Forty-eight years of livin’
an angel in disguise
Forty-eight years of lovin’
smilin’ with my eyes
Forty-eight years of memories
neatly tucked away
When daylight dies, I hear them rise
and dance upon their grave
What’s that sound
comin’ from the dresser on a night as black as pitch?
What’s that sound
comin’ from the bureau, do I dare turn on the switch?
Them bones, them bones, them dry bones
all bleached and deathly white
I’ve got skeletons in my closet and
they’re rattlin’ tonight
~ Skeletons in My Closet (The Fat Man and Team Fat)
Jean stood at an upstairs window and watched as the red Harley Davidson roared up to the circular drive in front of the Xavier Institute. A door burst open behind her and Jubilee bounded into the upstairs hallway.
“Wolvie’s back!” Hugging Jean impulsively, Jubilee grinned at her and raced down the stairs to greet him. “Isn’t that super cool?” the young mutant shouted back up to her.
Jean held herself and watched Logan dismount the motorcycle. Her thoughts brushed his mind, almost compulsively, before she severed the instinctual connection. Below, she saw him look up, finding her easily. A wash of emotions, thoughts, memories, and fears sluiced through her as she met his gaze. Then she lowered her head and turned away from the glass.
~ ~ ~
It had been almost a week since his return and Jean had avoided Logan entirely. He had kept his distance, too, until the demands of the school forced them to speak to each other. What she had sensed in him then, and in herself, had to be addressed – even if she dreaded how it might play out.
Standing in the control and observation booth, she looked down into the Danger Room session he was running with the latest combat class of the Xavier Institute. The students struggled to keep up with their teacher in an illusory Savage Land full of dinosaurs and other deadly hunters.
She fell to watching Logan’s muscles move under the leather. His grace and speed, belying his bulk, were mesmerizing. Memories pulled her away from the class, her body abruptly aching with need. Shaking her head to focus, she forced herself to stop following the teacher and pinpointed the students instead. The training facility wasn’t called the Danger Room as a joke, after all.
One young mutant, Terry, paused for breath, hands on his knees and pointed out to his friend Jason, “I don’t know why we’re watching out for the monsters – Mr. Logan is a lot scarier.”
Jason grinned, panting. “From what I’ve heard about him, we’re just lucky he’s on our side.”
Their teacher appeared from the brush right over them, frightening them both out of their wits when he spoke.
“Breathers are fer tha dead. Get movin’ or get eaten. Now.”
Scrambling to obey him, they fled to rejoin the others.
Jean began programming the next session before the class was over. Logan hadn’t left the room yet and once his students filed out of it, exhausted, Jean set the new program on automatic and went to the booth’s elevator to enter the Danger Room.
Meeting Logan face to face before he could exit through the main door, she closed and secured it with her telekinesis.
“Class is over, Red.” He hooked his thumbs in the belt of his black leather uniform pants, his mouth pulling into a frown.
“We have to talk. Turn around.”
“Ya had plenty o’ chances since I got back from Chicago, Jean. Left my mind an’ my door unlocked tha whole time since I saw ya last. Seems ya can visit my room, but not while I’m in it. Why now?”
He turned his head, saw what she’d done and growled. With a loud ~snikt~, the claws on one hand popped as the fingers fisted and a surprising anger leaked from his mind.
“What tha hell are ya doin’, Jean?”
The Savage Land had melted away to become the vast and frozen landscape of their last unwanted adventure. In the distance, through the swirling snow, the black mountain and its warren of caverns waited. A moment later, the unmistakable howl of an unseen bear-dog sounded.
“After my unofficial debriefing with Charles, I described this to him in detail. He thought it would make an excellent training program, for students and team members alike.” Watching his black hair blow in the wind, she added in a whisper, “I didn’t tell him anything about us; I kept it all locked away – deep.”
“Sure o’ that, are ya? Might surprise ya what Chuck can ferret out, or figure out by seein’ there’s pieces o’ a mind puzzle missin’.” Facing her again, he glared at her. “Why show it t’ me? I don’t need it, already worked out how t’ beat it – by committin’ murder. Think Chuck wants tha X-babies learnin’ that?”
“They can beat it by finding the body of the mutant that created the monsters, finding and helping him.”
“Ya programmed an edited version? Guess what – I don’t care. Outta my way, I got things t’ do.”
“Logan, please … please talk with me. There’s things – we have to sort things out between us.”
“Figured there wasn’t nothin’ between us. Ya can’t look at me, Jeannie, haven’t in days – sends a message, real clear. Been tryin’ since t’ stay outta yer way, but I can’t if ya won’t get outta mine.”
“I don’t want you out of my way.”
“Coulda fooled me.”
“Logan, I’m sorry! Is that what you want to hear? I am. When I got home and you weren’t here, I needed you to be here. I’ve been so worried, about myself, what may be happening to me. I couldn’t turn to Scott – I still can’t understand why he’s…” Catching the smoldering anger in her friend, his growl dropping lower, she quickly changed the subject. “I had no one to turn to, and it – it made me angry. You weren’t here…”
“Ya got Stormy an’ Chuck. Since when did ya ever come t’ me fer a heartfelt chat an’ a hair-braidin’ session?”
“Ororo can’t help with this. She’s never been terrified of being taken over by a primal force inside her – a force that could destroy the world.” Jean took a deep breath, her eyes shifting away from his intense scrutiny. “I’m … afraid … to talk to Charles about it.”
“Well, he’s got tha cred, fer Onslaught.”
“So do you.”
“I was busy.”
“With what? Brawling and moping? Damn it, Logan, talk to me!”
He snarled, the claws between them glinting in the light of sun on snow. “Gotta friend in Chicago: Rooke. Ya remember ‘er, don’t ya? Ya never liked ‘er. Well, I do. Found ‘er in a bad way an’ helped ‘er out. Ain’t that what we do? Didn’t get near ‘nuff time t’ mope an’ only got in one damn decent brawl on tha road, which means I’m probly overdue fer my next one, so get – outta – my – face!”
Jean didn’t give herself time to think as his anger charged her fear into something primal. She grabbed his wrist, pushed the claws out of the way and locked her lips over his, swallowing his vicious growl.
His shock was sharp in his mind, but the passion he’d been attempting to strangle down deep erupted as he crushed her to his body. Jean caught the thought of what he intended to do and didn’t care.
Pivoting his weight, he turned them both and brought them down into the snow, landing hard on his palm and knees, his arm holding her protectively around her waist. She moved her head to kiss him again, but he leaned back and flipped her onto her stomach. The claws sliced through her belt, and were about to open her leather pants.
“Wait! Let me –” She lifted her hips and fumbled with the zipper, barely getting it open before his fingers slid in at the back, grabbed, and yanked.
She never heard him open his pants. The zipper tab of his open jacket struck her arm, and then his weight came down, the pressure bruising her knees. His legs forced hers open before she had a chance to move for him. Gasping as tears came to her eyes, Jean felt his hand, claws still out, press onto the back of her skull. His fingers gripped her hair, pulling it almost painfully.
Her cheek was pressed into the snow a moment before his heavy cock pushed inside her body.
It was all grunts and huffs of breath, his thrusts rough and fast, almost as it had been when the beast inside him had first taken her.
Jean tried to shift beneath him, thrilling at the growl that came swiftly to her ear, his hot breath moving her hair. “I want,” she panted, struggling to breathe, to tell him. “The teeth – I want –”
His open mouth touched the back of her neck through her tangling hair, his fingers, still fisted in it, lifting most of the red mass out of the way. His fangs gripped the nape of her neck and when they bit into her flesh, she came instantly.
The thrusts that threatened to split her became more harsh, almost hurting her. His fangs and fingers released her as he reared back, the respite from the pressure of his weight finally allowing her to breathe.
Logan’s strangled voice half groaned, half roared, and she came a second time when his seed spilled into her tense and trembling body.
Collapsing into the snow, her breathing ragged, she tasted the ice on her freezing lips. Moaning when his body left hers, she whispered his name, closing her eyes.
Sounds intruded, a clink of metal, a zipper, and then, ~snakt~. “Better get it t’gether, Jeannie.” His voice was gruff and his mind was in a tumult. “I gotta go t’ work.”
“Work?” She rolled over and sat up, feeling dizzy, and ignored the cold that struck her bare skin.
Opening her eyes, she looked up at him. His jacket was still open, the white undershirt grimy from the class he’d finished before. His fingers set his belt back in place, straightening the X on the buckle.
“Next class’ll be linin’ up already; hope ya locked that door.”
Jean raised her arm, offering her hand. He helped her up, but stepped back. Advancing, she grabbed the lapels of his leather jacket and pulled. She couldn’t have moved him, but he allowed her to bring him close, allowed her to kiss him.
His hands moved to her thighs, gripped her pants and yanked them back up. The zip was loud in her ears. He had said something, hadn’t he?
“Yes, I locked it – the booth, too.”
“Yer belt’s a goner.” He drew the halves of it out of her pant loops and rolled them into a coil. Shoving the leather into one of her jacket pockets, he studied her face. “Gonna explain what tha hell that was later?”
“I’m not sure I can.”
“Prefer t’ know where I stand, Red.”
“Meet me in the maze tonight and I’ll try to figure that out before I get there.”
“Midnight.” She let go of his jacket and walked around him to the door. “I’ll be in the booth to run this one. Charles wanted me to work out any bugs and correct them as we go. Your next class can be the guinea pigs.”
“Feelin’ like one myself, darlin’.” His back was stiff, his thoughts guarded, wary.
Jean sighed. “I’ll see you tonight, Logan – we can talk then.” She unsealed the door and opened it. A line of young faces, some eager and others scared, followed her inside as she returned to the elevator that lead to the control booth. “Mr. Logan is ready for you,” she told them over her shoulder. “We’re working on a new program, so pay attention to his instructions.”
Back in the booth, her fingers trembled slightly on the controls. It was difficult to concentrate on either the class or the program as she watched Logan run the students through a pack of bear-dogs. His brutality against the monsters was a bit over-the-top for the age of his students, but the censure died in her thoughts before she sent it out to the teacher.
One hand drifted to the crotch of her leather pants as she sat in the chair. Her panties were soaked, her body a little sore. Reaching for one of the controls on the board in front of her, the hard roll of her ruined belt in her pocket pressed into her side.
Welcome to the slippery slope, she told herself, frowning as Logan’s ferocity in the room below heated her blood all over again.
~ ~ ~
The hedge maze was dark, the slender new moon unable to light it. Jean sat on a stone bench and shivered in her thin coat and wool dress, feeling goose bumps rise on her bare legs.
Hands in her pockets, one foot in its short, fur-lined boot moved to bend some of the grass blades in front of her. Her hair was loose in the light chilled breeze, taking on the scent of the roses all around her.
Her thoughts lingered on Logan’s body and what it had done to hers – but the thoughts were the only thing that warmed her.
“Where are you?” she whispered. “You’re late and I’m cold.”
She startled when a shadow, taken for a rose bush in front of her, moved. He had been crouched there before she’d arrived and came up to her in an animalistic gait without standing up. Going down on his knees before her, barefoot and dressed only in his leather pants, Logan touched her knees, his palms sliding the dress up her thighs.
Her hands closed on his wrists and he stopped the movement. The crystal blue of his eyes stared up at her, flashing like gems as they drew the meager moonlight into them.
“You frightened me,” she said, disturbed that he had been so close and she hadn’t even felt the presence of a sentient mind near her.
“Been waitin’,” he murmured, “since dark. Knew it would be this spot – can’t see it from any window.” He cocked his head at her, one eyebrow arching. “No one can see what ya want here.”
“I want to talk.”
“No ya don’t.” His hands moved again, ignoring her resistance. Bunching the dress to her hips, he breathed in deeply. “Goin’ commando, Red? Kinky.” He started to bend his head down, but she put her hand under his chin.
“Scent don’t say ‘wait’,” he answered, a low growl rumbling in his throat under the words.
“So you’re going to start acting like Sabretooth now? Why not call me a ‘frail’ and get right to it, rip my clothes off?”
The growl came louder, but he leaned back on his heels, his hands hanging between his thighs, over the bulge that strained in his pants.
“Ain’t never forced a woman like that sick bastard – not without ‘er askin’ me t’ an’ thankin’ me in tha mornin’, anyhow – or did ya forget who started this shit?”
“You wanted to know where you stood. I know I can’t solve my problems by chatting about them with you – you were right, I should discuss it with Charles. I will, soon, but I found out today in the Danger Room how you can help. I want the original offer and I want it kept secret in a house full of telepaths, and around a surly husband. Can you handle that?”
“Got somethin’ fer me t’ sign, or can I write it with my tongue?”
“Why are you still so angry with me?”
“Not at ya, darlin’, at tha clusterfuck sitch. Spent years wantin’ ya, spent way too damn li’l time havin’ ya. Minute we got out from under Hook’s roof, ya did exactly what I feared ya would an’ asked ya not t’ do: shuttin’ me out, pushin’ me away – same shit Slim’s been doin’ t’ ya, that ya say is so hurtful, by tha by. Then ya put tha come-hither whammy on me t’day in tha fuckin’ Danger Room.”
“I didn’t force you to –”
“Yer scent did. Drove me near outta my skin – but ya ain’t like ya were, Jeannie. Ya were worried ‘bout usin’ me before, out at tha stream. What yer askin’ fer now, that’s exactly what yer gonna do. Use me.”
“If you’re willing, how does that make me the bad guy?”
“Oh, willin’ ain’t a prob, trust me. My ‘willin’’ is startin’ t’ cramp. I love ya, Jeannie, an’ ya don’t love me; ya just wanna ride me dry t’ ease tha white noise in yer brain. I can give ya my body fer that, but don’t expect my heart t’ come with it.”
“So I can have you angry and crass, but not like you were in the cave; forget tenderness, and screw romance, is that it?”
Logan’s eyes narrowed, his lips stretching into a cruel smirk. “Yer tha one arguin’ in tha bushes missin’ panties with yer dress hiked up, not me – figured crass was tha goal.”
The slap echoed, his pale cheekbone going scarlet. She drew her hands up to her mouth and stared back into his glaring eyes. Afraid of his anger, shocked at what she’d done, she froze. Yet the air was charged with heat, from both of them.
He felt his face where she’d struck him for a moment, and then reached for her, opening her thighs and pulling her hips forward on the bench.
His head darted down and her fists struck his back as his hands grabbed her, squeezing her ass through the bunched wool dress. His mouth claimed her, the unbelievably strong tongue slapping at her folds, the lips sucking at the small hidden nub.
Crying out, Jean’s hands slid down the bunched muscles on his broad back, her French manicure cutting into his skin. “Yes, yes, oh God, Logan…” His mouth brought her to climax in seconds, his lips and tongue sucking and lapping at the slick juices from her body.
In one smooth movement, he plucked her off of the bench and twisted, flattening her under him in the grass and leaves. When he lifted his hips, she opened her legs to him and fumbled with his belt and zipper with shaking fingers.
Unable to breathe until he entered her, she wrapped her legs around his hips as his tireless strength worked her into a sweat. She slipped her fingers into his wild black hair, grabbing some of it in bunches and pulling on it lightly as her heat gathered inside once more.
His thrusting seemed both endless and over far too fast, and she came again at the sight of him biting his muscled forearm to keep silent when it ended. He’d drawn blood, but the bite healed before it could well or drip. To her shock, he licked it away from the abruptly unbroken skin.
Panting, he stayed on his knees and watched her hands stroke the hard muscles of his heaving abdomen. The look on his face was unreadable, but his mind was crowded with confusion, passion, and hurt.
“I am so sorry, Logan; I don’t deserve you, but I need you – I need you so much.”
“Oddest post-coital bed talk I ever heard, Red.” He tried to smile and almost succeeded. “Grass talk, I guess – an’ really not tha oddest I ever heard, tell ya tha truth.” His attempt at humor, and how it contradicted the whirl of thoughts in his mind, only made her cry. “Aw, shit, Jeannie, don’t.”
He withdrew, moved to one side and picked her up. Holding her in his lap, he let her cry on his shoulder and chest. One hand was at her back, the other arranging her dress back down over her thighs.
“I hate myself a little right now,” she muttered against his hairy chest.
“Yer just mixed up, darlin’. Hush, now.” Finished with her dress, that hand lifted and cradled her head, her long hair blowing slowly around them both.
“I can’t believe I hit you.”
“Sorta asked fer it, didn’t I?”
“You were angry with me, you still are. Be angry.”
“Won’t work – can’t do much when ya cry, never could.”
“Don’t tough guys call it a ‘woman’s blackmail’?”
“Sabretooth might, but we ain’t as alike as ya think. Then again, he likes it when they cry – turns ‘im on fer tha worse.”
Jean lifted her head to look into his eyes. “I am so sorry I said that crack about him – you … you’re…”
“I know, Jean darlin’, I know – don’t fret ‘bout it.”
She leaned into him, asking silently, but unable to kiss him; she didn’t feel she had the right. With a soft smile, his lips pressed to hers. His kiss was gentle as it moved from mouth, to cheeks, to eyelids, ending at her forehead.
Leaning his head down to touch it to hers, he let a long held breath go in a sigh. They sat like that in the growing chill until she shuddered.
“Hop up, Jeannie; gotta get ya inside before ya catch yer death.”
He helped her to stand, his hands brushing leaves from her hair and clothes. She stood still, watching him as the weak moonlight and deep shadows played over his body and face. His mind was more open to her than it had been since the caverns in the snow, though his expression and thoughts were bittersweet.
“Yeah?” He’d dropped his gaze to shove himself back into his pants, fastening them and the belt back together.
“You never gave me an answer – not really.”
He took her hands in his, his thumbs rubbing her chilled palms. “Just say tha word, Jeannie, or think it, an’ I’ll come runnin’ –”
“Oh, thank heavens, yes. I couldn’t bear to fight with you anymore, and I –”
“Fer as long as I can stand it,” he interrupted. She couldn’t speak after that and he continued in a whisper, “Sooner or later, things’ll smooth over between ya an’ Slim. Even before they do, I might find I can’t stand tha sneakin’ ‘round, or tha pretendin’ we don’t … do things t’ each other. I’ll try, Jeannie, but that’s all I’m willin’ t’ promise ya. Take it or leave it.”
Swallowing fresh tears, she nodded, bowing her head. “Can I be honest with you?”
“Always preferred it.”
“I wish I could love you. I really do.” She drew her breath in sharply when she felt his mixed up thoughts and emotions shatter under the weight of frustration, anger, and hurt. “Logan, I … I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to sound like…”
Sighing, he turned away. Still holding one of her hands, his heavy shoulders slumped, he led her out of the rose garden and through the maze. “Ya wish ya could, Jeannie? I wish I didn’t.”
Logan lay in his bed in the darkened room and stared at the photo of Mariko on the Japanese altar. He’d left the bathroom light on after the shower and the white smoke of the incense twined with the steam as the scent of cherry blossoms tried to mask the lingering perfume of Jean’s body on his skin.
The house was mostly quiet around him, except for the faint sound of a haunting music somewhere below and down the hall from his room. When it ended and then began again, his lips twitched into a smile.
Jubilee – only person ‘round up at this hour, only one with a habit o’ hittin’ repeat an’ forgettin’ ‘bout it, too.
Searching for something else to latch his thoughts onto, he focused on it, his hyper-senses picking out the words and melody easily. Soon enough, he regretted it.
And you, you bring me to my knees, again
All the times that I could beg you please, in vain
All the times that I felt insecure, for you
And I leave my burdens at the door
I’m on the outside
I’m looking in
I can see through you
See your true colors
‘Cause inside you’re ugly
You’re ugly like me
I can see through you
See to the real you
Restless and unable to sleep, he rose and pulled on a pair of black jogging pants. Leaving the cone of incense to burn in its stone bowl, he left his room to follow the music.
Down the stairs and out of the men’s dormitory wing, he headed into the opposite wing on the other side of the mansion. His young friend’s bedroom door was closed, but the light was on under it. Reluctant to disturb her, he leaned his forehead on the wood, his palms flat against it, near the doorknob. The song played on, tearing at his wounded soul.
All the times that I felt like this won’t end
it’s for you
And I taste what I could never have
It was from you
All the times that I’ve cried
My intentions full of pride
But I waste more time than anyone
I’m on the outside
I’m looking in
I can see through you
See your true colors
‘Cause inside you’re ugly
You’re ugly like me
I can see through you
See to the real you
Jeannie’s not ugly, she’s tha most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen breathin’ in a while – but somethin’s wrong with ‘er, too, an’ it ain’t hard t’ see. That why she thought I could relate? Calm ‘er fears? Tha beast in me can’t hold a candle t’ tha fire in ‘er soul. I can calm ‘er body, but that’s all. Oh, Jean darlin’ – why am I doin’ this? Why do I let ya cut me where it won’t ever heal?
All the times that I’ve cried
All that’s wasted, it’s all inside
And I feel all this pain
Stuffed it down, it’s back again
And I lie here in bed, all alone
I can’t mend
But I feel tomorrow will be okay
But I’m on the outside
I’m looking in
I can see through you
See your true colors
‘Cause inside you’re ugly
You’re ugly like me
I can see through you
See to the real you
He sighed when the song was switched off, and then startled when the young mutant’s footsteps approached the door. Either frozen in place or just unwilling to run, he frightened her when she opened the door and found him there.
“Wolvie? What are you doing?” Squinting at him, her expression changed from surprise to concern. “Are you okay? Get in here, huh? Tell me about it.”
Logan let her pull him inside the room, and then quickly regretted it. She was barely dressed and the pajamas weren’t those of a kid anymore. “Wait, Jubilation, this ain’t a good idea…”
“What, why? Oh! Sorry, hey, look, a bathrobe! Bet I remember what it’s for.” Dropping his wrist, she picked up the thick bright yellow garment from her bed and pulled it on. “My bad. You know, we’ve been through a lot, Wolvie, and with your habit of ending up naked due to monster claws, meditation, torture, the Reavers, what have you, should you really worry about catching me in my PJs?”
“Skimpy PJs,” he corrected. “When tha hell did ya grow up so much, anyway?”
“Managed most of it while you were out.” She came forward and took his wrist again, leading him over to sit on the edge of her bed. “I don’t bite – not anymore anyway, and I’m not crushing on you these days, so you’re safe. What’s bugging you? Oh, crud, was the music too loud?”
“Crushin’ on me?” he asked, bemused by her rapid-fire chatter. He’d been out of practice at listening to her prattle on at mach two.
“Oh, yeah, you know – I used to dig you, that’s why I was a be-yatch to some of your, ahem, lady friends, during some of our early travels. Now I’m cured, so you’re safe from my waning teenage BS.”
“Hey, now, ‘teen crush’ is harder to beat than the Legacy Virus, so I think I deserve some props. So, um, I turned it off.”
“Turned what off?”
“Oh, no worries, darlin’, no ears but mine coulda picked it up. Who was it?”
“A band called Staind. The song is Outside – had it on the ‘puter.”
Jubilee gestured to a laptop on her desk. It was displaying a slideshow of photos, things she had taken with her camera around the school. An image of Jean flashed by, smiling with Scott Summers at her side. He glanced away from it quickly to look back at her.
“So, tough guy, once more with feeling – what’s up?”
“Couldn’t sleep, sorta followed yer tune down here – not sure why.”
“Duh. You need a buddy, some company, huh? I’m your gal. Want to talk about it? Or, I know, strong silent type, we could do something else. I was about to go for a late night snack. You game?”
“So why are ya up this late, wearin’ out an angst-fest tune?”
“Oh, like, everything and nothing; at my age, the hormones’ll still kill you, you know? Doesn’t stop when the pigtails come down.”
“Ya worried ‘bout this silly ‘Open Day’ o’ Chuck’s comin’ up?”
She looked surprised. “No, I’m … all for…” Sighing at his raised eyebrow, she gave up. “Yeah, fine, quit with the third degree. I don’t care about it, but a lot of the others do and they’re pretty vocal on the subject. They get wound up, and then I get tired of all the tension.”
“Yeah, tension’s a crippler,” he answered, his voice bitter. “Got ‘nuff t’ deal with myself, so I feel yer pain, Jubes.” She had reached out to touch his shoulder, but he stood to avoid it. “I should go; whether or not ya plan t’ get tha sleep ya need, ya don’t need me layin’ my shit on ya. Can’t talk ‘bout it, anyway.”
“You never can and never do; I’ve gotten used to it. Wolvie, listen – hang out with me a bit tomorrow, huh? No talking required. Take in a cartoon or six, see how many different kinds of cereal we can mix before it tastes weird – we can make it up as we go.”
Logan studied her closely for the first time in a long time. She’d been thirteen when they met, hadn’t she? She had saved his life and risked hers caring for him after he tore his bleeding body off of the cyborg Donald Pierce’s cross in the Australian Outback. She’d saved him more than once since the Reavers crucified him, and then she had traveled the world with him, fighting at his side. In recent years, when she had joined Emma’s former school and the junior team there, they’d drifted apart. She had grown up – but maybe he hadn’t.
“I’d like that, darlin’. Might not go fer tha cereal, but somethin’.”
“Excellent.” She rose and came up to hug him, resting her cheek on his shoulder.
For a moment, he allowed himself the simple comfort she offered, holding her close. “Guess I gotta quit callin’ ya a kid, now, huh? Yer nearly taller than me.”
“That’s not a challenge, Wolvie.” Grinning, she winked at him and kissed his scruffy cheek. “Okay, out, before you melt from all of this sappy junk, right?”
Smiling, he released her and moved to the door. “Right.” Opening it and standing in the doorway, he glanced back at her. “Thanks, Jubilation.”
“Fer always bein’ there fer me – ‘specially since I ain’t always been ‘round fer ya.”
“Aw, I love you, Wolvie – and I’m not the only one, you know.”
Turning away so she wouldn’t see the bitterness in his face, he whispered, “G’night, darlin’ … sleep tight.”
Shutting the door silently, he retreated back toward his own room. In the opposite direction, Jean’s scent lingered in the hall, trailing down to the door of the suite she shared with her husband.
Turning his back to it, he let the perfume of cherry blossoms lead him away.
~ ~ ~
Saturday morning cartoons buzzed and zinged on the vast plasma screen in the home theater. Logan was the only adult in a room strewn with children and teens. Jubilee, still tired from her late night, had stretched out on one of the tiered couches beside him in her hi-top sneakers, jeans, and Pikachu t-shirt and was using his lap for a pillow. Without thinking about it, he had begun toying with her short-cropped black hair – an old habit.
When Bugs and Daffy quit, the vivacious Chinese girl popped up, apparently tapping into a second wind.
“Okay, so it’s long been established that you won’t go for blading around the mansion. What do you want to do? We could go to town on your Harley, catch a movie, or play a game or something? Oh, dude, you’d be killer at Laser Tag! I wish we had a paintball place.”
Logan’s head was turned by an alluring scent. It was perfume and soap, soft skin, and a whiff of animal lust.
Jean leaned in the doorway of the room and need burned deep in her emerald eyes as they met his. She wore a thick sweater over a long dress and he caught the slight smirk on her lips as she read his thoughts. He almost rose and made a fumbled excuse to Jubilee, but then another scent came up behind her.
“Professor Xavier’s ready for you, Jean,” Scott said. “I’d like to sit in with you … help if I can?”
Her gaze locked onto Logan’s, lingered, and then shifted away. Turning, she sighed. “I need to do this alone.”
Logan looked back at the screen, his hands curling into fists as they left the doorway.
“Uh, earth to Wolvie? The events director of the Lido Deck is waiting, dude.”
“Think I’d rather go bladin’, darlin’ – in tha Danger Room. Ya game?”
He ignored the others around them. They’d been listening since she first starting making suggestions, most of them probably shocked that she was brave enough to hang out with the Professor of Combat.
“Um, shoor – as a team, I hope?”
“You got it. Oops, let me finish my milk.” She picked up the cereal bowl and drank the rest of the pink and blue sugary milk down in one gulp. “Okay, let’s go mess up some bots!”
Logan followed her to his classroom, but he didn’t skip. He was aware that on any other morning, her enthusiasm would have amused him, so he tried to pull his mood up by its bootstraps.
This is tha first day o’ tha rest o’ yer hitch in Hell, bub – better get used t’ tha fuckin’ heat.
Jean entered Professor Xavier’s office, a firm block on certain parts of her mind. She knew her old friend and teacher felt it, but she took a seat opposite him and gave him her attention without acknowledging it.
The professor sat in his chair calmly, but his concern for her radiated from his thoughts. “I am glad you came to speak with me, Jean. You’ve been experiencing – difficulties – for some time now, have you not? Is it worse than it was when we last spoke, before Fantomex dropped in on us?”
“Yes. I feel the Phoenix Force within me like a restless tide these days, Charles. Whenever I have to use my powers to excess, I feel it trying to manifest and I’m afraid I won’t be able to control it if it does.”
“In this frozen world Hellena created, you said you felt it manifest when she tried to possess you. This was after an exertion of your powers as well?”
“I was trying to expel her from my mind with my telepathy, but it wasn’t working. I pushed it hard, and then the Phoenix Force burned her out.”
“There were no aftereffects?”
“No, it left me as soon as it freed me.”
“Jean, I’m sensing a wall…”
Looking away from him, she stared at her pale fingers as they gripped the arms of the chair. “For just a few seconds after, it … tried to influence my personality. It was … violent, like it wanted to… That could have been Hellena, though, she was pushing everyone into a feral state. It didn’t affect me the same as the others, but it did change me. I was … different, for a time. Nothing like Logan, though.”
“His feral nature has little difficulty surfacing in such an environment as it is, even without a telepathic illusionist’s assistance. Even in the Danger Room, it is a challenge for him to keep his – temper – in check.”
Jean’s mind drifted, the professor’s words inspiring a probe to seek out Logan, as Charles had just done. In the control booth of the Danger Room, Logan was setting up a program for a practice session with Jubilee.
Pulling her focus back to Charles, she murmured, “He handled it better than I did – all of it.”
“His experience is vast and whether or not his mind remembers all of it, his cells do, on some level. Logan is more in tune with his instincts, as well – and not as afraid of the beast within as he might need to be.”
“Need to be, Charles?”
“A topic for another time.”
“So … any luck convincing Scott that I’m not turning evil?”
“Scott has been very distracted lately – much like yourself.”
“Yes, well, things haven’t been the same since Apocalypse messed with his head.”
“This incident with Hellena, forgive me, but I’m trying to understand. Your telepathy wasn’t effective in stopping her assault, therefore, I believe it may have been more akin to a real possession and not just an invasion of your mind alone. Logan said you spoke to him in Hellena’s voice.”
“You asked him about it?”
“Of course. Standard mission debriefing, especially since you both went missing, technically.”
“Yes, certainly. What did he… Did he notice anything else about what happened?”
“That she tried to access and use your powers against him, with limited success. He said she actually picked up a bone club to swing at him when your powers would not be usurped. However, he was his usual laconic self about the mission as a whole.”
“You know how he is – everything in black and white, and no point in dwelling on anything past the moment at hand.”
“What is, Charles?”
“During our debriefing, I actually thought he might have been blocking me – as you are now.”
“He’s a very private man. I’ve just been distracted, as you pointed out. Things aren’t easy right now … with Scott.”
“That is true, but in debriefing talks, he is normally quite open and candid mentally. While I prefer to have him explain things, to have a sense of how he perceives them, he’s told me on more than one occasion that he’d rather I just read his mind so that he can go on to other pursuits.”
“I’m sure you’re more of an authority on Logan’s mind than I.”
She met his gaze and maintained her calm poise, morphing the blocks in her mind into the form of a snowy vast emptiness. The wind blew through her thoughts, covering up what she could let no one see under the piling frost. It was a trick Emma had taught her, in one of her rare moments of civility. It wasn’t strictly white-hat in nature, but it served her need.
“This frozen world intrigues you.”
“I just can’t keep from thinking about Hellena. If only the poor thing would have let us help… Logan was very upset by what happened to her. He hasn’t said anything to me, but I know it’s true. I think that’s why he went to Chicago … being too late to help one young mutant, he hoped to save another one.” Jean sighed. “Can we finish this tomorrow?”
“Jean, I really think it’s best to –”
“I think I could use a little fresh air – and a chance to put the world on hold for a while. I’m sorry, Charles, but I feel … so exhausted. You know, Scott used to be my refuge, my comfort. Now, with these problems between us … I feel like I – can’t find rest.”
When she rose, he stood and took her hands in his. For a moment, Jean felt a shimmer of joy to see him able to walk again. Xorn’s use of the remaining Nano-Sentinels to restore his spine and legs had been a godsend. Then the weight of having to hide things from him stole her joy away.
“You know you can tell me anything – you used to.”
“I know, but some secrets aren’t mine to tell.”
“That’s what Logan said.”
The professor’s smile was sad. “He told me very little about Hellena, Reece, or anything else. I felt that he was concealing something … troubling. When I asked about it, he essentially told me it wasn’t his business or mine to know – though he said it more … colorfully.”
“Well, you can dress up a wolverine, but you can’t make him G-rated. I’m just grateful that he keeps the swearing to a minimum in the junior classes. I doubt if there is anything to worry about there, beyond him feeling guilt for things he couldn’t help. I will try to spend some effort assisting him in seeing that, but … after I rest and relax a little.”
“Jean, I have to know – are you being truthful with me now about these manifestations of the Phoenix?”
“Yes, I am, as far as I can understand the problem myself. As for the rest – a woman’s mind must be her own sometimes. My problems with my husband are, after all, my problems.” Giving his fingers a gentle squeeze, she released his hands and turned away. Opening the office door, she paused without looking back. “Am I about to turn evil, Charles?”
“I believe the Phoenix Force within you has become unstable lately. It is possible that your powers are transforming to a higher Phoenix potential, as evidenced by the fact that they are growing erratic, not just growing stronger. Therefore, it follows that it is unwise for you to be upset or stressed at this time.”
“Great. What’s to worry about? Our lives never produce upset or stress.” Head held high, she left the office and closed the door behind her.
Jean walked out of the mansion in her fur-lined boots, dress and sweater. It wasn’t too chilly in the sun. Without speaking to anyone, she walked into the woods closest to the house. Finding Logan’s stream and the outcropping of rock that hung over it, she walked out to sit down on the rock.
“Where are you now?” A probe answered the question. He was in the middle of the Danger Room session with Jubilee. When she saw what he had programmed for them to fight, she stiffened with shock. “Oh, Logan … I can’t ever make it right, can I? How can I do this to you, to myself? Worse, how do I stop? I’m so afraid … so afraid that I can’t make myself stop.”
Stretching out on her side on the hard and gritty stone, she pillowed her head on her arms, her knees drawing up into a fetal curl. When the tears came, they quickly became sobs that made her muscles ache.
Below her, the water sluiced past and away, a silent and indifferent witness.
Author’s Note/Spoiler Warning: “Fantomex” is another product of the Weapon Plus Program, like Wolverine. The previous discussion Xavier refers to in this section happens in the New X-Men issue # 128, in which he attempted to help Jean understand what was happening with her expanding telekinetic senses. At that point, Xavier actually spoke to the Phoenix Force within Jean, but I don’t believe he told her about that, as they were interrupted by the aforementioned arrival of Fantomex. Xorn is a healer and teacher among the X-Men at this time. He got Nano-Sentinels (microscopic machines) from the villain Cassandra Nova and used them to make Xavier able to walk. Obviously, the last section and the one that follows overlap a tad. – AnonGrimm (@MET_Fic)
On the way down the hall, Logan and Jubilee passed the newsroom, so nicknamed because the plasma screen in the small lounge was usually tuned to CNN. It was the same room he’d carried Jean out of after helping her get plastered at the Auger Inn.
A voice called out as they went by. “Logan, look at this!”
Scott. It’s official – I am in Hell. “What, Slim?”
“You were just in Chicago, did you know he was?”
“Who?” Jubilee asked. “Hey, he’s supposed to be dead!”
Logan glared at Scott and then stared up at the television in surprise. Amateur footage, probably via cell phone, had caught the unmistakable image of Spidey’s favorite nuclear physicist gone mad, Doctor Octopus. It was night and raining, and the Doc was racing down a busy street in Chicago, tossing cars out of his way with the ugly metal tentacles as he went.
“Not a clue,” Logan answered Scott. “Wall-crawler said he drowned in tha East River with his homemade sun two years or so back.”
“Maybe it’s something we should look into?”
“He ain’t a mutant – outta our jurisdiction.”
“Come on, Wolvie, time’s a wasting!”
Scott glanced back at him, ignoring the bouncing impatient girl. “Yes, but what if –”
“Sorry, Slim, I gotta prior engagement – unscheduled Danger Room session. As ya can see, she might pop – I don’t wanna clean that up, do ya?”
The leader of the X-Men frowned. “No.”
Jubilee waited until Scott wasn’t looking, and then stuck her tongue out at him. “Let’s scoot, quick!” She hurried them down to the door of the school’s training facility. “Oh, hey, duh, I should fetch Storm or something, huh? I can’t work the booth junk.”
His smile was grim. “Don’t need nobody, Jubes. I can work tha booth junk.”
Inside the Danger Room’s control booth, Logan moved a chair out of his way and leaned over the controls to enter his operator code. Setting one palm down on the edge of the control board, he began flipping switches and dials, the toe of his worn cowboy boot tapping impatiently on the floor.
Behind him, Jubilee’s scent changed subtly as she watched his posture. Not sure if it disturbed him, yet disturbed that he wasn’t sure about it, he frowned. The bubble gum she fished out of her pocket reeked of sugar, but it didn’t mask the other scent.
“Gotta druther, darlin’?”
The gum popped. “Critter druther? Nope, but you always like the bots – to have something real to cream. D’know … cyborgs? Sentinels? Clones?”
“Clones works fer me.” His palm lifted and he began tapping in a custom program that would perfectly suit his souring mood. Her gum popped again, three times in rapid-fire, as the scent beneath it came on stronger. “What tha hell are ya thinkin’ ‘bout back there?”
“No, John F. Kennedy.”
~Pop~. “Thinking that the Legacy Virus was really hard to cure.”
“Never mind Petey’s part in it.” The image of Colossus sacrificing his life to effect that cure hung in his mind for a moment, souring his mood more.
“Okay, awful thing to joke about, all around, my bad. Just trying to lighten the scowl. It really cuts down on your allure, you know.”
Hitting the autorun button, he turned to face her. “Don’t gotta way t’ say it nice, Jubes –”
“When did you ever sugarcoat anything for me? Look, I get it, you’re grumpy. News at eleven! It’s not a secret that me ogling short hairy mutants in tight jeans and a fetching punctured undershirt isn’t what will cheer you up. Heck, dude, I wouldn’t know what to do with you if it did cheer you up, so I’m fine with a ‘look, don’t touch’ policy. Here’s the thing: I traded in the pigtails for a healthy curiosity, so as far as I’m concerned, if you’re going to put it out there, I’m allowed to look at it. Got it?”
Surprised, all he could do was nod once.
“Great! Besides, you’re doing a valuable public service for us gals. Like, there’s a surplus of eye candy for the boys, with the White Queen, Jean, Storm, Rogue, and Psylocke running around. Male eye candy is in short supply.”
“What, nobody’s ‘crushin’ on’ Slim?”
“Hardly. He’s all orders and cranky scowls, worse than you. Angel and Gambit are cute, but you’re the only one in spray-on Levis who actually takes his shirt off around here. Why do you think we all want to go swimming when you head to the pool to catch some rays? Also, friendly tip: your habit of dragging on jogging pants and nothing else? If modesty is your goal, or you don’t want us to ogle, cut that out, because that thing has a mind of its own. Listen up, short, mean, and hairy: you can’t tell the girls – students or teachers – that I clued you in, or I’ll be in it deeeep. Just telling you because we’re pals. We clear, dude?”
“Now let’s not waste the opportunity to let a few hapless bots relieve our tensions, ‘kay?” With that, she left the booth and walked over to the elevator, popping her gum once for each step.
Shaking his head, Logan followed. “Next thing, they’ll get ya leadin’ a team against tha Brotherhood o’ Evil Mutants or some shit. Not sure ya need much more schoolin’.”
“Hey, speaking of which, does this count as extra credit, teach?”
Logan smirked, feeling some of his irritation lift. “Why tha hell not. Gives me an air-tight alibi fer blowin’ off Slim, anyhow.”
They entered the Danger Room, and with the autorun program gearing up, the room sealed, lighting the “Session In Progress” sign over the doors.
For a breath, the vast space was empty, and then the Shi’ar hard-light holographic technology took over and turned it into an illusion of a blasted and burned future Earth. Logan and Jubilee stood in a former city’s central square, the skyscrapers twisted around it by a nuclear blast.
“Come with me if you want to live,” Jubilee quipped. “So whose clones are we scrapping? Holy crap, Wolvie! Issues much?”
Buffeted by a sulfurous wind created by Archangel’s metal wings, the X-Men stepped into the square with Cyclops in the lead. Alongside them, a feral Wolverine waited to spring, not far from an evil twin of Jubilee.
She watched them come and twitched at the loud ~snikt~ that sounded both before and beside her.
Crouching to face them, Logan growled. “Ya ain’t learned t’ beat ‘em all ‘til ya learn how t’ beat yerself, darlin’!”
“I might beat you myself, dude! Oh, boy. I should have had toast.”
Logan didn’t hear her after that. He tried to keep an ear peeled in case she got in over her head, but playing team had never been his thing. Leaving her to flash-pop her plasma bursts at the mechanoid of herself, he dove straight into the enemy team leader.
The other clones tried to protect Cyclops and in their turn, that got them torn to bits. The only one he spent any time putting down was the construct of himself.
A flash nearly blinded him and he snarled. He almost shouted at his friend to watch it, when he realized it was her clone. She was right on its heels, though, the advanced destructive power of her plasma bursts impressive at close quarters.
As his clone turned to deal with the new threat, Logan stabbed all six claws into its side below the ribs and then forced one arm up while pushing the other down. With a sparking whine, it tumbled down into three separate heaps of scrap and wire.
“Sheesh, dude. Maybe you need a spell on a couch, one with lots of Kleenex and a guy hiding behind his clipboard going, ‘Hmm … tell me about your mother.’”
“He’d get bored; I don’t remember my mother.” Stalking past her, he jumped to dodge an optic blast that sent the scraps of himself flying in all directions.
Behind him, he heard Jubilee speaking to Jubilee.
“Chill chica, ‘kay? Can’t we talk about this? Hey! No burning my hair, you witch! That’s it, move over on that couch, Wolvie, this tin snot is going down!”
“Kill, darlin’!” he called back to her. “Let ‘er rip!”
Stalking back up to Cyclops, he jumped around or over every shot the mechanical Summers fired at him. When he was close enough, he lunged and sprang into the air, hitting him full force. They skidded over ten feet before Logan stabbed his claws into the concrete to stop the slide. The next stab went into the construct’s thigh. After that, his humanity checked out for a while and let the beast play.
~ ~ ~
A sound from behind made him whirl, a snarl on his lips that displayed fangs. Jubilee stood there, her hands covering her mouth.
“Oh my God, Wolvie… Are you … ticked at our fearless leader, maybe? I don’t think he was serious about shipping you out to pop Doc Ock into a gunnysack.”
Coming back to himself slowly, Logan felt his hackles smooth out. He was down on one knee with his claws buried in a collection of hissing spare parts that had gotten too small to keep slicing while standing on his feet.
“Just blowin’ off steam, darlin’.” Standing, he retracted his claws with a ~snakt~. “Too much fun fer ya?”
“Uh, nope, had a ball – right after I swallowed my gum. Anymore Freud crap you want to slice and dice, or can we go for pancakes? By the way, you’re buying, you hairy freak.”
Grinning, Logan nodded. “No prob.”
“Hey, with no one in the booth, how do we get out of here?”
“Program’ll run out in fifteen.”
“Super, but I’m hungry now, big bad cereal all gone. Can we speed it up?”
“Sure, with tha privilege o’ rank.” Raising his voice, he called out, “Professor Logan, termination code 00X7, execute.”
The Danger Room sounded a bell alarm in answer to the code and the holographic holocaust scene faded away. Panels in the floor opened beneath the robotic scrap, closing a second later to leave them standing in a bare and empty room. A heavy pressurized thump noise and a hiss announced that the outer door had unsealed and opened for them.
“Tight. I didn’t know the teachers could do that.”
“Hank added it on tha last upgrade, in case tha damn system goes haywire an’ tries t’ kill us all again.”
Jubilee gulped. “Again?”
“Uh-huh. Fetch yer jacket, Jubilation. I’ll take ya int’ Salem Center fer yer pancakes.”
“Yes! Back in five!”
Logan went out to the garage to wait for her, not bothering to get a jacket. The chill might help to calm his lingering rage and whirling thoughts. He sat on the Harley, put up the kickstand, and balanced it with his scuffed boots. Folding his arms over his chest, he put his chin down and closed his eyes.
More than just the messy situation with Jean plagued him, however. He’d bet good money the news clip Summers had been watching meant that his young friend in Chicago was in it deep.
Damn it, Rooke, I hope yer not messin’ with that tentacles bastard. It’d fit with tha adamantium smell on ya, though. Shit.
Soon enough he heard Jubilee, chattering about where she was going, with whom, and no she didn’t know when, and then the slam of the garage door.
There was a time when Jubes might have played at sneaking up on him or rushing up quickly. Those days, thankfully, were gone – she’d learned it wasn’t safe to startle him.
Lifting his head, he turned slightly to look at her. “Miss that emergency flare yellow trench ya had, darlin’. Uniform black don’t suit ya.”
“I still have it, but I worry about it on the bike. I squirm too much, so it never stays tucked.” She approached, her hand reaching out to touch his shoulder, the slender fingers moving down his arm as if she were petting a puppy. “I know you don’t really feel it, but it’s getting colder out.”
“I’ll be fine. Hop on an’ hang on.”
She was warm against his back as she settled behind him and slid her arms around his waist. He could feel the cut line of the cropped uniform jacket meeting at her belt across his lower back. He started the Harley and grinned at her whoop of excitement as he launched them out of the nearest open garage door.
Westchester County flashed by them on the way into town and in spite of her comment about squirming, she moved with his weight on the bike like a pro, leaning into turns exactly when he did. She was fearless and it had always been a thrill to experience things with her, to see them from her perspective a little instead of through the weight of his years.
Jubilee asked if they could have breakfast at his favorite haunt, the Auger Inn, but he vetoed that. The rough biker bar was no place for a kid, no matter how grown up she seemed, or thought that she was.
“Okay, how about the ‘Danger Pub’?” she shouted at his ear, nodding at Harry’s Hideaway.
“Thought ya wanted pancakes, not booze.”
“I want adventure, Wolvie!”
“Yeah, well, I’ve had a belly full o’ it lately.”
He stopped at the little mom-and-pop diner by the arcade instead and he led her to a booth in the back, where he could watch all doors and windows at once.
The waitress came up and smiled at them warmly. “Welcome back, Logan, Jubilee. What’ll you have?”
“Bring me whatever ya got on tap, Martha; she’s after pancakes.”
“It’s a bit early for beer, dude, I’m shoor. Dr. Pepper, please, and a loaded stack of buttermilk yum. Oh and bring him some kind of meat, ‘kay? I’m having second breakfast – he hasn’t eaten a thing.” She grinned.
“Some kind of meat?” Martha gave Logan another smile. “I’ll see what I can do about the beer, too. Be right back.”
“She likes you, dude and she’s cute. Most of the single gals in town like you and some of the hitched ones, too.”
“Maybe you should look around – never know when someone could cheer you up, if you let them.”
He waited until Martha brought their drinks and left again to answer. He was impressed that she’d brought a pitcher, with a chilled glass, too.
“See?” Jubilee sipped her soda through a straw. “Likes you.”
“Ya had a real boyfriend yet? Holdin’ hands, all that?”
“I d’know how ‘real’ it was, but I’ve had some holding of this and that, shoor.”
“Well, when ya go fer broke an’ tha birdies eventually quit twitterin’, nine outta ten, it’s just a hassle.”
“Wow, that’s bleak, dude.”
“If it’s all the same to you, I plan to be worshipped and adored.”
“I hope ya get it, then, darlin’. Hell, never settle fer less; it’s tha settlin’ that’ll put ya in an early grave – figuratively speakin’.”
“So what did you settle for lately?”
The question surprised him, but then he was saved by a lady with a tray. Assuming she couldn’t grill him through a game of twenty questions if his mouth was full, he stuffed it with the sausages and ham slices Martha brought.
Avoiding Jubilee’s probing curiosity by luring her into tales of their past adventures, it was an hour and another pitcher later before he realized that he was actually relaxed and enjoying himself a little. Even so, he knew he should take her back. Old stories made him restless, bringing out the wanderlust that often gripped him.
“Yeah, if you are.”
Martha came over at his wave. “Here’s the check. Want a box for the rest of your pancakes, hon? I can put it in a bag, for the bike ride.”
“Yes, please.” Smiling at him, Jubilee joked, “I’ll have to mark it ‘biohazard’ to keep the rug rats out of it, but it’s worth a shot.”
“Put it in Hank’s lab fridge with tha real biohazards. Nobody goes lookin’ fer a snack in there.”
“Not even him?” She winked and stood up when Martha brought her a box and bag.
Logan handed Martha a generous tip and went to the counter to pay. Pulling his battered wallet from his back jeans pocket, he sighed when he realized he had a photo of Jean in there. It was torn in half, too. Had Scott been in the picture? He couldn’t remember.
At Jubilee’s urging, he sped all the way home, taking sharper turns every time she shrieked with delight.
Aiming for the open garage, he leaned over and executed a sharp sliding spin, stopping with a squeal of rubber as the back tire whipped around, directly into the parking space he’d had it in before.
Jubilee had a death grip on his waist, but she was laughing. Before climbing down, she hugged him tighter, her cheek on his back. “Thanks for breakfast, Wolvie, and the weird violent Freud thingy, too.”
“Needed tha comp’ny, like ya said.”
“Yes, I’m usually right; it’s a terrible burden. Hey, the box isn’t too crushed – bonus.”
He put the kickstand down and followed her into the kitchen. “Don’t trust Hank not t’ eat it?” he asked when she headed for the fridge.
“Or to not put his goo dishes on top of it,” she answered, making a face. Popping the box in without writing dire notes on it, she turned when the phone rang. Picking up the cordless handset, she announced, “Joe’s Mortuary: you stab ‘em, we slab ‘em. Ha, um, no, yeah, this is the school, sorry. Oh, hey, hi! Where are you!”
Logan started to wave to her and leave, but she walked over fast and grabbed his wrist. “What? Don’t need t’ listen t’ ya on tha –”
Shaking her head at him, she said, “Yeah, he’s here, we just got in from breakfast. Hang on.” Jubes held out the phone. “It’s for you, Wolvie. It’s Rooke! Tell her to come back, I miss her.”
Worry slumped his shoulders as he took the phone and leaned against the counter. Jubilee lingered, but he knew Rooke wouldn’t care.
“Hiya, pun’kin. Still in one piece?” He listened as she jumped right in and described a pretty rough night, that ended, among other things, with her losing her new coat. “Ya need money?” He heard traffic behind her. Was she on a payphone?
The voice came louder through the phone; she was probably trying to hear herself over the noise around her. “No, I still have money – it was in my jeans. I just wanted to let you know I’m still around – in case you saw any news from here.”
Logan sighed. “I saw it. It went national. Octavius, darlin’? Not a good pick fer a lot o’ reasons.”
“I’ve been working on those exercises Xavier gave me, and it’s helped – I reached him once … but he doesn’t trust me.”
“Not many men like ‘im would, after that stunt ya pulled. Consequences can be a bitch. I assume yer not givin’ up, though I’d recommend it.”
“I can’t … I love him. I know I can help him, too, if I can just get in the building.”
“They hide tha front door?”
“It’s Fort Knox – and booby-trapped to the max. The private elevator hits unauthorized personnel with nerve gas. I burrowed into the lab from a storm tunnel to steal the sample.”
“Sneaky.” He tapped his fingers on the phone, wishing she’d just ask him to go out there. “Tha offer o’ help still stands.”
“Thanks, but I can handle one murderous superfreak with a grab bag of Bond gadgets. His nerve gas made me drunk, but I handled it. Spiral’s a goddess.”
“Never had a complaint ‘bout ‘er, myself – at least nothin’ worth a grudge. Darlin’, ya gotta be careful; Octavius ain’t playin’ with a full deck. Ya sure there’s nothin’ I can do?”
“You could lend me Jean. An Omega-level telepath would make this easy.”
“She’s not mine t’ lend.”
He heard her sigh. “Don’t worry about it. She doesn’t like me, anyway.”
“‘Can’t approve o’ yer goals an’ methods’ was tha quote. Fer tha record, she don’t like mine, neither.”
“Mags can wait. My new goal is to rip that geek out of those metal brutes’ grip. He’s not a bad guy when he’s in charge of them – almost a carbon copy of the ‘we must help others even if they hate us’ drivel Xavier is always spooning everybody.”
Logan laughed. “Some o’ us believe it, an’ some just humor ‘im cuz they’re lookin’ fer somethin’ t’ do. Go rescue Dr. Jekyll then – but if Mr. Hyde tries t’ take ya out again, he’ll have me t’ answer t’.”
“Won’t be necessary. I have a brilliant plan.”
“As brilliant as tha last one?”
“Hey, that plan worked fine. Let’s just say, I bet his people aren’t coping well with the new bosses. It might open up negotiations a crack.”
“Darlin’, ya know savin’ ‘im from ‘isself ain’t a guarantee he’ll build a white picket fence an’ make ya tha missus.” He could see Jubilee trying to hear what Rooke was saying, but the last comment was too soft for it. For him, it was the most encouraging thing she’d said yet. “Spoken like an X-Man,” he teased her. “Fer what it’s worth, I’ll wish ya luck – picket fence an’ all.”
The moment he hung up the phone, Jubilee pounced. “What did she say, what did I miss? How was she speaking like an X-Man?”
“She’s mixed up with Doc Ock an’ tha birdies quit twitterin’. He’s up t’ ‘is ass in somethin’ he did t’ ‘isself an’ she’s gonna help ‘im, no matter what.”
“Rooke is dating Doctor Octopus?”
“No, Jubilation, not datin’. She bamboozled tha crackpot in ‘is bed, an’ then stole back some sample o’ ‘er metal she gave ‘im before t’ use as blackmail. It’s somethin’ t’ make ‘is contraption work, tha one tha Wall-crawler stopped ‘im from messin’ with here in New York.”
“Yeah. Typical foot-in-it shit from tha cyborg end o’ tha mutant family tree.”
“You’re just mad because she didn’t invite you to go over there and kick his tail – er – tentacles.”
“Give it time.”
~ ~ ~
From the moment he left the house to go for a walk, he caught Jean’s scent; before he made the conscious decision to do so, he was already following her trail. The woods were speckled with afternoon sunlight and full of tiny sounds that most people would either never hear or would pay no attention to. To him, they were soothing; silence in a normally vibrant woodland was not a good sign.
Long before the trail led him toward the rock over the stream, he figured that was where she would go. He spotted her before she knew he was there. She had stretched herself out on her belly over the wide flat rock, her chin pillowed on her hands as she watched the stream. The breeze toyed with her long hair and the soft knit dress showed her figure enough to spark his heat.
God, yer beautiful, he thought. He met her gaze as her head lifted and turned to see him. Her eyes were still wet with the tears she’d cried – he had scented that, too. It drew him to comfort her as intensely as her want had lured his body.
“Logan…” she whispered. Can we just … not talk? I need you…
Without a word, he went to her. When she reached to grab her dress and began to pull it up, he sucked in his breath and fell hard onto his knees between her spreading legs. His hands pushed the soft cloth away from softer skin, caressing her as he went. The sight of pristine white cotton panties stretched over her ass, damp with her desire, lured the beast within. He fell forward to all-fours and bent low to scent her, his tongue tip working under the edge of the cotton to taste her inviting flesh.
Cut it, use your claws. I don’t care if it’s soft or rough, I want – whatever you need this to be.
The ache in his arms from the claws seeking to push free – she had sensed him trying to fight it. Gonna kill me with this, Jeannie… What a way t’ go. He felt the bones move slowly and shift, the soft sounds around them stopping at the sinister ~snikt~ noise of the adamantium clicking against itself at his wrist. After a breath, the insects and small creatures resumed their lives, paying no attention to the slit of soft cotton.
Jean moaned when he gave her his tongue and fingers. He felt the warmth of her power at his belt and then growled with hunger when the belt and jeans undid themselves. His clawed hand spread one of her legs wider, the other hand reaching for what she wanted.
Shoving the jeans and waistband of his boxers out of the way, he gripped his cock and then snarled with pleasure at the feel of her telekenesis wrapping around it. The pressure was perfect, even if the strangeness of it made his hackles rise. The beast within could be alarmed all he wanted to, but the man could barely breathe.
Fascinated, he watched it happen, aware she was in turn watching him. The unseen warm grip squeezed and stroked until he groaned. The moment it began to drip, the foreskin retracting, he moved over her. His claws sheared off a piece of stone from the edge when he used that hand to keep his weight off of her. She lifted her hips as he entered her and gasped as he began to thrust.
Turning her head, Jean carefully kissed one of his claws. Opening her mouth, she ran her tongue down the side of the lethal blade.
Careful, he thought, knowing she was in his mind.
Let me feel your weight, she answered, and your teeth…
He pressed her down, scenting her pheromones thicken around them when she was unable to keep her hips raised under him. The angle, making it harder to sink deep, left him thrusting short and fast. He set his teeth at the join of her neck and shoulder and paused.
Bite, she urged. Be the beast for me; I can feel that’s what you want. I … I love that wildness, the passion of it. Please fuck me…
The harsh crude words from her cultured thoughts made him lose the tenuous hold he had on the beast within. He had tried to be the man for her, but if she wanted the animal… It didn’t become the bestial rage, with a red haze seeking blood; he didn’t lose himself – but in allowing that side of him to take over, it felt like freedom.
Harder, be rough – be what you are…
With a growl, he bit deeper and tasted her blood in his mouth. Letting go of restraint, of fears that she wouldn’t accept, he simply drove into her body as it shuddered and squeezed his cock, over and over. She couldn’t have escaped him without hurting him, yet she lay eagerly pressed under him and moaned for the brutal thrusts.
The clawed hand moved, blades scoring the stone. With a ~snikt~ the claws erupted from his other hand when he began to come. There was no hope of holding back, no point in regrets, and then it was over. They lay panting on the warmed stone, sweating and so alive it was hard to contain the fleeting joy.
Logan moved and rose, reluctant to leave her body. He settled on his side, gathered her into his arms and rolled to his back with her on top of him. He was about to retract the claws, until her fingertips touched them as she kissed him.
Quite a picture we’d make, anybody came along…
I don’t care.
Ya might, Jeannie.
Breaking the kiss to stare into his eyes, she smiled. “They won’t come here, because I don’t want them to,” she whispered.
“Ya put tha ‘keep out’ whammy on tha whole forest? ‘Ro might notice an’ wonder why.”
“Afraid to be caught with me?” she teased.
Logan snorted. “Yer tha one wants t’ screw on tha down-low. I wanna howl it on tha rooftop. Had no clue ya could stroke me with yer TK – downright kinky.”
“Not a bit, darlin’. Ya know, if ya like it this way, suits me perfect. Gimme time an’ I could get ya winnin’ bar fights an’ huntin’ deer in tha snow. Nude.”
“Don’t count your chickens, ‘bub’. Missions are one thing, but I have a hot shower and warm bed addiction.”
Logan laughed. “Ain’t gotta be a wild woman all tha time, Jeannie. I fell in love with tha lady first, after all.”
“I wanted to do this earlier; speaking to Charles was not the best part of my day.”
“Keepin’ this from ‘im ain’t gonna be easy. Can’t barely muster tha worry on Cyke’s account, but Chuck’s a tough one t’ sneak ‘round.”
“It doesn’t bother you? I’m technically still his…”
“Cyke don’t own ya. Legal side’s just paper. T’ be honest, yeah, it bothers me. Instinct wants t’ make ya mine, but that’s diff’rent an’ it’s yer decision, not ‘is.”
Jean picked her head up to look at him. “Is that why you were cutting a clone robot of him into spark plugs in the Danger Room this morning?”
“That was just blowin’ off steam, darlin’.”
“The same answer you gave Jubilee, almost like a prepared response. Is it the truth?”
“Ya tell me. Maybe it’s ‘bout time ya looked at that side o’ me, too.”
He watched her as she kissed the top of a metal claw, above the sharp edges. Swallowing as she licked up it to his hand, he winced at the feel of his cock growing hard again. Her lips moved to kiss the root of the claws where they always tore his skin, her fingers massaging his arm.
“Retract them for me…” As he did, slowly, she felt the bones shift and move in his forearm. She held his gaze for a stretch of breaths before she closed her eyes and lay down to rest on him again.
With a sharp ~snakt~ he retracted them all and gently turned her head. She moaned when his tongue began to lick the blood from the bite she’d asked for. “How ya gonna explain this?” he murmured over her skin.
“I don’t plan to. I live in sweaters until spring. No one but you is trying to see me topless these days.”
“Speakin’ o’ which,” he muttered, and started to work his hands under the sweater, but she stopped him.
“I should go back.”
“An’ tha next time…?”
“We live in each other’s pockets, Logan. You see me every day.”
“Coy don’t suit ya, Red. Bein’ ‘round ya, scentin’ what ya want – it can drive a feral boy insane. Need t’ have ya again, soon. Not here at home – need t’ be somewhere … else.”
“Like a date?” She smiled as she sat up on him, straddling his thighs. Her warm weight made his cock ache with renewed heat. “We had moonlight and roses in the maze garden.”
Logan sat up and held her close, nuzzling her shoulder under her hair. “I’ll take what I can get, but I want it all, Jeannie. I love ya … an’ someday I’m gonna ask ya again if ya could love me.”
He kept his head down, hiding his face in her hair. He didn’t want to know if she was looking at him, or if her gaze was on the chimneys of the house in the distance.
Author’s Note: Logan’s conversation with Rooke also takes place in my Doc Ock tale, Of Dreams and Dust, in chapter seven. For those who are curious about what’s going on with Rooke, see that story for details. Pikachu is from Pokemon; I have no idea who owns them. As always, thank you all for your patience, and for reading and reviewing! – AnonGrimm (@MET_Fic)