Title:A Little Sorrowed Talk
A Little Sorrowed Talk
Even before Logan was awake, he smelled the coming rain.
As he had almost every night since Alkali Lake, the feral had abandoned his bed in favor of the woods that bordered the school property. The mansion felt stifling to him, with its smells of strangers, and bloodÖ and her. Jeanís scent lingered everywhere, sharpening his memory of all that he had lost, and all that was never really his to begin with. Only outside in the clear night air could he find any rest, if not peace.
And now, as on most of those nights, a cold wind gusted through the trees, carrying with it the fragrance of rain.
Logan was not the only one to smell it; his ears tracked several animals in the forest around him as they quickly turned from their hunting or foraging, vanishing into the shadows to seek shelter from the sudden change of the weather. He let them go their way in peace, lying still on the mossy earth until their sounds faded into the woods.
A large, lukewarm drop of moisture splashed onto Loganís cheek, and he sat up, opening his eyes. He saw the deepening darkness as clouds rolled in to obscure the stars; he felt the heaviness in the air, heard more raindrops patter down onto the leaves of the trees.
With a heavy sigh, he rose and began to make his way back along the narrow, twisting deer trails that wound through the undergrowth. The raindrops became a drizzle, then a downpour, and while the canopy of the trees provided some cover, Logan had to cross the broad expanse of gardens and open grass that stood between the mansion and the woods. He was soaking wet by the time he reached the door.
For a moment he simply stood dripping in the entryway, leaving a puddle on the hardwood floor as he let his senses reconnoiter. No one was stirring in that part of the school. He shook off the rest of the excess water and shambled toward the library; there was a fireplace there, and he lit a warming blaze in it, using the same match to light the cigar that had somehow managed to stay dry in his pocket. Then he shed his jacket and the two layers of shirts beneath it, spreading them by the hearth to dry. It was the way he had always done such things, and that wasnít about to change, even with all the resources and luxuries of a mansion at his disposal.
Jeanís scent was strong in that room, and Logan could imagine that she had spent countless hours there, reading or preparing study plans. He exhaled a thick cloud of cigar smoke, hoping it would mask the smell of heróbut for him, it was a futile effort. It was as clear to him as if she were still there.
To his ears, there were a variety of sounds in the room: a clock ticking on the mantelpiece, the crackle of the fire, the creak of the floorboards as he moved, the patter of raindrops against the window. Yet there was a feeling of silence that made him restless and uneasy, like being watched by a ghost.
Seeking distraction from this emptiness that wasnít, Logan strode over to the radio and turned it on at a low volume. It was tuned to the kind of adolescent pop the students were enamoured with, and he grimaced, turning the dial until he found a classic-rock station that would provide some comfortably ignorable noise. Heedless of his damp blue jeans, he stretched out on an expensive Oriental rug by the fire, closing his eyes.
He didnít want to be hereónot simply indoors with his too-fresh memories, but here, at Xavierís School. Even with its newly acquired battle scars, its age-refined opulence bore no resemblance at all to the life he knew. It had a softness that was no part of him. His world was hard and cold and unforgiving. The callous impartiality of nature had shaped his entire existence; he could not change.
ÖAnd yet, perhaps he had changed.
There was nothing left of what had been for him. In a strange irony, the course of events that had shown him a few brutal glimpses of his history had also all but erased the intervening fifteen years. They now had no substance, no meaning; what he once accepted as his life had been no life at all. A part of him felt that, at least, even if there was another part of him which longed to slip quietly back into that oblivion.
Because to feel at all meant to have painóand in what little he had experienced so far of this other life, he had found precious little else.
He had no explanation, then, for why he knew he would stay.
The rain beat harder on the window panes, and Logan sighed, a single faint shiver running through him. He had once been indifferent to dampness and chillÖ but on this night, he felt them both.
Hugging her pillow to her chest, Ororo Munroe sat up on her bed and wiped her eyes with an already tear-soaked tissue, as the rain outside pelted against her bedroom window.
In the days since Alkali Lake, darkness had become her release. The daylight hours were not her own; they belonged to the students, to the Professor, to Scott. She wore a brave face for them. She buried her sorrow in grinding routine, and pretended that her heart was not too full of pain to bear theirs as well. But the night belonged to her now, and it all came out then, tears drenching her pillow as rain drenched the ground.
The rain was somehow a natural expression of her grief, and she could see no reason not to let it fall. The skies could mourn her best friend better than she ever could.
In the morning, she would present herself as she always did, strong and capable and prepared to face the day. She was a proud woman. Jean used to tease her for thatóteasing sometimes tinged with concern that Ororo tried too hard to preserve that pride, repressing emotions she would have done better to share with someone else.
But Jean, too, had been proud of her work and her dedication. Perhaps even more so.
Perhaps it was for pride that she had given her life.
A new swell of tears arose within Ororo, and she pushed them down, sniffling. The crying jag had left her thirsty and rough-throated. She wanted a drink of water. Wiping away the last traces of dampness upon her cheeks, she rose and went out of her room.
On her way toward the kitchen, she passed by the half-open door of the library, and the dancing shadows of firelight within gave her pause. With a sense of caution ingrained by her years of working with children, she looked in to make certain the fire had not been left unattended.
Logan was lying face-down on the rug, his head resting on his folded arms. He was stripped to the waist, his waterlogged jacket and shirts laid out by the fire. Although he was turned away from the door, he must have heard or smelled Ororo, because he abruptly sat halfway up and turned to look at her. The annoyance in his expression evaporated almost too quickly for her to see it; almost, but not quite.
He had been out in the rain.
Suddenly conscious of her puffy and reddened eyes, Ororo averted her gaze and turned to continue on her way, but Loganís gruff, quiet voice halted her. "Storm."
Awkwardly Ororo turned and took a step into the room, her hand lingering on the doorknob as if it were a lifeline. Logan sat up slowly and reached out for his flannel shirt. She could see by its heaviness that it was still damp, but he pulled it on, leaving it to hang unbuttoned on his rugged frame. He eyed her skeptically for a moment, as if judging whether to say something that was on his mind.
"You gotta stop making it rain so much. Youíre confusiní the animals."
Ororo felt a warmth in her face. "Iím sorry. I didnít realize anyone was outside."
Logan rolled his shoulders and turned away, bracing his back against the edge of the sofa as he stared into the fire, and Ororoís curiosity got the better of her. Taking a step closer, she asked softly, "What were you doing out there?"
Another shrug. "Easier sleeping out there than in here." Logan glanced briefly up at her. "You oughta try it sometime."
"Maybe sleeping, period."
The feral was certainly perceptive. Ororo squared her shoulders and frowned at him. "Iíve got a lot on my mind."
"Yeah. Donít we all." Logan turned back to the fire and fell silent.
For a long moment Ororo stared at him, trying to figure out where he belonged in the scheme of things. She remembered his bitter cynicism when she and Scott first brought him to the mansion. For a few moments at Alkali Lake, when he came back for them, she thought she had seen something moreÖ but now she wasnít sure.
Now she wasnít even sure there was anything more left in her.
Slowly she stepped toward Logan, pausing at the end of the sofa. "I think you were right, Logan. There is a war comingóand I donít know how to stop it."
"You canít." To her surprise, Logan smiled grimly. "Youíre supposed to be a history teacher. You oughta know that nobody ever really learns from it. People are too lazy for thatóand their memories are too short." He glanced up at her, the firelight deepening the shadows in his eyes. "Somebody told meÖ people donít change."
"You changed," Ororo replied, more firmly than she had intended.
"Have I?" Logan gazed keenly at her. "You donít know me."
"I know you came back, Logan. That tells me everything I need to know."
This answer appeared to take him by surprise. His lips thinned, and he looked away from her, gazing at the flames on the hearth. Ororo did likewise, and for a long time, neither spoke.
At last the silence was broken by a small, quavering voice from the doorway. "Miss Munroe?"
Ororo turned. A young student named Sadie stood at the threshold of the room, her teddy bear clutched in her arms and a haunted look on her face. "I had a bad dream."
Feeling a pang of sadness and sympathy in her heart, Ororo went to Sadie and knelt down, enfolding the girl in a hug. "Itís okay, honey. You want to sleep in my room for a little bit?"
Sadie nodded against Ororoís shoulder.
"Alright." Ororo drew back, giving Sadie a quick, reassuring smile, then turned to look over her shoulder at Logan. He was watching them, his expression thoughtful, and he met Ororoís eyes with more meaning than she could decipher in her weary condition. All she knew was that she suddenly felt safer under his dark and watchful gaze. She smiled at him, receiving a nod of acknowledgment in return, then rose and took Sadie by the hand to lead her upstairs.
As she stepped into the hall, she heard Loganís quiet voice behind her.
"Iíve chosen my side, Storm."
A warmth crept into Ororoís heart. She did not turn, but her smile deepened as the hopes once gone astray returned to her. Logan had proved himself wrong.
People could change, after all.
© 2005 Jordanna Morgan -send feedback