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accidentally like a martyr

Accidentally Like A Martyr
by Molly
February 2001

***

She thought, somewhere near the Indiana/Illinois border, that she would never like dried meat. But she finished the last three bites and watched Logan polish his off. "They were supposed to be here," she said softly.

"Yeah." She hadn't gotten more than a mutter from him in hours. That should have been a comfort; that should have been routine and made things a little better even in the midst of their current apocalyptic mess.

"Logan." She shoved hair that was too long, too dirty, out of her eyes and wished the wind would die down. She wished a lot of things; she wished he weren't tense and angry and lost to her. "We have to get out of here. Soon."

"Shut up for a second." He didn't say it rudely, or roughly, just said it and she did it.

Things seemed to go like that, now.

She shifted her leg and hissed as pain lanced up. She could see blood soaking through the strips of white t-shirt tied around the joint; it was no longer getting better, and it was still bad. He looked at her and saw it. "You said it wasn't that bad."

"I lied." Turned out she could mutter with the best of them, with him, and she scowled down into a late January dusting of dirty snow. It was fucking cold and she wondered when she'd stopped being able to accept it with mild humor, if also with a few complaints. Somewhere in Indiana, she supposed. Somewhere around three hours ago. A lot of things had stopped then. "Couldn't you smell it or something?"

Logan stepped right into the ashy mud of a long unused campfire pit as he crossed over to her; she pictured marshmallows and families and things wrapped and roasting in foil. "Let me see."

She let him, like she let so many other things. Her back ached and she tried to stretch carefully while he inspected the gash on her leg. It was a mistake. The stars overhead spun and she actually considered, briefly, that the earth had simply sped up its rotation.

But Logan caught her as she swayed, didn't let her fall off her rock perch into grass and mud and tainted snow. "If they're not here in ten minutes," he said, and there was no arguing with that tone. Logan didn't seem to have an arguable tone. "I'm touching you. You're not bleeding to death in fucking Illinois."

She prayed the jet would show up. No way in hell was he touching her. Never again, she believed. Never.

***

Jean's face was smudged with dirt and Rogue didn't think the flecks of blood on her forehead belonged to either of them. But she couldn't be sure of much, except that Jean's bright eyes, eyes about which she'd always wondered what was so entrancing, weren't so fascinating anymore, just dull and rimmed with red. But Jean worked silently, carefully; she showed one brief flicker of horrified surprise and then clamped down, professional to the end.

At least towards Rogue. At Logan, she glared. "What the hell were you thinking? This is exactly why we left her with *you*. Why didn't you--"

"She's alive, ain't she?" Logan's eyes met Rogue's briefly before she looked away, and he knelt next to Jean. "Get out of the way. You look too tired to see straight."

Jean just stared at him as he yanked her emergency medical supplies closer to him. It was tantamount to revolution, Rogue thought, feeling somewhat delirious in a conscious way no person should ever experience unless drugs were involved. Next thing Logan would probably storm the castle, and demand that Scott let him fly the jet.

But Jean seemed to get over it, because she and Logan managed to work together to apply a better tourniquet and clean the wound as best they could, and then she left Rogue with Logan in charge of loosening the tourniquet at intervals. Rogue could hear her talking to Scott up front; she stopped listening after a few moments in favor of closing her eyes and effectively passing out.

***

There was a doctor she didn't know in the medlab when she came to, and she almost panicked, almost unleashed things that danced, barely checked within her memory, of what strange doctors could do. "Jean," she demanded coldly.

"Jean is sleeping," Professor Xavier said, rolling into sight. "This is Evan Morales, a friend who can be trusted. I asked him to come help, seeing as how you and Gambit were injured and Jean was... Well."

She sat up and the room stayed still. That was a relief, at least. "Remy's hurt?"

"Mild concussion, needed some stitches on his scalp," the stranger-- Evan, she told herself-- said. "He'll be fine. As for you, it will take some time."

"How much time?"

"Quite a bit, to be honest. In addition to tissue and muscle damage, you've torn a ligament. You could, of course, ask this Logan person to-- "

"No." Rogue looked at Xavier. "Where is he?"

"Sleeping, I presume." Xavier's hooded eyes stared at her in unblinking blue sheen. She felt they could see right through her.

Maybe they could.

"I think you should reconsider," he added. "Anytime the drugs wear off, the pain will be considerable."

That was nothing new. She shook her head and laid back down to sleep.

***

It was somewhere in Indiana. Before Illinois, before getting out alive and in one piece only to fall on ice and slip down a rocky slope that sliced her leg open. Before the campgrounds she'd managed to stumble to on grit and desperation and eight years of grief that had only truly surfaced after finding out the truth she'd always needed to know.

She found out in Indiana, where it was cold and had snowed that first night. Then, she'd had burns on her legs, through her torn uniform, and a cut on her scalp that had bled like head wounds do, but she was alive and they would cross into Illinois to meet the jet soon.

If the jet made it. If the rest were still alive to make it.

But she couldn't worry about that, not then and there, where it was cold and dark and Logan was actually using sentences. They didn't make a fire, or noise, because they weren't out yet, and Logan was looking at her legs. "They'll be okay," he said. "No more bleeding?"

"It stopped." She shook under the occasional flakes of snow. "Wish we had blankets."

He nodded silent agreement and gave her a chunk of dried meat from his rucksack. "Eat. It will help some."

So she ate. It tasted like salt and felt like crumbling rubber, and Logan laughed at the face she made. "Fun life we lead, huh?"

"Fabulous." She yawned, and stopped him before he could say anything. "I know, no sleeping. Too cold to, anyway."

He seemed to hesitate; after he spoke she wanted to ignore that fact. "C'mere." He grabbed her and pulled her over and his arm fit well around her shoulder. "Close your eyes, at least. I'll make sure you don't fall asleep too long."

And she did as he said but only a minute later didn't feel very tired anymore, as if her body were conspiring to take away her excuse to be this close. She ignored it and stayed put. Logan's cells must have been working in overdrive; the pocket of warmth around him seemed inexhaustible.

"Sorry," she suddenly found herself saying. He didn't answer, but his gloved hand curled to push hair from her forehead and then paused questioningly. "I know you'd prefer to have done this alone."

Or with Jean.

"You know." His tone was flat.

"I-- yeah. You... yeah."

The silence stretched through the icy air and through her sense of time. At last he said, sounding almost regretful, "You're good at what you do." His hand tucked some more hair back. "But shit can happen, and if it happens to you, you damn well better be within my reach."

And again her body betrayed her-- the flush was too much and she sat up, rubbing her fingers, numb even within leather casing, against her legs. "It's so easy for you? The choice between giving up all your privacy to me or letting me live and die by the danger of all this?" She waved her hand around at the clearing and the woods and she stared at the ground. "'I don't know that it would be easy for me."

"Nothing new for me, though," he muttered, obviously trying to be light in his own way.

She just looked up and watched him. "Things change."

"They do," he agreed. His eyes were obscured with the murky depths of night and his own shielded expression, but she felt herself lost in them. "But there's nothing I find so important to keep to myself that I'd want you hurt. It's no choice. But let's keep it down to these minor injuries this time, huh? For my privacy's sake."

"I'll try," she laughed. Her legs cramped a bit from too much tense shivering. "How long?"

"Three hours. We'll stay here an hour, then move."

"Okay." She couldn't help it and her teeth chattered, and he grinned slightly as she rubbed her hands even harder. "And you wound up in Canada, of all places."

"Shut up," but she grinned, too. "It's... the nerves aren't making it better, you know?"

She saw no hesitation this time when he tugged her over. "Body heat," he said in gruff explanation.

"Thanks." She tucked her hands between her knees and leaned into his ribcage. "They're gonna be okay, right?"

"Yeah," he said slowly and then his other arm was around her and his chin rested on her head, carefully avoiding the patch of matted, bloody hair that surrounded her fragile wound. "Hell, they had it easier than us, and we're okay so far. They've got the jet, and... One-Eye'll do his damnedest to get them all out, that's for sure."

"They had a more heavily guarded facility," she whispered. "And we're still running."

"Marie." His voice was firm. "Three hours. We'll know then. Okay?" She didn't answer; she couldn't, for some reason, and his arms got tight around her. "Are you okay?"

"I'm-- " she started, then stopped briefly. "I'm cold and I'm worried and I'm hurt, Logan. I can't make any of it go away."

"I know. But you have to put it somewhere else for now. Not right on top of all your thoughts."

"I'll try." She closed her eyes and listened to him breathe, listened to the creak of his leather uniform and the faint whistle of air leaving his lungs. "Logan... you're holding me just Ścause it's cold, right?"

His answer was long in coming, which told her right away. "No," he finally said.

She sighed slowly and opened her eyes to see her breath freeze in billowing white before her. And she hadn't noticed it, didn't know why, but hadn't noticed fingers tracing gentle patterns across her upper arm, hadn't noticed chin turning to cheek on the top of her head. She could see Logan's breath, forming a cloud parallel to her own five inches above. "Oh."

And his fingers moved more firmly, pressing better through thick leather. She couldn't help but relax, let her torso curve perfectly against his, even as she heard her own voice. "Why, then?"

His fingers paused. "Don't make me answer that, okay?"

She twisted, not quite out of his grasp but enough to stare up at him, and there were snowflakes stuck in his hair and beard. One caught on an eyelash and she watched it melt. "What if I need to know?"

"I don't think you do." His gaze was beating her down and he knew it, it was obvious; one arm shifted to get around her waist and support her back, and he leaned in, breathing welcome warmth against her ear. "Tell me what you know about hypothermia."

She blinked, the only movement she dared with him so close to bare skin. "N-not much," she stammered. "I think-- I think the heart slows down or something-- "

"Wrong," and his lips brushed her ear. "All the systems slow down."

"Oh," she mumbled again.

She could feel his hands, flat and firm against her back, and then she could see the glinting, dangerous pool in his eyes when he drew his head back. "How cold do you think it is, Marie?"

Her eyes widened and something that sounded like her voice breathed, "Logan-- " but it was too late. His mouth found her other ear, unwarmed, and latched on for a long slow bout with dueling nature. She gasped; she was cold and she was numb, but she wasn't frozen yet, and by God, she could feel him. His nose brushed into her hair and shit, she thought, how warm was too warm? But then he moved, pulling the wet heat of his mouth and tongue along the curve of her jaw, and her head fell back but he adjusted, reaching her chin and then finally-- finally-- catching her lips, which were oh so cold and slow to move but all too ready to press against his.

He tugged one of her legs over his, tugged her into his lap and his lips kept finding new patches of cold skin to let the old one rechill. Uneven gusts of frozen breath materialized in front of her shuddering form, and she wondered if she cried, if the tears would freeze, too. She got her fingers in his hair, guided his head to the best, the coldest spots, and she pressed down against him in a rocking motion based on inexperienced instinct.

He was growling into her skin, low throaty sounds that reminded her of puppies at play, and she just gasped and moved and failed to notice the flushing burn that was creeping up from deep within, failed to realize that with breath and want and mere bodily reaction, she wasn't all that cold anymore. Reality opened back up, slowed but not stopped, unable to be held in suspension forever, and they'd both been right. Things changed.

Things changed and eight years had aged her in too many ways, but it had also changed him as she'd never expected. She remembered nightmares that weren't so frequent anymore, and she remembered a need to move, to run, that seemed to have settled down. And she remembered something about Jean that was more than lust and preoccupation, but Jean...

Jean wasn't part of this equation. Jean wasn't even on his mind, and Rogue fell away so suddenly she wound up flat on her ass in the snow. Logan was hunched over, presumably waiting, just waiting, to recover, and it seemed like too many rounds of eternity before he finally shook his head and looked up. She couldn't quite feel anything; she knew she was shaking only by the vague tremor of everything in her sight, and Logan, even through jolted vision, was deathly still and staring at her.

And the irony was that she'd never been so entirely clueless as to what he was thinking. She'd never had a lock on him, for sure, but this... this was a new sort of confusion. Still vaguely stunned by understanding that he'd been thinking of her, and only her, and wondering what he was thinking now, she swallowed hard and blinked at him. "Logan..."

He stood up, scrubbed a hand through his snow-salted hair. "Let's get moving," he ground out, staring off in the direction they'd come. "Sooner we get farther away, the better."

She choked on every word that tried to come out, so she just stood up and brushed herself off. Her legs were healed, she noticed idly, and a curious hand to her scalp revealed that it, too, was intact.

Unlike some things. Logan grabbed his gear and strode away, and she had to scramble to follow.

***

She opened her eyes and shifted before she remembered, and the pain that shot up her leg was a vicious reminder. She gasped, and there was a motion beside her. "You okay?" Logan demanded gruffly.

She bit back the last stabs of agony, knowing it still showed on her face. "I'm fine," she hissed. "I'm... godammit."

"Christ, would you just let me-- "

"No." She turned her head away. "What are you doing here?"

"Checking on you," he admitted frankly. "Jean's upstairs, so I snuck in."

"You snuck in?"

"She's still pissed at me."

"Shame. Maybe you should go before she comes back." She nearly winced at the bitter venom in her voice.

Logan just stared at her. "Probably."

"Yeah, so... See you later."

He didn't leave, though; she should have known it wouldn't be so easy. "What is it that pissed *you* off?"

Meeting his eyes for an instant, she saw anger and frustration, and she wondered at whom it was directed. "I'm not pissed off. But you're not touching me."

"I'm sorry, if that's what you want to hear."

"You stink at apologies."

"They're better when I mean them."

"You were comforting me," she said, cold and definite. "And it went too far. I gave up on hoping for anything else a long time ago."

"Marie-- "

"Go away, Logan," she muttered, and she hated the sound of his angry sigh. "I want to be alone."

And he left, silently, and she stared at the ceiling and tried not to cry. She'd done enough of that in the last eight years.

***

"Keep up," he barked out. "We're almost there." The snow was falling again after a brief lull, and was being chased east by the wind. Right into her face; she squinted against it.

She quickened her step to close the gap between them and then she fell. She saw Logan jerk around at her sharp cry, then she was rolling and the scream that wanted to form when the rock ripped into her leg caught in her throat, lodged itself in a simultaneous gasp for air.

It closed the gap, at least. She slammed to a halt near the bottom of the hill and Logan was at her side, telling her not to move. "Not a problem," she choked out. "Fuck!"

"Shh." He was taking account, checking all her limbs and she finally got frustrated, struggling to sit up. "Anything feel broken?"

"Everything," she snapped. Her eyes caught the path she'd made coming down-- all a swirl of muddied snow and patches of blood. She looked at her knee and hissed. "Oh, shit."

She waved him away when he tried to get a closer look. "No," she gasped desperately. "It's not bad. It's-- it's healing already. Give me something to bandage it."

Wordlessly, he yanked a dirty t-shirt from his pack and tore it into strips, and she tied them hurriedly to hide the wound. "Can you walk?"

"I'll have to." She avoided his eyes, and refused the hand he offered to help her up. It hurt like hell, like the worst of pains she'd been trained to swallow down and ignore; she could already tell that the remnants of his power weren't going to be enough to take care of it. Too brief a touch, and still too much; her mind swam with aching regrets and wounded fury. She could only hope it would sufficiently slow the bleeding

Logan glanced at her occasionally as she limped the final hour to the meeting point, but didn't say a word. They arrived ahead of schedule; she eased herself down on a rock and held back agonized tears that threatened to spill at each movement of her leg.

He settled himself on a log on the other side of the fire pit, and she sighed and watched him as he leaned his forearms against his legs and bowed his head wearily. She wasn't used to such a stance, wasn't used to Logan looking tired and sick of it all. Things changed, and right then she would give anything to go back. But she could only sit quietly and wait, and hope the rest of the mission went according to plan.

Because the plan was all they had, all they'd ever had. Logan was right and Scott would do everything he could to make this a total success, but little would he know that something, somewhere, had failed. Something had broken along the way, and she stared bitterly at Logan.

Eight years and he'd been back for three, settling in and being a part of her life, all their lives. Taking up her training soon after she finished school, preparing her to be here, to be this, and she suddenly hated him for what he'd made her. She hated him for hiding, for making her survive on fast-fading hopes and bittersweet dreams; she hated him for refusing to be what she now knew he could have been for her.

And she hated herself for falling into it. She'd clung to every last nuance of the imprint he left on her, embraced the nightmares and the habits and the quirks of personality that won her little more than strange and concerned looks at every turn. She gave up on being bitter about her skin, gave up on regretting what just was. She waited five long years for him to come back, never released a futile belief that he would be back, eventually.

A belief which had turned out to be right. He banged on her door at nearly three in the morning one summer, and it had taken long moments of staring at him in the hallway to get it through her sleepy mind that *this* wasn't a dream. And all he did was stare right back, taking in hair that hadn't been cut in years and light, fading bruises from all her training sessions, and then he smirked and hugged her and she had thought, he didn't call me kid.

But that was the only change, it often seemed. He hit on Jean and argued good-naturedly with Scott and had long and frustrated talks with Ororo over the meaning of what they were trying to do. There came a day when he walked in on her training session and sent the trainer packing, and right after pointing out each and every sloppy move that would wind up getting her killed, he started teaching her all he knew. Dirty tricks and offensive thinking, and he made her his in all but the most important way.

But he was still after Jean, and so she accepted that like she accepted her skin, and simply tried to ignore it when Jean's name inevitably came up. She knew Jean was trying, too, trying to ignore the wistful, longing, jealous looks that Rogue so often directed at her.

So here they were, and longing was no longer a question. It was there, and it was aimed at her, and she felt sick at knowing that this was no sudden epiphany on his part. It stank of desire long clamped down, of denial and repression and every single thing she had *needed* him to not do. He had done it, because it was just who he was.

She hated him for being so fucking noble.

***

Jean was finally there when she woke up the next time. Pretty and serene and looking well-rested once again, Jean made her way to Rogue's side and smiled sympathetically. Rogue just stared at her; Jean didn't know anything about her, and sympathy was out of the question.

"How are you feeling?" Jean asked quietly.

"I'm okay. Can I move up to my room?"

"Absolutely not. You're in pretty serious shape. From what Logan tells me, I'm surprised you managed all that you did."

"Yeah, well. It wasn't as bad as-- as it could have been," she said carefully. "It could have been worse."

"Was it?" Jean's gaze didn't waver in the slightest as Rogue glared at her. "Rogue, I've looked over Evan's notes, and I saw the wound myself. It wasn't as fresh and raw as it should have been."

"So?"

"So it looked like some healing had already been done. Want to tell me what exactly happened to you two out there?"

"Nothing." Rogue closed her eyes and sighed. "I got hurt before. Logan touched me to take care of it-- just a short touch, nothing really. A little of that power was left in me when I fell."

Jean nodded slowly at her lie. "Why didn't either of you mention it before?"

"Well, I was sort of unconscious, if you hadn't noticed."

"And Logan?"

"Did you ask him?"

"No." Jean smiled slightly. "No, I haven't talked to him. I was rather upset at your condition; I suppose I shouldn't have let that interfere."

"Well... I'm not too tickled at it all, myself," Rogue said, grinning despite herself. "Evan said it would take awhile to heal."

"It will. The thing is, Rogue... you've torn a ligament in falling and then you put more strain on it to get to the meeting site. You're going to need surgery."

"You're sure?"

"No doubt."

"Oh." Her brow crinkled in distaste at the thought, and she frowned slightly. "When?"

"Just as soon as you're ready to be moved to New York. Rogue," and Jean was serious, she could see it, "you need to understand this fully. We've already secured the best surgeon we could find, and he's been fully apprised of your mutation, but... I don't think there can be any guarantee that your knee will be the same after this. And you will most certainly be off the team for quite a bit of time. This injury is serious."

"Oh," she said again, the natural instinct of brain to mouth while she processed the implications. "And you think-- "

"I think you know that none of us here like to take risks with our powers. But Logan is willing, and it wouldn't take much, and I think you need to think seriously on what would be best. What you could handle in either scenario." Jean regarded her thoughtfully and shrugged. "Promise me you'll think about it?"

"Yeah. Sure, I'll think about it."

***

Nights alone in the medlab were simply hell, and quite possibly a manifestation of some sick sadistic urge on Jean's part. Rogue cursed quietly at the ceiling and wondered what would be so wrong with installing a television in here, instead of just in Jean's office. She blew out a frustrated breath, and suddenly a hand was on her shoulder, squeezing lightly. "How are you feeling?" Logan asked quietly.

She carefully twisted away from the heated pressure of his palm, shrugging. "Like I've been left down here to die of boredom."

"You wouldn't be here if you'd just let me touch you."

"No! This isn't life or death, Logan, and those were the conditions. I need to get used to the risks."

He fell into slow, jerky step alongside her and she stifled a groan. "You don't. You're making yourself get used to them, and the stubborn thing is endearing enough when it's keeping you alive, but you're being ridiculous."

"I'm being realistic."

"You're being stupid. You're not pissed about what happened; you used to want that."

"I got over it."

"Like hell," he snapped. "I was there."

"I noticed." She twisted her neck and fixed a furious stare at him. "I don't want inside your head again, okay? That one small dose wasn't all that pleasant, and more is the last thing I need right now."

"You being out of commission is that last thing anyone needs right now." Logan pressed a palm to her hair when she started to avert her eyes; he forced her to look at him and she bit back the flicker of doubt that echoed up inside her at his touch. "What was it, Marie? What made you so angry?"

She almost told him. She found the words on the tip of her tongue, longing to get out, accusation aching to find form. But all she did was shake her head. "You wouldn't understand. You never did, and that's the problem."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

Sighing in frustration, she used her only option and closed her eyes, but he kept going. "When we left here, you said you were willing to deal with the shit in my head if it came down to that."

"It didn't come down to that, Logan. It became something entirely separate, something that shouldn't have happened."

"You're right," and she frowned at his unexpected agreement, looking up at him again. "There are plenty of reasons it never did before, and they still apply. But this has nothing to do with that. You're hurt, and to be honest, we can't afford that right now."

"Still apply?" she gasped, and the world suddenly fell out from under her. "To hell with still applying. I'm no kid and you don't even think of Jean like that anymore. You haven't for years, so nothing still applies, and that's not new. The only new thing is that I know you're a bigger ass than you were when I met you."

Logan's eyes flicked over her dangerously and she winced; he understood and this wouldn't be easy. "So that's it," he said softly. "Pretty narrow view you have there, Marie."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean you should just stop to consider that your whole connection deal was only open a few seconds. You got a taste, and there's more to me than whatever the hell came through first. Did you ever consider that my decisions about you and Jean had less to do with you and Jean than they did with me?"

She blinked at him, and couldn't remember the last time she'd seen him so defensively furious. "Huh?" was all she could manage to say.

"Guess not. You never once stopped to think that maybe there's a reason I stopped chasing after Jean once I knew I'd be sticking around here for long time."

"I-- I don't understand."

"You wouldn't. I don't care if you do or not; you would, though, if you just let me help you heal. But look, Marie. I slipped up out there, but don't go convincing yourself it means I want anything from you after all this time. I don't. I don't want anything from anybody, not around here." He shook his head at her, and it was painful to watch. "Let me know if you change your mind about your knee."

***

Sleeping was the plight of the damned: impossible. If she moved, it hurt, and if she didn't, she got restless, and when Jean slipped in at dawn to get her ready to be moved to the hospital, she groaned her surrender. "Can you get Logan?" she mumbled wearily. "This sucks."

And Jean just smiled softly. "Sure. I'm glad you changed your mind."

"Yeah, well... Don't get too close when you wake him up."

She cursed herself as Jean left, kept cursing herself right up to point where Logan appeared, rumpled and rubbing his sleep-swollen face. "Come to your senses, huh?"

"I guess. I don't believe you, you know."

"About what?"

"About not minding. This isn't what you want."

"Of course not. This means you're lying here hurt."

"No," she said, and her voice caught. "You told me there was nothing so important for you to hide. But that's not true. You're just too much of a mule to let it get in the way."

Logan set his jaw and glared at her. "Do you want this or not?"

She could see Jean behind him, watching silently, and she forced a jerky nod. "Okay. And... thanks, I guess. For being a mule."

And Logan just snorted in light amusement and nodded at Jean, who came to his side and slipped her hand into a latex glove, ready to pull them apart. "Just a few seconds," Jean said, calm and serious. "That should be enough. For both of you."

Logan quirked a wry grin at Rogue and shrugged. "Here goes privacy," he muttered, and pressed his palm to the back of her right hand.

It hurt. Christ, how it hurt; she paid no attention to the cascading rush of memory and fear, personality and doubt, conviction, belief, self-control; she focused in on her knee and sucked in a horrified gasp. Because this wasn't three clean holes, quickly mending themselves, and it wasn't burnt skin or a minor scalp wound or her own drained energy suddenly being refueled. This was ligament trying to reform itself. This was flesh that had healed around the edges, undoing itself to start the process fresh. This was her leg on fire, and Jean pulled Logan away from her and she screamed.

{get away}

"Fuck!" she let out in a sob, the pain already ebbing. "Jesus... fuck!"

Jean's voice drifted up to her. "Hang on just a second, Rogue, okay?"

Drifted... up? Rogue bit back the last of her wrenching cries and twisted her head, and Jean was kneeling over Logan's still form on the floor. "Is he okay?" she demanded, sitting up. Her fingers clawed at the brace and bandages on her knee; she flung it all away and thought, briefly, that she could get to like this deal. No scar, and she tested the joint.

Perfect. But Logan wasn't moving.

{don't care, don't care, don't let yourself care}

"Is he okay?" she repeated, sliding off the bed and crouching beside Jean.

Logan stirred, winced and lifted his hands to press knuckles into his eye sockets. "Goddamn, Marie, you blood-thirsty or something?" he groaned.

Her eyes widened and she stood quickly, nearly stumbling over Jean. "I-- I'm sorry."

He removed his hands and frowned at her. "Can it, Marie. It was a joke. Are you okay?"

"I..." She blinked, glanced down at her feet, both planted firmly on the floor. "Yeah. Good as new."

"Okay. Good. Jean, wanna help me up?"

Still silent, Jean braced herself and offered a supportive hand. Logan groaned again once he was on his feet, and at last, he looked straight at Rogue. "So."

"So," she echoed

{so he's okay, you can get out of here now}

and Jean shot them both a careful glance before backing up, saying as she left, "I'll call and cancel with the hospital."

"Look, Marie," Logan started, and sighed, rubbing his temples. "What's it gonna take to get straight with you again?"

"Nothing." She shrugged and edged towards the door. "I understand now, Logan. I don't like it, but I understand. We're fine."

"We are."

"Yes," and she said it with a sorrowful honesty. "So you're not how I thought you were. I can live with that." She stared at him thoughtfully, almost relieved. "Funny, but I always thought I knew you the best of all the people up here."

"Oh... Well, you do know me better than anyone else does."

"Guess I do," she agreed, and slipped out the doors. "I used to think that was a good thing."

***

It was strangely unfamiliar, to walk without pain. No muscles cramping from the cold, no stinging burns or excruciating wounds. She slipped up the stairs and into her room and she was ready to cry, finally ready, but the tears stayed in involuntary check.

Jean came up for once last check, to make sure the healing was complete. Ororo stopped in, too, and then Scott and Jubilee and Rogue started to feel like more of an invalid than when she'd been hurt. But Logan stayed away, and she was vaguely glad.

She forced herself to stop hiding away and went down for dinner at six. Professor Xavier gave her a warm smile that said volumes, about trusting her and her decisions and yet still believing she'd made the right one. She shrugged at him with a tiny smile and slipped into a seat, and she knew Logan was watching her eat but she didn't look up.

He caught her on her way out; taking her sleeved arm, he pulled her down the hall and around the corner. "You said we were fine."

"We are," she insisted, frowning, and she didn't like the doubt on his face.

"You're already avoiding me."

"I've been avoiding everyone," she shot back. "I needed some quiet time that *wasn't* in Jean's territory."

And Logan finally grinned. "Yeah, I can see that. Marie-- "

"Yeah," and she waited, thinking, praying, that maybe they could be Śfine'.

"You said you understood... I was thinking I could work on it. We could-- "

"No," she said, but she said it with a smile, a genuine one. Maybe he shouldn't have stayed away all day.

Maybe she just needed to really sign away eight years of longing, instead of only convincing herself she had.

"No," she repeated. "I was thinking, too, Logan. You know, that there's probably a reason it only happened when we weren't so certain of making it back here alive. That's all you can do, and I don't like my guys quite so fatalistic."

"Marie-- "

"It's how you've lived your life for nearly twenty-five years, Logan. You can't just change that, no more than I can just change needing what you can't give. Sometimes... sometimes feeling something just isn't enough." And she looked at him carefully and lifted onto her toes to kiss his beard-protected cheek. "We will be fine, you know. I've got it all sorted out up top, and... Well, hey. If we ever wind up running for our lives out in the woods, maybe you could... you know."

Logan smirked. "Teach you the basics of hypothermia?"

"Yeah," she said, and winked. "This really cool guy told me once that I'm actually a very good student."

"Hmm. Were drugs involved?"

"Nope. Just common-sense." And she patted his arm and kissed his cheek again, and when she settled back on her feet, he was shaking his head. "What?"

"Nothing," he laughed. "I think that guy was right."

"Of course he was. Best teacher I ever had."

**end**