Peter Rasputin snores like a wood chipper.
Okay, so given everything that had happened, it was probably a really dumb thing to get upset about—but I figure when you’ve just been through a preview of Armageddon, getting hung up on little things is kind of a defense mechanism for avoiding the big things. Besides, this never used to be my problem. Peter was in my room because he had temporarily given up his to some of the girls. For them it was only fair, since he was the one who chucked a couple of genocidal G.I. Joes through the wall of theirs, and the hole still hadn’t been repaired.
As for me, I just happened to have an empty bed in my room now, since my roommate ditched us for the guy who almost killed my girlfriend. Thanks a lot, John.
So I’d been suffering through the sounds of Peter’s sinuses for two weeks. Two whole weeks of being kept up half the night, with nothing to do but stare up at the ceiling and think about everything that happened. I jumped at the slightest noise. I missed Doctor Grey. I searched my soul about my former choice of best friends—and don’t even get me started about the whole situation with my parents. To make matters worse, in an effort to be all mature and responsible, I spent hours after class helping to repair the school, so I never even had time for a nap.
It’s not like I need a lot of sleep. Just, you know, more than two hours a night is good.
Sometimes I’d go doze off in the rec room or one of the offices, but I was a little nervous about roaming the school at night. Nobody else slept much either, and everyone was jumpy. I’d decided dementia from a lack of sleep would probably be better than accidental death from startling the wrong person.
But at two a.m., Peter rolled over with a sound like an Abrams tank, and I decided to live dangerously.
With a sigh, I kicked off the covers and got up. I didn’t bother to put on anything more than the boxers and T-shirt I was wearing. I sure wished I was wearing more the night the soldiers came, but hey—lightning just doesn’t strike twice so soon, does it?
Don’t answer that. I don’t want to tempt fate.
As I lurched toward the door, I passed Peter’s bed. His shin was hanging over the side, and I paused long enough to give it a kick, even though that was pretty much like kicking a tree. He gurgled happily and rolled over again. I shook my head and went out.
Still lots of claw marks in the downstairs halls. I tried not to look at them. I knew Logan was a decent guy; he nearly died saving Rogue from Magneto, and what he did the night Stryker came, he did to protect us. I just wished I’d never seen the things I had… but maybe it was for the best. Ever since I came to the school, I’d wanted to become an X-Man, and I still did—but now I knew what it really meant.
Sooner or later, I’d have to find out if I could pay the price for wearing that uniform.
Thinking these kinds of thoughts in the wee hours wasn’t going to get me anywhere but scared. I frowned, decided to put off growing up for at least another few hours, and thought about food instead.
The kitchen had been the most badly damaged room in the mansion, but it was also the first to be almost completely fixed. It was once again a beacon in the darkness for anyone fleeing from nightmares or snoring roommates. I still felt kind of jittery about going in there at night, but I remembered the ice cream sandwich I had squirreled away in the freezer, and grinned as I stepped into the doorway.
Said grin was immediately wiped off my face by the sight of Logan sitting at the table.
He was looking straight at me, which shouldn’t have been surprising, since he’d probably heard me all the way down the hall. He had a glass bottle in his hand, and the contents were definitely not Dr. Pepper. There were two more unopened bottles on the table, and several empty ones protruding from a plastic shopping bag on the floor next to his chair.
The Wolverine looked a little drunk. Given his mutation, I’d thought he was sort of immune to alcohol, but I remembered John looking the same way after he got hold of a beer on a bet once. Except that Logan hadn’t turned the really interesting greenish color that John had.
Okay… this was one of the supremely awkward moments of my life.
The first thing that came into my head to say was "Doesn’t anybody ever sleep around here?"—but I took one look at the plastered-over but still unpainted bullet holes pocking the walls, and decided the last thing I wanted was to remind him of that night. I squirmed and tried to think of something else to say.
It was Logan who ended up speaking first. "Hi."
Hi. A simple, perfunctory, completely neutral greeting. Why hadn’t I thought of that?
"Hi," I replied lamely, and bolted for the fridge, trying to shake off his gaze. Nobody should have a stare that penetrating when they’re drunk. I yanked open the freezer door, ducked behind it for cover, and started scanning the shelves for my ice cream sandwich.
"What’re you doing up?"
I flinched at the question and reluctantly poked my head around the freezer door. "Hungry," I lied.
His eyelids flickered, and I knew he didn’t believe that was the real reason. He set down his beer and folded his arms. "You worked hard today. You oughta rest."
Logan and I had been working together on some of the repairs, and that was pretty much the only time I’d seen him lately. While he was at work, he was silent and efficient, if a little short with anyone he absolutely had to speak to. I liked that a lot better than the twitchy, sly-eyed Logan who was watching me now—but there was a certain softness in his tone, and I realized he wasn’t just being polite. He meant what he said. He was honest-to-gosh concerned about my welfare.
Managing a faint smile, I stepped over to the table, and tapped a finger against his beer bottle to chill it. He watched the glass frost over and grinned—sort of like the way he would at a dog that had done a cute trick, but from Logan, I’ll take what I can get.
"Thanks," he murmured, picking up the bottle to take a drink.
I shrugged. "Well, I didn’t think you could be keeping that in the fridge. Miss Munroe and—" I almost said Doctor Grey, without thinking, but I managed to catch myself. In a quieter tone, I finished, "And Mister Summers would have a fit."
Another twitch. Logan had sensed my mistake, and I knew it hurt. There was a moment of awkward silence, and I turned to leave the kitchen, but I was stopped by his voice.
"Might interest you to know, I didn’t drink all this alone… and Cyclops is the one who just spent the last hour getting sloshed with me."
The world tilted. I spun around and grabbed for the back of the chair opposite Logan, managing not to drop my ice cream sandwich. "Mister Summers?" I asked dumbly, unable to believe my ears. The very thought of him and Logan getting drunk together was enough to give me a hangover.
"Yeah. Summers." For a moment, there was a slightly ominous light in Logan’s eyes. "He needs it. He’s not doing so hot."
Crazy as it was, he seemed to want to talk. Mechanically, I pulled out the chair and sat.
Logan took another swallow of his beer, then set the bottle down and stared hard at it, his fingers playing over its label. He took a deep breath, then said slowly, "He says she talks to him, in his dreams."
She could only refer to Doctor Grey. A part of me didn’t want to be hearing this; it was hard learning how badly Mister Summers was coping. Yet another part of me was amazed that Logan actually sounded worried about him. I’d thought they hated each other—but maybe that had changed, along with almost everything else. Either way, if even Logan was concerned, something had to be terribly wrong.
"Do you think he’ll be okay?" I asked quietly.
Logan thought about it for a moment. "After a while… yeah. I think so." Reaching into his shirt pocket, he took out a cigar and a matchbook, and proceeded to light up.
Watching the match spark to life, I felt my heart sink, because I couldn’t help but think of John.
It was the old cliché. Fire and ice. The bad boy and the teacher’s pet. Our friendship had always been sort of a joke to everyone else—and for all I knew, maybe even to John—but it mattered to me. I’d wanted to be an example for him, to show him there was no need to be so angry at the world. But if he was angry enough to take off with Magneto, knowing what that man had done to Rogue… I had to wonder if I was the joke to him. Maybe in his eyes, I had just been an idealistic buffoon, someone who amused him because I thought he could change.
The sound of Logan’s voice made me look up. He was frowning at me. "Looked like you spaced out for a second there."
I fidgeted. "I was just thinking… about John."
Logan’s frown deepened, his eyebrows coming down in the way that always made him look a little more dangerous. "Yeah… well, I’ll tell ya, you really know how to pick your friends, kid."
The sarcasm made me wince—mostly because I was starting to think he was right. In my own defense, I said, "I just wanted to help him get his act together. I don’t know… maybe I should’ve listened to Rogue." I dropped my gaze. "She thought he was kind of a creep, too."
"She’s got good taste." Logan puffed on his cigar, then pointed at me with it. "But that’s why I figure you must be alright."
It was one of the weirdest compliments I’d ever received, but coming from Logan, I knew its worth. I smiled, feeling a little more relaxed than I probably ever had around him, and finally started peeling the wrapper off my ice cream sandwich.
From the corner of my eye, I watched him glance over at the kitchen counter, and he reached across for the nearest thing he could use as an ashtray—which happened to be one of the Professor’s antique bone china saucers. I grinned as he tapped his cigar ashes into it. He knew I wouldn’t tell on him.
Then he settled back again, and looked me straight in the eye.
"So. You kissed her."
Every trace of my relaxation instantly vanished, and I sat bolt upright, somehow managing not to freeze my chair solid. My voice was a squeak as I exclaimed, "You knew about that?"
"Heard the thump when you got a taste of that power of hers." Logan’s perfectly calm expression was more alarming than if he’d been glaring and growling—and I was sure he knew it. He even paused to take a swig of his beer before saying, "Not that I don’t think you could stand up to getting the whammy every now and then… but I don’t think it’s good for Rogue. It ain’t just powers she picks up on, you know."
For the final kicker, he casually surveyed his knuckles as he added, "So don’t do it again."
There went my self-control, as trails of frost crawled down the legs of my chair. I squirmed on my seat and managed to stammer out, "Yes sir."
His lips twitched. "You can cut the ‘sir’. Been through too much together."
So first he threatens me, then he gets chummy with me? Oh, boy. I felt like I was getting a man-to-man talk from a potential father-in-law. A drunk, protective one with knives in his fists… yeah, I could already tell we were going to get along just fine. Because if we didn’t, he might get the idea to lop off some relevant part of my anatomy.
I pasted on a grin, but I was staring over his shoulder at the patched-up bullet holes in the wall.
Even drunk, he never missed anything. Without turning his head, he flicked his eyes in the direction I was looking, and I thought I saw a kind of comprehension come over his face. I looked straight at him again, but he’d lowered his gaze to his fingers fondling his beer bottle. He finally picked it up and took a drink before raising his eyes to mine.
"You don’t have to be scared of me, you know."
There was something sad in his voice, and for one moment, the mask of the mighty Wolverine cracked. For one unnerving moment he seemed old, and vulnerable, and not frightening at all.
"I’m sorry," I mumbled. "It’s just…" My eyes wandered from his again, to the one place I really didn’t want them to go: his hands.
Logan saw that, too. He sighed heavily, and his voice dropped almost to a whisper. "I know."
He suddenly looked more lonely than I’d ever imagined he could.
I felt a sting of guilt. Those marks on the walls got there because Logan had been protecting me—and I had repaid him by being scared witless of him. I sort of thought he was used to it, maybe even liked it that way, because people who were afraid of him would leave him alone. Now, for the first time, through that crack in his defenses, I got the feeling some part of him wanted better than that. Maybe it was a little bit of the man he was before the Wolverine, remembering what it felt like to be a friend.
Either way, he came back to us because something had made him care. I used to think it was Doctor Grey—but if it were only her, he wouldn’t have been sitting across the table from me on another sleepless night.
"Are you going to stay?" I heard myself ask abruptly, and was startled by how much I wanted the answer to be yes.
He took a long time thinking about it. Took a gulp of his beer, a drag on his cigar; leaned his head back and exhaled a puff of smoke, watching it slowly disperse.
Just when I’d stopped expecting an answer, it came, in a very quiet voice.
"I want to."
A smile broke out on my face. He wanted to stay, and I was glad. It wouldn’t be easy, for any of us, but we could make it work. What he had to give was more than worth his faults. We could live with those—but I wasn’t sure we could live without him. Not anymore.
He returned my smile, with just a little bit of a wince. He knew exactly what he’d gotten himself into, and to his way of thinking, it probably meant he was going to need more beer.
A lot more.
For the first time in two weeks, I felt like things might actually turn out alright. Shaking my head with a grin, I turned my attention back to my ice cream sandwich. I ate, Logan finished off his beer, and for a few minutes, we just sat there with our own thoughts.
Then he asked the one question I just knew he would, sooner or later.
"So, Iceman… you ever play hockey?"
© 2004 Jordanna Morgan -send feedback