Story Notes:
Just something that's been on the back burner a while. I blame A Perfect Circle. As usual.
I was wrong. It had to be wrong, but at the time it seemed the only thing that was right with the whole situation. Something I’d wanted in secret for years, had been offered to me, with no strings, no restrictions. Only a fool doesn’t take that chance, right? …Right?

For weeks now, I had been beating myself up, questioning my actions, my emotions, my honor. I know some of the X-geeks who don’t know me that well think I don’t have any, but I hold my small amount honor precious, hoard it like a dragon. When a man knows he’s been altered, made to be a killer, that honor is sometimes all there is to remind him he’s not a soulless animal.

At the start, it was all just the routine of things. Chuck pinged me, riding the bike out in northern Ontario, just roaming as I tend to do when things are quiet back at home. He had more than one reason to use the skull phone : Cyclops, Storm and the others were halfway around the world, collecting a potentially powerful kid from a bad situation, and Jeannie was off on Capitol Hill, showing off her long legs and trying to sway senators. And it was about Rogue.

She and the Ice kid had stuck it out, he’d even given her a shiny sparkle for her ring finger that she’d sort of halfheartedly shown me last time I’d gone home to the mansion. I just nodded, told her it looked nice, and asked her if she wanted to go for a beer. When we were at the bar, it all came out. He’d asked her, and she’d put him off for a few days before saying yes. She wanted a long engagement, but the pressure around the mansion was on her. Our lives are so hectic, and we all know we could die on this mission, the next, or the next. So the wedding had been set for this summer.

She’d been out, getting last minute stuff done at some store, I wasn’t paying attention, which is no mean feat when Chuck is plugging into your head direct. Someone had taken Marie. That was all he’d had to say, he knew I’d be on it. She was an adult now, sure, maybe my promise could be considered fulfilled. But I’d never said anything about time limits. I’d just promised to take care of her.

Chuck said the last time he’d gotten even close to having a glimmer of Rogue in the big round room, was a couple hours south of me. He said her thoughts were disjointed, but that she was being restrained in what seemed to be medical facility of some sort. In other words, a lab.

I had already taken a turn, and was trying to break all known land speed records on a motorcycle before Chuck broke off the connection, promising me more when he could find it out. He tapped me again a couple hours later, giving only slightly more detailed possibilities. Rogue wasn’t being helpful, but he was of the opinion she’d been drugged, and could only give him sort of hazy images.

“Hang in there, kid.” I muttered to myself, roaring through the mostly deserted town, once a military depot. It’s always the same scenario, different states or countries. Everyone’s downsized their military it seems, and no one questions it when vans roll in.

I finally found an area that was starting to resemble the pictures Chuck had shared. I slowed the bike, and when I knew I was starting to get close, I stashed it in some overgrowth that had once been some landscaped bit of lawn for soldiers to grab a smoke or eat lunch on.

Quick and quiet, all my instincts quivering on high alert. I caught it. I could scent Marie, honeyed almonds and vanilla, along with the tears she’d shed. Someone was going to die, lots of someones if I had the chance.

Poor gawky kid they had posted as a guard was first, claws ripping through his kidneys and dropping him like a stone, before I was surgically removing his larynx. And the rest of the innards of his throat. I didn’t have time to make it clean and pretty, before I was lifting the keys and pitiful amount of cash he had on him. I didn’t want to use Chuck’s credit card if I could help it. If these guys had snatched Marie, there stood a good chance they knew who we all were. We were going to be ducking and running once I got her out of here, the less trail we left the better.

Once inside, it was only a slightly cleaner place than my nightmares. Bare walls of steel and sheetrock, concrete floors swept clean. Smell of cigarettes, stale take-out food, and Marie. I could feel the Wolverine trying to claw his way past all logic and reason, but I couldn’t let go, now yet. I had to play it safe, until Rogue was out of the equation.
I was being as quiet as I possibly could, while the Wolverine raged he understood stealth. For a guy built like I am, with all the metal I’ve got laced into me, I can be pretty light on my feet. Two more useless flesh bags were caught unawares, the scent of their blood and once internal organs staining that of concrete.

Then it hit me, the smell of antiseptics, rubber gloves, and crying Marie. I could hear her, her voice lazy and drowsy, thick with the southern drawl that always shows up when we have a few beers. Pleading, rambling senselessly, tearing my heart to shreds. But when she started sobbing again, asking them to stop, no more needles, stop touching her, everything broke.

The Wolverine got loose before the saner side of me could hold him back. A couple bullet holes and a good half dozen corpses later, it was just me and Marie. A Marie who was clearly doped to the gills, and looking at me like I was some apparition or god that had risen from the dead.

“L-logan? Is that really ya?” Her trembling whisper was enough to make me wish I’d made them suffer. She was in a ragged looking little hospital gown, in this room that couldn’t qualify as heated. I could smell two of the men on her, they’d been touching her. The growl slid out before I could contain it. I didn’t want to scare her.

“Yeah, darlin’, it’s me.” I approached her slowly, all too aware of the blood and gore that spattered over my shirt and beat up jeans. Hands up, claws in. But the wariness I knew was something I had partly taught her glimmered in her eyes.

“Prove it.” words were clipped, not as drawled as before. That’s my girl, was all I could think. She makes me so proud of her, all the time. Though I had nothing to do with her spine, her stubborn courage. That was all Marie, had been before I ever let her into my ragged truck those years ago.

“Marie..” How did I prove it to her..other than her name? Hell, the guy that had put that shiny ring on her finger didn‘t even know that was her real..wait, her ring was gone. The bastards must have taken it. But I could look for it when I relieved them of their cash in a minute. “You asked me once if they hurt when they come out.” Hand held up, letting the claws ease out. “Still hurts every time, darlin’.”

I watched the fear run out of her face, glad I had remembered that one thing that I knew neither of us would ever have told anyone else. I wouldn’t have told because it was that little brave, incredulous question had been what had let Rogue sneak past my guard I keep up. She never would have told, because I had said it hurt, and let her get a glimpse of a vulnerability to the guy most of the X-geeks thought had all the sensitivity of a brick.

Her fear leaving her let me feel a little more stable, more human. I cleared her bonds with my claws, helped her sit up. Then I raided the bodies. Cash, jewelry, anything that might be useful. I couldn’t take her right back to the mansion. Between the drugs, and the fact there was probably a check-in these guys would be missing. I didn’t find the ring, which both bothered me and didn’t. Truth was I hadn’t liked seeing that ring on her finger like a reminder she wasn’t mine and I wasn’t good enough for her. But at the same time, it was hers, and she’d chosen to accept it.

Her clothes were gone, so I had to make do with helping her get into the oversized t-shirt and a pair of shorts that had been in one of the guys’ rucksack. She wasn’t in the here and now, whatever they’d given her had her zoned out. It also left her touchable, which was a boon. Right now I didn’t even want to risk the little zaps. She’d gotten better, she could slow the pull and had even managed to learn to kiss Bobby without hurting him. Which had been information I hadn’t really needed, thank you. Such is the life of the best friend, I guess.

She was cradled against my chest, sleeping for the time being. It took some maneuvering to get her on the bike in front of me, so I could cradle her and make sure she stayed on. It was the least comfortable ride I can remember in my life. Not just because I was worrying about her, but she kept rubbing herself along my chest, and making these little noises in her throat. Noises I had dreamt about her making in a far, far different situation than right now. Like in my bed, her hair all spread over my pillows while I teased the hell out of her.

I found some little out of the way hotel, parked down at the far end. Awkward as hell, leaving Marie sprawled on the bike. Don’t think I’ve moved so fast to get checked into a hotel room since that little redhead in Calgary…well, that was a long time ago. Before the X-geeks, and before Marie. Somehow having her in my life had made me want to act a little more respectable. I’m not saying I became a monk, but I had definitely cut back on the women, and had actual standards. For a guy who had always preferred redheads, I had managed to ignore and deny that my tastes had shifted to brunettes with big brown eyes.

I picked her up, got her into the hotel room, hoping like hell people just thought I was some kind of romantic and not a serial killer or something. I got her on the bed, checked her pulse, listened to her breathing. She seemed okay for now, at least. There was no way I could get her home to the mansion this way, not on my bike and her out of it. I didn’t want to head straight there, in case they were smart enough to try and catch us out, and get her back. Rogue had always been a potential commodity, and like hell I was going to let someone capitalize on her.

I ordered pizza, thinking if I could get her to eat something, get some fluids in her, it could only help. While waiting for that, I did my best to clean up my clothes, and washed up in the shower. Didn’t want to look like a butcher when the kid came to the door. Too bad I hadn’t thought about that before checking in, but the guy behind the counter had seemed more interested in watching his movie anyhow.

The food arrived, and it could have been cardboard, as much as I tasted it. A couple slices, one of the six-pack of soda downed. I might not feel like it, but even I know I need to eat, especially if Rogue needed a hit from my healing anytime soon. As of yet, she was still down for the count, skin unresponsive, but all her vitals I knew how to take were good. She just seemed to be in a really deep sleep.

A quick call on the cell, I told Chuck I had her back. Kept it short, but he was distracted anyhow. Any plans I might have had for hunkering down for the night and letting Scott come get her in the ‘bird had to be scrapped. Scooter and ‘Ro had fallen into trouble, apparently. So the fact I had Rogue was enough to reassure Chuck on that front. Man knows me well enough to know I’d go through hell and back before letting anyone leave a bruise on that precious pale skin of hers.

Finally, I took my boots off, stripped off my t-shirt and washed it good and hung it over the shower rod. Jeans I left on, before I was crawling onto the bed with Marie. I made sure to keep her covered with the sheet between us, before I wrapped my arm around her and hauled her in close. I knew scent would work in before she woke up, and maybe keep her from freaking out. Either way, I’d know when she woke, and be there to get her whatever she needed.

I buried my face in her hair, taking in that scent that made even the Wolverine rumble a little with pleasure. Places were nothing, Marie was home, what mattered. When she curled herself up to me, mumbling something that sounded a lot more like my name than Bobby’s, I held her a little tighter and whispered I was here, she was safe. She stilled again, and I joined her in the darkness of sleep, sure to dream of her with the scent of her in my nose, and her body cuddled up to mine. I should have known better.
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