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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Chapter 51
Chapter 52
Chapter 53
Chapter 54
Chapter 55
Chapter 56
Chapter 57
Chapter 58
Chapter 59
Chapter 60
Chapter 61
Chapter 62
Chapter 63
Chapter 64


Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 05/10/2010 11:31:24 PM

Chapter 47

Jubilee shivered as a cold wind whipped around the corner of the building. Gray clouds scudded across the slice of sky visible between the towering Manhattan skyscrapers, promising rain. As if on cue, a fat raindrop splattered on her forehead. Grimacing, she wiped it away, running her hand across the silky, inch-long stubble covering her scalp for good measure.

She picked up her pace. She was going to get drenched before she got back to the Worthington building if she didn’t hurry.

How did I become the X-Men’s personal messenger service, anyway? she wondered irritably. Particularly since the X-Men refused to let her anywhere near wherever their base of operations was. All direct contact with the X-Men was handled through Warren and WI. They trusted her enough to have her running packages back and forth between Hank and Dr. Reyes, but not enough to let her live with them.

Her hands curled involuntarily into fists at her sides. She couldn’t blame them, really. They were smart not to want to give her another chance to betray them.

She wrapped her coat more tightly about her frame and leaned into the biting wind. Sporadic raindrops splashed down, leaving leprous splotches on the cement. Around her, people began breaking out umbrellas and turning up their collars, their pace never slowing.

She was still a good ten blocks from Worthington Industries when a kind of warning thrill went through the crowd on the sidewalk. It wasn’t like anyone screamed or anything, Jubilee thought—there was no commotion, no sense of panic. Instead, people put their heads down and plowed on with singleminded determination as if by ignoring it they would in turn be overlooked.

Jubilee’s stride faltered as she looked around for the source of the sudden disquiet that had seized the street. People brushed by her, some bumping her forcefully enough to stagger her. Jubilee reeled, her sense of danger growing with every passing minute.

Rain spattered her face, ignored as she caught sight of the prime sentinel that walked calmly down the center of the sidewalk. A bubble of empty space surrounded it, the crowd parting like magic to let it pass unmolested.

Jubilee froze. Pure, unadulterated panic slammed through her. She turned instinctively to run, but the crowd at her back formed a human wall that marched relentlessly forward, shoving her before them. Helplessly caught in the crowd, Jubilee was dragged toward the sentinel.

But I’m a mutant! she wanted to shout. Please! Let me through! The words lodged in her throat and left her unable to utter a sound.

Time seemed to slow as Jubilee found herself forced toward the inside edge of the bubble surrounding the sentinel. People kept their heads down, never looking directly at the empty, glowing eyes, the slack face.

Jubilee couldn’t look away. The constant pressure at her back sent her staggering into the open a few steps in front of the sentinel, and there she jerked to a halt. The sentinel, too, paused as if surprised by the unexpected presence of a being in its path.

Trembling, Jubilee waited for it to raise its arms—waited for the flash of laser fire that would cut her down. The skin across her forehead tingled in anticipation and little fizzles lanced through her head, making her brain itch.

But after an endless moment of simply staring at her, the sentinel nodded in an almost human gesture of acceptance, stepped around her, and continued on.

Jubilee turned to stare after its retreating figure, her mouth hanging open. It was only then that she realized she knew its identification number, a long alphanumeric string by which it identified itself to other sentinels and to the master uplink.


The identification code burned inside her mind as if it had been etched in fire on the inside of her skull. Even more frightening was the realization that she would be able to tell that sentinel from the thousands of others just like it. She knew it now. She knew its ID string.

Jubilee paused, cold tendrils of fear coiling in her stomach.

And it knew hers.

Bastion sat behind a wide desk in a room made entirely of metal on board his space station. There were no human luxuries in the room—no carpet, no padding on the chair, no paintings or other splashes of color to break the silver monotony. His only concession to the mass humanity over which he’d been appointed protector was his clothing—the fact that he wore any at all. Still, the solid black jumpsuit was as utilitarian as he could make it.

A large screen mounted on the far wall displayed news from around the globe in a series of overlapping windows. Currently, the one that held his interest was a recorded interview being broadcast from New York.

"In light of the remarkable revelations of the past few days, I know there are many questions people would like to ask of both you and the X-Men," the interviewer, a distinguished-looking man in his early forties said.

Across from him, the mutant known as Cyclops nodded. "I’ll be happy to answer anything I can." A plain curtain formed the backdrop for the interview, giving no clues as to where this had been filmed. Cyclops was dressed in the new uniform the team had adopted and wore a sidearm holstered at his hip. An automatic rifle was barely visible, propped against the far side of his chair.

Bastion glowered at the screen. The X-Men were a plague he could not seem to get rid of. Their tenacity and resources alternately infuriated and astounded him. Even without their powers they’d proven to be incredibly resilient.

"First," the interviewer went on, "can you tell me what it has been like to be a mutant these past few months?"

Cyclops raised his eyebrows, his expression diffident. "I’m not sure our experience could be considered in any way representative of what mutants as a whole have faced. Those of us with alpha-level powers are such a small fraction of the mutant population..."

"What you’re calling alpha powers, the rest of us would simply call super powers, correct?"

Cyclops shrugged. "I guess. But most mutants don’t have dangerous powers."

The interviewer cocked his head. "For most mutants, then, the OZT field itself wouldn’t have made much of a difference."

Cyclops’ expression hardened. "Except for those whose ability to survive depended on their mutation... no, probably not."

The interviewer seemed to accept the rebuke, though Bastion doubted he was showing his real feelings. That wasn’t his job. "Returning to my original question, then... What was the impact of the damping field on the X-Men?"

For a moment, Cyclops simply stared at him. Bastion found himself leaning forward, drawn by the tantalizing opportunity to study his enemy.

"At first it was devastating," Cyclops finally said. "Several mutants we knew—dear friends—died when the field was activated."

"And the loss of your powers? To no longer be able to fly, or control the weather—" A faint smile touched the interviewer’s lips, "—or shoot laser beams out of your eyes?"

Cyclops flashed a wry grin. "They aren’t lasers."

"You still haven’t answered my question."

Cyclops inclined his head, acknowledging the point, and his smile died. "It was frightening... intimidating." He shrugged. "But in some ways it was a relief, too."

The interviewer gave him a surprised look. "A relief?"

"Yes." He spread his hands. "No more powers... no more responsibility. No more having to go out there—" he gestured offstage. "No more putting our lives on the line to try to protect a world full of people who would just as soon we not exist."

Bastion pondered the odd tone in Cyclops’ voice for several moments before concluding that it was sarcasm. He frowned. Sarcasm was one of those human complexities that escaped him.

The man leading the interview, however, didn’t seem to have any trouble interpreting Cyclops’ tone. He gave the X-Man an appraising look. "And yet you’re still fighting. Without powers this time."

Cyclops nodded. "We’re fighting for our lives. The prime sentinels are programmed to kill mutants on sight."

The interviewer’s tone took on a slight edge. "Let’s talk about the prime sentinels, then." He shifted in his seat. "The tape that journalist Trish Tilby shot during your raid on the Virginia prime sentinels facility has been widely shown over the past few days, and I must say that some of the images are simply astounding. Horrifying. The idea that these are people being transformed into these monsters..." He shook his head.

Bastion leaned back in his seat, disgusted by the weakness he saw in the interviewer, and by extension humanity itself. This was why they needed someone to save them. What did it matter that a few were being sacrificed for the sake of the many?

The door behind Bastion slid open in a hiss of pneumatics. He glanced over his shoulder as Bill Green walked in. Bill was as nondescript as his name, a middle-aged man of middle height with unremarkable features and a crop of short, sandy-colored hair. He was also Bastion’s right hand man and as passionate about the threat of mutants as Bastion himself.

Bill nodded in greeting as he came into the room. "I think we have an answer for how they immobilized the sentinels," he said. He carried a circular device made of metal in one hand.

Bastion turned away from the interview, his interest sharpening. "How?" Every scenario they’d ever run on potential methods of assault on a prime sentinels facility had ended with the assailants falling to a wave of sentinels emerging from the interior of the factory. No one had ever hypothesized that their enemies might find a way to neutralize the sentinels first. In retrospect, the short-sightedness of that assumption appalled him.

"They invented a paralyzing agent that works on the nannites." Bill raised the device in his hand and held it out toward Bastion. "This is how they disseminated it. We found four of these in the main air exchange system on the third floor." He crossed his arms. "The paralyzer works fast. Only two of the sentinels in the factory were able to recognize there was a threat and send a distress call before their systems locked up."

Bastion took the device, turning it over in his hands. "This is Reed Richards’ work," he said after a moment. The design of the device was similar to some other things the leader of the Fantastic Four had invented over the years.

Bill nodded again. "Yes, though we suspect it’s probably equipment the X-Men brought with them from their Westchester base."

"Is it possible they’re in communication with the Fantastic Four now?" Bastion handed the device back to Bill with a frown. "Those new uniforms look like Richards’ work as well."

Bill shrugged uncomfortably. "I know, but we have the building physically isolated. No one and nothing can get in or out without us noticing."

"We didn’t think anyone could infiltrate a prime sentinels manufacturing site, either," Bastion pointed out.

A faint flush stained Bill’s cheeks. "Yes, sir. I’ll have the security measures reviewed."

Bastion pretended not to notice. He had learned humans did not perform well when their emotional reactions were pointed out to them. "Is this paralyzing agent something the X-Men’s Dr. McCoy could have developed?"

"With a good lab, yes." Bill glanced at the screen, which continued to show the Cyclops interview. "The question is where the X-Men could have gotten that kind of equipment and how they’re managing to keep it hidden. That takes money. And contacts." Bill had spent years with both the FBI and Black Air, and Bastion trusted his analysis of such things.

"You think they had help?"

"They almost had to have." Bill went to the computer terminal built into Bastion’s desk and typed a few commands. A new window opened up on the screen, showing a still image that had almost certainly been taken from the Tilby woman’s tape. In it, the journalist stood in front of a metal door, her microphone held to her face. Behind her, Bastion could barely make out two figures kneeling in front of the security door at her back.

"This is the door leading from the south tunnel into the manufacturing core area. You can tell by the ceramic wall there." He pointed to the white material that framed Tilby. "Which means they got through both security doors at the ends of the tunnel as well as the laser array in the middle without setting off any alarms. I talked to the people that designed the tunnels for us, and they say there are only a handful of men in the world who could do that." He straightened. "Add that to what it would take to even get to that point in the first place and the list gets narrowed down to two... maybe three."

Bastion tapped his finger against his lips. "Do we know who those two or three are?"

Bill shook his head. "No. We’re talking Thieves Guild here. Information is hard to come by."

Bastion studied the image and the two indistinct figures. "Those two are X-Men, correct?"

Bill nodded. "That one—Gambit—almost certainly has Guild connections of some sort." He pointed to one of the figures the screen. "There’s an outside chance that he is one of the three that could do this. That would explain a lot."

Bastion frowned as he considered the implications. "Well, we may have to do something about this Gambit, then."

"Yes—" Bill began, but a chime from the computer system interrupted him.

Bastion pulled up the attendant message. A slow smile spread across his face as he read the contents. The prototype sentinel that inhabited the body of the X-Man Jubilee had finally made contact. He hadn’t known for certain that the girl was still alive until he’d seen her being interviewed as part of the Tilby woman’s report. But alive she was, and in contact with the X-Men.

He scrolled down through the status report while Bill read over his shoulder.

"Her transformation nodes have all been destroyed," Bill commented.

Bastion nodded absently. "The standard suite, yes." He glanced up at the other. "I’d be very interested to know how that was done. And by whom."

"I’ll find out," Bill said.

Logan stepped into the waiting room of a seedy little Greyhound bus station on the Lower East Side, his gaze roving the interior impatiently. The place smelled like a locker room, an unpleasant mix of mildew and poor hygiene. Rows of faded brown plastic chairs filled the center of the space while rows of red and blue lockers lined the walls. At the far end of the room, the ticket counter was manned by an older man who didn’t look like he’d bathed in days. Scratched Plexiglass hemmed him in and a wire rack filled with maps and dog-eared paperbacks flanked the counter, offering dubious distraction to those waiting for their buses.

Logan’s gaze jumped to a dark-haired form slumped in one of the plastic chairs. His breath whooshed out of him in a sigh of pure relief. He wasn’t too late. Shoving his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket, he crossed the space that separated them.

Jubilee looked up at his approach, her face showing only the faintest traces of surprise. Logan was struck by how thin she was. She had the bruised, hollow-cheeked look he associated with starvation and war time, and her eyes were red-rimmed with old tears.

"How did you find me?" she asked as he dropped into the empty chair beside her.

Logan stretched his legs out in front of him and crossed his ankles. "Warren called me. Said ya’d called him in a panic." He lowered his voice. "Somethin’ about still bein’ a sentinel an’ bein’ a danger ta the X-Men." He shrugged, resuming a normal volume. "I figured ya’d try ta leave town."

Jubilee didn’t look at him. "I am, you know. Dangerous." She fingered the scars that ran up the insides of her forearms, her gaze focused straight ahead. "I’m a monster."

Logan tried to contain the fury that ripped through him but he found himself growling, an instinctive warning noise just barely above the hearing threshold. "Don’t ya dare let me hear ya say somethin’ like that again, darlin’," he warned her. His stomach twisted and heaved at the note of despair he heard in her voice. "Yer not a monster. Yer just a girl who’s been dealt a lot of crap in her life."

She sniffled a bit and then sighed, sinking deeper in her chair. "I knew I shouldn’t have called Warren. Did he tell you what happened?"

Logan shook his head. "I don’t think he understood half o’ what ya told him."

She shrugged. "Yeah, I was pretty freaked."

Logan waited a couple of moments to see if she would go on. "So what did happen today?" he asked when it became obvious she wasn’t going to volunteer anything further.

She glanced at him with her dark, unfathomable eyes, and just as quickly looked away. "I talked to a sentinel," she told him.

Logan blinked. "Talked to it?"

She rubbed a hand across her short hair, the motion uneasy. "Sort of. We just stared at each other, but the inside of my head started tingling and suddenly I knew a bunch of stuff about it." She bit her lip. "Its ID number, its patrol assignment, the last time it went in for a systems diagnostic..."

The soldier inside Logan sat up in sudden interest. The tactical advantage that kind of intel could give them...

Jubilee let her hand fall into her lap. "But I think—I’m pretty sure—I told it the same information about me."

She looked directly at Logan for the first time, quiet desperation in her gaze. "I have to get away from the X-Men and the resistance, Logan. Don’t you see? I didn’t escape from OZT. Bastion let me go. It was all a set up. He let me see the Professor so I’d for sure go looking for the X-Men, and then he let me escape so he could use me to get to you."

Logan could only stare at her. What she said made entirely too much sense for him to dismiss, as much as he longed to. It honestly wasn’t even that much of a shock. The idea of allowing Jubilee into the thieves’ complex had only come up once, to be met with Gambit’s immediate, emphatic refusal. No one had argued because they all understood what kind of potential threat she represented. When Warren volunteered to let her stay at Worthington Industries, it had given them a reasonable means of keeping her safe without exposing the X-Men or the mutants of the Guild.

A voice came over the loudspeaker then, announcing that bus 4703 to Los Angeles was now boarding.

"That’s mine," Jubilee said. She pulled her ticket from her coat pocket and prepared to stand.

Logan caught her arm. "Don’t go, darlin’." Jubilee paused and he tightened his grip. "Even if everything ya just told me is true, it doesn’t matter. We can play the counter-intelligence game with Bastion. Don’t let him make you run." He held his breath, not daring to hope that his words would get through to her. If she disappeared now, who knew how long it would be before he could find her again. The idea of not knowing where she was—again—frightened him down to his very core.

"I don’t want to leave," she finally admitted, her voice small, and Logan felt his heart begin to unclench.

"But what if I really am just a trap for the X-Men?" She toyed with the corner of her bus ticket.

"Then we’ll find a way ta turn it back on Bastion." Logan forced himself to let go of her arm and instead slipped his hand beneath hers. After a moment her fingers tightened.

Logan marveled at how small her hand seemed in his. He absently stroked her knuckles while he organized his thoughts. "Bastion may not know your transformation tech has been disabled," he finally said. "He might have turned ya loose thinkin’ ya’d find us and immediately transform. If that was his plan, it’s already failed." He shrugged, trying to project certainty. There were some rather nasty other possibilities out there, too, which he would have to talk over with Scott and Remy. But he wasn’t going to let Jubilee see his doubts.

The speakers crackled to life again, announcing the last call for bus 4703 to Los Angeles. Jubilee didn’t move. She stared at the floor, eyes unfocused.

"C’mon, darlin’," he finally said. He tugged lightly on her hand. "Let’s go home."

She shook herself and looked up at him. "Okay," she finally said. Her expression sharpened with something like her normal wit. "But you’d better be right, dude."

Logan found himself smiling.

By the time Logan returned to the complex it was well after midnight. At Jubilee’s insistence, he’d made all the requisite calls from Worthington Industries when he dropped her off—first to Scott to get his assessment, and then to Dr. Reyes, Reed Richards and Moira McTaggert—to warn them of the possible threat.

He yawned as he walked into the large cavern that served as the Guild’s communal cafeteria. There were a fair number of people about. The thieves kept late hours, and at this time of night the room had some of the feel of a neighborhood bar and grill. He smiled to himself. All they needed was a pool table.

Logan nodded to a couple of people he knew as he made his way toward the small buffet that was always stocked, no matter what the hour. He’d missed dinner.

A figure seated alone at the end of one of the tables caught his eye and he altered his course. Dinner could wait a few minutes.

Rogue sat with her back to him. She was dressed for the Guild’s high-dollar club in a gauzy, dove gray gown whose long skirt pooled like water on the floor at her feet. A small fortune in diamonds glittered at her throat, her ears, her wrist. She stirred a mug of coffee with one hand, seeming lost in thought.

Logan settled across the table from her and rested his weight on his elbows. "Hey, Rogue. How’s tricks?" he asked conversationally.

She looked up from her coffee and offered him a tired smile. "Hi, sugah." Setting the spoon aside, she took a sip.

Logan glanced around the room. "Where’s your other half?"

"Workin’ still." She set her mug back down and wrapped both hands around it. "Tryin’ ta hammer out contract details with a client who won’t accept that OZT raises the cost o’ getting’ what he wants."

Logan raised both eyebrows at the apparent ease with which she talked about a thieving contract. He shouldn’t be surprised, he knew, but he was. This woman bore little resemblance to the Rogue of a year ago, or even six months ago.

He cocked his head, studying her.

"What?" she asked after a minute.

He shrugged. "Nothin’, darlin’. Just noticin’ how much ya’ve changed." A smile curved his lips. "I’m not sure I can even see the old Rogue in ya any more." As far as he was concerned, that was a good thing. He’d like the old Rogue plenty, but this one was the kind of woman to take your breath away.

Rogue’s gaze grew distant. "Yeah." She stared down into her coffee cup as if it held the answers to the universe. "Ah’ve been havin’ that problem lately mahself."

Logan leaned back in his chair, dismayed by her tone. "You regret yer choices?" he asked more harshly than he intended.

Rogue’s head jerked up. She met his gaze briefly, her green eyes shadowed and wounded, then looked away.

"It’s not like that," she finally said. "Ah knew what ah was doin’ when ah chose this life—what ah was gettin’ mahself into." She sighed and toyed with the string of diamonds decorating her wrist. "This is who ah am. It suits me." She shrugged. "But it’s hard ta let go of the person ah always thought ah wanted ta be."

Logan understood the sentiment all too well. "It does suit ya, darlin’," he answered after a moment. When she looked up at him, he went on. "People like us don’t get ta live in peace. Trouble always comes lookin’, an’ we can either spend our lives runnin’ away or we can dig in an’ fight." He shrugged. "It sucks, but those are the choices."

A hint of a smile lit her features, which died almost immediately. "Ah always thought as was a fighter," she said, her voice contemplative. "But ah think ah’ve really spent most o’ mah life runnin’." She brushed an errant hair out of her face. "Mah powers just made it easier."

Logan didn’t respond immediately. Instead, he studied her, noting the slumped line of her shoulders and the way her gaze kept darting past his face.

"Tell me what’s going on, Rogue," he finally said. Whatever it was, it was eating her up from the inside.

She bit her lip, her eyes suddenly shining with unspilled tears. "Ah am so scared, Logan."

He had no immediate answer to that, so he just sat quietly and waited for her to go on.

Rogue brushed the moisture from her eyelashes in the way women did when they were trying not to mess up their makeup. "Until ah married Remy, ah had no idea ah could feel so much." She laced her fingers together, a faint blush marking her cheeks. "An’ not just because ah couldn’t touch before, though that’s part of it. Did ya know that the invulnerability ah absorbed from Carol had the side effect of numbin’ me—what ah could feel?"

Logan shook his head, feeling the bite of shame. Rogue had never said much at all about the effects of her powers, and no one—other than Gambit—had made more than a token effort to pry the information out of her.

Rogue shrugged. "Beast could give ya the whole explanation about chemical receptors an’ all, but that’s basically what it boiled down ta. Ya had ta smash me into a building before ah could actually feel it." She looked down at her hands. "An’ ah wanted ta be that way on the inside, too. Even though ah said ah didn’t, ah did. Bein’ invulnerable doesn’t protect ya from ya own emotions, so I kept trying ta push people farther and farther away."

"Until Gumbo came along an’ wouldn’t have any of it," Logan hazarded and was rewarded with a sudden, brilliant smile.

Rogue shook her head ruefully. "That man..." Her smile faded, replaced by a solemn expression. "No, he wasn’t havin’ any of it. Never did. Every time ah thought ah’d kicked him out of mah heart foh good, he’d find some new way ta sneak back in."

Logan had to chuckle at her description. For the longest time he’d wondered what drove Remy to beat his head against that particular wall time and time again, and had eventually been forced to conclude it could only be love.

He sobered after a bit. "So what’s got ya scared now?" So far, everything she’d said sounded like healthy self-awareness.

"Ah—" She raised a hand to her throat, fingering her necklace. The action betrayed an acute discomfort that immediately set Logan’s nerves on edge.

She looked upward as if pleading with the heavens for courage. "Adrian," she finally said and dropped her gaze to his. She swallowed convulsively. "Ah can’t stop thinkin’ about... what he did to me."

Logan narrowed his eyes as he tried to interpret her statement. Hot anger churned up from his gut. "There were supposed ta be rules," he growled. "Limits."

Rogue pressed her lips together in a thin line. "He bent them."

The anger in Logan’s gut threatened to become a boiling rage. "How far?"

Her expression turned pleading. "First, ya have ta promise ya won’t say anything ta Remy. Ah just—" Her hands fluttered helplessly. "He can’t know how much Adrian hurt me. He can’t."

Reluctant, Logan nodded. He understood why she’d want to keep this away from her husband, though he wasn’t sure how much good it would do. The man was perceptive. But, the whole point of letting Adrian have her in the first place had been to hit the Guildmaster where it would hurt the most, so he understood why Rogue would be doing everything in her power not to deepen that wound.

The shadows surfaced in Rogue’s eyes once again. "Adrian brought in an interrogation drug." She gave him the name.

Logan couldn’t help the hard jolt that went through him. He’d seen that one used once. His stomach tried to crawl up his throat at the memory, and he had to swallow several times before he could speak.

"That stuff’s nasty business," he managed in something close to a normal voice.

She nodded. "Yeah." She took a sip of her coffee and Logan could see her hands shaking. "Ah didn’t know it was possible foh anything ta hurt that bad."

Cautiously Logan reached over to take one of her hands in his. "Adrian’s dead, darlin’. He can’t hurt ya any more." At the moment, he was rather glad Adrian had gone out the way he had. There was some karmic justice to it.

Rogue nodded. "Ah know. That’s the weird part of it. Ah was okay while he was alive." She shrugged. "Now that he’s dead... Ah don’t know. Ah guess ah keep thinkin’ ah should be safe now, but ah don’t feel safe. Ah’m scared."

Suddenly, Logan understood. "Ya felt safe before because ya knew where the enemy was an’ ya knew ya could handle him," he told her. "It’s not knowin’ where the next threat’s gonna come from that’s gettin’ to ya now."

Her eyes widened in surprise, but then she nodded. "An’ not knowin’ how bad it’s goin’ ta be," she added after a moment.

"There’s no cure fer that, darlin’." He gave her an evaluating stare, trying to figure out what would bolster her confidence the most. "But if ya ask me, yer tough enough ta take on just about anything out there. An’ if not, the X-Men’ll have yer back."

He was rewarded with a tremulous smile. "Thanks, sugah. Ah needed ta hear that."

"Yer welcome." He squeezed her hand.

She sighed gustily. "Well, ah’d better get ta bed. Ah can’t even tell ya how tired ah am, an’ tomorrow’s goin’ ta be crazy."

He raised an eyebrow. "What’s going on tomorrow?" He hadn’t heard anything from Scott.

Rogue levered herself to her feet. "The Guildmaster of Miami’s arrivin’ with about half of his council, ta talk about what they’re goin’ ta do ta help New York take on the cartels."

Logan snorted drolly. "Sounds like fun."

"Oh, joy." She rolled her eyes as she stepped away from the table. "Night, Logan," she said.

"Night, darlin’."

Logan watched her walk away with a sense of relief. Some of the crushing weight seemed to have fallen off her. Her steps were light, her head high as she made her way across the room.

It was as much as he could do for her.

Nodding to himself, Logan went in search of his dinner.


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