And It Is Bitter

by Jane Westin

Summary: Sequel to ・A Conflict of Interests.・

Disclaimer: I don・t own anyone.

Author・s Note: Okay, this got really, really dramatic, really, really fast. See what you think.

Let me just clarify something here. When I asked Logan to come find me later, I meant later as in ・after dinner.・ I meant later as in ・before bedtime.・

I did not mean later as in ・two in the morning.・

I don・t mean that I was sleeping or anything. Actually, I was prowling around the grounds; I was too wired to even think of doing anything that didn・t involve moving around. I positively hate stupid drama like this, and I hate it even more when it keeps me from blissful, blissful sleep. And I can・t say I am terribly pleased that Logan found me at this hour, but I am, at least, relieved to see that he・s still around.

So now here we are, facing each other like two cowboys in a standoff, although I admit Logan looks more the part than I do.

Come to think of it, looking the way he does, I think I probably have a better chance at victory. I don・t look as though I・ve been awake for several days on end.

In fact, I don・t think I・ve ever seen him look this beat-down. He・s got big circles under his eyes, his broad shoulders are drooping, and he・s walking so slow I・m wondering if he hasn・t just run the gauntlet or something. I saunter up to him and tap him lightly on the arm. ・What・s happening, champ?・

He shakes his head silently. I smell whiskey on his breath.

I tap my fingers against my thighs.

・Okay・um・hey! How about we go find somewhere to talk, what say.・

The corner of his mouth quirks upwards in what might be a glimmer of a smirk, but he just nods. With a long sigh, I reach for his hand, and I・m relieved when his fingers clasp around mine hard enough to bring pain. Good・the Logan I know・s in there somewhere.

We walk slowly to the gazebo out back. He sits down on the bench and I sit across from him, propping my feet up beside him. ・So talk, already.・

He raises his eyebrows at me, tucking the corners of his mouth in and exhaling loudly through his nose. ・Well, I talked to Marie.・

・Okay・・ I wait to hear more. He leans forward and rests his forearms on his thighs, staring down at the floor.

・I don・t think it was exactly what she wanted to hear,・ he says quietly.

His tone is somber, his eyes downcast. Gone is the fierce aggression and defensive combativeness and quick temper. Gone are the lewd innuendos and suggestive smirks and good-natured growls. Here, now, he is only a man with too much on his mind and without the energy to hide his weariness.

It is a rare occasion that this side of him emerges. I know I am the only one at the Mansion to have seen him like this: after missions, sometimes, and especially when the body count is high, he comes home with haunted eyes and won・t talk to anyone, sometimes not even me. It is why he never stays long at Xavier・s. It is why he always runs.

I wait. I know it is the only way he will talk to me; I learned long ago never to push him when his mouth is still and he won・t meet my eyes.

He has his own demons to battle.

After a long pause, he begins to speak.

・I found her just before dinner in your room,・ he begins brokenly. ・I thought it would be a good time to talk・you know, chat over food, catch up.・ He shakes his head. ・Not such a good time after all.・

I listen and learn that the first thing she said to him was that she loved him. That she・d always loved him. She・d stood before him, looking up at him ・with those big brown eyes,・ he says bitterly・and asked him if he loved her. And he・d had to tell her no, Marie・not like that.

He tells me that she refused to listen. Tried to seduce him; threw herself on him, really, and he had to push her away. Had to hold her down in the butterfly chair in our room・my butterfly chair, and he adds that he almost laughed at the irony・and tell her the very words I know she dreaded most. I learn that she screamed that she loved him and always had, and why couldn・t he love her back, goddamn him to hell! She screamed that she had waited for him. She screamed that I took him away from her and she wanted me to die. She threw his dog tags in his face. She told him that she hated him, hated him forever and never wanted to see his face again as long as she lived. He had let go of her hands then and she・d slapped him across the face as hard as she could and then fallen back into the chair, curled up, and sobbed. He・d tried to talk to her, but she wouldn・t look up; tried to touch her, but every time he reached for her gloved hand, she・d snatched it away. He says the last thing he・d heard as he left her there in our room were five words, spoken in a tiny, heartbroken voice.

・You said you・d protect me.・

He stops talking and just sits there, head in his hands, his breathing harsh and ragged. I know it has taken a massive effort on his part to tell me all this. He is not, by nature, a talkative man, and especially not when the topic is painful for him, as I know this topic is.

I don・t say anything, just sit there, watching him.

・I don・t really know what happened next,・ he says after a long moment. ・I drank.・ He barks a laugh, and it is bitter.

At last he looks up at me, and his hazel eyes seem to be black with despair. ・Jubilee・・

I walk over to him, sit down, and put my arms around him. He turns his face into my shoulder. I feel his eyes close. He doesn・t cry, doesn・t even move, and the defeat in his demeanor scares me. I stroke his hair.

There is no way to make this easier for him.

Despite the gruffness, despite his seeming lack of interest, I know Logan cares deeply for Rogue. I know that at some point in that cold, cluttered, long-gone camper, something in her called out to him, and it connected him to her in a way that I will never understand. No matter how many times he leaves, I know that he will always come back, and I know that he will always come back because of her. And I do not resent that. Envy it, perhaps, but never resent it.

When he said he・d protect her, I know he meant it from the depths of his soul. To keep her safe means everything to him; to fail her would break his heart. I can only imagine how her words must have shattered him.

I understand what tonight meant to him, and to her.

For him, the bond connecting them stretched.

For her, it broke.


There you go・I・ll do my best to make a happy ending out of this big nasty mess. If you・ve got any ideas, review or email me and let me know! ~Jane