Storm rarely gets to spar at full speed.
Sure, hand to hand, weapons, even flying maneuvers, she can go all out, with the right opponent, or right conditions.
But not with her mutant powers. The other X-Men are too fragile, the Danger Room too small to deal with such powerful natural forces.
Not until Logan comes through the door, throws his bag on a priceless antique, and declares himself home.
And Storm thinks, Logan is a force of nature. She thinks, Logan can’t die. She thinks: he’s really fucking stubborn.
When Storm asks him about it, though she hardly expects him to say no or even think before answering, Logan just grins, and says, “Do your worst.”
After their first bout outside Logan ends up draped in an ancient oak tree out back. Storm won’t apologize. She’s never seen him laugh that hard, not even with Remy.
The first week, Storm had felt as if the giant hand squeezing her back tight had finally loosened, and fallen free, as she unleashes her power to levels she’s never tried under controlled conditions with a comrade to test her defenses.
Even at three-quarters of Storm’s strength, Logan can still get through her guard and tag her. He can still fight his way through category four winds, with debris cutting skin and flesh, sometimes to the metal-sheathed bone.
Days go by, and it is no longer enough. Storm needs space, needs masses and masses of atmosphere, needs to push until she falls.
Storm needs to breathe free and let fly.
Logan, it turns out, has a few army buddies who are willing to turn a blind eye to a sudden winter hurricane or twister out on a couple of deserted army weapons testing ranges in Nevada and Wyoming.
They take the jet, just the two of them, and it feels like playing hooky, even with Logan turning green in the co-pilot’s seat.
They eat in shabby diners and Logan tells stories of army days and living in Japan, wandering down South America‘s spine with aged revolutionaries, bare-knuckle fighting in fine Parisian mansions. He’s been everywhere, eaten everything under the sun, drunk beer with mercenaries and minor kings, traveled by sailing ship and camelback.
Storm wonders if he has any stories about Africa, but from the little she knows about his past, those stories might not be the kind you want to share with your friends. She doesn’t share her own stories about Africa either.
She knows they’re friends by the way they don’t have to talk, she realizes in somewhere in Kansas.
Storm hasn’t had much experience in this kind of wilderness, but she follows Logan willingly as he leads the way through empty county off dirt roads to vast open meadows where grass has begun to grow over old weapons craters.
Logan rolls his shoulders, stashes the backpack with water and sandwiches under a boulder, and tells Storm to bring it on.
They spar and Storm beats him back, a dust storm raging at her fingertips, winding those deadly winds through the trees and around bushes without shaking a leaf just because she can. They fight and he drags her from the hurricane of her own making. They fight until Storm feels like every breath is as deep as the atmosphere, her reach touching space itself.
After the last bout, Logan, breathing hard, staggers to his feet, pulls her into a sweaty hug. She holds him hard. She doesn’t need to say thank you. He doesn’t need to say congratulations.
With the entire atmosphere waiting on her command, Storm has never been more in control.
Dr. Jean Gray can’t stave off the yawn and the stretch that distract her from the slide she is supposed to be studying.
Jean has never been so tired as in the last month. Well, tired is not the word.
Sated, more like.
And sometimes - and this makes Jean blush even in the privacy of her own medlab - sometimes sore.
Scott has been insatiable. Demanding. Inventive
Jean shivers in the cool air of the lab and shifts on the stool, remembering the look on his face the first night of the new era, the first night that Logan had spent in the mansion as a long-term member of the X-Men. The night Logan had brushed past her in the dining hall, given her that animal look, and made sure she knew which bedroom he was in. That same look he’s been giving her for years, that tempts her every time.
That look that Scott had seen equally well.
Jean blesses Scott's competitive streak. Considers sending Logan a thank you of some kind: cigars, or beer, or raw red meat.
An invitation to join in.
She should be shocked at that thought. Should have at least a few qualms about letting it form in her brain.
Jean loves Scott. She always has. She can say with certainty that she always will. But Jean has no trouble now in admitting to herself that she wants Logan as well.
Scott will never agree.
But perhaps...perhaps if Jean presents the idea less as a request, and more a statement of future fact: this is how it will be.
She, the quiet girl who has always let Scott take the lead in bed, in their relationship, and likes it that way -- she can see something she wants, and what can he say if she exerts herself to grasp it?
Scott never says no when is firm. She will simply have to persuade him that Logan would be a - a plaything, not a rival. That she truly loves Scott, and Scott alone, and that Logan is so little threat that she can have them both, and still go home with her husband.
Jean knows Logan would never miss his chance to get his (large, strong, experienced) hands on her. Never miss a chance to try to show Scott up.
Perhaps bedding Logan would count as leading him on. Perhaps it would be cruel to get his hopes up.
Jean doesn't care, as long as she gets what she wants.
Scott spends a lot more time in the war room lately. Going over plans, rethinking tactics and strategies that have worked for the X-Men for years. From guerilla warfare to the classic tactical genius of Napoleon, Scott has studied stand-up battles and dusty skirmishes, espionage and sneak attacks, strike and run raids and slow, grinding sieges.
All the schools except the one Logan had gone too.
The school of hard knocks, Scott supposes you would call it, but that‘s too romantic. That‘s what happens to kids in Broadway musicals with cockney accents. Logan, well, Logan‘s spent decades on battlefields. He has special forces training almost by default, except it‘s so ingrained, it looks like he was born that way. And his instincts, for all he works at his humanity, are pure animal.
The big man can be effective, with his bold, in your face, never mind maneuvers, go straight at 'em approach. Scott is a pragmatic man when he has to be, and he can appreciate what Logan brings to the team.
But not everyone can do what Logan does - no one else on the team, hell probably in the world, in fact, has the protection of the healing factor, or the massive advantage of unbreakable, unlosable weapons.
The other team members face crippling exhaustion in using their powers for any length of time. They can get hurt. They don't have 150 or more years of combat and bar brawl experience behind them.
Scott worries for his team.
He worries about the kinds of fights they will follow Logan into. Of course they’ll follow. Forget Logan’s magnetism, the confidence he has that rises like a flood in bad situations to sweep his companions along. Forget considerations of friendship. Storm, Jean, the kids, they’ll all follow Logan into a deathtrap simply because he would do the same for them.
That’s teamwork. That‘s what Scott himself has taught, by example if not by word. He will never leave a teammate behind, or in trouble.
As a leader, Scott resents worrying about Logan. The man can’t really be hurt. He’s tough. He can handle pain.
Scott, he still worries.
So Scott studies, and plans, and trains, to keep his team safe, to keep his wife and his foster kids safe, to keep mutants around the world safe.
To keep Logan safe.
The school has a different feel as of late, the Professor realizes as he wheels through his domain. The children seem freer in some ways, more likely to look to the world outside the walls as the adventure children their age should be imagining, not as a hostile place for their kind.
The Professor has no trouble tracing that new feeling to its source: the newly in residence Logan.
Perhaps he and his core team have been too cautious, with these walls to protect and shield them, the Professor thinks. Too hidebound in their thinking, in their need to control and plan and schedule and above all, fly under the radar.
Perhaps, perhaps some other changes need to be made. The Professor is getting old, though the others - his first children, Ororo, Scott, and Jean - would not want to agree. The school takes more and more of their time. For all his telepathic powers, for all the boost Cerebro gives him, he cannot stave off time.
And his children should be able to snatch some modicum of a normal life in between crises. Scott and Jean should have children of their own, should do research and go on picnics and linger in bookstores. Storm needs more time with her beloved plants, time to have the social life a young person should have, time to travel and laugh and eat sushi.
There are few options that Xavier can see. One cannot advertise, ask for c. v.s, interview.
But now there is Logan. And he has a few friends.
Xavier is not entirely sure it is a rational thought, given his reputation and background, but Gambit would not be a bad addition to the X-Men.
If Logan is life-force and bold action, his chary friend Remy Le Beau is the wildcard, the sneak attack.
And Logan will be more likely to remain if his oldest - well, oldest which he can remember - ally is at his side.
The Professor foresees great troubles and trials ahead for the X-Men. He knows there are gaps in the team's skills and abilities. A new style, a supplement, to the discipline of the three core members, can only be progress.
Time to use those unconventional contacts with the outside world that come with Logan's cigar smoking and general irreverence, and start recruiting.
Rogue knows Logan's wanderings on the nights he leaves the mansion take him to unsavory places. He's not going to hang out at the mall or stop for a burger at Bennigan's. He goes to biker bars and talks to who all she doesn't know - arms dealers? mercenaries? the mutant underworld? hell, the mutant underground railroad?
Still, one night after Logan sets up in a bedroom in the barely used north wing and announces he's going to stay, Rogue makes sure she's in the garage when he comes down for his bike. She's dressed warm for the autumn night, and in leather for the bike, and she feels him give her the once over.
It's not a sexy look-over, not like he's taking her measure as a bed partner or appreciating the fit of the leathers. Rogue hopes she passes.
Logan swings a leg over the battered bike, the one that used to be Scott's. "You coming?" he says.
Once behind him, Rogue leans into his solid body. Her hands creep onto his stomach, where she can feel the defined muscles even under two layers of flannel, and blushes in the dark.
Logan pushes the bike well over the speed limit, though slower than he probably would if she weren’t with him, Rogue suspects, and they end up somewhere in New Jersey, outside a bar called the Ruby Cat.
Logan hasn't said a word since they left the mansion, but she thinks he's enjoying the company. Rogue knows you have to read his moods. If you know how to speak Logan, you can tell a lot by his body language. He's relaxed, maybe even looking forward to their destination.
Bike parked, Logan steps onto the sidewalk, lights a cigar stub, says, "Meeting a friend here."
"You have friends? Besides me? You sure you're allowed to have more than one friend at a time? Might mess with your loner vibe," Rogue says.
"Smartass. You'll like him. He's a smartass, too."
"Oh, hey, is it Remy?"
"Who else would I go to New Jersey blues bar to meet?" Logan shoulders his way through the gaggle of people decorating the sidewalk, smoking, talking, outside the bar. They get out of his way. Rogue follows in his wake, and he holds the door open for her, and with a little nod of his head bows her through it.
"What does he look like?" Rogue says, scanning the room.
"Didn't you meet him when he came out to the school couple weeks ago?"
"I was on that college visit trip, remember?"
"Right. Remy's the guy with the fancy duds and the cards in his hand," Logan says.
"I don't think that's legal in Jersey," Rogue says.
"Remy’s not legal most places," Logan says. "There he is."
Rogue follows Logan to a small table near the stage, where a three piece band is just taking a break. A tall man lounges in a chair, tipping it back against the wall. He’s wearing a gorgeous silk shirt - Rogue can’t tell if it’s blue or purple in the dark bar - and a hat tilted rakishly back. He does indeed have cards in his hands. When they approach, he sweeps them together like magic and makes them disappear somewhere.
Remy stands up to greet them, with a tip of the hat to Rogue. “What’s a beautiful woman like you doing with a rough old soldier like Logan?”
He takes her silk gloved hand, bows over it. Rogue shivers at the barest touch of his lips over the silk. This is a different man than the boys in her life. But for all his flirting and look at me charm, Rogue feels comfortable with Remy, as comfortable as she can be with someone who looks at you, however politely, as if you are of age and there to be admired. But he isn't the sort of scary company she was imagining. ‘Course, Logan would never have taken her if he was going somewhere dangerous.
No one asks Rogue for ID, but Logan won’t order her alcohol.
“Chuck will kill me. Then Storm will kill me. Then --”
“I get it,” Rogue says, and pretends to sulk.
“Ah, cher, don’t take it personally. The old man here, he ain’t never going to think you’re an adult,” Remy says. He’s lounging in his chair, though it’s on all four legs this time, and Rogue isn’t sure how he can look so relaxed and, and slinky while pretty much sitting up straight.
“Yeah, I’m not done raising this one yet, and I’ve know him for years,” Logan says.
Remy snorts. “Tanya, a beer for the grumpy old man over there. Coffee for me. Rogue? A coffee?”
Rogue nods. She’s not going to drink coke like some kid.
There’s too much noise to talk once the band starts again. Rogue sips her coffee and sneaks looks at Remy. Every so often he leans over and talks in Logan’s ear. She’s rarely seen anyone so comfortable in Logan’s personal space. She’s never seen Logan so comfortable with someone in his personal space, not even her.
Logan gets up for the restroom and a flask appears in Remy’s hand. “A little rum?”
“Sure,” Rogue says, feeling daring. He pours, not a lot, she notices, but more than a splash.
Remy adds a bigger tot to his own coffee, and inhales the steam, drinks half and stands. “Would you like to dance, cher?”
“Hey, I thought I was your date,” Logan says, cat footing it up behind them.
“Not going to dance with you to blues music, mon vieux,” Remy says. He offers his hand to Rogue.
“What do I have to do to get a dance? Take you to a country bar?” Logan drains his beer, signals for another.
“Get a lot prettier,” Remy says, and leads Rogue to the tiny floor.
He moves like a fighter, Rogue notices. And he’s very self contained, for a man who’s only a few inches from a pretty girl. The little bit of rum she’s had is probably the reason she starts to really notice Remy, Rogue tells herself. She doesn’t really want to flirt with him, or touch him, except to, well, admire him. She knows he’s not for her, a schoolgirl, his friend’s protégé. But it’s nice to be treated like a woman, not a girl, and the music sounds good, and it’s a school night and she’s not supposed to be here, so she dances, and lets her subconscious work on the Remy problem.
A couple of songs later and Rogue has this idea that Remy’s looking over her head to Logan, half the time, and that makes sense. That really makes sense. Rogue steps back when the song starts to change into another, mutters something about the restroom. She pees, cursing the damned leather pants which look so good but take a lot more time to get off than on, and pats her face with a wet washcloth.
That’s cool, she tells herself. Logan and Remy can love each other. She’s not that provincial. She’s not jealous. She is an X-Man and she is brave, and she will go back out there and somehow get out of their way.
“So Chuck wants to talk to you,” Logan is saying in Gambit’s ear when Rogue gets back to the table. “Said I should bring you back to the mansion.”
“Might could do that,” Remy says.
“You ready? I got to get Rogue back before dawn,” Logan says.
Remy nods, throws on a leather jacket, and holds Rogue’s jacket for her to slip into. Rogue expects Logan to snort or make some comment but he doesn’t, acts like its natural for someone to treat her nice.
Remy leads the way out the back, and through a small maze of alleys. They fetch up at a beautiful custom bike chained to the front of a store. Rogue drifts toward the display window, fascinated by the swooping glass and wire of some kind of art, feeling perfectly safe in the dark street with Logan and Remy nearby.
Low voices murmur behind her. Rogue turns away from the store window, making a mental note about coming back around Storm‘s birthday. Logan and Remy are standing maybe three inches apart, three-quarters turned toward each other, heads tipped together. She can’t see into the shadows, but it looks like Logan’s hand is on Remy’s waist.
Rogue imagines them together, feels herself swell and dampen just from the intimate tone, the lack of space between them. The knowledge that they’ve been much, much closer. In that moment, Rogue sees everything she wants.
Not them, not precisely. But she wants that fire she sees, and that control. She wants to be with a lover and not be anxious to have his attention - because she already has it. She wants a man who has proven himself, who has screwed up, and gotten to his feet, to fight again. She wants a partner, not a protector.
Rogue wants something more than the schoolboy reverence and respect she gets from Bobby. Maybe Bobby will get there, maybe he won’t - but Rogue, she will have what she needs.
“Hey,” Rogue says, confidence filling her. “Le’s get going, so you guys can get somewhere private.”
Logan is startled, but he grins.
“I like her. She has good ideas,” Remy says to Logan. To her: “Your command is our wish.”
.Behind Logan on the bike once again, Rogue grins into the wind and whoops when he pushes the bike to 90 on the straightaway.