Your dream is over … or has it just begun?
The walls you built within come tumbling down
and a new world will begin
Living twice at once you learn
You’re safe from pain in the dream domain
A soul set free to fly…
~ Silent Lucidity (Queensrÿche)
“Scott?” The soft sounds in the dark bedroom ceased.
“I was trying not to wake you,” he said. When he snapped on the bathroom light, she saw that he was already dressed in his uniform.
Jean sat up and felt her head spin. She had pretended to be asleep when he’d come to bed, planning to talk to him in the morning. Now he was rushing off again. She reached for the glass of water Logan had brought her and drank it down at once.
“What’s wrong?” Her voice sounded all right – not angry, and not drunk, thank God.
“We’ve gotten another call. Tennessee. Ororo’s coming with us on this one, so we might be back for breakfast.” He disappeared into the bathroom.
Jean let her face sink into her hands. Why does he have to go? Can’t Ororo and Warren handle it? Or Logan. When Scott headed for the door, she looked up quickly. “Could you send Logan in your place?”
“And risk him popping his claws in the middle of a delicate negotiation? We want to talk a crowd of rednecks out of hunting down a pair of mutants on their land. We don’t want a stack of dead people. Tempers are hot enough over there.”
“The only one of you who speaks redneck is Logan.”
“If he bothers to talk first. There’s no time, Jean. Logan’s too volatile for this one.” Without another word, he grabbed his uniform jacket and stepped out.
“Be safe,” she whispered to the empty room.
Jean lay back down and felt the tears rise. He would have left without waking her at all. The black pit of pain that had filled her while Scott had been gone, presumed dead, threatened to creep back into her heart. She fought it, not wanting to face the barren horror again. Yet in so many ways, her husband hadn’t returned to her at all. Explaining it away and making excuses didn’t help anymore.
She was on her feet and putting on her robe over the nightdress before she knew what she intended to do. Standing in the hall outside her suite, she hesitated.
Don’t be ridiculous. You can’t wake him up to talk about your upset with Scott. You’ve troubled Logan enough for one night.
Jean had turned to go back to her room when his voice stopped her. “Jeannie? Ya awright, darlin’?”
He stood in the hall, dressed in nothing but black jogging pants, with a beer in one hand and a newspaper rolled under the other arm. His dark blue eyes watched her with concern, but if she looked deeper, she could see other things – how he felt about her, how she made him feel. Things she used to sense from her husband, before Apocalypse took him and changed everything.
Logan’s dealt with that too, she mused. Apocalypse made him Death once, but he came back to us, unchanged; even if he does disappear for a time to recover alone. Is there anything he hasn’t survived?
The man the world knew as Wolverine approached her with an expression of compassion that many would never see on his face. “What is it, Jeannie?”
“I heard. Didn’t wanna bring tha adamantium juicer along, obviously.” He smiled at her warmly. “Ya oughta be asleep.”
“Would you – I know I shouldn’t ask.”
“Ya shouldn’t hafta.” Setting the bottle and newspaper on a small table against the wall behind him, he returned to her. “C’mon,” he said, and touched her shoulder. “Let’s get ya back in bed an’ I’ll sit with ya. I don’t need much sleep – ‘nother side effect o’ tha ol’ healin’ factor.”
Logan steered her back to her bed and she allowed it, relaxing into letting him take control. He paused only when she dropped the bathrobe and slipped under the covers. The bright flush of his thoughts filtered through her muzzy brain slowly.
“I’m sorry … I don’t mean to…” She lay down and closed her eyes.
“Don’t fret, darlin’.” He picked up the bathrobe, laid it on the foot of the bed and turned out the lights. The bathroom light was still on and it left them both in shadow.
A fierce blush heated Jean’s face. The nightdress was sheer in enough places to entice a surly husband; she hadn’t thought about it until it was too late. Breaking the awkward silence, she whispered, “How can you put up with me?”
“Ya don’t want me t’ answer that, do ya?” His gaze was steady on her as he sat in an armchair on her left.
“No.” She bit her lip a moment. “But thank you.”
Logan nodded. “Sleep. Yer gonna need it when that whiskey calls in its markers.”
~ ~ ~
Jean dreamed of his husky voice in her ear and the rough scrape of his unshaven chin along her jaw. A low feral growl set her blood on fire. He was pressing her down. Why were they surrounded by snow?
With a snap she woke and stared across the room at Logan, still in the chair. His eyes were closed.
Oh God, why am I dreaming about that? It was so real. She shivered. His strength had been shocking. His need – tantalizing. I’ve never been able to fight this, have I? Something about his nature draws me to him, even if it frightens me sometimes, too. Logan, you’re such a confusing person – a knight and a beast at once.
He shifted slightly and she held her breath. Slowly, carefully, she opened up her telepathy and pierced his thoughts. In an instant, she was immersed in a dream similar to her own. She didn’t try to see the images his mind created, but his mental speech painted the picture clearly enough.
Guiltily, she withdrew from his mind, but not before her body had been affected by what she had touched. Turning on her side, she closed her eyes. It was difficult to fall asleep but when she did, the rampant desire was infused again into her dreams.
Mold it, change it – lucid dreaming can be altered, nudged. Turn the body you want into Scott’s.
It slipped away from her. The form that loomed over hers, the weight that pressed her down, was not her husband’s. Her fingernails rasped along a roughened jaw. When the mouth licked and nipped at her throat, there were canine fangs there, sharp and deadly, that threaded her soul with lust.
It had begun as a hunting dream. Then, somewhere along the windswept snow, the prey had changed. The mule deer became slender warm flesh, a woman of ivory skin and firebrand hair. The emerald eyes taunted him, inspiring the chase.
Bloodlust turned to mating need in an instant. Had he run her down or did she allow herself to be caught? Rational sense did not return until she was panting beneath him. Naked in the snow, he didn’t feel the cold – but she did. He sought to warm her with the furtive friction of sex. As his mind returned, he knew her, but another’s scent was on her skin, enraging his animal heart.
Go, seek out tha trespasser – kill tha rival fer tha mate. No. Jean wouldn’t thank ya fer that. She’s here – why is she here? Don’t question – take what’s given. Let t’morrow seek its answers alone.
As he took her, lost in the act of sinking deep inside her heat, he woke with a start – and there she was, not three feet away, lying in her bed watching him. Desire and guilt warred in her eyes.
“Ya feelin’ okay, Jeannie?” he asked, trying to bury his thoughts in a haze of incidental nonsense.
“Yes,” she whispered. “If you wanted to go back to bed, I’ll be fine.”
He wanted to watch over her, but the urge to climb in bed with her was getting strong. No point in a scene like that. Wantin’ it’s a far cry from sayin’ yes, though she might be kind an’ not dump me out with a TK punch. Get some distance, bub; yer goin’ nuts here. “Guess I could.” He got up quickly and moved to the door. “If ya need – anythin’ – just yell.”
Outside, he leaned against her door and tried to steady his breathing. When he could return to his room, he didn’t go to bed.
As the sun rose, he was still sitting on the floor in a lotus position with his eyes closed. Yet the meditation he’d learned decades ago in Japan couldn’t chase the conflict from his heart.
~ ~ ~
They were back from Tennessee by morning and Jean had taken up her torch again. Logan dressed in black leather pants that didn’t bear a single X, his heavy boots, and a white tank t-shirt and headed outside for a walk. His old cowboy hat was perched on his head and a cigar puffed in his mouth as he stalked from the mansion to the woods around it.
He reached the little brook at a spot where a wide rock hung over its bank, surrounded by dandelions. Without disturbing the delicate plants, he sat on the edge of the rock and watched the water flow beneath him.
Faces formed in his thoughts, a slow montage of women he had loved. The majority of them were dead. The few who had ended their lives on the points of his claws haunted him the most. It was always a choice of theirs – to spare them a more terrible and unavoidable end. Mariko Yashida, the most cherished of them, had asked him for mercy to save her from poison. In her honor, he still tried to be the samurai she had asked him to become.
As always, there were ghosts among his past loves – sketchy images, forgotten emotions – were they the ones whom he had loved in times he didn’t remember? The gaps in his memory were disturbingly vast. Could whole lifetimes be lost there?
Any way ya look at it, it ain’t a great track record, he thought, as the bitterness welled up inside. Why mix Jean up in that mess? Be grateful she loves tha teacher’s pet an’ leave ‘er in peace. Even though peace ain’t what she’s got.
As he popped the triple claws from his right hand, the sudden ~snikt~ seemed loud in the stillness of the trees. With a flick of his wrist, he cut the stem of a dandelion. The retracting claws disappeared again with an abrupt ~snakt~ sound.
Damn ya t’ Hell, Cyke, ya don’t deserve that woman. Ya drove Madelyn int’ yer brother’s waitin’ arms. If ya land Jean in mine, yer gonna have only yerself t’ blame. He picked up the fallen dandelion and took the cigar out of his mouth. If wishes were horses, he thought, and blew on the seeds.
The tiny white tufts flew out over the brook and were caught in the breeze. They danced a moment over the swirl of water before being carried out and away through the trees.
Ororo moved through the garden using her mutant gift of manipulating the weather to call up a light breeze to blow the leaves from their path.
“We’ll have our first snow early, I think,” she said.
Jean hugged herself as she walked beside her friend. “As nature dictates? Or were you in the mood for a toboggan ride?” Her tone was sour. At the startled look the other woman gave her, she sighed. “I’m sorry. I’m just worried.”
“About Scott?” Ororo brushed a stray lock of long white hair behind her ear.
“Yes, but not in the way you think. I don’t understand his attitude.”
“He does seem a trifle overeager to fight the good fight.”
“I could accept that, but he’s spending most of his time ignoring me. I don’t understand why I’m suddenly at arm’s length and I can’t pretend it’s not happening anymore. He’s only happy when he’s flying away from me; I’ve just refused to see it until now.”
“I wish I could advise you, but I must confess his behavior confuses me, too.” When she stepped off of the path and headed over the lawn toward the forest edge, Jean followed.
“Ororo, we… He hasn’t – touched me – in so long. It’s confusing, frustrating … and I just don’t know what to do. Everything I’ve tried just falls flat, no response. He isn’t even pretending to care anymore. He treats me like just another member of a team, not like his wife … a woman he loves.”
“Oh, my friend … my sister, I am so sorry. I had no idea it had gone so far. Have you tried to discuss this directly with him?”
“I’d ask him why if I could corner the man, but he just avoids me. Then when Logan and I were … in danger, in that young mutant’s mind, Scott was furious. Or so Warren said.”
“He didn’t seem relieved to see you safe?”
“He was – possessive. It was strange … but not like he used to be.”
Ororo stopped at the edge of the forest and faced her. Placing her hands on Jean’s shoulders, she smiled kindly. “Give him time. Not everyone can bounce back from a round with Apocalypse as quickly as some.”
“I’m not sure what to do about him, either.”
“Logan? Don’t worry about him.”
“It’s not him I’m worried for. It’s me.”
“Jean, I’ve known you both so long. I think I know you well. He is patient and loyal. He respects your choices, too. No matter what hardships conflict you, you love Scott. It will be all right.”
“I couldn’t say this to anyone else, but you understand. When we were inside that mutant’s mind, we thought we’d die. He kissed me. I let him.”
“You were afraid, and Logan will always live life to the fullest and to the very last. Don’t judge yourself so harshly.”
“I wanted it … and – it’s not the first time it happened.”
Ororo smiled. “I can’t blame you for that, can I? He is talented.”
“He’s the best there is at what he does.” Jean sighed. “We joke about that, but it’s true.”
“I remember. Vividly.”
“Have you ever thought about it? Being with him?”
Ororo slipped an arm around her shoulders and turned them both to face the forest. “I have, especially in the old Australia days, but I never could sort out how it might work, so I kept the thoughts to myself. He knew, of course.”
“Is that why you kissed? He just did it?”
“No, at least once, I initiated it. Our few kisses were more about defying others. They would take, so we would give to each other, to take our choice back. Since those days, I’ve always ended up giving my heart elsewhere. He is a good man, though. I can say it would be a credit to any woman to love him. If she could stand the pace, that is.”
Jean smiled. “The pace, the many vices, and the moods.”
“He’d be a challenge, certainly, but never boring. Of course, you already know he isn’t always as hard a man as he appears to be – not to people he cares for.” Ororo released her and gave her a nudge. “Why don’t you go find him? Talk.”
“I need to talk to Scott, not Logan.”
“Maybe if you started talking with Logan more, Scott might pay attention.”
Jean grinned. “You’re supposed to be an X-Man, one of the good guys.”
Ororo laughed. “I am.”
Jean hugged her and stepped into the cool green shade of the trees. Logan would probably be at the brook. She hoped he wasn’t running wild through the woods.
What am I going to say? Ororo told me to come? I can’t tell him about my dreams.
She smelled the Cuban cigar before she found him. When she moved through the last line of trees before the brook, she saw him sitting out on the edge of the rock. The impulse to slip away was discarded quickly. He knew she was there. You couldn’t sneak up on the Wolverine.
“Care for some company?” she asked in a whisper.
“Sure, darlin’ – pull up some rock.” When she sat next to him, he put out the cigar on the stone and slipped it into his hatband. “How’s yer head?”
“Pounding. I took aspirin.”
“Ya gotta practice at drinkin’. Pace it. I’m partly t’ blame, givin’ ya heavy booze after wine. Tha mixin’ll kill ya. Stick with one type o’ sauce fer a smoother hangover.”
“That’s okay – but I’ll remember the advice. So, am I invited again sometime?”
The silence seemed to close in on them. Logan watched the water. His voice was calm when he spoke. “Had a dream ‘bout ya last night, when I was sittin’ up with ya. Thought ya mighta picked up on it.”
Oh, God. “No, I didn’t.”
“Way ya were watchin’ me when I woke up, I gotta diff’rent impression.” His blue eyes pierced her, and she could feel that he hoped she would give him the truth, but didn’t expect it.
Jean looked away, her head bowed.
“It’s okay, Jeannie; I won’t push ya. We don’t want tha same things, that’s all. I hope he straightens up, does right by ya.”
She looked up at him with her heart pounding in her throat. “I had a dream about you, too. I don’t know how to feel about it, but I want to make things right with Scott. I have to.”
“Course ya do. Don’t mean t’ cause ya grief, darlin’.”
His hand rose and touched her cheek. He expected her to speak and move her face away, but she leaned into his light caress. When their eyes met, what he saw in hers took his breath away.
Her hand covered his where it touched her. Her other hand rested on his shoulder. She shifted slightly and brought her lips within a breadth of his. Logan’s heart beat faster.
She’s confused, not passionate. Needin’ comfort – but does she want what she seems t’ be askin’ fer? “Jeannie – I can’t tell ya no, but be sure. What is it ya want?”
For an instant, she hesitated. He knew if she kissed him then, he’d have to work on finding the strength to stop if she asked him to. Then she backed away. Her hands left him and she clasped them in her lap, staring at them. A blush tinted her cheeks.
The subtle scent of her desire washed over him and drifted away. He was left with the strangling pressure of his own tormented need. Hands clenched into fists, he tried to master himself again.
“I’m so sorry, Logan. I don’t know what I’m doing – and this is wrong.”
“I’m aware, but ya ain’t dead, neither.”
“I don’t mean because of Scott. It’s wrong to do this to you.”
He reached out slowly and took her chin in his fingers, turning her face to look at him. “I didn’t hesitate cuz I wanted t’. If I thought ya could hear it, I could tell ya some things … but yer feelin’ mixed up an’ lonely, darlin’. I don’t wanna take advantage.”
“You’re not. If anything, I am,” she whispered.
“If ya want me t’ help ya feel better, I’m more’n willin’an’ I make no judgments, won’t hold ya t’ no promises, neither. Just be sure ya want it. All I’d ask is fer ya not t’ turn away when things get better with ‘im. What we got is too precious t’ throw away over guilt or regrets.”
Jean reached out and stroked the thick black mutton chop sideburn that stretched down along his jaw. “You deserve better than … than…”
“Darlin’, I’m not sure I care.”
“I care. If things were different –”
“They ain’t, Jeannie. This is tha hand we’re dealt – may as well play it.”
She was about to answer when her expression changed to the distant look of a telepath listening to someone’s mental hail.
“We gotta jump in tha name o’ freedom, darlin’?”
“It’s Ororo. Scott and Warren are off on another mission – and they don’t need us. Again.”
Logan smirked. “Now ya look like a woman in need o’ a sparrin’ match.”
“Care to meet me in the Danger Room?” Her smile was fierce.
“Sure, if we play teams against robotic beasties. I’m too smart t’ go one on one against that look, Red.”