Maybe you and I see life with two different visions,
and neither one of us is wrong or right.
And maybe we’re too serious and don’t want to listen.
I just want to make you laugh tonight.
We’re like day and night, night and day.
We are both so different in so many ways.
We’re like night and day, day and night,
and we go together just like black and white.
~ Night And Day (Bette Midler)
Scott was silent. He hadn’t said a word or looked away from CNN for two hours. Jean had moved often. From her original seat beside him, she had moved close. He hadn’t acknowledged her. She’d lain with her head in his lap. His arms remained crossed over his chest, bisecting the stylized X printed on his t-shirt. Now she stood behind him, unconsciously mirroring both his pose and expression … and his silence.
The only sound in the room was the chatter of the news reporters, and the news was all bad. Renegade mutants were showing up everywhere, either victimized or victimizing. No matter how many times the X-Men mobilized, individually or in teams, to deal with a problem, there were always more. It was the new status quo, and Scott’s silent and angry obsession was a part of it.
Jean didn’t need to wonder when this had started. Almost from the moment he returned to active duty after escaping from his merging with Apocalypse, Scott had been different. It had slowly turned into an unspoken rift between them, generating a confusion and desperation in her that had driven her into a corner. Not so long ago, it had also driven her into Logan’s arms – something she had managed to keep secret, but the guilt still haunted her.
Scott had sent her with Logan to meet that threat. He and Warren had followed, but when they arrived, it had almost been too late.
Absorbed into a young mutant’s subconscious by his astounding powers, she and Logan had battled for their lives against the phantoms of the mutant’s mind. Then his mind had started to collapse. They had escaped, but for one blinding moment, it had seemed that death would finally claim them. Logan hadn’t lost time living their last moments to the fullest. His kiss, his touch, had been searing – but only the brighter heat of her guilty eager response to him still burned.
It wasn’t the first time, either. Why do we keep getting thrown together at the exact moment that one or both of us is about to die? His response is always the same, yanking me into a kiss. His choice, not mine … but I always choose to allow it, and more – and he always knows I will.
The thrum and roar of a Harley interrupted her thoughts only to bring them back to Logan. He was home early. Would he stay, or go out again? Jean turned away from her husband and left the room. Behind her, the voices droned on. The violence and need would always be there.
Out in the hall, the motorcycle noise ceased and a door leading in from the garage slammed. Jean headed for the kitchen. At least Logan would talk to her.
He was rooting in the refrigerator for a beer. His black hair was wilder than normal from being tossed and tangled in the wind. The black leather and yellow markings of the uniform pants and jacket were tight over his stocky muscular build, and his boots were leaving mud all over the floor.
“What’s up, Red?” he asked before he turned. Straightening and facing her as he opened the bottle, he gave her a smile. His thoughts as he appraised her gray sweats and white tank t-shirt almost made her blush.
“Nothing. Well, nothing here, anyway. The rest of the troops headed out on another call an hour after you left on yours. It’s just Scott and I here now.”
Logan cocked his head and she knew he could hear the television down the hall, though she couldn’t. He drank half of the beer in one pull. “He’s still monitorin’ huh? Least ya got ‘im outta tha Ready Room. Well don’t mind me, darlin’; I won’t be in yer hair long.”
The memory of his fingers tangled in her hair struck her forcefully. “What are your plans?”
“Catch a quick shower, head t’ tha Auger Inn. Probly make it a late night. With or without Cyke, don’t wait up.”
She picked up a ceramic saltshaker from the center island and toyed with it. “He’ll probably stick with CNN for a while yet. I might go read … or something. So did it go okay with the Bronx boy?”
“You don’t want to talk about it?”
“Don’t bother me none, but ya look like a woman who’s sick o’ shop talk.”
She looked up at him and smiled wryly. “You’re not wrong – but conversation is good.”
He finished off the beer and tossed the bottle in the trash. It struck something and broke, making her jump. Logan eyed her thoughtfully, but didn’t comment on her reaction. “I felt a need t’ raise a mug an’ toss an eight ball, but if ya want conversation, I could stay.”
Jean sighed. “No, don’t change your plans for me. I’ll just let Mr. Clancy whisk me off into another whirlwind spy adventure. One without mutants.”
“Yer call, but if it ain’t all it’s cracked up t’ be, there’s always some adventure t’ be had at tha ol’ Auger Inn. Yer welcome t’ drop by.”
“That’s okay.” She put the saltshaker down and turned to go. “Have fun.”
“Same t’ ya, Jeannie. G’night.”
She left the kitchen with his admiration of her figure trailing after her. He was subtle, of course. If she weren’t a telepath, she would never have known his thoughts were drifting into carnal territory while he maintained a straight and friendly face. It never bothered her, because his friendship was sincere, as was his care for her.
Hugging herself as she went to the bedroom of the suite she and Scott shared, Jean let the sense of Logan’s concern fill her. His regard felt good. Not being ignored felt better. She sat on the bed, propped against pillows, and picked up her book. As she tried to read the same page for the third time, she put it down again.
Is he still here? I haven’t heard the bike yet. She reached out to touch Logan’s mind without intruding on his thoughts, merely locating him inside the mansion. He was heading out.
Jean got up and went downstairs, entering the hall just in time to see him leave. His camouflage military pants, heavy black boots and brown leather bomber jacket were topped off by the old brown cowboy hat. He paused at the door to the garage and threw her a wave. She waved back. The door closed. Noise erupted as the Harley roared to life and tore away into town.
Silence crept up around her again. She didn’t move for a long time, but when she turned to go back to her room, she frowned at the thought that had slipped into her mind.
The Auger Inn was a comfortably shabby dive in Salem Center populated by general toughs, ex-military, and biker types. The brew wasn’t watered down, the pool table was level, and the jukebox was turned up to ten. Not every man’s view of heaven, but for Logan, it came pretty close.
He was into his fourth round of both beer and pool, and losing for the fourth time. No bets were on it, so it didn’t matter and his pride couldn’t give a damn. The game, the tunes, the mountain of tattoos he played against – it all blurred into the form of Jean in his mind’s eye. Leaning over the felt, he took aim, let fly, and ignored how the balls ended up.
She remembers what happened in that kid’s head, I know she does. That look she gave me as Cyke helped ‘er stand was somethin’ – but sayin’ she didn’t remember spared ‘er havin’ t’ lie big. She wanted it. Just like before. Like always, we don’t say a word when it’s over an’ ‘er eyes beg me t’ pretend: that I didn’t feel ‘er respond t’ me, didn’t scent ‘er desire. Okay, Jeannie. No sweat, darlin’. Fer yer sake, I lie. No big deal. I’d die fer ya, after all.
His opponent shifted from foot to foot impatiently. “You communing with the cue, fellah, or are you planning to shoot? It’s your go, again.”
Logan glared, shifted the Cohíba cigar in his mouth from right to left, and aimed the cue. The door to the joint opened as the balls cracked against each other. A familiar and enticing scent entered the room. He noted the eight ball – it sat between the cue ball and a convenient pocket. He smiled.
“Grinning over another butt-kicking; man, I wish I’d laid money on this,” the inked giant complained.
“Sorry, bub. I gotta lady t’ entertain.” He put the cue up and turned to face the tall redhead in the painted-on jeans, heeled boots, and hunter green cable-knit sweater. She shivered in her long denim duster. “Hiya, Jeannie.”
“Hi. I’m sorry to crash.”
He let out a bark of laughter and steered her to a booth at the back of the room. “What’s yer poison t’night, darlin’?”
“That depends on whether or not you’ll drive me home.”
“Natch.” He held the cigar away from her. “How’d ya get here? Not flyin’ in tha cold, I hope.”
“Scott ran off to meet the others. He wouldn’t let me go since I’m technically still recovering from my cold. I promised to sit in a heated coffee shop, and then walked over here when he left.”
“Playin’ hooky – I like it. So what’ll ya have?”
Logan smiled and headed for the bar. He returned with a fresh mug of beer for himself and a glass of Kir for Jean. Sitting opposite her, he stripped off his jacket and set it on the bench seat beside him, topping it with his hat.
“What is this?” she asked, taking a tentative sip.
“Kir. White wine an’ grenadine. So, did tha submarine sink?”
“No, this book doesn’t have submarines, but the mansion was too quiet already. I was hoping you wouldn’t mind company.”
“Nope, don’t mind.”
“This is a very – colorful – place. Is the music always so loud?”
“Yup.” He took a swallow of beer and watched her. Otis crooned Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay with a back-up chorus of laughter, clinking glassware, and the strike of billiards. “I like a place that never changes. This one just happens t’ be close ‘nuff t’ be elected my favorite.”
Jean smiled. “Thank you.”
“Being my friend – and for not asking about my problems.”
“Guess I shouldn’t admit that I was goin’ t’, then, huh?” He winked at her. “Just kiddin’. No problems, no shop talk. How ‘bout ‘em Yankees?”
“How about another drink?” She finished off the wine. “Something a little dangerous may be in order, since our teammates are out fighting the good fight without us.”
“Feelin’ guilty? Yer a convalescent – legal t’ be slackin’. Me, I’ve done my bit fer t’night. Wanna ‘nother surprise?”
“Comin’ right up.”
He ordered her drink and got a bottle of decent single malt whiskey for himself. Fingers tapping the bar, he turned and watched her scan the room. Was she scanning the thoughts of the regulars too? She might not want to. Every man in the place not actively taking a drink or shooting pool was staring at her.
Can’t blame ‘em. Easy Canucklehead, he told himself. She can pick yer thoughts up just as clear as tha rest o’ these slaverin’ dogs. Whistle a jaunty tune in yer head an’ hide behind it. Jube swears it works ‘round Emma.
He’d planned on something with a beat, but the song that stuck in his head was a ballad. Sticking the bottle of whiskey under his arm, he carried her drink and an empty shot glass back to their booth.
“Coffee?” She seemed amused.
“Ya looked cold. It’s loaded,” he warned.
Jean sipped the drink and tried not to make a face when the Jägermeister and Kahlua hit her. “It’s good,” she lied.
Logan grinned. “Ya wanted danger.”
“And you’re having?”
“Perilous – if I were capable o’ gettin’ drunk.”
“I may envy your healing factor tomorrow.”
Logan shrugged. “Handy in a fight, but it really takes tha fun outta my vices.”
The coffee was gone. When she appropriated his shot glass and tossed back some of the whiskey, Logan just watched her. A moment later, as she reached for the bottle a second time, his hand covered hers and stopped her from lifting it.
“Yer gonna thank me in tha mornin’,” he said.
He didn’t move his hand immediately and she was vaguely sorry when he did. His touch was as warm as his friendship.
She frowned then. “What is that song?”
“Li’l Sister, Stevie Ray Vaughn.”
“Not that – the one on a constant loop in your head.”
“Oh. That’s Bette Midler, song called Night an’ Day.”
“Do they have it on the jukebox?”
“Think so. Stay here,” he told her, producing a quarter, “I’ll go see.”
When she stood to follow, her brain spun and she almost fell back into the seat. Touching the table edge for a moment, she waited until she regained her balance. It took an amazing amount of coordination to take off her coat and lay it on the booth seat. By the time she managed it, the sweet love song about a couple facing their differences started playing.
Facing things – not my best talent.
She couldn’t stop her eyes from sweeping over him as he leaned on the jukebox. Logan was three inches shorter than her 5’6 height, but his body was beautifully developed. His rugged good looks were half-hidden in the mutton chop sideburns and thick, long wild hair. Yet no matter how enshrouded in cigar smoke he became, he couldn’t hide his soul from her, or his heart of gold. Because of that heart, he was one of her best friends.
If he’s a friend, Dr. Grey, you might want to raise your eyes a notch. You’re staring several inches below his heart. She blushed. What is it about you, Logan? Why do you make me feel like a breathless schoolgirl? It’s that damn kiss – why can’t I forget it? I shouldn’t be interested at all. I love Scott. The feeling of being crushed in Logan’s arms rose in her memory. She tried to push it away as she walked over to him. I should go sit down before I make a fool of myself … but it’s just a dance, Dr. Grey. Just a dance – nothing wrong with it.
She examined her old rule of doing nothing with Logan that she wouldn’t do if Scott were standing there. She’d danced with him before, while Scott danced with Ororo, last Christmas. So it was legal. Logan turned at her touch on his shoulder.
Jean smiled. “Dance with me?”
He didn’t say a word; he just reached to lay his cigar in an ashtray on the jukebox and took her in his arms.
The song ran strong in his thoughts, masking them. Jean knew she could slip around it, but she was afraid to. She also knew she was tipsy and in a moment, his arms tightened around her when she nearly lost her footing.
“Are we gonna tell tha others that Mr. Sinister attacked an’ got ya sloshed before I could stop ‘im?”
“Sounds good to me,” she whispered, and leaned her head on his shoulder.
One hand was against his lower back, the other pressed to his chest. The thin black t-shirt allowed her to feel the play of his muscles under the slight springy press of thick chest hair. His hands were in legal places – but they hadn’t been during the kisses they’d shared, now and then, when their lives had been threatened.
“Too bad we aren’t in danger,” she muttered against his chest.
“Speak fer yerself,” he whispered.
My scars are on tha inside, like Blue Oyster Cult preached it … but tha raw wounds are all yer handiwork, Jeannie.
When the song ended and a brutal Godsmack tune started up, he tried not to look relieved. Retrieving his cigar, he gave her his arm and helped her back to the booth. She sat watching him, leaning her head back against the tall booth seat.
“Ya ready t’ go, darlin’?”
“I’d like to go somewhere and talk … without the noise.”
“May as well be home then – c’mon.”
He helped her into her coat before grabbing his own. Leaving a tip on the table, he picked up his hat. Jean took it from him and put it on his head herself with an intoxicated smile.
Outside, he gestured to the left. The red Harley crouched in the shadow of the building. Logan swung his leg over it and knocked the kickstand back with his boot. Holding it steady, he gave her his hand to help her up behind him. She settled against his back, her hands circling his waist.
“Got yer coat tucked under ya good? It’ll get caught in tha scoot if it ain’t.”
“I think so. Logan?”
She leaned into him and spoke at his ear. “Drive like a maniac.”
A wicked smirk spread over his face. He tossed the cigar down and stomped on it. The motorcycle started with its heavy roar. Her arms clutched at him tightly and her shout of delight rang out as they shot down the road.
At top speed, it didn’t take long to reach Graymalkin Lane. The Xavier mansion loomed up over them and then swallowed them as Logan drove inside the massive garage. The door closed automatically behind them as he slipped the bike between Warren’s Lamborghini Murciélago and Cyke’s Aston Martin DB7.
As Jean slipped off the bike, her hands moved away from his body reluctantly. Is that tha hooch or a hint? Don’t misread tha body language, bub. ‘Sides, she probly really wants t’ just talk. Tha way Cyke’s been ignorin’ her has t’ be drivin’ her crazy.
“I needed that,” she said.
He took in her perfectly orderly long hair and grinned. “Yer cheatin’, Jeannie. Leave tha TK off an’ let tha wind in. It’s tha only way t’ go.”
“Spoken like a man who doesn’t have to comb it all out later.” She threw her arm over his shoulders. “That’s a lot more fun than these convertibles, though.”
“Ya can fly; tha scoot can’t compete with that.” He steadied her balance on their way inside.
“Not right now I couldn’t,” she answered, and laughed.
Logan tried to lead her to the kitchen, but she pulled him toward the room Scott had been in earlier. He ditched his jacket and hat and sat nearby, studying her as she looked up at the blank plasma screen.
Jean didn’t speak. After a moment, she moved closer to him, turned slightly and leaned her back against his chest. He allowed it, but didn’t try to touch her.
“Logan, please hold me.”
Hoping Mr. Summers had flown off to Peru to handle the latest mutant scourge, he let his arms encircle her, keeping his touch casual. He couldn’t care if Scott walked in on them, but he knew she would.
Jean snuggled into him. “What are you thinking?”
“Yer tha mind reader, darlin’.”
“I don’t want to pry. I’d rather you told me.”
He frowned. “Thinkin’ ‘bout not givin’ a damn if Cyke walked in. Where’d they go?”
“New Jersey – there’s a mutant there with some sort of toxic acid secretion.”
“Might not be a mutant. Could just be some poor slob who lives too close t’ a factory.”
Her laugh was quiet, muted. In another moment, she had drifted off to sleep. Logan picked her up easily and carried her out of the room and up the stairs to her bedroom.
When he laid her down on the bed, she woke and touched his face. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“Nothin’ t’ worry ‘bout. Get some sleep. Need anythin’?”
“No, but I can’t sleep in all this.” She sat up and took off her coat.
Logan took it from her and laid it over a chair. “I can’t stick ‘round fer tha slip int’ pajamas, Jeannie, but I will bring ya somethin’ t’ drink.” He went to the door.
“More hair of the dog?” She smiled.
“Water. It’ll lessen yer hangover t’morrow.”
When he returned with a tall glass tumbler of cold water, Jean was in bed with the telltale thin straps of a navy nightdress showing above the covers. She was awake and watching him as he set the glass on her nightstand.
“Thanks for putting up with me,” she told him, and gave him a lopsided smile.
Logan crossed his arms over his chest. “If ya wanna talk, ya know where I am. An’ I know ya didn’t ask, but I’m givin’ my opinion anyway. He’s wrong t’ shut ya out. After what ya went through, thinkin’ he was dead… Ya deserve better, darlin’.”
“He was in my place once, when you all thought I died on the moon. He must have felt like this.”
“Sure. Then he married Madelyn Prior. Nice that a carbon copy came along t’ help ‘im with ‘is grief.”
“That was a long time ago.”
Logan went to the door and turned off the lights in the room. “Yeah, an’ he’s makin’ tha new Mrs. Summers ‘bout as happy as tha last one. G’night, Jeannie.”
He closed her door and went to his own room, located in the men’s dormitory wing. His gaze landed on a long Japanese katana hanging on the wall. It was black, without any markings or adornments – a weapon for brutal utility, not display. Yet it hung where the honor sword of Clan Yashida once had. Frowning at it, he turned and went downstairs to fetch his jacket and hat.
On his way back upstairs he heard the Blackbird returning. Toxic mutant contained or escaped? Logan shook his head. Too bad it wasn’t somethin’ that could eat Cyke whole an’ spit out tha bones.