The Best-Laid Plans: Art of War Remix

by Ransom

Rating: R for language and naughty things
Pairing:: Logan/Marie. Logan POV. Movieverse.
Summary: Logan tells the story of how he and Rogue became a couple.
Disclaimer: I doníŽt own them and I doníŽt make any money off of them.
Feedback: Yes, please
Notes: Written for the We Invented the Remix. . .Redux challenge. This isn't so much a retelling of Victoria's The Best-Laid Plans as it is the telling of the events from Logan's POV.  He's seriously one deluded man, is all I can say.
Thanks: To Magaera for the numerous betas!!  And to Victoria P. for the Remix/Redux Challenge, and for trusting me with her story. :)
Date Completed: April 15, 2003 (Only two weeks past the due date. Eep.)

~This is telepathy.~

I was trained to be a soldier. I don't remember the actual training, but all this stuff in my head about target classification and counterinsurgency and maximum permissible concentrations must have come from somewhere. I don't imagine your average guy--or mutant--just happens to know things like that for no reason.

All that knowledge has come in handy, particularly since I signed on with the X-Men. Good ol' Cyclops likes to think I'm a loose cannon, so he was pretty surprised to find out that I actually knew something about tactical planning. He was even more surprised to find out that I'm really damn good at it. What surprised me was that it was one area where Summers and I make a damn good team.

When we're getting ready to go into a dicey situation, Cyke and I are the guys who assess the situation and come up with the basic game plan. Summers knows how to operate all the fancy technology, and he's got a mind like a computer chip--no detail gets past him. I'm the guy who sees how to make it work, who can spot the strengths and weaknesses on both sides, and use them to our advantage. Between the two of us, we cover all the bases. And most of the time, it works. We get in, we do our jobs, and we get out. All of us. Every time.

When it comes to dealing with complicated situations, I don't even break a sweat. Manipulating the circumstances to my advantage is something I can do in my sleep. Seeing an opportunity, and taking it, comes naturally to me. I don't lose my head in a crisis, and I don't let the situation get on top of me.

Unfortunately, none of that does a damn bit of good when you're dealing with women.


1. Assess the Situation

You know all about Marie, right? Cute little thing? I saved her life, promised to take care of her, so on and so forth? Right.

Let's just pick up the story from there.

I lit out from Chuck's in search of my mysterious past, leaving Marie behind, nursing a crush and clutching my dogtags. I knew I'd be back. It was a pretty nice place, and the superhero thing wasn't half-bad as far as professions go. I'd still be beating up people for money, but I'd get to live in a mansion instead of some piece of shit trailer. I'd also get to look at Jean Grey every day, which was definitely a burden I was willing to bear.

It never occurred to me to figure out what I'd do if Chuck's lead did pan out, if I did find some people out there who were wondering where the hell I was. A wife and kids, even. Hell, who knew? But I didn't think about that, really. Maybe I didn't have any hope.

Or maybe I did, but that wasn't what I was hoping for.

Anyway, like I was saying, I didn't just know I'd go back, I *wanted* to go back. And Marie was counting on me to do just that.

Honestly, I didn't really know Marie that well when I left. She knew me, in the most intimate way, really, but I didn't know her. There hadn't been much time for that, and it seemed what time there was passed me by, because I was unconscious for most of it. But she was mine in a way that no one else in the world was, so that didn't matter to me all that much. I could get to know her later, and I planned on it.

It was actually pretty nice, having someone to write home to, someone who worried about me. And the fact that that someone thought I walked on water didn't hurt, either. I admit I got used to the idea of being someone's hero a lot faster than was probably healthy, for me or Marie.

I guess I imagined that when I came home, she'd keep right on adoring me, and I'd keep right on doing no wrong in her eyes. I'd hang out with her a little, and flirt with Jeannie a little, and then, once in a while, I'd find a warm bed to spend the night in.

It seemed like a pretty sweet set-up to me, and one that would be pretty hard to screw up. Jean liked me, and she was easy on the eyes. I'd saved Marie's life, for chrissake, so we pretty much had a guaranteed life-long friendship. And when it comes to finding a warm bed, well, let's just say I've never had any trouble in that area.

It was a slam-dunk. A simple and uncomplicated plan. Yeah, it involved women, which would normally make it *none* of those things, but I didn't see how it could go wrong.

Not part of my plan? Scott Summers.


2. Identify the Problem

I won't lie. I about dropped dead from shock when I waltzed back into the mansion one Christmas, ready for my hero's welcome, and found Marie and Summers glued together at the hip.

How the *hell* did that happen?

Didn't she absorb part of *my* personality?

Once I got over the initial shock, I saw there were a lot of reasons why things turned out that way, and I even understood them. First off, he was there, and I wasn't. That was probably half of it, right there. Every time I came back, they were tighter than they'd been the last time, and I was completely powerless to stop it.

Well, that isn't exactly true. I could have stuck around, is what I could have done. But I didn't. Part of it was just plain old wanderlust. As long as I could remember, I'd spent a lot of time moving around, by myself. As much as I liked being at Chuck's, and as much I appreciated having a place to go back to, a guy can't go from one extreme to another like that without some adjustment time. At least this guy can't.

The other reason I didn't stick around as much as I could've was that it got to me, how close they were. And I still had a little thing for Jean that wasn't going to go anywhere, so at the end of the day, being at Chuck's was a pretty big source of frustration for me. It would build and build until I had to go away for bit, get a little distance, start missing the good things again. Which I always did.

And this is just between you, me, and the wall, but it wasn't all my doing, that time I spent away from the mansion. There were plenty of times I went away because Chuck had something (or someone) he wanted me to take care of. I did, and still do, a lot of stuff for Xavier that no one else knows about, stuff that's too dangerous or too sensitive to involve the whole team. He knows I'm the best guy for those things. And I didn't mind doing that stuff, not a bit. Still don't. But those little covert operations were, admittedly, yet another thing that kept me away from home for extended periods of time.

And I guess it took me a while to catch on to the fact that life goes on after you leave a place, and it's not the same when you come back. In my defense, the coming back part was all new to me, and so was the part about me caring that things changed.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself here.

So, there I was, happy as hell to be home, visiting my best girl and my really hot dream girl, and it turns out that I have to share *both* of them with Summers. Wasn't it enough that he'd already corralled Jeannie before I even met her? Now he was going to horn in on my thing with Marie, too?

Jesus frickin' Christ.

Then, because he must have a death wish, the sonuvabitch had the nerve to tell me that he considered me a bad influence on Marie, and that her attachment to me was "unhealthy." I don't know who died and made him King Dumbass of the Xavier mansion, but I didn't really see how he thought he had any right to tell me who I could and couldn't care about in that house. Jeannie, yes, I could see him having an opinion about her, because they were together. I'm not so much of a jerk that I can't admit that. But where the hell did he get off telling me *Marie* was off limits?

Marie was *mine*. I found her first. End of story.

It was ugly, and it went on for weeks. Cyke and I snarled at each other and shouted at each other and took a lot of cheap shots at each other in the Danger Room. And it didn't solve a thing. I still thought he was out of line, and he still thought I was a jerk.

And, yeah, I was a little ticked at Marie, too. It was like she'd betrayed me. I hadn't been running all over the countryside saving the lives of runaways while I was gone. I wasn't handing out dogtags to every mutant teenager I stumbled across. And I sure as hell wasn't missing Jubilee or Kitty or any of the other kids at Chuck's while I was gone.

When I left Westchester, there was one person in my life I cared about more than I cared about myself. And there was one person in the world who cared about me, and wanted to spend time with me, and would miss me. I was Number One.

Which, as far as I'm concerned, is how it should be.

But then, while I was gone, Cyke came along and knocked me off my pedestal. Okay, climbed up there and made me share it was more like it, I guess.

I'm not exactly a sharing kind of guy.

I was mad. Kickin'-ass-mad. I may have sulked, too, when no one was watching. It just wasn't fair that I didn't get to have at least one of them all to myself.

There wasn't much I could do about it, though, not when I was off running around somewhere else and Summers was there to pick up the slack. And *goddamn* him for being so good at picking up slack. Especially the Marie slack.

Sure, Marie still talked to me about all the stuff that was going on with her, still depended on me, but it wasn't the same. Not when I missed so much of what went on in her life every day.

Like when Marie's mother died, and her shithead father didn't even bother to let Marie know. Not until he sent back her mother's unopened birthday card with a nasty little note scribbled on it. It all happened while I was gone, but Marie told me about it when I got back. I got really angry, and then I got really sad, and then I wondered why Marie didn't shed a single tear while she told me about it.

Then I figured out that she was pretty much all cried out about it, and I didn't have to ask whose shoulder she'd cried on. Another point for Summers, another thing Logan wasn't there for.

Things weren't turning out *at all* like I'd envisioned, and I decided it was time for me to do something about it, turn the situation around. Worm my way back into Number One status. All I really needed to do, I figured, was set my mind to it. Find the strengths and weaknesses. Set things in motion, and then sit back and wait for Marie to remember how much she adored me. It would happen, sooner or later. I was sure of it.

I mean, I'm *Logan*. How hard could it be?


3. Understand Your Opponent

Don't get me wrong, I didn't underestimate Summers as much as you probably think. Jeannie was gonna marry the guy, after all, and if she had the good taste to like me, there had to be *something* about the guy worth liking. I guess can't really blame Marie for seeing it, too.

Women always get a little breathless around him anyway, because Cyke's a pretty good-looking guy. He's got a ways to go before he's in my league, mind you, but he's not half-bad. He's also smart, and capable, and he makes people feel safe. Women love that crap.

Women also love that sensitive guy stuff, too, and Summers has that in spades. Hell, he even reads those books women like, with the dashing heroes and the one-great-love and all that other junk. I know about that because he and Marie spent hours talking about them, analyzing every word and discussing what motivated who to do what and how tragic is was that so-and-so never got to be with what's-her-name.

I've read a couple of those books, and all I can say is thank God Summers was there to talk about that stuff with Marie, because I sure as hell couldn't. I get too irritated with the people in those books, mooning around and wanting each other in secret, but never actually speaking up and doing a damn thing about it.

And by the end of this story, you'll appreciate the irony in that statement.

Reading material aside, Summers and Marie had a lot of other common interests, too. Mostly ones she got from me. Isn't that a kick in the ass? Brutal hockey games, fast cars, a good game of pool--all things that me and Marie had in common. That was my Marie Stuff, the things we did together when I was around, the things I looked forward to the whole time I was gone. And when I left, Scott was there to do the Marie Stuff with her.

I guess my Marie Stuff wasn't her Logan Stuff. It was just stuff she liked to do with anyone.

I guess I don't have to tell you how much *that* pissed me off.

And then there was the music. I'm not even going *there*.

The touching, though, that was what really got to me. I know that he didn't hesitate to put his arm around her, or touch her shoulder, or let her cry on him. I even caught them hugging each other a time or two, which I thought was pretty goddamn inappropriate and not just because Scott was engaged. No one was supposed to touch Marie but me. No one was supposed to *want* to touch Marie but me. But he did. And he wasn't afraid. And the guy didn't even have a healing factor, which I thought took a little of the shine off my willingness by comparison.

I know, I know, I almost died to save her. Twice, in case you've forgotten. But that was in the past. And the more in the past it got, the less important it seemed. At least to me.

What really worried me, though, as she got a little older, was that Marie had a crush on him. She told me she didn't like him that way, but I knew she did, at least a little. It wasn't the same as her feelings for me, I knew that much, but I could tell that she had a little thing for him. And I sure as hell knew that he was well aware of it, and that he was well aware that Marie would be quite a catch, even with the skin issues.

I was pretty sure that Cyke wouldn't ever skate around on Jeannie. He wasn't that kind of guy, and even if he was, he knew damn well that if he fucked up with Jean, I'd be right there, ready to step in and take his place. Still, there was a friendship between him and Marie that could have been something else, I think, if things had been different. Two attractive people with that much in common, it was a possibility.

That worried me, and not just because I was jealous. Summers was practically a married man, which meant that no matter which way it went, it would be ugly and painful for Marie. If something did happen, the fallout would be awful, particularly for her as the other woman. If nothing happened, it would mean a lot of frustration and heartbreak.

When I finally couldn't stand it anymore, I mentioned it to Jean. I asked her if she thought there was anything going on there that shouldn't be. I guess she could have been offended by that question, but she wasn't. She just smiled and said that she'd know in a second if they crossed that line. She told me not to let it bother me, because it wasn't any different from what she had with me--a little attraction, a little friendship, and no intention of making anything more of it.

I thought it *was* a lot different, though, because Jeannie and I weren't running around doing all kinds of things together, just the two of us. I didn't have any Jeannie Stuff. But I didn't say that. Jean said everything was okay, and I tried to believe that, and tried to let it make me feel better about the whole situation.

That lasted about five minutes.

Because just a few days later, I discovered there was some Marie Stuff I didn't know about, stuff she only did with Cyke. I discovered that sometimes when Marie and Summers were out doing stuff together, just the two of them, they were doing things they shouldn't have been doing.

No, not *that* thing.

He was taking her out to bars.

Yeah, you heard me. He was taking Marie, one of his not-quite-old-enough-to-drink students, out to bars. Scott Summers, who had made it quite clear that he considered *me* a bad influence on Marie, was taking her out drinking. And getting her into bar fights.

Am I the only one who thinks that's pretty fucking funny?

And you know how I found out about it? Because I went looking for Marie, thinking we could go for a ride on the bike, and I couldn't find her. Turned out she'd taken off with Cyke. Which pissed me off, as usual. The least the golden boy could do was let me have her to myself when I was around.

I was just about to take off in a huff when who rolled into the garage but Marie and Summers. And Marie was sporting a nice fat shiner. I thought I was very calm about it. I didn't ruin anything, no one bled, and I even listened to Marie's half-assed explanation. Which didn't make me feel one bit better.

It's no big deal, Logan. I got punched in the face, Logan. And hit with a chair, Logan. Scott beat up four guys all on his own, Logan. I liked watching Scott fight almost as much as I like watching you fight, Logan.

Well, that was a whole lot of bad news to process all at once. I guess I don't have to go into detail about my reaction.

What happened afterwards is what matters in this story anyway.

I hustled Marie up to her room, got some ice for her black eye, and started assessing the damage. She got a little weird when I yanked her shirt off so I could see the bruises on her back, but I didn't let her slow me down. In fact, I barely noticed. I was looking at those marks on her skin and thinking that if it'd been me in that bar with her, the guy who hit her with that chair would be carrying his dick to the ER in a cooler full of ice. So I wasn't really paying much attention to the conversation, just shooting my mouth off because I was angry. And that was when I said something that pissed Marie off.

I don't even remember what it was. Probably a comment about Summers. She didn't take too kindly to me criticizing him now that they were best buddies. On the other hand, I didn't take too kindly to her defending Scott, because I couldn't help but see that as her choosing him over me, and there was no way I could let that stand. Then I said something about her crush on him, because that was still a sore spot with me, and that *really* pissed her off. She rolled over and sat up and. . .whoa.

Marie, she had some pretty nice breasts.

She's still got 'em, actually. And they're even nicer without a bra.

I don't know what got into me. Maybe it was because we were on a bed and her shirt was off. Maybe when I get in that situation, my brain automatically goes into sex mode. Actually, sometimes I think that's my default mode, but that's neither here nor there. All I know is that one minute I was checking my Marie for injuries, and the next I was thinking that her breasts would fit perfectly in my hands.

Wouldn't you know that I got caught checking her out?

She didn't really say anything about it, aside from telling me to stop staring at her chest. I didn't say much about it either, but that was a weird moment, at least for me. Because all of a sudden Marie wasn't just Marie, she was Marie with the Really Nice Breasts, and I couldn't stop thinking about them.


But I told myself I was being crazy. That it was just my hormones getting the better of me because I happened to see her boobs. That in a day or two, it would go away. And it pretty much did. But not totally. It was still there, in the back of my mind, probably hiding behind the procedure for assembling a machine gun with my eyes closed or something.

Every once in a while, when I'd pretty much forgotten about her breasts, I'd have a dream about them. Well, the rest of Marie, too, but her breasts always had a starring role. It was like my brain didn't want to let go of that image, so it kept reminding me, every now and then.

So from that moment on, the fact that Marie was now in the category of Women I'd Like To Sleep With was never far from my thoughts. I didn't mention it to anyone, and I damn well didn't let on to anyone that things had changed, but there was no denying, at least to myself, that things were just a little bit different now.


4. Develop Strategies

Remember that plan? Flirt with Jeannie, hang out with Marie, sleep with random women? It was still clicking along pretty good at that point, despite Marie's friendship with Summers, and my low-grade obsession with Marie's rack.

Actually, the Jean part of the plan was turning out even better than I'd expected. Yeah, I thought she was gorgeous, but I really, really liked her, too. And not just because I wanted to drill her into my sheets. I knew that wasn't going to happen, but that didn't mean I couldn't enjoy making her blush. She liked the attention, I know, and I liked that she liked it. Just because there wasn't ever going to be anything more didn't mean we couldn't have a little fun, a little banter.

And the best part? Watching Summers get pissed off whenever he saw me flirting with Jeannie, especially when Jeannie was returning it. I could tell it really burned him up, and all I could think was that he damn well deserved it.

It wasn't like I had to go out of my way to flatter her or anything. I just did it a little more often, especially when Summers was around. And I watched his reaction, and I enjoyed it. He was getting under my skin left and right, so I figured he deserved a little payback. And gave it to him.

Sometimes I felt kind of bad about Marie, because I could tell that it hurt her feelings a little bit, seeing me do that. But there was a tiny part of me that enjoyed *that*, too, because God knew that all that bullshit with Summers was none too pleasant for me to witness, day in and day out.

As you can tell, life at Chuck's wasn't exactly the Partridge Family, but it was tolerable, and things went on like that for a while. Marie and Summers, me and Summers, Jeannie and Summers, me and Marie, me and Jeannie. Luckily for us all, Marie and Jeannie didn't hate each other, and didn't appear to be attracted to each other, either; I think the entire mansion would have combusted. It wasn't the best of situations, but it could have been worse.

Who knows how long things might have gone on like that, if I hadn't hooked up with Daisy?

Rogue'll tell you that I brought Daisy back to the mansion with me. That's not true. She followed me home. I didn't exactly try to dissuade her, but an invitation was never extended. I'll admit, though, that having her around wasn't exactly a hardship for me.

She was pretty hot, and she had one hell of a sexual appetite. There are damn few women who can keep up with my healing factor, and it was nice to have one around. Even better, to have one right there in my bed every night. I was getting laid more often, and more creatively, than I had in a long time, and I didn't really pay attention to much else. I mean, really, what else is there?

Hey, I'm a guy.

Daisy and I got along just fine in the bedroom. Outside of it, well, we didn't spend a whole lot of time together. I was busy doing Marie Stuff, or waiting around for Cyke to remember he had a fiancee and let me have some time with Marie so we could do Marie Stuff. Between spending time with Marie, making Jeannie blush, and being pissed at Cyke, I didn't give much thought to what Daisy was doing. Turns out what she was mainly doing was annoying the hell out of everyone else in the house.

Then she made the mistake of butting heads with Marie, and she was history. Daisy wasn't around that long, and I tossed her out on her ass the second I found out what was going on, but I'm never going to live that one down. I know that for sure.

It was Jeannie who made the light bulb go on over my head, after the Daisy thing. She said that even if Daisy hadn't been so damned unpleasant to everyone, it wouldn't have lasted, because no woman was going to play second fiddle to Marie forever. I realized she was right about that second fiddle thing. That's exactly how it was.

Even though Daisy and I were living in the same room, and screwing like bunnies, the truth was that I didn't really think about her a whole lot, unless she was right under my nose. Or right under some part of me, anyway. I didn't ignore her on purpose, and I wasn't cruel to her, but when we weren't in the sack, I had other priorities. Marie Stuff. Which was a totally separate thing from my sex life, and, in truth, was actually more important.

Well, most of the time anyway.

Remember, I'm a *guy*.

So having Daisy around for the Sex Stuff at night and still being able to hang out with Marie during the day was actually a pretty damn good set-up. For me, anyway. I could see why Marie and Daisy maybe didn't think it was all that great.

But then I started thinking that maybe there was another solution, one that would make me *and* Marie happy. Daisy was long gone at that point, so she was on her own when it came to her happiness.

I thought about Daisy. She was good-looking, and she liked having sex with me.

I thought about Marie. Who I cared about more than anyone else in the whole world. Who I liked hanging out with more than anyone else in the whole world.

She was good-looking. And I could probably see to it that she liked having sex with me.


The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that hooking up with Marie was a really, really good idea. I could have it all--the Marie Stuff *and* the Sex Stuff. Which would become part of the Marie Stuff. It would be Marie Sex Stuff. One-stop shopping. All your needs in one place. Like Wal-Mart.

Not that I'd ever tell Marie that I, for even one second, compared her to Wal-Mart.

I'm a lot of things, but I'm not suicidal.

But that Marie Sex Stuff, that was appealing. Once I got past the fact that I was thinking that stuff about Marie, it was actually pretty damn pleasant. So pleasant, in fact, that I spent a good deal of time thinking about it. The hows and wheres of that are none of your business, though.

The only monkey wrench in the whole thing was that Marie was still pretty young. I'd had years to rattle around and be with lots of women and figure out what I wanted. Marie hadn't. She'd had a crush on me, and that was it. All the other kids in the place got together and broke up and slept together and played musical boyfriends and fought and made up and God knows what else, but Marie hadn't done any of that.

I didn't really want to be the first. I didn't want to be the practice boyfriend. I wanted to be The Boyfriend.

On the other hand, I didn't really want anyone else to be the first, either.

That was obviously going to be a problem.

So I figured I'd back off a little, just wait and see, let her get a little older, see how things played out a few years down the road.

That was the plan.

The problem was, I didn't fill Marie in on the plan.

And that was when things got really unpleasant.


5. Adjust to External Factors

I guess it shouldn't have surprised me that after my big epiphany about Marie Sex Stuff, everything went to hell almost immediately. And did it ever. Because that was when Marie started dating LeBeau.

No matter what she says to the contrary, I liked the kid well enough. He was smart, he kept his head when shit got bad out in the field, and he wasn't afraid to do what he had to when the situation called for it. He also knew a thing or two about good booze, and could play a mean hand of poker.

All in all, we could have probably been friends, if he hadn't set his sights on Marie.

I knew he was trouble in that department from the word go. I was there the first time he laid eyes on Marie, and after she drawled a little hello and sashayed on by, he stood there looking like someone had just popped him on the forehead with a sledgehammer. He was smitten.

And it was just my rotten luck that, of all the guys for Marie to smit, it had to be *him*. All the women loved him. He was good-looking, he smelled nice, and he was a smooth talker. He had those spooky eyes, which should have probably repelled women, but seemed to draw them instead. And that trick with the glowing cards? Women *loved* that.

Yeah, that boy was trouble.

I heard rumors that he had some kind of psi-power thing that he could use to manipulate people. I don't know if that's true, and I don't know if he ever used it on anyone at the mansion--hell, all the nice stuff I'm saying about the guy who tried to steal my girl makes me wonder if he didn't use it on me--but I never thought that was the case. A guy like that, he'd have women falling all over him even if he didn't make it happen with some mutant mind trick.

Like I said, he was a decent kid.

Okay, I'll be honest. I hated the guy. Hated his jambalaya-eating guts. And I bitched about him to anyone who would listen, which meant mostly Jeannie. She halfway knows everything everyone's thinking anyway, so it's no big deal.

So there I was one day, well into my list of complaints about LeBeau, rattling them off. He drank too much, he smoked too much, he flirted too much, he went out too much, he spent too much money, he drove too fast. He had stuff he was hiding, he came and went as he pleased, and was often gone for weeks at a time, doing God knew what. He had secrets. He flirted with anything with tits.

And that was when Jeannie looked at me with a little smile on her face and said, "Sounds a lot like you, Logan."

Well, that shut me right up.

Not right away. First I told Jeannie she was nuts, and then I stomped off in a huff, trying to act like I couldn't hear her laughing at me.

For a while after that, I told myself that it wasn't true. Then I started paying attention, and I had to admit that a little of it was true.

Okay, some of it.

Maybe a lot of it.

Possibly even all of it.

And I was so worked up about Marie spending time with LeBeau that I'd kind of forgotten about Summers for a little bit. But they were still friends, and if she wasn't with me or Gambit, she was with Cyke.

And the two of them, Gambit and Cyke, they seemed to complement each other. Summers liked the books and the hockey and the cars. LeBeau, he was the bad boy. The guy who sat outside on the roof with her and smoked cigarettes and drank my good whiskey. Two sides of the coin.

I started thinking that if you added those two together, you'd get.

Yes, I am that arrogant.

But it was basically true. Summers, he had all my good qualities, and LeBeau, he had my not-so-good qualities.

Whichever one had my bedroom skills, I prayed to God Marie would never know.

The thing was, if she had Cyke and she had Gambit, what the hell did she need me for?

Maybe I wasn't such a hotshot life-saving hero. Maybe I was just another one of the people in Marie's life.

And what the hell was Cyke's problem? He had Jeannie, he had Chuck, and he had plenty of kids around the place who looked up to him and respected him, who thought he was a good man. Why couldn't he just let me have Marie?

Hey, you know what my life's been like. I'm entitled to a little self-pity now and then, okay?

Anyway, that was when I really started to worry.

And that was why I did what I did.

I told Marie she shouldn't trust LeBeau. And when she worried that he was screwing around on her, I let her think it was true.

Yeah, LeBeau was a hell of a talker, but he never acted on it, as far as I know. I never smelled a lie on him, and never smelled another woman on him, beyond casual contact. He was a big talker, but he wasn't a cheater.

So it was pretty shitty, what I did. If LeBeau ever found out about it, he'd be fully justified in kicking my ass, and I'd probably let him do it. After all, Summers was doing the same thing to me, talking trash about me to Marie, and it pissed me off like crazy. For me to turn around and do the same thing to LeBeau was the height of hypocrisy.

And I don't regret it for one second.

What I do feel a little guilty about was the way I used Marie's insecurities against her. I knew that she worried that no man would ever want to stick with her if he couldn't ever touch her, that he'd eventually turn to someone else to get those needs filled. I knew that about her, and I played on it, for my own purposes.

My guilt is tempered by the knowledge that, although I didn't know it at the time, I wasn't the only one doing some manipulating around that place. Remember, I'm not the only guy in that house with a knack for tactical maneuvers.

And it's a good thing you remember, because I forgot about that for a little while there.

That'll never happen again, I can tell you that much.


6. Neutralize Outside Interference

Despite my best efforts, things went from bad to worse. I found out about the worse purely by accident.

Marie mentioned that she wanted to go see some band play at a local club. I'd never heard of the band, and I was sure that the music would probably make my ears bleed, but I'd been in the place a time or ten. There was a bar in the back with a decent jukebox and a bartender who didn't skimp with the bottle, so I figured I'd go with her. I could hang out in the bar and shoot some pool and bullshit with some of the regulars while Marie's brains trickled out her ears in the other room.

Anyone care to guess whether or not *that* worked out? And who was to blame?

I don't know if you're starting to see a pattern here, but I sure was, and I'd about fucking had it.

Marie and Summers took off, and there I was, wandering around the mansion. The place was strangely deserted, so after I worked up a sweat in the Danger Room, I decided I was bored out of my skull. Then I decided to go see if I could find Marie.

The band was just finishing up when I got there, according to the guy at the door, but that didn't stop him from raping my wallet for the full admission price. I paid it, rather than threatening the guy, because it was for some human rights charity fundraiser thing. I personally feel that all the butt-kicking I do on behalf of human rights should make me exempt from charitable donations for life, but that doesn't really have anything to do with this story.

I pulled a stool up to the bar and ordered a drink, and a very long fifteen minutes later, the godawful racket in the other room came to a merciful end. I was about to head for the doorway, see if I could catch them on the way out, when Marie and Cyke wandered in and sat down at the bar.

Marie didn't even notice I was there.

I'll repeat that again, because I'm sure you're just as shocked by that as I was.

*Marie* didn't even notice *I* was there.

The girl who seemed to always know exactly where I was in the mansion at any given time, and who invariably would turn around and smile at me the second I entered a room, had no clue I was sitting twenty feet away from her.

I was dumbfounded. I didn't know *what* to do. I didn't like the thought of shuffling over there and tugging on her sleeve like a puppy begging for attention, but sitting there unnoticed made me feel like an ass.

Before I could decide what to do, Marie got up and walked over to the jukebox. Ah, that would work. I'd just sidle up behind her and growl in her ear and tell her to play something good. Maybe we could shoot some pool while her songs played out, and then ditch Summers and go do something else, just the two of us.

Then, for the second--or maybe third, I guess by that time I'd lost track--time that night, the Logan train jumped the tracks and went nose-down in the dirt. Amazingly, this time it *wasn't* Cyke who screwed things up for me, although he'd done the original screwing by being there in the first place, so I felt perfectly justified in holding him responsible for everything that went wrong that night.

No, the culprit this time was a pretty-boy asswipe named Brian, who cut me off at the pass. Literally. I was so busy looking at Marie, watching her sway back and forth in front of the jukebox, that I didn't even see that Brian guy closing in on the right until he'd stepped in front of me and started laying cheesy pick-up lines on Marie.

My first instinct was to grab the guy by the neck and make him cry for his momma, but then something totally unthinkable happened: Marie smiled at him. She started eating up his lame come-ons, and flirting right back. What the fuck? Had I stepped into some alternate universe when I walked out of the Danger Room? Because *nothing* was happening the way it was supposed to, and it was confusing the hell out of me.

Completely thrown by the turn of events, I decided to abort. I veered off toward the bathroom, where I spent a couple minutes pacing and swearing and generally terrorizing the poor saps trying to use the john. Then I went back to my barstool, drank enough tequila to tranquilize a rhino, and simmered in my own rage while Marie danced with that cheese-talking asswipe. She never *once* looked in my direction, no matter how hard I glared at her.

And the whole time, Summers shot game after game of pool, and stood around back-slapping with a bunch of other guys. He never noticed I was there either.

Right about then, I started to wonder if I had somehow managed to actually die in the Danger Room, thus rendering me invisible to everyone, like you see in the movies. But the bartender seemed to see me just fine, so I decided that was unlikely.

I would also like to mention that, everything else aside, I was completely disgusted with just how oblivious those two were to what was going on around them. Juggernaut could've smashed right through the place, and I don't think either of them would have blinked. There's a fine couple of superheroes for you.

Anyway. Back to me and my rage.

Just when I thought I couldn't possibly feel any more homicidal, Marie started dancing with Cyke.

And I use the term "dancing" loosely. I suppose they were dancing in that they were upright and they were moving, but I've had sex without rubbing against the other person that much.

I'm not being sarcastic about that, by the way. I really have.

Well, the bump and grind was all I could take. I didn't give a flying fuck how much Jeannie trusted Cyke, what was going on between those two wasn't totally innocent, and it needed to be stopped. Right then and there.

So that's what I did. And when I got Marie back home, we had another little spat in her room. That was starting to be a regular thing with us, only she kept her shirt on this time.

Things got ugly, and we started taking jabs at each other. I went after the way she'd behaved with Summers, and she countered with a remark about me flirting with Jean, and even though it was unpleasant as hell, I suspect we were both a little satisfied that the other person was jealous.

Relationships are a funny goddamn thing, ya know?

And it didn't get any prettier after that. Marie knows just where to stick the knife, and she did it cleanly and without hesitation. She told me that I had to lay off, because I had no idea what it was like for her, how much it mattered to her that someone besides me wanted to touch her.

That was what nearly sent me over the edge. I grabbed her, and I didn't know if I wanted to kiss her or strangle her. Before I could decide which was the crazier option of the two, I blurted out exactly what I was thinking, the thing that I'd been thinking for months.

I said, "Shouldn't I be enough?"

And even as I said it, I knew that that right there was the crux of the matter. I guess I'd never really admitted to myself until that moment that the source of all my jealousy and pissiness when it came to Marie and Summers was about my own hurt feelings. This went beyond any macho bullshit about Cyke encroaching on my territory, and it went way beyond the fact that I thought it would be convenient if Marie started sleeping with me.

I wanted her. And I don't mean strictly in the physical sense. I *wanted* her. I wanted to own everything about her. I wanted to be foremost in her thoughts and feelings all the time. No one else. Just me. I know that sounds like I'm some possessive caveman stalker freak, but it's the truth.

Maybe I didn't recognize it at first because I'd never felt that way about anyone before. But at that moment, I knew what it was. God, I knew, and it was wonderful and horrible all at the same time.

I was in love with her, and I probably had been for a while.

And if that was true, I was also well and truly fucked, because she was the sole target of everything I had going on inside me, but I was just another guy in her life. A guy who, just a few hours ago, had been part of the furniture in the back room of a bar, looking on, completely unnoticed, while she threw herself at two other men who didn't care about her half as much as I did.

Everyone in the mansion had already pegged me as the spurned lover, but little did they know that they were using the wrong woman in that equation. It wasn't Jean who wouldn't have me, no matter how desperately I wanted her. It was Rogue.

For the first time in my life, a woman had the upper hand--I needed her more than she needed me. And that scared the living fuck out of me. And the fact that I obviously wasn't enough for her fed my own belief that I was a fucked up mess of a human being with very little to offer anyone else.

What I didn't stop to think about at the time was that maybe I was more than capable of being enough, but I wasn't doing it. I was holding out on her, expecting her to be perfectly happy to accept whatever it was I decided I wanted to give her. At the same time, I wanted everything from her in return. And that was just plain unfair.

The other conclusion I came to was that that much introspection was not natural for me at all, and could only be counteracted by a trip to Chuck's liquor cabinet.


7. Complete the Plan

After the whole Dirty Dancing scene with Summers and Marie, and my rather belated realization that real men (read: me) have feelings, too, Chuck told me he had something he wanted me to take care of for him.

I couldn't decide if it was the best or worst timing ever. In a way, I was relieved to have an excuse to take off, since I couldn't seem to muster the motivation to do it on my own, but at the same time, something didn't feel right. I was dreading the trip, and I couldn't help but think that this was not the time for me to go away.

I even thought about taking Marie with me, which was just insane. And would make Chuck shit a brick if he ever found out I'd even considered it. It wasn't possible anyway, and I knew it, but I couldn't shake the feeling that something bad would happen if I left.

Remember that shit I'm always telling Marie about listening to your gut, following your instincts? Yeah. Maybe someday I'll learn to take my own goddamn advice.

Things went okay at first. I mostly just sat around with a bunch of wanna-be revolutionaries, listening to them talk big, and marveling at how half-assed their operation was. When I could, I sent Chuck anything I thought was useful--maps and lists of names, mostly. Stuff I got off their computers. I didn't see anything that justified that bad feeling I had, but I still wanted to get done and get home.

While I was away, I started thinking that maybe I still had a chance with Marie. I guess being away from that place, not having to see Marie and Summers together every day, made me optimistic. And I think that missing her as much as I did, and wondering what she was doing while I was gone, added to that.

By that time I'd gotten just about everything I was going to get, and it looked like I'd make it back home just in time for Marie's birthday. Perfect. I'd show up out of the blue, take her someplace where I could have her to myself and not worry about getting interrupted--a hotel came to mind, but I was probably getting a little ahead of myself there--give her a really nice gift, and then hopefully get a really nice thank-you in return, if you know what I mean.

Remember. Guy.

Somewhere in there I'd have to tell her about all my caveman feelings, but even thinking about doing that made me squirm, so I intended to just wing it on that point. If it came down to it, maybe she'd just let me touch her, and then I wouldn't have to talk about my feelings at all.

For a few days, I amused myself with various scenarios, each one with a very happy--and slightly pornographic--conclusion. My confidence grew. It would work out fine. And Marie would love it, because she loved surprises. And she certainly wouldn't have any clue that I was going to show up.

That was the thought that brought me up short.

And then the flashbacks started. Me looking for Marie so we could go for a ride on the bike, and discovering she wasn't around. Me looking for Marie so we could go see that awful band, and discovering she wasn't around. Me looking for Marie and. . .well, you get the picture.

Suddenly, I came up with a brand-new scenario for my birthday surprise, and it was neither happy nor pornographic. It was me showing up at the mansion to discover that she'd gone away for the weekend with LeBeau, or gone into the city with Summers for a night of beer drinking and chair smashing and leg humping.

Aw, hell.

If my plan was going to work, and at that point I still had an absurd hope that it would, despite the fact that nothing had gone right for me up to that point, I was going to need an ally.

So in the last envelope I sent back to Chuck, I included a note for Jeannie. I told her that I was going to be back in time for Rogue's birthday, and I wanted her to make sure she'd be around when I got there. I knew Jeannie would help me, and that she could keep a secret, so I sent the package off, satisfied that I had thought of everything.

Naturally, that was when things went really, really wrong.

By the time I got back to the mansion--and for a while there, I wasn't sure I would get back at all--I was in rough shape. I was pretty beat up, and my healing factor was a little slow. Going through all that shit kind of fucked my head up a little, too. I don't react well to being drugged and cut open, as you can probably imagine.

But when all that shit was happening to me, I kept thinking that when I got back, I was going to tell Summers that he could shove his disapproval up his ass, and I was going to tell Marie how much I liked doing Marie Stuff, and how much I wanted to do Marie Sex Stuff. And that if she thought she wanted some Logan Sex Stuff, I would be more than happy to accommodate her. I wasn't going to squirm, and I wasn't going to wimp out and make her let me touch her. I was going to stop dicking around and get on with it.

And then I got back, and I didn't say any of that. Because Marie wouldn't have anything to do with me.

Aside from that big huge clue, I knew right away, despite my fucked up head, that things were not right at all at Chuck's. So I did what I always did whenever weird shit was going on around that place. I went and talked to Jeannie.

Boy, did I get an earful.

She said she'd been going 'round and 'round with Summers about setting a date for their wedding, and that things were tense between them because she wasn't moving on it as fast as he wanted. I gotta say, I don't blame the man. If the woman I wanted to be with agreed to marry me, I'd have her down at the courthouse the next day to seal with deal. I did think it was kind of strange though, her putting him off like that.

She told me that it was just because things were so busy, with all her mutant rights projects she was working on, and all the articles she was writing, and all the speaking engagements she was locked into. Plus, Jeannie didn't want some half-assed courthouse deal. She wanted a big huge blow-out wedding, and that takes time.

Well, I told her that it doesn't take that much time to pick a freakin' date on a calendar, and if it would make him happy, she could take five minutes out of her busy schedule and just do it for him. She looked just as surprised to hear that as I was that I was saying it. But it was the truth, and she knew it.

The thing about Jeannie, and Cyke is the same to some degree, is that she thinks so much about the big picture and the future that she forgets about the life that's going on day by day around her. Sometimes she just needs a little reminder.

After I talked to Jean, I figured things would calm down. She'd set a date and make Scott happy, and maybe even mention that it'd been me who set her straight on that issue. Which would hopefully leave Summers feeling magnanimous towards me when I finally moved in on Marie.

Was I ever wrong about that.

Which surprises none of you, I'm sure.

Things got worse after that. Cyke and Marie started spending more time together than ever, and openly flirting with each other, even when there were other people around. Pretty soon, everyone in the goddamn place was talking about it, and speculating as to how long it would be before Summers moved out of Jean's room and into Rogue's. I guess LeBeau had given up completely by that time, because I didn't see him around Marie at all anymore.

I caught Marie and Summers doing some things once or twice that I didn't think were quite kosher, and as the tension between Jeannie and Cyke grew, I wondered more and more what Marie's place was in that triangle. I also wondered what the hell she was thinking. Everyone else seemed to understand that there was no way anything good could come of the situation. Everyone but Cyke and Marie.

And I guess that was when I decided to just give up hope.

Nothing I'd tried up to that point seemed to make any difference, and Marie was obviously more interested in her doomed crush on Cyke than she was in me. I didn't think he really had any intention of pursuing anything with Marie. I figured he was just trying to make Jeannie jealous, because he was pissed off about the wedding date thing. Marie was playing right into it, and she was going to get her heart broken when it was all over, I was sure.

In the meantime, I was getting my heart broken, watching her fall for someone who wasn't me, and she didn't even know she was doing it.

I wasn't sure if Summers knew just how many people he was hurting with his little plan, and I wasn't sure he would care, even if he did. Either way, it was working, and I'm sure that's what he *did* care about.

I'll also admit that it really chapped my ass that he wasn't having any trouble getting *his* plan to work, when everything I'd set out to do up to that point hadn't gotten off the ground. Lucky bastard.

After a few days, it started getting to Jeannie, I could tell. I don't think she thought Summers was really doing anything with Marie--she probably saw right through him, being a mind-reader and all. Still, it was wearing on her, and I think that being manipulated made her dig in her heels, because I hadn't heard a word about a wedding date, despite the fact that when I talked to her about it she seemed ready and willing.

I felt kinda bad for her, being yanked around like that by her fiancíŽ At the same time, I wanted her to just give in and set a damn date so the Cyclops and Rogue Show would stop already. Because even if Jeannie wasn't taking it seriously, it was killing me.

Then one day I walked into my room to find Marie curled up on my bed, fast asleep. As much as I'd wanted that to happen, to come home and have her waiting there for me, and as much as I wanted to hope that she was there to make some big declaration of her love for me, I knew that wasn't true. And that it wouldn't ever be true.

I stood over her for a long time, just watching her sleep. Looking at her and feeling like there was a knife twisting in my gut, knowing that I'd never have her, and as long as I didn't have her, my life wouldn't be what I wanted it to be.

Knowing that if I stayed with the X-Men, I'd spend the next God-knew-how-many years watching her fall in love with guy after guy who wasn't me.

Yeah, I was a real bundle of cheer.

While I stood there, she started to dream. It wasn't pleasant, whatever it was, and I hoped it wasn't something she'd inherited from me. I reached out and stroked her hair, and my hand stirred the scent of her shampoo into the air. It always reminded me of her, whenever I smelled it on someone else. Just another thing that would haunt me for a long time, I supposed.

Goddamn women and their goddamn good smells.

I bent over and I kissed her head, where it was safe, and I told her that I loved her, because it was probably the only chance I'd get to say it. Funny how easy it was to say those words when she was sleeping.

Or at least when I thought she was sleeping.

Because she shocked the hell out of me when she mumbled, "I love you, too."

". . .Logan," my brain added, and I held my breath, hoping against hope that she'd add just one more word to that sentence.

But she didn't.

I stepped away from her just as she opened her eyes and saw me standing there. And for just a second, I thought she looked unbelievably happy. And hopeful. Then, just as quickly, the expression on her face morphed into something else. She looked worried, and uneasy. Whoever she'd been dreaming about, it hadn't been me.

Then she asked me if I'd said something, and when I told her I hadn't, she looked disappointed.

Huh. Maybe she *had* been dreaming about me.

But when I asked her if *she'd* said anything, she said no. And it was a lie. She knew damn well what she'd said, and she was worried that I'd heard it.

Thoroughly confused, I turned away, my mind racing to all sorts of conclusions, all of them wrong, most likely. I reminded myself that hoping was pointless, and concentrated on taking off my jackets. I'd come upstairs to grab a quick shower, so if Marie was in my room for a reason, she'd just have to hurry up and tell me what it was, because I had a life to live. It was a pretty sucky one, but I was going to live it, damn it.

By the time I got my shirts off, my confusion and dashed hopes had twisted all together to form the beginnings of a good old-fashioned anger. I was angry at her for not returning my feelings, and I was angry at Scott for taking what I considered mine, and I was angry at Jeannie for not doing something about the goddamn situation.

Obviously, that was not the best time for Marie to ask me where I'd been.

It was the way she said it, like I'd been avoiding her, that landed squarely on the fuse of my temper, and sparked. And just like that, we were having the same old argument about Summers. God, I was so sick of that fight. Sick of the whole situation and sick of her bullshitting around about what was really going on between them.

So sick of it, in fact, that I didn't think I had one more word to say on the matter. She knew my opinion, and she didn't give a rat's ass. I'd remember that when she came crying to me with a broken heart.

Already halfway to saying something I knew I'd regret, I retreated to the bathroom. I wasn't interested in a shower anymore; I just wanted to get the hell away from her.

I should have known that was the best way to get her attention.

Can't the girl do *anything* that I want her to do? Ever?

She was right on my heels, asking about the marks on my back, which were still slowly healing from my little run-in with Sabretooth during that last mission. And the thing that surprised me most was that she actually sounded like she cared.

So I told her the whole story, about the mission, about Sabretooth and Mystique, about what they'd done to me. Well, I didn't tell her all of it. Some of it was just too awful to tell, even if she did already know all about the shit they did to me when they put the metal in me.

And I told her about the lotion Jeannie gave me for my back. What was lotion going to do to fix my fucked up head? What was lotion going to do to stop the flashbacks to a time when soldiers stood over me and drank a toast to torture and humiliation? How was lotion going to help me sleep at night, when I curled up in bed, sweating through the sheets and feeling the scalpel slicing me open? How was lotion going to take away the smell of a welding torch when it hits flesh and bone?

I know Jeannie felt completely powerless, and it was just her way of trying to help, but giving me a bottle of goddamn lotion was pretty funny, in a really depressing sort of way. Like that was going to make any difference. I had a healing factor, for chrissake, I didn't need *anything*.

Not anything Jean could give me, anyway.

Like she'd read my mind, Marie took that stupid lotion from me and started smoothing it down my back. It felt wonderful. Not the lotion, but that she was touching me. And just like that, all my anger collapsed in on itself, and reverted to plain old disappointment and sadness. No matter how good it was, it was nothing more than a small taste of what I'd never have.

Still, the look on Marie's face when I told her about what they'd done to me reminded me that she did care about me, a lot. Even if it wasn't in the same way that--

Wait a minute. Actually. . .

I took a surreptitious sniff.

Oh, Marie. You naughty, naughty girl.

You naughty, horny girl.

Maybe what I was getting right then was a taste, but Marie was hungry for the whole damn meal. Which became really obvious when she reached around and tried to get her hands into my pants. She was rarin' to go, alright.

I blame the drugs and the torture and the lack of sleep. That's the only explanation I have for why I stopped her. I'd been thinking about gloved hands working my belt buckle for *months*, but once it happened for real, I backed down.

Actually, the truth is I didn't trust her. My track record was less than stellar so far when it came to knowing what the hell was going on with her, and I didn't want things to get any weirder than they already were. I also didn't know if I could stand it, having her like that, and then not having her like that ever again.

Yeah, yeah, smirk all you want. It's true.

Christ, I'm feeling like another trip to the liquor cabinet is going to be in order soon. At the very least, some burping or beer can crushing. I don't know how the hell Summers does this on a regular basis.


So I didn't get any Marie Sex Stuff, but she did give me a nice hug once she got me all lotioned up. Since she was standing, and I was sitting, that put my face right smack dab between her breasts.

Oh, yeeeeah.

I was ready to just hang out there for the duration, but then she mentioned her birthday, and I remembered that I had a present for her. It wasn't exactly the exchange I had in mind. I was wearing my pants, for one thing. But she liked the bracelet I gave her well enough, and I got another hug out of it.

When I went to sleep that night, I found a letter on my bed, addressed to Marie. It was from some magazine, saying they were going to publish some of her poetry. Being the brilliant mind that I am, I figured that was why she'd been in my room, to show me the letter.

Then she saw my naked torso and forgot all about it. It happens.

The letter was a nice excuse to go to *her* room, though, and I planned to do just that in the morning. After her reaction to that little rubdown she gave me, I figured I was back in the game, and this time I was going to nail her down and get a straight answer. And then hopefully nail her down in a different way.

With those thoughts in mind, I didn't dream about scalpels and welding torches that night. But this ain't Penthouse Forum, so you don't get to hear the details.

I woke up the next morning to the most godawful racket out in the hallway. It turned out to be someone knocking on my door. I pried open an eyeball and looked at the clock, then wondered who was stupid and/or reckless enough to come pounding on my door at such an obscenely early hour.

I got my answer immediately, dropped right into my skull.


Jesus. I don't know if Jeannie thinks my brain's hard of hearing, or what, but the woman needs to turn down the volume a few notches before she shorts out someone's gray matter.

I rolled over and shoved my head under my pillow, which didn't do a damn bit of good, obviously. A few seconds later, there she was again.


At that point, I realized she wasn't going to go away. At least not before she made my nose bleed. I got up and opened the door, wearing only a strategically placed pillow and a scowl. Too bad Cyke wasn't there to see the look on her face.

We had to go through the usual motions, of course. I leered at her and invited her in, she blushed and declined. Then we got down to business. She told me that I needed to go talk to Rogue. Today. Now. And she said it all weird. That I needed to "talk" to Rogue. I could hear the little quotes and everything.

I had no idea what the fuck that meant, and I was getting tired of holding that pillow, so I told her I was already planning to do just that, as soon as I could stop socializing long enough to take a goddamn shower.

Jeannie just smiled at me and kissed me on the cheek. Then she took a peek behind the pillow, arched an eyebrow at me, and said, "Not bad."

Then she smiled at me again and walked away.

Meanwhile, I stood there wondering that the *hell* had just happened, and trying not feel vaguely offended on behalf of my equipment.

As long as I was awake, though, I figured I might as well go talk to Marie.

I walked out my door that morning ready to face my destiny and get me some Marie Sex Stuff, in that order. It was going to be a good day. And it sure was. Right up until I walked into Marie's room and found her standing there wearing nothing but a towel. Which, considering my plans for her, could have been a stroke of good luck. And it would have been, if she'd been *alone* in her room.

I *know* I don't even have to tell you who was standing there with her. Looking her up and down and turning fifty shades of red. No pun intended.

Yep. Scott freakin' Summers.

Right then, I decided that the only option I had left was to just kill the motherfucker. He was obviously going to be in my way at every single turn, and I'd never get rid of him as long as he was sucking oxygen. He had to go.

Luckily for him, he left the room right away. He had a huge grin on his face as he left, because he didn't know he only had about fifteen more minutes to enjoy life as a living person.

Then, because it was tradition, I decided to go right ahead and kick off the fight Marie and I were going to have about Cyke. Old habits and all. Then Marie told me that Scott had come to her room to tell her that he and Jeannie were setting a date. Ah. Deliver the bad news in person. How noble of him.

And there was poor Marie, getting the brush off now that he'd gotten what he wanted.

So *that* was why Jeannie wanted me to "talk" to Marie first thing. She knew that the poor kid would probably take the news hard.

I was obviously going to have to kill him twice. Once for me, and once for Marie.

Before I could get started on killing Summers, though, a funny thing happened. Marie started laughing. She wasn't upset at all. In fact, she started to blush, and her heartbeat sped up, and I didn't have to take a sniff to know that she was naked under that towel, and she was hoping I noticed.

Trust me, I noticed.

Then Marie said something about knowing all along that Cyke was trying to make Jeannie jealous and something else about something or other, but I don't really remember much about that part, because then she told me that she loved me.


That was the best feeling in the entire world. And believe me, I've done a lot of things that felt really good. Nothing beats that, though.

So I pulled her right up against me so she could feel just how good I felt. And with all that feeling good going on, it took me a second to notice she was looking up at me. Waiting. Because now it was my turn.


I got the first word out. So far, so good. And then my throat just closed up on me and all I could do was growl and wish like hell that I was better at that kind of thing. But then I remembered how good it felt when she said it to me, and I remembered that I was supposed to be giving as well as receiving when it came to stuff like that. And I figured that it would probably make her feel good to hear me say it, at least as good as it made me feel to hear it.

So I said it.

And then I *finally* got my Marie Sex Stuff.


But that's private, and just between me and Marie, so you'll have to get your jollies elsewhere. And stop thinking about my woman naked.


8. Confirm Completion of Objectives

Everything's back to normal now at Chuck's, or as normal as that place ever gets, anyway. Everyone seems to have settled down and stopped messing with each other's heads, so I guess we all need to be grateful for that.

I think about that whole mess sometimes, and I think it's pretty amazing that we all didn't wind up hating each other. Everyone got their hands dirty. I was using LeBeau to manipulate Marie, I was using Jeannie to piss off Scott, Scott was using Marie to provoke Jeannie, and Jeannie was letting Scott squirm on the hook by pretending not to notice. You almost need a goddamn diagram to keep it all straight.

I'm just glad I managed to stay out of it, and didn't let them jerk me around with their evil little schemes. I guess they know better than to try that crap with me. Good thing, too. I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't kept my head on straight. Someone had to.

Now that it's all over, my plan is to enjoy life and get as much Marie Sex Stuff as I can, as often as I possibly can. And no one's going to screw that up this time.

Not even me.

The End