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FIC: "Fight or Flight" [Logan & Kurt Friendship, PG]

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  • crisiskris
    Title: Fight or Flight Author: Crisis Kris (kmatwood@shaw.ca) Rating: PG Summary: Jean s death has consequences for everyone. Disclaimer: The author has no
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 10, 2004
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      Title: Fight or Flight
      Author: Crisis Kris (kmatwood@...)
      Rating: PG
      Summary: Jean's death has consequences for everyone.
      Disclaimer: The author has no copyright ownership of the characters
      contained within,
      and no profit is being made from this story.
      Notes: *emphasis*. Takes place after X2. Apologies in advance
      regarding the line wrapping - I can't figure out how that happened,
      or how to fix it. I hope it's not too distracting!
      Thanks: To the Amazing Gaaak, whose beta skills are beyond reproach!

      *********************************************************************

      The aftermath of Jean's death at Alkali Lake nearly devastates
      them. Scott locks himself away in their – his – bedroom and
      won't
      come out. Storm is overcome with grief for her lost sister, and it
      rains and rains. Charles could help, but he is still too physically
      (or is that psychically?) unwell to be good to anyone; he needs time
      to recover his strength and balance. He sits, hunched in his
      wheelchair, staring out his office window like he expects Jean to
      come walking up the drive. The students are a mess; lost and
      confused. Some cry endlessly, while others withdraw into
      themselves. Many of the boys and some of the girls fight viciously
      with each other over anything, no holds barred.

      The only one relatively untouched by all this grief is Kurt Wagner,
      the incredible Nightcrawler. Although sympathetic by nature, he
      did, after all, only know Jean Grey for a matter of days. He is,
      however, at a bit of a loss. The only person he really knows or
      feels comfortable with is Storm, so he spends much of his time
      making sure she eats, holding her as she cries, and muttering
      prayers in her ear when the winds start picking up again. He
      doesn't know what else to do.

      There is one other person left functioning in the mansion, though,
      and he handles his grief the way he handles every other problem in
      his life – by attacking it. Logan shies away from the
      uncomfortable
      analogy, but it's true that his responses are instinctual,
      animalistic: fight or flight. So often before he met Rogue and the
      X-Men, he's fled from emotional distress. This time he's
      determined
      to fix things.

      He tells himself it's because the whole damn place would fall
      apart
      without him – and that might be true. He tells himself it's
      because
      he made a promise to Rogue that he wouldn't abandon her, and
      that's
      true as well. But the real reason he's still there, standing in
      the
      middle of the devastation when every fiber of his being is screaming
      at him to get the hell out now…he owes her something. Jean gave
      him
      something the night that she turned him away. It sounds odd, even
      to his own fragmented thinking. But she showed him what dignity and
      compassion looked like when she made the right choice without
      becoming angry, without shunning him. At the time, he was hurt.
      Now, when she's gone and he'll never have a chance to tell
      her, he
      appreciates it. She treated him like he was human.

      So he stays, and it takes less than a day for him to realize that
      everyone else is pretty much useless, with the exception of the
      teleporting freak with the tail. His first order of business,
      therefore, is to unwrap the incredible Nightcrawler from the fiery
      Storm, who he's sure can handle being sad all by herself for an
      hour
      or two. He enters the room in his usually gruff way.

      "Hey blue boy," he says, "Come `ere, I got a job for
      you."
      Nightcrawler briefly considers refusing, but Storm touches his arm
      gently, pushing him away. He gets up and follows Logan out.

      "We need to get these kids in order," Logan states, stalking
      down
      the halls, breaking up fights left, right and center. "You take
      that side, I'll take this." Kurt watches, a little unsure,
      as Logan
      starts rounding the children up, sending them to one of the larger
      classrooms. A piercing stare from the other man gets him moving,
      and although his style is much softer than Logan's, he is
      surprised
      to see the children respond to him just as well.

      When everyone is in there, Logan does a headcount, and then lays
      down the law. "All right," he says. "You've had a
      day to be
      complete fuck ups. Fun's over now." The kids glare back at
      him –
      does he really think this has been fun? Logan's face doesn't
      soften. "I know you're hurting. Everyone's hurting. But
      this is a
      school, and there are rules." He proceeds to set out some basic
      guidelines. Everyone will sleep in their assigned beds at night
      –
      no just hanging out in just anybody's room like last night.
      There
      will be a curfew. Everyone will do their assigned chores. There
      will be consequences for breaking the rules – and anyone caught
      fighting from now on will deal with him directly. Only one
      other person in the whole room doesn't shiver when Logan
      announces
      that, and it isn't Kurt. Rogue looks up at him and smiles.

      Kurt has a sudden inspiration. As Logan wraps up his speech, Kurt
      steps forward. The other man is surprised, but moves
      aside. "Classes will resume in one week," he announces,
      putting
      confidence into his voice. "There will be at least two –
      Professor
      Logan will teach Physical Education and Defense, and I will teach
      Power Control. In addition, individual learning plans will be set
      up for History and English." The students groan;
      `Professor' Logan
      looks a little pleased.

      A voice pipes up from the back; it's the young man who was with
      Rogue in the jet. "What about Art?" he asks, and the whole
      room
      breaks up in laughter. It's only been a day, but it only takes a
      day for the story of what happened at Bobby's parents' place,
      where Bobby introduced Logan as the art teacher, to get around.
      Kurt is the only one who hasn't heard it yet. He looks confused.

      "I'll tell you later," Logan promises. Then he reminds
      the students
      that both he and Kurt are available any time, day or night - Kurt
      nods seriously when Logan's questioning eyes meet his – if
      anyone
      needs to talk. And he tells them, passionately, how important it is
      to talk. Rogue thinks it's rather ironic that the one man who never
      talks about anything is encouraging them to share their feelings.
      With that, Logan dismisses the students.

      As the room clears, Kurt walks over to Logan. "That was a very
      good
      thing you did, my friend," he says, restraining himself from
      touching the other man's arm. It would be an appropriate gesture
      of
      comfort for anyone else, he recognizes. For Logan, it would be too
      much. The man isn't used to comfort. Logan nods, grunting.
      "They
      look – better."

      "You think so?"

      "Yes. They are still sad, but... Kids, they need…" Kurt
      trails off,
      trying to think of the right word in English.

      Logan supplies him with one. "Discipline," he replies

      Kurt shakes his head, smiling. "Leadership," he corrects
      gently.
      Then he takes his leave, and Logan stands in the empty room alone,
      head bowed. Kurt watches him from the doorway for a moment before
      he slips away.

      *********************************************************************

      The next day, Storm appears at the breakfast table for the first
      time. It is Kitty and Jubilee's turn to make breakfast, under
      Kurt's watchful eyes, and everyone is eating blueberry pancakes.
      The kids stifle their exclamations of surprise as Storm helps
      herself to one pancake and a glass of juice. Peter, the large boy
      with the body armour, stumbles over his feet as he stands to pull
      her chair out. She says, "Thank you." It's the first
      time
      she's spoken since the jet landed two days before. It's
      still
      raining outside, but it's died down to a drizzle.

      Logan doesn't come down for breakfast and Storm is a bit
      disappointed. So she leaves Kurt to assign the chores for the day
      and to supervise, and goes to find him. He's in the upstairs
      hallway, surveying the damage to one of the windows where the
      soldiers shot their way into the school. He nods at her
      approach. "I can fix that," he says, "but I'll need
      some
      supplies."

      "We have a credit account at the hardware store in town,"
      Storm
      replies. "I can get you the authorization number." He nods
      again.
      They turn and start towards Xavier's office. "I hear that
      classes
      are starting in a few days."

      Logan smiles a ghost of a smile. "Apparently. And apparently
      I'm `Professor Logan'." His voice carries a hint of
      uncertainty
      about the whole thing.

      Storm smiles at him. "You'll do great." She looks
      distant for a
      moment, and then sighs. "I suppose I better prepare some lesson
      plans. I heard Bobby talking about individual lessons in History
      and English, but if you don't mind me saying so, I doubt
      you've got
      much to say on the subject and Kurt, well…"

      "Is German," Logan almost laughed. "I'd thought
      about that." He
      stops and looks Storm in the eye. "Are you up to this?" he
      asks,
      seriously. "Because I – I don't remember much, but I can
      read, you
      know, well enough to prepare something…"

      Storm shakes her head. "We all have work to do, Logan. I can do
      mine. Besides, as far as American history goes – aren't you
      Canadian?" She turns with a smile and opens the door to
      Xavier's
      office. Charles is sitting at his desk, his head bowed. A plate
      of barely eaten blueberry pancakes sits beside him.

      "Hello Ororo, Logan," he says quietly as they enter. He
      follows
      their gaze to the plate. "Jubilee brought those by half an hour
      ago. I can't say I feel much up to eating, however." He
      sighs, and
      holds out a card. "Our authorization number at the hardware
      store, Logan. And I think it's an excellent idea to bring young
      Peter along with you." Logan looks annoyed.

      "No offense, Professor, but I like it better when you don't
      read my
      mind," he growls, taking the card.

      Storm shakes her head. "I think it's wonderful," she
      says
      emphatically. Charles has his powers back, and that's all that
      matters.

      "Yes, well, thank you." Charles looks down at his hands for
      a
      moment. "I am quite aware that I am not in good health at the
      moment. But I do realize that you are putting this school back
      together, piece by piece. I hope to be a bigger part of that soon
      –
      but unlike our friend here," he indicates Logan with a smile,
      "I do
      require medical attention."

      "Do you want me to take you into town with us?" Logan asks.
      Charles
      shakes his head.

      "Actually, I was hoping you could pick up a friend of mine. Dr.
      Henry McCoy. The school will need a new doctor now that…now
      that…"
      Charles chokes up, unable to finish the sentence. Storm feels tears
      prick her eyes. Logan looks away,

      "Right. I'll find him." He walks out without another
      word.
      Charles' eyes follow the man's form, but he says nothing.
      Storm
      feels the tears leak out of her eyes. Charles reaches for her
      hand.

      After a moment, she wipes her eyes. "I should go help Kurt with
      the
      students," she says. "He's out there by himself."
      Charles smiles.

      "Perhaps I will accompany you, for a few minutes," he
      replies,
      wheeling out from behind his desk. Side by side, they head back
      into the heart of the school.

      *********************************************************************

      Logan takes Peter with him to the hardware store. They return two
      hours later, laden with supplies and a thin, gangly looking man with
      thick glasses. "Dr. McCoy, how good to see you," Charles
      says
      warmly, moving up to them as they enter the mansion.

      The doctor laughs. "Please, Charles. Call me Hank. Why
      don't you
      show me your medical facilities and then we can have a chat."
      They
      disappear down the hall.

      "He seems… small," Storm says doubtfully.

      Peter smiles. "He turns into a big blue beast," he replies.
      "He
      showed us in the car." Storm looks amused. She glances at
      Logan,
      and there's that shadow of a smile again, but he doesn't
      comment.

      "Excuse us, Storm," he says. "We got an outer wall to
      rebuild."

      The two work on the wall all day, shoring it up, reframing, and
      insulating it by nightfall. The glass will be fit in the morning.
      As they build, Logan slowly builds Peter up as well. "You did an
      amazing jobs takin' care of all those kids," he says casually
      as
      they hammer away. Peter nearly drops his hammer.

      "You think so?" he asks. Ever since the soldiers had come,
      all
      Peter can think about is how he should have stayed with Logan
      instead of running away like a frightened child.

      Logan seems to know this. "I would have loved to have your help
      with the fighting, but I knew someone needed to keep things in order
      here. I don't think anyone could have done a better job."
      Peter
      nearly blushes at that.

      "Thanks," he mutters. He goes back to hammering, but his
      face is
      flushed with pride, and when he walks away to go to bed that night,
      he walks a little taller. Later, Kurt walks by just as a fight
      erupts inside one of the dorm rooms. He stops, turning to enter the
      room, when he hears Peter's rumbling bass inside.

      "Knock it off, guys, go to sleep." To Kurt's surprise,
      the boys – a
      couple of the younger ones – stop immediately.

      "Sorry, Peter," one of them replies. Things quiet down.

      "Don't tell Professor Logan," the other one whispers a
      few minutes
      later. Kurt smiles.

      *********************************************************************

      Under Hank's meticulous care, Charles' health improves to the
      point
      where he is able to resume his administrative duties. His first
      decision as head of the school is, of course, to hire Hank as the
      school physician, and as the Chemistry and Biology teacher. Charles
      himself feels ready to once again teach Physics and Math.

      So, when school officially opens one week after Jean Grey's
      death,
      it is with a full complement of courses and not just the throw-
      together Kurt had imagined. The routine is important; getting back
      to normalcy is good for the students.

      It's good for the teachers too. With so many students needing
      attention, Charles can't afford to spend so much time staring off
      into space, as though if he concentrated hard enough Jean would
      magically appear. Storm throws herself into her teaching; it gives
      her purpose, and the rain begins to dry up outside. Hank, too,
      seems to delight in his new role as educator, although his teaching
      style prompted a quick staff meeting in which it was suggested that
      he reconsider some of his more convoluted language.

      Reflecting on the situation, even Kurt has to acknowledge that
      he's
      found a measure of peace. Having experienced what it was like to be
      out of control, he makes an excellent mentor for students learning
      to handle their powers. He is gradually growing closer to Storm, a
      relationship he looks forward to very much, and his gentle demeanor
      has brought a surprising number of students to his door to talk.
      They ask him questions about life as a mutant, tell them about their
      problems with their peers, or their families, or recount stories
      about Jean Grey and talk about how much they miss her. Kurt finds
      it easy to listen and respond to them, and it isn't long before
      he
      is the unofficial school counselor.

      Logan continues to attack the repairs until they are finished, often
      enlisting the help of the older students. Kurt, who is swift, but
      not particularly strong, sometimes watches as Logan directs the
      impromptu `shop' class, quietly finding something to
      compliment in
      each student's work and pretending not to notice the way they
      flush
      with pleasure and pride at his words. He doesn't put anyone on
      the
      spot, doesn't call attention to them, but at the same time lets
      each
      one know that they've been noticed. Kurt thinks it's a
      remarkable
      talent.

      Logan turns out to be an intuitive teacher, although hardly a
      patient one. Storm and Charles have been helping the new teachers
      with lesson planning and the like, and during a staff meeting one
      day they all agree that it's too soon after all the violence to
      teach self-defense lessons. Instead, Logan comes up with an
      obstacle course, challenging but still fun, that allows them develop
      skills like coordination, quick reflexes, and decision making,
      without putting them into the context of a battle. The plan works
      perfectly, and a little healthy competition develops among the
      students, helping them take their minds off other things.

      Far fewer students approach Logan than any of the other staff, but
      he soon has an entourage of followers – six, to be exact. There
      is
      Rogue, and her roommates Kitty and Jubilee. There is Peter and
      Bobby, and a young boy named William who never sleeps, and spends
      his nights watching television. Some of these students carry heavy
      burdens of remorse and guilt for what happened, but with Logan, they
      seem to start to open up, to let go of the pain bit by bit, and Kurt
      notices that they all smile a lot more than when he first met them.

      As for Logan, well… Kurt doubts the man can let go of anything.
      Storm and Charles both talk extensively about Jean and their grief,
      but Logan says nothing about his. Still, Kurt is certain he is
      grieving – for such a passionate man, he rarely laughs, and his
      smile is always shadowed by the sadness in his eyes. Kurt has seen
      Logan seem to be on the verge of tears one or two times, but they
      never fall. Late at night, though, he wakes to the noise of someone
      slipping out the front door. The first few times, he thought it
      might be a student, so he'd crept out to investigate. Both
      times,
      Logan had given him a short wave, cigar in hand, without turning
      around as he walked into the bush.

      Concerned, Kurt mentions Logan's isolation to Charles. The
      professor nods in understanding. "It's not good for
      him," Kurt
      presses. "Perhaps someone should speak with him."

      "Everyone handles grief in their own way," Charles
      replies. "Logan's still busy fixing everything else. Only
      once
      he's assured that everyone else is safe will he turn his
      attention to himself." What he thinks, but does not say, is that
      when the time comes, he fully expects Logan to run again.

      "But everyone is okay," Kurt says. "I mean, everyone is
      getting
      better."

      Charles looks very sad at that. "No," he replies.
      "There is still
      one person who has yet to begin healing."

      *********************************************************************

      That person, of course, is Scott. After the first day, the students
      take to leaving meals outside his door for him. For a while they
      remain there, untouched, until the next student came by to clear the
      dishes away. After Professor Xavier starts to get better, the
      plates start disappearing inside, reappearing hours later with the
      food half-eaten. At least he is eating, but that's all Charles
      can
      convince him to do. Scott refuses to come out of his room, and when
      Charles presses, Scott slams his mental defenses into place, his
      skills made strong from years of living with a telepath.

      "He'll come around," Storm comforts Charles that evening,
      but the
      words sound hollow to everyone. Privately, they worry that this
      might have broken Scott forever.

      Initially, Logan stays out of the whole thing, figuring he's
      about
      the worst person to try and be helping. Eventually, however, his
      temper gets the best of him. One evening, after listening the
      professor explain how he had been shut out from Scott's thoughts
      yet
      again, Logan suddenly jumps up from his seat and stalks up to
      Scott's room. Without even thinking to knock, he barges in,
      nearly
      tearing the door off its hinges.

      Scott sits in the middle of his bed in his underwear, clutching a
      picture of his dead fiancée. His cheeks are red and splotchy from
      crying. "What the hell are you doing?" he demands, standing
      up as
      Logan enters.

      Logan snorts, moving to the dresser. "Suicide watch," he
      replies,
      yanking drawers open and throwing sweat pants and a t-shirt at the
      other man. "It's been two weeks, we weren't sure if you
      were alive
      in here." He turns. "Come on, it's time to rejoin the
      human race.
      Get dressed."

      Scott stands there, sputtering in the middle of the room. "I
      don't
      take orders from you!" he finally yells.

      "No, you give them. So get with it, fearless leader." Logan
      lights
      his cigar, an act he knows that Scott will hate.

      True enough, Scott scowls. "Put that out!"

      "Make me."

      The ensuing fight catches the attention of the entire school. By
      the time the other teachers get up there, Logan has his claws out,
      and Scott has blasted a hole in the bathroom door. They are
      circling each other, cursing and swearing. Then Logan pushes
      it over the edge. "That's all you've got? *This* is the
      man Jean
      chose over me?" His lips curl into a terrible smile.

      Scott's response is to blast Logan so hard that he slams through
      the
      wall into the classroom beyond, and the only thing that saves his
      life is his healing factor.

      Later that night, Storm rages at Kurt during what has become their
      customary evening tea. "How could he say that?" She
      exclaims. "Of
      all the – I knew Logan could be harsh, but that was
      heartless!"

      "It worked," Kurt points out softly. This brings Storm up
      short.

      "What?" She replies. "What do you mean?"

      "It was harsh, yes. But Charles' gentle reminders
      weren't working.
      You softly knocking at his door wasn't working. Us leaving him
      alone and giving him time wasn't working. Logan might have
      bullied
      him out of his room – but it worked."

      Storm considers it. It's true – Scott had stayed out of his
      room
      after the fight. He'd had a long talk with Charles, and then
      joined
      the entire student body for dinner. Now he is downstairs working on
      one of the cars, and she is certain a few of the male students have
      drifted down to watch. He still looks haunted and overwrought, but
      he is out.

      She returns her attention to the man before her, who finishes,
      "He
      did what he had to do."

      Storm looks thoughtful. "He made himself the bad guy."

      "And it worked."

      *********************************************************************

      Over the next few days, Scott appears more and more. Mostly he's
      just a ghost in the mansion, sitting silently at meals or
      disappearing with Charles for hours at a time. Every once in a
      while, though, he seems to sit up and take notice of the world
      around him, chatting with a student in the hall or joining the staff
      for tea. He isn't teaching, and has explained that he has no
      desire
      to, not yet, but he is interacting, and he's looking more alive
      than
      he has since Jean was lost. Kurt notices Logan nodding in
      satisfaction.

      Later that night, Kurt lays awake, waiting for the sound.
      Ordinarily, the soft opening and closing of the front door would
      wake him from his light slumber, but he knows that tonight it will
      be so quiet that he would sleep through it. Even awake, Kurt nearly
      misses it. Belatedly, he hears the latch, and hurries to the
      hallway window in time to see Logan trudging down the drive,
      wheeling Scott's motorcycle beside him. Once he makes it to the
      road, Kurt knows, there's no catching up.

      Making a quick decision, Kurt teleports to the other man's side,
      his
      reappearance startling Logan. Without warning, he finds himself
      lying on the ground with a claw at his throat. Logan growls, and
      then recognizes his `attacker' and lets Kurt stand up. He
      puts the
      bike up on the kickstand and retracts his claws, lighting a cigar.

      "Where are you going, my friend?" Kurt asks in his soft
      voice.

      Logan smiles his ghost of a smile. "I should have known better
      than
      to try and sneak past you," he replies. Kurt says nothing,
      waiting,
      as Logan blows out smoke. "Ah, hell, Wagner, I can't stay
      here any
      longer. It – I – hell, you don't need me anymore."

      Kurt nods. "No." Logan's face darkens and he turns back
      to the
      bike. Kurt's hand on his arm catches his attention. "We
      don't
      *need* you, Logan," he continues. "We *want* you here.
      Please
      stay."

      Logan lets out a bark that could almost be a laugh. "Only one
      person actually wants me here," he replies, "And she's
      still young
      enough to think I'm some kind of hero."

      Kurt wants to tell him that he is, but he knows it's the wrong
      thing
      to say. Instead, he replies, "I want you here, my friend."

      "Fine, two people," Logan concedes, smiling for real this
      time.

      Kurt won't let it go. "What about Bobby? And Peter? And
      Charles
      and Storm?"

      Logan shakes his head. "They don't want *me*, Wagner,"
      he replies
      earnestly. "They want a role model, a defense teacher. Scott
      can
      do that. Scott should do that." He scowls up at the sky as it
      begins to rain. "God damn. Now let me go – I wanna put some
      miles
      between me and this weather."

      Desperately, Kurt hops up onto the bike handles. The rain is
      falling harder now, slicking the road, making it difficult to
      see. "Just give me one week, Logan," he bargains, raising
      his voice over the splatter. "One week, and if you still feel
      you're not wanted, then you are free to go wherever you
      choose." He
      smiles appeasingly. "And I'll convince Storm to make sure
      you have
      clear skies all the way." As if on cue, a great clap of thunder
      sounds, lightning flashes in the sky, and the downpour becomes a
      torrent.

      Logan swears – there's no way he's going anywhere in this
      storm. "Fine," he growls. He pulls the collar of his jacket
      up
      around his ears. "One week. Now let's get out of this
      mess."

      *********************************************************************

      After escorting a grumbling, soaking wet Logan to his room, Kurt
      stops by Ororo's and peers in the door. She appears to be
      sleeping,
      her breath rising and falling in a deep, even rhythm while the storm
      outside continues unabated. Kurt is almost ready to consider the
      weather a natural occurrence when he notices something.

      "You don't usually sleep with your shoes on," he
      comments. Storm
      doesn't open her eyes, but she can't stop the grin from
      spreading
      across her face. Kurt smiles too, and then grows serious. "He
      gave
      me one week," he informs her, then tip toes away. He has only
      seven days to convince Logan to stay, and he's going to need some
      help.

      *********************************************************************

      The next morning, Rogue is woken by an urgent knocking on her dorm
      room door. She nestles further down into her comforting, but the
      knocking doesn't stop. She groans and pulls her pillow over her
      head, but the knocking continues until Kitty finally leaps out of
      bed, throwing her covers to one side in disgust. She stalks over to
      the door and sticks her head out, hollering, "Who are you and
      what
      the hell do you – oh, sorry, Professor."

      Kurt jumps back, unnerved by the site of her disembodied head
      sticking out of the closed door. He ducks his head for a moment,
      and then grins. "Pardon me," he says, "I realize
      it's very early,
      but I require your assistance."

      By breakfast, thanks to Jubilee's staggering ability to gossip,
      the
      whole school knows that something's up with Logan and he needs,
      as
      the Asian girl so colorfully puts it, "a little lovin'".
      They also
      know, however, that they can't be too obvious about it; the
      children
      have already sensed that their affections scare Logan more than any
      bogeyman ever could, and they keep it tame around him, being cool
      and giving him some distance. Breakfast is a bit quieter than
      usual; Jubilee doesn't give out details, but everyone can sense
      that
      Logan's pulling away, and although no one says it, they all
      understand – it's up to them to make him see that he must
      stay.

      The first one to act is Peter. Like usual, Logan doesn't come
      down
      for breakfast. Ordinarily no one does anything about this; the man
      will eat when he wants to eat. But this morning, Peter grabs up two
      plates, piles eggs and sausage and toast on each of them, and
      disappears to the third floor History classroom. Sure enough, Logan
      is there, repairing some damage to the outer wall. Peter plunks one
      plate down in front of him, hunkers down with the other, and starts
      eating. He pretends not to see the look of surprise on Logan's
      face, but he acknowledges the soft, "thanks," with a nod.

      "Missed your company," he says through bites of egg.
      "Can't stand
      sitting around all those girls for the whole damn morning."

      Logan smiles. "Let me guess – Brad Pitt?"

      "He really doesn't make a good Achilles – I mean come on,
      Brad
      Pitt? But do they think about his acting abilities? Not even for a
      second!" Peter stabs a bit of sausage, playing up the grump.
      Logan
      almost even laughs.

      Kurt wanders past the hallway later than morning and finds that the
      two are engrossed in conversation, plates long since set aside. He
      pauses long enough to hear Peter say, "You know, when the
      soldiers
      came, all I could think of was that you must not respect me or
      trust me, to not want me fighting with you." He holds a hand up
      so
      Logan can't interrupt. "I get it now. But I wanted to tell
      you –
      it – it matters that you respect me. I value your opinion of
      me."

      "Thanks, kid," Logan replies, gruff, surprised.

      Peter nods. "Most of the teachers here, well – they
      don't come from
      where I come from, you know what I mean? I mean, Ms. Munroe was
      raised as a goddess in Africa. Professor Xavier obviously came from
      money, Mr. Wagner was in a circus – which is just weird – and
      Mr.
      Summers, give me a break. Prep school drop out. I came from the
      wrong side of the tracks, you know? I was fighting almost by the
      time I was walking. I don't – I never met anyone, any adult
      I mean,
      who got that."

      Logan is very quiet for a few minutes. Then he nods. "Yeah, I
      get
      that," he replies.

      Peter nods. "Good. Because there are a lot of us here, you
      know,
      who've had to go there. And it matters when someone who's
      *been
      there* says that you're doing well. I just wanted you to know
      that."

      Logan smiles genuinely. "Thanks," he says again. "Now
      get out of
      here before this gets emotional."

      Peter grins and lumbers to his feet. "Yeah. Next thing you
      know,
      I'll be waxing poetic about Brad Pitt." Laughing, he picks
      up the
      dishes and walks away. Kurt smiles, moving on before the boy can
      see him – and before Logan gets wind of him and gets suspicious.

      *********************************************************************

      Later that afternoon, Storm finds herself hanging around the staff
      lounge, waiting. She's already put on a fresh pot of coffee,
      which
      Logan of course appreciates the minute he walks in and smells
      it. "Ah, I could kiss you," he says thankfully, pouring
      himself a
      cup.

      "If it keeps you here," she replies, and the lightness
      disappears
      from his face.

      "Ororo…" he starts. She hushes him.

      "Of course I am aware of what's going on. And no, Kurt
      didn't say
      anything to me. I saw you take Scott's bike last night."
      She sits
      beside him, setting her tea cup down, and restrains herself from
      reaching over to touch him.

      "I thought you were asleep."

      "I thought I heard a noise in the garage." Logan gives a
      little
      snort of laughter.

      "Must be getting soft," he comments, eyes haunted and lost.
      "I
      didn't even smell you."

      "Maybe you're just tired, and grieving," she suggested.
      "It's okay
      for that to be."

      Logan shook his head. "No, it's not." He replied.
      Whatever Storm
      might have said in response, he cut her off with a sharp
      gesture. "Don't push it, Storm. Okay? It's not your
      business."

      "I don't want you to leave."

      "I don't think I can stay."

      "Logan…"

      He stands, agitated. "Leave it alone!" He exclaims, a little
      too
      loudly. "Fuck." He takes a deep breath, sets his coffee cup
      down
      by the sink. "Thanks for the coffee." He closes his eyes
      for a
      moment before straightening his shoulders and walking out. Storm
      watches him go, feeling terrible, trying to ignore the worry
      building in her stomach that she just made things that much worse.

      *********************************************************************

      Six nights later, Logan sits up in bed, chest heaving. The dreams
      are worse than ever – now, instead of just seeing himself lying
      in a
      tank, or remembering the feelings of scalpels carving into flesh,
      the heat of Adamantium being poured against his bones, he sees all
      this and Jean. Sometimes Jean is standing over him, cutting into
      him. Sometimes she is next to him in a tank of her own, getting
      cut. Always, she turns to him and says, just before he's able to
      claw his way back to consciousness, "It's your fault."

      Logan runs a shaking hand over his face, willing the images to go
      away. He's pretty sure he didn't scream this time, which is
      a good
      thing, since that usually brings some student or other running to
      his door, frightened and in need of comfort, and he doesn't think
      he
      can dredge up the energy to help anyone else right now.

      He spends a long time in the bathroom, splashing water on his face
      and the back of his neck. There's no way he's going to get
      any
      sleep tonight, so he pads out on silent feet toward the front door.
      William, the TV kid, is sitting in the living room.
      "Couldn't
      sleep?" he says, flipping through the channels.

      "How could you tell?" Logan supplies his line from the old
      joke.

      William stops flipping to look at him and deadpan, "You're
      awake."
      Then the kid grins; Logan finds himself grinning back. It's the
      first time he's smiled in so long…

      Banishing the thought, he sits down and says, gruffly, "Change
      the
      channel, kid." The kid obliges. They sit in silence, watching
      TV
      for a while, and then William turns to him.

      "You know, Logan, the whole school is talking about you."

      "Yeah, I know."

      "Everyone's talking about how we have to make you stay
      because
      you're going to run away tomorrow."

      "It's not like that," Logan tries to explain, but the kid
      doesn't
      let him talk.

      "I don't care what it's like or not like," he
      interrupts. "I just
      want you to know that if you went, I'd miss you." He turns
      back to
      the television.

      Logan is surprised. "Really?" he asks. "We barely even
      see each
      other all day; what would you miss me for?"

      William shakes his head like Logan is the dumbest person he's
      ever
      come across. "Duh – we see each other practically every
      night. I
      did mention that I don't sleep, right? Ever? Well it gets kind
      of
      lonely at night you know. You're the only other person here
      that's
      up at 3:30 in the morning."

      "Huh." Logan sits back, thoughtful. Lots of kids have been
      telling
      him how they feel about him, but most of it he's dismissed as
      things
      that the other adults could have done. The only exception was
      Rogue, and he'd spent all week preparing to say goodbye to her
      again, convincing himself that she was better off without him. But
      this kid is different. For one thing, he's the only one so far
      who's been willing to be honest about the fact that the entire
      school is plotting against him, thanks to the blue teleporting
      devil. He's also the only person who hasn't actually asked
      him to
      stay. `I'd miss you,' is something very different.
      Logan's not
      used to being something that someone might miss.

      He gets up, his head in a fog, walks back to his room and lies down
      on his bed lost in thought. Eventually he drifts away, and it's
      only when the sun is pouring through his window and he can hear kids
      laughing in the hallways that he realizes he was going to leave last
      night, sneak away before his seven day thinking period was up –
      before anyone would try to put him on the spot. Shit.

      For a brief moment, Logan considers what it might be like to stay,
      to be a member of this school for real, and not just a drifter on
      his way through. And then he remembers Jean, sharply, like at any
      moment he might inhale her scent. And the stab of grief that spikes
      through him feels like it's going to take him to his knees. He
      can't. He just can't. Furious, denying that he's angry
      at himself,
      he starts packing his meager possessions into a bag.

      There's a sound at his door and he whirls around, guilt and anger
      warring across his face. Scott, of all people, is standing there, a
      smirk on his face and his arms crossed. "Running away,
      Logan?" he
      taunts.

      Logan scowls. "Don't start with me, Summers," he warns,
      tightening
      the straps on the pack.

      "Why? Because you want to make a clean getaway, and I'm
      interfering
      with those plans?"

      "You don't know what you're talking about." Logan
      pulls on his
      boots, reaches for his coat, and heads for the door, only to find
      Scott blocking it.

      "Cyclops," he says, remembering the first time he said it,
      "You
      wanna get out of my way." Jean was there, she was behind him,
      she
      was watching him - that was the first day he met Jean. Logan takes
      a deep breath against the memory and growls: "Move!" Scott
      stands
      like a rock.

      "Why do you get to be the spoiled little kid, Logan?" He
      asks
      sincerely. "Why do you get to bolt when it gets too hard, and
      leave
      us to pick up the pieces?"

      "I don't know what you're talking about," Logan tries
      to deny it,
      but he can't look at Scott's face when he says it.

      "I'm talking about the kids, first of all," Scott
      replies. "You
      *know* how they feel about you. How much, for god knows what
      naïve
      and stupid reason, they love you. And you're gonna just walk out
      –
      leaving us to deal with all that grief and loss, after so much
      has happened?" He takes a step closer, pushing Logan back into
      the
      room, his face dark. "And I'm talking about how fucking
      unfair it
      is that I have to feel like my heart's been ripped out of my
      chest,
      and still get up and go on and be *present*, while you don't even
      have to say the words out loud, say how much you miss my
      Jeannie!"
      He's yelling now, pushed up against Logan, nearly spitting in the
      other man's face.

      Logan takes a breath to argue back, to deny it all, but what comes
      out is an anguished cry. "I have no right!" he shouts back,
      tears
      pricking in his eyes.

      That stops Scott up short. "What?" he takes a step back,
      creating
      breathing room.

      "I have no right to be here – this isn't mine! And I
      have no right
      to grieve her because she's yours, not mine, don't you
      understand?
      None of it's *mine*." And damned if he isn't crying now,
      desperately trying not to, the tears coming anyway. He stumbles
      back a few steps until his back is against the wall, and then slides
      down it. "I – how can I feel so much for something that
      wasn't even
      mine? And then I think, I can't lose another thing, I can't
      lose
      one more thing, not one more thing, not even a little thing – I
      don't have anything and I can't lose any more because
      I've lost
      everything, and nothing's mine, I don't know what's mine,
      I can't do
      this." He's babbling, he's not making any sense, and his
      shoulders
      are shaking now. Logan covers his face with his hands, sobbing.

      And then Scott's there, kneeling beside him, grasping his
      shoulders
      firmly. "You have this," he whispers roughly. "You have
      yourself,
      what you feel. And whether you like or not, you have this school,
      these kids. You have people who want to be your friend, whether you
      want to see it or not

      Logan pushes against the grip, but Scott won't let go. "Are
      you
      trying to tell me that *you* want to be my friend?"

      "No, dumbass," Scott replies. "But I'll be your
      fearless leader."
      Logan snorts, dragging one hand across his eyes, wiping away the
      tears. Scott lets him go and he leans back against the wall.

      "Oh, god," Logan breathes after a moment, his voice shaking.
      "This
      is shit."

      Scott nods tightly. He stands and picks up Logan's pack,
      unpacking
      it and thrusting the contents back into the dresser drawers.
      "Yes,
      it is. But you'll just have to deal with it."

      *********************************************************************

      When Logan finally comes out of his room, twenty minutes later,
      Rogue is sitting on the floor. She jumps up and pushes him back
      in. "You're staying, aren't you?" She demands.
      "Mr. Summers said
      you were staying. Aren't you?" She's crying steadily,
      and Logan is
      caught unprepared.

      "Whoa," he says, pulling her to him, wrapping his arms
      carefully
      around her so that he doesn't touch her skin. "What's all
      this?"
      Rogue wails in his arms.

      "You were going to leave me again," she accuses,hiccupping.
      "You've
      been hinting at it all week. `Marie, if anything ever changed,
      if I
      ever had to go somewhere, it wouldn't be because of you.'
      `Marie,
      this school is important and you need to stick it through no matter
      what.' Did you think I was totally stupid?" She punches him
      in the
      chest, surprisingly hard for a weeping girl.

      "Ow. No." He replies, rubbing his ribs. "Hey, relax.
      I'm not going
      anywhere. I'm going to stay, okay?"

      "For real?" Logan looks at her and realizes that although
      she's
      grown up a lot in the last few weeks, inside her there is still the
      scared little girl that tried to hide in his trailer back in
      Laughlin City, hoping for some protection.

      He nods, uses his sleeve to wipe away her tears. "For real,"
      he
      promises. "I won't leave you."

      "Good. Then come down to lunch." She wipes her eyes, and
      then
      looks at him closely. "On second thought – go have a shower.
      You
      look like shit."

      "Watch your language." He warns, but there's no anger in
      his voice.

      "Yes, Professor," she mocks back, and slips out the door.

      Left alone, Logan falls against his bed. He feels more tired and
      older than he can ever remember feeling. That's his little joke
      with himself, of course, because he can't really remember
      anything.
      Maybe he's felt this way before and he just doesn't know it.
      He
      lies back against the pillows and puts his arm across his eyes.
      That's the whole thing, isn't it? It's not just that
      Jean is dead –
      it's not like he loved her, really. He wanted her, he respected
      her. But it's not that. It's that when Jean talked to him,
      he felt
      like a member of the human race, and when she died, well –
      it's like
      his chance at humanity was all wrapped up in her, and without
      her…

      "I really can't stand to lose anyone else," he remarks to
      the room,
      feeling his heart speed up with the fear that he'll get close to
      these kids, to these people, and someone else will die. But when he
      considers repacking the bag and bolting now, he knows he couldn't
      do
      it. He's not an animal; he can't just flee from danger. He
      has to
      consider all the others. The fear of losing people that he loves is
      being balanced by a stronger fear – never having anything to love
      at
      all.

      After a few minutes, he picks himself up, starts the shower, and
      stands under the stream until the hot water runs out. Then he dries
      off, gets dressed, and goes downstairs.

      *********************************************************************

      Late that night, Kurt hears the soft clicking sound of a door being
      opened and shut. He gets up and pads out on his silent feet,
      peering through the window. Logan stands in the driveway, patting
      down his pockets, chewing on an unlit cigar. As Kurt comes out the
      door, Logan finds a match and lights it, giving Kurt a quick wave as
      he walks towards the trees. "Not this time," Kurt whispers
      to
      himself. He teleports over to Logan's side, and is thankful that
      he
      doesn't end up on his ass with Adamantium claws against his neck.

      Instead, Logan almost smiles at him. He reaches into his coat
      pocket and withdraws another cigar, offering it to the other man.
      Kurt accepts it with a smile.

      "Huh." Logan fishes around for another match. "I
      wasn't sure if
      you smoked."

      "Well, we are only getting to know one another," Kurt replies
      reasonably. They walk through the night time forest in silence,
      together.

      *********************************************************************

      END
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