logan came too close to Rogue’s ear for her comfort and she shivered.
“Yeah,” Kitty replied tightly. “Should.”
“You two,” Scott jerked his head toward her and Kitty, “Get going. But stay alert, there will still be guards patrolling,” he said tightly.
Kitty grabbed Rogue’s arm as she led her toward the lab exit and the stairwell that would take them up to the second floor. Rogue couldn’t help but take one last look at her friends, knowing that she likely wouldn’t see them again. Not in this world anyway. Scott and Jean were already searching the lab tables pouring through files and storage lockers.
But Logan. Logan had immediately stalked to the far side of the room and announced, “I’m takin’ the west lab,” before walking through the door marked with the exit sign. She let out a huff of air as he disappeared. That was that. Hardly the goodbye she wanted. But maybe it was the goodbye she needed.
She and Kitty listened for the shuffling of guards’ footsteps as they exited the lab, but hearing nothing, slowly and quietly made their way across the ground level of the former museum. The enormous African elephant who had stood sentinel in the museum’s rotunda was gone, replaced with an image that forced a chill down Rogue’s back.
“Kitty,” she whispered, trying to prevent herself from panicking. “What is that?” She asked pointing to the display that caused her knees to want to buckle.
Kitty frowned as she looked back at Rogue. “It’s their sign. The F.O.H. It’s been put up in all government-run buildings and schools since they adopted the Church of Humanity as their official religion. Creepy, right?”
Rogue could only nod as they passed the huge wooden cross with the words, “In God’s Image” carved out at the bottom. Also at the base of the cross were the mutilated bodies of what could only be mutants, agony and pain etched into their features.
“Hell,” Rogue muttered as they hurried past.
A growl of disgust echoed in her mind as she looked back at the cross. You don’t like it either? She asked Wolverine.
Then that makes two of us.
They made their way toward the north end of the building, only hiding once while an armed guard patrolled past the T-Rex skull. Once the guard had disappeared back toward the rotunda, they entered the stairwell and headed up the two flights of stairs. The building’s second floor labs were also on the northwest side of the building, meaning they were unlikely to encounter any additional security. But to be safe, Kitty partially phased through the stairwell door, checking that the way through was unencumbered.
“We’re clear,” Kitty whispered as she phased back inside and pressed the bar opening the door to the upper floor. “The door to the lab should be up on the left.”
Rogue moved quietly toward the red glowing light of a keypad she could make out in the darkness. The museum lights were dimmed for the night, but weren’t so dark as to inhibit their eyesight.
“How are we on time?” Kitty asked as she began to remove the keypad panel.
Rogue checked the watch on her left wrist. “We’re twelve minutes in.”
“Crap,” Kitty said muttered. “We’re a little behind.”
“I know,” Rogue answered. “But we’ll make up the time just as soon as you get us into this lab.”
Kitty snorted under her breath as she continued to work at the key panel. Rogue checked the hallway behind them, making sure they were still undetected and after another few seconds she heard the click of the lock disengaging.
“Yes! Got you, you tricky bastard.”
Rogue smiled as she followed Kitty into the lab area, but felt that moment fade quickly as she took in the size of the room. It was much larger than the ground floor lab, taking up more than twice the amount of space. The stainless steel tables here were lined up in neat rows, with vials and petri dishes littering the surfaces in tidy stacks. Rolling chairs were lined up on either side of the tables, and Rogue let out a slow breath.
“Shit,” she muttered. “This looks like production.”
Kitty nodded and started toward the end of the line closest to the door. “Yeah. Not good. I’m gonna check for any samples on this line. You check those lines over there, yeah?”
Rogue stalked toward the far end of the room where an additional three sets of production lines were set up. She found what looked like a partially finished product in one vial holder, but unlucky for them, the lab techs hadn’t had the courtesy to label the containers with anything resembling a “X-Men Look No Further, Killer Mutant Weapon Inside,” label. Still, she capped the sample carefully and added it to the pouch in her belt. If nothing else, they should take something back with them to analyze.
Back with who? Thought you were leavin ’.
The sudden thought from Wolverine made Rogue jerk, and she nearly dropped the vial. He had a point. She wouldn’t be going back with them. And she sure as hell didn’t want to take anything like this back with her if she were to eventually find Rift. Fingers frozen on the clasp of the pouch, she let out a deep breath as she removed her hand. She could always ditch it later. Tucking back a loose strand of hair behind her ear, she continued to look over the tables for any further evidence of a finished product.
When she reached the end of the three lines, no further useful items identified, she froze as she caught sight of a door on the west wall marked by a red sign that read “Staff Access Only.” She frowned as she poured over the image of the museum’s map in her mind’s eye. She didn’t remember seeing anything like this on the map. Maybe there were more production lines, or storage, behind the door.
“I got nothin’,” Kitty’s voice echoed in the large room.
“Kitty,” Rogue called out. “I think I might have something here.”
Kitty hustled over to join her by the door and let out a slow whistle. “Shit. This wasn’t on the maps. Want to take a look inside?”
“Absolutely,” Rogue grinned in response.
Kitty flipped open the key panel and got to work on unlocking the door. Before long, the now familiar click of the lock sounded in the room and they were heading inside. The air behind this door was stale and still. Like nobody had been back there for a few days. The hallway revealed another set of stairs that twisted around back up and to the east side of the building. Rogue felt her stomach clench suddenly. Something wasn’t right here. This wasn’t supposed to be here.
“You still want to keep going?” Kitty asked as she looked at her. “We could always call Cyke or Log-”
“No,” she interrupted. “Let’s go.” And she stormed ahead past Kitty and up the stairs.
As it turned out, there was only a half-set of stairs which led to another hallway, with yet another door and keypad illuminated with a red light. Rogue was about to stride forward when Kitty grabbed her arm and wrenched her back, silently gesturing to the guard who had just rounded the corner ahead of them. Adrenaline surged through Rogue as she and Kitty froze, their backs against the hallway of the curved stairs, unable to move as the guard stalked closer and closer to their position. The only sound was the click of his boots as they echoed in the empty hallway. After several minutes, the sound of his footsteps faded Kitty phased her face through the wall to check that he was gone and she let out a sigh of relief.
“Alright,” Kitty whispered. “We’d better hurry if we’re going to make inside before he circles back.”
Rogue nodded and moved silently forward until she had her back to the wall by the next doorway. She clenched her fists at her sides as she strained her ears for any hint of the returning guard and jumped as the sound of a shrill beep issued from the keypad.
“Fuck!” Kitty exclaimed under her breath.
“Come on, Kitty,” Rogue urged in a harsh whisper. The guard they had spotted was due back any second, and maybe sooner if he’d heard the beeping down the hallway.
“I’m trying, Rogue. This one is a bitch.” Kitty said in a hushed reply. The edge of her voice held a note of frustration. The security throughout the building had been tougher to crack than Kitty had anticipated, and they were now significantly behind the mission timetable for searching their floor.
“Finally!” Kitty exclaimed as the light turned green and they burst through the door as quickly and quietly as they could.
The door closed behind them with a quiet hiss and Rogue let out a sigh of frustration. Two more doors. Each one with their own keypad. “We’re running late,” she said as she turned away from the panel. “Want to split up? You take one, I’ll take the other?”
Kitty nodded and moved to unlock each of the doors. “Sounds like a good plan. Just be careful, okay? Let’s meet back here,” Kitty glanced at her own watch and frowned, “No later than five minutes.”
Rogue suppressed the surge of adrenaline she felt even as she nodded to Kitty. This was it. This was her chance. She’d head inside the vault and double back, sneaking away before Kitty could finish her own search. She’d paid careful attention on the way in, memorizing the layout of the hallways behind the former museum, noting the exits. She wouldn’t get another opportunity like this. She could feel it.
After giving Rogue’s arm an encouraging squeeze, Kitty entered the room on the left, the door closing quietly behind her, while Rogue headed into the one on the right.
But suddenly. All the planning she’d done didn’t matter. She felt the air in her lungs seize up as she turned into the unlocked chamber in front of her.
“Who are you?”
A hoarse voice, unused to speech, reached her ears and Rogue froze where she stood. She knew that voice. She knew it from…Shit, shit, shit.
She turned to her right and saw him. Michael McMahon’s pale hands were gripping the bars of the floor to ceiling cage he was held in, his face screwed up in a frown as he looked her up and down.
Rogue swallowed several times to try and clear the sudden dryness in her throat. Was this another trick? Another ruse? Had The Brotherhood somehow managed to infiltrate the lab and plant Mystique posing as Rift? But what purpose would that have served? Rogue didn’t know if Mystique’s abilities included mimicking other mutant’s powers, as well as their appearance.
“I’m…Rogue,” she answered, hesitatingly. She didn’t see a reason to withhold that from him. If he was Rift, telling him certainly couldn’t do any harm. And if it wasn’t Rift, Mystique would know it was her anyway.
“You don’t belong here.” His voice was more steady now, less uncertain.
A shot of adrenaline surged through her at the implication in his words. “Neither do you,” she countered.
“No,” he shook his head. “Not here,” he motioned to the vault. “Here.”
Rogue strode over to the cage, and placed her hands on the bars. “What do you mean?” She noticed an intricate collar circling his neck, a small blinking green light where the ends met.
“Just what I said. You shouldn’t be here. In this world.”
She was taken aback at his words. How did he know that?
“How long have you been in here?” She asked as she examined the cage behind him. There was a cot in the corner with a thin wadded up blanket, and the smell that reached her nose indicated there was a bed pan in there somewhere. A small table that hugged the bars of the cage held a plastic tray with a dried out chunk of bread and partially eaten mealy looking apple.
Rift moved away from the bars and looked back at his cell, trying to straighten the messy blanket over the cot and shoved a metal pot further beneath his bed with his foot. “A few months,” he mumbled as he turned back to face her.
Wolverine didn’t like what he saw or smelled and growled out a few hoarse words. Anger lacing every syllable. Got ‘im caged up like an animal. Ain’t right. Just a kid.
“Jesus, kid. I’m sorry,” Rogue said as she looked for an entry point for the cage door.
He lifted one shoulder, seemingly unconcerned. “They haven’t hurt me. Just made me open a bunch of portals.”
Rogue’s stomach clenched uncomfortably at his words. “Did they…” she cleared her throat and gripped the bars more tightly as she searched his face for an answer she hoped he wouldn’t give. “Did they send anyone through?”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “But they had me go with them. So they could get back.”
“Did they do anything in those other worlds? Did they hurt anyone?” She asked, knowing she had to know the answer. It may be too late for her to return home if the F.O.H. had already been there.
Good, came the low growling in her mind. Then ya can stay here.
God. Maybe I should stay. Maybe my world is gonna end up just like this one and there’s no point -
“Nah,” Rift said as he shook his head, bringing her back to the present. “They just looked around for awhile, took some notes, and then had me take them back.”
A small sliver of relief worked its way through her body. “Let’s try and get you out of here.”
Rift frowned at her, his face scrunched up as he folded his arms and backed away from her. “How do I know if you’re one of the good guys?”
She smiled. The Rift of her world had asked her exactly the same question when she and Remy had gone to his house to speak to his parents about Xavier’s school. She decided to give him the same answer now, that she had then.
“The X-Men are the good guys. And I’m one of them.”
The smile he gave her in response somehow made the feeling of guilt in her stomach grow. She was one of the good guys, sure, but she was leaving the good guys. What did that make her?
“How do you know that?” She asked as she took a closer look at the bars, her mind shifting back to what Rift had said about her not belonging here.
“Know what?” he asked her as he moved to face her on the opposite side of the entrance. “There’s a key pad thing over there,” he pointed one hand through the cage bars to the opposite wall. “When they come in they punch in some numbers to unlock my cell.
“Thanks,” she muttered as she strode over to the familiar black panel. “How do you know,” she continued as she fiddled with removing the panel as she’d seen Kitty do. “That I don’t belong here?”
“I dunno,” he said in a bored tone. “You just look different. Like, an aura or something.”
“Rift?” She asked, uncertain. “Can you send me back? Back to my world?” She stopped pretending to know what she was doing with the panel and turned back to face him.
“I can open a portal,” he responded easily. “But you’d have to find your own way back.”
“What does that mean?” she asked, puzzled by his words. Wasn’t the portal he could open just a doorway back to her world?
“I tried my own portals,” Rift continued. “Before all this. Before I was taken. You’ve gotta think of the portal like a doorway to a hall, a hall with an infinite number of doors. Each of those doors leads to a different reality, a different world. But it’s up to you to pick the one you want.”
“But then how did I end up here? How did I pick this door?”
“I’m not sure.” He paused then, a puzzled look on his face. “Were you thinking of anything when you went through before?”
Rogue struggled to think back to that first painful trip into this world. “I might’ve been thinking how I wanted to go home.”
He nodded as if she’d confirmed something. “You probably ended up here because it’s so close to your home. Things here similar?”
“Yeah. Really close. Just -” She glanced down at her watch, suddenly realizing how long she’d been in here talking to Rift. “Shit. I - I gotta hurry up. Rift. I can’t open the cage without this thing that my teammate has. Can you open a doorway? Here? Kitty, my teammate, will come looking for me any minute, and she’ll be able to get you out.”
“I can’t,” he said sadly as he fingered the metal encircling his neck. “This collar stops me from being able to do it.”
“Come here,” Rogue said as she moved closer to the cage again. “Let me see if I can get it off.”
He moved closer to the bars and craned his neck upward allowing her to examine the connection point.
“Anything I should know about this? Does it go boom when you try to take it off?” she asked as she twisted the collar around.
Rift shrugged again. “Dunno. I’ve been too scared to try. And there’s not exactly anybody else around that I can ask.”
Rogue considered the collar carefully. It might be rigged to explode if anyone attempted to mess with the connection. She couldn’t risk hurting Rift. Not when she was this close to home.
The hushed sound of a gasp had Rogue jerking around to face the entrance of the vault. Kitty stood there, eyes wide as she took in the sight in front of her.
“It was more than five minutes,” Kitty offered lamely after nobody spoke for several tense seconds.
Rogue felt inexplicably guilty as her hands fell from Rift’s collar back to her sides. She didn’t know what to do as Kitty looked from Rift back to her.
“I-” Rogue began unsure of what she was going to say, but Kitty cut her off as she moved forward toward the bars of the cage.
“Uh, yeah?” He didn’t sound so sure as he looked quickly back at Rogue for confirmation that this newcomer was indeed one of the good guys. She smiled reassuringly at him and he seemed to relax slightly.
“Rift, I’m Kitty. Let’s see about getting this collar off of you. Sound good?” She asked winking at him.
He blushed and nodded. “Um. Yeah.”
“Kitty, I’m sorry -” Rogue started feeling the guilt creep up out of her insides again.
But Kitty shook her head. “Rogue, you don’t need to apologize for anything. You found your way home. Let me help you get the rest of the way, yeah?” Her voice was kind and soft and full of understanding, and Rogue felt the sting of tears at the corners of her eyes. She squeezed them shut, wiping away the moisture with impatience.
Never cry on a mission. She wasn’t entirely sure if it was Logan or Wolverine who said that, but she wholeheartedly agreed.
Rift frowned as he tried to look down at what Kitty was doing to the collar at his neck. “Shouldn’t we get me out of here first?”
“In just a few minutes, I promise. We’re just in a bit of a time crunch, buddy. We’ll get her gone, then we’ll get us gone.”
Kitty reached back into the pouch at her belt for a small set of tools, and after a moment of debate chose a small pick.
“It’s not going to blow up, is it?” Rift asked, a note a panic in his voice.
“Nah,” Kitty replied smoothly as she inserted the pick into the connection point. “It would just zap you if you tried to break free.”
Rift’s eyes widened as he bent his head down trying to see Kitty’s hands.
“Relax, kid. I’m not going to let that happen,” she said confidently as a small beep issued from the collar. The green light was extinguished as the metal ring popped open. Kitty helped Rift remove the ends of the collar and she closed it again before looping it through a clasp on her belt. At Rift’s puzzled expression, she said, “We might need it. Besides. Better that we have it rather than the other guys, right?”
He smiled and nodded before turning to Rogue. Butterflies lit through her stomach as she realized what was about to happen. After everything that she’d done, everything she’d experienced over the last several months, she was finally going home.
To what? To that Cajun? To the team that ’s scared of ya?
It’s home. She responded shortly. It’s where I belong.
He didn’t answer her, but Rogue could tell exactly what he thought about her belonging somewhere. And it wasn’t her own world.
Rift spoke up as he looked at her. “You ready to go?” And he lifted his hands in front of him where a brilliant blue beam began to emanate forward, forming a large spinning circle of light. It wasn’t like the sudden wall of energy that had exploded around her last time. This Rift had more control and had clearly done this several times.
She jerked her head in a nod before she could change her mind and turned to say goodbye to Kitty, but was surprised when the breath was nearly knocked out of her by the force of the hug she found herself encased in.
“Say hi to Jubes for me, wouldja?” Kitty whispered into her hair. “God, I miss that firecracker.”
There was no helping it now. Tears streamed freely from her eyes as she hugged Kitty back just as hard. “Of course,” she answered thickly. “Jesus, Kitty. I’m going to miss you. You helped me, you know? Helped me find myself here.”
“Shit,” Kitty said, her own voice thick with tears as she released Rogue from her embrace. “You gotta go, and we’ve got to get out of here.”
Rogue could only nod as she stepped back from her and turned to face the swirling blue portal in front of her. Her heart was beating fast, her hands shaking slightly as she remembered the pain from the past trip.
“Rift,” she called out suddenly. “Any tips to make it hurt less?”
“Yeah,” he answered with a smile. “Don’t fight it so much.”
She let out a huff of air and took another step closer before she remembered the sample in her pouch.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, fingers reaching for the clasp. “Kitty, I forgot. I found this. Might be part of the weapon. I thought you might want to take it back. Maybe Jean can analyze it and find a way to stop it.”
Kitty stepped carefully forward, eyes locked on the portal. She took the sealed vial from Rogue and smiled at her, encouragingly. “We’ve got this, Rogue. It’s okay to go now.”
“Remember,” Rift called out as she moved closer to the light. “Choose the right door!”
Rogue reached forward with one hand, willing herself to breath deeply and calm herself. Her fingers outstretched, she started to take the last step that would propel her forward into the portal, when the door to the vault flew open, banging loudly against the wall behind it. She jerked her hand back from and twisted around to face the entryway. The armed guard they’d seen patrolling earlier had burst through, gun raised, and before she could act, fired two quick rounds aimed toward the cage.
“NO!” she screamed as she saw Rift and Kitty fall to the floor and the portal closed instantly behind her. Rage and grief were ripping through her as she turned to lunge at the guard, heedless of what might happen to her. He’d killed them. Killed them both.
With a roar, she shot forward, not caring if anyone heard her, intent on ripping the gun from his hands and turning it on him. But she wasn’t fast enough. She felt the tear of something sharp at her neck, causing her to collapse immediately to the floor and the room went black.
I’ve got to thank @englishmajor226 for her comments and feedback on this lengthy sucker. It was a beast to write and she went through it several times for me.
Also, I won’t leave you guys hanging for long, the next chapter is progressing nicely! Until then, thank you all so much for the continued love on this story. I am so thankful for the little community we’ve got going on. Cheers!
Logan took another deep sniff and turned east following the combined scents of Rogue and Kitty. They’d been through the east lab on the second floor, but hadn’t come back the way they’d entered.
That way, Wolverine barked out unnecessarily.
Yeah, I got it.
When Rogue and Kitty had missed the scheduled rendezvous with the rest of the team by five minutes, Logan hadn’t wasted any time, but had torn off, scenting the air deeply as he followed their trail up the stairs to the second floor.
“Logan!” Scott had barked out at him before he’d reached the exit. “Maintain covert ops.”
He grumbled a noncommittal reply. What did he care if he came across some guard? They had chosen the wrong side. What was it to him if they wound up on the wrong end of an adamantium claw?
Logan avoided the patrolling guards on the main floor easily. Their footsteps gave away their exact positions and Logan was able to follow Rogue and Kitty’s path without being spotted. He headed past the wooden cross in the rotunda and around the north end of the building. He was gettin’ more and more pissed the longer it took him to find out what had happened to them. He was goddamn sick of goin’ after Rogue, makin’ sure she was okay. Why couldn’t she just stay safe? Stay by his side so that he could protect her?
Then maybe get yer head out of yer ass and tell her ya don’t want her to go. Quit fuckin’ around.
He didn’t have a reply. Instead, he growled as the scents of Rogue and Kitty grew stronger as he continued east through the second floor lab. He stopped suddenly, as the sounds of a distant conversation met his ears followed by the quickening step of boots. The boots could only belong to a larger male, most likely one of the security detail Scott had kept going on about. Logan quickened his pace as he found a door marked by a “Staff Access Only” sign. He grinned as he popped his claws, ignoring the stinging pain, and sliced through the lock. There was a reason that Kitty had only brought two override devices. One for her, one for Scott.
Logan didn’t need one.
He moved quickly and silently through the series of stairs and hallways that had him twisting his way back east and he quickened his pace as he heard the muffled hiss of two gun shots, followed by Rogue’s scream. He wrenched open the door in front of him just in time to see her fall to the floor. He exploded with fury and roared as he plunged both sets of claws through the guard’s back, sliding them up until he punctured through intestines, lungs, and pierced the fucker’s heart. Breathing hard, he retracted the claws and the guard collapsed at his feet while he strained his ears for the sounds of breath. On shaking knees he fell to the cold cement beside her, drawing in a shuddering sigh as he heard the reassuring beat of three distinct sets of heartbeats and the abnormally slow sounds of breathing. Jerking around, he saw Kitty and a teenage boy unconscious behind the cage.
Logan bent forward to pull Rogue up to him. He shook her slightly as he muttered her name. She didn’t respond and was completely limp in his hands, her neck falling backward. It was then that Logan saw it. A bright orange dart protruding from the vulnerable skin. Without stopping to think, he pulled it out and threw it across the room, growling at the sight of the drop of blood that rolled down her neck. He laid her head gently back down and moved over to do the same for Kitty and the kid. But a sudden coughing and groan from the boy had Logan moving to him first. The kid was pushing himself up on shaking arms and groaned again as he put a hand to his head. Logan frowned. How was he coming around so soon? Was it a mild dose of tranquilizer? Or was he a healer? The answer was clear as the kid turned toward him and gasped when he saw Logan. The dart hadn’t been embedded in the kid’s skin like it had Rogue and Kitty. There was a small scratch at his neck, so it looked like he’d only gotten a small amount of the drug that had knocked the other two out.
Logan bent down and pulled the dark from Kitty’s neck too and then turned back to face the boy.
“You okay, kid?” he asked as he knelt down to haul Kitty up over one shoulder
“I-I feel dizzy,” the boy said in a shaking voice.
“Yeah, tranqs’ll do that to ya,” Logan replied as adjusted Kitty’s weight so that he still had full use of his hands. As he did so, he heard the small clink of glass against the cement floor and saw a small vial rolling across the floor opposite the cage. He’d grab whatever that was on the way out. “Yer lucky you didn’t get a full dose like these two.”
The boy only nodded his head as he gripped the bars in front of him. “Are-are you one of them?” he asked Logan.
Logan narrowed his eyes at the kid. “One of what?”
“The g-good guys,” the boy stammered. “The X-Men.”
Logan felt adrenaline surge through him as he realized for the first time exactly who this boy might be. Rogue and Kitty had been knocked out, not killed, by one of the guards. The boy was behind a series of secured doors in a part of the lab that wasn’t on any of the maps they’d seen, and was held behind yet more reinforced steel bars. The stench told him the kid had been held here at least a few months. And that’s when it clicked. His jaw working angrily he turned to step over the dead guard toward Rogue.
“Wait!” the boy cried. “Where are you going?”
“Sorry, kid. I gotta go.” He was trying to ignore the sickening feeling of guilt that was dueling with the vicious instincts screaming down at him.
“No!” A harsh desperate cry met Logan’s ears. “Rogue promised you’d take me. Don’t leave me here!”
A furious argument was unfolding in Logan’s mind. Wolverine was insisting they run, fast, leave Rift to his own devices. The further away they were from him, the safer she was. Can’t do that to the kid. Can’t leave him here. They’ll kill him or worse.
A growl of frustration ripped through Logan’s chest as he shifted Kitty’s weight slightly before slashing at two points at the vault bars with his claws. He’d never be able to forgive himself if he took away Rogue’s choice. And neither would she. The bars fell to the floor with a loud clang and Rift dropped his hands from over his head as he gaped at Logan.
“You comin’ or not?” Logan growled at him as he crouched down to pick up Rogue’s unconscious form and slip her over his opposite shoulder.
“Cyke,” he ground out quietly beneath his breath as he activated his comm. “Rogue and Shadowcat are unconscious, but I’ve got Rift. Meet ya at the exit in five.”
“Copy that, Wolverine. Maintain covert status, we’ve got the weapon. See you on the bird.”
He sniffed deeply, ensuring no other guards were nearby and he motioned for Rift to follow him with a jerk of his head. Rift, smart kid that he was, didn’t make a sound as he followed close behind, the glass vial forgotten behind them.
Yes, this was a super short chapter. Sorry. BUT, I think you're really going to like what's coming (pun intended?). There's gonna be a reckoning between these two, and you're not going to want to miss it.
Thanks to @englishmajor226 for her beta work on this one, as well as for giving me the idea to have this be a standalone chapter. So you can blame her if you really must :D
Cheers and thank you so much for reading!
A throbbing headache was Rogue’s first clue that she wasn’t dead. She felt the soft support of a comfortable mattress beneath her and frowned as she tried to process this fact. Based on the accommodations that Rift had been afforded, she expected to find herself on a similar cot, or curled up on the cement floor. At the thought of Rift, her eyes flew open, panic racing through her as she remembered exactly what had happened at the lab.
No. She wasn’t dead, she thought as she looked up into the towering form of Logan standing at the foot of his bed, clearly furious.
She wasn’t dead. It was worse. She was in Logan’s bedroom, and he was pissed.
“Yer awake. Good.” There was no friendliness in his tone. No kindness in his expression, and in fact he didn’t seem at all pleased that she was awake. His jaw was clenched, arms crossed at his chest, muscles tight with coiled anger. He was dressed in his usual combat instruction clothes; the tight black t-shirt and black tactical pants making him look like some sort of enraged militant fighter.
Rogue felt the stirrings of anxiety running through her as she slowly sat up. She was still in her uniform, and it was bunched up uncomfortably around her hips. How long had she been unconscious? What had happened after she’d been knocked out? Her mind flew to Kitty and Rift and she searched Logan’s face for confirmation that they were still alive.
“Logan, is Kitty-”
“She’s fine,” he interrupted. “So’s Rift.”
Her anxiety left her as abruptly as it had come on and she let out a sigh of relief as she ran one hand through her tangled hair. Her mouth was uncomfortably dry and she needed some water. She began to scoot forward to the edge of the bed when Logan stepped in front of her, blocking her way. She looked up at him, anger beginning to fill the void of where the anxiety had been. Why the hell was she in his room anyway? Why not the room Jean used as a med lab, or her own room?
“Where the hell do you think yer goin’?” The words had come from deep in his chest, and his eyes were flashing molten gold as he looked her over. He was pissed alright, and was clearly struggling to rein in control of Wolverine.
She moved to her right to go around him, but he moved with her, preventing her from getting up. “Get out of my way, Logan,” she responded, her own eyes narrowing dangerously as he glared down at her, unmoving.
“You and I need to talk,” he responded, still not moving.
She laughed, a bitterness clouding her voice as she answered. “Oh, so now you want to talk.”
He only ground his jaw tighter, but didn’t answer for several seconds. Finally, a guttural, “Yes,” left his lips and he exhaled heavily as he stepped to his left to allow her to get up from the bed.
Rogue didn’t hesitate, but stood up and strode toward the door. She didn’t hear him move behind her, but just as she put her hand on the doorknob, Logan grabbed her hand and put one hand above her to keep the door shut. She wasn’t in any kind of mood for this display of macho bullshit. “You and I both know I could drop you where you stand if I wanted to,” she said, anger lacing her voice. “So why don’t you let me out of here so nobody gets hurt.”
“Rogue,” he began in a softer tone. “Please.”
She closed her eyes as she felt her resolve lessening, while she fought the instinct to lean back against him. What she wouldn’t give for him to have said those words to her just a few days ago. But she’d made up her mind to go back home. And now that Rift was with the X-Men, she could go about doing that just as soon as she found a bathroom.
What’ll it hurt if ya hear him out? Yer mind is made up, so whatever he has to say won’t change it.
The unbidden thought from the Wolverine in her head surprised her. Maybe he was right though. Maybe she should listen to what Logan had to say before she left. Get some real closure on whatever it was they’d had before she went home and tried to move on.
Rogue sighed as she moved her hand away from the door, his hand moving with hers. She tried not to let the warmth of his rough skin affect her as she turned back to face him. His removed his hand from hers and stepped back allowing her some space, never breaking eye contact with her. She could feel the tension mounting between them, could feel herself weakening as she took him in, permitting herself to look over him for the first time in weeks.
“Fine,” she said as she yielded. “We can talk. But I need a few minutes first.”
She saw his hands clench reflexively at his sides before he nodded. “Five minutes,” he ground out. “Or I’m comin’ to find ya.”
Rogue shook her head. “Ten. Then I’ll be back.”
His eyes searched hers, and he seemed to scent the air for a moment before nodding. Checking to see if I’m telling the truth, she thought.
Rogue left the room, closing the door quietly behind her, and left out a shuddering sigh as she made her way toward the bathroom. She stripped off her uniform and turned on the shower. Her headache, though fading rapidly was still an annoying throb at her temples and she wanted to feel the coolness of water soothing the last of the pain and fogginess in her head away. Whatever was in that tranquilizer felt disturbingly similar to the one that Remy had used on her in the Reiss building.
She showered quickly, dried off, and brushed her hair and teeth, then sucked down several cups of water before heading to her room to put on some clean clothes, feeling slightly more awake. As she pulled on a green tank top and dark blue jeans, she took one last deep breath as she leaned over her wooden dresser and stared at herself in the mirror. She was dreading the coming confrontation with Logan just as much as she felt they needed to clear the air between them.
Just as she pushed back from the dresser, her bedroom door crashed open and she jumped as she whirled around to face the intruder. Logan strode through the entry way and slammed the door behind him. He was breathing hard as he stood there, staring at her, taking in the sight of her from her wet hair, over the tank top and jeans, down to her bare feet. He was seething again, and Rogue couldn’t help the shudder that ran through her as he looked her over. God, she’d missed that look.
“That was fifteen minutes,” he said after a moment of tense silence.
“Christ, Logan,” she replied rolling her eyes as she folded her arms across her chest. She was feeling suddenly defensive at having her space invaded. “I wasn’t lying when I said I would come back.”
“You were late,” he grunted back.
“Deal with it. You’re here now. You wanted to talk,” she said as she took a few steps to distance herself from him. “So talk.”
Logan locked his hands behind his back as he began to pace the length of her room. “I talked to Rift,” he said finally as he turned toward her again, stopping so that he was across her dresser next to her bed.
“Congratulations,” she said sarcastically.
He ground his jaw and moved his arms to his sides where she noticed his fists clenching. “Stop makin’ this so goddamn difficult, Rogue.”
“I’m not the one who is making this difficult, Logan.” It was impossible for her to keep the anger out of her voice. He’d wanted to talk. Fine. But he’d better get to the point soon. She wanted to leave.
“Fine,” he snapped back. “I’ll get to the point,” he said, seeming to read her mind. “Rift said you were gonna leave. He said you’d asked him ta help you get back. That he’d opened a portal in the lab and you were about to go through when the guard came in.” His voice was quiet now. Calm. But his body betrayed him. He was furious. Barely reining in his anger.
“I am going to leave, Logan,” she said, unable to maintain the same control over her own voice. “I was just delayed.”
“Why?” he growled at her, the word nearly unintelligible as his temper flared to life again. “What are ya goin’ back to, Rogue? That Cajun dickweed? The team who won’t let you train? You were fuckin’ meant to be somethin’ more than what they let you be.”
She scoffed at him and threw up her hands, unable to help the knee-jerk reaction. His words eerily echoed her inner Wolverine’s thoughts and she was pissed at the sudden vocalization of those thoughts. She’d answer his first question easily. The other parts were for her to deal with by herself. “You’re kiddin’, right? ‘Why?’ What else was I supposed to do! Why would I stay if the only person I ever wanted so much that my insides ache, wouldn’t talk to me? You wouldn’t even look at me, Logan. You made it pretty goddamn clear that you were done with me.”
Her heart was breaking all over again as she looked him over waiting to hear what he would say in response to her outburst. She’d been holding that all in for weeks, and it had been slowly eating her alive. He looked so goddamn fierce and wild and beautiful as he stared back at her and it made her even more furious with him. His eyes were molten gold, every muscled coiled tight. She wanted so fucking badly to go to him and touch him. Bring his head down to hers and slam her lips against his. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t do that to herself. Couldn’t taste him one more time if she was going to leave. It would torture her for the rest of her life.
When he didn’t say anything, she turned her back to him and put her face in her hands. She wouldn’t let him see what he was doing to her. Even if he could sense it.
Several seconds went by before she felt the warm whisper of his words at her ear. He’d moved so stealthily she hadn’t heard him approach.
“I’ll never be done with you, Rogue. Not fucking ever. I didn’t wanna lose you,” he said softly as he moved one hand through her damp hair. “Couldn’t go through it again.”
She closed her eyes as the pained words washed over her, tears falling freely from her eyes now.
“I’m a goddamn stubborn bastard. And the thought of you leavin’ just made me close myself off. Shut down. I had to protect myself.”
Logan’s hand moved from her hair to the side of her neck where he lightly thumbed over the spot where the tranquilizer had struck her. She shivered as his fingers brushed over the smooth lines of her collar bones and down the bare length of her arm, and she forced herself to refrain from rocking back against him. He couldn’t just whisper a few words and expect her to get over the hurt he’d caused her. She’d known that was why he’d been acting the way he had, but hearing the confirmation from his own lips didn’t make it any easier. It didn’t magically erase the pain.
“But I was wrong,” he continued, a fiercer edge to his voice now. “I was fuckin’ wrong. I fucked up, Rogue. Losin’ Marie almost destroyed me. And as much as I miss her -”
That same familiar feeling of jealousy at the thought of a different version of her being with Logan flared up and Rogue clenched her own jaw as she fought back the thought. It was no use being jealous over a dead woman.
“- I want you a thousand times more. I want that wildness I can feel crawlin’ beneath that beautiful deadly skin of yers. Want to feel you gettin’ stronger, want to feel you answering that call while you fight beside me.”
He twisted her around now, his eyes blazing into hers as he gripped her by the shoulders. His words were quick now, urgency lacing his tone.
“’Cause I know you feel it, Rogue. I know you want more. More than a world without me could ever give you. I can’t fuckin’ be without you.” The desperation in his voice almost broke her.
“I’ll never be fuckin’ done with you, Rogue,” he repeated staring into her eyes.
“Fuck you, Logan,” she said as she struggled against his grip while she thought furiously over his words. How did he know what she wanted? How dare he presume to know her thoughts?
He grinned at her. A knowing, smug smile on his face.
She shoved against him this time, pushing his chest hard as her anger boiled over. “Fuck you,” she repeated as her mind raced.
Oh, god. What was she doing? She had her way home. But doubt was creeping its way inside her mind. She tried to fight it. Tried to hold on to her resolve, but the truth of his words was causing cracks to form in her defenses. She thought furiously back to the day after their fight several weeks ago. Hadn’t she made up her mind then? That she wanted him? Hadn’t she said that she belonged to him? And hadn’t she been doing exactly the same thing to him? Shutting him out? Refusing to confront him after his initial rejection? Nursing her wounds in private, shuttering herself down.
“And you’ll never be done with me.”
Something inside her snapped as the thought rebounded in her mind. You’ll never be done with me. It was true. Fucking goddammit, it was true.
The ramifications of what she was thinking hit her with the force equivalent to hitting a brick wall at ninety miles an hour. How could she have been thinking of abandoning that connection she had with him? How could she have been thinking of giving up the one person who really saw her for who she was?
He was right. She would never be done with him.
He must have sensed the moment she’d made her decision because a fierce growl emanated from his chest as he bent forward to take her lips. There was nothing gentle in the kiss. Nothing forgiving. It was full of want and possession and need, and she met his kiss with equal fierceness. She couldn’t get enough of him. She didn’t want to stop, she wanted more and opened her mouth wider, needing to taste him deeper. His tongue met hers, and she tried to burn the sensations into her brain, determined to remember this feeling. His tongue was warm and slick, and she thrust back relentlessly, inhaling sharply as he bit her full bottom lip while roughly cupping both breasts through her tank top. He settled against her and kicked her legs wide as he ground one knee against her. It was going too fucking fast, and not fast enough. Rogue pressed back and rocked against him, setting a quick and dirty pace where each pass of his leg caused a lightning spark of pleasure to spread through her from where the inseam of her jeans rested against her center.
Liquid arousal was spreading through her like wildfire, warming her from the inside out and she could feel the beginnings of slickness between her thighs. He broke the kiss moving his mouth to the length of her throat and licked the still sore spot where the dart had struck her, growling low in his chest as he grabbed her hips and thrust himself against her. She couldn’t help the gasp that left her lips when he grated his teeth over her throat and bit her sharply while one hand left her hips and thumbed her nipple at the same time. He growled as her arousal deepened and filled the air around them. He inhaled deeply and Rogue realized that Wolverine was in this too. And as that thought washed over her she knew she’d never be able to get enough of this man. Everything was just sharper with him, more intense, more vivid. She dug her nails into his back as she tried to get closer, determined to leave some kind of mark on him, just as he was doing on her. She wanted to see just how far she could push him, if she could cause him to lose control.
Logan pushed her back toward her dresser until she felt the hard surface of the wood pressing into her back. Rogue pressed her hands on top of the dresser as he gazed at her. He looked her over, taking in her red and swollen lips, the damp and tousled hair, the rise and fall of her chest, but he didn’t move. She almost whimpered as she reached for him, desperate for more. Needing more. Needing him. But he took a step back.
Confused, she sought out his eyes, pleased to see he wasn’t unaffected by the kiss. He was breathing hard too, pupils dark and blown wide with his own arousal, and she reached for him again but he shook his head.
“There’s no goin’ back now, Rogue. Not ever,” he growled. His body was held taut, strain showing in every visible line of muscle. “Need you to know that I’m never gonna let you go. I can’t. I won’t.” The last word was spoken harshly and Rogue saw his fists clenching at his side. He was barely maintaining control. But that control wasn’t something that Rogue wanted. She wanted him stripped of it. Laid bare in front of her as she did the same for him.
Things were still rough between them, and she didn’t want that. She wanted the last two weeks to disappear, wanted to get past the hurt they’d both endured and forced on each other. She wanted to embrace the future she’d chosen with open arms. Rogue pushed back off the dresser and gazed directly into his eyes, challenging him. His jaw was working hard as his eyes dared her to step closer and accept what he was saying. But stepping forward was easy. She’d made up her mind. For good.
Rogue reached for the belt at his hips and he growled at her in warning even as he unconsciously moved closer to her. “I’m never goin’ back, Logan. And neither are you. I’m in this with you,” she said in a dark low voice while her hands worked the belt loose from its buckle, the metal jingling as she pulled it free and threw it to the floor. “And you’re in this with me.”
“Be sure,” he rumbled deep in his chest as his fists continued their reflexive clenching. Rogue knew he was fighting the release of his claws, but she didn’t want him to fight it. She wanted to make him lose that control he was still clinging to. She was staying, and she wanted what was hers.
“I’m sure, Logan,” she whispered as she gripped the edge of his black t-shirt and began to expose the warm hardness of his stomach to the cool air of her room. She leaned over, unable to hold herself back any longer and drove her tongue against his skin, licking and tasting whatever she could reach with her mouth as she slowly continued to move the shirt up over his chest.
She stepped back and forced the shirt over his head, tossing it to the floor with the belt. She savored the taste of him against her tongue, revelled in the salt and the primal tang, and felt that wildness he’d talked about rising up in answer to his nearness. He was breathing hard as she licked a single line from the waistband of his pants up the center of his stomach up to his throat and he growled in warning as she nipped his throat with her teeth. Her own breath was coming faster as she ran her hands through his hair, lightly scratching at his neck with her nails and then down the hard planes of his chest to work the button of his pants free.
He wasn’t a passive bystander anymore, but sprang forward to rip her own shirt from her body. She raised her hands willingly before tipping her head back and allowing him to rake his face across the valley between her breasts. His stubble left behind a stinging burn that she relished. She sank against him and temporarily abandoned her attempts to unbutton his fly to reach up and pull his lips toward hers. She needed to taste him again, needed him to feel the heat that was burning her up from the inside.
He reached behind her to pull her up so that her legs gripped his torso and he strode forward, never breaking the press of his lips as he settled her on top of the dresser. He stepped back again and this time Rogue did whimper. He bared his teeth in a predatory smile as he moved his hands to the button of her own jeans. She willingly lifted her ass from the dresser so that he could pull them down off her legs and she smiled back up at him as he stepped into the opening between her thighs. She was breathing hard as she felt the pull of his gaze on her and looked up to see his eyes had gone full gold now. But Rogue wasn’t done stripping his control from him. She hadn’t even begun.
She clasped him close to her with her legs so that she could feel the hard length of him directly against the slick dampness of her underwear and he groaned with the pressure. She knew he was still holding back though. She could still see the tightly coiled strength laced along the lines of his forearms, could see it in the cut of his jaw. And she wasn’t going to stand for that. No more barriers. No more fucking barriers.
Rogue shoved him back from her suddenly, violently, and he stumbled backward several steps, clearly taken off guard by her actions. Eyes narrowed, he growled as she hopped down from the dresser and began to stalk toward him, eyes glued to his. She saw the pulse at his throat jump. She knew what she must look like to him. Nearly naked, aroused, skin flushed with the burn of his beard. And she was challenging him. She was strong now, and she wanted to see exactly who was going to wind up on top.
A deep rumble in his chest warned her that he wasn’t playing games. If she continued down this path, she may not like what happened. But Rogue knew where this was leading them. And she wanted it.
Never run from a predator, Marie.
She hadn’t understood what he’d meant all those months ago, right after they’d met. But she knew now. She knew exactly what it was to challenge him in any way, and she couldn’t wait any longer for his reaction.
She pushed against his chest again and he took another step back. She smiled, enjoying the clenching of his jaw as he tried to understand what she was up to. What game she was playing. But it wasn’t a game. She moved her other hand to push him again, but this time he didn’t budge. A constant growl was now emanating from his chest at her actions. She began to circle him, slowly, relishing the warmth of his skin against her fingers as she trailed them across his naked skin.
“What’re you playin’ at?”
The words were harsh. Guttural. It made her shudder with the anticipation of what she was doing. She smiled darkly as a thought came to her, but she didn’t answer him. While she was in full view of him, she dipped the fingers of her right hand beneath the elastic of her underwear and slicked them over the wetness that was sliding between her thighs. His nostrils flared at this and before he could stop her, Rogue ran her damp fingers across his chest and up across his neck. Placing her scent where he was the most vulnerable to a show of dominance.
“Jesus fuck,” he growled as he finally snapped and grabbed her wrists. He held them up in front of her face and she smiled at his reaction. Now they were getting somewhere. She could see the wildness flaring in his eyes in a final warning and she broke the hold and moved to slip her fingers beneath the waistband of his pants and jerk him toward her.
She leaned in to his neck then and muttered, “I’m not playin’ at all,” and followed it with a sharp bite at his neck, flicking her tongue along the damp line she’d left with her fingers. He’d finally reached the tipping point though, and exploded forward pressing her back into the wall, imprisoning her hands behind her back in one of his hands.
Rogue wasn’t giving over though. She wouldn’t let him beat her so easily. It wasn’t in her nature. So she continued her struggle against him as he leaned in to growl a warning at her throat. And she couldn’t help but let out a laugh she played the last card in her hand. As she turned on her skin.
Only for a second, only enough to remind him of exactly how powerful she really was. She got the vague sense of a dark war that was being waged inside him, the impression of chains stretched to their breaking point, and the frantic raging lust that he was restraining.
She stopped the pull and he froze and dropped to his knees, shaking his head to clear it.
“What’re you tryin’ to prove, Rogue?” He growled as he regained his composure and stood back up.
“That you don’t need to hold back, Logan. Quit stoppin’ yourself from being with me the way you want to. The way he wants to. I’m not going to break. If you ever did hurt me, which I don’t believe you’re capable of, I’d kill you.” She said the last part simply. Matter of fact. “I’m strong, Logan. And I need someone just as strong.”
She thought she’d played her last card. But she had one final ace up her sleeve. She stepped back and looked him directly in the eyes as she worked her underwear down her legs and kicked them aside. She was going to have to bare herself in front of him to strip him down. Remove any last trace of humanity so that he felt free to join her.
She leaned in for a searing kiss, shuddering at the feeling of his warmth against her naked skin. She broke it off before he could deepen it and stepped back from him one final time.
“Boots. Off,” she demanded.
His chest was heaving with the efforts of restraining himself, but he bent down and kicked them off, his jaw working furiously. He was only hanging on by a thread. And she was about to cut it loose.
“Now the pants.” But he’d already been moving his hands to undo the fastening and dropped them at his feet before stepping before her.
That’s what she’d wanted. And she had it now. Before he could reach for her, she dropped to her knees in front of him and rubbed one cheek against the muscled length of one thigh, then the other, letting her hair fall across her face. A guttural sound left his throat as she reached up to stroke the hard plane of his stomach, her eyes taking in the beautiful sight above her. His eyes were blazing as he watched her, on fire as she moved her lips to taste him. He was hard. Pulsing. Hot. As Rogue flicked her tongue out to take a clear smooth drop into herself, he twitched. The fingers of his hands were curled tight again, and it looked like he was struggling between the desire to touch her and his instincts to watch her supplicate herself in front of him. Showing that she was willing to submit herself to him.
But he was wrong. It wasn’t about submission. It was about power. The balance of power between two strong individuals who found themselves swept up in the wild call of the other.
Rogue savored the taste of him and gripped his hips in her hands as she went in for another longer flick of her tongue. He was almost panting as he watched her take more an more of himself into her mouth. The hot dark wet of her mouth enveloped him and he let out a raw groan of need. Rogue found herself start to get lost in the rhythm she was setting, enjoying that wild feeling coursing through her, consuming her, burning her up. She could feel the wetness between her legs, could feel the warmth and emptiness inside her. She wasn’t going to be able to continue much longer before she threw him back and slicked herself over him, filling that void.
She could tell he was perilously close to losing the last vestiges of his control as he gripped her hands as he jerked free of her mouth.
“No,” he growled. “My turn.”
He moved too quickly for her to see and she found herself tossed on her bed, his beautiful body moving over hers in an exquisitely slow slide downward. He nipped at her skin as he did so, tasting her with small flicks of his tongue. And then a fiercer bite at her hip and she found herself jerking beneath him, body thrumming with anticipation.
“Logan,” she panted. “I need you.” She reached down to grip his shoulder as he pressed her deeper into the mattress, his weight settling over the junction of her thighs. She closed her eyes, unable to stand the wait any longer. Her hips arched up, desperate to feel any part of him against her, but he moved away from her, growling. It was clear that she’d be paying the price for her challenge. It was a price she would pay a thousand times over though. And she opened her eyes to look down at Logan, determined to sear the image of him behind her eyes.
He braced his arms against her thighs, holding her still, and she couldn’t help the bucking of her body as she felt the fist slow slide of his tongue against her clit. A raw sound issued from her throat as he pressed deeper, tasting her, and she shuddered against him at the intensity of the sensations at each stroke of his tongue. She dug her heels into the mattress and he pressed her deeper, her breath coming in harsh pants as the pleasure built tighter and tighter, coiling deep inside her. The air was punctuated by his low growls of approval as he slipped a finger inside her and began a slow driving rhythm. It didn’t take long before everything inside her snapped tight and then shattered as liquid pleasure spread through her.
Logan didn’t give her any time to recover from her orgasm. She was still bucking her hips in the aftershocks of pleasure when he rose up over her, gripped one of her legs to rest on his back, and guided himself inside her. She felt her eyes roll back into her head as the slick heat of him reached deep inside her and began a driving pulsing beat that demanded she meet him, stroke for stroke.
Rogue had wanted him stripped of his humanity, but she felt hers slipping away as he met her eyes and silently insisted she join him in the primal descent she’d started them down.
She gripped him tighter with her leg as he increased his pace. A crude moan left her lips as she felt herself stripped down to nothingness. The coarse hair brushing against her sex with every stroke, the smell of sex in the air, the wild look in his eyes as he demanded she give herself to him completely. One of his hands was tangled in her hair, the other cupping her breast and he moved to bury his mouth in the pale exposed skin of her throat. He was fucking her. Fucking the humanity out of her.
There were no more thoughts. Only feelings. She felt a rough roar escape her throat as she met the faster pace of his thrusts. He was incoherent as he growled into her throat, partial words of ownership, and want, and fucking need. She was burning up from the inside out, her skin hot and sweat-soaked from the punishing pulse of him inside her. She was holding onto the edge of something all-consuming, could feel the wave inside her building, growing, getting stronger. And then he bit down hard at the junction of her neck and shoulder, and roared as his hips shuddered into her, spilling himself inside her. And as she felt him coming against her, inside her, she let go and screamed as the fire consumed her. She thrust herself against him, drawing out the pulsing thrill of pleasure, feeling the beat of his heart inside her as she felt her own heartbeat pulsing in time to his. The mark at her neck was throbbing too and they finally stilled their movements. After a moment of listening to his breath, she slid her hands down his back as he lifted his head to kiss her.
She sighed as he broke the kiss to twist them around so that she lay on top of him, running his hand down the sweat-soaked skin of her back. He was still inside her, apparently as reluctant to break the connection as she was. And she smiled against his chest at the feeling of peace filling her mind. The last thought she had before she drifted off was that she was finally home.
I don't know about you, but I need a drink...
Still a lot more to go in this story, so if you're still hanging in there with me, I can't tell you how much I appreciate you reading.
Thanks to @englishmajor226 for her comments on this (mostly things like, "Oh good god.....holy hell" and "oh holy god. This *line*. Jesus christ." and "holy...fuck..." and "!!!!!").
Until the next chapter, cheers!