Mid-winter Thaw (After the Fall 5/8)
- Mid-winter Thaw (After the Fall 5/8)
Logan and I were in the Danger Room, but it wasn't in
the middle of the night and this was no chance
meeting. I'd been spending my Sundays there for
several weeks now, but this was the first time Logan
had joined me. He'd agreed when I'd asked him, but he
was showing signs of regretting that now.
We had been spending the last few hours working on a
particularly nasty simulation, based on discovered,
never-executed plans of Stryker's. I was determined
to complete it successfully, although my confidence in
my ability to crack it had been wavering the last
couple of weeks.
It was just one of several new drills Charles had
given me a couple of months ago, and I'd been working
through them methodically until I got to this one. He
had called me into his office a day after I'd
confronted him about the MPP project. He had handed me
outlines of the new simulations he wanted me to work
on, telling me to call a team meeting as soon as I'd
read through them and to work out a project plan to
master them all. Charles was concerned, he said, that
we'd mostly been focusing on rebuilding and kind of
continuing as normal, but that we needed to make sure
we were ready for any future attacks or other
I couldn't argue with that. We hadn't had any new
exercises in a long time, and I'd seen for myself many
times in close to 15 years as an X-Men how important
continuing practice on both strategy and tactics are.
Still, I didn't find the timing of the release of the
new simulations coincidental. Charles was trying to
do more than just upgrade our preparedness, I was
sure. I didn't know whether he was trying to distract
me from my musings about Jean or just to demonstrate
confidence in my leadership abilities. Maybe both.
I had found most of the simulations challenging,
beyond what we'd done in the past, but ultimately
solvable. I'd also thought they were excellent
preparedness exercises in case the political tide
turned against us and we were again under siege. They
were also turning out to be great for morale. Details
of the simulated missions were never shared beyond
Charles, the team members who participated in the
exercises, and me. But successful drills were
announced at dinner following their completion, with
some anecdote about a team member whose contributions
had been essential to the drill's success. Those who
participated stood and received thundering applause.
It helped the team to feel competent and appreciated
and I think the kids felt protected and more secure,
as success followed success, helping to heal the scars
of the siege.
This Stryker exercise, though, was something else. It
had had me stumped for close to two months. I was
determined to conquer it. I knew that the assault had
never been executed as Charles had found it detailed
in the discovered plans, but that didn't mean someone
else wouldn't try the same type of attack. I wanted to
feel sure I could handle it if they did. Well, I knew
I could take it on with all of the X-Men, but Charles
assured me this one could be beaten by a two-man team,
although I had my doubts, having tried it numerous
times without success.
Several of the new simulations had been designed for
one or two of us to combat them, a change from our
usual training, where we practiced with larger teams.
As Charles had explained when he gave me the new
training assignments, the MPP project was going to
require a lot of one- and two-man missions when it
went live, since both the rescue and resettlement
operations had to be done without attracting
I've no doubt that Charles really did think it was
important that the X-Men improve our ability to work
singly and in pairs. Still, as with the timing of the
new exercises, I was equally convinced that he had
ulterior motives for giving me these particularly
thorny two-man simulations. Working on them was
forcing me to spend time with each of the X-Men
one-on-one, breaking the pattern I'd fallen into of
avoiding spending time alone with my friends and
teammates. At first I'd been somewhat annoyed,
feeling manipulated by Charles, certainly not for the
first time. But I soon saw the wisdom of his plan, as
my somewhat strained relationships with many of the
team warmed as we worked together one-on-one. The
Stryker Exercise was an important step in this
improvement, although it was frustrating me no end in
the process. I'd worked out plans during much of my
spare time during the weekdays and had spent several
Sundays on it already, trying different approaches
with 'Ro, then with Hank, then with Kurt, and finally
with Pyotr. A few times we came close to success, but
the end result was always both of us "dying" or
Logan was pretty much my last hope on this one, so I
refused to quit even after we got 'killed' a dozen
times in a row. We'd conferred after each attempt,
thinking we had a new approach that would work, but no
dice. He wanted to stop, at least for this particular
Sunday, but I wouldn't hear it. We screwed our
courage to the sticking place and gave it one more
shot. And damned if we didn't get them that
thirteenth time! So, there we were, sitting on the
floor of the Danger Room, catching our breath and
feeling pretty pleased with ourselves.
"You just don't give up, do you?"
We were sitting side to side, our backs to the wall.
I turned to look at him, not sure if he'd meant it
critically, but he had a great big smile on his face
so I chose to interpret the question in a positive
way. "I admit to being indefatigable, occasionally,"
I replied, smiling back at him as he rolled his eyes.
"I'll look it up later. Anyway, you can be a pain in
the ass with this 'never say die' shit, Cyclops, but
it paid off this time." He chuckled and shook his
head remembering. "Fuck, we were good!" he said,
slapping my thigh for emphasis. And then, just
leaving his hand there. He turned and looked at me,
his hand still on my leg. The look in his eye and the
feel of his fingers on my thigh were suddenly
riveting. Uncomfortably so. I looked away.
He pulled his hand back and kind of stumbled over his
words. "I didn't mean... I'm not... I wasn't..." I
didn't say anything and he stopped after a minute.
We just kind of sat there, the easy camaraderie of a
moment before gone, replaced by an awkward silence. I
broke it. "I know you're straight," I said.
"I know I'm not your type," he said, head cocked to
the side, expression open, questioning, friendly.
I shrugged. "It seemed like the thing to say at the
time. I don't think I have a type, really. I don't
think my attractions are all that predictable."
"Can I ask you something about that?" I nodded.
"Jeannie? You and her? I just keep thinking about
that. I know it's none of my business, but...well...
what was it like? For both of you, I mean?"
I sighed and thought about how to answer. "It was
good. It was good in lots of ways. We loved each
other. We had a shared vision, a purpose, a life we
�Was that... well, enough?� he asked.
�We did enjoy making love, both of us, if that's what
you're asking. Did you know we had a continuing
telepathic link? We always could hear each other's
thoughts, any time we wanted to. It kind of adds
something to sex, another dimension." I paused, not
knowing what else to say. "She was the first woman I
ever slept with," I said finally.
"How'd you get together?"
"We were friends first, from when we were kids. Hank,
Jean, and I, and Warren - you don't know him, he left
years ago - we were the first X-Men and we kind of did
everything together. I was 16 when I first came here.
I was the first. Jean showed up a few months later.
Then the other two." I looked around. "The place
wasn't like it is now. The Danger Room was here, and
the labs, but not the classrooms or the dorms. We
weren't a real school then. There were just the four
of us, and Charles taught us academic subjects in
between training us for combat and sending us out to
"Fight?" he asked, sounding surprised. "You were a
combat team then, when you were kids?"
"Yeah, that's how it started; that was Charles's
original concept. And that�s how he chose us � for
our potential as members of a fighting force. He
started building a school and taking more kids in a
few years later. I think he really conceived of
Xavier's Academy as just a front for the X-Men at
first. Gym and pool hiding the Danger Room, Blackbird
taking off out of the basketball court. Stryker
wasn't so far off when he called it a mutant training
facility. That�s what it was when we were kids. But
we all kind of got into having a school for its own
sake, not just to train new X-Men. We all wished we'd
had schooling where mutants were accepted and we
wanted to give that to the next generation, you know?�
Logan nodded solemnly. �It�s a great thing you�re
doing for mutant kids here.�
�*We�re* doing. You�re part of it.�
He shrugged. �For a while,� he said. �So what
happened with you and Jeannie?�
"Jean and I went to college together. We'd racked up
enough AP credits that we could both get in and out in
three years and come back to Westchester. We had it
all planned out. She was pre-med and I was an English
major and I was going to run the humanities program
for the school and she'd be head of the science
department." I looked at Logan to see if he was still
listening, still interested. He motioned to me to
"Neither Jean nor I could bear the idea of living in
dorms. I think we felt too old for all that. We
weren't that much older than the other freshman, but
we'd been on a mutant fighting force for 3 years by
that time, risking our lives daily. Other kids seemed
like... kids. So Jean and I got an apartment
together. In some ways it was the stereotypical gay
man/straight woman friendship - we were often lusting
after the same guys." I laughed at that, remembering.
"But then our second year in college it changed.
Maybe we'd both gotten our hearts stamped on too many
times, or something. We already had each other as
companions, study partners, roommates. It didn't seem
that strange to add sex to the mix. We definitely
looked on it at first as just friendship, friends who
fuck, you know? But over time it felt like more. And
when we came back here, after graduation, well we came
back as a couple. Got a room together. I started
building the school, with Charles. Jean was commuting
to the city for med school. My life seemed sort of
normal, all of a sudden. Respectable."
"And you wanted that."
It wasn't a question, but I nodded agreement anyway.
�Does that bother you?�
�Why should it bother me?�
�I don�t know. You might feel like you wanted Jean
for her own sake and I wanted her for respectability.�
�None of my business. Anyway, it�s what she wanted,
too, right? Love, marriage, family, a life with the
good guy.� He shrugged. "Nothing I could give her.�
He thought some more. �Did you think it would last?
Did you think you'd... change?"
"I don't know, really. Maybe. I was pretty
disillusioned with gay life by that point. There's a
kind of idolization of physical perfection, at least
in the circles I was running in. And being a
brain-damaged mutant didn't fit in very well with
that. I'd meet guys who were interested in me, guys I
was interested in. But when they found out..." I
laughed ruefully. "And it's not like I could keep it
a secret for very long. A guy knows something's up
when you won't let him see your eyes, not even during
sex." I sighed. "And I wanted a more regular life.
I was feeling like two big things that were different
about me was one too many. And maybe this one was
"Don�t take this the wrong way, but did Jean feel...
I shook my head "Believe me, I agonized over that
one. She'd have had every right to feel exploited.
But we did love each other. That was always there and
it was a big part of who we were. And, remember, we
had that telepathic link. We each knew what the other
was thinking. I wasn't deceiving her. She knew I was
still attracted to men, and she knew I wasn't having
sex with men. Mostly I wasn't even thinking about
that, was determined to just not let my mind go there.
'That way madness lies; let me shun that.' I thought
maybe after a while I'd just forget about that part of
me." I mused on that for a minute. �You know, I�ve
never talked to anyone but Jean about this. Not even
�Why are you telling me?�
�You asked.� He laughed at that. �Okay, that�s not
it, really. I never said enough for people to ask.
Maybe I just needed somebody to talk to. And you were
He didn�t say anything for a long time. I wondered if
he was offended at my suggestion that I was talking to
him just because he was around when I needed to talk.
But his mind didn�t seem to be on that at all. When
he did speak, he referred back to what I�d said
before. "Do you still think you could change, forget
about that part, like you said? Could you meet
someone else, another woman? Fall in love?"
I shook my head. "No, I'm pretty sure I couldn't.
Even if I did meet another woman, I wouldn't try to
live like that, not again. It was a mistake, what
Jean and I tried to do. An honest mistake, a loving
mistake, but still a mistake. I've given it a lot of
thought. It's not just about sex for me. I think I
notice men more, am drawn to men more in lots of ways.
But a whole lot of it is sex. You can't help what
turns you on, and it's men's bodies that turn me on.
I spent so much time fighting it, and I want to be
true to myself now. It feels good not to fight it
anymore. I can�t go back. Sex with men is the only
kind I want. It's different, there�s more to it � for
me, anyway � than there is with a woman. It's hard to
explain. I don�t know if you could understand,
"I know the parts are different."
I laughed. "Yeah, and that's certainly a lot of it.
But it's not all. As close as telepathy during sex
made me feel with Jean, we weren't really sharing the
experience, not in the same way as when I'm doing it
with a man, even a man I didn't love or even know
well. There's something about having sex with another
guy... it's hard to explain.� Well, that�s what I
said, but what I was thinking was that I didn�t know
whether or not I ought to try to explain. I wasn�t
accustomed to talking about my sexuality at all, not
having done so for a long time. And it felt a little
bit risky to discuss it with Logan, although I wasn�t
sure why. I took a deep breath and continued.
�There's a shared understanding that I just don't
think men and women can have, or at least that I can't
have with a woman. Can I be specific? Or is that
going to make you uncomfortable if I talk about
"Okay. Here's an example: I love giving head. And
some of that is just being totally turned on by men's
bodies. There's little that feels as good to me as a
big, hard cock in my mouth, down my throat." I
sneaked a sidelong glance at him, checking to see that
he wasn't getting upset with the graphic description,
but he looked interested and listening. "It's more
than that, though,� I went on. "I have this really
intense impression every time I do it. I find myself
thinking 'I know what this feels like; I know what
he's feeling.' And there's an erotic charge and a
connection in that knowledge that I just don't think I
could have with a woman."
"Well, that's true. I can see that there's something
there with a man that there isn't with women," he
said, not seeming disturbed by the conversation at
all. "But there's something else with women that you
can�t get with a man. Some mystery or something. I
don't know how to say it. Do you know what I'm talking
"Yes and no. I do know that, for many men, that sense
of 'otherness' about women is profoundly erotic. It
doesn't matter that you don't know how to express it,
Logan," I added with a smile. "I've heard it enough.
Much of Western literature is devoted to expressing
just that." I shook my head. "I understand it, in a
way. I can teach it, I can write about it, but I
don't *feel* it. It doesn't touch me the way it does
you, or most men." I sighed and continued. "I've
thought a lot about this, since Jean was...lost. I
loved her so much, but not having her I've thought
more about what kind of love it was, what kind of
feelings I've had. I did think sometimes that I would
change, when Jean and I were together, but I don't
think it now. We loved each other and that was no
small thing. But sex, even with some guy I didn't
know, didn't care about, wouldn't see again, was
always more intense, more fulfilling, more... complete
than it was with Jean." I smiled wryly at Logan.
"So, I really am gay."
He smiled back. "I guess so."
I'd been uneasy talking to Logan about this, and was
glad he hadn't freaked out on me. I was feeling good
about the conversation now. These were issues I'd
been mulling over since Jean's disappearance and I'd
felt the lack of someone to talk to about them. It
wasn't until later that it occurred to me to wonder
what he'd meant when he agreed with me that there was
something different, about sex between men, something
you couldn't get from a woman. Was he speaking from
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