Title: Agony and Ecstasy
Author: Diebin
Email: diebin@hotmail.com
Fandom: X-Men (movie)
Rating: NC-17 by the Misty Rating Association (Darkness, angst, pain, sex, darkness, pain, did I say darkness?)
Summary: Rogue tries to grow into herself, and is confused by what she finds.
Pairing: We got ourselves a Logan/Rogue here. Surprise surprise.
Disclaimer: Marvel and Fox. Bah Humbug.
Archive: All lists
WARNINGS: See, nice and big. THIS GETS DARK. I provided a happy ending, because I thought I needed one . . . but I'm talking dark, DARK, dark stuff. Dark pain, dark sexual themes. If you want Logan to come home and sweep Rogue off her feet and live in never never land . . . umm . . . don't read this.
Special thanks to: Woah. Umm . . . where do I begin? Well, probably Misty since she's gotten the play by play of this whole sordid thing. She encouraged the original evil bunny, and you have NO idea how many times she stopped me from trashing the whole thing. Then there's Shana, who was every bit as good, and helped move the plot along in a major way. Then there's Nancy, who just shows me hot pictures of Hugh when I'm trying to write and kicks butt. And Nickle, who I don't even know well, but she's an Angst Grrl and makes me giggle. And then there's Elizabeth who gave me a nice read over and also kept me from trashing it--and then there's Caeryn, who I just thank for everything because she's her.

And having written the longest thank you paragraph ever, here's the story.

It had been two years since she thought of herself as a virgin.

It made her feel guilty, made her feel sick--but she couldn't help the way she always remembered that night. The night she'd had the closest thing to sex she ever would.

The night Logan had almost killed her.

God the agony--god, the ecstasy . . . the feeling of contact, something touching her that wasn't cloth or her own fingers.

Steel. It was warm--warm from being inside of him. The air hardly touched it, hardly kissed it as it flew from his body to hers, sinking so deep inside her that she could feel the pricks in her back.

It had been sex, only more. More pain, bleeding into more pleasure--the feeling of someone being one with her more overpowering. The sharing of thoughts and feelings more complete as her fingers brushed his face, drawing everything that was him inside so that it was her.

Inside her. He had been inside her, in so many ways, so many intimate ways. Inside her head, inside her body--god, who could possibly say that he hadn't been her first lover, her only lover . . .

It was sick. It made her feel dirty, made her feel guilty. Only sick, twisted people relished pain as pleasure--and here she was, reliving the feel of sharp metal tearing through her body as if it were the sweetest lover's caress.

It tormented her. But that didn't stop her from thinking about it.

And in the nights, when she sank her fingernails into her skin, leaving tiny red crescents that barely bled--she thanked all the gods she knew of that Logan had not returned home yet.

She couldn't face him. Not like this.

The old nightmares were gone, and he missed them. Longed for the half flashes and shaded images of men with needles and scalpels. Wished more than anything to have dreams of his own pain.

Not dreams of her, hanging like a limp doll on his claws, her eyes alight with something that was so close to joy that it sent shivers down his spine.

Not the knowledge of what she had been thinking as she laid soft fingers to his cheek.

It was the secret he held deepest in his heart. She'd never know, if he had anything to say about it--she'd never know and he'd never tell her. Never give any indication that the transfer had gone both ways--that in that brief moment of contact, he'd known everything she was thinking and feeling.

Sometimes the rage overtook him when he awoke from the dreams. He'd find himself shaking in bed, claws unsheathed and crying for blood. He wanted to hurt something, wanted to cause pain to anyone he could who had caused the feelings that he had sensed that night. Destroy something for the fact that Marie, his little Marie, had decided that agony was the closest she'd ever come to ecstasy.

The angry times were the good times. Sometimes he woke aroused and hungry, his body reacting to the impossible need to lay her back and show her ecstasy without the agony. Those times were the worst, with the guilt and the pain and the need . . . ravaging his body until he went out and picked a fight, pounding someone into the ground to satisfy his body's need for action.

He would never forget the rush of pleasure that had flooded his mind when her fingers landed on his face--her entire being alight with satisfaction that a man had finally touched her, that someone had breached her deadly skin. Ecstasy that it had been him, so entwined with the agony that she didn't know which was which.

It scared him. It was what kept him on the road, kept him running. The knowledge that thanks to him, Marie would forever think pleasure was pain. The knowledge that he had hurt her, warped her, destroyed her--and that by going back he could only make it worse.

The fear. He wasn't used to fear--especially not fear for someone else. It kept him up at night, woke him up before dawn--tormented him every time he thought of her. He was so afraid he'd twisted her forever.

He was afraid to go back and see what he had molded her into.

It took a long time to figure out a way to recapture the pain.

Knives wouldn't work. She'd tried, once, in a moment of desperation--sitting in her room with a small razorblade clutched between her fingers.

It had been horrible. The second the metal slid through her skin, all she could feel was a sick, twisted pleasure rising up that wasn't her own. The dormant presence inside of her uncurled as Magento's essence scrambled up towards her skin, clinging to the feel of the metal. He reveled in it, he lived for it--he twisted all of her feelings into a sick tangle of need and longing and love of pain.

She threw the razor blade away, hearing it clink softly on the other side of the room. Clutching the small cut, she closed her eyes and let herself fall back to the bed, trembling as she fought the memories.

She didn't touch metal for three days after that, not even the dog tags that usually hung around her neck, pressed against her breast.

It wasn't until she dropped Kitty's mirror and sliced open her finger that she found what she needed.

The glass was cool. Clean. It slid through her skin with none of the sick pleasure that the metal called to the surface. Just a smooth slice of pain that cleared everything else from her head.

She swept the rest of the mirror into the dust pan, but kept one long shard and hid it under a stack of notebooks in her desk. When she was alone at night, she'd pull off one glove and slide the glass over her skin, over the skin between her knuckles, echoing the pain she remembered from somewhere else.

Does it hurt when they come out?

Long lines of sliced skin, small drops of blood welling out.

Every time.

Every time. Every time she thought of him, she brushed her fingers against her knuckles, feeling the often abused skin stretching and tugging with a dull ache.

She started wearing surgical gloves beneath her regular gloves, to keep the blood from seeping through and giving her away. She snuck into the lab one night and took a whole box, shoving them under her bed. Whenever she ran low, she'd sneak into the lab and steal a new box, praying Jean never noticed.

Sometimes they broke, though, so when Jubilee and Kitty went to the mall, she trailed along and bought a whole stack of extra gloves. No one said anything--they always tried to pretend she wore them for style, not out of necessity.

If anyone noticed that she never took her gloves off anymore, they didn't say anything.

Scott found the glove shoved in the back of the cupboard in the laundry room when he was looking for a missing shirt.

There wasn't much question who it belonged to--only one person in the school wore full length opera gloves habitually.

It wasn't the fact that it was balled up in the laundry room that disturbed him.

It was the stains of blood across the knuckles, clearly evidence of some fairly serious cuts. It didn't worry him too much--Rogue was an active girl and probably just scraped herself up and hadn't told him. After all, she was old enough to take care of little bumps and bruises.

A chance comment from Jean that night, however, shattered his peace of mind.

"I would give anything to figure out who is stealing from the lab," Jean muttered under her breath as she took out her earrings before bed. "It's just not like the students to take stuff without asking--especially something like latex gloves."

Scott paused. "You're missing latex gloves?" Something tugged at his mind--something about the glove he'd found earlier that day. "Rogue is the one who would have need for some kind of gloves."

"That's what I thought too," Jean replied, setting her earrings down on the bedside table and turning to face him. "I know she'd asked me for some in the past, if hers got ripped and she hadn't had a chance to buy new ones. But Kitty told me that she just bought an entire bag of extra gloves a week ago. So it can't be her."

Extra gloves. Surgical gloves. Bloodstained gloves.

He didn't want to upset Jean for no reason--but he couldn't just let something this strange go. He worried about Rogue. Worried about how she never seemed to have gotten over the trauma of two years ago. Worried about how she never seemed to have gotten over Logan.

Worried about how every day seemed to distance her more and more from those around her.

So as he settled into bed, clutching Jean a little more tightly than usual, he promised himself he'd watch her.

He talked to Professor Xavier every other month, and had been doing so since he left two years ago. It kept him in contact, kept him up to date--and kept him alerted to Rogue. If anything was wrong--the Professor wouldn't be able to hide it from him.

The third week of the month, it wasn't the Professor who called.

Scott's voice was anxious, full of confusion and no little accusation.

"Something's wrong with Rogue."

Logan tensed. This was the call he'd been waiting for. For two years he'd been praying every time the phone rang--praying it wouldn't be those words.

"What's wrong with Rogue, Summers?" His voice was almost calm. His hands were shaking though.

"I--I'm not certain about it--but I think she's . . . she's hurting herself."

The claws flew out, and he crashed his hand through the desk.


"I'm here," he growled softly, staring at the huge gouges in the wood. Wishing it were his own skin. He deserved worse. So much worse.

"Logan, do you know what's going on?" Oh, more than a little accusation there. Scott's voice was full of implication.

"No, Scott." He managed to grind the words out, even though he couldn't maintain his calm. "I--I need to come back."

"Why? What are you going to do that won't just make it worse."

Logan crashed his hand into the desk again, nearly slicing it in half. "Damn, damn, damn it."

"You know what's going on, don't you?" Scott sounded furious. "Tell me, you bastard. You can't hide it. She needs help."

"I don't know!" Logan roared, clenching his eyes shut. "It was so long ago--I don't know what she thinks anymore!"

"Okay, Logan--easy." Scott's voice took on his teaching tone, slow, easy, calming. "You can't come back yet if you somehow affected this--"

"You bastard. You fucking insensitive bastard." Logan's voice was ragged. "You can't call me and tell me something like this and refuse to let me go to her. You can't. You can't!"


"I'm coming home, Scott."

"Logan, wait--"

The phone slammed down, metal claws smashing into it until it was just a mangled pile of plastic.

He slumped to the floor, his claws retracting as he stared at his shaking hands. God, it was worse than he thought. He'd twisted her. He'd taken that bright, sweet, innocent girl--and he'd warped her. Sullied her.

He should have left her on the road in Canada. No one could have hurt her as much as he had.

Should have. Could have. It didn't matter now--all that mattered was the little girl hiding in a school in New York, her mind twisted by his. He had to stop running. It wasn't just about him anymore.

It was about her. He had to help her if he could.

He was just so afraid he'd hurt her again.

Scott had been prying for a week. She didn't know why he was suspicious--but he was, and he was prying. Mentioning that it was warm and she should take her gloves off--he wouldn't mind. Popping in on her unannounced and staring at her with such intensity she could almost see his eyes through his glasses.

He must have talked to Kitty and Jubilee--one of her roommates was in the room with her at all times suddenly. When she tried to leave the grounds, one of them, or sometimes Scott himself, would show up, ask if they could walk with her.

They were watching her, their eyes judging and weighing. All it did was make her feel sicker. More twisted. They knew what she was doing. They pitied her. They thought she was unhealthy. They knew she was warped.

She started lingering in the shower, scrubbing her body until it was pink, letting the water run so hot that it almost burned her offending skin. It was the only way she could feel clean now that they wouldn't leave her alone long enough to take the glass out.

They knew she was dirty. They despised her for it. It twisted her mind into more knots, deeper knots. She felt guilty. Guilty that she wanted it--guilty that she needed it. Guilty that she hadn't told anyone.

Sometimes she considered telling Jean. Asking for help. But what could the doctor do? What could anyone do, except tell her it wasn't right to hurt herself. And leave her where she had been to start with.

It had been two weeks without touching the glass when Kitty's mother died. Her roommate was distraught, upset--confused as hell. Xavier arranged for her to go home. Jubilee agreed to go with her, to give her moral support and make sure she was okay.

They didn't ask Rogue to go. Kitty and Jubilee could look like normal people. Could blend in. Swathed from head to toe in fabric, not able to so much as shake hands--Rogue never could.

Scott couldn't exactly spend the night in her room--so for the first time in two weeks she locked her door and opened the drawer on her desk.

The glass shined in the light as she stared at it, suddenly afraid. Afraid of what she was--what she had become. The feeling of sick guilt ran deeply through her--but not deeply enough. Not enough to stop the agony and ecstasy.

It was late when he finally arrived. Something was wrong--horribly wrong. He could feel it in his bones. Feel it so strongly that he nearly vaulted from the bike, entering the building and starting his hunter's prowl.

Her scent was everywhere, confusing for a moment until he picked up the freshest one, leading him up the stairs and through a mess of hallways.

It was strongest outside of a particular door. The room inside smelled of teenage girls, of her, of candles and coca cola and the sweet little chocolates that he suddenly seemed to remember her loving so much.

And it smelled of fear. And pain. Guilt--agony--ecstasy . . .

And something else. Something that made his blood start pounding with fury. Something that made his claws pop out, smashing into the door lock before he could even think.

He could smell blood. Fresh blood. Her blood.

She looked like a deer in headlights, her eyes wide and guilty as the shining piece of glass dangled from her hand. She took a shallow breath, glanced at him, and then looked down at her lap, shoulders suddenly shaking.

He was across the room before he knew it, thanking god he was wearing gloves because he didn't even think as he grabbed her wrists tightly, his fingers plucking the red tinted glass from her hand and throwing it across the room in disgust.

"Marie--Marie what the hell are you doing--" His gloved fingers grasped her injured hand, spreading the fingers out as he stared down at the thin scars and cuts that lacerated the back of her hand and knuckles.

What had he done to her.

"I--I'm sorry--" Her body shuddered once. "I--it was all I had left of--" she trailed off, but staring into her eyes, he could see what she had been about to say.

It slashed through his heart. Nothing had ever hurt so badly as this--as this girl telling him she was mutilating herself because of him. Because it reminded her of him.

Because pain reminded her of him.

He dropped his face to her lap, his hands sliding down to tighten on her hips. He was trying to keep from crying--he couldn't remember the last time he had cried. Maybe he hadn't since he woke up seventeen years ago half naked in the woods. Maybe he'd never cried, because the way it felt--the burning behind his eyes, it was so strange that it scared him.

He knew he'd never cried for somebody else. He'd never cared enough.


She heaved a deep breath, the feeling of his face pressing into her legs disconcerting. No one had touched her like this since he left. They were all too afraid to get close. Too afraid that even through cloth, she could hurt them.

She took another breath, and began to talk. She told him about the agony. About the ecstasy. About the night she'd almost died. About how the feel of pain kept her whole. About the guilt for how twisted she was.

Half way through, she felt the warm, wet heat on her legs, and it shocked her to realize he was crying.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry--" the words were torn from her throat as she buried her hands in his hair, rocking back and forth slightly. "I didn't mean to disappoint you--"

Logan couldn't look up. Couldn't bear to face the mess he'd made. Couldn't stand to see the darkness he'd caused where there had been only light.

That was how Jean and Scott found them--his face buried in her legs as he cried, her bloody hands running through his hair as she rocked back and forth.

It took Storm and Remy's help to separate them.

Much as he wanted to blame it all on Logan--Scott couldn't bring himself to so much as say a harsh word to the man.

Logan was a wreck. It was three in the morning, Rogue was tucked away with Jean in the lab with no hope of coming out any time soon--and Logan had been banished to his own devices for the time being.

His own devices had included drinking every single drop of alcohol in the liquor cabinet. There had been enough there to kill a few men--and Scott was half worried that even with his healing abilities, it'd still do Logan some hefty damage.

He was sprawled in a chair, his head resting on one hand as he stared at the other, clenching it into a fist over and over again.

All the angry words died on Scott's tongue. He had never seen a man who looked like he hated himself more. His eyes were bloodshot and red rimmed from crying, which was probably the most unlikely sight he'd ever seen.

Scott settled into a chair across from him, but Logan didn't even look up.


"It's my fault," Logan said, his voice dead. "It's all my fault. You should kill me know for what I did to her. My fault."

Scott stiffened. "What is your fault, Logan?" He was proud of how steady his voice was. How calm. Not accusing. Not yet.

"I stabbed her," Logan said softly. "I stabbed her through the chest and she took my sick, twisted memories into her mind and convinced herself she liked it. I never should have let her touch me."

"Be reasonable, Logan." He couldn't believe he was telling a man with a few liters of alcohol in him to be reasonable. "She would have died if she hadn't touched you."

"She died anyway." Logan's fingers clawed at the table, and Scott winced as he heard one of the other man's nails break. "She died inside, turned sick and twisted because I was in her head. I killed her. Killed her innocence."

Scott leaned forward carefully, fully aware of the way Logan's instincts tended to go. Reaching out a hand, he set it on Logan's shoulder, squeezing it slightly. "It's not your fault--Logan."

The other man's head snapped up, his eyes wild. "Why the hell won't you be a bastard?" Logan demanded angrily, wrenching away from Scott's hand. "Damn it, just be a bastard! I fucking well deserve it, don't I?"

Scott grimaced. It would be pointless to reason with the man now--with all the grief and guilt, not to mention the alcohol, raging through his system. "All you have to do is set it right, Logan. You can help her get better."

"No I can't," Logan growled, his head falling to his hand again. "I destroy everything I touch. I'll just break her again."

He sounded so sure, Scott couldn't find anything to say in response.

Jean washed Rogue's hands in silence, so worried and heartbroken she couldn't speak. The feelings and thoughts washing over her from Rogue weren't helping--the girl was such a tangle of emotion and confusion that she was developing a severe headache.

The girl's hands were a mess, crisscrossed with scars and half-healed cuts, a few of them still bleeding sluggishly. Jean washed her hands and wrapped thick bandages around both of her hands, securing them tightly before helping Rogue to pull her gloves back on over them.

"Do you want to talk to me?" Jean asked finally, reaching up carefully to tuck a strand of Rogue's hair behind her ear.

The younger woman's eyes were blank as she stared up at her friend, her face a mask of indecision. "I--" She swallowed hastily, blinking as tears formed in her eyes.

"It's okay," Jean whispered, leaning forward carefully and bringing the girl's head to rest against her shoulder. "It's okay, Rogue. It's okay to cry."

Rogue stiffened, pulling back. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry--"

"Shhh." Jean kneeled down in front of the chair Rogue was in, resting her hands on the younger girl's knees. "You don't have anything to be sorry for, Rogue. Nothing at all."

"I hurt him." The words seemed torn from her throat, and Jean blinked softly.

"Hurt who, Rogue?"

Rogue's voice was filled with self-loathing. "Him. I hurt Logan. I never meant to hurt him--I never meant it to go so far. I didn't mean to be so sick--"

"Shhh." Jean leaned forward to brush the same strand of hair back from Rogue's face. "You're not sick, Rogue. You just need to talk to us. Let us help you--"

The tears that had been threatening boiled over. "I hurt him, Jean. I hurt him so bad--"

"He understands," Jean whispered softly, unsure if she was telling the truth. Unsure if Logan even cared enough to understand. She leaned forward to wrap the trembling girl in a lose embrace, determined not to show her doubts. "He's just worried, Rogue. Like we are."

"It's different," Rogue whispered. "He knows. He knows it all."

If Rogue had been a normal kid, they would have sent her to a psychiatrist. But she wasn't a normal kid, she was a mutant--and she lived in a house with two telepaths, which should have solved the problem.

It didn't help them much. Rogue refused to talk about it, and Xavier wouldn't force his way into her mind. The weekly sessions with Jean were pointless--she went, she talked about nothing and how much better she felt, and she left.

Jean checked her hands every time she was there--but despite the fact that it was more than obvious she wasn't getting better--there were no new cuts. It disturbed Jean. She could tell Rogue was still looking for pain, and the idea that Rogue had found something different--something potentially more dangerous--kept her up at night.

But unless it became so serious that it was obvious Rogue's life was in danger, the Professor wouldn't let her pry.

Sometimes Jean hated ethics.

Logan had taken the glass from her room and begged her not to touch it anymore.

Truth was--she didn't have to. She'd learned something new with Logan's arrival--something that made it easier and harder.

Emotional pain was just as satisfying.

It was agony. Looking into his eyes was more painful than slashing herself from shoulder to wrist could ever be. The self loathing, the disappointment, the pain--he thought he hid them, but she knew him better than he thought.

She saw him all the time. He sought her out in the hallways, came to her room after her classes. He stroked her hair and touched her gently, touched her shoulders and her hands, always so careful. It was strange, being touched, but she understood why he was doing it.

He was trying to fix her. Scott had called him and he came home and he was going to put her back together--make her normal like everyone else--then he'd pick up and leave again. Go back to wherever he had been, live the life he had when he wasn't trying to save her . . .

She hated it. Hated how good it felt to have him touch her, because she knew he was doing it from pity. From some deep seated need to make her be like everyone else.

And so it was agony, and ecstasy, and it kept her teetering on the knife edge. But it was still Logan, and he could make her smile and laugh, and the more time he spent with her the more she laughed, and the more he touched her, until the touches weren't quite as innocent and the laughter was real--and everyone thought she was better.

He'd been home for five weeks when his body betrayed him.

He was sitting on the side of Marie's bed, rubbing her back softly because it helped her sleep and she'd just woken up from a nightmare she wouldn't tell him about. So he sat and rubbed her shoulders and made sure she knew he was there. A big, warm presence at her back that chuckled softly as she almost purred in contentment.

He wasn't really thinking. His hand was moving on instinct as he stared at the wall, at the map she had plastered up with little stars marking all the places she'd been, others marking the places she wanted to go. He didn't want to think about what the large green circle around Laughlin City meant.

Her body went still, then shifted, and when he looked down she was lying on her back staring up at him, and his hand was resting on her breast, still sliding in idle circles that stilled as he swallowed hastily.

He tried to pull his hand away, but her gloved fingers locked around his wrist as she stared up at him, her body pressing up towards him. Her mouth fell open as she shifted her breast against his hand, her eyes growing wide with drowsy pleasure.

God he was a man. A man who had spent more than one night dreaming of this body, of this woman, of touching her in places that would make her scream. Of doing things to her that no one had ever done before.

But he wasn't just a man. A man would have pulled back. A man would have told her that he cared about her--that he loved her--and that he couldn't do this yet. That they needed time to think. That they needed time to make sure she was okay.

Even though he wasn't just a man, he almost did that. Almost did it, until her fingers slid off his wrist and to his leg, and slid up to stroke at him in a way she had no right to know about--her fingers too skilled and too knowledgeable as she stirred his flesh to life.

He groaned. He fought the battle knowing he'd lose it, knowing that he was something more than a man, and that she was something more than a woman. Knowing he'd take her in any way he could think of, and that there was no stopping the momentum.

The only thought he clung to as he growled, clasping her hand and climbing on top of her, the only thought that remained was that it had to be soft and good. Pleasure. Ecstasy. And nothing else. No pain, nothing to make her think it had to hurt.

Her body was soft and pliant beneath his, arching up to mold to him in every place that it should. She moaned and whimpered in pleasure, mewling softly as he cupped a breast in his hand and laved the soft fabric covering it with his tongue. She cried out as he slid the straps of her nightgown off, pulling it down far enough so that he could circle a nipple with the tip of his gloved finger.

She was molten beneath him, her hips grinding up into his as he pulled her nightgown off all the way and carefully, so carefully, pulled her naked body tight against his clothed one. He rolled to his side, keeping her flat on her back as he ran hands over all of her, watching her face so carefully as he touched and caressed and drove noises from her that made his muscles tighten.

He watched her eyes as they drifted open, searching for pain, searching for agony.

They were a mystery, and it disturbed him. It bothered him that he couldn't see the pleasure in her eyes clearly. He growled even deeper, his hands sliding between her legs. Warm, so warm he could feel the heat through his gloves, and he growled and hid his face in her hair because he couldn't hold on, couldn't keep the shreds of his sanity together as she started to thrash against him.

Her hip was pressed tightly to his groin, and every buck of her hips sent tremors of pleasure through him. His breathing got heavier as he found the place that made her scream, her hips rubbing against him as she begged shamelessly for more, faster, more.

His lips were so close to her ear, just the fall of her hair blocking him. He began to whisper, not knowing what he was saying or why, not caring. "Come on, Marie, come on--" Senseless pleas punctuated by groans as she slid against his erection, her body twisting into him and making him see stars.

"That's right honey, that's right," he begged as her hands flew up to grasp his arm, her body starting to tense. "Oh god Marie it's good, it's good without the pain it's good--"

Her body came apart in his arms, sliding so jerkily against his groin that he growled and clenched his eyes shut and cursed his lack of control as his body let go, and he knew that his pants would be damp and he'd mock himself later but now all that mattered was the fact that she was crying in release and he was with her.

And he floated there--in blissful tandem--until he heard her choked sob as her body started trembling, and her voice whimpering softly.

The words tore him in two.

"Hurts it hurts, oh god it wasn't supposed to hurt this much--"

Ice flooded his veins as he opened his eyes and stared down at himself, gloved hand resting between her pale legs.

What the hell had he done.

He tried to get her to open her eyes, to look at him--but she kept them clenched shut as she continued to whisper, her hands balled into fists at her side. "Wasn't supposed to hurt so much, it wasn't supposed to hurt like that--wasn't supposed to be so good--"

"Why did it hurt, Marie?" God what had he done to her. He'd shattered her somehow. Because he couldn't keep his hands to himself, he'd shattered her.

Eyes opened finally, and the self-loathing in their depths cut at him. "Because you don't love me. It hurts because your doing it--" her breath caught, and she choked back a sob as she pushed him away, scrambling from the bed. "--you're just doing it to fix me. And I let you, I knew it would hurt and I let you because I wanted it--wanted it to feel good and wanted it to hurt--"

She tugged on her nightgown and wrapped trembling arms around her body. "I'm sorry, Logan--but it hurt too much. I can't--I can't do it. It hurts too much."

He tried to stay, tried to talk to her, tried to do something but she just sat there and shook her head, refusing to listen, and finally asked him to leave her room.

So he went to his room and he changed his pants and went downstairs and found the liquor cabinet restocked.

Three bottles of the expensive scotch fit under one arm, and a bunch of cigars got shoved in his pocket. He went out on the roof and stared up at the moon as he drank.

And he hated himself.

She found him on the roof.

They'd asked her to look for him because she was the one least likely to get a bellyful of metal. Jean was with Rogue, who'd come crying to her room a few hours before and Scott had his own problems with Logan and the last thing they were going to do was let Remy anywhere near him.

So Ororo wandered the house before finding a window hanging open, and glanced outside to see a man sprawled on his back.

There were three empty bottles next to him, and for a moment Ororo was terrified before she remembered it was Logan--and he probably wouldn't die form alcohol poisoning.

He had a pulse, but the minute her fingers landed on it his hand was wrapped around her wrist and she found her body pressed into the ground, his leaning on top of her with his fist to her forehead.

He sniffed once before releasing her in disgust, and Ororo took a deep breath, fighting the claustrophobia as she shoved up at him, trying to get him off of her.

"Had a little too much to drink?"

The man rolled over to his back and groaned. "Not nearly enough. I woke up."

Ororo blinked. "Are you alright, Logan?"

"No, I'm not alright." Logan covered his face with one hand and shook his head slowly. "Go get Jean. Tell her to go to Marie's room. I--I should probably leave."

She froze, every sense on alert. "I think you should stay here," she said slowly. Afraid of what could have happened between them. They'd been so happy--seemed so normal . . .

"If I don't leave, Scott's going to throw me out on my ass anyway." She watched Logan push himself to his feet, swaying. He was obviously still a long way from sober.

Which could be a problem. Charles had told her in no uncertain terms that Logan was not to leave. If it looked like she couldn't stop him, she was to call for him at once, and he'd take care of it.

As she moved to put a hand on his shoulder, Logan's claws popped out, and she realized she might have to.


Yes, Ororo?

Ororo stepped in front of Logan. "Don't go, Logan. Please."

He growled and lifted his hands in a threatening gesture. "Outta my way, Storm."

I can't keep him here.

From far away, Ororo felt something almost like a sigh. Logan was moving towards her as she backed up, keeping between him and the window. Logan growled, making it clear he wasn't going to let her keep him away.

If Charles didn't do something soon . . .

Make sure he doesn't hurt himself when he falls.

Two seconds later, Logan was lolling on the ground, his claws vanishing inside his hands. Kneeling down, Ororo straightened his head gently, brushing his hair back. He's alright.

Good. Scott and Remy will be there to bring him in. Stay with him until then.

The Goddess of the winds sighed, staring down at Logan's suddenly peaceful face.

Whatever had happened--it wasn't just between him and Rogue anymore. It was running deeper--far deeper.

They had to pull out somehow.

Scott had never actively wanted to kill a member of his team before.

Holding a trembling Rogue in his arms as Jean knelt in front of her and tried to get her to talk to him was enough reason to change his mind.

The girl was heartbroken. Terrified. She wouldn't look them in the eyes or say anything about what had happened, but it seemed clear enough to Scott.

Logan had forced himself on the girl. And the thought of it made Scott want to kill.

"I hurt him again," she kept mumbling, over and over, and Scott's fury grew as he tightened his arms, meeting Jean's sickened eyes.

She was as upset as he was.

And it was his fault. He never should have called Logan. Never should have given him the opportunity to walk back into their lives. He'd been fine on his own, and they'd been fine here--and Rogue would have recovered with a little time.

But he'd panicked, and he'd called the man who had proved before that he'd do anything to save Rogue.

Some things never change. Others do. It wasn't his fault that this had been one of the later . . . but the guilt still cut deep.

"I hurt him, I hurt him, I didn't mean to make him do it." Rogue's eyes were squeezed shut. "I didn't want to hurt him again."

She thought it was her fault. She thought she'd made him do whatever it was that he had done.

She sounded like a rape victim, and his anger jumped another notch.

Logan was unconscious in the other room, strapped to the table. Scott wanted to go in there and wake him up, pound him to the ground and make him bleed. Hurt him. Hurt him for every second's pain he'd caused the girl trembling in his arms.

Jean was still whispering to Rogue, her hands resting on the younger woman's shoulders. After a long while, Rogue's sobs slowed and stopped, and she opened her eyes.

"I don't want you to see what I am," Rogue said softly. "That's why I can't show you what I did to him."

For as long as she could remember, Jean had never been quite this angry.

She'd seen friends hurt before. She was a doctor--her job was to fix up her team when their enemies got too rough.

She wasn't supposed to have to protect them from each other.

Rogue was sleeping under Scott's watchful eye, her mind numbed by careful application of a light sedative.

She'd forbidden Scott to come follow her in to check on Logan. He thought it was because of how angry he was--but he was wrong.

Jean didn't want any witnesses.

The door slid shut behind her, and she activated the lock before walking around to the head of the table, staring down that the man laid out upon it.

What she was about to do was worse than rape. Worse than anything. The Professor would be furious--Logan would be furious . . . but she had to do it. She had to know what had gone on . . . what Logan was thinking.

What Logan had done. Because if he'd done what she thought she'd done . . .

She'd help Scott throw the bastard out.

Her hands rested softly on the his temples, his head twitching briefly at the contact even heavily sedated. Clenching her eye shut, she focused all of her will and pushed.

Inside his head was chaos.

Rogue dangled on the end of his claws, her body already bleeding sluggishly. The light fading from her eyes.

. . . I stabbed her I stabbed her oh god what have I done . . .

Fingers, small delicate fingers, reached towards him. Brushed his face, brushed him so gently. He felt pain, pulling, tugging--and something else. Her voice, inside his head.

. . . feels good, Logan. You. It's you. It's you inside me and it feels good, god it hurts, Logan. It hurts . . .

Pleasure in her eyes as she lifted a hand to the wounds in her chest.

. . . don't want her to think that pleasure is pain . . .

His own face in a dirty mirror, eyes bloodshot from too much to drink.

. . . I hurt her, warped her, destroyed her--and going back will only make it worse . . .

A mangled phone, his claws raking at a broken desk.

. . . twisted her. I took that bright, sweet, innocent girl--and I warped her. Sullied her. I should have left her on the road in Canada . . .

Her door. The smell of blood and pain lingering in the air as he smashed the lock in. Marie. Sitting on her bed, eyes wide, making herself bleed.

. . . nothing has ever hurt this bad. She's mutilating herself because of me. Because it reminds her of me. Because pain reminds her of me . . .

Marie staring up at him, her eyes wide, her hands clutching at his as she rubbed her body into him.

. . . can't do it--can't--can't--oh god, stop Marie, stop--I can't--I can't stop . . .

Her body arching beneath him, crying out, screaming his name.

. . . just pleasure, just pleasure--Marie it's for you . . .

Wide, tear filled brown eyes. Her pain, and his. His heart breaking as she turned her back on him. Told him to leave.

. . . I deserve death . . .

Scott pulled her back, breaking the contact.

She was crying, crying and shaking and horrified by what she'd seen--by what had happened. By how wrong she'd been.

"What did he do to her?" Scott whispered harshly.

Jean shook her head. "Leave him alone, Scott," she whispered. "Just leave him alone."

Scott's eyes were angry, but she couldn't care. How could a man who looked so cold have such deep emotions running through him? Logan, the man, the beast--god she'd never even known him. Never had a clue.

"I need to talk to Rogue," Jean whispered, breaking free of Scott's arms. "Don't do anything, Scott. Just leave him in peace."

It was too bad she couldn't see the look in his eyes.

Logan felt her in his head. He couldn't fight her, couldn't stop her. She was too strong, and she reached inside him and hit play, and forced him to relive the horrifying moments that built in momentum.

She jerked back sharply, and he knew--it was over. She'd seen what he'd done. She knew what he was.

In that moment, Logan made the decision not to care.

He was good at not caring. Seventeen years of not caring made him a god damned expert. He took everything he felt about Jean, everything he felt about Scott and Ororo and the damn Professor--and shoved it so far back inside him that it was lost in the blackness.

There. He didn't give a fuck.

Marie was harder. There was more of her, and parts of it were tangled with parts of him. So he ripped them out. Didn't care that love went with her--or trust or compassion. He didn't need them. Didn't need anything to make him weak again.

She was harder to shove back--he could still feel her, and she was warm and sweet and soft. But he was good at not caring, he was an expert.

So he didn't give a fuck.

Only after he was sure it was all gone--sure that he was clean and remade into the man he'd been before he met her in that bar, so long ago . . . only then did he open his eyes.

Scott was standing over him, arms crossed over his chest. One eyebrow quirked high enough to be seen over his glasses--

And then Logan got punched. Hard, in the gut.

Nothing was wrong with his instincts. Five seconds later Scott was pinned to the wall, metal pricking his throat. "You wanna do that again, Scott?"

"More times than you can count," came the harsh reply. "What the fuck did you do to her, Logan? What'd you get out of it? Why'd you rape someone you couldn't even fucking have sex with? Did you get off on scaring her? On hurting her?"

Logan took a breath. A deep one. It was hard to slide the claws back in when he was this furious--but he did.

And he punched Scott so hard the man dropped like a stone.

"Fuck you." Delivering a kick to the ribs, Logan found his jacket tossed to the side, pulled it on, and left.

He got several miles down the road before the tiny little spark of Marie started growing. He felt her, he tried not to care and he still felt her.

He felt the words Scott had said to him claw at the boxes, trying to spilt them open. Trying to make him feel again.

He was an expert at not caring. It wasn't too late--and wasn't too hard to find an open liquor store. Even easier to find a seedy motel that didn't care if he threw cash at them and walked in with few bottles of alcohol tucked under his arm.

Alcohol took up space in his mind. Shoved everything else back away. It was easy not to care when he couldn't feel.

Fuck them. Fuck them all.

The only one not getting yelled at was Ororo. She stayed back in the corner, wincing as the Professor's voice rose again. She'd never seen him this angry--never seen him raise his voice like this. Especially not to Jean and Scott.

They weren't looking at each other. Weren't talking at each other. Jean was furious with Scott for driving Logan off. Scott was furious with Jean for not telling her what she'd seen in his head.

Xavier was furious with both of them. Jean had broken the one rule telepaths must hold sacred--broken it willfully and with impunity.

Scott had picked a fight with someone in pain, driven off a member of their team by flinging unfounded accusations at him.

The tension in the room was so high that even tucked in the corner, out of the line of fire, Ororo was on edge.

"Find him." That was all the Professor had to say in the end, after the screaming, after the harsh words. "Find him and get him back here, by any means necessary."

Jean stood and fled.

Scott scowled.

Ororo wondered if this was going to break them all before it was over.

Logan had taken Scott's new bike when he left.

It was the first thing that had gone right in weeks. Something in him--maybe it had been the fact that his former bike was god knows where with Logan's ass planted squarely in the seat--had decided him on simple addition to his latest toy.

Sitting in the garage, not far from where his bike had been, was a simple tracking device. Flipping it on, Scott scowled at the display.

He'd fucked up. He'd royally fucked up. And now he had to go pull Logan's most assuredly drunk ass out of whatever seedy bar or motel he'd crashed into. Had to do it without getting himself killed.

Had to do it without killing Logan.

He pulled up the map and figured out that Logan was only a few miles to the west--and for a moment Scott thought it was funny that it was the same direction Rogue had run in when she'd thought she'd hurt Logan.

But then it wasn't funny anymore. She had hurt Logan that time, sucking the life nearly out of him. And he'd hurt her, stabbing her through the chest.

And now they were just doing it over and over. Hurting each other. It seemed like it was all they could do. Hurt each other. And hurt themselves.

And as he climbed into the car, he wasn't angry at Logan anymore, because all he could feel was pity for someone who lived a life not knowing what it was like to love someone without hurting them.

Without having them hurt you.

A lot of things made sense to her after Jean sat her down and told her everything she'd seen in Logan's mind.

At first she didn't believe the older woman. It seemed like just another attempt to make Rogue better, and she resisted. She didn't need to be better, didn't need to be normal. Couldn't be normal--because all the mutants around her could control their powers, could be almost human--but she was the true mutant. And it seemed fitting that she was different.

Besides, Jean wasn't supposed to dig around in people's heads. So she was probably just making it all up when she said that Logan loved her, that Logan needed her, that Logan hadn't wanted to hurt her because he loved her so much . . .

But then Jean started saying stuff she couldn't know. Talking about her own feelings--talking about how it had felt for her when Logan stabbed her.

Talking about the agony, and the ecstasy.

Jean put a hand on one of Rogue's shoulders as she talked, telling her things she didn't want to know but now had to believe. How deeply Logan loved her. How much he hurt for her. How little he'd slept since he came home, spending time watching her sleep.

She hadn't known. God it hurt, and there was no ecstasy this time--just the pain of knowing she'd hurt someone she hadn't wanted to hurt . . . all the things she'd said to him as she stood shivering in just her shirt . . .

And the confusion. The confusion that suddenly the pain didn't feel good, and that the pleasure he'd given her--that it had felt really good, and still did, even though he loved her now, and hadn't done it out of pity.

The guilt that now, instead of the pain, she wanted the other. She wanted him to do it to her again and again. Make her body fly apart like that, because it had been like the pain. Better than the pain. And it had been him doing it to her, his hands and his body, and not her own trembling fingers clutching a piece of glass.

It was too much. Her mind couldn't process it. Her mind didn't want to process it, so instead, it just shut off.

Jean left her alone when it became clear that she wasn't listening anymore.

Logan's choice in motels was the second thing that went right. It was the seediest place Scott had ever seen--and not particularly worried about the safety of its clients. A fifty dollar bill produced not only Logan's room number but a spare key to get in, and the grubby man behind the desk didn't even blink as Scott took the key and headed upstairs.

The room stank of alcohol and cigar smoke and sweat. Logan was passed out on the bed, and despite the fact that he just wanted to wake him up, to drag him out, to get them back to the mansion and sort everything out--

He couldn't bring himself to wake Logan up. So he sat, and he stared at the man who he'd always thought he hated--and he tried to like him.

He could smell Scott in the room even before he woke up. He could smell him, and maybe that's why he didn't wake up--because he didn't want to face him.

Because he'd spent the night convincing himself he didn't care. But somewhere along the way he'd messed it up, and now he didn't care at all, not even enough to be angry. Not even enough to fight.

So he waited, but the Scott-scent didn't go away, and when he started to drift back into the dreams he knew he had to wake up. Because he didn't care, and a man who didn't care couldn't let himself dream about a little girl, eyes wide in surprise as he touched her.

"Go the fuck away," he muttered, and he was proud. His voice sounded flat. He sounded like his old self. Like someone who didn't care.

You don't know, or you don't care?

Pick one.

Don't know. Why couldn't he pick one? He'd choose not to know, not to know what he'd done to her, not to know what he could have done to her if he'd just held back and waited. Not to know how she looked as she screamed his name, her hands clenching him and her eyes so shocked and full of wonder.

Not to know how she looked when she was broken.

"Logan, I'm sorry."

Sorry. He didn't care about sorry. Logan didn't care about sorry. Logan was a man who just didn't care.

"I don't give a fuck. Get the hell out." There. That was Logan. He was Logan.

"I'm not leaving you here, Logan. She needs you." The Scott-scent smelled like something else now--like fear and worry and determination. And Logan shifted his shoulders so that he was more comfortable and concentrated on not giving a shit.

"She's done nothing but cry since you left."

"Maybe I don't need a whiney little bitch," Logan snarled, and shifted again as he found a new type of pain. He could feel his knuckles itching, and he wanted to skewer whoever it had been who had said something like that about his Marie.

And then he realized that he didn't care, couldn't care, wouldn't care. He was supposed to be Logan, but Logan had changed when he wasn't looking, when he was too busy running around that damn school being Wolverine. And the new Logan did care. Wanted to care. Needed to care.

Wolverine didn't. Logan did. How the fuck did a man fight himself twice?

"Just leave me alone, Cyke." That much he could say, and he did. "I don't know what to do anymore."

"Let me take you to a better hotel. Take some time to think. Just--don't run again, Logan. We need you." That sounded like it hurt him to say. "She needs you." That sounded like it hurt even more.

She needed him. He tried to decide if he cared about that. He did. Logan cared, Wolverine cared, everything cared about her needing him, because he wasn't just a man, he was an animal--and an animal protects its own.

So he opened his eyes, and he squinted and wondered how he'd managed to finally drink enough to have a hangover. But then it faded, and he swung his feet over the side of the bed and looked at Scott.

"Two days. I'll stay for two days."

Two days to decide who the fuck he was. Wolverine or Logan.

He couldn't be both anymore.

It took her all of five hours to figure out where he was.

Scott rubbed her shoulder and said that he was 'safe' and 'nearby' and just thinking about things a little, because he was confused.

Then he went outside and got on his bike and drove to bring Logan his bag from his room--and forgot that Rogue had been with him when he installed the tracking device, forgot that she had been the one who pointed out wistfully that if he'd been smart enough to put one on his first bike, she'd know where Logan was . . .

She knew now. She snuck out and watched the bike as it swerved through the roads, watched as it went west. She marked where it stopped and pulled up the map and pulled down her glove to write the street address on her arm, because she hadn't thought to bring paper.

Getting away was harder, but she slipped out using every scrap she remembered from his head, and when she swung a leg over Scott's old bike, she felt a thrill of longing that was entirely his--the feeling of power under her, of speed.

And Kitty yelled after her as she pulled out of the driveway, but she didn't care, because the wind was in her face and tugging at her hair and she was moving fast and towards him, and for the first time in years the fact that she felt no pain was a beautiful, glorious thing.

The door had just swung shut when he heard someone standing outside--not knocking but just standing, and breathing heavily.

He knew it was her, he didn't know how or why because Scott had promised she was safe, at home and safe and being watched after. But he could hear her and smell her just outside the door, and she smelled so excited and happy and clean of pain that he opened the door just a crack.

She looked nervous. She looked terrified, twisting her hands together and staring up at him from beneath lowered lashes. "Hey."

He tried to sound gruff. "You're supposed to be at home. Scott was just here--he'll be pretty pissed if he finds out you're here."

"I know." Her voice was a low whisper, a low sensual whisper and the back of his mind demanded to know where she'd learned to say things in that tone of voice, but the rest of him just tried not to care.

It was impossible. The sight of her, the smell of her--he'd been a fool to ever think he could not care about this. About the girl, the woman--the person who understood him more than anyone else.

So he swung the door open and cocked an eyebrow, and she looked almost like a child as she ducked her head and scurried inside, standing in the middle of the room and shifting awkwardly as she gazed around with wide eyes.

He'd forgotten about her facial expressions. The way her eyes got so wide, the way she swallowed when she was nervous. The way her eyebrows would fly up into perfect arches, and her mouth would move without any words coming out.

It was endearing, and it reminded him of a time when there were no white streaks in her hair, and he hadn't known who she was, and he still had cared, if only just a little, because he hadn't left her out by the side of the road.

He sighed. "We need to talk, Marie."

"I--" She swallowed again, and closed her eyes. "I don't even know what to say. You'd think I'd know what to say, since I came here. But I don't, Logan."

So he sat down on the end of the bed and she sat down at the head, and they just kind of stared at each other until one of them opened their mouth--and the words started coming.

Some of it was silly. He told her how he'd seen a girl in Canada, and she had bleached a white streak in her black hair, and how it had reminded him of her. He told her about the glitter she'd been wearing, and how it made her eyes sparkle.

She told him about learning to skate, and how she fell down a lot and was glad she didn't wear shorts, because her legs were all-over black and blue. And she laughed when he said he didn't really know how to skate very well either, because if he ever had learned, he'd forgotten about it a long time ago.

It was easy to say the silly things, to talk about people and places and things. But the words grew comfortable, and soon she was lying on her stomach and he was lying on his side, and their faces kind of met in the middle of the bed as they looked at each other, and the words got more serious.

He told her how he'd felt her thoughts the night when he'd stabbed her. How he had known what she was thinking and feeling--how he'd known about the agony and the ecstasy. He almost cried, for the second time in his life, and she reached out and laid a hand on his cheek and smiled gently, and thankfully the tears went away.

She told him about the darkness, about how the agony used to make ecstasy, until he came back into her life, and showed her what it was for her body to feel good without feeling bad. She couldn't look at him when she said it, her face tilted away and to the side, her cheeks flaming.

And this time he reached out for her, only he wasn't wearing his gloves so he let his hand settle softly on her shoulder, and she peeked up at him and gave him a slow smile that lit up the room, and made his body feel warm.

And when she smiled, he felt something snap inside him, and it hurt like a bone setting before it began to feel natural--feel right. He could feel himself, feel Logan and Wolverine, and for once, the man and the monster were at peace with one another. They agreed on something.

The agreed on her.

She stared at him in shock as he leaned forward and pressed his lips carefully to her temple, her skin hot under his lips. Just for a second--just until he felt the pull of her mind on his, but as he did he made sure he had everything he thought about her sitting in the top of his head, all the love and all the peace and everything good that he knew she was. He thought of it all and shoved it at her, letting her see for herself how lost he was.

And he jerked back and shook a little, because she was stronger than he remembered, and she stared at him with eyes gone big as saucers. Stared at him, her lower lip trembling.

"You--" her voice cracked, and she fought back tears. "You--you feel like that?"

"I don't know what I feel, Marie," he whispered, and he wanted to hide his eyes but he didn't--he kept looking at her, making himself look at her. "I just know there's something in me that's you, and I think it makes me better."

"I need you." The words were simple, sweet, and she let her eyes drift shut as she said them, tilting her head just enough so that the shock of white slithered over her cheek and shielded her face from him.

He didn't need to see it though. He lifted his body and put a pillow under her head before curling up behind her, and he kind of liked the way her body molded against him, her hips fitting snugly against his and her head tucking right under his chin.

And he felt like he should say it, because he was the adult, and she was the one who was hurt and confused, but she said it first, as she nuzzled her head into his chest and gave a sleepy sigh. "We should probably wait a while before we--before we do anything."

"Yeah," he said, and it was hard to admit, because saying he wanted her and needed her was pure Logan. He could rationalize it away with sex and lust and need and animal instincts, and those were the things he was good at.

But saying they would wait was all about love, and that was something he wasn't very used to at all.

"I love you." Her voice sounded nervous. He could hear her holding her breath, could hear the way her heart was pounding so fast. His arm tightened, and he closed his eyes and the words fell from his lips for the first time.

"I love you too."

Jean wanted to come with him, but for once, Scott put his foot down. Jean had done something to Logan that it might take the man a long time to forgive her for--and the last thing they needed was any more unpleasant emotions.

He was afraid at what he might find. So many scenarios had flashed through his mind. She was there. She wasn't. She was on her way to god knows where. She'd gotten on the train this time and there hadn't been a Logan to get her back off.

She was in his room. They'd had sex. She was in his room. They'd fought. She was in his room and left, and he'd never find her again. She was in his room and he'd left, and he'd find her broken and crying.

With the way things had gone over the last month, it never really occurred to him that he'd find them together.

Logan cracked an eye as soon as the door opened, giving Scott a look so placid and calm that for a moment it was like he was in some other universe, in another time, where Logan didn't want to kill him.

But then Logan growled when he made too much noise shutting the door, and the growl faded as the woman next to him stirred and looked up, a sleepy smile on her face. "Scott's here," she whispered.

"Yeah, he is."

And Scott smiled at the look he gave her, the tender look--the loving look, and watched as Logan brushed a piece of hair away from Marie's eyes and smiled at her.

"What do you say we go home Marie?"

She looked up at Logan and never spared a glance for Scott. "I'd like that, Logan."

And they looked so happy that Scott had a hard time protesting when they took his new bike home, because she looked so cute curled up behind him, and for once in his life, Logan looked content.

Epilogue: Two Months Later

Logan reclined on the bed, one arm behind his head as he watched Marie sort through the items in the drawer curiously. Her face was flushed, but the sparkle in her eye was heartening.

"I feel so kinky," she giggled, pulling out a thin transparent veil and dropping it over her head. "We have a drawer full of sex toys."

"They're not exactly toys, Marie," Logan responded with a smile. "Though I'm sure the leather gloves are a bit kinky." He grabbed her around the waist with his free hand, pulling her down to him.

The veil slithered of her head and landed on his face, and he smiled, his hand sliding up her back to tangle in her hair and pull her face to his.

The kiss took longer than a regular one, longer for the heat and dampness of her mouth to penetrate the fabric to his--but he didn't mind spending a little extra time kissing her.

Sometimes he wished he could just kiss her lips, slide his tongue inside her mouth and feel her own against his. Sometimes he wanted to be able to roll over and just kiss her, without having to fumble at the drawer or find something to place between them.

Sometimes he thought it would be worth a few days on his back to give her a good kissing.

It would hurt her though--and the one vow Logan had made was that she would never, ever, feel any pain because of him again.

He was getting dizzy, the feel of Marie's body slithering against him like a drug. And because he could feel himself responding, because he could feel her hand drifting down his body and over his hip, because he wasn't ever going to make the same mistake twice . . . he pulled back and trapped her hands in his, pinning them down.

"No," she gasped, giving him a pleading look. "Logan . . . please. Don't stop this again . . ."

"Marie." It was more of a groan and plea than it was a statement. Clearing his throat, he tried again. "Marie--I don't know if we're ready--"

She rolled her eyes. "Two months isn't ready? Am I really hearing this from you, Logan? From the man who invented one night stands?"

His lips twitched, but he refused to let her sidetrack him. "Marie, if you'll recall, last time I let myself go, things did not turn out very pleasantly."

Marie sighed, twisted her hands free, and turned over on her side to face him. "I'm fine, Logan. I'm fine. I'm happy. I'm healthy. I don't feel the urge to make someone hurt me. I think--" Her eyes drifted shut, and she let out a sigh. "I think I've hurt enough for now."

He knew what he had to say, but the words still choked in his throat. It was hard--hard to admit he cared. Hard to admit to himself that he wasn't alone anymore. He wanted to be alone.

No he didn't. He wanted to be with her, wrapped around her, holding her, ever second of every day. It was the truth, and he didn't hate it, and that more than anything proved he'd changed.

He swallowed and squeezed his eyes shut. "I love you Marie. I love you. I've never--never loved anyone else before this, but I know I love you."

He felt the tips of her gloved fingers brush over his eyelashes, he could hear her breathing speeding up. "I know, Logan," she whispered. "I know."

And then he felt himself again, Logan, not the mushy love struck fool who had replaced him. And his arms went around her and Marie was on her back, her legs parted and cradling his hips as he hovered above her. "And I want you, Marie. I want you like air. Like a drug."

She laughed, and he loved the way she laughed. Loved that she did laugh. "I'd rather you just wanted me like Marie."

So he pressed his hips into hers, and let her see how much he wanted Marie.

It was fast, and it was good. And then, because he was Logan and recovered from anything short of death within moments, they did it again, and this time it was slow, and it was better than good. Marie screamed his name as her hips bucked into him, and then when she had him on his back, and was staring down at his face as her gloved fingers did things to him that made him want to howl--then he screamed hers.

And the only agony was how much ecstasy there was, and the fact it couldn't last forever.