Title: A Hazy Shade of Winter
Author: Melissa Flores
Email: mistiec_flores@yahoo.com
Fandom: X-Men (movie)
Rating: R for violence and language
Summary: Faced with the repercussions of her relationship with Logan, Rogue's reality comes crashing down upon her when her friends, and the only family she knows, unconsciously force her to come to a choice.
Series: Fatal Caress, previous stories are Almost a Woman, and Fatal Caress. It can be seen, along with series splash graphics and illustrations, at : http://www.geocities.com/mistiec_reality/xmen/fiction/fatalcaressseries.html
Splash Image: To see the splash image associated with this story, go to the fiction archived at reality: http://www.geocities.com/mistiec_reality/xmen/fiction/hazyshade.html
Genre: X-Men: The Movie, Wolverine/Rogue
Archive: Reality is Nothing But a Collective Hunch, Indulgance, List Archives. Anyone who has Almost a Woman and Fatal Caress may post this one as well. Otherwise? Ask.
Warning: While I'm familiar with the comics, I never really got into them, so to be on the safe side, let's just say that I've departed completely from them.
Notes: While Almost a Woman and Fatal Caress can be considered more vignettes, a Hazy Shade is not. The main pairing is Rogue/Logan, however, this is an ensemble piece meaning Scott, Jean, Xavier, Storm and others figure heavily.
Special Thanks to: My Xena pals, who did the crossover thing and beta read for me: Nickle, Nancy, Chris, Mel, Lori, and Kawy. Also thanks to Sarah for the great remarks and the quick responses.


She
She screams in silence
A sullen riot penetrating
Through her mind
Waiting for a sign to smash
The silence with the brick of self control

Are you locked up in a world
That's been planned out for you?
Are you feeling like a social tool without a use?

Scream at me until my ears bleed
I'm taking heed just for you

She's figured out all her doubts
Were someone else's point of view
Waking up this time to
Smash the silence with the
Brick of self control

Are you locked up in a world
That's been planned out for you?
Are you feeling like a social tool without a use?

Scream at me until my ears bleed
I'm taking heed just for you

Greenday


Prologue

He had waited years for this moment.

He had suspected the change for some time, and when others were frightened, afraid of what was coming, hailing it the beginning of the end, he welcomed it; hoped, wanted so much to be a part of it.

Change was power. Power, that was everything. He had learned that the hard way.

His eyes closed and he breathed out slowly, whispering slowly, chanting over and over, repeating the incantations.

There had never been more disappointment in a man, never more a broken heart than when he discovered he wasn't a Gifted, he wasn't special.

He was average. Not chosen to take part of the change, never to be one of the Blessed Ones. The first. The gifted.

What others of his kind saw as a curse, he saw as heaven sent...

And he had waited for it, waited to prove them wrong, to prove he was special...

It had never happened.

And here he sat.

Damn them. Damn them all. He was chosen. He was chosen, DAMMIT.

He would make sure of that. He would make sure there was a way.

His eyes opened, gently sliding his fingers over the stones that held his answer. His violet eyes, the only sign of his uniqueness, always searching, looking.

He had waited so long for this moment.

He paused, reading the stones, and suddenly the heartbeat he had learned to control at his beck and call suddenly thumped involuntarily, and he swallowed, found his body trembling.

This was it. This was really it.

His shaking hands met together, clasped over the enchanted rocks, and he went still.

He had found his future.

He had found his future.

He had found his future.

His salvation, his blessed gift.

It was in the one, the gifted, the powerful.

A finger slid down, stroked one particular formation as one would caress a lover, and a surge slid from it, seemed to drain him, and he slid back, smiling.

This was it.

He had found his future.


Chapter One

I can feel the magic floating in the air
Being with you gets me that way
I watch the sunlight dance across your face
and I've never been this swept away

All my thoughts just seem to settle on the breeze
When I'm lying wrapped up in your arms
The whole world just fades away
The only thing I hear
Is the beating of your heart

'Cause I can feel you breathe
It's washing over me
And suddenly I'm melting into you
There's nothing left to prove
Baby all we need is to be
Caught up in the touch
A slow and steady rush
Baby isn't that the way that love's supposed to be

I can feel you breathe
Just Breathe...

Either way I know my heart is waking up
As all the walls come tumbling down
Closer than I've ever felt before
And I know, and you know
There's no need for words right now

Breathe - Faith Hill


It was never a question, why those dreams didn't come that night. It was a blessed silence, a peace that originated in her heart, slipped out of herself, almost seeping into the man who held her in his arms, the warmth of his body felt even through the dark green felt blanket he had used to protect himself from her poisoned skin.

It was never a question, because she didn't fall asleep, not that night. She fought the sleep as long as she could, so she could keep her eyes open and just stare. He was beautiful when he slept, in his face a peace that told her the dreams that she knew haunted him didn't plague him that night.

His breath was even, and he never moved, almost as if he was aware of her even in his sleep, afraid to move for fear he would hurt her.

Her cheek rested on the blanket above his chest lightly, and through the worn material she could barely make out his heart beating. It was a wild heartbeat, soft and fierce at the same time, and it pulsed through her.

She knew that heartbeat.

Her palm stole to her own chest, counting the beats, not surprised to find them in sync with her own.

So that was where that came from.

The thought flitted through her mind, and a smile floated to her lips. She had inherited his heartbeat; his wild, crazy heartbeat.

"What are you smiling about?"

The husky, soft voice vibrated through the chest she was lying on, and her head turned, finding the man she was admiring awake, on his face a faint smirk of affection.

She felt herself smile in return, resting her chin on one beautifully formed pectoral, a saucy southern grin drifting on her face.

"You."

"Well that's always nice to hear." His voice was a soft growl, and again a smile drifted on her face as she leaned her head against him, her small, strong body resting against his so lightly.

Logan slipped his arms around her, his fingers trailing a shuddering trail down to the small of her back, watching as the sleep that she had been fighting threatened to overwhelm her.

There was a serenity in her face, an emerging hope that made him close his mouth and just breath, feeling his heart skip a beat, his eyes wide as he leaned his head back on her bed. He inhaled, sighing raggedly. The bed smelled of her, of her scent of lilacs, a southern sweetness, and something that told him she wasn't all sweet. There was a dangerous spice in her as well.

His arms tightened around the woman, heard the sigh as she moved in contentment above him and immediately felt his body harden in response.

He wasn't used to controlling his urges. Logan had a very one track mind. He saw something, he took it. It had never been a problem.

He wanted Rogue. And he couldn't have her. Not yet.

Yet here he was, consumed by her, her scent in his nose and her soft strands of hair sliding gently over his arms, tickling him slightly. Her body weighed on top on him, and he was very aware of her, his heightened senses even more aware of her body. her smell. her touch.

He felt himself growl involuntarily, gritting his teeth.

"Marie?"

"Hmmm," came the sleepy answer, a hand reaching up and raking unconsciously across his shirt. Across his chest.

"Do me a favor," was the harried answer.

Her head lifted sleepily, her eyes questioning.

"What?" was the soft drawl, and the husky tinge reverberated through him, the tone seeming to go right through him.

When the hell did she get so damn beautiful?

"Stop moving. I'm getting a bit...tense."

At first, she merely looked at him, having absolutely no idea what he was alluding to, until she suddenly froze. Now quite awake, she sat up and looked down.

"Oh." Her eyes roved up to his tense face, and when his chest heaved with his harried breaths, she somehow found the entire situation quite amusing.

And she smiled.

"Right. Okay. Sorry."

Her amusement at the situation was quite evident. And at the pure glee in her face at his situation, he felt a surge of anger slid through him. She thought this was funny?! He was going through real pain here!

A glare was directed at her, but the furious face only seemed to make her giggle more. Moving off of him, she suddenly laughed, a beautiful crystal clear laugh that made him still, and just watch.

She was smiling. Her eyes were bright. Her laughter was clear. Her beautiful face was sparkling with hope and with happiness, a clearness in her dark eyes that made him suddenly aware that this was perhaps not an everyday occurrence.

And he was damn lucky to see it.

There was a stillness in his chest, and then Logan felt an unconscious wave of thanks float through him.

His little Marie was going to be okay.

It was all going to be okay, it had to be.

He crossed his arms, and pretended to glare at her, while she got over her little fit of laughter.

"Done?"

"Mmmm.. Yes," she finally remarked, before clamping a hand to her mouth and stifling another giggle.

He shook his head and then reached for her hand, pulling her back down, holding her close.

"Go to sleep, Marie. You didn't get a wink last night."

Her eyes widened in surprised and she pulled back. "You knew?"

He merely cocked an eyebrow and pulled her back down.

Rogue closed her eyes, feeling his chest rise and fall beneath her, and the tranquillity of the moment suddenly struck her.

It suddenly occurred to her how masculine he smelled. Her mind drifted, memories of the people she had touched mingling with hers, and she pushed them away, thankful for this memory and this memory alone.

She had always wondered how it would feel, to be held in the arms of a man she cared for, to have the tranquillity in her heart she had seen in Kitty's eyes when she fell in love, in Jean's eyes, when she married Scott, she had always wondered if it was as beautiful as it seemed.

Her lids grew heavy with sleep, the lull of his heartbeat against her ear a beautiful rhythm. As her mind grew hazy and her eyes closed, she was allowed one more thought before succumbing to the realm of Morpheus.

Now, the Rogue X-Men knew differently. It wasn't as beautiful as it had looked. Perhaps, it was more.


The sleeping body of her immobile husband made her pause, venture a smile on her beautiful face, before she leaned over, planting a soft caress on his shoulder and then sliding off the bed.

For a while, in the days after she and Scott had begun to share quarters, she had often wondered if the glasses that he slept with bothered him, if the urge to see his beautiful eyes without the mask he wore to cover them would ever leave her.

It didn't, and once again Jean Grey-Summers felt the inexplicable need to see her husband's eyes.

Her mind gently reached out, nudged him slightly, and a grin slid over his handsome face.

Jean smiled, thankful for the telepathic ability that let her see what his mask never could. Stretching quickly, she slid off the bed, running her slender fingers through her hair and looked at herself in the mirror.

It was a tired face that looked back. Jean's telepathic mind had its merits, of course, but her nurturing nature as a doctor made her need to use it that much harder to resist. The look of tension on Scott's face when he saw Logan again, the sight of desperate worry in Rogue's eyes, the infinite sadness in the young girl's face that never seemed to quite go away.

Jean leaned against the dresser, taking a breath, her morning serenity suddenly clouded with thoughts of the girl with the old eyes.

The young woman had surprised them all. Despite her looks, and her wisdom and maturity of the people who's memories she had absorbed, it was still a hard adjustment to make, to stop treating Rogue like a child and a comrade instead.

Ororo had made the transition the easiest. The earth mother had a beautiful soul, and a wisdom and serenity about her that made Rogue look up to her. It was almost amusing, to see the two X-men walking down the halls together, the shocking white easily visible as they smiled and talked and laughed. They had more in common than Jean had foreseen. And like Rogue, Ororo also seemed to possess the uncanny ability to sense when Jean was probing her mind.

A soft smile that turned into a grimace made Jean shake her head. It was impossible really, to try and read Rogue. Unlike Scott, her conflicted husband that she knew so well, Rogue's mind was a lot like Logan's. Wild, fearful, and at times, frightening.

And it was in those times, when Jean got a glimpse, that she felt for the girl the most. It was hard to know how to talk to her. Rogue had a good heart, albeit a bit wild, and to absorb so much and know so much and try to process it all at a time when you barely knew yourself.

It was indeed a frightening prospect.

She had felt the prickling, the desperation in the young woman's face the days before her birthday, and like always, Rogue refused to share, blocked herself out.

It was dangerous. A maelstrom was going through the woman's mind, and bottled up the way it was, Jean knew the danger of cracking.

And Rogue was the last person they needed to crack.

She took another breath, running the comb through her hair and pulling on her clothes, dressing quickly and quietly.

Her mind gently probed again, finding Scott in a very interesting dream.

She smiled.

Shutting the door quietly behind her, the telepathic doctor walked down the corridor, gently reaching out to assure herself as she always did in the mornings, that the rooms that held her dear students were tranquil, safe.

Her steps paused slightly as she approached the room that had always held a different aura. Rogue's dreams had been an outlet for the young girl, and when Jean had expressed her concerns to the professor about allowing Rogue to experience them, and the Professor had merely entered her mind and told her to leave Rogue be.

She took a breath, closing her eyes. She couldn't just leave Rogue be. Not when the girl was hurting so-

Her mind gently nudged and Jean suddenly stopped walking completely.

This was. strange.

The two minds in the room were quiet, peaceful.

And immediately she knew whose mind the other's was.

She tore herself from the link, closing her eyes, and taking an inward breath. Rogue always had an attachment to Logan, it was only natural. .

She had wanted Rogue to find Logan, knowing somehow the tortured souls could find a link in each other, knowing as she tried to peruse Rogue's taxed mind that maybe he was the one person who could break through to her.

She had encouraged it. in her mind, and to Rogue.

And then she had seen the sheer desperation, the pain in her face, and suddenly it was all wrong.

Jean leaned against the door, the conflicted emotions seeping inside of her, and when she heard the movement inside, she quickly walked from the doorway.

In her troubled state, she knew that the only one who would be able to make sense of the situation, the only one with any right to know, was her mentor.


You don't know what love is
If you think that I can fight this feeling
Keep my true heart from revealing everything inside
And you don't know what love is
If you hear me say you're mine forever
Till our two hearts beat together
And think you can resist
You don't know what love is
Lonestar

"What're you doin'?"

Logan smiled, gathering the soft mane in his big hands and continuing his ministrations. "Relax."

"You've got claws in your hands, Logan. I 'ain't goin' to relax any time soon." She gave him a wary look, but he only gave her a look, and pushed her back again.

"Sit still, or it'll come out all crooked."

She rolled her eyes, but obediently remained still as Logan continued to part her hair, weaving it gently into the braid.

"Well we can't go and have that," she muttered, sighing.

He grinned, and gave the strand he was holding a light yank.

"HEY!"

When she turned and glared, he merely gave her an innocent look. "What? You moved."

She reached up to rub at the spot and pulled away. "Now, that's enough. Why I even trusted you to touch my hair-"

He nudged her lightly with his foot, and she turned, her knees sinking into the bed as she leaned toward him, her hair suddenly falling away from it's knot, framing her face.

"Now what we need to do with YOU is give you a hair cut."

The self assured grin faded, and his hand reached up to his coarse mane. "What's wrong with my hair?"

"Nothin'." She waited a minute, studying him, and then suddenly her face drifted into a saucy grin. "Just wanted to see what you would say."

He stared at her blankly, and when the smile on her face turned positively wicked, a growl of laughter escaped him.

"You little. VIXEN!" He lunged, and she shrieked with laughter, falling back as he caught her up in his arms, rolling her over until he was resting on top of her.

The laughter suddenly ceased, and Logan felt the smile falter on his face as he found her gaze riveted on his eyes.

Her stare was pure, unfiltered emotion, awareness of him and everything that was between them. all the barriers, and yet he could still feel her, under him, her breasts pushing up against his chest, rising and falling as she gasped for breath, her lips parted and her tongue reaching out to moisten them.

He closed his eyes, his throat suddenly tight, his body rigid, and quickly he moved off of her, sliding onto the floor, not daring to look at her for a full minute.

"I better go," he said after a moment.

There was a pause, and sudden movement as the bed springs squeaked. Soon, her warm body slid down next to him, her forearm pressed against his.

"Okay."

The tone was controlled, placid, and he felt himself grimace.

"Ah hell, Marie." He slid an arm around her, her head drifting down to rest on his shoulder as he pulled her close. "I didn't mean it like that. I just. I can't STAY and keep my-"

"I know." A gloved finger at his lips made him stop, and he turned to look at her as she moved, now facing him. "Ah know. Really." She smiled softly, a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes, and she shrugged. "Ah know."

He closed his eyes and leaned forward, breathing heavily as he pulled her to him again, hugging her tightly. "I'll see you at lunch?"

"Mmmm. maybe." She cocked an eyebrow, and shrugged. "I have to do somethin' first. You know, X-men stuff."

"Ahhhh." He quirked an eyebrow. "Don't tell me you're stuck with one of those uniforms."

"Oh yeah." She winked. "Skin tight."

He laughed at the sexy tone, and he stood. "Okay, I'm going to never get that picture out of my head. Thank you so much."

"You're welcome." She didn't move, merely looked up, and looking down at her, he once again realized just how young this beautiful woman really was.

A small smile drifted onto his face, and he cocked his head. "I'll see you around today," he whispered in an achingly tender voice.

"Definitely. We'll talk, okay?" She nodded, and he leaned down, planting a kiss on the top of her head, before moving towards the door, and resisting one last look, closing it behind him.


Five years. It had taken him five years to break her down, to try and get into her heart, and try to make her understand that someone COULD love her the way she wanted to be loved.

From the moment he saw her, with her large brown eyes, and the soft look of innocence in her eyes, he had wanted to love her... to hold her... to be WITH her as much as possible. He had wanted to so much for five years, and he had waited for that long patiently.

He leaned against the wall, watching as the man they called Wolverine close the door ot her bedroom behind him, sliding on the jacket and carrying the duffel bag over his shoulder, going back down the hallway.

Bobby didn't feel a thing inside his chest where he knew his heart should be. He closed his eyes, and took a ragged breath, and then turned, walking to the door of his best friend and knocking lightly.

There was movement heard coming from the inside, and Bobby stepped back when the door opened. Rogue was dressed in her light night gown, revealing much of the body she hid from everyone, and Bobby felt himself swallow, the tears suddenly burning in his eyes.

Damn it.

"Hi, Bobby!" She smiled at him, and he found himself looking over her shoulder to the rumpled bed sheets.

"Had company?"

She looked confused for a second and then looked back also, and then out the doorway. Her eyes widened, and she bit her lip, shuffling her feet before turning away.

"None of your business," was the short drawl.

He crossed his arms, and didn't speak for a second, before looking up and smiling shortly. "I guess not," was his answer. She blushed, wrapping her arms around herself, sitting on the bed.

"What's up, Bobby?"

He gave her a small smile. "Professor X wants to see you."

"What, now?"

"Yeah."

She gave him a look, but when he only returned it, she sighed and shrugged. "Allraht. I'll get dressed I guess. Wonder why he didn't just go into my head and summon me like he usually does." She moved to her dresser and opened it.

"He figured that would be... intruding."

"Oh." She fell silent, and coughing slightly turned away, reaching for her gown. As if suddenly remembering the situation, she paused, looked up again. "Can you wait outside?"

The Iceman coughed, feeling like the fifteen year old he no longer was as he quickly colored and walked to the door. "Sure."

"Bobby."

The soft tone made his steps falter, and he turned to find a soft gaze of affection bestowed upon him by the tempestuous Rogue.

"Yeah?" he asked softly.

"You're my best friend. I love you."

He swallowed, and gave her a small smile. "I know." He nodded, and closed the door behind her. Leaning against it, he bit his lip.

Five long years.

It had taken Logan one day to throw it all away. One damn day.

The Iceman had seen it coming. It had scared the hell out of him, and Bobby knew now, the sparkle in Rogue's eyes could only mean one thing.

She was in love with the bastard.

The knob under his hand froze, and Bobby didn't even notice.

DAMN.


The professor's face was hard to read, and Jean Grey sat back in her chair, not wanting to reach out to him, so tense herself she didn't have the patience or the discipline it took to cloud his mind.

The powerful mutant made the connection himself, and Jean felt his voice slid into her consciousness.

We'll have to keep this quiet.

She closed her eyes, nodding.

It disturbs you?

Jean smiled wearily, rubbing her temple with the slender fingers.

Should it?

Xavier was quiet, leaning back on his chair.

I knew it would happen, sooner or later.

"Rogue and Logan?" Her voice broke the stillness, her eyes opening.

"Rogue and anyone." A small smile caressed his features, and he continued, leaning back. "Rogue is a very passionate woman. And quite the dreamer."

"She's conflicted," Jean remarked softly, running her hands through her hair.

"And rightly so. Scott's pain before we found him was minimal compared to some of what she's gone through." Xavier put his hand to his chin, remembering the day he and Jean had taken in the young man with the laser eyes. He had learned to hide behind his mask, and it had taken Jean years to break through the invisible barrier Scott had erected around himself. He had made himself believe that his affliction would hurt anyone he got close to, and only recently had he been truly able to believe that his affliction was not a handicap, but a gift.

Scott had been able to move on with his life.

Rogue, Xavier was afraid, was not so lucky.

Xavier had not realized how affected Rogue was by the memories in her head until she began to act differently towards him. There was a sad affection in her eyes as she looked at him, a tender familiarity swathed with disappointment and confusion that he felt directed at him.

He had attempted to read her, reach out to her, but her mind had closed down, almost as if she had done it purposely.

He still hadn't realized what had really happened until the day she was in his office, having her personal conference, and she slipped and accidentally called him "Charles," in a familiar drawl that made him freeze.

She had blushed immediately, tried to close herself off, and Xavier wouldn't have it. He had sat with her, made her talk to him, and he was glad he did. The knowledge that the young girl had seen everything Eric had seen, had known what Charles was like in a time that seemed so long ago...

It was both heaven-sent and a bit frightening.

But Charles knew she couldn't see that shook him, and instead of reacting as she would have suspected, with disbelief and embarrassment, he had nourished it, talked about her memories, their shared memories.

She had been fascinated with Magneto, with Eric. He was in her head, swimming, mingling with Logan, and Xavier was often afraid that Eric's rather warped views of mutant/human relations would afflict her. Combined with Logan's temper now bubbling under her surface, it could not be good at all.

But no, she had explained to him late one night, that although she understood Eric's convictions, she didn't agree with them.

She understood them, however. And it was during those long nights of chess that she would speak slowly about the horrors Eric had faced, seen things that Eric had never told Charles.

She was still very much the girl, but her eyes were old, sometimes fiery, like Logan's, sometimes sad, and wise, like Erik's.

In those long night sessions, he had gained a friend, and she had gained a bit of control... control that was almost torn from her the day she absorbed another mutant, this time permanently.

Maybe this is good for her.

The statement invaded his mind, tearing him from his thoughts, and he looked up to Jean, her eyes somewhat brighter. "I felt them... they... they were peaceful. Both of them."

"Then why did you come to me if you think this is good for either of them?"

Jean's eyes flickered down and she said nothing.

Xavier closed his eyes, his mind flowing, thinking, and finally he sent out the words he had carefully chosen.

Their powers are destructive. They've almost killed each other more than once. I care about Rogue.

So does he.

I warned him not to do this. This is something she does NOT need.

Jean could sense the unnatural anger that accompanied the tone and her eyes opened in surprise.

"How do we really know that?"

The silence that followed the spoken sentence was broken when the door opening signaled they were no longer alone.

"Someone call for a bonafide southern girl?"

As Rogue leaned inside the doorway, Xavier let himself smile a bit. She had certainly changed. Become more assured, more comfortable with herself.

Apparently, somewhere along the journey to find herself, Rogue had realized that her gift did not necessarily mean a loss of style, or femininity, and it showed. The long sleeved black blouse was skin tight, matching completely with the slim fitting black pants and the boots. It accented her figure perfectly, flowing where it needed to flow and snug where it was supposed to be snug. The short leather gloves on her hands were hidden by the long sleeves of the black trench coat she had chosen. It was cut simply, draping inwards slightly at the hips and flaring out, ending at her knees. The style was modern, sexy and somehow even coming close to being immodest, despite the fact that she was covered almost completely head to toe.

The shock of white in her long auburn hair seemed to complete the ensemble perfectly, and the sparkle in her eyes that accompanied it sprinkled with a mischievous beauty, wisdom, and mystery.

She was a beautiful young woman, and she had chosen her name well.

Rogue indeed looked the part.

"Good morning, Rogue," Jean said, turning, smiling tightly.

"Mornin'." She closed the door behind her, and nodded to the professor, a smile of friendship and respect curling on her lips as she leaned back on it. "There some reason why you want me here at the crack of dawn? Special mission or a game of chess?"

The joking tone failed to put a smile on Xavier's face, and Rogue's own expression faltered when he said passively, "Sit down, Rogue."


CHAPTER TWO

Can you run to these open arms
When no one else understands
Can we tell God and the whole world
I'm your woman, and you're my man
Can't you just feel how much I love you
With one touch of my hand
Can I just spend my life with you

No touch has ever felt so wonderful
And a deeper love I've never known
I swear this love is true

Eric Benet, Spend My Life With You


Damn, sometimes he really hated this place.

They were all mutants, weren't they? There was a guy around here that was covered in blue fur. That Gambit guy had red-eyes. Some kid he saw stretch his hand like, ten feet long.

Then why the hell were they staring at HIM like he was some sort of freak?!

Logan closed his eyes, trying to keep his temper in check as he glared at the group of mutant kids who had gathered on the other side of the garden, talking in crowded whispers and pointing his way.

He hated kids.

Check that. So maybe he hadn't hated ALL of them. He had liked exactly one. One, who was now a woman and with whom he had spent last night.

Damn. No wonder his claws hadn't come out. This must have been what a good mood felt like.

He gave his knuckles a pondering glance, and then decided against the fleeting thought. Rogue would kill him if hurt any of her little friends.

The thought that strayed through his mind suddenly made him freeze, and then a claw did extend. Reaching up, he scratched his beard with it, shaking his head in annoyance and wonder.

He was whipped.

He was fucking whipped. Shit.

He gave the group one last glare that made them all turn away before kneeling in front of the roses

Screw the whipped talk. So he was. Like he cared. He needed to think.

Logan was not on the whole a great thinker. Which wasn't to say he wasn't a smart guy, he was. At least he thought so. He was smart enough to realize what these cerebros didn't, that sometimes, you didn't have time to think, the only thing you could do was follow your instincts, run with them.

He had done that last night.

And now he was stuck. He was stuck fast.

He had been stupid last night. He shouldn't have held her, he shouldn't have kissed her hair and memorized her scent, or trapped her body beneath his, or slid his hands over her slim waist, or listened to her breathe...

Because he knew himself. He knew he didn't like to stop halfway. And he knew now that he wanted Rogue completely. NOW.

Shit.

A warmth of searing heat slid over him and he shuddered, raking his fingers in his hair, thankful he didn't know where she was at that moment, because skin or no skin...

He needed to find a way to be with Marie. There had to be a way. There was something missing, something no one had caught yet.

Damn it.

He sniffed, knocked out of his thoughts when he sensed some one approaching. Nostrils flaring slightly, the Wolverine almost growled, getting up and turning around.

That kid was standing about two feet away.

Logan narrowed his eyes. What was the name of that kid? He was the one that dug Rogue. The one he didn't like...

"Bobby, what are you doing!" A pretty dark-haired woman about Rogue's age ran up, looking fearfully at him, trying to pull the kid back.

Bobby. That was the kid's name. Bobby.

Bobby shrugged her off. "Leave me alone, Kitty."

Logan cocked his head, stilling when he saw the look in the kid's eyes. Damn. His lip quirked for a minute, and he shuffled uncomfortably, knowing that look much too well.

The kid had his heart broken.

Damn.

"Popsicle," he said easily. "You better listen to your friend. Quit while I still almost like you."

"You stay away from her," Bobby breathed, ignoring him completely, straightening up, ice dancing from his fingertips. "You hear me? You'll hurt her! I know you will! You'll hurt her!"

Logan pursed his lips, and felt his body tense immediately. Fighting to squelch the anger that rose within him, his nostrils flared slightly, and he crossed his arms, trying to keep the urge to retract at bay.

"The person that's going to get hurt kid is you if you don't get out of my face."

The kids who had been watching him before now drew closer, drawn by the impending battle. Logan's irritation began to get the better of him and he felt himself growl without warning.

This was like a damn playground fight. He was too old for this crap.

His eyes lifted and they caught the younger man's. The anger in them seemed to make the X-men pause, and Bobby swallowed.

Logan almost smiled. He had to give the kid something. He wasn't a chicken.

"You don't scare me."

"The hell I don't," he snapped, a with a rumble in his throat, he reached forward, a single claw extended, moving so fast the Ice Man barely had time to blink before it was resting against his throat. There were gasps all around, and everyone froze, Bobby almost literally, shots of ice flying from his fingers in his surprise. Logan breathed deeply, shaking his head. Sure, he wasn't going to impale the kid, but no sense in him knowing that.

"You back off, kid," Logan growled, his body trembling as he fought to control his anger. "You back off now. I don't want to kill you."

"What's stopping you?" Bobby spit back, pulling away from the claw, his anger unfazed.

"Rogue. She'll get pissed," was the blunt reply.

"Woah! Wait! What de hell's goin' on here!" Pushing through the crowd, a red-eyed man about the age of thirty pushed his way through the students, eyes widening when he saw the scene.

Rushing forward, Gambit grabbed the younger man by the scruff of his neck and pulled him back roughly.

"What de hell are ya doin'?!" he demanded, almost tossing the Ice Man.

Bobby glared at him, but ignored him, looking back at Wolverine, who merely stared back passively.

"He was with Rogue last night. All night." Bobby spat, his eyes red and his vision blurry. "He was with her all night. WITH HER."

The meaning was clear, and for once, Remy appeared to be shocked into silence. His head suddenly swiveled, landed on Logan's face.

There was a hard stare, and for a second, Logan thought he saw sparks seeming to emerge from the Creole's fingers.

And then suddenly the taller man stiffened and clenched his fists, closing his eyes, crossing his arms.

"Dat's her choice, Icey," Gambit said, his voice easy, but his eyes hard. He looked back at Wolverine, who merely clamped his jaw, his hands splayed out on either side of him. "Who are we to say-"

"Who ARE WE?!" Bobby spat. "Wer-"

"No one," Logan interrupted, his eyes narrowed. "This is between me and Marie. Now I don't know how Frosty here found out, but it's our business. No one else's. Not you, Sparky, and not you, Popsicle."

"She's our business," the Ice Man shouted. "For five years, I've loved her, I've waited for her, I've stayed up nights when she almost lost her mind when she absorbed that girl, and I was the one that built the ice bridge to get her down the tree when she didn't realize she could fly and accidentally got stuck up there. She's cried in MY arms. I know what movies she likes. I know what ticks her off, and I know her annoying habits, and I LOVE her for them," Bobby wiped at his nose, a vicious swipe, and then his eyes flashed. "Where the hell were YOU!"

Silence followed the outburst, and at the challenging stare, Remy turned, expecting the beast man to lose control, fully prepared to protect the younger man from his wrath. With his body in front of him, he waited, his cards out.

The kid was annoying, and a snot, but he was still better than this jerk.

But Logan merely stared. Quietly, he crossed his arms, and again said, his voice low, dangerous. "Get out of here kid. I don't want to hurt you."

There was another long silence, and suddenly the shoulders of the young man's slumped, and his eyes closed, the defeat in his face clear. From the corner of his eyes, Logan saw the young brunette's face constrict in sympathy, wrapping her arms around herself almost as if she were trying to stop herself from reaching out to him.

Bobby's hands reached up, burying in his hair, and he closed his eyes, turning back. "Where the hell were you."

Gambit and Wolverine were quiet as the young man pulled away, walking to the house, his shoulders slumped and his figure quiet.

Warily, the friends that had surrounded the older men now parted also, Kitty running after Bobby, the rest gingerly making their ways to wherever they were going before.

"Professor X is goin' to hear about dis, man. You can bet your ass." The tone was threatening, low.

"Do whatever the hell you want," muttered Logan, turning away. "I could give a rat's ass."

"Shit, man you don't love her."

The edge that he had been teetering on suddenly snapped, and with a painful slice, the blades were now extended and Logan turned, his teeth bared, his hands up.

"You must have a fucking death wish, pal."

"I ain't your pal. I ain't your buddy, and I ain't a KID." Remy crossed his arms, his red eyes challenging. "I'm just a Creole who was willin' ta give her more than you ever would."

Logan growled, his breath heaving his eyes narrowed, coming forward, his muscles taught with anger.

Remy didn't move, he simply waited.

And seconds before the claws reached him, he spoke, making Logan freeze in his tracks.

"If you loved her you would have waited. You would have stayed the hell away from her. Let her figure herself out."

"I came back for her you miserable piece of sh-"

"Like hell! You came back because you had no where else to go. It had shit to do with her until you saw her." Gambit's eyes held disdain, something that was unusual for the thief, who was used to having the same look directed at him, not the other way around. Logan was frozen, his eyes narrowed, his breath heaving, and Remy didn't care. He only felt his own constricted chest, the pain in his own heart, and the anger in his eyes. "You're here cause you want her now. Where the hell were you before? Da kids, got a point, beastie. Where the hell were you?" Remy's eyes glowed red for a second, and a finger pointed, as he gently rasped. "You watch yourself."

And with that, the handsome thief turned, the trench coat flapping in the breeze, leaving Logan to stare after him, figure never moving.

Without a word, the claws retracted.


For the first time in a while, Jean was scared to wonder what someone was feeling.

The room was dead silent, and she shuffled in her chair, feeling her heart shudder within her.

She could feel Rogue's wild eyes on her, could sense the judgment, and she closed her eyes against them.

Oh, Rogue... I'm sorry... I had to-

"Get the hell out of my mind."

The statement cut through the air, and Xavier sat up, his eyes warily watching the young mutant, his face full of sad regret.

"Rogue, you don't understand. What we're saying-"

"What you're sayin'," she interjected slowly, forcefully, looking up, her eyes flashing. "Is that I'm too much of a loose cannon to get involved with someone that's just as dangerous as me. You think we can't handle it. You don't trust him, and you don't trust me."

Jean paused, looked back to Xavier, but the doctor remained silent, merely staring at Rogue. "You would really believe that, Rogue? After all we've been through?"

"What am I supposed to believe, Jean? That this is for my own good? You're scared of me." Rogue stood, tears brimming in her anger. "You've always been scared of me cause you never understood me, cause you can't look in my mind and right away find out what's going on. 'Cause you see what's brimming at the surface and it scares the hell of out of you."

"Rogue, that's enough." Xavier snapped, his voice crisp and full of authority. "Sit down."

The mutants both looked at him, and the angry young woman with the shock of white in her hair grudgingly turned, sat down, stared at him.

"So tell me what to do, Professor," she suddenly drawled, sitting back, crossing her legs, looking amost a shell of the beautiful woman she now was. Her white knuckles betrayed her emotion, hands clapping to the side of the chair. Her eyes were moist, and beseechingly, she stared at him appealing to him as a friend, as a mentor, as a father.

Xavier swallowed, feeling the confusion, the anger, the betrayal.

Rogue, we love you.

She winced, shaking her head as if trying to shake the thought out of her mind.

Charles wheeled around the desk, his hand on her palms as he gently began, "Give me time. give US time. To help you. And help him. Don't rush this."

His eyes were on her, and there was that glint in his eyes that made her aware he was in her mind.

She closed her eyes, resigning herself to it. "You realize that people like their privacy, Charles?" The drawl was her own, but the tone rang with authority, and immediately she felt him drift out.

Her eyes opened, met his, and slowly shook her head. "That wasn't him. I'm sorry."

He was quiet, and then merely offered a grim smile. "I'm sorry."

"You think I'll hurt him," was her next statement.

"Until you harness your power, you will. Most undoubtedly."

Her breath was soft, all she could feel was a tingle over her skin as she leaned back, feeling the small hairs on her arms rise with it. Her head throbbed, as if processing this information was too much.

It was as if last night had turned from a blissful dream, into a horrible nightmare. Tense agitation rang through her, and she swallowed, not wanting to dwell in this.

Damn, how many times had she wanted to be normal? Wanted to be just a kid again, something she knew she never really was, not when she had memories inside of her of concentration camps, of being strapped on a table, pain wracking through her body... memories of another woman who had lived a blissfully normal life until Rogue had touched her.

She shuddered, the memories seeping inside of her, feeling it from both sides, the receiving and the draining, the crying out, the way she was frozen, couldn't let go...

The way the only thing that was left of the other girl was a cocoon... and the way the two consciousness battled inside her, vying for dominance...

Rogue had almost let her win... she didn't want her gifts, she didn't want the knowledge that she had taken the life of someone.

That was something no one had ever done...

For weeks they had stayed away from her, as she, isolated battled for her mind, her body wracked with the pain inside of her.

She knew what her power could do. She knew she had numbed herself to it. She knew just how close to being a monster she could truly be.

And she knew that she could never, ever hurt Logan without dying inside herself.

There was a soft intake of breath, and then her face was buried in her hands, her shoulders shaking slightly.

"This can't happen."

Charles and Jean exchanged a look, and Jean gently took a step forward, kneeling in front of the young woman.

"You love him."

Rogue offered her a rueful smile. "Isn't it obvious?"

Jean pursed her lips, feeling her heart sink slightly at the heartbreak in her voice. "Then we'll find a way."

The sincere, gentle tone made the younger woman look up, lock eyes with her. "I wish I could hate you," was her mumble, her eyes flickering with tears. The beautiful older mutant merely cocked her head, listening. "You've got everythin'. Do you realize how perfect you are?"

Jean swallowed, her voice caught in her throat.

"Just for once, I'd kill for the peace inside of you." Rogue smiled gently, leaning forward, her palm gently tracing her friend's face. "That's what drew him to you. Your peace. It shows. In your eyes. It's what he wants... what we all want. "

"Rogue..." Jean rasped, her eyes brimming with tears, the hollowness in the dark orbs seeping through her.

"Jean..." Rogue cut her off, shaking her head slightly. "Don't... nothing you can really say can change things... I know you care... and I know ... I know why you told him..."

The hand dropped as the husky voice was now directed at Professor Xavier, "I'll stop it. I'll... I don't want to hurt him."

"Rogue we're not saying that you have to... break it off... but slow down. And maybe-"

"What?" she snapped, her palm reaching, running tiredly through her hair. "Leave him waiting? Make him wait for how long? Years?"

She shook her head furiously, standing walking to the door.

Rogue.

She stopped as soon as the single thought from both people pounded in her head, making her steps falter.

She closed her eyes, and waited.

"What?"

I'm sorry.

The tears brimmed, and she swallowed, taking a breath, and answering raggedly, "Yeah. I know."

And then the door almost broke from the strength she used in slamming it behind her, cutting herself from the two telepaths.


He was going to be trouble.

The teacher leaned back on the desk, watching as she saw the frustrated kid break his pencil, throwing it on the paper, and leaning back, glaring at her.

She pursed her lips, noticing as the other children gave each other uncertain looks.

"Daryl, come up here." He merely stared at her, and when she raised and eyebrow, pushed the chair back, walked up to the desk. Ororo kept her gaze locked on his, and then looked pointedly behind him. "Back to work."

They obeyed, every once in a while stealing glances up to her and him.

She ignored them, instead turning to the young man with the silver eyes

"Having problems?"

"No."

"Ah." She nodded slightly, studying him. "And I suppose breaking the pencil was just a fun thing to do."

"I can put it back together."

She managed to hide the smile at the disinterested tone. Indeed he could. This boy had the very special gift of being able to remodule molecules. Logan had picked him up one day in town. Grabbed the kid by the scruff of his neck when the kid tried to pick pocket him and dragged him here.

The adjustment was not going well.

"Did you study for the test?" she asked quietly.

"No."

"Really." Storm's arms crossed, and she gave him an appraising glance. "And why not?"

"'Cause it's stupid." The voice was loud, and kids once again froze.

"You think so?"

"Yes." He wouldn't elaborate, and Storm merely gazed at him.

Finally the earth mother shrugged and smiled. "Well then, by all means don't take it."

He paused, looking at her uncertainly. "What?"

"Don't take it. He's right, class. Physics is stupid. It means nothing." And with that she turned. "Unless of course you count everything that ever lived."

He looked uncertain, but she merely shuffled her papers. "Exactly why don't you like this place, Darryl? Is it personal, or is it you just don't like anything?"

He crossed his arms and said nothing.

She smiled softly, leaning back, her white hair falling gracefully behind her. The leather pants she wore were slim fitting, and the black top she wore was no less vibrant.

His eyes floated down, then back up to her beautiful ebony face.

"Why do you guys dress like that?" he blurted out.

"Like what?" was the quiet response.

"Like that! Teachers don't dress like that! You're hot!"

A small smile flitted on her face that she managed to stop it before it became a full on grin, and she sternly quieted the giggles from the class behind her.

"We're different."

"Yeah!" he looked so confused, and very put out because of it.

Ahhhhhh.

Ororo's eyes lit up with realization.

And she smiled at him.

"Darryl, that's what this place IS. It's for different people. It's meant to teach you that being different is not a bad thing."

"Yeah, we pay attention a lot more when she wears the leather pants," popped up a teenage boy, and the class laughed.

Darryl blushed, and Ororo merely shook her head.

The bell rang, and still chuckling, the classmates stood, grabbing their books, walking out of the class.

Ororo's gaze flickered back to the young man, and her voice softened. "Breaking pencils isn't going to get you any respect, or make anyone here impressed," she added. "We already have a rebel. His name's Logan. And trust me, after him, it takes a lot to make us think you have a bad attitude."

"Logan?"

"Aka the Wolverine. And quite good at what he does." She rose, gathering her things. "We're not expecting you to adjust right away, and -" her voice trailed off when she caught a glimpse of a woman with a shock of white hair walking quickly into her doorway, leaning against it.

Ororo frowned, the look on Rogue's face was... disturbing to say the least.

"Rogue."

Rogue crossed her arms, and just bit her lip.

"Ms. Munroe?"

Her gaze suddenly shifted back to the young man, and she took a breath. "Take that assignment home with you."

"I'm not going to do it."

"You won't have to. If you come up with a reason why you don't need it. And I mean a good one. With evidence."

He seemed to consider the offer, and suddenly smiled. "Deal."

She watched him leave and shook her head slowly.

"Chances are, he's going to spend more time tryin' to do that assignment than he is if he just shut his trap and done it in here," Rogue drawled, coming in, her voice husky.

Ororo gave her friend a soft smile, and turned, gathering her things. "It worked with you, didn't it?"

"Yeah. But that attitude wasn't mine. Only Logan would have told you to take your pencil and stick it where the sun don't shine."

Ororo smiled at the memory, and turned. "Yes. You apologized for that."

"Until I did it again the next day."

Storm laughed, shaking her head as she came forward, squeezing her shoulder. "You were a brilliant student, Rogue. When you actually studied. You were a challenge, I relished that."

There was a stiffening under her hand, and when Ororo glanced closer into her eyes, she detected a sheen of tears.

"Rogue? What is it?"

"You know sometimes I wish I wasn't much of challenge." the tone was bitter, and at the blank look in Storm's face, Rogue laughed grimly. "What, you mean you don't know?"

"Know what?"

"Wher've you been all day?"

"Where I usually am. Here."

"Oh. Raht." Rogue took a breath, and just shook her head. "Ah just thought everyone knew by now."

"Knew what?" Ororo asked again, her voice harder, the concern in her face making her agitation all more obvious.

Rogue didn't reply, and Storm's eyes fairly crackled.

Despite the age difference, the young woman with bolt of white hair was quite possibly one of Ororo's favorite work-out partners, and friends. She had a hidden depth in her eyes, a beautiful wisdom and maturity that Storm appreciated. Rogue felt an outcast, and the memories of very much the same treatment in the African village from which Ororo hailed only proved to bring them together.

She shared things with her, and Storm very much hoped the Southern belle would do it again.

"He spent the night with me."

There was a silence, and suddenly Ororo's voice was choked, different. "How?"

"Well, nothin' happened, at least nothin' physical, but... DAMN." Rogue shook slightly, swallowing down her tears. "Ah love him, Ororo. Ah love him and ah can't have him."

"Says who?"

"Everyone. I mean, am I crazy?" Her gaze met Storm's in an intense stare. "Am I stupid for thinkin' that maybe I could actually HAVE somethin' with someone? Am I nuts? Am I an idiot for thinkin' that maybe I could... cause if I am, you have to tell me." Ororo was silent, her eyes darker than they had ever been as Rogue looked at her pleadingly. "You have to tell me that Ah'm nuts. You tell me and I'll believe you. I promise."

"Oh, Rogue." Storm's hands drifted to her friend, and she pulled her close, her eyes tearing dangerously. The windows suddenly shuddered as a burst of wind hit against them, followed by a crack of thunder. "I can't tell you that, honey." She pulled back, gently taking the lock of hair from Rogue's face and sliding it behind her. "I can't tell you that."

She swallowed. "Then tell me I can."

Storm's throat was dry, and her lips trembled before she stopped it by biting down on them. "I... I can't do that either."

Rogue stared into her face, and suddenly she pulled away, the tears escaping their liquid pools in her orbs and sliding down freely. "So that's it? I'm stuck like this, this....shit tearin' me up inside cause I'm stuck in the middle, and that's IT?!"

"Rogue, ROGUE!" Storm ran after her, unable to catch her friend as Rogue's strength carried her legs faster and farther than Storm's ever could.

She slid out of the doorway, and watched as Rogue ran down the hallway, her long auburn hair trailing after her, looking so very much like the child Storm knew she no longer was.

It was no use going after her. There was nothing she could say.

She swallowed down the tears, the conflicting turmoil inside her, the anger at Rogue's helpless situation that made the skies outside blacken and then burst with lightning.

Instead she leaned against the wall, eyes cast heavenward.

"She's takin' it hard."

Her eyes snapped down to find the thief in the trench coat, his red eyes darker and moist, his voice gruff.

"Hard ta think an idiot like Wolvie makes her like that."

She crossed her arms and strode to him, looking at his handsome face with a stone cold expression. "Tell me what's going on," she demanded. "Now."


CHAPTER THREE

How does it feel
when everyone surrounds you?
How do you deal?
Do crowds just make you feel lonely?
What do you say
when people come and try to pin you down?
Acquaintances smile,
but that's no understanding.
How, after a while
you keep falling off the same mountain.
Try to explain it,
but nothing really gets them that high.

Steal away in the morning;
love's already history to you.
It's a habit you're forming.
This body's desperate for something new.
Just A Matter of Feeling
These moments of madness are sure to pass,
And tears will dry as you're leaving.
Who knows, you might find something to last.

Duran Duran, A matter of feeling


His arm ached.

Logan paused, rubbing at it roughly in an effort to make some of the pain dissipate, but to no avail.

It was an aching that wasn't at the surface, but deeper, seeming to almost seep from his bones.

He grimaced, and then shook his head, sighing.

Fuck. It had been a bad day.

He didn't know how people found out, but DAMMIT.

He found himself growling as he entered the building, ignoring the stares and the whispers.

The sky outside crackled, and the thought flitted through him that someone must have pissed Storm off.

Gambit's words rang in his head and Logan felt himself swallow in anger, trying to keep them from crowding his mind.

Where the hell was he?

He had heard whispered conversations of the hell she had gone through when she had absorbed that other girl. She had damn near gone crazy, with guilt and with the inner turmoil.

And where the hell had he been?

She had whispered to him of the pride she had felt the day she was inducted to the X-men, spoke of the mission in which she had saved them all, when Scott had beamed with pride and Jean had hugged her, and Ororo had thanked her in her soft way.

She told him, that that day she had thought about him, wondered what he would say if he had been there.

He managed a grim smile and told her he probably would have chewed her out for risking her life like that, but the truth was, he would have been proud. He would have loved to see his little Marie in that outfit, raising hell and kicking ass and finally belonging.

And where the hell had he been?

He had been in the north, freezing his ass off.

He had been in the South, sweating his ass off.

He had been with other woman.

He had beaten other men.

He had acted like a bastard who didn't care.

And he came back.

He came back because one day he was lying on the floor looking at the stars and got pissed off when he couldn't shake the memories of the geeks he had left.

He wanted answers.

He got memories.

He wanted peace.

Instead he was haunted with images.

And he was back....

He had never known the reason. Maybe it was Jean... maybe it was the professor's stupid hope... and maybe it was the little girl with the shock hair he had made the promise to.

He had no idea how much things would change.

He had no idea how much he had stayed the same.

And he had no idea where the hell he had been. But he knew where he was now.

And there was no way in hell they were taking him away from her.

The bell rang again, and suddenly the hallways quieted as the kids ran in all directions, leaving him to make the only sound, his boots hitting the wood floor with dull thuds.

His hands were tense, and his eyes were narrowed, his journey undeterrable.

He froze when a whiff of a familiar scent that sent his chest tightening and his skin tingly pervaded his nose.

His steps faltering, he stopped, waiting.

She turned the corner, and suddenly found herself face to face with him.

"Marie," he whispered, his eyes suddenly wide when he saw the tears in her eyes.

Her eyes connected with his, and she swallowed, blinking as if trying to make sure it was really him.

"Logan," she whispered. His hands slid to her waist, pulling her, and without another word she threw herself in his arms, the muffled sob barely heard as she buried her face into his shoulder.

He held her tightly, his throat suddenly choked at the shuddering form.

"Rogue," he said hoarsely. He closed his eyes, her lithe body pressed so desperately against him, like she was trying to hold on for all eternity, like maybe if she held on just a little bit tighter, he would become a part of her.

Dammit. He swallowed, his hands sliding closer, pulling her in tighter. He already was.

There was a whimper that was barely discernible, and the Wolverine found he could do nothing but hold her.

Logan wasn't a talkative kinda guy. He preferred to use actions instead of words, and yet now, he wished more than anything he could find something to tell her to get the hell out of her eyes.

FUCK.

He couldn't think of one damn thing.

And so he held her, burying his face into her hair, breathing into her, holding her tightly.

And almost breaking down himself.

Damn.

Who the hell was he kidding? He needed to hold her just as much as she needed to hold him. Hell, he was holding her so tight he doubted she could breathe.

It was a long moment before she pulled back. His throat was closed when he searched her eyes, and again he could he could say nothing.

She managed a grim smile, wiping the tears away quickly.

"Ah'm sorry," she whispered, rubbing at her nose in an attempt to bring herself under control. "I just... Ah've had a hell of a day, is all."

"Yeah, you and me both." His hand, covered in the leather motorcycle glove, traced her cheek carefully. "Are you okay?"

"Ah've been better." With a ragged sigh, she lay her head gently on his chest, breathing slightly as the older man held her tightly.

Her form was trembling, and Logan felt a well of emotion surge within him. Damn. She was really hurting.

"Shit, Marie." His growl took her by surprise, but the hold didn't lesson around her as his gruff voice continued. "It's none of their damn business."

"They think it is." She shook her head, swallowing. "It's dangerous, Logan. That's what they think."

"Dangerous is what it'll be if they try and take you from me." Logan cupped her face, his eyes intense as they flashed, gazing into hers. "You hear me, kid? We're going to get through this. All of it. And you're mine."

Her eyes were intense as they met his, and he met the gaze head on. Her eyes were clouded, but his grip was firm, and he didn't let go.

He was never going to let go.

She shuddered, closing her eyes. "You got inta a fight with Bobby today."

"I didn't hurt him."

"Why?"

"'Cause I don't like hurting you."

Her eyes opened, and suddenly they watered, her head tipping, the expression making his heart suddenly thump despite of himself.

"Ah love you." The words came gently, softly.

The words stung him to the core, and suddenly he froze, and he was trembling more than he had ever trembled in his life.

"Right back at you, kid," was the ragged, hoarse response, and suddenly his grip on hers tightened, pulling her closer.

Without another thought, she pressed herself closer against him. The heat of his body was overwhelming, she could feel his hot breath over her, inches from her face, and the lack of contact sent shivers though her. God, it would be so easy. it would be so easy to just forget about it all and only care about this moment.

His lips feathered above hers, and suddenly she knew what he was doing. She knew what would happen, and her heart wrenched inside of her, hating herself and hating him for knowing what they could be doing.

"Shit LOGAN!?"

And with that she pulled away, ripping from his grasp.

"Marie!"

"Ah might've killed you!" she rasped, her eyes clouded, arms out to guard herself from his touch. "Ah, can't hurt you. Ah can't... Ah couldn't stand it if I did."

"You won't."

"Why not? Ah hurt everyone else, what makes you so special?"

He swallowed, wanting more than anything to say to hell with the consequences and pull her close...

It was her eyes that stopped him.

She looked like she was dying...

And he had done that to her.

FUCK.

He stepped forward tentatively, his voice at a whisper, more tender, more pleading than he had ever heard it.

"Marie... don't-"

He reeled when a voice ripped through his mind, taking over, and he blinked, unable to discern it for a minute.

"What the hell was that?!"

Rogue actually seemed to smile, and she just answered. "Professor. We need to go downstairs. It's the alarm."

"Alarm?"

She gave him a rueful grin. "X-men time."


True to her nature, the white haired goddess of the winds was silent as she entered the room that at that moment never seemed more cold or sterile.

Her face was placid, but her eyes were dark, cloudy, and her form tense. Behind her, she could sense the rock hard body, almost leaning against her, and she quickly brushed aside the sensation, moving away.

Gambit was a thorn in her side. He was a thief, and she had told herself again and again that she didn't like him.

She just wished she could make herself believe that.

He was a thief, plain and simple, and just because he had managed to wrap every woman in this place around his finger just like that was didn't mean she was going to feel the same way.

Despite the fact her body was aware of every sense. Despite the fact that she found his blazing eyes fascinating...

Despite the fact he made her shudder with emotion when he was close to her this way.

Of course, making herself believe none of that mattered was a lot easier because of his current obsession with one of her best friends.

Ororo looked back, caught his red eyes, his face stone.

"What?" she asked.

"I'm wonderin' where she is."

She swallowed, looking away as they descended the steps. "We all got the alarm. She'll be here."

At her voice, the other members of the group looked back, acknowledged her with a simple nod, and then turned back to the monitor.

Scott was standing in the front, his expressionless face firm as he greeted them. Jean, Bobby, and a young little spitfire called Jubilee stood around the table, their faces completely absorbed on the screen.

Ororo slipped beside Jean, and Bobby's gaze flickered towards her. "Rogue?"

"I don't know."

He only gazed at her for a minute, and then nodded, turning back to the screen.

"What's going on?" she asked, hands on her hips as she looked at Jean.

Jean gave her a painfully quick smile, her face haggard and worn, and then motioned to the monitor.

"Take a look."

Gambit was again behind her, barely an inch away, and Storm bit her lip, sliding quickly to the other side of Jean, desperate to be rid of his presence. She took a breath to calm her shuddering nerves and then looked to the monitor.

It was hard to make out what she was seeing, exactly. It appeared to be something in the middle of a white blizzard, and she narrowed her eyes, trying to focus.

Sparks flew around it, and from the news channel's anchor, the voice strained, she could barely make out the words.

"- Officials say they had no idea what the terrorists want or what they plan to DO with the hostages, but what they ARE clear about is that they are mutants. They call themselves X-men, and if can be see, are affiliated with a large X on their clothes-"

Ororo gave an indrawn hiss, accompanied by a curse and mutter from Gambit.

"SHIT." Jubilee shook her head, hands buried in her spikey dark hair. "Like we don't have enough problems already, what with these bastards giving us a bad name."

Scott cocked his head, turning down the volume, looking as thoughtful as he could from behind the dark red glasses. "Maybe Magneto-"

"It's not Magneto." The still, calm voice of the Professor interrupted the team leader, wheeling himself down into the room. "I just came from the prison. He's still there. I can read his mind clearly. He knew nothing of this."

"So who else wants to piss us off?"

The door opened again, a tired looking woman with a streak of white hair entered, followed by Logan.

"Oh, hell no." Bobby stood, his eyes narrowed. "He's not coming."

"Bobby-"

"No. I'm with Icey, here. Dat man is not coming-"

Logan merely raised an eyebrow, crossing his arms and looking at Scott. "Nice team leadin', man."

Rogue closed her eyes, running her fingers gently along her temple as she took a breath. "Shut up. All of you. Now."

Her eyes flickered up, and the intensity in the glare made both Bobby and Gambit suddenly snap their jaws shut. Her head swiveled, and when her gaze was locked with the Professor's, they seemed to hold some silent conversation.

Logan slid gently around her, the only part of him feeling any sort of emotion other than pain. rage. tension.

He flopped into a chair and glared at the monitor, not wanting to glare at anything else.

Damn, Logan. Just breathe. Just breathe.

His breath was ragged, and his knuckles were white, as he gripped the side of the chair with his fingers.

"Ahlraht, so we goin' to kick these guyses asses or what?" The familiar drawl was so empty of it's previous pain that he forced himself to look up in wonder.

Rogue didn't look at him, her eyes were for Scott and Jean only.

She was met with silence.

Rogue swallowed, looking down, hands flat against the table.

It was one thing to deal with her own private turmoil herself. It was quite another to have to deal with the stares, the knowledge that at that moment, no one gave a damn about what the professor had just let her know about.

DAMN. She couldn't TAKE this right now. Hell, every sense, every nerve was concentrating on trying to not to look at Logan, not seeing his eyes, not seeing his face, not seeing the haunting want that was in his eyes.

She couldn't HANDLE this right now.

"Rogue's right." A hand was gently placed on her shoulder, squeezed, and she heard the calm, serene voice of her friend break the silence. "Let's get to work."

Jean shot Ororo a thankful glance, and then glanced at Xavier.

He merely leaned back in his wheelchair, and raised an eyebrow.

Take care of it

The command rang in her head, and she took a ragged breath, nodding.

"Look."

The voice was firm, rang with authority, exactly how it needed to be.

"I know things are tense right now. For everyone." Rogue sucked in her breath, her eyes narrowed, and Ororo's eyes widened, mentally seeming to plead with Jean not to say a word. Jean just shook her head, her heart tremoring within her. "We're professionals. We put this aside and we work together as a team. We deal with it later."

"It's none of your damn business to deal with later."

"Logan not NOW." Scott jaw was clamped tightly, and he shook his head. "NOT NOW."

"Why the hell not?!" he growled, coming behind Rogue.

A hand clamped at his shirt, and he was cut off.

Looking down, he was suddenly pushed back with amazing strength, and his claws suddenly slit threw his skin, until he realized who it was that had pushed him back into the chair.

Marie's eyes burned with fire, as she said in a husky, tortured voice. "NOT. NOW."

His hands were frozen against hers, but she merely shook her head, and then let go gently, turning away from him, wiping at her eyes.

Scott was quiet for a moment, and then said a low voice, "EVERYONE in this room needs to concentrate on the mission, and ONLY the mission. Is that understood?"

The glasses purposely avoided Marie, who stood close to Ororo. The beautiful black woman had her hand still on her shoulder, her back straight and tall.

But Gambit was glared at. Bobby was glared at.

And lastly, there was Logan to glare at.

But when Scott slid his gaze over him, he realized that he didn't need to glare at him after all.

The look on Logan's face proved he was too numb to disagree, too shocked to say a trademark "I-just-want-to-piss-you-off" comment, and too worn to even argue about it.

Instead the Wolverine gazed at Rogue, and then looked away.


He had learned a long time ago that the uniforms they wore served many purposes.

Firstly, they allowed the team members to find each other in the battles. Because mutant wars were so chaotic, and so deadly, it was essential that they identify their members quickly and safely.

The last thing Scott wanted was to lose a member simply because someone didn't know who the hell they were.

Another essential reason was the change, the physical change that soon became part of the mental. They literally became a team. When the visor went on, when the leather was slipped on, and when it was buckled, the X he wore proudly, and would wear until he died, he became someone else. He was no longer Scott Summers, he was Cyclops.

It was the same with Ororo. Suddenly she was no longer the peace-loving earth mother. She was suddenly a storm, literally, an inner maelstrom that showed in the fiery whites of her eyes.

For some of the others, the uniforms became extensions of themselves, and the design showed their personalities, their distinction in themselves, more vivid than ever.

Gambit's trench-coat was long. heavy. and he never minded. He wore it as Storm wore the cape, with a finesse that told Scott he was only comfortable, only truly the Gambit when he wore it. It was something to hide behind.

Jean never changed, never in mind, never in body. She was always herself, and her uniform was perhaps the most natural. Simple black leather, her hair pulled back in a ponytail, looking beautiful and feminine, and perfect, as always. Her strength was in her mind, and the simplicity of such a power was deceptively complex.

Rogue, who had come to them as a child, and now fought with them as a comrade and a field leader, had long ago chosen a uniform that she could fly in easily, move in without effort, and covered every inch of her body. She hated the leather that she had been assigned, and went to Professor X to change it some time ago to something that was easier for her to move about it, not needing as much protection as Jean, or Storm or Scott did. It was, essentially, a cat suit, not leather at all. It adhered to every curve, and with her hair tumbling free, she looked very much the dangerous vixen the mutants on the other side now knew her for.

They were his team, the starters, as he called them, chosen to go on every mission, those whom he most relied on, and when they were in uniform, he would trust them with his life.

Across the room, dressed in the black suit that had been saved for him when he left five years ago, the wild card in the room was silent. On his face was a curious glare, leaning back against the wall, watching as the young mutant with the bolt in her hair adjusted the short brown duster over her body suit, pulling on the short gloves, speaking in low tones to Scott.

As he stared at her, making no attempt to hide the gaze, there was something in his eyes that made Bobby's gaze harden and Gambit look away; a pain a longing. a torture. and a realization.

As if aware of his gaze on her, her head suddenly turned, her dark eyes meeting with his own. She froze as their eyes locked, but he didn't say a word. Staring at her with that unnerving gaze that gave her the idea that maybe he knew exactly what she was thinking... what she was feeling. Her gaze slid his way, and their eyes locked, and he didn't say a word. Merely kept his place. Merely waited.

Her throat was dry, and consequently, the tone came out husky, more ragged than before.

"Am I leadin'?"

Scott looked thoughtful a minute, and took a breath, came forward, speaking gently. "You think you're up for it?"

She froze, her eyes flickering up and down. "Of course I am. I haven't let you down before, have I?"

"Never," he agreed. "But I don't want to let YOU down."

The tender tone grated on her frazzled emotions, and she felt herself suddenly shudder. Quickly she turned, looking away, not wanting to look at him for fear her carefully constructed mask of indifference would fall away and she would finally break down. "I'll be fine, Cyc."

He pursed his lips, and nodded. "Okay. Then you and Storm take the air. Wolverine and Iceman will be right behind you. I'll take Jubilee and Jean with me."

"Scott." Jean came up, resting a hand on his shoulder, forcing him to look at her, her eyes dark and thoughtful. "I don't think it's a good idea to bring Bobby."

Rogue looked up at the mention of her friend as Jean continued. "We're going into an icy area. He's not going to have much. power."

"He'll be more used to the cold than any of use," Storm interjected thoughtfully.

"Ah'll keep my eye on him, " Rogue said immediately. "He can't just get left behind. Being an X-men is everythin' to him."

Scott pursed his lips, looked back at Jean, and finally shrugged. "We need all the man power we can get."

Jean still looked hesitant, but finally nodded.

"LET's MOVE."

Rogue bit her lip, turning to find Logan still leaning against the wall. Her heart shuddered slightly within her, and she forced herself to swallow down the emotion, feeling the tears.

When he looked at her, she took a ragged breath and came forward.

Her voice was soft, hesitant, quite a contrast from the dark, heavy tone it carried before.

"You remember the drill, right?"

He just pursed his lips, not saying a word.

Her head cocked, and her lip trembling, and even through his anger, Logan felt the pang in his heart at this incredibly young act, her pleading eyes.

She knew he was furious with her.

She knew why.

Even if he still wasn't sure.

And then his eyes drifted down to her figure, to the X that was emblazoned on her belt and he suddenly knew why he was seeing red. Why he was shaking, trembling, why his insides ached and his eyes stung and why he wanted to murder everyone in the room.

She had chosen them.

Her eyes moistened and she whispered in an aching voice, "Logan. What I said before. I meant it."

"Did you?" he asked, his voice a low growl, watching as the X-men walked through the doorway that would take them to the jet.

"Of course I did," she whispered softly, a gloved hand gently sliding up to cup his face. He jerked his face away, and her palm froze. With a swallow, she brought it back down, balling it into a fist and keeping it at her side. "I. How I feel. Ah. . just.. it's not a good time."

And suddenly he looked her in the eyes, leaning forward, his voice a harsh, low growl. "Marie you're scared. You're scared and you're letting these jerk-offs tell you what to do when you damn well know you got a brain in there that's just as capable. Don't give me that shit. You've lost your mind."

She stiffened. There something about that particular choice of words that suddenly made her intake her breath as if she had just been punched, the wind let out of her stomach.

Her lower lip trembled and her eyes flashed and she answered, "They are all I have."

"You have me."

Her gaze bored into his, and suddenly she straightened away from him.

"Take care of Bobby," she snapped, her voice suddenly no-nonsense, and she walked away from him, almost running into the cargo bay.

He waited a second, and then followed her, his posture rigid, his eyes bright and chest tight.

And he waited until she was far enough away not to hear before he answered, "I love you, kid."


CHAPTER FOUR

I'm living without you but
I know all about you
I have run you down into the ground
Spread disease about you over town
I used to adore you
I couldn't control you
There was nothing that I wouldn't do
To keep myself around and close to you
Do you have an opinion
A mind of your own
I thought you were special
I thought you should know
But I've run out of patience
I couldn't care less

Special, Garbage


His movements were graceful, sleek.

The Panther, they had once called him. And when they had, he had merely smiled and shook his head. It was a beautiful name, once he enjoyed, and over the years, he had taken it, made it his own.

More than anything he understood the importance in movements, the seduction of the dance of the human heart.

His eyes, violet and mesmerizing, swirled now, indicating his thoughtfulness, as he looked outside, the whirling blizzard obstructing his vision of almost everything outside.

The screams of the woman suddenly pierced into his skull, and his eyes closed, wincing.

Turning, he gave the mutant an irritated glare.

"Keep her quiet."

"She tried to escape!" he growled, holding the furiously moving woman tightly to him.

"Then gag her. But keep her quiet. It's annoying."

The mutant's eyes narrowed, the snakelike tongue slithered out, but he merely rolled her eyes, raising an index finger.

"Take care, Samuel. I'm not in the best of moods."

At this the tongue slithered back in.

Augustus tapped the side of his head thoughtfully, taking a slight breath before turning back to the window thoughtfully.

He tingled with anticipation, and took a ragged breath, his mind searching, trying to find the lock of the tormented mind, the beautiful soul, the key to his future.

A tap on his shoulder shook him out of his thoughts, and he heard a voice say softly, "They're coming."

A small smile slid onto his face as his heart leapt slightly. "Is she with them?"

"Yes."

"Good. Make the preparations."

The voice retreated, and he didn't bother to look at the mutant. His heart was beating rapidly and the smile on his face could almost be described as beautiful.

It was here. it was finally here.

His future had begun.


"Target spotted."

Wolverine narrowed his eyes at the comment, looking at the white sleet that was battering the jet from all sides. "You're kidding. You can see in this weather?"

Cyclops didn't answer, instead manipulating the controls, his forehead beaded with sweat. "Damn this is a bad storm. Can you tame it a bit?"

Ororo's eyes were white, and slowly, her face vivid with concentration, she managed to steady the winds slightly.

"These aren't natural gusts," she said after a moment.

Bobby looked up, curious. "What?"

"They are not natural," she repeated. "If they were I could control them."

"Well, shit," was Rogue's contribution.

"Can you guys handle those winds out there?"

Ororo and Rogue gave each other a quick glance, and both nodded. "We'll be fahn. We'll keep an eye on each other."

"I might have some trouble, but I'll be fine."

Scott and Jean exchanged a quick glance, and he pursed his lips. "Okay, then. Get ready."

Rogue unbuckled her seat belt, biting her lip slightly as she looked at the form of her young friend seated next to her.

A gloved hand gently squeezed his knee, and when his startling blue eyes turned to her, she smiled softly. "Be careful."

Bobby gave her a long stare, and with a swallow, he smiled tightly back. "You too."

"Be careful, chere." Gambit's arms were crossed, gazing at her thoughtfully. "I'm not done making you fall in love with me yet."

Ororo glanced at the exchange between the now smiling Rogue and Gambit, her place next to Wolverine making her very aware of the tension coursing through the beast-like man.

"She does not love him," she merely whispered, and then got up, walking towards the back of the plane.

Rogue's face turned, and her eyes locked with Logan's.

The intensity behind the stare made her swallow, suddenly aware of her body trembling.

Her hands clamped to her thighs in a desperate effort not to run to him, to bury herself in her arms and hold him and plead his forgiveness for giving up on him, for ever doubting his promises of future contact and happiness could come true.

Instead she took a haggard breath, closed her eyes against the tears that threaten to slide through them, and tried desperately to calm the crazy torment in her mind.

She saw him then. and she had never loved him more.

"Let's go."

Ororo Munroe's cape flapped in the wind as the cold gust of air slid into the jet. The white strands of Ororo and the dark brown of Rogue's tangled together for an instant as the frost nipped at their faces.

With a breath, Rogue prepared to jump.

"MARIE!"

The outburst came from a tormented voice, almost as if it was at the end of another sentence that never quite made it out, and turning, she found the Wolverine bolting towards her.

Her mouth parted in surprise as her heart lurched when he slid his arms around her, sweeping her off her feet in a powerful burst, and then held her to him so desperately. Her eyes suddenly shut and the tears slid from her face, freezing almost immediately amid the noise and cold, frigid wind that threatened to take Storm and her with it.

She didn't see the way the other X-men looked at each other. She didn't feel the stares or the sorrow in the faces. The only thing she could feel was the melting in her own heart, the shuddering groan of surrender that escaped from her mouth when his lips pressed against her hair.

He pulled back, and her chest tightened when she saw the desperation in his face, the pure agony. the surrender.

"I love you," was his harsh whisper. "I'm sorry."

And her face softened, the tears slipping down her cheeks, as a gloved hand gently cupped her beastly lover's face, the adoration in her face blatantly obvious.

"Right back at ya, sugah."

And then her lips gently slid to his, feather light, barely a second they rested on his own. Her mind jerked at the contact, and he gasped, but she pulled away quickly. He blinked, and she steadied him, a small grin sliding on her face.

"You'll be okay in a minute. I'll see you later." Logan let her go when she pulled away.

He was weak, drained slightly, but the contact was minimal, and although he could still feel her burning caress on his lips, the back of his mind telling him that if she had let their skin connect for a second longer, it would have begun.

And suddenly that didn't matter.

His hand reached out, the claws digging into the side of the plane to hold himself against the winds as Rogue gave him one last look.

And then suddenly she stepped backwards, and dropped away. Storm, her eyes dangerously moist, followed.

Logan was speechless as the door closed on the scene of Rogue floating in the tumultuous winds.


It had taken years of training, years of back breaking work, of injuries, of mis-trial to get the team where they were.

They were as oiled as a solid unit, each knew their place, and it had never occurred to Logan how gelled they all were until he realized just how outside of this he was.

Even if they couldn't see the flying forms of Rogue and Storm above them, he knew that they knew that they were there, he could see Jean with her hands on her forehead, concentrating on the voices above her.

"They're going around back."

"Got it!" Scott yelled, his hands on his visor, struggling against the winds that threatened to pull them away.

"DAMMIT!" Bobby's cry was heard, followed by an blast of ice that hit a fallen branch, freezing it seconds before it hit Jubilee.

"HOLY SHIT!" was her cry, never even looking at the man who had just saved her life when her index finger rose, pointing. "LOOK!" she burst, barely even speaking before she ducked, the sparks flying from her fingers.

Logan's head jerked just in time to see the hail flying, thrown almost, shooting at them all, followed by a man who appeared part falcon, part human, the X emblazoned on his wing.

"DAMN!"

And the Falcon, slid, swooping down upon them, his screeching cry filling his ears.


The wind scattered, and she swiped downwards, riding the wind easily, thanking Storm unconsciously for making the ride a bit easier.

The cold didn't affect Ororo, but it seeped into her own bones, and Rogue shuddered, turning her mind from it, her eyes looking down into the trees, the mountains below them filled with sparks and beams and a whirling white sleet that made it impossible to see.

Her eyes suddenly shifted to Ororo's white orbs. "I can't feel Jean anymore."

Ororo didn't respond, instead, turning sweeping under a bolt of lightning that headed her way.

Rogue's eyes widened. "STORM!"

"I. they're NOT MINE!" She cried back, diving down.

With a dry throat, Rogue followed her, closer to the building, trying to escape the bolts of lightning that slid towards them.


His eyes saw red.

That was nothing new, he always saw red.

In his life, he often wondered if he would remember what any other color looked like.

The world appeared always a different shade of red to him, and although there was always a knot in his stomach, a burst of pain, a stab in his heart when he slid his hands through Jean's luscious, silky strands, knowing he would never see their true color, he had accepted his affliction as fate. He had never dwelled on it.

But today, the red was searing, the tears blurring the visions as he carried her body to the shelter of the tree, his heart thumping tremendously.

"JEAN." He cried holding her body close. Her eyes were closed, and her breathing light. erratic. painful.

The hail would have hit his eyes. it would have broken the lenses and he would have been rendered useless, and she had seen it, in her infinite wisdom and love.

She had seen it, and used her power to stop it. and never seen the man swooping down on her, until it was too late.

The claw marks were ragged, bleeding, and he pressed at the wound desperately with his hand, his tears flowing and his voice aching, dry.

"Oh, God, Jean."

There was a yell of animal rage, and suddenly his head jerked up to see a blur of a beast jumping so high, grabbing onto the falcon/human hybrid, and suddenly there was a screeching, and a blurring of blood and Logan emerged, his claws red and tainted, falling on his knees next to them.

"She's-.. She can't be."

Scott's throat was full, and he shook his head. "No. Not yet." He yelled, trying to fight to carry his voice to Logan among the whirling winds. "But she's hurt."

"Get her back to the jet. We can handle it."

"I-"

"GET HER BACK."

Scott's eyes flitted down to his lover's face, and his heart suddenly dropped with in him, as she gasped raggedly, blood suddenly on her lips.

"Be careful," he whispered, and then cradled his wife to him, gently, knowing at that moment he was no Cyclops, he was no leader, and no warrior.

He was a husband. a man desperately in love with his wife.

And there was only one thing he could do.

He had to trust Logan.


He had overestimated them.

His hands were on his forearms, watching, unfazed by the whirling winds that somehow stopped around him, a faint smile that he wasn't even aware of on his handsome lips as his violet eyes searched around him, the bodies and the lasers flying.

He had known how good they were.

He had known they had won many battles, and they had killed many of their own in their attempt of human preservations.

They were scared of the humans.

They had no idea how blind they were.

Observation was perhaps the greatest weapon he had. He had learned to observe. He had seen them in the battles, he had watched them all carefully, he knew everyone of them so intimately now.

He knew that the one with the laser eyes, the leader, was vulnerable in two areas. One, his eyes, the second, his wife, the beautiful telepath who was as straightforward as she was gorgeous. She had a darkness hidden inside of her that even she didn't know about, and that intrigued him.

The young one made of ice was quick to judgment and relied too easily on his ice...

Storm was sweet, matronly, full of wisdom... and good. Her rage was well hidden, only unleashed at points of high stress and anger, and then, even he knew he had to be careful. But even she relied too much on her control of the winds, believing herself able to conquer all with the power, and almost right.

He had learned a long time ago that in the art of seduction, of war, your greatest strength could just as easily become your greatest weakness.

It was a lesson they all needed training in.

Their unit was tight, too tight.

And they were good.

But he had overestimated them.

He had caught them at a good time... he could feel their dissension, they preoccupation... and he bet he had a good idea why.

It was the new one. The one that was rough, almost a beast, and a mix of rage and tenderness and... animal.

He'd have to worry about him.

Then again... it seemed almost heaven sent...

Greatest strength that could very quickly be turned into a weakness.

They're unity was a weakness.

Her strength... her weakness... were one and the same...

And he needed her so badly.

He smiled softly.

It was time to tear them apart.


She had never seen the worry, the fear in Storm's eyes as rampant as she had seen at that moment.

For Storm, it was always about control. Order out of chaos, the ability to move, manipulate, make things her own. It was what interested her in science, what made her who she was. She couldn't control people, she couldn't control the hate that was shared at her white hair, her beautiful exotic looks, her look of a true Goddess.

So she turned to her books, she turned to the sky. She blocked out the memories of the endless teasing, of the outcast she had become in her village. She had never mentioned the time when she was considered a God, revered by her people, and then tossed aside when it was discovered she was only a mutant.

Control was in the weather... control was her life.

And at this moment, it appeared she had lost it all.

Rogue's heart beat fiercely, barely managing to keep her course among the raging winds, the sleet, the lightning that was heading toward her, narrowing missing searing her.

"Rogue!"

"I'm here, Storm!" She ducked into a roll, riding the winds and somehow managing to glide next to her friend. "How are you."

Storm looked terrified, her arms out as the cape flapped around her. "I'm... they're not mine."

Rogue felt her heart pounding as she looked at the sky around her. "Look, they can't hurt you right?"

"They can hurt you."

"I won't let them." Her hands ran through her bangs to keep the hair out of her face, and then Ororo turned her eyes to the building before them.

"We're almost there."

"Let's go." Ororo's hand reached out and Rogue tangled the fingers in her own. The racket around her made her looked down, and suddenly she swallowed.

"I don't feel Jean... and I don't see Scott's laser."

Storm gave her a gentle, desperate look and suddenly both dove down, aiming for the roof.

For one aching second, Rogue thought they might miss the roof.

Then she felt the concrete beneath her feet as they crashed into the building rooftop, rolling, her body taking numerous bruisings as she fought to control her landing.

They didn't even have time to blink before the shooting started.

Rogue cried out a warning as the first searing red bolt was sent their way.

She reeled back, feeling the heat barely skim her body. Ororo flipped backwards, but it was too late.

"STORM!"

The bolt hit her straight in her side, sending her friend flying back. The cry of pain filled her ears, and she scrambled forward, sliding to knees, looking down at her white-haired friend.

"Storm," she whispered, the wind flapping about her face.

It was the sleet that hit her face, numbing her lips, blinding her vision and blurring the vision of Storm, the pain in her face, that caused Rogue the most anger.

Her heart was beating furiously as she gathered her best friend into her arms, held her close, trying to will away the damn winds that were flapping about their mistress, like a dog howling after it's wounded master.

"Rogue..." came the accented voice, and Rogue's heart lept, realizing her friend was still very much alive.

"Storm," she hiccuped, pulling back, her hand gently touching the wound, making Ororo wince. "Can you... can you move? Who ever threw that is still out there, and -"

"I... I think so... I-"

The words faded from Ororo's lips when another blast narrowly missed them. The shots were getting closer, and Rogue pulled at Storm easily, picking her up, the strength she had acquired from the woman who had inhabited her brain coming in handy.

Her eyes were narrowed, and the fear that had paralyzed her before was now replaced with anger, pure and unfiltered rage.

Logan could be felt in her mind, Magneto's injustice, all of it seemed to bubble to the surface, sliding through her so that she was actually shaking.

The blasts kept nearing, now at her feet, and she swallowed, moving backwards, trying to keep her distance, trying to keep her friend safe.

"Stop bein' such a damn bully and fight lahk you actually have something in those pants, you little bastard," she breathed.

And as if on cue, suddenly the winds around her drifted to a stop.

Rogue froze, cradling Storm to her, eyes wide as the sleet suddenly pulled away, framing around the rooftop like a wall.

Inside the eye of the storm...she remained untouched.

Swallowing, she was able to see clearly, to see the mutant who was shooting the blasts.

He was tall, and thin, sleek, reminding her immediately of a serpent.

And the stillness that surrounded was suddenly filled when a soft velvety voice filled the air around her.

"Quite a battle you've put on."

Her throat went dry as the man stepped out from behind the serpent, on his face an amused smile.

The first thing she was able to discern aside from the wonder and fear was that he had violet eyes.


He hadn't seen his southern belle in the minutes since the chaos started, and it was always in the back of his mind, knowing that with Jean out of commission, he had no way of knowing where she was, if she was all right.

Gambit and Jubilee had managed to skirt up ahead, using their charges to slide through the sleet, pulling forward, making the way for Iceman and Logan.

They're weren't just mutants.

The attackers that jumped forward appeared... human. Logan hesitated, until the man who was running toward him pulled a knife, and suddenly the claws extended and he was lifted up and thrown.

"They're human!" breathed Bobby.

"Human or not human, fight them, kid," Logan growled, rolling and ducking under a drift, standing up to grab another one. "They're not looking too keen at seeing us."

Bobby nodded, sliding forward on his sheen of ice, riding the drifts atop like a snowboarder, sliding down around him.

The sleet was so thick he could barely see a foot in front of him.

A gust of wind seared though the air and he cursed, ducking down as it seemed to bring the snow rising above him like a wave.

He lost track of Gambit and Jubilee.

Bobby slid beside him, the ice spurting from his fingertips freezing the avalanche in it's tracks.

"This isn't going well," he said softly.

Logan glared. Like he didn't know that. "We're not going anywhere until we find Rogue and Storm."

"I'm not arguing, beastie," was Bobby's answer, and with a yell, Logan cut through the ice, sliding through to the other side.

In the whirling storm, Gambit and Jubilee still were gone.

"Popsy, stay behind me."

Bobby glared at him. "I can take of myself."

"That's not what Rogue said."

"I don't give a flying fuc-" His words were cut off when suddenly the ground seemed to explode, making both Logan and Bobby fly backwards. Landing in a heap, the snow began to fall, and he was too slow for it.

It buried him without another second to catch his breath.

The last thing he heard was Bobby crying out in a hoarse voice wracked in pain.