Chapter three

Scarlett skipped all of her classes the next day, sighting a mild stomach flu. It was far from the truth but everyone seemed to feel that even thin excuses were enough for the moment. If nothing else, Logan's return afford Scarllet a fair amount of space that she would not have had otherwise. Only Rogue had dared approach her in 24 hours and Scarlett appreciated the thoughtfulness of her fellow students and teachers.

But the time alone left her with an unexpected problem. For as long as she had been at the school, Scarlett had managed to avoid thinking of the past. Now, it was all that she could do.

And Logan was her past.

Not all of it, of course. Perhaps not even the most important part of it. But he was what she kept returning to in the endless whirlpool of her troubled mind. Not the parents who had abandoned her on the side of Highway 103, three months after her mutations had begun to manifest themselves. Not the years of solitude and loneliness she had chosen over the violence she was sure she would face if she allowed others to know her. Not, even, those happy, sunny years when she had been just like any other pretty, privileged daughter of a rich family.

Just Logan. A year of Logan. That damned mobile home that he could never manage to keep clean. The nights of watching him fight any number and manner of wretched humanity just to feed himself and her. Cages and flannel. Whiskers and truck stops. His bad attitude and her need to make him happy.

None of it came to any good end. It couldn't have. He said so the first time he met her. Exact words, "I'm trouble, Little Girl. Haven't you got somewhere else to be?"

It was she who seduced him that first time. Not out of love, or lust even. Desperation, maybe. She'd known from the start that he'd be a meal ticket. Something she could count on, believe in. She hadn't expected to fall in love and she hated herself when she did. She'd never spoken those words to him but he'd probably known all the same. Logan started as her crutch and ended up being her whole reason for being.

Leaving her was the best thing that he'd ever done for her. People, all people, but especially mutants, could not afford to invest that much in each other. She'd mourned him but she'd emerged a fuller, stronger person. Logan gave her that. Even if he'd only meant to rid himself of a nagging problem, Logan had given Scarlett her greatest power - the ability to rely on herself. She grew from there. Really, truth be told, she wasn't the same girl she'd been in his bed, in his arms. In truth, she was someone else entirely.

She liked that about herself.

Love, she knew, wasn't something that one grew out of in only a few days. Not a year. Perhaps, not a lifetime. Because as much as Scarlett hated Logan, she loved him.

It was as comforting as it was disturbing.


"Did you love her?" Jean had avoided Logan as long as she dared. She knew that he had talked to Scarlett by now, she hoped that he had found some sort of peace in their conversation.

Logan shrugged. "Will you believe anything I say?"

She answered honestly, "Yes."

"I loved her enough to want to keep her safe from me."

"That's quite a lot."

Again the shrug. "Not enough. I shouldn't have let her..."

"Let her what?"

He sighed. Jean Grey was a great woman but she didn't deserve the words that, by all rights, belonged to Mara. "This is the best place for her."

"But not you?"

"That remains to be seen."

"She's an amazingly strong girl, Logan. Your shouldn't base your decisions on her."

Logan chuckled. What could she understand? "Did you ever hurt someone who deserved better?"

"She got over it."

"Look closer, Jean. She covered it well but it's there."

Jean placed her hand gently on Logan's shoulder. "A girl never forgets her first love."

"Neither," Logan intoned significantly, "does a man."