He sits and he waits. In the chair in the corner of the study. The one that gives him a view of the foyer, yet allows him to remain in shadows. She comes in and he can smell it on her. Smell him. His stomach lurches. He will never get used to this.
She’ll sleep in her own room tonight.
A few minutes later he hears the faint sound of water racing through the plumbing and knows that she’s showering. Washing away all the evidence. Not that it matters, not that he wouldn’t know. Already knows. But he’s oddly grateful for it anyway.
He waits a few minutes after the water stops, pictures her toweling off, running a comb through her hair. Climbing into the blue flannel pajamas he bought her for Christmas when she was still just a girl. Once he’s sure she’s asleep, he goes upstairs, tries not to look at her door as he passes by. Crawls into an empty bed and stares at the ceiling until the sun finally peeks over the horizon.
He’d come and gone often in the first few years. A few months here, a few months away. They’d both changed in that time, time they needed. For her to grow into a woman. For him to grow used to the idea of loving her. Finally, he’d come back for what he assumed would be the last time.
They hadn’t talked about it. They’d just done it. Become a couple. In some ways, nothing had changed. They ate together and trained together and watched TV together and went out for a beer together. But now, at the end of the day, they went to bed together. And Logan, who had never spent more than a week with a woman in all the years he could remember, discovered that he very much liked waking up in the same bed with the same woman every morning.
She kept her own room, mostly just for the closet space, but also so she had a place to go when Logan’s infamous temper got the best of him. She’d retreat to her own territory, curl up on the bed she never slept in anymore, and read a book while she waited him out.
Yes, in some ways, nothing changed.
Logan wishes he could still say that.
Control had always been a goal for Marie. Even years after she’d given up actively wishing that it might happen, she never completely abandoned hope. And then, just like that, it was hers.
She found him in their room, ran at him gloveless and laughing and crying and saying his name over and over and over. Her hands were in his hair and on his face and crawling up under his t-shirt and down his pants at the same time. He lifted her up and stumbled to the bed, his own bare hands shaking as he fumbled with her clothing, wanting her naked now now now now.
He ran his hands and mouth over her, nearly came simply from the feel of her under his tongue with nothing in between. Desperate and unorganized, wanting to touch everything at once, be touched everywhere at once. Hands and mouth jumping from stomach to lips to fingers to neck. Then he just had to be in her. Warm and wet and so so slick he thought he’d lose consciousness just from the feel of her. Pushing forward until he could no more and then just. . . stopping.
Holding completely still, both of them freezing in place and just feeling. Not saying anything. Awed.
A single tear had escaped the corner of her eye, raced down the side of her face until it landed on his thumb where his hands cradled her face. And then she had laughed. Giggled, really. And he grinned and began to move. . .
He remembers every detail of that night. Dreams about it sometimes. He wonders how he can remember it so clearly, how his mind manages to recall every little thing. But then, he supposes, there’s plenty of room in there, what with all the other things he can't remember.
The first time was the worst.
He’d gone into town to pick up a new drill bit, but mostly just to get away from the mansion and poke around in the hardware store for an hour or so. As usual, he came back with a dozen things that they didn’t really need. There’d been a bag of groceries on the seat next to him, too. Simple stuff. Steaks, beer, potatoes to cut up for fries. A pint of that ice cream Marie liked.
But she hadn’t been there when he got back. It hadn’t bothered him at first, but three hours later he had already gone beyond annoyed to concerned, and then moved on to frantic. She hadn’t told anyone where she was going, wasn’t answering her cellphone.
And then there was her choice of vehicles. The fact that she’d taken the little red sports car was puzzling.
Finally, he did the only thing he could. He drove into town to look for her. Stood on the brakes in front of the bar when he spotted the car out front. Door open and engine off a split second after he parked in a space that wasn't really a space. Didn't matter. He wasn't going to be here long.
He stopped dead in his tracks, and the door bounced off his heels. She was barely recognizable, this Marie. But she couldn’t hide her scent and that he’d know anywhere, for the rest of his life. Forever.
She was sitting on some guy’s lap. The name embroidered over his shirt pocket identified him as Joe. Joe had one hand wrapped around a beer can and the other down the back of Marie's pants. Marie was laughing, running her fingers along his jaw, licking her lips. Everyone in the place knew that Joe was getting laid tonight. Including Logan.
He turned around and walked back out to the truck. Sat in the cab, stunned, for God knew how long, staring at the dashboard and thinking a million thoughts, none of them pleasant.
And while he sat there, Marie came out with Joe, climbed into his piece-of-shit Camaro, and drove away. Marie’s head was in his lap as he gunned the car into the street. They turned the corner and were gone.
So Logan went inside and ordered a beer.
He purposely picked the redhead, because he knew that Marie had always been a little jealous of his attraction to Jean, jealous of the sparks that had flown between them in the beginning. So it was with sweet malice that he singled her out, bought her a drink, let her flirt with him while he shot a game of pool.
Then he went back to her basement apartment and made her come every way he knew how. As he thrust into her the first time, he couldn’t help thinking that up until three hours ago, this was the last thing he would have imagined himself doing as one day became the next.
Part of him wanted to just leave with nothing but the clothes on his back and the money in his wallet. Leave and never come back, never see or speak to any of them again. Just. . .disappear. He had places he could go, places even Marie didn’t know about.
But part of him wanted that confrontation, wanted to make her face him, make her tell him why she’d done it.
And part of him wanted to believe that it wasn’t true, that there was some mistake.
But it wasn’t a mistake and it was true. It was real. As real as the smell of the redhead on his face and his fingers as he drove home in the gray hours of the morning.
In the end, he didn’t leave.
Some days, he still wishes he had.
He sleeps for only a few hours, close to dawn. It does nothing for the exhaustion that has settled in his bones, in his heart. He peeks in on her as he passes by, on his way to the kitchen. Stands over her and watches her sleep. Hates her and loves her, all at the same time. There is no line anymore, thin or otherwise. It's all the same to him.
Her hair is black. He likes the streaks better. They should remind him of bad things, but they don’t. He likes them because they make him think about the second time he almost died to save her, when he thought for sure he had lost her all too soon. But she'd come back to him. The streaks, they are proof of miracles and destiny and fate and all that other crap he insists he does not believe in. He misses the streaks. But the black is better than the blonde or the red, both of which he hates on her.
He heads for the kitchen, for a breakfast table full of people who will ask if she's back. He will nod and avoid their eyes.
It’s not as frequent anymore, and if anyone else in the house has a clue, they’re smart enough to not say anything. It’s almost so he knows now, knows that it’s coming. The look in her eye, the turn of a phrase. He can tell. He's tried taking off, not being around to witness it, but that was somehow harder. Maybe because he can't stop hoping that maybe this time she won't come home reeking of another man’s semen. But she always does.
Sometimes, he hopes she won’t come home at all.
The shower was his worst mistake. There are days when he thinks back on the whole mess and decides that's the one thing he would change. He wouldn't have taken a shower.
But he had to. The smell of the redhead on his skin was making him sick, and he wanted to be rid of it. It hadn't bothered him until he'd stepped into the room they shared, the room that had always smelled pleasantly of the both of them. His scent intermingled with Marie's.
She wasn't there, and he wasn't sure if he was disappointed or glad. He'd started to throw some things into a bag, but then he couldn't take the smell anymore. Just a quick shower.
A quick shower that would seal his fate for the next six years and counting.
Jean had burst into the room as he was pulling on his jeans. Rogue was back, she'd said. No need to go looking for her, she'd said, seeing his partially packed bag on the bed and misunderstanding. She's in her old room. She doesn't remember where she was.
He'd been cold and distant at first, which had confused everyone, including Marie. When they finally figured out what had happened, no one questioned his violent reaction. They'd expected him to be angry, they'd expected him to be upset. They had had no idea.
Everything has a price. Mystique's is high, and Logan pays it every day of his life.
He's had some awful thoughts. He's thought about following her, of watching. Of going back later and making them pay for fucking his wife.
He's thought about killing her. He thinks about it a lot more, and in a lot more detail, than he probably should. It's the strain, he tells himself. Making him desperate and crazy.
No one knows what his life is like. No one can ever know.
Telepaths. Empaths. Living with these people all around him who can access his mind and his emotions simply by thinking about him. And living every single fucking day with a woman who can read his thoughts just by brushing against his skin for a fraction of a second.
He's terrified that someone will find out what he did that first night, before he knew the truth. Terrified, mostly, that Marie will find out. Then he will face an impossible choice: let her think that he'd cheated on her of his own volition, or tell her the truth. Tell her that during her "blackouts" she's fucked a disturbingly high percentage of the blue-collar population of upstate New York.
And that Logan lets her do it.
Maybe it's his own sense of guilt that makes him let her go. He could lock her up, wait for it to pass. Make up some story to tell Marie, some bullshit about her safety. She'd believe him, no question. She loves him that much.
He didn't love her enough to give her the benefit of the doubt.
He deserves this. Every second of it. He will take all the punishment she can give him.
Two hours later, when he returns to her bedside, her hair is back to normal.
She stirs when he sits down on the edge of the bed, cup of coffee in his hand. "Mornin' sunshine." He tries for cheerful, manages neutral.
She opens her eyes and looks around, realizes immediately where she is and why. "Again?" The disappointment in her voice is obvious. She keeps hoping it will stop. Maybe that's why he lets her go. Sick revenge. That thought does not disturb him nearly as much as he wishes it did. He can't help the small pleasure he takes in her frustration, in the way she worries over it.
Maybe someday all the cheap fucks she's unknowingly had will cancel out his single intentional one.
"Uh huh. You remember anything?" He always asks.
Just for a second, a split second, her eyes go yellow and her lips curve in a malicious grin. "Every last detail, sugar," she says, in Rogue's voice. She knows that makes it worse. "He was bigger than you, and he knew how to use it."
And then Marie is back, rubbing her forehead because she feels a little dizzy. Her eyes are closed, so she doesn't see the hatred in Logan's eyes, the way his jaw clenches, the white-knuckled grip he has on the coffee cup.
"No, not a thing," Marie says.
What he wouldn't give for that luxury.
Later that night, as she snuggles up next to him in bed, he struggles to hide his anger, his revulsion. He hates the feel of her bare skin, and he can never, ever tell her that. She still thinks it's a dream come true, that it makes them a real couple, that Logan is overjoyed.
Her skin is deceptively soft and delicious, a stark contrast to the bitterness it provokes in him. Her touch, the thing he once craved most in the world, is now a twisted thing he hides from. Always skittering away on the inside, trying to conceal his shameful secret. Thanking any available god that she's retained enough of his mutation to make healing touches a thing of the past.
She doesn't know that he almost cringes every time she touches him. Forces down the urge to shrink from her. He lives in fear that she'll slip up, let her skin pull at him for just a split second, just long enough, and this house of cards he's built, this illusion that is their life together, will fall down around them. His betrayal—and why he even bothers to use the singular at this point is an excellent question—will jump right into her brain, like some amazing virtual reality depiction of what your husband looks like with his face buried in the crotch of a strange redhead.
She'll see it, smell it, hear it, taste it. Feel his vicious lust-fueled desire to hurt her, running like quicksilver through his veins. His smug satisfaction as he watches that fiery head bob between his legs. His sick wish that it were actually Jean tossing her head back as she rides him, because that would be the ultimate revenge.
She can't ever know. And yet. . .
He fantasizes about it sometimes, when he's at his most broken and weary. Thinks about bringing an end to it all. Bring the skeletons screaming into the open, let her take her turn with them. They've been his alone for so many years. It's only fair.
It'll be just like the first time after she learned to control her skin. He'll sink into her body and then pause, look at her. Drop his head. "Take a little bit, baby. I just want to show you something." It'll be a whisper against her lips, and she'll comply, because she loves him. It will be a soft kiss, but a deadly one. One that carries the truth. And his freedom.
Not tonight, though.
He tamps down his revulsion, settles her in the crook of his arm. Tries not to think about her bare hand stroking his chest. Wonders if she would think it weird if he started wearing t-shirts to bed.
He can't help it. Every time he runs a bare hand down her back, feels the skin of her thighs rubbing against his hips, he thinks about the trade-off. He'd give it up in a heartbeat, if he could. Spend a lifetime kissing her through scarves and sheets and t-shirts, if it meant she would be his and his alone.
No one knew that absorbing Mystique would give Rogue the key to controlling her skin.
Now they all know.
No one knew that Mystique had a thing for guys who drink Pabst Blue Ribbon and drive Camaros.
That, only Logan knows.
"I love you," she whispers, sleepy and relaxed beside him.
"I love you, too," he replies, and wonders how it can feel like the most profound truth and the most despicable lie all at the same time.