Spring was burgeoning in Westchester. On the grounds of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, flowers were blooming, birds were singing… and Jean Grey was walking with the most enigmatic man she had ever met.
Logan meandered along beside her, his hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans, his lips a pensive line between the thick brush of whiskers framing his jaws. Rarely did he lift his amber-green eyes to the bright, teeming flowers of the garden; he was lost in his own thoughts, and she left him to them, content to try to read him through his body language alone. What she could see outwardly was unsettling enough. He concealed it well, but sometimes—yes, there, again—she noticed a slight hesitation in his step. Even now, he was not completely recovered from the previous night’s savage battle.
Only twelve hours ago, she had not been sure he would live to see the morning. The healing strength he had briefly given up to Rogue had cost him terribly. Injuries aside, she remembered how aged and spent he looked as he lay unconscious in her medlab, after they brought him back from Liberty Island.
That morbid pall, like his injuries, had faded with increasing swiftness through the night. Keeping vigil at his side, she had watched it pass… and she wondered.
With a will, Jean returned her thoughts to the present. The garden’s koi pond lay before them, overlooked by a weathered wooden bench nestled among shrubs of orange-yellow flowers. Stepping ahead of Logan, she sat down and patted the seat beside her; he accepted the invitation, and gingerly lowered his rugged frame at her right.
"This is one of the Professor’s favorite places," Jean observed, just for the sake of saying something. "He comes here a lot, to be alone with his thoughts."
A grim wryness entered Logan’s eyes. "Instead of everyone else’s?"
Jean felt a stab of annoyance. "That’s not funny."
Without reply, Logan turned to study the colorful fish drifting lazily in the pond. This little stroll had been his idea, but now that they were out here, Jean wondered what the point of it was if he would do nothing more than brood. She sighed and gazed at his face in profile, trying to understand him.
His somber, thoughtful eyes, his soft voice of relatively few words, were a strange contrast to his otherwise rough and feral appearance. Jean wondered what he could have been if he were not a mutant—or even if he simply lacked the other trait that set him apart, even from them. All that was dark within him was a product not of mutation, but of mutilation.
Her eyes covertly traveled down his left arm, slung casually over the back of the bench, to his hand resting on the upper edge, only inches from her shoulder. Hands so accustomed to fighting should have been hardened and scarred, but his were perfect—an artist’s or a lover’s hands, renewed by nature’s gift to him, as often as they were ravaged by man’s curse upon him.
Logan had to live with the knowledge that someone had molded him to be a killer. Whatever fear and prejudice the rest of them may have faced for simply being different, none of them could know how that felt. She couldn’t begrudge him his anger—and unlike Scott, she couldn’t expect him to take pride in something that had been inflicted upon him for the purpose of doing harm to others. That he didn’t was an integrity of its own, a part of his bitter nobility that fascinated her so.
His hand drew back, smoothly but suddenly. Jean raised her eyes to find Logan staring back at her, looking upon her scrutiny of him with more quiet tolerance than she might have expected.
A distant cheer of victory rose up from the basketball court across the grounds. Logan sharply turned his head toward the sound, and his eyes wandered again, taking in the expanse of the garden and the mansion beyond. It was as if he was trying to burn every inch of this place into his memory—and Jean suddenly realized why.
"You’re leaving, aren’t you?"
He turned back to her, his lips quirking into a half-smile that was a singularly joyless expression. In their admittedly brief acquaintance, she had never seen him smile for real—a hard, sarcastic grin or chuckle came easily enough, but nothing with any genuine trace of warmth or gladness.
"What did you think?" he asked, in a painfully sardonic tone.
Jean scowled at the irrational thump of pain the remark brought to her heart. She still couldn’t understand what made Logan so compelling—for better or, usually, for worse. He was cynical, antisocial, indifferent to authority. How could he ever have a place in the carefully ordered world Xavier had crafted?
He was alone and lost, without a past or a future—not so very different from any child they had ever taken into their care.
"I thought there might be something you could learn here," she said, slowly and a bit stiffly. "And maybe… even something you could teach."
The response was a half-hearted snort. "Yeah. Sure. Maybe I could coach Little League."
The children. That was part of the problem, in itself. Without memories of his own youth, he was unable to relate to them. He wandered the school as though it were an alien world, inhabited by small, flighty, noisy beings who were unable to take care of themselves. Logan would not understand the need to need others, any more than he would understand being needed.
And yet, Rogue’s need had reached him. She had unlocked that steel-caged heart, awakened a breathtaking compassion and protectiveness somewhere in the deepest core of his being. There had to be more beyond that newly opened doorway to his soul.
"You’re better than you think you are," Jean said quietly.
Logan turned to look at her, one eyebrow arched, his lips twisting into a grin of harsh amusement. There was something of a challenge in his expression—daring her to tell him more, to convince him that there was anything good in him.
Daring her to admit that she wanted him to stay.
Unable to meet that challenge in his clear, intelligent gaze, she turned away. Sitting sideways on the bench as she was, she found refuge in a study of the bright blossoms flourishing behind them.
Amidst the sprays of glowing orange flowers, a deeper streak of orange and black fluttered. Jean smiled as she made out the shape of a newly emerged monarch butterfly, resting on the broken, transparent shell of its own chrysalis as its wings stiffened. One of nature’s smaller miracles—so much simpler than the ones that defined their lives.
"Look," she said softly, and pointed.
Shifting on the hard seat, Logan looked over his shoulder at the insect with an indifferent eye.
"Butterflies remind me of the kids," Jean said. "The way they change, and become something so different from what they were. They need time to adjust, too… That’s why they come here."
Still looking at the butterfly, Logan almost absently lifted his right hand, his fingers closing into a fist. One gleaming claw emerged, and Jean’s heart skipped a beat in uncertainty.
With surprising delicacy, Logan slid the tip of his claw beneath the butterfly. It obligingly shifted its grip from the chrysalis to the flat of his adamantium blade, and he slowly lifted it to his eye level, studying it with thoughtful hazel eyes. The image of such a delicate creature resting on that lethal claw made Jean’s chest tighten with powerful, inexplicable emotions.
"I’m still looking over my shoulder, Jean."
The quiet remark was so abrupt, and so nakedly honest, that it caught Jean completely off guard.
Perhaps he meant that he was still a prisoner to the mystery of his past; perhaps he meant that he wasn’t ready to trust. Perhaps it didn’t matter. What mattered was that his voice was soft, his breaths too light to disturb even the butterfly, and the look in his eyes made Jean want to cry. It wasn’t fair. With his burden heavier than one soul should ever have to bear, he proposed to walk away, to decline the kindness that might have healed the wounds even his regenerative gift couldn’t.
In a sudden flurry of orange-and-black wings, the butterfly took flight, spiraling upward into the hazy blue sky. Logan’s eyes followed it until it disappeared between the trees, and with a nearly imperceptible twitch of his hand, his claw vanished from sight. Jean watched the small red crease of the open wound between his fingers fade away.
Unlike that tiny living jewel, Logan wasn’t ready to fly. Companionship and trust were yet as new to him as the butterfly’s wings—but he knew now where to find them. Jean was sure of that.
Abruptly, Logan stood up. He turned to look at Jean, and for the first time, gave her the kind of smile she had ached to see: as warm and glowing as sunshine for the quiet gladness of her presence in his life, even if it was only for a little while.
"See you around."
With that, he turned and sauntered off toward the house.
Jean sat there in the garden for a long time, thinking lonely thoughts that even the beauty of the garden in springtime couldn’t dispell. At last she heard the far-off rumble of Scott’s beloved motorcycle—and she smiled through a few stray tears, as an odd feeling of comfort crept into her heart.
A flash of orange and black caught her eye, and her smile warmed as a monarch butterfly danced across the nearest flowerbed. She had no way to know whether it was their butterfly—but she felt it. As she watched, it fluttered in a circuitous course around the bench to the same bush from which it had emerged, lighting on the flowers which nodded over its empty chrysalis.
And in her heart, Jean knew that Logan would find his way home, to the place where he too had changed.
© 2003 Jordanna Morgan - send feedback