Getting them both out of the mansion for the day was the best idea he'd had in a long time, and today was the perfect day for it. Late summer, not too hot. The lake looked golden and slightly unreal in the slanting sunlight. Somewhere beyond the bend in the shoreline, kids were splashing each other and shouting.
Other than the unseen kids, the lake was fairly deserted, which was one of the reasons he liked this particular place. Not so far away that the drive ate up too much of the day, but far enough to avoid getting called back for anything that wasn't absolutely an emergency. He was greedy when it came to their time together, and he didn't care who knew it.
Rogue always went overboard with the food, and this time was no exception. The blanket was littered with the remains of their lunch, and he was doing his best to not look at them, because even *thinking* about roast beef was unpleasant right now. He leaned over and opened the smaller of the two coolers, which contained only cans of soda and beer, and one carefully wrapped package.
He handed it to Rogue, who nearly squealed with delight when she opened it and found a piece of honeycomb. She loved to eat honey that way, a taste acquired as a small girl, from a grandfather who kept bees as a hobby.
He leaned back on his elbows and stared at the lake, glancing at her now and then as she sat on the blanket next to him and ate her treat. It was a messy job, and one that had to be done without gloves. It seemed like a lot of work for a little bit of sweetness, but she evidently thought it was worth it.
He was warm and full and slightly drowsy, and close to declaring the day perfect as he watched her try to avoid getting honey all over her face and hands. She was failing rather spectacularly. He wondered if there were any of those wipey things in the truck. If not, she was gonna be cleaning off in the lake. Their picnic spot, back near the tree line, was polka-dotted with bits of sunshine that moved when the wind stirred the branches above them, and the honey on her fingers sparkled when the sun hit it just right.
A wisp of hair floated past her face and stuck to a small fleck of honey on her cheek. He reached up and smoothed it back into place, then let his bare hand slide down her back. The smell of the honey made him think of wildflowers and bright sunlight, and a little Marie with a sticky face and a grandpa who loved her.
He wondered sometimes what was worse--living with no memories at all, or living with memories of things you couldn't have anymore.
Early afternoon was already becoming late afternoon, but he didn't want to go back. Not for two or three days, minimum. Maybe it was time for another camping trip. He loved going to sleep in the tent, huddled next to each other in their sleeping bags. Loved waking up in the morning with everything infused with the smell of her. The air in the tent, his pillow, his clothes. He could almost taste it on his own skin. He suddenly wanted that again, right now. Wanted to pick up and go. And this time, just one sleeping bag.
A ladybug landed on his shirt and gave him a flirty flutter of her wings before she tucked them away and set off across his stomach, doggedly navigating the folds in the fabric. He lifted his hand and prepared to flick her away with a finger, hesitating just long enough for Rogue to notice what he was about to do.
"Logan. . ." she chided, drawing the second syllable out in that way that made him feel sheepish and chastised and incredibly loved all at the same time.
He countered with an obligatory sigh, then began to coax the bright little bug onto his finger, scowling so Rogue would know he was only doing this for her, not because he was getting soft. He set Mrs. Ladybug down on the blanket and nudged her in the direction of the grass, keeping an eye on her until he was sure she was headed in the right direction. "And don't come back," he warned her sternly as she waddled away.
He looked up at Rogue just in time to see her roll her eyes, so he gave her a grin. The I-know-I'm-difficult-but-you-love-me-anyway-grin that always made her smile at him in that soft way that was even better than hearing his name stretched around a faint southern drawl. She giggled and pointed to the ladybug, who had already managed to turn herself around, and was heading straight for him once again.
"She listens about as well as you do," he grumped, which got him another giggle. She went back to her honeycomb, and he went back to watching her. It was, after all, one of his favorite pastimes.
She'd been the focus of his life for ten years. He'd been living at the mansion full-time for the last three, and there was precious little that happened in her life that didn't filter into his, and he liked it that way. He'd traded the rather questionable luxury of freedom for a devotion he'd never thought himself capable of giving or receiving, and never looked back. Only forward. To more of this, more of her. It seemed like he always wanted more, when it came to her.
He sat up without really knowing why. The ladybug was still meandering about, and he moved his booted feet carefully around her. It was a good excuse to inch a little closer to Rogue, and he made use of it. She shifted a little, turning to face him so their bare arms wouldn't bump.
He decided to mention the camping idea, then changed his mind right before he opened his mouth, and said something totally different instead. "What do you think about you and me?"
Her expression changed instantly, became forced neutrality. She frowned down at the honeycomb in her hand, licked at a drop that was creeping down the side of her pinky finger. "What do you mean?"
She didn't look at him, so he looked at the lake. "You know what I mean." He realized, too late, that everything they had between them--which was, admittedly, just about everything he liked about his life--was suddenly hanging by a thread.
She let out a soft breath, not quite a sigh. "Sometimes I think not having you might hurt less."
His anger was swift and deep, and he forced himself to blink, the only motion he was going to permit himself until he got it under control. He'd worked at this thing between them harder and more willingly than anything else in his life. She *knew* that.
She brought the honeycomb up to her mouth again, and his peripheral vision caught the movement. He willed his jaw to unclench as he turned to look at her. She continued to look down, dark lashes standing out against creamy skin, cheeks hollowing as she worked to get at more honey.
His anger took on a bitter tinge as he sorted through and rejected various responses, always coming back to the same painful truth: he wanted her more than she wanted him. He wasn't worth the risk.
Maybe living with the memory of things you couldn't have anymore *was* worse. Maybe it made you afraid to have anything at all.
His hand on the back of her head forced her to look at him. He leaned in and heard her whisper, "Logan, no. . ." but he kissed her anyway. Gently, and carefully. The smear of sweetness on her lip melted into his mouth, and she made a tiny hitching noise in her throat, but she held still. So still. There was honey and warm breath and soft skin, and then just the hint of a warning tingle when he licked at her lower lip.
He wanted so badly to push his luck, but knew that wouldn't help his cause at all. He pulled back just enough to break the contact. His mouth tasted like sunshine and hope.
The hand that held the honeycomb was crushed between them, and he could feel the honey soaking into his shirt in at least two places, but he didn't let her go. "When have I ever given you a reason to not believe in me?"
She drew her tongue over her lower lip. Wanting to taste him, he hoped. Her eyes opened and met his. She looked like she might cry. "Never."
"Then give me a chance."
She lowered her eyes. "You have honey on your chin."
"So do you."
She didn't say anything for a long time, or at least what felt like a long time to him. Finally, he carefully pulled her down onto the blanket with him, trying his best to keep an eye out for the wayward ladybug. He held still while she maneuvered into a safe and comfortable position, nestled in the crook of his arm. She draped one arm over him, still holding the honeycomb.
He waited for her to settle before he spoke. "Can you tell me why you aren't saying yes?"
"Can you tell me why you think you'll be happy with me?" She came up with the question too fast. She'd obviously been thinking about it for a long time.
"I already am happy. I wanna be happier." He thought about that for a second, then added, "But not if it won't do the same for you."
She didn't say anything, so neither did he. He'd given her the only answer he had. It would either be good enough, or it wouldn't.
A drop of honey fell onto his shirt, and then another. Something small and furry scuttled through the branches overhead. He began to comb his fingers through the ends of her hair, and realized that he had honey all over his hand. He wasn't sure when that had happened, but it was probably safe to assume the stuff was just about everywhere at this point. The silence stretched on, broken only by the sounds of the water and the trees. Fluttering birds, bickering squirrels, the ploink-plop of a fish breaking the surface.
Something tickled his side, and he knew even before he looked that the ladybug was scaling the mountain of his ribcage. Her progress was slow, but steady. Another drop of honey threatened to fall onto his shirt, so he caught it, careful not to disrupt the ladybug. He licked his finger. It tasted like honey, but also a little like roast beef. Not a good combination.
Rogue shifted, resting her chin on his chest so she could see the ladybug. "She's back."
"Yeah. I think she likes me."
"Well, I can understand why." A little flirty, and that threw him for a second.
He angled his head so he could see her face a little better. "Yeah?"
Her eyes met his briefly, then went back to the ladybug. She had a little smile on her face. "Yeah."
He didn't quite return the smile, raised an eyebrow. "Is that a yes?"
"Yes." She kissed his chest through his shirt, and left another sticky spot. His shirt was really taking a beating today.
"Good." He gave her a squeeze. "You had me a little worried there."
The ladybug was trying to navigate around the sticky spots on his T-shirt, so he let her crawl up onto the back of his hand. She spread her little wings when he gently blew on her, did a few practice flutters, and then launched into the air.
"There she goes," Rogue said softly.
"Yeah. There she goes."