She knew something was up the moment she saw him walking towards her in the hallway. For starters, he never walked towards her. That's not to say he avoided or ignored her, it was just that Logan didn't walk towards any one person or place with a set goal in mind. He just sort of wandered in wherever he liked and left when he pleased or when the desired amount of damage had been done. The other reason was that he had on his "I-know-I'm-not-your-father/brother/boyfriend/significant-male-figure-in-your-life-but-maybe-we-should-talk-about-a-really-uncomfortable-topic-neither-of-us-really-wants-to" face. Yeah. That one.
So when Rogue saw Logan striding towards specifically her with an air of specific purpose, paired with the face, she knew she wasn't going to like whatever he had to say.
"Hey, kid," he said with unnatural cheerfulness, coming up to stand beside her in the doorframe of a classroom. He was clearly uncomfortable, staring at everything in the hallway besides her face, arms crossed, head bowed, eyebrows practically obscuring his eyes.
"Hey," she replied in a voice that clearly said she didn't trust him at all right now. They stood in awkward silence for almost a solid minute before Logan cracked.
"So, um, the Professor wanted me to talk to you," he said, sounding like he was confessing a sin. "Well, apparently it's not just him, and I now that I think about it, I guess they sorta have point, but –"
"Who's 'they'?" she asked, cutting him off. She had her arms crossed in a manner that was more defiant that defensive. Her white streak had fallen in her eyes and she wanted to tuck it back behind her ears, but she would be damned if she let him see her sweat.
"Well, the Professor and Cyclops and Storm and –"
"So basically, the X-Men," she concluded, with a sneer that she must've learned from the Magneto inside her head.
"Yeah," he agreed reluctantly, scratching at the back of his neck with one hand, looking at the royal blue carpet.
"Well, what did 'they' want you to tell me?" she said, as if he were a very small child. Logan was trying to decide if the various unsavory personalities in her brain or simple teenage girl bitchiness were to blame, but either way, her attitude was getting on his fucking nerves.
"They wanted me to tell you – because certain people are too big of fucking pussies to do it themselves –"
"What is it, Logan?" she snapped.
"They want you to get rid of Pyro's stuff," he said bluntly.
She was stunned. It wasn't like she hadn't been expecting something of a similar nature for a while now, but hearing out loud, hearing it from him (and from every other mentor she had, not counting the one's in her head), made it…real. Not the fact that now she actually had to do it, but reason why she had to do it. She couldn't pretend anymore. Bobby couldn't pretend anymore. But it wasn't fair - they had gotten so fucking good at it.
"Do they – do they really want me to get rid of all of it, or just, like…pack it up?" She looked up at him in that Rogue way of hers that tried to be so brave and tough and jaded, but showed the little girl from Mississippi plainly beneath her features. For a second, Logan could have sworn she was in the green coat with him on the train. She was daring him to tell her the wrong answer, but she was also trying not to cry.
"Look, kid," he said, softening, "it's just…well, it's been months now. We all knew he wasn't comin' back. Look, I of all people appreciate holding on to things that, you know, remind you things that're important to you and shit, but – it's not good for you anymore. You need closure. His entire room is just sitting there reminding you of what he did and it's just not – good," he repeated. "For you. Or Bobby. Or anybody."
"Oh? And have you asked everybody's opinion on that? If you just dragged some random kid out from class and asked him if John's room is hindering his personal growth –"
"Marie, stop it," he said softly, but forcefully. "You can't keep doing this to yourself. He's gone. I know he hurt you, I know the three of you were tight, but you have to move on."
"Not all of can just move on as easily as you, Logan," she spat, "You know, literally? To Canada?"
He took a deep breath, trying to regain his patience. This was Rogue, he told himself, his Rogue. She needed him to be the grown up here, whether she knew it or not. Whether either of them liked it or not. This was Marie. And if he ever got his hands on that Allderdyce kid, the only thing that was gonna be left was that fucking lighter.
"Rogue," he said finally, "I'm not saying you have to get over this. No one's saying that. No one's expecting you to just wake up and be fine with what Pyro did. But we're worried about you." She raised an eyebrow at him (he knew exactly where she had picked up that particular habit). He saw her point. He sounded like a fucking shrink. Or worse – the old guy. "Alright, I'm worried about you. Happy now?"
She wouldn't look at him, but he saw the corners of her mouth curve slightly.
"And it's not just you. Iceman's been a little spaz ever since Alkali Lake, too," he said with a glower, referring to an incident where Bobby had screamed in Logan's face when he had handed him salt instead of pepper at dinner. The corner's of Rogue's mouth twitched again. "I supposed it must be weird for him, sleeping with the guy's stuff every night."
"Actually," she replied, the small smile fading from her face, "Bobby hasn't been sleeping there for the past few weeks." Logan gave her a look that would've given Bobby's ice blasts a run for their money. "Relax," she said, rolling here eyes, "It's nothing like that. Not that it could be, anyway. You know, what with the fact that I could kill him with my skin an' all." She was glaring back at him now. This wasn't how he pictured this conversation going. She used to be so nice, he thought, rubbing his eyes in frustration.
"Well, I have you in my brain, so it's not like you can blame me for acting like an asshole," she snapped, leaning back against the wall. He looked up in surprise and annoyance.
"What, are you reading minds now?" She did the eyebrow thing again, and tapped her forehead. Right. She had him in her head. And people wondered why the girl had issues.
"And Bobby's been sleeping on the floor in Peter and Flea's room," she concluded.
"And why is that?" he prompted. She mumbled something in response. "What? Didn't quite catch that," he smirked, having heard everything with his keen ears.
"It's hard for him to be in their old room," she said overly loud, glaring at him with an 'Are you satisfied now?" expression. There was a minute of silence before they both started talking.
"Rogue," he started.
"Will you come with me?" she cut him off, looking up at him, her white shock of hair falling in her brown doe eyes and obscuring their suspicious brightness. "If I…clean out the room, will you do it with me?"
"I…sure. Yeah. Whatever you want," he agreed awkwardly. He thought about maybe patting her on the shoulder or something, but decided against it. She nodded, looking at the ground again.
"Ah – Ahm gonna go get some boxes er somethin'. Will you meet me there in, like, an hour?" she asked the carpeting, her Mississippi drawl coming out in full force, dragging each word into about seven syllables.
"Sure, kid." She nodded again, and started quickly down the hallway, arms still crossed across her chest. Logan sighed and leaned back against the door. Shit. He really should leave the thoughtful mentoring to people who knew what the fuck they were doing.
She was waiting outside the dorm room when he got there, despite the fact that he had come ten minutes early, just to be extra supportive father figure…y. She was resting several cardboard boxes on one hip, one inside the next, absently scuffing the floor with the toe of her boot. She looked when he stopped next to her.
"You need a key or somethin'?" he asked, jerking his head towards the door.
"No," she answered, staring at the polished wood grain. "…Ah's jus' waitin' fer yew." The accent was back, so he knew she hadn't just been waiting.
"Alright, well, I'm here now, so do you, like, wanna go in?"
"Not really," she sighed, "But alright." She turned the door handle and went inside, Logan following after. He let the door close behind him. There was probably some rule about older male Canadians with claws being in rooms with young female students, but he had never been one for guidelines. And he wanted her to have her privacy.
He turned around to face the room. Rogue was sitting on what he assumed was Bobby's bed, since it had been made and had a poster of an apparently famous snowboarder above it. The bed by the window must have been Pyro's. There was no poster above his, but the wall adjacent to the headboard had various photos and clippings haphazardly taped to it. The bed itself was unmade, the standard navy blue covers thrown at odd angles, like Pyro had jumped out of his bed that day and into the enemy's. There were clothes littering the floor, despite the fact that there was a perfectly good hamper six feet away by the closet. Logan felt a twinge of kinship with the kid.
"So, uh, where do you wanna start?" he asked, looking around the space. He really just wanted to get this over with and get the hell out of there, but he was trying to be helpful. Failing, but trying none the less.
She sighed again, and answered in a hollow voice, "The clothes, I guess."
Taking this as an excuse to get the ball rolling, Logan strode over to the trail of clothing leading from the bed to the closet and began grabbing everything. When his arms were full of sweatpants and t-shirts, he came back over to Rogue and dropped the whole pile in one of the boxes by her feet. It was overflowing out of the top, so he squashed the clothes down a little bit with his foot, then looked up at her expectantly. The whole process had taken less than fifteen seconds. Rogue was holding one pair of jeans.
"You…why don't you just, like…sit. Over there. For…until I'm done," she said, giving him one of those disbelieving girl looks he was pretty sure was all her own.
He shrugged. "Suit yourself," he muttered, and plunked down over on Bobby's bed where she had indicated. He stretched out his legs and made himself comfortable, while Rogue emptied the box onto the floor and painstakingly folded each item of clothing before carefully placing it in the box. The quiet rhythm of the folding had almost lulled him to sleep when she suddenly spoke into the quiet.
"He let me wear this once," she said in the same empty voice as before. Logan sat up and peered over here shoulder at the faded hooded sweatshirt Rogue had on her lap. It must have been black once, but now it was mostly gray. "He and I were with Bobby in the game room and I spilled orange soda all over my shirt. I had a top on underneath, so I could've taken it off, but I just – I hate having skin showing. I was so afraid I was gonna hurt someone. So he just took this off and gave it to me to wear. I was practically crying," she said, a smile creeping into her voice. "He could be like that… I meant to return it, but, you know, it was a really comfy sweatshirt and I just sort of…forgot. I only remembered to give it back to him, like, four months later. It was right after Bobby and I got all official. I have no idea why I remember that," she said with small laugh, "The soda, I mean. I don't know why I remember it was orange."
She blinked, realizing she had been rambling. Logan was looking at her strangely from the bed, sort of squinting at her. Logan could faintly smell her embarrassed blush as she ducked her head and stood up. She walked over to the closet and carefully took each item of clothing off its hanger, and folded it, before taking the pile and placing each item almost reverently into the box, then slowly closing the lid.
She stared at the smooth cardboard for a long moment, as if expecting a message to appear on it. But nothing happened and she turned around to the desk. Like most students, it looked like Pyro had used his desk for everything but studying. It was littered with empty soda cans, magazines, textbooks, CDs, notebooks. The infamous leather jacket was hanging across the back of the chair.
She made a tsk sound with her tongue. Apparently defecting to the enemy was no excuse for untidiness her opinion. She pulled over the small trash can (on Bobby's side of the room), and went about dumping all of the various cans, wrappers, and scrap papers into it. When all of the trash was gone, she gingerly took each item off the desk and placed it around her in a circle on the floor. Logan, not taking his eyes off her, quietly got off Bobby's bed, and took one of the remaining boxes, to come sit across from her on the carpet.
She took the larger items first, starting with his Physics textbook. She opened the cover and grazed her fingertips along his signature inside. The she flipped through all the various pages, sometimes catching a doodle of his or a penciled-in note in one of the margins, when the ghost of a smile would flit across her face.
She went through each textbook in turn, placing them in the box on top of each other. When she got to the notebooks Logan noticed her hands were shaking slightly. She looked up at him, then back at the battered notebook in her hand. She got up on her knees, and half crawled over to him, leaning against the side of the bed on the floor. He scooted a little closer to her, not really knowing why. She opened the notebook and began flipping through, Logan looking on like it was Story Time With Rogue.
Pyro had surprisingly neat handwriting, each page covered with thick block lettering. His notes looked well-organized and thorough, which also surprised Logan. Of course, they were interrupted every other page by mindless doodles and games of hangman.
"You know, most people didn't know he's smart," Rogue said suddenly. "I mean, it's not he's like he's Savant Allderdyce or anything, but he was really good at science. All the formulas just made sense to him. But for some reason he was awful at math. Actually, I think he understood it all, he just got bored with it. Couldn't see the point, you know? But he was pretty good at English, too. He understood all the symbolism and subplots and stuff, although I don't think he wanted people knowing," she said with a slightly choked laugh. "He wanted them all to think he was this badass with no future. I think he liked it that way…" she trailed off, and continued absently flipping through notebooks.
"So you were pretty close," Logan said, more of a statement than a question, "And Bobby, I guess," he added as an afterthought.
"Yeah," she said, placing a History notebook in the box. "I know it doesn't seem like it, but all of us had a lot in common." She sat down next to him again and rested her head against the side of the bed with a sigh. "We just sort of worked together. I guess we didn't really fit anywhere else but with each other…you know?" She didn't look at him. He did know.
"Anyway," she muttered, getting to her feet. She walked over to the desk again, and put the remaining contents in the box much more quickly than before. Three abused CDs (The Doors, The Rolling Stone, and "Dance Hits of the Eighties"), a magazine (something about cars), and an endless number of pens (most of them dry or empty) all joined the notebooks in the box, along with a copy of Treasure Island that looked like he had read it at least forty times from the amount of damage, and a copy of Catcher in the Rye that looked like it had never even been opened.
"Bobby called him Holden all the time. Drove him crazy," she said with a laugh, "So Bobby gave it to him for Christmas, just to annoy him. John never read it, just out of spite." She smiled a little, before dropping the book in the box as well. As she was going through the drawers of the desk, Logan eyed her, eyebrows low. She looked thinner than usual, her clothes were hanging a little loose on her, and the hollows beneath her cheekbones were more pronounced. She looked tired, too, he thought. Dark circles were ringed around her bright eyes. He didn't like this at all.
He arched an eyebrow when she brought a box of condoms out of the top drawer. He looked up to see her mirroring his expression. "Like he was getting any here," she scoffed, tossing the box in with the other items. Logan had to keep himself from growling.
"Well, that's the desk," she said finally. " I'll just get his stuff off the walls, then if you'll help me with the bed, we'll be finished." She said it calmly, but he could see her jaw clenched so tightly he expected to hear her teeth creak.
She got down on her knees again, and crawled over to the wall. Logan sat down on the edge of Pyro's bed and watched from a safe distance. She pulled each picture off the wall carefully, peeling off the tape gently so nothing was torn. Then, one by one, she set them all down in a straight line along the floor between the two beds. Without warning, she stood up and strode over to the box of clothes. She ripped off the top, rifled through the shirts and pants briefly, before pulling old the old black hoodie. She tidied up the box again and replaced the lid, then shrugged the sweatshirt on, flipping up the hood to hide her hair. Logan couldn't help but remember with a jolt that she had looked just like that the day they had met – or rather, the day she, and thus the X-Men, and hitchhiked into his life. It occurred to him that he might never have met them – the Professor, Cyclops…Jean - if it hadn't been for Rogue. And it wasn't just the hood that was reminiscent of her old self. It was the look of fearful determination and defiance overlaying a deep, deep loneliness. If he had been a more paternal person he would have hugged her, but he wasn't, so he didn't.
"Alright," she muttered, more to herself than anybody. She knelt down in front of the row of memorabilia again. She picked up the fist item, a magazine clipping of an advertisement for a flamethrower that he had apparently found amusing. Next was a recipe for brownies. Logan glanced over at Rogue, who shrugged. After that came a flyer for a band Logan had never heard of, and last, a trio of photos that had been taped together.
The picture in the left corner was a snapshot of Pyro and Iceman. It was winter and the mansion could be seen in the background. Pyro was slightly red-faced and looked cold, but Iceman looked perfectly comfortable, temperature-wise. They were making faces at the camera, each of them attempting to get the other in a headlock, and failing. They looked happy. Like best friends.
The photo to the right looked like it had been taken at night. Rogue was grinning, laughing at something just behind the camera. Pyro was apparently distracted by something to his right, a "what the fuck?" expression on his face. They were sitting on what looked like the couch in the game room, the blue glow of a TV faintly visible beneath the camera's flash.
The last picture, taped under the first, was of the three of them. They were all at on one side of a foos ball table. Bobby was standing in the middle, smiling brightly for the camera, blue eyes shining. Marie was to his left, leaning in slightly to get in the picture. She was smiling uncomfortably, not showing any teeth, her eyebrows raised impatiently. To his right, Pyro (John, Logan thought) was smirking amusedly, arms crossed over his chest.
"Bobby and me, we have this game," Rogue said into the silence, "Where we come up with all these reasons why he left. One was that he didn't get on the plane with them, he just went off into the woods to fulfill his secret dream of becoming a fur trader," she said with a little laugh that turned into a cough in her mouth. "Or we have one where Mystique pretended to Pamela Anderson and he just wandered onto the plane. Or that Magneto brainwashed him into thinking he was a piece of magnetic poetry. Probably something inappropriate, like "fuck" or "boobs" or something." She did the laugh/cough thing again.
"But our favorite is that he's actually just pretending," she said, her voice going up slightly, her eyes glued to the triptych of snapshots. "That's he's just gaining their trust, so he can tell the Professor what all Magneto's plans are. And when he comes back he's gonna be this hero," she went on, the words tumbling out of her mouth. "That's why we didn't want to change anything. So when he comes back, he'll know that we didn't believe what they told us, that we – that we –" her voice cracked, and she covered her mouth with the sleeve of the sweatshirt. Logan gingerly touched her shoulder, completely out of his field of expertise – namely hitting and stabbing things.
"I mean, we know it's just pretending, but it's just – we have t-" she looked up at him, her eyes bloodshot and wet with unshed tears, cheeks blotchy. He saw the change somewhere behind her eyes when he didn't say anything. In her heart of hearts, she had wanted it to be true, for him to confirm her secret hopes. His silence made everything true. Made it real. Her best friend had abandoned her for the man who had tried to kill her, and now she had to accept it. She turned away, the hood obscuring her face. He listened to her ragged breathing for a few minutes, his hand still on her shoulder (he didn't know what else to do with it, and he didn't think he should take it away). Finally, she cleared her throat and stood up, wiping at her eyes with a black-gray sleeve.
"Help with the bed, please," she said hoarsely, accent so thick he could barely make out the words. She pulled the comforter off the mattress, and grabbed two corners, indicating for him to do the same. Logan awkwardly tried to imitate what she did, coming towards her, then taking the new corners and repeating until it was folded more or less neatly. The whole time, Pyro's smell permeated his senses – the smoky, campfire smell of the teenage boy, and…something else. He couldn't quite put his finger on it.
They repeated the process with the sheets, which proved much harder than the comforter and Logan found himself muttering an almost constant stream of profanity. Rogue giggled just a little, as they came together, and Logan caught the other scent again. It was stronger – but then he lost it yet again. This was driving him crazy.
As they pulled off the final sheet, leaving the mattress bare, Logan got it. He had been confused by the light, clean scent that was lingering just over Pyro's musky sleep-smell because it belonged to the girl standing across from him. Something clicked in his brain. Rogue had slept in this bed, long after Pyro had left it, leaving her soft cotton-and-flowers-clean-laundry smell over Pyro's recently-extinguished-candles smell. The way she had been looking, the ways things had appeared between her and Bobby. The sweatshirt. The orange soda. Now it made sense, and it made him wonder if the odd ache in his chest was that "breaking heart" feeling he'd heard so much about. Marie, his Marie, his kid. He wondered if that goddamn, sonuvabitch Allderdyce punk had even known. He wanted to beat the lit pyromaniac so hard he'd be nothing but a singed bloodstain on the wall.
He looked up at Rogue, who was now balancing the boxes on each hip, oblivious to his revelation.
"Could you take the sheets, please?" she asked, looking up at him, the hood falling down to reveal her brown-and-white hair. He nodded gruffly, and stuffed the pile of bed things under one arm. He walked forward to get the door for her, when she stopped in her tracks and turned around.
"Hang on a sec," she called over her shoulder. She put the boxes down on Bobby's neatly made bed and ran over to the desk. The beat-up brown jacket was still hanging on the back of the chair. She grabbed it, walked back over to the boxes and went to open one. Then, she seemed to think better of it, and shrugged the jacket on over the faded hoodie. She picked up the boxes again, and walked out the door Logan was still holding for her. Logan went to close the door, when the now stripped bed caught his eye. He thought of the pictures that had been taped just to the side, next to the window (the same ones he had pretended not to notice Rogue stuff into her pocket). He suddenly realized that they had been positioned in such a way so that they would've been the first thing John Allderdyce would see each morning when he woke up. Rogue's laughing face would lie almost even with his eyes.
As Logan closed the door behind him he mentally cursed teenagers, their puppy-dog hearts, and their complete inability to communicate when it really mattered. Then he mentally cursed himself and the whole rest of the fucking world for being fucking teenagers. And, for just a second, he let himself wish that John was just pretending, too. The door clicked closed and he followed after Rogue down the hallway.