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n. a vicious and solitary animal that has separated itself from its herd.

Keep a lid on it, Rogue told herself over and over. Keep a lid on it.

Vicious, jibing whispers played in the dark corners of her mind--watch pots really do boil, wouldn't that be nice?, it's our mind too. She shuddered as she followed Logan closely into a dark back room, low ceiling, dim lights. Whiskey and cigarettes--cheap, Wolverine's nose told her—and playing cards spread like sin across the tables.

We're still here. Why should we play nice, little girl? You are stronger than these weak creatures. Have you forgotten us?

It's my mind too.

Rogue had no way to shut them out, just her own inward chant to drown the seething, Keep a lid on it. And she did.


It hissed and steamed beneath that mental cover, like a powder keg or a roiling pot just waiting to blow.

Logan glanced back at her. She cast him a wicked smile, no telling how many minds joined in the gesture. He turned back, scanned the room for a man named Archie.

Her eyes scanned with him. She spotted him first.

Affectionately, That old--

Rogue slammed shut the thought, even on Logan. She was not Logan, could not be Logan. Keep a lid on it. Laughter helped. Riding in the cold, sharp wind on the motorcycle helped. Playing with fire in the corner of her mind made things worse in the long run, but in a pinch, it helped.

Logan settled in at a table. Five men playing cards with keen, hooded gazes. She settled in beside him.

She wasn't laughing.

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Logan could smell the bleeding welter of emotions swelling and clashing on Rogue's skin. But she sipped her Belvedere and accepted her cards with a fiercely maintained coolness that he was forced to accept. If she couldn't take the heat, she'd let him know.

But it was the first moment that he wondered if he shouldn't do this.

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"Rogue, hmm?" The bristly, dark-bearded logger type scratched his chin and eyed her shrewdly. "Heard that name before."

After the third round of cards and the second vodka, Rogue had settled nicely into the sharp atmosphere of Logan's acquaintances. They called him Patch. He called them trouble.

She bared teeth and leaned forward on one elbow. "Oh?" She cocked her head at the man, noting from the side as the youngest card shark studied her appreciatively.

Logan tensed.

"Yep," Bristlebeard said, nodding. "With the X-Men, right?"

The already thick tension ratcheted higher and more than one keen gaze settled on her.

Rogue flicked an eyebrow upward. "Do you even know what a rogue is?" she asked coldly.

She had picked the name at random. Well, not quite, but close enough. It wasn't until later when she looked it up in the dictionary that she discovered just how well it fit.

"A vicious, solitary organism of undesirable qualities that goes it alone," she summarized with a vicious enough tone to underscore the words.

Logan glanced at her sharply. She was certain he didn't like it.

She leaned back, appraised her cards. "Raise two hundred."

So far, Logan had covered the bets. Rogue didn't think she'd disappoint.

Corrigan, a quiet sort of fellow, furrowed his brows at his own hand. He shook his head, as if dislodging some pesky insect, then glanced at her briefly. "So what is your calling card if it isn't loyalty?"

Rogue and Logan turned as one to the dark-haired, sharp-featured vet. He seemed uncomfortable in his own skin in here, but the circling sharks left him well enough alone. The question he asked was a loaded one. Rogue tilted her head thoughtfully, realizing that this was the moment this circle decided whether she came along for the ride or Logan went without her.

"What do you think?" she asked softly.

Fire. Survival. Adrenaline. Fear. Answers swirled like so much detritus of a dozen minds beneath her skin, whispering behind her lips. I can tell you my secret.

But what was hers?

Corrigan finally looked up and met her eye to eye. Something dark and quick flitted through those irises, but he seemed solid, reliable. He narrowed his eyes slightly, trying to read her.

Hope. Family. Fire. Fear.

He frowned.

It was a moment for the taking, if Rogue could only find an answer these sharks would accept. She lay down her cards faces down on the table and flattened her hands over the top of them.

"I'm here because I want to be," she said, voice still soft, hiding the undercurrents of other voices. "I'm here because there ain't a better partner than Patch to watch your back and because the world's a bigger place than New York or a telepath's dream."

"Adventure then?" asked the other woman of the table cheekily. Rogue didn't bother to note her appearance. She'd pegged her for a shapeshifter early.

Rogue glanced at Logan, his unreadable face, and licked her lips. "You could say that, sugar." Then she picked up her cards again and nodded at Bristlebeard. "Your bet."

The tension rolled out until only Logan still seemed unsatisfied.