Chapter Twelve - Christmas Comes but Once a Year

            Peter became one of Marie's friends, but not really part of her group.  Remy, on the other hand, became part of her group, but never her friend.  After the first couple of threats from Logan, he learned to be civil to her, but not to try to take it beyond that.  Him and Jubilee had an on-again, off-again relationship.  Their fights cost the Professor hundreds of dollars in repair from Jubilee's plasma balls, and Remy's cards.

            School had started again.  Marie helped Logan teach self-defense.  That was the only class that the graduated seniors still took.  So after Logan had terrorized the group - his theory was that he had to be scarier than anyone else they would meet - Marie showed them what they did wrong and what they should have done.  Or, their roles were switched - Marie terrorized and Logan corrected.  Even though the two were a completely evil teaching team, and Marie was teaching her friends, it was a fun class.

            Rogue was going to college online, so she could still live at the mansion.  Kitty, Bobby, St. John, and Jubilee were taking a year off from school, before starting college, even though everyone told them that was not a good idea.  Marie was pretty sure Peter was doing the same thing, if he planned on going to college at all.  And as for Remy, she didn't give a shit.

            Peter and Remy were added to the self-defense course, of course.  If Logan went a little harder on Remy, didn't pull quite so many punches, nobody noticed or complained.

            Marie sat in the library, reading A Tale of Two Cities.  She stayed in the library a lot during the school year because no one bugged her.  She wasn't in school anymore, but she still spent most of her time in the mansion - that was where she felt safest.  Well, no, she had to amend that statement.  She felt safest wherever Logan was.  But the mansion was the next best place.

            The book just couldn't hold her attention today.  Her eyes wandered around the library - or the part that she could see - and settled on Peter.  He was sitting at a table, sketching away in his ever-present sketchbook.  Maybe today she could get him to show her what he was drawing.  She had still never seen a thing that he drew.

            "Hey Peter."  She sat down across from him.

            "Hello Rogue.'  She noticed that this time, he didn't flip the book closed.  Progress!

            "Can Ah see?"

            He hesitated, then slid that pad across to her.  "It is not very good."

            "Bull shit!"  The one he was working on was of Remy, shuffling his cards and looking especially devious.  The Cajun's past job was as a thief, and this suggested just that.  "This is one of the best sketches Ah have ever seen!  Can Ah look through the rest?"

            Peter nodded.  Rogue flipped through slowly.  There was Kitty and Bobby, standing on the porch, Ororo in her garden, and Logan on his bike.  She was almost to the beginning.  Peter was one hell of a good artist.

            "Don't-" Peter began, half-jumping across the table to get his pad back before she could get to the second to last - well, since she was going backwards, second to first - page.  He had just remembered what was on that one.  Unfortunately, he was to slow and she leaned back too far, flipping the page and laughing.

            Then she stopped, the front legs of her chair slamming back onto the ground.  Peter had a guilty look on his face.  It was a drawing of her and Logan.  A very good drawing of her and Logan, curled up in her bed, just about to kiss.  From what she could see, they were both naked.  IT was all her fondest fantasies put on paper.

            "I am sorry.  I should not have drawn that…"  

            "Wow," Marie breathed when she could talk again.  "No, Ah don't mind.  This is…wow."

            "I see it in your eyes when you are looking at Logan and think no one else is looking."  Peter would have added, 'and in his', but figured it was none of his business.  It would be much sweeter for Rogue if she found out on her own.

            "That obvious, huh?"  Everyone knew that she had a crush on Logan, but most thought she had gotten over it.  In fact, everyone but her friends thought that she had gotten over it, as far as she knew.  At least, they stopped having little 'talks' with her about it, and smiling like it was 'cute'.  The last - first - page was another sketch of 'Ro.  The two of her were the most detailed, the most realistic.  Well, she could red into this; someone else was in love with someone 'too old' for them.

            "These are awesome, Peter."  She pushed the pad back across the table to him.  "Ya should show Ororo some of these.  'Specially the ones of her."  Marie grinned devilishly at Peter's blush.

            "No, she enjoys her privacy.  She would not appreciate me intruding on that.'

            "Thanks for letting me look at him."  Marie smiled, slightly sadly.  "Ya comin' ta lunch?"

            They walked out of the library together, never knowing that their conversation had been overheard.

*  *  *  *  *

            Logan sat back in his chair.  He had found a dark, dusty corner in the library where no one eer went, and claimed it as his.  Of course, nobody, not even Marie knew this, knew that he came into the library at all.  Since people didn't know he was there, he could listen to all the interesting gossip - not that he would ever admit that it was interesting.

            When he had heard Marie come in, he almost went over to join her.  Something stopped him, though.  Then Peter came in and started drawing in that pad of his.  Marie went to join him, and somehow managed to get it away from him.  The sound of flipping pages and random exclamations told him that she was looking through it.  The sudden smell of panic from Peter and Marie's laugh made him wonder what she was doing to it - it was not like her to be cruel.  When her laughter abruptly stopped, he wondered what the little prick had done to her and was about to go find out, until he realized that she didn't smell like fear, just amazement and…longing?  Damn, he was fucking curious.  For once, he was glad he was a mutant, and wished he had x-ray vision, too.

            Then, listening to the ensuing conversation, he realized that it must have been a sketch of him and Marie.  Apparently, she was still a 'little taken' with him - he still could not believe he had said that to Jean - and it definitely wasn't a little, by the tone of her voice and her scent.  He debated going out there to see what exactly the Russian had drawn, but was saved from making that mistake because they left for lunch.

            This provided a perplexing dilemma for him.  He had three choices of how to handle this - okay, this was weird, he was actually going to think this through instead of acting on impulse.  Of course, that was how he always did thinks with Marie.  Back to his options.  He could act on his instincts and do what Wolverine really wanted to do - with a few modifications of course - since she obviously had feelings for him more than just a simple crush.  He supposed that the scent of arousal that hung around her half the time she was around him should have been a clue, but he figured it had just been teen list.  Every freaking teenage girl in the place smelled of lust around him.  The problem with that course of action was who he was.  The second choice was to leave.  He had promised to take care of Marie, and that included protecting her from him.  There was no way in hell he was good for here - she already had his memories, she didn't need him like that in real life.  He would just end up hurting her somehow.  But he didn't know if he could do that.  The look on her face whenever he came home from a trip…it made his heart sing.  She was the first person to be glad he was alive, the first to care about him and be his friend in so long that he didn't know if he could give it up.  And he was still the only one in this goddamned place to touch her on a constant basis.  If he were gone, whom would she go to when she had his nightmares?  She still came into his room at least once very other week with either one of his or one of Magneto's nightmares.

            The last choice he had was to pretend he hadn't heard anything.  That would let Marie get over her feelings without any pain on her part.  He could, well, not get over it, but - at least bury it.  S would she, if she couldn't get over it.  This seemed like the best course of action - or non-action - that he could come up with.  He would continue acting as he had, and she would continue acting as she had.  That worked out just fine.

            These deliberations - as sad as it was - had taken him over an hour.  The library was empty, so he could leave.  Grabbing the Civil War book he had been reading, he snuck out, making sure nobody saw him.

*  *  *  *  *

A Couple Months Later:

            "Wake up!  Wake up!"

            Logan grunted.  Why the hell was Marie in his room at - quick glance at his alarm clock - seven in the morning?  She sounded excited, smelled excited, what was up?  What was he forgetting?

            "Come on Logan!  It's Christmas!"  She stripped off the blankets, knowing he slept in boxers.  "Get up!"

            He growled at her, knowing it would have no effect.  "It's seven fucking am, kid.  Give me back my blankets, and let me go back to sleep.  And stop italicizing every other word."

            "Get up.  What will it take to get you out of bed?"

            "Another couple hours of sleep," he grumbled.  "Aren't you a little old to be this excited over Christmas?  Go away!"

            "No.  Wake up.  C'mon.  This is the first time Ah've got someone Ah consider real family here.  Let's go.  Up.  Now."

            Damn her for pulling that on him!  "It's seven fucking a fucking m."

            "Yeah.  Ah know.  Ya got half and hour.  Almost everyone else is already down there."  She knew that when he started adding extra swears, he was just asserting his manliness before agreeing.

            "Why so goddamned early?"

            "Because it's Christmas."  Marie grabbed his arm with the intent of pulling him out of bed.  Yeah, like that was going to happen.  Acting on impulse, Logan twisted his arm enough to grab hers and tugged her into his bed.  She shrieked a little and fell in, ending up lying beside him, after he had rolled onto his back.

            "You sure we're supposed to be down there this early?"  Logan felt Marie slowly start to relax next to him.  She was always, without fail, nervous for the first couple seconds she lay next to him.

            "Yes, goddamn it!  That's what it's been like for every single Christmas ya weren't here.  Everyone goes down in the pajamas around seven, seven-thirty, and they start opening their gifts five minutes later.  Now come on."

            She glanced over at him and jumped up.  Logan sighed and got up, too.

            "There's no way in hell I am going down there in my pajamas," he said dryly, glancing down at his boxers.

            Marie giggled.  "That's good.  Scott would have a cow if you did.  Now get dressed."

            "Can I get some privacy?  Maybe take a shower?"  He was joking - about the first part at least - and she knew it.

            "Since when have ya cared about privacy like that?  Ah'll be back at seven-thirty on the dot, and I'm draggin' ya down there, dressed or not."

            " 'Kay kid."

            Marie traipsed out, whistling a Christmas carol.  This whole season drove Logan nuts, well, it used to.  Back before he had anyone to care about.  Of course, the constant singing, the perpetual perkiness of everyone, the whole holiday cheer thing still pissed him off.  Somehow, though, it was a bit more tolerable, knowing there were people he actually wanted to get stuff from.

            Marie was back just when she said she would be, still in her flannel frog pajamas.  Logan was in his usual jeans, plaid flannel over shirt, and leather gloves.  Downstairs was filled with pajama-clad teenagers and adults.  Except for the Professor, of course, who was in one of his infinite Armani suits.  Logan wondered for a moment if he slept in them.  That was one hell of a funny picture.  He sat in a chair in the corner, and was immediately surrounded by Marie and her friends.

            "Hey Wolvie.  Roguey finally dragged you down here?"

            He growled at Jubilee, which just made her laugh.  He had come down late at night and dumped everything he bought under the tree - and it was a huge tree, scraping the top of the ceiling.  The way holidays were celebrated at the mansion was that they did everything.  All the Jewish holidays were celebrated, all the Christian ones, everything.  Of course, if you were Christian, you didn't get fays out of school for Jewish holidays, and vice versa.  As for the winter gift-giving holidays, you gave gifts on your holiday, and everybody got a little something on Christmas.  All in all, it was a good arrangement.

            Each person had their own pile of gifts - it cur down on the chaos of Christmas morning.  Logan watched from his chair as Rogue and her friends grabbed their presents and brought them back to where he was sitting.  Then they all sat and looked expectantly at him.

            "What?" he asked gruffly.

            "What about all your stuff, Wolvie?" Jubilee asked innocently.  Rogue silently pointed back towards the tree, a slight smile on her face.

            Logan sighed and shook his head.  He grumbled to himself, not seriously.  He was surprised to see that he actually had a pretty good-sized pile.

            "Happy?" he asked as he dumped them beside his chair.

            Rogue happily nodded.  Logan watched as the young adults surrounding him tore off the paper with the zeal of young children.  Except for his Marie.  She relished each and every gift.  She had a substantial pile of them.  Logan began to have second thoughts about whether or not he had gotten her something good enough.  Caring this much about what she thought about a stupid Christmas present was ridiculous.  She had him completely wrapped around her little finger; he was pathetic.

            Rogue watched Logan out of the corner of her eye.  She had become adept at figuring out his emotions from the very few changes of his facial expressions.  She would guess that she had a ninety percent success rate.  Pretty damn good where Logan was concerned.  Now, he was looking nervous, with her having only his gift left to open.  The way she had her friends did things, it went around in a circle, open one; open one; open one.  Logan told them to pass over him.  Jubilee and everyone were just happy enough to do as he said.  Now, Marie eyed him and his pile of gifts.

            "Ah don't think it's really fair to let you open everything all at once."  SH eyed her fiends for support.  "Ah think you should open everything but one right now, make it even."

            Logan surveyed the half-circle and knew he was beat.  "Whatever you say, kid."  He checked the tags and pulled one from Kitty and Bobby.  Inside the box was a pair of leather gloves.  A note said, Super soft, super thin.  Merry Christmas.  Kitty and Bobby.

            Next was a pair of good boots.  'These ought to fit and should match all your motorcycle gear.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  Jubilee, St. John, Gambit, and Peter.'

            Scott and Jean had bought him a couple T-shirts.  Ororo bought him a box of expensive cigars.  That made Logan quirk his lips in a half smile.  Even though she always yelled at him for smoking, she still bought him cigars.  That said something.

            Now all that was left was the Professor and Marie.  The Professor had attached a note to his.  'Do not open this unless you are alone.'  Judging by the size and heft of the package, he would guess books.  The last was from Marie, and that he could tell was a book.

            "Okay, your turn," he said to Marie.

            She raised an eyebrow, and he tossed the two packages left into her lap.  She nodded her understanding and handed them back to him.  He held up the one from her slightly, barely noticeable, and put on his 'question face'.  She shrugged almost imperceptibly and nodded a bit.  Logan knew that it was a book and was asking if he could open it in front of everyone.  This little wordless exchange, something usually only very very good friends or lovers could do, was not lost on Jubilee and Kitty.

            This last gift from Logan was a nondescript box.  He had scrawled on the gift tag, 'It's in a box so you can't guess what it is.'  When she looked up to meet his eyes after reading that, he had a smug look on his face.  Christmas was not a time to save wrapping paper - that was what you did on your birthday - she tore it open.  The top flaps of the box were interlocked to keep it closed, and she eased that open.  The first thing she pulled out was a Sony Walkman for CDs.  This one was one that played MP3s, too.  The only thing left in the box was two CDs, sort of anticlimactic.

            "I've never heard of these guys before," she said as she pulled out two RUSH CDs.

            "Yeah, they're from the late 70s.  Listen to 'A Farewell to Kings' first.  They sounded like something you'd like."  This was the only gift he'd actually put time into.  Everything else had been easy - a gag gift from Spencer Gifts.  After all, it wasn't as if he actually liked any of the other people in the building.  Compared to the other things she had received - a couple of outfits, gift certificates, things like that - he hadn't really gotten her anything good.  A Discman and a couple of CDs was nothing - okay, an expensive Discman and a couple of CDs.

            People were slowly wandering out for breakfast now.  "Is there any special rule that says I have to open everything right now?" he asked, looking at Marie.

            Her friends all said yes, but she shook her head.  "Nope, not really."

            He nodded sagely.  "Then I'll save these for later."

            Nobody gave a shit - it was breakfast time.  Once you put your stuff in your room, you could go down to the caf.  The general consensus was that Christmas meal were the best meals of the year.  All the holidays were mish mashed, and the caf was treated like a restaurant.  The students who stayed over winter break could have whatever they wanted to eat all day.

            In the hall, Logan caught up with Rogue.  "If you don't like the music, I still got the receipts so you can return them and get different CDs.  But I think you'll at least like the lyrics."

            Rogue smiled at him.  "You have a knack for picking out thing I'll like.  And now I can actually listen to the CDs I burn."  She was touched that he was worried over whether or not she liked what he had given her.  She was more worried about whether or not he already owned what she had bought him.

            "You wanna see what's in these before breakfast?" he asked her when they got to his door.  "Or, at least, what's in the Professor's?"

            Marie shrugged.  "If you're going to open them anyway…"

            "Go put your stuff in your room.  I'll wait."

            Marie went the bit farther down the hall to where her room was and put everything on her bed.  She had half-hoped that Nire would show up.  If she did, Rogue had bought a charm bracelet for the girl.  Of course, it was still early…

            Back in Logan's room, she sat down in his desk chair.  He was on his bed, patiently waiting for her to come back.

            "Which to open first…" he pondered.  "Hm.  I guess I'll save what's most likely to be best for last."

            Marie grinned as he put the wrapped package from her off to the side and began to unwrap the one from the Professor.  Inside was The Complete Unabridged Works of Shakespeare, and a note that said, 'Hopefully, you don't have this one yet.  Merry Christmas.'

            Marie grinned at him.  "You can't keep secrets from telepaths.  The question is, is that a good thing or a bad thing?"

            "Probably a bad thing," was the muttered response.  He got to his knees and dragged out his box.  He was going to need a new one soon.  Luckily, not only did he not own this particular book, but there was just enough room left for it.

            "You need a new box," Marie commented.

            "I think I'm going to get some sort of cupboard with no windows that I can lock.  Put everything in there."  He shoved the box back under his bed.  If whatever Marie had gotten him needed to be hidden, it  could be put in his desk.

            She had wrapped it in red wrapping paper with cute little reindeer on it - not that he thought they were cute, oh no.  He was right; it was a book, a paperback book.  Zen and the Art of Motorcycles.  He gave Marie a one-armed hug.

            "Thanks Marie.  You have no idea of how long I've been looking for this book."  A beautiful smile appeared on her face.  She hadn't really been sure if it would be something he liked, or if he would already have it.

            "Glad you like it," she told him, still smiling.

            His heart did a double-thump at the smile that was still on her face.  He really had been looking for it after his original copy had blown up along with his trailer and truck.  But none of the bookstores that he had gone to seemed to carry it, or be able to get it.  Most annoying.

            "Yo, Roguey."  Jubilee stuck her head into Logan's room.  "You planning on eating breakfast today?  Come on."

            Logan tossed the book on his bed and followed Rogue down to breakfast.

*  *  *  *  *

            Rogue returned to her room after breakfast to try on her new clothes.  Nire was sitting on her bed, swinging her feet.  Apparently, Nire had a habit of appearing unexpectedly.

            "Hiya, Rogue.  'Sup?  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.'

            "Hi Nire, how are you?"

            "Muy bien.  Having a good Christmas?"

            "Yeah.  You?"

            "Hell yeah!  Man, I'm just raking in the gifts!  I got lotsa stuff fom my family, then I went to my house and got lotsa stuff cuz they feel guilty.  An' we're getting' almost two weeks off from school.  Damn, life is fine!"

            "What?" Rogue asked, totally confused.

            "What, what?"

            "Family, house, school what?"  Rogue sat down in her chair.

            "You really want to hear about my family situation and shit?"

            Rogue shrugged, quite aware that this could cause Nire to shut down.  "You have the most interesting life of anyone I know, so, yes."

            "O-kay.  My family is the guys you met, The Band.  That's my home.  However, there's also my biological family and my house, which is here on Earth.  Except, not here-here, it's in the past.  And, Khel's deal is that if I go to school and get good grades, he'll stay off my back about my…lifestyle."


            "Yeah, my Robin Hood lifestyle.  Not all of my family approve of it, obviously.  Anyways, I just came here to give you this and wish you Merry Christmas."  Nire handed Rogue an envelope.

            "Thanks.  Hold on a second."  Rogue found her present for the now-sixteen-year-old and handed it over.  She knew that Nire was done talking about herself.  She was just as bad as Logan, in some respects.

            They both opened their Christmas presents.  Nire exclaimed over the charm bracelet and the delicate charms on it.  Inside the envelope, Rogue found a $100 bill and a Christmas card with a note inscribed, 'Hey.  I bite at buying people X-mas presents, so there you go, get what you want.  Thanks for putting up with me for those months.  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and all that shit.'

            "Thanks, Nire," she said grinning.  "This is great.,"  She didn't really want to know where the money had come from.

            "So, wha'd Logan give you?" Nire asked.

            "A couple of RUSH CDs and a Disman."

            "Oo!"  This was the first time Rogue had ever seen Nire excited,  "You got RUSH CDs?  Which ones?"

            "Um," she grabbed them off the bed to check the titles, " 'Fly By Night' and 'A Farewell to Kings'."

            "Oh.  Thos are the two I have.  Listen to 'A Farewell to Kings' first.  'Fly By Night' can be sort of a turnoff because of the vocals.  But they're both ridiculously good CDs."

            "You've heard of them?"

            "Hell, yeah.  They're a late 70s, early 80s band.  As of 2002, they were still doing tours.  Damn, I wish I coulda gone to one of the concerts.  Hey, if you don't like the music, try reading the lyrics.  Those are the damned best lyrics I have ever seen.  'When they turn the pages of history/When these days have passed long ago/Will they read of us with sadness/For the seeds that we let grow'.  How can you beat that?"  Nire cocked her head slightly.  "I gotta go.  Breakfast is ready.  See ya later."

            "Bye Nire."  The girl motioned and hopped off the bed, disappearing immediately.

*  *  *  *  *

            It was half an hour to midnight on New Year's Eve.  Logan had been lurking in the big TV room with the rest of the school for the past half hour, waiting for Marie to show up.  She had been avoiding all doorways when people were around since they had put the mistletoe up before Christmas.  Logan had been doing the same, sick of seeing giggling teenage girls lurking at ever doorway.  He was going to go nuts if he had to watch one more 'Twilight Zone' episode.

            Kitty finally took pity on him and sidled up to his side.  "She's on the roof."

            "Who's on the roof?" he said nonchalantly.

            "Oh, don't be such a jackass," Kitty said.  She was growing less mild-mannered as she grew older.  "Everybody knows that you're just here waiting for Rogue.  She's on the roof and probably will be until just before the ball drops, if she comes inside at all.  If you had ever been here around this time of year, you would know that.  And before you even ask, we aren't up there because she doesn't want us up there.  But I'm sure she would enjoy your company."  Before he could reply, she had walked back over to Bobby and was cuddling in a chair with the Iceman.

            Logan lingered for a couple moments, making a statement (even though he wasn't quite sure what the statement that he was making was), then wandered out.  Once he was out of sight of anyone in the room, he strode purposefully towards the stairs that led to the roof.  Climbing up those stairs, he could smell her scent - new, not the usual lingering smell.  Halfway up, he realized that he should probably go back to his room for a sweatshirt or something.

            When he finally made it to the top of the stairs, he stuck his head out the trap door.  "Mind if I join you?" he asked.

            Marie's head turned, and she flashed a smile at him.  "No, of course not.  Come on up," she said in her soft southern drawl.

            Looking at her in the faint moonlight, wrapped in her green cloak, her face palely glowing, she looked like an angel.  He walked across the slanted rooftop to sit by her side.  She automatically leaned into his side, just as he automatically put his arm around her.  He briefly wondered when such gestures had become automatic to them.

            "So, how come you aren't inside with everyone else, eagerly awaiting the ball to drop?" he asked quietly, so as not to disturb the mood.

            "Too noisy, too loud, too many people.  Ah prefer to spend New Year's Eve reflecting on the past year…" she trailed off.  "Oh, wow, that sounds really stupid."

            "Not coming from you," Logan replied.

            "Anyway, it's calm and peaceful here, and New Year's Eve tends to be one of the most beautiful nights of the year."

            The two were content just to sit and enjoy each other's company.  The air was crisp and clean, with a promise of approaching snow.  The stars glowed and twinkled in the midnight sky.  The sky wasn't black so much as a deep, velvety blue.  If they had been girlfriend/boyfriend, what they were doing now would be called cuddling or snuggling.  But when you were doing it with a friend, Logan wasn't sure what it was called.

            At exactly midnight, Marie's arm shot out and she pointed at the sky.  "Look!  A shooting star!"

            Their eyes tracked it across the night sky, following the blaze of bright light.  Superstitiously, Marie wished with all her heart that Logan would see that she had grown up since he had first met her Logan, himself, made a wish out of habit, wishing that things were different with him, his past, and things he had done since the experiments.  This was, in fact, the first time he had wished for anything other than answers.

            After a few moments, Marie said, "I suppose that we should go in now, before they lock us out."

            Logan nodded in agreement, and stood up, offering Marie a hand up.  He pulled her to her feet and they walked to the door together.  Logan went down the steep steps first, only getting three or four down before he froze.

            "What's the matter?" Marie asked as she almost ran into his back.

            He growled, a true rumble from deep in his throat.  "It's those stupid psychotic teenage bitches who've been trying to trap me under some mistletoe all fucking week.  This was a setup."

            Marie didn't bother asking why he played by their ruled - it was just something he did.  He wouldn't tell them to fuck off because that was against the rules, but he would spend the night on the roof.

            "What are you willing to do to get past them without breaking your strange rules?"

            "Almost anything," was his guarded answer.

            She lifted his arm and out it around her shoulders, then put her arm around his waist, all the while marveling at her own audacity.  "There.  Now you're safe because you're taken."

            Logan smiled at her.  "Brilliant, kid.  Absolutely brilliant."

            They walked down the stair together, and as Logan suspected, there was a sprig of mistletoe hung over the doorway, having magically appeared since he had gone outside.  He could almost feel the girls' disappointment as he came down with Rogue.

            HE saw the confusion plainly written on Marie's face when he stopped her inside the doorjamb, right underneath the sprig of green plant, and turned to face her.  Here was his chance to do what he had always wanted to do.  He saw the confusion turn to slight fear - fear of what her skin would do to him - as he bent down slowly, giving her enough time to pull away if she so chose.  She didn't, trusting him, and he pulled up the scarf around her neck to cover her lower face.  He kissed her chastely, gently, more than a kiss that a friend would give, but less than that of a lover - a kiss that summed up their relationship.  He straightened up, saying, "Happy New Year, kid."

            Anything that might have come after was ruined when a troupe of giggling girls appeared.  They were visibly disappointed when they saw Rogue with Logan.  They wandered by nonchalantly, whispering among themselves.  When they were gone, Logan shook his head in exasperation.

            "Why me?  Why can't they go pick on Scooter, or find some poor kid their own age?" he asked rhetorically as he moved out of the doorway.

            Rogue answered, anyway.  "Because nobody exudes the 'bad-boy' aura they're attracted to as well as you do.  Duh."

            Logan sighed.  "I need a beer.  You want one, too, kid?"

            Rogue shook her head.  "Ah think Ah'm going to go to bed.  Besides, Ah'm underage, remember?"

            Logan grabbed her wrist.  "C'mon, kid.  It's New Year's.  I'll cover your ass if Scooter catches you."

            Rogue grinned and was pulled along - not all that reluctantly - as Logan headed for his beer supply.