I see the way they look at each other. Heated glances. Slight smiles. He waits for her outside of class, casually leaning up against that wall until all the students have left and she emerges; hair mussed up from an afternoon's teaching, slightly flushed, but happy to see him. Even if she pretends not to admit it.
I notice the way they act around each other. It's like a dance; each treading carefully thought out steps. Circling close to one another, around one another; looks darted from underneath lidded eyes. They know their game. They both play it well.
I hear the way they move together. At night. When Scott's away. The echo of her soft footsteps treading down the hallway to his room. The muffled sounds; the sort that carry through walls. The repetitive thump of the headboard.
As I lie still in bed, I can picture it perfectly, what he's doing to her. His memories rise unbidden to the surface and haunt me. Visions of dark heat, of the addiction of her, the tight grip of legs wrapped around him and the lust and control. Of desire. The images flood my mind, and I hate them. I hate them and I want them to go away, yet I crave them like a drug. They are the closest I will ever get to knowing what it's like.
I want to hate her. Hell, I want to hate them both, but she's been nice to me ever since I got here. She's always kind. She's helped me out in class, taken an interest in my education. And he treats me well too. Looks out for me. Even though he doesn't see me as any more than a kid.
Would it be different if he had absorbed my memories instead of the other way around? Would he know that when Bobby makes his fumbled attempts to kiss me I'm thinking of him?
Would it make a difference?
When Scott's home things change. Gone is the playful atmosphere. The days are tense. Brittle. Sometimes I wonder if Scott knows. I think he must do, he just doesn't choose to believe it. He likes to lay the blame at Logan's door; likes to think Jean's an innocent.
Sometimes I think he may be right. I saw the way she tried to turn Logan down, the initial advances she pushed away. I still had hope then; stupid teenage girlish hope, that one day he might see me as more than just a rescue kid.
But his eyes always found her; and eventually she stopped telling him no.
I've seen him deliberately try to rub Scott the wrong way too. Seen him go out of his way to snark remarks and jostle shoulders, so I know there must be more between them than just sex. He cares for her. And it hurts him.
With the tension, comes the inevitable arguments. Often she's there to calm them, but her guilty conscience makes it a feeble effort. And when she sides with Scott, when they go back to their shared room, then I hear Logan. Angry. Hear the frustrated slam of furniture. The sharp clank of beer bottles. The loud shout of commentators from the small TV he has on a shelf in his room.
Those are the times I go to him. The times he needs a friend.
He's always there for me if I'm in trouble, or upset. He doesn't give me love, doesn't give me those heated glanced reserved only for Jean, but he does give me his comfort, albeit gruff and unpractised. That part of him, at least, is mine.
So when he needs comfort in return, I'm there. Because it's the only thing he lets me give back.
I knock on the door and nudge it slightly ajar.
He's slouched in his customary white T-shirt and jeans, but when he looks up, his shadowed face darker than usual. He tries his best to hide it… like we don't know what's going on, but his frown eases a little when he sees it's me. He puts down his beer and mutes the TV. "Hey kid. What you still doin' up?"
I give him a shrug, a half smile. "Couldn't sleep. Heard you were still awake." I'm still hovering at the doorway. I don't go in his room unless invited. Not since that first time.
"You comin' in? Or you just gonna stand there?"
That counts. He scoots along on the bed a bit, makes room for me. I settle myself beside him, kicking off my shoes and curling my legs up underneath me, always making sure that there's enough distance between us. I don't want to touch him. I don't want any more of his thoughts, especially not tonight.
They'd all be of her.
For a long moment we just sit there, and I let the atmosphere wash over me. I can smell the lingering cigar smoke and I know he'll be having another lecture from 'Ro in the morning. His boots are kicked off in the corner; several bottles litter the floor and three long claw marks gouge the wall at eye level beside the door. They're new.
I turn my eyes away before he sees me looking, almost embarrassed. Which is stupid. But whatever storm was in here earlier, it has passed and in its wake a resigned calmness remains.
For a long while we both watch the moving pictures, not really caring about the lack of sound. The TV's just a distraction anyway.
"So," he says eventually, breaking the silence before taking another swig. "What you been up to today?"
I give him a shrug. "Nothing much. I had lunch with Jubilee. Finished an assignment."
"Last one?" he asks.
"One more to go."
From down the hall we both hear a noise from Jean and Scott's room. We both pretend not to notice it. It's nothing much. It could be any number of things; a draw slamming; a closet door being shut. But at the sound of voices, he visibly stiffens and the tension in the room thickens.
I hate that he reacts to her in this way. I wish it didn't hurt as much as it did. I want him to notice me. To carry on with what he was saying. To not be thinking of her.
But he is thinking of her, and the conversation trails off, as it always does. He says nothing more, just stares blankly ahead as we go back to the safety of watching the soundless pictures.
And I'm comfort. But nothing more.
I probably shouldn't even be here anyway. Technically Logan's a teacher, and I'm still a student. Not that anything untoward is going on, but still… people might get the wrong idea.
Bobby, for example.
I wish I could bring myself to care about that a bit more. Everyone else seems perfectly happy with the situation. Oh isn't it nice that poor untouchable Rogue has found herself a boyfriend. See? At Xavier's, even the freakiest of freaks can have a shot at normal.
People send indulgent smiles of 'young love' our way. The staff let us get away with more than they should. Probably because they know we can't sleep together anyway. Not without a doctor on call anyway. They're all happy for me. Even Logan. He'd probably jump for joy if I settled down with someone for good. It'd make him feel like he's achieved another notch on his belt of obligation to me.
"So how's things with you and whatshisface. Iceman?"
Speak of the devil. I sigh. It's a casual comment. There's nothing behind it. No bitterness. No longing. No hidden meaning. Just idle chat between friends. And I don't hate it. I've come to understand it. But it always makes me long for more.
"Fine," I give him another slight smile. And when I use the opportunity to steal his beer and take a swig for myself, his only reaction is to raise an eyebrow, and reach over for another.
"Are you staying in this evening then?"
He shrugs. "Might as well."
We both know he's hoping they argue. They often do. And that will give him an excuse. A window of opportunity.
I don't even know what I'm hoping for.
"So, you gettin' on ok these days?"
"Yeah." I take another swig. It's bitter and slightly warm and I pull a face, wishing I'd never picked it up. "A few more months and I'll have finished school."
I'm actually quite proud of that. The idea fills me with a warm glow. I thought my chance for education had been up once I turned runaway, but it's surprising how things change. It's been hard work, but like I said before, Jean's helped me. And I'm doing well.
"Good." He gives me an almost curt nod. "That's important. Can get yourself a decent job. Find your place in the world."
I look at him.
Even though I try not to show it, the way he says it bristles me slightly. It's the sort of thing my father would have said, and it just serves to remind me again that that's how he looks upon me. As a kid.
Does he think that I need to have these things told to me? Does he think I don't already know? Does he think that's what I want from him?
The quiet mood evaporates and even though I try to hide my emotions, I'm annoyed. It sparks a small flame of rebellion within me. It drives me to say what I've been hiding for weeks.
"Actually the Professor and I have already talked about that."
He raises an eyebrow.
"I've been offered a place on the team."
Suddenly the dark look is back. "I don't think that's-"
"I can look after myself."
"You're just a-"
"How's Jean?" I interrupt. It's deliberate. He gets to treat me like a kid. He gets to screw Jean, insult Scott and be completely unaware of my feelings, but he does not get to have an opinion on what I choose to do with my life. Those are my choices to make.
He looks at me for a moment, but I don't turn away. For once I look defiantly back; making sure he knows I've drawn a line for him not to cross. But instead of fighting it like I almost wish he would, his face closes up again and he reaches for the remote. "Ask Summers," is his only comment, before he flicks the volume back on again.
And just like that, the little window between us is closed.
We just both sit there quietly, not really watching the game, my thoughts a turmoil over him and my future. His thoughts far away from his room, in the arms of another.
The next day he's gone.
Sometimes my mutation hums. Some days it itches with power like it craves to be used. For me to snatch out a hand and feed it until the heat is gone and the urge is sated.
But I don't. I never do. I stem the desire. I dampen it down and banish it to the far reaches of my mind. I breathe and I focus and I concentrate and I force myself to keep the outer show of calm, even when the voices in my head are screaming.
It's that, ultimately, that begins the subtle shift in power. The one that leads me down that path of control. No technological advances. No suppressors. No drugs. Nothing to do with the therapy sessions with the Professor. Just the natural evolution of my body.
It's almost fitting. Or ironic. I can't quite decide which.
We don't see Logan for months. It's no great surprise I suppose. He keeps in touch with the Professor, and I think Jean must have had a phone call from him once, because one evening I caught her coming out of her room, eyes red and puffy from crying. Even then she looked beautiful.
I wanted to ask her what had happened. I was frantic to know. What did he say? Was he okay? Was he coming back? But she was so desperate to hide her emotions that I couldn't bring myself to say anything. She looked fragile. So unsure. And I was afraid that if I said it out loud I would break her.
I never thought I would end up being the strong one.
After a while things settled down in the mansion again. The ripples that Logan's presence created faded; they smoothed out and lessons continued as normal.
As prejudice outside grew, new children began to appear in the dorms. No one needed to ask where they came from. We all heard the jet go up at night.
Bobby and I became more serious, on his part anyway, and I let him. I let him test the boundaries of my mutation, seeing how long, how far. Could we touch? A brush of a hand. Could we kiss? An awkward press of his cool mouth against mine, both more nervous about my skin than the act itself. But it worked. I could control it.
I couldn't control him, however. As his confidence with my skin grew, so did his need to push for more. And far from making me want to explore my new found semi-freedom, his pressure, his always present love, it made me feel trapped. It suffocated me.
I began to avoid him. Weak, I know. I should have confronted him and explained my feelings. Or rather, my lack of them. He was one of the good guys, he would have understood. Instead I took the cheap way out. I pushed him away. I found excuses not to meet up, and I ignored him and hurt him until I found him in the arms of Kitty instead. I caught them. At the end of the corridor. I almost felt sorry for her. He pushed her aside so fast when he ran after me trying to explain. But I didn't mind, didn't even really care. I just felt… relief.
I'm sure that must make me a bad person.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ashamed of my actions. But the twist of my life that meant I could touch, took away my barriers, took away my safety net. Pushing Bobby away brought a little of that back.
Stupid isn't it. I fight for touch, and when I get it, I decide I don't want it after all. Even I don't understand me.
As the days grew shorter, other things around the mansion began to change as well. I began helping out in a few lessons, training intensified, couples paired off. At first I missed Logan's solitary presence, but as Scott and Jean's relationship slowly solidified again, I began to be almost grateful. At least that way we could all pretend things were normal.
Today, I sit in the garden. Despite the long shadows, it's sunny enough to sit outside without my cloak. I can feel the warmth of light on my face; the patches of shade from the tree above a cooler contrast. It's peaceful, above all things, and it's times like these that let me think.
I don't need my eyes open to notice what's going on around me. I still have Logan's senses… to some extent anyway. I can hear the younger children playing, arguing the way they shouldn't be, the shriek of their voices ringing out on the basketball court. I can hear the sound of Doctor McCoy's car as it crunches up the drive. If I listen carefully, I can make out the rustling sound the breeze makes through the different kind of trees, taste the scent of rain on the air.
I can hear Jubes and Pete whispering softly. Muffled giggles. Heated kisses. And I'm not jealous, I just wonder why I never felt that. Why I never wanted it. Not with David, not with Bobby.
Maybe it's me. Maybe I was always untouchable. Maybe I was never meant to be touched.
He doesn't stay away forever. Seasons turn, leaves grow from green to golden red, and changes happen; inside the mansion and out. Time moves on. Irreversible. Unstoppable. The Earth swinging in its looped cycle around the sun with little thought for the population crawling across its back.
I wake up one morning and it's cold, crisply fresh. My fingers feel icy as I scrape my hair back into a pony tail and I pull on several layers before padding my way down to the kitchen in my thick socks. Outside its early, cobwebs of dew still sparkle on the grass and for a moment I pause, just to peer out the window, palms pressed against the glass like I did when I was a child. In that moment I can understand the peace Ororo finds in nature. Only in something that can be so destructive, so violent, can there be such beauty and stillness.
'You an early riser these days, kid?'
And I don't need to turn to check, I don't need to ask. I just know it's him. That voice. That smoky scent.
A soft smile spreads across my face. 'Hey Logan,' I tell the window. He moves behind me so that a flash of his reflection catches my eye, and I watch it for a moment, the view outside suddenly sliding out of focus. Call me foolish, but I want to remember this moment. I want to savour it and store it for later. To keep the bubble of happiness it gives me.
"You grown eyes in the back of your head while I was away?"
My smile widens. 'Just enjoying the morning,' I answer back.
When I do finally turn he's just sat there, like he never left, hunched over his breakfast, spoon in hand, that smirk on his face as if he knows damn well that inside there's a part of me that's leaping up and down and shrieking for joy. But he looks happy to see me. And for that I can forgive him anything.
"Hungry?" he says, pushing the box of cereal my way.
I look at the packet, and I give him an arched eyebrow. I never imagined him for the Cheerio type.
"What?" he laughs in mock defence.
"You just make a strange picture, that's all."
"Who says I do?" He chomps down another mouthful. "I've had one bowl, and I'm branded as a pansy for life…"
Contrary to popular belief, he's a bad liar. I nod towards the almost empty carton of milk.
"Okay, two. But no tellin' anyone." He pauses, spoon mid-way to mouth. "Especially yer yella friend. I'd never live it down"
I laugh, and he gives me that wolfish grin, the one that makes my pulse race and my head spin. But I learned how to hide that years ago. Even from him.
"So, are you back for a while?" I say, as I help myself, plunking a bowl down next to his as I rummage around in the drawer for a spoon.
He shrugs. "You know I ain't a stickin' around sort of person, Marie."
Yeah. I know. But sometimes it's nice to pretend. Just for a while. "A lot's happened since you've been gone."
"I heard you graduated," he says, taking another mouthful.
Did he? I hadn't expected that.
"Chuck told me," he said, in answer to my unspoken question. "Also heard you were trainin' well for the team. Spoke to Cyke, he said he's pleased with your progress."
I'm not quite sure what gives me the sudden warm glow. Was it that he had asked about me? Or that Scott had praised my hard work? And it is hard work. More than once I've come out of the danger room with a good few heavy bruises. But I love the knowledge that I'm learning and improving. I even knocked Scott off his feet last week, and the thought still makes me smile. I wonder if that's what they talked about when they spoke about my training…?
Realisation dawns on me. If he had spoken to Scott that must mean he knew about…"Did Scott tell you… that he and Jean…" I don't quite know how to phrase it. I know whatever comes out of my mouth next will destroy this rare light-hearted moment between us.
"About him and Jeanie bein' engaged? Yeah, he told me." A brief hint of darkness crosses his face before he's able to hide it, and I can't help it; I hurt for him.
Silence falls heavily around us. I know I should say something, it's my turn, but the words won't come.
When he looks at me he hesitates. He looks like he wants to say more, but he doesn't. Instead he picks up his bowl and slides it into the sink. "See ya around kid," he says, heading for the hallway.
He turns, leaning against the doorway for a moment. "Yeah?"
"I'm glad you're back."
And after that things just fall into their normal screwed up routine.