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Time (Clock of the Heart)

by Victoria P.

Date: Wednesday, April 23, 2003 10:41 PM

     Title: Time (Clock of the Heart)
     Author: Victoria P. [victoria_p@att.net]
     Summary: "There's no present like the time."
     Rating: PG-13
     Archive: Lists, Muse's Fool.
     Feedback: Is a gift I gladly accept.
     Dedication: For Devil Doll, and her watch and buckle obsession.
     Begun: August 12, 2002
     Finished: April 23, 2003

Notes: Thanks to Jen, Pete/Melissa, Dot, and Meg. And to Devil Doll for nudging me out of seriousness when the story took an odd turn. Summary comes from, er, I think it's Citizen that uses that slogan in their ads, and the title from my favorite Culture Club song.

Disclaimer: All X-Men characters belong to Marvel and Fox; this piece of fan-written fiction intends no infringement on any copyrights.


Time (Clock of the Heart)

Rogue came down to breakfast one morning, and Logan was there.

She hadn't seen him in almost a year, though they'd spoken on the phone a few times, and he looked exactly the same. She didn't know why she'd expected anything different, but she had. Maybe because she felt so different herself. Having him and Erik in her head had aged her quickly, and she sometimes couldn't remember if she was eighteen, sixty, or a hundred and twelve, depending on whose nightmares and memories had kept her up the night before.

But last night, it had been a different sort of dream that woke her, one in which she and Logan had been entangled on the grass, skin-to-skin. She'd woken with her heart racing and her body aching for satisfaction.

Seeing him in the dining room made her heart race again, and her palms sweat. She was glad for once of the gloves that covered her hands, though he'd probably be able to spot her reaction, regardless.

He was sitting in her usual spot in the back corner of the dining room, away from the crowd of teenagers who acted as if their express purpose in life was being as loud as possible.

She was not a morning person, and talking to her before her first cup of coffee was often a dangerous enterprise. The bad nights and nightmares had just added to that tendency. And not even the thrill of seeing him again could quite overpower her distaste for being up before eight a.m.

She spared a stray curse for Scott, who had them on a ridiculous training regimen, even though it was summer.

Logan didn't rise when she approached, though she knew he knew she was there.

She crossed her arms over her chest and raised an eyebrow. It was a posture she'd adopted from him, and when he turned to look, she could tell he recognized it.

"Hey," he said.

"You're in my seat."

"I know."

Which sent blood rushing to her cheeks. Because that meant he'd sniffed her out, and well, there were all sorts of interesting ideas suddenly tumbling through her head like dice on a craps table.

She needed to sit.

It was too early in the morning for those kinds of thoughts, though the version of Logan in her head disagreed, flooding her mind with memories of all kinds of early morning behavior that was inappropriate in public.

"We could share," he offered.

"Uh--" He grinned at her obvious discomfort and she felt the need to wipe that smile off his face. "Okay."

And slid into his lap.

She smirked at the startled look in his eyes, but he wasn't disconcerted for long. He slipped an arm around her waist and leaned in to sniff at her hair.

"Did you miss me?" he asked, voice pitched low.

She shivered at the feel of his breath on her ear, only partly from fear at the danger to him. With his other hand, he traced the chain of his dog tag, still hanging around her neck. She'd put it there in the moments after he'd left, and hadn't taken it off since.

"A little," she said, breathless.

"Just a little?" There was a hint of teasing in his tone she thought she could get used to.

"Well, in some ways it's like you've been here all along." She tapped the side of her head, and he frowned. She could feel him withdraw, even though neither of them moved. "It's not a bad thing," she continued. "I mean, you know, in the grand scheme of things, being alive with you in my head is a hell of a lot better than being dead."

He snorted. "That's comforting."

She bit her lip, then, "It is."

He opened his mouth, and she held her breath, hoping she'd conveyed the truth -- that she really was okay with him in her head, that he had helped more than hurt her, but he said, "Jean."

And there Jean was, resplendent in red silk and black linen.

"Welcome back, Logan," Jean said, smiling.

"Good to be back," he answered.

"I can tell."

His hand tightened on Rogue's hip, and she squirmed, causing him to inhale sharply. She bit her lip again, as she felt him tense.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"That you look happy to be back."

They stared at each other for a moment. It wasn't flirtatious. Rogue could tell from the set of his jaw and the slight narrowing of his eyes that he was angry.

Jean looked away first, but Logan didn't relax.

"And we're happy to have you back," Rogue said, snaking a hand around Logan's neck and stroking the hair that curled over his collar.

He swallowed hard, and Rogue felt a little thrill that she could affect him.

"Speak for yourself, Rogue," Scott said, joining them. "Is my bike still in one piece, Logan?"

Logan laughed, and she was silently thankful for Scott's interference. She didn't quite understand what had just happened, but she'd get to the bottom of it when they were alone.

"She's in the garage, Cyke."

"Come on, Jean." And Scott hurried away, dragging Jean with him, to see what condition his bike was in.

Logan squeezed Rogue's hip again, and then smacked it. "Why don't you go get me some coffee?"

"Why don't you go get me some coffee?" she said.

"You're on top. No need for both of us to get up."

She held his gaze for a moment and she realized he was trying not to laugh, which made it hard for her to stay angry at his demand.

"I like it on top," she replied, holding his gaze before she slid off his lap to her feet.

"I'll keep that in mind," he murmured, and she laughed as she walked away, exaggerating slightly the sway of her hips, knowing he watched.


After breakfast, she took him up to the room he'd stayed in when they'd first come to the mansion.

"I made sure nobody else took it," she said.

He nodded, nostrils flared. She shifted from foot to foot. She'd spent the better part of the last year sleeping in this room, because her nightmares made her a lousy roommate, and she knew he could smell her.

"It's your room now, eh?"

She shrugged a shoulder, which made the dog tag visible in the valley between her breasts. She recalled the warmth of his bare finger tracing the chain earlier, as close to her skin as anyone had come since he'd gone, and grasped the tag.

She held it out to him, still on the chain around her neck. "Do you want this back?"

He walked over to her and stood near enough that she could feel the heat radiating off his body. Again, her heart and her breathing sped up. He took the tag between his forefinger and his thumb, rubbing at the engraving of his name.

"Looks better on you," he said, once again running his finger along the chain. His hand hovered mere millimeters from her cheek. She held her breath; fear and longing kept her still.

His eyes darkened, focusing on her lips, which tingled as if he'd touched them. She inhaled sharply; he dropped his hand and turned away, the moment broken.

He unzipped his bag and pulled clothes out of it.

"I guess you need to do laundry," she said, after the silence stretched so long it seemed as though he'd forgotten she was there.

"Yeah."

"I can show you where the laundry room is--"

"Maybe later."

"Oh. Okay."

"Don't you have class now?"

She blinked. It was on the tip of her tongue to remind him that she'd graduated high school a month ago, and that the only reason she was up so early was that Scott had insisted on double training sessions for all the "new recruits." Otherwise, she'd have slept until noon. But she knew when she wasn't wanted, so she said, "Yeah. I'll see you later."

He didn't even turn to watch her go. "Sure, kid."


Logan collapsed onto the bed in relief.

While he'd been away, he'd managed to forget how young she was. Even their occasional phone calls hadn't been enough to stave off the fevered fantasies of her that he'd concocted to pass long, cold, lonely nights camping out in the wilds of northern Canada.

Reality hit him hard upon seeing her.

She was beautiful, but she was young -- too young for the likes of him, even if he was only as old as he looked.

Add onto that his lack of a past, and his fucked-up present, and he knew that not only was he too old for Marie, he was no good for her.

He buried his face in the pillow, inhaling her scent -- Marie, youth, and jasmine. God, he couldn't live like this. He knew he was going to fuck it up, make her hate him, and he didn't want that.

She'd flirted with him all too easily in the dining room, and up until Jean showed up, he'd forgotten that it wasn't all right. It had felt good -- natural -- to have her in his arms, until Jean's remarks reminded him that it wasn't. It couldn't be.

He tortured himself by sleeping on the bed without changing the sheets that first night, but his dreams of her were so vivid that he almost wished he'd had nightmares instead.

After that, he stripped the bed and tried to air the room out.

He knew she knew what he was doing, and that it was hurting her, but he couldn't help it. He couldn't live like that.

He spent the next few days avoiding her, and was successful for the most part. He had meetings with Xavier to take up a good deal of his time, and since Scott had shown him the Danger Room, he'd spent hours in there, taking out his frustrations on simulacra.

When he wasn't in the Danger Room, he was out in the woods surrounding the mansion. While the kids liked to tell tales of bears and other dangerous predators, he knew the biggest animals this close to civilization were deer. They knew what he was, and kept away.

He was lying on his back in the woods, trying to forget the hurt looks Rogue had been throwing his way the past two days, when he caught her scent. He could hide from her without difficulty, but the idea of being chased off his own turf by a slip of a girl with sad eyes and a bright smile stung his pride.

He tracked her progress easily, and sat up when she finally arrived, leaning back against the trunk of an old maple tree. She nearly tripped over his booted feet, so he drew his legs up and rested his elbows on his knees.

"You sound like a herd of elephants, tramping around like that," he said.

"I didn't want to startle you," she replied, her chin lifting.

He raised an eyebrow. "Darlin', I could smell you from a mile away. You'll never be able to startle me."

Her mouth opened in a silent 'oh' and she blushed.

He let the silence stretch, knowing she'd break it eventually.

She slipped to the ground next to him and met his eyes. "I know you've been avoiding me," she said finally. "But I don't know why."

He dropped his gaze. "Been busy," he mumbled, feeling guilty.

"Please don't lie to me. I won't ask you for anything else, but please, never lie to me."

He looked up to see her eyes darken with pain and her forehead crease with worry.

"Sorry, kid." He stretched his legs out again and hunched a shoulder. "I'm just not used to living with so many people."

She nodded, an expectant look on her face. "And?"

"And what?"

"And-- that's it?"

"Yeah. That's it. I'm just getting used to all these kids and stuff."

She gnawed at her lower lip for a moment, not content with that answer. "Is it me? Did I do something?"

He winced at the worry in her voice. "Nah, kid. It's just -- it's me."

"We're friends, right?"

He ran a finger down the white streak on the right side of her face, hating that he had made her doubt even that. It was easier to convey his feelings with a touch than in words. "Yeah."

'And that's all,' he told himself firmly.

She rose up on her knees and pulled something out of her pocket.

"Here," she said. She held a small, lumpy package wrapped in garish red and blue paper.

"What's this?"

"A gift."

"Rogue, you don't have to give me anything."

"I know I don't have to, silly. But I want to." She leaned forward, holding it out to him again. "That's why it's a gift."

He took it reluctantly and slipped it into the pocket of his shirt. He had to get away from her, or he didn't know what he'd do. Her scent was intoxicating, her warmth, nearly overwhelming. She was so close, so touchable. So -- kissable. He weighed the prospect of being knocked unconscious against the possibility of tasting her again, while she was awake and alive. A third possibility, that she would never speak to him again, was rapidly being drowned out by his hormones.

"Aren't you gonna open it?" Her voice broke into his thoughts. "Please?"

He grumbled but took it out and tore the paper.

"It's a watch," she said helpfully.

"I can see that." It had a black leather band and a bulky bevel, with a black face and all sorts of doohickeys on the dial. It looked like the kind of watch he'd seen on some mercs and black ops guys -- the kind that was water tested to two hundred meters and counted down how much oxygen you had left in your tank. He knew it must have cost a pretty penny, which made him shift uncomfortably.

The corner of her mouth twitched, but she managed not to laugh at his grumpy response. "I heard this commercial, 'There's no present like the time,' and I thought of you.

He blinked, a warmth he'd never felt before flooding his chest. "You thought of me?"

She nodded, her hair bouncing like a living thing. He recalled the silken texture of it against his fingers, and listened to the soft whisping sound it made as it moved. "Yeah. See, you're searching for your past. It's a present, and it'll help you in the future--"

That caught his attention.

"The future?"

"The future." She nodded decisively. "I know time must get away from you, when you're all alone and you know, you don't -- well, you don't get older, really, so it's hard to notice the time passing. So this watch can remind you that you're not alone. You have friends. And I'd --we'd -- like to be involved in your future."

"My future?" She'd really put a lot of thought into this, he realized. And she seemed to know somehow that his future was here, with her. But she shouldn't know that. She couldn't know that, because he couldn't tell her, not until she was older, ready to make those kinds of decisions. "My future?" he repeated.

"Uh huh." She scooted closer, still on her knees. "C'mere." She took his right hand in both of hers, and strapped the watch onto his wrist. It was heavy, but the weight felt right, as if he'd once worn a similar watch. "There," she said. "Now you can keep track of how long you've been away, and the last time you called me. And, well, you'll show up on time for your classes." It all came out in a rush and he had trouble absorbing it. His mind was stuck on the idea of the future, a future. A future with Marie.

He'd lived day-to-day, hand-to-mouth for so long, searching for the past, that the future was just another meaningless word. But now -- now he had one, and he looked forward to it. 'She won't be eighteen forever,' he reminded himself.

"Logan?" she asked, and he could smell her anxiety. "Don't you like it?"

He squeezed her hand. "It's, it's great, kid. I just never --" The other thing she'd said suddenly penetrated. "Classes? What classes?"

"What?" It was her turn to look confused. "Didn't the Professor tell you?"

He shook his head. "No."

"Oh." She stuck her lower lip out, lost in thought, and he swallowed hard, reminding himself that he couldn't just reach out and nibble on it. "They want you to teach self-defense. Fighting. Boxing. Like that."

He nodded absently, mesmerized by the way the sunlight, filtering through the leaves, dappled her skin, highlighting the arch of her cheek and the slim, white column of her neck.

She seemed to be expecting a response, so he said, "I could do that."

"That's what I thought." He raised an eyebrow. "I mean, they asked me and the you in my head -- well, it seemed like something you'd be good at, and maybe even like."

She leaned forward, closing the distance between them even more, and allowing the dog tag to dangle freely. It dawned on him that not only was she giving him a gift, she was marking her territory, the way he'd marked her as his with the dog tag. He found he didn't mind at all.

She pressed a soft kiss to his mutton-chopped cheek, where it was safe, and he inhaled sharply.

She pulled back, but not far enough. He could taste her breath. He slipped a hand around her gloved wrist, pinning her in place, and leaned forward. His lips hovered over hers, breathing her in. A shiver ran through her, drawing his eyes down to her chest, which rose and fell rapidly. The chain of the dog tag shone dully against her skin, and again he traced it with the tip of a finger.

Then he slid his lips along the white streak in her hair, close, so close to her skin. She gasped in shock, and froze. He could smell fear mingled with her desire.

"It's all right," he murmured against her ear, but he moved his mouth away from her bare skin, pressing kisses to the tops of her breasts through her tee shirt. Her hands slid through his hair, mapping his skull as he caressed her with his lips and tongue. She arched into him, offering herself without a second thought. And he took what she had to give; his hands cupped her breasts, thumbs rubbing her peaked nipples before he brought his mouth to them.

Her breathing was ragged now, and she made soft, wordless sounds that spurred him on. Sucking eagerly at one breast, he used one hand to lift her into his lap, settling her legs on either side of his. His hands roamed her body, learning the feel of her, loving the way she responded -- the sounds she made under his eager touches, the way her body moved against his. He was working on instinct now, rational thought lost in the rush of feeling. So many sensations to absorb -- the silken fall of her hair over his hands when he stroked her back, her scent as arousal replaced nervousness, the husky tone of her voice, and the warmth that had nothing to do with their bodies and everything to do with his feelings for her.

She rocked into him, and the feel of her against his groin made him growl. There were too many layers of clothing between them. He wanted to touch her, to be inside of her. He needed to be inside of her. He fumbled a little at the fly of her jeans, hands trembling like a teenager on his first date.

"God, Logan," she whispered, his name rising like a breathless prayer in the late afternoon stillness.

"Marie."

He only called her that in his fantasies, and this was playing out like one of the better ones.

And that thought hit him like cold water in the face. He leaned back against the tree trunk, and she followed, pressing kisses to his chest.

He swallowed hard and gripped her shoulders; summoning every scrap of willpower he could command, he pushed her away.

This wasn't a fantasy. It was reality. And he couldn't do this to her. It wasn't right.

"Mar- Rogue." That was good. He was in control, reining in the beast inside. He pushed the hair off her forehead, hesitating at the hurt, confused look in her eyes. "We can't do this."

"But--"

"No buts." He lifted her off his lap, gently, and deposited her on the ground. He got up before she could do anything else. "You're just a kid."

And he walked away.


Rogue blinked at Logan's retreating back, as if unable to believe what had just happened.

He'd touched her, kissed her, and then walked away.

Tears burned behind her eyes, but she forced them back, refusing to cry.

Instead, she got angry.

She strode back to the house, fuming. She was mumbling to herself when she brushed past Jean in the hallway.

"Rogue, are you okay?"

"Who the hell does he think he is, anyway? " Rogue growled, doing a fine impression of the man she was cursing.

"Did he not like the watch?"

"Oh, he liked it all right. Liked it so much he--" she broke off, the anger draining away as she felt the other woman's concern wash over her.

"What did he do?" Jean's voice held a militant note that usually crept into it only when Scott had pissed her off. She took Rogue's arm and led her into the kitchen.

Rogue leaned back against the big, stainless steel refrigerator, trying to cool off her still-raging hormones. "He just -- he kissed me and he walked away! Just like that. 'You're too young, Rogue. You're just a kid, Rogue.' Bah!" She crossed her arms over her chest, hugging herself tightly, embarrassed by the wet spots on her shirt.

Jean settled into a chair at the table. "I was hoping that wouldn't be a problem. "

Rogue pushed herself off the fridge. "What do you mean?"

"He's -- he's leery of the age difference, Rogue. He has every right to be. You're only eighteen, and--"

Rogue laughed bitterly. "Look, I realize that I look like a regular teenager, but I'm not. I mean, deadly skin? Not to mention a few decades of memories that I'm not going to forget anytime within this lifetime." She slumped into a chair next to Jean. "I've seen things that no one could see and stay a child."

"I understand." Jean reached out and patted Rogue's hand. "I'm not the one you have to convince."

"You don't think, you don't think I was wrong about him, about his feelings, do you? " Rogue asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.

"He kissed you?" Jean asked. Rogue nodded. "Well, with all those years of experience in your head, was it the kiss of a man in love, or the kiss of a man thanking a friend for a gift?" Her eyes dropped to Rogue's chest and Rogue felt the blush flare in her cheeks. "I see. Well, then, we're correct in our assessment of his feelings. It's just a question of whether he'll admit them or not."

"Logan? Admit to his feelings?" Rogue snorted. "That'll never happen."

"Well, we already know how he feels--"

"Do we? " Rogue pushed her hair out of her face and blushed again, recalling some of his less -- nightmarish memories. "I mean, this is Logan. He's just as likely to have sex as he is to shake hands with a woman. Maybe--"

"He wouldn't have stopped if he didn't care," Jean said confidently.

Rogue opened her mouth and closed it again, thinking over that statement. "How's that work?" she said after a few moments passed.

"He doesn't want to screw things up. He's -- afraid that he'll lose your friendship if he pushes you. He's afraid people will call him a cradle robber at best and a pervert, at worst. He's afraid that it's just a crush on your part, or that you'll meet someone you like better when you go back out into the world--" Her eyes took on a faraway look and Rogue understood.

"That's what happened with you and Scott."

"Something like that, yes," Jean confirmed. "So, I understand why he's hesitant. You have to give him some time, and he'll come around."

"And if he doesn't?"

"Then we'll move to Plan B," Jean said darkly, rising from her chair.

Rogue stood as well, trying not to get her hopes up. "There's a Plan B?"

"One thing you learn as an X-Man, Rogue, is that there's always a Plan B." Jean put an arm around her shoulders and gave her a comforting squeeze. "If we can't figure it out, there's always Scott." Rogue opened her mouth, but Jean wasn't finished. "And if Scott can't do it, we'll call in the secret weapon."

"Secret weapon?" Rogue was almost afraid to ask.

Jean nodded decisively. "Jubilee."

"Oh, God."

"Exactly. But let's hope Logan comes to his senses, so it doesn't come to that."


Logan spent the next two days avoiding everyone in the mansion. He devoted himself to conquering the Danger Room and beating the heavy bag in the gym. That's where he was now, arguing with himself over what he was going to do about Marie.

Every thought was punctuated with a hit on the bag.

He reminded himself that he didn't have to stay. He'd come back, as promised, and Rogue was safe now. She had Cyke and Storm and Chuck to protect her. She didn't need him looking out for her, complicating her life. She was only eighteen. She'd get over it. Him. Whatever.

Maybe if he kept telling himself that, he'd eventually believe it.

He shied away from memories of the way her body felt pressed against his, the taste of her in his mouth. He tried not to think about his future, and hers, and the little thrill that ran through him when she'd made it plain that she expected him -- them -- to have a future, and have it together.

She was leaving him alone, and he was grateful for that, but he knew it wouldn't last. She was persistent and brave, and all sorts of great things that he loved but couldn't have.

Loved.

The word brought him up short, knuckles stinging at the abuse he was heaping on them.

He loved beer and sex and fighting and the Canucks (though God knows, they sucked this year). He didn't love people.

But he loved Marie.

It was the first time he'd articulated it, even in his own thoughts.

Christ.

Not only did he love her, he was in love with her - with the scared but brave girl she'd been, and the strong, confident woman she was becoming. He wanted to know every side of her, be with her through everything that happened in her life.

He growled and let loose with another flurry of punches.

This was all kinds of bad.

It meant he couldn't walk away. And since walking away was one of the few things he did well, he was shit out of luck.

Of course, he could walk away. Nothing was physically stopping him. But the thought of the look on Marie's face if he left was a more powerful hold on him than anything anyone else had ever tried, up to and including strapping him down and cutting him open.

They'd fucked with his body and stolen his mind, but his will had never been broken; he'd always been his own man, answering to no one.

If he followed his gut, and his gut was usually right, he'd stick around and play this out, because his gut was telling him that this was important. In fact, his instincts were screaming at him that this wasn't a trap at all, but a good thing.

It was his brain getting in the way.

But for once, he was willing to let his brain be in charge, because he was afraid this time that his instincts had settled down around his crotch and he didn't want to be led around by his dick.

He wanted Marie.

He couldn't deny that, and he was going to give up trying. It was hurting both of them.

His knuckles split, from the last round of hits to the bag, and he let the pain wash over him. Pain had a way of throwing everything into sharp relief, making him see what was real, and what was not.

This thing with him and Marie was real.

Now he just needed to figure out what to do about it.

He flexed his fists, knuckles already healed, and threw another round of punches.

He was losing himself in the physical, having come to at least a partial decision, when he scented Scott.

"Save some of that for Sabretooth," Scott said, entering the gym.

Logan glanced at him in the mirror and growled.

Scott didn't take the hint. "Look, I know you don't much like me. And frankly, when we first brought you here, I didn't like you either."

Logan snorted, and continued punching.

Scott ignored that and continued, "But you came through in the clutch, and it's obvious to anyone with eyes in his head that you care a lot about Rogue."

'Great,' thought Logan. "Shut up."

Scott shrugged. "Not talking about it isn't going to make it go away."

Logan growled again. That was true, but saying it meant you had to deal with it, and he hated dealing with feelings -- his own or other peoples'. Especially when there was a woman involved.

"Anyhow, I just wanted to say that Jean and I hope everything works out for you and Rogue."

Logan swung around to stare at him. "You're giving me your blessing?" he asked incredulously.

Scott looked sheepish, a slight blush staining his cheeks, but he nodded. "We understand how hard it can be when there's a big age gap in a relationship, and--"

"Why don't you just mind your own damn business, One-Eye? I don't--" He stopped, unable to complete that particular lie. "I don't need advice about women, and I certainly don't want it from you."

He pushed past the younger man; he needed to get the hell out. Now.

"Okay," Scott called after him as he stalked down the hall, "but don't blame me when they put Plan B into effect."

That stopped him.

"Plan B? What the hell is Plan B?"

Scott shook his head. "I like to think I'm as brave as any man alive, but even I know not to cross the women when they get up to something."

Crap. Scott was right. Nothing was worse than women on a mission. "The women?"

Scott nodded and joined Logan at the end of the hall, by the elevators. "And I think they've enlisted Jubilee."

Logan thought about the kids he'd met one by one, matching names with faces and mutations. "The gum chewer? Always in yellow? Big earrings?"

"That's her."

"Crap." That one had trouble written all over her.

Scott nodded again and Logan found himself thinking of those stupid bobble-head dolls that people -- women, really -- always wanted him to stick on the dashboard of his truck.

"That's what I'm saying, man. It's easier to just give in now and tell Rogue how you feel."

Logan ran a hand through is hair, considering it. But there were two things stopping him. He didn't like being manipulated, especially not by a bunch of women (and Cyke), and he still thought he was bad for Marie.

That was the bottom line. He didn't want to hurt her, and that's what would happen in the end, because that's what always happened. He growled at the circular path his thoughts led him on. Thinking never did anyone any good. And talking -- he wasn't sure he could ever actually tell Marie how he felt. And certainly not when he was being pushed into it.

"No. Let them do their worst. I'll be out of here in an hour."

But it was a lie, and they both knew it. He'd caught a glimpse of the future -- his future -- and despite everything, he was going to hold onto it. He felt the weight of the watch on his wrist. He hadn't taken it off yet, had even begun sleeping in it, because it had come from her. However, he wasn't about to be roped and collared like a bull being taken out to pasture. He still had his mind and his will, and he would make the decision in his own time.

"Logan--"

"Tell them to bring it on."

And he walked away, leaving Scott staring after him, a frown on his face.


At dinner that night, Rogue picked listlessly at her green beans. Scott had reported back to Jean, who'd told her about Logan's response. She hadn't expected anything less from him, but still, it was depressing.

Jubilee thumped her plate down onto the table next to Rogue's and winked. Rogue held her breath. This wasn't going to end well, she had a feeling, but she was committed to Plan B, at least for the moment.

"You coming dancing with us tonight, chica?" Jubilee asked, breaking into her thoughts.

"Uh--" She saw Logan enter the dining room. Their eyes met, and he looked away first.

"Come on, Rogue. You've got to start going out. You can't wait around for Wolvie." Jubilee's voice was pitched so that there was no doubt in anyone's mind she wanted Logan to hear the conversation. "Why do you want him anyway? He's so old! He's -- Ow!"

Logan turned and walked out. "You're not helping," Rogue said through gritted teeth, before hurrying after him.

"Logan--" She got the raised eyebrow in response. She took a deep breath, blew it out. "She didn't mean it."

"She's right, kid. I am too old for you." He started walking again, and she stood helplessly, unsure of what to say. At the door he turned and said, "If that's Plan B, I'm not impressed."

She growled in frustration and muttered, "Dammit, Jubilee, if you've ruined this, I'm going to kill you."

Of course, if she told Jubes what Logan had to say about Plan B, maybe that would light a fire under her ass. And Jubilee on fire was not something to be taken lightly. Rogue grinned reluctantly. Maybe things would work out after all.


Rogue, Jubilee and Jean met over ice cream to plan out a strategy. Rogue played her hand carefully, egging Jubilee on but still slightly unsure that they'd be able to pull the whole thing off.

"Jubes, I swear to God, I told you the age thing has him all freaked out. And what do you go and do but mention how he's too old for me!" She poked the air violently with her chocolate-syrup coated spoon. "I could kill you!"

"That was a bit of a miscalculation," Jean said, laughing, "but I'm sure you've got something in mind to fix the damage, right, Jubilee?"

Jubilee nodded. "Oh, yeah," she said. "Not to worry. It's all under control." She looked at Rogue. "Sprinkles?"

"Please. How exactly is it 'under control'? If tonight was anything to go by--"

"Rogue, baby, calm down," Jubilee said. "Trust me."

"I hate when people say that to me."

"Look, you just follow my lead, okay?"

"Not if it leads where it did tonight, Jubes. I keep following you, I'm going to be driving Logan away instead of luring him close."

"Luring?" Jean asked with a grin, looking up from her bowl of Dulce de Leche.

"You know, with her feminine wiles," Jubilee said.

"Oh, God," Rogue muttered, rubbing her forehead wearily. "I'm doomed."


Logan was working on the motorcycle when Jubilee found him.

"Look, Wolvie--"

"Don't call me that."

She ignored him. "I'm really sorry about yesterday. I totally don't think you're too old for Rogue. In fact, I think she needs somebody old, because she's got old guys in her head."

He raised an eyebrow. He got the feeling she was supposed to be apologizing, but she was almost as bad at it as he was. She looked at him expectantly, but he gave her nothing.

"Come on, you know you've got the hots for her."

He turned back to the bike. If he wasn't going to discuss it with Cyke, who was at least old enough to drink, he certainly wasn't going to spill his guts to this teenager, even if she was trying to help Marie.

Teenager.

God, everywhere he looked, he had reminders that he was older than dirt (even if he didn't look or feel it) and Marie was eighteen.

And this kid was right. He had the hots for her. He growled menacingly, but Jubilee wasn't even fazed.

"Since she bought you the watch, I think you should reciprocate and buy her something nice," she was saying when he tuned back in.

That idea struck a chord in him. He could give her a gift. There was nothing wrong with that. And she had gotten him the watch, which he'd grown attached to in the few days he'd had it.

Against his better judgement, he was intrigued. "What did you have in mind?"

"I'll take her shopping. You give me the money, I'll get her something nice."

"And how do I know you're not just looking for someone to finance your own shopping spree?"

She looked insulted. "Would I do that? Rogue is my best friend! I'm trying to help her out here, and to make up for yesterday."

"You want to make up for insulting me by making me give you money. Yeah, I'll really go for that."

"Look, I'll bring you back the receipts for everything we buy. Trust me." He growled in response to those words, so she hurried on, "It'll make Rogue happy."

He rose in one easy movement, reached into his pocket and brought out his wallet. "Here," he said, counting bills out into her hand. "Three hundred bucks. You better spend it all on her, get her some nice shit, or you and me will have some words."

She hugged him and was gone before he had a chance to react.

"Thanks, Wolvie!" she called over her shoulder. "You won't regret this!"

"I already do." He added, "And don't called me Wolvie!" but she was already gone.

He went back to work, hoping that at least Rogue would get something nice out of all this, and that she'd forgive him if he hurt her with his reluctance.


That afternoon, Jubilee dragged Rogue to the mall. "You have to feel sexy to look sexy," she said. "And your granny panties and sports bras are just not cutting it."

"Hey!"

"Have you ever worn a thong? Or even lacy undies? Be honest now, Rogue." She grabbed a pretty pair of purple satin panties in Rogue's size, and then rooted through the table to find the matching bra.

"It never seemed important. I mean, who was going to see them? It's not like I can just get naked with someone at the drop of a hat, like some people."

"Hey! I don't get naked at the drop of a hat! I just ... I have needs. And maybe you find it easy to stay chaste until Gruff and Growly gets a clue, but some of us don't have Mr. Right all picked out. We have to go out and find him."

"Or Mr. Right Now, anyway." Rogue frowned at the red lace demi-cup bra Jubilee held up. "No red."

"Whatever."

"Jubes -- it's not like I don't want to have sex, and lots of it. But even if Logan weren't interested, it's not like guys are knocking down my door to be with me. Deadly skin, remember?" She fingered the silk of a green bra and looked it over thoughtfully.

"How could I forget? You act like you're the only one who ever had relationship problems because of your mutation."

Rogue gasped, her attention locked on her friend instead of the lingerie in front of them. "Is that what you think?"

"I'm just saying. Nobody likes a martyr. You could have any guy you wanted, but you totally give off this 'untouchable' vibe, and it has nothing to do with your skin."

"What does it have to do with then, huh?"

"Logan. You buried yourself, waiting for him to come around. And while I think it's great that he finally has, and I'm gonna do everything I can to help you snag him, I don't think you should cut off all your other options."

"What other options?" Rogue's voice rose, and people began shooting sidelong glances their way.

"Bobby. Remy. Piotr," Jubilee counted off. "And that's just the beginning."

"I--"

Jubilee interrupted, pulling a cameo pink bra out of the pile on the table. "This is it, Rogue. This is your color."

Rogue blinked. She was used to Jubilee's short attention span, and she didn't really want to have that conversation in the middle of Victoria's Secret, but even she was thrown by the rapid change in subject.

"It's very... pink," she said doubtfully. Heedless of the danger, Jubilee held the bra up to Rogue's face. Rogue flinched. "Jubes!"

"Look in the mirror, chica. It's you. It's so you."

Rogue took the flimsy garment from Jubilee and walked over to the full-length mirror on the wall. She pressed the soft silk to her cheek, and was amazed at how it seemed to make her skin glow with health. She lost herself in a brief fantasy of Logan seeing her in the bra and, more interestingly, seeing her take it off.

"I think you're right," she said. She made a beeline for the table where Jubilee had found the bra, looking for the matching bikinis.

After that, it didn't take long for Rogue to get into the spirit of the afternoon. It was all so new to her, the idea of exposing skin as a means of attraction. She spent so much time trying to keep people away from her skin, and now she was deliberation looking to attract someone, well, Logan; her whole world felt slightly tilted.

She bought other things as well, dainty, lacy things in green and gold and black and white. Camisoles edged with lace and matching tap pants that made her feel a little naughty. A cobalt-colored teddy made of silk so fine it felt like air against her skin.

She hadn't thought about how she was going to pay for everything, floating on the fantasy of modeling it all for Logan, until she reached the counter.

"Cash or charge?"

"Uh--"

"Cash," Jubilee said, peeling off three one-hundred-dollar bills and laying them on the counter. She took the six dollars change from the cashier and said, "Excellent. We still have enough to get you one of those mochaccino lattes you're so fond of."

"Jubes, I can't let you spend that kind of money on me. That's crazy!"

"That's Logan's dough, babe."

Rogue's mouth formed the word, "Logan?" but no sound came out. After a few seconds, voice working again, she said, "Logan? What? How-- Jubilee! Did you steal money from Logan?"

"Oh, as if, Rogue. The man is so paranoid he probably sleeps with his wallet under his pillow." She smirked and held up one of the pink striped shopping bags. "Here's to hoping you get a chance to find out. But no, I told him he should get you something nice in return for the watch. And voila! He gave me money and told me to show you a good time." The smirk widened into a grin. "He really has it bad for you, Rogue."

Jubilee wouldn't say any more, and she wouldn't take the money Rogue offered her to help pay for the lingerie she'd bought. Rogue felt a small pang that Logan was talking to Jubilee, and not to her, but she pushed it down.

They stopped at Starbucks on the way out of the mall, and got mochaccinos, pleased with the way their afternoon had gone.

On the ride back to the mansion, Rogue asked, "So, what's next?"

Jubilee gave her another wicked grin. "Plan B is multifaceted. Tonight, we go out dancing."

"With Logan?"

Jubilee burst into laughter. "No, Rogue. We're not going to some honkytonk where Wolvie can two-step with you. We're getting dressed up and going clubbing. We're going to show him he's not the only fish in the sea, and if he doesn't want you, someone else does."

"I don't know, Jubes. I--"

"Would you just trust me?"

"It sends a shiver down my spine whenever you say that."

"Heh. Look, I want you to get what you want. You deserve it. So, just trust me."

And with that, Rogue had to be content.


When Logan got back to his room that evening, he knew Jubilee had been around because the scent of L'Air du Temps lingered in the hallway. He found an envelope on the floor when he opened the door to his room.

It contained a receipt from Victoria's Secret ("Oh, God, she's trying to kill me," he muttered, imagining Rogue in any number of outfits from the lingerie emporium) and a note that said, "And there was enough left to go for coffee! Thanks!"

He went looking for Rogue, hoping to talk (and maybe see what exactly he'd bought her) but she was out. Dancing, Storm said, with a smile. Rogue was out dancing, very likely wearing fancy underwear he'd paid for.

The next few nights were the same. Whenever he went looking for Rogue, thinking that he could spend some time with her while he figured out what he was going to do, she was out. Dancing, movies, parties --"Christ, Chuck, what the hell kind of school are you running?" he growled the fourth night, when Xavier told him that Rogue had gone into the city with Bobby and the other boys.

"It's best for them to have freedom, Logan," Xavier replied mildly. "It gives them a sense of being in the world, no matter how much the world might like to be rid of them. They're not children, Logan, and I have no right to impose strictures on their social lives."

And he was right. Logan knew it.

The idea of Rogue as an adult -- and was recognized as an adult by other adults -- was enough to send him back to his room to think. Or jerk off. Or both, because thinking about Marie generally led to jerking off. And he finally allowed himself to believe that it was okay to think of her that way, and that she thought of him that way.

Because he could no longer deny that though she was young, she wasn't a child, and she was taking responsibility for her life. She wasn't waiting around for him. She wasn't a clingy, helpless child in need of protection, and he wasn't her father or her brother. She was out there living her life, and he wanted to be a part of it.

If she could find time for him in her busy schedule.

The next morning at breakfast, Jubilee could be heard telling anyone who stood still long enough to listen how Rogue had flustered their waiter so much by flirting with him that he'd spilled water all over Remy.

And Remy-- Just the thought of the Cajun being around Marie, taking her dancing, no doubt trying to cop a feel... the growl rose in his throat every time.

He knew, though, that they were manipulating him and he was responding exactly the way Jubilee wanted. And that just wasn't the way things worked. He was the Wolverine. He wasn't going to be tricked into anything, trapped by a bunch of scheming women.

Two days later, he found another note under his door. This one said, "If you want some alone-time with Rogue, be in the gym at five am on Sunday morning."

He knew he would be there, regardless of this game he was playing with the little firecracker. Because he did want to spend time with Rogue, and this way, it would look accidental.

He got up at four on Sunday morning, and debated with himself about the best way to arrange things to his own advantage. At first, he thought being in the gym when she arrived was the way to go, but then he thought she might not join him, might just go out of her way to avoid him, as he'd avoided her earlier. And that wasn't good.

So, he waited, sitting on the end of the bed, until he heard her pass his door. Five am on the nose.

He'd learned, in the time he'd been back, that she was not a morning person at all, and he wondered why she chose to get up at the crack of dawn on the one morning she could usually sleep in. Even Scott didn't schedule lessons early on Sundays.

He waited another fifteen minutes before making his way down to the gym. He padded on bare feet, not wanting to give her any time to get away. He pushed the door open and caught his breath.

She had her back to him, but was reflected in the mirrored wall, her body limned by the dawn light that filtered through the small, high-set windows. She wore only a pair of black bicycle shorts and a black tank top. He'd never seen so much of her bare skin. She was luminous.

She moved slowly through stretching exercises he recognized as tai chi, graceful and lithe, and he now understood why she gave up precious sleep to do this. It was the only time she bared her skin outside of her own room, the only time she was free to work out without worrying about brushing up against one of the others. The focused yet content expression she wore made his heart ache in his chest. He couldn't take that away from her, so he simply watched from the doorway, unobserved.

He knew that his indecision was hurting her, but he resented feeling like a puppet, with Jubilee pulling his strings. He would tell Rogue about his feelings in his own time, and in his own way.

Not ten minutes after he made that decision, sneaking away from the gym before she caught him spying on her, his resolve was almost broken.

Jubilee had been in his room again.

A pink string bikini hung from the doorknob, a yellow sticky note attached to the tags. "Just thought you'd like a look at what you bought."

He growled then grabbed the tiny scrap of material and crumpled it, flinging it across the room; it landed on the lampshade. He was grateful for the fact that Jubilee hadn't waited until after Rogue had worn them to slip them into his room. He didn't think he could have handled that with any sort of equanimity.

A week later, he still hadn't approached Rogue, and she was now obviously keeping out of his way, leaving rooms when he arrived, avoiding the Danger Room and the gym when he was there. He was glad Jubilee had let him on her secret gym ritual, or he wouldn't have seen her at all. He treasured those early mornings, where he got to see her in a way no one else did. He knew he'd have to reveal himself sooner or later, but he was greedy, and not ready to give up something so special. He guarded the door whenever she was in there along. That morning when Scott had shown up at the gym looking to work out, he's sent him on his way with a growl.

That afternoon, a pink silk bra appeared on his pillow. The note said, "So you have a matching set." He brought the flimsy garment to his nose, inhaling the light scent of perfume that must have come from the store, mixed with a hint of Rogue and a hint of Jubilee.

He imagined how Marie would look wearing it, and even more interesting, how she'd look as he peeled it off her, revealing soft, full, pink-tipped breasts that fit perfectly into his hands. He remembered the feel of them in his hands, under his lips, her body arching into his.

He wanted nothing more than to lie down on the bed and give in to the fantasies that were filling his head, but he knew that if he did, he'd never be able to stay away from Rogue, and he was bound and determined to beat Jubilee at this game. If he could hold out long enough, she'd give up and he could then go to Rogue on his own terms. That was all he really wanted now. He still wasn't sure if he would tell her how he felt now, or tell her that they needed to wait, that she had to do a little more living before he'd be comfortable even talking about a relationship, but he definitely needed to talk to her, to make things right between them.

A relationship. Jesus Christ, he thought. The fact that he was even contemplating a relationship -- he, who ran every time a woman bought him a toothbrush and asked how he liked his eggs -- was scaring the hell out of him.

He needed to be sure he was doing the right thing before he did anything. He reaffirmed his decision to wait a little longer, to not be pushed into action by Jubilee, of all people, and not because he was being led around by his dick.

Which was currently demanding his attention, and as much as he told himself no, it didn't work. After showering, he took off and didn't come back until the next morning, trying to lose himself and his feelings in a bottle of bourbon and some random violence.

He felt Rogue's eyes on him as she passed him in the hallway, and that just made it worse. He almost stopped her, apologized for being an asshole and ended the whole game right there, but he smelled of stale beer and cigar smoke, and for the first time in a long time, he felt shame.

He was wrong for her. He could see disappointment in her eyes. It was the first time, but he knew it wouldn't be the last. Even if they got together, there were some things about him that could never be made right, and it bothered him that she would have to deal with them. Not quite enough for him to give up the idea of their ever being together, but enough to check him, to keep him from speaking right then, and possibly for quite a while to come.

He pushed past her without a word, and after a couple hours of sleep, spent the day in the Danger Room, taking out his aggression on the holograms.

Later, when Jubilee cornered him in the he living room, he wasn't in the mood for the game anymore, and he told her so.


Rogue grabbed the popcorn from the microwave and dumped it into a large bowl. She took two bottles of Diet Coke from the fridge and headed toward the living room, where Jubilee waited with the movies.

"Look, kid, I know what's going on." The sound of Logan's voice stopped her in the hallway. "I'll tell you right now, you're not going to win this game. So just cut it out. It'll be easier for all of us that way."

She heard the snap of Jubilee's gum and then, "Fine. Sure. It makes it easier on you, you mean. I thought you wanted Rogue, but if you don't, don't be a prick. Go out and get laid if you need to. Whatever. But this isn't a game. Not anymore.

"We had fun with it, but playtime's over, Logan. It's Rogue's feelings and her future we're dealing with, and if you think that's a game, then maybe you're better off just walking away. She certainly would be. Because your attitude is making us all miserable, Rogue especially, and it needs to stop."

Rogue hurried back to the kitchen before either of them could discover her presence. She turned their conversation over in her mind. If Logan wanted to walk away, she would make it easy for him. The direct approach hadn't worked, and obviously, Plan B was a bust. She didn't want to manipulate him into saying things he didn't mean, or didn't want. She knew how much he hated that, and realized that the whole idea had been doomed from the start.

If she really wanted him, loved him, she was going to have to let him --and her feelings for him -- go.

If he really wanted her, loved her, he'd stick around.

And in the end, that was all that mattered.

She rushed to her room and, with grim determination, piled all her pretty new underwear on the bed. It symbolized the whole sorry plan, and she was just going to pack it up and put it away. Maybe she could return the items she hadn't worn, get some of Logan's money back. Apologize for trying to force him into something he wasn't ready for.

She laughed at that, though it had a bitter edge to it. As if anyone could force the Wolverine into anything he didn't want to do. Anyone short of Magneto, anyway.

She had almost all of it in a shopping bag, but the pink bra and matching string bikini were nowhere to be found. She growled in frustration. She thought she might keep that set, because it was so pretty, and she looked good in it, but she couldn't find it.

She methodically searched each drawer, telling herself to be calm, because underwear just didn't get up and walk away by itself.

Halfway through, Jubilee came into the room.

"Whoa! What's with Hurricane Rogue?"

Rogue slammed shut the drawer she'd been searching. "My new pink underwear is missing."

Jubilee smiled. "Oh, I think I know where you can find it."


Logan remained in the living room, Jubilee's words echoing in his head. He didn't just want to get laid. If the solution to his problem were that easy, he'd have taken care of it already, instead of jerking off twice a day imagining Marie in the skimpy underwear he'd bought her.

And he didn't want to make her miserable, either. In fact, that was the last thing he wanted to do.

But she was, and it was his fault.

He knew he had two choices. He could go upstairs, pack his bags and walk away for good. Or he could go upstairs, find Rogue, and tell her that he wanted to be with her and see what happened.

And he realized that, really, it was no choice at all. He'd spent the past sixteen years caring for nothing but himself, and it hadn't made him happy, hadn't helped him find his past, hadn't done anything for him except make him bitter and jaded.

So maybe it was time for a change, a time to take a chance on something good. He knew they could both be hurt, but he was willing to bear pain if it carried the prospect of something good along with it. Rogue had obviously already decided it, long before he came back. It was kind of sad that an eighteen-year-old girl -- woman -- had figured it all out before he had. But that was just one more bit of evidence that she was mature, able to make her own decisions, and that she was better at it than he was.

He stood slowly, and took a deep breath, preparing to face his future, and perhaps shed some of the burdens of his past.

Then Jean marched into the room, a steely glint in her eye.

He sighed.

"I'm not in the mood, Red."

That didn't deter her.

"Well, maybe you'd better get in the mood, Logan."

He blinked. He'd never heard her so pissed off -- never even thought she'd had it in her, despite the red hair. He opened his mouth to speak, but she steamrollered right over him.

"I just spoke with Jubilee, and I'm telling you right now, if you hurt Rogue because of some stupid macho pride thing, I will twist that metal skeleton of yours into knots."

"Uh--"

"She loves you and you love her. Everyone can see it. So stop playing games and suck it up. Be a man and tell her."

"I--"

"I know what it's like to worry about people thinking you're taking advantage, but you can't let what other people say stop you, or hurt you, or the one you love. If I didn't truly believe that you and Rogue would be good for each other, I would never have encouraged her to pursue you, nor would I be here now telling you to get your ass upstairs and talk to her."

"I was already on my way," he said meekly.

"Good. Don't let this happen again." She turned on her heel and walked out.

He bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing out loud. It was an odd feeling, one he wasn't used to, but he thought he could learn to like it. Then he went upstairs, hoping he didn't make a total fool of himself.


She was in his room. The door was slightly ajar, and he could hear muttering and drawers being opened and closed.

On the one hand, that made things easier; on the other, he wasn't sure he was really ready to tell her how he felt.

He looked at the watch on his wrist, the gift that started this whole farce in the first place. If he hadn't kissed her that day...

And that line of thought was completely useless, because he had kissed her, and he wanted to do it again at the earliest opportunity.

He smirked as he thought of the bra and panties he had in his possession, and if this went well, maybe she'd model them for him tonight.

He pushed open the door and leaned against the jamb, enjoying the view of Rogue bent over, rummaging through the bottom drawer of his dresser.

"I'm going to kill you, Jubes," she said, then turned to face him. She gasped. "Logan!"

"In the flesh, darlin'." He shut the door and let his gaze travel over her, from the tips of her bare toes, up her long legs, lingering just a little at her breasts. He had dreams about those breasts. The tee shirt she wore pulled tight across them and he had to swallow hard at the thought of making those dreams a reality.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, breathless.

"I think that's my line."

"Uh--"

"So, what are you doing here?" He moved to stand in front of her, so close that if she took a deep breath, those breasts would brush against him.

She licked her lips, and dropped her gaze. He raised an eyebrow. "I thought I-- I mean, I --"

He raised his arm and she took a step back. He reached around her to open the drawer on his night table, and grinned at her sharp intake of breath when he brushed against her. He pulled out the bra and panties.

"Been wondering where these are?" he asked. She nodded. He leaned in close, his lips almost brushing her ear. "I've been wondering how they'd look on you."

She cocked her head, and he could practically hear the thoughts whizzing around in there.

After a moment, she squared her shoulders and lifted her chin, flipping her hair over her shoulders. "Well, why don't we find out?" Crossing her arms over her waist, she lifted the tee shirt over her head, baring herself to him. She wasn't wearing a bra.

"God, Marie." The words were torn from him. The lingerie he'd been holding fluttered to the floor unnoticed as he grabbed her gloved wrist and pulled her against him; with his right hand, he reached into his back pocket and drew out a pair of supple leather gloves.

Her body was strong, but soft in all the right places, her curves and hollows fitting perfectly into his embrace. She rubbed against him, purring like a cat, and twined her arms around his neck.

"Kiss me, Logan," she said. "Please."

Holding her against him with one ankle hooked around hers, he pulled the gloves on before stroking her lips. Then he brushed his mouth against them, so soft and quick that her skin didn't react. Then he pressed a little harder, molding her lips to his, feeling the tingle as the connection opened.

Then he pulled away, just far enough to be safe.

"You understand?" he said.

She looked up at him, eyes sparkling. "Yeah. Kiss me again."

He searched the room before lighting on the discarded tee shirt.

"Give me one second, darlin'." He let her go long enough to snatch the thin bit of fabric from the floor and drape it over the lower half of her face. It was soft and worn from too many washings, and he could feel her through it. He kissed her hard and deep. She responded eagerly, her hands running through his hair and then skating down his back.

"Take me to bed, Logan."

"Are you sure?" he asked.

She looked up at him though lowered lashes and pouted. "Don't you want to?" He opened his mouth to respond when she ground her hips into his. Then she met his gaze again, mischief plain on her face. He growled. God, did he want to. "I guess that's a yes, huh, big fella?"

He swung her up into his arms. "I don't want to rush you," he admitted. He laid her down on the bed and settled between her parted legs.

"I've been waiting a long time for this," she said, wrapping her arms around his neck and drawing him down to her.

He stroked her jaw, cupped her cheek and ran a thumb over her eyebrow, trying to memorize her face by touch alone. "Waiting? For this? Or for me?"

She smiled. "Both. For you mostly, though." He felt the fierce grin of triumph crease his face as he nuzzled at her neck. She tapped his shoulder lightly. "Don't get cocky. I could have had any guy I wanted."

He laughed, then, full on laughter that he could feel all the way down to his toes, and he knew she could feel it too. He thrust his hips against hers. "I thought the whole point of this was to get... cocky."

"Oh, man." She rolled her eyes. "You tell the worst jokes, Logan."

"You said it, darlin', not me."

"Did you catch the other part? The part about me having any guy I wanted?"

"I did. I know." He didn't say it, but he hoped she knew how grateful he was that she'd waited, chosen him. He turned serious then. "Are you sure?" he said again, staring down into her eyes.

"Yes, Logan. More sure than I've ever been about anything."

"Okay, then. No waiting." He put the tee shirt over her mouth and kissed her again, luxuriating in the feel, scent and taste of her.

"No time like the present," she murmured against his lips.

He smiled and stole a quick glance at the watch. Everything since the day she'd give it to him had led to this moment.

"Amen to that."

end


victoria

"What, do you want to tempt the wrath of the...whatever, from high atop the thing?" Toby Ziegler, The West Wing

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