Portraits In The Gallery:  New, Much More Karma-Friendly Management

Title: New, Much More Karma-Friendly Management
Author:  Terri
Archive: Dolphin Haven, Peep Hut – anyone else, please ask :)
Disclaimer: I do not own a single mutant herein. Darn.
Rating: PG-13 for now
Feedback: Please? With some tylenol on top? This fic is bound to give me headaches all the way through. Good, bad, and ugly welcome ;)
Summary: Part one of a series. On a routine mission to Vancouver, Ororo finds something of interest in a small Granville Island gallery.
Comments: Sit back, relax. This is shaping up to be one seriously long series. Sigh. The 's' word. I didn't want to do another long series, but after writing over 70 pages and still having no end in sight (but plenty of ideas) I just couldn't cruise down the River Denial any longer. This fic was the result of an extremely large bunny from Cappucino (a fic where 'Ro runs across paintings in a museum that are done by Rogue and that are of Logan) and a highly persistent one from Tiffany (Logan finds a very young Marie and marks her as his mate).   I made the mistake of leaving those two alone out in the backyard and before I knew it, loud bunny-mating screeches were heard coming from behind my shed. Wildlife scattered, nesting birds took flight, and my neighbor's cats ran for cover. After I gathered up the nerve to look, which took several weeks, what emerged was a rather innocent-looking yet huge plot bunny. Little did I know its innocent looks were just a lure to draw unsuspecting writers closer to its razor-sharp teeth……..anywho, it's still firmly attached to my posterior and shows no sign of giving up anytime soon.   Sigh. On a separate note, I have just discovered the beauty that is tracking my website statistics, which has revealed all manner of interesting things. My Hank Muse would like it noted that the fourth most common search which people looking for the Peep Hut submit to Yahoo and the like is 'Hank Rogue fic.' Personally, I'd like to say hello to the one of you from Estonia and the three of you from Poland who have been reading along ;) But most interestingly, the stats track unique IP hits and it's telling me that 8 of you at Willamette University have been reading the fics. Um, you're not getting together to breed some kind of super-bunny as a class project or something, are you? Lastly, I was tempted to subtitle this installment 'Tea My Ass, Lady' (you'll see why) but the above subtitle just seemed to better reflect all the personal changes that the various X-Men are about to (not-so-smoothly in some cases) undergo in this series (ouch – my head thumps every time I type that word)……..


Ororo walked the Granville Island shops and galleries she'd come to be familiar with during her visits to Vancouver over the years. She hadn't been here all that often, but she'd thoroughly enjoyed it each time she'd come. This time, providing security for the Professor at a mutant rights conference had brought her, and Logan, to the city. She'd persuaded Logan to stay on an extra day with her; it wasn't so much out of his love for the city as his desire to steal another day away from structured mansion life that had made him agree.

He was currently off by himself drinking coffee and reading the local paper in a diner at the other end of the island, which Ororo thought was probably as relaxing for him as walking the shops was for her. It was his way of being with people yet still comfortably alone. She'd never much cared for crowds herself, but shopping was different – well, to a degree. She'd drifted past the bustling market (too many people and too close a brush with her claustrophobia fears), the souvenir-y shops, and the high-end pet food shop. The galleries had always been her favorites – they often featured up-and-coming artists, new blood, something different. And they were usually only moderately populated with shoppers, just enough to liven up the place, but not enough to verge on sensory overload, an atmosphere Ororo enjoyed nearly as much as she did the art itself. The galleries did not disappoint this time – she went from one to another, finally coming to the last of them at the far end of the island, one that boasted 'new, much more karma-friendly management' via a hand-written sign in the window. Chuckling a little, Ororo ducked inside.

She walked past several very solid works, impressed by a few but not really clicking with any on a personal level. All that changed, though, as she reached the end of the shop, and the gallery dedicated to this month's featured artist. At first, the name caught her eye – Rogue. Unusual, to be sure, but artists were eccentric folk. Then Ororo walked deeper into the gallery, stopping before the first painting hung there and found herself completely intrigued. The painting, done in oils, was a vivid swirl of earthy colors, with no discernable images at first. After looking at it for several long moments, she was able to pick out a recognizable figure amidst the mass – a bear, an attacking bear. Catching on to the artist's style, she examined the work more closely. She saw two more figures, some kind of lunging, flesh-colored beast sweeping toward the bear, and a crouching child hidden beneath a mass of brown hair. That one had to work to find the meaning and hidden context of the painting was alluring to Ororo – she didn't like simplistic works – but the emotion that the painting managed to convey, despite its lack of straightforward images was what really rocked her back on her heels. Artist of the month, indeed, she thought.

Moving on to the next piece, she saw that images in this one were more front-and-center than the last, although by no means easily coaxed from the work. Ororo took a quick glance around, seeing that with each progressive piece, the works gained clarity and distinction, but lost none of their emotional impact. She was just about to settle in before the next piece in the series when something she'd glimpsed prompted her to take a second look.

It was a painting in the middle section of this series, and it was unmistakably a man and woman, engaged in an intimate embrace. Both figures were subtly curved nudes, and the woman's face was obscured behind the man's broad shoulder. The man, however, wasn't   only recognizable to her as a man; Ororo recognized him as someone she knew – Logan.

The hair swept up in distinctive points, the arc and musculature in his back was identical to Logan's, and, although the unabashedly passionate snarl that tore across the man's half-seen expression was something that only her best friend, Jean, saw these days, Ororo was certain that was a 'Wolverine' trait as well. You wouldn't necessarily see it right off, maybe not even if you chanced upon a side-by-side comparison of a picture of Logan and this painting – the work was abstract, after all - but if you knew Logan well, the similarities were undeniably there. As it all clicked in to place, she couldn't suppress a gasp.

"Impressive, isn't it?" A floating, honeyed voice from somewhere behind her issued the question, and Ororo turned to see a petite woman dressed in flowing, hippie-like garments accentuated by positively huge, unmatching, dangling earrings. "I'm Moonbeam. I run the place. We're very lucky to have these works. They're among my personal favorites."

"Do – do you know the artist?" Ororo stammered out, trying for some semblance of her usual composure.

"Yes – she's quite private, though. If you were hoping to meet with her, I'm afraid you'd be disappointed. She keeps quite to herself. But the paintings are marvelous, aren't they?"

"Quite," Ororo agreed. "You know," she began, in a more even tone of voice. "I would be very interested in bringing a friend by to view the pieces. Might you be available later to speak with us both?" Logan, she thought, had a far better chance of subtly (or not so subtly) intimidating the curator to spill a few details. And she knew he'd be interested in finding out who the artist was. Interested? He'd be positively anxious to find out. He didn't remember a thing about his past, what his life was like before he'd been found by Xavier, and this artist quite obviously - and quite intimately - knew him at some point. Logan would latch on to that and dig to find this woman until he succeeded.

"Of course!" Moonbeam's exclamation brought Ororo out of her thoughts. "Please do bring your friend by. I'll be here until five."

We'll be back well before that, Ororo thought as she shook the woman's hand and thanked her, then left the gallery to find Logan.

"Yeah, I know, but 'Ro wanted to stay on another day." Logan huffed his response into the cell phone. He'd guessed that Jean would want him to come back right away instead of prolonging their visit, but he didn't think she was going to be this vehement about it. "You know I don't mind takin' a break from the mansion." Heaving a sigh at the discomfort that sharing personal motivations so explicitly caused, he shifted in the seat and waited for her reply.

"And you knew that I had the gala tonight. You said you'd think about going with me."

"Jeannie……." He could hear the ire rising in her tone and could picture what she must look like now – lips pursed, arms crossed, pretty little head tilted to one side. Yep, she's definitely upset, he thought to himself, I just don't know what to say to fix it. Truth be told, he was glad to get out of going to the gala and wasn't inclined to pretend otherwise – black-tie events weren't his thing, and at the few Jean had managed to drag him to, he'd been even more uncomfortable than he thought he might be. It wasn't just the clothes and the company, either – he sometimes got the ghost of a feeling that Jean was putting him on display, almost like one would King Kong or some jungle cat. To her, he was something wild that she'd tamed and dressed up nicely for the occasion, and she took pride in that accomplishment. Even if he couldn't quite articulate it, he knew he didn't like it.

"Fine. That's fine, Logan. I'll just have to take someone else." Now, that pissed him off. Not the idea that she would go with someone else and something might happen – because he trusted her, implicitly – no, it was her naked effort to manipulate him by making him jealous. No one manipulated him, ever. It brought back one too many memories of being yanked around by those damn scientists, back in the lab. He was at their mercy then, and it so rankled him that any hint of manipulation, dishonesty, or attempts to control him created a huge overreaction. Jean had already been on the receiving end of that overreaction a time or three, but that hadn't deterred her use of the tactic. "Logan?"

"I'm done talkin'." He punched the button ending the call and harrumphed. Better to just deal with it when he got back to Westchester, better to let her go with whoever she wanted and have a good time. It might blunt her mood a bit, and the time would definitely help to improve his. Just as he was about to try to just forget about it and settle back in for a good, brooding read of the sports section, he caught a whiff of 'Ro's scent in the air. She was definitely excited about something – probably some shopping bargain. Knowing how she loved a shopping success, his mood lifted a bit in anticipation of her good humor.

When she came through the door, he knew he'd been right – she was definitely excited about something. She caught sight of him, and strode quickly and purposefully to the table. She still managed to move with a nearly-feline grace and regal bearing despite her hurry. Always the Goddess, Logan thought.

"Logan, I am glad you are still here."

"Nowhere else to be." He motioned for 'Ro to sit opposite him, and she eased into the chair with a deft poise that was at odds with her animated expression. "You find somethin' good, huh?"

"Yes, I have. Logan – " Ororo's words were interrupted by the ringing of Logan's cell phone. He grumbled, but put up a hand to halt her speech and answered it.


"Just what did you think you were doing hanging up on me, Logan?" Jean – still angry. "We were in the middle of a conversation."

"I said don't wanna talk about it now. Go with whoever you want, all right? We'll talk when I get back." He kept his expression even in front of 'Ro, showing none of his earlier aggravation. It just wasn't his way to air private grievances, small or large, in front of their teammates.

"Well, *I* want to talk about it now. You can't just decide to run around Vancouver with 'Ro instead of coming home to go to the gala like you promised and expect that I'll just smile and say 'whatever.' You – "

"I didn't promise," Logan interrupted, through clenched teeth. 'Ro's eyes widened at the change in his demeanor – it was well-restrained, but noticeable – and she wordlessly excused herself to the ladies' room to leave Logan to the conversation. He gave her a clipped nod of thanks as she went. "I said I'd think about it."

"Logan, it's not as though I'm asking you to go on some dangerous mission. It's dinner. And dancing. That's all."

"I'm not comin' back tonight, Jeannie, and that's where it is. I'll be back tomorrow." His sour mood was getting blacker and blacker by the second, and he felt the familiar tingling of the claws beneath his skin. It wasn't so much anger as frustration, but either way, having the claws come out in the middle of a public place wouldn't be a good thing. "I don't wanna talk about it now, got it?"

"Don't you use that tone with me, Logan. I'm not one of your high school drop-out one-night stands. You know what - maybe you just shouldn't come back at all if that's how you're going to treat me. Scott was a gentleman, at least, and one who kept his promises. He would've never – "

"Then you shoulda kept fuckin' him I guess." A few of his fellow diners heard that, and Logan took a deep, steadying breath. He regretted the harsh words as soon as they'd left his lips, but it was like this between them sometimes – in fact, more and more lately. The flip side of their intense, consuming passion for one another was this kind of contentiousness, a certain kind of one-up-manship that surfaced with increasing frequency in recent months. Still, that didn't excuse his mean-spirited words, and when there was only silence at the other end, he knew he'd pushed their war of wills too far. "Look, Jeannie, I'm sorry. I – "

This time it was Jean who hung up, and Logan, despite wanting to patch over his mistake, decided to just shut the phone off. She'd cool down by the time they got back to New York, and so would he. He'd apologize, and then they'd go at it like rabbits in heat, like usual, and everything would be back to normal. Or as close at it got these days – the fights seemed to be more frequent than the sex, and even Logan, not a relationship genius by any stretch of the imagination, knew that wasn't a good sign.

Glancing to see that 'Ro still hadn't emerged from the restroom and looking around to make sure his fellow patrons weren't staring, he sighed and tried to collect himself a little. He hadn't meant to get so out of sorts with her, he really hadn't, but it was just so frustrating – he'd said he didn't want to talk about it, more than once, and she kept pushing. Why couldn't she just leave it at that? Finally, 'Ro did emerge from the ladies' room, and he tried to put those thoughts away for the moment.

"Is everything all right?" she queried as she settled back into her seat.

"It's fine," he grunted out, flipping open the sports section at long last.

"If Jean is upset at my keeping you an extra day………"

His eyes stayed on the paper. "That ain't it. It's fine."

"Logan," 'Ro began tentatively. "You can talk to me about it, you know." She didn't like to meddle in other people's affairs, but it was quite plain that he and Jean had just had a serious fight, something she'd noticed happening more of late. She was concerned for both of them. In the beginning, when Logan had first come to the mansion and had set about pursuing Jean, Ororo had counseled her best friend to remain committed to Scott. It wasn't that she thought ill of Logan; it was just that Scott was so plainly devoted to Jean – they belonged together. But Jean hadn't heeded 'Ro's advice, and once her decision was made, Ororo tried to support her in her choice. And, although 'Ro thought at first it was a very poor choice, she had to admit it had turned out better than she'd expected so far – Jean's relationship with Logan seemed fulfilling for her, and passionate, and Logan seemed satisfied as well. But now, six months in, signs of discontent were beginning to surface in both of them. Ororo wondered if this was some kind of adjustment period or if it signaled more grave problems between the two. She had never thought them compatible, at least not in the way Scott and Jean were. Logan and Jean were – well, not like oil and water, but more like a base and an acid. They balanced each other, in a fashion, but the results, when combined, were usually volatile. Scott and Jean were more like the yin/yang symbol in Ororo's estimation – each filling in the other's gaps, each completing the other to make a harmonious whole. She wondered, not for the first time, what Logan's own take was on his relationship with Jean.

"No, I can't talk to you about it, 'Ro."

"Of course you can. You are my friend."

"Yeah, and Jeannie's your best friend. I can't talk to you about it." He kept those eyes trained on the newspaper throughout, and took a slurp of his coffee.

Ororo sighed, half-disappointed and half-touched by Logan's desire to keep her out of the middle of things. Or perhaps simply to keep things private, she thought. She mused on the situation while Logan silently read through the paper for a few moments before remembering with a jolt why she'd tracked him down in the first place. "Oh!"


"I nearly forgot why I came to find you." Hooking a finger over the top of his newspaper, she slowly tugged it down so that she could see his face. His expression was contained – you could see he was holding something in – but it was also fairly calm. She gave him a light smile, and he turned his attention to her. "I was browsing through the art galleries. There is one, at the opposite end of the island, that I think you should see."

"Aw, shit, 'Ro, you know I don't go for that art crap."

She barely suppressed a chuckle and a teasing glint formed in her gaze. "You will be interested in these works, I guarantee it. Logan – " Ororo lowered her voice to a whisper and leaned across the table. " – you appear in several of the paintings of an 'Artist of the Month' at one of the galleries. I am almost certain it is you. The paintings are – well, several are of a somewhat personal nature. You will want to see them. I think they must have been created by someone who knows you." She definitely had his interest now.

"Who did 'em?"

"I only know that the artist calls herself 'Rogue.' The curator said that she is very private, and would not divulge any details about her."

"What am I doin' in the pictures?"

"You are – well, in the one that caught my eye, you are engaged in an intimate embrace with a brunette. There are also paintings of you lying on a metal table, and one of you in some kind of cage, or at least I think that is what it is." She saw Logan go wide-eyed at that, and was taken aback a bit by the transparency of his surprise. He usually held his emotions much closer to the vest, even when he was caught off guard. "The works are rather abstract, you see, and – "

"Take me to this place. Now." Logan rose, threw money on the table to cover his bill and a generous tip, and Ororo hastened to follow him out of the diner. She'd expected acute interest on his part, but not this kind of fevered, yet solemn determination. She was suddenly quite glad that she would be accompanying Logan to the gallery – she might've just let Moonbeam in for a bit more intimidation than she'd planned.

"I don't give a good goddamn what she toldya! I needta find her!" Logan was, at present, screaming down at the curator, demanding to know the whereabouts of the artist who'd painted him. And he was sure, beyond a doubt, that it *was* him in the paintings. They illustrated some of the times in his life Logan wanted desperately not to be reminded of – being strapped down in the lab, cage-fighting to make a living, the dim memory of being attacked by some large, wild black bear. They were memories he hadn't shared with anyone, and that, maybe more than anything else, was making him a little crazy. Somehow, this Rogue, whoever she was, had been there, had been watching him all this time. He let out a rumbling snarl to punctuate his demands.

Ororo gently grabbed hold of his arm and pulled him a step or two back away from the woman. No need for things to get out of hand. "Logan, do not get upset. I am sure that Ms. Moonbeam here will be able to help us."

The lady herself wasn't so sure. "As I've told you, I cannot divulge any personal information."

"Don't ya get it? It's me in those paintin's of hers! Me! I wanna know where she is, and I wanna know right now!" 'Ro felt his muscle flex and bunch beneath her grasp, but she held on. Moonbeam, for her part, didn't seem at all flustered.

"For your information, you are not the first ill-tempered, hirsute, muscle-bound pseudo-Neanderthal to darken my door in search of this artist. I wasn't inclined to throw off my karma by giving the one prior to you any information, and I'm not any more inclined to throw myself at the mercy of the cosmos now. Really, you should try learning a thing or two about universal harmony. I can recommend some teas that – "

"Tea, my ass, lady." Logan finally shook 'Ro off and paced toward Moonbeam, coming nose-to-nose with her. She only gave him a defiant look. Letting out a low growl of frustration – clawing the woman wouldn't get him the information he wanted - Logan tried a different approach. "Look – can you at least pass a message to her, let her know that I'm lookin' for her? Maybe she wantsta see me, ya know? You could at least give her the choice." Something about those words reached Moonbeam, and she was the one to take a step back this time.

"All right, all right. Here, write her a note," she instructed, shoving a piece of paper and a pen at Logan. "I'll give it to her the next time I see her. Leave an e-mail address or a phone number where she can contact you."

Logan was already at work scribbling something down. "When're you gonna see her again?"

"I don't know." His nose caught the woman's lie, but it didn't matter much. She'd deliver the note to this 'Rogue,' he was sure of it, and he'd follow her every damn place she went until he found this elusive artist that had painted scenes out of his life.

"Here – just give it to her, huh? The sooner the better."

"You really need to lose this habit of ordering people around. It's not good for your aura. Or your reincarnation cycle. You don't want to come back as a lizard or something, do you?"

Logan opened his mouth to retort, but 'Ro wisely stepped in. "Thank you, very much. We appreciate your help." She tugged Logan until he reluctantly followed her out of the gallery. As soon as the door shut behind them, she breathed a sigh of relief. Logan took a few deep breaths of his own, and then ushered 'Ro along the sidewalk.

A few hours later, they were perched on a bench that had a not-so-coincidentally great view of the alley behind the gallery. Logan hadn't said much, but 'Ro knew well what his plan would be – follow the curator, find the artist. He checked his watch for the thousandth time in the last five minutes.

"Who the hell works late at a damn art shop anyhow?"

"It is only ten after."


"Logan – you do not have any idea who this might be? None at all?"


Ororo fell silent for a moment. Logan checked his wrist again. "I know that you do not like to discuss your past, your life before meeting Charles and coming to Westchester, but – but this woman must have known you, before. Do you suppose that she is a friend?"


"It would seem that from the painting of the two of you together that – "

"That one's wrong."


"That's the only wrong one. I don't – the other things, I can remember, at least a little. At least it tickles somethin' up here." He tapped a thick, rough finger to his own skull, then peeled his eyes away from the alley for the first time to meet 'Ro's. "That one don't. And there's somethin' wrong about that."

"Logan," she began in a careful, measured tone, "you do not think that this is some ploy, some Brotherhood attempt to lure you to them or some – some other plot against you, do you? It was sheer coincidence that I happened upon the paintings. No one, aside from the Professor and the other X-Men knew we would be in Vancouver, and no one could have predicted that we would come to Granville Island while here."

"I don't believe in coincidence, 'Ro." With that, he turned his stare back to the alley. "And hey – keep what I toldya about those things under your hat, huh?"

"Of course," she assured. "If I may ask," she ventured, not wanting to push her luck with the man but not wanting to pass on the trust he was chancing with her now, "what did you write in that note?"

He smiled, just for a second. "Somethin' that'll make her wanna see me when I do show up on her doorstep." Staring at him for a moment while she tried to work out what he was thinking, and, more importantly, what he might do when he found this woman, 'Ro lost track of time a bit and was startled when his features suddenly turned into a snarl.

"There she goes. The curator. C'mon." 'Ro nodded, and took to the skies.

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