Title: Bittersweet
Author: lachlanrose
Disclaimer: Not mine. Never were. Never will be. ((sigh))
Feedback: Yes, please! With a shot of Logany goodness on top? ;) The good, the bad, the ugly…
Summary: Little girls don't stay young forever. Marie grows up. Logan deals. Tequila happens. 'Life is a long road full of many unseen twists and turns, bringing with it both the bitter and the sweet.'
Notes: This one is a slow burn with lots of UST and an eventual flashover that (I hope!) peels the paint from the walls. This is the first W/R story I ever wrote. It's not my most complex work, but it's full of shippery goodness and a freaking truckload of fresh citrus. Fingers crossed that you enjoy this new (and hopefully improved!) version of the fic that started me down that long road to what can only be called obsession. :) For those of you who like a heads up, this one clocks in at 24 chapters, so grab your favorite sweet treat and get comfy!


Life is a long road full of many unseen twists and turns, bringing with it both the bitter and the sweet.

Reflections

Logan had been back at the school nearly four months now. Marie had missed him that year he was away searching for answers about his past. She hadn't wanted him to go, but it was easier in some ways, even though she missed his surly amusement and irascible nature. For a while, she'd needed time more than she needed a friend. That distance gave her the space she needed to sort him out in her head. He was still in there along with Magneto and David, but they didn't threaten to overwhelm her like they used to. She had dealt with their presence the best she could by separating them out in her head. She thought of them like boxes on a shelf.

In the beginning it was all she could do to get the right person's thoughts into the right box. She and the Professor worked in daily sessions for those first six months. Once she had gotten everyone's thoughts organized, she took stock of what she had. In her head, she imagined shelves with a few boxes for David and maybe fifty or so for Magneto, but Logan was different. She had a whole library of boxes just for him. Maybe it was because her own life force was so drained each time they had touched, or maybe it was because they had touched twice, or maybe he was just more complicated than the other two. Perhaps it was because of the sheer number of years on him. He simply had more to pour into her; a well that was nearly bottomless and a mutation that filled it almost as quickly as she could empty it.

Almost.

When she was ready, she worked through the boxes pulling them down one at a time and sifting through the thoughts they contained, assimilating or deleting or filing them away for further reflection. The Professor was proud of her. She had worked her way through all of David's boxes and he was just a fleeting presence in her mind now. Recently she has finished off the last of Magneto's boxes as well; a long and difficult process. The boy who could control metal had his own catalog of horrors. She could see how the brash young man who pulled a submarine from the depths of the ocean had become the monster who'd had no qualms about raping her mind to further his cause. There was understanding but not forgiveness.

In that, she and Logan were in perfect agreement. Anger burned hot and strong.

Most of Logan's boxes were gone now too. There were a few dozen left that she hadn't touched. Some thoughts of his she just wasn't ready to deal with yet. Maybe she would never be ready. Maybe those last boxes would just sit on that shelf in her mind gathering dust. Marie was okay with that. Having a bit of Logan left in her head was almost comforting as long as she didn't think too hard about what kind of thoughts those last few boxes contained.

Fingering the tags around her neck, Marie smiled as she looked out her window at the snow-covered grounds of the school. In the time that Logan had been back, they had fallen into a comfortable friendship with each other. He was still Logan, gruff and bristly as ever. Marie grinned wider. He still thought Scott was a dick and he still flirted with Jean because he could, because she liked it, and because it annoyed the black leather Boy Scout, but even that had mellowed slightly since Jean and Scott had married and Logan had assumed a position as a "guest lecturer" in a special class teaching unarmed combat and self defense.

Logan was still the one person she felt the most at ease with in the entire school. With him she could just be Marie. With everyone else she was Rogue, the nice but untouchable girl. Logan didn't pull back when she came near or watch her with wary eyes if she came too close without her gloves on. The others had never really gotten over the fact that she'd nearly killed the Wolverine. Twice. While it did wonders for her reputation, it did little to foster close friendships with kids her own age. Even among them, she was still a freak among freaks; a halfling caught between two words. The adults saw a girl. The kids saw a freak. They all felt like children to her. She'd lived the history Scott taught. Wars and internment camps and a number burned into her flesh. Sometimes she felt a thousand years old.

And sometimes she felt seventeen.

They did a lot of talking in those first few weeks after Logan came back. Well, mostly she talked and he listened. He was easy to talk to; a beer dangling from his long fingers and the rich, sweet scent of tobacco calming her. Perhaps it was because they were kindred spirits. In their heart of hearts, both of them believed themselves to be broken, unworthy of the kind of love they saw others sharing. Somehow, in each other's company, the road didn't seem as lonely as it had in the time before.

They made an odd couple, the King of the Cage and the slip of a girl on the verge of becoming a woman. Marie wondered if that was why things had gone so smoothly between them. She had just turned seventeen, still young enough for Logan to convince himself she was just a kid.

Marie's smile faded.

Perhaps that was the reason for the easy camaraderie they shared. Logan didn't see her in any sort of sexual way. To be fair though, until recently, Marie hadn't seen herself in any sort of sexual way, either. She guessed it was because if nobody else could or would touch her, she had no reason to think about herself as touchable. Until recently, it had seemed silly to waste time dreaming about the impossible. She had spent so much time and energy working out the thoughts and memories of the men in her head, she had little time left to work on Marie.

Yeah, well that's just fine and dandy, Marie... not only are you a mutant with untouchable skin, you're also a late bloomer.

Marie sighed softly and shrugged her shoulders.

But nothing stays the same forever. Marie knew that her growing up was going to change her relationship with Logan. Not that the relationship was simple now, but it was about to get infinitely more complex. She knew no matter what changes their lives went through they would always be close. That was inevitable. On some level he was aware that she had seen into him - seen the real him, although he had no idea to what extent and she had never told him, he knew that despite that unvarnished look at the man he hid from the world, she still wanted him around.

That simple truth astounded him.

Logan still wondered about that, how such a green girl could accept who and what he was when he still had trouble with it himself. Jean was wrong. It wasn't a crush. It was acceptance. Unconditional and without reservation. Something infinitely more terrifying. He thought a lot about it these days, mostly while he was sitting in some dive bar having a beer. When he had worked up a good enough mad about it he would climb in the cage, take a few punches and kick a few asses. That usually made him feel better. It never changed anything, but sometimes he just needed an outlet to pour himself into. Sweat and blood and pain, as familiar as old friends. Bloodlust. Carnal lust. Strong whiskey and the brief adoration of women he forgot before his skin had even dried.

They had never talked about their bond with each other. It was just a given. Logan knew she loved him. Nobody could have that kind of blind acceptance without love. Marie knew he loved her because nobody willingly offered their life for someone unless some kind of love was involved. Neither of them wanted to explore exactly what kind of love it was. It was a precious gift neither of them took for granted and both were desperately afraid to lose.

For now they were both content to let the fragile peace to continue. It wasn't always easy, but it was… safe. Marie didn't push him into accepting her growing up and Logan never ever let himself think about Marie as anything other than a kid. It wasn't the most healthy relationship, but it kept everything safe. If he could only freeze her like this always in his mind, maybe he could hold on to the sense of normalcy their relationship afforded him. It was only that first time he saw her that he had let his thoughts run in another direction.

He had just sat down at the bar when he noticed that something smelled good, fresh and pure. Lush. It registered in his mind that a smell like that certainly didn't belong in a place like this. He let his glance slide over in the direction of the scent.

Ummm... slim body, nice long legs. I'd liketa feel those legs wrapped around me. Petite. Strong. Looks a little wild around the edges.

Damn.

He approved.

Long, shiny hair he could easily picture curled darkly around his fist, spread across his sheets, or dragging across his skin in a river of chestnut silk. His body tightened in anticipation. Her scent was luscious. It tickled some primal place deep in his brain. On rare occasions he ran across a woman who elicited such a carnal response in him, but this was the first time it had been twined with a strange protective urge. He had a possessive streak a mile wide but protective? That was new. And somewhat disconcerting. He wanted to see her eyes and when she turned to look at him he tensed.

Whoa... too young. Way, way too young, bub. I really am a bastard to have been thinkin' 'bout her that way. Get your shit together, Wolverine. Jesus, she's just a kid.

Just a kid with big, expressive eyes, dainty hands and a mouth built for sin; full and red and wet. It was a fuck-me mouth if he'd ever seen one and that bothered him. It was both very wrong and very, very right. He had too many miles on him for innocence to fire his blood.

He took another long pull on his beer and firmly squashed whatever attraction he'd felt for the girl. He wasn't attracted to girls. He liked women. Hell, he loved women. The way they looked and moved and smelled. He especially loved women when he was unwinding after a night in the cage. Fighting always brought the animal in him closer to the surface and women always responded to it. Maybe they could sense it. Who knew? Idly he wondered what the kid would look like in a few years, if she would be one of the ones who could sense it.

Marie had been aware of him too. She had watched him fight and had taken in the long muscled lines of his heavy fighter's body. She was young, but she wasn't dead. The old memory made her laugh. Even then she'd thought he had a nice ass. But that was neither here nor there. What she'd noticed most while sitting next to him at the bar was that he seemed lost. She was sure he wouldn't appreciate that sentiment now, any more than he would have then.

No, it definitely wouldn't fit with the whole 'I'm a big, mean, untouchable badass' thing he has going on.

Marie snorted.

She may have been young, but she wasn't an idiot. Eight months alone on the road had developed her ability to read people quickly and accurately. She was aware of his interest in her and also aware of the exact moment he figured out she was too young for him to comfortably think about in that way. She'd seen the smoldering golden light in his eyes die and his face become cold and hard. She knew he wouldn't be comfortable with her in any other role than as a kid so in the beginning she had played that up to put him at ease.

It wasn't a stretch really, after all she was just a kid... mostly... and it was the only way he would accept a relationship between them right now. It was a sacrifice Marie had been willing to make then, but even the most powerful mutants couldn't stop time.

Little girls don't stay young forever.