Title: Cradle My Heart 

Author: Angel LeeAnn

Rating: PG-13 (just to be safe)

Summary: Yes, another L/R story, but I hope mine is realistic enough to satisfy the critics.  Besides, I'm not sure this will even turn into a romance.  I may keep them as intimate friends.

Disclaimer: Any characters you recognize do not belong to me.  They are the property of Marvel.  I am NOT making a penny off of this.

Author's Note:  This is my first attempt at a X-men story so please don't be too harsh!  Plus, I know this has been done a million times, but live with it! /smile/ Oh yeah, and one more thing, I know Jean Grey returns as the Phoenix, but that won't be mentioned.  It's not important to this story.

Chapter One

Reaching Out

Part One

As night fell over Xavier's School for the Gifted in Westchester, New York, the sun's dying rays glistened off a pane of glass causing a hue of hazy light to leak into the hallway.  The corridor was quiet – as it usually was – and uncomfortably peaceful.  Logan, known as the Wolverine, paused in mid-stride, his nose flaring, sniffing the air like a trained wolf.  Something was off – he could sense it in the stillness of the mansion.  Things were normally silent, but not so dead that you could hear the hum of the walls.

Maybe he was exaggerating things: his past haunting and teasing him.  Not everything had to be scrutinized with suspicion.  Not everything was out to get him.  Not everything meant he had to fight or bolt.  Some things were unsettling simply because they were. 

Yeah right, he thought sarcastically.

Then his ears twitched and he whipped around, his fists clenched at his side, prepared to snap out his metal claws at the slightest hint of danger.  Then he visually relaxed as a young woman rounded the corner.  Her auburn hair – streaked white – bounced behind her as she briskly strolled toward him, her tender eyes ignited with innocent excitement.  "Logan," she breathed, coming to a sudden halt only a couple inches away.

He slanted his eyebrows, studying her intensely.  "What is it, kid?"

She smiled inwardly.  Unknown to most, she adored his nickname for her even if it represented something she was not.  It brought intimacy to the friendship, drawing them closer with that one little word.  He was here to take care of her: whether or not she needed it.  But more importantly, he was here to stay.

She brushed a stubborn lock out of her eyes with her gloved hand.  "Mr. Summers, err, Scott is back."

Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, had taken a sabbatical a few weeks after Jean Grey was swept away in the damn burst at Alkaline Lake.  He hadn't been seen or heard from in the remaining two months, wandering blindly around the globe in search of his lost sense of self.  Logan could understand: he'd done enough drifting of his own to last two lifetimes.

Logan gave a slight nod.  Then eyed Marie, called Rogue by most, oddly.  "Is there anything else?"

Rogue drew back, her eyes knitted together in bewilderment.  "What do you mean?"  She hadn't expected Logan to leap for joy, but she had figured he would show more enthusiasm or even concern for their fellow X-men member.  The poor man had lost his other half.

"Nothing," he grumbled.  Maybe that was what he was sensing.  The mansion was in a state of fragile reverence due to the return of their team leader.  "I should say hi."  He stepped around the newest member of the X-crew and trudged stiffly down the hall.

Rogue rushed to catch-up, put off by his cool exterior.  He generally was distant to others, but things were vaguely different between them.  She knew she had a special place in his heart.  She had ever since he couldn't find it in himself to desert her on the Canadian snow-covered road.  They had begun to forge a bound between them that only strengthened after their ordeal on the Statue of Liberty.

"Logan," she questioned gently.  "Is something wrong?"

He glanced her way, his hard face softening at the sight of her worry.  "Nah, kid," he said casually.

"It's just one of those days, uh?"  Rogue gazed at him soothingly, her eyes melting into sensitive understanding.  "I know, Logan," she murmured, lightly tapping her temple.  "I've got a piece of you up here."

He gave her a sidelong glance, his expression turning regretful.  "Damn," he grunted.  Then he fumbled in his pocket for his cigars, cursing when he remembered he couldn't smoke them in the building.  Rules and regulations were something that took him awhile to get used to, but he respected the professor too much to ignore them: most of the time.

"Logan," Rogue nibbled on her bottom lip nervously, peering at the floor.  "Can I ask you something?  I mean, would you do something for me?"

Logan stopped, turning to face the anxious woman.  "What is it, kid?"

"I…well…I wanted to talk to someone about…stuff and I don't," she sighed, her shoulders slumping.  "I just don't feel that close to anyone else here.  I've experienced too much to fully fit in with the other young adults.  I feel ancient compared to them."

"What about Bobby," Logan inquired.

Rogue shifted her weight.  "I tried talking to him, but…but it didn't go very smoothly.  He tries to be understanding – he really does; and I appreciate it, but he just can't comprehend certain things."

And I can, Logan thought cynically.  "Well…if you need someone to talk to…what about Storm?"

Rogue snorted, rolling her eyes.  "Never mind, Logan."  She ambled away, feeling foolish for even considering the idea.  Why would he want to sit down and listen to her problems?  He wasn't her boyfriend.  He wasn't her father.  And though they were friends, it was a deep, but reserved one.

Strong fingers snapped out, grasping her wrist and whirling her around.  She gasped at the sudden assault, peering wide-eyed up into his liquid brown eyes.  "Logan," she gasped.

"Rogue…Marie…if you really need to talk," he smiled his charming, rugged grin: a silent communicator: I'm here for you.

"Thanks," Rogue acknowledged, smiling sweetly up at him.  Then glanced down at her arm, slowly prying her wrist out of his grip.  "Do you think we could grab dinner later?  That is, if you're not busy."

"Sure."  He lightly nudged her cheek with his fist.  "You're lucky I like you so much, kid."

She rolled her eyes.  "Whatever."

Part Two

After welcoming Scott back, Xavier held a meeting, cautioning the X-men of the continued threat of the Brotherhood.  All through his lecturing, Logan felt Rogue stealing glances out the window, her expression wistful.  Something must really be on her mind.

Professor Xavier peeked over at them, then cut the meeting short.  "I want you all to rest.  In a couple days, I want to send a few of you out scouting.  I feel things are straining in certain circles and I want to keep notified of what's going on.  Scott, will you please stay for a few minutes?"

The others filed out, Rogue dragging her feet, peering off into the distance.  Logan bumped her shoulder with his elbow.  "How about that dinner, kid?"

"Are you share you don't mind?"

Bobby came up behind them, eyeing them both.  He had noticed Logan looking at Rogue repeatedly throughout the meeting.  "Hey, Rogue, you want to catch a movie or something?"

"No, not tonight Bobby."

"You want to get something to eat?"

"Nah," she pointed at Logan.  "We've got business to discuss.  But I'll meet up with you later, ok?"

Bobby glanced coldly at the older man.  "Sure, Rogue, whatever you say.  Maybe we can catch a late movie or something."  He pecked her quickly on the cheek then scurried off, risking a frosty look at Logan one more time before heading up the stairs.

Logan liked the kid, but he couldn't help feeling a twinge of annoyance.  I'm not after your girl, Iceman.  Chill out – no pun intended.  He directed Rogue towards the garage.  "We'll take the bike."

Rogue couldn't resist the urge to chuckle.  Logan had just bought a new motorcycle and he refused to go anywhere without it.  "Sure, Logan, but if the professor finds out it's your hide."

"What?  You're eighteen.  He can't…"



"I was seventeen and a half when we met: nearly finished with high school.  That was three and a half years ago."

"Damn," he muttered, withdrawing one of his cigars and straddling his new toy.  "Hop on, Rogue."

She slid on behind him, securing her helmet before wrapping her arms around his broad body, interlocking her fingers.  "I survived Magneto," she mumbled.  "I can surely handle a bike ride."

Logan chuckled and geared the ignition.  "Just hang on."

They sped off into the night.

End Chapter One

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