Between the Darkness and Light

by Talya Firedancer

Part Five

With shock and calamity piled on top of the heavy meal he'd been plied with, Scott knew his coping skills weren't up to keeping pace. His brain kind of shut down after eating and that last revelation, the fact that his brother had shown up at his own memorial service, saw him following Logan out of the diner in a daze. He dogged Logan's footsteps, fixing on bits and pieces of the story - the supposed cure developed by Worthington Labs, the resurfacing of Magneto, a showdown on Alcatraz Island of all places, and the calamity that was Jean as Phoenix, overriding it all. Xavier, gone.

He slumped into a moth-eaten chair by the entryway while Logan checked them into a room with a wad of cash. Scott covered his face with his hands, trying to fathom it all. After a certain point, though, the mind went blank. He sat and thought of nothing. His mind was empty, silent. In that silence, he found relief.

Scott startled when Logan laid a hand on his shoulder.

"You all right, Slim?" Logan asked him, body posture alert.

"We don't touch," Scott muttered, but got to his feet.

"Huh?" Logan grunted, but led him out of the front office and down a narrow walk hemmed in with a rickety iron railing. He tossed over his shoulder, "So what's the deal with your brother? You seemed kinda shocked earlier when I mentioned him."

"Oh, uh..." Scott rubbed a hand through his greasy hair, considered how long it had been since he'd washed it, and hoped this particular seedy motel actually stocked up on the complimentary bottles of shampoo. "My brother and I were in an orphanage for a few years--"

"You?" Logan interjected, turning fully now, continuing to walk backward along the strip with a duffel over one shoulder, giving him an incredulous look.

Scott snorted and lifted a hand, waving him off. "Look, you think you have some lock on a less than perfect existence? Yes, me, orphaned when my parents went down in a plane crash, the less said about it the better. Alex got adopted pretty quickly but I..." He stopped and shook his head. "I just want a shower." He finished on a plaintive note, half-hoping there was more than one change of clothes in the duffel, willing to swallow enough pride to wear Logan's clothes if that was what it took.

"Okay," Logan said easily, dropping the matter without comment. He squared his shoulders and turned, stopping in front of number ten and unlocking it with a metal motel key on a thin ball-bearing chain that was attached to a garish plastic diamond. "So I guess you didn't expect him to attend your, uh..." He trailed off as if realizing he'd stepped in it.

Scott sighed, but answered anyhow. "No, I didn't expect him. I haven't seen Alex since he was about ten." Alex had gotten picked up by a great family right away, but he...Scott had been fourteen already by then, grieving, closed-off, sullen, hard to market and older than most adoptive parents were looking for. He'd entered the foster system.

Dark eyes looked him over keenly as Logan swung the door open, but he said nothing, just gestured for Scott to precede him.

"Thanks," Scott muttered, and dumped the other duffel on the bed. There were two queens with a busy paisley print that he was sure would be eye-popping, if he could see any other shade besides red. Even from a coordination standpoint the print didn't go with the vertical striped walls interspersed with rows of diamonds. Scott shook his head, tossed his musty leather jacket to the bed furthest from the door, and began to skin his shirt off.

"Hey, you can't do that," Logan's indignant voice stopped him and Scott half-turned, shirt tangled up around his arms and mid-chest.

"What?" Scott demanded, alarmed, as Logan snagged the door shut with a heel and set his duffel down.

"Call a bed like that without even talkin' about it first," Logan said.

Scott widened his eyes, then his mouth quirked. Logan was dead serious. "Hey, I was lost in the woods--"

"Yeah, an' I have a phobia about sleeping too close to doors," Logan shot back, then looked sorry he'd even opened his mouth. "Forget it. Look, I'm sorry as hell we didn't look for you harder, but--"

"No, it's okay," Scott said, tilting his head, but now he was starting to wonder. "Logan? How did you know I was still out there, anyway?"

Logan jerked his head and turned away, wrenching the door open. "You can have the bed. Take your shower," he bit out. The door banged shut behind him.

Staring at the door open-mouthed didn't bring him any answers, so Scott closed it and finished stripping his shirt off, tossed it into the sink, and his jeans followed. For a moment he was tempted to burn them or something similarly final, but then, he couldn't be guaranteed there actually was a change of clothes for him in either of those duffels. He'd hold off on washing them, too, because he didn't fancy going around in a towel-sarong until they were dry.

When he stepped into the shower and began to sluice the grime of nearly two weeks off his skin, Scott almost began to relax. His muscles warmed and loosened, but his brain began to buzz with questions. What about the Xavier Foundation? Had the X-men been exposed, or were they still able to operate as they were accustomed, in secrecy? Logan had said the children were okay, but he'd never had a real connection to the school aside from Rogue - how were they coping? If Xavier really had...if he'd...

Scott lost it between that thought and a half-formed question on who had served as Xavier's executor if he hadn't been there, and broke down at last. He sank down onto the tiled floor as the water poured down over him, pulled his knees in tight to his chest, and sobbed. Dry heaves at first, even in the extremity of grief not quite able to let it all go, then as it sank in he cried.

He kept his eyes shut tight as he had for the past week. Without his swimming and shower-use goggles he was blind as he'd been this whole time. He sat there and sobbed, hugging his knees, filled to overflowing with the notion of Jean, her bright blazing presence in his head as never before for that brief time, then cut short. He'd known she had thrown him away to protect him, but oh, it hurt. Not to be trusted like that. But what she'd wanted was to be saved, and when saving meant killing - Scott couldn't do it. Not for her. Or could he? She'd taken away that choice from him.

So they would never know.

The thought of Xavier gone still wasn’t real, and he picked up the pieces of himself from the rapidly-chilling tile floor before he went down the drain. There were still people back home that needed protecting, and he owed it to Xavier to keep his vision alive. That thought amongst others had kept him going as he foraged out there in the oddly-quiet forest, limping along as he recovered from serious bruises and scattered contusions, grateful he hadn't broken anything when he thudded into those trees so far from the shore.

Towel secure around his waist, Scott took a deep, shuddering breath then donned his glasses as if they were armor. He set his jaw and left the bathroom. He couldn't afford to have any more breakdowns after this. He already knew with Xavier gone there was far too much work to do.

"Thought you'd fallen in," an ironic voice greeted him. "All clean and pretty now?"

Startled, Scott swiveled to face Logan, who was stretched out on the bed beside the door with his hands behind his head. Legs crossed, his hips thrust out a bit, his pose was utterly unselfconscious. Scott looked away, damning the tell-tale flush that heated his face. That was one of the things he hated about Wolverine, and he hadn't had the occasion to deal with it before, and he sure wasn't going to start now.

"Change of clothes?" he said, voice abrupt.

"Help yourself," Logan said, sitting up. "Brought a few extra sets. Just in case, and, well, didn't know how long I'd be gone. They're in the duffel there." He indicated Scott's bed with a jerk of his chin.

"And I don't suppose you have a razor," Scott said, keeping his voice steady. He'd had his suspicions since Logan had retrieved him from the forest, but he was wrong. He had to be. After all, neither of them had any telepathic abilities. It might be a resonant effect of exposure to Jean's power... He bit his lip and turned away.

"Actually, I do. Duffel on your bed, outside zipper pocket. Plugs into the wall." Logan got up from the bed, which creaked appreciation at being relieved of his weight, and squeezed past him.

Scott sucked in a breath, then scowled. "Wait, we can't stay here," he said. His protest wasn't only for the crackerbox confines of the tiny motel room, but a rising panic over the fact that he wasn't there. The tension hit his gut with a sudden fist of panic, calling his attention to the fact that he'd abandoned team and students and everything had gone to hell without him, and now he couldn't control the situation from the distance of all these hundreds of miles.

"Sure we can," Logan contradicted. He flashed an irritating grin over his shoulder. "I ordered a pizza."

Scott blinked. "You can't possibly still be hungry," he protested, then groaned as his stomach rumbled an eager response.

Logan, damn him, laughed outright. "See? You're in no shape to go anywhere yet, Slim. Look." His expression serious all at once. "I know you've been through a lot, all right? I know you've got the urge to do what you need to, be the leader, get back in charge. But you won't do yourself any good, let alone them, unless you're in the shape to face 'em. So for right now, shave. Get yourself fixed up. Eat some more, re-hydrate or whatever, get ten hours of sleep. Then we'll go back."

Without waiting for an answer, Logan turned his back on him and skimmed his white tank top up over broad, strong shoulders, then hooked the bathroom door shut behind him with one foot. Scott swallowed, then turned away to rummage in the duffel he'd dumped on the bed. In times of crisis, wisdom or support came from the most unexpected of places. He hated like hell to admit it, but Logan was right. If his breakdown in the shower was any indication, he really wasn't ready to face the world.

The white tee-shirt and flannel shirt were a little big on him, but the jeans were the worst. They almost fell off his hips and he had to hunt through the duffel until he laid hands on a belt. This, more than anything, convinced Scott of the weight he'd lost - not just over the past ten days. His slow disintegration had gone on longer than that. Was he okay now? Maybe not, but it was a start.

He unearthed an electric razor from the duffel and buzzed his cheeks and chin until they were smooth again, all signs of scraggly growth removed. Scott rubbed at his chin and sighed. It was amazing. He almost felt human again. He left the razor beside the sink - mutton-chop sideburns aside, Wolverine was mostly clean-shaven, so it made sense he'd have it after all - and sank onto the paisley spread, making a long arm for the remote.

Either there was something Logan wasn't telling him, or there were blind spots in the man's narration. Scott had to find out what the official response had been to the Alcatraz Island incident; whether it was being treated as the action of a few extremists, or whether it was being used as an excuse to persecute all of mutant-kind. All they needed was for a passionate senator to reintroduce the Registration Act or a similar measure.

It took several minutes of channel-scanning before he settled on a news program, and even then it wasn't much use. Canadians covered U.S. news when it was big enough to merit international attention, when it had the potential to affect their country, or when it provoked raptures of mirth. He tried another channel, then tried to find CNN.

Logan emerged from the bathroom in a cloud of hot steam. "What's that you're watching? The news? Aw, Scott," he said, in a tone of deep disappointment. "This ain't recuperating."

"I've been out of commission for nearly eleven days," Scott protested, holding his thumb down on the channel button. "I've got to--"

A hand plucked the remote right out of his fingers and Scott protested, snatching for it only to find his hand groping towel. He jerked back, face flaming, and glared.

"What?" Logan said, sauntering to the other side of the room, flipping channels and settling on the first one that wasn't at commercial. "If you were in okay shape, Slim, I never coulda gotten that remote away from you. Kick back. Pizza should be here soon."

"Fine," Scott muttered, acknowledging the point. He focused his glare on the television set. It was some kind of sitcom, a couple of perfectly-groomed guys, a few teenagers, a laugh track. "Can we at least find something that isn't crap?"

Logan issued a short, sharp bark of laughter, then tossed the remote back to him. "Fine, pick whatever tickles ya - just don't switch it back to news or I'll have to wrestle you for it."

Scott looked away. "Whatever," he said at length, and held down the channel button again. It was on the tip of his tongue to say, since when are you nice to me? but not only was that unnecessarily ungrateful, but he found himself relieved at the absence of open hostility, for a change. From his biased viewpoint, as far as he was concerned it had always been the Wolverine on the attack.

That reminded him.

"Thank you," he said, lifting his chin.

Logan turned, tugging snug jeans up over his stripped-down hipbones, his brow creasing in a frown. "What for?"

Scott shrugged. "For finding me," he said. He looked up. Logan's eyes were on him, intent enough to make a lesser man self-conscious, but Scott was too used to people meeting the reflection of the glasses and, unable to make that visual, human connection, looking away again.

Logan didn't look away.

"I owed it to you," he said, quiet, serious now.

Scott shook his head, impatient. "You didn't--"

"No, listen," Logan talked over him, a trace of a growl in his voice. "I said, I owed it to you, Scott. We were there. At the lake, when we found Jean. Storm and I, we landed in the jet. And I found your glasses. I should have looked harder, I know I should've, I just-- Storm yelled, and I ran over to where she'd found--"

"It's okay," Scott interrupted, fierce. He knew what came next and he had to cut that off quick.

"No, it's not okay!" Logan shot back, angry. "I shoulda looked harder! Hell, I should've looked at all, there was still time--" He bit off his diatribe as a knock rattled the door.

Scott swung away, fighting a smile and losing. It would never occur to Logan how ironic his words were, because that was the kind of recriminations that would come from Scott himself, regarding a mission gone sour.

"Someone placed an order for a large pizza?" piped up a young male voice from the door, and Scott went back to flipping channels. He found a re-run of Star Trek. Somewhere, at any given time there was always a re-run of Star Trek. He settled back on the bed and tried to ignore the insistent growl of his stomach that had started up the instant that heady tomato-cheese aroma had wafted into the room.

Logan paid and the kid left. Scott tracked the progress of the pizza carton, making a face when Logan chuckled at him.

"Just leave me a piece or two, all right?" he said, tone gruff contrast to the consideration in his words, his movements.

This was the side of Wolverine that Scott could plausibly believe would draw in someone like Rogue, or the other kids who'd grown attached to him. He'd swear up and down he didn't give a good goddamn about anyone, then go and do something caring even as he forswore its deliberate nature.

"Sure, I don't think that'll be a problem," Scott said, flipping the lid open and surveying the huge, cross-sliced wheel swimming in its own grease. This wasn't the kind of food he would normally eat unless it was kid's choice night and they'd ordered a double dozen for the kids. Even then, he usually limited his intake to one slice, and supplemented with something healthy later on. Now he was too hungry to care.

"Listen, about before--"

"It's over and done," Scott said, lifting his chin. "Look. You came back. That's all that mattered. And..." He hesitated, unsure of whether to betray how much he knew of what Logan had so-carefully tried to keep from him. It was unnecessary, or rather, useless. "That's it. I just wanted to thank you. For everything."

"Don't need to thank me," Logan said curtly, returning to his side of the room and leveling his blackest scowl yet at the television. He muttered low enough to miss, "Shouldn't thank me for anything."

Scott let it pass, wolfing down a slice as he watched the crew of the Enterprise entangle itself in another mess from which there was no clear escape.

"Never figured you for a sci-fi geek," Logan said, shifting until the bed groaned protest beneath him. He tapped a hand to one temple. "What with the...well, living your own bold adventure and all."

Scott chewed reflectively, swallowed, cleared his mouth. "There's a lot you don't know about me," he said evenly, and stuffed the crust in with a couple of big bites.

Logan snorted. "Ain't that the god's own truth."

By the end of the episode, Scott realized he had somehow managed to demolish all but three slices with ease. He shut the carton lid and handed the greasy box over the gap between the beds, wiped his hands off on the stack of napkins that had come with purchase, and flipped channels again.

"Ahh," Logan said in warning, when Scott settled too long on a news channel, and with a flush for remembrance of the earlier threat, Scott kept his finger on the channel-changer. "You sure you don't want this last piece, Slim? Scarecrows got more muscle mass than you."

"Screw you!" Scott said indignantly, and was surprised by Logan's guffaw.

"Don't offer unless you mean it," Logan told him with a wicked grin.

Scott's head jerked around and he gave Logan a hard look.

"What? Kidding," Logan said with a frown. "You--"

"We should get on the road tonight," Scott said, restless and too stubborn to admit that he was bone-tired, functioning on nervous energy by this point with his head chock-full of all that he'd learned today.

"Hell with that, I ain't driving all night and it's close enough to dark already," Logan countermanded. "Look, I know you want to get back."

"I'm the field leader of the X-Men--"

"Yeah, and we ain't on one of your field missions, Cyclops," Logan cut in, scowling. "Whatever's happened, and yeah, it's been a lot, it can wait for you a few more days. You're malnourished, probably still dehydrated, and sure being stubborn as hell helps but you ain't got a healing factor like mine. You've gotta be tired. Hell, I'm surprised you haven't keeled over already."

Scott's eyes prickled, but he refused to give in to the building pressure. He'd already done his one allowed crying jag. "I'm fine."

"You're not fine," Logan said, focusing on him, really looking at him. His nostrils flared. "You're 'bout dead from exhaustion. Now, you're gonna lie there and sleep if I have to sit on you to get you to stay in one place."

Scott was surprised out of his growing frustration with a chuckle. "You'd break my spine," he said, looking away. The thought of being straddled by denim-clad thighs brought the heat back into his face. He was waking up from a long, comfortable dream and part of him was anxious, curious; the larger, controlling part of him was scared and wanted to declare an ordered retreat. Head-in-the-sand approach.

"Nah, it takes a lot more than that to snap a man's spine," Logan said dismissively, and shifted, clapping the pizza carton shut and shoving it off the bed.

Well, I guess you might know, crossed Scott's mind, but his brain-to-mouth filter was in full force and he just stared at his hands. He remembered the weight of Logan under his hands, when he had dragged the man by his jacket from the hood of his own burning truck. Heavy, but not unbearable.

"All right," he said instead, and chucked the remote toward the other bed, knowing Logan would intercept it. He turned his back to the man, peeling back the coverlet enough to slip beneath it and pull it up over his shoulder. He was barefoot and he wriggled his feet into the warm spot he had created where he'd sat on the bed earlier. He was still wearing Logan's jeans, then decided he really didn't have enough energy to peel them off and anyhow, who knew Logan was a boxers kind of man? Then his head hit the pillow and he discovered in less than two lazy blinks that he was that tired, after all.

For the past ten days he had closed his eyes over fiery red hair, flames, a vortex of churning, glittering water. It didn't exactly make one look forward to sleep.

Tonight there was nothing.