Title: Portraits in a Gallery: Like a Kid
in a Candy Store
They spent the next day companionably touring the city. Marie showed him Gastown, the Robson Street shops, and Stanley Park. The latter was his favorite, and Marie wasn't surprised. She knew well his love of the outdoors. He looked completely in his element the moment his feet left asphalt and touched grass. It was like everything in him unwound a half-turn. She liked that look.
Now, she was navigating his rental car back toward Granville Island. Logan invited her to get ready for the viewing at the gallery at his place – it was within walking distance, and he didn't mind her taking a quick shower and changing there if it was more convenient for her. He found that he not only didn't mind her company – which, for him, was a rare thing – he actually liked being around her. That was a one-of-a-kind thing.
Marie's melodious voice pulled him out of his thoughts. "We have plenty of time – mind if I grab some coffees to take back with us?" Logan smirked. This girl had a serious caffeine habit.
"No problem – let's park at the hotel and I'll walk over to the market with ya." They had her favorite coffee there (and even if the JJ Beans franchise in the public market didn't serve the muffins, he wagered she'd still want the coffee) and he was in good enough spirits to brave the crowded conditions.
"Sounds good. Hey – you could grab something for dinner while we're over there. Or were you going to grab something out?"
"Nah, probably just gonna go downstairs to the hotel restaurant." They had a wood-burning stove, which Logan liked. Fire-cooked food of any kind was a good thing.
"I'm surprised they're still letting you stay there." She gave him a teasing grin as they crossed over onto the island.
"Why the hell shouldn't they? I've bought 'em two brand new sets of furniture already."
"Ah yes, but they're still not actually ahead any furniture." Logan laughed at her retort. "Here we are," she smiled, pulling in to the lot.
They disembarked and strolled to get their coffee at a leisurely pace. Just like they had all day, they spent the time talking about everything and nothing. Marie wound up braving the market for both of them – instead of walking the jam-packed market aisles, she wanted to pop in and then head out to the docks to sit and sip her caffeine fix. It was brisk out, and damp, as Vancouver seemed to perpetually be, but Logan didn't mind. In fact, he was kind of getting to like the weather here.
"So I'm hoping to sell at least three more paintings in the next three months. If we can get a good bite on one or two tonight, that would be really good." Marie sipped her coffee and sidled up to the dock railing that separated her from a spill into the shallow marina waters below. "It would make the shindigging worth it."
"Mph." Logan was distracted a bit by a scent floating nearby. Well, floating was perhaps too pleasant a word – sinking would've been more like it. It was a dirty - almost animal-dirty but not quite - kind of smell that seemed to linger around them. "You smell anythin'?"
"Um, no." Marie held the coffee away from herself and took another sniff. "Wait a sec – yeah. Yeah, I do. It smells – hey – you don't think there's an animal stuck under the dock or something, do you?"
"Maybe," Logan speculated. "Hmph. Anyhow – what were you sayin' about the shindig?"
Marie held up her hand in a 'wait' gesture, then leaned over the railing, trying to see what was beneath the projecting dock. "I see some land under there and I think I see – I thought I saw a flash of yellow eyes." She seemed to be unthinkingly leaning closer and closer to the water, and he didn't want her to fall in. He crooked a finger through her jean belt loop and gradually pulled her back from the edge. "Maybe we should go look – something could be down there and hurt."
Logan frowned. "Lemme look. If it's hurt, it could be dangerous." He handed her the coffee and took a look over the edge for himself. "Fuck. Gonna get my boots wet."
"Take them off," Marie suggested, and Logan complied, setting them next to her small feet. "Be careful," she cautioned as he swung one leg over the railing.
Logan landed in about four inches of mucky water, and crouched to get a better look at the small patch of land that supported the rear moorings of the dock. Marie had been right – there was something back there, something big, crouched in on itself. Logan's first thought was 'bear,' and he wondered with wry humor if Marie was some kind of bear-magnet, but then he remembered that bears didn't wear clothes. This thing had some kind of cloak wrapped all around itself. Logan knew that could mean only one thing – man. Probably some poor homeless guy, looking for a safe spot to snooze. He'd done the same thing himself. And even if he stayed in nice hotels now, it didn't mean he'd forgotten what that was like.
"Hey, bub, you all right?" The cloak shifted but no answer came. "Look, I ain't the cops or nothin'. Just caught scent of ya from up top. You OK?"
Again, no answer came. Logan heard Marie's voice calling to him, but he didn't respond, trying to think of what to tell her was down here. If she knew it was a person, she'd want to hop down and help this guy out and, although that was an admirable predilection, it was one that could also mean trouble. Not that Logan would ever let anything happen to her – oh no, no way in hell, not as long as there was a breath in his body – but it might mean the guy would try something, and then Logan would have to gut him.
While he was figuring that out, Marie was taking matters in to her own hands. She was just about as patient as Logan when she called to someone and got no answer. He heard a splash behind him and turned to see her scrunching up her nose at the feeling of soggy, muddy socks. "Hey – what's going on?"
"Stay here," He gently instructed, keeping a restraining hand on her stomach for good measure as she came up beside him. "It's a guy. Homeless, I think."
Marie exchanged a glance with Logan and then called out to the crouching, covered man. "Are you OK back there?"
"Fine. Please leave me alone now." The cloak was pulled tighter around the huddling figure, and Marie gave Logan another look. He felt her gloved hand gently lift his away, and he knew she wasn't going to just take the man's answer at face value.
"Marie," he whispered warningly.
"It's OK," she whispered back. "I'm just going to take a look."
"No, don't –
"Don't!" That came from the crouching man, not Logan, and it halted Marie a few feet from him. "Please, just go away!"
"It's all right," Marie soothed as Logan came up right behind her. He wasn't going to take any chances. "We won't hurt you or anything – you just – you kind of look like you need some help."
"I am quite fine, I assure you. Now, madam, please depart from my – my – from here." She and Logan shot each other confused looks.
"Um," Marie ventured, "We didn't mean to invade your space or anything, but, ah, you should probably know that it's a little, um, stinky in this vicinity, and that might attract people. You know – just so you know."
"People? As in – law enforcement officials? Or – or unruly crowds?"
Again, Logan and Marie found themselves exchanging looks. While they were standing in the water, raising eyebrows at one another, it suddenly clicked in to place for Marie. "No. At least not yet. Not yet – it's just us here at the moment." Giving Logan an unmistakably 'trust me' look, she took another step toward the huddling man. "You're hiding, aren't you?"
"I believe that is fairly obvious, madam." Logan bristled at the man's polite yet stern tone, but Marie quirked a smile.
"It's OK, you know. I'm one too." The cloaked figure twitched, and Marie thought he almost turned toward her there. "Or do you think I go around wearing turtlenecks and gloves as a fashion statement?" At that, the huddling figure slowly, very slowly, began to turn toward her. Marie willed herself to be calm, and hoped she'd made a correct guess. Logan tensed, and shifted to her side, leaving a clear path between himself and the man. He was ready for a fight if need be. The man didn't seem to be on the attack at all, though. He cautiously completed his turn and uncurled his body a bit, incrementally revealing a hooded profile. One work-gloved hand pinched the cloak tightly closed, concealing the man's face almost completely, save for one eye that barely peeked out. One yellow eye.
Marie grinned. She'd been right. "Hi there. I'm Marie. This is Logan. What's your name?" She could've sworn that the eyebrow above that lone visible eye just raced for the man's hairline.
"Henry," he mumbled.
"Nice to meet you," Marie sighed, relieved. "Are you OK? Do you need some help?"
Their new friend Henry let out a disbelieving snort at that, but, when that caused Marie to frown, the cloaked man relaxed his hand, and eased back the hood a bit.
Marie's mouth dropped open at what she saw, and Logan let out a gasp himself. Henry was covered in blue fur, all over his head. His yellow eyes were complemented by fangs, and pointed ears. Marie closed her mouth and thought to herself – yep, we definitely have ourselves a mutant here.
"As you can see," Henry ventured in a low tone, "I am beyond help."
This time, it was Logan who spoke up. "Nah, you ain't. I know someone who can help ya." Now they could both see Henry's raised eyebrow. "I'm one too. And I know a guy who helps out people like us."
Henry scoffed outright at that. "I know of only one such person and he has already rejected my pleas for sanctuary at his 'school for the gifted.' Gifted indeed – gifted in crassness and hard-heartedness, perhaps."
"Are you talkin' about Xavier, Professor Charles Xavier?"
"Yes," Henry admitted, with some interest. "This is the man you know?"
"Yeah, but he wouldnta rejected ya if you asked for help." That definitely didn't make sense – Chuck took in just about every mutie stray he could find, some even when they resisted his help.
"I e-mailed when – when my mutation fully manifested. I offered my services as a scientist. I am self-educated – schooling was not an option after – after this befell me at sixteen – but I offered to take whatever tests he might require. I would rate myself easily at a doctoral level in biology, chemistry, physics, mechanical engineering – well, you see my point. I discreetly conveyed that I was a mutant and the nature of the severe oddities of my appearance. I even stressed how it made it very difficult to move about in public without harassment. You see, I was led to believe that – that Xavier was quite compassionate, but – well, in any case, I received a brief, terse reply thanking me for my inquiry but noting that all the teaching positions were filled and 'self-educated' scientists were not welcome." Henry's thick, low voice twisted on those last two words – they had been the ones that had hurt the most, Marie could tell.
Meanwhile, Logan was lost in thought – he was thoroughly at a loss for why Xavier would've done that, but then he got it – Emma. That must've been when Xavier was out (goddamn Magneto) and Emma was conducting school business in his stead. Logan hadn't been there for that particular episode in X-Men history; all he knew was that Chuck scowled when anyone mentioned Emma Frost and that nearly everyone else commented on how glad they were that she was gone. "That happen 'bout four or five years ago?"
"Yeah," Logan sighed. "That was a fuck-up on our part. Shit, I'm sorry, man. But I can guarantee he'll help ya out now."
"Forgive me if I do not share your confidence," Henry replied coolly.
"All right," Logan conceded – after all, he'd probably have had the same attitude if he were in this guy's shoes. Or fur. Whatever. "You got my word that we'll help ya out, OK? Lemme – lemme call Chuck and give him the low-down. If he says fuck off, then I'll take it on me to help you out."
"I am not a charity case."
Logan was at a loss, but, thankfully, Marie once again stepped in. "I know. You sound like you're one heck of a kick-butt scientist. If they wouldn't love to have you, I know that lots of people would probably be willing to pay for your skills. Maybe we can help you get on your feet, help you get a place to stay and find some work."
Henry looked grateful at both her words and her matter-of-fact demeanor. "I was not always……….without a place to live. I had my own automobile and after my family – " He cut himself off, his voice suddenly thick again at the end there. "Ah, in any case, my car was in an accident, while parked, I might add – people in this city simply cannot drive at all – and I lost nearly everything. I – I attempted securing a job and – and an apartment several times, but with – with my, ah, my – my rather unusual visage, I found it quite difficult."
Logan and Marie both felt their hearts squeeze in sympathy at his struggling-not-to-be-embarrassed tone. "Well, I got a place right here, on the island, at the hotel. Why dontcha head over there with us, huh? We'll getcha a shower and some food." Henry's stomach growl could be heard echoing in the cavernous under-dock space. He was about to apologize, when Marie started.
"Oh! Your room – my – my thing – we'd better get going!"
"Right," Logan said decisively as they both turned to go. As they emerged, he noticed that Henry wasn't following. Giving Marie a flick of his head and helping her back up on to the dock, he took a moment more, then spoke to Henry. "Look, nothin' funny's goin' on here. We're both muties. We just wanna help ya. Take a chance, Hank."
His blue lips curled upwards at the nickname. He liked it. It was manly, not geeky – the way he most often saw himself and the way most everyone before his mutation had seen him. He'd been Henry, the brain. After the mutation, he'd become Henry, the beast, but he didn't like that either. Hank was different – someone named Hank could be strong, and good. Normal. Perhaps even average. He thought it over a moment more. Something in him was telling him to trust these two. Hank nodded, and followed Logan up to the dock, careful to keep his cloak wrapped tightly around himself.
Marie emerged from the hotel bathroom about twenty minutes after she'd first commandeered it. She kept intermittently shouting out apologies to both of the men – she knew Hank was desperate to shower and that Logan would want to wash the mud off of his feet as well. But this was an important event and she knew that Moonbeam would never let her hear the end of it if she showed up grubby. So, she showered and dressed quickly, snagging her hair dryer, curling iron, and makeup bag as she vacated the steamy put prized space.
"All done – now serving number two!" Logan quirked a grin and Hank laughed a little too at her levity.
"Go on, Hank – I set out some clothes on the bed for ya to borrow, some sweats. I think they'll fit ya. We'll get your old clothes washed." Or burned, Logan added silently, holding out a plastic laundry bag to Hank. "Take your time."
Hank nodded his thanks and disappeared into the bathroom, and Marie set about towel-drying her hair. "I'm so glad we found him," she said in quiet tones to Logan. "He seems like such a nice person."
"Hmph." Logan was noticing her clothing for the first time. The black skirt was unremarkable – long, a little shiny, clingy in all the right places – it made Marie look good, but that was usual. The red turtleneck, however, was a different story. It was actually some kind of see-thru but not exactly sheer material and underneath she had a blood red tank top that perfectly complemented both the skirt and skimpy top. The color did all kinds of wonderful things to her complexion and the ensemble emphasized her generous breasts. It made her look *damn* good, even better than usual.
"Huh?" Oh-oh, Logan thought, she caught you staring, bub.
"Does this look OK?"
"Yeah, yeah." It looks too damn good, he thought. "Real nice."
Marie knitted her eyebrows, then seemed to hit on something. "Don't worry – I'm not going like this. Believe me, hair and makeup work wonders." She promptly plugged in the curling iron and hair dryer. Keeping the dryer on low, she plunged ahead when Logan had made no response to that. "Anyway – are you thinking of calling Professor Xavier to see if he'll help him?"
"Yeah – uh, yeah." Logan cursed himself for staring at her flying hair and red cheeks and full, uplifted breasts like some kind of idiot. "Probably should do that now while Hank's in the shower."
"Do you think he'll take him in?"
"Almost sure of it," Logan replied, heading to the phone and dialing the mansion. "The fuck-up happened before because Chuck was out of it – someone else was in charge of things for a while and she was apparently a bitch on wheels." Marie nodded as Logan turned his attention away when someone on the other end of the connection picked up the phone.
"Hello, Xavier School for the Gifted." Jeannie. Just great. The one person he didn't want to talk to at the moment.
"It's me. Needta talk to Chuck."
There was a pause at the other end of the line before Jean replied, "Regarding?"
That irritated him. He knew she'd still be pissed, but he hadn't expected her to be petty about things. Well, he reflected, he'd seen her behave this way with other people who'd made her angry – why not him? "Somethin' important. Just put him on, huh?"
"I don't really take orders from you any more, Wolverine, or didn't you get my voice mail message?"
"Nah, I haven't checked my voice mail. Just put Chuck on, huh?"
"That's it – that's all? You haven't checked your voice mail?" She let out a bitter laugh. "Well, there go any doubts I had about breaking up with you being the right thing to do. You can't even be bothered, can you?"
Logan let out a long sigh, biting back an argument about just who exactly had told whom to get lost, and knowing there was no answer he could give to Jeannie's mostly-rhetorical question that wouldn't lead to more arguing. Clenching his teeth, he replied, "Look – I gotta talk to him. It's important. If ya can't put me on the phone to him, I'll call his private line collect."
"Don't overreact, Logan," she chided. "I'll put you on." There was a click, signaling he'd been put on hold, and then a new set of rings.
"Logan?" Charles answered.
"Yeah," Logan breathed, relieved to finally just be on the phone with the man. "Look – I found somethin' interestin' here. Wanted to talk with you about it."
"Something pertaining to your past?" Logan's eyes found Marie, who was at the moment happily foofing her hair with the dryer, paying him no mind. "Logan?"
"Yeah. Uh – yeah, I did find somethin' pertainin' to my past, but that ain't what I'm callin' you about. I found somethin' else too – a mutant, one I don't think we know about."
"Really?" Logan could tell that he had Chuck's interest now. "Is it a teenager? What kind of mutation? How did you happen to find – "
"Whoa – hang on there. Ya know, you're like a kid in a candy store when it comes to a new mutant, Chuck." He enjoyed teasing the man – truth be told, he felt an incredible affection and loyalty for him. He'd taken Logan in, given him a place in this world, helped him to deal with the nightmares, and to try to find his past. Still, all of that didn't mean that Logan's affections were blindly given – he didn't trust Chuck, not completely, because he knew that the man had his own agenda. And, unlike Scott, he also knew that Xavier would not hesitate to sacrifice any one of them if need be. It didn't make him a bad person in Logan's opinion, just one with priorities. Chuck's agenda – world human/mutant harmony – was pretty damn laudable, and so Logan didn't sweat it most of the time. But neither did he let himself forget where the boundaries were.
"So provide me with my sugar fix then, would you?" Charles shot back drolly. Logan smirked, then began.
"Name's Henry. Haven't gotten to the last name yet. Big guy, covered pretty much all over in blue fur. Got yellow eyes, fangs, claws – looks like some kinda animalistic mutation, but Chuck, this guy's no animal. Talks like he got a dictionary stuck in his throat. Says he's knows his shit about science – biology, chemistry, physics – and engineerin' too. He was hidin' under a dock, here on the island. He's been livin' homeless for a while, looks like." Logan paused, letting Chuck digest that and giving him a little space before telling him the really hard part. "Hank here says that he wrote to ya a few years back. Musta been when Emma was there 'cause he got back a snitty-ass e-mail sayin' he wasn't welcome there. I told him I knew ya and tried to explain what happened. He's with me at the hotel now." He didn't know why he'd omitted Marie from the story, except that he felt a protective urge toward her. She didn't need Xavier getting all excited over her, trying to get her to join the team. That would be dangerous. But then Logan shook his head – Marie could take care of herself vis-à-vis Chuck (and just about anyone else) and Xavier certainly wouldn't force anything on her. "Whaddya think?"
"Logan," Charles responded a little breathlessly. "I think you have found Henry Philip McCoy, someone we, and the Brotherhood, have been searching for, for a very long time."
"You've been lookin' for him? How come I didn't know anythin' about this?"
"I was handling it personally. It was – it was top secret. Logan – this man has a beyond-genius-level intellect. His scientific capabilities are rumored to be off the charts. It is also rumored that his appearance was induced by self-experimentation. We must get him to Westchester. Whichever side can claim him – well, he would provide a significant advantage."
"Good thing I went for coffee this afternoon, then, huh?" Logan tried to put aside the lingering irritation of being left out of the 'top secret' mutant pick-ups. It was Chuck's way, and you had to just learn to live with some things.
"Indeed." There was another pause, and Logan could almost hear the wheels turning in Chuck's head. "Has he responded favorably to you?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"Perhaps you should be the one to make the case, to try to persuade him to come here, at least for a tour and visit."
"Sure," Logan agreed. "You gonna send the Blackbird?"
"Oh, damn," Xavier swore, and Logan raised an eyebrow. He'd only ever heard him swear twice before. This guy must be important. "The plane is in South America – Scott and Ororo are on a pick up. They have encountered some difficulty – the family is very reluctant to send the child to us, yet does not wish to continue to provide for her. They may be some time."
Logan thought on it for a moment, then glanced to Marie. She'd finished the drying part of her hair routine and was now curling it. He watched with interest as the curling iron transformed her frizzy, kinky hair into smooth, full curls. This was his hesitation – he had an idea about how to get Hank to Westchester, one that might work even better than dazzling him/scaring him with a big-ass stealth plane, but he didn't want to part from Marie for the time it would take. He was slowly realizing that he didn't want to part from her, period, but that was a whole other can of worms. "I got an idea," he told Chuck. "But I needta talk it over with someone first."
"Ah, do you mean Henry?"
"Nah, not Hank." Logan took a deep breath and reminded himself that Xavier would find out about Marie sooner or later. "I found someone here, someone who met me before, when I was mostly animal. I've been – we've been talkin' and I'd like to stick with her a while. Lemme see if she'll come with us – I'm thinkin' that we can swap the rental car for an SUV and drive out if she will. It'd take some time, but it'd give Hank a chance to acclimate and get on his feet a little, and if Marie goes, I can keep an eye on her too."
"Jean has told me that the two of you have ended your relationship." Logan smirked. Chuck wouldn't ask outright, but he was as curious about the details of his team's personal life as any of the teenagers at the mansion.
"Yeah, we did. But it didn't have nothin' to do with Marie. Sorry - sorry 'bout that."
"No need to apologize to me, Logan," Charles said warmly. Logan realized for the first time that he'd been waiting for that – waiting for Chuck's reaction and fearing a bad one. He really did look up to the man, and he knew that Jean was his favorite. "I am sorry for the both of you that it has not worked out, but I am certain that you will both find wonderful partners in the future."
"Thanks, Chuck," Logan said sincerely, letting his eyes wander once again to Marie. "So – lemme talk to her and I'll get back to ya."
"Very good. Take care of yourself Logan, and – you have done well in finding Henry. Very well."
"Thanks. Talk to ya later." He hung up the phone and watched Marie as she struggled to wrangle her thick hair into some kind of barretted configuration. She didn't know he was watching – she was absorbed in pinning her hair – and her tongue was poking out a little in concentration. Logan smiled. That was just so darn incredibly cute. "How's the hair comin'?"
She raised her head, hands frozen at the back of her neck. "Eeech. It's not cooperating. Can you help me out here?"
"Sure." He strolled over to stand behind her seated form and met her eyes in the mirror. "What do I do?"
"Hold this part," she instructed, wiggling the intended section of hair at him.
"OK……" She flung other sections of hair about, twisting them as she went. Finally, she had it all in three workable sections – two that she was holding and the one that Logan was. "Now – can you grab that barrette?" Logan did so with his free hand and raised it up so she could see it in the mirror. "I'm going to twist these two sections with the one you're holding – can you put the barrette in after I do?"
"I think so," Logan responded. Marie twisted and twirled the hair together, and with a soft 'now' from her, Logan secured the barrette and took a step back to look at their results.
She looked gorgeous. Just drop-dead gorgeous. The hair wrangling had been worth it – it had resulted in a very soft look. The sides of her hair rolled in on themselves and met at the back of her neck, looking like some kind of really sophisticated pony-tail. Logan noticed that the barrette was positioned at the very spot where his mark was. Whether that had been her design or his, he couldn't tell. He only knew that he liked it that way – the mark was for their eyes, and their eyes alone. It wasn't meant to publicly claim her; it was something meaningful between only them. It was private. "So?" Marie queried, whirling to look at his expression in person instead of in the mirror.
"Beautiful," he breathed. That got him a wide, carefree smile.
"Thanks," she said softly. "All I have left to do is makeup and then I'll be good to go." She turned back to face front and began shuffling through her makeup bag. The sounds of water were still coming from the bathroom; neither Logan nor Marie were surprised that Hank was taking a long shower. Marie decided to make use of the time to probe Logan about what she'd heard on the phone. As she sponged on her foundation, she tried for a casual tone. "So – I happened to overhear you saying something about me?"
"Yeah," Logan replied. "Got any plans for the next coupla weeks?"
"None I can't change," she answered lightly.
"Hmph. Was thinkin' that you might wanna come along with me and Hank on a drive back to Westchester."
"I'd love to."
Logan shuffled his feet, thinking it couldn't possibly be that simple. "Yeah, well, I, uh, I kinda didn't feel right leavin' you here while I did it since we said we were gonna spend some time and get to know one another and the plane they usually use for this kinda thing is on another, ah, thing, so I just thought maybe if you wanted to come – "
"I'd love to," she repeated, turning to face him with an eyeliner pencil in hand. "It sounds like fun and I really appreciate you asking me to come along."
"Yeah, OK." She smiled and so did he, and that was it – it was decided. Well – if Hank agreed, it was, but Logan was fairly sure he would. "You're gonna turn everyone's head at this thing, you know?" Somehow, he just had the urge to give her a compliment, to make her feel good. He hadn't been good at that with Jean, he knew – she'd usually have to prompt him to say something like that. But now, it just came rushing out of him.
"As long as they buy the paintings, I'm happy." She put on her lipstick, then closed it and plopped it in the bag. "Well – that's it. I'm ready. And I'd better get going – it's starting right now."
"Have a good time, huh?"
"I'll try," she teased. "I'll be back late – do you think it's still OK if I crash here? Maybe they'd bring up a rollaway bed or something so you can have the couch and Hank can have the bed?" Her subtly made-up eyes turned playful. "That is, if you promise not to break it, they might."
That got her a mock-growl and a swat to her hip. "Go on, woman. Get outta here and go to your thing. There'll be a bed here for ya when you get back."
Marie giggled and waved her goodbye, leaving Logan with a lingering smile of his own.