“I’ll take her.”

The words echoed in her ears and a faint ringing sound made Rogue think she was about to faint, or throw up.

Then, the sounding of two bells resounded throughout the house. The Parade was complete.

“Excellent,” the handler said, relief evident in his tone. “Excellent choice, Mr. Hudson. You’ve been apprised of the house rules as well as the emergency signal if things...go awry.”

Logan scoffed at that, and Rogue knew the handlers attributed his response to sheer human arrogance. He was presenting himself as human, he had the appearance, and likely the cover to prove it. They had no reason to doubt his intentions.

The handler was continuing with the final transaction details as Rogue felt some of the reality of the situation start to hit her.

“...And the controls for collar functions are under this menu setting,” the handler was droning, pointing to the control pad display in Logan’s hands. His voice sounded far away and Rogue was having trouble paying attention. This could be important to her work. She needed to focus. “Your funds have been transferred and your purchase is complete. As per the agreement you signed, you will be monitored, and recordings will be destroyed following the completion of your allotted time.”

Rogue sensed Logan nodding, but couldn’t be sure since her eyes were still focused on his boots.

“Enjoy your evening, Mr. Hudson.”

Rogue stepped back as Logan crossed the threshold of her room, and the door slid shut automatically behind him.

He didn’t speak.

She couldn’t speak.

The previous noise of her fellow occupants had died away, leaving only the quiet sounds of their breath.

She wondered if he knew why she was here. If they’d told him everything before he stormed off. She could only imagine he’d left the mansion in a rage. Why else would he have come here if not to extract her from this dangerous game she was playing?

Despite what he might think, it had been an easy decision for her. Once they’d found a decent lead on Jubilee’s disappearance, Rogue knew she was the obvious choice, the only candidate, who could successfully go in after her. She was the strongest, most capable person for the job on the team who was available. Jean was too well-known. Kitty wasn’t equipped enough. Ororo was in Portugal on another assignment. If things went badly, she would be the one most likely to survive.

Besides. She felt partially responsible for what’d happened to Jubilee in the first place. If she’d just gone to the bar with her that night. If she hadn’t been so stupid. If they hadn’t gotten into that dumb fight. If, if if...It didn’t matter now. What’s done was done. She was here. Jubilee might be here too, or at least somewhere like it. All that mattered now was that Logan not give her away. Give her a chance to fix her mistake. To find out as much as she could about this place so she could burn it to the ground when she was done.

“Put on some goddamn clothes,” Logan growled at her finally. He hadn’t moved from his position just inside the door. She risked looking up slightly and saw his free hand was gripped in a tight fist, knuckles white with the force of his barely contained anger.

She hesitated, sure that this wouldn’t be considered acceptable behavior. Putting on more clothes didn’t exactly signal compliance with the handlers’ expectations.

“Do it,” he said again as he noticed her hesitation. His voice was lower, more uncontrolled this time. He was furious.

Rogue moved slowly past him to retrieve the cotton shorts and tank top she’d left folded on her nightstand. She stepped smoothly into the shorts, slipped the tank over her head, and felt a small dose of relief at the protection the clothing offered. At least she wasn’t so fucking vulnerable in front of him now.

She still kept her eyes down, her focus drawn to the drops of blood dotting the wooden floor by the doorway. That’s when she noticed the smear of red on her clothes. She should have cleaned herself up before putting them on.

Logan turned abruptly on his heel then, and her eyes flew to his back, wondering what the hell he was doing. He entered the small bathroom that was adjacent to the entryway and grabbed a fistful of toilet paper, then strode over to her and handed her the crumpled paper.

“Take it,” he demanded when she didn’t move. “Clean yerself up.”

Rogue slowly raised her right hand to accept the tissue and chanced a look at his face.

She’d been wrong. He wasn’t furious. He was beyond enraged. He was a fucking hairsbreadth away from releasing his claws, shoving them through her collar, and getting them both the hell out of there.

She couldn’t let him do that.

“Don’t,” she said simply and quietly. Her eyes blazed at him, willing him to understand. Willing him to accept her decision. This was her mission. She couldn’t let him mess it up. It would have been close to eight weeks of time dedicated and time lost. A week and a half to get a decent lead, another four days setting the trap, three weeks at a training center after Rogue had been taken, where she’d been forced to demean herself and make herself vulnerable for the first time in two years, then three more weeks of the agony of waiting to be selected.

His nostrils flared as he watched her wipe up the stream of blood from her arm. She’d clean it properly later. But the bleeding had stopped for now. All that remained was a stained line of red stretching down to her fingertips and a dull throbbing where the blade had cut into her.

She moved her head up from where she’d been focusing on her arm, and held the blotched tissue paper in a loose fist as her side. She couldn’t speak to him. Not unless he demanded a response.

He would know that too, if he’d been briefed on the rules as the handler had said. If the video surveillance was reviewed, the single word she’d uttered could be taken as a response to his demands. But she couldn’t take any more risks. She would have to let him steer the direction of their interaction.

She could see the wheels turning, see his mind in action. She’d asked him to let her have this. It was up to him to concede.

Logan didn’t speak for several more minutes. He set the control pad down on the small table next to the doorway and began to pace.

“Gimme that,” he snapped during one pass, and he yanked the bloodied tissue out of her hand and threw it to the floor. Rogue watched it tumble uselessly to the ground, coming to a rest beside the droplets of blood on the floor. He resumed his pacing, rubbing the hand which had grabbed the tissue against his dark jeans.

Finally, he stopped and faced her. She wasn’t sure if it was the circumstances in which she found herself, but suddenly he seemed much more intimidating than he ever had to her before. She didn’t think about his possible reaction when she’d chosen to go on this mission. She hadn’t thought about anything except for getting Jubilee back. Maybe she should have considered it. Because right now, he was almost scaring her with how angry he was. And she could kick his ass any day of the week.

“How long have you been here?” He asked, his voice more controlled then when it had been a few minutes ago.

She swallowed past the sudden lump in her throat. It was a good question. Fairly neutral. But still, there was room to be honest.

“About three weeks, I think.” Her voice sounded hoarse to her own ears. Unused to being used.

“Three weeks,” he repeated. She could sense the incredulity in the two words. He didn’t know then. Didn’t know how long she’d been here. Didn’t know how long she’d been gone from the mansion.

Right then and there, she knew he hadn’t bothered to undergo a full briefing on her mission. He didn’t know the how and the why of it. Just that she’d put herself in danger. And in his eyes, unnecessarily so.

She knew too, how he’d found her. The tracker that Hank insisted she be implanted with was still intact. They hadn’t found or removed it since she’d let herself get taken.

Logan had been out of the country for the past six months. Out of range of contact for all but Scott and the Professor. Rogue hadn’t been surprised by this. It was normal, especially for the more senior team members, to go on extended assignments. Logan was one of the few members who would go on those longer assignments alone. Dispensable, Logan called it. Valuable, is what the Professor said.

“So. Death-Bringer,” he mocked, bringing her back to the present. “How many times ya been, what do they call it? Yeah. ‘Engaged.”

She couldn’t stand the tone of his voice. Couldn’t stand what he was making her say. Couldn’t stand the irony and the truth of what she was about to respond with.

“You’re my first engagement.”

He looked her up and down, his eyes dark and unfathomable as they rested on the other marks on her left arm. “That so.”

It wasn’t a question. So she didn’t respond.

“Three weeks is an awful long time for someone like you to be here and not be engaged.” The last word was a barely contained snarl, and she saw him take a deep breath to calm himself. She saw too his nostrils flare as he tried to detect the truth in her words. Or maybe, the scent of others in this room or on her skin.

“Yes,” she said simply, edging her tone with an unspoken plea. Don’t mess this up for me. Don’t expose me.

He rubbed one hand through his dark hair and turned away to sit on her bed. It was the only place to sit in the room, besides the floor. Seeing him on her bed made her stomach flip. She was vigorously trying to deny his presence here. She didn’t know if it was better or worse for Logan to be her first engagement. He wasn’t any less intimidating sitting on the bed than he had been standing up. His tall frame was held ramrod straight. Every visible line of muscle held tight with tension. He was uncomfortable.

Good. That made two of them.

Rogue didn’t know how to proceed, didn’t know what to do next. She was completely at the mercy of the patron and the handlers. She couldn’t speak freely, couldn't act freely. It was up to him to set the board and get the pieces moving.

She allowed herself to look directly into his eyes. They were filled too many emotions for her to take in. Anger, helplessness, guilt, blame.

But none of that mattered. He’d sealed her fate the moment he’d claimed her for the night. Maybe if he hadn’t gone off half-cocked, storming into this place, it would have been different. And unless he had some unknown plan, they both knew the only way forward. The only way out of this night that would leave both of them alive. Not intact. No. Rogue was willing to be she’d never feel whole again.

“So,” he said in defeat. “What’s next?”

Rogue hated the words that left her lips. “Whatever you want.”

His hands dug into the comforter at her words and his eyes darkened.

“Ya sure about that?” His voice had lowered, become smoother, and it was laced with warning.

Rogue nodded quickly. “Yes.” She had to show the handlers watching that she was being compliant.

She turned then, facing him full on and mouthed silently, We’re being watched, as she moved her head subtly in the direction of the cameras in two corners of the room, while moving her right hand subtly to brush over the collar she wore.

His jaw tightened and he nodded back, an infinitesimal movement which wouldn’t be distinguishable to those watching.

Rogue tried to force her question into the look she gave Logan. She couldn’t be the one to act first, unless he gave permission. And that hadn’t happened. She could feel her heartbeat pulsing through her body with nervous energy. The shudder that had begun while she’d been waiting for him to appear, had only intensified in the moments since. Her legs felt like jelly as they hurtled closer and closer to the line they were being forced to cross.

He was staring at her. Jaw clenching as he came to a decision. “Just...Fuck…” he began violently. Then he said softer, “Come over here.”

Rogue surged forward awkwardly, unsure of her movements, stopping when she was no more than a few inches away from his legs. She couldn’t look at his face. Instead she focused on the column of his throat visible above the dark gray buttoned down shirt he was wearing. She saw the pulsebeat jumping wildly, and she knew that he was regretting his actions. Sorry for what he was about to cost her.

“Sit down,” he instructed, not unkindly.

Rogue moved to sit next to him on the bed, but he stopped her by whipping out his hand to grip her by the wrist. She froze instantly and turned her head to the left to look down at him, unsure of why he’d stopped her.

“No,” he said, the gravel in his voice rougher than ever. “Here.” And he pulled her by the hand so the backs of her legs were against his outstretched thighs. Until she found herself sitting on his lap, her back to Logan, her legs on either side of his right thigh. She closed her eyes then, unsure if she would ever be able to open them again.

She held herself straight, unsure of what she should do next. As her patron for the night, it was up to him to decide what they would do. And since he was the one that had forced them into this position, he would have to be the one to get them out of it, unscathed.

Her insides were jello she felt him bring his right hand up to trace the smooth line of her collar bone, avoiding contact with the thin line of metal encircling her neck, letting his warm fingers fall slowly down the length of her bare arm. A shiver ran through her, and she let her spine relax a small degree. Whatever happened, this was still Logan. He wouldn’t hurt her.

He gripped her left thigh suddenly, and easily lifted her up and astride both of his thighs, still with her back to him. The thin cotton shorts she was wearing, which before had offered her the protection she needed, now felt like the thinnest, flimsiest tissue paper. She might as well have been naked again. She could feel the heat of his skin at her back. And she almost groaned as he shifted his hips beneath hers, feeling the telltale sign of his growing arousal beneath her.

She heard him inhale sharply then and she couldn’t help but relax fully into his chest, allowing him complete control over what happened next.

He moved slowly, dragging the long length of her hair away from her neck with his right hand, pulling gently on it to signal her she should allow him access. She felt the nearness and warmth of him increase as he bent down as she complied with the subtle request. Felt a hot flutter inside her belly as he inhaled deeply, then flicked his tongue at the pulsebeat behind her ear. She did moan then, as the surprising burst of pleasure flickered through her.

She thought she heard an answering growl from Logan’s chest, but decided she imagined it. His lips followed the cool wetness left by his tongue and she felt the deep press of his kisses at her neck, which were soft in contrast to the roughness of his jaw. His left hand slid forward to grip her by the thigh, while his right slowly worked its way beneath her tank top, delivering slow and firm strokes against her torso.

Rogue felt herself sinking into something dark and dangerous, felt her body responding to his small deliberate touches. Felt her guard begin to drop.

As his hand found her breast and cupped it, a low and urgent growl met her ears, and she let instinct take over, surprised at the ease at which she let her last defense go. She rocked her hips back against his and was met with an answering and eager thrust back, causing her to gasp and grip his right thigh tightly. She didn’t know if she was asking him for a lifeline, or asking for more.

It didn’t matter what she was asking for though. Events had progressed quickly. She could feel the heat his body was putting off, could feel the warmth and wetness beginning to pool between her own legs, could feel him inhaling sharply as he rolled his thumb and forefinger over her nipple. She felt the sharp edge of his teeth graze the junction of neck and shoulder as his left hand moved upward from her thigh. Liquid sensation rushed through her as his hand brushed the soft curls at her center, thumb brushing against the wetness that had gathered there.

Logan’s right hand left her breast then to reach behind her and she heard the jangling of his belt buckle, and the swift slide of his zipper. Her head was spinning with the unexpected pleasure she was getting from this, and then her mind completely shut down as he pressed down suddenly, finding that small bundle of nerves and sliding his thumb up and around to spread the gathering wetness.

She became aware of some sort of low keening noise that matched his strokes and she was stunned to realize they were coming from her. Then, he shifted again, allowing a brief moment of separation between their bodies, as he deftly shifted the leg opening of her shorts to one side.

There was barely anything in between them now. The heat he was putting off was burning her up. She could feel him hesitate, as if realizing exactly what he was about to do. And who he was about to do this to. She whispered one word then. One word to let him know it was ok. That she gave him permission. That ultimately, it was her call. Which considering the position she’d gotten herself into, was an incredible achievement. It was still her decision. Even now.


And he complied.
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