De Omnibus Dubitandum Part Three: Arbitrum Liberum
by Ransom

Title: Arbitrum Liberum (Freedom of Will)
Author: Ransom
Series: Part Three, De Omnibus Dubitandum (All Is To Be Doubted)
Rating: NC-17 for sexual content and violence
Pairing: Logan/Marie
Summary: Logan and Marie ship and take showers.
Disclaimer: I don’t own them and I don’t make any money off of them.
Feedback: You can contact Ransom via her LiveJournal or at
Date Completed: July 27th, 2002


De Omnibus Dubitandum
Part Three: Arbitrum Liberum


When Rogue set out to buy food two days later, Wolverine volunteered to go along. In these days of scarce luxuries and black market vendors, Rogue had proven herself the most capable at this task early on, and her shrewd bargaining skills had only grown sharper in the time since. The others were happy to let her have the job.

The Mutie Market, as it was affectionately known, was a noisy, crowded place, with plenty of bickering and pushing and shouting. The vendors, a hard-boiled bunch, were mostly mutants who had connections with non-mutants sympathetic or greedy enough to do business with mutants. The market moved often, each new location passed on via an intricate communication network. It was always full of people who looked perfectly human. All the obvious mutants were long gone.

Rogue normally preferred to go alone. It was faster and easier to navigate the crowded aisles by herself, but she found herself enjoying the company nonetheless. And with the glowering Wolverine standing behind her, her efforts to drive a hard bargain were even more effective.

Even better, the shopping trip provided her with plenty of opportunities to check him out when he wasn't looking, both up close and from afar. Gave her a chance to notice the smaller details, like the way he pronounced certain words. The way the chain he wore around his neck peeked out of his T-shirt when he turned his head. The way his hair curled behind his ears. The way the leather of his jacket creaked when he moved his arm. The way he rubbed the bridge of his nose when he was trying to make a decision. She couldn't get enough.

He wandered off to check out a nearby stack of used books while she waited in line for a bag of potatoes, and she couldn't help but sneak glances at him. He made his choices carefully but quickly. There was something about watching him take his wallet from his pocket that was way too interesting. It was like everything he did was more intentional or more masculine or more. . .something. She was deep in those thoughts when she suddenly realized that someone had cut in front of her in line.

"Hey!" She tapped the interloper on the shoulder. "This isn't the end of the line, buddy." Out of the corner of her eye she saw Wolverine's head swivel their way as her voice reached his ears. The guy in front of her looked at her over his shoulder, and her eyes narrowed when she realized who it was. The same asshole who had elbowed her in the face last week during a tussle over a bag of oranges. Same grimy baseball hat, same scar next to his nose. Same dirty smudges on his neck, too, it looked like.

Recognition hit him at the same time, and he smirked at the bruise on her cheek, now showing some interesting shades of yellow and green around the edges. "Fuck off," he shot back, before he turned his attention to the front of line once again.

Before she could respond, Wolverine ambled up, hands in his pockets, like he didn't have a care in the world. "Everything okay?"

"No. This asshole—" She accented the word with a poke to the back of The Asshole's head with her index finger. "—thinks he can skip in line."

The Asshole in question ignored her, but he couldn't ignore the big hand that landed on his shoulder and forcibly turned him around. "That true?" Wolverine asked him, sounding curious and perfectly reasonable. "Because if it is, you and I are gonna have a problem."

The Asshole looked from her to Wolverine and back again. He didn't look afraid. He just looked. . .calculating. "My mistake," he said, finally.

"That's what I thought." Wolverine tightened his grip on The Asshole's shoulder, pulled him out of the line, and moved him off down the aisle. "Nice meeting you." The Asshole shot them a dirty look over his shoulder as he strode away, which made Wolverine grin.

Rogue was not amused. She glared at his retreating form, still pissed. She could have handled it herself, and she wouldn't have let him off that easy.

Wolverine nudged the toe of her boot with his. "Hey, he's gone. Forget it."

"I hate that guy," she said, still scowling in his general direction, even as he disappeared from view. "That's the guy who. . ." She gestured toward the side of her face.

"What?" His voice made her jump a little, and when she looked up at him the grin was gone. Now he looked pissed too. His eyes kept darting to her cheek, and she resisted the urge to put her hand over the bruise.

"He's the one who—"

"Yeah, got that part," he snapped. "Why didn't you tell me?"

She bristled at his tone. "Oh, I'm sorry. I guess someone forgot to tell me that you're my protector now." The sarcasm slipped out before she could stop it.

"Hey, you two buyin' somethin' or not?" The impatient voice behind them brought an abrupt end to their spat. They were next.

Rogue turned to the slightly sweaty man in the produce stall. "Sorry. Ten pounds, please." After she forked over the money, she turned to hand Wolverine the bag of potatoes. In the short time her attention had wavered, he had disappeared.


He showed up at her side fifteen minutes later as she was trying to negotiate a somewhat reasonable price for a pound of butter. He was carrying a small plastic shopping bag, and she remembered that his book purchase had been interrupted. He must have circled back to them before finding her.

She greeted him coolly, still irritated. Not so much at him specifically, but he was here and The Asshole wasn't. "What'd you do to him?"

"Does it matter?" He took the bag of potatoes from her, and also a smaller bag of miscellaneous vegetables.

"Just curious."

"Gave him a taste of his own medicine." She started to add the butter to his burden as well. "Put that in the bag with the books, would ya?"

"Okay." She slipped it into the plastic bag with the paperbacks. "I could have kicked his ass, you know."

"Yeah, but this way I got to act all chivalrous and manly." And there was that damn grin again. She was pretty sure that he really shouldn't be allowed to use that grin to make her stop being mad at him.

She wasn't going to let him off that easy. "I'm still mad at you for snapping at me."

He actually looked sheepish. "Sorry 'bout that. I just got a little, ah, worked up."

She led the way to the main aisle, carefully easing past a teetering stack of shoeboxes. "I noticed." Still not giving in.

He sighed as he trudged along next to her. "I'm starting to feel like every time I hang out with you I end up apologizing," he said glumly, and it looked so cute on him that she couldn't help herself.

"Poor thing," she said, as she reached over and patted him on the butt. It was pretty satisfying, the way he jumped. She gave him one more pat, just for good measure.

It was a really nice butt.


Despite the small unpleasantness, the trip was a particularly successful one. She'd managed to snag a quart of strawberries, which she knew would be well received by the others. She was nearly giddy with happiness on the way back, both from the company and the produce. And maybe that nice butt, too. Just a little.

"I wish we had some ice cream to eat with the strawberries. Or whipped cream." God, how she missed whipped cream. She'd never thought about it much Before, but now that she hadn't seen it in over a year, she thought about it a lot.

He juggled the bags he carried, readjusting his burden. "What do you miss the most? What kind of food?"

"Chocolate," she said, without hesitation. "You?"

"Prime rib. Rare." He worked his mouth and swallowed, and she imagined he was salivating at the thought. She certainly was; even thinking about chocolate was enough to make her drool. It was hard to believe that at one time she'd been able to buy a candy bar with a handful of change, at any gas station or convenience store on any corner. Just as he'd been able to buy a dinner in any steak house, sit down and eat a meal in a public place.

Actually, some days it was hard to believe that was still not the case. Those days were becoming fewer and fewer.

They made their way back to the warehouse, talking about their favorite foods and their favorite bands and their favorite TV shows, alternately agreeing with and mocking each other's preferences.

It almost felt like a date.


The next two weeks were relatively uneventful. Scott was still trying to get fake registration papers for them all so they could get out of the country. Wolverine had a few contacts that proved to be moderately helpful, and Scott was hopeful that he'd be successful soon. They'd been close before, but not this close. This time, it actually looked like it might happen.

The others met the news with equal parts hope and sadness. The all had loved ones who were dead, missing, or captured, and the thought of fleeing, of leaving behind those loved ones, was not pleasant. At the same time, getting out was vital to their cause and to their survival. They couldn't live like this forever, and they'd already been too lucky. No one said anything, but everyone knew the clock was ticking.

Rogue spent her time trying to stay away from both Bobby and Wolverine. She tried to give Bobby his space so he wouldn't think she was expecting anything of him. She tried to beat a wide path around Wolverine because she felt guilty for wanting him when she was sleeping with Bobby. She was fully aware that her reason for avoiding Bobby should have exempted her from her guilt over Wolverine, but she couldn't help it. Casual or not, there were rules to sex, and she was trying to abide by her own.

Neither man was being particularly helpful in that regard.

Bobby was pleasant to be with, made her laugh, and enjoyed trying to ply her with teasing come-ons that made her eyes roll with their cheesiness. They'd always been good friends, starting back when they were boyfriend and girlfriend, and their compatibility was evident still. Things between them were fun and easy, and the sex was good.

Actually, the sex was great. They knew and remembered enough about each other to hit all the right buttons, and each had learned enough new stuff in the interceding years to keep things interesting. It was sex without the hassles and baggage of a relationship, but it wasn't entirely emotionless. There was still love and affection there between them, and Bobby had never been the type to hold back when showing those emotions. She always knew where she stood with him. Not like with Remy. Not like with. . .


She couldn't seem to avoid him, no matter how hard she tried. If she spent too much time evading him, he simply tracked her down. He seemed to genuinely enjoy her company, and expressed interest in her rambling stories of her childhood. It was flattering to have him ask questions, try to get to know her, coax her to talk to him. Very flattering. And also very dangerous.

The harder she tried to avoid him, the less successful she was.


There was light coming from the locker room, which meant someone was in there. The showers were certainly big enough for more than one person, and more than spacious enough to alleviate any worries about accidental contact, but she couldn't help but be a little annoyed. She'd been looking forward to a quiet, relaxing shower. As she peeked around the edge of the doorway, she wished a little wish that it would be Sylvie, who would be less likely to talk incessantly. If it was Chloe, there would be no peace and quiet at all.

It wasn't Sylvie. It wasn't Chloe, either.

It was Wolverine.

He'd passed on the overhead lights in favor of the lantern, which gave the locker room a soft, shadowy aura. Softened the edges and made it seem smaller, almost cozy. He was sitting on the bench in front of an open locker, toweling his hair, wearing only a pair of jeans.

Oh, sweet holy Jesus.

If he was attractive with his shirt on, there was no way to describe just how gorgeous he was without one. His skin looked golden in the dim light, his torso and arms covered with dark hair. Something shiny caught her eye, and she saw what appeared to be a single dogtag hung from the chain around his neck. Interesting.

He looked up, smiled at her, and shook his head, like a dog after a dip in the lake. She heard the tag clink against the chain as he moved. He was facing the lockers on her left, legs in the aisle, so she took the path to the right of the bench.

She leaned against the lockers and smiled back at him. She was finding it quite difficult to tear her eyes away from his chest, but the dogtag was a handy excuse to look. She'd have to remember to ask him about it later. "This is the women's locker room, big guy. Is there something we should know?"

He rolled his eyes at the bad joke and shrugged. "Didn't know it mattered. I'll be done in a minute."

"I can go use the other one," she said, wondering why that still felt like breaking the rules, now that the rules of society had been blown all to hell.

He finished with the towel and ran his fingers through his hair, pushing it back from his face. "Stay. I won't peek."

She didn't even pretend to believe him. "Yes, you will."

He rubbed his jaw with his hand, probably trying to decide whether or not he needed to shave. "Yeah. I will," he admitted with a grin. Then he stood up. She didn't think it was possible, but there actually was something in this world that could distract her from that bare chest.

His jeans were open.

Her eyes automatically slid to the gap. Dark hair, and the light from the lantern glinting off the buttons of his fly. No underwear. She swallowed hard. Her backpack slid from her shoulder and landed on the bench.

He retrieved a T-shirt from the locker, tugging it over his head and down his torso, and Rogue took a second to mourn the fact that the show was over. Then he started to tuck his shirt into his pants, and she realized that he was just getting to the best part. She watched, mesmerized, as he shoved the shirt into the back of his jeans, big hands pushing and smoothing. She was about ready to faint from lack of oxygen by the time he got around to the front, tucking the shirt down into his jeans and then deftly buttoning the fly.

"You getting an eyeful there?"

God, busted again. She bent and started digging through her backpack, waited for her cheeks to begin to burn as she blushed yet again. Why break the streak now?

He turned and leaned against the lockers, crossed his arms over his chest. "My turn," he announced.

"What?" He didn't mean—

"My turn," he repeated. Lifted an eyebrow. "Unless you shower in your clothes."

"Um, no, not usually." There'd been a few with times with Remy, but she wasn't going to bring that up right now. She straightened and studied him, tried to figure out if he was kidding, if he was seeing how far she'd go.

A few seconds ticked by. He cleared his throat. "So. . ."

This was nuts. "You're kidding."

"Nope," he said cheerily.

"I'm not going to strip for you." She began to pile her things back into her bag. The men's it was then.

"Aw, c'mon," he wheedled.

She looked up at him, wondering what he thought he was doing. He had to know that nothing could happen between them. Yes, there were ways around her skin, but they required accessories, accessories that were not available to them here in the locker room.

And she barely knew him. It had taken her a year to build up that kind of trust in herself and Remy, a year they spent experimenting and exploring and being as careful as they could without killing the passion completely. A partner whose mutation did not provide a barrier—ice and fur worked, she knew that firsthand—made her nervous. Accidents happened, and she was accepting of that, but that made her no less careful. It was inconceivable that she would let Wolverine touch her, clothing or no. Not like this, not on the spur of the moment. It was a process, and one that took her partners a little longer than they usually expected to perfect. She couldn't fool around with him. Not here. Not yet.

Belatedly, and guiltily, she added Bobby to the list of reasons why.

But he hadn't said he wanted to fool around, really.

"You really want to watch me take off my clothes?" She made no attempt to hide her skepticism.

"Well. . .yeah." He said it as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, and she was perhaps a little slow for not knowing it.

"No touching." She wanted to make that clear up front. God, was she really going to do this?

He nodded. "No touching."

Well, if he was bluffing, she was calling it. She pulled off a glove and dropped it on top of her bag, then added the other glove. His eyes locked on her hands as she hesitated, trying to decide what to do next. She'd never stripped in front of anyone before. It wasn't a real popular request when you could kill with just a centimeter of exposed skin.

Well, there was a first time for everything.

Her sweatshirt was the next thing to go. Hmmm. It seemed like she should be wearing sexier clothes for this. She pulled the scrunchie out of her hair and shook it free, which he seemed to enjoy. Her running shoes got kicked off, and then she reached for the waistband of her jeans, the button sliding free of the worn denim easily. She took hold of the zipper tab and then stopped. Looked up at him.

His eyes flicked up to hers, then back down to her hands. "Keep going," he said. His tongue skated across his lower lip, like a hungry lion licking his chops in anticipation of a meal. Her stomach went suddenly hollow, and her hands were so close to shaking that she wasn't sure she could get her jeans off at all.

She inched the zipper down as slowly as she could, trying to remember what underwear she'd put on that morning. A quick glance down told her they were, thankfully, one of her better pairs. Purple, bikini, lace trim. Thank God. She got the zipper down, then changed tactics, reaching for the hem of her t-shirt, leaving her jeans open and barely hanging onto her hips. The shirt slid up and over her head, obscuring her view for a second before revealing a rather intense-looking Wolverine.

"Jesus," he muttered, running a hand through his damp hair as his eyes ratcheted from her bra to the top of her panties and back again. Her skin felt hot, every inch of it. Hot and alive and like he was somehow touching it from three feet away.

He swayed forward slightly when her hands went back to her pants, and she took in the bulge growing between his legs as she pulled her jeans down and kicked them away. Her body was tingling and her heart was beating so hard she was afraid he could see it, pounding against her ribcage.

Not much left now. She reached for her bra, and his eyes locked on her breasts as she took hold of the clasp resting between them. His restraint snapped as the clasp clicked open, and he surged forward, reaching for her.

"Don't!" She stepped back so fast that she hit her head on the lockers behind her, one hand clutching her bra closed, the other held up in warning. Her reaction brought him up short and he stopped, still on the other side of the bench, looking a little like he'd been slapped.

"Don't come any closer." Her voice cracked and she could feel her eyes welling, and she suddenly wanted him gone, wanted him as far away from her as possible.

"I won't," he said quickly. She didn't believe him. He was coiled motion, ready to pounce, and his eyes were still skating over her body.

"Stay there!" She was getting too upset about this. Accidents happened, people forgot. She knew that. But she couldn't make herself calm down.

He held his hands up and backed away. "Okay. Okay. I'm moving away. You're okay. It's okay. I won't touch you." He took a couple more steps, silent on bare feet, easing away down the row of lockers. "I'm going over here. You're okay. Everything's okay." He said it like he was talking to a crazy person with a gun, which certainly didn't do much to make her feel better.

"Don't touch me," she said again, barely repressing a sob.

"I won't." He turned away, closing his eyes and resting his forehead against the lockers. He didn't move a muscle as she gathered her things and fled to the showers.

It had been years since she'd cried over her mutation, but there, surrounded by the obnoxious pink tile and the needle-sharp spray of the institutional showerhead and the clean smell of his shampoo, she wept again for everything she'd never have.


He was waiting for her when she came out of the locker room, looking apologetic and worried. He didn't say anything at first, just led the way back to the tunnel, carrying the lantern. She followed quietly behind, waiting for him to apologize again. Which he did.

Or tried to. She cut him off two syllables in. "It's okay. I just—I'm not used to being around someone with that much skin showing. I just freaked out a little."

He stopped walking and turned to look at her. Her own feet came to a halt just outside the circle of lantern light on the floor of the tunnel. He took a deep breath, let it out. "I wasn't—" He paused, let out another long breath. "I don't know what I was going to do. I remembered your skin. I just wanted to. . .I don't know." He huffed and shifted his feet, frustrated.

She couldn't help but smile at his awkwardness. This was the most rattled she'd seen him in their short acquaintance, and she was tempted to let him squirm on the hook a little longer. The genuine worry in his voice wouldn't let her. As freaked as she'd been, she'd apparently freaked him almost as much. She felt guilty, and a little stupid.

"It's okay, really. Not your fault," she said, and his posture relaxed a little. "I'm better to look at than to touch, though," she added, her attempt at a joke. Lighten the mood, and hopefully forget this ever happened.

He didn't laugh. Instead, he moved closer and lifted a hand toward her face. It hung in the air next to her cheek for a second, waiting for permission. When she didn't flinch or move away, he ran a finger gently along the stray lock of hair next to her eye. His eyes glittered in the light of the lantern, hungry. "I want you really bad," he said softly.

She waited until he finished stroking her hair, until his hand was safely back at his side, before she spoke. "It's dangerous. I could hurt you."

He leaned into her and bent his head, his mouth almost touching her skin. His voice was barely a murmur, and his breath tickled the inside of her ear when he spoke.

"I heal."

Then he turned and continued down the tunnel, lantern bouncing at his side in time with his stride. She stood motionless for a few seconds, shivering in the gloom, before she hurried to catch up.

End Part Three

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