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Night of the Dead Living

by Victoria P.

Title: Night of the Dead Living
Author: Victoria P. [victoria_p@att.net] Summary: "It was too damn hot to sleep." Rating: PG - language
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; ask - I'll say yes. Feedback: Hit me, baby, one more time.
Notes: Thanks to Jen, Melissa Pete, Dot, and Meg. If this seems at all familiar, it's because I've ripped off two of my favorite episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street to produce it. g "Night of the Dead Living" [the transcript of which can be found here: http://www.windowseat.org/homicide/scripts/103nightofdeadliving.html along with a bunch of other H:LotS transcripts] and "Stakeout." Mostly NotDL, but there's a teeny little bit of Stakeout thrown in. NotDL was written by Frank Pugliese. ~ ~ indicates telepathic conversation


Night of the Dead Living
Part 1


A lone candle burned in the darkness of the security control room.

The door opened, and one very smug-looking Wolverine entered.

He'd found the one room in the mansion where the air conditioning still worked.

Sort of.

Well, not really. It just had an oscillating fan to move around all the hot air, giving the illusion of coolness.

He closed the door quietly and sat down in one the leather armchair nearest the fan, sighing. It wasn't that much cooler than the rest of the house, but it was still better than the sauna his room had become. At least the control room had a fan. He pointed it at himself, feeling the sweat begin to dry. And the air coming out of the vents wasn't hot. It amazed him that they'd somehow managed to turn the heat on in the dead of August, and none of them could figure out how to turn it off. The guy from Con Ed wasn't coming until sometime in the morning, and it was too damn hot to sleep.

If he didn't think Cyke would blow a hole in him, he'd be walking around naked. His boxer shorts -- his one concession to modesty in a house full of kids -- stuck to his thighs, making him very uncomfortable, especially in the leather seat.

But it was still marginally less hot than his bedroom. He glanced cursorily over the monitors, but saw nothing to alarm him.

He briefly thought of putting the candle out -- it only added heat to the room -- but then realized it smelled nice and lemony, and was actually kind of peaceful.

Ororo, Hank and the Professor were at a conference in Washington, attempting to persuade people that "separate but equal" hadn't worked in the school system before, and it sure as hell wouldn't work with mutants.

Logan wondered idly if an emergency trip to DC in the Blackbird to pick up the weather witch would be feasible. And if he could convince Rogue to go with him. Maybe a change in the weather would help his cause with her, he thought, only half-jokingly.

He was dozing lightly, enjoying the cool air on his heated skin, when the door was thrown open.

He cracked open an eye to see Scott stomp in. He raised an eyebrow and Scott grunted in reply.

"You're late."

"I've been here. I just had to take a leak," Scott answered.

Logan rolled his eyes, but changed the subject. He didn't want to know about Scooter's bladder control problems.

"Why do you light that candle every night? Especially when it's so goddamn hot?"

"I don't. I thought you did."

"It's not me."

"Huh. Can't you sniff out who it is?"

Logan shrugged. "If the candle was looking to kill one of us, I'd be all over it. But now? It smells lemony and like everyone who's ever been in here."

It was Scott's turn to shrug. He flopped down into the other chair; Logan couldn't ever recall seeing Scott flop before. He walked around like he was the one with an adamantium skeleton, and a big metal stick up his butt.

After a long silence, Scott said, "I thought you could fix anything. Why the hell can't you fix the air conditioning?"

Logan growled softly. "Don't lay this on me, One-Eye. I'm not the one with the fancy engineering degree."

"Hmph."

More silence, not unfriendly, but not really comfortable, either.

"Rogue's thinking about leaving the team," Scott said abruptly.

Logan's hands tightened on the arms of his chair. This was the first he'd heard of it.

Of course, since their big blow-out the other night over her current choice of companionship, they hadn't spoken much. He speculated about how long it would be until he had to pick up the pieces for her again. All her relationships had ended badly, save the one with Bobby back when they were seniors in high school, and he was sure this one would be no different. It pissed him off that, time and again, she chose these losers who were no good for her, rather than himself, the one right under her nose, who'd never intentionally hurt her and, in fact, had nearly died to save her.

Not that he would ever bring that up, or begrudge her the use of his healing factor. The way he could heal her if she got hurt was one of the rare things that made being a mutant bearable.

Thinking of the way their mutations meshed, he felt the sweat drip down his back as he recalled the long sleeved shirt and jeans she'd been wearing earlier, and the way her perspiration beaded on her upper lip. Torn between offering to lick it off and throwing her in the pool, he'd stomped away, trying to get his feelings under control, trying to forget that the current coldness between them was partially his fault.

He wondered again if a break in the weather was the way to her heart.

He tried to keep his voice level. "Is that so?"

Scott glanced at him. "Yeah. Dwight wants her to go back to Mississippi with him."

Snikt

Scott raised an eyebrow. "Sorry. I figured you knew."

Logan retracted the claws, relishing the sting. Most people didn't realize they hurt just as much going in as they did coming out. He sighed. "Nah. We haven't spoken since--"

Scott nodded. Everyone in the house had heard the fight. Logan and Rogue were many things, but subtle and quiet had never been part of their repertoire.

More silence, a little friendlier this time. Seven years of being in life-or-death situations together, as well as Jean's unwavering devotion to her fianc -- now husband --had dissipated much of the tension between the two men. Neither would ever admit it, but in addition to a grudging but mutual respect, they actually kind of liked each other.

Logan was dozing, open-eyed this time, staring unseeingly at the monitors in front of him, when Scott blurted, "Do you think I'm romantic?"

Logan blinked. He looked around, then turned back to Scott. "Well, for a first date, this is kind of lame," he drawled, winning a reluctant chuckle.

"Jean says I'm not romantic anymore."

Logan waited for the stab of triumph he usually felt over his rival's shortcomings. Instead, he felt a surprising sympathy. "Women like all that romantic shit. Flowers for no reason. Holding hands." This should have made him more uncomfortable than he was, but he just wanted Jean to be happy, and she'd chosen Scott. Therefore, it was his job to make sure Scott made her happy. "You love her, right?" He already knew the answer. Scott would walk through fire for any of them -- he'd learned that the hard way -- but his feelings for Jean transcended even that.

"More than anything."

He swiveled the chair to face Scott. "Do you tell her a lot?"

"She's a telepath. How could she not know?"

Logan shook his head in disgust. "Christ, I don't know how you ever got her to go out with you in the first place. You made a commitment, Scooter. Love, honor and cherish. That means you've gotta tell her every day -- every hour, even. Women -- they're not like us. They need to hear it. A lot."

Scott sighed. "I think she wants a baby. We've been talking about it."

This time, Logan rolled his eyes in addition to shaking his head. "I can't believe the dumb shit that comes out of your mouth sometimes. For a smart guy, you're real stupid, you know that? This isn't about babies or anything like that." Logan paused. He was sure that when Scott thought about it later, he would be just as stunned as Logan was that they were even having this conversation. "You just need to pay attention to her. Love her. Show her she's still the whole world, like she was when you first got together. Stop spending every waking moment with the jet or the kids or Chuck." His voice held an intensity that made Scott look up sharply, and he knew he'd given himself away, that he wasn't just talking about Jean and Scott anymore.

"I guess I have been a little -- inattentive lately. And then, Betsy--"

Logan grinned. "She's a handful, that one."

"Have you--"

"No. I -- I kinda got my eye on someone else." Someone who was currently not speaking to him; someone who was dating the biggest horse's ass this side of the Rockies. <And that includes Sabretooth,> he thought darkly.

"She's young, Logan. You've got to let her spread her wings a little. She'll come around. She loves you, you know."

Logan shrugged. He wanted to be annoyed that Scott was sticking his nose in where it didn't belong, but he had invited it, sort of. And it was reassuring to hear that Rogue did have feelings for him. Since it seemed like she had dated almost every available male in Westchester County, he couldn't tell.

"I mean, I know she's not, she's not a--" He paused, fumbling, unwilling to say it out loud.

"Virgin," Scott supplied.

Logan growled. "Yeah, that. I mean, I bought her the condoms for her first time with the Popsicle. I told him he better be good to her." He ran a hand through his sweat-dampened hair. "I hated him. I made his training a living hell. But he's one of us. He respected her. This, this piece of shit she's dating now--" he exhaled explosively. He shook his head. "I thought, I figured, after she graduated from college, that I could show her. I mean, I wasn't looking to jump her bones when she was seventeen, you know? Then she got older and I realized how I felt. But she-- she stopped wearing the dog tags. She stopped just hanging around and started paying attention to all those jerks who came sniffing around."

"She grew up."

"Yeah." Logan closed his eyes. "Yeah," he said again, this time more firmly. "She did. I wasn't ready for how I'd, you know, feel about that."

Over the years, he'd tried to figure out just what he'd been thinking the last time they'd touched, that night on the Statue of Liberty, and why she didn't know how he felt about her.

It never occurred to him that the thoughts and feelings she'd pulled from him hadn't changed and grown along with the ones currently in his head and in his heart. It hurt more than he'd thought possible that she kept choosing other men when he was right there, waiting.

"You were used to being the most important thing in her life."

"Yeah."

"And now you're not."

"No shit, Sherlock."

"Why don't you just tell her how you feel? You just said--"

"It doesn't work like that."

"Do as I say, not as I do?" Scott challenged.

Logan opened his mouth to say something when a movement on one of the monitors caught his eye.

"Shit." He jumped up. "You see that?"

Scott nodded grimly. "Let's go."

"You stay here. I'll check it out." He bared his teeth in a ferocious grin. "I could use the distraction."

"All right, but be careful." Scott tossed him a small walkie-talkie. "Call if you need help."

Logan slid silently out of the room, his teeth gleaming white in the darkness.

Scott concentrated on the monitors. All the public rooms in the mansion were equipped with cameras, as were the elevators, the lab and the Danger Room.

He saw Rogue and Jean sitting in the kitchen, and wondered what they were discussing so animatedly.


Rogue smiled tiredly at Jean. "Couldn't sleep either?" Jean shook her head. "It's too damn hot, and for me to say that..." she trailed off, laughing. Most of the time, Rogue didn't mind being covered from head to toe -- she was frequently cold. Even eight years in Yankee territory hadn't hardened her to temperatures below fifty.

"It's not the heat --"

"Don't even go there."

Jean laughed. "Sorry. I'm not really up for deep conversation right now."

"It's all right. I've had my share of deep conversation for the month." She slumped over, resting her head against the relatively cool surface of the table.

"You got to take some of those clothes off, petite," Remy said, entering the room. He was wearing nothing but a pair of cut-off jean shorts, his long hair tied back with a leather thong.

Rogue turned her face toward him, keeping one cheek pressed to the Formica, and raised an eyebrow. "There's a recipe for good times, sugar -- me taking off my clothes while everyone else is running around half-naked."

He shrugged, impervious to her sarcasm, and went to the refrigerator. Pulling out a bottle of beer and pressing it to his forehead, he said, "I'm gonna call Stormy now."

"It's after one," Jean pointed out.

"Merde. Is that too late to call? When did it get so late?"

"When you spent the evening fleecing Johnny and Jubes at poker," Rogue replied.

"Remy don't fleece no one, chere," he said. "He just that good at cards." He bowed with a flourish, making both Jean and Rogue laugh.

"So why don't you ever play with me and Logan?" Rogue asked.

"This thief got no wish to be skewered for winning every hand."

"Especially when you're winning with an ace tucked up your sleeve," Rogue said wryly.

Remy looked offended. "I don't cheat, chere."

"If you say so, Remy."

"I do." He leaned against the counter, popped open the beer, and took a long drink. "You don't think I should call Ororo?" he asked, sounding like a little boy who's lost his best friend. They had just begun dating seriously, and he was still insecure about her feelings for him, though he rarely let it show.

"You know how she is when you wake her up," Jean said, shaking her head.

"But I miss her."

"Then call her," Jean replied.

"But I don't want to make her more angry."

Jean looked surprised. "What makes you think she's angry?"

"She didn't call."

"Maybe she was waiting for you to call," Rogue pointed out.

"Merde," he repeated, sighing.

The teakettle whistled and Rogue got up, filling her mug with hot water. She dipped the tea bag in and the scent of raspberry floated through the kitchen. "Tea?"

Remy shook his head 'no' and Jean rolled her eyes. "Are you insane?" she asked.

Rogue shrugged. "So I've been told. Quite recently, too." She couldn't keep the bitterness out of her voice.

"I'm gonna go call Stormy," Remy said, backing out of the kitchen before he got involved in another discussion of Rogue's twisted love life.

~Don't leave me,~ Jean pleaded with him telepathically, but he ignored her. She couldn't take another round of Rogue-angst. The girl had the worst taste in men Jean had ever encountered. She'd had a headache for a week, since the night Logan and Rogue had fought over it. The two projected so strongly that even if the air conditioning were working, Jean didn't believe she'd be able to sleep.

They'd had a running joke at the mansion that Rogue and Logan would be joined at the hip once he realized she wasn't a little girl anymore, but it hadn't happened. Jean didn't understand how the girl - woman, now -- could be so dense.

Anyone with eyes could see that Logan was desperately in love with her, and she with him, yet she continued to date, and get hurt by, a string of losers. The only decent relationship she'd had was that first high school fling with Bobby, which they'd all known would end once Logan returned from Canada, anyway. Things hadn't turned out quite as they'd expected. Rogue's relationship with Bobby had ended -- amicably, even -- but she and Logan had yet to get together, much to everyone's, including Logan's, surprise.

The two women sat in silence for a moment, and Jean felt a faint surge of hope that Rogue wasn't going to bring up the current situation with her boyfriend and Logan.

"Dwight left last night."

Jean's hope was now dead as the humid August air that hung in the kitchen. "That's too bad," Jean lied tiredly.

"No it's not. Y'all hated him, and he knew it."

"We didn't hate him, Rogue." Another lie. "We just felt he wasn't good enough for you." Finally, the truth.

Rogue snorted. "He wanted me to go to Mississippi with him."

"I know."

"Scott sucks at keeping secrets."

"He's married to a telepath," Jean replied lightly, hoping to change the subject. "He doesn't have much choice sometimes."

It worked.

"What's that like?"

"What?"

Rogue blushed. "Always being in each other's heads. I mean, I know what it's like to have the -- to have people in here," she tapped her temple, "but it's only ever a one-way thing. They never get any of me when I touch them."

Jean considered the woman before her. "I don't think that's true, Rogue. You certainly left an impression on Logan."

Rogue's lips twisted into a grimace. "That's one way of putting it."

"Rogue--"

"No, seriously, does he always have to be so noble? So concerned? So fucking obligated?" Her voice rose shrilly I mean, shouldn't this have ended when I turned eighteen? Or twenty-one? Why is it still going on? What gives him the right to interfere with my life?" She pulled her hair --sweaty and lank -- off her forehead and into a ponytail. "It's too damn hot for this drama. I'm sorry."

Jean laid a hand on her arm -- fully covered by the long sleeved button-down pajama top Rogue wore over a white tank top, just as her legs were covered in a pair of navy blue, light cotton pajama pants. Just looking at her made Jean sweat. "He loves you, Rogue. He just wants what's best for you. It hurts him to see you unhappy."

Rogue snorted. "Yeah, right. If that were true then--"

She broke off as the door slammed open, revealing the object of their discussion, carrying a wire cage like the ones used to house the rats in the lab.

Inside the cage was a squalling baby.

Logan had a pained, helpless look on his face. He put the cage down on the table and said, "It's crying."

"We noticed," Rogue said dryly. She looked from Logan to Jean, who was now standing. "Well, you've got to pick it up and see what's wrong."

"Not me," Logan said, backing away, hands raised. "I don't do babies."

Jean moved toward the refrigerator. "I'll get some milk."

"I can't believe you guys are afraid of a little baby," Rogue said, rising wearily.

"Maybe it's a wild baby," Logan said with a smirk.

"Yeah," Jean offered, grinning. "It is in a cage."

Rogue sighed loudly. "Fine." She opened the cage and took the baby in her arms, careful not to bring it too close to her face. "You're a big boy, aren't you, yes?" she crooned, settling him on her hip and unwrapping some of the blankets in which he was swaddled. A piece of paper fluttered to the floor. Logan bent to pick it up as Rogue gasped.

"What? What is it?" He was at her side immediately.

"He's a mutant," she whispered. "Look at him."

Logan let out a long, low whistle. Jean joined them, container of soy milk in hand.

"Bet he's got excellent night vision," Logan commented.

Jean smacked him lightly. "That's what you're thinking about?"

"I'm just saying -- cat's eyes and all..." Then he noticed that container she'd handed him. "Soy milk?" he asked scornfully.

"He's not even a year old," Jean began.

"So he can't have cow's milk," Rogue finished. "And I doubt we have any formula on hand."

Jean laughed and began searching the cabinets for a baby bottle.

Logan read the note in his hand. "'Please take care of my baby. I can't anymore. His name is Sean.'" He looked at the two women, a half-grin on his face. "I guess we got a new student, eh?"

The baby's eyes were catlike, with golden brown irises and vertical pupils. His face was covered with a light golden down, though his features were human. As Rogue unwrapped him, it became clear that not only his face, but his entire body was covered in light golden fur.

When she freed his hands, he immediately reached up and grabbed at the white streak in her hair, which had come loose from her ponytail. She jerked her head back and the baby started crying again.

Logan whispered, "Hey, hey, it's all right. It's all right." Rogue wasn't sure if he was trying to calm her or the baby. "He's got fur," he said.

"Yeah," Rogue replied softly.

"That means you can touch him."

"Yeah," she repeated.

Logan stared at Rogue, who cradled the baby carefully, but with less tension in her shoulders than just a few moments before. The look in his eyes took Jean's breath away -- it was full of love and hunger and pain.

"We need to keep him cool," Jean said, breaking silence that stretched, heavy and pregnant with unspoken longing, between Logan and Rogue. "Logan, go get Bobby. Rogue, change him. There are diapers in the cage. If he's not dirty, feed him. Here's some milk," she took the container out of Logan's loose grasp and thrust it at the younger woman. "Keep looking for a bottle. I know there's at least one hanging around from the last time my sister visited. I'm going to find some sort of cradle. We can't keep him in a cage."

"Yes, ma'am," Rogue said, snapping out of her reverie, and breaking Logan's rapt contemplation of her.

And with the force of her will, and possibly a telekinetic nudge, Jean dragged Logan away from the kitchen.


Night of the Dead Living
Part 2


Kitty hung up the phone and slipped into bed, trying not to wake up Bobby. Theirs was the only cool room in the house, because Bobby naturally lowered the temperature wherever he went. She turned on her side, facing away, and tried to stop her shoulders from shaking as she cried, but it was futile.

"Mmm, Kit?" he mumbled, reaching out blindly for her, and feeling her shuddering next to him. He was alert in seconds. "Kitty, what's wrong?"

She sniffed. "Nothing."

"Obviously, it's not nothing. Come on, tell me. Is it me? Did I do something?" He rubbed circles on her back, and she rolled over to face him.

"It's not you. It's got nothing to do with you. I just --"

"You can tell me. Who was on the phone?"

"My mother."

He was silent. Kitty's mother was not exactly discreet in her opinion that her daughter could have done better than marrying a mutant accountant who lived at a school, even a school as prestigious as Xavier's.

"Kitty--"

"Just forget it, okay. It's got nothing to do with you. You wouldn't understand."

"Why not?"

"You're a man."

"I'm your husband."

"I'm a woman."

"We're both mutants."

"Hmph." She pulled away and stood. "I need some air."

She opened the door and walked into Logan, who stood there, one hand raised, just about to knock.

"Iceman. We need you down in the kitchen," he said as Kitty pushed past him.

Bobby nodded. "Wait a sec." He slipped into the bathroom and when he came out, pulled on a t-shirt. He said, "Okay."

"What's with Kitty?" Logan asked softly, watching as she stalked down the hall, arms wrapped around herself, shoulders tense.

"She won't tell me. Something with her mother."

"That can't be good," Logan muttered.

"Tell me about it." The two men walked downstairs slowly, allowing Kitty the opportunity to get away from them. "So what's up?"

They reached the kitchen and Bobby stopped dead. Rogue sat at the table, cuddling the baby. She was softly crooning to it in a slightly off-key, but not unpleasant voice, "Hush little baby, don't say a word, Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird. And if that mockingbird don't sing, Mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring."

Kitty was at the sink, filling a bottle with milk. She handed it to Rogue, who smiled her thanks. "If you want me to take him --" Kitty offered.

"No! I mean, uh, no, it's all right. I used to babysit, back in Meridian."

Logan and Bobby exchanged a glance. "We need to make a swamp cooler," Logan said. "I'll get the fan from the control room. You make some ice."


Meanwhile, Remy had joined Scott down in the control room. "You think 'Roro is mad at me?"

Scott raised an eyebrow over his glasses. "She's strong, Remy, but even she can't control the weather up here from DC."

"What? No. I mean, she didn't call me tonight. And I lost track of time. So now if I call her, I'm gonna wake her up, and ma biche, she don't like that."

"I think she'd be madder if she heard you call her your bitch," Scott replied.

Remy rolled his eyes, when Scott snickered at his own joke. "You're not helping."

"I just --" He broke off, something on the monitor catching his attention. "Shit, Remy, did you see that?"

"Mon Dieu, was that--"

"Santa Claus?" Scott finished incredulously. "I'm going to check it out."

"Non. You stay here. Remy need a break." And the Cajun was gone before Scott had a chance to object.

He was grumbling under his breath about not getting in on any of the fun when Logan came in and grabbed the fan.

"Hey! Where do you think you're going with that?"

"If you were paying attention, Scooter, you'd see that we have a new student," he tapped the monitor that showed the kitchen, "and Rogue's gonna drown in her own sweat if she doesn't take some of those clothes off. So Iceman is gonna make himself useful."

Scott was staring at Rogue and the baby. "A baby?"

"A baby."

"Christ. We don't know what the hell to do with a baby."

"Obviously, Rogue does. And Jean's a doctor. We'll figure it out, Cyke."

Remy burst into the control room then, pushing a man in a Santa suit before him.

"Pre Noel was wandering around the grounds," he said, all trace of the lovesick young man gone, replaced by a business-like X-Man.

"What's the matter, Kringle?" Logan taunted. "One of the elves kiss Mrs. Claus's mistletoe? Is the ozone layer too thin over the North Pole? Is Rudolph's nose red because of alcohol? 'Cause God knows, you reek of Jack Daniels. What? What is it?"

"No one knows how to give anymore," Santa said mournfully, and then he hiccuped.

"I understand," Logan replied. "On December twenty-fourth, you're the most popular guy in the world. On December twenty-sixth, you're just another fat guy in a cheap suit. Happy Hanukkah."

"Take him upstairs," Scott said, frowning. "Sober him up and let Jean look him over."

He didn't say it, but it was understood that she would be the best one to assess what threat, if any, the faux Santa presented.

"Come on," Logan said, hefting the fan and leading the way to the elevators. Santa and Remy followed.

As they walked to the kitchen, Logan could hear Kitty's voice from down the hall.

"I love Bobby, and I know he just wants to help, but, God. He just doesn't understand sometimes."

"Kitty, it'll be okay," Rogue said.

"No, it won't." Kitty sniffed. "My mother is sick. I was talking to her on the phone. She's got a tumor in her breast. She finds out tomorrow if it's benign or malignant. It's like, it's even worse than the X-gene -- I mean, almost all the women in my family have lost their breasts to cancer. And you know who I blame? Congress. Talking suits sitting in the House and Senate. They don't make a move unless it's about them. Some senator develops prostate cancer, so millions and millions of dollars get pumped into prostate research. Maybe if more senators had breasts, they'd do something about it. Maybe if it was tied to the X-gene, they'd throw the best scientists at it, so they could exploit it for their own use. But as it is--"

"Oh, Kitty, science has made some remarkable breakthroughs on breast cancer treatment," Jean was saying as the men entered the kitchen. She had an arm wrapped around Kitty's shoulders.

"Joyeaux Noel," Remy said, pushing Santa into the room.

Logan inclined his head at Jean, who came over to the drunken Kringle.

"I'll make some coffee," Kitty offered, trying to conceal the evidence of her tears, rubbing the back of her hand across her eyes.

"I'm gonna call 'Roro now," Remy announced as the women bustled around the kitchen. "I don't care if I wake her up. I need to know she's not mad at me."

"You want my advice?" Rogue said.

"No!" Remy exclaimed.

"I'm your best friend and you don't want my advice?" she asked in disbelief.

"No!" Rogue's mouth opened in shock and hurt, and Remy hurried to rectify his mistake. "I mean, you're one of my best friends, yes, but no, I don't want your advice--"

"Fine," Rogue snapped. "Be that way. I was just going to offer my advice on relationships."

"And you've been so successful," Logan snorted, putting the fan down on the table with a thunk.

"Hey, I don't think you're exactly one to talk, either," Rogue replied. She turned back to Remy.. "All I was gonna say is, what are you gonna call her for? Say you go out. You're a saint. You're everything you can be in a perfect world. So you sleep together. After the third time you do it, it's actually good instead of just saying it is. But how could it not be good? It's sex." She shook her head in disgust as they all stared at her.

"So you get intimate. You get real close. You talk about your childhood, your parents, your broken dreams. You talk about relationships that didn't work out. You get so intimate, you tell her your problems. You get loose, rude, a little insensitive. " Her voice started to rise. "You're not a saint anymore. And one day, he goes, 'I don't know who you are. You're not the girl I got involved with.' You apologize. You realize you've actually spent the last six months apologizing for who you were the first two weeks.

"Then, in the middle of some night, he leaves." She was yelling now. "Nice, huh? That's what you want?"

"I know why he left you," Remy muttered. "I mean, you don't know when to shut up."

"Dwight didn't leave me, dammit!" Rogue shouted. The baby began crying and she realized she was upsetting him with her tantrum. After a few moments of murmuring, little Sean settled down and Rogue said softly, "I told him to go."

Then she got up and rushed out, taking the baby with her.

Logan growled at Remy and moved to follow, but Jean laid a hand on his arm. "Let her go," she murmured. "She's obviously got a lot on her mind, and well, I don't think you're the person she wants to see right now."

"Why not?"

Jean shrugged. "She thinks you treat her like a child."

"She what?"

"She thinks you interfere in her life."

"Of course I interfere in her life! What the hell else am I supposed to do, if she keeps getting involved with these idiots?"

"She thinks you do it because you feel obligated," Jean said.

Logan's mouth worked for a moment, but nothing came out. "She-- I--" He sat down heavily. "Obligated?"

"Something about a promise?" Jean reminded him. He didn't respond, so she looked over at the drunken Santa. She closed her eyes for a moment, then, ~He's clean. He's just a sad, old man looking for some peace and goodwill.~

Santa sat hunched over the kitchen table, the white fur of his suit dingy in the warm yellow light.

Jean followed Rogue out of the kitchen as Bobby came in from the pantry carrying a cooler. He looked warily at his wife, who avoided his eyes.

"Hey, Santa," he said with fake cheerfulness, "I've got something to make you feel at home."

He raised his hands and little flakes of ice flittered down, frosting the old man's hair and dappling his red velvet suit.

Logan rolled his eyes. "How about spreading the cool around?" he asked.

"What crawled up your ass and died?" Bobby snapped, while Remy made 'cut-it-out' gestures at him from behind Logan's back, mouthing the word, 'Rogue.' Logan growled in response and Bobby sighed. "All right. Where's the rug rat?"

"Just make the ice," Logan replied. "He'll be back." He turned to Remy. "And you -- what the hell do you think you're doing, talking to Rogue like that?"

Remy held up his hands. "She's the one getting all upset, not me, Logan. I don't know why you let her run around with that piece of trash in the first place."

"Let her?" Logan asked incredulously. "Since when has Rogue ever listened to any of us about her love life?" He snorted. "Let her. Like the way you 'let' 'Ro go to DC without you, eh?"

Remy flushed. "That's different."

Logan grabbed a beer from the fridge and sat down opposite Santa. "No, it's not." He looked over at Kitty, who stood at the coffee pot, her back to them, shoulders shaking. "Right, Kitty? We all know you're the boss of Drake."

"Ain't it the truth," Bobby muttered, still packing ice into the cooler.

Kitty sniffed and turned. "For such a thick-skulled jackass, you're pretty smart, Wolvie."

He grinned at her and took a long pull from his beer. The phone rang and she ran for it.

"Hello? Yeah, it's me. Hold on." She turned to the men. "I'm going to take it in the Professor's office. Can you hang up when I yell?"

Bobby nodded and she rushed from the room.


Jean caught up with Rogue on the back porch. She was rocking the baby, doing that peculiar bounce-walk that Jean could never quite get the hang of with her sister's kids. She wondered idly if that meant she would be a bad mother. She and Scott had been talking about having kids, but the whole idea made her nervous. She shook her head. She had to fix this thing with Rogue and Logan before they drove her -- and everyone else in the mansion -- nuts. Then she could worry about her own problems with Scott.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

Rogue whirled, startled. "Jesus, Jean, you scared me half to death."

Jean smiled apologetically. "Logan was ready to gut Remy just now for upsetting you."

Rogue laughed bitterly. "See, that's what I mean."

"He just wants you to be happy," Jean reiterated.

Rogue closed her eyes and swallowed hard. "I know. Do you think I don't know how he feels about me?" Jean opened her mouth, but Rogue kept talking as she paced. "'Sweet little Marie.' 'She who must be protected.' I've been trying for the past six years to get him to see me as an adult, as a woman, but he still doesn't get it." She stopped and turned to Jean, her expression full of hope. "Maybe you could talk to him? Let him know I'm not seventeen anymore and that there's nothing wrong with -- I mean, if he wants--" She trailed off, biting her lip.

"I think you need to be the one to talk to him, Rogue. If you want him to see you as an adult, you need to behave like one. You're not in high school anymore. I'm not going to pass him a note in English class."

Rogue dropped her eyes. "Yes, but-- If you could just talk sense to him --"

Jean snorted delicately. "Nobody talks to Logan. Not unless he wants to be spoken to. You know that."

Rogue sighed. "Yeah, but," she shifted Sean from one arm to the other, careful not to dislodge the bottle from which he drank, "he'll listen to you."

Jean pursed her lips. "You think that he, that I--"

"I know how he feels about you, too." Jean's eyebrows rose. She thought the younger woman's bitterness over Logan's flirtatious attentions to her had dissipated over the years. They'd become good friends, teammates. As Rogue had gotten older, Jean had never picked up any residual resentment from her. "I don't hate you. I mean, I did when I was younger. But I don't now. I know you're not going to leave Scott, that you and Logan never did more than flirt -- that you never wanted to.

"But-- I also know how Logan sees you, and how he sees me, and I don't understand why it hasn't changed." She handed Jean the bottle and turned away, ostensibly to burp the baby, but Jean knew she was trying to get her emotions under control.

"Did you ever think that maybe it -- he -- has?" Jean asked gently. "That the thoughts and feelings you have are, well, almost eight years out of date?"

Rogue spun so quickly that Jean worried a little about Sean developing whiplash. "What?"

"Unless there's something I don't know about, the last time Logan touched you was on the Statue of Liberty, right?" Rogue nodded. "Well, then. That was almost eight years ago. So, you've grown and changed since then. Did you ever think that maybe Logan has, as well?"

"I -- I--"

"Think about it," Jean said lightly, putting a comforting hand on her shoulder. "I'm going to find Scott."

She left Rogue standing on the porch, lost in thought.


"Since the baby's not here," Logan said to no one in particular and turned the fan on himself again.

Remy rolled his eyes but said nothing. Santa was leaning back in his chair, and he appeared to be sleeping, his mug of coffee forgotten on the table.

Bobby just continued making ice, though the cooler was close to overflowing. Remy was stealing bits and pieces of ice to run over his neck and forehead, and popping them into his mouth.

"I think that's enough, Iceman, don't you?" the Cajun finally said, as Bobby continued to pile ice into a precarious crystal mountain three inches above the lip of the cooler.

"I don't know anything." Bobby spun, his eyes bright with anger. "I don't know why Kitty's mother doesn't like me. I don't know why my wife won't talk to me. I thought she was supposed to love me no matter what. But suddenly, I'm dysfunctional. I'm withholding. I don't show affection." His voice rose; Santa woke with a start, but said nothing. "I try to be supportive, she says I'm smothering. I give her space and she says I'm distant. You know, all the books I've read since we got married, and I still don't know anything." He flung out his hands in frustration. "'How Can I Get Through to You.' 'Passionate Marriage.' 'Men Are From Mars, Women Are from Venus.'"

"Your head is in Uranus," Logan said, but there was gruff affection rather than anger in his voice.

"What the hell do you know about it?" Bobby demanded. "You haven't had a decent relationship in the eight years I've known you."

Logan ignored this vitriol and leaned forward. "You love her, right?" Bobby nodded. "And she loves you?"

"I guess so."

Logan put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently. "Well, go out there and find out what's bugging her. She needs you, Iceman. Don't let her down."

Bobby stared at Logan for a minute, baffled. Then he headed over to Xavier's office. He heard Kitty crying before he saw her, sitting with her knees drawn up on the guest chair.

"Hey," he said softly, leaning on the edge of Xavier's desk and facing her.

"Hey," she answered, sniffling.

"Look, I'm not asking you to tell me what's bothering you. Obviously, you think that's your business, not mine."

"Good."

"It's just that you're my wife, and I love you. Even if I can't help you, I'm here for you. Even if you don't want to tell me."

"I appreciate that, Bobby. I love you, too. It's got nothing to do with you. It's my problem."

"Kitty, honey, you're my wife. Your problems are my problems. So, tell me, what's bothering you?"

Kitty sniffed again, and threw herself at his chest. She swallowed hard, once. "My mom's got a tumor and she finds out in a few hours if it's malignant or not."

Bobby's arms tightened around her. "Oh. Wow. Kitty, I'm so sorry." He stroked her back in small circles, resting his chin on her head as she cried.

She shrugged in his embrace. "It just makes me feel so," Kitty paused, took a deep breath to steady herself, "powerless."

"Well, you know, either way, she'd want you there with her at the doctor's. I'll see if I can't get the jet and take us to Chicago. Scott should be okay with that."

She looked up at him, and even through her tears he could see the love in her eyes. "That's what I love about you, Bobby Drake. Just when I'm ready to write you off as a goofball, you go and surprise me like this."

He feathered kisses against her hair, hugging her to him with all the urgency of a drowning man clutching a life preserver.

"I love you, Kitty. Don't ever forget that, please."

"Love you, too," she murmured, nestling into him for a few moments before pulling away to wipe at her tear-stained cheeks. "I'm going to go wash my face."

"I'll be in the kitchen," Bobby said. His usual good humor, though edged with worry over her mother's condition, was restored now that he knew Kitty wasn't leaving him.


Night of the Dead Living
Part 3


Remy shook his head, bemused. "You really an old softie underneath all that bad attitude and hair, eh, mon ami?"

Logan growled. "I'm still not happy with you, Cajun. You upset Marie."

"You got it bad for le petite, Logan. You need to suck it up and tell her."

"She'd probably fling that coffee pot at my head."

"It's better than all this pining and brooding. Hank's ready to prescribe Prozac."

"What are you afraid of, Gumbo? That I'll steal your spot on the roof?"

Remy laughed. "With Ororo, it ain't gonna be like that. She already knows all my secrets, all the bad stuff. Been there through most of it."

"So why don't you call her?"

Remy glanced at the clock above the stove. "It's almost three. Too late to call now." Logan rolled his eyes. "If I call her now, she's just gonna yell at me. I don't want her to yell at me. I don't want to make her mad. I don't like to give people a reason to leave."

"So you're afraid she's going to leave you, huh?" Remy nodded and Logan leaned in conspiratorially. "But what if she doesn't? What if this is it -- 'til death do you part? That creates a bigger fear, huh?"

"Of what?" Remy asked, raising his chin defiantly.

"Maybe she'll love you." Logan shrugged a shoulder. "Maybe she *won't* love you. Maybe you're not lovable. Maybe no one will ever love you again." He lowered his voice almost to a whisper. "Or maybe, Remy, she's the one."

Remy took a sip of beer, thinking about Logan's words. Finally, he ran a hand over his forehead and said, "I'm almost thirty, and I've seen, I've done a lot of things. I just want, I just want to make someone happy. To find someone who makes me happy." He laughed. "What a way to start a life with someone, hien? Dating."

"Dating is a form of self-destruction," Rogue announced, returning to the kitchen, baby Sean cradled on her shoulder. "But of course, you don't want my advice."

Remy chuffed. "Rogue, you know, you pick out these losers and ignore the man who really loves you." Logan growled a low warning, but Remy was warming to his theme and paid him no heed. "You fall in and out of love at the drop of a hat and pay no attention to the man who's always there when you need him. You're not credible on this subject."

"Fine," Rogue bit out, and turned to go. Then, "Wait. What did you say?"

Remy opened his mouth to speak, but a growled, "Gambit," from Logan made him snap it shut again.

"Sit right here," Logan said, pointing to the chair nearest the ice-filled cooler. He directed the fan at her. "And take off that goddamned shirt. I'm sweating just looking at you."

Remy looked at both of them and said, "Rogue, chere, I'm sorry."

"Nah. You're right. I'm being a bitch. It's this heat." She shifted the baby from one arm to the other, and both men couldn't help but notice how her shirt clung to her, damp with perspiration. "It's ten degrees hotter inside than it is outside, and outside it's ten degrees hotter than it oughtta be."

Santa looked up from his half-doze. "You know, the earth has snapped out of its orbit and is heading toward the sun. It's only gonna get hotter and hotter and hotter. Christmas is never gonna come and we're all gonna burst into flames."

Rogue nodded absently, stroking the baby's hair. "That is possible," she murmured. "It certainly is."

Remy glanced between Rogue and Logan again, and Logan scowled at him. He shrugged and went to the refrigerator. "I'm not sleeping tonight, I guess. I'll call Stormy at dawn. She's always up with the sun." He took out two beers, tossed one to Logan, who caught it easily, and opened the other himself. "Chere, you want a drink?"

"More tea, please." She jerked her chin at the stove. "There should still be some water in the teapot. You can heat it up again. Thanks." Remy did as she asked, looking through the cabinets for a teabag and a clean mug.

"Tea?" Logan asked incredulously. "Hot tea?" Rogue nodded. "She's drinking hot tea," he muttered in Santa's direction, still disbelieving. "What did she have for dinner? Soup?"

Rogue's chin rose. "Let me ask you a question. What's the hottest place on earth?"

"I give up," Santa said, obviously fascinated by the interplay between the two.

"The desert," Rogue said before Logan could speak. "What do they drink in the desert?"

"Nothing," Logan replied. "That's why it's the desert."

"No," Rogue said in triumph. "Tea. They drink tea in the desert to stay cool."

"I'll stay with coffee," Santa said.

Rogue smiled at him. "Well, coffee's hot, too."

"Not anymore, it's not," he said mournfully, looking into his mug of cold coffee.

"You're insane," Logan said, rising and standing next to her. He was grinning as he said it though.

"Maybe, but you love me anyway," Rogue replied, and then bit her lip when she realized what she'd said and connected it to Remy's earlier diatribe. "I mean--"

"Nah, you're right," he said, and his voice was low and husky, meant for her ears only. She shivered, despite the heat. In a more normal tone, he went on, "Now, I really wish you'd take that shirt off. The kid is probably hot as hell," he continued when she opened her mouth to disagree. "He's furry. He needs coolness."

"It's not safe," Rogue replied, her jaw set stubbornly.

"Isn't this where I came in?" Kitty asked, leading Bobby back into the kitchen, her face scrubbed clean of all evidence of her earlier crying jag.

"You're gonna sweat to death," Logan continued. "People have been known to drown in their own sweat, Rogue. And you're gonna take me with you."

"Yeah, if you don't sweat, your body's gonna overheat and you'll explode," Bobby said. "Unless you're me, of course. Then you're always nice and cool."

That made them all laugh.


Scott was still sitting in the control room. Without the fan, it was just a small, windowless room holding a lot of expensive equipment that generated more heat than he'd have thought possible.

He dimmed the lights and glared at the candle, which smoked and guttered and added to the heat in the room.

Just as he was going to blow it out he heard, "I wouldn't if I were you."

Jean was leaning on the doorjamb.

"Jean!"

She slipped into the room and sat down next to him.

"So, are you the one who lights it?" he asked, nodding at the candle.

"No. But I figure it must be important to whoever does it. It's been lit every night for the past few days."

"I wonder who does it," Scott mused. "Logan said it wasn't him, and I believe him. You say it's not you... I bet it's Rogue."

"I bet it's Remy. Or Kitty. Or you."

"Me?"

"Yes, you. You're the one asking questions about it. Maybe you're just trying to throw suspicion off yourself."

Scott laughed. "If I didn't know I was innocent, I'd agree."

Jean folded her legs under her, getting into the game. "See, the question we've got to ask is 'Why?' Because if we get the why, it'll give us the 'who.'"

Scott shook his head. "I don't think it works like that." He held up a hand and counted off, "Physical evidence. Witnesses. Confessions. Figure out how, it'll tell you who."

"You spend too much time reading detective novels," she answered, reminding him that even though they were enjoying this little interlude, he still had some apologizing to do.

He looked down at his hands and let the silence stretch a little before he said, "I'm sorry I've been -- distant --lately. I love you. More than anything in the world." She put a hand on his arm, but he wasn't done speaking. "Look, I know I've been letting work take priority over everything, and that's not fair to you, or to me." He turned and looked her in the eye. "What do you say we head up to the Cape for the weekend? I know this pretty little bed and breakfast that always has a room ready for last minute guests." He took her hand and brought it to his lips, kissing first her knuckles and then her palm, licking gently at the salt tang of her skin.

She tried to hold back the laugh and couldn't. "You'd ask Warren for a favor, just for me?"

"I'd ask Sabretooth for a favor if it'd make you happy," he replied.

More laughter. "Now you're going a little too far." But the smile remained on her face. "What about the kids?"

"They can fend for themselves for the weekend. Logan can run 'em through training. Then they'll be too tired to get up to any trouble before the Professor gets back." He pulled her into his lap, and murmured, "We'll take the Ferrari." His hands roamed over her body, slipping underneath the light cotton robe and nightie she wore.

She kissed him and then pulled back. "It's too hot for sex," she said. "And if Rogue and Logan don't make up soon, my head is going to explode."

He massaged her neck gently. "Would you believe Logan gave me some good advice tonight?"

Jean grinned. "Yeah, I would. But let's not talk about them anymore. Kiss me again, Scott. It's the only thing that keeps away the headache."

"I love you, Jean," he whispered, kissing her deeply. Her response told him she felt the same.

They were interrupted a few moments later by the sight of Logan wrestling Santa to the kitchen floor.

Scott sighed. "It's too hot for this."

Jean laughed. "Guess we better go rescue Santa from Wolverine."


The conversation had petered out, as each of the people in the kitchen got lost in their own late night thoughts.

Santa was looking at Rogue and the baby in a way that made the hair on Logan's neck stand up. He'd pulled up a chair next to her, trying to figure out a way to continue the earlier conversation when Santa said, "I know just what will keep you cool." Then, he reached into the pocket of his red coat and pulled out a green plastic gun.

As Santa aimed at Rogue and pulled the trigger, Logan tackled him.

"What the hell are you doing?" Rogue shouted, jumping out of the way.

"He has a gun," Logan grunted, pinning Santa's hands above his head and disarming him. "Gambit, you let him in here with a gun," he growled in a tone that did not bode well for the Cajun.

"A water gun, oui," Remy answered, exasperated at Logan's jumping to conclusions and annoyed at being berated. "He's a harmless old drunk, Logan. Let him up. He was just trying to cool Rogue off."

Jean and Scott rushed into the kitchen. "Logan, let him up," Scott commanded.

Logan did so, sheepishly. "Sorry about that, Kringle." He lifted the old man by his lapels, dusted him off, and sat him back down in his seat. Then he stalked out

"I think I need a drink," Santa muttered.

"I'll get you one," Jean offered, shooting a glance at Rogue. ~Go after him.~

Rogue hesitated, looking at her friends. Kitty held her hands out, Rogue gave her the baby.

"Talk to him," she said. "Believe me, it's better that way."

Rogue tracked him to the garage, where he stood, still in nothing but boxer shorts, staring at his motorcycle.

"Hey," she said, knowing he'd known she was there.

"I overreacted a little back there."

"Yeah, you did." She placed a hand on his arm, feeling him tense at her touch. It wasn't fear. She knew that. But it still unnerved her.

"I was just trying to protect you. And the kid." He still hadn't turned to face her.

"I know. And, and, you know, I'm grateful for it. For you. For everything you've done for me, from the moment you stopped and picked me up. But I don't need you to rescue me all the time. I'm not a little girl anymore."

"Do you think I don't know that?" His voice was harsh.

"I wonder sometimes."

He finally turned, and the distance between them was mere inches. "Believe me, I know." Her eyes ran down his body --that perfect body that still played a prominent role in her nightly fantasies -- to see the erection tenting his shorts.

"Oh."

"Yeah."

"Can I--" she reached out a hand, but he was faster.

"I don't think so." His grip was vise-like. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask why, when he said, "When did Dwight leave?"

She bit her lip. "Last night."

"I don't think giving me a hand job in the garage is the best way to get over that, do you?"

"I didn't mean--"

"Didn't you?"

"That hurts, Logan."

"Well, what the hell am I supposed to think, huh?"

"I just wanted you to realize I was a woman. A sexual being. That it would be all right for you and me to --"

"To what?"

"To be together."

"Were you in love with him? With any of them?"

"I don't know. I thought so at the time, I guess. But it was never really real."

"And now?" He stared at her with the intensity of a hunter stalking its prey.

"I've always loved you, Logan, if that's what you want to hear. Always. I just never thought -- I didn't think you loved me back. Not in that way. Not in the way Scott loves Jean."

He stroked the white streak in her hair, hanging lank and damp with sweat, and said, "I do."

"So, what now?" she asked.

"You're the one with all the relationship expertise. You tell me."

"Oh." She gnawed her lower lip again, then, "I don't want to screw this up."

"Neither do I, kid. Neither do I." He put an arm around her, pulling her against his side. "I guess we try to figure out how to do this."

"I can do that."

"Good." He gave her one of his rare smiles. "Now take off that goddamned shirt."

"Then we couldn't do this," she replied, stroking his fingers, which dangled above her breast, tantalizingly near.

"You have a point."

They walked back to the kitchen, arms around each other. Scott raised an eyebrow and Logan nodded once. Then Scott said, "Everybody, on the roof. Five minutes."

"Is this some kind of drill?" Bobby asked. "Because Kitty and I need to go--"

"Relax, Bobby. The jet will get you to Chicago in plenty of time for Mrs. Pryde's appointment. Now, go."

"Where's Santa?" Logan asked Scott as Kitty and Rogue fussed over who was going to carry the baby.

"Jean's getting him settled in a guestroom. He's just a harmless old guy."

"How'd he bypass our security?"

Scott shrugged. "Maybe he really is Santa Claus. I've seen stranger things."

Logan laughed. "Santa Claus, mystery babies... It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas."

"You got your present, didn't you?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I did. You?"

Scott nodded. "Yeah. We're going to head up to Cape Cod after a couple hours of sleep. You'll be in charge until the Professor gets back."

A devilish gleam appeared in Logan's eyes. "I can run the brats through the Danger Room?"

"They're all yours."

"That'll be fun." While his tone was noncommittal, the grin on Logan's face was enough to make Scott heartily glad he wasn't going to be there for Logan's idea of fun.

"Fun for you, maybe."

"Well, that's kinda the point."

Scott inclined his head in agreement. "We had two breaches in security tonight. I think you and Remy should check out the system."

They reached the roof as Logan said, "We'll find the gaps. And I've got some ideas on testing --"

He was cut off by a blast of water hitting him in the chest.

"What the--" he growled, leaping for control of the hose. Jean held him back with her telekinesis, drenching him in the process.

Rogue and Kitty were already soaking wet, and Bobby was running like a wild man, trying to avoid being hit.

Remy stood, damp and smiling, watching as Jean and Logan wrestled for control, then leaping in and taking advantage of their concentration on each other to grab it for himself.

They frolicked on the roof until the sky began to lighten, signaling the arrival of a new day.

Kitty and Bobby headed to their suite to change and prepare for their trip to Chicago.

Logan and Rogue adjourned to his room, with young Sean, to continue discussing their new relationship.

Scott called Warren and requested the use of his private cottage at a bed and breakfast in Truro. When he flipped his cell phone shut, he went down to the control room, suddenly realizing that there was a candle still burning in the little room.

Remy was there.

"You're the one who lights the candle!"

The Cajun nodded. "Every night 'Roro is away, I light it. Put it in the window of my room sometimes, but when I'm on duty, I bring it down here."

"God, you're even sappier than I am."

They laughed, and as Scott left, he could hear Remy on the phone. "Bonjour, petite. ... I missed you. I'm sorry I didn't call last night. ... You're not mad? Whew. ... Tonight? Great. I'll be waiting. I have plans for you, ma coeur."

Scott smiled.

He found Jean half-asleep in their bed and asked, "How's your headache?"

"Gone, thank God. All that tension, and they resolved it in a five minute conversation. I swear, I'll never understand either of them."

"Oh, who cares about them," Scott answered, climbing into bed next to her. "Our cottage on the Cape is ready and waiting. I'll wake you at ten."

"Sounds wonderful," she said, and snuggled against him, just as the air conditioning miraculously kicked in.

End


victoria


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