Portraits In The Gallery:  Working Things Out
Title:  Portraits in a Gallery:  Working Things Out
Author:  Terri
E-Mail:  xgrrl26@yahoo.com
Rating:  PG-13
Disclaimer:  I don’t own them.  Poo.
Archive:  Dolphin Haven, Peep Hut, Agony and Ecstasy  - anyone else, please ask ;)
Feedback:  Please?  With some peeps on top?  Good, bad, and ugly welcome…….
Summary:  Sequel to Revenge.  Almost everybody does a little working out of their issues, each in their own way.
Comments:  I have a peep obsession.  I admit it.  Not only have I bought the peep lights Target is selling for Easter, I just bought a truckload (well, almost) of actual peeps in order to get some peep-tastic things with peep points (no, I have not gone completely nutty; check out marshmallowpeeps.com if you don’t believe me).  I really want the peeps coffee cup, but I’d also like a t-shirt :)  Anyway - what does this have to do with the fic?  Not much, just a random peep moment ;)  One last peep plug - check out Peephenge - http://www.lordofthepeeps.com/peephenge/peephenge.html - Taryn found this and it cracked me up ;)



Hank slumped down in his chair, staring blankly at the computer screen in front of him.  He’d been down in the medlab for hours, giving up his work on the image inducer in favor of reworking the mansion security in the wake of Marie’s second attack.  Hank sighed and rubbed at his eyes.  He’d done the best he could with it, and he hoped it would be good enough.  After all, if it hadn’t been for him, Marie wouldn’t have been hurt in the first place.

He had been the one that the shape shifter was looking for; Marie’s act of kindness in coaxing him out from beneath that dock and escorting him to Westchester had revealed her location to Mystique.  If it hadn’t been for him, Mystique would’ve never found Marie, and she would still be safe back in Vancouver with all of her original body parts intact.  He couldn’t even face her or Logan now; he’d had to ask the Professor if she was all right.

“Hey - thought you might like some breakfast.”  Kitty’s voice broke his train of thought, and he turned to see her carefully making her way down the stairs with a full tray of food.  “You’ve been up all night too, huh?”

Hank nodded.  As much as he enjoyed her company, he wasn’t in the mood for any kind of social interaction at the moment, no matter how pleasant.  His frivolous desire for social interaction and foolish hope that he might escape his solitary lot was what had gotten Marie into this mess in the first place.  If he’d only kept to himself, if he’d only just accepted that there was no place for him in this world, if only he’d stayed under that dock……….

“Are you OK?”

Hank started at Kitty’s nearness - he’d zoned out as she’d crossed the room to him.  “Ah, yes - fine.  I am fine, thank you.”

“Would you like some breakfast?”  She sat the tray on the desk before him, not waiting for a reply. 

“No thank you.”  His stomach, however, had another audible response. 

“Sounds like you might be hungry,” Kitty smiled, beginning to pass out the plates and food.  Hank stopped her with a not-completely gentle hand to her forearm.  “Hank?”

“I do not want food,” he said firmly.  “I must - I must leave this place.”  Kitty shot him a look, and he glanced down at the blue-furred hand clutching her arm.  “Sorry.  Sorry.  My apologies.  I am sorry.” 

“Um, OK.”

“I must go.”  Hank rose, but before he could get too far, he felt Kitty’s small hand on his shoulder. 

“Hey - what’s wrong?  Are you upset about Marie?  Because she seems to be doing fine.  Logan’s with her upstairs.  She’s OK.  She, um, she has some kind of healing thing, I guess, and her tongue, it grew back right away, so - ”

“That does not make it all right,” Hank snapped, turning to face her.  Seeing her startled and somewhat frightened expression, he apologized again.  “I - I am sorry.  But I - you see - I must go. I cannot stay here, with people.”

“You’re people,” Kitty argued, still a little wide-eyed and wary.  She didn’t like how Hank was behaving at the moment, not at all, but she was also trying to keep from overreacting to it.  Just because he’d grabbed at her and snapped at her a little didn’t mean that he was suddenly turning into her father, or Scott.  Kitty tried to remind herself that up until now, up until he’d become so distressed, his behavior had been very gentlemanly.  “Why can’t you stay here?”

“Because nothing but ill will befall everyone around me if I do not depart posthaste.  It is because of me, because that - that *thing* was searching for me that Marie has been attacked.  I have led them straight to her. Yes, I must go immediately, before anyone else is hurt.”  He hurriedly turned away and began gathering up a few things, putting them into a small tote bag of Jean’s. 

Kitty thought for a few minutes as he packed before saying anything.  She wanted to be sure she was taking the right approach.  Hank was obviously flipping out, and she had to stop both his departure and his unusual behavior somehow.  By the time she finally spoke, she still wasn’t positive that this was the way to go, but she’d failed to come up with any better ideas and Hank was almost finished gathering up whatever he was taking with him. In any case, confronting him should force his true colors to surface - if he was going to be a jerk just like the men in her past, she’d know for sure after this.  “I think that’s crap.”  That froze Hank.  “I think you’re full of crap, Hank.”  That made him look at her.  His plainly confused and offended expression made her waver quite a bit.  “Yep, crap.  That’s - that’s what I said. Crap.  You’re, um, full of it.”

Hank seemed about to argue the point, but he just shook his head and finished packing.  Kitty tried again, emboldened that he hadn’t reacted with anger or an outburst so far - actually, he hadn’t reacted at all, but that was a go-ahead signal as far as she was concerned. 

“You’re full of crap because that’s not why you’re leaving - you’re not leaving because Marie got attacked and you think it’s your fault.  I mean - you’re a smart guy, a genius, and you have to know that, logically, that doesn’t make any sense.  They decided to come here and attack her, it wasn’t because of you.  They did bad things, and you’re not responsible for that.  Not to mention - who’s that egotistical to think that everything in the world happens based on what they do?  You’re not some arrogant jerk.  That’s not why you’re leaving.”

Hank huffed, and picked up the bag, but he stopped after taking only a few steps.  “Tell me then, why am I leaving?”

“You’re scared,” Kitty answered levelly.  “You’re scared that other people will think those things, will blame you, and then we’ll kick you out, isn’t that it?  You’d rather leave first, and not give us a chance to put you out, to reject you.  You’re scared of that happening and you’re scared of Marie blaming you, or Logan.  They’re probably your only real friends and you’re afraid they’ll blame you and want you to leave too.” 

Hank’s eyes widened and Kitty surmised that she’d hit at least a few truths in there.  She was also feeling quite proud of herself for not chickening out on the confrontation.  But then Hank’s amber eyes turned very sad.  “I thought you were my friend as well.” 

Oh-oh, Kitty thought.  “I am,” she affirmed, in a voice that she hoped sounded as sure as she felt.  “And I - I hope you’re still my friend. And not, you know, really, really mad at me for saying all this stuff.  It’s just that I - I do think it’s crap and I want you to stay here.”


“I like you.”

Hank snorted in disbelief.  “You were instructed by the Professor to like me. That is not the same thing as a friendship.  It was my mistake to think - ”  He cut himself off and hustled past her, bag in hand. 

“Yes, he asked me to be nice to you, Hank,” Kitty called, striding after him up the stairs and getting a little exasperated.  “He asked me to show you around and to be nice.  You can tell people how to act but not how to feel.  You should know that, you - you stupid genius!”  She grabbed his arm and tugged as hard as she could, intending to stop him in his tracks and whirl him around.  He wound up dragging her a step or two, but he finally did stop, even if he was still keeping his back to her.  Kitty settled for that and continued.  “You *are* my friend and I like you a lot better than anyone I’ve met in a long time.  I know you feel guilty about what happened, but Hank, it’s not your fault.  And we need you - we need you to help fix the security, to help us figure out that thing that makes people look like Sabretooth - we need you to help keep Marie and all of us safe from those people.  If you are Marie’s friend, and mine, you’ll help us stay safe.  Don’t you want that, Hank?”

“Of course I do,” he answered quietly.  “But I………..”

“You’re scared.”

After a long silence, he turned to face her and answered, “I suppose that you are correct.”

His eyes held such vulnerability, and such terrified hope, that Kitty couldn’t keep from flinging herself at him for a bear hug.  “I know.  It’ll be OK.  No one blames you.  No one wants you to leave.  Please stay, Hank.”  When he remained silent and motionless, Kitty added.  “Say something, OK?  Or at least hug back.”

Hank chose the latter, squeezing hard before remembering his greater mass and strength.  He parted from Kitty and tried to form words of apology for his over-enthusiasm, but she spoke first.

“So you’re staying?”  He nodded, speech still seemingly out of his grasp.  “Good.”  Her relief was obvious, and Hank drank the sight of her in.  “I - I really do want to be friends, you know.  I meant what I said about liking you.  You’re the most interesting person to come to the mansion in a long time.  And believe me, here, that’s saying something.”  Rewarded with a Hank-smile at the small joke, she relaxed completely.  “So, um, breakfast?”

“Yes.  Yes, thank you.”  There - at least simple speech was once again within his power.  Kitty seemed pleased as well - she beamed a smile at him and went back to dealing out plates and food. 

“The pancakes looked good so I got a lot of those,” she narrated while shoveling a heap onto Hank’s plate.  “Do you like bacon?”

“Yes,” Hank replied, then, giving into a wave of mischief that his good spirits at Kitty’s words had swept in, he added, “I am, after all, a *stupid* genius.” 

There was a moment where Kitty froze, still holding the plate for Hank, and looked absolutely mortified, but she quickly dissolved into giggles.  “Sorry - I guess I get the oxymoron award of the day.  I was just trying to get you to see that it wasn’t your fault and you didn’t have to go.”

Hank permitted himself a few laughs along with her, then touched her arm gently and turned very serious.  “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” she returned, with something in her expression that made Hank feel very warm.  It also dawned on him at that moment that she’d just been exceedingly good to him and he’d been kind of a jerk to her. 

“Katherine - ”  He was ever-mindful of her ‘my friends call me Kitty’ dictate, but he was hoping, in light of the words that were to follow, that she would read his use of her full given name as an acknowledgement that he hadn’t been a very good friend to her this morning. “ - I apologize, from the bottom of my heart, for - for my rudeness earlier.  I did not mean to behave boorishly.  You are literally the last person I would wish to make feel - to, ah, feel - no - to - to - to behave in a jerk-like manner toward.”  Hank sighed and shook his head.  “I mean to say - ”

“I think I get it, and it’s all right,” Kitty assured.  But, after thinking about her response for a moment, she amended, “Just don’t do that again, OK?  The crankiness and non-rationality and the grabbing my arm, I kind of didn’t like that too much.”

“I grabbed you?”  Kitty nodded, and Hank looked like he was about to either implode with the most profound chagrin ever to occur in human history, or to crawl into the smallest, deepest hole that would house him.  “Oh my God, I am so sorry.  Have I - have I injured you?” 

Kitty saw his absolutely desperate look, and she leaned over to place her hand on his arm.  He flinched, noticeably and still looked mortified.  “You didn’t hurt me at all - not at all.  It was just a little, um, grabby.  I have a thing - I have, well, issues.  I don’t like grabbing of me of - of any kind.  I know you weren’t trying to hurt me.  I’m just over-sensitive to it. And the crankiness.  I - I really like rational, discussing-things Hank.  I kind of don’t like it when you freak out a little and get upset and try to run away.  And the grabbing.  I didn’t like that.”

“It shall never happen again.”  He looked so solemn that Kitty’s heart panged in sympathy a little.  But she also felt a wave of out-of-place happiness - it was the first time anyone had ever really honored her feelings, much less accommodated them.  That Hank was willing to do so even though she’d given him an out by saying her reaction was prompted by her own over-sensitivity made her feel almost joyful.  “I apologize most profusely.  Please, I vow that I shall never - ”

“Hank - it’s really OK.”

“I am so sorry.”
“I know. It’s OK.”
“I am deeply - ”

“Hank,” Kitty interrupted.  “It’s OK.  Really.”  He smiled, a little, but his eyes still held a fair amount of abashed regret.  Kitty decided that maybe moving on was best.  “Come on, let’s eat.”  Hank nodded his agreement, and tucked into his breakfast. 





“Huh.”  Scott seemed to be taking the news that Marie had absorbed Logan’s healing powers with quite a bit of equanimity.  “Interesting.”

Jean, however, was taking it with considerably less aplomb.  “Interesting?  Don’t you see what he’s done?”

Scott shrugged.  “He probably did it by accident, or something.”

“Logan does nothing by accident,” Jean sniped.  “He dumped me because he found someone he could give his powers to, someone who’d age just as slowly as he will.  He left me for some little thing he could always keep young and beautiful.  That bastard!”

Scott considered her words, then shook his head slowly.  “Logan does a lot of things by accident, Jean.  He’s not exactly the poster child for thoughtful reflection.  And anyway - just because she’ll age slowly, it doesn’t mean he’ll keep her around forever, or that she’ll *want* to stay with him forever.  Even if she won’t appear to grow older, she will grow up, and a lot of things could change between them when she does.”  Jean was still looking at him expectantly and looking like she was pretty pissed, so he added, “Besides - you’ll always be beautiful at any age.”  That was it - that was what she’d wanted to hear.  Her shoulders dropped and her pinched expression eased. 


“It’s true,” Scott said gently.  An easy moment, one of the very few in recent months, passed between them.  “I just wish I could’ve gone out there with you - Mystique, killed by a cat.  Who would’ve ever guessed?  I would’ve laughed my ass off.”

“No you wouldn’t have,” Jean corrected, smirking.  “You would’ve been all business until you had Marie back here and the grounds had been secured.  *Then* you’d have laughed your ass off.”

They both chuckled; she really did know him quite well.  “It serves her right - it’s definitely a suitably ignominious end,” Scott added. 


“I’ve been reading your word-a-day calendar.”  That brought another smile to Jean’s face, but as their laughter died down, she turned contemplative.  “What?”

“What if that’s really it?   What if he did dump me because - because I’m getting older.  More wrinkles.  Gravity kicks in.  What if that’s the only reason he was with me in the first place, because he liked my looks?”

“That *was* the only reason he was with you, Jean,” Scott said, frowning a bit.  “You never could see that.”

“I didn’t ask for a lecture, Scott,” she shot back.  “I’m sorry I said anything.”  She rose and was headed out of the medlab when Scott’s voice stopped her.

“You want the honest truth, Jean?  Logan was with you because of your face, your hair, your body.  It was physical, and nothing more.  I was attracted to you because of those things at first too, but I loved you for more than that.  I wouldn’t have asked you to marry me if I hadn’t.”

“It couldn’t have been that serious, Scott,” Jean said coolly, but with just a bit of tremor in her voice.  “You moved on to Kitty quickly enough.”

Scott scowled.  “Kitty deserved better than me.  But - ah, hell, Jean, she practically worshipped the ground I walked on, and I wanted a little of that after getting thrown over for Logan.  I *liked* that.  I know I screwed things up with her, and jumped into a relationship too fast, but can you really blame me for wanting to feel admired, to feel loved like that?”

“Maybe that’s what Logan’s doing now, with Marie,” Jean mused, bypassing his question.  “Maybe he wants a little adolescent idol worship because he just couldn’t cope with a mature, grown-up relationship.  Maybe he wants someone who’ll do what he says instead of having a mind of her own.” 

“There’s a difference between having a mind of your own and being controlling.”

“I’m not controlling.”  In the face of Scott’s silence, she repeated.  “I’m not.”

“OK, you’re not controlling.  You’re just grasping for any way you can possibly find to get back together with Logan,” he snapped.

Jean’s eyebrows knitted together and her face scrunched up.  “I don’t want to get back together with Logan.  What the hell makes you think that?”

“Oh, I don’t know - maybe it’s all this obsessing about him and Marie.”

“Is it so wrong for me to want to know why he ended the relationship so abruptly?”

“You refused to give me a reasonable explanation for why you ended our engagement so abruptly.”

“And now you’re enjoying seeing the tables turned, is that it?”  Jean crossed her arms over her chest, and Scott didn’t need her telepathic powers to read that signal - she was closing off, getting past the point of any useful discussion.  Anything he said now would only garner another argumentative snipe from her.

“Look, Jean, I don’t want to argue, all right?  The Professor asked you to brief me and you have.  That’s it.  We’re done.”

Jean turned to look at him, and her eyes burned.  “Are we?  Are we really?”  There was no doubt that they were no longer talking about the briefing. 

Scott sighed.  He suddenly felt very tired.  “I don’t know.  The truth is, Jean, that a lot of the time, I’m still angry with you.  Sometimes, I miss you.  Sometimes I miss you lot.  And sometimes I look at you and it just hurts.”

“Don’t you think that I feel the same way?”

“No,” he answered quickly.  “I don’t think you hurt like I do - it was your decision, after all.  You were the one doing the leaving, and you got what you wanted.  It wasn’t what I wanted.”

“You don’t think I cared about you?  You don’t think it was a difficult decision?  Don’t you think I’ve ever missed you?”  Those eyes were positively blazing now.

“I think you miss having someone sometimes, but I can’t tell if you miss having me.”

Jean opened her mouth to say something, then apparently thought better of it.  She gave Scott a look he’d never seen on her; it was equal parts hurt and anger, with a little surprise mixed in.  She looked……..stung.  He’d seen anger on her often enough but surprise was rare for any telepath to experience, much less display, and hurt was not in Jean’s emotional repertoire.  At least, not this kind of hurt.  “You know, Scott, I do miss having someone sometimes.”  The words were intended to sting back, and they did.  When Jean saw Scott’s reaction, she softened, then huffed.  “And I miss you sometimes.  When you’re not being an ass.  When you used to cut loose after missions, when you used to surprise me with flowers or a picnic - I miss those times. I don’t miss the arguments.  I don’t miss your nervousness - waiting every minute to see if you’re doing something wrong or if you’re being the perfect leader.  I don’t miss that at all.  I wanted a man who *was* confident, not one I had to constantly make confident -  one who didn’t need the ground he walked on worshipped, one who knew that he warranted that and never doubted it for a second.  Maybe I had my faults, but so did you.”  She paused, pursed her lips, and turned her gaze to the floor.  “But I do miss you sometimes.”  It came out in a soft whisper, completely antithetical to her tone just moments ago.  Scott thought he saw those eyes that had burned with anger now shimmer with a tear or two.  Jean met his eyes for just a moment, then turned and headed out to the hall, leaving Scott to ponder her words.




Logan sat in the hall of the mansion’s small attic.  It was the last place he thought he’d be at the moment, but instead of wanting to be held by him, lie down in bed with him, or just get in his truck and hit the highway, what Marie said she needed was to paint.  So, Logan gathered all the canvases, brushes, palettes, and paints he could find in the classrooms of the mansion.  He watched Marie sort through his offerings, taking what she needed, and then watched with more than a little surprise as she disappeared into the attic and closed the door behind herself. 

She’d been so quiet this time, and it was making Logan crazy.  Up until now, she’d been so good about talking to him about anything and everything.  He wondered if this attack was different, or somehow worse, than the others she’d experienced recently.  Maybe it was because Mystique had used one of ‘his’ claws to hurt Marie.  Maybe it was just too much; maybe it was the last straw.  Whatever it was, her reaction was making him more than a little on edge.  He was just itching to burst through that attic door and *do* something to make her feel better, but there was just enough of an objection from his rational mind to tell him that if this is what she’d done to help herself cope, to help get herself back together, maybe he should just let her do it. 

It dawned on Logan that, for all he felt for her and all the time they’d spent together, he still didn’t know her well enough to be able to predict her needs.  Sighing, he tried to relax and comfort himself with the knowledge that what little of her scent drifted through the door seemed to indicate that she was holding her own.  Maybe there was something downstairs that he could claw, or at least break, to relieve some of the tension……

Suddenly, a flash burned through his mind - one of the kind Marie described having about him, the same kind he’d had in a dream a few days back, only this one was not nearly as pleasant. 

He is somehow himself watching Marie, who is being held down by Sabretooth; he somehow also *is* Marie, sensing the beast above her from a prone position.  He can’t move and can’t see - what is more frightening still is that he doesn’t *want* to move anymore; maybe this time, it will finally be over.  Sabretooth snarls and he feels the searing pain of claws ripping at his flesh, and teeth biting chunks of it off. 

Logan gasped, and his claws extended instinctively, shaking him out of the flash, but another one was close on its heels.

He is in bed with Marie, here, at the mansion.  She hovers over him, watching him as he sleeps.  Gently, she traces a gloved finger down his cheek.  With the utmost tenderness, she leans over and presses her bare lips to his mutton chops.  He rolls over and reaches for her in his sleep, but she shifts to elude his fumbling grasp.  The tenderness bleeds out of her expression and it is replaced by sadness.  He grabs a fistful of blanket instead of Marie, and goes on sleeping.

“Dammit,” Logan cursed as the flash ended.  He rose on wobbly legs, intending to open that door and talk to Marie right now, but there was one more flash on its way.

Marie is standing before a canvas that is drenched in scarlet paint.  There are no other colors, just brush strokes delineating shapes in the monochromatic portrait.  He gets closer, trying to make out the shapes.  He can see his claw, a shape that seems more grotesque to him now than ever, and somehow behind that, the unmistakable visage of Sabretooth, snarling out at him.  Logan snarls back. 

Marie notices him then.  She looks surprised to see him, and none too pleased either.  Logan tries to find the words needed for an apology - he’s sorry he didn’t do a better job of protecting her, sorry Mystique chose his form to assault her with, sorry that he hadn’t found her earlier.  But as he fumbles for the right words, her expression changes, and somehow without saying anything, she’s gotten what she needed from him.  She embraces him carefully, and when he looks over her shoulder again at the painting, it has shades of purple and blue in it, green lines and yellow shapes.  It is still mostly scarlet, but there are lighter, less foreboding tones too. 

Logan shook off the last flash and hurriedly opened the door without knocking.  He wasn’t surprised to see Marie working on a scarlet-painted canvas.  “Marie, c’mere,” he beckoned. 

“I’m OK,” she replied, looking anything but. 

“C’mere.  Please.”  She walked over to him, still holding the palette in one hand and a scarlet paint-drenched brush in the other.  Stopping just a few feet away, he began to try to get the words right like he had in the flash - he wanted to try to apologize for what had happened.  But what came out was - “I need you.  I know it’s been a constant shit storm since I found you, but - I need you.  You’re mine, Marie.  And I’m yours.  Nothing changes that.  Nothing.” 

She smiled and rushed the few steps separating them to embrace him.  Sighing with relief, he hugged her tightly, mindless of the red paint decorating his clothing.  She said, “I’m OK,” in a watery voice, and this time, he believed her.

“Go on and finish up that paintin’, baby.  Do whatcha need to do.  I’ll be right outside.”  Her brave smile and nod went a long way toward allaying Logan’s fears.  He shut the door this time, and went back to his post outside it. 



“I do not think that we have put our best foot forward with Marie,” Charles worried.  Ororo, who had completed her post-mission briefing and was watching him wheel back and forth in front of his desk - Xavier’s equivalent of pacing - tilted her head in silent invitation to continue.  “Just imagine what she could do, if her powers could be controlled, if each touch would only absorb the mutant powers of another, not kill them.  I may be arrogant, but I have been successful with so many young mutants that I cannot help but think that I could help Marie too, if she were to only give it a chance.  But I fear she will listen to Logan’s fears far better than to any hope I may offer her.”

“Charles,” Ororo said in a measured voice, “what if you could not help her?  What if she is one of the few - admittedly very few - students that you cannot help?  Would you still want her to join the team?”

Xavier stopped ‘pacing’ and looked at her a long time before answering.  “Yes.  I know that may surprise you, but the cold, hard reality is that someday, we may need someone who will heal from any kind of injury and who can defeat other mutants, whatever their powers may be.  Who would not - ”

He’d abruptly interrupted himself and was sitting there slack-jawed. “Charles?”  ‘Ro didn’t think she’d ever seen him with quite that expression. 

“Dear God in heaven,” he sighed, slumping back in his chair.  “That is why both Mystique and Rogers were after her.  She can defeat any other mutant.  She could defeat *all* mutants, kill them all.  That - that is why they were after her.”

Ororo considered that for a moment.  “It would make a twisted kind of sense, I suppose, for the government, the FOH - whoever might be behind this - to effect mutant genocide using one of our own.  But - how would they be able to control Marie?  Would she not grow powerful enough to kill them all as well?”

“Perhaps they have some mechanism to control her powers,” Charles mused.  “Perhaps they did not intend to control her, to keep her alive.  Perhaps they planned on experimentation to find out how her skin worked, some way to harness her powers without the inconvenience of dealing with the mutant herself.”  His gaze popped up to find Ororo’s.  “I do not know.  But I am more convinced than ever that we must keep her here and keep her safe.  We cannot let her fall into enemy hands.  She is simply too powerful a potential weapon.”

“She is also a young girl,” Ororo put in.  “And one who has just been through an incredible amount of trauma.  Charles, if you are thinking of making another pitch to her, I would strongly suggest that you wait.   She and Logan are staying here, at least for the time being.  She will need time to recover before she can think clearly about her situation.”

“You are quite right,” Charles smiled, truly thankful.  “What would I do without your counsel?”

Her eyes changed at that, and not in a good way.  “I hope that we shall discover that one day soon.  I do not wish to remain team leader indefinitely.”  Her words had an edge, and Charles could feel her impatience.  “As I have told you, I cannot put my heart on a shelf forever.”

“I would not wish that either,” Charles soothed.  “Scott is recovering well.  It will not be forever.”

Ororo gave him a tight smile and rose to leave.  “I must prepare for class in the morning.  It would not do to have the teacher ignorant of the lesson.”

“Of course.”  Charles watched her take a few steps, then called after her.  “Ororo,” he said softly as she turned to face him, “I want you to know that when I spoke of your counsel, I did not mean only as team leader.  I value your guidance, and your support as a friend.”  He infused the last word with a wealth of meaning - he hoped she caught at least some of it.  Judging by her relaxed bearing and small smile, she had. 

“Thank you, Charles.  I shall see you tomorrow.”

“I shall look forward to it.”  When she was gone, he slumped back in his chair again.  While he was adept at handling multiple crises - a new genius mutant, attacks on the mansion, Scott’s injuries, perhaps the most powerful mutant ever known right here, right under his nose yet unwilling to join the team - he hadn’t ever envisioned his own romantic life to be among them.  Still, it wasn’t entirely unpleasant to have that kind of complication.  He simply needed to ride out the remainder of Scott’s recovery, and then he could pursue things with Ororo.  It wasn’t so much a problem or complication as it was a mere delay, really.  Yet, he found himself impatient with it, and found that particular problem dominating most of his thoughts for the rest of the evening.


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