"So are you sure of your sources?"

The low voice of the Iceman caught the ear of the Wolverine as he relaxed alone – till now – in the woods. The kid sounded as if he was up to something, which intrigued Logan. If he was up to something dangerous, he would need to be stopped, and if he was up to some serious, Summers-pissing- off mischief – well then, he might need some help to pull it off properly. He cocked an ear in the direction that Bobby and his little friend were coming from.

"Bobby, I AM the source. I do share a room with Rogue, after all. It'd be kinda hard to miss!"

The Wolverine licked his lips, tensed his muscles. Was something wrong with Rogue? He was about to leap to his feet and ask, when he heard Kitty's next remark. "I swear, if that guy doesn't get his head out of his ass and jump her sometime soon, I'm just not going to be responsible for Rogue's actions."

Logan blinked. There was a guy? More to the point, there was a guy that Rogue wanted to "jump" her? The next exchange both clarified things and confused him further.

Bobby said, "Why? What's she doing? Nightmares?"

"Nightmares are just the beginning. They're all his, and she doesn't want to make him feel bad by going to him when she has them. She thinks he sees her as just a bother. Then there's the dog-tag that he never brought back from Alkali Lake. She thinks he left it there with, you know, Jean. His lost love. That is, before Pheonix showed up. Now she thinks he's pining after Phoenix."

The Wolverine scowled. Nightmares? Nightmares that Rogue didn't want to "bother" him with? And the dog tag? That had had nothing to do with Jean, and everything to do with turning his back on his past. He tensed a little more, then leaned back against the tree again deciding not to interrupt them again but listen and hope he heard something good. He missed what Bobby said next, but then he heard Kitty's response.

Kitty was saying, "How can she say stuff like that? She's beautiful!"

"I know, I know. I told her that too, but she thinks Logan sees her as just a kid. And she said even if he did see her as a woman, he'd see her as someone with untouchable skin, and how guys don't like that."

"Come on," Kitty responded. "Even Logan's not that blind! And from what little I know of him, I'm willing to bet he could find some creative ways to get around the skin problem."

Logan nodded thoughtfully in agreement from where he sat. He'd always had a good imagination. And lately, he'd been accidentally catching himself giving the problem some thought.

Kitty went on, "And I told her that running away isn't the answer, even though he does it all the time. And she said something about how she would just love to run with him, one of these times."

"Oh, Logan'd never take her. He's too much of a loner, too mean. I know Rogue doesn't mean anything to him. I've tried to tell her she's just fooling herself if she thinks she has any special connection to him. She's just another responsibility that he'd just as soon run away from."

Kitty nodded in agreement. "I know, but the poor misguided girl still thinks he's worth her time. I mean, that girl could have any guy in this school, skin or no skin, and she's just wasting away up there pining for some guy that'll never look twice at her. Wouldn't even look once, if she was standing next to Jean. She wanted to say something to him, tell him how she felt, but I advised her not to."

"Good call. She doesn't need that kind of pain. I mean, everyone knows that Wolvie's got a girl in practically every town across Canada, and probably most of the northern US, too – she can't compete with them. Logan's too shallow to recognize her good points – all he wants is a tall beer and a quick screw. He's never gonna let himself get tied down to someone he can't even touch. Rogue told me that herself."

Logan's eyebrows furrowed. Was that what Rogue really thought? Someone with her looks ought to know better; he just didn't want to make an ass out of himself pursuing a girl for whom he was much too old and way, way too mean.

It was almost as if Bobby could read his thoughts. "And anyway, don't you think he's too old for her? And just too... you know...mean!"

Kitty smiled. "Depends on how you look at it. Rogue's got Magneto in her head, for heaven's sake, and he's even older than the professor. She's also had Wolvie himself up there for a few years now. Chronologically, she's twenty-one, but really she's probably older than he is! And if you notice, he's only ever mean to the rest of us. Not to her."

"And he's not always mean, either," Bobby was forced to admit. "He's been okay with me ever since Rogue and me broke up. Like he thinks I'm all right as long as I stay away from his girl, or something."

Wolverine grinned wolfishly and nodded where he sat. Damn straight!

Kitty scoffed. "His girl, yeah right! He doesn't want her, but he doesn't want her to be with anyone else either. Honestly, the man's a total lunk- head if he doesn't even see what's right in front of his eyes! Rogue's completely in love with him, has been for years, and thinks she's nowhere near good enough for him."

"He's kind of an ass, you know?" Bobby commented. "He has no idea how much he's hurting her just by doing nothing. I mean, doesn't the man have eyes in his head? What about all those enhanced "wolverine" senses we've learned about? Apparently his just switch off when it comes to Rogue." He sighed.

Kitty linked her arm with his. "Come on, we should be getting back." The two kids walked slowly back to the school, still chattering. When they reached the door, Bobby winked at Kitty. "Think it'll work?" he whispered.

"Let's wait and see how the others do first," Kitty responded.

Bobby grinned. "Boy, I never knew English class could be so much fun! We should have studied Much Ado about Nothing a year ago! But are you sure it was smart to call him an ass?"

"Gee, I don't know, Miss 'Total lunk-head.' Was it?" Kitty ducked her head with a giggle and headed to class.

Logan sat still in the woods, not having moved from the spot for the couple of hours the kids had been gone. Suddenly he wished for a beer. Silently, he began to recap what he had heard Rogue's friends talking about, ticking them off on his fingers. One, Rogue was having his nightmares. Two, she didn't want to "bother" him with them. Three, she thought he was in love with Jean, or with what Jean had become. Four, she thought he viewed her as just a kid.

Five, she thought she was older than he was. With a shrug he conceded that she might have a point; he had certainly never thought about her mental passengers when considering her age. Six (he started on the other hand), she thought herself just another responsibility that he'd rather avoid.

Seven, she'd like to run away with him sometime. This thought made him grin again, briefly. Eight, and this one made him shake his head in wonder and bafflement, she was in love with him. Nine, she had been for years! Ten, she could have any guy in the school, and she was still in love with him. He knew she hadn't had another boyfriend after Bobby, and that had ended some time ago.

Eleven (and here he popped a claw, having run out of fingers), Bobby thought he was an ass. Logan growled, but then thought of twelve (another claw), his inaction was causing Rogue severe emotional pain. The third claw slid out slowly to join the other two, as Logan made his decision. Thirteen, he was going to do something about this.

With a shink the claws retracted and Logan rose to his feet, stretching. It was almost time for dinner, and there was no time like to present to begin his new campaign.

Rogue had a free block of time before dinner, and she usually spent it in the library getting that day's assignments done. She sprawled comfortably in a bean-bag chair in a secluded corner, writing the first draft of her Shakespeare paper. She heard the door open but didn't pay much attention; people usually didn't stay long, and she had a paper to write.

"So what's this all about, Jean?" she heard someone say. Ororo. Rogue heard a few chairs being pulled out and the rustling sounds of a couple of people being seated. Maybe three. She prepared to tune them out again, when she heard his name.

"It's Logan. I'm worried about him. That girl's going to break his heart."

"I thought he was indestructible," was Scott's comment. Rogue leaned out further – oh yes, now she could see Scott.

"His body might be, but his emotions are something else entirely," Jean said. "And he's never been in love before – emotionally, he's rather fragile, and I'd hate to see him get hurt."

Rogue's eyes widened as she listened furiously. Who was Logan in love with?

"How do you know all this?" Scott demanded.

Ororo smiled. "Everybody knows, Scott. Logan hasn't exactly made a secret of his affections. If you didn't hate him so much, you would probably have noticed it yourself."

"Noticed what?"

Jean smiled, winking at Ororo. "You know, how his eyes follow her around the dining hall, how he's the only one not afraid to touch her, how he'll go find her when he's bored..."

"Not to mention how he's frightened off every boy who's been interested in her for the past two years," 'Ro added. "He stalks her, too. I don't think she would mind that much if she knew; that's why I haven't put a stop to it. But when she's between classes or something, he'll keep track of her. The man always knows where she is at any given moment. It's somewhere between creepy and sweet."

Scott laughed. "And here I thought he was still hung up on you," he told his wife.

Jean laughed too. "Scott, where were you a year ago when Logan got over me? Sweetie, he comes to me for advice about his love life! Trust me, you don't do that with people that you'd like to be part of it!"

"So what have you advised him?" Scott asked fondly.

Jean shrugged. "I think it's obvious she doesn't feel the same, so I told him he should probably keep his feelings to himself. She's too much of a loner, always hiding from the others and all."

"Well, her name is 'Rogue' for a reason," Storm commented. "She's not exactly a team player."

Rogue's jaw dropped. All this time, they were talking about her? Suddenly she wished for Kurt's large pointed ears so she wouldn't even miss a word.

"Logan's a loner too," Jean said. "While his commitment to Rogue may have started out as an obligation, it seems to be one that he'd be willing to fulfill for the rest of his life. If she ever smartened up and saw what she's missing, they might be quite happy together."

"Yeah, but she has that skin," Scott said. "It can't be easy working as part of a team when one accidental touch could injure a teammate."

'Ro cocked her head thoughtfully. "True, but I believe Rogue uses that as an excuse to separate herself from the others. She always keeps herself carefully covered, but also goes out of her way to maintain a certain distance between herself and her friends. With one exception, of course."

"Logan," Scott realized. "But they're just friends!"

"Logan wishes it could be more," Ororo commented. "But he thinks she deserves a man closer to her own age, someone who can remember who he is. Someone who has never been called a 'failed experiment.' He is possessive of her, yes, but he's almost gentlemanly. If Rogue ever actually showed an interest in someone else, Logan would be noble and get out of her way."

"He's told you this?"

"He has told me this. When Rogue gets a boyfriend, he will leave. He feels he cannot trust his control if he saw her with another man. So he will leave."

Jean nodded thoughtfully. "Maybe that would be best," she admitted.

"What?" Scott exclaimed. "Better for him to go back to cage fighting and living day to day out of a rickety trailer, than to be an X-man and fight for a good cause?"

Jean nodded. "I'm thinking of his emotional well-being, Scott. In spite of his looks and manners, Logan has the biggest heart in the world. And right now it's filled with Rogue."

They changed the subject after that, but only to work out a cooking schedule for the next week. Then they all departed, leaving Rogue sitting in half-darkness with her mouth hanging open in shock.

Logan? Logan... was in love? With her?

Horrified at what Ororo had said – Logan's thinking she deserved better than him – she resolved at once to disabuse him of the notion. And thinking of himself as a "failed experiment" was going to stop, too. Rogue sat musing for several more minutes, until a growl from her stomach prompted her to look at the clock. Dinner was in ten minutes and she got up, determined to find Logan before then.

It wasn't hard. Logan was waiting for her, leaning casually against the wall opposite the library door with his arms crossed. "Hey," he said.

"Hey!" Rogue greeted, smiling. Her heart was pounding.

"You hungry?"

"Famished."

"Let's go get some dinner." Rogue nodded and started toward the dining room, but he grabbed her elbow and stopped her. "Go get your helmet."

Rogue hurried off to her room where she kept her bike gear. Slipping into her leather jacket and grabbing her helmet, she cast a quick glance in the mirror. The girl looking back was flushed and sparkle-eyed. Rogue smiled ruefully to herself (gee, think Logan will notice how I look?) and ran back down to the foyer.

Logan noticed how she looked. Logan definitely noticed how she looked. He felt his own heartbeat speed up when he saw this beautiful girl, his best friend, running lightly down the stairs toward him. She looked starry-eyed and excited, and he unconsciously responded. He went and met her at the bottom of the stairs, and gave her a full, honest smile. "You look really pretty," he said gruffly.

Rogue's heart jumped. She didn't think she'd ever seen a smile like that on Logan's face. She responded with her own thousand-watt smile and playfully linked her arm through his. She was pleased when he didn't pull away, but instead covered her gloved hand with his own...gloved... hand. Logan was wearing gloves. Not his motorcycle gloves, either, but a pair of thin cotton ones. Hmm. What was going on?

They went to a small restaurant a few miles away, called May's Place. It was a joke among the regulars that the head waitress was so bossy they called it June's Place, after her. It was informal; everyone there seemed to know each other. Even Logan got greeted by the staff and a few of the customers. "Hey, it's Wolverine!" "Hey, Wolv, how's it hangin'?" "Wolvie, honey, this guy spilled soup on me. Will ya tell him he's gotta give me a bigger tip?" This from the waitress, a friendly, earthy type in her late 50's.

"Hey guys," he replied. To the waitress, he said, "Junie, whattaya want me to do? You know you're scarier than I am!"

The waitress cocked her head to think about it, then nodded. Poking her customer in the chest, she demanded a bigger tip. The guy coughed up a 20. She pocketed it, and poked him again. Ten more dollars made their appearance shortly. She patted him on the head and left him alone, coming over to Logan's table. "Hey dearie," June greeted him. Smiling at Rogue, she said, "And you've just got to be the Rogue. It's awful good to finally meet ya, honey."

Rogue's eyebrows almost leaped off the top of her head. She nodded shakily. Logan just smirked at her when he caught her questioning glance. He hadn't reckoned on Junie's making a general announcement. "Hey everyone, guess who our Wolverine managed to con into a date? It's the Rogue!"

Rogue didn't think her blush would ever die down. Logan glared at the waitress, who gave him a toothy smile and ruffled his hair a little.

"Why, oh, why did I bring you here?" he muttered, as the other restaurant patrons clustered around him to offer good wishes and to meet the "famous" Rogue.

"Wolv, you're a lucky, lucky man," one guy commented. "You never told us the Rogue was so gorgeous." He sent a flirty smile her way. He was in his early 20s and would have been good-looking except for an enormous beer gut and the multiple piercings on his face. Rogue found them a bit off- putting.

"Jake, you're gonna be an equal amount of unlucky if you lot don't clear out and leave us be," Logan growled.

Jake laughed. "Whoa, touchy! Listen, Rogue, if you get tired of Mr. Gruff and Growly over here, I'd be happy to enjoy your company for an evening."

Rogue had had enough. "Thanks, Jake, but I'm not interested. Some girls prefer brusque and built to flirty and fluffy. Better try again with someone else." She smiled sweetly at him as he blushed and blustered away. The rest of the crowd petered away very quickly after that. June took their drink orders and left them alone.

"Brusque and built, huh?" Logan asked her grinning broadly. He rather liked the description. He doubted Jake even knew what it meant.

Rogue was a little embarrassed, but then remembered what she had overheard the teachers saying. She lifted her chin. "What, don't you want to be with a girl who knows what she likes?"

Logan, remembering what he had overheard her little friends talking about, reached out and ran a gloved finger down her white lock of hair. "Just as long as it's you, darlin'," he said. "Especially if it's me ya want."

Rogue caught his fingers in hers and squeezed them. "It's you, Logan" she assured him. "It's always been you."

That was just too much for a poor emotionally deprived Wolverine to handle. In one swift motion, he had slid around to her side of the booth, tangled his fingers in that glorious dark mane of hers, and pressed his lips fervently to hers.

The sound of cheers and applause ringing in his ears was what woke him up. He lifted his head that had been slumped on the table, and glared around the noisy restaurant. It quieted down, and the other patrons conspicuously looked away and went back to their food.

"You idiot!" Rogue whispered furiously to him. "You know better than that! What are you trying to do, get yourself killed?"

"Nope," he grunted, sitting up and cracking his neck. "Just get myself kissed. And it was worth it, so you can quit your lecturin' right now, darlin'."

Rogue closed her mouth on her retort and sat back meekly as the waitress brought their drinks.

"You ready to order?" June asked them with a devilish smirk.

Logan nodded dismissively. "Just give me the usual."

"I'll have the fish and chips," Rogue said.

June leaned down to whisper conspiratorially to Rogue, "You must be one knock-em-dead kisser, honey! Never saw the Wolverine look like that before!"

"Like what?" Rogue asked curiously, not bothering to whisper. After touching her again after such a long time, Logan had no secrets from her.

"Like he's been axed... and can't wait for it to happen again!" Junie hustled off, beaming.

"Not far from the truth," Logan muttered. He gave Rogue an affectionate look and draped his arm over her shoulders. He motioned to her head. "You didn't get too much of me, did ya, darlin'? Everything okay up there?"

"Don't think I could ever get too big a dose of you, Logan," came Rogue's sweet reply. She now knew exactly how he felt about her, and for how long, and... Oh. She took a quick glance at his memories of having overheard her two friends earlier. "Although the fact that you're in love with me makes me really happy, I think I'm going to have to kill Kitty and Bobby."

"Makes you happy, does it? Why's that?" Logan asked playfully, stroking a cotton-gloved finger lightly down the side of her face.

"Well, that unrequited love thing just gets so old after a while," she teased. She captured his hand and pressed her lips to his gloved fingers. "I've been in love with you for years, after all. It was getting boring being all one-sided."

"Darlin'," Logan said quietly in her ear. "It was never one-sided."

Far from harming his reputation, Logan's passing out after their kiss only served to enhance it. Rogue was instantly popular – there wasn't a man in the place who didn't want to experience such a "knock-out" kiss for himself – but the claws of the Wolverine kept most of them at bay. No one wanted to get in his way, but he definitely held the envy and admiration of every other man in the bar. When dinner was over, Logan was besieged with requests to come back and bring Rogue with him! And if that school had any other girls as beautiful as she, bring them along too!

Logan stopped when he heard this request. "Other girls as beautiful as Rogue?" He snorted. "They don't exist, bub. Maybe next time we'll bring along a distant second or third, eh, darlin'?"

Rogue grinned at him, utterly happy. "Maybe Kitty would like to come with us next time," she suggested mischievously. "She might like flirty and fluffy."

Logan grunted as they went out the door. Handing Rogue her helmet, he grinned evilly. "Maybe 'Roro and Jeannie might like to check it out too." Rogue had told him over dinner about what she had overheard. The coincidence was too great to be a fluke, they had decided. And while they were now completely happy with each other, they both agreed that the busybodies would have to pay. They had even worked out a plan.

They were going to fight.

True to the plan, they burst into Xavier's mansion already yelling at each other. Rogue accused him of trying to kill her, while he blamed her for not being old enough to enjoy it. That's what he got for hanging out with little kids, he bellowed. Always sniveling and crying and telling him "slow down, slow down, I'm scared!"

Rogue shouted back at him that if she was scared it was because he was insane – going way too fast on the bike, leaning around the corners so low that she almost skinned her knee on the pavement, and in general not acting like he had brain one in that cast-iron-lined skull of his. Just because he could walk away from an accident didn't mean everyone could, damn it!

A crowd began to gather. Rogue caught the horrified look that Jean and Ororo exchanged, and had to stifle her laugh. Logan hollered back that he was a big boy and knew how to ride a bike, and didn't freakin' appreciate some little teenybopper tellin' him what to do. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of Kitty Pryde's face crumpling into tears and he lowered one eyelid in just the barest hint of a wink at Rogue. It was too much for her. Rogue burst into laughter, covering her face with her hands and hoping they sounded like sobs, and ran away up to her room.

Swearing and glaring around at everyone, Logan shoved a couple of students aside and stomped up the stairs behind her. Scott put a hand out to try and stop him, but Ororo grabbed it and shook her head a tiny bit. One didn't mess with the Wolverine when he was like this.

"Logan!" the voice of Professor Xavier was what stopped him on the stairs. Unseen, Xavier had wheeled out of his office when he heard the shouting, and felt he had to defuse the situation somehow. Of all of them, only he knew what was really going on.

Logan half-turned, not meeting Xavier's eyes.

"I trust you had an enjoyable evening out?" Xavier asked innocently.

Startled, Logan's gaze flew up to meet his. He could swear he could see a hint of a twinkle in Xavier's eyes. His suspicions were confirmed when, at his small nod, Xavier motioned upstairs toward Rogue's room. "Please don't let this go on too long, Logan. It's bad for morale." And one well-bred eyelid drooped, just the tiniest amount, before Xavier smiled and excused himself.

Hiding a grin, Logan stomped up the rest of the stairs, went into his room, and slammed the door. Hard.

The crowd downstairs broke up, everyone whispering about what had happened. Logan, listening upstairs from Rogue's room with the door cracked open, chuckled several times. "Jean's saying she had no idea I was so reckless," he reported in a whisper. Sometimes enhanced senses could be fun. "Cyclops wants to come up here and kill me, but I think he's just using this as an excuse. 'Ro thinks something's up, but doesn't know what. Little Kitty's still crying, poor kid." He looked up at Rogue, lounging on her bed grinning. "You might have to tell her about this sometime. I can't stand cryin' kids."

"I know," Rogue said. "You just told me so, downstairs." She laughed, enjoying his answering smile. "What about Bobby?"

"He's just trying to figure out how to make Kitty feel better."

Rogue pursed her lips. "Oh, he's a smart boy. I'm sure he'll think of a way." Rolling over, she got smoothly to her feet and joined him at the door. Putting an arm around him, she kissed his flannel-clad shoulder. "So what do we do next?"

"You ought to start ranting to your little pals about what an asshole I am," Logan said. "I'll start flirting with 'Ro or Jeannie. We'll do that at breakfast, and then by dinnertime they'll be so confused they won't know which end is up."

"And maybe we can play a little trick on Kitty and Bobby," Rogue said thoughtfully. "Kitty's had a thing for him since I went with him, but he's been too oblivious to see it."

"Sounds like fun, darlin'." Logan hauled her up against him and pressed a kiss to her hair-covered temple.

"And then when we get all through playing with them like they played with us, we'll show up as a happy couple and take them all out for dinner at June's," Rogue suggested mischievously. "If that doesn't teach 'em to mind their own business, nothing will!"

Logan grinned. "I like the way your mind works, sweetheart. This should be fun!"

END