As soon as we got somewhere with cell service, I called Charles to tell him I’d been successful. He sounded pleased, and surprised. With Logan right there, I wasn’t comfortable telling him just how surprised I was as well, or the details of how I’d convinced him. I changed the subject and asked how things were going at school. He sounded a little bit guarded, not telling me much, making me wonder who was with him in his office.
“What’s your current location?” he asked, changing the subject himself.
“We’re about half way between Prince Albert and La Ronge. Not too far from where I stashed the Blackbird, but I don’t want to try to find it in the dark. We’ll stay at a motel tonight and go pick up the jet tomorrow. So expect us home tomorrow night.”
Only it didn’t work out that way.
It was probably my fault. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry to take off, I would have done a more thorough inspection. But Logan’s presence was unnerving me and I was eager to get back to Westchester and send him off on his mission. So I went through the usual checks, but my mind wasn’t entirely on the Blackbird. Every time I looked up he was looking at me. Not in a hostile way, really. Not friendly, either. A kind of intense scrutiny, like he was trying to figure something out. He’d been doing that a lot and I didn’t know what to make of it, but it made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to think about what he might be trying to figure out. I had my own conundrum to figure out and I wasn’t getting very far with it.
It had started when we were still in his camper. When he agreed to go on the mission, I had been eager to get moving before he had a chance to rethink the decision, but he had insisted we stay in place a few days for my wounds to heal. “You’re in no shape to travel.” When I objected that I’ve been wounded often enough to know my own limitations, he added, “If I’m gonna try this superhero team thing it won’t look too good if I kill the Field Leader before my first mission.” So we compromised by staying another day and then getting on the road. And it was while we were cooped up together in the camper that he started staring at me in that way.
It was sort of surreptitious at first. He’d be out of my field of vision and I’d have that feeling you get when it feels like somebody’s looking at you, but by the time I turned around he was busy with something. But then I caught him at it once. He didn’t turn away, just kind of smirked at me and kept looking. Was it a gloating smile, for having tricked me into acknowledging my jealousy and my fear of losing Jean? No, I don’t think so. I’d seen that triumphant smile on him other times, but this was something else. A smile that said he knew that he could make me uneasy just by looking at me. A smile that maybe realized there was part of me that was enjoying the attention.
Yes, enjoying it and looking at him in a new light. And that’s what was unnerving me. I was reacting to him in a way I didn’t expect and didn’t understand.
At first I told myself I was just happy that the mission had been accomplished and relieved to finally believe that he and Jean had never had an affair. But there was something else there. Something that had me looking at him, too, whenever I could. Not that he knew I was doing it. One of the compensations for having to wear these damn glasses all the time is that no one can tell what I’m looking at.
I found myself watching him out of my peripheral vision, a lot, although at first I wasn’t sure why. There was something compelling about him, even as he went about ordinary tasks, fetching water for the camper’s tanks, doing some basic repairs. It wasn’t just seeing the claws in use as tools rather than weapons, although that was fascinating to watch. I’d seen him extend them one at a time before but had no idea that he could extend them part way, as well. A single claw could be a knife, a screw driver, a lever. I’d known they were amazingly sharp and powerful, but I was surprised to see they were almost agile as well. I knew from Charles and Jean that the claws had been created and the adamantium had been grafted to Logan’s skeleton many years ago, against his will, in an excruciating experiment. He’d clearly made the most of the results, though.
But it wasn’t just watching how effective Logan was at using his claws that was capturing my attention. There was more than that. I kept looking at how he moved – those thickly muscled arms and legs, the apparent lightweight grace of his movements. I knew from fighting him that his metal-filled body was anything but light but you wouldn’t know it to see him in action. It was sort of like watching a beautiful yet dangerous animal – a panther or a tiger – uncannily lithe for all that deadly power.
Yes, he was fascinating to watch, for his skill, for his mutation, for his adaptation to the adamantium. But that wasn’t all there was to it, to him, to my growing fascination with him. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of him and realizing that was making me increasingly uneasy.
It only got worse when he sold the camper and we continued on by motorcycle. I’d joked with him about who owned it when he said I could drive, but I was glad I was the one driving when we finally got on the road. Feeling him riding behind me was giving me a raging hard on, making it hard to maintain my composure, or my rationalizations about just why Logan’s presence was making me uncomfortable.
I couldn’t deny it any more. I was intensely and surprisingly sexually attracted to Logan.
It’s something I’d never felt before. I’ve been approached sexually by men on assorted occasions, starting in my teens. I’ve always said no, and done so without regret or ambivalence. I’ve never felt the animosity and fear that a lot of men feel when they are the object of homosexual attraction, but I’ve never felt any interest, either. And here I was, catching glimpses of Logan every chance I could, wondering why he kept looking at me like that. I was intensely interested and at the same time trying to hide my interest from him. Was he looking at me because he suspected? How could that be? How could he know I was attracted to him when I hadn’t even known, myself? And what would his reaction be if he did know? These were the questions I kept mulling over.
Not that I was coming to any conclusions. I couldn’t even figure out how I had come to be attracted to someone who was not only not a member of my preferred gender, but also a man I’d pretty much detested from the start.
Okay, so I’d been doing without sex for some time what with all the trouble between Jean and me. I know that it’s only natural to be tempted under circumstances like that. But why Logan? Why not that waitress at the burger joint we stopped at? She was unabashedly flirting with me and I was feeling nothing, barely managing to speak to her enough to be polite. But when Logan’s leg accidentally brushed mine under the table, it was like lightning through my body, as brief as the touch was. I found myself wondering if I could touch him again and not let on I was doing it on purpose.
It was worse that night when we checked into a motel. The desk clerk asked if we wanted a room with one bed or two. “Two!” I said, perhaps too quickly and emphatically. Logan just smirked. And then we got into the room and he started stripping. “You don’t mind, do you?” he asked.
“Mind what?” I asked, warily.
“Me going first. Living in the camper – limited water, limited heat – you get to dreaming about a long, hot shower."
“No, go ahead.”
He was in there a long time. He came out, buck naked, and flopped down on one of the beds, turning the TV on and flipping channels. He’d made only a half-hearted attempt at drying off and my eyes were drawn to drops of water glistening on him in the lamplight. I tried not to look and gave up, settling on using my peripheral vision so he wouldn’t know I was looking.
“I think I left you some hot water,” he said absently, settling on a football game.
“Big of you,” I replied, heading into the bathroom myself, not undressing until I was in there so he wouldn’t see the effect he’d had on me. I took a long shower.
When I came out he was still naked, still watching tv, but the football game was over and there was porn on the screen. “I guess I should have asked,” he said, eyes glued to the screen, “but it’s only fifteen bucks more on your bill. I figured Xavier can afford it.”
I could have stayed. He didn’t seem like he’d mind. But I didn’t think I could keep my eyes on the screen and not look at him. I went out for a walk.
When I came back, the television was off and the room was dark. I could see the outline of his body in the bed, chest rising and falling as he slept. I got into the other bed and turned away from him. It took me a long time to get to sleep.
We left the next morning and between lack of sleep and distraction I know I wasn’t as careful inspecting the Blackbird as I should have been. But I did go through my usual pre-flight routine and everything was fine. There was nothing wrong with the take off, either.
No, we were in the air for about 20 minutes before I noticed it. Something sounded wrong. That’s what I noticed first, before I could feel anything or see anything different. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it just didn’t sound like the Blackbird does at a cruising altitude. I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it. It had been a while since I’d flown. I was tired. I was distracted. But I know this jet as well as I know anything and it just didn’t sound right. There was something... extra. Beyond the usual roar of an engine. Something metallic. Just under and behind the usual sounds. “Do you hear that?” I asked.
“Hear what?” But of course he couldn’t. It sounded like a jet in flight. It just didn’t sound like it should.
And then I could feel it, too. It must have shown on my face. “What’s wrong?” Logan asked.
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“Something’s not right. I feel like I’m fighting the controls. Logan, why am I fighting the controls?”
Trim controls weren’t working. We were losing altitude.
“Shit,” I said. “Runaway trim.”
“What the fuck is that?”
“It’s... I can’t control...”
I tried disconnecting the circuit breaker to stop the flow of current to the trim motor, but I couldn’t budge it. I was using all my strength to keep the plane from nose-diving. I kept trying but it was clear I couldn’t stop it. The most I could do was slow it down. I hoped I could slow it down enough to survive this.
“It’s not working. We’re going down.”
“Going down? As in crashing?”
The sound was getting louder, making it hard to hear him, even though he was right next to me. I answered him, yelling over the roar of the jet. “Crash landing, if we’re lucky. Look, hold on here with me. Push hard. It’s going to take both of us. If we can last another five minutes or so and slow it down, there’s a clearing up ahead. I’ll lower the landing gear. I’m going to try and get us on the ground in one piece.”
I was giving it my all and so was Logan. His hands were over mine and we were both pulling. His face was covered with sweat from the exertion. I felt a sudden urge to lean over and touch him, but I quashed it. The nose came up a bit. “We’re doing it!” I said. “Keep pulling.”
But it became clear soon it wasn’t enough. Pulling as hard as we could, the nose turned down again. But we were closer. I could see the clearing. We might make it.
We still might avoid a crash, I thought, but it was clear it was going to be at best a hard landing. “Look,” I said. “See that orange duffel behind us, strapped to the wall?” He nodded, still pulling hard. “It comes out easily. And there’s a metal box right under it, with a spring latch. If I don’t make it – take both of them with you.” He nodded. “Do it fast. Once the plane’s on fire it’s too late – probably too late even for you, even with your healing factor.”
The ground was getting closer. I pulled with all my might, trying to get the nose up just a little bit, trying for that hard landing, not a crash, not bad enough to tear the plane apart on impact. If only we had a couple of minutes to get out. “And Logan,” I added, almost breathless with the exertion, “tell Jean for me...” Only I didn’t know what I wanted him to tell her. And then it was too late, anyway.
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