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Comfort Me with Apples

by Victoria P.

Subject: [glass_onion] Fic: (XMM) Comfort Me With Apples: R: 1/2 - L/R Date: Tuesday, May 28, 2002 12:17 AM

Title: Comfort Me with Apples
Author: Victoria P. [victoria_p@att.net] Summary: "He could play the badass loner with everyone else, but she knew him, knew his heart and mind and soul, and she knew he hurt, just like everyone else. And it was her job to make sure that hurt was bearable when it couldn't be avoided altogether." Rating: R - sex
Disclaimer: All X-Men characters belong to Marvel and Fox; this piece of fan-written fiction intends no infringement on any copyrights. Archive: Lists, Muse's Fool. All others, please ask. I'll say yes. Feedback: It's shagadelic, baby.
Notes: Thanks to Jen, Pete/M'Rae, Dot, and Meg. Written to the sounds of "Hallelujah" (the Jeff Buckley version) and my own melancholia. g


Comfort Me with Apples

"Comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love." Song of Solomon


It was sunny the day they buried Silver Fox.

Logan stood at the gravesite, and stared into the merciless sun, eyes narrowed against the glare.

Rogue looked over at Ororo, pleading, and the weather witch inclined her head slightly. Her eyes glazed over and the sky darkened, leaden clouds rolling in from the east.

The service soon ended, and the adults and students from Xavier's School headed back toward the parking lot.

Logan stayed behind, stoic until the end, as if standing guard over the coffin of his dead lover.

Rogue settled on the grass a few feet away, waiting, watching. Her heart ached with love for him, and pain for his loss. She knew he'd never love her the way he'd loved Silver Fox, but she wanted to be there for him, because she knew he needed a friend, now more than ever.

The clouds had dispersed and the sun was setting when Logan finally headed toward the parking lot. Rogue rose, dusting grass and dirt off her gray dress. It flared about her ankles, swaying gently in the warm spring breeze as she moved. The sheer gray scarf around her neck trailed behind her like a fairy pennon.

He stopped and waited for her, all the while avoiding her gaze. She knew he hated to be pitied. She also knew how sympathy was sometimes the hardest thing to bear, so she said nothing, just wrapped herself around him on the motorcycle as he drove them home.


She followed him silently up to his room, her hand clasped tightly in his. He didn't even seem to notice he'd taken it, and she bit back a sigh. She was such a fixture in his life, she could probably dance naked around the living room and he'd just ask if she were cold. She figured it was one of the things about not aging like normal people that made him forget she'd grown up. It irritated her, but she'd given up on trying to prove it to him.

Silver Fox had often treated her like a child, as well. She knew it wasn't meant maliciously, that she was no competition for the lovely woman from Logan's past, but it had rankled.

She stopped that line of thought, remembering her mother's long-ago admonitions not to speak (or think) ill of the dead.

And really, Silver Fox had died horribly, tragically, killed by Sabretooth in a battle that never should have happened. She should have retreated with the rest of the X-Men when the soldiers arrived to take the Brotherhood into custody.

Rogue knew Logan blamed himself, and she knew he would carry it with him forever unless she somehow convinced him that it wasn't his fault. He could play the badass loner with everyone else, but she knew him, knew his heart and mind and soul, and she knew he hurt, just like everyone else. And it was her job to make sure that hurt was bearable when it couldn't be avoided altogether.

She'd long since resigned herself to living like a nun, in service to the Wolverine instead of to the distant and wrathful God of her childhood. She knew Jean and Scott felt she was throwing herself away, that just because she couldn't touch didn't mean she couldn't fall in love and have a relationship. They didn't realize she'd done so the day Logan had saved her life on the Statue of Liberty, if not the day before, when he gave her a ride in his trailer.

He dropped heavily onto the bed; the sound of creaking springs brought her back to the present. He still had hold of her hand, so she curled up next to him, dangling her still-booted feet off the bed and resting her head on his chest.

They slept for a while, and when she woke, it was dark. She could tell Logan was already awake, his body tense beneath hers.

"Shh," she whispered, rubbing her cheek against the soft cotton of his shirt, as her gloved hands traced soothing circles on his chest.

"Marie." His fingers tangled in her hair, raising her face to his.

"It's okay," she answered. "I understand."

He shook his head, eyes dark with some emotion she couldn't identify. She raised a hand and gently ran her thumb over his eyebrows, the arch of his cheekbones, his lips.

"Marie." This time it was more of a groan, and she pulled away, afraid she might have hurt him. He'd never minded her touch, never reacted badly, but she knew she could be scary, even covered head-to-toe.

"I'm sorry," she said, levering herself up off the bed hastily. He reached out and took her hand again, his grip adamant.

"Don't be," he replied. "Don't ever be sorry, darlin'." She swallowed hard at the whiskey and sandpaper edge in his voice. It couldn't be right to want him so much even when he was in pain.

"Do you want me to go?"

He hauled her back down onto the bed. "I want you to stay," he whispered, his mouth tantalizingly close to her ear, his breath sending shivers down her spine.

She sat up and he grunted. "I'm just going to take my boots off, Logan."

"Good idea." He followed suit, then lay back again, pulling her with him.

They rearranged themselves on the bed, and this time, he was the one whose hands started wandering, tracing idle circles over the small of her back. She snuggled in closer, her legs tangling with his, making her aware of the moist heat centered between her legs.

He continued stroking her back, but with his other hand reached over to the night table to grab a pair of gloves. After pulling them on, he traced her features. Neither of them was breathing steadily when he was done. She looked up into his eyes, heavy-lidded and dark with what looked like desire.

Rogue found herself unbuttoning his shirt, years of dressing and undressing in gloves making her fingers nimble. She opened the shirt and stared down at the broad expanse of his chest, flashing back suddenly to the first time she'd seen him.

She gulped, and his mouth quirked in a half-grin that made her melt. He reached out and took her hand, placing it over his heart. "Please?" he asked, and she knew how much that must have cost him.

She began touching him again, feeling the soft mat of his hair through the thin cotton of her gloves. She stared, fascinated, at the play of muscle beneath flawless olive skin, only gradually becoming aware of his hands moving over her in much the same way.

"Logan?"

"Tell me it's okay," he pleaded.

"It's okay, sugar. It's all gonna be okay," she murmured, pressing herself flush against him and throwing one of her legs over both of his. Her long gray skirt pooled around their hips. She straddled him, her body seeming to know instinctively what to do, even though she wasn't that experienced. She simply rocked back and forth, stroking his chest and shoulders in what she hoped was a soothing manner.

His hands moved up under her dress, the leather cool against her heated skin. And then he cupped her breasts, thumbing her nipples. The sensations he produced made her gasp in shock, and he smiled.

God, she'd do anything to make him smile. It couldn't be wrong. Not after all the pain he'd suffered.

His hands fumbled with the clasp to her bra and she giggled. "Having some trouble there, sugar?"

He growled, so she reached around and undid it for him, sliding it off through her sleeve. "Damn gloves," he muttered, and she could feel her smile falter. He must have noticed it too, because he pulled her down on top of him, one hand still stroking and kneading her breasts while the other skated the curve of her hip.

"Logan? If you don't want--"

"I do," he interrupted. "Don't stop."

She used her scarf to press kisses to his face and chest, thinking only of making him happy, keeping him safe and warm and comforted, here in the cocoon of her arms.

His hands were more insistent now, moving from her hips to her ass and then making her jump in surprise when she felt leather on the inside of her thigh. He took advantage and rolled them over, pinning her beneath him as he lavished kisses on her through the scarf. She ran her hands over his body, finally stopping at his zipper. He raised an eyebrow, then groaned when she freed his cock. He guided her strokes, showing her what he liked, and she felt her own arousal grow as she recognized the power she held.

His nostrils flared, and she could feel the blush stealing up her cheeks when she realized he could smell her, and that her scent was turning him on even more.

He gave a predatory smile, fierce and triumphant as he slit a hole in her pantyhose and stroked her sex. She gasped and his tongue was in her mouth. She was all sensation, his hands leaving incendiary trails along her already-burning skin. Then his hands were gone and she heard a low whine; it took her a second to realize it came from her own throat. His grin was back, and she bared her throat to him instinctively. He nipped at her clavicle as he pressed the condom into her hand, then helped her roll it on.

He braced himself on his elbows and looked down into her eyes. "You sure?" he asked, and the ferocity was gone, replaced by tenderness that made her heart ache.

"Yes, Logan," she answered. <Always.>

He slowly pushed into her slick passage, his eyes locked on hers. She bit her lip at the strangeness of it. She tensed and he stopped.

"Marie?"

"S'okay," she told him. "Just... different."

Realization dawned on his face and she turned away, once again blushing, all her awkwardness returning. <God, remind him you're a virgin. Way to keep the mood going.>

"Look at me," he demanded, cupping her chin. "This is -- different --for me, too."

She nodded. "It must be weird to be with someone you can't touch."

"Not that. Because it's you."

"Oh." She shifted, trying to get used to the feel of him inside her, trying to figure out what he meant and failing. Coherent thought fled as his fingers began circling over her clitoris. "Oh!"

"Is that better?"

She swallowed hard and nodded again. "Please--" Her voice sounded strange -- all high and needy and not like herself at all.

He ran his thumb over her full lower lip before taking her mouth in another kiss. His hands were everywhere, pushing her knees a little wider, touching her face, rubbing circles around her clit as he sheathed himself fully in her tight sex.

"God, Marie," he breathed. Again, he waited for her to adjust before thrusting his hips, slowly at first, then faster as he began to lose control. She wrapped her legs around him and began to move with him, her body tautening like a bowstring. She knew she was heading for what would most likely be the most intense orgasm of her life when he groaned and pumped jerkily into her.

Even through the condom she could feel the warmth of his come, and she clenched her inner walls around him, as if in making him climax inside her, she could absorb his sorrows the way her skin absorbed his life when they'd touched.

He collapsed on top of her, but gently, so she didn't have to bear his full weight. He buried his head between her breasts, and when he finally looked up at her, she could see a single tear trailing down his cheek before it fell, salty and wet, onto her dress.

She protested when he pulled out, but he shucked the condom and she realized that, of course, that had to be done. He zipped his pants carefully, buttoned up his shirt, and gathered her close. He was asleep within moments.

She blinked, staring at the ceiling, heart still racing, body still taut and frustrated at the abrupt end of their coupling.

Slowly, so as not to wake him, she slid a hand between her legs and quietly finished what he'd started, before she, too, drifted off to sleep.


He surfaced slowly, enjoying the languid transition between dreaming and waking in a way that he seldom had before. Usually he woke in a cold sweat, rushing out of sleep, with the nightmares chasing him, clinging tenaciously to his mind.

He felt her warmth wrapped around him and inhaled deeply.

Marie. God.

Really, they might have been the same thing, as far as he was concerned. Though if there was a God, Logan thought he'd still prefer Marie. At least then he'd know love and mercy were forthcoming, and heaven could be had on earth.

He ran a hand over his eyes.

She'd been a virgin. Up until last night, no one had ever touched her the way he'd touched her. It made him want to beat his chest and howl in triumph, while at the same time, he felt like the biggest bastard ever.

He'd taken advantage of their friendship. He'd known she wouldn't say no, known she'd do anything to comfort him. And he'd accepted it.

He was the Wolverine, and he was now looking for pity fucks from the woman he loved. It was apparently the only way he was ever going to get her.

He cursed silently at the way his body responded to the feel of her pressed against him. She was his best friend, his drinking buddy, his confidante.

His girl.

Two silly little words that meant everything, if they meant anything at all.

His best friend. The thought almost made him laugh, even in his grief. The idea that this slip of a girl -- woman, now -- could be his best friend would have made him howl in laughter six ears ago. Hell, the idea that the Wolverine would even have a best friend, let alone a young female one with whom he wished to share even more, was so improbable that if he hadn't been living it, he wouldn't have believed it himself.

If she knew his feelings toward her had grown, that he had fallen in love with her, he was sure she'd go running in the other direction.

She moved in her sleep then, clocking him on the nose with one outstretched hand as she turned over. He inhaled deeply, imprinting the scent of her arousal on his brain. And then he frowned; the realization that he'd rolled over and fallen asleep, sated, leaving her unsatisfied and having to take care of her own release increased his own self-disgust.

He shifted uncomfortably. If he were honest with himself, which he tried to be, he'd admit he squirmed, embarrassed at his own selfishness.

Yet more proof that he was no good for her.

He took the small hand and kissed her palm tenderly. He could wake her up and show her, he thought. He could make her writhe beneath him and scream his name as she came. His body thought it was a good idea, and he slid one hand down her side to rest on the curve of her hip, making lazy circles on her belly with his thumb.

Her eyes fluttered open and for a moment, in their dazed and sleepy depths, he could almost believe that she loved him, that she hadn't simply been offering comfort in the only way he would allow.

"Logan?" She pushed the hair out of her eyes and he thought she looked beautiful, all sleepy and disheveled, her cheeks flushed and her lips swollen. He loved that he'd done that to her, even if he hadn't finished the job himself. "You okay?"

"Yeah, darlin'. How you feeling?"

She smiled then, a secret smile that made fire run in his veins. Maybe--

"I'm," she paused, blushed, and dropped her gaze. He ran a gloved finger down her cheek but said nothing. Just waited, hoped. "I'm a little sore, I think." And that answered that question. Had he really been expecting some sort of declaration of love? <I really am an ass.>

He must have frowned again, because she added, "But it's okay. Really. I'm okay. I just want you to be okay, too." She bit her lip and dipped her head, the silk of her hair spilling over his hand. "I'm so sorry about Silver Fox. I know how much you loved her. How much she meant to you." He wouldn't -- couldn't -- deny that. She'd been a beautiful woman, proud and strong and passionate. Even if he couldn't remember it, she'd been part of his past, and he'd loved her for it, for giving that back to him.

But it wasn't the same as what he felt for Marie. The past was exactly what Silver Fox was, what she'd meant. He'd thought Marie was his future, but she'd seemed oblivious to his advances, chaste as a nun in her long skirts and black turtlenecks.

Until last night.

He'd needed her and she'd been there. She always was.

He wondered why she hid herself in long skirts and shapeless sweaters, because after last night, it was obvious that her skin was no obstacle, and her body was beautiful -- strong and lithe and made to fit against his.

Marie wasn't done talking. "I can't, I can't even imagine what it must be like for you. I wish, I wish I could do more to help."

He swallowed hard, hope dying in his heart. He suddenly felt trapped by this conversation, by the whole awkward situation. He got out of bed abruptly. "I'm going to go north for a while." A snap decision, made before he screwed up and took advantage of her again, ruining their friendship for good. He could get over this. He would get over this. He was the Wolverine, and he was not in love with a woman who didn't love him back.

She nodded, her hair falling into her eyes, masking her expression. "Of course." She looked around, and he felt her withdraw before she even left the room. "I guess I better go then, so you can get ready." She scrambled off the bed, grabbing her boots and bra from the floor, a bright red blush staining her cheeks again.

He cursed himself. It was her first time, and he was making a mess out of it, practically throwing her out of the room. <Say something, dammit. And something good. Not something stupid.> She was at the door when he croaked, "Marie?" She turned, hand on the doorknob, a questioning look on her face. His mind raced with things he wanted to say. 'I'm sorry I'm a selfish bastard.' It was true, but he didn't think it would work --she'd only smile sadly and leave. He knew her well enough to know that. 'Give me a chance and I'll make you come so hard you pass out' seemed a little crude for someone who'd just had sex the first time, even by his standards.

"Logan?" she prompted.

"I'm sorry I-- I didn't mean to take advantage," he blurted, watching in horror as hurt chased shock across her face. "You're still my girl, right?" <Oh, God, I am an ass. Please let me be struck by lightning right now.>

"Always." It was the barest hint of a whisper, and then she was gone.

He sank down onto the bed, burying his face in the pillow where she'd slept, playing the scene over and over again, only each time, he managed to tell her he loved her, and she reciprocated, and they went back to bed.

Somehow, he doubted that would ever really happen now.

He finally got up and packed his bag.

He would be back, he knew that even as he left. He couldn't stay away from her for long, even if she didn't want him. But he could lose himself in the quest for vengeance for a while. And when he returned, this would be past, one of those things that they'd laugh nervously about and drop quickly if the subject ever came up, much like his infatuation with Jean.

He wondered how he could be so stupid twice, and vowed that the third time he fell in love, it'd be with someone who loved him back.


Rogue made it back to her room without anyone seeing her. She watched from the window as Logan tore down the driveway on his bike; she'd known he would only turn to her for comfort, that it hadn't mean anything to him beyond the sheer physical need to prove he was still alive. In her head, she knew that. Her heart and stomach, however, didn't seem to understand.

She'd thought nothing could be worse than never having what you wanted.

She'd been wrong.

She wondered if he'd been able to pick up on her feelings, if she'd somehow given herself away. She resolved to ask Jubilee if she talked in her sleep.

Stripping, she slumped on the bed, clutching the stained dress and ruined pantyhose to her chest, the scent of Logan and sex both comforting and heartbreaking. She cried, then, for what she'd had, and what she would never have.

The sobs had stopped by the time Storm found her, still in that same position.

"Rogue, child, I know you're upset, but you're going to make yourself sick if you keep crying," the weather goddess said gently.

Rogue stared at her, too grateful for her presence -- and her lack of fear at being confronted with so much deadly skin -- to tell her to leave, and yet too embarrassed to explain the real reason for her tears.

Storm chivied her into a bath, running the water and practically pushing her into the tub, lethal skin notwithstanding.

When she was done, Storm put her to bed and promised to bring her some food later. Rogue nodded and fell asleep, happy that someone else was making decisions for her at the moment.

Her discarded clothes were gone when she woke, and she cried again for the loss of even her mementoes of the brief encounter.

Then she resolved to be done with crying and to get on with her life. She didn't want to be pale and sickly when Logan came home. She didn't want him to feel bad for not loving her, or guilty for leaving her. And she certainly didn't want him -- or anyone else -- to think she was pining away for him. That would ruin their friendship, and that was as important to him as it was to her.


Part 2

Over the next two weeks, Rogue put on a brave face and found herself managing pretty well. Everyone was subdued in the wake of Silver Fox's death, so her quiet demeanor was not at all out of place, and actually fairly in character. She taught her classes (English for the youngest students; piano to those who were interested) and went about her life as usual.

Her solitary behavior had long since become unremarkable, and so her withdrawal into a gray shadow in the sun-dappled halls of the mansion went mostly unnoticed.

The third week, she woke up dizzy each morning -- dizzy and hungry and queasy all at the same time. She found she couldn't keep any food down, but she couldn't stop eating, either.

It seemed to pass after a couple of days, and she wrote it off as a stomach virus that had been going around.

Then it started up again, and she began to worry, but she put off going to see Jean or Hank about it. She lived and worked in a school; something was always being passed around.

When the nausea hit in the middle of a fight with the Friends of Humanity, and resulted in her being knocked out cold before the rest of the team managed to get things under control, she had no choice -- she woke up in the lab, with Jean sitting next to her, reading a report.

"Rogue. How do you feel?"

She thought about it as she tried to sit up. "Whoa." <Sitting up is bad,> she thought woozily, lying back down and closing her eyes. She slipped a foot down to the floor to stop the room from spinning, and felt a draft.

Her eyes shot open, but Jean was fully covered and nowhere near her bare leg. She'd risen from her chair and was leaning against the counter.

"A little dizzy?" Jean asked, smiling.

"Yeah. Also, hungry."

"There's some meatloaf and mashed potatoes left in the kitchen."

Rogue wrinkled her nose, her gorge rising. "Uh, maybe not."

"Still a little queasy?"

Rogue nodded, then regretted it as the room started moving again. "I suppose I have a concussion, huh?"

Again, Jean smiled. Rogue was starting to find that irritating. "No, actually. You were lucky." She pursed her lips, then, "I don't know how to break this to you." Rogue bit her lip, heart racing. "No, no. It's nothing bad. At least, I don't think it is." She sat down again, and took Rogue's hand between both of her gloved ones.

"Just spit it out," Rogue said, her voice hoarse with fear.

"You're going to have a baby."

Rogue stared at her in shock. She said nothing for a few seconds, then, "Jean, I think I'm hallucinating. Do hallucinations have sound? I just heard you say I'm going to have a baby."

"No hallucination, Rogue," the doctor replied, laughing, squeezing the hand Rogue had forgotten she still held. "I ran a blood test to be sure, since there were some anomalies... Anyhow, I know you've been feeling sick and --"

"Yeah. I had what Ginger and Donna had. You and Bobby and Jubes had it last week and--" Rogue ran out of breath.

"Well, yes, half the county has been down with the Norfolk virus, but not you, Rogue." Jean's smile widened. "You're pregnant." And she carefully hugged her.

"I-- I--" Rogue couldn't quite get her mouth to work, and her brain wasn't in much better shape. "But, but how?" she finally blurted, perplexed.

Jean nodded sagely. "In the normal way, I expect. Condoms aren't one hundred percent effective, and you're not on the Pill, so--"

"But, but -- It was only the one time."

"Rogue, this isn't an after-school special. You and I both know that it could happen the first time or the fifty-first time. With the severity of your mutation, I'm honestly surprised it happened at all."

Rogue nodded, still dazed.

"Do you think it'll be okay? I mean--"

"You're healthy, and the embryo has implanted in the uterus, so gestation should not be a problem. I'd imagine the amniotic sac will protect the baby during pregnancy, and we can plan a C-section when you're ready to deliver. Though -- well, we'll run some tests, and see what Hank thinks, but it's possible -- it's very possible -- that the baby could be unaffected by your skin. I know Scott and his brother --their mutations have no harmful effect on each other. As I said, Hank and I will be monitoring things closely." She smiled again. "I'm sure Hank will be thrilled. Do you want me to get him? He's been beside himself with worry since you got knocked out. You know how he worries about you, especially with Logan gone." Rogue let Jean's chatter wash over her, still too dazed to take it all in.

She was having a baby.

Logan's baby.

However, when Jean said, "Logan will make a wonderful father. I think you two make a lovely couple," Rogue pushed herself up into a sitting position again.

"Logan?" she croaked, closing her eyes and slamming down her mental shields. She must be projecting. "Logan and I aren't a couple. Jesus. Silver Fox --" She pushed her hair off her forehead, suddenly worrying about what Logan would think of this whole thing.

"Oh. Was it -- do you want to talk about it? I know we've never been close, but--"

Rogue laughed, joy overwhelming fear for the moment. Time enough later to be afraid. "There's nothing to talk about. Logan and I -- we're friends, but we're not-- Let's just say that it was a one-time thing, Jean, and leave it at that."

"Oh. Well." Jean squeezed her hand again, and then stood, brushing a tendril of hair behind her ear. "We'll all be happy to help you. Scott and I are trying to conceive, you know."

It was Rogue's turn to say, "Oh." She smiled again. "Good luck. Have fun."

"Believe me, we are."

And they both started giggling uncontrollably.

When they finally stopped, Rogue's sides hurt and tears were streaming down her face. Jean was dabbing at her eyes, as well.

"I'm pregnant," Rogue whispered, awed.

"Yes."

"Can we not tell anyone just yet? I think, I think I want to get used to the idea first."

Jean's expression was knowing. "You want to tell Logan first."

Rogue looked at her, startled. "Uh. Well, he is my best friend." She didn't say, 'He's the father.' She wasn't sure she could say it out loud yet, though Jean seemed to have no problem.

"Of course. I understand. He'll be so excited. I think it's wonderful, you know. Give him something to focus on other than the past and vengeance. Vengeance is an ugly thing, Rogue, and I don't want it to consume him."

Rogue nodded, her joy only slightly damped by the idea that the father of her child might not want a child, and certainly not with her.

"But I also think we have to tell Scott why you're going to be removed from active duty. And Hank, of course, so we can do some more tests." Jean continued to talk, but once again, Rogue found her mind wandering, and her hand curled over the flat of her belly, simply amazed that life had taken hold there.

Jean stopped talking, finally, and Rogue said, "It's going to be okay, right?"

"Yes, Rogue. Everything is going to be all right."

And Rogue believed her.


There were some days Rogue thought she'd never be well again, that she'd spend her life puking into garbage pails and toilets.

Every time she got in the car to go somewhere, she had to stop and throw up. If she wasn't throwing up, she was peeing. If she didn't have to pee, she was hungry. But eating just led to vomiting.

It was a vicious circle.

She lost weight, and worried about it, though both Hank and Jean told her it was all right.

She finally discovered that eating saltines and drinking seltzer about half an hour before eating any actual food, and then chewing minty gum afterward, calmed the nausea somewhat, and by week ten she was able to keep food down for a good part of the day.

By that point, the news had spread through the school, though she'd tried to keep it quiet, and she had a steady stream of well-wishers offering to baby-sit and do other things for her once the baby came. It made her feel loved and wanted in a way she'd never quite experienced before, and she blossomed under the attention. It made the constant nauseous yet hungry state she was in more bearable. The only thing missing was Logan. Although the other adults had all pleaded with her in turn about calling him, she wasn't ready to face him yet.

She'd sat in Xavier's office as they others discussed the situation as if she weren't even there. They'd had this conversation daily since the day they'd discovered Rogue's pregnancy.

"I still think he's got a right to know," Scott said.

"And it is Rogue's right to tell him," Ororo answered.

Jean sighed.

"If it were my child, I'd want to know," Hank chimed in, as he always did.

"You're not Logan," Jean said.

"That is patently obvious, Jean, but the fact remains, I would want to know if my lover became pregnant, and I am sure that Logan would, also," Hank said.

"Exactly. You know he's got that sense of obligation. He might be irresponsible with himself, but he's always been there when Rogue needs him."

And that was as far as she let it go. She didn't want to tie him to her. She didn't want to be that woman on "Jerry Springer" who made her boyfriend marry her for the baby, and they ended up hating each other.

She stood, clutching her chair tightly as she rode the wave of dizziness that accompanied standing these days. "And I will tell him when he comes back," she announced. "He'll come back and when the time is right, I'll tell him. Me. Not you. In person. Not on the phone. Not to make him feel guilty or pressure him into something he doesn't want to do. But because it's his baby, too."

It was the first time she'd admitted it out loud, and even Scott backed down at the determination in her voice.

The subject was dropped.

She was convinced this was her chance -- she was going to have something of Logan's, something no one else would ever have, and she wanted to do it right, to make sure nothing happened to the baby. She figured Logan might never love her unconditionally, but his child surely would. She didn't want to screw that up by making Logan hate her, by forcing him into something he wasn't ready for. She would, as he always told her, follow her instincts. They'd yet to steer her wrong where he was concerned, and she was sure they wouldn't now.


Logan, meanwhile, wandered his old haunts, unable to get the image of Marie out of his mind. He told himself he didn't -- couldn't -- care. They were friends. Nothing more.

He'd never had a problem separating sex from emotional attachment. Not until her.

He just had to find his way back to that place, the one where he could walk away without looking back, without wondering how she was or what she was doing, and if she was thinking about him while she was doing it.

He fought at the bars that would still have him, tales of his claws still circling in some of the more remote regions of Alberta, even after six years. He did some work for a pair of Russian mobsters in Vancouver. Two squat, dark-haired men who drank vodka all day and laughed coarsely at their own jokes.

He worked as a debt collector, cracking skulls and breaking legs. He detached from people, and after a few months, he thought he was ready to go back. He'd just beaten a man unconscious without a qualm; the man's pleas for mercy had fallen on deaf ears. Logan made three thousand dollars doing it. His utter lack of caring seemed to be a signal that he'd moved on, and he decided to go home.

He called the mansion, and growled when Scott answered the phone. <Fucking great,> he thought. "I'm coming back," he growled into the receiver.

"It's about time," Scott answered. "Rogue needs you here."

"Whatever." It came out casual, distant. He told himself he didn't care. He hung up as Scott started blathering on about responsibilities.

He didn't care.

And maybe if he kept telling himself that, he'd finally start to believe it.


Marie didn't rush down the stairs and fling herself into his arms when he arrived back at the mansion.

He didn't know why he was expecting her to, and he tried to pretend he wasn't disappointed when it didn't happen.

He didn't catch sight of her until dinnertime, and even then she didn't speak to him, though he knew she knew he was there. If that was how she wanted to play it, that was fine with him. Made his plans easier to carry out, since he didn't think he could manage to be indifferent to her if he was actually faced with her big eyes and full lips, and the way she smiled and her nose wrinkled when she laughed.

He rose and left the dining room, disgusted with the maudlin turn of his thoughts.

Scott followed him out into the foyer, but he wasn't interested in hearing One-Eye's spiel about responsibility.

"Save it," he said tersely.

Scott nodded. "She needs you, even if she doesn't show it."

There was nothing to say to that. "I'm going to town."

"You'll be back, though?"

"Yeah." He was at the door when he said, "If she needs me, I'll be here."

That seemed to satisfy Scott, though it didn't come close to explaining his feelings for Marie. But he wasn't thinking about that, because if he didn't think about it, he could pretend he wasn't feeling it. And God knows, he didn't want to talk about it, and he was afraid that's what One-Eye was going to suggest, so he left hurriedly.

He spent almost a week avoiding her. Six days of listening to her pass his room, going out early and coming home late so he didn't have to face her, face the fact that things were different between them, and he didn't know how to fix that.

He brooded a lot, and refused to talk to anyone about it, though Jean, Ororo and Hank all tried to corner him. He sensed that something else was going on, that perhaps they knew how he'd screwed up, how he'd taken advantage of Marie, but none of them seemed angry. They were all concern and friendship.

It was definitely odd, but he chose not to dwell on it. Nothing good ever came from dwelling on his feelings, and he was sure this would be no exception.


Rogue had successfully avoided being in the same room with Logan since his return. She was sure it was hurting him; it was killing her.

But she wasn't ready to face him yet, to tell him the truth. She knew he'd be able to sense it, smell it on her before she even got the words out, and she wasn't sure what his reaction would be.

She had discussed it ad nauseum with Jean and Storm and even Scott and Hank, trying to get the male perspective. She had planned what she was going to say, even tried to write a speech at one point, but she knew that wouldn't work with him, that whatever she said had to be true and heartfelt or he'd know she didn't mean it.

She practiced evasion, and she noticed that he didn't try all that hard to track her down. She knew that if he'd wanted to see her, nowhere on earth would have been safe from him.

So, she played the game, knowing that sooner or later she'd have to face him. And really, she thought, trying to find something to wear that wasn't too snug, sooner rather than later. She was sort of grateful that he wasn't pushing for a confrontation, even as she was hurt.

She discarded the black jeans as too tight and tried on the blue ones.

They didn't fit either, and she settled on a stretchy black skirt that didn't need to be zipped over her newly-rounded abdomen. Now she had to find a shirt that would fit.

Her breasts, which had always been perky and small enough for her to go braless comfortably, were now swollen and tender. She liked the fuller look, even if it meant she had to strap on a bra every single day, but it made her t-shirts and turtlenecks pull tight and her button-down shirts gape.

She found herself crying in frustration after trying on and discarding almost every shirt she owned. She couldn't take it; she refused to buy maternity clothes and she was horrified at the idea of becoming huge and bloated, like a beached whale.

She could handle the nausea and the vomiting. She could deal with the constant hunger and the mood swings. But the fact that her clothes were too small pushed her right over the edge.

She sank down onto the floor at the foot of her bed, and wept.


Logan waited, tense and wary, seated on the edge of the bed.

He did this every morning, waited for Marie to walk by so he didn't have to see her.

He looked at the clock and noticed she was late. She was always downstairs by seven-thirty; classes started promptly at eight, and she'd been at the school long enough for Scott's lessons on punctuality and appropriate behavior to have sunk in. She was never late. It set a bad example for the students.

Something was wrong.

He heard her as soon as he opened the door. She was only three rooms away, and she was crying.

That was bad.

He'd never liked being around crying women. It made him nervous in the way few things could. But a crying Marie was doubly bad, because he had no doubt that somehow, some way, he was the cause of those tears. He grabbed his gloves, pulled a flannel shirt on over his t-shirt, and walked down the hall.

He knocked and tried the door. It was open, so he pushed his way in.

"Marie?"

She was curled up on the floor at the foot of the bed. Clothes were strewn about the room and she was only half-dressed. Which was all kinds of interesting, at least to his body.

He was overwhelmed by the scent of her, warm, spicy, still somewhat innocent. There was something different in it, though. He couldn't put his finger on it, but it was richer, softer. It nagged at the back of his mind.

"Go away," she sobbed, keeping her face buried in what looked like a shirt. "I'm not ready to talk to you."

So she did resent him, was avoiding him for a reason and not just because he was avoiding her.

"Okay," he said, "but stop crying."

She finally looked up at him, her face a mess. She was a pretty crier, he recalled, the tears seeming to slip down her cheeks like drops of crystal, but now she was red-eyed and red-nosed, her hair a tangle and her skin blotchy.

"I can't," she moaned.

He slipped down to the floor next to her, exasperated. "Well, I can't leave until you stop crying."

She hiccupped. "Then you're going to be here a while."

He sighed and gently pulled her into his lap, cradling her against his chest, his chin resting on her hair. He rocked her as she cried, and his hands stroking her back in what he hoped was a soothing motion. It certainly wasn't soothing him and he shifted so she wouldn't be able to feel his response to holding her so closely, even if she was a sobbing mess.

He closed his eyes and just inhaled her scent, glad that she was letting him do this for her, and worried that the crying was going on far too long. "You're going to make yourself sick," he murmured.

She hiccupped again, and laughed, which was a start, though tears still streamed down her face. "If it's not one thing, it's another," she said, but she quieted down.

He turned that cryptic remark over in his mind and continued to run his hands along her back, and, when he could get away with it, up her sides and around her belly --

It took his mind a moment to process what he was feeling and hearing. Since she'd gone quiet, he could hear her heartbeat in tune with his, and also --

"Marie," he said slowly, afraid of insulting her if he was wrong. But he knew he wasn't wrong. And it would explain a lot of things. "Are you pregnant?"

She looked up at him, then, and he felt his heart stop for a moment. There was something in her eyes that just brought all his feelings --everything he'd tried to deny or forget -- rushing back to the surface.

"Yes."

His grip on her tightened, and he kissed the top of her head.

"I'm so sorry," he whispered, feeling the tears sting the back of his eyes.

"What?"

He realized that maybe that wasn't the best thing he could have said. He hurried to clarify. "I'm sorry I left. I ran. I should have been here. Oh God, we're gonna have a baby."

"Yeah."

"So why are you crying?"

She sniffled. "None of my clothes fit anymore."

He blinked. "Well, we can't have that. I mean, my girl and my other girl," his hand cupped her abdomen gently, "can't be walking around half-dressed." She giggled and he felt like laughing himself.

"Am I your girl?"

"Always," he said. "Sit up for a second." She did and he slipped off his flannel -- a nice one, all dark blues and greens that would look good on her -- and wrapped it around her shoulders. She slipped her arms into the sleeves and buttoned it up, before turning and throwing her arms around his neck.

"I love you, Logan," she said, and he could smell her fear. "I don't want to have this baby without you, but I don't want you to feel obligated. I know how you felt about Silver Fox, and I know that I'm just your friend or whatever, but--"

"Shh." He placed a gloved finger over her lips. "I've loved you since I saw you," he whispered. "I didn't know what it was, but I knew, I knew you were the future. Silver Fox -- I loved her, too. But she was the past. I just, I didn't think you wanted me. You never responded when I flirted with you--"

"You flirted with me?" she squeaked. "When?" He opened and closed his mouth. Apparently, his skills at charming the opposite sex weren't as good as he'd thought they were. "It was only ever you for me, Logan. But I thought -- we couldn't touch, and you thought I was too young and then you and Silver Fox--"

He silenced her with his lips this time, a butterfly kiss brushing over her mouth so quickly her skin couldn't react. He didn't know how an absorption would affect the baby, and he didn't want to take a chance, so he hoped this would be enough.

And it was.


On January twenty-fourth, Rose Marie Logan was born. She was eight pounds, four ounces and as she grew, she showed no adverse reaction to her mother's skin.

Her mother glowed with love and her father couldn't stop bragging about her. It was the start of a beautiful life.

~end


victoria

--
"I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's depressing." Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer --

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