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n. an organism that shows an undesirable variation from a standard.

They underestimated her. Rogue wasn't one to begrudge the point though. Somewhere inside of her she became the Wolverine, the powerful Magneto, the daredevil, dangerous John. She was unpredictable, seething beneath her skin. She didn't want them knowing that underneath was a completely different person than the one they saw on the surface.

Logan told her to wear leather, walk in like she owned the place. Even so, the mutants hidden in the cloudy fog of cigar smoke and dimly lit alcoves of the bar stared at her like she was the prey and they were the predators.

She ignored them, sticking close to Logan, chin up. Her arms were naked—Logan had mercilessly disposed of all of her gloves—and she deliberately thought of them as deadly.

Just a little touch...

Rogue cast a small, coy smile at the wary gaze of a patron.

So small, so insignificant, these humans, Eric thought.

They're mutants, Logan replied.

Logan made straight for the bar. If it weren't for him inside her head, the psyches would be loose already. The Cure had not killed them. It had strengthened them, for she had no apparatus any longer for containing them. Good thing at least one of them liked her.

Half-mutant, half-human. What was she anyway?

Besides a freak.

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The bar was a hangout for mutants. They lurked in the shadowy corners, swirling with cigar smoke and the sharp scents of the wary and the dangerous, making deals and playing games. Rogue did good beside him as Logan pushed past the dimly lit corners toward the bar. Her chin was high, green eyes glittering dangerously. Something told him she was cuing off of him.

He had told her to wear leather, stay sharp, pretend that skin of hers was as deadly as it'd been before. A quick, sharp glance had been his only reply, but she wore leather, a form-fitting tank top, and haughty confidence under her ponytail.

Logan reached the bar and leaned both arms against it to grin at the barkeep. Rogue stopped at his shoulder, slid one hand to her hip, and pulled a disinterested expression. Storm would probably kill him if she knew he had brought the kid here, but he figured Rogue could hold her own with a name like that and an attitude like his lurking somewhere under the shy exterior she had maintained for so long.

"Coy." He nodded at the barkeep, a big man with three clawed scars running down the side of his face.

The barkeep nodded and pulled down two glasses and a bottle. "For the both of you?" Coy squinted one eye at Rogue.

Rogue shrugged. "You got any Belvedere, sugar?"

Logan gave her a double-take. Her accent was thicker than sin and dripping with sweetness. "Vodka, huh?" he asked.

She caught him staring at her and grinned wickedly back.

Logan returned to the matter. "Archie in?"

"Corrigan?" The barkeep grunted. "In the back."

"Thanks, Coy." Logan slipped a twenty under the rest of the money for their drinks.

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Haven't been here in a while, said the voice inside her head, like her own thoughts.

Rogue ruthlessly shoved it down. She was not Wolverine glancing about warily but with too much familiar ease to be anything like a stranger to these parts. She was Rogue. Rogue had never been here in her life.

Logan smiled back at her and introduced her to a few faces as they went past. He paused longer at a poker game of three. One woman in her thirties, a blonde man in his twenties, and another inscrutable, dark-haired brooder.

"This is Ace," of the golden-haired woman with her friendly smile. "Super strength, plus she can fly."

Ace grinned back. "In more ways than one, Patch."

Rogue glanced sharply at Logan.

He shrugged. "Rusty." He nodded at the unassuming young blonde.

Rusty returned a weary smile. "Who's the girl?" he asked.

Rogue bristled, but not so much as Logan.

"She's my girl, got it?" The words were harsh.

Rusty raised both hands. "Sure, sure."

The other guy chuckled. "I'm Dom. They call him 'Firefist,'" he told her, shrugging toward Rusty.

"Kinda like John," Logan added.

She eyed Rusty sharply. She wanted him to let loose fire, let her touch it, mold it to her will. "Think plenty of yourself?" Firefist indeed. She'd show him fire that burned and shaped and...

Logan frowned at her. "Rogue."

She snapped her head up to Logan's word. "I'm not—" She stopped, horrified. She was. She was Rogue.

"I don't call me that." Rusty flashed her a bright, toothy smile. "Just them." He gestured between Ace and Logan.

Ace shook her head at them both. "Don't mind him," she said, as if apologizing.

But Rogue wasn't listening. They were warring in her head. Logan's fingers dug into her arm. He said something and pulled her away into a corner.

"Rogue, Marie," he said softly, desperately.

She stared at him, gasped as her own mind slammed back into place. She shook her head and wrapped her arms tightly around herself. "I'm fine."

She wasn't, but she needed to be. Sometimes that was enough. She looked up at Logan. "Why are we here?" she asked softly.

Logan stared at her for a long moment. Finally, he straightened, eyes closing down again. "Just some business. Thought you could handle it..."

"I can," she stated acidly, her voice so low only a feral could hear it. Rogue might not have been a mutant. She might not have been a human. She was just an undesirable vagabond with no bearings and no identity, but she had Logan. He was her only family. "I'm doing this with you."

He studied her thoughtfully. "Fine, kid. Stick close. Eyes open. Mouth closed."

She nodded curtly in understanding.

"If you have another spell, keep a lid on it." His eyes apologized for saying it, but his face was hard.

"I'll be fine."

Perhaps it should have told her something that Logan believed it more than she did.