[Author's Note: Last chapter! Please review if you're willing! No smut, just kissin'. :-D]
Magneto swept into the room, appearing to enjoy his dramatic entrance exceedingly. A woman covered only in blue scales strolled sinuously in his wake. Mystique, Logan realized. The woman shot Logan a lascivious glance and licked her lips, giving him an insolent wink. A squat green-skinned man entered last, closing the door and standing with his back against it.
Logan watched helplessly as Pyro's lighter flew from his hand to hover before Magneto. Magneto plucked it from the air and examined the shark's head painted on the metal for a moment before sliding it in his pocket. He tut-tutted, shaking his head in mock sorrow. "Mr. Allerdyce. I should have known that one of Charles's whelps would not have the fortitude to join our cause."
Mystique had slid around behind Pyro, and at Magneto's nod she knocked his feet out from under him with one swift kick. Pyro crumpled, staying where he fell, his head in his hands.
Logan looked up at Marie. "Darlin'...get away from me, quick as you can." Marie looked back at him uncomprehendingly, still hugging him to her lap.
"Enough of this," Magneto said crisply. With a curt gesture, he lifted Logan so he was dangling upright.
"Let him go!" Marie said furiously, and Logan felt the tug on his bones double as Marie tried to use her magnetic control to overcome Magneto's hold. Logan watched in horror as against his will his hand came up and then struck out, brutally smacking Marie across the face. She stumbled back, eyes shocked and dazed as blood trickled from the corner of her mouth.
Magneto smirked. "You may have stolen my mutation, little girl, but your control over it will never exceed mine. The Wolverine is my plaything, not yours."
Logan watched as the shock faded and the realization entered Marie's eyes. "Marie...run!" he rasped urgently.
Marie backed away, but it was no use. The cell was small, and in no time Magneto had pinned her into a corner with the massive bulk of Logan's body.
Logan strained against the force uselessly as he watched his own right hand come up, fingers clenching on the bare skin of Marie's throat to hold her in place.
His mind screamed in denial, but there was no way out of this. His left hand came up, clenched in a fist, knuckles a scant few inches from Marie's chest.
Logan closed his eyes in frustration. "No..." He opened his eyes again, looking into Marie's beautiful eyes for the last time. He didn't care that he was going to die, but knowing what was in store for Marie - the guilt she would feel for having been the mechanism of his death, the torment Magneto had planned for her, using her to power his machine - it was destroying him.
She gazed back at him, eyes bright with tears. "There's only one way," she whispered brokenly. "Please forgive me."
He felt the claws of his left hand start to slide forward. He struggled to retract them, but it was futile. "I know darlin'...just do it. I'm so sorry." He grappled to get the words out as despair and failure choked his throat. "You're going to have to be the one who lives."
Marie held her hand out, touching his cheek tenderly. "No, sugar. There's only one way...that we both live."
He could only watch, powerless, as his claws started to pierce her skin, but before her mutation could kick in he felt the skin of her throat turn icy beneath his hand. She looked over his shoulder to where Magneto stood, and then squinted her eyes shut tight. "Jean...please...just one more time..." she muttered to herself.
She opened her eyes with a snap, and Logan heard a thud and a muffled curse from Magneto behind him. Logan dropped to the floor with a clatter as his breath slammed from his body. He realized that Marie had used Jean's telekinesis to knock Magneto over, breaking his concentration, but it would only last a moment.
He had barely hit the ground before he felt a blaze of unbearable pain traveling through him, his whole body convulsing uncontrollably. He screamed against the agony through clenched teeth. His blood was on fire, he felt like he was being burned alive from the inside. The pain ran in white-hot waves down from his head and up from his feet, coalescing in the center of his chest like a supernova, and then traveling down his forearms. He looked down in shock as a stream of molten liquid metal sluiced down each claw, pooling at his sides.
He struggled against the blaze of pain, trying to make sense of what was happening. He managed to lift his head, looking up at Marie to find her gaze narrowed on him, her face pale, jaw set in determination. The realization hit him like a hammer blow. She's doing this, not Magneto. She's stripping the metal from my body.
He felt the pain fading already as the last of the metal drained from him, exposing the naked bone of his claws for the first time in his memory. He shuddered and shook as his healing factor kicked in, his muscles and tendons repairing and re-attaching to his now metal-free bones.
He watched Marie's gaze shift as the pooled metal lifted from the floor to form a molten ball in the air, and then fractured into a thousand tiny spheres. An icy blast of air spread outward from her outflung hand as the now-solid metal projectiles shredded the plastic wall of the prison, hurtling towards Magneto who was only now struggling to his feet.
"No!" Magneto roared, holding his hand out. Most of the projectiles froze in space and fell harmlessly to the floor, but a few zinged free of his hasty magnetic field. Logan heard with satisfaction a howl of pain from the green-skinned man as one of the projectiles apparently found its mark in his reptilian skin.
Marie had dropped to her knees by his side. "Logan...I'm sorry..."
Logan felt a rush of energy. His healing factor seemed to be working immeasurably faster than usual. He sprang to his feet. He felt - amazing. He took a step, adjusting to his new balance. He felt unbelievably powerful, unencumbered by the crushing weight of the metal on his body. He looked down at Marie, still kneeling. He snicked the bone claws in and out experimentally, and then grinned, offering her a hand. "Let's go, baby."
Her smile of relief was incandescent. "Sure thing, sugar."
Logan hurtled through the shredded plastic wall, the Wolverine coming to the surface, focused on Magneto. He felt a thud as Mystique attacked him from the side, knocking him off course. With a snarl he turned to face her, swiping with the claws. She bent bonelessly backwards and his claws found only air as she put her hands to the ground behind her and flipped, her feet kicking him in the face with a double thud as she completed the acrobatic maneuver.
From the corner of his eye he saw Magneto using his power to gather up the shreds of adamantium, preparing to strike.
"Johnny!" Marie yelled, from where she was fending off blows from the green man's disgustingly prehensile tongue. Logan's eyes flicked to where Pyro was standing, mouth agape. Pyro's eyes suddenly lit with purpose and then narrowed with concentration as Marie used Magneto's power to lift the forgotten lighter from his pocket and flip it open. The lighter flickered, and that was all Pyro needed - he expanded the flicker into a violent burst of flame that encompassed Magneto's body.
Magneto screamed in pain, stumbling around, his clothes alight like a torch, Pyro sustaining and guiding the flame. Logan turned his attention back to Mystique just as she kicked towards his head again. He grabbed her ankle, jerking her to the side, and she shrieked as her shoulder hit the floor.
She managed to twine herself around him, pulling his legs out from under him. Dammit, new center of gravity, he told himself grimly. Gotta adjust.
Mystique took advantage of his fall by jumping on his back, winding her legs around his waist, her unnaturally strong arms forming an iron-clad chokehold around his neck. Logan tried to reach over his head to grasp her, but she ducked, clinging tightly to him, pressing her body close against his back to stay out of his reach.
Logan felt his vision start to dim at the edges. Fuck this, he thought. He pressed his fists up against his own chest, knuckles down. With a roar, he snapped the claws, feeling them tear through his shoulders and lungs, piercing Mystique's chest where it was pressed tight to his back.
He retracted the claws and she fell with a thump. She lay on the ground, choking and spitting up blood, as his body healed almost instantly.
He looked around and saw Marie. Her face was smeared with blood but she looked otherwise unharmed. She was standing in front of Magneto, watching him as he rolled on the ground, trying to put out the flames. Logan came up to stand behind her, his hand on her shoulder. As they watched, Magneto collapsed limply, flames still flickering at his clothing. "I should let the sonuvabitch burn for what he did to you," Marie remarked, her voice icy with rage.
Logan grunted. "No arguments here."
Marie sighed. She held a hand up, sending a blast of frost to extinguish the flames.
"Where's the green guy?," Logan asked.
"Toad? He ran...once I got his tongue." Marie replied with a shudder, gesturing at the frozen appendage lying grotesquely on the ground. "Guess Magneto doesn't inspire as much loyalty as he thinks."
Logan smelled Pyro coming up behind him. A snarl escaped him as he snicked out the claws. "You little rat..."
Marie placed a restraining hand on his arm. "Enough." She held out a hand and Pyro's lighter flew to it. "It was a mistake. It's over." She handed the lighter to Pyro. He looked at the ground, swiping his eyes with his forearm.
"Marie..." Logan growled.
Marie pressed herself back against Logan's chest, pulling his arms tight around her. She nuzzled her face into his neck. "As far as anyone in the mansion is concerned, when Lehnsherr approached Pyro, he decided to go undercover. Impulsive, but I think he's learned his lesson."
He felt the rumble start in his chest involuntarily, and she turned to look him in the eye. "We all deserve a second chance, Logan." She watched his eyes carefully until he finally nodded. She ducked her head into his neck again, sighing with relief. "Now let's call the clean-up crew."
Marie smiled to herself, pushing open the door to the study. "You should really wait for people to knock, you know."
Xavier looked taken aback for a moment, and then smiled warmly in return. "I do forget sometimes." He gestured to the chair in front of his desk, and Marie sat down.
She fidgeted for a moment with her hands, unsure how to start.
"Rogue...is something wrong?"
Marie sighed. "I'm just worried that...it's just that..." She bit her lip uncertainly, and then started over. "Erik was your friend. Your best friend, for decades. I've tried not to pry, but I have all those memories." She looked up from her fidgeting hands finally to meet his eyes. "Are you okay with what I did?"
Xavier's regarded her calmly as ever, sincerity shining from his vivid blue eyes. "You are correct. Many years ago, Erik was my friend, and a very good friend. But I do not recognize that person in the man he has now become."
Sorrow drew his mouth down at the corners. "We have been at odds for years now, and I have tried to convince myself that it was simply a difference in philosophies - a disagreement as to what means are necessary to secure safety and peace for mutants everywhere. But knowing what Erik did to you...what he did to Bobby, and to Logan...it has convinced me beyond any shadow of a doubt that the man I knew is no more. He has been twisted, distorted into the man you captured. You saved his life, when you could easily have let him die for what he did. I can only be grateful for that, and glad that he will not hurt anyone else."
Marie let out a breath that she hadn't realized she had been holding. They sat in silence for a moment.
"Do you think that plastic prison will really hold him?" she finally asked.
Xavier's eyes grew distant as he contemplated. "I do not know. He is a brilliant man, with considerable resources." His eyes focused keenly on hers once more, and he smiled. "But so am I."
Marie looked into Logan's hazel eyes. "You sure?"
His mouth quirked up at the corner. "Sure. Now quit askin'. And do it quick, I hate this place."
Marie smiled in sympathy. She had almost fully assimilated the Wolverine and Logan personalities in her head, and she felt the echo of their distaste for the sterile medical environment speeding her pulse and turning her stomach.
She looked to Jean, who had insisted on them doing this in the medlab, with her present to monitor what she referred to as "the procedure." Jean nodded her assent as well.
"Okay, sugar, let's see 'em," Marie said. Logan snapped out the claws. Marie ran the tip of a slender finger down the blunt edge of one of the elegant bone structures, smiling inwardly as Logan's eyes darkened with desire at her gesture. "Here we go."
Her eyes grew distant as she lifted the chunk of adamantium Xavier's team had retrieved from Magneto's hideout. Although still cool, the metal appeared to turn molten underneath her hands. She scooped up a handful, the metal clinging thickly to her fingers, and then ran her palm down one claw from Logan's knuckle to his fingertip. She heard Jean gasp as the metal smoothly coated the bone, Marie manipulating the molecules of metal into a flawlessly smooth blade with a merciless razor-sharp edge.
"Good?," she asked.
Logan snicked the claws in and out again experimentally, and then nodded, as they all breathed a sigh of relief. One by one, Marie coated the other five claws with adamantium.
"Want me to engrave something on them?," she teased. "Maybe, 'If you're close enough to read this, you're screwed'?'" Logan growled in mock anger. "No?," she said, finishing up the last claw. "How about, 'Property of Anna Marie Rogue D'Ancanto'?"
Logan snicked the claws in, and fast as lightning pulled her in close, smothering her startled gasp with a blazing kiss.
"Better," he said.
Marie stood, gazing up at Logan, the autumn breeze brushing a lock of platinum hair across her face as leaves rustled against her bare feet.
"You really want to do this?," she said, hesitantly unbuttoning the top few buttons of her shirt.
He pulled his t-shirt over his head in one swift movement and grinned wolfishly. "Absolutely."
She shifted her weight uncertainly. "You've really never done this before?"
He reached for his belt, the taut muscles of his abdomen rippling as he pulled it free, making her mouth go dry.
He leaned in for a kiss, helping her pull her shirt off. "Not that I remember."
"Then how do you know it'll be okay?"
He shucked his jeans and stepped closer to her, his hands impatiently unbuttoning her jeans. "I've heard it's like riding a bicycle...you just let your instincts take over."
She smiled against his kiss, stepping out of her jeans, her body pressed against his. He rumbled his approval of the lacy bra and panties she was wearing, the reverberations tickling her belly where it was pressed against his, and she giggled.
She took a step back. "Well then, what are you waiting for? It's freezing out here!"
He watched her lithe form with appreciation as she ran the last few feet down the dock and dove cleanly into the water of the lake.
He ambled to the edge of the dock as she surfaced, treading water. "Did ya figure out yet that it's colder in there?"
She grinned, her hair drifting around her shoulders. "That's what you think."
Logan noticed for the first time the fine tendrils of steam rising from the water and chuckled. "Marie - how on earth did you manage that?"
She laughed in delight at having managed to surprise him. "I fed Johnny about five burgers and told him he owed us one. Now get in already, I don't know how long the heat'll last."
"Heads up!" Logan cannonballed into the lake, making a giant splash.
The surface of the water rippled, and then stilled.
"Logan?" A few more seconds, and still he didn't surface. "Logan!"
She shrieked in surprise as he emerged right in front of her, shaking the water from his hair like a dog. "You don't need to yell."
She shoved him under in irritation, and he surfaced again, pulling her closer, laughing.
He kissed her, both of them treading water, his mouth warm and soft and slick against hers. She pulled back to look in his eyes.
"You've really never been swimming before?"
He shook his head, spraying droplets of water from his thick wet hair. "All that metal in my body, I used to just sink like a stone."
"How does it feel?"
He kicked back and floated on his back for a minute, before flipping back to swim to her, smiling. "Feels great."
His expression grew serious. "I never realized how much the metal was hurting me until it was gone. Sapping at my healing factor, weighing me down every moment, chilling me to the bone in winter..." He kissed her again, tenderly. "With it gone..." He shrugged. "I feel free."
She ran a hand down the side of his face, enjoying the feel of his warm wet skin and bristly stubble. "You're not worried about being more...vulnerable?"
He held her tight against him, towing her backwards until he found a spot shallow enough that he could stand. She looped her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck as he kissed her, soft and deep, his hands roving over her body. "I already told you once, darlin'." The corner of his mouth quirked in a smile. "Some things are worth the risk."
Then he was kissing her again, making her head spin, his hands roaming restlessly over every inch of her wet skin. She pressed into him tighter, remembering the day he had first said that. The day that he had kissed her for the first time, the only person to ever be unafraid of her skin.
He suddenly pulled back, his eyes serious as they searched hers. "There's something I've been meanin' to ask you."
She looked back at him in confusion. "You can ask me anything, sugar."
"Remember that day, when you said you were travelin' until you found a place that felt like home?"
"Sure," she answered, still puzzled. At the time she had thought it was a lie of convenience to hide the fact that she was on the run, but now she knew that it had been her secret hope all along - that she would finally find a place where she felt like she belonged.
"Well..." He seemed suddenly nervous, ducking his head into the curve of her neck to avoid her eyes, mumbling his words against her skin. "Do you think you've found it?"
She suddenly understood. He was asking if she would stay. Silly man, she thought with a smile. Like there was ever any doubt.
"I found it," she said, kissing him again, hearing the conviction in her own words. She had found the place where she belonged - not the mansion but here, in his arms, his heart thumping in rhythm with hers. "It was you."
[Author's Note: Aw...Okay, the ending is a little corny, but I wanted this to continue to be a rough mirror-image of my other AU, The Prisoner, where Marie is a mansion resident who finds Logan, and ends with Logan realizing that Marie is his home. The ending was also inspired by my husband's and my wedding vows, which ended with, "My arms will be your shelter, my heart will be your home." Still true. :-D
Please review if you're willing! :-D]