- William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet (Act II, sc. vi)
He found her out on the portico, lounging on the steps, legs stretched out before her and leaning back on her elbows, staring out into the moonlit lawn, a sweating glass of lemonade within easy distance of her gloved right hand. Her unruly auburn locks were picked up in a sloppy bun low on the back of her head and the t-shirt she was wearing under the long sleeved cardigan was riding up a little exposing an inch or so of smooth skin.
She glanced at him as he sat down on the steps a few spaces away from her, but she didn’t speak and neither did he. For a few moments, the only sounds were the crickets in the lush vegetation surrounding the house, the ice tinkling as it slowly melted in her glass, and the striking of a match as he lit a cigar.
“Funny how just a few days can change the way we look at everything, isn’t it?” she said, her voice soft – probably too soft for anyone but the Wolverine to hear her.
“Hn,” he responded, aromatic smoke rising into the air above him. “The Cajun was particularly violent with his class today,” he said, apparently changing the subject.
Marie huffed and shook her head. “Need I remind you about some of the things you thought were fun to put your students through in the Danger Room, Logan?” she asked, ready to accept his comment as just another of his snide remarks against Remy.
“Just wondering if he’s using his sessions as a way to take out his frustrations,” Logan said, rather than take the bait.
Marie sighed a little, but didn’t immediately respond. She knew Logan well enough to know exactly why he was bringing this up.
“Wonderin’,” Logan continued, pausing to puff on his cigar. “If you’re ok.”
“I’m fine,” Marie replied immediately, sitting up enough to take a drink from her glass, absently wiping at the condensation.
“Hn,” he replied, and she knew what he meant by that, too.
She’d had no intention of discussing this with him, unsure even of how she would broach the subject, but he’d brought it up, and she couldn’t…
“I love him,” she said, negating the decisive timbre of her voice by the slight shaking of her head.
He didn’t look at her, for a while, he didn’t even move. Then he leaned forward a little and flicked the ash off the end of his cigar. But he didn’t bring it back to his lips.
She saw it all out of the corner of her eye, and the strange thing to her was how easily she recognized it all, each movement, even the way he held his jaw. She didn’t have to be looking directly at him to know the look on his face would be carefully blank, but his eyes would show his annoyance. Because he was annoyed.
“I understand that he meant what he said,” she spoke again, because she knew he wouldn’t. “Deep down, I get it,” she paused and glanced at him. “I do,” she insisted, but she wasn’t completely sure whether she was trying to convince him or herself. And for a few moments, she was silent as she contemplated that. “But I can’t help that I still love him,” she said finally and her voice was only a little beaten. “I can’t help but think that if it were true, if he really did mean everything he said, why would he still be trying with me? Why would he--?” she cut off and leaned back until her back was on the concrete and her eyes on the stars. In this position, she couldn’t see him at all. She could still smell him. She sighed.
Eventually, after so much time had passed that she thought he never would, he spoke. “You love people with the part of you that don’t care about right or wrong,” he said, and his voice was gruff and gravelly and she couldn’t read it at all. “It don’t care about pride and it never checks in with your brain.”
Still looking up at the sky full of stars, she spotted Orion and his dog. She remembered her grandmama telling her she should never count the stars ‘cause she’d get warts. “What do I do, Logan?” she asked after a while, her voice low.
He made a sound, something between a scoff and a grunt. “I’m not the person to ask that.”
She sat up again, turning to look at him. “Should I keep trying?” she asked.
He glanced at her, but looked away before she could read the expression in his eyes. “I’m not the person to ask that, either.”
She was mad suddenly, and she wasn’t exactly sure why. “Why not?” she asked, her tone crackling at the edges like live wire. “You’re involved in this whole situation, too, aren’t you?” she accused. He leveled his gaze on hers and for a moment and she almost faltered. “Why do I have to make the decisions?”
His expression remained perfectly neutral and his voice was even when he asked, “Are you saying you want me to take the decision out of your hands, Marie?”
She still felt it, though. The danger around the edges of his control. And she was so tempted. So very tempted. It scared her more than anything had in a very long time. She became frozen, staring into his eyes like a mouse looking at a snake, only she knew he’d never hurt her. Even then.
As if in response to her recognition, he stood in one fluid movement. “If you love him, go to him,” he said, grinding the cigar on his boot heel. “Why am I even in the equation?”
And before she could answer, he was gone and she was left to watch his retreating figure with only the whiff of his cigar dissipating quickly in the breeze.
She talked to Remy, eventually…of course she did.
He denied meaning what he’d said, he assured her he wanted to be with her, assured her he wanted to try whatever was necessary to be with her, but she could feel it – the truth neither one of them wanted to accept – layered underneath his caring and sincerity and her desire to be loved.
He was a good man, Remy Lebeau. He knew she cared about him, and he didn’t want to make her think he cared so much about the lack of physicality in their relationship that it could have an effect on the emotional aspect of their relationship, but she could feel it.
It was only natural.
A relationship without a physical component to it was just a friendship and it didn’t matter that he wanted to touch her, didn’t matter that she wanted to be touched. He had been right while under the influence of Golgotha – they really were just pretend lovers and nothing more.
When she decided to end things, to let him go, she told herself it was because she couldn’t keep him tied down to this half-life with her. She told herself it had nothing to do with Logan and the feelings he had raked up to the surface again, and nothing to do with the way he wasn’t letting her act as if nothing had happened between them the way she had initially wanted to.
She almost believed it.
She didn’t realize it at first, but in the days after she and Remy had broken it off, she avoided Logan. She hadn’t specifically intended to, but she did – she changed her routine so she made sure not to be in the common areas at the same time as him, ate at her desk sometimes or not at all, listened for the sound of his leaving the Mansion before she ventured to the garage or the kitchen or that spot by the gardens he liked to go to smoke.
It didn’t really hit her what she was doing until she walked into the Danger Room one day with her class for a session and he was still in it. The realization hit her with the sudden desire to flee that ran through her veins, which she stomped out. He looked up as they entered, eyes meeting hers as if by habit.
For a few moments, he watched her, waiting to see what she’d do.
“Are you training with us today, Mr. Wolverine?” one of the newer students asked as they noticed him.
“No,” he answered, breaking the stare between them and sauntering out of the room.
“Is he always that friendly?” one of the kids asked.
“I’m just glad he’s not training with us,” another of the kids said, exhaling in relief. “He’s been in a pissy mood lately and worked Beta Team so hard one of the kids threw up afterwards yesterday.”
“Alright, y’all,” Rogue called everyone’s attention back to her. “If y’all think I’m going to be easy on you just cuz I’m covering for Mr. Summers, y’all are gonna be seriously disappointed.”
The kids groaned and Rogue raised her brows. “Are y’all waiting on an engraved invitation?” she asked, amazed.
“No m’am,” the kids replied, going instantly into action and preparing for their session.
Working with the kids reminded Rogue how good it felt to work her body and how easy it was to clear out the cobwebs in her head while doing so, so after the two hour session with the kids where she served mostly as a coach, she stayed behind after they left and ran one of her personal training sessions. Once she was under the rhythmic pressure of the hot shower, however, she couldn’t get the image of Logan’s expression before he left the training room out of her head.
She couldn’t exactly read the meaning behind the expression, but there was no doubt in her mind that the expression was akin to loss and it hit her with a sinking sadness that in her confusion, she had pushed away one of the only people who had always stood by her, no matter what.
“Why am I even in the equation?”
Those were the last words he had asked her and she knew that subconsciously, she had been avoiding him because she didn’t want to answer that question. But that was selfish of her – he had every right to know.
It wasn’t his fault if his moment of lunacy under Golgotha’s influence had led him to spark feelings she thought had been long buried, and it certainly wasn’t his fault that this stirring up of emotions about him had occurred at the worst possible moment: when the man she thought she loved was making her doubt her right to keep someone, anyone, by her side at all. In that moment, in the sewers, someone she thought she loved had rejected her for something she couldn’t help, just the way so many others had done and one man had accepted her and welcomed her and shown her how little afraid he’d been of the danger being with her possessed. Whatever the demons in his head had been that influenced him to kiss her had been, the way he accepted her had stirred up the hope that someone could love her. Even if it hadn’t been Remy.
And now, she just couldn’t look at Remy the same.
As she shut off the water and grabbed a towel to dry off, she knew she owed Logan an apology for avoiding him…and an explanation as to why.
Dressed in casual yoga pants and a long sleeved jersey, Rogue walked the underground hallways of the Mansion from the bathrooms near the gym to the stairs that led up to the kitchen, all the way wondering whether she should search out Logan right away or wait until the next day. She knew that there was little danger that he’d be sleeping, even at ten in the night. If he was in the Mansion at all and hadn’t left somewhere, there were too many places he could still be for her to go about looking so late at night. Most of the common rooms in the Mansion would be empty at this hour, as all of hte younger students had curfews and the older students typically stuck to the game room, entertainment room, gym, or library this late at night. So it was a pretty good bet Logan wouldn’t be in any of those.
Climbing the stairs, she had pretty much decided to go to his room early tomorrow morning and talk to him there – certain that she could wake him, and that it was a better chance to be sure to catch him. She wasn’t particularly looking forward to this conversation, and if she had to go playing hide and go seek for his location for several hours, her determination to do so would be sure to fade. As she rounded the landing, she heard movement in the kitchen and saw the shadow of light hitting the inner wall of the staircase. She paused, trying to determine who it was, and there was something about the sounds, although she wouldn’t be able to pinpoint exactly what, that made her absolutely sure it was Logan. Briefly, the thought crossed her mind that she could leave...turn around and go a different way, but only for a moment. Before she could talk herself out of it, she squared her shoulders and forced herself to keep going.
It wasn’t like he wouldn’t know it had been her coming up the stairs, anyway.
By the time she cleared the stairwell and stepped onto the clean tile of the kitchen floor, he was sitting down at the kitchen island, a plate of something on wry and a bottle of beer in front of him with an identical place setting across from him. He didn’t turn around as she stepped into the room, and only hesitated a moment before bringing the sandwich to his mouth.
She approached somewhat more warily than she might have done a few weeks before, and he must’ve felt her hestiation.
“Take a load off, kid,” he groused around a mouthful of sandwich. “You need protein after a workout.”
She approached the island and stood behind the chair at the place he had set for her, complete with beer bottle. She didn’t ask things like how did he know she had been working out, or how did he know it was her since after several forays into his psyche, these were obvious to her. But she didn’t sit down either. She had decided some things during her workout, and seeing him without having to look for him had convinced her that there was no time like the present to make him aware of it.
He had taken two more bites from his sandwich and was in the process of taking a swig from his beer when he realized she wasn’t going to sit down and eat the sandwich he’d made for her. He looked at her as he put the bottle down. “Something on your mind?” he asked.
She took a quick breath. “I love Remy.”
He didn’t show any surprise at that, but after a moment, he lowered his eyes back to his sandwich, big burly hands reaching for it to continue to eat. “So you said,” he said before bringing the food back to his lips and taking another bite.
“I love you, too,” she said.
He didn’t look up, but she saw it as he went completely still, his jaw stopped working and his nostrils flared. After a moment, he lowered the sandwich back onto the plate and leaned back to look up at her.
“I spent such a long time telling myself I couldn’t, shouldn’t love you, though,” she continued, voice steady, even though his gaze, firmly set on her, was disconcerting in not unpleasurable ways. She inhaled and exhaled slowly, making sure she didn’t let everything she’d been thinking out in a rush. “I never thought you’d—“ she found she couldn’t say the words, and swallowed, shaking her head a bit, her hand on the back of the stool she was standing behind gripping, the leather of her glove creaking a bit with the tension. “So I opened myself up to finding someone else,” she said. “Someone who could love me back.” She swallowed again and straightened her spine, making herself let go of the stool. His eyes were still unerringly on her, and he had not said a word, but Logan had never been the type to interrupt with words unless he’d lost patience with you. “And I found Remy.” Logan’s only motion was to raise a brow and she found herself clarifying her statement. “I thought he could love me back,” she shook her head and tried to clarify again. “He does love me,” she stated. “I thought he could love me... enough...and I tried to let you go.” She was finding it hard to keep her voice as unemotional as she had intended when she’d decided on this course of action, so she took another steadying breath.
In that silence, Logan spoke. “Enough to what?” She blinked at him, clearly thrown off course by his question. “You thought he could love you enough...to what?” he asked.
Rogue was startled out of her own thoughts by his question enough to start to answer him, “Enough to for—“ but she caught herself before she allowed the conversation to go down a road it was better be forgotten. “—to...” she faltered to fill in the glaring gap, quickly losing the battle with her emotions, “...to be...” she tried, but she didn’t like that thought either, so she shook a hand in the air between them. “Just let me finish this, please,” she told him.
He raised a brow, but nodded curtly and leaned back, folding his arms across his chest in expectation.
“I tried to let you go,” she repeated, getting herself back on track. “And I thought I had, but some part of me must not have gotten the memo, because when you,” she moistened her lips, and although his eyes followed the movement, he didn’t speak. “When you kissed me,” she finished. “When you said those things, I couldn’t deny them,” she exhaled sharply. “I still can’t,” she admitted, looking him in the eyes and getting lost, for a moment, in some emotion she thought she saw there. “And maybe it was Golgotha’s influence—“
“Bull,” he interrupted. She locked eyes with him in surprise.
She sighed. “Yeah, I know,” she shook her head. And before he could say anything else, she continued. “But now I don’t know,” she raised her hands, meaning to let them drop against her legs the way she always did in frustration, but she stopped herself and lowered them slowly instead. “I feel love for both of you, and I can’t tell which one is...” she trailed off and unable to keep hold of his gaze any longer, she lowered her head to look down at the table in front of her, staring at what she could now tell was a turkey and swiss with mayo and a little lettuce, no tomatoes, the way she liked it. She glanced at his sandwich, sitting untouched in front of him and realized it was what she had thought his would be – roast beef and cheese.
He waited several moments before speaking. “Which one is what, Marie?”
Her eyes still on the sandwiches, the realization filtered in that he had made her a sanwich she liked, rather than just making her a sandwich from what he was using for himself and it unexpectedly flooded her with a sense of warmth. “Real,” she answered, almost on a whisper.
“Real,” he echoed it, not like a question, but not like a statement, either.
She looked up at him. “Yes,” she confirmed. “I was a little girl when I first loved you, Logan,” she told him. “I matured pretty damn quick, sure, but you were the first man I ever really thought of that way, but you saw me just as a little girl,” she shook her head again. “I don’t blame you for it, of course,” she assured him. “I was 16 fer cryin’ out loud,” she said, her accent coming in thick in her emotion. “But hanging on to that kind of love,” she looked up as if she might find the right words in the plaster. She exhaled. “Maybe what I feel now...maybe it’s just me wanting what was never realized for me when I was a kid...” she trailed off again.
“And why chance your relationship with the cajun for something that may not be real.” His voice was low and almost unemotional.
Her head snapped up to meet his eyes again. “No,” she said quickly, surely. “I—“ she faltered and looked around the room, unable to hold his gaze. “I broke it off with him,” she admitted. “I still feel love for him, but I can’t go on thinking that he’s with me just beacuse he doesn’t want to be an asshole after what he said – or that he’s as confused about what his feelings for me are as I am about what my feelings for him really are –or that maybe he was right and if it weren’t because we couldn’t touch, he’d have...“ trailing off, she pulled out the stool and sat on it, exhausted suddenly. She looked at him then, needing to see his expression, trying to determine what he was thinking. “If he still loves me,” she shook her head, trying to clear the confusion suddenly in her head. “If he ever loved me...” she trailed off and swallowed. “He’ll...” she shrugged. “I don’t know, I guess I hope being apart will give him the chance to figure his shit out,” she said. “And hopefully, I can figure my shit out, too.”
“So, what,” he asked in her silence. “You’re here to tell me the cajun and I are on an even playing field now?” he asked, his voice tense, but otherwise unemotional.
She looked at him in surprise. “What?” she asked, starting to shake her head. “No,” she said. “I’m just—“
“Just what, Marie?” he interrupted.
“Just trying to figure this out,” she exclaimed. “Trying to find some way to figure out whether what I felt... feel...for you is real or if it isn’t just the remnants of some little girl fantasy,” she exhaled. “Trying to figure out—“ she stopped herself and met his eyes, and was surprised to find him waiting for her to finish, but she couldn’t. Whether it’s worth the risk to let myself love you again, she thought instead. And slowly, what he had just said fully trickled into her understanding. ‘Even playing field...’ she echoed in her head, starting to let herself think, for the first time, that maybe...
“Why do you even want me?” she asked suddenly. “I mean...” she paused for a moment. “Do you...?” she cocked her head. “That night...you said, but maybe...” The thought occurred to her that maybe Golgotha had made him say things he never intended to carry out and here she was tying herself in knots when... but no, she thought. It didn’t matter what he wanted out of this – if she still loved him, really loved him, then she couldn’t stay with Remy anyway, regardless of what Logan wanted out of this. She suddenly felt embarassed and so stupid and like a little girl again.
“Marie,” he called, his voice steady and low and warm. “Look at me.” When she looked up at him, he was still and unmoved, but she could almost see the effort it was taking him to remain so. Logan was never this still except when he was measuring – waiting -- for the right moment to pounce. He waited until her gaze was on him, until she was fully with him, not running through thoughts in her own head, but there, connected. Once she did, he spoke. “You’re mine.”
Her breath caught at his words, part of her mind trying to decide if there was someway that the way her heart was understanding his words could possibly be wrong, her instinct to put some space between them, and she tensed to stand up, but suddenly he was there, the stool she had been sitting in turned so that he was standing in front of him with his hands holding onto the back of hte stool on either side of her head, leaning in slightly – enough to let her know he wasn’t about to let her run, but not enough to intimidate.
“No, Marie,” he practically growled. “You asked me a question, and you need to hear this,” he said, his voice pitched low and deliberate. “You asked me why do I want you,” he reminded her, because it was obvious she wasn’t really thinking about that in that moment. “And the answer is because you’re mine,” he repeated. Her pulse sped up, thrumming in her ears and his nostrils flared in response. “If I’m honest, from the moment you warned me in that bar in Laughlin City, I recognized you as mine, but you were a kid then, and I knew...” he shook his head with a quick jerk. “...you couldn’t be mine...” he measured her for a few moments and when he was satisfied she wasn’t going to leave, he leaned back away from her, standing just in front of her. “Shit, Marie,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “You’ve been in my head, you know what my instincts are like,” he reminded her. “I know I can’t always do what my instincts want me to do – I can’t gut someone just cuz they’re assholes, and I can’t claim a kid as my lover just cuz she smells like...” he trailed off and looked at her, nostrils flaring. “...like rain, and pine trees at sunrise, the ocean after a storm and...something else I’d ever smelled before, but I couldn’t get enough of,” he stopped himself. “So I walked away from you, but as soon as the wind changed I knew you were in the back of my camper, and fuck it all if your guts didn’t make me want to claim you even more.” He leaned on the kitchen counter behind him, giving himself some distance between them and crossed his arms.
For awhile, she thought he wouldn’t say anymore, but after thinking about it, he exhaled through his nose and continued. “I also wanted to protect you, which honestly didn’t mean I also didn’t want to make you mine, but you were young and though the...” he trailed off and shook his head, “the beast inside me didn’t care about your age, the man in me did, so it was easier to just focus on protecting you.” He met her eyes again then, and she was surprised by the tenderness in his gaze.
She almost spoke, but she was afraid if she did, she’d break whatever spell was over them and he’d stop talking, so she held her tongue.
“Shit, I probably needed someone to protect as much as you needed to be protected,” he admitted after a beat. “You gave me something to be good for, Marie,” he said. Once everything happened at Ellis Island, I noticed the way you looked at me, like I was some knight in shining armor, fucking Sir Lancelot,” he narrowed his eyes at her. “But I ain’t no knight in shining armor, and you were still too young to see that.” He shrugged again. “You were safe, so I left.”
“You didn’t leave because of me,” she challenged.
“Maybe, I needed space, too,” he admitted. “I didn’t need everyone telling me how young you were, I knew it, but with you looking at me like that, it was harder to think about you just as someone to protect, so I...” he paused for a moment, and she spoke without having planned to.
“You turned to Jean.” She was surprised the words were devoid of bitterness.
Still, he winced, as if the words had hurt him and dragged his hand through his already unruly hair. “Yeah,” he huffed. “I felt like an old letch, a pervert,” he growled. “One part of me was telling me you were it, you were home, but the other part of me was saying I was a sick bastard for thinking that about a kid, for being jealous of the popsicle because he got to be with you,” he shook his head again. “You were a kid, and I didn’t want to...” he trailed off. “I didn’t want your body, but I wanted you,” he shook his head again. “It confused the hell out of me, Marie, made me feel...defective somehow,” he exhaled. “So, yeah, I tried to distract myself,” he said, almost defensively. “And when that didn’t work, when I still wanted you, when my instincts still wanted to claim you, when I started thinking about putting you somewhere no other man could find you until you were old enough, I left.”
“Logan-“ she breathed, because she did know. Because his words, more words than he tended to say strung together in all the time she’d known him, were striking a chord in her, clearing up some of the confusion inside her. She did know...
He ignored her, turned away from her for a moment. “And then you grew up,” he said. “You became,” he turned around to look at her and his nostrils flared again. “Strong,” he imbued that word with every caress he could muster, every compliment it wasn’t in him to speak aloud. He let her see how he looked at her when she didn’t know he was watching, the way he was proud of her strength and awed at her power, and yes, turned on by it. “You went through things I wish I’d have been able to—“ he mentally shook off the thoughts. “And I’m out there, in the world, and no matter what else I’m doing, my thoughts keep coming back to you, and so I come back because a part of me thinks, after all that if you can still look at me and feel something...” he trailed off and shrugged again. “But next thing I know, there was the cajun and you and he were different than you and the popsicle,” he admitted. “And you seemed... happy, so I stepped back, because how would you be better off with me than you would with someone who can share every part of life with you, someone who would grow old with you,” he stopped, and his expression changed, hardened. “And then that night, the cajun said all that crap and I couldn’t stand by—“ he cut himself off and looked at her again, seeing the surprise on her too expressive features, the tears pooling in her eyes.
He straightened up and walked to her slowly, all taut control and sinewy movement, the way a big cat advances on a deer. “You wonder if what you feel for me is real love,” he said. “So do I, actually,” he stated plainly. “Could you love someone like me?” he asked. “I want you to be happy, Marie,” he said. “I really do.” He stopped when he was just shy of being in her space. “But I also want you, ” he admitted, slowly leaning down, his hands going onto the back of her stool again. “As far as I’m concerned, you are mine,” he said solemly. He ignored her quick intake of breath, his nostrils flaring at the change in her scent and the speeding up of her heart. “I’ve just been giving you some space for you to figure out if you want to be.” He neared her even further, close enough that she could smell the clean, musky scent she always associated with him, close enough that all she had to do was let herself tip forward just a bit and they’d be touching. “But if you want me to help you figure it out...” his voice was very low and almost guttural, intimate. “There’s only one way I know how.” He moved, cutting the distance, the ghost of his lips a suggestion against hers, but her eyes widened and she stopped him with a glove clad hand against his chest, leaning back.
And although her mouth had dried up and her heart was racing and the blood in her veins was rushing, every atom in her body aching to respond to the pull of his body, she forced herself to hold her hands up in front of her. “Logan, we can’t,” she breathed.
He stopped advancing, and pulled back only enough to meet her eyes. “Why not?” he asked simply. There was no doubt in his mind that she wanted him too. He could smell it.
“Why not?” she almost laughed. “Haven’t you been paying attention?” she practically growled in frustration. Because his words had struck a chord in her. She recognized the feeling he was describing, knew she had felt it before, remembered the sense of desperation and frustration she’d felt then too, echoed from memory but resonating in her very real present because she remembered now. She had his instincts once and the clarity they’d brought with them, the recognition of her other half they had allowed her to see was clear, but she couldn’t have it, so she extended her hands. “Remy was not wrong that night,” she admitted. “Pretend lovers,” she swallowed passed the lump in her throat. “That’s all I can offer,” she pushed a little at his chest, but he didn’t give way. “Real or not, nobody deserves to be bound to me that way because I can’t give anymore than that. You can never touch me,” she said, the tears starting to pool in her eyes. She wiped them away angrily. “No one can.”
“I can,” he growled and before she knew it, he had moved, lifted her off the chair and crushed her to him, pressing his lips against hers in a surprisingly tender kiss. She was caught so off guard, that she responded before recalling why it was a mistake and for what seemed moment upon moment, they shared their second passionate kiss. As soon as she felt the first tug of her mutation, however, she pushed desperately at his shoulders, hard enough to push him away and as soon as she had, he gasped and wobbled for a moment, before regaining his balance.
“Damnit, Logan!” she exclaimed. “How many times are you going to—“ but he stood up straight, met her eyes and had the gall to smirk at her.
“As many times as it takes, darlin’” he said in answer to her unfinished question. She started to sputter a response, but he had regained himself enough to reach out and touch her shoulders. “You’re confused,” he told her. “So, I’ll kiss you as many times as it takes to clear up that confusion for you,” he said, lifting one hand from her shoulder to gently ghost over her chin, then cheek, never long enough for her mutation to kick in. “And I’ll touch you as often as I can until you realize,” he let his fingers rest on the side of her face long enough that her mutation started to wake up “that you can’t hurt me,” he said, pulling away just when he felt the draw of her skin. She started to open her mouth to protest, but he brought his fingers to her lips. “No use trying to talk me out of it,” he said softly, drawing his thumb across her bottom lip. His eyes rolled up from where he was watching his hand against her skin to meet her eyes. “You should know by now, darlin’” he drawled. “I’m hard-headed, stubborn, and creative.” Absently, Marie leaned into his touch and realizing it, he smirked. “And oh yeah,” he raised a brow when their eyes met. “I heal fast.”