Between the Darkness and Light

by Talya Firedancer

Part Twelve

Early evenings at the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters, Logan had learned the rhythms and when to dodge the horde of food-crazy children and teenagers. He had even learned that though it was a school, there were private locked stashes here and there and the old man had possessed a private keg with its own pressurized tap in his personal suite, well-hidden from snoopy children or the no-doubt disapproving eye of teetotalers like Scott. He knew because Xavier had invited him for a beer a couple of times, and Logan wasn't above a bribe.

He wandered through the oak-paneled halls, avoiding streams of children making their way to and from the eatery commons, and pondered whether it was in poor taste to break into the old man's personal stash. Wasn't like anyone else at the school had given a hint of inclination, apart from McCoy who had his own, and maybe the younger Summers brother whom he'd only seen at a distance so far.

No point in introducing himself. He'd probably be leaving soon. At least, he would as soon as he could pack and find himself astride a bike instead of upstairs, unpacking yet again when he'd been so sure he was setting foot beyond the grounds, maybe never to darken these doors again.

Logan didn't sleep much these days. He figured he needed a change of scenery.

It wasn't Jeannie haunting his mind lately, either.

He lurked in the lee of a door and waited for a swarm of children to pass, easing himself ever further in the direction of Xavier's study. No, he reflected, it wasn't her, even though he still hadn't been down to look at the headstones. He knew what they looked like, though, courtesy of that weird-ass dream that had begun this whole thing. No, he didn't dream of her anymore, and that would almost have been a relief.

She'd asked him to save her. Even though it meant a chestful of hurt, his claws stabbing through her and taking out the heart of her somewhere along the way, he knew he'd laid her to rest. It didn't eat at him the way he thought it ought to've, though, because he'd seen the smile that lit up her whole face. He had saved her, and maybe it had been a horrible thing to do, but he could reckon it among the few times he'd been strong enough for another person to count on. So he couldn't bring himself to regret it because he knew she didn't. She'd asked him, and trusted him in the end.

Logan shook himself free of those lingering thoughts and strode down the hallway, fists loosely clenched. Anyone asked what he was up to, they could go straight to hell. He wasn't privileged enough to have a special locked cooler like McCoy, and he wanted a beer. What kept him up nights lately was trying not to think on what he couldn't have, or at least, not ever again.

"'S gotta be the worst kind of perverse, going from her to him," he admonished himself, keeping it under his breath because who would believe him?

Pryde passed him in the hallway, giving him a brief, almost wary nod; she was followed by a couple of other teenaged girls and boys Logan didn't recognize but they'd been in one of his basic Danger Room classes, one he'd run almost a year ago right after Alkali Lake, when Scott had stayed shut up in his room for a few days and who could blame him? It reminded him that, but for Rogue and sometimes Storm, there was no one at the mansion who was particularly thrilled he was there. Part of it was what had happened the night Stryker's men had taken the school. The other, well...everyone knew what had happened at Alcatraz. Even the truth when spread could be as poisonous as a lie. When it got told, there was no one to say she'd asked for it, begged for the killing stroke, and the only thing that remained was the fact he'd done it.

Could their Cyclops have found another way?

So the kids tended to keep their distance. Wasn't a big deal to him but it was another reminder he was a piece out of joint here; he didn't belong.

"Logan," called a familiar voice behind him, and he bit off a curse. The beer was so close he could almost smell it. "Logan, where are you going? The garage is back that way, in the other direction."

Logan swung around with a grin, walking backwards up the hall. He'd get to that hidden beer tap if it killed him. "You tryin' to get rid of me, Storm?"

Their white-maned weather witch rolled her eyes at him. "We can't afford to lose another body around here and you know it. You've sure been hiding out the past few days."

Logan arched both brows at her as if to prompt, what's your point? "You gonna tell me to pick up a few classes, next? I don't exactly have a degree." He paused, tilted his head, wished for a cigar to clamp between his teeth. "Not as I recall, anyhow.

She strode after him in time to his steps as if they were engaged in a dance, stopping only when his back hit a paneled wall. He held up his hands in mock-surrender. "You've been good at stepping in for Danger Room sessions," she pressed.

"No, I'm crap, and you know it," he said. "I don't shovel that teamwork load you peddle. And I only filled in while Slim was...while he was incapacitated, and now he's been found, I figure he can pick up where he left off."

Storm tipped her head, alert dark blue eyes sizing him up. "Even though you're pretty good at that 'load' in the field? Come on, Logan. You're not fooling me."

He sighed and put a hand on his hip. "Storm. The kids don't trust me, I dunno if you've noticed. Can't exactly blame 'em. And I wouldn't encourage 'em to, not knowing how long I'm gonna be here. It's great they can all count on you and the house Xavier built, but I don't want anyone to count on me."

"Too bad," Storm challenged, her tone hard but her eyes dancing up at him. Her mien firmed, went serious. "You've got the scars of what happened even worse than anyone, maybe even Scott, but that's what happens. It's war, and people die, and you know it - and when it's over you pick yourself up and move on. You think it's going to be easier doing that on the road, where no one knows you, no one knows what you've been through?"

He furrowed his brow at her, mood taking a turn for the thunderous. "Don't push me, Ororo," he warned. He rarely used her real name and now he leveled it like a weapon.

"You going to run?" she wanted to know, unfazed.

"You've got plenty of people here," he said, evasive. He couldn't say one way or the other because he could pack up his bag, step into the garage, then turn around and find himself putting clothes back into the drawers in the room that had always been here, every time he stopped off. "You don't need me. And Xavier's not here anymore to keep his promise, to help me figure out what's going on inside my head or with my past. He's the only one--"

Storm crossed her arms and lifted her chin. "You know for sure? We get new people all the time, Logan, kids and adults. Telepathy isn't the most uncommon of mutations, there's been reported instances of it cropping up for centuries. Sooner or later another one will come to the mansion."

Logan scrubbed at his chin, the hairs prickling over his hand. Past time to shave. It wasn't just to find his past he'd come here again and again. But the reasons for coming, weren't they all gone?

"Stay," Storm said, her voice low, soft, eyes steady on his. "Not just because we need you. But maybe because it's the right thing to do for now."

He looked away. "I'll think about it," he said, even though in his mind he was on the bike, hitting the release for the garage door, revving the engine to roar out the gate. Night wind in his hair and all the past he could remember at his back. He changed the subject, because her eyes were still on him, as knowing as if they could read him the way Jeannie had been able. "What are you doing in this wing, anyhow? Isn't your office on the other side?" She had a nice little set-up overlooking the garden, opening onto the mansion's atrium.

"I need to get into Xavier's office," she said, indicating the door to Logan's left with a toss of her head. She rubbed at her temples and shot a rueful look his way. "You know, as recent as the day before he died, Xavier was talking to me about running the school. It surprised me, because that was always something I thought would fall to Scott. It is not so easy as I imagined, shouldering all that Xavier did, and all that Scott did to help him."

"Oh." Logan pushed off from the wall, half-shrugging as he swung the door open with one hand. "You got a lot of administrative stuff to catch up on? I got the impression Slim figured he'd be taking that over even from his sickbed." His stomach tightened, and he looked into the darkened study where he'd last seen its master. He hadn't been in here since Xavier's passing, avoiding it like so many places that scent-memory could trigger, and he wanted to close his eyes.

The door was open, but neither of them crossed the threshold. They stayed right where they were, looking but neither willing to make the first move.

"No...actually, seeing Scott again made me realize between one thing and another I hadn't gotten around to calling the lawyers of the Foundation, to have Xavier's will read," Storm said, folding her arms beneath her bosom and heaving a sigh.

Logan raised a brow. "Well, it has only been a week since the service," he said. "Give yourself a break. You've had a lot to do."

Storm's mouth curved in a smile that managed to be relieved and cynical at once. "You cutting me some slack?"

"Someone needs to," he said, wry. "I know you sure don't; you and Slim, you both work until you drop." He hesitated, made as if to speak, shut his mouth.

"What?" Storm prompted, dark eyes alert.

He scratched behind one ear, eyes sliding away from her. "I don't -- he was rich, right?" he said abruptly, biting off his words with regret for the instant he said them.

She snickered, putting hands on her hips and looking around, turning a full circle as if taking in her surroundings, emphasizing the luxuriance of wood-paneled halls. "Yes, Logan, he was quite well-off. What do you think?"

He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "I hope he didn't leave me anything," he muttered.

"Don't worry...if he did, I'm sure it would only be something appropriate."

Logan doubted it. Xavier never had been too great at reading his mind.