1. the outward appearance, especially as distinguished from the inner nature:


1. To rise to the surface.

2. To emerge after concealment.


Taking the stairs two at a time, I can hardly wait to get back to her room.  I knock on her door and wait.  When she answers, I let out a breath, not even realizing I had been holding it.  She's so beautiful, standing there in her green and black kimono.

"You're back," she says with a little sigh of relief.

"Told you I'd be back for this," I say, lifting her chin and kissing her lips tenderly.  She smiles shyly and plays with the buttons on my shirt.

"Where did you go?"  She backs up to let me in her room.

"You'll see.  But first, you need to get dressed."

"Ok..." She searches my face, but I just raise my eyebrow at her.  She laughs and heads to her dresser, pulling out a pair of pants and a t-shirt and laying them on the bed.  She begins untying her kimono.

"Wait...I'll turn around while you change your clothes."

She looks up, surprised.  "Alright," she says with a little smile.

I nod and turn my back to her.  There's a small pause, and then she begins taking off her kimono. 

She's getting naked back there, and because I can't see her, my other senses become sharpened to her presence.  The sound of the silk gliding slowly across her skin and dropping to the floor.  The scent of her arousal lingering from last night.  It's almost more erotic than actually seeing her naked, and it's driving me crazy.  I may already be regretting the bet we made as to who would last longer without sex.  End game, Logan.  End game.

"You can turn around now."

I turn around and see her fully dressed, watching me with a hint of curiosity.  This is different, and I don't think she knows what to make of it.  "Looking' good, darlin'."

"You didn't peek."  She searches my face, unsure, waiting for me make a sexy joke or innuendo.  But I'm not going to do that.  My gesture was sincere, and I want her to know that.

"I'm a man of my word," I reply simply.

We stand there for a moment, not saying anything.  And I think she realizes that I'm really serious about this whole "taking it slow" thing.  A little smile forms on her lips, and she looks touched.  Maybe I don't regret making the bet after all.

"So you are, Mr. Wolverine," she murmurs.

I come forward to take her hand and kiss her sweetly once more.  "C'mon, darlin'.  I want to show you something."

As I lead her to the door and reach for the doorknob, I feel her suddenly pull back a little.

"My gloves..."  She lets go of my hand and runs to her dresser, opening the top drawer and pulling out a pair of thin black gloves.  Pulling them on quickly and then wrapping a sheer scarf around her neck, she comes back to me and takes my hand.  I don't know why she feels the need to wear her gloves and scarf; she clearly has control of her skin.  Is it an old habit she doesn't want to break or is it some kind of fashion thing?

"Ready?"  I say reaching for the doorknob.

"Um, yeah.  No, wait..."

My hand pauses as she looks at the door nervously.  "What's wrong?"

"Do you think anyone is in the hallway?"

She has that same look on her face; the uncomfortable expression she had when I got a little too close to her in the hall the other day with all those people around.  Public displays of affection, she called it.

Suddenly doubt is starting to creep into my thoughts.  Is she worried someone will see me coming out of her room in the wee hours of the morning?  What is she hiding?

I need to give her the benefit of the doubt.  I don't want a replay of the other night, just when we were starting to make progress.

Taking a deep breath, I squeeze her hand in understanding.  "It's alright.  I'll take a look."  I know there's no one out there; I would have heard something if there was.  But if it will make her feel more at ease, I'll do it anyway.

I turn the doorknob and crack the door a little, peeking out into the hallway to make sure no one is coming.

"All clear."

"Thanks," she whispers, squeezing my hand back.

I nod and we slip out into the hall, closing her door quietly behind us.  I lead her down to the very end of the corridor, then turn down another hall to the very end, where there's a door with a sign that says "no admittance".  Looking over my shoulder one more time, I pull a key from my pocket.  The rusty latch turns with a wiggle and I open the door.

"After you, sweetheart," I say with a wave of my hand.  She smiles and walks in.  I follow her in and close the door behind us.

Inside, there's a rusty file cabinet and an old metal desk, scattered with some papers, a few tools, and some jars filled with nails, screws, and washers.

"This is the old maintenance office," I inform her as she walks around looking at the various items scattered about.  "C'mon, this way."

I take her hand and lead her to the back of the office, where there is a metal staircase leading up to the roof.  We climb to the top and open the door.  A soft breeze and a beautiful morning sky greet us as we walk out onto the roof.

"What's this?" she asks, looking at the blanket spread out with plates and silverware and a big basket in the middle.

"This," I say with a grin, "is breakfast."

Her eyes light up and she looks at me with a big smile.  "You did this for me?  No one's ever surprised me with breakfast before."

"Well I'm about to change that."  I pull her in for a kiss, the lead her to sit down on the blanket.  Opening the basket, I set out the toast, peanut butter, chocolate chips, bacon, and a thermos of coffee.

"Oh yeah, one more thing."  I reach in and pull out a six pack of beer and a cigar.  I wink at her and she rolls her eyes.

"This is perfect," she beams, filling her plate.  "I know I'm weird, but I love toast with peanut butter and chocolate chips.  How did you know?"  She narrows her eyes at me.  "Have you been spying on me?"

I stop chewing my bacon for a moment, at a loss for words.  I know because I've eaten breakfast with her on this roof top before.  Watched a dozen sunrises with her in this very spot, followed by a picnic basket she packed with all my favorites and hers.  But I can't tell her that.

Swallowing, I just shrug, trying to act casual.  "I asked the cafeteria ladies.  They said they'd give me the 'Rogue Special'."

She laughs at that.  "I guess I am kind of a creature of habit."

We continue to eat our breakfast, talking about anything and everything.  It's just like old times, and I realize how much I missed this.  How much I took things for granted.  She doesn't remember all those times we shared...but that's ok.  We're starting over, and it's going to be ok.

"I almost forgot," I say when there's lull in the conversation.  I reach into the basket and present her with a flower I picked from Ro's garden.

"Oh, a dahlia!" she says, looking pleased.  "So pretty."  She smells the flower and closes her eyes.

"Glad you like it."

"My Gran was an avid gardener," she says, twirling the stem between her fingers.  "I spent a lot of time hanging out in the garden with her during the summer.  Pulling weeds and watering plants.  Sometime not working at all, but just talking about whatever came to mind."

She takes off her gloves and touches her fingers to the delicate petals.  "Did you know that some dahlias are as big as dinner plates?"

"Wow.  That's a big flower," I say, popping open a beer.

"Gran used to tell me all about each flower species and its meaning."

"Its meaning?"

"Um, yeah.  Its meaning.  Like, back in Victorian times, people would give different kinds of flowers to express different sentiments.  So for example, a rose would symbolize love; or a daisy would represent purity.  Red poppies would be a symbol of remembrance, especially for fallen soldiers."

"Huh.  So what does the dahlia symbolize?"

"Well...Gran used to say the dahlia was kind of a wild card," she says thoughtfully.  "It could have two different meanings...depending on the person giving and receiving the flower."

She goes quiet for a moment, still stroking the petals gently with her fingers.

"And?" I prompt her, setting my beer down.

"And...well, on the one hand they could represent an everlasting bond between two people."  She looks up for a moment, giving me a shy smile before looking down again.  She's so cute.  That's right, baby, we have a bond that no one can touch.

I wait for her to continue, but she goes quiet again.  She strokes the petals, refusing to meet my gaze.  Her eyes get a faraway look as she stares at the flower, and somehow it seems like the mood of our conversation has shifted.

"On the other hand..." she continues, hesitating, "some say the dahlia omen of betrayal."

We both go quiet then.  It almost seems like the very air around us goes still, and the hair stands up on the back of my neck.  And she's still not looking at me.

I'm not a superstitious man, not by a long shot.  But somehow, this whole thing with the dahlia and its double meaning makes me feel a little...uneasy.

Out of all the flowers in Ro's garden, why did I pick that one?  I could have given her a damn rose, any color of the rainbow.  But I saw this one tucked away in the corner and I had to have it.  It's almost like it was meant to be or something.

This is ridiculous.  I would never betray Rogue, and I'm not going to get spooked by a damn flower, for fuck's sake.

I reach out and tuck a white lock of hair behind her ear and gently lift her chin.  "I'm going with the first meaning, darlin'."

She lifts her eyes to mine and smiles.  "Me, too."

. . .

. . .

The purple early morning sky has given way to the blue of late morning as we eat our breakfast in peaceable silence.

"I met Carol last night."

Rogue breaks into a fit of coughing, nearly choking on her toast.

"Easy, easy.  Here, have a drink," I say, handing her my beer and patting her back.  "You ok?"

She takes a few sips and wipes her mouth with a napkin.  "Yeah, I'm ok."  She clears her throat and catches her breath.

"She's very protective of you."

Rogue looks up, unsure of what to say.  "Yeah, she, um...she looks out for me."

She goes back to picking at her breakfast, but not really eating it.  I can tell she's a little nervous.

"She said, and I quote, I've got my eye on you, bub," I say with a smirk.  "Complete with finger poking me in the chest."

Her mouth drops open for a second before she closes it and covers her mouth with her hand.  "Oh, crap," she mumbles under her breath.

"So now that the cat's out of the bag, you want to talk about it?"

She bows her head and sighs.  "Not really," she says, looking up.  "But I guess I owe you an explanation."

I shake my head.  "You don't owe me anything, darlin'.  You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to.  But...I'd like it if you did."

She looks at me for a long moment, grateful that I'm not pressing her, but still torn about whether she wants to talk about it or not.

"Carol normally stays inside my head," she says finally.  "She doesn't come out like that usually, at least not without my consent.  But sometimes, if I'm vulnerable in some way, like when I'm injured or in pain, or under some kind of physical or emotional stress, she slips through.  It's her way of making sure I'm ok.  Or maybe kind of sharing the burden."

She looks up at me, waiting for me to react in some way, but I remain still, just waiting for her to continue.

"I'm not crazy you know.  I don't just have random voices in my head.  It's a part of my mutation."

"I never once thought you were crazy.  I know you're not."

She lets out a small breath.  "Ok."

She grabs the beer I gave her earlier and finishes it off.  I wait patiently until she's ready to speak again.

"Everybody thinks that my skin is poisonous," she says finally.  "But what they don't know is that it doesn't just kill.  When I touch people, I can absorb their life force and their memories.  And if they're a mutant, I can absorb their powers.  Usually the powers are temporary, but if I touch them long can be permanent.  That's why Carol lives inside my head."

She looks at me again, expecting a reaction.  I already know all this, of course, but she doesn't know that.  What I don't know is why she has been keeping it a secret.  "Go on."

"I haven't told the Professor or anyone here; they all just think that touching my skin means instant coma or death.  They also think I can't control it."

Suddenly it all makes sense, why she doesn't like public displays of affection.  She doesn't want anyone to know she can touch.

"And you've been keeping yourself covered all the time to make sure they don't find out.  Why?"

"I just..." She looks at me with a pained expression.  "I don't want anyone to know.  Please don't tell anyone, ok?"  She starts to tremble, her hands shaking as she wraps her arms tightly around herself.

"Hey, hey," I say, pulling her into my lap and wrapping my arms around her.  "It's ok.  I won't tell anyone.  It's ok."

"I couldn't control it before, and it was awful.  But just because I can control it now, doesn't mean I'm safe.  I don't want anyone knowing the full extent of my powers and what I can do.  The less people know about me, the better."

We sit there in silence, her head leaning on my shoulder as I gently rub her back.  She doesn't think she's safe.  My thoughts are all swirling around in my head, wondering what happened to her in this life, what made her so afraid to tell anyone the true nature of her mutation. It makes my stomach twist into all kinds of knots thinking that she feels unsafe, right here at the school.

I want to get it out of her, right now, to make her tell me everything.  I want to ask her what happened, who did things to make her afraid; where those dog tags came from, and whether they have something to do with the reason for her fear.

But I know I have to take things slow, and let her tell me in her own time.  She's just starting to open up to me, and I can't jeopardize that.

I take a deep breath and exhale slowly.  "You can trust them, you know," I say into her hair as I kiss her temple.  "The Professor, and the X-men.  You can trust them."

She finally looks up at me.  The look in her eyes is a mixture of longing and apprehension.  "That's what Carol thinks, too."

"Yeah?  Maybe you ought to listen to her.  I don't think she would steer you wrong," I say, stroking the white strands of hair around her face.

She gives it some thought.  "I suppose.  She's always looked out for me.  It was her idea coming here in the first place, because she had heard about the school being a safe place for mutants.  If it wasn't for Carol, I wouldn't have come.  And everyone has been really nice but...I just can't bring myself to tell them everything."  She sighs in frustration.

"I know, baby.  It's hard, allowing yourself to trust people.  Truth be told, I didn't trust them at first, either."

She looks up in surprise.  "Really?"

"Really.  I've had a lot of reasons in this life not to trust anyone.  A lot of things done to me, and taken away from me, by people who wanted to use me for their own purposes."  I extend the claws in my one hand, watching them gleam in the sun.  "I've always had claws, but I wasn't born with metal on my bones."

She reaches out slowly, looking at me and then at my claws.  Her expression is a mixture of awe and sadness as she gently strokes the blunt side of the blades.

"When they come out...does it hurt?

My heart stutters in my chest.  I can't believe she just spoke those words to me.  What are the odds that she would say the exact same thing in two separate lifetimes?  And in all the years I can remember, no one has ever asked me that.  Just her.

I swallow and look into her eyes.  "Every time."

She slowly nods her head in understanding.  The déjà vu is so strong, I feel like we could be in my truck right now, driving down that snowy road. 

She touches my face and rests her hand on my chest, looking up at me with soulful, brown eyes.  "I'm sorry."

"It's alright, darlin'," I say, squeezing her hand.  "Don't worry about me, I'm tough."

She smiles a little at that.  "How did you know for sure that you could trust the Professor and the X-men?"

"I didn't know for sure, not at first.  But I trusted my instincts, and took a leap of faith."

She looks at me for a long moment, then lays her head on my shoulder.  I wrap my arms around her securely and kiss her head.  "Trust me, darlin'....but if nothing else, trust your instincts."

"I'll try, Logan.  I'll try."

. . .


Chapter End Notes:

By the way, cschoolgirl gets all the credit for Rogue's favorite breakfast of peanut butter and chocolate chip toast!  Of course I had to go out and buy pb and chocolate chips after that--yumm!

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