Title: Portraits in a Gallery: Endings and
Logan stomped back upstairs, determined to think about what to say to Jeannie when she came back. And he had no doubt she would. He wondered if 'Ro had flown her here, and if so, whether the weather goddess was staying in the hotel as well. Deciding that 'Ro had a little too much common sense to get anywhere near the fight that was about to ensue between her best friend and her teammate, he gave up on the thought of trying to find her and ask her advice. He'd just have to go it alone.
As it turned out, he didn't have the luxury of too much time to think about it; while he'd been downstairs, Jean had returned to the room. He walked in on her just as she was taking off her shoes – it looked like she'd been working off some steam in the hotel health club. "Jeannie," he greeted.
"Logan," she replied coolly. Logan waited her out while she finished with the shoes, but when she was done, she just sat back on the bed, not saying anything. Logan heaved a sigh, and decided to be the one to go first.
"Look, I'm sorry I didn't come back with 'Ro. I had somethin' I hadta look into here."
"Well, then, I guess that makes everything fine and dandy." He didn't like it when she got sarcastic. It twisted her features and stole away her beauty. He especially didn't like it when the sarcasm was directed at him – it was another thing that reminded him of the scientists back at the lab.
"I was gonna call you tonight."
"I'm sorry about the dance thing, but I never promised to go. I said I'd think about it, that's all."
"Arentcha gonna say nothin'?"
"What do you want me to say?"
"Why dontcha tell me why you're pissed?"
Jean stretched, affecting boredom, before answering. "Would that do any good? Honestly, Logan, do you even care?"
"Well, yeah, I do."
"Really? You certainly don't act like it."
"Look, Jeannie – just because I didn't go to the thing it don't mean I don't care about you."
That riled something in her and her cold shoulder abruptly melted under a flare of temper. "Yes, Logan, yes it does. It means that you don't care about the things *I* want to do, you don't care what people might think if I showed up alone to one of those events. You don't care how that would affect me."
"Aw, Jeannie, I dunno why you give a shit what people would think."
"Because, Logan," she lectured through gritted teeth, "I have a position. I have a standing in the community. I'm a well-known mutant. I *testify* before Congress and I *get* on the evening news. I'm *Jean Grey,* and I don't go alone to dinners."
"You didn't go alone – you took somebody, didn't ya?"
"Yes. I took Warren. Warren who *knows* how to wear a cummerbund, Warren who doesn't order beer at every social occasion. I had to take Warren because I couldn't ask anyone else at the last minute. How do you think that made me feel, to have to beg him to take me?"
"Ya hadta beg him?"
"You know what I mean," she retorted, crossing to the far end of the room to put some physical and emotional distance between them. "I don't like playing second best, Logan. I'm sick of taking a back seat to whatever's convenient for you."
"It ain't about that."
"Really? Well, what would you call staying an extra day in Vancouver with 'Ro? You stayed here just to get out of going to the gala, and don't try to bullshit me otherwise."
"I wasn't squirmin' outta that thing. I toldya I'd think about goin', but you know I hate those things."
"How can it possibly be stressful to go to a party? For Christsakes, Logan, you don't have to cook the food and mix the drinks. You don't even have to know how to pick out shoes that match your dress that also match your earrings. All you have to do is shave, throw on a tux and show up. Is that really so damn much to ask?" Her pedantic, cutting tone was setting off all kinds of bad reactions in Logan, and, although he was containing them well for the most part, he couldn't help letting a little of his irritation show through.
"This ain't about me goin' to the party, Jeannie. This is about you wantin' to have everythin' your own way."
"Don't turn this around on me. Don't you *dare* turn this around on me! You're the one who's been selfish, Logan, and you should damn well learn to face up to that. You want what you want out of this relationship, and that's all. You couldn't give less of a damn what I need!" The fight was on now, and neither one was about to de-escalate. It went this way sometimes, and even if Logan was inclined to try to stop the chain reaction, he couldn't take any focus away from reining in his baser reactions to her attitude. Because it was truly that – her attitude, not the words themselves. Someone once told him that communication was only 10% the actual words you say, the rest was all tone and body language. He sure as hell didn't like either of those coming from her now.
"Well, whaddya need, then, huh? Why dontcha tell me? But lemme tell you somethin' first, Jeannie – if your big thing is me goin' to these dressed-up ass-kissin' festivals, it ain't gonna happen. You might as well get on the phone to Warren right fuckin' now and tell him he's gonna hafta take ya to every single one."
"Maybe I should," she flung back. "Maybe I should, because I'll tell *you* something – I had a better time with Warren last night than I've ever had with you."
"Yes, it is!"
Logan rumbled and bared his teeth a little; the animal was rising, and that should've been a danger sign to Jean, but she was too lost in her own anger. "That ain't whatcha scream when I'm in bed with ya. You seem to be havin' a damn good time then." He crossed his arms over his chest and puffed it out, the very picture of an alpha male.
Jean burned to come up with a retort of her own. She couldn't quite believe he'd been that crass, that disrespectful toward her, and, almost in self-defense, her mind suddenly put forward exactly what to say that would hurt him as badly as he'd just humiliated her. "You're about half as good as you think you are, Logan. Sure, you make me come, but you fuck like an animal, not a lover." His eyes went wide at that and he actually bent over a little. It was as though he'd been sucker-punched in the gut. Jean noticed, but it didn't stop her snowballing anger. She'd veritably spat those words out and more were right behind them. "And maybe that's what I wanted at first. Hell, I'll admit that – what woman doesn't want to be fucked hard every now and then? But when it comes to what a woman really needs, Logan, you come up short. You always have."
His features were set in a snarl and he didn't respond. Jean finally took a breath, and seemed to finally sense that maybe she'd gone a little too far. Still, she didn't want to be the one to give in. This *wasn't* all about her – she'd come here to straighten Logan out, and all he'd done was throw their sex life back in her face like she was a two-dollar whore. She wasn't going to stand for that. But she did realize that Logan wouldn't be the one to try to calm things now. That would be up to her. "Look, I don't want to argue," she said firmly, and with as much conviction as she could muster, given what had just happened. "Let's just go home."
"You go," Logan ground out through clenched teeth. "I won't be goin' back."
"Don't be a child," she snapped, resurgently angry that he wasn't taking the olive branch she'd struggled to extend. "Let's go."
"You go," he repeated. "Go on, get outta here. Now."
"You're being an ass."
"I said go!" he roared at her. Several low growls followed the words, and Jean could only stand there wide-eyed. She'd never, ever seen him like this. Not even in battle. There he was fierce and unrestrained, but there was something differently dangerous about him now.
"Are – are you *mad* at me?" she stammered in disbelief.
"Goddamn it, Jeannie, get the fuck out!" He stalked to the door and opened it. "Get out," he repeated, in a more subdued but no less angry tone.
"My – my things……..I need my things." She cast about for the suitcase she'd brought and moved as though in a daze. After putting her bathroom things in the bag as well, she stopped and stood before Logan, still a little stunned. "Are you coming back with me?"
He only answered in a growl. Standing aside, he made way for her to go through the door with her bag. Jean shuffled out the door, and finally seemed to gather herself - and tap in to some of her former anger - when she found herself in the hall. "You know, you have no right to be mad at me. You started this. If you didn't want a fight, then – "
"Get out," he snarled one last time, then shut the door on her.
Nine hours later, Logan had thoroughly demolished every last piece of new furniture, every piece that Jean had paid for. If you'd asked him before today whether Jean was capable of ever doing anything that would turn his abundant, basic carnal desire for her to disgust, he would've said no. But today, she'd said the one thing that couldn't ever be taken back, the one thing that would ensure that every time he looked at her or wanted to touch her, he would only hear 'animal' ringing in his ears, and would feel like he was right back in the lab with the people who'd turned him into one.
It was one hell of a kick in the ass, he reflected – the second he settled his mind about his feelings for Marie, the second he convinced himself that no, he wasn't some unthinking beast that would go to any lengths to quell his sordid desires, Jeannie had flung that word right back at him - the same word the doctors used, the same word the scientists used. He huffed out a bark of laughter - they'd tried so damn hard to make him into an animal, even though he'd fought with every ounce of life and will not to become that, they'd won in the end. They'd won after all. Jeannie's right, Logan thought. This is what I am, and maybe it's all I'll ever be.
But even as the thought passed through him, another part of him protested the notion. It would be easy to think that it was that simple, that there were only primitive instincts in him, and nothing more. But the truth was rarely ever simple. And while Logan definitely had a self-flagellation streak a mile wide, especially when it came to any real or perceived mistreatment of women, he also had an unrelenting practicality and hard-nosed realism about him. If the theory was that he was all animal, only animal – well, that just didn't quite jibe with the facts. There had been times he'd felt things no animal knows – higher things, deeper things, finer and more complex things. Although those times had been desperately few and far between, he knew for sure that he'd had them.
For a few moments he strained to draw one into the forefront of his mind, and found nothing. But then, he remembered the embrace with Marie that afternoon, remembered how he'd felt, and how good he knew he'd made her feel. It wasn't animalistic and had nothing to do with fucking and that slim thread made him think, in the back of his mind, that maybe while Jeannie had a point, just maybe she wasn't completely right. Maybe he was an animal, but there was more to him too. Or at least there could be.
He poured himself into the bed, once again surrounded by more splinters than actual furniture. Sighing, he tried for some sleep, and resolved to just put it all out of his mind for now. Tomorrow, he would head over and see Marie, and just see how it went. Maybe that would provide more evidence for one theory or the other. For now, he needed to not think about it, to simply rest. Making one final mental note to see the manager first thing in the morning, he drifted off to sleep.
"It was awful," Jean said succinctly to Warren over the phone. "He refused to come back and the things he said – well, I can't even repeat them without making myself sick. I think – I think it's over, Warren. I don't think I can ever go back to him after this, no matter how much he begs or pleads."
Scott couldn't hear the other end of the conversation over the hall phone, but he guessed that hearing his former fiancee's side of it was sufficient. The fact that she was also having this conversation on the very public hall phone instead of her office phone (or her personal, in-room line or her cell phone) was telling as well. She and Logan were quits, and she wanted to deliver the news to everyone, but preferably with some degree of subtlety and in such a way that would attract the sympathy of your average mansion bystander. Scott was not your average mansion bystander.
Their own break-up had been horrific – well, at least for him. Jean simply told him one day, with no sign of warning that he'd ever caught, that their engagement had to be called off, and that their intimate psychic link would be immediately severed as well. She said she was just no longer in love with him. Scott gave Jean credit for being up-front – when he'd asked her if there was someone else, she'd unhesitatingly told him she was with Logan now – but there was still something that seemed cold and bloodless about the way she'd done it. They'd been together seven years.
He tried to convince her to come back, of course, even after he knew she'd slept with Logan, even after he could no longer even lie to himself about that fact. He'd begged, pleaded, tried to reason with her, cried. None of it worked. The only real explanation she'd ever offered was that it was her, not him – she was in a different place in her life, she needed different things, she needed someone closer in age and experience, she needed someone with more passion, someone less controlled. Oh no, it wasn't about him at all…….
"I don't know," Jean was saying. "And I'm afraid to even try to talk with him about it. You didn't see him, Warren – the look in his eyes………I thought for a moment I might have to use my powers to protect myself…………..What? No, no, it didn't go quite that far, but I was afraid it might……"
Scott couldn't suppress a soft snort. It wasn't that he thought well of Logan – he didn't – but he'd seen the strength of the man's control against the expanse of his anger in battle. He'd also seen how circumspect and almost abashed Logan could be with vulnerable people, especially women and children. Jean might've pissed him off but good, but he'd tell her to get the hell away from him before things ever got that out of control. Maybe Jean didn't know that, maybe she was genuinely afraid – she hadn't had as much combat experience with the man as Scott had, and Logan had always steadfastly refused to link his mind with Jean's – but Scott had no doubt there was more than a healthy dose of sympathy-garnering at work here too.
"I'm going to leave him a voice mail. I can't imagine he doesn't know that I would immediately have to end the relationship………..Oh, I'll be all right – please, Warren, don't worry about me…….Well, that would be – that would be nice. It would take my mind off of things. You're such a good friend, Warren, and a gentleman. I'll see you at noon…….Yes, you too…….have a good night."
Scott kept his eyes glued to the television when Jean hung up and passed through the rec room. It wasn't easy to keep a smirk off of his lips ("Oh, I'll be all right Warren, please don't worry about me……) but he did. Jean seemed to take no notice of him while coming through, but when she got to the doorway, she paused, and turned to face him.
"I guess you want to gloat now," she ventured, half-snitty, half-joking.
"Nah," Scott replied, keeping his gaze on the TV.
"You were right about him, you know. He was awful to me, and I don't know why I didn't break up with him sooner. He just doesn't understand me. Well, not like you did." The easy tone in her voice, one that even held hints of nervousness and wistful regret, nearly got to him. But then he remembered that he'd heard her deploy that tactic before.
"I'm dating someone, Jean. I'm not interested in getting back together."
"That's – I didn't say anything about that."
Scott chose not to rebut her words. It wouldn't lead to anything but another futile argument anyway. But he was just bitter enough to want to get another little dig in. "Good luck with Warren."
"Warren? I'm not thinking – Scott, for goodness sakes, I've just had a very traumatic break up with Logan. Why on earth would I want to jump right into another relationship? Warren's a good friend, and that's all. That's all." Scott only shrugged and she took a few steps back in to the room, gaze narrowing and her voice growing stern. "I don't need to have a man in my life, Scott. I can do just fine on my own. I'm thirty-four years old, and a professional. I'm not some pregnant teenager, you know."
"Doesn't have anything to do with it," he commented, taking a slug of his beer.
She was silent for a moment, and Scott knew she was thinking her next words over carefully. "I'm disappointed that after all the time we were together that you could think that about me." Now her voice did have something he hadn't heard before – something a lot like hurt. "I thought you knew me." But he didn't trust it, didn't trust her, quite enough to take a chance.
"So did I." He took the beer and left the room, unwilling to play whatever this game was any more. Jean stood there, dumbfounded for the second time that day, as the television droned on impassively beside her.
After having dealt with the hotel manager (which included a fair amount of grumbling about the high-priced furniture he had chosen for the hotel's room décor), Logan hopped in his rental car and headed to Marie's. He'd slept well, which helped his mood considerably. As he drove out of the parking lot, it occurred to him that he hadn't asked or told Marie what time he might come over. Glancing at the clock, he saw that it was only 8:15. Deciding that stopping for coffee would be both a nice gesture and a way to blunt the earliness of his arrival, he pulled in to the JJ Beans on Powell. You could only get JJ Beans coffee in Vancouver, and Logan found that he was developing a taste for it. Nabbing two Eastside Blend coffees and three cranberry 'magic muffins' (two for him, one for Marie – those suckers were huge), he continued back toward Chinatown.
He wondered why she'd chosen that neighborhood of all the places in the city. Was it her artistic bent that gravitated toward the red and gold dragon street lamps or the visual appeal of its brightly-colored shops? Or was it something simpler – cheap rent, a place that let her have a cat – hell, maybe she just liked Chinese food a helluva lot. He'd have to remember to ask her today.
And then it came back to him that today was his turn to talk, to tell her all about himself. He'd already decided that she'd get the abridged version – she didn't need details on things like what he remembered of the lab or his life on the cage-fighting circuit. He'd have to say something about those times because she'd gotten flashes of them, but he didn't want to burden her with any more horrific images than she already had floating around in her head, courtesy of him. His time with Chuck would require some explanation – Marie hadn't seemed to put together that he was an ass-kicking mutie superhero now – and he'd have to say something about Jeannie. Yesterday he'd told her they had a good thing going, and today he'd have to tell her they'd broken up. Great. She was going to think he was either fickle or a moron.
Just what the hell he'd say about the breakup with Jeannie was another concern. He didn't want to tell Marie about the fight, and the words Jeannie had thrown in his face. Then again, Marie had seen him more animal than any other living soul, and she seemingly had no problems with that. Maybe she would understand if he just told her the flat-out truth on that one. He wasn't proud of some of the things he'd said to Jeannie, but Marie probably deserved to know what his real bastard potential was. It would probably quash some of those 'we're meant to be together' feelings she had.
Logan found himself unexpectedly scowling at that thought. Shaking his head, he refused to let his mind linger there – Marie was too young, too damn sweet, and even if he did have the occasional urge or two in her vicinity, it was only because she was a nice, attractive woman. And because she had a sweet, spicy, addictive scent. And there was that thing she did with her mouth when she smiled but not really……..
His arrival on Marie's street finally brought him back to reality. He searched for a parking space, and then grabbed the coffee and muffins and headed to her building. Last time he was here, he'd noticed that the outside door was always open – not very secure. He'd have to find out who the building manager was and see about that, and he'd already decided on offering to replace the deadbolt he'd sliced through when they talked today. After the hugging thing yesterday, it had just totally slipped his mind. Logan trudged up the last few stairs and knocked on her door.
A sleepy Marie greeted him a few moments later, clad only in a tank top and boxers. "Hey. I'm glad you came over early." She yawned, her body seemingly not quite onboard with her words yet. "Come on in. Let me go brush my teeth and throw something on."
"Sorry to wake ya," Logan offered, sweeping the door shut behind him with one foot while he balanced the coffees and muffins. "Broughtcha some breakfast."
"Ooooh – great. Thanks. Just put it in the kitchen and make yourself comfortable."
I already am, was his knee-jerk thought. He didn't question it; he just let it pass, did as she'd asked, and dug out one of the muffins. He was hungry.
"Cranberry muffins?" Marie queried, emerging a few minutes later with pulled-back hair, brushed teeth, and a whole lot more clothing than she'd been wearing to bed. Not waiting for him to answer, she joined him in the kitchen and wiggled one out of the bag for herself.
"*Magic* cranberry muffins, or so the place says."
"Mmmm…..I'm willing to agree with them. They look good. And they're big. Hey – did you go to JJ Beans?" Logan grunted in the affirmative while chewing another mouthful of muffin. "That's my favorite coffee in the whole world. What kind did you get?" Marie took a sniff at the steaming cups. "Eastside?"
"Yeah," Logan replied, amused. The girl knew her coffee.
"Yummy," she pronounced conclusively, before even taking a sip. "So – how was your night last night?"
It was an innocent enough question and Logan somehow felt so at ease, so normal here, that he just answered it. "My girl, Jeannie, came out to see me. We had a fight. That's it. It's done between us." He sipped the coffee and finished off muffin number one before noticing that Marie was just staring at him open-mouthed. "Yeah, uh, so that's what I did last night."
Marie gulped and found her voice. "I'm so sorry. You – you didn't fight about me did you?"
"Nah, nah – she don't even know nothin' about you." It dawned on Logan that all during their conversation, Jean never once asked why he really had stayed on. It also dawned on him that Marie probably wouldn't push him for details on the Jean thing. Whatever was said would be at his discretion; she'd let him tell as much or as little as he liked, and that put him even more at ease. This whole talking about himself thing might not be so bad after all. "It was about somethin' else entirely."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"Darlin', I hardly ever wanna talk about anythin'," he teased, testing for her response to that and pleased that it got an amused smile from her. Before he knew it, he was offering up more information. "It's just that she said some things, hard things, that made me see her differently, and gave me a good look at what she really thinks of me. I don't think there's any goin' back from that."
"I'm sorry. You said it was a good relationship and I'm sure you're hurting."
"I'll make it," he said good-naturedly, not wanting to deepen her already evident concern over it. They lapsed into comfortable silence, punctuated only occasionally by muffin-chewing and coffee-gulping. At length, Logan addressed their task for the day. "So it's learn about Logan day today, huh?" That got him another smile. "Well, I dunno where to start. I didn't really even remember as far back as when we met, not until you told me about it. I guess I could just start with where I do remember."
"Sounds good," Marie beamed. Logan gave a quick flash of smile back, and began at the beginning.