The direction of the eye, so misleading
The defection of the soul, nauseously quick
I don’t question, our existence
I just question, our modern needs
After all is done, and we’re still alone
I won’t be taken, yet I’ll go … with my hands bound
I will walk … with my face blood
I will walk … with my shadow flag
Into your garden, garden of stone
~ Garden (Pearl Jam)
Telekinesis wasn’t the most precise seamstress tool, but she ended up with a short furred skirt that covered the opened slice in her clothes, but still allowed freedom of movement. She deeply regretted the veto on Gambit’s idea of trench coats for their uniforms.
The first thing she noticed via groping touch when she rejoined Logan was that he still wore his black t-shirt and jacket, though both hung from his shoulders in ragged strips. She couldn’t see him, and the pitch darkness was starting to unnerve her, but her fingers gripped a handful of his jacket shreds as she followed him up the tunnel.
In spite of last night, I couldn’t be stuck in this mess with a better companion. I can’t hear our company yet, but Logan knew they were there right away, even down in the dark, and unpleasantly distracted. He never turns off those hyper-senses. I’d probably sit around analyzing our problems to death until a bear-dog started nibbling on my toes. I’ll have to work on staying alert. I won’t get a second chance if I get bit by a mouth full of needle teeth.
Jean didn’t know what she had expected, but her first sight of the others in the dim light of early morning stunned her to silence. Logan had stopped and she stepped up to stand at his side.
“It’s tha mink jockstrap union,” Logan commented. “Looks like their press gang.”
“They aren’t new arrivals, obviously – unless Kentucky has a Neanderthal Festival. Of course, this might not even be Kentucky anymore.”
“An’ me without my ruby slippers.”
They were human, three men and one woman. All of them were wearing various furry skins that hadn’t been cured well, if the smell was any indication. She scanned them and found nothing but brutal survival drives in their minds.
“What’s tha verdict, Red? They need Hooked on Phonics?”
“At least. There’s nothing human left in their minds. You heard them talking?”
“That’s up t’ interpretation. I heard voices. More o’ a ‘grunt in C minor’ thing.”
“They must have been yanked into this like we were, just sooner.”
“A lot sooner.” Logan wrinkled his nose.
“We have to help them.”
“If I can give them their identities back, maybe one of them could tell us something about how this happened.” She started to walk forward, but Logan grabbed her shoulder and held her back.
“Careful,” he whispered as the biggest of the males sniffed at them and growled. “Tha scents were old, but I think we’re squattin’. They may not wanna be helped as much as they’d like t’ bash our heads in with a jawbone.”
“Hang back. Work yer mojo at a safe distance. If any o’ these boys wanna throw down, I’ll handle it.”
“Don’t hurt them.”
“Cramps my style a bit, but I’ll aim fer that. If they push it, I’m not lettin’ ‘em through t’ ya.”
“I’m not helpless. Keep the claws in.”
Logan frowned, but nodded, moving ahead of her by several steps. He faced off with them on opposite sides of last night’s bloody mess, at the edge of the cavern mouth. She abruptly noticed to her shock that Logan himself was covered with dried blood. With a shake of her head, she took a breath to calm herself and concentrate.
Jean tried to focus on the lead caveman first, but his mind was a violent storm that instantly fought her intrusion. Skipping to his cohorts, one by one, she found the same resistance, if less violence. Their minds manifested the same bleak winter scene Logan’s and Wendy’s had, but there was no sense of a presence in them. If their names were buried somewhere, she would need more time, and less opposition, to find them.
She broke her telepathic connection with the woman last, and found a prehistoric pantomime going on in front of her.
The sounds the leader made could be called talking, she supposed. It was obviously intended to be communication, but it was like a man making animal sounds to amuse a child.
When he gestured to the bear-dog carcass, Logan responded by making a sound that didn’t seem human at all. Jean deciphered the body language and guessed that the others were shocked that Logan had killed the monster.
After more pantomime, the big man abruptly grabbed one of the stiff paws of the front half of the remains and began dragging it off to one side of the cavern. The two smaller men hauled the lighter hindquarters after him.
The woman stared at Logan for a long time. She only shuffled off after her companions when the leader snarled at her in his childish-sounding ferocity.
“So – that was like watching Italian opera without a program. What’s up?”
“My own charmin’ odor convinced ‘em I took out tha beastie. Got tha impression they thought it couldn’t be done. Made a gift o’ stinky in return fer tha digs we acquired without askin’.”
“Talk about something for nothing. What do they want with it? The fur?”
“Fur, bones, meat … everythin’.”
“Ugh. I thought you weren’t supposed to eat carnivores?”
“‘Sposed t’?” Logan’s lips started a slow smile. “Place like this, ya eat whatever doesn’t eat ya first.” He glanced over at the others. “No dice, huh?”
“No marbles. If they’re in there, and they have to be, they’re buried too deep for a casual scan. I can’t get into a real concentrated effort with the level of resistance I’m getting, either – not without restraints, anyway.”
“I’m startin’ t’ regret not talkin’ ya int’ ditchin’ this chore after ya pulled Wendy back out. Now we’re stuck in Neverland an’ happy hour has come an’ gone.”
“Well, these people have spent enough time here to get cozy, implying that it isn’t easy to get out.”
“Maybe fer ‘em. We ain’t tried yet. Don’t feel myself slippin’, though – that’s somethin’.”
“Yes, you seem to be fine here. I guess the problem is out there.”
“Stands t’ reason tha bad guy’s out there too, then.” He glanced at her quickly and looked away again. “Jeannie – what if I just went out there an’ found tha bastard? Ya could make me keep my distance after ‘til I’m human again. With a bit o’ luck, we could get back t’ Bowlin’ Green in time fer brunch.”
“What if it’s more than you can do?”
“That’s a short list, darlin’.”
“I don’t mean to insult the machismo, but it’s a real concern. If you ended up more feral than your healing factor could keep up with, what then? Nothing much can stop you when you hit a berserker rampage level. I’d rather not be on the receiving end of that.”
“Ya wouldn’t be.”
“Can you be so sure?”
He looked at her directly and held her gaze for the first time that morning. “Yeah, I can. Tha beast in me is there all tha time, darlin’ – he don’t just exist in Neverland, an’ he’s marked ya as ‘is. In that dream ya got mixed up in, I was huntin’ deer but I recognized ya as female – as mate. We don’t gotta like it, but it keeps ya safe, at least from my claws.”
“There are other considerations. We don’t know if there even is a bad guy to fight – and you can’t just kill them out of hand, anyway.”
“Sure I can, keeps things simple. If I catch tha one that started this clusterfuck, ghostin’ ‘em is tha shortest escape route – an’ it’d satisfy my need fer payback, too.”
“They may not know what they’ve done. Also,” she added, ignoring his dubious look, “it might not be a person at all. What if it’s some sort of portal we stumbled into? This could be another dimension, another world. We need more information.”
“Could be Central Park, ‘cept fer this muckin’ big cave. We’re in tha same place, Red, bet on it. Someone’s changed it, is all.”
Jean rubbed her temples briefly. The headache was finally starting to fade. “Even if you’re right, you can’t just kill them. There’s always another way.”
He took a breath. “Fine – but I am gonna go hunt. Get us a non-carnivore like some o’ tha skins tha Wild Bunch are sportin’. When I get back, keep yer distance fer a bit.”
“Is it worth the risk? We don’t know how long it’ll take you to recover if you’re out there for an extended time.”
“Starvin’ ain’t fun neither, an’ ya can control me, rampage or not. Ya stopped Sabretooth cold once without even breakin’ a nail – yers or ‘is.” He walked off into the snow of the wide flat plain. As he went, his thought was clear, whether he intended her to hear it or not. Coulda stopped me last night, too, Red.
Jean didn’t answer. She watched him until he disappeared from view. When she turned away to search the bloody scene of the fight, she found his cigars buried in the snow.
There were only three of them left in the hand-sized and cedar-lined stainless steel case, with a book of matches tucked in with them. She held her breath as she opened the matchbook, but the sight of the double row of matches allowed her to sigh in relief. Only four of them had been torn out.
Ignoring the caveman community busy with their primitive butchery, she found an outcropping of rock to sit on at the cavern’s entrance and waited for Logan to return. Her fingers stroked the cigar case as her thoughts began to wander, going unerringly back to Genosha.
Logan is all too eager to use his claws – and with someone like Magneto, it’s hard to say what’s right. We stopped him then, but if Logan hadn’t stabbed the man, he would have just continued the fight another day. Magneto said it himself – if we aren’t willing to kill, and our enemies are, we’re the ones who will die. Still, how can I justify such lethal methods? Remembering Scott’s words, almost approving of Logan’s brutality, she lifted a hand to her temple again. Her husband used to be adamant against lethal action. Jean sighed. As he gets more and more like Logan – where does that leave me?
Where tha devil did those idiots go, anyway? There’s nothin’ out here but snow. If they were huntin’, they came back empty-handed. Bone an’ sinew slingshots an’ clubs – not tha most effective ways t’ land dinner. No wonder it’s bear-dog fer breakfast.
Logan stopped and scented the wind. One moment, he would have sworn there wasn’t a creature for miles, but in the next, there were several. He started off following the scent trail of a large herd of an animal similar to an elk.
Somethin’ along tha elk line would be good. Warm fur, lots o’ meat. Kentucky shouldn’t have elk – whitetails’re ‘bout tha only member o’ tha deer family on tha menu here in tha real world. I guess it’s a beggars/choosers thing. Nothin’ native ‘bout bear-dogs, neither. He almost tripped when he abruptly crossed tracks in the snow. That wasn’t there a minute ago, but it’s a match fer my elk. Thanks Hook, or whoever ya are. Neverland was gonna get tiresome if all there was t’ eat was bear-dog.
When the animals came into sight, they did look remarkably like elk. A disturbing thought brushed his mind. He stopped downwind of the herd and began picturing smaller prey – African gazelles.
Not meant fer a climate like this, but tasty. More t’ tha point, are they gonna appear cuz I’m thinkin’ I want ‘em?
The herd shifted and milled, the animals appearing to be grazing on the snow. As Logan concentrated on gazelles, he saw one – it flitted between two elk bucks and stood staring at him with wide innocent brown eyes.
Damn. Nice trick, Hook. Feel free t’ show yerself while yer at it – I’d as soon bring yer hide back t’ Jean an’ go fer eggs benedict. Hell with this ‘can’t kill it’ bullshit. Whattaya say?
The feather touch of something invasive slid into his mind and a tingling began in his nerve-endings. He recognized it as the same sensation he’d felt before, but couldn’t fight it off.
So much fer a straight-up fight. I do hate tha sneaky bastards. He felt the wild urges of his bestial nature surge over his human mind and after a moment, he simply stopped trying to resist it. Time t’ embrace tha beast within. It was his last coherent thought before the hunting instinct took over his mind.
~ ~ ~
He stared at the sight of his mate flying to him on the wind like a bird without wings. His lips curled in a snarl, afraid of the strange magic. She landed in the snow a few feet from his kill and watched him.
“Thought you might like some help toting all that back home.”
His claws were extended and bloody from the hunt, but though he crouched and shied from her, he couldn’t raise them against her. A low growl escaped his throat as she stepped closer. The magic was gone, but would it return? Was she threatened by it?
“Oh – I’m sorry. I didn’t realize my TK would upset you in this state.” Logan? It’s only a part of me. Like your claws are a part of you. I’m still just – you can trust me. I won’t harm you and you won’t harm me, because I’m … your mate. Yes?
He cocked his head at her, confused by the words – but their bond transmitted her meaning to his mind slowly. No harm to mate… His growl stopped. She approached and touched him, stroking the fur along the side of his muzzle. Straightening, he gave her a brief nuzzle against her neck. Then he leaned down and hooked the smaller kill with his claws, flipping it over his shoulder to his back.
As he was about to grasp a hind leg of the massive prey and haul it off, the entire animal lifted out of the snow and hovered over it, dripping blood from the trio of holes at the left shoulder. He startled and snarled, but his mate’s touch reassured him. It was strange, and difficult to trust, but he could feel the energy that held the prey emanating from his mate. Unsettled by the sight of it, he led the way and listened to her steps as she followed.
At the cavern’s edge, she set the heavy buck down in the snow. “This brute won’t fit in our cave.”
Ignoring the strange noises she made, he growled when he caught the scent of the others. Bristling, he faced down the smaller beasts, but none of them attempted to challenge him. Their alpha growled and postured, but soon he too backed down and looked away.
Returning to his kill, he stood over it and stared them all down until they began to shuffle away, acknowledging that the meat was his. Satisfied, he left it there; his mate needed rest. He would let her feed on the meat he carried until she recovered her strength. Giving the others a final warning growl, he entered the dark tunnel as their eyes followed him.
His mate’s footsteps slowed, her fear scent growing. “Did we pass up our cave?”
Searching for a more suitable den, he found one deeper in the earth. The three caverns were connected by short passages, with the largest space in the center, and the smallest at the back. When he dropped the meat to one side of the biggest cave, the female entered to stand near him.
A flash of light flared out and shrank in her hands, making him growl nervously again. He tried to ignore the strange light, and reached down to crack bone and tear a haunch from the kill. He held it out to his mate as she stared at him.
“Raw Bambi is not my idea of a picnic.” As he continued to hold the meat out to her, she exhaled sharply and gingerly took it. “I hope you get your brains back soon. I’m not enjoying this. Where are you going? Oh, great.”
The small light she had made went out, leaving her blind in the dark. He passed her and returned to the old cave to bring the other furs to their new den.
After checking on the female, he took to the deeper tunnel passages briefly. The elusive scent of water had come to him and a growing thirst sent him in search of it.
~ ~ ~
It felt like recovering from poison, as the healing factor worked to drive out contagion from both body and mind. As Logan’s thoughts cleared from a haze of instinct, he found himself leaning over water, drinking. The scent of it was clean.
A dark pool stretched out before him, issuing from under the low arch of rock where he crouched, and disappearing again beneath a similar arch on the opposite side. The shaft over the pool ended in a dome, and the tunnel he must have entered by was nothing but a hole in the chamber wall.
There was light here, too. He glanced around the walls at phosphorescent clusters of stone giving off a patchwork illumination like weak moonlight.
Jeannie would like that. Where?
A vague memory of leaving Jean in new digs holding the leg of a gazelle carcass made a slow smile grow on his lips. Finding her would be easy but first, a bath. He still reeked of bear-dog gore, and adding elk hadn’t improved it.
He shrugged off the remains of his shirt and jacket and stripped off the boots and pants. His boxers were sliced along with the pants, a grim reminder of the night before. Frowning, he tossed them and his socks over the rest, and stepped down into the freezing water.
It came up to his thighs at the edge, but rose to his chest at the center. His healing factor staved off a lot of the cold. Trying not to think too much, almost regretting the return of that ability, he focused on scrubbing blood off of his skin and out of his hair.
There was a current of sorts in the pool, too. It was languid and gentle, but constant. An underground stream – convenient. Part o’ Echo River? He dunked himself to finish rinsing his hair clean. When he shot back to the surface with a loud splash, his dripping hair in his face, he strode quickly to the edge of the pool. Wonder if shakin’ would work? Tha uniform really oughta include a towel. Don’t fancy tryin’ t’ yank on leathers wet. He stepped up out of the pool and froze as a familiar scent hit him. My timin’s still off – gotta snap outta that shit.
“You could just drip dry, but I brought a fur along, if you want to try that.”
“Been there long?”
“Long enough.” She smiled and walked up, holding out one of the thinner sleeping furs.
“Gettin’ good at followin’ mental sigs in tha pitch black?” He wrapped the fur around his hips.
“Yes, but I guess I missed tha sign that said, ‘Gorin’s Dome: Men’s Locker Room’.”
“Nature’s co-ed. If ya’d like a turn, I can head up an’ get started skinnin’.”
“No, thanks; I don’t enjoy hypothermia. I’ll figure out how to make a sponge bath work later – once I find nature’s stand-in for the sponge.”
“Piece o’ leather would do it.”
“Great. Any other ‘basic needs’ issues you can clear up for me while we’re at it, MacGyver?”
Logan grinned. “Want me t’ pick a cave fer tha co-ed lavatory?”
Jean made a face. “Oh, yeah, this is going to be so fun.”
“Made a few interestin’ discoveries before my mind stepped out up there.”
Jean bent down and picked up his boots and clothes. “Fill me in.” She sighed abruptly. “Why can’t they have rocks like that in the tunnels, or in our cave? I did find your matches, though. It’s getting colder, too.” She lifted them both up to the exit with her telekinesis.
“Ya should throw one o’ tha furs ‘round ya,” Logan answered, and led the way back.
Jean didn’t reply. She followed him in silence until they returned to their caverns. Logan approved of his animal side’s taste in dens. It would be easy to defend if they had to, and though the temperature of the air was dropping again, they were out of the wind completely. There was even a suitable ventilation hole in the ceiling of the middle cavern, for smoke to escape.
“If we can get a fire going,” Jean said, answering his thought. “What can we burn?” She put his clothes and boots down in a pile.
“We could try goin’ topside an’ wishin’ fer firewood.” He smiled at her frown. “I wanted elk an’ elk appeared. Then I dreamed up tha gazelle t’ make sure I wasn’t wrong ‘bout tha elk. It popped up on tha heels o’ tha thought. That was just before I went feral again, but somethin’ read my mind an’ provided what I wanted t’ hunt.”
“A telepath? I should have been able to sense that. How could the thoughts be made real?”
“Beats me. They were grazin’ on snow an’ didn’t have tha sense t’ be afraid o’ me but obvs,” he picked up the torn gazelle haunch she’d set on top of the carcass and sniffed it, “they’re real.”
“And raw. What about my shirt? I can just zip the jacket.”
Logan sighed. “Torch tha boxers first, no point tryin’ t’ put ‘em back on – an’ my shirt.” He put the meat down and went to retrieve his pants. “First order o’ business, though – we need t’ deal with tha elk we left topside.”
~ ~ ~
Jean was able to control her distaste long enough to help him skin their kill, though she’d opted not to watch as he gutted it. Considering the time it had taken his mind to recover, he was grateful she had left the elk out in the snow where it could begin to freeze before the meat could spoil.
Her telekinesis was very useful in the skinning effort, as were his claws. She had stopped asking why he wanted some things done a particular way, and by the time he asked her to use her TK to pull the remaining meat and membrane from the elk’s skin, she got into the task as he explained it without comment or complaint. Logan suspected she thought it a better chore than the one he’d left for himself – taking several of the organs back to the pool in Gorin’s Dome to wash them.
First, he had her help him spread out the skin with the fur in the snow. Not bothering to quarter the elk, he used his claws to cut away choice sections of flesh and tossed them onto the skin. When he had an impressive mound of it, he pulled the skin up to wrap the meat inside of it.
“Cart this down t’ our new digs, would ya, Red? I’ll wash tha organs an’ meet ya there; then we can see ‘bout gettin’ a fire goin’.”
“No problem.” Disdaining touching the skin, she used her TK to lift the bundle and entered the caverns ahead of him – probably to avoid watching him carry the rest.
Before following her, he decapitated the elk and hauled its head off by one antler to wash it with the organs. He returned from Gorin’s Dome with the stomach tied off and filled like a water balloon, and a long section of the intestines rinsed clean and ready to be filled with rendered elk fat. Setting them down with the head, he started gathering loose stones to form a fire pit. Jean watched him in silence, lost in thought.
Sacrificing one of his matches, he got a fire going using their cast-off clothing as tinder. As he’d assumed, the smoke disappeared neatly into the ceiling.
Logan picked up the head again, popped the claws on one hand, and sheared the antlers away by taking the whole top of the skull off. Putting them aside, he planted the head just outside of the stone circle with the brains uncut and exposed.
After that, he got industrious in earnest, without asking Jean to help. Simply doing things himself was faster than explaining how to do them. Some of it, like decapitating the gazelle, he knew she couldn’t handle. Taking the top of that skull off, he set the gazelle head next to the elk. He used most of the antlers to form a spit for the fire, and carved a stone into a rough bowl to render the fat that he cut away from some of their meat. Spearing long strips of meat onto antler tines, he set them to roast over the flames.
He spotted the shreds of his black leather jacket and went to add them to the fire. It didn’t improve the smell, but the scents of warming brains and boiling fat that soon followed were too strong to notice it much.
Hopefully, roastin’ meat’ll cancel some o’ that out soon.
Carving down another section of antler, he snatched up a strip of jacket leather with a claw and used it to wrap one of the smaller furs they acquired from the cavemen around a pointed tine. Dipping the balled-up fur into the fire, he wedged the other end between a pair of larger rocks to make a torch.
Retracting his claws, he smiled at her. “Bit more light fer ya.”
“What are you going to do with that?” Jean asked, indicating the brains sitting in the sliced open skulls near the fire.
“Let ‘em putrify, use ‘em t’ tan tha elk skin.”
She wrinkled her nose at the idea. “How did you learn all of this?”
“I don’t remember.” He started gathering up the furs she had scraped. “I’ll wash these off an’ then finish our candle manufacturin’.”
“Let me.” She picked up the antler torch, plucked the furs out of his hands with her telekinesis, and headed for the entrance. “I want to wash my hands. Maybe sub-zero water will take the stink off.”
“Worked fer me.” He didn’t look up at her. The strips of meat on the antler spit were roasting well. “When ya get back, this’ll be ready.”
After she left, he picked up the skinned and headless gazelle by a leg and a haunch, and carried it up the tunnel. The leader of the Neanderthals had resettled in the cave Logan and Jean had used the night before. The reek of butchered bear-dog was getting strong in there. He dropped the gazelle outside and headed back down.
Nothin’ like sharin’ t’ stop thoughts o’ thievin’. He ignored the man’s attempt to growl at him. Wonder if they’ll have tha sense t’ gut it first, or if they’re just gonna dig in? What tha hell – that’s what my inner beast always does.
When he returned, he stretched out a sheet of membrane he’d turned into a sieve over one end of the knotted off intestine. Pouring fat into it from a scorched stone bowl was a challenge, and he was grateful for his healing factor more than once.
Finding several hand-size stones, he carved a hollow in their tops and cut the bottoms sides flat. He filled them all with the rest of the fat and inserted twists of lichen into them to serve as wicks. With one match, he lit them for Jean, checked the roasting meat a final time, and then retreated to the deepest cave.
Logan was lying on the pile of furs when he heard Jean return. She didn’t call out to him, or seek him out. Sighing, he turned onto his stomach and tried to get comfortable in the tight leather pants. He hadn’t bothered with his boots and he was regretting getting dressed at all. Why be modest? She had been bold enough at the pool and hadn’t looked away.
Her scent’s changed, in fact, he thought. Tha anomaly wasn’t there long, but it was there.
It changed me, she answered from the other room. I didn’t think it could. Going out to meet you, staying out there on the walk back, it started to change me, whatever – or whoever – it is.
Feral? Didn’t get that. ‘Sides, it’s diff’rent; fer starters, ya haven’t started mimin’ Lassie.
I’m not sure what it was but I didn’t mean to gawk at you like that. If it steals your humanity, maybe it deprives me of my manners.
No harm done.
Did you eat?
Had mine before tha march home, darlin’.
Oh… What do I do with the rest? With the fire?
Logan got up and came out. He showed her how to wrap the rest of the meat in leather he’d scraped the fur from and they buried it in the ash around the edge of their fire.
“Let tha fire burn. We can get it goin’ again if it goes out, but it’d be best not t’ let it. I’ll keep an eye on it. Why don’t ya get some sleep?”
He fetched the wet gazelle skin and the stomach water balloon and popped an adamantium claw. Stretching the thin fur around the organ, he used strips of it cut with the claw to sew a furry sack around the balloon. By the time the skin dried, they’d have a serviceable canteen.
Jean watched him quietly for a long moment before she turned and disappeared into the last cave. He heard the furs rustle and go still. Resting the canteen safely away from the fire, he settled his back against a wall with his bare feet pointed toward the flames.
He watched the fire for a long time before he closed his eyes, but sleep was elusive.
How am I going to keep Scott from finding out? She lay on her back and stared into the blackness. Or should I admit it, explain – it was a mistake, and neither of us intended… You could have stopped him, Dr. Grey, without hurting him. He knows it; you’re the one who won’t look at it – won’t admit it. There’s something else going on, here. You even call yourself ‘Dr. Grey’ now, like you used to before you got married. What happened to referring to yourself as ‘Mrs. Summers’, just because you loved to hear it?
Scott had died saving Nate. She grieved, tried to keep going. Unwilling to believe it could be true, she had none-the-less suffered every minute of his loss horribly. Then he had returned to them – but Apocalypse had changed him somehow, she could feel it.
Once, disillusioned by never having a moment of peace or any hope of a normal life, he had told her he felt it would be foolish to continue to discuss having children. Not then, and maybe not ever. She hadn’t burdened him with her own dreams then. There would be time, and peace, someday.
His fear of fatherhood was linked to his confused feelings about his own father, not wanting to make his mistakes. I comforted, knowing there was time – but is there any point now, to any of it? He’s cold to me. He doesn’t seek me out, or look at me with affection … or touch me. The months he was gone, I was so lonely, so destroyed by grief … but it wasn’t better when he came back. Now, I only feel anger from him and a fear of getting too close again.
Last night, pressed down by Logan’s weight, she had felt something that went beyond the fear of what it could do to both of them, or to Scott. Her tears had been of guilt and shame, not fear or pain. Yet a wild heat had sparked out of all of it, fueled by his powerful need and set ablaze by her long-denied feelings for the gruff and brutal man the world knew as Wolverine.
She had always been able to keep that odd and unwelcome attraction at arm’s length. She was safe in Scott’s love – all her needs fulfilled, her dreams realized, with him. Then, when that perfect love was pierced and poisoned, the feelings she’d always had for Logan had welled up to torment her.
It ended up torturing him, too. I don’t know why he feels the way he does, but I know it’s not casual. I almost wish it was. Jean sighed. It’s his feelings for me that make it harder to resist, too. I’m starving – and what I need, he could give, in every way. It would be wrong, though … because I don’t love him the way he wants me to. But the feel of him…
In defiance of her weakening will, her body trembled at the memory – his force, his strength, even the visceral animal nature that had bitten her neck to keep her still. The beast hadn’t known that she couldn’t have escaped him then – though she could have stopped him, if she wanted to.
I didn’t want to and I know I shouldn’t make it worse, for all of us – but it’s already done, isn’t it? We can’t change it and I’m already guilty. I could have stopped him. Her punishment was assured, even if it was only her private shame, unknown by her husband forever. We didn’t really commit a crime, though, did we? It was a misunderstanding… Yes, she answered herself, her guilt sharpening her self-recrimination, a misunderstanding you didn’t prevent.
A ghost of the strange feelings that had overcome her out on the plain made her frown, resenting the censure. At the same time, she heard the echo of the U2 song One slip into her rebellious thoughts. It was her wedding song, the promise she and Scott had danced to, surrounded by family and friends.
What of his promises? her growing anger demanded. He just pushes me away, barely looks at me. If he’s turned away from me already, what does it matter if I turn to someone else? A flood of old curious questions washed over her. What might it be like? I already found out the beast in him can make me feel more alive than I have in years. What can the man do? Cold reason interrupted the mad thoughts. He won’t touch me. He’s sickened by the thought that he forced me – he doesn’t realize I did want it.
Her body burned. She didn’t notice when reason failed. Her anger and caged desire didn’t deny her guilt – they used it against her sense of right and wrong. The words twisted, and something about them wasn’t the truth, but she was in too deep to detect the lie.
It’s already happened – if I’m going to have to face the guilt of it, I may as well have it all. If only just once…
As quietly as she could, she stripped off the jacket and shirt, shuddering in the cold. Then she slipped out of her makeshift fur skirt and cut pants. Even touching the split his adamantium claw had made excited her further. The boots were harder to tackle in the dark, but she managed to make a pile of her clothing over them, and shoved it up against the wall at her head, away from the furs.
Most of this effort had left her exposed and chilled, and she snuggled down into the furs again, shivering.
She felt delicately for Logan’s mind and found him awake, wondering how to get them home, and fretting about her mood. His own shame over his perceived crime still burned hot in his mind.
Logan, I’m not angry with you. You couldn’t help it – and I didn’t stop you.
Don’t matter, Red. Things ain’t been right since we landed in this B-rate production o’ Tarzan on Ice, but whatever’s goin’ on, it’s no excuse fer that. I’ve killed men fer less.
What about forgiveness? You have it.
I don’t understand ya, Jeannie. I remember – I heard ya cryin’.
You know I’ve been – mixed up – since Scott got back, but all that is far away from us now. Logan … I’m cold.
He wanted to ask what the hell she thought she was doing. He had stopped her from drinking too much of the whiskey, to spare her pain. Whatever was lowering her inhibitions now was something he knew he couldn’t stop – or fight, or resist.
She hadn’t been quiet enough back there; he knew she was nude in the furs. The alluring scent of her pheromones affected him like a drug – one his mutant gift didn’t have a prayer of saving him from. The only thing that had stopped him in the past had been her. Respect for her. Not to take advantage of her weakness, even when her body drowned him in heat.
Logan hesitated, torn between what she seemed to want now and what she might regret after. He knew there were worse torments than not having her – the horror of her disgust, or if she couldn’t trust him, or face him at all.
Logan, please understand… Her thought reached out to him, filling his mind with soothing comfort. Things are different here. We can worry about the rest when we find a way out. For now, I need you. I don’t care about anything else.
Ya might, an’ one o’ tha diff’rences is yer scent Jeannie – ya ain’t yerself.
Come to me. Keep me warm.
It was almost a compulsion. He recognized it even as he fell under its sway. Rising to his feet, he entered the cave where she lay. She drew him in with her will and the gentlest nudge of her telepathic power.
“Ya don’t need that.”
“I asked and you didn’t come.”
“Ya ain’t right in tha head.”
“I thought you couldn’t say no to me?”
The gentle pressure was there again, influencing him, taking away freedom of choice. Instinctively, he fought it. “Drop tha witchery, Red. We both know ya can, but if ya take my will away, I won’t thank ya fer it.”
“Such anger, even though you want this as much as I do. You are surprising.” She released him from the telepathic pull and he felt it leave his mind. “But I’m still cold.”
Logan knelt and pulled the furs away from her body. His breath caught at the sight of her. The smile on her face would be more at home on his old bedmate Yukio’s sly mug, but at that moment it was hard to care about her state of mind.
Her left hand rose and sought him out, blindly reaching until she found his chest. The hand stroked him down to his belt, fingers tracing the metal X on the buckle.
“I wish I could see you.”
Her finger hooked in the buckle and gently pulled him down. He lay beside her and covered them both with the heavy warm furs.
She wasted no time, opening the belt easily, but struggling a moment with the rawhide ties. When she got them open, her hand slipped in to cup his painfully hard cock. His gasp was loud in his ears.
Logan rolled to face her and captured her mouth, his hands on either side of her face as the kiss melted all thought of resistance.
Jean worked the leather pants off of his hips and Logan almost tore them worse than they were already in his hurry to be as naked as the lithesome woman beside him. His fingers found her wet and ready, but he gave her his mouth first, just to enjoy the taste of her.
“Picked up some talents in Japan?”
Yeah, but I don’t remember where or when fer this. Before ya were born, probly.
The lesson stuck well. Better than –
We’ll both be happier if we leave ‘im outta it.
Logan – I had no idea…
Her first climax caught her off guard and her cry echoed in the cavern. Clutching at his shoulders, her French manicure bit into his flesh but the momentary pain only excited him more.
When she drew the backs of her fingers down his cheek in a caress, he felt the hard, cold point of her engagement diamond and the metal of the wedding band. Before the touch left his face, he rose over her body and mounted her quickly, without warning.
The dreams of having her, their passion melting the snow, were nothing compared to the sensation of sinking himself deep, enveloped by her eager flesh and the rampant scent of her desire. His hands covered her breasts as his lust took over his body.
Logan, tell me –
Ya know already.
I need to hear it…
He moved his lips to her ear as his thrusts quickened. “Jeannie … Jean,” he whispered. “I love ya. I always have.”
She wanted him to open to her completely, but he held back. The memory of her compulsion was too fresh and it had hurt him more than he cared to admit, even to himself. With his mind and heart shut tight against her, he gave her only his body and the admission of his love, which he feared he would regret.
Seeking to make her forget about the rest, he worked her senses into a frenzy of nerve-burning passion, losing track of the times he made her come. When his own ejaculate tore through him, he cried out his need with his passion – but it was mixed with an emotional pain that left him panting and afraid.
Her hands stroked him, his hair, and his body. Her mind attempted to pour comfort over the new psychic wound she had left in the wake of her desire. Sleep, now, her thoughts soothed. You have nothing to fear. Sleep…
Logan never knew if she caused it directly, but he slipped into a sleep too deep for dreams, where fear and pain couldn’t touch him.