Logan had ridden long and hard through bitter cold weather to get back to the Academy.
Almost home, he thought with a wry twist to his lips. Wolverine wiped the frost from his mouth and sideburns with the back of a gloved hand. The motion had become almost automatic.
Three weeks before, Logan had just finished picking up some groceries at a tiny store in a pissant Canadian town not terribly far from Alkali Lake. He’d stepped out of the door, bag in hand, and he’d looked out over the mountains and pine forests and thought of home. The trouble was, when he thought of home this time, it wasn’t his cabin high in the Canadian Rockies.
* * *
Logan didn’t know if it was sudden trepidation or the icy chill of the damp New England weather that he felt in his metal-laced bones as he crossed Vermont, but he shivered down to his toes. He guessed he’d find out soon enough.
I’d seemed pretty clear to him what he needed to do back in Alberta, but as he rode along, he got less and less sure if he was doing the right thing. Did he really belong there? Could he even stand to stay? Hell, would they even want him back? He sure as hell didn’t know, but eventually he settled on one fact: he knew he had to try. If there was one thing that he had retained in his scrambled memory was that he didn’t run from his problems, if only because they had a bad habit of hunting him down later anyway.
After he’d exhausted the leads at Alkali Lake, Logan had returned to his small cabin fully intending on remaining there for the winter. It had been his home for a few weeks in the fall, then again over the holidays, mostly because the world pretty much seemed to shut down around then. Then he’d quickly grown restless. He’d done some checking at local government offices for construction plans and deeds late in December, but by the time that he’d finished getting the cabin back in order, the leads were pretty much exhausted. Something deep inside him had been touched like a hand pulled through a rain barrel and Logan knew that it was time to return to the Academy.
* * *
The red hypercycle beneath had purred like a kitten beneath him the entire way. He’d been impressed when he’d first ridden her, making a frantic trip to keep Rogue from running away from the school. He became even more impressed when he found out that its owner had helped design her. It wasn’t a Harley, but then again, what else was. But a Harley didn’t have a hyperboost, the Wolverine thought with a wild grin.
She carried him through Salem Center, then out the Six past Harry’s. Logan considered stopping for a beer and a chat with Mac, but it was getting late so he continued, acknowledging the place by gunning the engine and popping up into a one wheeled salute. A few miles further, he slowed and turned onto Graymalkin Lane, the transponder embedded in the bike frame automatically signaling the gates to open.
Wolverine caught the glint of something in motion on the gatehouse and smirked. Somebody had listened to him, at least.
He drove on, through the covered bridge over the creek that ran through the estate. From the far side, the main building, Xavier Hall, could be seen just off to the right, up the slope almost a mile away. The fresh smell of Graymalkin Lake off to the right sparked an instinctual response - to inhale deeply. It smelled good… smelled right for a change with the lake and the pine and the oak. Even though he’d only stayed at the school a few weeks, the place had left some pretty serious marks on him, and some of those marks he’d deliberately managed not to think about for a few months. Wolverine wasn’t totally happy with his surprising attachment, and he certainly wasn’t sure if it was wise that he had returned. That icy cold twist of apprehension forgot his bones and settled in the pit of his stomach.
Just before reaching the Hall, the road formed a traffic circle around a large fountain just off the front corner of the building. Circling the fountain three-quarters of the way around, the road continued along front of the building toward the main entrance and the portico before it continued about a quarter mile to end in a circle drive at the old Xavier Mansion itself. Instead of following that path, Logan looped around just halfway, continuing straight along the north side of the hall on a road now called Graymalkin Lake Road.
Xavier Hall was a big building, solid brick and stone and steel. Logan had approved when he’d checked it out – Charles hadn’t skimped during construction three years ago. It was reinforced more like the Pentagon than any building he had ever seen. It was the centerpiece of a complex of buildings that had been constructed specifically for the implementation of Chuck’s plans. On the outside, it looked like the perfect brick, stone, and wrought iron ‘exclusive’ prep school that it really was. But appearances could be very deceiving, as any one of the kids that attended the school could tell you.
At the far end of the Hall, there was a single story stone and glass breezeway that connected to the garage. A yellow hypercycle sat there next to the breezeway doors, in the exact same place that he had found the red one he was riding last fall.
“Scott’s home!” Wolverine thought, suddenly grinning like a fool, a hot rush of something running through his chest, warming him… drawing his wildness to the surface.
The intensity of that reaction surprised him, and the smile and heat faded as Logan’s brain recalled how hot and cold Summers had run around him and how much shit could hit the fan for just walking back in the place. Unconsciously clenching his jaw until he grimaced, he mentally reaffirmed his determination to not hurt either Scott or Jeannie. And it wasn’t like anyone would begrudge him coming to see Rogue.
After he’d freaked out the first time on the long ride, Logan had decided to set some rules for himself. He’d never been very good with people, but then again, he had rarely given a damn before. One of his major goals, one that he’d promised himself over and over as the road thrummed beneath the bike, was that he wouldn’t hurt either of them if he could help it.
*If* he could help it. After all, he was a selfish bastard, he’d acknowledged more than once.
Though he’d never admit it, he’d nearly turned tail and went back to his cabin three times, with the thing badgering him not to give up and turn around was the realization that these damn feelings were not going to go away until faced them and found out where he stood.
After all, he already had enough to keep him awake at night.
Wolverine drove the motorcycle a few feet further, carefully turning through the large stone arch that led into the car arena and the garage. He parked his bike neatly in line with the others, hopped off, and snagged his saddle bags and tossed them over one shoulder. On his way by, he stopped and turned to stroke the black leather of the seat. “I’ll be back to take care of you later,” Wolverine growled softly with pleasure. Scott’s handiwork was a real beauty and he didn’t like the idea of returning it dirty.
Logan quickly crossed the driveway, passed through the breezeway, and stomped into the building, more than a little surprised that he hadn’t seen anyone.
No one had come to meet him, Logan realized, a little hurt. “They’ve got ta know I’m here…”
Slipping into the building on the main floor, Logan passed what was supposed to be the research labs when they could be staffed. They had been empty five months ago, but now there were gadgets galore all over the bench tops and half-empty boxes strewn about. A couple of new computers were set up and running, the monitors glowing brightly in the rapidly growing darkness of the early February evening. The lights were out and no one was around, so Logan continued on.
Logan had smelled dinner nearly back at the bridge, and the delicious smells coming from the dining room off to his right made his stomach rumble. The room was well lit against the rapidly failing sunlight and was perfectly quiet. “Not dinnertime yet,” he thought happily.
Continuing straight down the hall, Wolverine passed the hallway to the dining room, more classrooms, another cross hall that had doorways to the two internal atriums, then past more rooms to reach the front hall. Turning right, Logan glanced into the game room and found it strangely empty. Continuing on, he headed the last twenty feet to Chuck’s office, where he thought it best to start - to ask if Chuck wanted him back. Apprehension sat cold and heavy in his belly.
The main hallway opened up in the center to form the main hall. The main doors to the outside were off to the left, with the main stairs on the near side of the doors and the public elevator to the far side. The Headmaster’s office was located off to the right. But before he could make it across the main hall to the office, the thunderous roar of a full gaggle of kids getting out of class and stomping down the stairs struck. Logan sidled sideways and waited to see if Marie was among them.
A cascade of kids came flowing down, and he recognized most of them from before. He’d stood on the far side of the hall, well out of the way of the kids heading toward the dining room, feeling a bit bemused. Most of the kids simply didn’t see him, absorbed in themselves and each other like kids that age are. A few kids, though, noticed him, but he didn’t know any of them by name. One looked at him quizzically, and two others looked briefly apprehensive and quickly disappeared with the crowd. As the flood reduced to a trickle, Wolverine’s attention was drawn back up the stairs by two familiar voices. Scott was talking to Marie as they were coming down the stairs.
Logan couldn’t move, his eyes locked on the pair. Scott looked good, a bit bulkier than before and some new dark circles clearly visible under the goggles, but basically really good. Marie was simply beautiful.
Scott noticed him first, catching his presence with a quick glance up, immediately followed by an aggressive double take as his unexpected presence sunk in. Scott stopped on the stairs and looked for a moment, and then a brilliant smile spread across his face.
Logan’s heart stopped. He couldn’t move, even breathe, and every thought in his head vanished.
Marie noticed Scott’s sudden change of focus, and looked out to see him standing below. She literally dropped everything on the stairs and launched towards him.
In fact, the next thing he really registered was the full body slam of a shrieking teenaged girl; he suddenly had arms full of Marie.
“Logan!” she squealed in delight.
Before a coherent thought could form, Wolverine wrapped his arms around the well-draped girl and gave her a fierce hug. He couldn’t help but grin. He was amazed that the welcome from a girl he’d known for such a short time had affected him as much as it did. It was also good to know that the warmth Marie drew out in him was entirely different than what he felt when Scott smiled at him.
After a few moments of strange happiness, Logan put Marie down, having realized that he’d lifted her well off the floor. She leaned back in his arms, but didn’t move away, intently scanning him as if she was checking for damage. She sniffed him. He was shocked when he realized that she must have absorbed that habit from him during the Liberty incident.
Apparently determining that he was fine, she punched his biceps with her gloved hands. Hard.
“Ya didn’t write,” she chastised him, eyes narrowed in anger. Her voice was nearly a growl, and Logan was amazed at the change in her. It was good. Wolverine looked down and away, only half-feigning sheepishness. The women around here sure knew how to wrap their men around their fingers, he thought sourly.
She let him hang for a minute until he was really uncomfortable, then her look softened. “Are you gonna stay for a while?”
Logan didn’t answer immediately, but he confided in a deep voice just for her ears, “I’m gonna give it a shot.”
Marie looked happy, and her smile made him melt – though he didn’t want to show it. He’d forgotten how she affected him; it was as if she believed that he could move the sun and the moon and the stars. It was moving and intimidating, and he certainly didn’t feel worthy of that kind of admiration. He stood there with a lump in his throat, struggling to maintain his gruff demeanor.
“I’ve gotta talk ta Chuck,” he finally managed to pull together.
“Meet ya at dinner, then?” Rogue asked him sweetly.
“You bet,” Wolverine said gruffly, softening it with a sly wink.
The Canadian watched her for a moment as she collected her things from the stairs and headed back the way that he had come, and wondered at his emotions. “This is what it must be like to have a kid. Or maybe a little sister,” he realized.
Their exchange had taken less than two minutes, and when Logan had turned back to the stairs, he found them empty. He looked around. Scott had gone, and he sighed unhappily. He hadn’t been sure what to expect – maybe a fist to the chin, maybe a cold shoulder – but that smile was something else, something that he wanted to see again, soon. But there was one thing he had to do first.
Logan hadn’t seen Scott’s smile fade and the skin tighten around his eyes as Logan hugged her. He hadn’t seen the stiffness of Scott’s body or the whiteness of his knuckles on his books as he watched them. But she’d seen it, catching it out of the corner of her eye. She’d known since the night that Logan had saved her what he thought of Scott, and thought about all of them really, and it’d been the only reason that she’d stayed and waited for him to return: she knew he would, and why.
Marie felt a little selfish when he’d simply not let on what she’d seen: the longing stare, the bitter twist of the lips, and the despairing slump of his shoulders and he turned and fled. But she knew that she just *couldn’t* interfere. The Wolverine would hate that, the meddling in his hunt. But Logan wasn’t just the Wolverine, but both were equally prideful so there is no way she could let on.
She stopped on the stairs and watched him collect his saddlebags, buzzing with the fact that he was back. With a tiny smile and an unconscious smoothing of her white forelock, she decided to simply bide her time. She supposed that it was her Southern root that compelled her, but she seemed to need to look after the important men in her life. After all, men were so oblivious when it came to love – in fact, to most things – that a little nudge here and there just might do the trick.
With a little flip of her hair, she turned to take her books up to her room, plans already starting to form in her head.
* * *
Logan approached the office door, and Charles Xavier summoned him into the room before his rough knuckles could even knock on the dark oak door.
* * *
Logan was unsurprised that Chuck had welcomed him back with open arms. They had kept his old room for him, and that made him happy. It was in the corner and he could climb up and down to the grounds at all hours from the balcony, which helped because there were still nights when sleep just wasn’t really an option. And, he had to admit, the view didn’t hurt.
Chuck had told him that he had been notified of Logan’s arrival by the time he’d driven up to the covered bridge. The African-American kid, Techno, that he’d met last summer was their computer guy, and he had integrated the security system with some new scanners in the gatehouse. The house artificial intelligence, Cerebra, was now monitoring the grounds at all times. Wolverine was relieved to hear that he had gone unchallenged because Julian recognized him, and because the metal grafted to his bones was distinctive on the new scanners.
He and Chuck agreed that he would stay for a probationary period of a few months. After that, they would talk again if he wanted to stay. Logan was thankful that he wasn’t being forced to try and teach the kids right away, though he’d be a fool to believe that he wouldn’t be pressed into doing that later. If he stayed, and that was still a big ‘if’.
They had gone together in companionable silence down the hallway to the dining room and the chaos that it entailed.
* * *
Logan let Chuck go ahead, hanging back a little to avoid the usual swarm of kids that descended on the Professor before mealtime, jabbering and asking questions. The old place felt just like it had before, the crazy combination of smells making his head spin a little, so it was easy to stick to the shadows until everyone cleared through before followed. But something made him hesitate at the threshold; the full-on riot of a couple dozen teenagers, several teachers, and almost as many staff members gave him gooseflesh. Maybe it was something else, but after a couple deep breaths, he dismissed it as just having been to alone for a few months. Still half-hidden, he glanced around the room, spotting Scott talking to Ororo at one of the teachers tables. He had just decided to head over there, when he was stopped by a familiar voice.
“Logan, you’re back!”
“How ya doin’, Jeannie?” he ground out in a flirtatious sound somewhere between a growl and a purr, and he turned to see her approach. He couldn’t help but grin at the sound of her voice. His breath caught in his throat at the sight of her. It was strange, but he almost forgotten how beautiful she was. Jean was plainly excited to see him, and caught him up in a strong hug that caught him off guard. It felt really great, but it reminded him of his promise, and he hesitated a split-second before he returned it. If she noticed his reservation, she was kind enough to ignore it.
Jean Grey looked good and smelled better. He guessed that she’d put on some muscle, making her curves even deadlier than they’d been. But as he pulled back and really looked at her, he noticed some worry lines around her eyes that weren’t there before, and just a hint of shadow in those bright green eyes.
She let him go, giving him the same visual once he’d given her, and he seemed to have passed. Logan glanced into the dining room to see that only one person had noticed them, and now he was scowling.
Fuck, he frowned to himself. What had he done now?
Jean must have caught his expression, and looked at him quizzically. Within a heartbeat, she caught on, tracing the original direction of the glance and saw boyfriend, who was now scowling into his food. Jean quickly grabbed Logan by the arm and pulled him out of the doorway and out of view of the others.
“So, did you find anything on your trip,” she asked, watching him carefully.
“A little. No breakthroughs,” Wolverine grunted.
She hesitated for a moment, clearly unsure if she wanted to ask the next question. “Are you going to stay long?” she asked quietly, avoiding his eyes until the question had been asked.
Something is really wrong, he thought.
Logan assured her, ”Yeah, it got cold up North, so I decided ta come someplace warmer for the winter.” He let his smirk generate the multiple implications he meant, and she seemed to be pleased. “Chuck said that we can try it out for a coupla months, then I can decide if I’m gonna stay longer.”
Jean searched his face, and he watched her eyes darken and she looked away, back toward the dining room. He followed her glance and then caught her eyes again, her expression grown serious. “Uh, oh, here it comes,” he thought.
“Logan, you should know that Scott and I aren’t together anymore.”
Logan froze, his blood gone as icy as Alkali Lake in December. What the hell? He just stared at her as his head spun, and she let him spin away for what felt like an hour. Finally, he managed to stammer, “Ya know, you and I…”
She stopped him with two gentle fingers to the lips. “I know, Logan.”
Her eyes turned sad, and he reached for her in apology, but caught himself before he’d made contact. For all the outrageous flirting they’d done, Jean had been his *friend* from the minute he’d woken up in the medbay. For the first while, she was the only one that looked at him like he was a human being – despite the fact he’d pretty much attacked her before he even caught her scent. She was the one that had been on his side when Xavier was questioning if he should stay, and she was the one that took his side, even with Scott after he’d been an ass. She was the only person that remembered that just seemed to get him, and he thought that he just understood a lot about her. He’d been so stupid because he thought it was just attraction at first, but then it wasn’t. Well, it was, for sure, but it wasn’t just attraction, and it wasn’t the same attraction he’d thought it was. And, Christ on a bike, when she was aflame with any kind of passion, it was like he could read her mind. For a long moment, they simply breathed as one, and then her head tipped slightly to one side, her eyes sliding away, so utterly knowing. She knew.
Logan felt as if a bittered knife had been plunged into his gut. Worry, then guilt followed by fear ran through him in as many breaths, leaving him cold, then sick, then awash with a stifling heat. His urge to run right back out to that red hypercycle was powerful- the precious control that he kept his wild side at bay teetered and tilted. His panic at causing the one thing he had wanted to avoid caught at his throat, and it was suddenly so hard to breathe.
Jean sighed softly and grounded him with a gentle touch. Softly and firmly, she whispered, “No, Logan. This wasn’t because of you.”
The contact helped steady him, and it took a few seconds for her words to full penetrate. Breathing came easier, and he could feel the light touch of her mind on his. He allowed it; he trusted her. He really didn’t know what to say as her fingers slipped away, and she distanced herself a little.
“Did you realize that we had been together for 11 years? Scott had never really dated anyone else, and I had only one sort-of-boyfriend when I was a teenager. We were together though all of our training… all through college. We are – were - as close as two people could possibly be.” She met his eyes with a look of certainty. “Too close.”
She stepped back to him, well within his comfort zone, but he held his ground as she met his eyes with a gentle expression. “We were functioning emotionally as one person, and the stress of everything made us realize that we couldn’t continue that way. It wasn’t healthy, and it wasn’t fair – to either of us. We have to become… individuals, and explore our needs separately to become complete people. We needed each other to survive our childhoods, but now we need to learn to be adults on our own.”
She looked searchingly into his eyes, clearly looking for some understanding. Logan was bad at this sort of thing, but his soul ached for his friend. He drew her into his arms, his cheek pressed to her temple, and softly grumbled, “I’m sorry.”
She held him fiercely for a few seconds, and then pushed herself out to arms length. With eyes wet with unshed tears, face suddenly wan and vulnerable, she looked at him like she was gathering her courage for something.
“Don’t hurt him, Logan,” she finally whispered. “He’s my best friend.”
Logan stuttered, mouth falling slightly agape at what she had said, the implicit blessing that she was giving him.
She drew a deep breath and marshaled her composure, and with that steel will he’d always admired, she stepped around him toward the dining room. She took a few steps then called turned back to meet his eyes with a hard look. She spoke just loud enough for him to hear, but the steel was clearly evident in her tone. “If you hurt him, you’ll have to deal with me.”
Logan gulped at the tone, something filled with such feminine raw power and passion that it left him feeling like a child rather than the killing machine that he knew he was. He accepted without any doubt that she meant exactly what she said. Wolverine simply stood and watched her go, his brain rather unsuccessfully attempting to reassemble the whirring pieces of his shattered reality.
Logan had never thought that Jean and Scott would have broken up on their own. He’d worked out a hundred different ways that he could have broken them up, even inadvertently, and he had planned to avoid all of them. Now it was completely unnecessary. He was astounded that Jean actually thought that he had a chance with Scott. But her concern about his ability to hurt Scott worried him. Scott was a big boy; he was tough and smart. What didn’t he know about the man? Did she really think that he would hurt Scott? Logan wasn’t sure if he should be happy or sad about the breakup, flattered by Jeannie’s comment or offended by her threat, or curious or wary about the possibilities with Scott.
Damn his mind was a jumble.
At the doorway of the dining room, she turned back to him, the regular Jeannie face back in place. She offered him a shaky smile and called out loudly, “Come on, Logan. Dinner is getting cold.”
* * *
Dinner was awkward.
Jean’s call to dinner had alerted everyone of his presence, so when he reached the door, the room pretty much fell silent. Some of the kids were still afraid of him, either from having witnessed his nightmare-induced accidental spearing of Rogue or from the rumors started after that. He had managed to come to some sort of détente with a few of the older students thanks to Jubilee, though Bobby Drake still looked at him like he was going to jump on him and flay him at any moment. A number of the silent people were new, including a small cluster of adults at one table. Two of them, a small Japanese woman and a very large blue cat-faced guy, were wearing lab coats. Logan surmised they were the new lab folks that Charles had been expecting. Jubes, Ororoa, Cherise, and Tinker all looked happy to see him, and Marie was virtually vibrating with joy. Scott, however, was intently examining his mashed potatoes, his face stiff and neutral.
“So not good,” he thought glumly, as he nodded and gave a small smile – a very small awkward smile - to those trying to get his attention, then turned and sighed as he gathered some food from the buffet. Jean, noticing Logan’s expression and his faltering search for an appropriate seat, paused a moment to consider before she waved him over to sit at an open spot next to her. She and Scott were sitting at separate tables he noted as he crossed to her, and then sighed again.
This was not going as planned, and Logan couldn’t help but think that it was somehow his fault. He struggled with the news all though dinner, and he noticed that he was getting a few sideways glances, but no one said anything, which was good.
After dinner, he got accosted by Rogue, and he’d had to promise to meet her in the game room for pool after her classes the following day. Jubilee came with her to simply say welcome back. Cherise had just nodded to him, a gesture that told him a thousand things and helped settle him a little, and Tinker simply said, “Harry’s? Friday?” and with a nod, he had renewed that friendship.
The only reaction that he got from Scott was a scowl. Jeannie had mercifully dragged him away from the small crowd, only half-joking that she was going to give him the once over in the medical lab. Logan had wanted to speak with Scott, but he didn’t look like Scott was of the same mind. For the life of him, he just couldn’t figure out why he got a hundred watt smile and then the cold shoulder. He simply didn’t know what to say.
* * *
Jean could tell Logan was still troubled by her revelations: what little she could read from him was jumbled and chaotic. Plus, he didn’t complain even once during the exam – not even when she drew blood. She was removing the sensor pads from his chest, when Logan he finally managed to work up a question for her.
“Jeannie…” he started and stopped, as if he wasn’t sure if he should ask.
Jean watched Logan struggle, then go silent. “Logan, you can talk to me,” she prompted gently as she placed the pads in a small metal tray.
“Is Scott… Do you think Scott is mad at me?”
He sounded small, like a child, which was very unusual for big, scary Logan. She had to suppress a smile - he’s got it bad. “Why do you ask?” she said trying hard to keep her voice neutral, not being sure if she really wanted to have this conversation.
“He’s pretty much avoided me since I got here.”
“Scott’s probably jealous, Logan. He looked uncomfortable when I hugged you in the hall before dinner.”
“Why would he?” he asked, sounding a little upset.
“He’s still confused. We haven’t been apart very long, and we have to live and work together. Scott’s still sorting out his feelings, and I think he is jealous of our… relationship.” She chose the last word carefully, clearly traveling well into an area of emotional sensitivity.
“Logan, we didn’t discuss your feelings when we… He doesn’t know you…” She stopped for a moment to collect her thoughts. “He doesn’t know he…” her voice trailed off with her thoughts, and Logan sat in silence as she struggled with her thoughts.
Jean didn’t know if she was sure that Scott was ready or able to deal both with losing his romantic relationship with her and starting into another relationship that challenged some of his old demons. Beyond that, she wasn’t sure Logan was the best person for Scott, now or in the future. They were just so… different. But, they certainly were attracted to one another – it was almost palpable in the air whenever they were together. Plus, Scott was stubborn, and it might just take someone as forceful as Logan to get him to move on with his life. She wasn’t sure if she should get involved, but she was also sure that he would need serious prompting to enter a new relationship. Logan certainly was capable of that prompting, but he was socially clumsy. She knew from simply watching him with Rogue that he was an honorable man, but his track record of relationships was spotty at best.
Though she knew she might seriously regret it later, she made a decision. “Give him a little time. Talk to him. You may have to force the issue.”
Logan looked shocked.
“Gently,” she said quietly, almost amused. “He’s very stubborn. You don’t know Scott very well, and he has had a rough past.”
Jean watched Logan hang on her every word about Scott and it nearly broke her heart.
Jean couldn’t believe that she was going to give a man tips on how to seduce her best friend/ soulmate/ ex-boyfriend. She was still too close to the breakup to find some closure with this, but she continued because she knew in her heart that they both had to move on to new relationships or they would just end up destroying each other. They were too close, too co-dependent. Scott was such an integral part of her mind, Jean would do anything in her considerable power to prevent the destruction of their friendship – she doubted she could physically survive it.
Jean had paused while she considered her next comment, and you could have heard a pin drop as Logan waited.
“I know that going slow and being romantic probably isn’t your normal style, but if you want Scott, you’ll have to. Go slow. Build his trust in you, be a little romantic, and be very sure that he is comfortable at each step when progressing in… sexual matters.”
Logan caught on immediately, and she watched his face darken dangerously. “You mean, he was…”
“You’ll have to discuss that with him,” she backpedalled immediately, unsure if she’d said too much. “Scott *is* interested. Trust me. But you can blow it by pushing too fast.”
Jean was a little flushed and a little breathless. “I don’t believe I’m doing this,” she whispered aloud to herself, simultaneously flustered, upset, and a little surprised that she was capable of this conversation. She looked away from him for a moment, and with a small, steady voice marred only by a slight thickening of emotion, “Be careful with him.”
Logan didn’t say anything for a while, and she gave him time while she watched the parade of emotions run across his striking face. Scott wasn’t the only one that had been smitten with the Wolverine, and that feeling intensified as his expression turned almost adoring.
“You’re a hell of a woman, Jeannie,” he told her sincerely. She blushed just a bit in response, and looked up at him.
He got a wicked look in his eye. “You sure that we…?” Wolverine teased wickedly.
She clucked in surprise, then whapped him on the bicep – same place as Rogue always did - as she chuckled at the good natured jest. She took his hand and they sat quietly, pondering their new, startlingly different friendship. Jean knew they’d never work out; they’d have a romantic conflagration as brief as it was screaming hot, and she’d never risk all the people that would probably get burned by it in the end.
After a few minutes, he pressed her hand to his lips, and with a look of true warmth and appreciation, got up to leave.
“Oh, Logan,” she called out to him in the hallway. “I scheduled you for a visit with Dr. McCoy at 10AM tomorrow.”
Logan winced, then looked at her a bit quizzically.
“Big, blue guy. Research lab. Basement level. Be there!” Jean ordered with a small smile on her lips.
Logan groaned and retreated to his room.
* * *
Once back to his room, Logan unpacked his small selection of personal items from his saddlebags. The leather pouches didn’t hold a lot, but he was a simple man. He noticed that all of the stuff Charles had bought for him when he first came here was still in the closet, right where he had left it. It bothered him that all of his needs were taken care of by and old, bald man, but if he guessed that if he had to accept it from someone, Charles Xavier would be one of few people that he would accept it from. Well, that and he was determined to make himself useful as repayment.
After he unpacked, Wolverine threw on his coat and wandered out onto the balcony to have a cigar. His room was on the second floor of the staff wing of Xavier Hall, at the end and on the outside away from the pool. Straight out, Logan had a great view of the formal gardens and the Mansion proper, with the grounds stretching out on either side. To the right, the land sloped downward over a meadow to a creek and some forested land that hid the Six – the state highway – that ran along the top of the far ridge. To the left, the land sloped upward, the view crossing informal gardens, then fields, then out to the big forest at the back of the estate.
It was beautiful in the evening, and though it was cold and snowy, the moon made it magical. Logan breathed deeply, drawing in the scents, his whole being settling into a warm sense of peace. A tiny scrape from above alerted him to Ororo’s presence. He turned and looked up two stories to her roof patio. She looked down at him, and smiled contentedly. They were alike in their appreciation, if not literal connection, to nature.
She called down softly, “Do you want to take a walk?”
Logan jumped the rail, dropping more than a story to land lightly on the sidewalk. He shot her a fierce toothy grin, and then bowed to indicate ‘ladies first’.
* * *
Wolverine had spent an hour and a half walking with Storm, their only real communication was that she took his hand and held it as they walked. Words weren’t needed. She smiled her goodnight to him when they returned, and he climbed back up to his room.
He was really pretty cold by that point, the adamantium holding the chill, so Logan took a long, hot shower, toweled off and slid into bed.
As the moonlight danced across the ceiling, Logan replayed the events of the day in his head as he began to drift off. Though he had no idea what was going to happen, Logan realized that he had laughed and been touched more in the last eight hours as he had during the entire five months he been gone. It felt good to be needed and wanted, to have some kind of friends, and no matter what happened he would never regret having come back - even if it was only for a little while.
* * *
Scott watched as Logan and Ororo said goodnight, Ororo taking to the winds. He couldn’t help but stare as Logan skillfully climbed the stone façade up to his balcony. The sheer power of the man was evident, muscles rippling, highlighted by the pale silver moonlight. His breath caught in his throat
Desire, his raw need for Logan, was so seductive, so powerful. He felt it burning deep within his chest trying to flicker to life strong enough consume him, to take control. Scott would not… he *could not* surrender to it. He turned his back on the window, away from Logan.
The night grew long as he sat on his bed. The darkness that enveloped him bought no peace, no sanctuary. The darkness offered only more loneliness and confusion. He sat so still, like a broken work of art painted against the darkness, with only the occasional trail of tears marring the illusion.