The Games We Play – by Darlin

A/N – First I have to apologize for taking so long to get this out. Unfortunately during the past month I had inspiration for two stories that I just couldn't not write. One is an original story and the other is a prelude for a RoLo fairy tale that I wrote some years ago for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and like the fairy tale it's finished but needs major tweaking. Inspiration is fickle, it may wax mighty one day and wane desperately the next so when it comes I find it hard to not stop what I'm working on and do what seems to call to me as wanky as that may sound. I'm sorry I just can't help it.

That said, I also reworked chapter three so it flows a little better and got that up several weeks ago. I had a hard time making it work the way I wanted it to and the same for chapter four which grew from just a few pages to 20 pages, far too lumbering, so I kept tweaking it and tweaking it but unfortunately it actually grew longer. I then redid the last half but it still ended up being 21 pages, still a bit lumbering and I probably should've edited a lot more but I just enjoy the poker playing buddies so I couldn't. I do think it works, lumbering as it may be. I'm just at the point where I need to move on because all I keep doing is adding more and more! Lesson learned (and a hard lesson it was too because I've felt so guilty for not getting this up sooner), never say I'll have a chapter up unless it's actually tweaked, proofed and I'm posting it the same time I'm saying it'll be up.

Chapter Four – Commencements

-xox-

It was still raining softly when Ororo woke up. It was early, the sun not even up yet but she felt so well rested she purred like a contented kitten. She felt deliciously and deliriously happy as she peered at the man in her bed. She was laying beside him, her arm over his chest. She purred again and ran her fingers over his chest delighting in the feel of the firm muscles, the soft hair. This was bliss she thought and smiled dreamily just basking in the joy of having the man she loved with her when she woke up. Sleeping in his arms last night, waking up to him this morning, it gave her a feeling of utmost peace. That peace however was suddenly shattered when she heard a very unwelcome shout in her head.

"Ororo, is Logan with you?" questioned Emma through her mutant psychic power.

Ororo didn't bother to reply. She simply forced all her barriers up and blocked the White Queen from her mind and tried to calm her rising anger at the intrusion. She took a deep breath before sitting up carefully so she didn't disturb Logan and poured herself a glass of water from the carafe on the nightstand, took a few sips, then popped a mint from a tiny tin into her mouth. She laughed when she saw Logan was awake and watching her. He looked as if he belonged there in her bed morning noon and night and every hour in between, grinning that sexy wolfish grin she'd fallen in love with so many years ago. It still took her breath away.

"It's good ta wake up with ya, darlin'," he said.

"I've missed having you here," she admitted.

"You mean that?" he said as he sat up and reached for her.

"I've missed you yes, but . . ."

He moaned as she came into his arms without resisting him like he'd expected her to. His kiss was fierce and demanding and she sunk into his embrace, into the melting kiss, as if she knew no other way to be. She wanted him as much as she knew he wanted her. She simply had no will power when it came to this man. That they'd merely slept together last night now seemed utterly implausible. But now, just like last night, it was Logan who backed off. He loosened his hold on her, bowed his head so their foreheads touched and let out a deep ragged breath. Summoning up as much control as he could his hands cupped her face and he touched his lips to hers so softly she automatically leaned into him wanting more but then he let her go and sat back.

"I ain't made of the same stuff as you, darlin', I wanna make love to ya – yeah, I know ya don't gotta say it, I know ya don't wanna go there. But since I ain't got the willpower ta keep this up fer long I better be gettin' outta here otherwise you'll be throwing me out fer good an' I wanna come back."

Despite the thrill that rushed through her when he said he wanted to come back and be with her, Ororo bit her lip and wished the stuff that he was talking about was working for her now because it wasn't. She wanted him and she meant to have him. If only just once and then she'd go back to her resolution.

"Stay," she said.

He didn't try to fight his desire for her this time but leaned in and kissed those full lips of hers, reveling in her taste, her touch, the thrill of being with the woman he'd finally admitted to being in love with. It was a long sweet kiss but like Ororo earlier the moment was shattered when Emma called out to him.

"Damn," he hissed.

"What's wrong?"

"Emma's in my head – or was," he muttered after forcing her out.

"She tried contacting me too. Something must be going on, she's never up before eight."

"Well, since I can't stay I'll go see what she wants," he said then kissed her before getting out of bed.

Ororo knew he was right, it really was best if he left now she just didn't want him to go besides she still had something she needed to discuss with him. Yes, he loved her and wanted her with or without sex but she had no idea how much he wanted her or where they would go from here. What was love and desire without commitment and how much would he be willing to commit? And how did you ask the man you were in love with any of those things especially when that man was Logan who had only committed to two women that she knew of, both of them dead?

"You know we could've been doing this all last week if you'd just come out an' said somethin'," he said as he pulled his pants on. "Why didn't you just tell me ya loved me, darlin? It would've saved us a whole lot of grief."

"Why didn't you just tell me you loved me? Wouldn't that have saved us all this grief too?" retorted Ororo.

"Well, I . . . well . . . it ain't the easiest thing ta tell someone – I mean, it ain't like being with me's a walk in the park. The last woman I was with had ta – well, it wasn't a walk in the park."

"Oh. Well, I did consider that. Only I know what a hard life you have, Logan because we share that life. It's hard for all of us. It's unpredictable, scarey, dangerous. We've fought the craziest of bad guys from aliens to mythological gods! We've died and been reborn together, it really doesn't get much worse than that. And if you're worried about Sabretooth or any other villain popping out of the woodwork ,determined to wreak vengeance on you, I do have some powers."

"Some powers," he laughed. "Well, darlin' you can hold your own I'll give ya that. But the thing is I wouldn't want anything ta happen to you, Ro. I wouldn't want ta risk anyone tryin' ta get to me through you."

"Well, that's a two way street. I have my own enemies, the the Shadow King for one. Besides you taught me how to fight and though I'm not on your level I'm not that bad. Maybe one day I won't be good enough but we live day by day not knowing if each day will be our last. We simply accept the risk because helping people, saving the world matters to us. You have to know I don't care about any of the what if's or the dire consequences of being with you, the possibilities of fates worse than death. I've always felt we were in this together whether you loved me or not and I believed – I still believe you feel the same so that couldn't have been the only reason you didn't want to tell me you loved me."

"Well, no it wasn't," he acknowledged.

"So then . . . ?"

He started to speak then bit his lower lip and exhaled deeply. His reasons were hard to put into words which was a major reason why he hadn't said anything in the first place.

"Logan?"

"Yeah, I'm gonna tell ya just give me a second," he said and he sat down on the bed beside her.

Her impatience ebbed a little and she put a hand on his thigh to encourage him. His hand immediately covered hers, his fingers entwining with hers.

"You see this?" he said as he lifted their joined hands. "This is everything I didn't want to lose, Ro. This is what we have, it's who we are." He said this as if it explained everything and to him it did.

"I – I don't know what you mean."

His lips twisted in uncertainty. To him her gesture, reaching out impetuously to comfort, to reassure him, matched his need to hold on to her, to reassure her in turn, as if they were somehow connected. He'd cared for his last girlfriend but there had never been this type of connection between them. He'd known Ororo for years, almost knew her inside and out just as she knew him. When she was off or acting out of character like she had been the past few days he was off. How did you explain that?

Even the mere holding of hands was something he seldom did. But with Ororo he felt at ease, almost taking for granted the comfort they shared in each other, their respect, their completeness in each other. He'd thought he'd lost that when he'd left her in Africa and then found out she was getting married. He would never forget how he'd felt when he'd heard the news. Disbelief, shock, emptiness, pain. Such intense pain, as if a giant hand had hold of his stomach and was squeezing as hard as it could, where all he could do was throw up or hit something to make it stop. But he'd ignored it, pretended to be happy for her, had denied any self analysis determined not to figure out why her getting married hurt so much. He'd told himself she was a good friend and he would miss her and he convinced himself that all he wanted was the best for her which wasn't him. What they'd had had been easy going and fun, he cared for her, always would but he'd never be what her future husband would be to her, could never beat first love, would never be the marrying type. And though it hurt to go along with what he thought was best for her he had done it just like he'd been ready to do again this time. Only this time he had a feeling that wasn't really what she wanted and this time he knew how much she meant to him and it had been too hard to sit back and let her make the same mistake. It had been too hard to think about losing her a second time and so though he'd wanted her to be happy he couldn't let her go back to T'Challa, not without a fight.

Now he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it softly. That he'd finally admitted his love to her and to himself was a mixed blessing. It was a huge relief but also totally overwhelming because the depth of the love he felt for her was so enormous that it scared him. How did you tell someone something like that without scaring them in turn?

"Okay," he said then cleared his throat before continuing, "I just didn't wanna lose what we have. I didn't wanna lose you again. I didn't know how you'd feel if you knew besides I didn't even wanna think about how much I loved you. It's . . . it's . . ."

"Terrifying," she said, squeezing his hand and nodding understandingly.

He chuckled. "Yeah. See? You really know me. And maybe that's what I love about you the most."

"What else do you love about me?" she asked half teasingly half intrigued.

"There're so many things, Ro," he said truthfully. "Sometimes just seein' ya comin' down the stairs all sexy an' beautiful, that scares the hell outta me. Seein' you like that, knowing I'd kill anyone who tried ta hurt ya." He shook his head but went on, "You just know me, Ro. You put up with me, we're good together whether it's in the field out on assignment or in bed or out at those fancy places you like ta go sometimes. What I guess I mean is that there's no one I trust more 'n you. You're my best friend an' I always wanna keep that. Besides you're hot, great in bed, you're beautiful, strong, smart, independent, ya cook great, we have fun together – you're damn near perfect,"he ended with his wolfish grin.

"Oh, my darling, darling Logan! I cannot believe how foolish we were! But I think that no matter what happens we're always going to be friends, even when you grow tired of me."

Logan shook his head. "That ain't never gonna happen, darlin'."

"I fully expect it not to, is that clear?"

"You bet," he said, pulling her closer. He kissed her tenderly having no more words to express how much she meant to him. She murmured her pleasure. He grinned and remembering last night said, "I like it when you're in take charge, storm the fortress mode, darlin'."

"Well, a woman's got to do what a woman's got to do to get her man!" she laughed.

"Shoulda done it sooner, sweetheart," he murmured before he kissed her again.

He was pushing her down onto the bed when another shout inside his skull made him jerk upright.

"Ow!" Ororo moaned as Emma shouted in her head as well.

"Damn!" Logan hissed.

"Emma's annoying you too I take it."

"Can't be all that important otherwise she would've just said what was up," he said absently as he used everything the Professor had taught him to block her telepathic nagging then he went back to kissing Ororo, Emma and everything else but the woman he loved forgotten.

Logan was right, it wasn't all that important. Emma was more annoyed than anything. For one thing it was six in the morning and she was awake. Secondly there was an annoying buzz in her head that had brought her out of a really satisfying dream where she and Scott were no longer X-Men but living in a luxurious mansion in the Bahamas fully stocked with maids, crates of Dom Pérignon, a handsome butler at hr beck and call and a shiny yellow and black sports car Scott liked to call Bumblebee and none of them had a care in the world. Thirdly, she disliked that her near perfect dream had been marred by a shiny yellow and black sports car Scott liked to call Bumblebee and that she hadn't been able to dispose of it and replace it with a nice shiny silver Maserati before she woke up. And fourthly when she'd gotten up and gone to investigate this curious buzz which she'd quickly discovered the cause of once fully awake, she knew Scott wasn't going to like what it was especially when it was Logan who had started all of this. Now if it had been a shiny yellow and black sports car that liked to call itself Bumblebee sitting in the kitchen helping himself to coffee she knew Scott would be the happiest kid on the block and she could have gone back to sleep but unfortunately what was in the kitchen was anything but that shiny yellow and black sports car that liked to call itself Bumblebee.

Emma sighed as a man dressed in a red and blue costume, face covered, well every part of him covered, poured coffee for her which should have made her feel better because she couldn't possibly be up at six in the morning without her coffee but it didn't actually make her feel better because, well it was Spider-man and she didn't even want to know why Spider-man was in their kitchen pouring coffee for her or why Luke Cage and Nick Fury and Johnny Storm and the Thing and Dr. Strange and stranger still, T'Challa, were all in the X-Men's once spotless kitchen at six in the morning. So of course she was screaming for Ororo and Logan to get down there and make some sense of this. However, they were so into their love fest they'd blocked her rather effectively.

"I certainly am not cleaning the muddy muss you've made of these floors," Emma told the uninvited guest.

"We did track in a lot of mud but that makes us even I'd say," T'Challa said and he flashed a wide grin showing off his perfect smile of pearly whites thanks to Johnny who had remembered his brother-in-law Reed Richards had a new invention for fast and easy implants. Reed had found that many super heroes often needed emergency dental work and had come up with an experimental alloy that instantly molded itself upon application faster and better than any dentist possibly could.

"I won't even pretend to understand what you mean by that or read your mind to understand what you mean by that. It's far too early in the morning for games, highness," declared Emma.

"Do you know where Logan is, Miss Frost?" Dr. Strange asked.

"Most likely making love to his lady love, her ex-highness," Emma said with a pointed look at the Panther.

T'Challa opened his mouth then closed it, the exact effect Emma had hoped for without having to actually tell him to shut up although it definitely wasn't too early to be snide or rude. No, being woken at six a.m. was cause enough to be snide and rude. She stifled a yawn and weighed her options. It was unlikely she could go back to sleep and far too early to bother waking Scott who would be exceedingly ill tempered when he discovered the motley gang of superheroes in the muddied kitchen.

"Well, I'm up, have coffee, might as well increase the coffers," decided Emma and she sat down with every intent of joining with the motley gang of superheroes.

"Don't ya like, uh, kinda wanna put somethin' else on maybe, ya know, like cover up with a robe or somethin'?" asked Ben.

Emma looked down at her skimpy negligee, studied it briefly then looked at Ben. "And why would I want to change?" she asked curiously.

"I just . . . ya know . . . I . . . uh . . . umm . . . da guys . . . ya know . . . we, uh . . ." For once the ever garrulous Thing was speechless.

Spider-man wasn't however because unlike Ben he had a comment for everything no matter what , funny or not, and he said, "Your erotic outfit won't distract me – much – but you know I wouldn't have worn my pj's if I'd known what the dress code was."

"Really, Spider-man? I thought you might have worked on that wit of yours since the last time I saw you but I see you still have neither humor nor intelligence. What's the game here boys because I can play with the best of them?"

"So . . . then . . . you . . . aren't stripping to fill your coffers and you really think you stand a chance in beating all of us? " queried Peter Parker who held out his hands in a gesture of confusion.

Nick coughed.

Luke looked anywhere but at Emma.

"Hey if you wanna play with us all dressed like that then I say we just play strip poker," suggested Johnny.

"How droll but since I've no intention of losing what would I have to gain by playing strip poker with you, Johnny Storm?" sneered Emma and she gave him one of her best apathetic looks.

"What? Women love my body! It'd be a treat for you!"

"You do realize you're implying that you would lose," Spider-man said to Johnny and then to Emma, "But that's fine with me, sit or strip it'll be entertaining either way."

Emma laughed and looked around at the others then said, "Luke would be a treat, yes – delicious; T'Challa uber delicious since Ororo her ex-highness would be so jealous; Nick's a little elderly but still fit so therefore qualifies as a treat. Now Ben on the other hand is always running around half naked anyway so there's no mystery, buff as you are. And Dr. Strange . . . hmm," she paused then shook her head resolutely and said, "It's too iffy. You wear so many clothes it's hard to tell if you're buff or not . . ."

"I'm in great shape!" squawked the offended sorcerer supreme who was dressed in his usual sorcerer supreme outfit, his cape slung over the back of his chair.

"So you say. Now, Johnny you're hot, you know you're hot – no pun intended mind you – but you're not all that hot because you know you're hot, your ego's far too big, therefore seeing you naked would not be a treat because you think it's such a treat," she said with a slow shake of her head for emphasis.

The men stared at Emma, their mouths widening with each apt appraisal.

"Um . . . you didn't say anything about me, Miss Frost. I'm buff so aren't I a treat too?" Spidey asked.

"There's a reason I left you out Spider-man. If you'd keep your mouth shut and let me see your face then you could possibly be a treat and to get that mask off of you I'm a little tempted to play a few rounds of strip poker with you – not you Johnny – but since I am unfortunately quite familiar with your need to babble endlessly I rather think it's highly unlikely that you can keep your mouth shut for more than a few seconds."

"I think I would resent that if it weren't so true," replied the Friendly Neighborhood arachnid.

She smiled and said, "I can beat the pants off of you if you like, darling but all I want is your money so let's everyone shut up and let's play cards."

"Damn, you're a telepath! She's a telepath! Of course ya ain't gonna lose!" cried Luke with sudden realization.

But Emma immediately turned into diamond form, smiled brightly, and reached for the cards saying, "Rest assured gentlemen, and I use that term judiciously, thankfully I can no longer read anyone's dirty minds."

"But now you've taken half of the fun out of beating you," teased Dr. Strange.

"Seriously, Doctor Strange? Because Logan came home some months ago with quite a few doodads that he said he won off of you in a poker game."

"He was just lucky," huffed Stephen Strange a little uncomfortably but he rebounded with aplomb. "And I mean to win them back! Where is he? Ben, you said Logan would be here!"

"Don't look at me. Emma was supposed ta be da one gettin' him with her mind tricks. Ask her where he is why don't ya," grumbled Ben.

"How do we know you can't read minds in that form?" Luke asked.

"She can't," said Nick whom they all knew everything about everything.

"That doesn't make me feel any better," muttered Johnny, "I liked it better when you had real flesh and blood boobs."

"Sure would've been a better show," Spider-man said.

"Guys, guys! It merely means our coffers are going to be quite a lot larger since there's no more distraction!" exclaimed T'Challa.

"I still think ya oughta put some clothes on," objected Ben.

"Now you truly are a gentleman, darling and I am truly touched."

"So are ya gonna put on some clothes then?"

Emma smiled and shook her head no.

"Are you going to get Logan or not?" inquired Dr. Strange rather grumpily.

"I'd have to change back so why not forget Logan for the moment, nasty temper when he's disturbed you know, and how about I win a few doodads from you for my own collection, hmm? Flop poker, five card stud, draw, straight, Texas hold 'em, what's your poison boys?" said Emma with a wicked grin.

-xox-

Sometime later when alarm clocks were crowing and children were stirring Scott wandered into the kitchen wearing his tattered old flannel robe which Emma despised and had tried to dispose of more than once and the superbly comfortable leather house slippers she'd purchased for him for his birthday. He covered his mouth as he yawned then stopped in the doorway and looked around the room, his hand falling from his gaping mouth. He blinked a few times, shook his head thinking he was still asleep, still dreaming and turned around and started back to his room. But then he stopped, stood absolutely still and listened to the unnatural silence as everyone sitting at the kitchen table watched him.

"Darling, don't leave – I'm winning! Three aces beat three kings!" cooed Emma as she threw down her cards and gathered up her winnings.

Scott turned around, looked at the group of superheroes sitting in his kitchen with his paramour and then screamed – "Wolverine! Storm! I'm going to kill them!"

"Don't upset yourself, darling, I'll get them," offered Emma as she switched from diamond to flesh and stood up clutching her money.

"Emma!" cried Scott as he took in her barely there outfit, the exact same barely there outfit he'd been so enamored of the night before but was now horrified to see her wearing.

"Just a moment, darling they're a little . . . preoccupied. I should have their attention in . . . just . . . a . . . second. Uh. Ah, there . . . "

"Er . . . maybe we oughta be goin' now, you feel me," recommended Luke sensibly.

"I think you're right, Cage," agreed Nick.

"What the hell is this? What's going on? What are all of you people doing here? " demanded Scott.

"It's our annual MOMS4 . . ." Johnny started to say but Nick kicked him under the table and shook his head warningly.

"Moms for what?" Scott asked, even more confused.

"It's an annual meeting of elite super hero groups made up by Nick here," said T'Challa. "We just changed the location from my place to here since Logan had to leave so suddenly so you can blame all of this on your little teammate."

"Emma, get Wolverine down here now!"

"It's just a little friendly game of poker, settle down, homme, " advised Remy who had just padded barefoot into the kitchen wearing a purple silk robe and matching pajamas. He stood their wiggling his toes and rubbing his head making his already sleep tousled hair look even wilder.

"Gambit! I should've known you were involved in this!" accused Scott.

"But I jus' got outta bed!"

"What's wrong with all of you? This is a school! This isn't a casino!" raged Scott. "This is a school with kids here – children . . . !"

"Very impressionable children," interjected Emma.

"Very impressionable children!" hollered Scott. "And they – what are they going to think if they see all of you supposedly upstanding heroes playing poker and smoking and drinking and – and put those cigars out now!"

"Impressionable? And his girlfriend goes around dressed like that?" quipped Spider-man.

"Don't worry about da smoke, we turned off da smoke alarm," Ben reassured him though he sunk his stub of cigar into one of the empty bottles of beer that littered the table.

"Turned off the smoke alarm? In a school?" roared Scott, his face almost as red as his ruby quartz eye glasses.

"It's jus' de kitchen, nobody cookin', dey jus' drinkin' coffee. What's de harm?" said Gambit as he poured himself a cup of joe. "You could use some, Cyke. Want dis?"

"You keep out of this, Gambit!" snapped Scott.

"Maybe the children should be kept out of the kitchen, darling," suggested Emma.

"Well now, I think we really should be leaving," Nick said as he snubbed out his own cigar and stood up.

"Not before you write me that check or hand over a credit card, Nicholas Fury," warned Emma as she held out her hand expectantly.

"Uh . . . yeah." He pulled his wallet from his back pants pocket then sat back down.

"This isn't a joke people! Emma, get your money and then everyone get out and, Emma find out what's taking Logan and Ororo so long!" ordered Scott.

Upstairs Logan and Ororo were no more amused than Scott was. They'd been so completely lost in each other that they'd slowly let their mental defenses down so that Emma's insistent psychic calls kept interrupting them.

"Okay, Emma," Ororo told the White Queen through their telepathic link, "You were wrong! You were so wrong, so completely wrong, so utterly wrong I don't know how to explain how wrong you were. Now can you please just leave us alone!"

Emma was having none of that however and she said, "I was not wrong, Ororo Munroe! And well you'll find out if you give in! Do not have sex with that man!"

Ororo broke away from Logan who reached for her again murmuring what he was going to do to her.

"That's enough! Can't you hear Scott screaming his head off?" screamed Emma's inside both their heads this time.

"Whaddaya yappin' about now?" growled Logan out loud.

"I said get down here now and fix this mess you've gotten us into, Logan!" shouted Emma.

"What do you think is going on?" Ororo wondered aloud as they made their way downstairs but neither could guess what mess they'd actually gotten the X-Men involved in. They just never expected T'Challa had brought the fight to them so when they entered the kitchen one couldn't blame them for staring dumbstruck with mouths agape.

"What the . . . ?"

"Ah, ah, ah! Watch your language, Logan, this is a school with very impressionable children after all," warned Spider-man who was making a new pot of coffee.

"What's everyone doin' here?" Logan asked as he looked around the room at the various super heroes milling about. Ororo couldn't help but laugh.

"Well, don't da two of ya look well rested," noted Ben with a wide grin.

"Thank you, Benjamin," said Ororo, "we slept quite well last night."

"I bet you did," enthused Johnny.

"This was Gambit's and T'Challa's idea, Logan, they wouldn't listen to me,"explained Nick who, having paid up, was at the door about to leave.

"I thought we were all in dis t'gether, mes amis," claimed Remy.

"The hairy little troll asked for it," snarled T'Challa.

"Who let you in? You want another round, that why you're here, bub?"

"I do at that, Logan. You owe me. I've come to collect what you won off me last time," Dr. Strange said as he helped himself to a danish from a large platter of pastries and muffins Emma was setting on the table.

"Oooo, blueberry muffins are my favorite!" exclaimed Spider-man who raised his mask uncovering his mouth so he could eat his favorite muffin.

Logan frowned. He'd given most of the things he'd won off of Dr. Strange to his ex-girlfriend Melita which she'd used when he was making his escape from hell which sounded crazy but then again everything about his life sounded crazy, which had been the biggest reason for not wanting Ororo mixed up with him. He briefly wondered what she would've done if they'd been together then but quickly realized she wouldn't have needed those doodads.

"Don't have 'em, but what I really coulda used was a get outta hell free card – ya got any of those on you then I'm in," Logan said with a wry grin.

"Get out of hell free card – what we could do with something like that!" considered Emma.

"Or a get out of Limbo free card, that would be cool," said Kitty as she came into the kitchen already dressed for the day.

"Kitty, maybe you should go . . . ."

"She, Scott darling, is not one of the impressionable children, she's not even a child any more. Do let her stay," Emma said before Scott could shoo Kitty away.

"Uh . . . thanks for that . . . I guess," mumbled Kitty as she looked over the pastries. "Don't we have any bagels today? What's going on? Wasn't that Nick Fury who just left?"

"I think Nicholas knows when to make a tactical retreat," explained Ororo who walked over to the alarm panel by the kitchen door and entered the code to open the automatic gate for Fury.

"Retreat? From what?"

"It's nothin', jus' a few guys tryin' ta win back what dey lost, Kitty, dat's all," chuckled Remy.

"From you?" Kitty laughed. "They actually played cards with you?" She laughed again. "Whose idea was that?"

Everyone immediately looked at Logan including Ororo.

"You let Logan set you up!" Kitty exploded with laughed.

"It wasn't exactly like we was settin' da guys up," offered Ben. "Ya see it was like this, Tony Stark was a . . . well, what ya would call an unexpected guest an' he's loaded an' he sucks at poker so why not?"

"He sucks at everything," commented T'Challa sourly.

"I knew this whole thing was a set up!" Johnny said defensively.

"An' yet if we'd played strip poker like you'd wanted to you'd be sitting here butt naked," remarked Spider-man.

"Ah shut up, Spidey, you'd be just as naked as me," muttered Johnny.

"And here I thought you were a gentleman – not you T'Challa or you Spider-man but you Ben! Trying to take advantage of a hapless millionaire! I am absolutely shocked at your roguish behavior," purred Emma.

"Har har har. Tony's been playin' with us long enough ta know he ain't gonna win. No one forced him ta come an' play any more 'n we forced you ta come 'n play with us in yer nightie!"

"Okay, that's enough! Everyone get out now!" commanded Scott.

"Coffee's ready, anyone for another cup?" offered Spider-man.

"I'm afraid I am not leaving until I have a chance to retrieve my lost goods – surely you must have some of them – at least my . . ."

"Nope, got nothin' left," Logan said.

"Figures he would pawn them," laughed T'Challa.

"It's unlikely he pawned them although what you did with them I . . . well it's over and done with, regrettably, which means I will indeed depart now, Cyclops. Good day everyone," Stephen Strange said as he got up, snatched another pastry then strode to the door which Kitty hurried to open for him.

"I'll open the gate," she called after him.

"Don't blame this on Logan, Cyke. It really was da Panther's idea we come here," ratted Ben.

"Well, It was Gambit who let us in!" cried T'Challa.

"Everything is always your fault, Remy," Ororo told her friend with a grin.

"You would say dat, Stormy," complained Remy playfully.

"Apparently it's your fault and it's your fault," thundered Scott who pointed his finger at Remy and then Logan. "And we need to have a serious discussion about protocol!"

"Is dis gonna be another meetin' den?" Remy asked, "'Cause I went ta one yesterday remember? An' de day before dat an' I ain't in de mood for another one today. Why can't we just have weekly meetin's like de Thieves Guild used ta have?"

"The Thieves Guild didn't have weekly – Remy, were you at T'Challa's last night when I . . . ?" Ororo caught herself and had to laugh as she remembered how she thought she'd recognized some of the guys there but she'd been so determined to drag Logan out of there that she hadn't paid much attention to the others.

"You a little late chère, but yeah, dat be Remy in de flesh. You go get yo man, girl!" the Cajun teased and then gallantly offered her the good doctor's vacated seat but when she declined with a shake of her head he sat down with his coffee and started in on a croissant.

Scott groaned.

"Don't get yourself all worked up, Cyclops, we're booking. Ororo, always good ta see ya especially when you're looking so damn fine," noted Luke as he got up and just as the good doctor had done snatched a few treats to go.

Ororo's neat hair, jeans and t-shirt were certainly a big change from last nights messy hair and her rather revealing nightgown and she laughed again and said, "Thank you, Luke. You'll have to tell Jessica I said hello and that cute little Danielle."

"Yeah, just if you see her don't tell her your girl here whupped me, you know what I mean?"

"Emma beat you?" Logan and Ororo exclaimed together.

"Why look so shocked? I've skills in abundance," retorted Emma.

"Oh yeah yah! Way ta go Em though you did have a good teacher if I say so myself," laughed Remy proudly since he'd been her teacher.

"Did you cheat?" Kitty asked as she settled on a counter top and accepted a cup of coffee from Spider-man.

"She was in her diamond form while we played," Johnny informed them.

"You won on your own?" Scott asked.

"I can hold my own in many a venture and without reading anyone's mind, Scott Summers."

"I didn't mean to imply . . ." Scott fumbled for words to pacify Emma but her fierce look made him stop before he dug himself into a deeper hole.

"You comin', T or what?" Luke asked.

"Me? Oh, no. I'm waiting for my ride."

"You can ride with us if you don't wanna go back with Luke. Come on, Ben it's past your bedtime anyway," Johnny said through a yawn.

"Don't think you can order me around, kid, you ain't Stretch!" warned Ben.

"I didn't say I was, man! I just wanna go home! It's late an' you're cranky."

"Yeah, let's go, I need my beauty sleep," agreed Spider-man who'd come with Ben and Johnny. He stuffed the last of his muffin into his mouth then tugged his mask back in place and wiped his hands on his thighs letting crumbs fall to the floor.

"Alright, alright You mugs ain't no fun at all, pups all of ya! Can't stay up all night more 'n a few times a week. Logan we still on for next weekend?"

Not one person in the room missed the way Logan glanced at Ororo as if looking for her consent. She was pleased that he'd even thought he'd have to ask for her permission and she smiled which he took for a yes and he grinned. "Yeah, sure – usual place?"

"Yeah, unless you want us ta hang out at yer place again, T'Challa," chuckled Ben.

"My place? My place! You ruined my place! You ruined the rug! You ruined the door! You ruined the alarm! My place? I don't have a place anymore!"

"Remy did notice de door was kinda not dere," Remy murmured.

"Oh yeah, it's definitely time to go, the Cajun's talking in third person again," laughed Spider-man.

"Hey, wait a minute what about this mess?" exclaimed Scott.

"What mess?" Peter Parker asked.

"This mess! Don't play games with me Spider-man, this floor is a mess! The table's a mess! There's trash all over the place! Who's going to clean this?"

"Don't you have a little turbo water mutant Pokemon student or a kid with clean up powers to do your floors for you and take out your trash?" asked Spidey.

"Get out!" screamed Scott. "Get out now and don't ever come back here again!"

"Uh . . . sure and . . . uh . . . thanks for an interesting morning, Miss Frost," said Spider-man.

"Oh. You're welcome, Spider-man just make sure you don't make this a habit."

"You mean we can't be BFF's either? First Scott now you, sheesh."

"Get outta here web head," Logan said affably.

"You don't have to pretend in front of everyone, buddy, I know you're gonna miss me."

"Come on, Spidey. You never know when to shut up," Johnny muttered.

"Top of the morning to you all, I've had so much fun!" Spider-man shouted as Johnny yanked him by the arm and marched him out.

"I'm outta here too. Thanks fer goin' ta bed early, Gambit," Luke said as he headed out with Ben.

"Adieu, mes amis," fare-welled Remy.

Scott watched in silence as the last of their uninvited guests made their way out.

"Wow, that was weird," said Kitty who was manning the alarm panel to let their unexpected guest out. "Well, maybe not weird, a brood chasing me around the mansion's weird. No, I take that back. Being trapped in a giant sized bullet missile thingy for months rocketing through space while I remained intangible so it wouldn't blow up the world is weird. Well, that and everything we pretty much do around here is weird."

"Your point?" asked Emma.

"I guess it was just different but fun different. Why don't we have a poker night?"

"No. No! NO!" exploded Scott. "No way are we going to have anything like that here ever! No way!"

"Uh . . . mornin'," grunted a very sleepy looking Jubilee when she came into the kitchen wearing mix matched socks with her jeans and top.

"Hey, Jubes! You'll never guess what happened!" greeted Kitty.

"Uh . . . don't wanna."

"Okay, I'll tell you. Emma beat the socks off of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four and Dr. Strange and Spider-man!"

"Don't forget S.H.I.E.L.D.," added Emma.

"Uh . . . you beat them an' took their socks? Gee, Emma that's . . ."

"No, stupid, she beat them in poker!"

"Ohhhh! You played strip poker with them! Okay, I guess that makes more sense with what you're wearing but still . . ."

"Of course she didn't play strip poker with them, Jubilee!" screeched Scott.

"Uh huh. So . . . you actually beat them fair and square? Cool," said Jubilee with frank admiration.

"I'm impressed myself," Remy said.

"I am a woman of many skills and I learn fast. Never underestimate me.".

"Well, I for one knew you could handle yourself," stated T'Challa.

Everyone turned to look at the forgotten king amongst them.

"Hey," he said and threw up a hand in greeting then flashed his handsome new smile.

"You're wasting your time here," Logan said as he clasped Ororo's hand firmly in his.

"I only came to play cards, Logan."

"T'Challa," Ororo warned.

"Nah, that's okay. I've got some news fer everyone, you included, Panther," Logan said and he squeezed Ororo's hand hard.

"What news?" Scott sighed as he plunked down into a chair.

Logan looked at Ororo and grinned.

"Well, we're – Ro an' me, we're together now."

"Huh? That's, like way old news," Jubilee informed him.

"So old," Kitty added.

"It's news ta you ain't it?" Logan asked Emma.

"No, darling. I'm a telepath."

Logan's face screwed up with distaste. He was thinking what she could do with her telepathy but obviously she wasn't reading his mind just then because she still looked her usual oblivious self.

"It's news ta you ain't it?" Logan asked Scott.

"Well, no. I've seen you going out a lot. It doesn't take a genius to put two and two together," their leader replied with a shrug.

"Or a telepath," T'Challa remarked.

"Go home, T'Challa," Ororo said.

"My ride's not here yet."

"No, let him stay if he wants, he smells delicious," Jubilee murmured.

"Drink your meds," Scott ordered.

"Alright already!"

"Jubes is right, you can move in if ya want an' take classes here fer all I care but it ain't' gonna change anything," Logan said and then he did something truly characteristic and yet completely uncharacteristic, something none of them, no, not even Ororo would have ever imagined him doing. He took Ororo into his arms, dipped her elegantly as if in a dance, kissed her hard on the lips and then, grinning that lopsided grin that she knew would never fail to take her breath away, he simply said, "Let's get married."

No it wasn't really romantic, not even a sweet private moment but he looked at Ororo with such an ardent and earnest look on his face she felt as if she were falling in love with him all over again and all she could do was smile and nod.

"Married?" gasped T'Challa.

"Now you can get out," Logan told his rival before he kissed Ororo again.

As if on cue T'Challa's cell phone rang but he didn't move to answer it.

"Maybe that's your ride," commented Logan wryly as he set Ororo back onto her feet.

Almost everyone there found themselves utterly speechless. Well, except for Jubilee who had stopped plundering the refrigerator for her morning blood concoction..

"Is this, like for real?" she asked.

"What the hell? I just asked Ororo to marry me! You think it's a joke?" growled Logan.

"Well it was, like kinda outta the blue, Wolvie."

"She's got a good point," T'Challa said.

"She said yes!" Logan said, pointedly looking at T'Challa whose phone began to ring again.

"No, she didn't actually say anything, probably didn't want to embarrass you," returned the Panther.

"She shook her head yes, I saw it," Kitty offered.

"Yes," Ororo said now, "Yes, Logan I will marry you but only if you want to after you hear my news," Ororo said a little nervously.

"What's wrong?" Scott immediately asked.

"Rogue and Peter should be here," Ororo murmured.

"See, she said yes," Logan said smugly.

T'Challa ignored him and answered his phone. "Hello. Oh hi, Monica – yeah, they'll let you in. Hey, uh, let my girlfriend through the gate will you, otherwise I will be staying and we'll be the Panther and the X-Men."

"Girlfriend?" queried Emma.

"Monica Lynn. She's crazy about me, couldn't stop thinking about me. We, uh, made up so that's why she's here to pick me up. We're . . . we're going on holiday! Yeah! We might even get married. You know, your first true love, you just never forget her," T'Challa said although when he spoke he kept looking at Ororo hoping for some reaction.

Ororo wasn't sure what to believe but she didn't care whether what he said was truth or fiction. Logan on the other hand was hoping there was some truth in there though he seriously doubted it and figured T'Challa's sudden girlfriend, make believe or not, was just his way of trying to find a way to bow out of their little war without looking too stupid which was fine with him.

"Hope you have fun in Oz," Logan snorted.

"I won't even respond to that, Logan. It would be beneath me. Well, so long everyone, it's been . . ."

"Just go, please!" interrupted Ororo.

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm going." But though T'Challa got up he stood there looking at his ex wife. He looked at her with a sad, tender look on his handsome face then, though he didn't mean to he sighed then said, "I hope you know what you're doing, Ororo. You really do deserve to be happy."

"I know what I'm doing. I love Logan," Ororo stated emphatically.

T'Challa nodded then slowly walked to the door and let himself out.

"And that's the last of him – hopefully," Emma said, breaking the silence after he was gone. "Now we'll all live happily ever after, blah, blah, blah and you, Logan, can cut the crap," Emma said as she watched Logan get a cup of coffee for Ororo.

"No, thank you, Logan. I don't really like coffee in the morning, I mean unless I'm really tired. Besides that I think maybe I should be careful about the amount of caffeine I have now," Ororo confessed.

"Huh?" said a puzzled Logan.

"Oh no! Ororo Munroe you better not say what I think you're gong to say!" shrieked Emma.

"Why don't you ask Rogue to join us if she's up?" Ororo asked.

"You aren't pregnant are you?"

Ororo sighed. "No, Emma I'm not pregnant and if I were I really wouldn't appreciate you telling everyone the news before I did."

"Well, that's a relief," the White Queen sighed.

Ororo smiled not letting Emma get to her this morning of all mornings, a new morning with new possibilities, a new beginning. She felt and looked very content, very happy.

"Perhaps I should restate that however," Ororo said. "I might be pregnant, I'm not entirely sure yet."

Logan couldn't speak, couldn't think, couldn't breathe.

"Pregnant?" Remy mused.

"Pregnant?" Scott balked.

"Possibly," she said and gave her brand new fiancé a kiss.

"Possibly?" Logan said, barely aware of her lips brushing his.

"Well, just take one of those tests you buy at the store," Jubilee said.

"Damn," said Logan.

"I didn't see that coming," Kitty said.

"How soon before we have to put you on the inactive list if you are?" inquired Scott.

"Weren't you out drinkin' all weekend?" Remy asked.

"Just a few glasses of wine, Remy. Okay, maybe I did have a little too much the other night," she said and glanced at Logan. They both remembered her drunken confession and he laughed out right and drew her to him.

"You're not upset?" she asked him.

"For what? We're gonna get married, maybe have a kid even! It's like for once everything's right in my world. Even if you're not pregnant we got all the time in the world ta have a kid."

"But is that going to be a problem, you drinking? I mean if you are pregnant?" Jubilee asked.

"Didn't they do that in the fifties and sixties all the time, like how they drove kids around without car seats and they smoked and drank right up till they gave birth? I mean the baby boomers don't seem all that messed up," Kitty said.

"I'm going to see Cecilia but if I am pregnant I think the baby would be fine. I honestly didn't drink that much and I don't usually drink alcohol."

"Pregnant and abusing alcohol," tsked Emma. "I would never have suspected such a thing from you, Ororo."

"At least she'll have a husband," Scott said, "She won't go through this alone." He was completely baffled by this turn of events, a proposal and news of a possible pregnancy. It was almost too much to take in but he knew one thing for certain, Ororo wouldn't go through this alone, he would make Logan marry her if he had to do it by force and so he said,"Isn't that right, Logan?" and added, "You'll make a great husband and father."

Scott didn't gag on that last part though it truly was hard for him to say. If anything he expected Logan would make a reckless and absent father. He wondered if Ororo would be happy and then he looked at Emma who looked as baffled as he did. He hoped she wasn't going to get the marriage bug because he wasn't ready for another marriage and then he thought of Jean, her beautiful smile, her love for Ororo, and how she would have been screaming with joy and hugging Ororo, talking a mile a minute making plans or at least he liked to think she would've been happy for her best friend and Logan. He didn't want to think about that though and so he didn't. Instead he stepped up to Ororo and wrapped his arms around her and held onto her.

"This is for Jean," he whispered and Ororo's arms went around him and she held on just as tight making no attempt to hold back her tears.

When he let her go she wiped at her eyes and mouthed a thank you because she couldn't talk past the lump in her throat.

"I hope you'll be happy, Ororo and you too, Logan," Scott said and then he walked out of the room because he was tearing up too though no one but maybe Emma would have noticed.

"Wow, dat got us outta a mess," Remy said.

"Oh, he hasn't forgotten," Emma said, "But I'll talk to him. And, Ororo, well played. I'm suitably impressed. That's the most ancient method to snag your man."

Ororo rolled her eyes but had the grace to say, "I think it was your suggestion more than anything, that and being honest with myself and with Logan. Thank you for your . . . wisdom, Emma." There was no hint of sarcasm in her voice.

"Well, of course you're quite welcome, Ororo – hug, hug, and all that good rot, but darlings, do not let this be a lesson to you. It is a very bad lesson on how to get your man. Never, ever do what Ororo may or may not have done. Heed my advice, Ororo just got lucky."

"What're you talkin' about?" Logan asked.

"She said you would never commit to anyone," Kitty said.

"She did say that," agreed Jubilee.

"Looks like you were wrong then, Emma?" said Logan.

"Whatever," Emma said and stalked off after Scott.

"It's gonna be a good morning, darlin," Logan said as he pulled Ororo to him again.

"Why do you say that?" Ororo asked as she looked down at him.

"Panther's gone, Scott's gone, Emma's gone . . ."

"I wonder if it's a boy or a girl, or is it too early to tell? I mean if you are pregnant," Jubilee gushed.

"Probably twins or triplets knowing dese two," Remy said.

"Damn!" Logan gasped.

"Or maybe a whole litter," Remy said, taking Ororo from Logan and he danced her around the room.

"What's goin' on y'all?" Rogue asked when she entered the kitchen.

Remy let go of Ororo and immediately took Rogue into his arms and swung her into step.

"Ororo and Logan are getting married!" chimed Kitty and Jubilee.

"An' dey gonna have a whole litter!" Remy said as he twirled his on again off again lover.

"What? Are y'all serious?"

Remy stopped in front of Ororo, let Rogue go, and he touched Ororo's flat stomach trying to imagine her fat with child and then to everyone's surprise Logan keeled over. Well, he didn't keel over so much as fall onto the floor having missed the chair he'd pulled out by a good three inches.

"Oh dear," said Ororo, "I think that might have been too much for him."

"Remy was serious then? Y'all're gettin' married an' havin' a baby?" Rogue squealed.

"Dey serious as a heart attack, chère."

"Ah hope he ain't havin' one now, sugah," murmured Rogue.

"He's smiling at least," Kitty noted as she peered down at him. "I think he's happy."

"I just wasn't payin' attention ta what I was doin'," Logan said, waving Kitty away but he was beaming.

He could see him and Ororo in a giant bed with little babies climbing all over them like little puppies. The thought of raising a child with Ororo had been a bonus after she said she'd marry him, that it might be more than one had blown him away, the enormity of what they were about to embark on, but it was something he wanted wholeheartedly. This was his chance at a normal life with love and happiness and a real family. He'd not done the best job raising any of his surrogate kids, Kitty, Jubilee, Amiko and he certainly hadn't been there for Daken, now he could do it right with the woman he loved. It just didn't get any better than that.

Ororo was beaming as well. She'd spent so much time worrying about what to do with Logan that she hadn't put two and two together, not until she'd thrown up again this morning before she'd gotten dressed. It was the first time she'd thrown up in the morning and not at night and she'd suddenly realized why she was throwing up. She could be wrong but all the signs told her otherwise. She'd been afraid Logan would reject her when he found out but after the long weekend of worrying and being too afraid to confront Logan she'd come to realize worrying solved nothing. If you wanted something you merely needed to go for it, take the risk, be bold, accept the consequences. She wanted Logan and she wanted the child or twins or triplets or the whole litter even if it meant things wouldn't work out between her and Logan but she'd felt, no, she'd known that what she and Logan felt for each other was strong enough that things would work out somehow.

Now she was glad she'd listened to Emma because just maybe Emma had played a little part in getting Logan to confess how he felt. She chuckled as she knelt beside Logan who grinned up at her. Maybe she and Emma should write a book, she thought. She laughed at the idea then laughed all the harder when Logan reached up and pulled her down into his arms and they sat there together on the muddied floor with their friends all around them, sharing their joy.

~ Fin Finis Finished ~