I do not claim any rights to the X-Men or any recognizable characters herein. No monetarily gain is made from this story.


Everything swam in and out of focus around her. The pounding of her heart matched the pace of her steps as she tore through the mansion with her head down, trying hard to put as much distance between her and the Danger Room as possible. As fate would have it, the previously deserted halls were now teaming with nosy students as the temperature dropped outside and dinner approached. They seemed to pulse around her, and she felt them look at her as they always had – as the singular oddity in a place filled with freaks.

Marie's eyes burned with the tears she fought against. And the nauseating swirl of emotions that churned throughout her was overwhelming. Everything was too much, too loud.

Yes, he had told her. He might as well have screamed it, with the way it echoed around her.

Through her mind's haze, she considered her escape routes. The closest was the large oak door down the hall, where she could seek guidance from 'Ro. Her knowing friend would listen with genuine concern, and something that the deep recesses of her memory could identify as motherly love. Or she could go up to Jubes, where an emotional quick-fix would be a tempting break from the pain.

Wherever she went, she knew that she couldn't walk down the hall towards her room. There, the faint smell of cigar smoke still stuck to the carpet, and the damp tinge of her new reality clung to the air in suffocating waves.

As if on autopilot, she stumbled into the mansion's sophisticated library. It wasn't large by any means – not like you would expect from a school library. It wasn't packed with study tables, desks, or even textbooks. Instead, the room housed a few plush chairs and an old ornate desk, as well as a vast literature collection gathered over time by the Xavier family.

Most of the students and staff sought lighter, cheerier rooms in the mansion to study or read, so the library was almost always deserted. Marie herself used to avoid this room, during a time when she hated being alone – being an outcast. But recently, this place reminded her most of the late professor. The musty smell of the old books coupled with the heavy silence was oddly comforting.

Settling into a chair by the window that overlooked the garden, she remembered a time when she sought that comfort from somewhere else.

OOO

She was fighting hard against falling asleep on the pages of her open American History textbook. The common area was unusually empty. The others had all gone to bed after Mr. Summers firmly told them not to stay up too late, but that was hours ago and Marie's anxiety over her looming exam kept her downstairs. She reread the page about someone supposedly significant from a hundred years ago, praying that some of it would stick.

She didn't hear the soft footsteps until they were directly behind her, and she was immediately alert. The memory of Magneto and his horrid machine was still fresh in her mind. Without too much obvious movement, she tucked her pen tightly in her fist – ready to put up a fight.

A heavy hand landed on her shoulder and she screamed. No one ever touched her. She dropped the pen and shot out of her chair, set on running from the room.

Her attacker was shushing her and blocked her path to the door. She saw his form reach to the wall and flick the light on, illuminating the room beyond the small table lamp she was using.

Logan stood before her holding his hands up in surrender. Her panic immediately subsided and her cheeks burned in embarrassment. Not only did she just have the most awkward panic attack ever, but she was wearing the ugliest pair of tattered sweats and she could practically feel the bags under her eyes and her hair sticking out in all directions. And of course Logan looked perfect and rugged and handsome, with his arms crossed smirking at her.

"Hey Logan," she greeted him looking down at her socks. "Sorry, ya kinda scared me."

"I could tell." He uncrossed his arms and embraced her, pressing her into the cool leather of his jacket. "Missed you, kid."

"Ya did?" She mumbled into his chest. Her heart was thundering. He growled in acknowledgment. "Ah missed ya too."

They pulled apart and he looked at her for a moment. "How you been, Marie?"

The Wolverine in her mind translated the question for her, 'How have the geeks been treating you?' She shrugged him off. He already knew many of the other students were afraid of her and treated her differently. She didn't want to talk about that.

"Ah have a big test tomorra'. Kinda stressed about it," she tried to sound casual about it.

"Oh." He nodded at her and she could tell he was trying to sound like he understood. "I guess I should let you study or something then."

Her face fell at his words. He noticed.

He shifted his weight and scratched at the skin under his chin. "Well maybe I could help you or, uh, yeah."

She chewed her bottom lip. "Okay. Sure."

After Logan retrieved a pack of beer from who-knows-where, they sat at the table around Marie's books and notes. She recounted all of the information that would likely be on the exam to him, and he interjected appropriately – 'that guy sounds like a kook' or 'they really making you read this crap?' But whenever Marie rubbed at her eyes, ready to give up on the mumble jumble, he would always encourage her.

Sometimes they took breaks, and Logan would tell her about his adventures up north. Or Marie would get lost on a tangent about her Mississippi past.

"So, ya stayin?" She asked, subconsciously tracing the outline of the dog tags under her shirt.

He shook his head. "Just need another lead from Chuck."

"Ya'll come back, right?" The possibility that he wouldn't was terrifying.

"Yeah. I'll come back."

"Even if ya find what you're lookin' for?"

He reached across the table to take her hand. "I'll come back, kid."

She could feel how warm his hand was, even through her glove. He rubbed his thumb across the top of her hand and a sensation of calm washed over her and settled in her belly. She didn't feel worried about her exam anymore, and her insecurities were relieved. She knew he was telling the truth. That certainty would feed her long after he left.

OOO

She was so naive to think that he came back for her. It was Jean. She had ignored all the clues – refused to see that it was always Jean.

Frustrated, she swiped at her tears. The chain holding his dog tags felt like it was cutting into her skin. She tore them off and glared at them. She had gone through too much on her own to be broken down by this. These tags weren't a promise ring. They were given to a scared little girl on the brink of adulthood, as a comfort blanket. She threw them across the room.

It didn't help. She could still see them reflecting light from the base of the bookcase. Her heart still ached.

And she hated herself for not regretting loving him. Her feelings for him outweighed the pain, and she wondered if that made her somehow weak.

But now, she just felt exhausted. Isolating herself in the library had helped calm her nerves, at least for now.

She walked over to the other side of the room and bent down to pick up the dog tags. She tucked them into her pocket and left the library. Ignoring her hunger, she made her way to the grand staircase. Thankfully, there were very few students out this time.

Maybe if she just went to sleep, she could put off dealing with all of this for a little longer.

She shuffled down the last hallway to her room, keeping her gaze anywhere but on the doorway across from hers. She practically threw her door open, anxious to hole up in her room.

The hulking figure on the edge of her bed surprised her. When Logan looked up to meet her gaze, she felt all of her wounds tear open and anger boil through her veins.


Thanks again to everyone that's reviewed. I live for those reviews, I really do!

Hopefully this chapter was okay, and didn't seem like a filler. I kind of liked it anyway )