Title: Portraits in a Gallery: It's There
Ororo knocked at Logan's door at exactly eight a.m. She hadn't heard any noise this morning from his direction, and she hoped that was a good sign. A moment after her knock, Logan opened the door, looking more than a little haggard. Not from physical exertion – Ororo knew that the trashing of your average hotel room wouldn't make a dent in his healing powers – but from emotional stress. Whatever had happened between him and the artist, whatever he was steadfastly refusing to discuss, was already taking a toll.
"Mornin', 'Ro." He scratched his stomach and pulled a t-shirt over his bare chest, then buttoned up the fly of his jeans. "I didn't keep ya up, did I?"
"No," she assured, sensing an opening. "But I could tell that you were quite upset. Are you sure you do not wish to talk about it?"
"Nah," he demurred. "Listen – can you fly the Blackbird back yourself? I got some things to take care of here."
"Rogue." Logan grunted in the affirmative, even though it hadn't been phrased as a question. "Are you sure you do not wish me to stay on? I would not mind a few more days in Vancouver." And she already knew it would be 'days' not 'a day' from the way he'd talked about it.
"Nah. Thanks, though." He rummaged through the scattered items on his dresser, collecting his wallet, hotel key, and a comb, then shoving all of them into one pocket or another.
"Logan," Ororo began, knowing she was pushing her luck a bit but feeling compelled to say something, "whatever lies in your past – it does not necessarily dictate your future."
He gave out a sarcastic 'hmph.' 'Ro was right – just quite not in the way she thought. "Don't worry. Look - I'll settle up with the hotel for all this." He waved a hand at the splintered remains of what was once some very nice hotel furniture. Only the bed had escaped his wrath. "And tell Jeannie I'll call her tonight, wouldya?"
Ororo simply nodded, and took her leave. "Good luck, Logan," she whispered after she closed the door behind herself. "I hope you know what you are doing."
Marie didn't hear the knock; she had the volume of her music turned way up and was absorbed in furiously painting a new work. It wasn't Logan on the canvas this time – God, she wanted to paint anything *but* him at the moment – it was a scene from her Mississippi childhood, her backyard in summer. And if the woods looked a little thicker, a little more like, say, a northern Alberta forest, well, she tried not to notice too much.
"Hey, you in there?" Marie heard that, barely, but her fingers couldn't stop moving the brush quite yet. "Hey – Marie?"
Logan, not a man renowned for his patience, decided that the ear-shattering music must mean that *someone* was in there, and sliced through the deadbolt lock with a single adamantium claw. That got Marie's attention, and in a hurry.
"You didn't answer when I called to ya." He stood in the doorway, all of a sudden feeling a little silly to have barged in like that. But he wasn't entirely sorry – Marie looked quite different than she had last night. Gone were the head-to-toe coverings, and in their place a skin-tight tank top and shape-hugging black workout pants. The small, frizzy-haired girl in his dream had grown into quite the gorgeous woman.
"Sorry. I was painting." She was still a little dumbstruck at his presence, and Logan thought he must be a little off too. He was just now noticing the canvas in front of her and the wild paint-splatters dotting her skin and clothing, as well as the tarp beneath her easel. He'd interrupted her work.
"Yeah. I, uh, sorry to break the lock. When you didn't answer, I thought maybe somethin' was wrong." It sounded lame, even to his own ears.
"It's OK," she soothed, coming out of her initial surprise and putting the brush down. She moved quickly to turn down the radio. "I'm – I'm glad to see you again."
"Yeah." Logan let himself in and shut the door, grateful that it also had a doorknob lock to provide her some remaining measure of security. "About that – I – I did some thinkin' last night and I thought I should – I should probably apologize for reactin' so bad to what you told me. You surprised the hell outta me, you know."
"I know," she apologized with a quirk of her lips that formed a half-smile. "I've been doing some thinking too, and I'm really sorry for – for putting all that on you, all of a sudden. I bet I seem pretty crazy to you."
"Nah." He paced a couple of steps closer to her.
"That's very kind of you to say. Look, I know I was – I was pretty out there last night. I just – I'd gotten used to thinking things were a certain way between us, you know? It sounds pretty silly when you think about it logically, I can see that now. I mean, I'm – I'm just some person you don't really know, someone with a deadly, uncontrollable mutation, who busts right out with – 'hey, we're meant for one another.'" Marie let out a pale chuckle and averted her eyes. "It would sound crazy to anyone, and I don't blame you for reacting like you did. I'm glad you came back because I – I wanted to tell you not to think I was trying to take anything away from you. You said that you're – you're with someone now, and I'm sure she's wonderful. And, you know, not hazardous to your health at all." Another hollow laugh followed those words. "It sounds like you've got a really great life going for yourself, and I didn't mean to make it sound like I wanted to take all that away from you. I was being kind of selfish and – well, just plain stupid. I know you've worked hard to have a good life. I *know* that. I'm just really sorry, OK?"
"I didn't think that." Her eyebrows knitted in confusion and he took a few more steps toward her. "I came over 'cause – 'cause I need to know somethin' from you. I need to know if somethin' I remember is true or not." He'd thought about this carefully. The dream departed from what had really happened when he picked little-Marie up instead of running from her. But something important happened before that change in course. He needed to know if it was real or not. He needed to know at least that much, because if it was, then maybe the rest of the dream was true. Not true in the sense that it factually had occurred – he knew it hadn't – but true in feeling and possibility. He had to know if there was a chance he wouldn't have hurt her, a chance he wasn't the worst kind of sick bastard, a chance that all those things she'd talked about so passionately last night and categorized as 'silly' now, might be true in some measure after all.
"O-OK. What did you remember?"
Logan didn't answer at first. He crossed the room until he was within arm's reach of her, and locked his eyes on hers. Marie simply waited, and watched him. Finally, he took a deliberate breath and whispered, "Turn around."
Without hesitation, she did so. She tensed but didn't jump when Logan's hand came to rest on the small of her back, and she tensed a little more when she felt his other hand sweeping her hair off of her neck. With the last tickle of hair against her bare shoulders, she knew all of a sudden what he was looking for.
"It's there," he breathed.
"Yes," she whispered back, honoring the solemnity of the moment. "It never healed over, not completely. Not even when I – " That caused the tension that had been easing to return to her body with a jolt. "It just never healed over." Marie felt the hand that had been on her back move, and later she cursed herself for not paying a little more attention to that, for letting herself be overwhelmed by his nearness. A second later, she felt her skin kick in, felt him streaming into her. It lasted only an instant – Marie whirled and shoved him away quickly and with all the force she could muster. His heavy, metal-enhanced body went flying into her footboard and the momentum carried him further, finally depositing him flat on his back on her bed. "Logan!"
"Damn…." he moaned, shaking his head as if trying to clear it. "That packs one helluva punch."
Marie was at his side, looming over him but keeping a safe distance. "God, are you all right? What did you do? What did you do?"
"Ran my thumb over it. Wanted to touch it," he murmured, still a little out of it.
"But my skin – I told you about my skin!"
"I know." And he hadn't forgotten. He wasn't quite sure what would happen if he touched her, but he was pretty damn sure it wouldn't be fatal to him. Just about everything devised by man, mutant, and angry Gods had failed to kill him so far. His mate wasn't going to be the one to put him down. He shook his head again, and harder, at that thought – his mate?
"Please, Logan, please don't ever do that again. I could've killed you."
"Nah." He sat up, wavering more than a little as he did, and watched as she skittered back away from him. "I'm all right."
"Are you sure?" Concerned brown eyes roved over his body, and he couldn't help but suppress a smile at that. For as well as she knew him, from the inside out, she didn't know what everyone else surely did – he was one tough, unkillable bastard and it was no cause for worry when he took a hit.
"I'm fine, darlin'."
"I'm – just let me put some more clothes on," Marie sputtered, dashing for the closet.
Logan almost replied that she was fine as she was, but then didn't want her to think he had been leering over the sight of so much of her body on display. By the time she turned back to him, she was once again swathed in fabric neck-to-toe. He would've thought that would ease her distress, but her face had a grimace etched across it, and it suddenly dawned on Logan that maybe the skin thing wasn't too damn pleasant to be on the dishing-out end of, either. "You OK? Did that hurt ya?"
"I'm OK. It just hurt a little. It was a quick touch." Logan grumbled and fished for words of apology, but she went on before he found any. "Please, Logan," she said in a subdued and solemn tone, "don't ever touch me on my skin, not ever again. I really don't want – of all the people in the world, you're the last person I'd ever want to hurt."
"I got healin'. Don't worry. You won't kill me."
Marie's frown deepened at that. "Maybe not. But I don't want you to be *hurt,* OK?" Her eyes clouded over and a single sob forced its way out before she put her hand over her mouth to quiet herself.
"Hey, don't – don't cry. It didn't hurt bad. I'm OK now. Feels fine now." He rose and crossed over to her on still-unsteady legs. "Marie, I'm OK. Really."
She nodded and turned her face up. Logan knew she was still trying to hold back the tears. "Is that what you needed to know?"
"Yeah." He had a strong urge to take her in his arms, but, given what had just happened, he was fairly sure that she'd freak out. He decided to just go ahead and say his piece. "Marie – what you said last night – I would like that. To get to know you, I mean, to see what's supposedta be between us. I got a – I got a real good thing with Jeannie, my girl. I can't tell ya that I want us to be lovers. But I do wanna know you. And I don't wanna run away from you."
Her face lit into a smile, and Logan, much to his surprise, returned it with an equal measure of openness and enthusiasm. "That's – that's great," she said. "That's wonderful. Thanks – thank you, Logan."
"Welcome," he said automatically. "I gotta go back to New York – that's where I'm livin' now. Westchester. Xavier's School for the Gifted." Those words came solemnly, as though he was telling her them so she'd always know how to find him from now on. "I gotta go back sooner or later, but I thought I'd stay here a coupla more days, let us get acquainted a little. You know – you know all about me, but I don't know nothin' about you."
"Sure," Marie sighed, the tension finally - *finally* - leaving her body. "I'd like that. I'd like that a lot."
"Good," he whispered, giving her a quick smile before he sat back on the bed. "So tell me all aboutcha. All about Marie."
"Is he avoiding me?" Jean's voice made the weather goddess jump. She hadn't seen or heard her approach; she'd been unpacking and sorting clothes for the laundry.
"Jean – it is good to see you."
"I can't sense him anywhere on the grounds. He landed and lit out for some hole-in-the-wall bar, didn't he?" She was leaning against 'Ro's open doorway, arms crossed and definitely well into a good, long mad.
"Jean, I, ah - perhaps you should close the door. I need to tell you something." And the rest of the mansion doesn't need to hear your reaction, 'Ro added silently.
Suspicious, but more than that, curious, Jean did as 'Ro asked. "What? What is it?"
"Logan did not return from Vancouver with me. I looked for you when we landed – I knocked on your door, but you must have been at lunch. I wanted to – "
"What do you mean, he didn't come back?" That 'mad' was rapidly escalating to downright pissed. Jean's temper was legendary, and, although Ororo was sometimes amused when Jean vented her spleen at a deserving target, she was not eager to be on the receiving end of Jean's ire.
"He decided to stay on in Vancouver a few more days. He – he said that he would call you this evening."
"What?!" Here comes the storm, Ororo thought.
"I am sure that he – "
"He'll call me this evening? Just what the hell does he think I am? Some awestruck groupie that's going to sit by the phone all night in hopes of a glimpse of the wonder that is the Wolverine? He'll call me this evening – what the hell is that supposed to mean?"
'Ro was silent for a moment before answering. She'd thought about what, exactly, to tell Jean the entire flight back. "Jean – he found something pertaining to his past. I believe that his decision to stay was made in order to explore what he found. I am sure he will return in a few days."
"Yeah?" Jean shot back. "Well, I'm not going to sit here and wait like a good little girl while he goes on some wild goose chase. Fire up the Blackbird, 'Ro – you're flying me to Vancouver." Jean whirled on her heel, and stomped toward the hall, not waiting for 'Ro's response.
"Jean – " The red-head halted abruptly, and turned to face her friend. "Perhaps he needs to do this on his own."
"No. What he needs to do is make a decision – does he want to be with me or not? I've had it, 'Ro. I've just had it. He won't go anywhere I want to or do the things I like – he just expects me to fall into in bed whenever he's got a hard-on. I'm sick of it. This – this whole Vancouver thing – he *knew* the gala was important to me, and he promised to go. Then he weaseled out of it at the last minute. How do you think I would've felt going all by myself, without an escort? Either he wants to be a part of my life or he doesn't. I'm not going to be some – some convenience to him. No. He has to decide, and it has to be now. If he doesn't want to have *real* relationship, an adult relationship, then I can find someone else." The glint in her eyes told 'Ro that she had a 'someone else' or two in mind already. Ororo was surprised – had things between them really been that bad? "Look, 'Ro," Jean continued in a far more subdued tone, "just do this for me, OK? I have to know – one way or another, I have to know."
"OK," 'Ro agreed. "Meet me in the hangar in fifteen minutes." Jean nodded, then strode off. 'Ro heaved a sigh and began re-packing her suitcase.
"So, um, that's about all there is to tell," Marie finished. She'd been talking for a couple of hours, telling Logan the basic facts of her life but more often than not segueing into some philosophical idea or the emotional, interior experiences she'd had at important moments. She'd told him everything, and then some. Well, almost everything. She'd omitted the part about Sabretooth, and had dodged his question about why she put the white streaks in her hair. Those were heavy things, solemn things, and, frankly, she didn't want to discuss them with even Logan just yet. "Not too exciting, huh?"
"Nah," Logan replied. "Sounds like you got your fair share of excitement in. You've had a rough ride over the years, haven't ya?"
"Not really. I mean – yeah, the whole family-kicking-me-out thing sucked in a major way, and I really wish I would've been able to finish school, and, sure, the killer skin royally sucks," she gave a small smile at her own play on words, "but, you know, all in all, all things considered, it's OK." She grinned even more broadly and they shared a laugh, but Logan's expression quickly turned serious again. Very serious.
"You've been strong to make it this far."
Marie knew from him that was a genuine compliment, and not a lightly considered one. "Thanks. So tell me – tell me more about you. I know I have bits and pieces, but not – not really the whole story."
"Ain't a pretty story," Logan demurred, and Marie felt the connection they'd made throughout her conversation begin to fade away. She'd known he wouldn't feel as comfortable baring his life to her as she did with him, but she'd hoped he'd say *something.* The flashes, after all, told so little of the story. "'Sides – we got time. It can be my turn tomorrow. I should probably – I should head back to the hotel and settle up with the manager before it gets too late." Marie looked at him questioningly. "I, uh, damaged some of the furniture a little."
Her expression turned knowing. "Got pissed and took it out on the poor defenseless armoire?"
"Guess so." She seemed more nostalgically amused than scared by this display of temper, so Logan decided to just roll with that. "I'll come over tomorrow mornin', huh? We can talk some more then and maybe you can show me around a little."
Marie nodded, and they both rose. "Logan – can I – would you mind if I asked you for a favor?"
She blushed and cast her eyes downward and Logan wondered for a moment just what the heck she was about to ask for. "Are you feeling OK, from the touch?"
"Good. Good. I – I'm really well-covered. My gloves are tucked into my sleeves, and this turtleneck comes all the way up to my chin." Logan didn't respond, but now he was *really* beginning to wonder what she had in mind. "If you wouldn't mind, I'd really like to – well, I'd just like to try something."
"Uh, yeah – OK." He watched as she slowly made her way over to him, keeping her eyes on the floor but stealing little glances at him every now and then. She reached him, then paused before taking a step that would put her almost chest-to-chest with him. Logan was about to say something, but then she leaned in to him, embracing him.
It was too intense and intimate for a friendly embrace but it was something less than a lovers' embrace. She rested her head on his shoulder and let out a sigh. He could feel her small hands slowly moving over his muscular back, and the sensation - it was *good.* No friend or lover had ever just held him close like this, touching him gently. Breathing in her scent and finding it sweeter than it ever had been before, he encircled her in his arms as well. That made her melt her body into his, pressing them tightly together.
No words were said as they stood there, embracing. Neither one could've said how long they stayed that way. Logan was surprised by just how much he didn't want to let her go. When she gingerly began to disentangle herself from him, he at first pulled her back into his arms. Marie didn't resist, and he found himself running his hands over her shoulders, back, and hips. Again, it wasn't a sexual touch, but an affectionate one, a loving one. Logan found that he liked doing this even better than he liked feeling her hands caressing him in the same way. But at last, they had to let go of one another, and each did so slowly, reluctantly. After managing to completely part, Marie whispered a soft, sincere, 'thanks' and gave him the same serene smile that little-Marie had favored him with in the dream. He nodded a solemn 'you're welcome,' and took his leave.
On every mile of the drive back to the hotel, he replayed the scene in his mind. If he'd been able to put a word to his feelings it would've been 'solace' – but Logan was wholly unfamiliar with the emotion and only knew that it felt good, in some deep and profound way. He drove back to Granville Island slowly, savoring the memory as much as he had the embrace.
Logan returned to his hotel room to find new furniture and fixtures already replacing those he'd destroyed. That was a pleasant surprise, but it set off some alarms in his head – he hadn't been to see the manager yet; had 'Ro done this?
Just as he was about to head downstairs and replace whatever money 'Ro had thrown at the manager with his own funds, he caught a familiar scent hovering near the bathroom. Jeannie. Logan grimaced, cursing himself for not anticipating this. The woman didn't like to be set aside or pushed out of the center of attention. He should've guessed she'd show up here when he didn't step off that plane with 'Ro. He huffed, then headed downstairs.
The hotel manager greeted him with an inordinate amount of friendliness, and Logan immediately knew that Jeanne must've paid him well for the damages. "Hello, sir. I trust that everything in your room is in order."
"Yeah, it is. Mind tellin' me just who paid for it all to be that way?" Logan's rough demeanor took the man aback a bit, and he had to fish for an answer for a few seconds. That didn't ease Logan's mood.
"Your – your wife Jean, sir. She came in this afternoon to join you and paid for the damages in full and – and for the staff time required to clean up the room. She said that you had instructed her to do so."
"Hmph." Logan gave the man a hard look. "You give her a key to the room?" Not that it would matter if he hadn't – there were a lot of benefits to telekenesis and getting into locked rooms wasn't anything Jean hadn't tried before.
"I certainly did," the manager smiled, anticipating a pleased reaction from Logan. He got only a scowl, another grunt, and then a good view of Logan's retreating back. "Have a pleasant evening," he called after the man, re-thinking whether his wife had indeed been generous enough. After all, broken furnishings were one thing; rudeness was another. Turning his head back to the ledger, the manager put it out of his mind.