A/N: Um. There's no excuse for this being this late, except that I got severely distracted by other fic and other fandoms, not to mention the horrors of Real Life. I've also toned down the accents, and I think I'll keep the accents out for the rest of the fic.

Chapter 8

Are you lost?
Do you find life turning out
Not quite the way you planned?
Come around stay awhile
That's OK That's Alright
Couldn't get to sleep so talk about it.
Let's talk about it right now.

Here it comes on my head again
I guess I'm born to be the long lost friend.
Long Lost Friend.


-Better than Ezra

Logan couldn't bring himself to get off the bike. It was sometime after midnight; judging from the depth of the darkness, it was probably around two or three in the morning.

He couldn't bring himself to go inside.

It was silly. He knew it was silly. Everyone at the mansion had made it clear that he was welcome back anytime; there were no hard feelings from the people here, at least not on the surface. He was probably imagining the vague smells of fear and resentment that lingered whenever people spoke to him. Probably imagining the averted glances and questioning stares he always glimpsed just out of the corner of his eye.

Logan sighed to himself, and lit a cigar. When in doubt, smoke, drink, or fornicate--isn't that your motto, Wolverine? He scowled. And now he was talking to himself. Even better.

He stared up at the intimidating gates to the school, tastefully decorated with clinging vines of ivy. He felt shame creep up behind him, the inevitable feeling that he wasn't good enough for these people, with their hopeful ideas, their heroic actions, their beauty, and worst of all their forgiveness.

He put out the end of his cigar, hissing as the flesh of his hand charred. Sick as it was, he still got a little thrill out of watching his body heal, watching his skin perform miracles. Cracking his neck, he started up the bike and rode around to the back. I'm coming back for Rogue, he reminded himself. The rest of em can shove it up their asses if they have a problem with me. Striding up to the back door--he never used the front--he failed to notice the other motorcycle parked beside his.

Rogue felt sick. She didn't even want to think about what Xavier would do to her, being this late for curfew! Pictures danced in her mind of endless dish duty, of even earlier curfews and restriction to the mansion until eternity. Not being the sort to bend rules often (she valued the sanctuary of Xavier's school far too much to risk it), her ideas of the professor's punishment were much more creative and severe than his actual methods.

She gulped nervously as the mansion came into view, squeezing Remy's chest just a little harder. He glanced down at her hands, wondering for a moment, and then forced himself to keep an eye on the road.

He glanced up at the ivied gates as they skidded to a stop in front. I don't know the security that well on this place, chere, he said, his voice low, quiet. Which way's best to get in?

Her voice was nervous, and Remy could tell she didn't have much experience with this sort of thing. Back. The back door's the best.

They crept inside, being as silent as humanly possible. He stopped when they reached the foot of the staircase. You wait here, he whispered. I'll go up, check n see dat everyone's fast asleep. Rogue nodded nervously, her mind generously providing her with visions of all the X-men plus the top students waiting to berate her on the second floor.

She watched him creep up the stairs, his body so graceful it seemed almost liquid. Hypnotizing. Everything about him was that way: smooth, graceful, fast. He scared her when he didn't keep that act up, when he allowed his awkwardness, his moodiness to show up in his actions and words; scared her, because she didn't know how she'd react to him when she wasn't scorning his play-acting, his moves.'

Isn't it past yer bedtime, kid? Rogue's heart stopped, and then started again five hundred times faster. It isn't him it can't be him I'm imagining things-

Logan's heart caught in his throat as he watched her body stiffen, watch her slowly turn to face him, her eyes suspicious and disbelieving. He clamped down on the new cigar between his teeth, leaned back and forced himself to remain cool. What, you didn't think I'd come back?

He could barely hear her whisper, even with his advanced eardrums. Her face was solemn, wary; Logan immediately thought of the first time she'd stared at him, that scared and fascinated look in the bar as she figured out what he was. She hadn't rejected him then; she wouldn't reject him now. She wouldn't.

Then her face changed, and she pulled him into a hug, fierce and desperate and so incredibly glad that he's back. Logan returned her affection, pulling her close, burying his nose in her hair. He'd forgotten how good it felt, holding her, knowing there was someone that cared about him, needed him. Already he knew he'd made the right choice, coming back.

Rogue pulled back for a second, meeting his eyes. He could see her breath catching in her throat, and there was a look in her eyes he'd never seen before.

All right, chere, it looks like- Remy stopped at the sight of them, and Rogue jumped, hastily stepping away from Logan.

Um, Hi Remy, this is Logan, she said nervously, trying to keep from blushing.

snikt

Rogue jumped again, fearfully turning to stare at Logan. He looked ready to jump down Remy's throat. he snarled.

A charged card sizzled in Remy's hand. He said nothing, but grim hatred was etched into every line of his face.

Um, hey guys, settle down, Rogue said, her alarm mounting. Shit shit shit! she thought frantically. They look like they're about to rip each other apart, and no way will I be able to stop them if they start!

At the sound of Rogue's voice, both men switched from glaring at each other to glaring at her. What the hell is he doing here? they snarled in unison.

I live here! shouted Logan indignantly. You're in my home!

Oh, really? That's funny, cause I don't recall ever seein' ya here once this past two weeks!

Rogue gulped as she felt the testosterone level in the room rise significantly. Come on, girl, think! You've got to say something to stop them from tearing each other apart, quick! Look, both o' y'all are only technically here as guests anyway, so ya got no right to go bustin' at each otha fer bein' here! she said desperately, wincing at her accent, which was always stronger when she was nervous.

The two men stopped growling at each other to glare at her; then they both started yelling at once.

Oh, so I'm not welcome here anymore? Is that what you're tryin' to tell me, Marie? fumed Logan.

'Scuse me for thinking that guests are supposed to be treated with some kinda courtesy, snapped Remy, glowing eyes fixated on Rogue. But then again, you've been treatin' me like dirt for two weeks, so why should I expect any different?

Rogue stared back, caught by surprise. I never-

Would you all kindly stop shouting? You'll wake the younger students.

The three of them jumped and whirled to face Ororo. She was standing in the doorway that led to the kitchen, a cup of tea in her hands. Her normally serene manner was replaced by an expression that would be described as annoyed' on anyone else. On Ororo, it merely made her look slightly less serene.

Logan was the first to recover. he said, half-growling, half-smirking. Isn't it a little late to be hunting around the kitchen? Remy wanted to vomit at the sound of his chummy tone of voice, the ease with which he regarded the only woman--only person, really--Remy had ever actually considered a True Friend.

Ororo just raised one eyebrows, a skeptical, amused expression on her face, before turning to Rogue. May I ask why you're awake and shouting three hours after student curfew?

Rogue turned crimson, trying desperately to think of something plausible she could say.

'S my fault, Stormy, said Remy, grinning nonchalantly and leaning back as if he hadn't been ready to blow a whole in the wall minutes before. Y'see, I couldn't sleep, so I was pacin' the halls upstairs, and accidentally woke li'l miz' Rogue up. He grinned down at Rogue as if they shared some inside joke. At first she wanted to drain me dry, but I managed to calm her down enough so she'd accept a midnight snack and forgive me.

Rogue looked thoroughly confused for a second, but she caught on quickly and glared up at Remy. You're insufferable, swamp rat, she snapped, though he could see the gratitude in her eyes. Logan scowled.

Of course, Ororo didn't believe him for a second. Xavier had known Rogue wasn't in the mansion hours ago. But it was a cute try, and she couldn't help but crack a smile. Uh-huh. Regardless, it is high past time for you to be in your room, Rogue--you do have classes tomorrow.

I know, Ms. Munroe, but please, Logan just got back and I did want a midnight snack... ?

Ororo hesitated, not wanting to reward Rogue for breaking the rules, but she looked so hopeful, and she knew that Logan could use the conversation, too... Very well. But make it short, and don't wake up anyone else.

Remy opened his mouth to speak, but Ororo looked up and met his eyes. She shook her head no' slightly, a warning in her eyes. Remy scowled. He really did not want to leave Rogue alone with the Wolverine, but it was probably best to stay on Ororo's good side, seeing as he was here on her good graces--not to mention he doubted that he could spend another minute in the same room with Wolverine and resist the urge to blow up the arrogant bastard. Shooting one last look of loathing at the Wolverine, he turned and stormed back to his room.

They were sitting in the kitchen, across from each other on the table. Rogue traced the edge of her mug of hot chocolate with one gloved finger. Why'd you decide to come back? she asked abruptly, looking up to meet his eyes.

Logan shifted his weight nervously. He hated it when she wanted to get up close and personal like this; he knew what to say, he just didn't want to say it. Well, uh. He gulped down his soda, feeling the bubbles tickle his throat. This is home, ain't it?

She looked skeptical. You don't really feel that, do you?

Feel what?

Feel that... that this is home.

He stared at her, at a loss for words. Of course I do! This is the only place where I've felt accepted for years-

If this was your home, why did you run off? Twice? Rogue shook her head, growing more agitated by the second. I meant it when I said that I didn't think you'd come back. You always act like this place is just convenient for you, like it's just some motel for you to crash at before going out on your sex-and-booze-filled adventures-

He was staring at her, mouth wide open, as if she'd changed into a different person right before his eyes. Rogue sighed, turning away. Perfect, she thought to herself. In one day I've managed to blow up at the only three men to take a real interest in my life.

she grumbled. It's just... you always act like you don't really want to be here.

I do. He felt so transparent, sitting there in front of her, as if she could read every guilty thought that passed through his head. He wondered if that was a new mutation she'd picked up.

Rogue glanced up, meeting his eyes, before going back to tracing her mug. I know, she whispered, and her voice sounded gentler now. I know you do.

They sat in silence, Logan chewing on his cigar (but never lighting it) while Rogue sipped from her hot chocolate. They were getting used to each other's presence again, soaking in the familiar aura of friendship and dependency.

Finally Logan spoke. I missed you, kid.

She looked up, smiling.



... I kinda missed you too.

That so?



Logan grinned at her, and Rogue felt her face grow warm. She knew it was silly, to have this horrible crush on him for years and years, especially since she hadn't seen him for months, but how on earth could she help it when he smiled like that?

She never had any control over what she did, when it came to him. From the first moment she saw him, she found herself doing unpredented, crazy things--sometimes she wonders if it was his presence, pulling at the core of her, that made her walk into that sleazy bar in the first place. She remembers that night like it was just last week: the peculiar feeling as her heart dropped to her toes when that awful trucker said, This is Laughlin City the not-completely-unreasonable panic that coursed through her when she saw the type of people heading into the bar; the tears that threatened to spill when she felt the negative-degree temperature and remembered what spring felt like back in Mississippi.

She still didn't know what gave her the strength to actually walk inside; the girl who traced out a fanciful map to Alaska for Cody would never have had the courage. It sounded silly, but she's always thought that maybe she could feel him inside, and his very presence gave her strength before they even set eyes on one another.

She wanted to tell him this, tell him what he did to her; she wanted to tell him everything. She wasn't sure what she was going to say, but she had to say something, so she just opened her mouth and let words spill out, blurted out like ugly ducklings. Logan, I need-

Rogue, I know I can't control what time Logan turns in, but it's three-thirty in the morning. Ororo stood in the doorway, interrupting again. She may have been attempting to play the role of responsible adult, but Rogue could tell from a glance that the only reason the weather witch was in the kitchen was because she was fighting insomnia herself. You really must go to bed.

Rogue wasn't tired at all, despite being awake for almost twenty-four hours straight. She hated Ororo for a second, furious at the older woman for destroying what suddenly seemed to be the most important moment in Rogue's life.

But she could tell from the closed expression on Logan's face that Share Time was over; there would be no more confessions that night. She forced a tight smile and said goodbye to both of them, but paused, uncertain, in front of Logan. Seized by impulse, she stood on tiptoe to brush a kiss against his temple, over his coarse hair. She fled before he could react.

She trudged slowly up the stairs, mulling over the day's events. She realized the mother of all migraines was festering in her skull, and wondered vaguely if it was worth it to go back down to the kitchen cupboards in search of some Aspirin; realized that the kitchen meant facing Logan, and decided against it. Realized that maybe she was kind of tired. But just a bit. Really.

Remy waited for her at the top of the stairs. He was leaning against the doorframe of his bedroom, eyes flashing, cards flipping between his fingers; obviously in a brooding mood. Took ya long enough, he said, his tone short and rough. A man'd think you were discussing all of recorded history in there.

She glared at him, too tired to even feign politeness. What the hell's the matter, Remy? Is this because you two knew each other from before, or somethin'?

She saw his fingers glow for a second, and the card he was holding sizzled and turned into ash. Ya don't know what you're talking about, fille.

I could find out.

You said yourself you can't organize my thoughts inside your pretty little head.

Make me angry enough, Cajun, and I'll certainly try my hardest--and what do you think I could find out along the way? They glared at each other across the hallway, repeating a scene they'd played out numerous times before, although now there seemed to be an added dimension, a new layer that both wanted to cautiously avoid.

Out of habit, he picked the words he knew would enrage her the most. How long's he been gone this time, Rogue? How long you been moonin' and sighin' over him, waiting patiently for his return? How long d'ya think he'll stay? He spat the words out, feeling them scrape along his tongue as if each word was a shard of glass, tiny and sharp and cutting deep.

You don't know anything about me and Logan! You don't know what he's done for me, what I've done for him! Just shut the hell up, Remy, because I'm closer to him than you can even imagine!

For a second he looked like any other impassioned teenage boy, hurt and rage and confusion flashing across his face before he shrugged her words off. he said calmly, and Rogue blinked, startled at his instant change of demeanor. Just be careful, dat's all. He feigned exhaustion, stretching his arms above his head and yawning like an over-sized cat. Don't know about you, chere, but dis cajun could use some sleep. Bonne nuit. He disappeared into his room, shutting the door behind him, and Rogue couldn't help but notice that, despite the french endearments, there'd been no warmth in his eyes.