[Author's Note: Doh! I thought I was deleting this from my Document Manager, but I accidentally deleted it from the story, and had to reload it. My apologies if you still had an alert set.]
[Author's Note: Well, here it is - the last chapter! I hope you all find it to be a satisfying ending to this little journey. Please feel free to let me know in a review. (Psssst...all you guys who have been adding me to your story alerts/favorites but not reviewing - this is your last chance! Throw a gal a review, pretty please? :-D) Thanks again to all the reviewers and those who have been PMing me, it's been really fun to get feedback about the story. This story is dedicated to my husband, who when I finally confessed I was writing fanfiction said, "Really? Cool!" instead of "Jesus, you're a dork!"]
Marie opened her eyes, squinting against the bright lights of the medbay. She was assailed by a flood of smells - antiseptic, latex, and...was that Hank's smell? She hadn't realized she knew that one. And then - Logan. She turned her head towards the scent as her eyes found him.
He was stretched out on a bed several feet away. She reached out a hand towards him, before realizing that it was encumbered with a tube and sensors. She ripped the pulse monitor off her finger, and an incredibly shrill sound pierced her ears. She clapped her hands over her ears. Argh, it was too much - too bright, too loud, everything smelled so much. She sat up, as a wave of dizziness crashed over her, adding to her panic. She could hear her own heart pounding in her ears, feel her own pulse thrumming through her veins.
His voice, so clear that her eyes snapped to his form, only to find him still unconscious. Belatedly, she realized the phrase hadn't been spoken at all. Logan? she tentatively thought.
Warmth spread through her like an embrace. I'm here, darlin'.
As Hank bustled in, summoned by the shrill alarm, Marie started to cry.
Logan jolted to consciousness, eyes snapping open to look at the paneled ceiling. "Marie," he said.
Professor Xavier gazed kindly at him from a wheelchair pulled close to his bedside. Logan hauled himself up onto his elbows slowly, every movement an effort. He felt like his whole body had been turned inside out. "It worked? She's okay?"
"She recovered faster than you did, my friend. She has been waiting here for you to wake up. I finally convinced her to take some time to change and eat with the promise that I would alert her as soon as you awoke."
"She's all healed up?" He knew he was repeating himself, but he was having trouble believing it. His brain felt as wobbly as his body did. Marie sure packed a hell of a punch with that mutation of hers. Logan looked around the unfamiliar bedroom, still trying to get his bearings.
"She also insisted that you be moved from the medbay. She knew you would not want to wake there, and with her new senses she was finding it a bit overwhelming as well."
"New senses?" Logan felt his fuzzy mind grasping for something, and falling short.
"You know how her mutation works, Logan. She took in not just your healing, but a good amount of the rest of you as well. Memories, emotions, personality traits. And your senses. Apparently they take a little getting used to."
Logan felt the missing puzzle piece click into place. Goddamn, he had been so focused on Marie using him to heal that he had forgotten the rest of what she would have to handle. He remembered sitting next to her, looking out over the lake, when she had first described her mutation to him. /"I get their thoughts and feelings and memories. I don't want to know that stuff. I wish I didn't have to carry it."/ And his destructive thoughts, and twisted feelings, and horrific memories? The idea of his sweet Marie knowing those things about him, having to struggle with his torments - it was intolerable.
The pain in his body seemed to be gathering in the middle of his chest, making it hard to breathe. He hung his head, taking shallow breaths, trying to gain some measure of control.
"I hurt her."
"That's not exactly the case, Logan."
The ball of hurt in his chest was burning, expanding, turning to anger. "What the hell do you know? You wouldn't even be talkin' to me if you knew. I hurt her, I dug my claws into her and almost killed her. And now she's got all my shit to deal with. I've lived with that shit for fifteen years, and it's fuckin' intolerable. And now you're telling me I gave it to her?"
"I suspected you might react this way."
Logan looked at Xavier in suspicion. "You knew I was waking up, that's why you sent her away." Xavier didn't deny it, just kept looking at him in that damn calm, kindly way. "So you could talk to me first? To what - warn me off?"
Xavier leaned back into his chair, a shadow of sadness in his eyes. "Quite the contrary, Logan. Call me an old meddler, but I care very much for Rogue, and she cares very much for you. I was concerned that you might...have a strong reaction to what happened. I thought it might be best if you had some time to adjust to the idea before you spoke to her. And perhaps that you would believe me when I told you that she has allowed me in her mind, to help contain Jason Stryker, and that your presence there is an immense comfort to her."
"She likes having me in her head?"
Xavier smiled that kindly smile again. "Is that so hard to believe, Logan? Think about it. And please, talk to Rogue before you do anything rash. I will let her know that you have awoken. In...shall we say half an hour or so?"
Marie followed the trail of Logan's scent through the mansion. All the scents and sounds were still somewhat overwhelming but she was managing better, blocking some out and focusing in on others. And Logan's scent was as familiar to her now as her own, a warm rich mix of woods and cigar and pure Logan. She followed the trail out across the grounds, experiencing the cool autumn air and the grass springing under her feet in a new way.
She found him sitting on a stone bench, staring at the ground. She knew the second he scented her, his shoulders drawing in, fists clenching, even as his eyes hungrily looked her over. He's flinching at the very sight of me, she thought.
No, darlin', just hunkerin' down to take the punch. His voice, quick and cryptic in her head.
He said nothing as she sat next to him, although she felt his eyes focus on her belly. She realized he would want to be sure, she could hardly believe it herself.
"All better," she said, lifting the edge of her shirt to display the smooth unmarked skin. "Wanna feel?" The tease fell flat, however, as his eyes ducked away from hers. She pulled her shirt down self-consciously, fingers clenching around the edge.
She had been here before. She knew the drill. She suddenly felt exhausted. She had fought so hard - for control, for him - and when it came down to it, it never mattered. She was still what she always was, Marie with the poison skin. Unwanted. Unlovable.
She bit back hard on the tears, as the corrosive shame roiled in her belly. "It's okay," she said. "I know how it is. I get feelings too, remember? I know what it feels like for my...victims. The violation. Hell, my own mother looked at me with disgust once she felt it. It changes things to know what I can do. I understand."
What? "What?" The Logan in her head and the one next to her, speaking in stereo. "You think...what the hell are you thinking? That I'm mad at you? That I don't want to touch you anymore?"
Darlin', you couldn't be farther from the mark if you were in Alberta...
With an almost angry motion he pulled her roughly into his lap, snaking his arms under her shirt to wrap around her bare waist, face nuzzling into her neck. She let out a shocked breath that was half a sob.
"Nothin' has changed about what I feel for you," he growled.
She felt her head spinning, whether from his closeness or all these sudden lurches of emotion, she didn't know. "What is it, then?"
He sighed into her hair, taking another deep inhale of her scent before setting her next to him again. He smoothed her hair back, his clear hazel eyes finally looking into hers.
"Xavier said you have me in there now," he said, nodding towards her forehead.
He looked down at his hands, rubbing his knuckles. Marie looked down and realized that Logan's hands were shaking. She reached out to steady them, and realized that hers were shaking too.
"You can't tell me you still feel the same way about me. Knowin' all that. The things that I think, and feel. I told you before that I'm an animal, and I know you didn't really believe me then. But now you know, right? So how can you say that doesn't matter?"
Marie looked up at Logan - his brow furrowed with worry, his eyes shadowed with fear and shame. Christ, she wanted to kiss the hell out of him and knock him upside the head at the same time.
She took a deep breath. "You jackass." Okay, not the most diplomatic way to start. Maybe she could blame that on residual Logan in her head also. At least she had his attention, though. "You think I couldn't love you, knowin' all about you? I love you because of all that stuff. Everything you are - the scary parts, the pretty parts, the angry parts, all of it. It's all you, and I love you - all of you."
"How can you?" Disbelief still strong in his eyes, but also hope.
"Dammit, Logan. What can I say? It just is. You can smell a lie, right? Do you think I'm lyin' to you right now?"
He dug his fingers into her hair, holding her head still, searching her eyes. Finally - finally - she saw his doubts start to crumble, the growing warmth and tenderness in his eyes making her sob once again. And then he was crushing her, squeezing her, his hands rubbing all over her, his face buried against her neck, murmuring rushed and incomprehensible words into her skin. She was crying and laughing all at once, trying to pull his face up to kiss him.
When they had settled a bit, they sat for awhile longer, Marie nestled into Logan's lap as close as she could get.
"I'll mess it up," he said.
"Yeah, probably," she said musingly, and he couldn't suppress his huff of surprised laughter. "Or I will," she continued. "But then we'll fix it. Everybody messes up. But if it's important to us, we'll work it out."
He smiled. "It's that easy?"
She placed a kiss on the center of his forehead. "Maybe not easy. But it's that simple."
The Professor's crisp voice rang out before Logan even had a chance to knock on the study door. "Please come in, Logan." Show-off.
Logan entered the room, taking in the scent of old books, furniture polish, and...was that the faint scent of cigar? Interesting. He sat in one of the stiff-looking chairs in front of the old man's desk.
"So. You spoke to Rogue."
Logan felt the smile spread across his face at the thought of Marie. Xavier smiled back. "I am so pleased."
Xavier's face grew serious again. "I am afraid that Magneto will not be satisfied with Stryker's death. He will do anything to prevent a cure from being developed. He would not attack this mansion, but your safety would be at risk anywhere else. And if you remain, we could perhaps attempt to learn more about the memories you have lost."
Logan eyed the old man. "Make up your mind - are you tryin' to scare me or bribe me into stayin'?"
Xavier looked taken aback. "Perhaps that was the wrong way to put it." He moved his wheelchair around the desk, close to Logan's side, looking seriously into his eyes. "I am trying to tell you that there is a place for you here. We could use a man with your skills. In our classes, teaching the children what they will need to know to defend themselves in the troubled times that are almost certainly to come. And on our team, if you choose to fight beside us."
Logan tried to wrap his mind around that. "I'm not exactly a team player. And I sure as hell ain't no teacher."
Xavier continued to regard him placidly. "Perhaps there is more to you than you know, my friend. Please think about it. This mansion could become your home, if you allow it to be."
Logan looked at Xavier. He respected the old man. He was even starting to like him. Logan owed him the truth.
"My home is with Marie. She says we stay, and we're stayin'. And I'll give all that a try. She says we go, and we'll be gone the next minute, and not even you will be able to find us."
Xavier leaned back in his wheelchair. "I see. Well, then." A slight smile. "Welcome home, then, Logan."
The windows were open a few inches, letting the crisp autumn breeze into Scott Summers' classroom. He had hoped the fresh air might keep his final class of the afternoon awake, but five minutes from the end of Intermediate Trigonometry that hope was dwindling.
"Thus, the sine of an angle is half the chord of twice the angle. Consider the angle BAD in this figure, and assume that AB is of unit length..." he continued, moving toward the blackboard. Suddenly, he froze, his gaze fixing on the bare arm holding the pointer. His bare arm. He looked down at himself, muffling a shriek. He was naked. Naked! Why was he teaching class naked?
He ducked behind the blackboard, thinking frantically. He had dressed this morning, hadn't he? He must have! Suddenly, though, he couldn't remember. He dared a peek around the edge of the blackboard, to find the curious eyes of his class riveted on him. He ducked back.
The murmurs started, along with a few twitters of laughter. "Mr. Summers?" one of the students braved. "Are you okay?"
Scott couldn't begin to answer that question. No, he was very much not okay. He was naked. Naked! Nakednakednakednaked! He jumped out from behind the chalkboard, grabbing a book off his desk, attempting to cover himself with the meager object. "Finish reading the chapter and I'll see you all...later," he managed hoarsely.
He darted into the hall, slamming the classroom door behind him, hearing the nervous murmurs of the class grow to a clamor. God, he had to get to his room. He just had to avoid...
"Scott?" Scott quailed at the voice of the one person he most dreaded encountering.
"Professor Xavier...Charles...my deepest apologies..." he stammered out.
Professor Xavier examined Scott closely, from his neatly combed hair, over his crisp pinstriped shirt and tie, past carefully pressed khaki pants, to his matching socks and penny loafers. He returned his gaze to find Scott blushing as ruby red as his visor. "Scott - what is amiss?" he asked.
"I understand sir...very inappropriate...will not happen again..." Scott sputtered, backing anxiously away. Finally he turned around and darted up the stairs. Xavier watched him in bemusement until he disappeared from view. He heard the door to Scott and Jean's room slam upstairs.
Xavier looked around to see if any other mansion residents had witnessed Scott's erratic behavior. Across the hall from Scott's classroom, the door to the terrace stood open. Rogue was standing with her back to the hall, apparently entranced by the view of the lawn and late afternoon sky, elbows resting on the balustrade. Logan stood next to her, his back casually leaned against the rail, smoking a cigar. Catching Xavier's glance on him, he gave the older man an impassive nod and then returned to puffing his cigar contemplatively.
Professor Xavier dismissed the odd incident with a shake of his head. He would follow up with Scott later, but for now he had other duties which required his attention. He propelled his wheelchair a short distance down the hall, stopping suddenly when he heard a muffled giggle.
He turned his head sharply, glancing again at the terrace. Logan stood directly behind Rogue now, his brawny arms braced on the railing to either side of her slim frame as they both looked out at the view. As Xavier watched, Logan tilted his head, nuzzling Rogue's neck, eliciting another giggle. Ah, young love. Xavier's heart warmed with the knowledge that two people who had faced such formidable obstacles in their past had found such joy and peace with each other. He continued down the hall with a contented smile on his lips.
Logan pressed his chest against Marie's back, casually blocking her from Xavier's view as her body heaved with the force of her repressed laughter.
"Careful, darlin', you almost gave the game away," he murmured, sending her into an even more pronounced fit of laughter.
She turned, nestling herself into his strong chest as she slowly got herself under control, wiping her eyes and subsiding into only occasional giggles and hiccups.
"You have to admit it, sugar," she drawled, between the bursts of muffled giggles and hiccups. "Jason Stryker may have had a meglomaniacal psychotic sonuvabitch father and a crappy-ass life, but his power has some serious entertainment value."
With a wink, she conjured up an iridescent green butterfly which circled Logan's head and dive-bombed his face as he swatted at it in irritation.
"Quit playin'," he growled, pulling her close, as she let the illusion dissipate.
"Aw, c'mon sugar, I owed Scott one for stickin' his big nose in our love life." She grinned up at Logan.
He tried to smother a smile, unsuccessfully. "Love life?" he said, raising an eyebrow at the term.
Marie was unfazed. "You heard me sugar," she said, pressing even closer to him. "Love. Life." Each word was punctuated with a kiss.
With a playful growl, he scooped her up, enjoying her squeal as he settled her precariously on the balustrade. "Remind me not to get on your bad side, darlin'," he said, bracing his hands low on the small of her back as she wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist for support.
"Don't worry, sugar. I'll take great pleasure in remindin' you every single day," she grinned, right before he took her mouth in a kiss, swift and soft and deep. Holding her close to him, breathing in her scent, basking in her affection. Everything he had never known he wanted. EarthraincomfortMariehome.
[Author's Note: At the risk of sounding super-pretentious, I'm going to add a few stanzas here from one of my favorite poems. When I thought about how a relationship between Logan and Marie might play out in the long run, if he would really settle down with her at the mansion with his wanderlust and need to find out about his past and all, this really seemed to capture it for me. It's the last bit of John Donne's "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning."]
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.
If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.
And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.