A/N: I have been wanting to edit this story for a long time. There are a lot of things that needed correction, and I finally decided to just get on with it. The plot, such as it is, will not change, but I'm going to be revising quite a bit, especially the earlier chapters. Sorry it took me so long to update this story. I hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: I don't own the X-men. Sometimes I think they own me.
Bold telepathic speaking
Logan sat on one of the stone benches at the edge of Ororo's wildflower garden. A thick white mist clung to the earth, blurring the shapes of the plants and diffusing the intense light that streamed out of the powerful flood lamps that now illuminated the grounds of Xavier's school. The garden was one of his favorite places at the mansion. It was far enough from the house that all that noise the kids put out didn't bother him so much. Ororo had worked hard to cultivate a mix of flowers and other plants that gave off a sweet, soothing aroma. Sure it wasn't a wild place, but there was the ghost of nature here, which was something he really needed to feel right now.
He took a deep and let the fresh, sweet scent calm the animal inside. Since the X-Men had returned from Washington five days ago, Logan had felt increasingly at war with himself. He had found something at Xavier's, something he hadn't run across in all his years of wandering. A place where he actually wanted to stay. This school, these kids, had become important to him in a way that he had never known in the sixteen years that he could remember. Until now, the only priority he'd had was himself. He'd lived his life by a few simple rules. Keep moving and keep everyone away. Over the years it had worked pretty well for him, right up to that moment when he'd let a seventeen year old runaway into the cab of his truck. He still couldn't quite figure out why he had done that. In fact, the only thing he was really sure of was that after Marie, his life would never be that same again.
If meeting the kid was what knocked him off that well traveled road, Jean Gray was the rock he smashed into after he flew off the shoulder. When it came to women, he was used to being the one in control, but that's not how things worked out with Jean. Sure she cared for him, and she definitely wanted him (the nose never lies), but she wasn't going to give in. And then she almost did. He had been so damned close to getting something he'd never dreamed of having, someone he knew deep down he didn't deserve. And then, the next day she was dead. Even as he thought of her the animal within reared up and he ground his teeth as he fought the urge to run howling into the night. Running, that's how he dealt with pain in the past...just get the hell away from whatever caused it. For every minute of the last five days, he'd had push that part of him down. It was stupid really. It wasn't a promise. Neither he nor Jean had really taken what he'd said seriously. If she hadn't died, it never would have mattered. I could be the good guy. What a fucking joke. Now he was stuck here in house full of grieving people, fighting that primal urge to bolt so he could show a dead woman that she'd been wrong, that he could and would stick around. Only thing was, he was losing this scrap. The animal inside was screaming to run away and lick it's wounds, get out of this place, get away from these people before there was more pain.
Rubbing the back of his neck, Logan rose and started back toward the Mansion. He hadn't slept for more than eight hours in the past five days. Which was too little rest even for him. Part of that was there was just too much to do. First there had been the need to calm the fears of kids who had seen the only safe haven most of them had ever know invaded by men who saw them as genetic monsters. Comforting a bunch of terrified kids was not high on his skills list. Xavier and Ororo did what they could, with a lot of help from the junior X-men. Logan smiled to himself as he thought of Marie. She had been up for days herself, along with Peter, Bobby, Kitty, and that friend of Marie's, Jubilee. What the hell Lee's parents were thinking, he had no idea.
They had all earned his respect in the last few days. Peter had worked tirelessly by his side to repair the damaged school. Kitty and Bobby had pitched in to help get classes started. Marie and Jubilee had volunteered as teacher's aides for Chuck and Ro, so they could cope with the heavier workload. Logan had looked into the eyes of the students that gathered the morning after the return from Washington and told them that vacation was over, and school was starting again. Since then the senior students had pulled double duty, stepping in to help some of the younger kids when they weren't in class themselves. Xavier and Ororo ended up taking Jean's students as well as their own, but the ones Summers had taught were canceled. No one had seen him outside his room since they'd come back from D.C.
Logan began his nightly circuit around the Mansion. In the past few days he had made it a habit to do a 'walk about' each night before turning in. Even though security had been beefed up by some high tech additions courtesy of a mutant named Forge, Logan need to be sure. The only way he knew was to check things himself. Even as he prowled the grounds of the school, his mind wandered back to a conversation he had with yesterday with Marie.
She had walked up to him just as he and Pete had finished installing one of the last windows to replace those that had been shattered during Stryker's invasion. She'd been watching him closely the last few days, and he could guess why. The kid knew he'd had feelings for Jean. After all she had absorbed him twice, nearly killing him the second time, as his healing power brought her back from the dead. While he was still trying to get straight in his head what kind of relationship they had, he pretty sure it was impossible to bullshit a girl who had a phantom version of him living inside her head. Marie understood that Logan's solution to any painful situation was to run, and he thought that him still being around was freaking her out.
He clapped her in the shoulder in greeting. "Hey kid...come to help? I think I might be wearing Petey out." She smiled at him, grateful for the small touches he gave out when ever she was near. That he showed absolutely no fear of her deadly skin after what had happened between them was beyond belief.
"No thanks sugar," she drawled, "if ya'll give me one of them tools someone is gonna get hurt." She was smiling at him, but he could smell the anxiety on her and see it in her eyes.
"Take a break Pete," he said, waving the big Russian toward the kitchen. "You could use a drink."
"Come on kid...lets take a walk."
He lead her out the patio door, to a path that took them into the wooded area that spread out south of the school. They walked in silence until they reached a pair of stone benches that were hidden from the mansion by the trees. He sprawled out on the nearest one and pulled a cigar from his shirt pocket. After he got it going, he patted the space beside him, inviting Marie to sit. She stared at that space for a long time, then abruptly sat on the other bench, another sign that she was upset.
"Come on Marie...spill it. What's botherin ya?" She had ducked her head, but at his question Rogue fixed him with a stare.
"When are ya leavin?" She snorted at his raised eyebrow. "Don't give me that crap Logan, Ah got ya up here, remember." she said, tapping her head. "Logan...you've done a lot for me...God knows why you put your life on the line for me more then once. But we need you to stick around for awhile..."
"We?" He muttered, blowing out a gust of smoke.
"Jerk," she shot back, shaking her head. "Alright, Ah need you to stick around. Ya know there aren't many places in the world for people like us, and right now this place is on the edge. Ah don't know if they'll be able to hold it together if you aren't around. Ah know that Ah can't." Her voice had gotten softer as she spoke, unable to hide her fear.
Logan looked away, running his fingers through his hair. In the short time he'd known the kid, he'd gotten a handle on some of her moods. Right now this one had to do with Marie's abandonment issues. Not too surprising, considering her 'loving' parents had turned on her as soon as they found out she was a mutant. God, he wanted to laugh right now, except he was pretty damned sure she wouldn't appreciate the joke She was asking him for a commitment, throwing the same challenge at him Jean had. Asking him to do the one thing he really feared, staying in one place too long. His whole life had centered around that instinct to keep moving. If you stayed too long people got to know you, find out what you were. He was pretty sure that wouldn't be a good thing for him. His wanderlust had kept him relatively safe, but totally isolated as well. This time there was more at stake then what happened to him. At least for a while, the kids needed him here. Marie needed him. Only thing was, he wasn't exactly safe to be around.
"What makes you think that me stayin is a good idea Marie?" he growled, remembering Stryker's words "Your were always an animal, we just gave you the claws." For the past few days he had turned that over and over in his mind. What if Stryker was right, could he live with these kids, live with anyone if he was the monster that Stryker said he was?
"Because Ah know you Logan...Ah know you don't think that you're a good guy, so you tell me what kind of man does the things you did for me?" Her brown eyes looked straight into his, willing him to see himself as she did. "Ah'm not just saying this for me Logan. Ah know that ya'll lived pretty much on your own, but Ah don't remember that you were ever happy. You could be happy here Logan, and Ah think you should give yourself that chance."
Logan stood up and began to pace back and forth in front of Marie. This was why he liked his relationships impersonal. But she was Marie, and rather than just growl and walk away he gave here the best answer he could.
"Darlin, I'm thinkin that happy ain't in the cards for me. I just don't know how long I can stay at Xavier's mutant paradise. One thing I can promise ya, I won't leave until I know your safe." Stopping in front of her, Logan reached out, grasping her gloved hands and pulling her gently to her feet, his muscular right arm encircling her shoulder.
"Thanks Logan, you don't know how much this means to me," she said in a watery voice. "Right now this place needs you a lot."
Logan looked down at her with a small smile and a wink, and thought that he had at least done one thing right in this world. "Come on kid, lets get back. It's almost time to eat." Side by side they walked back to the mansion in comfortable companionship.
Logan hoped like hell that he could keep that promise. For now he had to take things one day at a time. The repairs to the school were almost done and Xavier had promised two new staff members in the next few days. Once they arrived, he wouldn't be needed for much around here. No, he shook his head. That wasn't really true. There was something he could teach the kids, something he didn't think they'd be able to learn from Chuck, Summers, or Ro. How to keep themselves alive when someone like Stryker came for them again. Part of that was learning how to fight instead of how to defend themselves. Not that Ro and Cyke couldn't scrap. He'd seen then in action enough to know that. But people like Stryker (or Lenscherr) didn't play by the same rules, and those kids would have to learn that if they wanted to live long enough to grow up. When it came to a fight for your life, there was only one thing that mattered. You had to win. Tomorrow he would talk to Chuck. He didn't think the old man would like it, but whatever else Xavier was, he wanted to make sure his kids where safe.
As he finish his perimeter walk he heard the sound of the kitchen French doors being opened. Silent as a cat Logan stalked around the corner of the mansion and picked out a figure silently closing those doors. He knew who it was before he even caught the scent. He had hoped that she would talk to someone, so he'd given her space. Apparently she had decided to run instead. God damn it, he have no idea what to say to her. She had a duffle slung over her shoulder and a small suitcase in her hand. The kid had no clue that he was five feet away, close enough to smell her tears. Stepping out of the shadows, he called out in a low soft voice.
"A little late for a walk, ain't it kid."
Letting out a squeak she spun around to face him, and he found himself looking at the tearful face of Jubilation Lee.