Sequel to "Seeing Red." How're the X-Men gonna react when they find out Scott's
gone? This'll be an ongoing series that'll end...whenever I run out of things to
write. ;-) Hope you enjoy, and comments/suggestions are always welcome.
He was "the other man."
He's been that before. More than a few times. He figured he'd probably be it again at some point.
But this time was different. Somehow. And he didn't know how to make it right. Or if it could be made right.
Because this time the man he'd replaced -- however temporarily -- was a teammate, and his leader, and yes...even his friend.
Or had been.
("Now you listen to me, little man...")
Her words had bitten deep...closed razor teeth on something important and vital inside.
("Honor. Giri. Obligation.")
He'd built himself around these things, needing their stability to keep himself together more times than he could count. He believed in them where other people put faith in religion and deities and divine commandments.
("And what of your honor, Logan? What of your duty as an X-Man...your loyalty to your leader?")
Yes. What of all that?
It was Jean, he growled to himself. That changed things. Made them fundamentally different, and made what he'd done something less than a crime against himself.
("He. Heard. You.")
Logan dragged deeply of his lit cigarette, jetting smoke out between clenched teeth. The bartender looked up, then sauntered over and casually refilled his glass without asking. Logan didn't even find voice to thank him.
She'd ordered him to go after Scott; to find him, to bring him back.
No...actually, she'd ordered him to stand there and play punching bag for a severely pissed mutant with the ability to level a mountain by blinking at it.
Just a small difference there.
Orders or no, he would have done this. In fact, being ordered to had almost been enough to turn him away from doing it. Almost. But when horrified emerald eyes had fixed on him and a voice so recently sultry had asked him to leave, he'd had little choice left.
He still didn't know what he'd say to Scott. He was hoping the words would find a way to come once he saw the other man. But for now...no, he just didn't know.
Though he did know just how easy it would be to find Scott Summers. Either Slim had been careless, or he wanted to be found. He'd used his credit card to rent a car and pay gas along the way, and Logan had friends in the right high and low places to put that information to good use. But yeah...careless or intentionally sloppy, from all appearances.
Or maybe he was so messed up he wasn't thinkin' straight, some part of his mind whispered.
He growled softly and tipped the whiskey back again, welcoming the near-painful burn as it seared its way inside...
...though nowhere near as deep as this cold, sickening knot lodged firmly in his gut.
The modified SR-71 Blackbird that the X-Men had lost so recently and so long ago to Bastion's Zero Tolerance was positively slow, Ororo decided, when compared to the faster-than-light speed at which gossip traveled around the dilapidated mansion.
She was fairly certain that Marrow had been the first. The girl was the most likely to have overheard and not been seen, considering her penchant for skulking in shadows and spying on her 'teammates.' No doubt she'd taken cruel glee in having this bit of news to spread -- realizing, of course, that this tiny rip could very well tear apart the foundations of the team.
Goddess, please do not let it travel farther than this team.
Logan had barely been gone a day before the first observations were made that Jean was spending an awful lot of time alone in her room. And where exactly was Scott? It wasn't like him to take off without informing the team. Had they had a fight? What could be bad enough for him to forget his duty to the X-Men? And what was this...? Logan was missing, also? Not that he didn't frequently take off on his own, but the team was in a precarious situation right now, and even he didn't typically abandon them in the midst of need like this...
And so soon after that, the whispers-- "Did you hear...?" "Do you think it's true?" "Can't be. Jean wouldn't--" "Forget Jean, Logan wouldn't--" "How could he do that?" "How could she do that?" "This can't be true." "It has to be true." "Look at Storm. She's so tense..."
Tense. Yes. That was one word for the feeling trailing cold, lazy fingers over her heart and the stiffness that seemed to have taken hold of her muscles.
The weather over Manhattan stayed unseasonably foul throughout the first day, then the second, then the next...
She did what she could to quiet the rumors. She told them that the 'situation' was being handled, and that Scott should be back shortly. She gave no details and hoped someone would mistake her lack of communication as a leader's reluctance to discuss a dangerous mission two of their number had been sent on.
For a short time she almost believed it was working.
And then the phone calls started, reminding her once again that anyone wearing an 'X' automatically became a member of this bizarre extended family, and that somehow the inclusion sparked off that most annoying of traits-- nosiness.
He'd followed the course Scott had, tracking him by credit card use and occasionally even the lingering scent of the man when he chanced across an exact area that Scott had been. That first flavor of scent had chilled him. Even nearly a day old the raw anger and pain was obvious to his enhanced sense of smell. He'd known Scott Summers a long time; been with him through battles domestic and more foreign than most people could imagine. Never in all that time had the X-Men's leader smelled like this.
Logan wasn't a man who believed in apologizing, but he was a man who took what responsibility was his. It went against his nature to put any of the blame on Jeannie. She'd been hurting and needing...seeking comfort that Scott wasn't able to give her. With her mind teetering so precariously over irrationality, he wouldn't hold her responsible for what had happened.
No. He could have said no. He could have taken her hand and led her to her room, tucking her into bed and telling her she'd feel differently in the morning. He could have--
But was what happened really wrong? There'd been something between the two of them from the first moment they came into contact. Simple lust on his part had become something more complex over the years as he came to see what more there was to her than physical beauty. A strength to rival -- and in some ways dwarf -- his own. Courage enough to do any soldier proud. Passion that had saved and
Phoenix, he reminded himself tersely, irritated with the way his thoughts insisted on wandering down that starry-eyed path that he was way too old to walk. Phoenix wasn't Jean.
No. Just based off Jean's body and mind and soul.
But damnit, he loved her! Had for so long the emotion was firmly linked with her name and image in his mind. And he'd learned through too many hard, cold lessons that love had to be grasped and held tightly, for it was a nebulous thing that could be yanked away at any heartbeat.
It wasn't wrong, then. He hadn't used her. Hadn't taken pleasure in her flesh and discounted the gift afterward. She'd needed something he could give, and after his reservations had faded he'd done what he could to help her to feel again. She cared for him...wanted him...maybe even loved him, in her
way. And it had all been for one purpose-- to help her.
His face was expressionless as he swung leg over the Norton he'd been riding halfway across the country. No one looking would have guessed that he was mulling over what were nearly the most painful words he'd ever heard in his life; words that wreaked havoc on defensive illusions and brought him back once again to the ones that bit hardest:
("Honor. Giri. Obligation.")
They were talking about her. She knew it even though she could no longer reach out with her mind and touch those thoughts turned in her direction. They were talking about her, and she...she couldn't blame them. Couldn't hate them for wondering if she'd done it, why she'd done it.
No. There was only one person worthy of blame, here...and she wouldn't shrug it off onto other shoulders. She'd made a decision -- out of desperation, yes, but it was still her decision -- and two men had suffered for it. Logan had even tried to refuse her. His half-hearted protests had meant nothing against the void within her begging to be filled.
She'd used him. Manipulated him by the very love he had for her.
And then Scott...her husband...
Her eyes dropped to her unsteady hands and the objects she hadn't let go of since discovering them. A ring and an 'X.' Symbols that couldn't be misunderstood, no matter how hard she tried. As she held them her mind insisted on imagining what he'd heard, what he'd felt, what he'd done.
Did he hate her now?
The tears were still falling, but the wracking sobs had quieted to occasional shuddery breaths. Outside the window, the world continued on without her. She wondered again when...or if...she'd feel ready to rejoin it.
Then the reality crashed down once more when a single glint of afternoon sunlight dashed through the window to set the gold ring to glowing, and she drew her knees up, burying her face against them, wishing with everything in her soul for a way to undo it all.
This was it. Just past the border into Texas...a little no-name town that boasted nothing more grand than a single saloon with a faded sign swinging listlessly outside like a prop from a cheap western.
Helluva place to catch up to him.
Scott was headed towards Houston, from what Logan had been able to piece together of his trip so far. He might just be traveling aimlessly...but the man Logan knew rarely did anything aimlessly. So maybe he had some idea of what
he'd do or where he'd go.
That might make it harder to convince him to come back.
Of course, Logan wasn't one hundred percent sure he wanted him to come back.
One of us is gonna hafta leave. After this...he just didn't see how anything resembling peace could ever be restored between them. One of them would have to leave, and even though he'd spent a short while trying to convince himself otherwise, Logan knew that the most logical choice was him. Maybe it was time to throw a carrysack over his shoulder and wave goodbye to the place and people that had made up his home and family for years now. He always left, sooner or later. This was just one reason for it to be "sooner."
He wouldn't admit to himself that he didn't think he could stand seeing the pain in those beautiful green eyes again, knowing he'd put it there.
The Norton's engine died with a rumbling chug-chug. He didn't budge from the big bike for a long moment, newly-lit cigarette forgotten between his fingers, eyes fixed on the dingy door that was the only thing between him and a confrontation he'd give his right arm to not have to force. Rebellion tried to rear up, complaining that he didn't take orders, and that he should crank up the bike then and there and get his ass back on the road.
Honor. Giri. Obligation.
Time for him to pay more than lip service to those words he'd used more often than he could recall.
A jeans-clad leg swung over the bike. Booted soles touched down on cracked pavement, clunking with a hollow, permanent sound.
All right, Cyke, he thought, taking a final drag from his cigarette before flicking it to land smoking a length away from him. Let's get this over with.
The sky rumbled approvingly overhead, and some distant corner of his mind wondered again if Ororo really was a goddess, and if she watched him even now.
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