Title: Safety In Numbers
Author: Elizabeth
Email: uhmidont@theglobe.com
Fandom: X-Men (movie)
Rating: R (If the idea of Rogue and Logan--even in the future--gives you the willies, you can skip this fic)
Keywords: X-men movie fic, post-movie, Rogue/Logan
Disclaimer: Of course I don't own the characters.
Archive: The xmenmoviefanfic list site and Kielle's site, if they're interested. Otherwise, please ask.
Thanks: To Kate, for all the encouragement and for the beta-read.
July 30, 2000

It's raining again. It started this afternoon and she thinks it should have stopped by now. It doesn't seem fair at all. How can she fall asleep if the sky continues to send down sullen drops of water that are tapping on the roof like some sort of code she will never be able to understand?

Rogue turns and pushes her face into her pillow for a moment. It's quieter with the world muted out by a layer or two, but breathing is an impossibility. There's always a trade-off.

After a moment, she lifts her head up and turns onto her side. The vent is just inches away from her bed and she thinks she can hear him breathing. She knows that she can't, but she thinks that she can. Two days ago Scott babbled endlessly about the power of the imagination in psychology class and she wished that he would shut up because she thought she needed to think. Now she wishes she'd listened a little more.

Kitty's breathing is rhythmic and even and she starts counting along with it. God bless roommates. Now she has something to focus on.

1,2, 3,4, Inhale.

4,3, 2,1, Exhale.

1,2, 3,4, She's not listening to the rain.

4,3,2,1, She's not thinking about anything. She's really quite sleepy.

1,2,3,4, Did he just sigh? Did she just hear Logan breathe? Is the echo of his breath rising up to her? Or is she just remembering something that happened a long time ago?

She can't decide.

The rain continues to tap out its song on the roof. She tells herself to listen to Kitty. She tells herself to relax. She tells herself to stop being such a drama queen. She's got to get up early in the morning. She's got work to do, classes to attend, a life to lead.

1,2,3,4 Inhale.

4,3,2,1 Exhale.

The rain continues to fall and there is no pause, there is no pattern to it at all.

She's not sure what that means.

He came back two weeks before her eighteenth birthday. No notice, of course. Just showed up one day, out of the blue.

She'd known he was coming. How she knew, she wasn't sure. His memories had faded inside her mind and she didn't feel Logan rattling around in her thoughts as much anymore. Sometimes when Jean mentioned him she didn't even feel jealous of his feelings for her. But only sometimes, because she mostly wanted the corner she had of him to be all for her and it wasn't. It never was.

She was in history class and Ororo was talking about the French Revolution and she was pretending to take notes and really watching Bobby talk to the new girl. Susan. Susan had only been in school for two months and she'd already broken a few hearts. Susan was from New Orleans and had an accent and liked to flirt and always knew what to say and had skin that could be touched. The worst part of all was that Susan was nice. She told Rogue that she was lonely, that she missed her home, that she loved talking to someone who'd grown up in the South, and that she "totally got" how Rogue felt and then even managed to have insights into how she felt that made Rogue feel understood and alarmed.

She was watching Bobby talk to Susan and she was telling herself that she was ok with it. She wanted Bobby to be happy, didn't she? They both knew that they could never have more than friendship, that he would never be able to do more than hold her gloved hand or offer her a brief hug where she had to angle her face into his shirt.

She was doodling large circles and filling them with smaller ones and she just knew. She could feel him coming, she could almost hear Logan moving down the road, his head filled with the peculiar pattern of his thoughts--always a little jumbled and angry and so utterly there. She raised her hand and when Storm didn't notice she actually spoke up and said "Ororo?"

Storm turned to her and looked slightly surprised. Rogue was not a talker in class, was rarely a talker anywhere. "Yes?"

"Can I go to the bathroom?"

There was the start of giggles that stopped as soon as the people who were getting ready to emit a full-force gale of them realized that almost eighteen year olds maybe shouldn't find going to the bathroom so funny, that maybe it was something that only younger kids laughed about.

Storm nodded and Rogue walked out of the classroom. She kept walking until she was outside the school. She sat on the steps and waited. She fingered the dog tags around her neck and wondered if he'd want them back. She wondered what he'd say to her.

He came along after a few minutes. She'd gotten tired of staring at the road, had remembered her mother's admonition of "a watched pot never boils, Marie" and had turned to look out at the grounds, at the perfectly manicured lawn that looked nothing like the slightly unkempt yard that surrounded the house she'd grown up in.


She turned to look at Logan and pressed her hands against the steps so she wouldn't stand up and embarrass herself by flinging herself at him for a hug. She smiled at him and hoped her mouth wasn't shaking as badly as the rest of her was. "Hey yourself."

He smiled, the peculiar almost-lift of his mouth that passed for a smile on his face, and looked right into her eyes. She'd forgotten how he'd done that, of how he'd always looked right at you as if you were the only person around, the only person that mattered. "You doing ok?"

She nodded. "I'm fine. You?"

He shrugged and if she hadn't had him inside her head for the better part of a year she wouldn't have thought anything of it. But she knew the way his mind worked, had been inside all the places that he wanted to keep hidden, and knew that the set of his shoulders meant that he wasn't fine at all. That maybe he was in trouble or was running from something.

"The Professor's inside" she told him and he gave her another one of those almost smiles.

"Thanks Marie."

It was the first time someone had called her Marie in a long time. It startled her.

And then he walked inside and she didn't see him again for two days.

She'd looked for him, of course. She'd tried not to be obvious and was pretty conscious of the fact that she'd failed miserably; that Jean and Scott and the Professor all knew who she was looking for when she came to visit them in their offices, when Jean caught her walking down the hall when she was supposed to be in class. And she was right about there being trouble. She could tell from the grim set of the Professor's mouth, from the way classes sometimes started late or were canceled with only a note on the door. Later, rumors started flying around the school. Magneto was on the loose and causing problems, it seemed.

After two days she saw Logan as she was walking down the hall after English. Kitty was talking excitedly about her college application essays and Rogue was listening and wondering and wishing that she could go to college. She saw someone walk by and she saw his eyes and he sort of nodded at her and she tried to think of something to say to him but he was already down at the other end of the hall before she decided on "Hi."

They had a few awkward conversations after that. A few moments where she asked him questions and he almost smiled at her and sort of answered them. Once his hand accidentally brushed hers and there was a sudden hot and almost sickening ache between her legs and she knew what it meant. She'd never gotten over her feelings for him, her "crush" as Jean and Scott always referred to it ("I think she has a crush on Logan, Scott. Isn't that cute?") and she felt her face turn red because he was just touching her hand; her gloved hand, and she hated the way her body refused to give up its foolish belief that it was normal. That it was human. His nostrils flared and he looked at her. Looked at her like he always did but then there was something in his gaze, maybe--but he got up and left in a hurry, didn't even tell her he'd see her later and she wasn't sure what she saw. She stared at her gloves, her long plain black gloves, one of three pairs she owned, and she battled down the urge to go and find someone, anyone, and take off her gloves and touch them and absorb their memories so she wouldn't have to deal with her own feelings.

She would see him sometimes when she was on her way down to dinner. Once she was walking with Susan and they passed him. He was with Jean and Susan said "Oh, man. I wish I was Jean!" Rogue smiled and nodded and called Scott's room later that night to make sure that Jean answered the phone.

And then a week ago something happened.

She had been trying to study for her big history exam, had been cheering herself up by reminding herself that once the school year was over she wouldn't have to go to any more classes or take any more tests unless she wanted to. It wasn't really working and she'd decided to go and get a soda. She'd asked Kitty if she'd wanted one and Kitty didn't respond. She looked over and Kitty was asleep at her desk, her head resting on her textbook. Rogue smiled and grabbed some change and left her room.

She'd gone down to the first floor and was walking down the hall. The wood paneling that lined the walls absorbed all the light it could at night and as a result the hallway was pretty dark and she was almost a little nervous.

"What are you doing up?" The voice, if it had belonged to anyone else, would have startled her. Maybe made her more nervous. But it was Logan and she'd have known his voice anywhere. She turned and smiled at him.


He gave her an incredulous look and she giggled. "Really, I am." Her necklace rattled a little as her laughter vibrated through her.

He reached out and rested a hand alongside her throat, his fingers grazing the chain. The shock of someone almost touching her skin startled her and she almost--almost--moved. But she stopped at the last second. He wasn't touching her skin. Everything was ok. It took her a moment to realize he was talking. "Still have these?"

She nodded and then cleared her throat. "Uh-huh."

He smiled at her--a real smile--one of the few he'd ever given her. His hand fell away from the chain around her neck. "You know, I actually missed wearing the dammed things. I looked for them around my neck every morning for the first six months..."

Everything inside her froze. He wasn't touching her necklace, was he? He'd missed his dog tags. He was thinking about his damned dog tags. She reached down and pulled the chain over her head in a fluid movement, wrapping it in her hand. "Here." She cut him off before he could finish his sentence.

When he didn't hold his hand out for the tags, she dropped them. But he had fast reflexes, and he caught them before they fell very far. "You didn't have to give these back."

She squeezed her other hand around the change she held. "You always said you'd be back for them." She hoped she didn't sound as bitter as she felt.

He slid the tags around his neck and tucked them inside his shirt. She bit her lip at the sight and told herself that feeling hurt was stupid. He was going to walk away. He was going to walk away and that's what he'd done the last time too and she should be thankful that he'd saved her life and led her to Xavier's school and wasn't that enough? Was she so greedy? So what that she wouldn't even have his memories or even a cheap piece of metal to hold onto? So what?

So she turned away first. She had to. She started walking towards the vending machine and hoped that Magneto would start blowing up the world or something soon so Logan would leave--either to help the other X-Men or to make his own way. His return wasn't anything like even her worst hopes had been, she hadn't dreamed badly enough, and she wanted him gone.


She kept walking, but she slowed down. She could hear him walk up behind her and she stood still. She didn't move. She didn't want to.

"You running again?" His tone was teasing.

She didn't want to be teased. She turned to look at him, wanted to say something cutting and mean. But she couldn't think of anything to say. She could feel her hand squeezing around the change she was still holding. She still needed to get her soda. "I'm just..." She was aware that tears were in her voice, that they were crawling up her throat and hiding behind her eyes.

His head tilted to the side a little and he walked forward a little more. The moon caught his face and she saw that his eyes were a little concerned. "Hey..."

She should have given him a casual shrug and a laugh. She should have said something teasing and pithy and she shouldn't have been worried about someone she hadn't seen in over a year. She should have started walking again.

But then he surprised her like he was always able to. She thought that he would tell her that he'd see her later and that he'd leave, that maybe he'd pat her arm or her shoulder or any of a hundred other clumsy gestures that everyone else used. But instead he touched her hair, sliding his fingers down the white streak that had fallen down and covered the side of her face.

She looked at him and for a moment she didn't bother to hide all of her feelings. Her feelings for him, the ones that she has "as a result of her powers" (Dr. X), "because she's a teenage girl" (Jean), "from all the trauma she's gone through" (Scott). She didn't bother to hide the feelings that are hers and might be from all the things that others have supposed they are but are also from the very human heart that beats inside and under her mutated skin.

He saw her look. She knew he did. He had seen her at her most vulnerable, knew all her fears, and had taken the time to talk to her when her world had been falling apart and changing around her. He knew her.

His fingers paused in her hair. His eyes were confused for a moment and then they were startled and then something flashed across them and she knew what his look was, even if she had never really seen it before, had only glimpsed the start of desire blooming in someone's gaze.

She swayed towards him.

His eyes were much darker and his expression closed down, became shuttered. But he didn't move, he didn't step away from her. His fingers kept moving and she looked down to see them resting under her chin, curled around the white strands of her hair.

And then his fingers moved up, away from her hair. They hovered over her mouth, traced over its shape an infinitesimal distance away from her skin. She was aware that she was breathing faster, she was acutely conscious of the fact that her breath was moving over his fingers. That if he moved any closer he would be touching her.

That she wanted him to touch her.

She looked up dazedly and met his eyes. And then she saw.

He wanted to touch her. His expression was not hidden from her anymore and in his eyes were things that she'd only seen in memories, hazy recollections of an expression that she'd never thought anyone would direct at her.

One of the coins she carried slid out from between her fingers. It pinged as it landed on the floor and then she remembered something else.

Her name wasn't Marie anymore and hadn't been for a long time.

Her name was Rogue and she couldn't be touched.

She turned and walked away from him, tucking her chin down and looking at the floor. He didn't say anything. She was grateful for that.

She didn't get a soda. She went back upstairs and sat at her desk and stared at her history textbook and was not able to remember a thing she read later.

She failed her test.

And then, a few days later, it rained.

She'd been excused from biology class because they were having a lab. Jean told her that she was excused because her grade on the summary material quiz was so high that she didn't need the lab, but Rogue knew that she was excused because the lab involved looking at cells, and that there could be complications even if a scraping from inside her mouth was safely contained under a coating of glass slides. Bobby would have agreed to be her lab partner but she knew that when she took the toothpick with her skin cells out of her mouth and handed it to him there would have been a moment where he looked around the classroom, panicked and wanting instinctively to run. He wouldn't have meant it, but it still would have happened.

So she nodded and smiled and told Jean that she'd see her tomorrow. It was her last class of the day and she walked outside and sat on the grass over by the edge of the campus, out by the buildings where the groundskeepers kept whatever it was that made the grass so green. It was cloudy but it matched her mood and so she was happy to be outside, sat down and looked up at the dark sky for a while and watched the clouds gather. It started to rain, but only just a little and she didn't move. She just looked at her watch and knew that class wouldn't be over for at least another ten minutes and she didn't want to go inside and stand by the door as if she was all bedraggled and forlorn over not getting to look at a bunch of cells.

It started to rain harder and she looked up at the sky, surprised. She'd always thought that there was a pause before a storm, that there was a moment of silence where the air didn't move and everything was so still that you knew that something was going to happen; a final moment of peace.

She still didn't want to go inside. The rain picked up in intensity and she just watched it. She hadn't really watched a storm since she was a little girl. She watched the rain change from fat drops that fell with soft plops into tiny stinging barbs that splattered as they hit the ground and her. She watched as the wind picked up and the rain shifted, falling from the left side, then the right side. She watched the trees sway when the wind pushed them. She looked down at the ground and watched little rivers build around her. When she realized that the light that was shining into the puddles around was actually the reflection of lightening, landing far away but slowly moving closer, she looked down at herself and sighed. Where had all this self-pity gotten her? Nowhere. And now she would have to go inside and look like a wet untouchable mutant.

Professor X had given her a body stocking to wear shortly after she got to Mutant High and she wore it faithfully for a week or so. He didn't classify it as protection but they both knew that's what it was. With a body stocking on, she didn't have to worry about what she wore. And no one else did either.

But it itched. It was like wearing pantyhose everywhere and she was hot and miserable every second she wore it and she quickly grew to hate the way it looked, the way it felt, the way it rasped when she did something as simple as lift her arm.

So she stopped wearing it. She just made sure that her shirts always had long sleeves and that she wore jeans or pants. And gloves. Sometimes she wore gloves with no fingers, an act of mini-rebellion that made her feel daring and stupid at the same time.

She'd envied Kitty as she'd gotten dressed that morning. Kitty got to wear pretty little skirts and great tops that had tiny straps and ended just above her belly button. She'd gone shopping with Kitty and Jubilee once. Only once. Jubilee had held up a tank top and said "Oh Rogue, this would be so cute on you!" and the look on her face when she realized what she'd said had made the rest of the trip really awkward. She'd put on a t-shirt and jeans and her usual gloves that morning. And she'd looked in the mirror and hated her outfit, but known there was nothing she could do.

Her t-shirt--it was a pale blue one she got at the Gap--was soaked. It felt like it weighed a million pounds and she knew that if she stood up her jeans would be heavy and clammy around her legs. She wiggled her feet a little and listened to her feet slosh around in her shoes. She was going to have to go inside and hope that no one saw her.

Of course her hopes were dashed. She looked up from her inspection of her soggy sneakers and noticed that someone was walking towards her--she could see the blurred shape of someone through all the rain. And then she knew who it was--she could tell just from the way he walked--a sort of loping stride that somehow managed to convey a message of purpose. She stood up because she felt like she should be standing. It was the first time she'd seen him since the other night. She moved her toes inside her sneakers again and watched as he stopped near her. "I didn't think it was going to rain today. Did you see Storm or something?"

Logan was supposed to laugh. But of course he didn't. He looked at her, seeming to focus on a spot near her elbow, and then he turned away, looked out at the horizon. "I didn't see Storm. I didn't know you were out here. Shouldn't you go inside?"

She frowned and kicked at the ground idly, was annoyed when her foot slipped over the slick glass. Things had changed. And not for the better. She kicked at the grass again and stumbled a little. She managed to right herself. But just barely. Great, she thought. Very mature looking.

Maybe he hadn't noticed. She looked at him but he wasn't looking away anymore. He was looking at her. He was staring at her, in fact, and he looked--he looked almost frightened. But behind that was what she'd seen, just briefly, the other night.

She looked down at herself. Her shirt was soaked. She'd known that. And she'd known that you could probably see her bra. But she didn't realize that other people would notice it, or her. What was under her clothes might as well not exist, was only a cage for her insides. She was untouchable. Literally. Everyone knew that. What would be the point of looking?

But he was. She realized that her nipples were visible, pushing out against the front of her bra and shirt and as she looked down, they pushed out against the front of her shirt more. And she realized that she wanted him to look at her. It made her feel strong. Powerful. Different.

"You should go inside." He was looking up at her face now, but not into her eyes. He seemed to be staring at a point on her forehead.

She almost wanted to go inside. She almost wanted to say 'Ok, see you later' and turn and walk --run--away like she did the other night. Like she did last Christmas when one of the students stuck a sprig of mistletoe on the arch over the stairs in the main hallway and she and Bobby were walking down the hall and she knew the mistletoe was there and part of her wanted to tell Bobby she had to go to the library or something so she wouldn't have to keep walking down the hall. But the other part of her wanted to keep walking. And so she had and then they were under the mistletoe and for an endless moment she'd thought he was going to kiss her and she probably would have let him. She just wanted to be touched. Just for a minute. Just thinking about it--about it would feel to have someone's skin on hers, if only for a moment--it made her whole body throb. But she'd looked at Bobby and she saw fear in his eyes and the moment had passed and she'd walked away.

But looking at him--Logan--standing beside her in the rain, she thought she heard a pause. A brief hush in the air that let her know change was coming. And she didn't walk away. She didn't want to. She didn't feel the need to. "I don't want to go inside."

He looked surprised for a moment and then his face went blank. Totally, utterly blank. Even when she first met him, in a smoke-filled bar in the backwoods of Canada, he'd at least looked uninterested. Then his gaze let her know that he'd seen her and that he'd noted her and that he didn't much care. But now there wasn't even that.

And then he walked away from her.

She stared after him for a moment and then she got angry. She started walking towards him, watching his back. She was so angry that her feet were pressing into the ground with each step she took and she could feel the pull of the rapidly forming pools of mud. The earth wanted to slow her down but she wasn't going to let it. "Hey!"

He ignored her and she bent down and grabbed a handful of grass and mud and threw it at him. "Hey!"

He continued to ignore her and she blinked as rain fell into her eyes and tears burned in the back of them. Was it so wrong to just want someone to look at her? "Are you running again?!" she shouted. "Are you?"

He stopped. He turned and looked back at her and she knew that look. He had never directed it at her before; she had mostly seen him turn it on Scott or the Professor. He was angry.

She didn't care. The blank look on his face--the way she almost had a moment and then lost it because he was afraid-- it filled her with anger and terror and it was a potent mixture. "You didn't find any answers while you were gone, did you?" she shouted. "And so you came back for...what? Hoping that the Professor would feel sorry for you and read your mind and tell you what you don't know? Or that maybe Jean would do it?"

He stomped towards and she almost felt the urge to run. But she knew him--even though he didn't want her to. She knew that she'd touched a nerve.

She didn't run. But she did back up. She knew what he was like when he was angry. The shed that held all the chemicals that make the lawn so perfect looking was beside her and she edged over to it. And then he was in front of her and she was pressing her back into the wall and she knew that if she were anyone else she would have gotten a "Shut up" or something even ruder or maybe even a claw resting on her throat. But she wasn't anyone else.

He took a deep breath and she watched him swallow, watched his throat work as he spoke. "Be quiet."


And then he did something that proved he's as crazy as everyone says he is, something that proved he's all emotion, like the Professor and Scott and Jean and everyone says he is.

He smiled at her. And then he touched her. He reached out and rested his thumb on her mouth, pressing it gently into her lips. Like he'd almost done the other night.

She could taste his skin and the shock of it--the salt, the warmth, the smell--it was overwhelming. And then the jolt of the connection that opened up when anyone touched her began and she let out a gasp. She could feel all of his power--was inside his heightened senses, smelling the ground, the rain, herself--and it was too much, she didn't want to feel herself through him. She jerked her head to the side and his thumb slid off her face.

She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. He was staring at her. He was looking at her in the way that he'd started to before and he'd stopped before but she knew that he wouldn't stop this time. He was going to touch her again. She turned her face towards his and closed her eyes.

His hands rested on her arms for a moment. A familiar gesture. People felt safe touching her arms, they were always covered, swathed in fabric. Then his hands moved up, onto her shoulders. Still familiar territory.

And then he moved his hands down. New territory. His fingers pressed into her skin through her shirt, she could feel their warmth and he wasn't rushing, his hand arched over the top of her chest, his fingers splaying out and moving slowly. She could feel her lungs working under his hands, pushing air in and out so quickly that she could hardly hear the rain over the sound of her own breath. And then his fingers brushed over her nipples and she let out a shocked gasp of what was almost surprise but was mostly anticipation fulfilled. Pleasure. She'd known he was going to touch her, but she hadn't ever thought of being touched--she'd viewed that as impossibility, as something that was never going to happen, as wishful thinking. As something that she needed skin for.

But he was touching her and she could feel him even through her clothes, was sure that there would be marks inside her body, that her blood would carry the imprint of his fingers. His hands moved again and she heard the trees cracking as the wind and rain washed through them, heard a thin wail that might have been the weather but she knew was her. She opened her eyes and watched as his fingers moved over her chest, shaping her skin. He said something--she could see his mouth moving but she couldn't hear what he was saying, didn't want to take the time to process her thoughts. She just wanted more and she pressed her gloved hands against his, urging him on.

His thumbs rolled down, pulling at her nipples through her shirt and her bra, and the ache between her legs blossomed into an intensity that made it impossible for her to think of anything else but ending it. She could suddenly sense everything, her nerves were quivering and open and she could feel the muscles of his arm bunch as her hands clamped around them and her legs were moving and he said something again and she heard the low hum of his voice in her ears but it was as if he was speaking from somewhere far away and by the time his words get to her they were lost, broken apart by time.

The shed wall she was leaning against creaked alarmingly and the ground shuddered under her feet, echoing from the vibrations of the storm. She inhaled and the air smelled like water and Logan and metal and she looked up and watched the sky light up and burn into a corner. She pushed herself forward, into him, and slid her hands out, seeking purchase.

They landed on his shirt and she could hear the water in her gloves merge into the fabric of his soaked shirt, could feel water sliding inside her gloves and rolling onto her hands. But she didn't care, she couldn't care. Her fingers found an opening in his shirt, a place where there was a gap between button and skin and she slide a finger in, testing. His skin was very warm. She could feel that through her gloves. She turned her finger and pressed the outline of her nail into his skin.

His hands had cupped over her breasts, and his fingers were rubbing in circles and she closed her eyes and opened her mouth to scream as the ache inside her started to swallow her whole. She was sure that something had to happen, that something would happen. You couldn't hurt like this and not have something happen, she was sure of that.

Then he moved his hand away from her and she blinked and inhaled and then he pushed her up, slid her up the wall of the shed, and she felt as if she was only connected to her body through the reality of the pulse that beat between her thighs and then he was pushing her hands away from him and pushing them flat against the wall. She could feel the metal of the shed pressing into the thin strip of skin where her gloves had ridden up.

And then his mouth touched her breast. Over her shirt, over all the layers that protected the world from her. His mouth was hot compared to her rain soaked shirt and she heard the rain and herself moaning so loudly that the echo of it whistled in her ears. She could feel his mouth moving, even through the layers of t-shirt and bra, and then his teeth gently tested her flesh and she pushed against his restraining hands so hard that the metal under her dented, just slightly.

He pulled back and she opened her eyes and started to talk, meaningless babble that even she couldn't hear because she wasn't listening and she could tell that he wasn't listening either because he pushed her shirt up and she felt all the air leave her lungs in a rush of shock, cutting off her words. And then he said, "Don't move" loudly enough for her to hear him over the rain and herself and then his mouth was almost on her skin, her real skin. Only the nylon of her bra--her "I need to do the laundry" light blue bra that she bought because it was marked down to 3.99 and she knew that no one would ever see it ever so, really what did it matter that it was thin and flimsy?--covered her.

He was going to get hurt. He was going to get hurt, he was going to touch her skin and she was going to hurt him and she wanted to. He moved his mouth to her other breast and she could feel the rasp of his tongue over the thin barrier of her bra and then there was more, the hot, sudden pull of his mouth and she looked down to see his head bent over her breasts and she pushed against his hands and her own were free and she sank them into his hair and felt the shape of his skull, moved her gloved hands through his hair.

He pulled his mouth away from her breasts and she could feel her hands trying to urge him back down. They were greedy already; they wanted more of what she hadn't even ever thought about till only a minute ago. He resisted her pull, straightening up and then leaning in, placing his head carefully next to hers, resting in the space between her head and her neck, protected by her hair.

She was suddenly afraid that she might cry.

Then his hand moved down and between her legs, a firm pressure against the ache of her body and the heavy fabric of her jeans and she felt the hot burn in the back of her eyes change and she tried to pull together enough focus to say something, anything because wasn't she supposed to say something? But all she could do was rest her head against the metal wall and gasp if she was dying and watch the rain fall down sideways. It fell into her open eyes and stung them but she didn't care. Her hips had started to move against his hand, urging his fingers into a pattern that she realized she needed to answer everything that was open and aching inside her.

The world started to blur around the edges, the rain softening into a haze and she thought she could hear her hips banging into the metal shed, a soft thud that was repeated as quickly and as harshly as the cadence of the rain landing around them and then there wasn't time to even think about that, she was too busy waiting and aching and waiting.

And then he turned his head, just slightly. He was still cocooned in her hair, but she heard his voice in her ear as his fingers pressed against her. "Marie."

And then it stopped. The waiting, the aching--it all stopped and she forgot everything for just a moment and watched multi-colored circles bloom on the inside of her eyelids, felt the throbbing inside her twist and break apart and float away. She didn't say anything but her breath hissed out of her in a long rush and the rain ran down her face and created tears for her.

He dropped his hand away from her and took a step back and she fell. The ground caught her and she folded down to her knees and bent her head forward for a moment, breathing. Then she stumbled up and the look on his face was not something she wanted to see so she closed her eyes.

After a moment she opened them again and watched his back as he walked away from her. His walk was different, broken somehow, and she didn't want to watch. So she took off her gloves and looked at her hands and after a while it stopped raining and she went inside and dripped water all over the floor of her room and Kitty found her there a little later and laughingly chided her into going and taking a shower and she did. And when she got out Kitty had already put her clothes in the dryer and gave her a strange look when she started crying over her dry blue t-shirt that only smelled like fabric softener and not of rain at all.

Life went on and the only change was that he didn't smile when he saw her anymore.

And yesterday she turned eighteen. He didn't come to the "party" that Dr. X had arranged. Kitty and Jubilee and Bobby and John and everyone else came. Storm and Jean and Scott came and said nice things to her and she got wonderful presents and the Professor even pulled her aside and told her that even if she couldn't go away to school that she could take classes somewhere near the house or maybe she could work with the younger students and she nodded and smiled and had a good time. She didn't let herself think about how hurt she was until today when she saw him out of the corner of her eye as she was walking down to the lab.

She was hurt and so she forgot to be embarrassed and besides, it wasn't raining at the time and so she was able to forget remembering. She marched into the room where he was sitting and cleared her throat. "It was my birthday yesterday."

He was fiddling with one the Professor's ten gazillion gadgets and he'd put it down and looked at her. "Happy Birthday" he said and she blinked and looked away because she didn't want to cry. She was tired of crying.

He didn't say anything else and after a moment she started walking out of the lab and she was almost out into the hallway when she heard him curse and say "Rogue" and she thought about not stopping but she knew he wouldn't come after her. That was the only reason why she stopped. She stopped and felt his hand rest on her head and then he hugged her and she bit her lip and knew that touches like that--a hand on her arm, a pat on the head--were going to be all she had for the rest of her life.

"We're not going to do this," he said and she pulled away and nodded because he was right. She knew that. She did.

And now she's trying to feel wiser and older and braver and stronger and she rolls over away from the vent so she can't imagine anymore.

But it's still raining (Is it ever going to stop?) and she pulls the covers up around her ears and goes back to counting.

Counting isn't wishing. Counting isn't touching. Counting isn't remembering.

Counting is safe.