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distinction

Distinction
by Molly
August 2000

Jean had brought her a candle one night, mere hours after Logan left for the fifth time. A thick, purplish-blue chunk of a candle, and Jean had perched carefully on the edge of the bed, moving it from one hand to the other and back again, and hadn't looked at Rogue very much at all.

And they had a talk where nothing much was said, and after Jean smiled with a shadow in her eye and left, Rogue put the candle on her bedside table and went to sleep. And it was the day before Logan returned, yet again, that she glanced up from a book and noted for the first time that she had forgotten to take the sticker off the side. Slick milky-blue waves of wax had eased their way down, so that Rogue only knew the scent was 'Handpoured Rain' because it was one of those conversational nothings that she and Jean had talked about that night.

Something, that was nothing, about how God poured the rain, and Rogue had said she'd never noticed the rain smelling like much before, but that it seemed right for the candle to smell so rich, because a man had poured it, after all. A man, doing things a little differently.

***

Logan had changed very little in nearly two years, and after he showed up at breakfast, exactly three months to the day of his last departure, Rogue stood and stared at herself in the mirror, and she wondered if maybe it was different for him, seeing other people change.

Because he always seemed the same, always rather consistent in his glib shucking of expectations laid at his feet. Logan was Logan, which worked for him. Tested, tried and true, and Rogue had slipped out of her childhood with two things intact: Logan's intermittent presence, and a sense that she would never be so startlingly firm a personality as he was.

But it was his appearance more than anything else that made her wonder. Two years should have done *something*, and yet there Logan was at breakfast, with the same crook in his eyebrows and the same fine lines set against his eyes and mouth, lines that suggested yes, once, he may have smiled quite often. Rogue knew she was changed; older, perhaps wiser, but whatever she was, it was *different*, and when Logan tossed the occasional glance her way, he must be seeing someone who had never crawled into his life via a rickety trailer.

She wondered if there were changes in him, after all; if maybe he looked in the mirror and knew that face, that face cast in iron time, so well that he could catch minute adjustments. She wondered if maybe Logan knew himself better than anyone should have to know themselves, despite the mystery of his past.

***

She was leaning against her desk when he knocked, using a small pocketknife to scrape drippings of wax from the curved side of her candle. Very slowly, the label was coming back into view, though much of the ink had peeled away with wax and drifted to the floor in unhindered shavings.

He poked his head in with a quirk of a questioning grin, and when she nodded him inside, he mimicked her posture against the desk, a mere two feet away. Rogue had a flash of feeling dangerously naked in short sleeves and no gloves. "You're making a mess."

Rogue smiled down at the label and its faded words. "Wax is easy to clean," she said. "All you have to do is scoop it up and put it back in the flame, and you've managed to keep the candle going."

"Huh," and Logan was tipping his head to the side, watching her, and she could feel it without looking at him. "I was looking for you."

"You found me."

"Right. Jean said you'd probably be here."

"It *is* my room, Logan."

"It *is* the middle of the day, Marie," he teased, right down to the faded accent. "So?"

Rogue lifted her eyes and his were suddenly digging into her, and she wondered how it was that he made it okay that she could never touch him. How he got right inside and made it something more than flesh could accomplish.

"I like it here," she said after a moment. "I like it being my own." Her attention fell to her hands, and she closed the knife with a soft click. "I never wear my gloves in here, did you know that?"

"Your turf, huh?"

"Yeah, somethin' like that." Rogue shook her head slowly and looked up again. "So? You got any crazy adventures to tell me about?"

"Depends. Want to come take a walk with me?"

She smiled, and it felt easy, how it almost always felt around him, and she set the candle on the desk. "Sure," she replied, and started for the neat pile her gloves were in on the bed.

But he followed, and she had to flinch away when he put his hand down atop the fabric. "Leave them off."

"Logan-- "

"Rogue. Trust me?"

And she nodded, but insisted on slipping into a button-up with long sleeves, and he didn't say much when she stuffed her hands into her pockets. "Where are we walkin' to?" she asked in the hallway.

"Nowhere." He grinned, which looked wonderful because it was just so rare, and she'd always appreciated the things she seldom, if ever, got to see. Like Alaska, and like the contrast of her own skin against another's. "Everywhere," he added. "You up to it?"

"Lead the way, sir," she laughed, and she wondered why he was in such a good mood. But it didn't matter for long, because he just was, and they walked across the lawns of the school and they talked. And it was sunny and bright but refreshingly breezy, and Logan was wearing his light denim jacket, so Rogue pushed her sleeves up and walked with her hands loose, and she had managed to make Logan laugh exactly 4 times by the time they walked inside for lunch.

***

She didn't see him again for four days, but it was okay because they had established long ago that should he leave without a goodbye, he would become quite familiar with the vicious streak she assured him she had. Then she saw him around every once in awhile, and it seemed he was staying, at least for the time being.

Summer ended and Professor Xavier told her she could keep her private room as long as she liked, as long as she felt she needed to stay. She started school once again; classes at the community college meant long days of long sleeves and long gloves, and with the heat of August still clinging, there was nothing she liked more than to return to her room and close the door and put on the one pair of shorts she owned.

She took to burning her candle in the evenings instead of just late at night, and the label was very soon coated with streaks of wax again. And this time she could tell that if she scraped it again, the label would come off, too.

So she left it alone, because she thought that sometimes it was the label that made the thing, even if it had to remain obscured.

***

She was reading philosophy articles on identity when Logan knocked, and it was late in September already so she'd suspected it was coming.

And he came in and sat with her on the bed, and after he tipped his head to see what she was reading, he furrowed his brow a bit. "This actually interesting?"

Rogue nodded, but slowly stopped the motion as Logan grinned broadly. "What? What's so funny?"

"Nothing. It's just been awhile since I've seen that wide-eyed, earnest look."

She bit her lower lip and watched him carefully. "It's been awhile since I've been a wide-eyed, earnest girl, Logan."

"Yeah, I guess I noticed," he muttered, playing with the edges of her photocopied papers.

"You leavin'?"

He seemed surprised. "You knew?"

"Felt about that time," and she forced a smile that was brighter than she felt, and lifted one hand to the metal chain around her neck. "So, is this the time you'll be needing these back?"

Logan blinked and shook his head. "Not a chance, kid."

"I'm not a kid anymore."

"I noticed," he said, and looked over at the candle she had burning on the table. "Nice smell."

She nodded. "I like it."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

And then Logan was slumping, and glancing around like he didn't know what else to say, or do, and he seemed like he didn't really feel right looking at her, either. So on impulse, Rogue leaned over and blew out the candle, and the wax burned enough to make her hiss, but she dipped her finger in anyway and let it dry in a thin coat across her fingertip.

Now Logan was looking at her, and his eyes never left hers as she reached and slid just the one finger across his cheek, following the line of bone under his eye to his nose, and then across the bridge to the other cheek.

But she could feel the wax chipping, and she withdrew her hand and smiled and absently rubbed the rest of slick layer away. "You're comin' back."

"Right. And you'll be here."

"Nowhere else," she agreed.

He was the one to lean forward and hug her, and a minute later she was alone with her homework.

Her homework, and the gently fading cloak of the candle's scent.

**end**