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n. a tramp or vagabond (nomad).

She woke up screaming.

Logan launched out of his bed and across the gap between them. Rogue's eyes were beyond seeing him, the green glazed over with fear and sparkling tears. She drew in deep, ragged breaths, her throat rasping, shoulders shaking.

"Kid." He caught her shoulders with his hands. "Kid, it's me. You're okay."

She stared into his eyes. "Daddy," she whispered faintly, sounding so very lost.

Logan swallowed hard and gathered her up into his arms. "No. It's me. Logan." He rubbed her back soothingly and let her cry against his shoulder. "It's me."

She sighed softly. She didn't say anything, just snuggled up close against him.

And he let her.

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Rogue sighed and blew out into her coffee cup, sending a small puff of whipped topping right off her brew and a white lovelock up into her eyes.

Logan and her had settled into a small café just off the highway exit in some small town that Rogue hadn't bothered to notice the name of. A cheery waitress hummed behind the counter and small round tables dotted the spotless vinoleum floor. There were few patrons this time of morning, and the comfortable silence between the two of them contained only the hushed conversation of a mother and her child and the scuffing of Rogue's shoe against the floor.

She tucked the errant strand of hair behind her ear and took a sip of her coffee. She set it down and began on her eggs.

"You okay, kid?" Logan finally broke the silence.

She shrugged, a vague gesture with one shoulder. Her eyes never left her plate.

Logan's rough and calloused fingers reached out and wound through hers. She stared at their joined hands on the table. Her slender fingers, bare after so long unexposed, tucked into his warm, rough strength.

"Hey." His voice was soft. She looked up to see his eyes."I promised I'd take care of you." He gently rubbed the back of her hand as he spoke.

The sensation was so startling, so new.

She smiled at him, an honest expression, and with her free hand tucked back the white hairs tickling her ear. "I know."

Logan had been her saving grace, the one person who still saw her as a person, not a mutant, not a bundle of uncontrollable power, not an undesirable who took the Cure rather than face the rest of her life unable to touch. She tightened her fingers around his and held on just a little longer.

This was why she had taken the Cure and left her mutation behind. This simple, innocent touch and all the feelings behind it.

"I'll take care of you," he said again, impressing the words into her heart. "I promise."

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They were on the road again, motorcycle wheels hitting the hard pavement of the open highway.

"Where we headed?" Rogue had asked him.

"North," was her only reply.

North came to have a special meaning for her. North meant freedom from constraints, from boundaries, and from relational ties. North meant Logan and wildness and untamed urges. North meant distance, time, and space separating her from all that had gone before. North meant the future and leaving her past behind.

They crashed in nameless motels with letters missing in their flashing signs. They got up early, ate at roadside cafés, hit the asphalt before nine o'clock, used rest stops and gas stations three or four times a day, and put miles and miles between them and Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. When money ran low, Logan left her with the bike and took on a bar to earn some quick cash in a cage fight or two. He never came back to her too bloody. His healing factor kicked in before he even made it out the door. He taught her how to tune the motorcycle, to yell bloody murder when he popped a wheelie, and to wear clothes that showed skin.

"I'm not sure about this, Logan," she said uncertainly when he first dragged her into a clothing store in New Hampshire.

"I am."

He bought her leathers and tight-fitting tops with straps and short sleeves. He got her a jean jacket as durable as his own and dispensed with her gloves, despite her vehement protests.

"I can't just go around touching people indiscriminately. What if I have to shake hands with someone?" she demanded, still not comfortable with this skin.

"Don't then." Logan finished the task without apology. "Just be rude."

"Like you, huh?" Rogue crossed her arms and stuck out one hip, giving her best narrow-eyed glare and her thickest honeyed Mississippi drawl.

He just shrugged at her. "Call it like it is."

And all her huffing and fuss would not change his mind.

He taught her to laugh. She laughed more on the road with him than she ever had in her entire life. The laughter drowned out the insidious, malevolent whispers in the dark corners of her mind. It kept her sane.

At night, when she would collapse across yet another thin, lumpy mattress in some unknown dive—at least it was clean—then they would come out, slowly, melting into her half-asleep mutterings and tosses and turns of the darkness woven around her. She dreamed their dreams and thought their thoughts and relived things she had never experienced. She woke up screaming, panting, or sweating every morning.

It didn't matter.

Cold shower. Hit the road.