Title: Portraits in a Gallery: Weebly
Hank woke about an hour after Marie's nightmare, just past noon. Logan had stayed awake, and he gave Hank a 'shush' when the big, blue-furred man clunked out of bed. Hank nodded, unsurprised that the two had wound up sharing an altogether too-small space. They just seemed like the kind of people who'd want to be close to one another, physically close. Oh, Logan had explained Marie's mutation, and had very seriously cautioned Hank about it, but he didn't seem like the kind of man who let anything stand in his way when he wanted something. And it was quite plain to Hank that he wanted Marie.
Shuffling off to the bathroom, Hank wondered if he'd ever find anyone who'd want to be close to him like that. He doubted it. Fear and terror seemed a uniform reaction to his appearance and even if there might be more people out there like Logan and Marie, people who wouldn't have that initial reaction, what were the odds of his finding a woman who could actually grow to love him? Hank paused a moment to begin mathematically calculating those odds, but then decided it would be far too depressing to know the actual number. After finishing his morning activities, he emerged from the bathroom and Logan motioned him over.
"Hey – why dontcha call down for some room service? You gotta be hungry again, huh?" Logan asked the questions in a voice so soft that Hank barely heard it. His own whisper seemed jarringly loud by comparison.
"Won't we wake Marie?"
"I'm gonna wake her up in a sec, nice and easy. Soon as she's up, go ahead." Hank nodded, and Logan, true to his word, began nudging Marie out of slumber with a trail of kisses beginning at the top of her head and winding their way down to where her long locks covered her cheek. She stirred, then blinked open sleepy brown eyes.
"How're you feelin'?"
"Good," she answered confidently, remembering only the kisses and not the nightmare for the moment. But soon, it all came flooding back to her, and she crinkled up her nose. "Sorry – sorry about all that freaking out."
"I should've known it might happen – I usually get them when I'm sleeping in a strange place. I'm sorry if it scared you." She was still groggy, and Logan reconsidered his decision to wake her. They did need to get going, but she plainly needed more rest.
"Aw, darlin', you should see one of mine. Claws, screamin', the whole nine yards. Ain't pretty." It most definitely was not pretty, but Logan would've preferred enduring the worst of his nightmares to seeing the terror Marie's produced in her. But now wasn't the time to brood over it – now, he needed to soothe her, make her feel better.
"Do you get them a lot?"
"Sometimes," Logan responded. "You still sleepy?" Marie yawned her confirmation of that. "Want more rest?"
"What time is it?" She tried to lever herself up off of his chest, but Logan pulled her back to him. He wasn't quite ready to let her out of his arms yet, and he could tell by her scent that being in his embrace was comforting to her. He wanted to give her that, and give her as much of it as she'd let him get away with.
"Ten after noon."
"Oh my!" Marie straightened up again. "I can't believe I slept that long!"
Logan couldn't help smiling a bit at her chagrin. "We all did," he countered lightly. "I guess we all needed to. Hank's gonna order up some lunch. Look – if you want, we'll just get goin' tomorrow. No rush, really."
Hank, who'd been trying not to listen – or at least he'd been trying not to be obvious about listening - it was a small hotel room after all – concurred. "I would not mind another day's sanctuary in this fabulously appointed hotel. Although I am eager to see Westchester, I – I find myself wanting to languish in the mundane luxuries of a comfortable place to stay. It has been a very long time since I have had such indulgences as a nearby bathroom with hot running water, and a warm shelter from this city's constant precipitation."
"Sounds settled then," Logan pronounced. Marie gave him a grateful smile. That pleased Logan, and surprised him. It told him that she really hadn't wanted to go anywhere, that he'd read what she needed correctly and had given it to her. Filled with an unprecedented satisfaction at something so simple, he gave her a gentle squeeze. "I'm gonna hit the head. Hank – get whatcha want. You – stay on the couch. I'll be right back."
Both of the other hotel room occupants nodded, and followed his direction. Logan felt another surge of satisfaction at that. It was almost as though he was the head of his own little team, his own little family. He liked that. A day's delay wasn't a bad price to pay for giving him that, and for giving them all another day of rest. It was, after all, a long drive back to New York.
Scott hung up the phone slowly. It was clear from his conversation with Kitty that she wasn't going to take him back. While she said she forgave him and wasn't angry, she'd also said she was hurt. Very hurt. And even though she put it very graciously, and tried to take more than her fair share of the blame for how things had turned out, she'd also said the one thing that definitively put the nail in the coffin – she'd said that she didn't want to try trusting him again. Not that she *couldn't*, mind you – she didn't *want* to. She didn't think he was worth it, or maybe she just didn't think that he had it in him not to behave so badly. Scott knew she hadn't meant those words to hurt, only to explain why she was so staunchly resisting his attempts at reconciliation, but they'd cut him nonetheless. Only fair, he thought, and not even quite that. He was pretty sure that he'd hurt her worse in this whole thing.
'Ro gently opened the hotel room door, sensing from the quiet that finally had settled in the hall that he'd finished his phone conversation. She hadn't been eavesdropping and she'd only been there a few moments. Earlier, she'd gone out for a quick flight over the steamy Columbian forest to be sure to leave Scott some privacy. Her late-night voyage and averted ears weren't completely altruistic, though – she didn't want to have to listen to him try to woo Kitty back for her own reasons.
Ororo had never admitted it outside the confines of her own thoughts, but she'd always found Scott very attractive. It was obvious to her, though, that he was best matched with Jean and, even if it was far less obvious to the two participants in that relationship, Ororo had learned long ago never to mess with destiny. Those two had 'meant to be' written all over them, and if she wanted to be a good friend to Jean, all she could do when they had trouble was to try to guide Jean in the right direction. Having failed, all she could do now was try to support whatever choices they both made until a realization of how things really were dawned on them, as it had her.
Still, he *was* attractive, and his power and confidence were more than a match for her own. That was a rare thing, and an alluring one. She often thought that the powerful pull of his strength might one day be her downfall - even though she was called 'Goddess,' she had needs like any other woman.
Secretly, 'Ro had harbored some hope that Scott would turn to her until he found his way back to Jean, but instead he'd chosen Katherine. Ororo had needs, yes, but she also had pride, and that quiet, assured confidence had taken quite a blow when it was Kitty that Scott chose. But she would not meddle in their relationship or hint that she herself was available when things got rocky – her pride dictated that as well. If Scott ever were to choose her, it would be when he was free, unencumbered, and not because he wanted to wound another woman.
Watching Ororo's pensive expression as she returned, Scott wondered what she thought of him – they'd always been friends, and even his breakup with Jean hadn't changed that, but he knew that she knew what had transpired with Kitty. And he knew his friend well enough to know she must be disappointed in him. It saddened him to think she thought poorly of him, but, paradoxically, he was not ashamed that she'd seen that side of him. 'Ro had always made him feel very accepted, very nurtured, regardless of how he seemed to feel about himself.
Ororo caught his look as she closed the door behind herself. She tried to put away her thoughts and focus on his needs now. "How are things?" she queried softly.
"I can't fix it," Scott whispered, dejected. He slumped down to sit on the bed with a shrug and began tugging his boots off.
"I am sorry," Ororo said genuinely, in a quiet voice. "But it is this way sometimes. Sometimes one makes a mistake that cannot be repaired."
"Don't you think I know that?" Scott snapped, immediately regretting his harsh tone. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, 'Ro. I'm just……..on edge." He shook his head miserably, chastising himself for not being able to hold it together for even a few minutes. When had he become so emotional, so loose-cannon?
"I know," Ororo soothed. "Would you like to talk about it?"
"I wouldn't even know where to begin," he said tiredly, stripping himself of his jacket. "You know what I'd like? I'd like to go back to being the guy I was before. I'd like to not wake up every day and be pissed off because Jean's not next to me. I'd like to stop taking it out on everyone around me, but I can't even stop myself from doing that anymore. I don't know what's wrong with me, I really don't. I – I feel like I'd like to just – just – just- hit something or maybe fuck someone or – or – or just - "
Scott's acutely frustrated stammering was cut off by a firm, sensual kiss. He blinked once, then looked with wide eyes at 'Ro. "It was either a slap or that," she explained with a blush. But she didn't back away. He'd just told her, in essence, that it was over with Kitty, and 'Ro had already missed one opportunity with him. She was not inclined to miss another. And more than that – she thought he was right. He most definitely did need to fuck someone – fucking, not lovemaking. He needed a physical release, free from the burden of emotional entanglements. She knew well what that felt like and she didn't judge it – she had those needs too.
Scott was still dumbstruck, but he remained so for only a moment more before he lunged at 'Ro's hungry mouth. His kiss was much more demanding. The feel of him against her mouth and under her hands was intoxicating, and those long-suppressed needs were making themselves known more strongly. It had been far too long since she'd had a man, any man, let alone one she'd always harbored secret fantasies of. As she felt Scott's hand clutch at her breast, she quieted any remaining doubts – she was a child of nature, after all, and the natural urges were strong. She needed a release, almost desperately, and Scott needed something to take the edge off too. That's all it needed to mean. That's all it would mean, 'Ro silently vowed, and gave herself over to his advances.
Hank munched happily on his third chicken sandwich of the day. It was well into the Vancouver evening now, and he and Marie were finishing off what was left of their second room-service meal today, while Logan loaded up the SUV that would carry them to Westchester. The two had left Hank blissfully alone in the warm, well-stocked hotel room while they gathered things Marie would need from her apartment, and while they traded the mid-size rental car for a more spacious SUV. He'd very much enjoyed having the space all to himself, but by the time they returned, he found himself ready for some company. That was one of the many things he'd been starkly deprived of since his mutation hit, but he had been much more focused on the critical, survival-related needs like food, water, and shelter. Still, it didn't mean that this wasn't necessary in its own way, and he was currently delighting in Marie's laid-back companionship.
"Binky likes you," Marie observed, watching the small, thin black cat she'd brought over from her place as it rubbed up against his leg.
"I believe that it is my repast of chicken that is the attraction," Hank replied good-naturedly.
"Possibly," Marie winked. At that, Logan returned, smelling of the fresh wind and rain that continued to buffet the hotel. "Hey," Marie greeted, "You're back."
"Hmph." Logan shrugged off his jacket and kicked off his boots. "Gettin' kinda cold out there. Might run inta some snow goin' over the mountains."
"Good thing we got an SUV," she said lightly, watching him with sparkling eyes as he crossed the room to her.
"Ah, we'll be fine," Logan sighed, plopping down on the bed that served as their makeshift dining table. "I figure we'll probably at least get to Kamloops by the end of the day tomorrow and we'll just hafta take it from there. No rush – if the weather gets real bad, we'll just hunker down for the night somewhere until it blows over." Binky left Hank's side and made his way over to Logan. He seemed to have a definite affection for the man, even if it was not returned. Logan grimaced at the cat, affecting his best bad-ass look, but Binky was unmoved. He continued to knead his paws into Logan's thigh and then settled in there. "Damn cat," Logan grunted.
"What?" Marie said, trying to sound innocent. "He likes you. He's a good judge of character."
"Hmph." Logan tried to ignore the feline plastered to his leg and dug in to what was left of the food. "He ain't sleepin' in bed with me, I'll tell ya that."
Hank cleared his throat and put down his sandwich for a moment. "That reminds me - I was thinking that perhaps you and Marie would like the bed tonight. I was remiss not to suggest it last night – please forgive me, but the siren call of clean sheets and a soft blanket momentarily stifled the normally vigorous objections of my good manners. I would be more than happy to sleep on the rollaway bed this evening."
Hank had thought the offer would be well-received, but Marie just looked uncomfortable and Logan seemed dumbstruck. Marie chanced a glance at Logan and seeing his blank expression, she began to answer, "No, really, it's – it's not like we – "
"That'd be fine," Logan answered slowly, looking to Marie for confirmation, but seeing only plain confusion. "We can get rooms with two beds from here on out so ya have your own, but this place was already booked solid." That much was true – Logan had been fortunate that he could even extend his stay here let alone spread out into another room. And he wasn't quite sure if completely separate rooms were a good idea, anyway, what with the Brotherhood's interest in Hank. You never could be too careful. But he definitely did think that the sharing a bed with Marie idea was a good idea, regardless; he hoped she did too. "Yeah, that'd be good, Hank," he encouraged. "If - if it's OK with you, Marie." He tried not to make that sound unsure or hesitant, and mostly succeeded. Marie shot him a questioning look, but the one he shot her back said clearly that he didn't want to talk about it right now. Truth be told, he wasn't quite sure what he'd say, beyond 'hey, it sounds good to me, so let's do it.' Which he'd essentially already said.
He'd thought all day about her nightmare, how good it felt to comfort her over it, and how suddenly odd and undesirable it seemed that he might one day wake without her by his side. In the short time he'd known her, having her close – absolutely within sight and scent at all times, certainly not much more than an arm's-length away, and preferably right next to him - had somehow turned into a requirement. He knew what he'd told her in the beginning, just a scant few days ago – he'd said that they wouldn't be lovers and he'd meant it, then. That kind of breach in loyalty just wasn't in him; as long as he was sharing his body with Jeannie, she'd be the only one he looked to for physical satisfaction. But now that he wasn't…….well, he didn't want to jump headlong into things with Marie, but he wasn't exactly sure how he *did* want things to go. It wasn't like it always had been with women before – it was his heart, not just his body, that was involved here. Logan simply had no idea how to connect with her on that level, but he did know that he wanted that – wanted her affection, her nearness, and a meaningful bond with her that included a physical, as well as emotional, connection. She'd been right – they did belong to each other, and he could no longer deny that now.
Still, even as Logan's own thoughts were leading him down a certain path, he wasn't ready to discuss the implications of all that with Marie quite yet. He was hoping, as he patiently waited out her ever-more-awkward silence, that she'd simply roll with this for now, just like she'd done with so much else in the few days they'd been together. And, after a few minutes of puzzlement, her demeanor finally changed back to her familiar buoyant, happy one, granting his wish. "It's up to you," she finally replied, with a smile that was almost anxiety-free.
Logan nodded, once. "Thanks, Hank. Appreciate it." Hank gave a nod of his own, seemingly too befuddled by the behavior of these two to form a verbal response.
"So, are we setting the alarm for seven again tomorrow?" Marie queried, trying to get the conversation back on track and out of Awkwardness Depot.
"Yeah," Logan answered, letting some of the tension flee his body. He could talk to Marie later, when Hank was in the bathroom, and try to say something that would put her at ease, even if he still could not explain it completely. No, he definitely wasn't ready for explanations. Simple comfort seemed a far easier task. "Might as well."
"Are we actually getting up at seven this time?" she teased.
"Depends," Logan teased back, with a crooked grin, serious Marie-thoughts forgotten for the moment. "If Hank up and kills the alarm clock, we could just be stuck here another day. We'll hafta play it by ear."
"Poor alarm clock. You know," Marie smirked, "Moonbeam would say that this room's furniture has really bad karma. It must've killed a nun or something in a past life." Logan laughed, and so did Hank, even though the latter didn't quite understand the reference. All three were once again flush with good spirits, and the conversation really did go back to normal then.
"I can't believe we did that," Scott panted.
"Mmmm," Ororo purred. "We did. Four times."
"I had no idea you were so………..so………passionate." Scott rolled to his side to face his teammate and, now, bed partner. "I would've never guessed."
Mirroring his actions, she rolled to her side as well. "One cannot always judge by appearances."
"We, uh, we should never, ever tell Jean about this." 'Ro sighed at his words. "Not that I'm ashamed – I'm not. But – but – you're her best friend and I'm – " Scott's earnest expression fell, then melted into a bitter one. "Never mind – I take that back. I'm not anything to Jean, not anymore. It probably wouldn't matter to her in the least."
Ororo gave out another sigh and considered her next words carefully. "Scott, I have always thought that you and Jean will one day return to one another. I am not seeking a piece of your heart; it is not yours to give. It belongs still to Jean and even though she has decided to part from you, you still hold her heart as well. Understand – whether or not you disclose what has transpired between us is up to you. I believe that Jean would understand that we did not come together out of love. That does not mean what we have done is wrong – it is only natural to satisfy our needs, and we are, at the moment, both unattached to others. But it is not the same as a relationship; it is not the same as what you and Jean had together."
"Are you saying you don't want a relationship with me?" Ororo nodded, and it took a moment for Scott to digest it. "Why not?" he asked simply, almost like a disappointed little boy.
"Because you are not the one I am meant for. You are a good friend and a talented lover, but Scott – I am not one to persist in chasing something that will not make me truly happy even if I should catch it. You and I – we are not soulmates. You and Jean are."
Scott regarded her for a moment, then asked, "Who is yours? Who's your soulmate?"
Ororo smiled in a way that told Scott she wasn't going to answer. One slim finger reached out to trail down his chest, lingering at his belly button. "I would like to show you some things," she purred. "Are you feeling up for more?"
Scott weighed the invitation a moment before taking Ororo's hand and fixing it quite a bit lower. "What does it feel like to you?" he smirked, then rolled on to his back, awaiting the lesson.
Hank wandered into the bathroom after the evening news, finally giving Marie and Logan a chance to talk before bedtime. Marie wasted no time, her words coming only seconds after Hank shut the door. "Um, can I ask you something?"
"About the bed thing?" Marie nodded. "Sure."
"Are you – ah, does this mean – um, are you – uh, what are you doing? With that. What are you, uh, doing with that?"
"I'm sleepin' in the same bed with you," Logan replied, in a teasing tone. Marie wasn't amused, though; her features settled in to a frown.
"I don't think we should do that."
"Hey," Logan softened, "Don't worry. It's just – I just think it's a good idea. I wanna have you close."
Marie leaned back away from him, only frowning all the more. "I know I was all – all clingy and everything this morning, but I think maybe I gave you the wrong idea."
"No, no you didn't. I ain't gonna try anythin', Marie – just sleepin'."
Her wide brown eyes searched his. Logan thought for a moment she was going to cry – just what the hell was going on here? "Even if it is just sleeping, it's a little too – too close. I – I don't know how to explain it, but it's – it's just too much."
"Marie," Logan soothed, reaching over to take her gloved hand. He was reassured a little when she squeezed his fingers and held on. "Just tell me what's goin' on in your head, huh? It's OK." When she hesitated, he encouraged. "It's me, Marie – you can talk to me. Just let it out."
"OK," she said in a shaky voice. He felt another squeeze of her hand, and then she launched in to her explanation. "I really need you. I don't want you to – to feel like you have to do things but at the same time, I just – I *need* to be around you and touching – when you were holding me this morning – I crave it from you, like – like I don't even know how to explain. It's like gasping for breath all your life and finally getting a lungful of clean air. It – it fills up all the hurting places in me." Her full lips twisted into an apologetic half-smile. "I know that sounds a little melodramatic. But I guess the bottom line is that I'm just feeling like if we sleep in the same bed all the way back to New York, it'll be really hard for me not to do that once we get there or if you decide – if you change your mind about it. It's just a step I'm not sure I can go back on like that. Which isn't to say you can't change your mind about things – about us, about anything – because I really, really want you to know that you can. You can, and I'll be OK if you do. But I just – " She huffed in frustration and shook her head. "I really *don't* know how to explain it. That didn't make much sense."
"It did to me," Logan replied, walking very slowly towards her and eventually coming to kneel in front of her seated form, bringing their eyes to an even level. "You feel like part of you is missin' and you wanna see if I'm that part." Her raised head and intense gaze told him she recognized the quote – it was what she'd told him that first time they met at her apartment. "You wanna know how things really are between us and if we're supposedta be together. You're willin' to take a chance to find out, and, Marie, you've been damn good about not pushin' me to take that same chance. No expectations, no pressure. But I know that you're smart and strong and that you've already had it rough - you don't wanna push me, but you don't wanna put yourself in a position to get hurt real bad either. And gettin' just a taste of somethin' you really need then havin' it yanked back away from ya – well, that usually hurts pretty damn bad." It's probably why I can't let you leave my side, he added silently.
"That's exactly what I meant, word for word," she whispered in a thick voice. "Good guess." He saw a quick flash of a bittersweet smile accompanying those last words, then she launched herself at him and hugged him for all he was worth.
He wanted to chuckle at that, but made himself remain sober a moment longer. "You don't hafta sleep in bed with me if you're still feelin' shaky about it, OK? But I mean for us to do that from here on out. They got double beds in Westchester too, you know."
Logan breathed as big a sigh of relief as her tight grasp would allow. "I'm not gonna do wrong by you, Marie. From the second I metcha, I never wanted to do anythin' but right by you. I'm gonna say to myself – hey, how is this gonna affect Marie? – before I decide on doin' anythin'. I guess I wantcha to know I'm lookin' out for ya, all the time. So you don't hafta worry 'bout me changin' my mind outta just not thinkin' about things. I appreciate you sayin' that about changin' my mind on things, but it wouldn't be right to do it on a whim, you know? It wouldn't be fair to you. So there you have it. You can count on me to look out for you, Marie, in big things and in little things."
"I really should've known that," she whispered. "I could always feel such a strong sense of honor from you in the flashes. I just – I got weebly for a second there."
"Weebly?" Now he did allow himself that chuckle.
"Yes, weebly," she stated in a confident voice, pulling back to look at him. "Adjective meaning: not quite shaky enough to be wobbly but not spot-on either."
"I don't think that one's in Webster's." His lips curved into a teasing smirk, and he reached out to gently stroke her hair.
"It's in the unabridged Marie's version." Her eyes sparkled with playfulness instead of tears for the first time in the conversation. Logan found it incredibly attractive and nearly kissed her on the spot. But he remembered his words of just a few moments ago – he had promised to consider her first, in all things big and little, and what she needed right now was to know that everything was OK with them. She didn't need more new territory, not the kind that a kiss would bring.
"I don't think I've ever seen that one in a bookstore."
"It's there," she teased. "Right beside the Logan Dictionary of Multi-Lingual Grunts and Their Meanings."
"Hmph." She laughed outright at his harsh grunt, wildly amused, which was what he had intended. "Where's my royalties?" That made her laugh even more.