Disclaimer: Not mine, I own nothing. Seriously.

Remember me? No? That sucks. Okay, so I'm sorry I took so long but real life totally bummed me out and writing just wasn't an option. Since my lack of internet kinda screwed me over I have been writing though and youwill - maybe - be happy to know that most of this story is finished. Another few chapters and we can let it rest.

Except that someone talked me into a sequel. :sigh: How about we finish this first?

Part XII

Zaire managed to catch Logan, holding onto his shoulder and pulling with all the might she could muster. She knew she wasn't strong enough to tumble the Wolverine, but maybe she'd at least be able to gain his attention long enough for her to explain.

"Logan, please," she whined, trying to stop him from shaking her off, "listen to me. It's not what you think."

"Did the ingrate hurt you?" Logan growled, still walking.

"No!" Zaire said firmly, tugging his elbow again. "I met him on the street, we talked, that's all!" Logan turned, the suddenness of it causing Zaire to fall over. Landing with a thud, the young girl winced at the pain in her back, the shock running through her bones. "I swear Logan, we just talked."

"What about?"

"Remy." Zaire said, hoping that he couldn't smell lies. "I met him on the street after I ditched the library, he bumped me and I yelled at him, then he asked how Remy was and I told him. He taunted me a little but that's about it. I swear Logan, nothing happened. He didn't hurt me and there were no threats." Zaire tried the aged old puppy look, a small pout curving the lines of her lips. She looked up at Logan from the ground, hoping that the spark of pain from her fall had left enough moisture in her eyes so that it looked like tears.

It seemed to work. Logan sighed and offered a hand to help her up, Zaire took the offer and stood, rubbing her backside where she hit. "Okay, but stay away from him. Don't even talk to him on the street." Logan warned, "I mean it kid, I don't want you to have any of their scents off ya again." Zaire nodded solemnly, standing where she was when Logan walked back towards the mansion. He was growing more and more protective, like the way he was with Kitty and Rogue. Although Zaire had been angered before, disliking the idea of being babied or thought of as a kid, she was becoming appreciative of Logan's defences, it was almost like having a parent again.

Zaire frowned at the thought. It was completely different from parents, especially the ones she knew. It was more like…it was like being wanted, someone actually caring. And she could grow to like that.

- - -

"Wonder why Logan got so mad." Rogue said, sitting down at the foot of Remy's bed. There were a number of books lying on the floor now; ones Remy had taken from the library in the mansion to entertain himself.

"Could probably smell John. Y' know, I don' t'ink the Wolverine too fond of John. Seems to be a fire t'ing." Remy said absentmindedly. Rogue looked over her shoulder to see him. He was going through the box John had given him, shuffling the cards and putting them back in their boxes.

"How many of them do you go through a week?" Rogue asked suddenly.


"The cards, how many packs do you go through?" She repeated, understanding that it was a strange question.

"Dunno, 'bout four or five mebbe, depends on what happen that week. Who we fight, how bored I get. I don't always use m' cards." Remy answered, a small frown lining his head. "Y' ask the strangest of questions cher." He told her.

She just smiled at him. "Well, ah have to ask strange questions. Otherwise ah'm not gonna find out about the obscure things about you, am I?" She laughed slightly, making Remy chuckle a little.

"Yo!" Zaire said, over enthusiastically as she entered the room. "I wanna have another movie marathon but Scott's being a bore. You guys up for a night of popcorn and bad movies?" Zaire asked, looking from both Remy and Rogue back out the door and down the hall. Rogue frowned, poking her head out the door to see who she was watching. It was then she noticed Logan, stalking down to the security room, probably to check all the cameras.

"What'd he say?" Rogue asked, knowing full well that Zaire was trying to avoid the issue.

"Nothing much, it was mainly growls and grunts. I'm gonna have to learn Logan speak if he keeps this up." She muttered, rubbing her bum. Remy raised an eyebrow at that and Rogue just smiled.

"Poor t'ing." Remy said sarcastically. "Maybe y' just gotta learn not t' piss the man off." He stated, sounding a little preachy, Rogue tried to conceal her laugh when Zaire put her hands on her hips and leaned forward.

"I'm not the one who pisses him off." She said, "It's your little pyromaniac friend, he doesn't seem to like the little crap. Wonder why?" She mock glared at Remy, screwing her face up in the most unattractive way possible.

"Dunno, must be his personality, alt'ough Logan never seem to worried 'bout that in the past." Remy answered, stroking his chin as he thought, pretending to be analysing the entire situation. "I dunno, but the Wolverine never seemed to make fighting personal with us. Your little blue friend and fearless, now they always made personal." Remy said, and Rogue had to agree. "You'd think we'd insulted their mother or somet'ing." Rogue cringed slightly at the mother reference.

"Ah don't think Kurt's too bothered about insulting his mother." Rogue replied, flopping down on the bed. "She ain't exactly the type of woman who'd care." Remy just looked at her. "You have a caring mother?"

"Non." He answered simply, "jus' Mattie and Jean-Luc." He sat down on the floor, leaning against the bed, his head near Rogue's.

"What about you, Zaire?" Rogue asked, looking over at the girl leaning against the wall. Arms crossed over her chest defensively.

"Nah, my mother and I never saw eye to eye." Zaire said, rather evasively.

"Yeah, but she cared right?" Rogue pushed, realising how little she really knew about Zaire.

"Not really. I was a burden. Screwed up her life." Zaire pushed off the wall with her foot, turning to the door. "I ran away when I was 15, lived on the streets. Then I came here. I don't think my parents even realised I was gone until the Professor contacted them. Some families just suck Rogue. You're not unique there." And then she left, looking far more down than she had when she came in.

"Think I hit a rough spot?" Rogue asked Remy.

"Possibly, don't worry though, she'll come around." He said; trying to ease the discomfort Rogue felt. "We all got tough pasts, t'ink it comes with the territory around here." Remy added. Rogue just watched after Zaire, wondering what else there was that she didn't know.

- - -

John was humming under his breath, enjoying having the manor to himself. Piotr was once more at his sister's bedside; Magneto was out doing something with the Brotherhood and Sabertooth, well who cared as long as he wasn't in the manor?

John was yet to find something to occupy his mind, his fidgeting nature drove even him to the brink of desperation some times. Currently he was sitting, flipping through TV channels while thinking back on the events of the day. His mind was consistently wandering back to when the dark haired girl, Zaire, had pushed him. When they were in the library and, in order to not get caught, she ended up pressed against him behind a bookshelf. Normally he would've made some sort of comment, some remark. But the smell of her and the feel was just…intoxicating? She smelt of coconuts. Of that much he was sure, it was coconuts and something else, something tangy. John lay down on his bed, thinking about the coming Wednesday, when he would ultimately change his life again. It suited him fine being all over the place, travelling was something he had wanted to do anyway. Okay, so this time he would be leaving behind friends. Remy, and Piotr, but it was for the best. Remy was close to becoming an X-Man soon, probably would; and Piotr just wanted to get Illyana home. They would be better off, and if he just happened to disappear and cause no more problems then so be it.

Suddenly the door flew open, Sabertooth stalking into the room and smelling around before glaring at John. "What ye playin' at mate?" John asked, jumping up from his bed, annoyed that his privacy had been interrupted. The large mutant growled at him, baring teeth.

"You wanna tell me why you stink of the X-Geek's little beauty?" John frowned, wondering just what Creed was on about. "You reek of the kid." Oh, damn. He didn't have shower, Zaire had been around him most of the day! This didn't look good.

"What are ye on about now?" John decided to play stupid, she had never been in a fight with them, he didn't know her from fighting, so Creed shouldn't. Maybe he could bluff his way out of this too.

"You know fine well. The dark haired X-Geek." Sabertooth slowly stalked forward, backing John into the corner, up against the wall. "The one Gambit seems taken with now."

"What, Shelia?" John tried his hardest to get away from the huge bulking male, but to no avail. Sabertooth just growled at him, probably smelling the fear and lies. Which wasn't too good for him. Damn, damn, damn. Why did Piotr have to be out? Why did Sabertooth have to be in? Why couldn't he have just remembered to take a shower? He soon found himself back up against the wall with a hand of claws too close for comfort. Not good!

"You gonna tell me the truth or am gonna have to skin ya?" Okay, so land myself in deep crap, or lie some more and get myself in deeper crap, hard one? John thought, raising his eyebrow at Creed and praying to any God that would listen to a desperate plea.

"I don't have a clue what you're on about mate, I've been out all day!" John said, trying to dissolve into the wall. Damnit, where was his lighter?

"That crap ain't fooling me, punk. The X-Geeks never let each other out of their sights. You know fine well what I'm talking about." Creed's claws inched down to John's side, digging in through the fabric of his shirt and tearing at the top layer of skin, kinda like a needle, only bigger. "Or do I gotta cut you open first?" John wasn't too sure if he had an option now. He could tell Creed everything and get killed, stall to get some time and maybe Magneto would come back, but Magneto might side with Creed believing John to be threat and just kill him anyway, or he could deny everything, take the beating and cutting and then just…what? Move the whole plan forward? Get outta there as soon as possible and make sure Piotr was on a plane the very same day?

Decision sort of made itself.

"I don't have a clue what you're on about Creed!" That was when the first pain came, the shallow digging of nails into the skin, the piercing of flesh, the drawing of blood. Wasn't too hard to feel, with claws like 'Tooth's.

"Wanna change your tune?" The sound of his voice told John that he might live if he denied it all, if he kept up the bluff. If he told the truth now then Creed would enjoy taking him apart. He was just looking for a reason to kill something.

John didn't answer, failing to repeat the same thing he'd said twice before. The result would be the same if he said it or not. And sure enough it was. Slowly but surely Creed made him a pin cushion, that was until he passed out, more from blood loss than pain. Creed left, John was lying slouched against the wall, head pressed in the corner and blood starting to clot at the wounds, drying on his shirt and sticking to his skin.

Oblivion never tasted so sweet.

- - -

Zaire sat at the kitchen table, a series of books in front of her. She was reading up on the haunted mansions in California. The others were all at school, save for her and Remy, who was currently in the danger room with Logan who had finally managed to convince Hank to give the Cajun a clean bill of health, ready for proper training. She had started to get bored, resorting to pestering the Professor for as many books as she could stomach. It was a strange way for her to cure her boredom, and usually it would work, gaining knowledge usually made her feel like time wasn't wasted.

Remy's phone started to ring, it was sitting on the table in front of Zaire and she knew there was only one person who would be calling. John.

"Hello?" She picked it up and answered, against her better judgement.

"That you, Zaire?" Came the haggard reply.

"Yes, John, what do you want?" Zaire asked tersely. Logan was still wary, and Zaire was quite the same now too. Maybe John was bad news.

"Tooth's gone out, Piotr's at the hospital and I don't have a clue where the hell Magneto is. Needed to call someone." John replied, his voice was stretched out, as if he was tired.

"Touched as he'll be Remy isn't around right now. So you'll have to talk to the wall if you want some company." Zaire was about to hang up when she heard him coughing. "John?"

"Not company I need." He said quietly, "Tooth smelt you on me." That was all the explanation she needed, she knew just what had happened.

"I'll be there as soon as I can, call me if someone comes in and I'll find a back way. What's the address?" John told her where to go and she ran up the stairs, telling him to just hold on for a while longer. Grabbing a jacket and her first aid kit she ran back downstairs, left a note for Remy then left through the garage, hotwiring Logan's jeep. She hadn't expected John to be so stupid, he should've known by now that he had to shower when he was doing something he wasn't supposed to, especially around Sabertooth. Zaire knew she was breaking the speed limit, and that Logan was going to kill her, maybe John too, but Hank would probably side with her, and Remy and maybe the Professor. Maybe she could get Kitty on her side too, and then she, Kitty and Rogue could try and convince Logan that it was the right thing to do. Hopefully she'd be able to get John out of there in time for that.

She pulled up outside the building, it seemed similar to the Xavier Mansion, it was probably pretty similar inside as well. Pushing open the front door Zaire cautiously made her way up the stairs, searching for any sign on John. Most of the doors were closed, the ones she tried to open being locked. Walking further along the hall she came to an open door and which she entered slowly, the light smell of blood caught her nose and she guessed she had found John's room.

"John?" She whispered, hoping he hadn't lost consciousness.

"Zaire." The reply was from the far corner of the room, behind the bed and beside the book shelf which contained DVD's and video games instead of books. Zaire knelt down beside the fire starter and did a quick once over of his injuries. He was bleeding from the side and from the head, probably with a few broken bones as well. Zaire had witnessed first hand what Sabertooth could do. He coughed slightly, blood dribbling from his lip and Zaire felt any anger towards him melt away. "Didn't tell him what he wanted to hear," another cough as the blond strained to breath, "least I'm not dead yet." His eyes started to close, slowly drooping.

"No," she whispered harshly, a hand cupping an uninjured cheek. "I did not come all this way to save your sorry ass for you to just give up and die in a heap in this sad little sadist's house!" John smirked slightly at her, his eyes opening slightly.

"You're getting all ruffled again." He said, the expression on his face showing that he liked ruffling her feathers as he had put.

"Yeah, I am." Zaire replied with a small smile, so long as John kept with the jokes, so long as he could fire a quip here and there, she wouldn't worry too much, she'd get him to Hank and things would be fine. "C'mon, I need you to stand up." She said, trying to help John to his feet while not aggravating any of his wounds. When they both heard a door slamming downstairs they nearly jumped out their skin, Zaire knowing that if it were Sabertooth or Magneto she wouldn't stand a chance at getting John out of there, John knowing that if it was Creed then he'd be dead and so would Zaire.

"C'mon, I know where we can go." John limped to the door, glancing down the hall and leading Zaire to the end of the hallway. "Quick." With a harsh whisper John grabbed Zaire's arm and pulled her into a closet, closing the door and pulling her close.

"Why are we hiding in here?" Zaire asked, whispering almost as harshly as John had. "You think he won't find us in the closet?" Even in the dark and with blurred vision, John could see the glare Zaire was directing at him. It was nice to know that even under these circumstances she was the same spunky girl he was getting to know.

"You little X-Men aren't the only ones with hidden basements." John said, wincing slightly at the pain in his ribs. "This'll take us to Magneto's little hidden lair, we can probably lose Creed for a little while and gain some time to get out of here." John said just as the 'closet' started to descend, feeling a lot like an elevator. Zaire closed her eyes and wrung her hands beside her, trying not to think about the lack of space, the fact that she was closed up in a closet, it had been a while since she'd been so scared of a tight space, but this time, this time the fear was ten fold. Not only was she in a closed space, she was in a closed space with John, who was injured, and they were running away from Sabertooth, in Magneto's base. The whole situation would've paralysed her if it weren't for John.

"C'mon, we're down." John limped out the door, looking around for any sign of life in the cold metal rooms. "Looks like we're alone." He muttered, both he and Zaire stumbling from the small, cramped elevator. "C'mon, we should start moving now."

"John," Zaire whispered slightly, peering around in the dark, "I just want you to know, if we die here, I'm gonna kick your spirit ass." John chuckled slightly, causing Zaire to shake her head. And so the cat and mouse game continued.

- - -

AN: Well, I hope no one is too disapointed. More from John/Zaire/Rogue/Remy et all next week. Seriously. Probably next Thursday.

Reviews are good.